In May 1956, a Black couple faced the harsh reality of Black homeownership in the Bronx. Percy Hill lived with his wife, Cora Hill at 747 East 183rd Street between Crotona and Prospect Avenues, a predominantly white neighborhood in the East Bronx. Percy, 44 years old, was an elevator operator at the Shelton Hotel. His wife, Cora, 42 years old, was also employed at the Shelton Hotel as a chambermaid. The Hills moved into their $12,450 home on February 27, 1956. The couple’s home had nine rooms and they planned to rent out four of them. The Hills lived there without any racist occurrences until Sunday, May 6, 1956.
On Sunday, May 6, 1956, a group of white thugs threw stones at the Hills’ home and broke the front porch windows. One of the stones thrown was wrapped in a note filled with racial epithets and a threat of arson to their home if they did not move out of the neighborhood. New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr declared the incident as an “affront” to the city and ordered Police Commissioner Stephen P. Kennedy to “pursue the matter vigorously as a crime against the city.”About thirty people were questioned, but four whites were arrested in connection to the stoning of the Hills’ home on Thursday, May 10, 1956. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and The Hotel Trades Council urged Mayor Wagner to take urgent action in a telegram sent to Police Commissioner Kennedy.
Amongst those arrested were two unnamed 14-year olds that were charged with juvenile delinquency in a children’s court for their appearances on the scene of the stoning. The two were remanded to the Youth House and released on $500 bails. Two others arrested were 25-year old William Pizzolongo of 2309 Crotona Avenue, viewed as the mastermind of the stoning attack; and 16-year-old Richard Ferri, an office clerk of 2426 Crotona Avenue. Pizzolongo and Ferri were charged with malicious mischief, but Ferri was also charged with violation of a penal code as the author behind the threatening letter. Both were charged in Bronx magistrate court, Ferri was released on $1,000 bail, Pizzolongo released on $500 bail.
William Pizzolongo was eventually convicted later in May 1956 as the mastermind, but later had his sentence suspended in October 1956. “This court will show greater tolerance to the defendant than he showed to the complainant, in hope that there may be some good in the defendant worth saving,” Justice Benjamin Gassman stated as he placed Pizzolongo on probation.