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It's 1909, and from the decks of the steamship bringing Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung to America for a lecture tour, hundreds of European immigrants are straining for a glimpse of shore. The first thing they see in the night sky is a small light on the horizon that grows more fiery as they approach land. Soon it appears that all of New York is being consumed by flames. As they draw closer, their alarm turns to relief and then amazement. This first searing image of the New World is not of a city on fire, but of the million electric lights of Coney Island's Dreamland amusement park, a sight so spectacular and unearthly that they think they can only be passing through the gates of heaven or hell. From the decks of one of these ships comes a young Eastern European stowaway whose survival instincts fit seamlessly with the needs of a small-time gangster on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As he rises within the organization, he meets and falls in love with the daughter of a rabbi, a young woman working in the Triangle Building sweatshops. Their lives intersect with organizers in the nascent labor union movement and a high-ranking politician neck-deep in Tammany Hall corruption, leading to a magnificent and explosive conclusion back on Coney Island.
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