GNY explores the emergence of Irish gangs in the Five Corners region of Manhattan in the mid-nineteenth century. Open hostility toward immigrants was common and no government assistance existed then. Important to the background of the story is the fact that Irish men immigrating to the US were enlisted into the army as soon as they stepped off the boat. With no money and no prospects, enlistment was the only option for many immigrants. Though this is a work of fiction, the characters Bill 'the butcher' and Vallon 'the priest' were real people described in the 1927 book 'The Gangs of New York,' by Herbert Asbury.