While traversing the wilds of Williamsburg on New Year’s Day, 2014, I stumbled on a forlorn, windswept concrete traffic triangle that is likely little frequented by even area denizens. The name of this plaza reminded me that several miles away, a new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, was taking the oath of office, and that in 2013, the Queensboro Bridge was renamed, or subtitled, depending on what you prefer, as the Ed Koch Bridge.
The 20th Century has seen a number of mayors who were larger than life, including Fiorello LaGuardia: the Little Flower, among NYC’s most colorful mayors, served three terms from 1932-1945, and is remembered by two busts (LaGuardia Houses in the Lower East Side and in the Marine Air Terminal, Queens) a statue on the Greenwich Village street named for him, one of NYC’s two major airports, and a community college in Queens. On Broadway, he was played by Tom Bosley, later Richie Cunningham’s father on TV’s Happy Days, in 1961. A restaurant near Lincoln Center bears his first name.
Robert A. Van Wyck, NYC’s first mayor after the 1898 5-borough consolidation, had a major north-south boulevard, later an expressway, named for him, as well as a Jamaica junior high school; Brooklyn’s Seth Low enjoys a park and a public school in Gravesend, Brooklyn; George B. McClellan, Junior, who was the mayor from 1904-1909, was the son of Civil War General McClellan (who clashed with Lincoln and ran for President against him). He presided over the opening of NYC’s subway system October 27, 1904 and took the controls of the first train to rumble through the tunnel. He seemingly has no major NYC monuments, though his father has a Bronx street in High Bridge named for him. His successor’s memorial, the William Jay Gaynor Memorial is rather prominent in Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn.
John Purroy Mitchel, the youngest elected mayor in NYC history, has a prominent gilded bust at a Central Park entrance at 5th Avenue and 91st Street, as well as a pair of flagpoles outside the New York Public Library at 5th Avenue and 41st street. John F. Hylan is honored by a housing project near his old house in Bushwick, as well as a major boulevard in Staten Island. Jimmy Walker, his successor, left office under a cloud of corruption though James J. Walker Park, on St.Lukes Place and Hudson Street opposite his former townhouse is named for him, and he was played by Bob Hope in the movies and by Frank Gorshin on Broadway.
Ardolph Kline, John P. O’Brien, William O’Dwyer, and Vincent Impelliteri served with distinction in the 20th Century, but are little-remembered. If there are any schools or plazas named for any of them, let me know.
Robert F. Wagner Junior, a scion of a powerful political family who served three terms from January 1, 1954—January 1, 1966, is honored by the Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Secondary School For Arts And Technology in Astoria, Queens, and Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City.
Abraham Beame, who presided over NYC’s fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s in which the city nearly declared bankruptcy (and left office with a $200M surplus) seemingly has no public memorials in town, except for a street tree at 3rd Avenue near East 34th planted by him in 1977. David Dinkins, NYC’s first African-American mayor, is remembered by a pedestrian plaza, David Dinkins Circle, at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park entrance. Dinkins, an avid tennis fan, helped secure funding for Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the US Open is held each summer. Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg are not yet honored by any public memorials [as of January 2014].
John Lindsay Triangle can be found in a true triangle formed by Broadway, Lorimer Street and Throop Avenue in southern Williamsburg, almost at the point where Bedford-Stuyvesant begins. It was so named in 1998 by Rudy Giuliani’s parks Commissioner, Henry Stern.
Lindsay (1921-2000), elected in 1965, was the first NYC mayor in my consciousness. He was a tall, patricianly sort, part of a now-extinct breed: the liberal Republican (of which longtime Senator Jacob Javits was another member). He presided through the Swingin’ Sixties and into the 1970s, entertaining a Presidential run in the spring of 1972. Just as deBlasio is the first elected Democratic mayor in 20 years, so was Lindsay the first elected Republican mayor in 24 years, since LaGuardia won in 1941. He was forced to deal with a transit strike upon taking office, and his failure in cleaning up after a snowstorm, especially in Queens, in February 1969, led to his defeat in Republican primaries for mayor to John Marchi, a longtime Staten Island politician. He ran as an independent and squeaked into City Hall again. His tenure is considered middling at best, though he instituted reforms in NYPD minority recruitment and added to the cityscape with small “vest pocket” parks. However, the city was roiled by strikes, unrest in the Vietnam War era and there was a general feeling that the city’s problems were too much for one man to deal with. A biography of John Lindsay was titled The Ungovernable City.
Given all that, though, Lindsay Plaza, on land ultimately ceded from the colonial-era Wyckoff family (Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, from Holland, built the city’s oldest still-standing house in East Flatbush) seems unduly isolated and sad. The three park benches standing there are replicas of old-school park benches that were used in the early part of the 20th Century. Other than that, it’s flat pavement, some brick pavement and a few trees getting what sun is possible under an elevated train.
From the north end of Lindsay Triangle, a look west on Middleton Street reveals a good look at the King of All Brooklyn Buildings, One Hanson Place, aka the Williamsburg Bank Tower.
For John Purroy Mitchel there also Mitchel Square in Washington Heights
Here is a photo of the dedication tablet
Amen on the Willie. I am a couple of years older than you so my first mayor was Wagner. Except for the historical guys my favorite is Hizzoner, Mayor Ed “how am I doin” Koch.
Rudy Giuliani: best mayor ever. He acomplished more in 8 years than Koch managed in his 12 & Koch knew it which is why he turned on Giuliani “He’s a mean man” said Koch of Giuliani. Koch should have listened to his wringer, poultry baron Frank Purdue, who said “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”.
Any statue of El Bloombito should have him standing atop a base which looks like a styrofoam container while wearing a sombrero, taking a drag of a cigarette and holding a bucket-o-soda. It should be placed in front of the largest, flashiest fast food emporium in Manhattan.
I was around back then. The “bad old days” started under Lindsay, as he did nothing to stanch the hemmorage of the middle class from fleeing the city. A crappy traffic triangle is fitting. May he rest in peace…if he can.
Ditto. It all started with his anything goes “fun city”.
There was a Staten Island ferry named “The Mayor Gaynor” around 1920. There is a Walker Park in the Livingston Section (north shore) of Staten Island. It was originally a lawn tennis association grounds where Mary Outerbridge introduced tennis from Bermuda to the U.S.
Actually, Walker Park, initially known as Livingston Park, was named to honor Lieutenant Randolph Walker Jr., who died in World War I. Walker was a distinguished cricket player.
Seth Low/I.S. 96 alum here! Graduated in 1980! I’ve lived in Portland, OR for over 12 years now, but still LOVE this site!
Concerning the Abe Beame “memorial”, I’m pretty sure that there’s a monument that’s either stone or bronze, but otherwise the same as the one in your photo, at a tree pit on the west side of Third Avenue just south of 23rd Street.
I’d be perfectly willing to go out and verify it but right now it’s 15 degrees with a wind-chill of 8 degrees. It”ll wait!
Not sure Impelliteri “served with distinction”. The major biographer of Robert Moses describes him as totally in over his head, and working under the complete direction of Moses. Moses would bring in his needed paperwork and tell Impelliteri to sign it.
Lindsay was a good man , but a weak and ineffectual mayor .
De Blasio reminds me too much of him — a man with no real governing background , (with an obvious hated for the rich)
Seth Low, just before becoming the second mayor of the “greater” city, was President of Columbia University, during the time it moved to Morningside Heights. Low Memorial Library, the centerpiece of the campus, is almost named for him: Low provided funds to build it in memory of his father, but it is named only Low, no first name!
NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service is named for the late NYC mayor, who died in 1991.
I believe that a section of Central Park was recently named in Lindsay’s honor. (Like other posters, I considered him to be a man of good intentions but a failure as Mayor.)
The former IS 49, in Williamsburg Houses development area, was initially named after Mayor Gaynor. Since it was one of the many schools that have been closed and re-named, this may not longer be the case. In any event, his name still appears on the facade.
The triangle that is featured in the article was initially called Zindel Park. (When I once asked the Parks Dept. people what or whom Zindel meant, they could not supply an answer.) Back in the 1850’s when the park was established, a large water fountain was installed here. Since this was a time when most houses did not possess running water, this fountain had a very utilitarian function.
I was in my early teens when Lindsay first ran for mayor. Can recall that one of the big issues he pushed in his campaign was the ‘Water Shortage’, caused by the multi-year drought at the time, and how “inadequately” the current City Administration had prepared for it.
Mother Nature took care of that problem before his next election.
If I recall, Mayor Lindsay (or Linsley per Mike Quill) had some trouble getting streets plowed, trains and busses running and garbage collected. A progressive guy with big ideas but out of touch with daily realities.
Good Slice….I remember going to a Lindsey Rally for his first run for office in Queens when I was about 10 yrs old. And Dad taught for many years at Van Wyck JHS in Richmond Hill.
The renaming of things like bridges and roads bothers me. Think about people coming to NYC and trying to drive. The roads and congestion are bad enough. What does the Ed Koch bridge mean to anyone who didn’t grow up in NYC during a certain time period? The Queensboro or 59th Street bridge actually means something as did the Interboro Parkway. And what did Hugh Carey do during his one term as Governor to warrant changing the name of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which happens to go between the Battery and Brooklyn. A apartment building, park, statue or even an airport fine. But I wish they would stop renaming roads and bridges. Just leads to more confusion. When I drive in Chicago I refer to 55 or 294 (or the TriState)…not the Ryan Expressway or the Stevenson.
I agree with you. However, Hugh Carey served two terms as governor. He was very effective in dealing with the NYC & NYS fiscal crises in the ’70’s. They don’t make Democrats like him any more. His record serves as an inconvenient truth for the progressives of today.
Wasn’t there an Ed Koch ‘memorial stone’ somewhere in the UES? Think I remember a posting here some time ago…
A road in Central Park was recently renamed after John V. Lindsay.
I like the mayor ex bx t. f cop