These are grim times for New York political bosses. Former Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption trial ends on Monday. Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ corruption trial has just begun. Former Kings County Democratic Chairman Vito Lopez is dead.
Today is an anniversary celebrating a rare win for New York reformers: on November 19, 1871, William “Boss” Magear Tweed was arrested. Here are some fun and surprising stories you may not have known about the infamously corrupt Boss Tweed:
Captain Kidd, one of Williamsburg’s first regular visitors, entertaining guests. Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, courtesy of Wikimedia.
Editor note: Untapped Cities columnist Janos Marton, New York City lawyer, activist and founder of the website janos.nyc has been working on a full history of Williamsburg. While this project will be in progress for some time, a few months of research has already yielded fun facts about the popular Brooklyn neighborhood, which he will share with us today. In a fun anecdote, he says:
I got to drop one at a biker bar on Saturday night. A group of bikers were mocking the real estate industry’s generation of new neighborhoods, like “East Williamsburg”, and the latest, “Bushwood.” Somehow “Bushwick” got mockingly thrown into the mix, and I felt obliged to point out that Bushwick was actually named by Peter Stuyvesant in 1660, so unless one wants to argue (and one could) that “Bushwick” was a very old school real estate marketing gimmick, at least that neighborhood can stand on its name.
Without further ado, ten interesting facts about Williamsburg, before it was cool–before it was even Williamsburg.
Police riot, they want a riot, police riot, a riot of their own! Why should civilians have all the fun? On June 16, 1857, two rival police squads clashed at City Hall: the Municipals, under the command of the notorious Mayor Fernando Wood, and the Metropolitans, acting under the authority of the state.
Fernando Wood brought New York City corruption to new heights, and made plenty of enemies along the way–he even put forth a motion for Manhattan to secede from the Union). There must have been roguish charm about him, though, because he was elected mayor on three occasions after years of running a “grocery-groggery” on the waterfront.
Until the events of September 11th, the sinking of the General Slocum was responsible for the largest loss of life in New York City. The tragedy forever changed the composition of the Lower East Side. Yet, a 111 years later, it has largely receded from city memory.
On June 15, 1904, St. Mark’s Evangelical Church chartered a boat, the General Slocum, to take 1358 members of its German-American congregation for a fun-filled day on the water and on a Long Island beach. For the kids, this was a day to look forward, and chance to breathe the fresh air and play outside, away from the dirty tenement scene in turn-of-the-century LES.
NYC bridges locked by municipal workers in 1971
Across the United States, the power of organized labor has been largely diminished, but in New York City, unions remain relevant, throwing their muscle behind campaigns and driving public policy. Even here, however, labor has receded from its high-water mark, a moment that labor historian Joshua Freeman believes took place on June 8, 1971. On this day, New York City’s sewer and drawbridge systems were shutdown leading to an environmental moment the city would probably rather forget.
Peter Stuyvesant arrives in New Amsterdam as the new Director General of New Netherland. Image via allposter.com
New Amsterdam in the early 1640s was a mess. Trash was strewn about the muddy streets, drunken sailors and farm animals ambled about, and New Netherland’s small population was huddled up in Manhattan after a bruising war against local Native American tribes. Enter Peter Stuyvesant. On May 27, 1647, he took over as Director General of New Netherland for the Dutch West India Company, telling the assembled crowd that he would “govern you as a father his children.” He would play the stern father in New Netherland until 1664, when the Dutch surrendered control of the colony to the British. (New Netherland was the full New York-area colony, New Amsterdam was lower Manhattan.)