On Sundays, Gothamist asks our friends and neighbors for Op-Ed contributions-- essays about things related to life in New York City. For instance, below, local history expert Matt Levy schools you in some mayoral history:
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the host with the most, the ampitheater that’s coming right at ya, the most glorious arena in the world, New York City – for the time being, not being in time at all! If you thought that New York was a place all its own, you’ve come to the right show! Thanks to a magnificent glitch in the fabric of the space-time continuum, which was then further sponsored by NYC & Co, the city’s tourism bureau, and appearing for one night only, we present to you a full-on, no-holds barred NYC Battle of the Mayors. Head to head and power suit to energy tie, the greatest and not-so-greatest Mayors of the greatest city in the world will do combat, across decades and boroughs, pitting policy against budget and construction against consumerism. Who will emerge as the Greatest Mayor of the City of New York? Only you can determine that.
Round One – the Moustache Mayors: Robert Van Wyck vs. Seth Low:
In the red corner, we have Robert Van Wyck, first Mayor of the newly consolidated Greater New York (1898-1901). Clocking in as a Tammany crook and first-rate embezzler, an administrative disaster with a personal hatred of speaking in public. so don’t expect Van Wyck to make any concessions to the packed crowd tonight. He does, however, bear a moustache of considerable virility and style.
And in the blue corner, his immediate succesor, former President of Columbia and Previous Mayor of Brooklyn, Reform’s greatest hope for the early 20th century, Seth Low (1902-1903). A man active in progressive politics, from lowered taxes for the working class to introducing civil services, from a betterment of the school system to a reduction in the graft and slippery police politics. Low’s moustache has far less heft than his predeccesor but carries a certain subdued grace.
And ding, there goes the bell. Van Wyck is fast, circling around Low but seems distracted, mumbling low and indeterminate about stealing enough money to get out of this New York hell hole, when Low dusts off his glove and delivers a slamming right hook to Van Wyck’s generally incompetant mug. Van Wyck stumbles back, rebounds, and charges straight for Low’s ruddy complexion and holier-than-thou Reform stance. Low dodges quickly letting Van Wyck rush by, but Van Wyck doesn’t go for a blow, rather for his . . . briefcase! Throwing off his gloves and reaching into the briefcase ,Van Wyck pulls out, what’s that? Money?! Yes my God, its cold cash, which is thrown into the ring, thrown at the Progressive politician Low in what looks like a bribe! This is astonishing folks, nothing of the sort has ever been seen here before, or at least in public. Normally these business transactions are common occurance, but buried deep inside Tammany Hall. The crowd is going nuts, but Low doesn’t seem affected. Low vows to “Consecrate myself to the welfare of the people,” rushes towards Van Wyck, grabs that monstrous moustache and throws it, along with its owner to the ground!
Its over! Seth Low is the champion!
Matt Levy is a poet and a life-long New Yorker. He's an expert on every aspect of our mysterious, terrifying city. He runs the Spittin' Devil literary series every Sunday at Spuyten Duyvel in Williamsburg, and occasionally throws parties on the subway. His website is ActionDirection.