Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Mayor Who Wasn't the Richest Man in Town

In my New Yorker rootings, I came across a mayor I knew nothing about in a Talk of the Town piece in the March 2, 1946 issue. William O'Dwyer was the 100th mayor of New York City. He was not born in the U.S. (nor was the mayor who came after: Vincent Impelliteri) was born in Sicily, but in Bohola, County Mayo. (I have heard the county referred to as "County Mayo God help us," as if it's all one thought.) After our last few mayors, it's hard for me to imagine that. The New Yorker piece describes Mayo's residents as including St. Patrick, Grace O'Malley (aka The Pirate Queen) and Oscar Wilde.
O'Dwyer succeeded LaGuardia as mayor. He and his wife lived in a double house in Bay Ridge in the 70s. One Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, Tom and I went to find the house. It looks exactly as the magazine described it: brick and faux Tudor. There was no indication that a mayor or anyone else of note had ever lived there. After O'Dwyer was elected to his second term, the Kings County D.A. (where O'Dwyer had worked before he was mayor) uncovered a scandal in the police department that was so bad that O'Dwyer resigned less than a year into his second term.
Photo credit: nyc.gov


Barry Rowell said...

I don't remember many of the details but O'Dwyer (and Impelliteri) are, naturally, players in Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, "The Power Broker." I know that Moses ran roughshod over him, as he did with every governor and NYC mayor he "served under," and I vaguely remembered that O'Dwyer had been driven out of office by a scandal (but not what the scandal was). I'm pretty sure that he and Impelliteri were the last truly Tammany-backed mayors, sort of the last gasp of the machine before it finally sputtered out in the '60s.

anniep said...

Barry- Could you be the only person I know that actually finished "The Power Broker"? Besides myself?
I wish I could say that what replaced the machine is a lot better, but not at the moment.