Today’s news:

POLL: Who was the best leader of the Big Apple?

Some say Ed Koch was a pretty good mayor.
The Brooklyn Paper

Mayor Koch is gone, and that got us wondering who was the best mayor in the history of New York City. We’ve put together the candidates, but it’s up to you, Brooklyn, to separate the best from the rest:

Fiorello La Guardia 1934 – 1945

The irascible “Little Flower” was a progressive New Dealer and early critic of Nazi Germany who got the city through the Depression and restored confidence in city government after years of rampant corruption at the hands of Tammany Hall. La Guardia battled gangsters, unified the city’s fragmented transit system, and famously read the comics to New Yorkers over the radio during the 1939 newspaper strike.

John Lindsay 1966 – 1973

Universally acknowledged as New York’s handsomest mayor, Lindsay’s square jaw failed to impress labor leaders and his time in office was marked by strikes and labor unrest. After switching parties and launching a failed bid for president as a Democrat, Lindsay put his striking good looks to good use as a guest host of “Good Morning America.”

Abe Beame 1974 – 1977

New York’s first Jewish mayor served a single term that was dominated by struggles with the worst fiscal crisis in the city’s history. The traumatic 1977 blackout sank his chances for a second term, and he lost the Democratic primary to Ed Koch. But by the time left office, Beame had saved the city from bankruptcy and turned around the city budget from a $1.5-billion deficit to a $200-million surplus.

Ed Koch 1978 – 1989

During his three terms Koch saw New York through several traumatic parts of the city’s recent history, including the AIDS outbreak, the violence of the crack epidemic, the aftermath of the city’s near-bankruptcy, and eruptions of racial unrest. The indefatigable Big Apple booster left a lasting legacy of city-financed housing construction after Reagan-era budget cuts dried up federal funds. On top of that, the city named the 59th Street Bridge after him, which left him feeling groovy. But his third term was marred with scandal, including the suicide of Donald Manes while the Queens borough president was being investigated for allegedly receiving kickbacks.

Rudy Giuliani 1994 – 2001

A former prosecutor famed for taking on the mob, Giuliani presided over a steep drop in crime and the clean up of seedier parts of the city. He became a national beacon of strength in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and his endorsement was crucial to electing his successor, Michael Bloomberg. But before the attacks, he was considered by many to be a control freak who wanted to clamp down on jaywalkers and people who spit their gum out on the street.

Michael Bloomberg 2002 – 2013

Bloomberg’s business savvy and connections, gained through his years as a Wall Street financier and media mogul, were credited with preventing a mass exodus of corporations from the city following the 9-11 attacks. Bloomberg also succeeded where his predecessors failed in winning mayoral control of the city’s public schools. Despite switching parties to run for mayor as a Republican, Bloomberg remained socially liberal, taking strong stands in favor of gun control, reproductive rights, marriage equality. Oh, and he thinks eight ounces of soda is more than enough.

Reader poll

Who was the greatest mayor in the history of New York City?

Fiorello LaGuardia

John Lindsay

Abe Beame

Ed Koch

Rudy Giuliani

Michael Bloomberg

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

John from Sunset Park says:
John Lindsay was one of the best Mayors. It was a tough time. BTW: Abe Beame was not NY's first Jewish Mayor. Laguardia was the first Jewish Mayor. His mother was a Texas Jew.
Feb. 1, 2013, 9:14 pm
Abe from Bergen says:
Guess Dinkins dindn't count?
Feb. 4, 2013, 1:03 am
Nick from Bushwick says:
Lots of good mayors in NYC... Lindsay walked Harlem and prevented New York's version of Watts. The Little Flower and Koch presided over economic hard times and did good. Bloomberg has made New York a mecca for tourists, albeit making it a city only for the rich.

Few other major metropolitan cities can claim the same.
Feb. 4, 2013, 10:41 am
Bob from PLG says:
I voted for Lindsay largely because I'd never have considered a career with City gov't had I not worked as an intern in the Urban Corps he started in 1966. Lindsay had imagination and was able to start the long process of making NYC once again a desirable place to live, although in the short run his policies lead to near bankruptcy from which Abe Beame, who doesn't get enough credit, rescued the city.
Feb. 4, 2013, 10:47 am
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
Robert Moses!
Feb. 4, 2013, 11:40 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Mayor Dinkins doesn't get enough credit for the beginning of the crime drop...which preceded Giuliani taking office. Dinkins safe streets policing which included enforcing minor crimes(like public drinking) lead directly to the crime drop. Giuliani was a terrible mayor. He didn't like public discourse and free speech. He had cabbies arrested for speaking their minds. He tried to tell museums what they should display. Yes he was good after 9-11..and his personally almost being killed. But crime has continued to drop without his strident hatred of a large part of the NY City population.
Feb. 4, 2013, 12:22 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
I also don't think enough time has passed to make a determination on how Mayor Bloomberg has done...who actually hates democratic process.
Feb. 4, 2013, 12:24 pm
Gabe from New Utrecht says:
Strange list of six. As Sid notes, Giuliani was a horrible mayor. The last three months of his second term do not balance out the almost eight years spent bullying everyone he could.

And no Dinkins, who put in place much of the crime reduction measures that Giuliani took credit for. Similarly, if I can speak ill of the dead, Koch took the credit for Beame's solutions to the financial crisis.

No Wagner either.
Feb. 4, 2013, 12:56 pm
steve from downtown says:
Remember that a city needs a tax base. No income, no government. We came dangerously close to becoming Detroit. Thanks to the leadership of Giuliani and to a certain extent Bloomberg, we're holding our own, just barely. Living in NYC all my life: mayors worst to best: Dinkins, Lindsey, Beam, Koch, Bloomberg, Giuliani.
Feb. 4, 2013, 1:23 pm
Brooklynite from Crown Heights says:
No Dinkins...Odd?
Feb. 4, 2013, 3:26 pm
joe from bensonhurst says:
BEST MAYORS LaGuardia, & Guiliani They cleaned up NYC. Bloomberg ,He is only for wealthy, not the middle class. We need a strong mayor to come in next that will care for the middle class. WE ARE THE BACKBONE OF THIS CITY.
Feb. 4, 2013, 6:24 pm
jinny from fort greene says:
Giuliani had a good 1st term and was a tyrant during his second. Bloomberg was a good 1st term mayor and has ultimately catered to wealthy New Yorkers - all but driving out the middle, working, and lower classes. Truly despicable. Dinkins was largely inconsequential. Koch cannot escape the specter of his glaring inaction on AIDS. Lindsay was charismatic, youthful, and engaged. Not sure where Wagner is on the list. LaGuardia was the mayor that saw the city through the hardest times and truly inspired the city.
Feb. 4, 2013, 6:31 pm
Bob from Prospect Heights says:
That is a hard question to answer. The last four mayors each made a lasting and significant contribution to the City of New York. Koch was the bedrock on which successive mayors fashioned their administration. Koch gave the City back its moxie after the humiliating four years preceding his election. Dinkins gave an important constituency respect and began the reduction in crime. Giuliani made the City the safest big city in the country and made it an attractive destination for the best and the brightest. Bloomberg capitalized on all their successes and ushered in a period of unparalleled prosperity that will ensure New York City's supremacy as the world's greatest city for years to come.
Feb. 4, 2013, 6:54 pm
John from All Brooklyn says:
These may not have been the greatest, but they have the best names:
Whitehead Hicks 1773
Marinus Willett 1808
Cadwallader D. Colden 1818
Ambrose Kingsland 1851
Fernando Wood, the Incubus 1863
George George Opdyke 1864
Abraham Oakley Hall 1869
Ardolph Loges Kline 1913
Feb. 5, 2013, 12:30 am
Homey from Crooklyn says:
The reason Dinkins isn't on the list is because he was the worst mayor ever. Absolutely clueless.
Feb. 5, 2013, 9:56 am
Ken from Greenpoint says:
at that time there was no internet! younger generation didn't remember good old days.......
Feb. 5, 2013, 11:05 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Giuliani was and is a despicable human being in my opinion. Ask Donna Hanover, ask the police commissioner he fired because he got between him and the tv cameras and ask the wall street people he had arrested before the cameras brought out in hand cuffs who were never convicted of anything. Giulaini's relationship with Wall Street was terrible and did nothing to keep the tax base here. I never said Dinkins was a great mayor, I said he didn't get enough credit for starting the programs that led directly to the drop in crime in NY. Yes Giuliani continued and expanded those programs but he was mean and nasty to those who disagreed with him on policy gorunds. But he is not a great mayor and not even a mediocre one.
Dinkins was a great human being, caring almost to a fault. Its too soon to say what Bloomberg is read today's story in the Daily news on how he has botched the negotiations with the teachers union.
Feb. 5, 2013, 11:58 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
btw I think Abe Beame was worse than Dinkins in my lifetime.
Feb. 5, 2013, 12:02 pm
. from high to Low says:
C'mon! This is the Brooklyn Paper! Best mayor ever has to be Seth Low, the only person to serve as both mayor of Brooklyn and mayor of consolidated New York.
Feb. 5, 2013, 12:53 pm
TypicallyGreatEditing from ByTheBrooklynPaper says:
Let's see, leave off the Black mayor (and not even correct the online version of the article!!!!) and hold a cheering section for Mayor Rudy Mussolini and his successor, the TinPot Dictator Bloomberg!

Yeah, good to see a level journalistic standard being maintained here...
Feb. 5, 2013, 5:57 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
Robert Wagner has to go down as the worst mayor from a Brooklyn perspective, since the Dodgers left town while he was in office.

For the reasons mentioned above, Seth Low was the greatest mayor in NYC history.
Feb. 5, 2013, 6:21 pm
Nicky B from Bensonhurst says:
Only an idiot would vote for Bloomberg. He thinks he's a king -- not a mayor -- and hires minions to spread his propaganda. Luckily he'll be out of City Hall along with his minions next year. I would rather vote for Dinkins -- and he's not even a choice thanks to this racist survey.
Feb. 6, 2013, 1:42 am
Nicky B from Bensonhurst says:
Only an idiot would vote for Bloomberg. He thinks he's a king -- not a mayor -- and hires minions to spread his propaganda. Luckily he'll be out of City Hall along with his minions next year. I would rather vote for Dinkins -- and he's not even a choice thanks to this racist survey.
Feb. 6, 2013, 1:42 am
Nicky B from Bensonhurst says:
Only an idiot would vote for Bloomberg. He thinks he's a king -- not a mayor -- and hires minions to spread his propaganda. Luckily he'll be out of City Hall along with his minions next year. I would rather vote for Dinkins -- and he's not even a choice thanks to this racist survey.
Feb. 6, 2013, 1:42 am
Nicky B from Bensonhurst says:
Only an idiot would vote for Bloomberg. He thinks he's a king -- not a mayor -- and hires minions to spread his propaganda. Luckily he'll be out of City Hall along with his minions next year. I would rather vote for Dinkins -- and he's not even a choice thanks to this racist survey.
Feb. 6, 2013, 1:42 am
Nicky B from Bensonhurst says:
Only an idiot would vote for Bloomberg. He thinks he's a king -- not a mayor -- and hires minions to spread his propaganda. Luckily he'll be out of City Hall along with his minions next year. I would rather vote for Dinkins -- and he's not even a choice thanks to this racist survey.
Feb. 6, 2013, 1:42 am
Nicky B from Bensonhurst says:
Only an idiot would vote for Bloomberg. He thinks he's a king -- not a mayor -- and hires minions to spread his propaganda. Luckily he'll be out of City Hall along with his minions next year. I would rather vote for Dinkins -- and he's not even a choice thanks to this racist survey.
Feb. 6, 2013, 1:42 am
Old Man from Canarsie says:
What about Jimmy Walker?

For those too young to remember, I quote Wikipedia:

In 1926, he became Mayor of New York City, having defeated incumbent John F. Hylan in the 1925 Democratic primary with the help of Governor Alfred E. Smith and Tammany Hall. Due to the influence of Tammany Hall in his victory, Walker's defeat of Hylan is considered by some to be more of a coup, rather than an electoral victory.[1] The initial years of his mayoralty were a prosperous time for the city, with many public works projects. However, Walker's term was also known for the proliferation of speakeasies during the Prohibition era. It is a noted aspect of his career as Mayor and as a member of the State Senate that Walker was in heavy opposition of prohibition. Walker’s political rise in New York can be seen as representative of the states ascendance into being a “wet” state.[2] His affairs with "chorus girls" were widely known, and he left his wife, Janet, for showgirl Betty Compton without impairing his popularity. He managed to maintain the five-cent subway fare despite a threatened strike.

Walker won re-election by an overwhelming margin in 1929, defeating Republican Fiorello La Guardia and Socialist Norman Thomas. Walker's fortunes turned downward with the economy after the stock-market crash of 1929. Patrick Joseph Hayes, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, denounced him, implying that the immorality of the mayor, both personal and political in tolerating "girlie magazines" and casinos, was a cause of the economic downturn. This was one of the causes which led to Tammany Hall pulling their support for Walker.[3]

Increasing social unrest led to investigations into corruption within his administration, and he was eventually forced to testify before the investigative committee of Judge Samuel Seabury, the Seabury Commission. Walker caused his own downfall by accepting large sums of money from businessmen looking for municipal contracts.[4]

Facing pressure from Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Walker resigned from office on September 1, 1932, and promptly fled for Europe until the danger of criminal prosecution appeared remote.

-- Jimmy Walker was a dyn-o-mite mayor!
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:37 am
Old Man from Canarsie says:
And don't forget Bill O'Dwyer, who also had to get out of the country before his mayoral term was up:

In 1945, O'Dwyer received the nomination of Tammany Hall Leader Edward V. Loughlin and easily won the mayoral election. At his inauguration, O'Dwyer celebrated to the song, "It's a Great Day for the Irish," and addressed the 700 people gathered in Council Chambers at City Hall: "It is our high purpose to devote our whole time, our whole energy to do good work..." He established the Office of City Construction Coordinator, appointing Robert Moses to the post, worked to have the permanent home of the United Nations located in Manhattan, presided over the first billion-dollar New York City budget, created a traffic department and raised the subway fare from five cents to ten cents. In 1948, O'Dwyer received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York."

Shortly after his re-election to the mayoralty in 1949, O'Dwyer was confronted with a police corruption scandal uncovered by the Kings County District Attorney, Miles McDonald. O'Dwyer resigned from office on August 31, 1950. Upon his resignation, he was given a ticker tape parade up Broadway's Canyon of Heroes in the borough of Manhattan. President Harry Truman appointed him U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. He returned to New York City in 1951 to answer questions concerning his association with organized crime figures and the accusations followed him for the rest of his life. He resigned as Ambassador on December 6, 1952, but remained in Mexico until 1960.
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:41 am
Old Man from Canarsie says:
I also remember Vincent Impellitteri, the great "Impy":

Under the City Charter of the day, when O'Dwyer resigned, City Council President Impellitteri became acting mayor. The Tammany bosses didn't think he was Mayor material, and they refused to nominate him as the Democratic candidate for the special election in November 1950, which instead went to highly regarded New York State Supreme Court Judge Ferdinand Pecora, who was also given the Liberal line. "Impy" (as he was fondly known) was forced to run as an independent under the banner of the new “Experience Party”. He also popularized the phrase "unbought and unbossed" during his 1950 campaign.

Impellitteri was the first mayor since the consolidation of greater New York in 1898 who was elected without a major party’s ballot line, and his election was a populist uprising against the political system.

Impellitteri (Experience Party) 1,161,175 votes
Ferdinand Pecora (Democratic/Liberal) 935,351
Edward Corsi (Republican) 382,372
Paul L. Ross (American Labor) 147,578

Further information: New York City mayoral elections#1950

Impellitteri’s inauguration, held on November 14, 1950, absent either a band or a platform, was both swift and simple. Outside City Hall, he pledged to “do my level best to justify the confidence you have reposed in me.”

Shortly after Impellitteri's succession, the Brooklyn District Attorney arrested bookie Harry Gross and launched a corruption scandal that ultimately caused nearly 500 police officers of all ranks to resign, retire, or be fired. This famous scandal caused Impellitteri to vigorously support the Brooklyn District Attorney, Miles McDonald, and fire everyone who had been associated with former Mayor William O'Dwyer.

Impellitteri is credited with trying to rein in the budget, raising the bus and subway fare to fifteen cents, establishing parking meters on city streets for enhanced revenue and increasing the sales tax. He aspired to be a new light in city politics, but his administration met with some resistance from the established order. At the time Robert Moses wielded significant influence, who, according to Robert Caro (in his Robert Moses biography The Power Broker), Impellitteri deferred to behind the scenes.

Impellitteri ran for reelection in 1953[citation needed], but was defeated by then Manhattan Borough President Robert F. Wagner, Jr., who appointed him a criminal court judge in 1954. He served out his career in public office on the bench. Following his wife's death he spent much of his time at the New York Athletic Club

"Impy" retired from the bench in 1965.
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:44 am
Old Man from Canarsie says:
As you can see, there were better and worse mayors than you young hipsters remember! In my time, these men were giants who walked Broadway!
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:46 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links