Monday, November 22, 2004


The Democratic Reform Movement Parts 1-6 v.3

LOOKING BACK by Wally Dobelis
The Democratic Reform Movement Part I
While browsing through the new Encyclopedia of New York City, it came to my mind that an important portion of history needs documenting - the system of political clubs, District Leaders, and the reform movement that broke the hold of Tammany over Democratic politics. This is an anecdotal bits and pieces history, some from my own fun days as a member of the late maverick Murray Hill Reform Democratic Club, helped along by the recollections of Charles Kinsolving, Lou Sepersky, Ken Mills, Bea Dolan, Maureen Lynch, Irene Shea, Louise Dankberg and others whom you may recognize as we move along.
Kinsolving dates the early start of reform to 1946, the beginning of the Mayoralty of William O'Dwyer, or, more likely, to 1949 when Lexington, the first Reform Democratic club, was organized. That was the year when Courtland Nichols ran for the Assembly (details?) with the aid of various mainstream Penn and Columbia Law graduates, and when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to Congress from the Upper West Side district of the late Sol Bloom, against the opposition of the regular old line Democratic organization. Reform grew stronger in 1951, when Vincent M.Impellitteri was Mayor and Carmine DeSapio (1908-) chaired the New York County Democratic organization, still known as Tammany Hall, even though the 17th Street wigwam had been sold to the ILGWU in 1943, to pay off debts. Impellitteri became acting Mayor upon the resignation of William O'Dwyer, who had been tainted by evidence during the prosecution of Brooklyn bookmaker Harry Gross, and opted out, in favor of an Ambassadorship to Mexico.The Democratic organization was slowly recovering from the lean Laguardia mayorality years (1933-45), and DeSapio was friendly with the reformers, a loose group of war veterans interested in participatory politics and Fair Deal Democrats (Fair Deal was President Harry S. Truman's social program that included aid to education, slum clearance, low-cost public housing and an unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Taft-Hartley Labor Act.) DeSapio himself was a sort of reformer, having been elected County Leader in 1949, after years of battling the Irish establishment. He took over the city-wide leadership when Edward J. Flynn, the respected Bronx County Leader, died in 1953.
In 1951, the reform groundswell managed to elect several of their district leaders. With DeSapio's help, in 1953 the reformers also managed to change the election rules, from indirect election of Distict Leaders (who were until then elected by county committeemen), to direct, through the ballot box. DeSapio gained Reform credentials when in 1953 he, the first Italian county leader, tried eliminating Bert Stand, a Tammany officer and an important member of the Irish leadership group, long-time Treasurer of the Democratic County Executive Committee. The story is that DeSapio was material in the founding of the Tilden, now Tilden Midtown Democratic Club. In 1954 he actually selected several Liberal progressives - Robert F. Wagner Jr. (1910-91) for Mayor, who beat Impellitteri, and W.Averell Harriman (1891-1986) for Governor, who beat Republican Kenneth B. Keating from Rochester (in 1958 he lost to Nelson A. Rockefeller, because Harriman would not return calls from Dorothy Schiff, the then most powerful New York Post owner/publisher, and in anger she endorsed his opponent).
In 1957 the Reform candidates campaigned in 20 of Manhattan's 33 districts, and elected several leaders. The reformers broke with DeSapio in 1958, when former Gov., then Sen. Herbert H. Lehman (1878-1963) became too sick to continue running for Senate, and DeSapio at the Buffalo Democratic Convention selected New York City's District Attorney Frank Hogan, over Thomas E. Murray, of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Thomas K. Finletter, former Secretary of the Air Force and the Reformers' choice. Julius C.C.Edelstein, Lehman's team leader, saw it as treason (Edelstein was later staff director of the Liberal caucus in the US Senate). Hogan was a bad campaigner and lost the election to the Republican Keating, who subsequently lost to Robert F Kennedy, in 1964. DeSapio also backed Arthur Levitt in the Democratic primaries of 1961 against Wagner, causing further Reform ire. On his home grounds, in Greenwich Village, DeSapio tried to counter the local revolt against his Tamawa Club, in 1960, by running two Reformers, Charles Kinsolving and Eleanor Clark French, as his candidates for the Democratic State Committe, but they lost against the young Greenwich Village Independents. The VIDs had their revenge, by electing James Lanigan and Carol Greitzer as District Leaders over DeSapio in 1961, when the New York Times ran an 8-column banner headline proclaiming the Wagner and Lanigan victories. Lanigan lost favor by immediately declaring himself a candidate for county leadership, so says Edward I. Koch (1924-), then VID president. Koch won the District Leader designation, by beating off De Sapio's challenges, in 1963 and 1965, and the courtly head of Tammany (nicknamed the Bishop), having lost his county office along with his DL position in 1961, finally had to retire. Temporary county leadership went to the great Judge Simon Rifkind (1902-95), appointed by Mayor Wagner in 1961. Rifkind was replaced by Reform leader Edward Costikyan in 1962 (against the wishes of most Reformers), and J. Raymond Jones, Adam Clayton Powell's Congressional campaign manager and head of Harlem Democrats, in 1964. A book by Edmonde Charles-Roux, correspondent of the French Vogue in New York, To Forget Palermo, is thought to be a roman-a-clef about DeSapio. It was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1956.
The county leadership eventually went to Frank Rosetti, who continued until 1977, when Mayor Koch replaced him with the VID leader Miriam Bachman (who replaced Carol Greitzer when Carol was elected to the City Council), subsequently Ed Costikyan. Herman (Denny) Farrell has beeen the County Leader since 1981.

The reform powers were Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1963), then delegate to the United Nations, Senator Lehman and lawyer Thomas K. Finletter, former Secretary of the Air Force, augmented by Francis W.H. Adams the Ivy League Police Commissioner and the liberal attorney Lloyd Garrison. Their young warriors managed to elect full slates of DLs in 1958, thanks to the the strength reformers had gained from the Adlai Stevenson Presidential campaigns, 1952 and 1956. The Irish Democratic regulars did not back Stevenson because he was divorced. The "middle class semi-intellectuals" (Chas Kinsolwing's words, not mine) won 16 districts, in Manhattan, Riverdale and Brooklyn Heights.
In the Manhattan 1st Assembly District North (now the 63rd) the reform Murray Hill Citizens, (later the Murray Hill Reform Democratic Club) founded in 1958, in 1959 elected Arthur Glixon as District Leader, over the regulars Jerry Murphy and Emlyn Murray Bates. In the next election they picked Charles Kinsolving, the club's President, in 1961 (Charlie, ex-Lexington club, had unsuccessfully run for the Assembly in 1954).
In the East, Shanley Egeth's East Midtown Club, an outgrowth of the old Stevensonian Democratic Club, went head to head with the regulars of the George W. Thompson Democratic Club. After winning they picked up the Thompson club's more liberals members (Bruce Solomon, Frank Volente, Bill Volin), while the club-less old-liners with working captaincies became political gunslingers, reputedly working for the Albano Republicans as well as Democrats. As an aside, a working captaincy, with the ability to produce a hundred or more votes, was valuable capital, as well as a community asset. Captains and local party organization helped a lot of indigent constituents. As personal benefits go, a party faithful could become a paid pothole watcher, more properly a corporation inspector, reporting to Con Edison any potholes indicative of subsoul wash-aways in the watcher's assigned tour area. Miraculously, some were actually reported. This sinecure ended some time in the 1960s. By the way, Senator Alfonse D'Amato's "Pothole" nickname stems from the fact that he always made his office available to handle complaints from his community, including pothole reports - if memory serves.
The East Midtowners met in the Half Moon Bar on NW 28th St and 2nd Ave, until they acquired temporary possession of a magnificent condemned building, which they made available for parties to raise rent money, with little success. The East Midtown founders include Margot and Arnold Fine (he became a judge in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court), Lou Helpert, George Ouzounian, Larry Gershon. Shanley 's co-leaders were Joan Carroll, and, after 1968, Mary Stumpf. When judge-maker Shanley joined the judiciary himself, in 1973 the club merged with Tilden to become the Tilden Midtown Democratic Club.
Some of the organizers of the original 1953 Tilden Club in the South were Margot Gayle (an early reformer, former head of the the League of Women Voters, today the head of Friends of Cast Iron Architecture), and Judge Millard (Will) Madonick, the first District Leaders, Robert Ferrari, Allen Finberg and Anne Kennedy (who became Adlai Stevenson's secretary at the UN and died at a young age), and the wonderful Beth Robertson Cosnow, DL for 23 years. It was at her memorial service in May 1991 that bagpipes were heard at the Brotherhood Synagogue for the first time.
Sen. Moynihan was an early member.
Later leaders were Bruce Solomon, who came over from the East Midtown Club (as did Mickey Egeth), Larry Gerson, Donald Tobias, John Levitt and Louis Frank. Today the president is Alice Spiegler. James S. Lanigan, who eliminated DeSapio as DL in 1959, was the founding president. Louise Dankberg, is the current DL, with the male half given over to Gramercy-Stuyvesant Independent Democrats' Tom Nooter. GSID, a post-reform club, has off and on contested territories with the Tildens andd the Jeffersons. Sylvia Friedman won the female District Leader position in 1985, and they traded that away for the male DL position in 1993.
GSID was started by some anti-Vietnam volunteers brought together by the McGovern 1972 presidential campaign, in a 14th Street storefront. They won some offices - Maureen Flatley and Tom Holman went to the State Committee in 1978, Myrna LePree later, Ken Flatow and Joel Brind were DLs. Some early participants were Klaus von Stutterheim, Patricia Ferguson, Beno Foster, Irene Shea, the late Jane Terpening (in whose memory the club makes annual contributions to the swimming program of the Asher Levy Pool), Herbert Block. Sylvia and Myrna currently share the club presidency.
A splinter of East Midtown in the North, Mid-Manhattan Democrats, contested and took over the Murray Hill Club's territory in 1973, Lou Sepersky and Mary Stumpf replacing Charles Kinsolving and Arlene Hershman in district leadership (of this more later). Steve Rosen, a DL in 1977, later was a leader in the fight against the Waterside development. The club merged with the New Democrats during the redistricting of 1980, to become the Mid- Manhattan New Democratic Club, and Raymong Gibson came over to become DL. The late Mary Stumpf continued as District Leader, followed by Karen Lantz. Peter Doukas, whose grandfather John was a ctive in the Educational Alliance, and who got Congressmen to help immigrants off Ellis Island in the 1920s, is the current DL. He won the 1988 Democratic Congressional primary in 1988 against John Lewitt, Paul Rao Jr and George MacDonald the homeless advocate, to lose the election against the incumbent Bill Green. Current club prseident is Perry Luntz.
The original New Democratic Club organizers were Ed Costikyan (later County Leader twice, member of the Charter Revision Commission and Deputy Mayor in Koch's first term, attorney with Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison - savor those names, there's the history of the entire Democratic establishment), Marian Weinstein, Frieda Barlow, Howard Amron, Christine Volkmar. They ran against the Bell Club, of which I know naught. Other DLs; Al Hartwell, Jackie Berkowitz. John McCain was a tenant leader in preserving Tudor City's park;

The old Jefferson Club remained regular. Its ancient boundaries, according to Bea Dolan who joined before 1937 (the year when she got married), were 14th Street to Houston Street, and the District Leaders were David Lazarus (father of Judge Lester), Sam Sassler (Building Commissioner), and Sidney Moses. Bea's husband was a strong believer in living in the district of his captaincy, and they stayed on East 7th Street for many years. In the 1950s, during the period of Bernard Nadel, (who eventually became a judge), the district took in Stuyvesant Town (built 1947), and the Dolans moved there. Subsequently the leaders were Milt Rittow, co-leader Rosemary Fay, Jane, Chris and Kevin McGraths, Rose Dubinsky (married to Judge Jack Dubinsky), Frank Valente. The term co-leader connoted being in charge of stuffing envelopes and receiving a beautiful bouquet at the annual fund-raising hotel dinner (I use it whenever historically correct, with apologies). The dinner income, and the annual journal ads kept the clubs going financially, and the clubs got jobs for the active members, and assistance in times of need. Maurice (Marcy) O'Rourke, a captain and Commissioner of Elections offered Bea a job in 1963, from which she retired as Executive Director in 1974. Her Republical counterpart was Bart Regazzi, the District Leader from the Vincent F. Albano Club, Chief Clerk for Manhattan.
The highly regarded Vincent F. Albano became the Republican County Leader during the Lindsay administration, 1965-73. A real people person, he had a problem with remembering names, and would greet you as commissioner or sweetheart. His co-Leader, Joy Tannebaum, also with the Board of Elections, continued as leader until she moved to Florida in 1987, following the reassignment of her husband Manuel, an administrative law judge. The club leadership, after Albano's death in 1981, went to William Larkin. When he passed away, Bartholomew Regazzi took over, 1986 until 1993. Bart ran for the Assembly in 1982 against Steve Sanders, gaining only 23% of the vote. The female leaders was Joann Albano Cohen, 1986-88, thereafter Maureen Lynch, who came into the club as an enthusiastic college grad, to help a candidate running against Andy Stein for the assembly. He lost, but they got married, and he is now Judge Harold Lynch, and she counsels school kids in the Bronx. Vincent Cuttita is the club president, Jeffrey Lane is the male DL, and Sidney Glaser provides the transition between the new and the old membership. Like everyone else, they have recently given up their clubhouse, and will rent meeting rooms. That makes it difficult to give tenant counseling and do taxes for neighborhood people, a service that the accountants in the club provided (this was also done in Democratic clubs, sometimes in conjunction with other rent counseling groups).
The Giuliani era has revived Republican club membership. Bill Fling's Gramercy Park Republican Club (Tara Ann Donohue, co-leader), five years old, has 200 paid members. GPRC rent meeting rooms. They register voters of any persuasion, worry about quality of life in our city, and protest against porn stores on 28th Street (with Jane Crotty of 23rd Street Association and Antonio Pagano, our Assemblyman). That's good activism.
Coming back to Democratic Reform, further North, some ADA and Labor movement people in 1949 started the Lexington Democratic Club, notably Alice Sachs, Richard B. Lane, Jack Shea, Jean (Jack) Baltzell, Russell Hemenway, Jerry Hyman, Charlie Kinsolving and Marietta Tree, state committeeperson and Ambassador to the U.N. Having defeated the regular Grover Cleveland Club, they represented the entire Congressional district. They ran afoul of County leader Frank Rosetti in the early 1970s, and were divided into three districts, with Mike Macius (later Peter Phillips) and Alice Sachs, John A.K.Bradley and Diane Staab, and Ken Mills with Jane Low (now of Department of Parks) as leaders. They remain split but ordinarily vote together. Current leaders for the parts A, B and C are Arthur Schiff, Alice Knick,Conrad Foa, Trudy Mason, Larry Rosenstock and Linda Foa, with Ken Mills presiding. Martin Begun's name also comes to mind.

Murray Hill Reform Democratic Club IV
Typical reformers, the gadfly Murrays backed Sen. Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Democratic primaries, and a whole bunch of the enthusiasts accompanied Charlie Kinsolving, their District Leader, to the Chicago Democratic convention. They came back impressed, after having seen the riots in Lincoln Park and the yuppie demonstrations, and after climbing up and down fire escapes to sneak in and hear the New York caucus, through a window opened for them by Charlie, the only official delegate. True to form, after considering all candidates, the club backed Sen. George McGovern in the primaries and Presidential elections in 1972. The clubhouse was one biggish 2nd Floor room on Lexington near 33rd, above a bar (Josephine's?), now gone, with a nice big window, perfect to put up posters . Someone during the 1972 Presidential Campaign threw a rock at it, and the club only had enough money to repair one half of the pane. The landlord was having a fit.
The club also backed Koch for Congress in 1968 and 1970; after that we were out of business. He was the first Democrat in 34 years to win in John Vliet Lindsay's Silk Stocking District (represented by Lindsay 1956-65, Theodore Kupferman in 1965-68, Bill Green in 1977- 91, Democrat Carolyn B. Maloney since 1992). The Murrays preferred the maverick Herman Badillo (nicknamed "the tallest Puerto Rican in the world"), for Mayor,in 1969, and in 1973, refusing to back Koch in the pre-primary struggle, when he wanted the Mayorality. It cost us - in the subsequent district elections, when the Murrays and and another club contended the same district, Koch went full speed behind Lou Sepersky's and Mary Stumpf's Mid-Manhattan Democratic Club, although the latter had been less than effusively supportive of Koch in his Congressional campaigns. That was true "what have you done for me lately" politics, and the Murrays became a discussion club and slowly sank into oblivion, after becoming unable to pay the increased rent and quitting the comfortable Lexington Ave nest, much to the landlord's relief.

The 1973 election was interesting. Lindsay, a Republican Congressman, in 1965 had inherited from Wagner a city with a bad deficit. Wagner, son of the great Labor advocate Senator Fredinand, had legalized City worker unions and raised the city employee salary scale. A legitimate question can be raised as to whether this was done for political, i. e. vote-gathering reasons, and without regard to the cost consequences for the city. The new Mayor had to impose a city sales tax and raise all real estate and business taxes, and was ripped off by Mike Quinn, the head of the Transit Workers Union, for double the customary annual salary increases. This was the beginning of our troubles, and the patrician Lindsay could not deal with them. The city sank, welfare rolls doubled, from 1/2 Million, in 1970 there were riots in the Tombs, and in Inner City, and the Mayor walked all through Harlem in his shirtsleeves, jacket slung across his back, talking and quieting the populace. It worked, and Lindasy saw himself as the next Republican Presidential candidate. But the State Republicans did not, and in 1971 he switched to the Democratic Party. Running for the Presidency while the City was losing ground cost him some credibility, he lost the backing of Alex Rose and the Liberal Party, and in March 1973 he announced that he would not run for the 3rd term. A couple of winners from the Lindsay regime were Mario Cuomo, a Queens attorney who on the Mayor's behalf in 1970 successfully negotiated a Forest Hills scatter housing for the poor situation and went on from there, and Roy Goodman, his Finance Administrator, who ran for State Senate in 1968 and has been there ever since.
Politics abhors a vacuum even more than nature, and not one but five Reform Democrats stepped forward as candidates, looking for the backing of the then reform umbrella organization, the New Democratic Coalition. NDC was organized by Paul O'Dwyer, Mayor Bill's younger brother, to pull together Democrats opposed to the Vietnam War, and had gained high reform recognition. The interested were Ed Koch, who in 1968 took over Lindsay's seat in Congress, City Councilmember Robert Postel, and West Side Assemblymembers Jerome Kretchmer (Environment Protection Administrator under Lindsay - remember the pooper-scoopers?) and Albert Blumenthal - and from The Bronx, Herman Badillo, who probably had it all, a combined minority, Jewish (through his wife Irma) and congressional service appeal. But Blumenthal rallied, had the NDC meeting exclude delegates with imperfect credentials, and the Bronxites never got in. Badillo stormed about racism, and Kretchmer, Postel and Koch dropped out (the latter with disastrous results for us Murrays, as seen above).
Meanwhile, on the organization Regular Democrat side, Comptroller Abraham Beame and City Council President Sanford Garelik, ex-Police Dept Inspector General with Republican and Liberal backing, were not idle. They rallied support from Brooklyn leader Meade Esposito, Patrick Cunningham in the Bronx, and Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton. In The Bronx, Congressman Mario Biaggi, an ex-cop, had the help of Matthew Troy from Queens, and campaigned on the promise of law and order. In the subsequent primary Beame had 34, Badillo 29, Blumenthal 16 and Biaggi 21 percent of the vote. The reformers had inserted into the election law a primary runoff requirement, if no candidate reached 40 percent, and so in the runoff Beame beat Badillo with 61 percent of the vote, and was a shoo-in in the November election over the Republican's John J. Marchi, the Staten Island State Senator, who later became the active leader in his borough's campaign to disassociate itself from New York City.

On a rainy day of this unusually warm November, I watched a young girl with an unfashionable Janssport back-pack over a thin flowery dress walk up Washington Place, barefoot through the puddles, past #14 where Mayor Edward I. Koch maintained a rent-stabilized apartment right through his three Mayoral terms, to her classes at Washington Square College. (In this house, diagonally across the Triangle Fire site, Koch would have local activists in for Saturday chats, building a constituency. He now lives on Fifth Avenue, in the same building as Bella Abzug once did, kittycorners from the 87-year old Carmine DeSapio who occasionally takes a walk on the block, with assistance, when the weather is good.)
She had an open trusting face, and reminded me of the sweet flower children of the 1960s around the fountain in Washington Square. We had some flower children who came to the Murray Hill Democratic Reform Club to help in elections. The club workers who lasted through the years were from all professions, and joined for mostly idealistic and ideological reasons. Helen Sands, our State Committeewoman, was a professional nurse. Arlene Garson, a movie editor. Arlene Hershman, co-leader, editor of a Dun Bradstreet magazine. Thomas Liggett, Major, U.S.M.C. (ret) flew a lot of combat missions in the Pacific, before he left government service to publish World Peace News, a one-world under law advocacy monthly. This was not a good club for lawyers who wanted to do club service in quest of meagerly compensated judgeships, our lawyer members were paid in off only by psychic rewards. The system had always required judicial candidates to pay goodly sums to the party, as election contributions, before they would receive endorsement of the Democratic Party, which then was tantamount to election. Carmine de Sapio was considered an inside reformer and humanitarian when he reduced the price of judgeships to $25,000, one year's pay. There is still some of that going around, even when sitting judges seek reelection. In the '70s the Reform attempted to institute a system of screening judicial candidates. Neverertheless, candidates for the judiciary are the most faithful attendees of club fundraisers, the basic source of money for mailings (rent money is now past tense, since most Manhattan clubs cannot afford clubhouses). For example, at a recent local club anniversary fundfaiser that we went to, the majority of attendees were judicial office seekers and members of elected officials' staffs.
Political clubs serve one purpose - to elect candidates. The old Tammany-type club system was simple - officeholders and candidates fed scraps of their political gains into a club of dogsbodies, people who held politically connected jobs, some of them do-nothing, such as pothole inspectors (abolishedxxx) and did all the requisite things for their candidates to be elected or reelected. We were a different bunch, We were people outside of the patronage system, who had to be convinced by the candidates. We would then voluntarily, without payback, work for those candidates whom we considered to be principled, sometimes even when the principles did not quite mesh. We were idealists, not a breed currently on show, when, for instance, the Republicans accept machine politics that make Dole an automatic candidate, by technically freezing everyone else out. We were not shy about challenging signatures and looking for errors in the opponents' petitions, but it was not with quite the same degree of fervor.
Many of our club members were single people. Political work was class, well above singles' bars as a boy-meets-girl activity, but there was some of that, and club members did get married to each other with some regularity. When I mentioned to my Conservative friend Charles W. Wiley that I was marrying a Democrat, he claimed that his group was about to form a rescue and wives' deprogramming operation, since all of his political mates were getting hitched to attractive Liberal-minded women, and soon there would be no Conservatives left.
For those of us who have not had the great experience of continued political activism, you should know that a clubhouse where you can drop in any night was a wonderful opportunity. There were good things to do - advising neighbors in tenant-landlord conflicts (Rhoda Schwartz was a tenant advocate) and trying to assist in solving their personal problems. How clubs operate today, when the only space they can get is a monthly meeting room begged from a church or synagogue is an unfathomable thing to me. Another whole democratic function and experience is lost.
We club people were able to hear political candidates, have interminable debates among ourselves and truly democratically decide whom to back, whose ideas to follow. We spoke to the candidates and to our own people, argued and religiously voted on issues and candidates and club officers. I was nominated , then compelled to withdraw from the Executive Committee slate in 1968, because I was, still, an Independent. The club knew that I had worked for Richard Nixon in 1960 and they respected my opinion that Nixon was the only American who could knee Khruschev and Brezhnev in the groin while still smiling at them, but I could not vote in the primaries.
The early years of Reform were electric - we batted around ideas and candidates, and people like Norman Mailer would run for Mayor. It was equally interesting on the Republican side. William F. Buckley ran for Mayor in 1965, and Barry Farber the radio talk show host in 1977, the latter co-managed by a friend of mine, Charles W. Wiley, who himself ran for Congress in Middlesex County, N.J. next time around. We also saw the other side of the coin of political office and the quest for it - the long hours of politicking, the havoc that it wreaked on families and personal life, the broken families in the wake of someone's political ambition, a totally uacceptable form of existence for me. Politicians worry me - the people who are willing to sacrifice their and their families' personal lives to do campaigning are scaresome creatures, and the question as to whether they can be trusted, or read,the way ordinary humans can be trusted or read, has been a concern. General Powell, in his "I will not run" speech very generously dubbed being in politics a calling. That is going quite far.

There was always something going on in the club - advising people with landlord problems, addressing envelopes for candidates of our choice, teaming up to go collect signatures among registered Democrats in big apartment buildings, where we had an ally to let us in - that is until some opponent called the doorman to throw us out. An easy building on my route was the one where Judge Millard Midonick's wife rang us in, year after year, others were tough. We hardly ever set up card tables on street corners, we were doorbell ringers. Few of our petitions got thrown out because we worked from the lists of registered Democrats. We were a valuable ally, and political candidates came to speak to us often. Our pay was in the excitement of getting our people in, and in the parties. The electees did not always produce according to their pre-election words.
That clubhouse saw much excitement. Harrison Jay Goldin, the Bronx Borough President and State Senator in search for Citty Controllership, came to us from the Bronx with his family. He was the Dynamo and the wife and son were nicknamed Dynamissus and Dyna-mite. Goldin spoke forcefully, like a college orator, with quotes and Latin allusions. George Spitz would visit often, with his bulging breefcase, and speak of political miscreants and wrongdoings. Our fear was that the case would burst and spew out enough papers to pollute the whole area. During one campaign period Donna Shalala, now Secretary of Health, then an associate professor of sociology at Columbia, would rush in, wearing a trendy proletarian dungaree suit, to hector us, to the annoyance of Arlene Herschman, Charley's co-leader. John Lo Cicero, who brought us Koch's campaign literature from the VID headquarters, was a welcome visitor, as was Koch himself, who liked my wife's liver pate and looked for it at the club's impromptu "covered dish" social events/fundraisers. Formal fund-raisers were at small restaurants, and $15 was a high admission. William VandenHeuvel once had ordered a table for 12 at a pre-election party and no one came, much to my concern - that table alone meant the difference of breaking even and making next month's rent. I called his office with some trepidation - he had lost the congressional race - to hear with much relief that "we will not stick a local club with the tab." He came through.
We also visited politicians looking for our help. Stewart Mott, the General Motors heir, had a huge formal reception hall and a grand balcony. His transportation was on that balcony, a bycicle. Antonio Olivieri and his campaign manager both wore white Guccis while addressing us from comfortable seats, as we stood around them. He was a nice person, and died of a brain tumor. His money funded a Center for xxx. William Fitts Ryan what do I remenber? Something about how his wife was beaten out of his seat? We also saw Andrew Stein at his maybe 2nd or 3rd 1969 campaign appearance, in a Stuy Town apartment, as he ran for Assembly. He was a frightened young man barely out of his teens and unable to speak beyond "Thank you for coming," pushed by the minions of his forceful father, Jerry Finkelstein, who spent an alleged 150,000, an immense sum then, for this election, and scads more for advisors. Another argument for limiting campaign contributions, where only the wealthy can compete, as recently exemplified by the Andrew Eristoff - Jane Crotty City Councilmanic contests. (Paul Crotty's family xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx is the Allegedly Shanley Egeth brought Andy into politics. The 63rd A.D was a hard one for Democrats to win, until Egeth had the Steins arrive in a limousine for an endorsement meeting, to emphasize the fact that money will be no object.
We also visited Amanda and Carter Burdens' white-walled apartment, during his City Council race, and gawked at huge paintings that covered entire walls, by Kenneth Nolan and Morris Lewis, about whom we had a mock discourse as to whether he was really Lewis Morris, a grand NY name. As we were nibbling on hors d'oeuvres served by a matronly maid in white, the Burdens disappeared, to their real apartment. This was a place they maintained for parties only. Sadly, a club member was evicted from her apartment after running a club-sponsored reception on the roof of her building for the late Robert Wagner Jr., the thoughtful son of the Mayor who was a good chairman of the Board of Education.
The tough job in politics, club presidency, was hard to fill, when Coral Kinsolving threw in the towel, after 10 years. My wife kept it, for about 30 seconds, then Len xx,Tom Liggett and, finally Forest Paradise who one day had wandered in, in sandals and shorts, to state a grievance. He stayed to the end.
We were friendly with some of the conservatives, another bunch of troublemakers, and Jimmy Lett and xxMollendorf?? visited the Kinsolvings. Was x Bancroft, a grand lady who helped Allen Dulles spy on the Germans in WWII, a Conserv? Of the Republicans, Bart Regazzi of the Albano Club was known to us. State Senator Roy Goodman was a formidable power and in the one election that Lou Sepersky ran against him we felt sad, as though a sacrificial lamb was fed to the lions. Goodman, Harvard '51, had been New York City's Finance administrator 1966-68,, under Lindsay, before winning his Senate seat from Manhattan's 26th District.
Some of our reform allies were the wonderful Beth Robertson Cosnow and Louise and Jay Dankberg from Tilden, Ken Mills of the Lex Dems and xx of New Dems which now operate as Mid-Manh New Dems . Carol Greitzer, the Councilperson from the then 3rd Councilmanic District, was a friend, as was Henry Stern, now Commissioner of Parks and Recreation. We had dealings with Miriam Friedlander from the 2nd Councilmanic District. Eldon Clingan, the Liberal City Councilman was around a lot. He introduced the Gay Rights Bill in the council, with Carter Burden in 1971 (it did not get passed until 1986). By some dint of fortune Eldon a first-termer, became the Minority Leader, and had a car and driver, much to his discomfort. I remember him and a group of kids passing pennies in front of the Metropolitan Museum, to protest the discontinuation of free museum admissions and the institutionof a new "suggested admission" policy. GSID (need names founders, Klaus van Stutterheim,Sylvia Friedman, Myrna Lo Pree)) was just about coming into existence, trying to carve out a space from those occupied by the Jefferson (Rose Dubinsky, later Andrew Kulak and Nancy de Rosa) and Tilden (with which they now split DLship).
Who were our VID friends ? (Victor Kowner, Dinkins' Corp Counsel?) What was NDC all about? Is it alive?
Did we meet Indep Dems Phil Wachtel? Paul Wrablica Fed Repub?

County leaders now
Courtland nichols?
List more club names

The proud stone banner proclaiming Society of Tammany or Columbian Order stands over the 1928 building on 17th Street, corner Park Ave South that housed Tammany Hall and the New York County Committee of the Democratic Party during some rough years, until 1943.
In 1935 Governor Lehman appointed Thomas E. Dewey as the special rackets prosecutor. Dewey soon indicted Jimmy Hines, Upper West Side and Harlem District Leader, for taking protection money from Arthur (Dutch Schultz) Flegelheimer, and sent him to jail. The Irsh of Tammany Hall were worried - in 1931 they had admitted to District Leadership Albert Marinelli, at the express orders and threats of Charles (Lucky) Luciano, a narcotics dealer, and the Mob was coming in. Meanwhile, the nosey Dewey was appointed District Attorney, in 1937.
In 1943 Frank Hogan, Dewey's successor, published a wiretapped telephone message to mobster Frank Costello, expressing thanks for support and proclaiming loyalty, from the Democratic and Republican candidate for the State Supreme Court, Thomas A. Aurelio. He still managed to get elected, and has served with distinction.
Chrisopher Sullivan, a do-nothing Congressman since 1917 and County Leader since 1937, was dumped in 1942. His replacement, Michael J.Kennedy
who had Costello present at Tammany meetings, was dumped in 1944, after the Hall was sold. Tammany went to 37th and Madison, in the New York Democratic organization's building , and the New York City Democratic Committee moved further up the block.
The next leader, Edward Coughlin, was ousted in 1947 by Mayor William O'Dwyer, who installed Frank Sampson with the expressed purpose of getting the Mob out of New York City politics. Sampson lasted only a year. His successor, Hugo E. Rogers, Borough President of Manhattan, made the mistake of backing a losing candidate against Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. for Congress, and this gave the Italian newcomers on the County Committee in 1949 a chance to throw him over and elect their leader, Carmine DeSapio, as County Leader.
DeSapio was born in 1908, and worked as a youngster in the family's trucking business, in between running errands for the Huron Democratic Club, whose District Leader Daniel E. Flynn was the sheriff of New York County. In 1937 DeSapio founded Tamawa Club to contest the leadership, lost the next election, won in 1939 in a reelection after claiming fraud, by 51 votes. Sullivan would not let him sit on the Executive Committee, claiming that he was "objectionable," a time-hallowed excuse. Flynn was reelected in 1941, but then the sheriff's office was abolished, he retired and Tamawa became the recognized club. In 1943 Kennedy admitted DeSapio to the Executive Committee, allegedly under Costello's influence.There is a story that Costello decided to keep his hands off DeSapio, considering him a nice clean Italian boy who wouuld go far if the mob left him alone, and advised the Mafiosi to shift for themselves and not involve Carmine.
Another comer was Irish-born lawyer William O'Dwyer (1890-xxxx), a day laborer and cop who went to law school, became a magistrate, then the DA in Brooklyn, and acquired a name by prosecuting Murder Inc. and Alberto Anastasia. However, his star witness, mobster Abe Reles, fell out of a window in Coney Island while held in protective custody, giving the prosecutor and his assistant James J. Moran a shady reputation. O'Dwyer lost a Majorality bid to incumbent Fiorello LaGuardia in 1941, joined the Army in 1942, came out a brigadeer-general and won the Mayorality in 1945. His running mate as President of City Council was an unknown, Vincent Impellitteri, recommended by Congressman Vito Marcantonio (1902-1958) of the American Labor Party, at the request of mobster Charles Lucchese, a/k/a as Three-Finger Brown. Marcantonio was an aide of LaGuardia, also a left-Republican (an interesting phenomenon, think of Lindsay and Powell), who crossed the line into Communism, when the Comrades decided to infiltrate the ALP in 1942.
In 1946 DeSapio was appointed to the Board of Elections, a well-paying job, and, after the Loughlin-Sampson-Rogers sequence, was voted in as the the head of Tammany, on July 20, 1949, with the Irish leaders abstaining.
In 1949 O'Dwyer was looking for a State Supreme Court appointment, probably because the Brooklyn bookmaker Harry Gross case threatened to reveal some questionable activities. Edward Flynn, the Boss of the Bronx (he wrote a book titled You are the Boss), came up with the solution that would keep Democrats in City Hall - elect O'Dwyer but have him resign shortly before the 1950 national election that would assure the Democrats a large popular vote. An ambasadorial appointment to Mexico was arranged with President Truman (who found it distasteful) for Summer 1950, so that in the general election in 1950 a Democratic candidate could be elected.
The chosen Democrat was Judge Ferdinand Pecora, but Impelliteri decided to buck the bosses with his ad-hoc Experience Party - and he won. DeSapio was into hard times, his patronage was cut off and he had to sell judgeships to keep the party in funds.
During the 1951 Kefauver Investigation of Corruption a major vitness was Frank Costello (a TV sensation were Costello's twitching hands; he would not testify if they showed his face), who mentioned DeSapio as a friend. This escaped attention, as the hearings concentrated on Mayor O'Dwyer. John P Crane of Firemen's Union testified of passing money to John J.Moran, O'Dwyer's Deputy Fire Commisioner and old associate (as a result, he went to jail) and to the Mayor (which was later disproven).
Impelliteri turned out to be a dud, and the 1953 primary was won by Robert F. Wagner Jr., backed by DeSapio. Costello also reduced the Manhattan County Committee from 11762 to 3471 members, and promoted direct election of District Leaders. W. Averell Harriman got the Governorship , against the candidacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., who got the Attorney General nomination and lost the election. Harriman made DeSapio his Secretary of State. Some Lexington Reform Club organizers, Alice Sachs and Jean Baltzell, went to the County Committee, Lloyd Garrison and Dorothy Schiff went to the State Committee in 1957. These were victories.
A downfall for DeSapio was the 1956 Democratic Convention, whre he backed Harriman, not Stevenson.
The 1958 State Convention was worse. Of the three Senatorial candidates, Thomas E. Murray of the Atomic Energy Commission, Thomas K. Finletter the reforn candidate and District Attorney Frank Hogan, DeSapio backed Hogan, who lost. The reformers got mad, and prompted the retiring Senator Lehman to set up the Committee of Democratic Voters (CDV) as an anti-party boss group.
For his next loser, in 1960 DeSapio backed Arthur Levitt for Mayor, who was beaten by Wagner in the 1961 primaries with a 2 to 1 margin. He also inadvertently insulted the unforgiving Presidential candidate J.F.Kennedy by letting the State Chairman Charles Prendergast screen out Eleanor Roosevelt's and Senator Lehman's campaign speeches in a major rally.
Come-uppance came swift. The Last of The Bosses lost his Greenwich Village base district to James Lanigan of the Village Independent Democrats in 1961, a District Leader race that cost the reformers a huge $40,000 (wonder who contributed?), and he never recovered. The institution of Tammany Hall became but a pale shadow of past glories, as successive County Leaders no longer had the power to hold their District leaders in check. Politics are better for it, but the romance is gone.

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