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.