Wednesday, February 10, 2016

‘Top 10’ political movers & shakers

By Shant Shahrigian
Riverdale Press file photo
Jonathan Bingham President Lyndon B. Johnson hands a commemorative pen to Congressman Jonathan Bingham at a White House bill signing in May 1965.
William Tweed Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with bringing down the ‘Tweed Ring’ with his scathing illustrations. A cartoon depicts Tweed as no worse than a Wall Street banker.
Riverdale Press file photo
Mario Biaggi, a popular congressman, Mr. Biaggi was brought low by the Wedtech scandal of the 1980s. He was convicted of bribery in helping the Bronx metal fabricator win military contracts.
George Perkins, a powerful business leader, Mr. Perkins fought to preserve the Palisades and he managed Theodore Roosevelt’s last campaign.

In the wake of the mayoral election, City & State compiled a list of the “top ten greatest mayors” of New York, looking way back into the 19th century to see who had served the city best.

In a similar spirit, below are political figures of note that either represented or had other ties to the northwest Bronx. Rather than focus on the meritorious alone, we included some officials who made their mark in unethical ways. Still others likely fall somewhere in the middle of the public service spectrum.

We hope the list, which Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan helped compile, will provide some perspective as a new year of politics and policymaking gets underway in the northwest Bronx and beyond.

‘Boss’ Tweed (1823-1878)

Riverdale and its vicinity were not immune to the influence of William “Boss” Tweed, the master of the Tammany Hall political machine that controlled the city for years.

As the northwest Bronx started to draw the rich and powerful, it was perhaps the natural place for Boss Tweed to establish a summer home.

“He thought it was a good idea because if wealthy people are leaving the city, how’s he going to get money from them?” Mr. Ultan said with a laugh.

The borough historian added that Tweed’s Spuyten Duyvil residence, which no longer stands, was no doubt the site of deals that enriched the boss and cemented his hold on power, at least until the deadly 1871 Orange riot set Tweed’s downfall in motion.

George Perkins (1862-1920)

Wave Hill underwent significant improvements after George Perkins bought it in 1903. Mr. Perkins also fought to preserve the Palisades and advocated for city parks, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s website.

On the purely political side, Mr. Perkins was the campaign manager for Theodore Roosevelt’s unsuccessful attempt at a third presidential term on the Progressive Party ticket.

Mr. Perkins’ contributions also included organizing the Bronx’s homecoming parade for World War I veterans.

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