Old mayors never die, they just fade away

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Hey everyone, don’t forget to vote for John Lindsay this November!

Flatbush residents were asked to re-elect the city’s “Boy Mayor” all over again this week when a Bank of America billboard was removed from the side of a building on Flatbush and Bedford avenues, revealing a bit of the neighborhood’s history — a Lindsay campaign ad, circa 1965, literally painted onto the building’s brick facade.

Yet Lindsay’s day in the sun wasn’t as heartwarming as you would think — nobody in the predominately Caribbean neighborhood knew who he was!

“I’ve never heard of him,” admitted building resident Lucy Vizcarrondo, looking up at the faded red, white and blue piece of Americana that proclaims “We will win. Vote Republican.”

In fact, only one out of 20 people found walking past the campaign ad could identify the controversial politician who led the city from 1966 to 1973 — and all she could recall was how good looking Lindsay was.

“He wasn’t great, but he was one of the most handsome mayors we had,” said Gloria Funderburk, who was in her 20s when Lindsay was mayor.

Lindsay, a former U.S. congressman, presidential candidate, and regular “Good Morning America” guest host, won the mayor’s race in 1965 after riding high on his patrician upbringing, Yale education and Kennedy-esque good looks.

But everything went downhill from there: on his first day in office, Lindsay, who, at 45, was the youngest mayor in New York City’s history, was greeted by picketing transit workers — beginning a turbulent administration mired with more municipal strikes, racial unrest and Vietnam War protests.

After eight grueling years as mayor, Lindsey never held public office again. He died in 2000.

The resurfaced campaign ad had more staying power than Lindsay’s administration — but did little to help his 1965 campaign: Lindsay won his bid for mayor, but didn’t win Brooklyn, getting a paltry 40 percent of borough’s vote.

Frank Jump, who recently published a book on long forgotten advertisements called “Fading Ads of New York City” and reported the discovery of the Lindsay campaign ad on his blog marveled at the wall sign’s condition.

“I think it’s amazing the ad has survived but I don’t have fond memories of Lindsay,” Jump said. “What I recall is, ‘Dump Lindsay’ graffiti all over the city!”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow his Tweets at @from_where_isit.
Updated 5:29 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

John from Sunset Park says:
John Lindsay was one of the best Mayors NYC had. People are finally begining to realize that.
Dec. 31, 2011, 4:16 am
ty from pps says:
A photo would have been too difficult?
Dec. 31, 2011, 10:17 am
Tyrone from Bushwack says:
Let's go on strike
Dec. 31, 2011, 3:06 pm
ty from pps says:
Well done.
Jan. 1, 2012, 12:59 am
joey from b'hurst says:
Mayor Lindsay was a terrible liberal mayor that created the chaotic white flight from the city. He could not control the ever escalating crime and drug problem. He set the foundation for the 70's crime spree!
Jan. 2, 2012, 11:32 pm
Richard from Apache Junction, AZ says:
Joey is wrong. There was more "white flight" in the 1970s and early 1980s, during the Koch administration, and no mayor "created" white flight, which had complex causes. What Lindsay did was outrage people like the Joeys from Bensonhurst of the city, the old conservative whites who could not accept the fact that the city was becoming the multicultural place it was today.

I was 18 in 1969 and working in the Lindsay primary campaign. Here is an excerpt from the prologue to my book, "WRITE-IN: Diary of a Congressional Candidate in Florida's Fourth Congressional District," available on Amazon:

"Mayor Lindsay was running for re-election, and they'd opened a campaign headquarters a few blocks from the old McCarthy storefront on Flatbush Avenue.

Lindsay was a liberal Republican when there was such a thing. He was much more liberal than any of the Democratic candidates for mayor with the exception of the writer Norman Mailer, who had no chance. Lindsay’s natural constituency was liberal Democrats like my parents; he was especially loved in the black and Puerto Rican communities. None of these people, however, could vote in the June Republican primary.

Working in that storefront, I learned that there were Republicans in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, most of them hated John Lindsay. The morning after he lost the primary, I came to our headquarters feeling dejected.

When I saw that someone had spray-painted "—— Lover" all over our front door, I went to the store's bathroom in the back and cried, then brought out some Ajax and a wet rag and tried to wash the words away."

Yet after losing the GOP nomination to Staten Island Sen. John Marchi, a conservative (who also would be a raging liberal by today's standards), Lindsay ran on the Liberal Party line. I worked for him in another campaign headquarters -- in Joey's Bensonhurst, of all places -- and Lindsay was much more popular among voters than the few Republicans in Brooklyn. He won as a Liberal candidate so overwhelmingly against the Republican and Democratic candidates that he swept in a Liberal city council president (a citywide office then), Sandy Garelick, who recently died, and four Liberal Party candidates to the NYC Council, including Brooklyn's Ken Haber, displacing the Republicans as the official minority in the Council.

There were no race riots in NYC during the Lindsay administration. He was most beloved in the black and Puerto Rican communities. When he ran in 1965, the young, handsome Lindsay had these posters of himself in shirtsleeves with the slogan HE IS FRESH AND EVERYONE ELSE IS TIRED.

Lindsay switched to the Democratic party in his second term as mayor and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. At the convention (see my diary book about the Brooklyn/Queens delegation, "Miami Beach Convention: A 21-Year-Old Looks at the Democrats"), he was kind of a forlorn figure, and after his failed presidential run, he had a rougher time and left office unpopular among outer-borough whites. (Unplowed snow in Queens may have been his greatest failure.)

For a nuanced look at the Lindsay administration, you can see recent scholarly books, or the recent exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Lindsay was the first politician I worked for, and though I later found some of his views -- he turned out to be quite homophobic -- repugnant, I will always remember working for him both as a 14yo in 1965 and an 18yo in 1969.
Jan. 4, 2012, 8:54 pm
Richard from Apache Junction, AZ says:
P.S. Forty percent of the borough's vote for a Republican in 1965 was not "paltry." It far exceeded the percentage for the previous six Republican candidates for Mayor: Jonah Goldstein, 1945; Newbold Morris, 1949; Edward Corsi, 1950; Harold Riegelmann, 1953; Robert Christenberry, 1957; or even the popular attorney general Louis Lefkowitz in 1961.

No Republican would ever get that large a percentage of the vote in Brooklyn until 1989, when Rudolph Guiliani ran a losing campaign against David Dinkins.

You are ignorant of Brooklyn political history to say that forty percent of the vote for a Republican in 1965 was "paltry."
Jan. 4, 2012, 9:03 pm
joey from b'hurst says:
@ Richard from Apache Junction, AZ:
Don't tell me about white flight. My family was living in East New York in the 1960's. We were displaced due to crime and Lindsay's inaction to control it. There was nothing complex about that. It was get stabbed or move-out. We moved to Canarsie; my father had a butcher shop in Highland Park. The crime wave hit us there in the late 70's. It was at this time we sold everything and moved upstate.

Bensonhurst is the most tolerant place in Brooklyn. I have Italians, Irish, Russian, Chinese, Indian, Hispanic, Sephardic Jew, and Pakistani, all living on my block. Can any other area boast that. What is the make-up of your town in Arizona? Down tell me about multiculturalism! Don't start babbling about issues you don't have knowledge on. Brooklyn is not a melting pot of cultures. Each group lives in a separate and distinct neighborhood. B'hurst is an exception.
Jan. 5, 2012, 3:13 am

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