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40th Anniversary

Who Matters Most

The top ten New Yorkers who reshaped the city, picked and ranked.


Illustration by Gluekit  

Ric Burns
is a documentary filmmaker and writer, best known for his eight-part, seventeen-and-a-half-hour series, New York: A Documentary Film.

1. Andy Warhol
Warhol ran through all the major currents of the city: He was a downtown guy who lived uptown, an artist and businessman. He was a quintessential New Yorker; his influence was beyond influence.

2. Jackie Onassis
Onassis came to New York because it was the capital of self-realization. She represented civic responsibility, saved Grand Central, and knew better than anyone the public obligation of image.

3. Martin Scorsese
Scorsese is an irreducibly New York filmmaker; you can’t separate who he is as a person from the movies he makes. He channels New York’s fluidity and its bursts of violence.

4. Woody Allen
The highest art is not the art of the baroque, it’s mirroring the world that you live in. Allen’s comically anguished tone reflects our communal New York neuroses.

5. Donald Trump
Can you imagine the New York landscape without Trump? He’s one of those New Yorkers who’s completely himself, and he operates like the city is his stage.

6. Edward Koch
Koch embodied the city and re-created it in his own personality. “How Am I Doing?” was his slogan, and there was no mask with him. New Yorkers followed in his wake.

7. George Plimpton
Plimpton was the consummate New Yorker. He dismantled the cliché of the cold New Yorker with his awareness of where self-interest and public interest met.

8. George W.S. Trow
Trow, an essayist for The New Yorker, is not so well-known, but his essay, “Within the Context of No-Context,” captures perfectly the brutal ambiguities of the cultures in New York.

9. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Moynihan life’s goal was to resurrect Penn Station. His legacy is the idea of a monumental gateway into the city, which in itself is the biggest meeting place on earth.

10. John McEnroe
He was a brat, yes, but also the improvisational genius of tennis. Very few people know exactly how to embody a sport while also acting as an intermediary to the public like McEnroe.

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