Kenneth T. Jackson
is a professor of New York City history at Columbia University.
1. Michael Bloomberg
The best mayor in New York’s history. Bloomberg took over in the aftermath of 9/11, with an almost $5 billion deficit. Now our biggest problem is that too many people want to live here.
2. Edward Koch
Koch took charge of the city at its nadir and proved it could be managed. For all of his bombast and aggressiveness, he made it seem that New York was a city that he could dominate. And it worked.
3. Brooke Astor
Astor is an example of enlightened philanthropy. She didn’t just give money, she loved the city and wanted to do something about it. She inspired others to give in the same way.
4. Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani changed the city’s image from dangerous to safe. His role in the decline in crime was very important in turning New York around, and making it glittery and glamorous.
5. Lew Rudin
Rudin put love for the city above self-interest. He organized the Association for a Better New York, and may have been the one who was most pivotal in inspiring others to take an interest in the city’s future.
6. George Steinbrenner
Steinbrenner made the Yankees competitive every year. The Yankees were losers, and he spent money and made them exciting and important again.
7. Jackie Onassis
Glamorous and sophisticated, Onassis sparked the historic-preservation movement. By choosing to live in the city, she made New York seem desirable again.
8. Woody Allen
Allen gave New York a positive image even in its down years. Many movies portrayed the city as a fearsome, scary place. Allen always reminded us of the wonder of New York.
9. Fred Lebow
With the creation of the New York Marathon, Lebow turned running into a mass sport. The marathon brought the boroughs together, and its route has become a real postcard to the rest of the world.
10. Spike Lee
Lee challenged racial stereotypes and focused on issues that most people would have preferred to avoid. He did this with a kind of honesty that opened many people’s eyes to racial injustice in the city.