Three Centuries of New York Scandal
Last April, New York published the first of what we hoped would be a recurring event: an anniversary issue (the magazine debuted on April 8, 1968) that celebrated our birthday by exploring a slice of this city's history. In the 2011 edition, we traced the evolution of the New York apartment. That seemed to work out all right, so now we're doing it again. The subject this time around: scandals. Which are just as associated with New York City, when one stops to think of it, as the railroad flat or the classic six.
And yet, ever since we landed on this topic, there's been a rolling debate in our offices as to what constitutes a scandal. Does an awful, world-shaking celebrity murder count (like the shooting of John Lennon)? Or an instance of chilling moral depravity (like when Kitty Genovese's neighbors appeared to yawn through her murder)? Or your run-of-the-mill tabloid tale (say, the Seymour-Brant on-again-off-again divorce)? No, we decided: A fall from
grace was required. The mighty had to stumble, the pious to be caught in sin. We asked novelist Colin Harrison to parse the definition further, which he does in his introduction, here.
That said, it is both a tribute to—and a loving indictment of—this city and its environs that, even after adopting our strict definition, we still threw up our hands: There have simply been too many New York scandals to include them all. And so we apologize for overlooking more than a few corrupt politicians, randy cads, literary frauds, Wall Street swindlers, and doomed aristocrats. And we admit that we let in some lurid tales that stretched our parameters because, well, we simply couldn't resist.
Speaking of scandals with legs, we end the issue with a question, posed to New Yorkers far and wide: Which recent megascandal is most likely to be remembered many years hence? As former governor David Paterson notes, it sure won't be those Yankees tickets he got for free.
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