This week, the Observer and the Times profiled two classic New York characters. Both are the creations of tony neighborhoods, and both have been nicknamed the “mayors” of their little domains. But the similarity ends there. Below, a brief comparison of Henry Codin, the “Mayor of West 11th Street,” and Arlene Harrison, the “Mayor of Gramercy Park.”
What they’re doing to change the neighborhood:
Henry Codin: Cleaning the street every morning, helping organize parking, and greeting everyone in a friendly manner.
Arlene Harrison: Keeping people off the grass in Gramercy Park, growing bushes to block views of the park from the outside, preventing soccer playing in the park, blocking the building of playgrounds for children in the park, and banning dogs, Frisbees, and groups of more than six people.
When they can usually be seen:
Henry Codin: Between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m., with his broom and lengthy set of keys, making sure everything on the block goes smoothly.
Arlene Harrison: Between 6:30 and 8:30 in the morning, with her clipboard, monitoring noise, renovation, and “quality-of-life issues.”
What perks they dole out:
Henry Codin: If you are a regular on the block, he will move your car for you to avoid tickets and find you a parking space.
Arlene Harrison: If you are a big-budget developer, she will get you in to take over a Salvation Army boarding house and transform it into a luxury-apartment complex.
Henry Codin: “I’m not on this job because I need to be, you got to understand that. But it keeps you going. It keeps me moving.…Once you’re sittin’ there with the TV, then you die.”
Arlene Harrison: Children’s playgrounds cause “too much wear and tear,” Harrison says. “But do you know what? The children who grow up here learn to use their imagination.”
Does your neighborhood have a “mayor”? If so, which school of thinking does he or she fall into?
The Guardian of Gramercy Park [NYT]
The Mayor of West 11th Street Is a Street Sweeper [NYO]