The information and photos
on this page were excerpted from the Abraham D. Beame Collection LaGuardia
and Wagner Archives LaGuardia Community College/CUNY
of Abraham Beame)
Abraham D. Beame enjoyed
a long and distinguished career in public service. For 31 years, from
1946 to 1977, he held a series of positions at the highest levels of
government in New York City. These included budget director, two terms
as Comptroller and a term as the city's 104th Mayor, from 1974 to 1977.
Beame's life and public career epitomize the meteoric rise and important
contributions of immigrants to New York City in the twentieth century.
New York City's first
In the Mayoral campaign of
1973 Beame emerged as the most experienced and respected Democrat in
a wide field of candidates. To secure the nomination he defeated Herman
Badillo in a bitter, racially charged primary run off. In November he
won 60% of the vote, easily defeating three others to become Mayor.
When Beame took office New
York was in the grip of a serious fiscal crisis. The city was over $200
million in debt, and by 1975 the deficit was projected to top $1.5 billion,
out of a total budget of $12 billion.
It was during Beame's term
that President Gerald Ford refused to provide federal aid to New York
City, prompting the now famous New York Daily News headline: "Ford to
New York: Drop Dead." But Beame helped the city get annual federal loans
of $2.3 billion, starting in 1976, which helped stave off bankruptcy.
The highlight of the Beame
Mayoralty was in 1976, when he organized the city's Bicentennial celebration
and hosted the Democratic National Convention. These events revitalized
Beame's confidence and improved his political fortunes.
He decided to run for reelection
in 1977. In a tight, six way race he lost the Democratic Primary, finishing
third behind Mario Cuomo and Edward Koch, ending his political career.
|About Abraham D. Beame
Taught Bookkeeping at Richmond Hill HS
Born in London, England 1906
Died in New York City 2001
"New York City's first Jewish mayor"
Abraham Beame's Polish-Jewish parents had fled Warsaw, Poland where
his father was wanted by the police for revolutionary activities. Beame's
mother went to London and a few months after Abraham was born, they joined
his father in New York City, passing through the immigration station on
Beame grew up in modest circumstances on Manhattan's Lower East Side
and took advantage of services and opportunities available to immigrants.
He played sports and checkers at the University Settlement House, where
he met his future wife, Mary. He attended Socialist Party meetings with
his father, and recalls hearing Eugene V. Debs and other Socialist luminaries
While those radical political ideas had little impact on Beame, he
developed the belief that government should take an active role in the
social and economic well being of its citizens.
Beame graduated from the High School of Commerce with a perfect score
on his Regents book keeping exam and attended City College, which was a
highly competitive, tuition-free institution that catered to gifted but
poor immigrant students. In 1928 Beame graduated with honors with a degree
in Business Administration. Shortly thereafter, he attained his accounting
license and formed an accounting firm with a long time friend.
Great Depression of the 1930s hurt Beame's accounting business and he took
up teaching at Richmond Hill High School in Queens. During this
time Beame became active in politics, joining the powerful Madison Democratic
Club in Brooklyn. He worked as an electoral-district captain and was recognized
for his skills at turning out the vote for Democratic candidates. Beame
was appointed to his first government job as assistant budget director
by Democratic Mayor William O'Dwyer in 1946. The job was a reward not only
for Beame's loyalty and hard work for the Democratic party but also for
his expertise in finance. Six years later, he was appointed budget director
and managed a public budget second in size and complexity only to the Federal