Abraham Beame

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Abraham David "Abe" Beame (March 20, 1906 – February 10, 2001) was mayor of New York City from 1974 to 1977.[1] As such, he presided over the city during the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, during which the city was almost forced to declare bankruptcy.

Contents

Early life and career

Beame was the first mayor of New York City who practiced Judaism. (Earlier Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was of Jewish ancestry on his mother's side, but was Episcopalian). He was born in London, and grew up on New York's Lower East Side. While still a student at Baruch College, he co-founded an accounting firm, Beame & Greidinger. After graduation he also taught accounting from 1929 to 1946 at Richmond Hill High School, and eventually accounting and commercial law at Rutgers University during 1944 and 1945. He became city budget director from 1952 to 1961. He was a Democrat and was elected to two terms as city comptroller in 1961 and 1969. In 1965 he was the Democratic nominee for Mayor, but was defeated by the Republican candidate, John V. Lindsay. Beame was a "clubhouse" or machine politician, a product of the Brooklyn wing of the regular Democratic organization (that borough's equivalent of Manhattan's Tammany Hall) as opposed to the "reform" Democrats who entered New York politics in the 1950s.

Mayoral challenges

After defeating State Senator John Marchi in the 1973 mayoral election, Beame faced the worst fiscal crisis in the city's history and spent the bulk of his term attempting to ward off bankruptcy. He slashed the city workforce, froze wages, and restructured the budget, which proved insufficient until reinforced by actions from newly created state-sponsored entities and the granting of federal funds. He also served during the blackout crisis.

After a tumultuous four years as mayor, he ran for a second term in 1977 (shortly after the New York City blackout of 1977, one of the low points in NYC's history) and finished third in the Democratic primary to U.S. Representative Edward I. Koch and New York Secretary of State Mario M. Cuomo. Beame outpolled former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, Congressman Herman Badillo and Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton in the 1977 primary.

When he left office in 1977, the city budget had changed from a $1.5 billion deficit to a surplus of $200 million. He was succeeded by Edward I. Koch as Mayor.

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