Abraham Beame

  (Redirected from Abraham D. Beame)

Abraham David Beame (March 20, 1906 – February 10, 2001)[2] was the 104th mayor of New York City from 1974 to 1977.[3] As mayor, he presided over the city during its fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, when the city was almost forced to declare bankruptcy.

Abraham Beame
Abraham D. Beame.jpg
104th Mayor of New York City[1]
In office
January 1, 1974 – December 31, 1977
Preceded byJohn V. Lindsay
Succeeded byEd Koch
36th and 38th New York City Comptroller
In office
January 1, 1970 – December 31, 1973
MayorJohn V. Lindsay
Preceded byMario Procaccino
Succeeded byHarrison J. Goldin
In office
January 1, 1962 – December 31, 1965
MayorRobert F. Wagner, Jr.
Preceded byLawrence E. Gerosa
Succeeded byMario Procaccino
Personal details
Abraham David Birnbaum

(1906-03-20)March 20, 1906
London, England, UK
DiedFebruary 10, 2001(2001-02-10) (aged 94)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mary Ingerman
(m. 1928; died 1995)
RelativesMarty Ingels (nephew)
Alma materBaruch College (degree originally conferred by the City College of New York)

Early lifeEdit

Beame was born Abraham David Birnbaum in London.[4] His parents were Esther (née Goldfarb) and Philip Birnbaum, Jewish immigrants from Poland who fled Warsaw.[5][6] Beame and his family left England when he was three months old.[5] He was raised on New York City's Lower East Side.

He graduated from P.S. 160 and the High School of Commerce before enrolling at the City College of New York's School of Business and Civic Administration (later spun off as Baruch College), where he received his undergraduate degree in business with honors in 1928.[4][5][6]


Career before politicsEdit

While in college, Beame co-founded an accounting firm, Beame & Greidinger.[5] He was an accounting teacher at Richmond Hill High School in Queens from 1929 to 1946[6] and also taught accounting and commercial law at Rutgers University from 1944 to 1945.

From 1952 to 1961, Beame served as New York City's director of the budget, having also served as assistant director from 1946 to 1952.[5] In this capacity, he "negotiated all city labor contracts without a strike and kept books on city spending and borrowing; he also set up management programs that saved the city $40 million."[2]

Early political careerEdit

Beame was a "clubhouse" or machine politician, a product of the Brooklyn wing of the patronage-oriented "regular" Democratic organization (the borough's equivalent of Manhattan's Tammany Hall and the locus of New York patronage politics following the ascent of Meade Esposito), as opposed to the policy-oriented "reform" Democrats who entered New York City politics (most effectively in Manhattan and the Bronx) in the 1950s. Before being elected to two nonconsecutive terms as city comptroller in 1961 and 1969, he was a longstanding member of Crown Heights's influential Madison Democratic Club and served as political boss Irwin Steingut's personal accountant. Members of the Madison Club (including attorney/fundraiser Abraham "Bunny" Lindenbaum and Steingut's son, Stanley) frequently liaised with real estate developer Fred Trump. The club also played a decisive role in the political ascent of Park Slope-based attorney Hugh Carey, whose tenure as governor of New York coincided with Beame's administration, though Carey eventually broke with the organization by endorsing Mario Cuomo's 1977 primary bid to unseat Beame.[7][8]

In 1965, Beame was the Democratic nominee for mayor but lost to Republican nominee John V. Lindsay.[9]

Mayor of New York CityEdit

Beame defeated State Senator John J. Marchi in the 1973 mayoral election, becoming the 104th mayor of New York City.[4]

Beame was the first mayor of New York City who was a practicing Jew.[10] (Fiorello La Guardia, who was mayor from 1934 to 1945, was halachically Jewish because his mother was born Jewish, but was raised as an Episcopalian and practiced that religion all his life.) He faced the worst fiscal crisis in the city's history and spent most of his term attempting to ward off bankruptcy. He slashed the city workforce, froze salaries, and reconfigured the budget, which proved unsatisfactory until reinforced by actions from newly created state-sponsored entities and the granting of federal funds.

In October 1975, the city of New York was in debt of $453 million. Beame made a statement on October 17 that the city had insufficient cash on hand to meet its debt obligations for that day. He added that New York City citizens needed to take immediate steps to protect the city's essential life support systems and to preserve their well-being. President Gerald Ford at first turned down New York's request for a loan, inspiring the legendary Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead", but Ford later approved federal support for New York.[11]

On the evening of July 13, 1977, a massive power failure hit the city. With temperatures in the mid-nineties Fahrenheit and the humidity high, New Yorkers sweltered. By the time power was restored at 10:39 p.m. the next night, the city had been without power for 25 hours. Beame set up a Blackout Action Center at the New York City Police Department headquarters. The blackout resulted in raw sewage washing up on beaches and spoiled food in hundreds or thousands of restaurants around the city.[12]

After a chaotic four years as mayor, Beame ran for a second term in 1977, and finished third in the Democratic primary, behind Representative Ed Koch and New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo, and ahead of former Representative Bella Abzug, Representative Herman Badillo and Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton. He was succeeded by Koch, who won the general election on November 8, 1977.[5]

Beame "was credited with distributing the City's dwindling resources equitably".[3] When he left office on January 1, 1978, the city budget had changed from a $1.5 billion deficit[5] to a surplus of $200 million.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Beame was 5 ft 2 in (157 cm) tall.[13]

He was married to his childhood sweetheart, Mary (née Ingerman),[5] for 67 years.[4] They raised two sons, Edmond and Bernard (Buddy),[2][5] and lived in Brooklyn, first in Crown Heights and later in a "modest apartment" on Plaza Street West in Park Slope.[4][14] Throughout his life, he summered in the Rockaway neighborhood of Belle Harbor.[4]

Beame received the Townsend Harris medal in 1957, and awards from numerous charitable, religious and civic organizations.[15]


Beame died at the age of 94 on February 10, 2001—two months after the death of his predecessor, Lindsay—after open-heart surgery at New York University Medical Center.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Mayors of the City of New York (The Green Book)". nyc.gov.
  2. ^ a b c d McFadden, Robert D. (February 11, 2001). "Abraham Beame Is Dead at 94; Mayor During 70's Fiscal Crisis". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved March 18, 2010. Abraham D. Beame, an accountant and clubhouse Democrat who climbed the gray ranks of municipal bookkeeping and confounded oddsmakers to become mayor of New York in the mid-1970s, only to spend his term struggling with the worst fiscal calamity in the city's history, died yesterday at New York University Medical Center in Manhattan. He was 94.
  3. ^ a b "Parks Remembers Mayor Beame". Daily Plant. New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. XVI (3304). February 16, 2001. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Giuliani, Rudolph W. "Remarks at the Funeral Service for Mayor Abraham Beame". nyc.gov.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Marks, Jason. "12 Who Made It Big: Abraham D. Beame '28". History of Baruch College. Baruch College, City University of New York. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "New York City's first Jewish mayor". Richmond Hill Historical Society. Retrieved March 23, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Lichtenstein, Grace (November 8, 1974). "Madison Democratic Club Brings Influence to Brooklyn". New York Times.
  8. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (August 7, 2011). "Hugh Carey, Who Led Fiscal Rescue of New York City, Is Dead at 92 (Published 2011)". New York Times.
  9. ^ Witkin, RIchard (November 3, 1965). "Lindsay Beats Beame In A Close Race; O'Connor and Procaccino Both Win; State Senate Is G.O.P.; Hughes Victor - Seesaw Contest - Vote Is Tightest Here in Quarter Century - 13% for Buckley". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  10. ^ "New York City's first Jewish mayor". Richmond Hill Historical Society. Retrieved March 23, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Nussbaum, Jeff (October 16, 2015). "The Night New York Saved Itself From Bankruptcy". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  12. ^ Imperato, Pascal (August 1, 2016). "Public Health Concerns Associated with the New York City Blackout of 1977". Journal of Community Health. 41 (4): 707–716. doi:10.1007/s10900-016-0206-6. PMID 27220853. S2CID 8004028 – via JSTOR.
  13. ^ Sewell, Chan (December 4, 2006). "The Mayor's Tall Tales". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "2006 – Historical notes on Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Flatbush, etc". Issuu.
  15. ^ "Beame, Abraham David former mayor". Salem Press Encyclopedia. January 1, 2016 – via JSTOR.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Lawrence E. Gerosa
New York City Comptroller
Succeeded by
Mario Procaccino
Preceded by
Mario Procaccino
New York City Comptroller
Succeeded by
Harrison J. Goldin
Preceded by
John V. Lindsay
Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Edward I. Koch
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert F. Wagner, Jr.
Democratic Nominee for Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Mario Procaccino
Preceded by
Mario Procaccino
Democratic Nominee for Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Edward I. Koch