Mystery pols - a few NYC political facts - revelaed
Oct 09, 2014 | 11536 views | 0 0 comments | 384 384 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Once again our readers came through in helping us identify the folks from New York City politics past in a photo we found in our archives. And we're pretty sure they got it right this time, because one of the people who emailed us is actually in the photo!

Standing at the left of the photo and holding some papers is Jonathan Kimmel, who worked in the mayor's office at the time. He was also one of the people who dropped us a line identifying the other people in the photo.

Seated in front of him is Councilwoman Mary Pinkett, the first black woman ever elected to the City Council, taking office in 1972 and serving until almost all council members were forced out of office in 2001 due to new term limits. She represented central Brooklyn neighborhoods like Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. She died in 2003 at the age of 72.

Next to her is, of course, a dozing Mayor Ed Koch – or perhaps he is concentrating intently? – and next to him is Councilman Peter Vallone, Sr. of Astoria. Vallone was the speaker of the City Council for 20 years, before he too was forced out by the same term limits that ended Pinkett's tenure.

And standing behind them from left to right are City Council President Andrew Stein, Councilman Robert Dryfoos, and Councilman Herbert Berman.

Stein was first elected to City Council president – a position that no longer exists, giving away instead to the office of Public Advocate – in 1985. But while the post of public advocate is largely seen as powerless, the City Council President was anything but thanks to the post's voting power on the Board of Estimate.

The Board of Estimate was primarily responsible for making decision on budget and land use issues, and the mayor, City Council president and speaker all had two votes, while the five borough presidents each had one.

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled the Board of Estimate unconstitutional because the city's most populous boroughs like Queens and Brooklyn had no more representation on the board than the least-populous borough of Staten Island. It was soon abolished, and Stein left the public sphere and pursued a career in the private sector.

Dryfoos represented the Upper East Side in the City Council, and was elected in a special election in 1980 and retired after serving for 11 years. One of the men seated in front of him owes a lot to Dryfoos.

On January 8, 1986, he defied Brooklyn and Manhattan Democratic Party leaders after promising he would vote for Brooklyn Councilman Steven Horowitz for speaker, but at the last minute changed his mind and voted for Vallone, giving the latter an 18-to-17 victory.

According to a New York Times obituary in 2006 – Dryfoos was 63 when he died – some of his colleagues refused to speak to him for years because of the vote.

And lastly there is Councilman Herbert Berman, who represented south Brooklyn from 1975 until 2001, when – you guessed it! - he left office due to term limits. He tried to make a run for city comptroller, but was defeated that year by William Thompson. Berman passed away just a few short months ago in July.

Thanks to everybody who wrote in, and keep checking back for more photos from our archives.

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