Vincent R. Impellitteri
|101st Mayor of New York City|
November 14, 1950 - December 31, 1953
Acting: August 31, 1950 - November 14, 1950
|Robert F. Wagner, Jr.|
February 4, 1900
Isnello, Sicily, Italy
|Died||January 29, 1987 (aged 86)|
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Vincent Richard Impellitteri (born Vincenzo Impellitteri; February 4, 1900 - January 29, 1987) was an American politician and judge who served as the 101st Mayor of New York City, 1950-53. He was elected as a Democrat as president of the City Council in 1945, and reelected in 1949. When Mayor William O'Dwyer resigned in 1950, he became acting mayor. He lost the Democratic primary for the nomination for a full term but was subsequently elected mayor on a new ticket, the "Experience Party". He lost the Democratic primary when he ran for reelection in 1953, and became a judge in 1954.
Born Vincenzo Impellitteri in Isnello, Sicily, and moved with his family to the United States as an infant in 1901. They settled in Ansonia, Connecticut, where Impellitteri spent most of his youth. He served in the Navy during World War I, and became a U.S. citizen in 1922. He attended Fordham Law School, where he received his law degree in 1924. He married Elizabeth (Betty) Agnes McLaughlin in 1926.
He served as a state Assistant District Attorney from 1929 to 1938 before becoming a clerk to two Supreme Court Justices, first Peter Schmuck, and later Joseph A. Gavagan. He was reportedly a close associate of gangster Tommy Lucchese, who helped Impellitteri's rise in politics. On the other hand, a report in the New York World-Telegram indicated that Impelliteri opposed organized crime and corruption, and had failed to rise through the city Democratic Party's ranks because he had "the injudicious good taste to snub Frank Costello", the gambler and racketeer who was said to control the Tammany Hall organization behind the scenes.
In 1945, Mayor William O'Dwyer picked Impellitteri to run for President of the City Council on the Tammany Hall slate. In 1945 he ran on the Democratic and American Labor Party lines, but when he was up for reelection in 1949 he ran on the Democratic Party line alone.
On August 31, 1950, O'Dwyer, pursued by both federal and state investigators, was suddenly appointed by President Harry S. Truman as ambassador to Mexico, where he would be beyond the reach of officials who wanted his public testimony in several matters on which he preferred not to speak. Under the City Charter of the day, when O'Dwyer resigned, City Council President Impellitteri became acting mayor. The Tammany bosses did not think he was mayor material, and they refused to nominate him as the Democratic candidate for the special election in November 1950, which instead went to highly regarded New York State Supreme Court Judge Ferdinand Pecora, who was also given the Liberal line. Impellitteri ignored the machine and ran as an independent under the banner of the new "Experience Party". He also popularized the phrase "unbought and unbossed" during his 1950 campaign.
Impellitteri was the first mayor since the consolidation of greater New York in 1898 who was elected without a major party's ballot line, and his election was a populist uprising against the political system.
Impellitteri's inauguration, held on November 14, 1950, absent either a band or a platform, was both swift and simple. Outside City Hall, he pledged to "do my level best to justify the confidence you have reposed in me."
Shortly after Impellitteri's succession, the Kings County District Attorney arrested bookie Harry Gross and launched a corruption investigation that ultimately caused nearly 500 police officers of all ranks to resign, retire, or be fired. Impellitteri opposed the corruption, vigorously supporting the Brooklyn District Attorney, Miles McDonald, and firing anyone in his administration who had been associated with former Mayor William O'Dwyer.
Impellitteri is credited with trying to rein in the budget, raising the bus and subway fare to fifteen cents, establishing parking meters on city streets for enhanced revenue and increasing the sales tax. He aspired to be a new light in city politics, but his administration met with some resistance from the established order. At the time Robert Moses wielded significant influence; according to Robert Caro (in his Robert Moses biography The Power Broker), Moses provided Impellitteri regular advice and guidance behind the scenes, and Impellitteri deferred to Moses.
After becoming mayor, Wagner appointed Impelliteri a judge of the criminal court. Impellitteri retired from the bench in 1965.
Vincent R. Impellitteri, an immigrant cobbler's son who defied the Democratic machine of Tammany Hall and became Mayor of New York from 1950 to 1953, died of heart failure yesterday at Bridgeport (Conn.) Hospital. He was 86 years old.