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Ditmars: Mayor Leaves His Name – QNS.com

Ditmars: Mayor Leaves His Name

Most people associate the word ‘Ditmars’ with Astoria and not Long Island City, which is incorrect. Historically, Astoria is a community of greater Long Island City and for this reason the histories of both communities are intertwined. For example, first mayor of Long Island City, Abram D. Ditmars, not only was born and grew up in Astoria, but he lived there while serving his term as mayor.
The Ditmars family was one of the first residents in Dutch Kills when one Jan Jansen (nicknamed ‘Flatnose’) settled there in 1647. They soon sold their property and moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn (where the name is spelled ‘Ditmas’ to this day). Still later, a branch moved back to Queens and settled in Jamaica, the birthplace Abram’s father, Dow (or Douwe) Ditmars in 1771.
Dow, a Princeton graduate, briefly tried his hand at teaching. He studied medicine and moved to British Guinea (modern Guyana) in South America.
He returned to the states and bought a farm in 1816 at Hell Gate. His house, built in the early 1700s, was a big square brick structure with broad piazzas in the front and rear. Today we would describe it at the northeast corner of Shore and Ditmars Boulevards. It was on the waterfront just across the street from the northern end of Astoria Park. There he practiced both farming and medicine. He died in 1860, age 90.
His son, Abram, was the first mayor of Long Island City.
Ditmars, a respected attorney, was instrumental in securing the Long Island City charter. In June of 1870, residents across Long Island City participated in a series of meetings that nominated candidates for various offices, including mayor. The democrats nominated Ditmars of Astoria to head their ticket and as they had a clear majority, he was virtually assured the office. As predicted, he won the election supported by a heavy turnout in Astoria and Bowery Bay (Astoria Heights).
Ditmars made a good impression at the outset by donating his two-year salary to the treasury. In the last months of 1870 the new mayor made a few appointments and set up committees. Although things began harmoniously enough with all parties favoring Ditmars, trouble started when he proved too frugal and honest.
Politics in Long Island City soon became turbulent and disorderly. Everything from elections to taxes became mired in continuous litigation and controversy. Corruption and graft quickly became the established order of the day. By 1873, he was voted out of office by the ‘Ring’ (as the local political machine was called).
When most of the proceeds from a $300,000 bond issue for a new water supply ended up in the pockets of political insiders who received a financial bonanza for water rights – without a single customer getting as much as a drop of water – the public’s temperature reached the boiling point. The public had enough with fraud and waste.
In the election of 1875, Ditmars was successfully re-elected as mayor. It was an empty victory.
The Common Council of Long Island City, a creature of the Ring, soon made it clear that they would be hostile to any appointments or legislation he proposed. It was a stalemate.
Disgusted, he abruptly resigned and left the president of the Common Council, John Quinn, as acting mayor. Ditmars promptly moved out of Long Island City to Brooklyn.

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