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On December 31, 1897, thousands of would-be New Yorkers collected near the foot of City Hall to witness the birth of the most magnificent metropolis ever conceived. They could not have foreseen the great public works yet to come, or the skyscrapers that would one day rise to the heavens from the soil beneath their feet. Nor could they be certain the new city would be any greater than the sum of its parts. But the residents of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island placed their future in the hands of fate, hoping to consecrate a more perfect union. And when the clock struck midnight, the bells of Trinity Church sounded the arrival of a new year, brilliant streaks of light turned night into day – and a loose collection of municipalities became the Greater City of New York.

A century has passed since that fateful night, and the wisdom of uniting the five boroughs into one city has been vindicated time and again. Today, New York City is the global center of commerce, an international beacon of hope and opportunity, a sanctuary for innovation, and a living testament to the depths of human ingenuity. It is, indeed, the Capital of the World.

Over the last one hundred years, seventeen individuals have been elected Mayor of the City of New York, a job often described as the most difficult in the world, second only to the Presidency. Their role in molding New York City has been pivotal, for each mayor attempts to discard, refine or improve upon the work set in motion by their predecessors. Although each mayor lent the office their own particular style of leadership and vision, a common thread unites them all: the desire to leave behind a city, in some way, better than the one they inherited. Fiorello LaGuardia pledged himself to do nothing less on his first day in office, when he recited the ancient Athenian Oath of Fealty: "We will transmit this city not only not less but far greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."

In recognition of the contributions these mayors have made to enhancing life in New York City over the last one hundred years, the following pages are dedicated to them.


 

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