It’s no wonder that in a city as large and populous as New York, a steady stream of letters are written to the Mayor throughout the year by its citizens, the majority having been penned for different reasons. Below are just four such letters that I have plucked – with permission – from a truly fascinating book by the name of New York City Museum of Complaint, in which 132 complaint letters written between the years 1751 and 1969, all addressed to the Mayor of that time, have been compiled by Matthew Bakkom. The sheer variety of complaints and observations – in turn unique in their language and/or penmanship – combine to offer an incredibly intriguing snapshot of a type of correspondence rarely mentioned elsewhere.
Transcripts follow each letter.
HOTEL TIMES SQUARE
To the Mayor of the
City of New York –
With this letter to you I am also resigning from my position buying a gun and starting a good fight – I have no criminal record – I do not mix with the cheap ladies or criminals – and will go a hell of a long ways before you get me
Your restaurants and other business institutions are going just a little to strong – 3 slices of tomato on 2 leafs of lettuce in the Automat cost 15c or 5c a slice for tomatoes which cost 25c a peck.
The dirty rats have not seen the blood of women and children in the gutter.
J. P. C-
October 31, 1889.
Hon. Hugh J. Grant,
Mayor City of New York.
I have learned with great regret that the Board of Aldermen have passed an ordinance forbidding the playing of all musical instruments upon the streets of the city. This ordinance, as it seems to me, proscribes and deprives of their means of subsistence a worthy class of our citizens. A class who are above the average in intelligence and morality and are gifted with special faculties which enable them to contribute to one of the most innocent of our pleasures. They are also educators of the taste and faculties of our population in music which is always elevating in its influence. Beside and above all this the street musicians in many parts of our city bring to our poorer population, especially the children, the only music they hear and no one can see the groups of delighted children who gather around the street band and organ grinder without proof that they are public benefactors. So in the interests of the multitude of poor who have so few pleasures and so many temptations, I venture to request respectfully that you will with-hold your official signature from this ordinance.
Yours very truly,
C. H. FREUDENTHAL
452 FIFTH AVENUE
December 8th, 1911
City Hall, N.Y.
I would like to call your attention to the disgraceful acts that take place daily in Bryant Park.
I have occasion to pass through this park several times a day and have noticed that there is always a crowd of the lowest types of men and women sitting on the benches.
This morning about nine o’clock, I saw some of them with a bottle of whiskey; then about eleven o’clock, I again found it necessary to go down the street, and they were all drinking and carrying on; just now at three o’clock, I again went through the Park and three of these women and one man were yelling and using the foulest kind of language.
It seems to me that some of the policemen ought to notice the daily occurrences. It is an outrage that young innocent children should have to listen to such things and see such sights.
Yours very truly,
(Signed, ‘C. H. Freudenthal’)
New York Aug 21/88
Hon. Mayor Hewitt
Is there such a Dept as the board of health in this city. A dead horse is waiting to be taken away for the last 24 hours in front of 41 Henry str. The stench is unbearable, and people in the neighborhood of which I am one were forced to sleep with closed windows last night.
Not a pleasant thing, I assure you.
Yours very truly,
37 Henry str