A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 12, 2005
Why I am running
On June 1st, right at the deadline, I filed with the Campaign Finance Board to be a candidate for Manhattan Borough President.

I had intended to run for Public Advocate. Nothing could be easier. Roll out the Betsy Gotbaum response on the fictional "Big Apple whores." Tell people I've solved the Big Apple. Win, close up shop for that useless position, and give people their money back. Then go do a food website and continue my world travels. Nothing could be easier.

But it wouldn't do much to help New York.

About ten Democrats had announced for Manhattan Borough President. Not one Republican had declared. The last Republican borough president of Manhattan left office in 1945. Currently, all the city council positions in Manhattan are held by Democrats. The Manhattan Borough President and the city councilpersons help shape the community boards, and you'll have to search pretty darn hard to find a Republican or a Conservative voice anywhere in Manhattan politics. I could not abandon my party.

This is a race not just for Manhattan Borough President, but for the future of New York City, "the Big Apple." We have a hole at Ground Zero where the World Trade Center used to be. We have the West Side Yards that stand empty. We have a Second Avenue Subway plan that's become a fifty year joke. Mayor Bloomberg's trash plan for 91st Street was voted down in the City Council. In Brooklyn, the Nets basketball team wants to become the borough's first major professional sports franchise since the Dodgers, and a few people are organizing against them. Good or bad, it's Not In My Backyard. Nothing gets done. And, if one of the Democrats who are running wins, that person would only continue that philosophy. Nothing gets done. You'll be frustrated at every turn. Don't even try.

New York is not the "City Where Nothing Gets Done." We're the Big Apple!

Why are things built in other parts of the world and not here? Go to Shanghai. A whole new city has sprung up within one generation. Go to any city in Japan. Or just go to Miami.

But in New York, what are we doing? Creating hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of "landmarks"? Landmarking ugly ducklings like 2 Columbus Circle? Creating zoning restrictions. Adding more restrictive laws and higher taxes for all businesses. Keeping businesses OUT?

We're the Big Apple. We're not the little apple. In the first fifty or so years of the 20th century, we thought big and accomplished grand things. We would build the tallest buildings. We would hold two World's Fairs. The United Nations came here and we were called the Capital of the World, in every sense of that term.

And now, we're the city that can't even provide toilets!

We've come a long way from the bad old days of the 1970s, when "the Big Apple" had to be re-invented to give a healthier image to a city staring bankruptcy in the face. I've read every position of the Democratic candidates for Manhattan Borough President, and most of them are concerned with smaller issues. (Our city council is spending hours on the pressing issue of movie times.) We'll ALL work for seniors. We'll ALL work women. We'll ALL work for lesbian and gay issues. That's not what's at issue here. Not one of the Democratic candidates has a VISION.

I do.

This all began 13 years ago, in 1992, on the day that I had solved the origin of "the Great White Way" and "the Big Apple." Charles Gillett, the president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau who revived "the Big Apple," was still alive. We were both going to be honored in December at a meeting of the American Name Society in New York, held during the Modern Language Association Convention.

I walked into the Manhattan Borough President's office and asked to speak with someone. I spoke with a community affairs person, then was directed to the Manhattan borough historian. I walked past Ruth Messinger's "Big Apple Greeters" and put my information on the history of this city on the borough historian's desk. I said that we had to do something now, while people were still alive. We had to contact Helen Hayes about "the Great White Way." We had to publicize the "Big Apple" information and ask if anyone knew John J. Fitz Gerald. And we had to honor those African American stablehands - find out if this was anyone's father and give the stablehands names.

There was no response.

A few years later, I ran across a 1913 article in the New York Sun called "All New York Praises Miss Manhattan," about Audrey Munson. She was the model for "Civic Fame," on the Manhattan borough president's own building. I walked past the Big Apple Greeters once again and put all of my Audrey Munson papers on the borough historian's desk. I said that we have to act now, see if Audrey Munson is alive or dead, see if she had any children, and save her papers. As it turned out, incredibly, Audrey Munson was still alive at this time.

Again, there was no response.

I got written up in the New York Post for "the Big Apple," and I mailed the article to the borough historian. I got written up in the New York Times for "Audrey Munson," and I mailed the article to the borough historian. In 1996, I got a telephone response.

"I put your work on the borough president's desk," the borough historian told me. The borough historian then added that she had been sick. "Ruth's busy running for mayor," I was told. The lamest excuse around.

In 1997, I dedicated "Big Apple Corner," and both of my parents died. I felt that I had done enough for New York and started traveling around the world, examining at other cities.

Then, in 2004, the Big Apple Fest started and I started this website. The Big Apple Fest people didn't listen to me about the Big Apple Whore Hoax, and an early Big Apple Fest article was titled "What Would Madam Eve Think?" I appealed to the Public Advocate to get this off a city website, but was told that this was useful information. I could take it no longer.

I will not run for Manhattan Borough President to finally honor the African American who called us the Big Apple, although I will do that and no one else will. I will not run for Manhattan Borough President to finally honor Audrey Munson (whose image will be a few floors above my head), although I will do that and no one else will. I have now requested that the current Manhattan Borough President, C. Virginia Fields, help me with these things, and perhaps she will.

I am running because New York was "the Big Apple," is the "Big Apple," and should always be "the Big Apple." And I'll do great things for a great city, as I always have, and like no one else.

Barry Popik
June 12, 2005

Posted by Barry Popik
Manhattan Borough President (2005 election) • (0) Comments • Sunday, June 12, 2005 • Permalink