Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Impy and Bill in Italy

Mayor De Blasio is currently in Italy, vacationing with his family and revisiting his family origins in the "old country." Since NYC is an international city, when this or any mayor goes abroad, it's almost like a visit from a head of state: there's lots of press coverage, the local politicians and heavyweights meet the mayor, and there's lots of talk of the "connection" between New York and [insert country here].

It used to be, back when NYC politics was dominated by Italians, Irish, and Jews, that mayors would try to visit the three Is: Italy, Ireland, and Israel. As the Hispanic population has grown, particularly with immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, visiting those countries has become important for NYC politicians as well. Pretty soon, I'm sure, trips to China and Indian and other Asian counties will be required.

However, De Blasio's trip is nothing compared to Mayor Vincent Impelliteri's trip in 1951.

During his first full year in office, Impy (as he was popularly known) made a 32 day trip to Italy and Israel. In both countries, his arriving was red carpet, headline grabbing news. He was greeted by every dignitary, there were parades and parties, it was a big honking deal. Impy was actually born in Sicily so, after visiting Rome and getting an audience with the Pope, he visited the town where he was born and was greeted like a conquering hero.

I blogged about Impy in 2007, just a few months into this blog's existence. History has mostly forgotten him but, in this brief shining moment more than 60 years ago, Impy was not only king of New York but one of the most famous men in the world.

Postscript: it was during this trip, in 1951, that Bobby Thomsen hit "the shot heard 'round the world" out at the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn -- so Impy missed an important piece of NYC and world history back home. 

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