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Strategy used to elect mayor in 1917 proved a fatal concept

The Queensboro Corp., the parent real estate company of Jackson Heights, was in the news Oct. 26, 1917, when Mayor John Mitchell denied allegations made against him in a bitterly fought mayoral election campaign.

Characterizing the charges against him as "outright falsehoods," Mitchell denied "that he received $5,000 for changing the Corona subway route in favor of the interests of the Queensboro Corp." The Garden apartments in Jackson Heights, opened two years earlier, were considered innovative. The extension of the Corona subway line, today's No. 7 train, would make the neighborhood more accessible to commuters.

Mitchell had been elected in 1913. His administration was known for its efforts to cut waste and rid the city of the alleged corruption of the Democratic political machine known as Tammany Hall. In 1917, Tammany fought hard to put its candidate, John Hylan, into the mayor's office.

On Oct. 25, James Cronin, chairman of the Queens campaign to elect Hylan, charged that Mitchell's behavior "verges on treason. ... His picturing of himself on the walls of the city in the garb of an American soldier has aroused the anger and contempt of all the patriotic citizens of the city."

Cronin's prediction that "Hylan will carry Queens by a large majority" was proved correct in November when Hylan was elected mayor by a landslide. Mitchell went on to prove his patriotism by enlisting in the army, but was killed in 1918 during training as a combat pilot.

Mitchell Square in Washington Heights, Manhattan, is named after him.

On Oct. 28, 1935, a newspaper published a humorous piece about a horse and rider that tried to go to the movies in Flushing.

But it was not quite that simple: "Yesterday afternoon about 3 o'clock, at the RKO Keith Theatre in Flushing, where the current screen attraction is 'Special Agent' with George Brent and Bette Davis, a 'special agent' (name unknown — as is usual with special agents) mounted on a fiery steed, entered the lobby of the theatre but in view of the fact that he was mounted and had tickets for neither himself nor the horse, Richard King, the amiable doorman, refused them admission."

It seems the gentleman, who would not give his name, decided to spend his Sunday afternoon horseback riding and happened on Main Street, a pretty busy thoroughfare on any afternoon even then.

The horse became frightened and unmanageable and ran away with his rider. The rider stopped only when halted in the lobby of the theatre when he demanded admission. Neither the horse nor the rider would purchase tickets to see the picture and went on their way.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is open the public Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. at Quinn's Gallery, 4th Floor, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City. For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit

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