Went to Brooklyn College and started to look at the scrapbooks from Pete’s career. Basically, a St. Francis College historian clipped articles from brooklyn Newspapers from 1919 to 1948. I read through a batch of articles on Pete’s career from 1924 through about 1927. Here are a few things I gleaned They called Al Damato Senator Pothole, but Damato had nothing on Pete. He brought home a huge amount of political pork, mostly infrastructure. Pete defined the area more than anyone else. While he was Alderman( like today’s city Council ) he got Greenpoint The McCarran Park Pool, American playground, The Park at Dupont and Franklin, The Automotive High School, the Bridge at Greenpoint Avenue and the G Train.
I found it very interesting how the City got the park at Dupont and Franklin. The lot was owned by the French government through a holding company. The French argued that they should not have to pay taxes because they were a government. The state did not see it that way and claimed the land that the park sits on in 1926 McGuinness sponsored a bill in the Board of Aldermen to make the land a park and even got an adjacent piece of land added onto it.
One of the things that I learned was that during the 1920’s Greenpoint was teeming with kids. Pete got a bill through the Board that allowed the Board and not the police to close streets in the summer so that kids could play. I still cannot believe this but acording to the article I read there were eighteen hundred kids who lived on Guernsey between Meserole and Norman. Many blocks the article claimed had a thousand or more kids, so closing the streets allowed them to play without risk of getting hit by a car.
Along with the crowded conditions there was poverty. Kids’ parents did not have the money to get them out of the city in the Summer. Pete had Peter J.McGuinness night march 5, 1926 where he raised money for local kids to have an outing. Five thousand people showed up at the Labor Lyceum Hall at Myrtle and Willoughby paying fifty cents. The funds allowed all the kids of Greenpoint to go on the trip.
One of the staples of Pete’s career was defending Greenpoint. When a NYC newspaper quoted a 1910 yearbook dedication to the future Police Commissioner McGlaughlin Pete wrote a defense. The NYU entry said. “How so bright a chap can content himself with living in Greenpoint is beyond us.” Pete rose in the Board to defend Greenpoint and said,” I could talk for two hours about the great men who have come out of this district. ” He added,” We are the most clannish community in the country and the touchiest.
The heart of Pete’s popularity was his service to his constituents. Every night he went to his club ” The Regular People’s Democratic club on Meserole and Manhattan Avenue where he helped people with their problems, ranging from arrests to landlord problems. According to McGuinness he saw twenty five thousand constituents in a two year span and was at his club every day of the year. One of the things that I have learned researching Greenpoint history is that very few people, Pete included, finished high school. They were unsure how to obtain city and legal services. Pete helped them take care of their concerns and that is why he held power in Greenpoint for thirty years.