Patrick McCarren: should our park be named in his honor?

Patrick_H._McCarren

The McCarren Park and Pool are named in honor of New York State Senator Patrick McCarren who represented out area for about twenty years before he died in 1909. His greatest accomplishment was in getting the state to build the Williamsburg Bridge in 1904.

Born in East Cambridge, Massachusetts of Irish parents in 1847, McCarren headed to Brooklyn and worked first in Williamsburg’s thriving sugar refineries, then as a cooper, and finally as a lawyer, the springboard for his real ambitions in local politics. Civic service was his singular objective, entering the  Kings County’s democratic machine at age 21. In 1881, he was elected a state senator, a vantage he would use in accumulating great influence.

What was wrong with McCarren? He was a recognized champion of corporations including Havermayer’s Sugar Trust, which paid terrible wages and had a virtual monopoly on sugar,  allowing the trust to dictate the prince of American sugar. Perhaps worse was McCarren’s alliance with Standard OIl, which polluted Greenpoint. In fact a Boston Millionaire accused McCarren of receiving a $20,000 annual salary from Standard Oil, a claim, which McCarren never denied. He was called by his detractors, “The Standard Oil Serpent.” He was also according to claims a “paid agent” of the corrupt gas Trust that overcharged New York Consumers and was exposed by Greenpoint’s Charles Evans Hughes. McCarrenspent huge amounts of money at the Belmont Racet track where he was a notorious gambler.

How was he able to succeed? his personality traits included persistence, tenacity, huge self-control and according to his enemies unscrupulousness. He was recognized as the best parliamentarian in Albany and he was called the most successful Democratic lobbyist in two generations. He got elected because he knew Brooklyn better than any other citizen. He mastered Brooklyn politics and knew the names, antecedents, connections and capabilities of every ward captain and worker in Brooklyn.

he seemed to have been a lugubrious person who was always calculating. He became head of the Brooklyn Democratic machine when he wrested control of the party away from Hugh McLaughlin who had held power in the party for forty years before McCarren took over. McCarren  used his power to protect corporate interests. He successfully blocked the nomination for governor of reformer WIlliam Randolph Hearst in 1908.

Why was he re-elected so many times? He improved Brooklyn’s infrastructure. His fans said,”  “The bridges, the parks, the improved means of transit, the better paved and lighted streets…by which the Brooklyn of to-day is distinguished….are due more to the legislative efficiency of Senator McCarren than to the influence of any other individual.”

McCarren seems also to have played a huge role in getting Standard Oil’s chosen candidate nominated in 1904 when the Democrats nominated Alton Parker for president. I think its fair to say that McCarren put the interests of corporations before the people and the massive pollution that Oil refining produced could not have happened without the help of McCarren and his cronies in Albany.

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