Patrick Gleason (politician)
Patrick Jerome “Paddy” “Battle-Axe” Gleason (April 25, 1844 – May 20, 1901) was an Irish-American politician born in County Tipperary, Ireland. He arrived in America with his brothers, fought in the Civil War, and made a small fortune in California. He got involved in local politics and was elected mayor of Long Island City three times, from 1887–89, 1890–92 and served as its last mayor from 1896–97, before it was incorporated into the City of Greater New York in 1898.
Gleason held "truly remarkable sway over Long Island City's affairs" for years when his power was in its prime "by his keen personal hold on the majority of the people he ruled. By nature and by political preference he was a Democrat, but he was voted for simply as 'Paddy,' he was obeyed as 'Paddy,' and the people whom he had once autocratically governed, and a respectable portion of whom had been hostile to him, remembered him as 'Paddy' to the day of his death."
The growth of industry in Long Island City in the 1890s was accompanied by a growth of graft, and Gleason acted in Long Island City as Boss Tweed had decades earlier in Manhattan. As mayor, he owned trolley lines under city contract, leased personal property to the school district, and he formed the "Citizens Water Supply Co." and attempted to sell water to Long Island City from his wells. When the railroad put a fence to block traffic on the ferry, he personally chopped it down earning the nickname “Battle-Axe.” Gleason’s personality was legendary. Gleason’s volatile temper got him arrested, and his relationship with the board of aldermen was tempestuous at best.
The newspapers, which loathed him, refused to publish his photograph. Yet Gleason is still remembered fondly by the people of Hunters Point as a friend to the common man. The school later called PS 1, the largest high school on Long Island when built, was his legacy to the community’s children. When he died bankrupt and discredited a few years out of office, hundreds lined the route to his interment in Calvary Cemetery.
“Patrick Jerome Gleason was never boring,” wrote the late George Henke of Sunnyside. “Although labeled a brawler, braggart, buffoon and scoundrel, he was not worse than some of his slick opponents. He was an astute politician.”
- "Patrick J. Gleason Dead; Picturesque Political Character Succumbs to heart Disease. Ruled Long Island City Autocratically Until the Greater New York Charter Went into Force." New York Times, May 21, 1901.
- History Topics: Names of Long Island City.
- "Rumors that Gleason’s Ramshackle Railway Has Been Transferred to the Steinway Syndicate." Long Island Daily Star-Journal, January 11, 1895.
- Greater Astoria Historical Society (2004). Long Island City. USA: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-3666-0.