From Dinkins to Giuliani to Bloomberg to De Blasio, in New York City the mayor is invariably an iconic figure with a tendency to dominate both the news and the discourse not only locally but also regionally and sometimes nationally. The history of mayors of the nation’s largest city stretches back before the office officially existed.
Officially, Peter Stuyvesant was the director general of New Netherland during the mid-17th century, and the colony’s last leader before the English took over New Amsterdam in 1664 and retitled it after the Duke of York. A closer look reveals some interesting facets of the first unofficial mayor of New York City.
Peter the Headstrong
Even though it is satirical, Washington Irving’s “A History of New York” is a vastly important work in the history of New York-focused literature. Although the book is ostensibly satirical, Irving took the work more earnestly as he proceeded. The book concludes with a description of Peter Stuyvesant, referred to as “Peter the Headstrong,” a nickname the director general had earned in real life. Irving describes the politician as a “sturdy, valiant, obstinate, leathern-sided, lion-hearted, generous-spirited old governor.”
Stuyvesant was indeed tough and obstinate, interjecting unprecedented elements of law and regulation into the rule of New Amsterdam. He shaped the future political culture of the city before ceding New Amsterdam to the English. During his rule Peter the Headstrong had an overriding reputation with the populace of New Amsterdam that still reverberates centuries later. His effectiveness as a politician and leader came from a remarkable pre-leadership life.
A Life of Service
Peter Stuyvesant was born in 1592, in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. Before becoming a powerful figure in the New World, Stuyvesant went through years of military service (1625-1644) but then suffered a severe leg wound when fighting in St Maarten. This led to Stuyvesant’s well-known wooden leg.
Once a New Amsterdammer, Always a New Yorker
After his substantial military service, Stuyvesant was appointed as the director of North American Dutch colonies in 1645, including New Netherland. In 1645 Peter Stuyvesant arrived in what would soon become New York for the first time.
At the time, a number of European colonial powers were interested in New Amsterdam, but Stuyvesant held tightly onto the territory while helping to establish the area’s modern borders while also establishing an unprecedented rule of law in the city – including strong public health and safety standards. His tenure as leader was contentious but undeniably influential. Peter the Headstrong clearly felt strongly in what he believed in and never stopped fighting, even long after he left the military.
The Dutch were not able to compete with the powerful English forces that wanted to take over the region, and Stuyvesant helped avoid a violent, prolonged conflict by handing over New Netherland in 1664.
While Peter the Headstrong finally had to give up a fight, he felt so strongly about the city that he had helped to create that he returned to New York in 1668 to live out the rest of his life on his farm on what is now the Bowery.
Not far from where Peter Stuyvesant made his home is the large, historic residential community which bears his name. Apartments in Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town are ideal for enjoying the best of the city and its rich history. Apartments in StuyTown offer all of this with the added bonus of being no fee rentals in NYC. Call (877) 774-1855 today for more information.