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Carmine De Sapio, last Tammany Hall boss

NEW YORK -- Carmine G. De Sapio, whose political muscle stretched from City Hall to the White House after he orchestrated the post-World War II revival of the powerful Tammany Hall machine, died Tuesday. He was 95.

Mr. De Sapio, a lifelong resident of Greenwich Village, passed away at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, said his daughter, Geraldine A. De Sapio.

Tammany Hall, as the Manhattan Democratic Party was once known, had declined precipitously in the 1930s after dominating New York politics for nearly a century -- a stretch that included the 19th-century era of corrupt politician William "Boss" Tweed.

Mr. De Sapio revived Tammany after World War II, successfully promoting the election of Robert F. Wagner Jr. as mayor in 1953 and W. Averell Harriman as governor in 1954. He became such a power broker that Time magazine put him on its cover, while political writers speculated on his influence over the Democratic presidential nominee.

Mr. De Sapio's leadership, however, came under increasing attack from reformers in the Democratic party. He was linked by Senate investigators to New York mob boss Frank Costello, with a 1951 report noting that Costello's family -- the precursor of the modern Genoveses -- was "strong in the councils" of Manhattan Democrats.

Mr. De Sapio also inadvertently helped launch the career of another New York politican: Edward I. Koch. The future mayor of New York was no fan of Mr. De Sapio, and he joined a reform club in Greenwich Village that opposed the old-style Democratic machine, with its patronage and power plays.

"De Sapio was the boss of bosses, a backroom man, a cutter of deals," Koch wrote in his 1984 autobiography. "He was exactly the kind of politician who was unacceptable to my generation."

Mr. De Sapio lost his position as Greenwich Village's district leader in 1961, ending a two-decade run in the position. When Mr. De Sapio tried to make a comeback, he was defeated by Koch, who was aligned with the reform Village Independent Democrats.

Eventually, Mr. De Sapio was denounced as corrupt and authoritarian and abandoned by allies, with Wagner winning reelection in 1961 by denouncing Mr. De Sapio's practices. In 1969, he was convicted of petty bribery and was later sent to prison -- although his personal style and charisma endured.

"He is a crook, but I like him," Koch wrote in his 1992 book, "Citizen Koch."

Mr. De Sapio had sought to end Tammany's image of smoke-filled back rooms where major political decisions were made hidden from public view and tried to distance himself from Tammany Hall predecessors such as Tweed.

As Tammany Hall boss, Mr. De Sapio pushed a progressive agenda. He supported legislation such as the Fair Employment Practices Law pushed by President Truman, and endorsed rent control and lowering the voting age to 18.

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