Archie Spigner, ‘Godfather of Politics’ in Queens, Dies at 92


Archie Spigner, a New York Metropolis councilman who was a political kingmaker in southeast Queens for a half-century, serving to fellow Black politicians climb the ladder and coaxing jobs and building initiatives into his district, died on Oct. 29 in, after all, Queens. He was 92.

His spouse, Leslie Spigner, stated the trigger was most cancers. He died at Lengthy Island Jewish Medical Heart.

Mr. Spigner represented his dwelling base on the Metropolis Council from 1974 to 2001, the final 15 of these years because the deputy to the bulk chief Peter F. Vallone. However in his district he was no one’s second in command. For 50 years — from 1970 till his dying — Mr. Spigner ran the United Democratic Membership of Queens and served as a district chief, positions that gave him energy to assist form the Democratic Social gathering’s native management.

In an space that reliably voted Democratic, a nod from Mr. Spigner all however assured election. As Donnie Whitehead, an area marketing campaign supervisor, put it, Mr. Spigner’s blessing was as important to a candidate in southeast Queens as Christ’s was to a Christian hoping to achieve entry to Heaven.

In 2009, managing a rival marketing campaign in a Democratic major, Mr. Whitehead had vowed to alter that. “No extra solely getting elected by Archie,” he declared.

As soon as once more, Mr. Spigner’s candidate received.

“He was the godfather of politics in southeastern Queens,” stated Consultant Gregory Meeks, the world’s Home member.

Mr. Spigner oversaw Mr. Meeks’s rise together with these of many different Black leaders from Queens, together with Kenneth N. Browne, the borough’s first Black member of the New York State Meeting and its first Black State Supreme Court docket justice; Andrew Jenkins, its first Black state senator; and Alton R. Waldon Jr., its first Black representative in Congress.

His affect prolonged to any Democrat, of any race, operating in his space. At Mr. Spigner’s funeral, Senator Chuck Schumer attributed his personal 1998 Senate victory partly to Mr. Spigner’s help.

As a local-minded metropolis councilman, Mr. Spigner helped shepherd the sale of the oft-criticized Jamaica Water Provide Firm, New York Metropolis’s final privately owned waterworks, to the town authorities in 1997, bringing down costs for residents of southeast Queens. To spur native enterprise, he efficiently pushed for the development of a everlasting constructing for York College, a part of the Metropolis College of New York, within the Jamaica part; a subway extension to downtown Jamaica; and a regional headquarters of the Social Safety Administration.

However some who sought to alter the established order in metropolis politics noticed a draw back to Mr. Spigner’s clout and profitable promotion of pet initiatives.

“He acquired all of that by by no means inflicting any issues for the management,” stated Ronnie Eldridge, who served with Mr. Spigner on the Metropolis Council. “He was not open to any nice reforms.”

Preservationists used Mr. Spigner’s title as a verb to suggest opposition to designating buildings as landmarks. On a number of events he thwarted attempts to protect New York’s single-room occupancy accommodations.

The web site of the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit group, describes the lack of these models as “essentially the most vital single change in New York Metropolis’s housing inventory throughout the emergence of recent homelessness.”

S.R.O. coverage was one in all a number of points on which Ms. Eldridge opposed Mr. Spigner. But she fondly recalled socializing with him when she was an govt of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey within the 1970s and ’80s.

“Each time the Port Authority had a celebration, Archie was there,” Ms. Eldridge stated, including, “Archie was only a very affable man.”

Archie Hugo Spigner was born on Aug. 27, 1928, in Orangeburg, S.C., to Walter and Estelle (Kitt) Spigner. His father was a home painter, his mom a church volunteer. His household moved to New York when Archie was 7, and he grew up in Harlem.

From the beginning he had Black political mentors. As a younger bus driver engaged in union activism, Mr. Spigner drew the attention of the labor chief A. Philip Randolph. Mr. Spigner was charged with forming a Queens department of Mr. Randolph’s Negro American Labor Council.

Whereas searching for a gathering place for his group, Mr. Spigner met Mr. Browne, who was operating for the State Meeting. Mr. Browne took Mr. Spigner to the native Democratic membership and launched him to the district chief Man R. Brewer.

Mr. Spigner would turn into an important operative for each males as they blazed a path for Black candidates in Queens politics. Mr. Brewer was additionally elected an assemblyman, and when he stepped down as district chief, he anointed Mr. Spigner his successor.

At Mr. Brewer’s urging, Mr. Spigner attended school, graduating with a bachelor’s diploma in political science from Queens School in 1972.

In 1974, nevertheless, the 2 males grew to become rivals when each sought the Metropolis Council seat representing southeast Queens. The native membership held a secret poll to resolve the dispute, and Mr. Spigner received by a single vote. He stayed on the Council till 2001, when the introduction of time period limits compelled him out.

Mr. Spigner’s first marriage, to Christine Townsend, ended along with her dying in 2007. Along with Leslie Spigner, his second spouse, he’s survived by a son from his first marriage, Philip; a grandson; and two great-granddaughters.

Despite the fact that he ran the Democratic clubhouse, within the St. Albans part of Queens, Mr. Spigner didn’t deal with it as a private fief and went about his enterprise with out fanfare. His workplace was a little-used room within the again, and quite than frequenting costly steak homes, he held morning conferences in Queens diners.

“He wasn’t large on attempting to empty anyone’s pockets to get a $100 dinner,” stated Leroy Comrie, a state senator and one in all Mr. Spigner’s many protégés. “He simply needed to cope with the problem.”