An arts coordinator at a midtown church in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, Mary Clark began a fifteen-year journey through New York City politics. From the volatile streets to the halls of power, she experienced the triumphs and defeats of the Hell’s Kitchen community as it fought “development fever.” Her actions fed into the successes and failures of her community work, as this memoir describes in a nod to Rousseau’s The Confessions.
The AIDS epidemic was at its height. Homeless families were placed in midtown hotels, which resembled refugee camps. Crime associated with the illegal drug trade threatened one of the oldest communities in the city. Meanwhile, ambitious politicians vied for dominance behind the scenes. She had a grassroots view of the fall of Ed Koch, a working relationship with David Dinkins, and the rise of Rudolph Giuliani.
Three years into her years as a community activist, she met James R. McManus, Democratic district leader and head of the last Tammany Hall club in New York City. In a twist of irony, the “radical liberal” found with the McManus Club the opportunity to have the most productive time of her life.
There is a fire in Hell’s Kitchen, and you are invited to sit by its light and hear in its flames the prayer, the song, a cautionary tale, and an echo of love and rage.