In what TheNew York Times today has labeled, “one of the most significant roundups ofpolice supervisors in the recent history of the police department,” the U.S.Attorney for the Southern District has arrested 3 NYPD commanders on federalcorruption charges. The commanders are accused of accepting free overseas anddomestic trips, expensive gifts and sending security business to a privatecompany in exchange for acting as chauffeur, bodyguard and concierge to twobusinessmen.
Theseallegations echo those uncovered by the Knapp Commission in 1970, whichrevealed a far broader and enduring corruption scandal by the policedepartment. Listen to the recentlyrecorded podcast by The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives with Michael Armstrong,Chief Counsel to the Commission, and Jay Kriegel, Chief of Staff and SpecialCounsel to Mayor John V. Lindsay as they discuss their own memorable roles inthe Commission. Moreover, they discussthe political climate surrounding the Commission, the roles of PoliceCommissioner Murphy and Leary, and the oftentimes bizarre, even violent, natureof police corruption itself.
Sam Roberts of the New York Times speaks on labor history at the unveiling of the 2016 Working People calendar, outlining important labor milestones from the Tompkins Square Blood or Bread Riot of 1874 and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 to the more recent Occupy Wall Street movement and formation of the Working Families Party. Roberts notes the steep decline in unionization and the importance of labor unions in NY history and political culture. The 2016 Working People calendar is produced in partnership between the City University of New York, the New York Times in Education program and the New York City Central Labor Council, and is designed by the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives of the LaGuardia Community College.
At the launch party of CUNY's 2011 Health in America calendar, Professor Richard K. Lieberman, director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, described the horrible details of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that killed 146 mostly Italian and Jewish young females. This fire sparked public outrage over unsafe working conditions and led New York State to establish a Factory Investigating Commission, which toured factories throughout the state and recommended dozens of new laws to safeguard workers, 36 of which were ultimately passed.
Dr.June Jackson Christmas, a psychiatrist, was the first African-American womanappointed Commissioner of the New York City Department Health and MentalRetardation Services by Mayor Lindsay in 1972. She was re-appointed by MayorsBeame and Koch, and sat on the Board of the Health and Hospitals Corporation,the city agency that operates Municipal Hospitals and neighborhood family carecenters.
Inthis podcast, Dr. Christmas discusses the symbolic importance of Sydenham Hospitalas the first integrated not-for-profit hospital in the city to the blackcommunity in Harlem. Dr. Christmas was forced to support the controversial closingof the hospital in 1980 saying “I had orders to support the closing becausethat was the city policy.” However, she offered alternatives for the hospital’sfuture that were rejected.
Openedin 1925 as a private hospital, Sydenham was the only place black doctors hadadmitting privileges. By the time Sydenham was taken over by the city in 1949, whenit went into bankruptcy, black doctors were slowly able to admit patients inmore hospitals across the city.
Duringthe 1970s New York City fiscal crisis, Sydenham was one of the four hospitals designatedto close in order to save the newer hospitals in the Health and HospitalsCorporation system. New York State cited Sydenham, high maintenance costs and itsdifficulty complying with newer hospital codes.
Protestorsopposed the closing of Sydenham citing a public health concern that the nearesthospital, Harlem Hospital was 12 blocks away and often operated at full capacity.Much opposition came from union members over the loss of jobs, although anagreement between the City and Federal Government stipulated that workers wouldbe moved to other health facilities across the city.
Todaythe former Sydenham hospital is a 10- story building housing the elderly andhandicapped. Mayor Koch has since admitted that he was wrong to close thehospital and failed to see the symbolism for the Harlem community.
Sid Davidoff was administrative assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay for seven years. Jay Kriegel was Lindsay’s Chief of Staff and Special Counsel. They were widely considered two of the Mayor’s top personal aides. In this oral history, Davidoff and Kriegel reveal the inside story of the great snowstorm of 1969. It was one of the biggest snowfalls of the 20th century in New York City. When Mayor Lindsay went to visit Queens after the snowfall he was confronted with impassable streets and angry residents. The city’s failure to clear the streets in Queens convinced many middle class white New Yorkers in the outer boroughs that the mayor was not interested in them or their problems. Davidoff explains that sanitation workers (who are also responsible for clearing the snow in New York), still angry with Mayor Lindsay over the sanitation strike the year before, purposefully left the snow unplowed in parts of Queens. Kriegel explores practical failures of the city’s response and how the storm transformed snow from a weather event to a political issue for mayors of New York ever since.
Alice and Bill Havlena talk about their experiences with health, healthcare, and access to food during the Great Depression. This oral history was conducted in 1987.
Mayor John Lindsay faced an uphill climb in his campaign for reelection in 1969 after losing the Republican primary to John Marchi, forcing him to run with the backing of only the Liberal Party. The Democratic Party nominee Comptroller Mario Procaccino failed to attract broad Democratic support because of his conservative views and verbal gaffes, but Lindsay desperately needed support from Jewish voters in the outer boroughs to win. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's trip to the U.S. in September proved the right opportunity for Lindsay to regain his standing with the Jewish community in Brooklyn and Queens. In this audio, Jay Kriegal (Lindsay Chief of Staff) and Sid Davidoff (Mayoral Assistant) recount how the city came to build a sukkah, a structure of branches and leaves which Jews traditionally eat in during the harvest festival Sukkoth, in the Brooklyn Museum parking lot as the site for a formal dinner in Meir's honor. This event captured the city's attention and helped Lindsay win reelection.
The sukkah and the Meir visit hlped Lindsay increase his support among liberal Jews who could not pull the lever for Procaccino. In the general election, Lindsay and Procaccino split the Jewish vote with Lindsay getting support from the more liberal, better-educated, and affluent Jews, and Procaccino doing better among working and lower middle class Jews in the outer boroughs.
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was committed to excising corruption from New York City. He battled Tammany Hall (New York’s Democratic machine) with fierce idealism and relentlessly pursued racketeers and gamblers who often targeted poor immigrants.