The La Guardia and Wagner Archives was established in 1982 at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY in Long Island City, Queens, New York, to collect, preserve, and make available primary materials documenting the social and political history of New York City. Its web site provides guidelines to the collections, as well as over 55,000 digitized photographs and 1,000,000 digitized documents.
Mayor Bill de Blasio,
like Wagner 50 years earlier, cannot raise the city’s minimum wage without the
approval of the Legislature and Governor Cuomo.
This is now a possibility since Governor Cuomo agreed to increase the
minimum wage in return for the endorsement of the Working Families Party. If Cuomo follows through on this agreement,
New York State will increase its minimum wage from $8 an hour (75 cents over the
federal minimum) to $10.10 an hour indexed to inflation, and New York City and
other localities will be able to raise their minimum wages 30% over the state
minimum. The issue of leadership has also not changed in the 50 years since
Wagner chastised leaders in Albany.“New York used to set the pace for
the rest of the nation and the federal government as well. Today our state, at best, is a reluctant follower.” Let us hope in 2014 that New York will stop
following and take the lead on increasing the minimum wage.
Sixty years ago today in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), declaring in a 9-0 decision that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. After the decision, Mayor Robert F. Wagner saw the need to act in New York City stating in a 1955 speech to the United Parents Association that
"We cannot oppose only segregation in the South . . . The studies and analyses of schools in the areas where our Negro and Puerto Rican children live reveal the inequality of physical properties and teaching personnel. That is not true democracy in education and it is not the American way. It is certainly not the New York City way."
Wagner spoke these words in earnest and in great contrast to the racist venom of leaders in the South, but segregation was real and difficult to confront in New York City. Racism had deep roots in New York and Mississippi and desegregation faced resistance in both places.
Sadly, progress that occurred in past decades is being reversed. A recent report by the UCLA Civil Rights Project found that "New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation."
History books describe Brown v. Board of Education as a turning point in history. Joel Motley, the son of NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Judge Constance Baker Motley also stressed this in an Archives video. They are correct, but the battles for school desegregation have not only been lost, but forgotten. Moreover, recent Supreme Court decisions have weakened municipalities' abilities to even address the issue. And when was the last time any of our political leaders mentioned the issue of school segregation? In Washington and Albany, policies have favored charter schools, despite the UCLA study showing that charter schools are among the most segregated schools in New York City and in the nation.
On January 1, 1966, New York City, dependent upon mass transit as no other city in America, awoke to a daunting problem -- a complete subway and bus shutdown. For Michael Quill, 60-year-old president of the 32,600 members of the Transport Workers Union and native of County Kerry, Ireland, it was contempt at first sight when he set eyes upon newly-sworn Mayor John V. Lindsay, 44-years-old and Yale educated. The strike had heavy consequences, costing Quill his life and halting the city's transit lifeline for 12 days. This video, from a Universal newsreel, shows the city as never before.
On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig, the New York Yankees captain, retired from baseball, due to the effects of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS, that came to be known as "Lou Gehrig's disease." The Yankees honored Gehrig at Yankee Stadium that day, and in front of a packed stadium, Gehrig referred to himself as the "luckiest man on the face of the Earth." He told the crowd that "I might have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for." As a player, he played through many injuries, but he could not defeat ALS, a degenerative neurological disorder, that would take his life two years later.
The Yankees loss of their captain was especially striking given his endurance as a player. Gehrig had played 13 consecutive seasons without missing a game and his nickname was the Iron Horse. After his career ended, x--rays on his hands show 17 fractures during this streak. Gehrig could not overcome the neurological effects of ALS that forced him into retirement, but he was a man who showed great courage and dignity when given a "bad break."
Steven A. Levine Coordinator for Educational Programs
Mayor Bill de Blasio inherited an unprecedented number of expired labor contracts upon taking office in January. In this video, Mayor Koch discusses the balancing act he faced after 100 days in office in negotiating labor contract with NYC's unions in the context of the fiscal crisis he inherited from his predecessor in 1978.
Steven A. Levine Coordinator for Educational Programs
The first 100 days of an NYC mayor can be very difficult. Mayor de Blasio reached his first 100 days this week. In 1978, Mayor Ed Koch did an interview in which he admitted to being naive when he took office and he confronted NYC's fiscal crisis after his first 100 days.
On January 30th, 1933 Nazi Party leader Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany and the Nazis immediately acted against Germany's Jewish population. In the United States, the American Jewish Congress called for protests and boycotts against Germany and placed a spotlight on the Nazis' human rights violations. One of its earliest actions was a mass rally at Madison Square Garden against the Nazis on March 27, 1933, featuring former Congressman and future mayor of New York Fiorello H. La Guardia, former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith and American Jewish Congress leader Rabbi Stephen Wise.