The Dreamer (and Doer)

The Dreamer (and Doer)
Fiorello La Guardia: The Dreamer (and Doer)

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Tribute to Lou Gehrig

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."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

First 100 Days of Mayor Ed Koch : Labor Negotiations

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.

First 100 Days of Mayor Ed Koch : Was I naive?

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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ant-Nazi Rally

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.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

VIDEO: Fiorello La Guardia Delivers Food Relief as UNRRA Director-General in 1946

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

Check out this video of 1946 newsreel footage of Fiorello LaGuardia visiting Italy as director-general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), along with beautiful cards drawn by Italian children thanking LaGuardia for the aid they received.  Sixty eight years ago this month, Fiorello La Guardia left Gracie Mansion and become a private citizen.  After twelve years as mayor, he would, in the words of his biographer CUNY Distinguished Professor Thomas Kessner, be able to have “some comfortable earnings and the easy life of a pundit and commentator.”  Three months later he rejected this option, returning to public service as director-general of UNRRA to feed and rebuild the world’s war torn nations.  Sadly, as La Guardia fought for aid to be distributed without political consideration, UNRRA‘s mission became mired in Soviet-U.S. Cold War divisions. La Guardia, who opposed the politicization of relief, resigned his position before UNRRA’s mandate expired in December 1946.  During its existence UNRRA distributed $3.7 billion in aid, funded mostly by the United States.
The Archives has an extensive UNRRA photo collection and the Italian children’s artworkavailable on our website.   If you would like to learn more about La Guardia or UNRRA or use these or other Archives’ materials in your class, please feel free to contact me. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela and New York City

Steven A. Levine 
Coordinator for Educational Programs

As we sadly observe the passing of Nelson Mandela, I thought it an appropriate time to look at his connection to New York City through some of the Archives’ documents. The documents show that in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the brutal apartheid government continued to imprison Mandela and his comrades on Robben Island; New York City, in response to activism from anti-racist and labor organizations, took strong stands against the apartheid government of South Africa. 
In 1984 New York City passed economic sanctions against South Africa and the banks and companies that did business with it, and named the corner of 42nd St and Second Avenue, in front of the South African U.N. mission “Nelson and Winnie Mandela Corner.”  When Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, he was given a hero’s welcome, highlighted by a ticker tape parade, an ecumenical service at Riverside Church, and a huge rally at Yankee Stadium, an inspiring moment I was fortunate enough to attend. 
Even after South Africa released Mandela in 1990, the City Council continued to support local sanctions and the need to “impress upon the Congress of the United States the need to continue economic and political sanctions against the government of South Africa until freedom and equality are established for all.”
I hope you will take the time to look at the documents.  If you are interested in learning more about Nelson Mandela’s visit to NYC or about its connection to the South African freedom struggle, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

VIDEO: Professor Emerita Janet Lieberman Remembers Prohibition

  Professor Emerita Janet Lieberman

Steven A. Levine 
Coordinator for Educational Programs

Eighty one years ago today, the United States ended Prohibition, its failed experiment in making alcohol, the nation’s  most popular drug, illegal.  From 1920-1933, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution banned the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes."  Watch a video of La Guardia Professor Emerita Janet Lieberman describing how easy it was to consume alcohol during Prohibition and a Universal Newspaper Newsreelproduced when Prohibition was repealed.
Fiorello La Guardia was also a leading opponent of Prohibition.  To learn more about his views on Prohibition and their similarities to current arguments in favor of marijuana legalization; you can read “Marijuana Legalization Arguments Similar to La Guardia's Arguments Against Prohibition” on the Archives’ blog. 
If you are so inclined, you can also make a toast to the 21st Amendment that made your drink possible today.