Established in 1982 at LaGuardia Community College/ CUNY with a mission to collect, preserve, and make available primary materials documenting the social and political history of New York City. We hold nearly 5,000 cubic feet of archival records and 3,200 reels of microfilm with almost 100,000 photographs and 2,000,000 documents available on our website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Big Airport Plans Today and Yesterday: Governor Cuomo, Mayor La Guardia and the Shift from City to Metropolitan Scale

Mayor La Guardia Announces the Opening of
Municipal Airport (La Guardia), 1939
(Source: La Guardia and Wagner Archives)

A fortnight ago, Governor Cuomo, flanked by Vice President Biden announced a $4 Billion reconstruction of La Guardia Airport, a project that will be undertaken by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Why the Governor, the Vice President and the Port Authority? Why not the Mayor?

The announcement seemed to beg for some historical context from those of us here at the La Guardia and Wagner Archives.  In the 1940s, Mayor La Guardia too envisioned big airport plans.  But back then, La Guardia’s dream was a grand new airport on Jamaica Bay, and it was the city, not Albany or Washington, who took the lead in planning its own future.  For La Guardia, the new airport at Idlewild (JFK) was an investment to secure New York City’s future dominance in world trade and travel in the emerging aviation era.  Today, in contrast, many New Yorkers think of the airports as a regional enterprise largely divorced from the city rather than one purposed for the city’s benefit.

Our story of the transition of New York’s airports from municipal to regional is set in the 1940s and begins with the early inadequacy of the airport that bears La Guardia’s name.(1)  Then as now, the airports have reflected the tension between New York as a place of aging infrastructure and jostling crowds, and its demand for grand facilities befitting a great metropolis.  

Vice President Biden’s depiction of La Guardia Airport as overcrowded and outdated is a recurring complaint, dating back almost to the Airport’s origins. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

State Assemblyman Mark Weprin and the Mets -- A Highlight from the Weprin Collection

Howard Johnson, Nettie Mayersohn, Saul and Mark Weprin

With the Mets’ season in full swing, the La Guardia and Wagner Archives released a new video this week which features former New York Council Member and State Assembly Member Mark Weprin recounting the championship season of the 1986 New York Mets and his own participation in the team’s Old-Timers Day on July 12, a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Amazin’ Mets.  The video goes up just as our Archives YouTube channel reaches over 300,000 views.

This latest video oral history is just one treasure among many from the Weprin family as the Archives has collaborated with the Special Collections and Archives at Queens College to digitize a selection from the Saul Weprin Collection, the entire print collection of which is housed in the Queens College Special Collections and Archives.  

The collection documents Saul Weprin’s tenure as both the 24th District Assembly Member and as Speaker of the Assembly and his actions on political, social and cultural issues that impacted the Queens neighborhoods under his jurisdiction.

Two of the many particularly interesting documents include the Bias-Related Violence Act in 1991—legislation that preceded federal hate crime laws by three years, as well as his support of the 1993 Stalking Law.

The addition of this collection, especially in a conveniently accessible digital form, adds another dimension to the study of New York City history and politics for researchers and students.

As always, we invite you to engage with the wonderful wealth of materials in our collections.  Our website offers user friendly finding aids and computerized indexes facilitate rewarding research.  A number of our videos and images can be viewed at our YouTube Channel and Flikr page.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.  Or come and see our materials first hand here at the Archives itself.  We’re located at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, 31-10 Thomson Ave., Room E-238, Long Island City, NY 11101.  Hours for researchers are generally Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Those interested in using the collections should call or write the Archivist to make an appointment. We look forward to your use of our materials.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

At New York's City Hall, Mayor Robert F. Wagner greets the Little Rock "Nine" students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in September, 1957 

Tomorrow, February 12th is Abraham Lincoln's birthday, an event that in the past offered leading government figures an opportunity to speak out on the important issues of the day. On February 12, 1957, New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner delivered a speech before the Norwalk Catholic Club in Connecticut to express his own concerns about race relations in America.

"Today, the shrill voice of the demagogue is heard once more in portions of our land, inciting to lawlessness. Mob violence, limited fortunately to a relatively few places, so far, has replaced the democratic processes of law and order.  Southern, and some northern, politicians, fearful for their political future and, in some cases, eager for political profit, cater to the violent passions of the white supremacist.  More than 90 years ago, Lincoln called for a 'practical system, by which the two races could gradually live themselves out of their old relationship to each other, and both come out better prepared for the new.' Surely 90 years is time enough to hesitate on the doorstep of racial equality.  What is needed in this critical hour is a strong voice, an influential and unequivocal voice, a voice undeterred by political opportunism, to espouse, as Lincoln did, the principles of democracy and adherence to the law, in keeping with the particular needs of our time."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

1969: John Lindsay's Re-election and Getting the Jewish Vote

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

The video, John Lindsay's Re-election and Getting the Jewish Vote, documents Mayor Lindsay’s uphill climb in his 1969 reelection campaign after losing the Republican primary to State Senator 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 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 video, Jay Kriegel, 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 helped 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 more liberal, better educated, and affluent Jews and Procaccino doing better among working and lower middle class Jews in the outer boroughs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chicago White Sox Win the 1959 AL Pennant

On Sept. 22, 1959, the Chicago White Sox broke a 40-year drought and won the American League pennant by defeating the second-place Cleveland Indians at cavernous Municipal Stadium. Led by the double-play combo of Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio and strong pitching, the Sox broke the Yankees' stranglehold on first place. This video shows the exciting game action and post-game clubhouse celebration.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Roosevelts and Fiorello La Guardia


As La Guardia looks on, President Roosevelt  
signs proclamation naming December 15 as
‘Bill of Rights  Day’ at the White House, 1941

For more photos click here and here

At rally to fight for enactment of Fair Employment Practices Act, La Guardia speaks with FEP committee co-chairman A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt, 1946

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

This past Sunday, PBS began airing “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” Ken Burns’s documentary about the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  In 1934 FDR gained a great ally when Fiorello La Guardia became mayor of New York City.  La Guardia defeated Tammany Hall and brought clean and efficient government to NYC, while successfully creating a direct relationship to the White House to fund New Deal projects.  La Guardia, the son of immigrants, came from a humble background, while Eleanor and Franklin descended from one of America’s oldest families.  They nevertheless developed close political friendships, based on shared goals. Under La Guardia’s leadership, New York City used New Deal funds to employ hundreds of thousands to build highways, subways, schools, hospitals, parks, housing and other infrastructure. 
The importance of the relationship between La Guardia and Franklin and Eleanor can be found in the La Guardia and Wagner Archives’ collection, containing 16 photos of Eleanor and 20 photos of Franklin.  If you would like to learn more about La Guardia, the Roosevelts and the New Deal, please feel free to contact me


President Roosevelt, Governor Lehman, and Mayor La Guardia campaign together in the 1940 election   campaign.

La Guardia,head of joint U.S.-Canada Defense Board, meets with President Roosevelt and military brass at the White House, 1940          

La Guardia, union leader Sidney Hillman,and Eleanor Roosevelt talking at a dinner honoring Eleanor at the Hotel Commodore, 1941

La Guardia and FDR at the annual Roosevelt Picnic at Hyde Park, NY, 1938 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bill de Blasio Fights to Build Public School Annex in Borough Park

Council Member Bill de Blasio with students at an
elementary school in Brooklyn, April 8, 2002.
Council member Bill de Blasio and P.S. 39 principal 
Anita de Paz applaud with first and second grade artists, 
at children's art exhibition, May 12, 2008

From 2002 to 2009, Bill de Blasio represented the 39th Council District in the Council of the City of New York. The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives houses his Council member papers, which consist of Constituent Correspondence, Departmental Correspondence, Photographs, Committee Files, and Legislative Files on education, housing, and land use. Most significantly, we have identified the papers in his collection that document his dedication to improving the quality of public education in New York City, epitomized by his role in building the P.S. 160 Annex in Borough Park, Brooklyn. (Click here to view documents related to the P.S. 160 Annex.)
In 2008, de Blasio, an education activist who earlier had been elected to his local school board, responded to his constituents’ growing concerns about the overcrowding of P.S. 160 in Borough Park. He rallied the Department of Education, fellow politicians, and local residents to build an annex to P.S. 160.  The school was originally built in 1904 for only 500 students, but by 2008 housed 821 students, or 137% of its intended capacity. Built to be handicap accessible, the five story annex houses labs, classrooms for the upper grades, an auditorium, a library, a gymnasium and serves as a community center for the neighborhood.