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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Triborough Bridge Opens: July 11, 1936

Stephen Weinstein
Assistant to the Director

July 11 Marks the anniversary of the Triborough Bridge's opening in 1936. Spanning the Harlem River, the Bronx Kill and the Hell Gate, its 3 main bridges connect Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.  

This is part of a film celebrating the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority's 30th anniversary in 1964. The full video is the property of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels-Special Archives and has been edited by the La Guardia and Wagner Archives

Built largely with money from the federal government, the bridge provided the first rapid access between Queens and the Bronx. Indeed, 1936 was a crowning year in improving New York's infrastructure because in addition to the great bridge, 11 WPA pools opened that summer just in time for one of the hottest summers on record, and two federally-funded public housing projects, the Harlem River Houses in Manhattan and the Williamsburg Houses in Brooklyn, began construction. See our NYCHA Black History Month Celebration of the Harlem River Houses for more information.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"I Am An American Day" 1941 and 1945

Steven A. Levine 
Coordinator for Educational Programs

In celebration of Independence Day, I hope you will take the time to watch the Archives’ YouTube video “I Am An American Day: 1941 and 1945” and consider the meaning of U.S. citizenship today and also what it meant to Americans during World War II. In 1940 Congress created “I Am An American Day” to honor Americans who had reached voting age and immigrants who had become citizens. The event in Central Park in 1945, as World War II came to a close, attracted more than one million people.

Monday, July 2, 2012

June 27, 1956: Federal Interstate Highway Act Becomes Law

Stephen Weinstein
Assistant to the Director

On Friday, June 27, 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower signed the greatest public works act in this country’s history. The Federal Interstate Highway Act committed the federal government to pay 90% of the cost of building 41,000 miles of highways over the following ten years to connect 90% of American cities with a population greater than 50,000. Before this act, the federal government covered only 50% of construction costs. In New York, Construction Coordinator Robert Moses had already persuaded Congress to change its original plans and include within the Act those roads leading to toll bridges. Among Moses’s proposals were the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964 (see photo from the Archives City Council Collection 05.002.12232linking Brooklyn and Staten Island, the Throgs Neck Bridge (opened in 1961 with its approach roads financed by the federal government) connecting the Bronx and Queens, and two Manhattan highways that never happened—cross-town routes along 30th Street and Broome Street that would have defaced Manhattan’s streetscape.

Nowhere in Moses’s plans, however, was there any provision for mass transit as part of this highway construction. While planning the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens, Moses adamantly refused to allocate any money for a mass transit line to run along the center median to Idlewild (now Kennedy) Airport. Fifty years later at a far greater expense, mass transit was built between Jamaica and Kennedy Airport, running along the Van Wyck median.
One Moses project that got completed was the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx, connecting the Triborough Bridge and the New England Thruway. At the opening of the Bruckner Expressway in 1962, Mayor Robert F. Wagner nonetheless warned that constructing new highways not only did not end traffic bottlenecks, but encouraged additional traffic. He said: “The trouble with expressways is that the minute they are opened, if they are good, they attract increasing amounts of traffic; and then, during peak traffic hours, they, too, become choked up, and movement can easily become paralyzed.” For Mayor Wagner’s complete comments, click here. Mayor Wagner called for more funding for mass transit. Mass transit has a capacity of moving 40,000 to 50,000 people an hour; in contrast, standard highways move 1,500 cars an hour. This debate over funding for mass transit or highway construction still rages today.