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.

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. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mayor Lindsay Walks the Streets of Harlem

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

On April 4, 1968, a nation wounded both by the Vietnam War and the divisions it had created, and by outbreaks of civil unrest in its cities, faced the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  Pent-up anger and frustration in the African-American community led to rioting, looting and arson that destroyed vast swaths of neighborhoods in Washington, DC, Chicago, Kansas City, Newark and Baltimore.  In New York City, it was a different story.  Because Mayor John Lindsay and his staff had built relationships with the African-American community, Lindsay was able to travel to Harlem after the assassination and help calm an angry crowd, greatly limiting the damage done.  To learn more about the night of April 4 in Harlem, see the video interview with Lindsay aide, Sid Davidoff.
            Unfortunately, little has been learned from 1968 as can be seen from the horrifying events surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, young black man in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. This and the events that followed have brought systemic American racism to the forefront.  While there are many causes for the racism that led up to Michael Brown’s death, one of them was a lack of communication between the predominantly white local government police force and the African-American community.  Lindsay intuitively understood the importance of building these relationships, something that has been forgotten as American police departments have become increasingly militarized.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mayor Robert Wagner, President Johnson and the Mississippi Freedom Democrats at the 1964 Democratic Convention

                           Mayor Wagner & President Johnson     Fannie Lou Hamer

Steven A. Levine, Ph.D.
Coordinator for Educational Programs

Fifty years ago the Democratic Party Convention met in Atlantic City, NJ to nominate Lyndon Baines Johnson for a full term.  Johnson’s nomination was not in doubt, but who would represent Mississippi was up in the air: the all white segregationist regular Democrats or the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).  The MFDP were activists from Mississippi Freedom Summer (To learn more about Freedom Summer see the Archives’ Curriculum.) who came to Atlantic City determined to oust the regular Democrats.  Sharecropper and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer gave a powerful speech  to the Credentials Committee about the terrorist tactics used to prevent Hamer and other African-Americans from registering to vote.  After her speech it appeared that the MFDP had a chance to be seated by the Credentials Committee.

President Johnson used his political skills and power to seat the Mississippi regular Democrats.  He did this not out of support for them, but out of fear that other southern delegations would walk out of the convention if they were not seated and many southern states would then support his opponent Senator Barry Goldwater.  New York State had two seats, John English and Joyce Austin, on the Credentials Committee.  Johnson called his ally NYC Mayor Robert Wagner on the telephone to find out how they would vote and if he could sway them.  (Johnson recorded this and other telephone conversations in the Oval Office.)  Wagner thought that English could be swayed, but Joyce Austin, an African-American woman who worked for him, would support the MFDP. The MFDP lost their bid to be seated as Mississippi delegates and rejected a proposed compromise where they would have been given two at-large delegates to the convention.  The Regular Mississippi delegation walked out of the Convention and the MFDP would unofficially take their seats.  Goldwater would win Mississippi, but Johnson carried most of the southern states in a landslide victory.

If you want to learn more about the 1964 Democratic Convention and the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, please feel free to contact me at the Archives at slevine@lagcc.cuny.edu 

Mayor Robert F. Wagner and President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Discuss the 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Increasing the Minimum Wage: Past and Present

Senator Robert F. Kennedy, NY City Central Labor Council President 
Harry Van Ardsdale, Jr., and Mayor Robert F. Wagner
at a Breakfast Meeting of Labor Leaders, January 14, 1965

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

Demands to raise state and local minimum wages above the federal level are not new.  In the 1960s, Mayor Robert F. Wagner prioritized increasing the minimum wage from $1.25 to $1.50.  Stymied at the state level by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the Republican dominated Legislature, Wagner signed a law to increase the City’s minimum wage He declared in a 1964 signing speech that “[T]his nation as well as this city is presently engaged in a war to eradicate poverty.  I am of the firm conviction that this law will in a large measure contribute to the diminution of poverty in this city . . . I feel it to be my duty as mayor of all of the people of the City of New York to sign this local law, and I do so willingly.”   Unfortunately, the NY Court of Appeals found that New York City did not have the power to set its own minimum wage, granting that power only to New York State.
           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.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
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.

Monday, May 12, 2014

NYC Transit Strike, 1966

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.

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.