The Napoleon of New York: Mayor Fiorello La Guardia

The Napoleon Of New York
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Otherwise, we might never have heard from them again. Indeed, only two men - both of them Italian-Americans of the Republican Party who served in times of great crisis - have escaped the black void of obscurity that usually swallows up former New York mayors. For the time being, Rudy Giuliani's fame seems secure and may continue to grow.

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But Fiorello La Guardia's star is fading fast and would probably soon disappear altogether had the city not bestowed on him the dubious honour of naming its worst airport after him. In large part, modern New York is his creation. When he took office in , the city government was mired in corruption and rampant cronyism. Like Giuliani many years later, La Guardia cleaned up City Hall and made the streets safer for the average citizen.

He modernised public transport, created a vast network of parks, and made model institutions of the schools and hospitals. For his honesty and efficiency, he was rewarded with the devotion of the voters, who kept him in office for 12 years. But, to his enemies, the diminutive Fiorello appeared so pushy and self-righteous that they called him a "Midget Mussolini". He answered critics with blunt talk, telling one, "You're so stupid it's an art.

The Napoleon of New York: Mayor Fiorello La Guardia

When the bureaucracy tried to stall his efforts at reform, he answered their doubletalk with straightforward demands. With his secretary, he would race through the daily paperwork shouting, "Say yes, say no, throw it away, tell him to go to hell. His background made him the perfect person for managing the city's diverse population. His father was a Sicilian immigrant and his mother an Austrian Jew; and he grew up in Arizona and attended a Protestant church.

He was a scrupulous lawyer, who never made much money and lived simply with his wife and two adopted children. Though he was a Republican, he was happy to work closely with Democrats, and refused to play favourites even with his biggest supporters. He stunned the party faithful by announcing, "My first qualification for this great office is my monumental ingratitude. A few German agents were arrested and some saboteurs were nabbed after coming ashore from a U-boat. But the only dramatic wartime disasters - indeed, the most spectacular of their kind in the city before September 11 last year - were only accidents.

On February 9 , one of the largest ocean liners in the world, the Normandie, became engulfed in flames while it was docked on the city's waterfront and capsized, sending great clouds of smoke floating over Manhattan. McKee entered the race as the nominee of the new "Recovery party". Flynn and apparently was opposed by President Franklin Roosevelt. La Guardia made corruption his main issue. La Guardia's win was based on a complex coalition of regular Republicans mostly middle class German Americans in the boroughs outside Manhattan , a minority of reform-minded Democrats, some Socialists, a large proportion of middle-class Jews, and the great majority of Italians.

The Italians had been loyal to Tammany; their switch proved decisive. La Guardia came to office in January with five main goals: La Guardia then collaborated closely with Robert Moses , with support from the governor, Democrat Herbert Lehman , to upgrade the decaying infrastructure.

The city was favored by the New Deal in terms of funding for public works projects. La Guardia was not an orthodox Republican. He also ran as the nominee of the American Labor Party , a union-dominated anti- Tammany left wing group that supported Franklin D. Roosevelt for president beginning in He was a Republican Episcopalian who had grown up in Arizona and had a Triestine Jewish mother [5] and a lapsed Catholic father.

He spoke several languages; when working at Ellis Island, he was certified as an interpreter for Italian, German, Yiddish, and Croatian. When Henry Frank, a Jewish opponent, accused him of anti-Semitism, La Guardia rejected the suggestion that he publicly disclose that his mother was Jewish as "self-serving". Instead, La Guardia dictated an open letter in Yiddish that was also printed in Yiddish.

La Guardia loathed the gangsters who brought a negative stereotype and shame to the Italian community.

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La Guardia then went after the gangsters with a vengeance, stating in a radio address to the people of New York in his high-pitched, squeaky voice, "Let's drive the bums out of town". In he went on a search-and-destroy mission looking for mob boss Frank Costello 's slot machines, which La Guardia executed with gusto, rounding up thousands of the "one armed bandits", swinging a sledgehammer and dumping them off a barge into the water for the newspapers and media. In La Guardia appeared at The Bronx Terminal Market to institute a citywide ban on the sale, display, and possession of artichokes , whose prices were inflated by mobs.

New York City Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, campaigns against slot machines. HD Stock Footage

When prices went down, the ban was lifted. Dewey , a future Republican presidential candidate, single out Lucky Luciano for prosecution. The case was made into the movie Marked Woman , starring Bette Davis.

La Guardia proved successful in shutting down the burlesque theaters, whose shows offended his puritanical sensibilities. La Guardia's admirers credit him, among other things, with restoring the economy of New York City during and after the Great Depression. He is given credit for many massive public works programs administered by his powerful Parks Commissioner Robert Moses , which employed thousands of voters. The mayor's relentless lobbying for federal funds allowed New York to develop its economic infrastructure. He and Moses built highways, bridges and tunnels, transforming the physical landscape of New York City.

When the city's newspapers were closed by a strike he famously read the comics on the radio. Responding to popular disdain for the sometimes corrupt City Council, La Guardia successfully proposed a reformed City Charter that created a powerful new New York City Board of Estimate , similar to a corporate board of directors. He was an outspoken and early critic of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.

In a public address in , La Guardia warned that "part of Hitler's program is the complete annihilation of the Jews in Germany". In , speaking before the Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress , he called for the creation of a special pavilion at the upcoming New York World's Fair , "a chamber of horrors" for "that brown-shirted fanatic". Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler knew that Gemma was La Guardia's sister and ordered her to be held as a political prisoner. She and Herman Gluck were deported to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he died, as Gemma learned from reading a newspaper account a year after her own release.

Gemma and her family did not speak German , and had no identity papers, money, or means of documenting where they had been.

Gemma finally managed to get word to the Americans who contacted La Guardia, who had no idea where they were. He worked to get them on the immigration lists, but asserted in a letter, included in the appendix of Gemma's memoir, that her "case was the same as that of hundreds of thousands of displaced people" and "no exceptions can be made". She returned to New York in May , where she was reunited with her brother only four months before he died. As he had made no provision for her, she lived in very reduced circumstances, in a public housing project in Queens, New York, until her death in Another was Virginia d'Albert-Lake.

The government knew that such air raids were impossible, but the goal was to psychologically mobilize many thousands of middle class volunteers to make them feel part of the war effort. On top of this, he still performed other gestures, such as arranging police protection with his personal assurances for local artists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby , when they were threatened by Nazi supporters for their new patriotic comic book superhero , Captain America.

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La Guardia's popularity slipped away and he ran so poorly in straw polls in that he did not run for a fourth term. Unemployment ended, and the city was a gateway for military supplies and soldiers sent to Europe, with the Brooklyn Navy Yard providing many of the warships and the garment trade providing uniforms. The city's great financiers, however, were less important in decision making than the policy makers in Washington, and very high wartime taxes were not offset by heavy war spending.

New York was not a center of heavy industry and did not see a wartime boom, as defense plants were built elsewhere. By the city was short of funds to pay for La Guardia's new programs.

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La Guardia was ranked first among the nation's mayors in a poll of historians and social scientists. Williams, his close collaboration with Roosevelt's New Deal proved a striking success in linking national money and local needs. According to Thomas Kessner , trends since his tenure mean that "people would be afraid of allowing anybody to take that kind of power". He was also the subject of the hit Broadway musical Fiorello! From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The neutrality of this article is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met.

August Learn how and when to remove this template message. Newspaper article in Italian. Retrieved April 23, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

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Bandmaster of the 11th U. Retrieved December 1, LaGuardia Foundation - promoting global sustainable development". Prohibition in New York City. Retrieved November 13, Moran Led City Alderman" fee. The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, A History of the American Worker, — Bayor, Fiorello La Guardia: National Park Service - Ellis Island.

Retrieved 12 August Retrieved July 6, Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. Esposito, and Jackie R. Esposito, "La Guardia and the Nazis, — American Voices Against The Holocaust". The journey of a New York mayor's family". Retrieved September 28, The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved September 26,