Fiorello H La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York

Fiorello H La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York In this sparkling and definitive new biography we are reminded of a time when a this short man with a careening falsetto and a huge Stetson patrolled the streets of New York This was a man who became a legend a man who cooled riots fed the hungry hectored the gamblers read comic strips over the radio to children and single handedly transformed a huge drifting metropolis into a city with a heart and an imagination Wrestling with the deadlocking forces of his tome Fiorello La Guardia infused his city with integrity amused it with his humor and served it with his heart and soulWhen la Guardia took office as mayor of New York City in 1934 hundreds of thousands of people were unemployed and many feared that revolution was imminent Sorely needed improvements were being ignored and the slums were festering; communities of he bitter and homeless lived in cardboard shanties; and relief was limited to those with political connections Just a year before New York's stylish good time mayor Jimmy Walker had been forced from office after a series of revelations disclosed a municipal government that was even rotten than it was ineffectiveAs a congressman La Guardia had made spirited war on the racists the self righteous supporters of prohibition and the fawning worshippers of business But it was as mayor of New York that he stamped the history of his times and the nation that he so loved La Guardia shaped a government that sought not only to meet the immediate crisis but to plan a city with a future Propelled by a furious energy he battled corruption and fought fires he built bridges tunnels schools parks airports and public housing And throughout his tenure he attracted to the municipal service some of the best men and women of his timeLa Guardia worked closely with Franklin Roosevelt to craft a federal urban policy that brought billions to his city and to others around the country His example for the modern mayoralty set the standard for city governments A man whose enthusiasms were never on a small scale La Guardia chaired the Joint American Canadian Permanent Defense Board directed the Office of Civilian Defense lobbied for a generalship pursued the presidency and presided over the National Conference of Mayors—all while serving as mayor of New YorkBased on private papers only recently made available on newly released FBI documents and on extensive research among the official papers and documents of the City of New York this compelling biography chronicles the making of the modern metropolis through the life of one of its most complex endlessly interesting fiercely ambitious and intemperate immigrant sons

6 thoughts on “Fiorello H La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York

  1. Mikey B. Mikey B. says:

    This is a thorough and unbiased examination of the life of the truly legendary LaGuardia It is a rags to riches story or aptly “rags to power” as LaGuardia never became wealthy His only corruption was his zest and drive for power He was probably the first non Anglo Saxon to rise prominently in politics in the USThe book also demonstrates the foresight of Roosevelt in being adept at using LaGuardia LaGuardia was a bull in a china shop and was a great mayor of New York – but he would not have been out of his depth in world politicsIn New York he cleaned out corruption made the city officials serve the people and fired incompetents and nefarious administrators He built bridges modernized the traffic system built an airport which now bares his name appointed competent and driven people to key positions like Robert Moses He brought planning to the city which impressed the New Dealers in Washington and in turn this brought WPA funds to the cityOn the darker side – LaGuardia became intolerant of any criticism and detested the press Towards the end of his tenure third term he simply could not endure insubordination He was also becoming bored of being mayor and was seeking to find a position in Europe through RooseveltAll in all an intriguing look at a powerful personality Kessner also incorporates well the era into this biography – the depression the new influence of communism and the growth of unions

  2. Frank Stein Frank Stein says:

    Fiorello La Guardia was like no man in modern politics He was a pugilistic determined pint sized patriotic ultra liberal who became widely regarded as the greatest city mayor in American history and one of the defining political characters of the Great Depression In some ways this hyperkinetic Republican born in New York who became an emotional son of the West his army bandmaster father was shipped to South Dakota and Arizona in his childhood who then came back East to bring good government reform could be compared to Teddy Roosevelt Yet TR never had to pull himself up from nothing learn five languages earning a few dollars a week as a consular assistant in Budapest then serve as a translator on Ellis Island while working his way through law school Everywhere the young La Guardia went people noted his independence his intelligence and his drive Later for most of the period from 1916 to 1932 he was the single most uoted Congressman in the country and a national political figure at a time when an ethnic name like La Guardia usually sentenced its holder to obscurityYet it was the New York mayoralty which La Guardia held for an unprecedented 12 years from 1934 to 1945 which defined him forever He started the city's public housing program helped Robert Moses build hundreds of miles of beaches parks and highways constructed two airports one of which now bears his name and most importantly kicked the lousytinhorns and sharpers of Tammany Hall out of New York City government once and for all La Guarida wanted to give city government a soul and for awhile he did He read kids comics over the radio during a newspaper strike ran to every burning building and police emergency raged at every inept bureaucrat and tawdry politician and formed an intense emotional bond with his adopted cityThomas Kessner clearly loves La Guardia But he is no hagiographer and this biography spends copious time detailing his faults which were not inconsiderable La Guardia spread himself too thin; he demanded only yes men around him; he preached principle above politics and then was willing to sink to the most demagogic level railing against good men who opposed him By the end of his mayoralty he had become profoundly bored of his office and dismissive of opponents The ACLU attacked his demands to rough up criminals and to grab smut without due process His former reform friends lamented the end of his fiscal discipline and the budget tricks he used to hide ever ballooning spending Many of his government projects including the subway he had bought from the private sector in 1940 had become dilapidated ill maintained and yet overly expensive by the time he left office In short as Kessner points out La Guardia did make modern New York both for good and ill This book is occasionally repetitive and overlong but it provides an unforgettable image of an unforgettable man one whose legacy is both lasting and national than even he thought it would be

  3. Shaun Richman Shaun Richman says:

    For a large book it's surprisingly light on the details I was hoping for Filled with a little too much purple prose and contextualization Everyone should read a biography of one of the most fascinating and uniue politicians in US history I think FH is due for a modern biography with of a focus on his left wing bully pulpit and his work on pro labor causes

  4. Joshua Joshua says:

    There is definitely some slogging to do in this book but most of it is fascinating Fiorello La Guardia was an amazing and entertaining character and I came away feeling like I understood about New York and the US during the times he was around

  5. Vicki Vicki says:

    Learned much about New York and the life of La Guardia I did not know much about him but admire what he did for New York and its citizens

  6. Barbara Gilvar Barbara Gilvar says:

    Kessner was the director of the LaGuardia archives and is therefore very knowledgable The book is thorough maybe too thorough for the average reader Lots of details Useful for a scholar

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