Fiorello La Guardia
- Category : Political
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/6 - Martyr / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (1,10,34,59)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Rulership 4
- Birth Year: 1882
- Birthday: 11. December
- Birthplace: New York, USA - New York
- Category: Political
- Profile: 3-6
- Type: Emotional Manifesting Generator
- Inc.Cross: Rulership 4
- Definition: Double Split - Small (1,10,34,59)
- Variables: BRL-MRL
- 2057 The Brain Wave
- 2343 Structuring
- 1222 Openness
- 2644 Surrender
- 0515 Rhythm
Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (born Fiorello Enrico La Guardia) was the 99th Mayor of New York for three terms from 1934 to 1945 as a Republican. Previously he had been elected to Congress in 1916 and 1918, and again from 1922 through 1930. Irascible, energetic, and charismatic, he craved publicity and is acclaimed as one of the three or four greatest mayors in American history. Only five feet tall, he was called "the Little Flower" (Fiorello is Italian for "little flower").
LaGuardia, a Republican who appealed across party lines, was very popular in New York during the 1930s. As a New Dealer, he supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, and in turn Roosevelt heavily funded the city and cut off patronage from LaGuardia's foes. La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall. He unified the transit system, directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds, and parks, constructed airports, reorganized the police force, defeated the powerful Tammany Hall political machine, and reestablished merit employment in place of patronage jobs.
LaGuardia was a domineering leader who verged on authoritarianism but whose reform politics were carefully tailored to address the sentiments of his diverse constituency. He defeated a corrupt Democratic machine, presided during a depression and a world war, made the city the model for New Deal welfare and public works programs, and championed immigrants and ethnic minorities. He succeeded with the support of a sympathetic president. He secured his place in history as a tough-minded reform mayor who helped clean out corruption, bring in gifted experts, and fix upon the city a broad sense of responsibility for its own citizens. His administration engaged new groups that had been kept out of the political system, gave New York its modern infrastructure, and raised expectations of new levels of urban possibility.
The intemperate mayor was rough on his staffers and left no doubt who was in charge. He lost his intuitive touch during the war years, when the federal money stopped flowing in, and never realized that he had created far more infrastructure than the city could afford. He "represented a dangerous style of personal rule hitched to a transcendent purpose", according to Thomas Kessner, LaGuardia's biographer, adding that today, "people would be afraid of allowing anybody to take that kind of power".
Early life and career
LaGuardia was born in Greenwich Village in New York City to an Italian father and a Jewish mother. His father, Achille La Guardia, was a lapsed Catholic from Cerignola, and his mother, Irene Coen, was a Jewish woman from Trieste, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; his maternal grandmother Fiorina Luzzatto Coen was a Luzzatto, a member of the prestigious Italian-Jewish family of scholars, kabbalists, and poets and had among her ancestors the famous rabbi Samuel David Luzzatto. It was in Trieste that Achille La Guardia met and married Irene. Fiorello La Guardia was raised an Episcopalian and practised that religion all his life. His middle name "Enrico" was anglicized to "Henry" when he was a child.
He moved to Arizona with his family, where his father had a bandmaster position at Fort Whipple in the U.S. Army. LaGuardia attended public schools and high school in Prescott, Arizona. After his father was discharged from his bandmaster position in 1898, Fiorello lived in Trieste.
La Guardia joined the State Department and served in U.S. consulates in Budapest, Trieste (Austria-Hungary, now Italy), and Fiume (Austria-Hungary), now Rijeka (Croatia), (1901–1906). He returned to the United States to continue his education at New York University. From 1907 to 1910, he worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration at the Ellis Island immigration station.
He graduated from New York University School of Law in 1910, was admitted to the bar the same year, and began a law practice in New York City.
Marriages and family
LaGuardia married twice. His first wife was Thea Almerigotti, whom he married on March 8, 1919. In November 1920 they had a daughter, Fioretta Thea, who died May 8, 1921, of spinal meningitis. His wife died of tuberculosis on November 29, 1921, at the age of 26. He married Marie Fisher in 1929; they adopted two children, Eric Henry (born 1930) and Jean Marie (1928–62).
Early political career
Elected to Congress
LaGuardia became Deputy Attorney General of New York in January 1915. In 1916, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he had a reputation as a fiery and devoted reformer. As a congressman, LaGuardia represented an ethnically diverse slum district in East Harlem and, although barred from important committee posts because of his political independence, he was a tireless and vocal champion of progressive causes. LaGuardia took office on March 4, 1917, but soon was commissioned in the United States Army Air Service ; he rose to the rank of major in command of a unit of Ca.44 bombers on the Italian-Austrian front in World War I. LaGuardia resigned his seat in Congress on December 31, 1919.
President of the Board of Aldermen
In 1919, La Guardia was chosen to run as the Republican candidate for the office of President of the New York City Board of Aldermen. His Democratic opponent was Robert L. Moran, an alderman from the Bronx who had succeeded to the Board presidency in 1918 when Alfred E. Smith, who had been elected Board President in 1917, became Governor. Michael "Dynamite Mike" Kelly, commander of New York's Third "Shamrock" Battalion, also joined the race. Tammany Hall looked with alarm upon Kelly's entrance into the campaign and tried to persuade him to withdraw his candidacy and throw his support behind Moran. When he refused, Tammany went to the New York Supreme Court and successfully sued to keep Kelly's name off the ballot. When Election Day arrived, over 3,500 of Kelly's supporters wrote Kelly's name on the ballot. This number was sufficient to defeat Moran, who lost to LaGuardia by 1,363 votes.
As the son of Italian immigrants and an interpreter on Ellis Island between 1907 and 1910, LaGuardia had experienced how immigration policies affected the families that came to the United States. He wanted a change for the immigrants, especially with the immigrant medical examinations that took place on Ellis Island. LaGuardia's passion for justice among immigrants and his ability to speak Yiddish and Italian helped him in his endeavor for justice amongst immigrant factory workers.
Return to Congress
LaGuardia, running as a Republican, won a seat in Congress from the Italian stronghold of East Harlem in 1922 and served in the House until March 3, 1933. A leading liberal reformer, LaGuardia sponsored labor legislation and railed against immigration quotas. His major legislation was the Norris-LaGuardia Act, cosponsored with Nebraska senator George Norris in 1932. It circumvented Supreme Court limitations on the activities of labor unions, especially as those limitations were imposed between the enactment of the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914 and the end of the 1920s. Based on the theory that the lower courts are creations not of the Constitution but of Congress, and that Congress therefore has wide power in defining and restricting their jurisdiction, the act forbids issuance of injunctions to sustain anti-union contracts of employment, to prevent ceasing or refusing to perform any work or remain in any relation of employment, or to restrain acts generally constituting component parts of strikes, boycotts, and picketing. It also said courts could no longer enforce yellow-dog contracts, which are labor contracts prohibiting a worker from joining a union.
Never an isolationist, he supported using American influence abroad on behalf of democracy or for national independence or against autocracy. Thus he supported the Irish independence movement and the anti-czarist Russian Revolution of 1917, but did not approve of Vladimir Lenin. Unlike most progressive colleagues, such as Norris, La Guardia consistently backed internationalism, speaking in favor of the League of Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union as well as peace and disarmament conferences. In domestic policies he tended toward socialism and wanted to nationalize and regulate; however he was never close to the Socialist Party and never bothered to read Karl Marx.
Champion of the progressive movement
As a congressman, LaGuardia was a tireless and vocal champion of progressive causes, from allowing more immigration and removing U.S. troops from Nicaragua to speaking up for the rights and livelihoods of striking miners, impoverished farmers, oppressed minorities, and struggling families. A goad to the era's plutocrats and their enablers in government, LaGuardia fought for progressive income taxes, greater government oversight of Wall Street, and national employment insurance for workers idled by the Great Depression.
LaGuardia was one of the first Republicans to voice his opinion about the prohibition act, urging that the Dry cause "would prove disastrous in the long run". This was a taboo for the fact that both parties "avoided taking a stand on prohibition issues" at the time.
Defeats in 1929 and 1932
As a Republican, LaGuardia had to support Harding in 1920; he had to be silent in the 1928 campaign although he favored Al Smith, a Democrat. In 1929, he lost the election for mayor to incumbent Democrat Jimmy Walker by a landslide. In 1932 he was defeated for re-election to the House by James J. Lanzetta, the Democratic candidate; 1932 was not a good year for Republican candidates like LaGuardia, and the 20th Congressional district was shifting from a Jewish and Italian-American population to a Puerto Rican population. However, it has also been argued that powerful Tammany Hall boss Jimmy Hines was able to successfully get enough votes forged to get LaGuardia unseated in this election as well.
Mayor of New York
Walker and his Irish-run Tammany Hall were forced out of office by scandal and LaGuardia was determined to replace him. First he had to win the nomination of both the Republican party and also the "Fusion" group of independents. He was not the first choice of either, for they distrusted Italians. On the other hand LaGuardia had enormous determination, high visibility, the support of reformer Samuel Seabury and the ability to ruin prospects of any rival by a divisive primary contest. He secured the nominations and expected an easy win against hapless incumbent Mayor John P. O'Brien. At the last minute Joseph V. McKee entered the race as the nominee of the new "Recovery party". McKee was a formidable opponent because he was sponsored by Bronx Democratic boss Edward J. Flynn and apparently was favored by President Franklin Roosevelt. LaGuardia made corruption his main issue. The campaign saw mud slung three ways, with LaGuardia denounced as a far-left "Red", O'Brien as a pawn of the bosses, and McKee as an anti-Semite. LaGuardia's win was based on a complex coalition of regular Republicans (mostly middle class Germans 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.
LaGuardia and Franklin D. Roosevelt
LaGuardia came to office in January 1934 with five main goals:
Restore the financial health and break free from the bankers' control
Expand the federally funded work-relief program for the unemployed
End corruption in government and racketeering in key sectors of the economy
Replace patronage with a merit-based civil service, with high prestige
Modernize the infrastructure, especially transportation and parks
He achieved most of the first four goals in his first hundred days, as FDR gave him 20% of the entire national CWA budget for work relief. LaGuardia 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.
LaGuardia governed in an uneasy alliance with New York's Jews and liberal WASPs, together with Italian and German ethnics.
LaGuardia 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 1936. LaGuardia supported Roosevelt, chairing the Committee of Independent Voters for Roosevelt and Wallace with Senator George Norris during the 1940 presidential election.
LaGuardia was the city's first Italian-American mayor, but was not a typical Italian New Yorker. He was a Republican Episcopalian who had grown up in Arizona, and had a Triestine Jewish mother and a Catholic-turned-atheist father. He reportedly spoke several languages, including Hebrew, Croatian, German, Italian, and Yiddish. LaGuardia was also a very active Freemason.
LaGuardia loathed the gangsters who brought a negative stereotype and shame to the Italian community. His first action as mayor was to order the chief of police to arrest mob boss Lucky Luciano on whatever charges could be found. LaGuardia 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 1934 LaGuardia 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 1935 La Guardia appeared at The Bronx Terminal Market to institute a city-wide ban on the sale, display, and possession of artichokes, whose prices were inflated by mobs. When prices went down, the ban was lifted. In 1936, LaGuardia had special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, a future Republican presidential candidate, single out Lucky Luciano for prosecution. Dewey led a successful investigation into Luciano's lucrative prostitution operation, eventually sending Luciano to jail with a 30–50 year sentence. The case was made into the 1937 movie Marked Woman, starring Bette Davis.
LaGuardia proved successful in shutting down the burlesque theaters, whose shows offended his puritanical sensibilities.
LaGuardia's admirers credit him for, among other things, restoring the economic lifeblood 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 and employed thousands of voters. The mayor's relentless lobbying for federal funds allowed New York to develop its economic infrastructure.
To obtain large-scale federal money the mayor became a close partner of Roosevelt and New Deal agencies such as CWA, PWA and WPA, which poured $1.1 billion into the city from 1934–39. In turn he gave FDR a showcase for New Deal achievement, helped defeat FDR's political enemies in Tammany Hall (the Democratic party machine in Manhattan). He and Moses built highways, bridges and tunnels, transforming the physical landscape of New York City. The West Side Highway, East River Drive, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Triborough Bridge, and two airports (Floyd Bennett Field, and, later, LaGuardia Airport) were built during his mayoralty.
1939 was a busy year, as he opened the 1939 New York World's Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, opened New York Municipal Airport No. 2 in Queens (later renamed Fiorello H. LaGuardia Field), and had the city buy out the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, thus completing the public takeover of the subway system. When the newspapers went on strike he read the funny papers on the radio.
Responding to popular disdain for the sometimes corrupt City Council, LaGuardia successfully proposed a reformed 1938 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 1934, LaGuardia warned that "part of Hitler's program is the complete annihilation of the Jews in Germany". In 1937, speaking before the Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress, LaGuardia 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".
Gemma LaGuardia Gluck
LaGuardia's sister, Gemma LaGuardia Gluck (1881–1962), and brother-in-law, Herman Gluck (a Hungarian Jew whom she met while teaching English in Europe), were living in Hungary and were arrested by the Gestapo on June 7, 1944, when the Nazis took control of Budapest. Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler knew Gemma was Fiorello's sister and ordered her held as a political prisoner. She and Herman were deported to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he died, as Gemma learned from reading a newspaper account a year following her release. She was transferred from Mauthausen to the notorious women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück, located 50 miles from Berlin, where unbeknownst to Gemma at the time, her daughter Yolanda (whose husband also died in the camps) and baby grandson were also held for a year in a separate barrack. Gemma, who was held in Block II of the camp and assigned prisoner #44139, was one of the few survivors of this camp and wrote about her time at Ravensbrück. She also wrote that the Soviets were "violating girls and women of all ages", and about her, her daughter's and grandson's suffering as displaced persons in postwar Berlin, where the Germans abandoned them for a possible hostage exchange in April 1945, as the Russians were advancing. 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 Fiorello, 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". Thus, despite Gemma's intimate connection with a powerful American politician, who was then director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), it took two years to be cleared and sent to the United States. She returned to New York in May 1947, where she reunited with Fiorello four months before he died. As he had made no provision for her, she lived in very reduced circumstances, in a LaGuardia public housing project in Queens, New York, until her death in 1962. Gluck is believed to be the only American-born woman interned by the Nazis.
According to Try and Stop Me by Bennett Cerf, LaGuardia often officiated in municipal court. He handled routine misdemeanor cases, including, as Cerf wrote, a woman who had stolen a loaf of bread for her starving family. LaGuardia insisted on levying the fine of ten dollars. Then he said "I'm fining everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread in order to eat!" He passed a hat and gave the fines to the defendant, who left the court with $47.50. There is, however, no convincing proof of this anecdote.
World War II
In 1941 during the run-up to American involvement in World War II, President Roosevelt appointed LaGuardia first director of the new Office of Civilian Defense (OCD). Roosevelt was an admirer of LaGuardia; after meeting Winston Churchill for the first time he described him as "an English Mayor LaGuardia". The OCD was the national agency responsible for preparing for blackouts, air raid wardens, sirens, and shelters in case of German air raids. 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. LaGuardia remained Mayor of New York, shuttling back and forth with three days in Washington and four in the city in an effort to do justice to two herculean jobs. 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. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, his role was turned over to full-time director of OCD, James M. Landis. LaGuardia's popularity slipped away and he ran so poorly in straw polls in 1945 that he did not run for a fourth term.
Unemployment ended and the city was the gateway for military supplies and soldiers sent to Europe, with the Brooklyn Navy Yard providing many of the warships and the garment trade provided uniforms. The city's great financiers, however, were less important in decision making than 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.
FDR refused to make LaGuardia a general and was unable to provide fresh money for the city. By 1944 LaGuardia was frantically juggling the books to pay the city's bills. His successors realized that New York City could not support his fabulous infrastructure and high wages and pensions for teachers, police, and city workers without borrowing more and more until it faced bankruptcy, which came in 1975.
Later life and death
LaGuardia was the director general for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in 1946.
A man of short stature, LaGuardia's height is sometimes given as 5 feet 0 inches (1.52 m). According to an article in the New York Times, however, his actual height was 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 m).
He became a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity.
He died of pancreatic cancer in his home at 5020 Goodridge Avenue, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx at the age of 64 and is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Historians have recognized La Guardia as among the best mayors in New York City history and perhaps among the greatest in modern U.S. history.
Awards and honors
The United States Postal Service honored him with a 14¢ postage stamp in 1972.
In 1940, La Guardia received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York".
He passed laws banning pinball machines as gambling devices around 1939, and many photos exist of him destroying the games prohibition-style, with sledgehammers or in large fires. The laws stayed on the books until 1976.
Landmarks and memorials
In New York
La Guardia loved music, and was famous for spontaneously conducting professional and student orchestras. He once said that the "most hopeful accomplishment" of his administration as mayor was the creation of the High School of Music & Art in 1936, now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
In addition to LaGuardia High School, a number of other institutions are also named for him, including LaGuardia Community College.
LaGuardia Airport bears his name. In 1934, La Guardia's TWA flight from Chicago arrived at Newark, New Jersey. The arrival city for his airline ticket read "New York"; landing, instead, in the neighboring state outraged him and caused him to order the plane to fly to Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field. Not long afterward, the city voted to build a new airport at the site of the smaller North Beach Airport, which was renamed in La Guardia's honor.
The LaGuardia Houses, a public housing development on the Lower East Side, is named for him.
A thee-block portion of West Broadway in Greenwich Village was renamed La Guardia Place in his honor in 1967. A statue of the mayor was erected on that street in the 1990s.
On Staten Island, Masonic lodge #1130 at 236 Main Street is named after him.
In other states
La Guardia Bridge on North Montezuma Avenue in Prescott, Arizona,is named after him.
Ulica Fiorella La Guardije (Fiorello La Guardia Street) is the name of a street in Rijeka, Croatia. La Guardia served in the U.S. consulate in Rijeka during the period before World War I when the city was under Austro-Hungarian rule and was known under its Italian name Fiume.
Rehov LaGuardia (LaGuardia Street) is a major road and the name of a highway interchange on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In popular culture
In The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, he is portrayed by Phil Arnold.
He is mentioned in Ghostbusters II. During the supernatural chaos towards the end of the film, the current mayor of New York states, "Jack, I spent an hour last night in my bedroom talking to Fiorello La Guardia, and he's been dead for forty years!"
He is seen in the documentary Grass (1999) making an anti-prohibition speech.
In The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, he is depicted as one of the leaders of the opposition against president Charles Lindbergh.
In the timeline of Robert Heinlein's utopian novel For Us, the Living—written in 1939 but only published posthumously in 2003—LaGuardia is elected President in 1951 and serves two terms as a militant reforming president, effectively nationalizing the banking system and instituting a system of Social Credit.
The New York Public Radio WNYC Archives maintains a Twitter feed that features "tweets" from transcripts of LaGuardia's Talk to the People radio program at twitter.com.
LaGuardia was the subject of the Pulitzer Prize-winning, hit Broadway musical Fiorello!. He was portrayed by actor Tom Bosley. The show ran for two years and closed in 1961.
In the Broadway musical Annie, which takes place in December 1933, a line in the song "N.Y.C." says that one of New York's unique characteristics is its having "a mayor five-foot-two": an obvious reference to then-mayor-elect LaGuardia.