WHEN LAGUARDIA WAS MAYOR: New York's Legendary Years by August with Phyllis Robinson Heckscher

WHEN LAGUARDIA WAS MAYOR: New York's Legendary Years

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A long-time observer of the New York City scene and one-time Commissioner of Parks and Cultural Affairs, August Heckscher has produced a sprawling account of the LaGuardia mayoralty year-by-year (1934-45) that, for lack of differentiation and applied insights, is likely to appeal only to New Yorkers with long memories or a consuming interest in local affairs. Aiming to be neither ""revisionist"" (i.e., derogatory) nor adulatory, but rather to portray the Little Flower ""as he was seen in his own time,"" Heckscher succeeds to the extent of reviving--without significantly elucidating--all the conflicts of personality, interests, and purpose that roiled the LaGuardia years. The format is a handicap. Each year Heckscher feels obliged, newspaper-like, to take stock; but his pronouncements are often platitudinous and banal. Each year he must take up current, but also recurrent, issues, with the result that few are dealt with as a coherent unit (and even minor embroilments--such as proper policemen's summer attire--are repeatedly referred to). Overall, Heckscher can only say what New Yorkers have always known, that their best-beloved mayor was longer on personality (""the example of his tireless energy and restless zeal"") than on accomplishments; and he does not err in identifying encouragement of creative activity as perhaps his most lasting benefaction. But even here Heckscher's coverage is spotty, with only a few perfunctory words on what ""some. . . think was indeed his most original accomplishment,"" the High School of Music and Art. The curious can read about the face-off with Mike Quill or the rout of Bertrand Russell; pick up signs--apropos of the budget or urban sprawl--of suppurating city ills; listen again to LaGuardia on the air. But without color or incisiveness this scores neither on the personal nor the public front;

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1978
Publisher: Norton