Former New York mayor John Lindsay (who died last year), the son of a long-established but not particularly well-off New York family, cut an unusual figure in the rough-and-tumble world of New York politics. A Republican, he was first elected to office as the congressional representative of Manhattan’s “Silk Stocking” district, coming on the scene at a time of great popular dissatisfaction with the entrenched corruption of the Democratic political machines that still controlled large cities in the early postwar years. This dissatisfaction, along with Lindsay’s reputation as a reformer, helped win him the mayoral election of 1965. Once inside Gracie Mansion, as the author makes clear, Lindsay found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time: New York’s economy in the 1960s was shifting rapidly from light industry to services, and the overnight development of the suburbs siphoned off a large part of the tax base. The immediate results were high unemployment (which helped launch a massive crime wave) and chronic deficits (which brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy in 1974).
An interesting story for anyone interested in urban studies or American history, but with a thicket of political minutiae that’s easy to get lost in.