Cover image for City of ambition : FDR, La Guardia, and the making of modern New York
Title:
City of ambition : FDR, La Guardia, and the making of modern New York
Author:
Williams, Mason B.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2013]

©2013
Physical Description:
xvii, 494 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Summary:
Describes the revitalization of New York during the Great Depression as President Roosevelt and Mayor LaGuardia worked together to build parks, bridges, and schools and put people to work by channeling federal resources into cities and counties.

"City of Ambition is a brilliant history of the New Deal and its role in the making of modern New York City. The story of a remarkable collaboration between Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia, this is a case study in creative political leadership in the midst of a devastating depression. Roosevelt and La Guardia were an odd couple: patrician president and immigrant mayor, fireside chat and tabloid cartoon, pragmatic Democrat and reform Republican. But together, as leaders of America's two largest governments in the depths of the Great Depression, they fashioned a route to recovery for the nation and the master plan for a great city. Roosevelt and his "Brain Trust"--Shrewd, energetic advisors such as Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins -- sought to fight the Depression by channeling federal resources through America's cities and counties. La Guardia had replaced Tammany Hall cronies with policy experts, such as the imperious Robert Moses, who were committed to a strong public sector. The two leaders worked closely together. La Guardia had a direct line of communication with FDR and his staff, often visiting Washington carrying piles of blueprints. Roosevelt relied on the mayor as his link to the nation's cities and their needs. The combination was potent. La Guardia's Gotham became a laboratory for New Deal reform. Roosevelt's New Deal transformed city initiatives into major programs such as the Works Progress Administration, which changed the physical face of the United States. Together they built parks, bridges, and schools; put the unemployed to work; and strengthened the Progressive vision of government as serving the public purpose." -- Publisher's description.
Language:
English
Contents:
I. Foundations -- Beginnings -- A season in the wilderness -- The deluge -- II. The New Deal -- "Jobs is the cry" -- The New Deal's "lost legacy" -- From fusion to confusion -- New dealer for the duration -- III. War and postwar -- The local politics of foreign policy -- The battle of New York -- "I hope others will follow New York's example."
ISBN:
9780393066913
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

City of Ambition is a brilliant history of the New Deal and its role in the making of modern New York City. The story of a remarkable collaboration between Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia, this is a case study in creative political leadership in the midst of a devastating depression. Roosevelt and La Guardia were an odd couple: patrician president and immigrant mayor, fireside chat and tabloid cartoon, pragmatic Democrat and reform Republican. But together, as leaders of America's two largest governments in the depths of the Great Depression, they fashioned a route to recovery for the nation and the master plan for a great city.Roosevelt and his "Brain Trust"--shrewd, energetic advisors such as Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins--sought to fight the Depression by channeling federal resources through America's cities and counties. La Guardia had replaced Tammany Hall cronies with policy experts, such as the imperious Robert Moses, who were committed to a strong public sector. The two leaders worked closely together. La Guardia had a direct line of communication with FDR and his staff, often visiting Washington carrying piles of blueprints. Roosevelt relied on the mayor as his link to the nation's cities and their needs. The combination was potent. La Guardia's Gotham became a laboratory for New Deal reform. Roosevelt's New Deal transformed city initiatives into major programs such as the Works Progress Administration, which changed the physical face of the United States. Together they built parks, bridges, and schools; put the unemployed to work; and strengthened the Progressive vision of government as serving the public purpose.Today everyone knows the FDR Drive as a main route to La Guardia Airport. The intersection of steel and concrete speaks to a pair of dynamic leaders whose collaboration lifted a city and a nation. Here is their story.


Author Notes

Mason B. Williams is a historian specializing in urban politics with degrees from Columbia University and Princeton University. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is his first book.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The New Deal undeniably was characterized by a massive growth in the scope and power of the federal government. Yet many of the most ambitious and successful New Deal programs were jointly administered with local governments, especially in large urban areas. As this striking account shows, the shining light for federal and local cooperation was New York City. Williams is a historian specializing in urban politics. At the center of his narrative is the partnership between the two most powerful leaders of the country in the 1930s: President Roosevelt and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, of New York. The ebullient and earthy LaGuardia and the patrician Roosevelt seemed an odd pair, but their partnership helped forge much of the modern infrastructure of New York, including such iconic landmarks as the Lincoln Tunnel and Henry Hudson Drive. Despite many detractors, both then and now, Williams convincingly asserts that these programs were vital and successful in stimulating a moribund economy and provided confirmation of the positive role that can be played by government at the local and national level.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

The Great Depression sparked not just the aggrandizement of Washington but the efflorescence of municipal government, according to this sweeping reinterpretation of the New Deal political economy. Historian Williams explores the interdependence of F.D.R.'s New Deal with the progressive administration of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia: as Roosevelt sought ways to channel federal relief and public-works spending into a moribund economy, La Guardia responded with a plethora of shovel-ready infrastructure projects and social programs, from the Lincoln Tunnel and the Triborough Bridge to parks and beer gardens, an opera house, and legendary arts and theater initiatives. The result, he shows, was a vast expansion of municipal capabilities-in 1937 the Works Progress Administration was providing 31% of New York's budget-that transformed New Yorkers' conception of the role of government and bequeathed a "homegrown version of social democracy." Williams builds his analysis around vivid profiles of F.D.R. and especially of La Guardia, the colorful, pugnacious Republican reformer who roped union militants and socialists into his coalition. (The author's rich account of the era's crazy-quilt political alliances will astonish readers accustomed to today's rigid partisan lines.) Challenging conventional stereotypes about big government and local control, Williams highlights federalism as a revolutionary force. 8-pages of photos. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

This exhaustive study looks at both the political and the personal partnership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia during the 1930s and 1940s as each grappled with the enormous challenges of the Great Depression then U.S. entry into World War II. Williams's first book sheds new light on how LaGuardia, benefitting from New Deal largesse, funded infrastructure projects that reshaped New York into a "showcase for American democracy." In return, Roosevelt gained much-needed political support from LaGuardia for shaping new economic directions for the country. Such a story involving larger-than-life and well-loved figures should compel and engage the general reader. Alas, the workmanlike writing here, combined with mind-numbing statistical details, makes for a plodding read that is further complicated by an excessive focus on the many accomplishments of both figures, which detracts from the impact of their relationship on New York City. VERDICT The material here is too dense and inartfully presented. Perhaps scholars of U.S. presidential history or urban political specialists may value it as a reference, but others looking for a more insightful analysis of the era and these two leaders would be well rewarded by consulting Thomas Kessmer's splendid Fiorello H. LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York.-Richard Drezen, Jersey City, NJ (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Part I Foundations
1 Beginningsp. 3
2 A Season in the Wildernessp. 48
3 The Delugep. 90
Part II The New Deal
4 "Jobs Is the Cry"p. 135
5 The New Deal's "Lost Legacy"p. 175
6 From Fusion to Confusionp. 212
7 New Dealer for the Durationp. 250
Part III War and Postwar
8 The Local Politics of Foreign Policyp. 289
9 The Battle of New Yorkp. 325
10 "I Hope Others Will Follow New York's Example"p. 362
Epiloguep. 395
Acknowledgmentsp. 407
Notesp. 411
Photo Creditsp. 475
Indexp. 477

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