This Is No Clam Bake: Mayor La Guardia and the Office of Civilian Defense

On June 2nd, 1943 the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office kicked off a ten-day recruitment drive with a parade and rally at City Hall Park. The CDVO was a new agency created under the auspices of the Office of Civilian Defense to oversee volunteer recruitment and organization in New York City. Both Mayor La Guardia, who also served as the federally appointed director of the Office of Civilian Defense, and Governor Al Smith attended and gave rousing, excoriating speeches on winning the war and defending the home front. “In a spectacular ceremony at City Hall,” the New York Times reported, “the Mayor called both ‘yellow’ and ‘lazy’ every man in the city who ‘has taken advantage of his family to avoid military service and yet refuses to serve in the protective services.’” Ticker tape fell on the parade, which was meant to remind New Yorkers of the threat of bombings. Underlying the atmosphere of celebration ran a current of fear.

Celebrate the anniversary of Women’s Suffrage by expanding access to the ballot in New York State

On November 6, 2017 New Yorkers will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the State’s women winning the right to vote. On November 7, New Yorkers will vote in municipal elections. If prior elections are any guide, the turnout will be low. In 2013, 24% of registered City voters turned out at the polls, down from the 93% of eligible voters who went to the polls in 1953. Many surmise that New Yorkers don’t vote because the cumbersome registration process disenfranchises people, just as sexism disenfranchised women, a century ago.

NEIGHBORHOOD STORIES: A community history pilot project by Sunset Park High School and the NYC Municipal Archives

In the spring of 2017, NYC Municipal Archives staff gave a community history presentation to 11th grade students at the Sunset Park High School (SPHS). Using archival photos and documents from the agency's collection, the staff engaged students about local Sunset Park history, infrastructure, and community change.

In a civic effort to document change in Sunset Park and understand how the neighborhood has evolved, the students then set out to interview a local business owner. With help from their teacher, Sarah Crichton, the students planned questions and prepared for the interviews.

Haunted Buildings of New York

When people say that New York is the city that never sleeps they typically are talking about the 24 hour subway, diners, shows and concerts. But in a city that was established in 1624 as a Dutch colony, there have been other whispered stories about why New Yorkers never close their eyes: the paranormal. New Yorkers takeghost sightings so seriously that in 1991 the New York courts ruled in the Stambovsky v. Ackley case thathomeowners who withhold information on a haunted house can nullify the sale of the home with the buyer having no repercussions. From historic homes to popular bars and restaurants, no building can presume to be free of a paranormal past but below are the most notable in New York City today. 


Welcome back to the Urban Heartland. As I was thinking about what my last official post would be, the thought that stuck was examining some of the buildings that I’ve looked at over the years. Throughout this region, there are buildings that have a sense of having history, or are examples of the striking changes communities go through. I wanted to make sure that I selected locations that were in areas I hadn’t covered in previous posts.

New York City and the Attica State Prison Riot

The Attica State Prison uprising in September, 1971 that resulted in 43 deaths had a profound effect on the Prisoner’s Rights movement. Some prisoner’s rights activists argue that Attica resulted from prison conditions and abuses routine in American prisons.  On the other hand, administrators blamed the incident on a lack of oversight and security measures. Another important factor was the rural location of a prison housing predominantly black and brown prisoners, guarded by white officers.  Regardless of the contrary views, the loss of lives at Attica and destruction of property had a profound effect on the nation, and on New York City, the home of 20 deceased inmates.