Summer In The City: John Lindsay, New York, And The American Dream

Image result for summer in the city: john lindsay and the american dreamI’m sorry, but this book is nothing new. It portrays Lindsay as being honest but way out of his depth. He had a good following among the Black and Puerto Rican voters, but that’s all he got, just votes, He couldn’t win support of working class whites, and the union leaders walked over him. Strikes were a problem, and Michael Quill, the rough-and-ready Irish transit union boss, made a fool of him. The 1966 transit strike, then the ’69 trash strike, then the teachers strike, it all strained the city’s treasury. He tried to play the peacemaker, and that was a mistake. His programs were good, nobody can deny that. He, along with Governor Nelson Rockefeller, put more money into public arts programs, like Lincoln Center, and it worked well. But things like free garbage bags, it all came too late.
Rent control made it difficult for slum landlords to make improvements, and there was no money for the proposed second avenue subway. Serpico and the Knapp Commission alienated the police department from the mayor, and Lindsay’s handling of the Harlem Mosque incident (where a cop was killed ) didn’t help.

I guess the bottom line with Lindsay is that the mayor can’t be a peacemaker. He’s supposed to carry out the laws and manage city property, but Lindsay didn’t. The unions hated him and kept him from giving the city a lot of what it needed. The numbers racket could’ve been eradicated by having a city lottery, but even that came too late. His tenure, from 1966-1973, came at a bad time, when cities were marred by burning and looting, so there wasn’t a lot he could do. I wouldn’t blame the Democrats either, because I can name lots of cities, like Detroit, Compton, New Orleans, DC, and Chicago, that had Democrat mayors that messed up.

Everything in this book about John Lindsay is true, but we’ve heard it all before in earlier books about his days as mayor of New York City. Things would brighten when Giuliani came along, but that would be another story.


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