Where would New York City and State be without the influence of some Twentieth Century Icons? In “Up to Now” a piece about Al Smith the child of immigrants who became the Governor of the state. Indeed, he fulfilled the American dream and in “Fiorello H. LaGuardia” a piece about Fiorello H. LaGuardia another child of immigrants. He became the Mayor of the city. In both selections the mention of Robert Moses is necessary because his contributions along with these other two icons played a major role in changing the infrastructure of New York.
Smith born in 1873 and LaGuardia born in 1882 had similar childhood backgrounds. Their parents were immigrants and they were both boys from the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan. They, despite the odds, grew up to become prominent people of New York. However, Robert Moses born in 1888 had a very different start in life. He was born in New Haven Connecticut to well off parents. Unfortunately Smith had to drop out of high school after the death of his father in order to support his family. He had a number of jobs. The most famous being the one at the Fulton Fish Market. He chose politics over his theatrical career, but his love for the theater enhanced his political career. LaGuardia, on the other hand, had the opportunity to attend New York University. While attending school, he worked as an interpreter for the United States Bureau of Immigration on Ellis Island and for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He served in World War 1. Moses, on the other hand, attended the ivy-league universities of Yale and Oxford. He had several titles but never went into politics.
Smith’s political career began with an endorsement from a friend at Tammany Hall. Although his first appointment was to the office of the city Commissioner of Jurors as an investigator, his political career did not begin to prosper until after 1915. He was appointed Governor in 1918. During his period as Governor, he achieved the passage of extensive reform legislation, including improved factory laws, better housing requirements and expanded welfare services. LaGuardia, however, was not appointed by Tammany Hall because he thought they were corrupted. His political career began in 1916 when he was elected to congress. He later became the mayor of New York City in 1934. As Mayor, of New York, he restored faith in City Hall, unified the transit system, and directed the building of parks, playgrounds and public housing; constructed airports reorganized the police force, brought federal funds and defeated the power of Tammany political machine. Moses was responsible for most of the city’s and region’s major expressways and parkways, bridges such as the Triborough Bridge, tunnels, playgrounds, public housing projects and even for the United Nations Headquarters being in New York and many other landmarks.
Smith known as the “Man of the People” and LaGuardia as “Little Flower” are remembered for their many contributions to New York and in order to pay tribute to these icons several places were named after them such as Alfred Smith Public Housing located in Lower Manhattan, PS 163 Alfred Smith School on the Upper West Side, LaGuardia Airport in Queens and LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Art to name a few. Moses “Mater Builder” was a great contributor but he had poor ethics because he rooted poor and minorities neighborhoods in order to build new infrastructure in New York. He made so many places easily accessible by adding these expressways, parkways and bridges that we still use and need today. Yes! Many people thought of him as a racist because of where he chose to build these access pathways. He cared more about infrastructure than the people, unlike Jane Jacobs an urban reformer of his time, but we are now reaping the benefits of the struggles faced by those poor and minority groups.