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Robert Ferdinand Wagner, the youngest of nine children, was born in Hesse-Nassau, Germany, on 8th June, 1877. His family emigrated to the United States in 1885 and settled in New York City. Wagner was unable to speak English when he started school but he was a good student and eventually graduated from the New York City College (1898) and the New York Law School (1900).
Wagner was active in the Democratic Party and with the support of Charles Murphy and the Tammany Society he won a seat in the state legislature in 1904 and four years later was elected to the state senate. Wagner took a particular interest in industrial working conditions and developed a sympathy for the emerging trade union movement.
The New York Times reported: "In ability and character, in honesty of purpose and manliness of action. Senator Wagner has been an inspiration to younger legislators and a beacon light to men older than him in years. He was the friend of the laboring man and the defender of women and children who have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow and yet he never was a demagogue. All the gold in the world could not buy him; all the beckonings of ambition could not induce him to abandon the cause that was righteous and the issue that was true. There is not a black spot upon him. He has served the people well." In 1919 Wagner became a justice of the New York Supreme Court. He held this position to 1926 when he was elected to the United States Senate. During his first term Wagner failed in his attempts to persuade Congress to pass legislation to help trade unions and the unemployed.
After he was elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt initially opposed massive public works spending. However, by the spring of 1933, the needs of more than fifteen million unemployed had overwhelmed the resources of local governments. In some areas, as many as 90 per cent of the people were on relief and it was clear something needed to be done. His close advisors and colleagues, Wagner, Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, Rexford Tugwell, Robert LaFollette Jr., Fiorello LaGuardia, George Norris and Edward Costigan eventually won him over.
On 9th March 1933, Roosevelt called a special session of Congress. He told the members that unemployment could only be solved "by direct recruiting by the Government itself." For the next three months, Roosevelt proposed, and Congress passed, a series of important bills that attempted to deal with the problem of unemployment. The special session of Congress became known as the Hundred Days and provided the basis for Roosevelt's New Deal.
Wagner was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be the first chairman of the National Recovery Administration. Wagner became an important figure in the Roosevelt administration and helped draft the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Social Security Act, and the National Labour Relations Act - commonly called the Wagner Act.
Frances Perkins explained in her book, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946): "It ought to be on the record that the President did not take part in developing the National Labor Relations Act and, in fact, was hardly consulted about it. It was not a part of the President's program. It did not particularly appeal to him when it was described to him. All the credit for it belongs to Wagner. The proposed bill, it must be remembered, was remedial. Certain unfair practices which employers had used against workers to prevent unionization and to cripple their economic strength had been uncovered by Wagner. The bill sought to correct these specific, known abuses, and did not attempt to draw up a comprehensive code of ethical behaviour in labor relations. Such a comprehensive code, however, was needed. Roosevelt supported my suggestion that labor leaders who wanted to distinguish themselves should draw up such a code and let us take a look at it."
Wagner and Hugh Johnson, the head of the National Industrial Recovery Act often disagreed on the subject of trade unions. As William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963) has pointed out: "President Roosevelt shared Wagner's indignation at the intransigence of employers, but he shared too Johnson's perturbation that mass labor organizing might impede the recovery drive... Roosevelt had far more interest in developing social legislation to help the worker than in seeing these gains secured through unions."
The NAACP hoped that the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt would bring an end to lynching. Two African American campaigners against lynching, Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White, had been actively involved in helping Roosevelt to obtain victory. The president's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, had also been a long-time opponent of lynching.
Robert F. Wagner and Edward Costigan agreed to draft a bill that would punish the crime of lynching. In 1935 attempts were made to persuade Roosevelt to support the Costigan-Wagner bill. However, Roosevelt refused to speak out in favour of the bill that would punish sheriffs who failed to protect their prisoners from lynch mobs. He argued that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election.
Even the appearance in the newspapers of the lynching of Rubin Stacy failed to change Roosevelt's mind on the subject. Six deputies were escorting Stacy to Dade County jail in Miami on 19th July, 1935, when he was taken by a white mob and hanged by the side of the home of Marion Jones, the woman who had made the original complaint against him. The New York Times later revealed that "subsequent investigation revealed that Stacy, a homeless tenant farmer, had gone to the house to ask for food; the woman became frightened and screamed when she saw Stacy's face."
Wagner argued in the Senate that "there is no greater evil than mob violence and there is no reform for which I have pleaded with greater certainty of its wisdom than this bill." The Costigan-Wagner received support from many members of Congress but the Southern opposition managed to defeat it. However, the national debate that took place over the issue helped to bring attention to the crime of lynching.
In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Wagner as the first chairman of the National Recovery Administration. Wagner became an important figure in the Roosevelt administration and helped draft the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Social Security Act, and the National Labour Relations Act - commonly called the Wagner Act.
In 1937 Wagner persuaded Congress to establish the United States Housing Authority, an agency to provide loans for low-cost public housing. However, he was less successful in his attempts to create a national health care system.
Support for the creation of Israel would become a focus of Wagner’s in the last few years of his life. He co-authored the Taft-Wagner Resolution. Passing both the House and Senate in December 1945, it affirmed U.S. support for a Jewish state and put pressure on U.S. President Harry S. Truman to back that commitment. "Wagner also pressed Truman not to support the Morrison-Grady plan for Palestine. This scheme would have given the Jewish section of Palestine a territory of just 1,500 square miles, limited Jewish emigration to Palestine to 100,000 displaced persons and placed all of Palestine under what would ultimately be British control. Opposition to this plan was vital to the future of Israel."
Robert Ferdinand Wagner died in New York City on 4th May, 1953.
In ability and character, in honesty of purpose and manliness of action. He has served the people well.
The uprising of the common people has come, as always, only because of a breakdown in the ability of the law and our economic system to protect their rights. The sitdown has been provoked by the long-standing and ruthless tactics of a few great corporations who have hamstrung the National Labor Relations Board by invoking court actions, which they have a perfect legal right to do; who have openly banded together to defy this law of Congress quite independently of any court action, which they have neither the legal nor the moral right to do; and who have systematically used spies and discharges and violence and terrorism to shatter the workers' liberties as decided by Congress, which they have neither the legal nor the moral right to do. The organized and calculated and cold-blooded sitdown against Federal law has come not from the common people, but from a few great vested interests. Make men free, and they will be able to negotiate without fighting.
It ought to be on the record that the President did not take part in developing the National Labor Relations Act and, in fact, was hardly consulted about it. All the credit for it belongs to Wagner.
The proposed bill, it must be remembered, was remedial. Roosevelt supported my suggestion that labor leaders who wanted to distinguish themselves should draw up such a code and let us take a look at it.
Senator Wagner had been chairman of the National Labor Board during the first half of NRA. During that service he had seen how little could be accomplished without powers to enforce the principles that were supposed to be those of all New Dealers. Such intractable employer corporations as Weirton Steel, Budd Manufacturing, and Ford Motor were either refusing compliance or were making use of company unions to evade collective bargaining.
In February 1934, Senator Wagner induced Franklin to issue two executive orders authorizing the Board to hold elections for determining bargaining agents and to prevent violations to the Department of Justice for prosecution. But Wagner was convinced that more was necessary and on 1st March he introduced a Labor Disputes Bill.
Senator Wagner's bill enumerated several "unfair practices" to be prohibited, such as the sponsoring by employers of company unions, interfering with employees' choice of bargaining representatives, and refusal to bargain with elected agents. Under the bill a new labor board would be set up, fully equipped with staff to investigate and powers to enforce the provisions of the act.
"How about lynching. Senator? About the Costigan-Wagner bill in congress and that lynching down there yesterday in Franklinton..."
He ducked the Costigan-Wagner bill, but of course, everyone knows he is against it. He cut me off on the Franklinton lynching and hastened in with his "pat" explanation:
"You mean down in Washington parish (county)? Oh, that? That one slipped up on us. Too bad, but those slips will happen. You know while I was governor there were no lynchings and since this man (Governor Allen) has been in he hasn't had any. (There have been 7 lynchings in Louisiana in the last two years.) This one slipped up. I can't do nothing about it. No sir. Can't do the dead nigra no good. Why, if I tried to go after those lynchers it might cause a hundred more niggers to be killed. You wouldn't want that, would you?"
"But you control Louisiana," I persisted, "you could..."
"Yeah, but it's not that simple. I told you there are some things even Huey Long can't get away with. We'll just have to watch out for the next one. Anyway that nigger was guilty of coldblooded murder."
"But your own supreme court had just granted him a new trial."
"Sure we got a law which allows a reversal on technical points. This nigger got hold of a smart lawyer somewhere and proved a technicality. He was guilty as hell. But we'll catch the next lynching."
My guess is that Huey is a hard, ambitious, practical politician. He is far shrewder than he is given credit for being. My further guess is that he wouldn't hesitate to throw Negroes to the wolves if it became necessary; neither would he hesitate to carry them along if the good they did him was greater than the harm. He will walk a tight rope and go along
as far as he can. He told New York newspapermen he welcomed Negroes in the share-the-wealth clubs in the North where they could vote, but down South? Down South they can't vote: they are no good to him. So he lets them strictly alone. After all, Huey comes first.
Anyway, menace or benefactor, he is the most colorful character I have interviewed in the twelve years I've been in the business.
We face the issue of whether public funds shall be used to help guarantee full employment - and public housing raises this issue.
We face the issue of whether subsidy shall be used to share our wealth more equitably among the people of this country - and public housing raises this issue.
We face the issue of whether we shall solidify or break down the ghettos of segregation in our cities - and public housing is confronted with this issue in every step it takes.
We face the dramatic challenge of rebuilding America - the greatest challenge ever issued to our inventive genius plant capacity, and physical and mental resources. Without public housing, no such rebuilding program can even commence to get started.
We will be faced with a postwar challenge from overseas - from the other nations that will be building or rebuilding their cities.
If we want to lead the world, the people of America cannot be left living in slums.
Support for the creation of Israel would become a focus of Wagner’s in the last few years of his life. Consequently, he also co-authored the Taft-Wagner Resolution. President Harry S. Truman to back that commitment.
Wagner also pressed Truman not to support the Morrison-Grady plan for Palestine. Opposition to this plan was vital to the future of Israel.
Sen. Wagner would continue to show his determined support for the newly established State of Israel right up until his death.
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Wagner Act, officially National Labor Relations Act (1935), the most important piece of labour legislation enacted in the United States in the 20th century. Its main purpose was to establish the legal right of most workers (notably excepting agricultural and domestic workers) to organize or join labour unions and to bargain collectively with their employers.
Who was the Wagner Act named for?
The Wagner Act was named for Democratic U.S. Senator Robert F. Wagner, who sponsored the act. Wagner was a leading architect of the modern welfare state and also sponsored the Social Security Act.
What was the purpose of the Wagner Act?
The purpose of the Wagner Act was to establish the legal right of most workers to join labour unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. It also prohibited employers from engaging in unfair labour practices.
Who was not protected by the Wagner Act?
The Wagner Act excluded agricultural workers, domestic service workers, independent contractors, and those employed by a parent or spouse from the legal right to participate in labour unions and to bargain collectively with employers.
What is the National Labor Relations Board?
The National Labor Relations Board is a permanent board, established by the Wagner Act, with the power to hear and resolve labour disputes. It is empowered to decide if an appropriate unit of employees exists for collective bargaining, to conduct elections in which employees can decide whether to be represented by a union, and to prevent or correct unfair labour practices.
What happened to the Wagner Act?
The Wagner Act was significantly weakened by the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and of “right to work” laws, which together prohibited the closed shop, narrowed the definition of unfair labour practices, and forbade various union-security measures. Subsequent legislation and court decisions continued to reduce the scope of the Wagner Act.
Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Robert F. Wagner of New York, the Wagner Act established the federal government as the regulator and ultimate arbiter of labour relations. It set up a permanent three-member (later five-member) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with the power to hear and resolve labour disputes through quasi-judicial proceedings. Specifically, the NLRB was empowered to decide, when petitioned by employees, if an appropriate bargaining unit of employees existed for collective bargaining to conduct secret-ballot elections in which the employees in a business or industry could decide whether to be represented by labour unions and to prevent or correct unfair labour practices by employers (later also by unions). The act prohibited employers from engaging in such unfair labour practices as setting up a company union and firing or otherwise discriminating against workers who organized or joined unions. The act also barred employers from refusing to bargain with any such union that had been certified by the NLRB as being the choice of a majority of employees. Fiercely opposed by Republicans and big business, the Wagner Act was challenged in court as a violation of the “freedom of contract” of employers and employees and as an unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government in industries that were not directly engaged in interstate commerce, which Congress was empowered to regulate under the commerce clause (Article I, section 8). The U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld (5–4) the constitutionality of the Wagner Act in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (1937).
The Wagner Act was significantly weakened by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress over the veto of Democratic Pres. Harry S. Truman. The Taft-Hartley Act prohibited the closed shop (an arrangement that makes union membership a condition of employment), allowed states to prohibit the agency shop (an arrangement that requires employees who are not union members to pay fees to a union to cover the costs of its bargaining on their behalf), narrowed the definition of unfair labour practices, and specified unfair union practices, among other provisions. Following adoption of the Taft-Hartley Act, a number of states enacted so-called “ right to work” laws, which banned both closed and agency shops. The Wagner Act was further amended by the Landrum-Griffin Act (1959), which banned secondary boycotts and limited the right to picket. In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (2018), the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the agency shop for all public-sector employees.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Brian Duignan, Senior Editor.
In this October 5, 1988 interview, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., New York’s mayor from 1954 to 1965, speaks with Professor Jerry Markowitz in preparation for Educating for Justice, a history of John Jay College.
Wagner recounts New York’s early efforts to meet the rising demand for higher education opportunities for the city’s police force throughout the 1950s and 1960s. These efforts proved insufficient and, as Wagner describes, it required the collective action of law enforcement leaders, city officials, and CUNY to ultimately create a dedicated school named the College of Police Science.
Though the interview centers on John Jay College, Wagner also reflects on the founding of CUNY in 1960, its initial vision, funding issues, and his relationship with several college presidents. As Wagner discusses, his commitment to CUNY did not end with his mayorship as he went on to serve on multiple committees created to protect the interests of the city's university.
Assault of Battery Wagner and death of Robert Gould Shaw
Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and 272 of his troops are killed in an assault on Fort Wagner, near Charleston, South Carolina. Shaw was commander of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, perhaps the most famous regiment of African American troops during the war.
Fort Wagner stood on Morris Island, guarding the approach to Charleston harbor. It was a massive earthwork, 600 feet wide and made from sand piled 30 feet high. The only approach to the fort was across a narrow stretch of beach bounded by the Atlantic on one side and a swampy marshland on the other. Union General Quincy Gillmore headed an operation in July 1863 to take the island and seal the approach to Charleston.
Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts were chosen to lead the attack of July 18. Shaw was the scion of an abolitionist family and a veteran of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley and Antietam campaigns. The regiment included two sons of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the grandson of author and poet Sojourner Truth.
Union artillery battered Fort Wagner all day on July 18, but the barrage did little damage to the fort and its garrison. At 7:45 p.m., the attack commenced. Yankee troops had to march 1,200 yards down the beach to the stronghold, facing a hail of bullets from the Confederates. Shaw’s troops and other Union regiments penetrated the walls at two points but did not have sufficient numbers to take the fort. Over 1,500 Union troops fell or were captured to the Confederates’ 222.
Despite the failure, the battle proved that African American forces could not only hold their own but also excel in battle. The experience of Shaw and his regiment was memorialized in the critically acclaimed 1990 movie Glory, starring Mathew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. Washington won an Academy Award for his role in the film.
From the very beginning, NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service has always been about preparing people to serve the needs of others. We trace our roots back to 1938 when NYU—in response to overfilled public service-oriented classes–offered its first Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree.
Even after the US pulled out of the Depression, the demand for an interdisciplinary, skills-based approach to public service education continued to grow. In 1953, NYU created a stand-alone school—the School for Public Service and Social Work—which advanced the careers of public servants by teaching them to apply social science theory to public policy management in an urban setting. At the same time, New York City’s Mayor, Robert F. Wagner, was working tirelessly to improve the lives of New Yorkers. He built public housing and schools. He established the right for city employees to collectively bargain. He made housing discrimination based on race, creed, or color illegal. In 1989, NYU renamed the School in honor of Mayor Wagner.
Today, NYU Wagner is a top-ranked school, providing Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Public Policy, and Executive and Doctoral degrees, in addition to our original MPA degree. While our impact has expanded far beyond New York City to cities worldwide, we remain driven by our mission to prepare public service leaders to translate ideas into actions that have an effective and lasting impact on the public good. Our faculty’s research changes the way people frame, understand, and act on important public issues. We provide our students with critical skills, access to all that New York City has to offer, and a deep understanding of context surrounding public service challenges—which they use to improve cities and communities across the globe.
Preservation History Database
Former New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner signed the New York City Landmarks Law and established the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Involvement in Preservation Campaigns & Related Activities
Archives, Personal Files, Ephemera & Oral Histories
Robert Wagner was considered New York’s “first modern mayor” by former Mayor John Lindsey. 1 The son of former New York Senator Robert Wagner, Sr., politics came naturally to his stature. 2 His father was deeply influenced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and was the author of the “Wagner Act,” which created the National Labor Creation’s Board. 3
Robert Wagner was born on April 20, 1910 in the Yorkville area of Manhattan. He attended both Loyola School on Park Avenue and Taft School in Connecticut. In 1933 he completed his bachelor’s degree at Yale University. Subsequently, he attended Harvard Business School and the School of International Studies in Geneva. He received a law degree from Yale in 1937. During World War II, he served in the Air Corps as an intelligence officer. 4
After the war, Wagner steadfastly joined the political realm when he was appointed by then Mayor O’Dwyer as City Tax Commissioner. In addition, he was appointed as the Commissioner of Housing and Buildings and Chairman of the City Planning Commission. In 1949, he was elected Manhattan Borough President. Wagner also served as chairman of the City Planning Commission. However, he is most noted for his service as mayor of New York City. He was elected as mayor in 1953 and continued to serve for three consecutive terms. During the 1957 mayoral race, he secured 920,000 votes, a feat never matched prior to this election. 5
Robert Wagner served as mayor during massive urban development due to the post-war economic boom and “white flight” suburban expansion. He was responsible for securing funds from both the state and federal government for massive slum clearance projects and urban renewal public housing. During this time, New York City experienced a massive wave of migration of African Americans from the south, and Hispanics from the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. He is known for integrating the City government by appointing both African American and Hispanic officials. 6
Of other significance: he established Shakespeare in Central Park, the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, and the Gateway National Park. While he lost the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles, he gained the Mets in a new stadium in Queens.
His legacy as mayor of New York in hindsight is equivocal. While he helped facilitate the passage of the New York City Landmarks Law by signing the legislation and helped aid in saving historic structures including Carnegie Hall, he was also responsible for the slum clearance projects that destroyed some of New York’s most precious jewels.
In 1968, he was appointed as the American Ambassador to Spain. 7 Wagner spent the latter part of his life practicing law and offering his legal and political guidance to political officials in Albany and Washington, D.C. Robert Wagner passed away on February 12, 1991. He was 80 years old.
Commissioner of Housing and Buildings
Chairman, New York City Planning Commission
Manhattan Borough President, 1949
Mayor of New York City, 1953-1965
Robert Wagner's contribution to the preservation movement in New York City was complex. While he signed key legislative measures that created the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, he was also responsible for slum clearance of "blighted areas" for urban renewal projects. Nevertheless, he saved several of New York's architectural gems from demolition. Often caught between the interests of the real estate community and the interests of preservationists, it was under his administration that the New York City Landmarks Law came to fruition.
Mayor Wagner was first involved in the effort to preserve Carnegie Hall. On January 5, 1960, Robert E. Simon, Jr., owner of Carnegie Hall, had announced plans for its demolition. Preservationists worked diligently to save the building by forming a not-for-profit organization to subsume ownership in order to preserve the building. However, the organization was impeded by not having the legislative means to take over the property. Senator MacNeil Mitchell drafted legislation to allow municipalities to "acquire by condemnation any property 'with special historical or esthetic interest or value.’” 8 A second bill was introduced to allow for the creation of the not-for-profit group Carnegie Hall Corporation to lease the hall from the City until it could amortize the price of the building. 9 On June 30, 1960, Mayor Wagner announced that the City of New York had acquired Carnegie Hall and would lease the property to Carnegie Hall Corporation. At the grand reopening of Carnegie Hall, Mayor Wagner, a proponent for preserving the concert hall, charismatically conducted the orchestra at the celebratory event. 10
Robert Wagner also played a significant role in the preservation of the Jefferson Market Courthouse. As early as 1950, after sitting vacant for five years, the City planned to demolish the courthouse. Nearby Greenwich Village activists rallied around preserving the courthouse and adaptively reusing the structure as a library but were impeded due to lack of funding for its renovation. In August of 1961, Mayor Wagner spoke in favor of its preservation. He facilitated the renovation by allocating City funds for the New York Public Library to take over the courthouse. 11
In addition, prior to his appointment as Manhattan Borough President, Robert F. Wagner, Jr. served as chairman of the City Planning Commission in 1948. During his time as chairman he was interested in the role of the Municipal Art Society in community development. 12 After becoming mayor, he appointed James Felt, former governor of the Real Estate Board of New York, as chairman of the City Planning Commission. Mayor Wagner was confident that James Felt would have the power and influence to change the outdated 1916 Zoning Resolution. 13 Felt would also have a pivotal role in securing the passage of the New York City Landmarks Law because of his ties to the real estate community. Wagner and Felt's close relationship helped ease fundamental changes imposed by the 1961 Zoning Resolution that had been previously thwarted. 14 Although some of the proposed aesthetic ordinances did not make it into the resolution, the new zoning limited building heights and setbacks, which helped retain historic neighborhood character.
Furthermore, Mayor Wagner helped to create the Committee for the Preservation of Structures of Historic and Esthetic Importance (a precursor to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, or LPC). On June 19, 1961, Mayor Wagner announced the creation of a mayoral study committee to review New York City landmarks worthy of protection. The committee's goal was to draft legislation that would protect potential historic landmarks. Mayor Wagner appointed 13 members to the Commission, with Geoffrey Platt as its chairman. 15 The commission was comprised of an architect, lawyer, planner, realtor, and banker, and was to work in conjunction with the Municipal Art Society and the Fine Arts Federation in order to draft legislation to protect historic structures. 16 The study committee would eventually become the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
On another note, Mayor Wagner announced September 28-October 4, 1964 to be "American Landmarks Preservation Week in New York City." This program was sponsored internationally by UNESCO and nationally by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Wagner's proclamation of Preservation Week was ironic due to the impending demolition of the Brokaw Mansion and the fact that the Landmarks Law had sat unsigned for weeks on Wagner's desk. 17 While the Municipal Art Society, American Institute of Architects, the Architectural League, and the Fine Arts Federation commended Wagner for this proclamation, it spurred a more pressing concern for the impending passage of the Landmarks Law as expressed in an urgent telegram to the mayor. 18
Despite this delay, after a long period of anticipation, Mayor Wagner finally signed the New York City Landmarks Law on April 19, 1965. Although preservationists were relieved by the passage of the law, Wagner remarked that if property owners felt the law was too restrictive, provisions could be made in the future by the City Council to amend it. 19 Despite these precautionary remarks, Wagner reflected later on in life that "creating the Landmarks Commission was probably the best thing that I ever did while I was the Mayor." 20 In terms of historic preservation, he stated that “It was the most lasting contribution from my administration.” 21
Robert Ferdinand Wagner Ii
About Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Mayor of New York City
Robert Ferdinand Wagner II, usually known as Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (April 20, 1910 – February 12, 1991) served three terms as the mayor of New York City, from 1954 through 1965.
He was born in Manhattan, the son of United States Senator Robert Ferdinand Wagner I. Wagner attended Taft School and Yale University, where he became a member of Scroll and Key. In 1942 he was the Exalted Ruler of New York Lodge No. 1 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. A residential building is named after him on the Stony Brook University campus.
Wagner served in the State Assembly (1938 – 1942) and as Borough President of Manhattan (1950 – 1953). He served as delegate to conventions and was nominated for the Senate and the Vice-Presidency. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps.
His nomination and election as New York City mayor in 1953 caused a rift in the Democratic Party, and instigated a long-standing feud between Eleanor Roosevelt and Carmine DeSapio, Boss of Tammany Hall.
During Wagner's tenure as mayor of New York, he built public housing and schools, created the City University of New York system, established the right of collective bargaining for city employees, and barred housing discrimination based on race, creed or color. He was the first mayor to hire significant numbers of people of color in city government. His administration also saw the development of the Lincoln Center and brought Shakespeare to Central Park.
In 1956, he ran on the Democratic and Liberal tickets for U.S. Senator from New York, but was defeated by Republican Jacob K. Javits.
In the fall of 1957 after the Dodgers and Giants left the city of New York he appointed a commission to see if they could bring back National League baseball to New York. The New York Mets were born out of this committee.
Like his father, Wagner was aligned with Tammany Hall for much of his career. However when he sought a third term in 1961 Wagner broke with Carmine DeSapio and won the Democratic primary anyway, despite a challenge from Tammany's candidate Arthur Levitt Sr. A Democratic Mayor not aligned with Tammany was a new development and marked a milestone in the decline of traditional clubhouse or machine politics in New York City.
Wagner was mayor at the time of the controversial demolition of the original Penn Station, which began on October 28, 1963. In 1965, he signed the law that created the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
By the early 1960s, a campaign to rid New York City of gay bars was in full effect by order of Mayor Wagner, who was concerned about the image of the city in preparation for the 1964 World's Fair. The city revoked the liquor licenses of the bars, and undercover police officers worked to entrap as many homosexual men as possible.
In 1965, Wagner decided not to run for a fourth term as mayor. Four years later, however, he ran for mayor again, but lost the Democratic primary. In 1973, he talked with the city's five Republican county chairmen about running for Mayor as a Republican, but these negotiations collapsed.
After deciding not to run for a fourth term in 1965, Wagner served as ambassador to Spain from 1968 to 1969. In that year, he decided to run for a fourth term but was soundly beaten by Mario Procaccino in the Democratic primary. He also made a brief run four years later, but withdrew before the primary took place. In 1978 he was appointed by Jimmy Carter to be his representative to the Vatican, where the College of Cardinals had elected a new Pope, John Paul II.
Wagner was a Roman Catholic.
Wagner's first wife was Susan Edwards, by whom he had two sons, Robert Ferdinand Wagner III and Duncan. Susan Wagner died of lung cancer in 1964.
He married Barbara Cavanagh in 1965. They divorced in 1971.
Wagner married Phyllis Fraser, widow of Bennett Cerf, in 1975. They lived together until his death in 1991. Her five-floor townhouse at 132 East 62nd Street, designed by Denning & Fourcade, "was so magnetic that the statesman moved in."
He died in Manhattan of heart failure in 1991, aged 80. He was being treated for bladder cancer. His funeral mass was offered by Cardinal William Wakefield Baum at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Sunnyside, Queens. "Mr. Wagner was buried beside the graves of his father, United States Senator Robert F. Wagner, and mother, Margaret, and first wife, Susan Edwards Wagner, and not far from the grave of New York's Governor Al Smith."
The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University is named in his honor, as is the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City and the Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Secondary School for Arts and Technology in Long Island City, Queens.
Wagner's papers, photographs, artifacts and other materials are housed at the New York City Municipal Archives and at La Guardia and Wagner Archives.
--> Wagner, Robert F. (Robert Ferdinand), 1910-1991
Robert F. Wagner, three term Mayor of New York City was born April 20, 1910 on the upper east side of Manhattan, New York. He attended Taft School in Connecticut, Yale University, the Harvard Graduate School of Business, the School of International Relations in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Yale University Law School, from which he graduated in 1937. At the age of 26, Wagner was elected to the State Assembly from the Yorkville District and he served in that position for four years. From 1942 to 1945, he served in the Army's Air Force. After the war, he returned to New York City and re-entered politics. In 1949, Wagner was elected Mayor of New York City and he served for three terms. After his mayoralty, Wagner served as U.S. Ambassador to Spain and was appointed U.S. Envoy to the Vatican. He also engaged in the private practice of law. His last public post was as Vice Chairman of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority.
From the description of Robert F. Wagner Personal Papers. 1895-1993. (Laguardia Community College Library Media Resources Center). WorldCat record id: 33294256
From the description of Reminiscences of Robert Ferdinand Wagner : oral history, 1984. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309736162
From the description of Reminiscences of Robert Ferdinand Wagner : oral history, 1965. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122376690
From the description of Reminiscences of Robert Ferdinand Wagner : oral history, 1979. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309737904
From the description of Reminiscences of Robert Ferdinand Wagner : oral history, 1984. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122527544
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Food Resources in NYC - Updated Information (English, Chinese, Spanish translations)
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Immunizations for all students.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
This is a friendly reminder about immunizations for all students.
As per Department of Education and NY State laws, all students who have turned 11 need a Tdap shot.
Additionally, all 7th and 8th grade students need a MenACWY shot in order to be in compliance.
Most doctors’ offices will administer the shots together so that your student does not have to have two medical visits within a year. Also, most often your student does not need to have a doctor’s appointment to get a shot. Only an appointment with the nurse or shot “clinic” is all that is needed.
Click here for a list of free immunization clinics.
Please make sure your student's OSIS (Student ID) number is printed clearly on all forms.
National Labor Relations Act
Prior to 1935, American workers had the right to become trade union members and to withhold their labor during industrial disputes, but employers also had the right to fire workers because they had enrolled in unions or had taken part in strikes. During economic hard times it was more difficult for an employee to find other work than it was for an employer to hire another employee. Thus, workers were hesitant to join trade unions, and by 1933 just 10 percent of America's workforce was unionized. In 1933, Senator Robert F. Wagner (NY-D) submitted a bill before Congress that would help prohibit unfair labor practices by employers. With the backing of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, Wagner's measure became the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), informally known as the Wagner Act. The measure, which snagged President Franklin D. Roosevelt's endorsement at the last minute,* significantly expanded the government's powers to intervene in labor relations. It has been called the law that has most affected the relationship between the federal government and private enterprise. Congress enacted the NLRA on July 5, 1935. It was welcomed at the time and for numerous years later as the Magna Carta of American labor. Before the law, employers had liberty to spy upon, question, punish, blacklist, and fire union members. In the 1930s workers began to organize in large numbers. A great wave of work stoppages in 1933 and 1934 included citywide general strikes and factory occupations by workers. Hostile skirmishes erupted between workers bent on organizing unions, and the police and hired security squads backing the interests of factory owners who hated unionizing. Some historians maintain that Congress enacted the NLRA primarily to help stave off even more serious — potentially revolutionary — labor unrest. Arriving at a time when organized labor had nearly lost faith in Roosevelt, the Wagner Act required employers to acknowledge labor unions that were favored by a majority of their work forces. The heart of the act is in Section 7: