Categorized In

Fiorello H. LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York

Kessner, Thomas | McGraw-Hill, 1989


pp. 221 - 222

“[In New York, early 30s] the magistrate’s court screened all felony arrests in the city. After hearing evidence, magistrates decided if a case should be forwarded to a grand jury or quashed at this point for insufficient evidence. With the power to turn men free, this court attracted an incredible array of sharpers whose business it was to reach the judges and their clerks . . . [The bail] racket guaranteed bootleggers, pimps, numbers runners, and assorted racketeers that assorted underlings would be sprung from court swiftly, before they could give testimony against higher-ups. Low-salaried court officers salted away thousands of dollars, even hundreds of thousands, in shoe boxes and the banking accounts of troubled relatives. In this court flourished the rankest atmosphere where everyone had a price and none had shame.”

pp. 236 – 237

New York, early 30s, under Mayor Jimmy Walker, was beholden to the corrupt Tammany machine: “New York’s leaders reserved their most imaginative strategies for defrauding the government they were pledged to serve. And the municipal authority was as inefficient as it was corrupt, wasting as much as it stole, managing to destroy the credit of the richest nation city in the nation . . . . It polluted its bathing beaches with raw sewage. It hired lifeguards who could not swim. It spent unconscionable sums to construct piers that were inaccessible. It paid cost-plus for many of its purchases, the plus representing assorted payoffs to line official pockets. And it jailed innocent girls to force parents to bail them out before judges who were literally the best that money could buy . . . .If nothing else, the methods of graft, trading insider information, making cash payoffs, selling political (237) influences under the guise of legal fees, disguising bribes, short-circuiting paper trails, and making evidence vanish, had been artfully perfected . . . . So persuasive was the perception of graft that many city employees thought they could secure a promotion only by making payoffs. Con men shook down ambitious policemen, who paid $600 and more to secure a sergeant’s badge. The city’s licensing process, created to guarantee some control over pushcarts and newsstands, led to the disgrace of blind men and disabled veterans being shaken down for $1000 to $7000 for the certificates. Licenses for plumbers, stationary engineers, and motion picture operators all required payoffs under the table . . . . This government, in which every man had his price, had destroyed the delicate fabric of civic virtue that underlies all good government.”