Fiorello H. La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York

Kessner, Thomas

McGraw-Hill, 1989

pp. 209-210, 236-37

Among the first things the word corruption brings to mind for most people is municipal politics–the Tammany system, for instance, that Mayor Fiorello La Guardia inherited from Jimmy Walker in the city of New York in the 1930s.  Walker’s municipal authority rigged bids for city construction projects, hired lifeguards who could not swim, invented positions for party hacks [“Confidential Inspector, Examining Engineer (Refrigeration), In Charge”], built inaccessible piers, and jailed innocent teenagers to motivate their parents to bribe the presiding judge.  In City Hall, graft from awarding municipal licenses enriched ordinary bureaucrats.  Outside it, dirty policemen who paid the going rate for promotion to sergeant sometimes discovered indignantly that the grafter was a con man who had swallowed their bribe and disappeared.  The Tammany system adulterated public trust, perverted justice, and destroyed the credit of the richest city in America–all of it in an atmosphere at once flourishing and stifling, like some deadly garden.