Lost City: John Lindsay’s New York

John Vliet Lindsay, mayor of New York from 1966 to 1973, personified the resolute confusion with which clubby, liberal WASPs faced the social upheaval of the era.

Entering politics as a successful young lawyer, Lindsay represented the wealthy Upper East Side of Manhattan, known as the Silk Stocking District, in Congress from 1958 to 1965. While serving, he compiled a liberal voting record on matters that would have little immediate impact on the residents of his wealthy district.

This abstract approach to politics, which had little to do with serving the immediate needs of his constituents, brought Lindsay attention and admiration as a Congressman. It would fail him, however, when he moved into the mayor’s office.

Known for his good looks and aristocratic style (the son of an investment banker, Lindsay graduated from the Episcopal boarding school St. Paul’s and went on to study at Yale), Lindsay became a national celebrity who sought to incorporate the mood of the late 1960s into his administration.

Elected in a three-way race that included National Review founder William F. Buckley, Mayor Lindsay inherited a subway strike that began on January 1, 1966 — his first day in office. During his two terms, Lindsay encouraged “happenings” in Central Park, appeared frequently on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, and faced racial tensions in the city with a strong chin and a willingness to mingle with ordinary citizens.

Nevertheless, for all the excitement Lindsay’s patrician demeanor aroused, his time in office was largely unsuccessful, characterized by escalating crime, strikes and budget deficits.

“We all failed to come to grips with what a neighborhood is,” an aide later remarked. “We never realized that crime is something that happens to, and in, a community.”  — TALIESIN

Contributing writer Taliesin prefers a nom de plume due to his position in the Federal Government. Currently residing in the Washington, DC area, Taliesin grew up in the South. He holds advanced degrees from Harvard and Cornell.

7 Comments on "Lost City: John Lindsay’s New York"

  1. Richard M | June 25, 2009 at 2:22 pm |

    Whther or not he was a good Mayor, he was a class act.

  2. John Lindsay was a classmate of my father’s at Yale, class of 1944. I will never forget his arrival at their 25th reunion in 1969 when he, his wife Mary, and several of their children arrived by helicopter, dramatically landing in the middle of the Silliman College quadrangle where the reunion was taking place to the jaw-dropping astonishment of his classmates and their families. Talk about an entrance!

  3. Christian | June 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm |

    Indeed. Except for having the wife and kids in tow, that almost sounds like a James Bond entrance.

  4. hahaha I just inherited that same wrought iron furniture in the third pic!! New cushions have been custom ordered and it’s all getting painted today! how weird

  5. Re: Comment by Reggie —Please contact me. I was at that reunion, as well. I have an idea and would like your input. You may reach me at free77@juno.com.
    Regards,
    Peter

  6. Kristian Toimil | August 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm |

    Still would’ve prefered Buckley over him

  7. Three women have said he gave them crabs. Class act is right!

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