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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hey Abbott; Get Rid of Streetcars Now!

  An icon mayor of the City of New York during the Depression was  Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882 -1947) who was mayor for three terms from 1934-1945.  A lawyer and a speaker of many languages, Fiorello, or as he was known as the "Little Flower", was  an advocate for clean government, immigrant and worker's rights.  However, he had a dislike for elevated lines and street railways.  He used to go to public housing that he helped establish and speak in community rooms yelling and banging on the table:  " Get rid of the slot machines now!" and  " Get rid of the streetcars now! ".  While everyone agreed that the slot machines had to go because these machines created all sorts of social problems such as gambling, why did the streetcars have to go?  In the 30's, motor buses were not completely developed yet.  They were smelly, had lower capacity than streetcars, and literally "shook themselves to death ".  Streetcars in Brooklyn and elsewhere were large, lasted forever and really handled the crowds.  I read someplace that LaGuardia in his youth was a lover of horse drawn fire engines and he witnessed a streetcar crashing into a fire engine. So it must have been the streetcars fault!.  By the end of his final term in 1945, only a few lines streetcar lines remained in Manhattan.  Most of the traditional els were gone and the streetcar decline in Brooklyn started.

  On June 1, 1940, the City of New York took over the privately run BMT and IRT subway lines and the BMT streetcars in Brooklyn.  On that same day, many elevated lines were abandoned. In the picture below, you see LaGuardia operating what appears to be a IND train with R1-9 cars on that important date.  It is ironic that the train that he was operating was a city owned Independent Subway train that was always city operated.  Does not the mayor look like Lou Costello?
Below is a picture of LaGuardia with Abbott and Costello, also a much beloved comedy team who made many films together.  This picture is from a short that they filmed together.

Mayor LaGuardia at his desk (below) and Abbott and Costello together.

  NOTE, Subject matter was brought up today for the first time in "Subchat".  The June 1st anniversary of "Unification" was not too long ago and thus it is a good subject.

LaGuardia was at the dedication of PCC streetcar operation in Brooklyn in 1936?

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