Fun City Revisited: The Lindsay Years
Produced by THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG, a one-hour television documentary film, Fun City Revisited: The Lindsay Years, airs Sunday, June 19 at 10:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.
I enjoyed viewing this documentary of the Lindsay years, although it should have been a least an hour longer in order to capture more of “Fun City” during that dynamic time. Unfortunately, I interpreted the portrayal of Jewish New Yorkers as being predominantly arrogant, unreasonable biggots and obstructionists, not willing to share in the City’s powerstructure, was over the top. I grew up in Brooklyn during the 1960s through 80s. In fact Joyce Purnick was a neighbor of mine in Brooklyn. The Jewish community had been placed under attack by minority activists resentful of Jewish-owned businesses in their communities, communities that were predominantly Jewish at one time.
The documentary failed to mention the deterioration of neighborhood after neighborhood in Brooklyn and the Bronx in the 1950s and 60s. The influx of Puerto Rican immigrants and migrant African Americans from the South co-incided with a the decline of quality of life and the rise in crime. This is not to fault of any particular ethnic groups, it only reflects the factual downfall of many former middle-class neighborhoods in New York. As an example, take a look at the Brownsville community, once the largest Jewish community in the world. Look at it in 1955 compared to 1965, and you will see a dramatic change in the landscape: failing schools, high crime and drug use, delapadated or abandoned buildings, garbage, grafitti, etc, etc. You cannot blame all of these dramatic changes in such a short time any particular group; however, one must question the causes for the downfall of once stable neighborhoods.
Jews, who generally bent over backwards to help fellow oppressed minorities, were portrayed as kvetches who would not tollerate “a little anti-semitism” at the hands of Sony Carson, Herb Dougherty or Rody McCoy. Add to the mix some well meaning, but misguded young idealists from the Mayor’s Office and what you have is a big mess. Sure there was ill-will on all sides in ethnic conflicts during the Lindsay years, and sure Lindsay tried his best to help those most oppressed (he inherited some very serious problems which were brewing since Robert Wagner’s early years as mayor), but that is no reason to portray the Jews as the “bad guys.”
Excellent program. What a brave, inspiring man. And I loved the old footage of New York and New Yorkers. But I must know: what is the music that plays as the narrator says, “New York City, 1965. White flight, and urban decay”?
I enjoyed watching this documentary, but I was surprised that there was no mention of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village!
Does anyone know who’s singing the Harry Nilsson cover at the end of the program?
Any chance you can provide a list of the songs that were included on the soundtrack? Enjoyed listening to them…
Response to Michael Lengyel: The song is “Cast Your Fate To the Wind” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. It was also recorded by a group called Sounds Orchestral. I’m pretty sure one of the original WNEW-FM deejays — either Jonathan Schwartz, Pete Fornatale, or Scott Muni — used to close his shoe with this tune.
Response to Xavier: Stephen Stills is singing “Everybody’s Talkin'” at the end of the program. It’s actually a Fred Neil song that Harry Nilsson covered. Stephen Stills performed in concert with Fred Neil around the time the song was popular (see “Midnight Cowboy”). Regarding the documentary, my only criticism is that it did not include a list of music credits — which is a shame because the musical choices beautifully matched the program content.
We were living in Panama but my husband and I were frequent visitors in New York and I was enthralled with the Mayor. Unfortunately, my husband, Robert and I were en route to Bermuda where we were due for some business appointments when we were snowbound at the Pan American Clipper Club for three days and nights in February of 1969. It was an unforgettable experience but we were luckier than most of our fellow passengers who were sleeping on baggage claim areas and food was running out. We became friendly with another couple at the clipper Club and shared a sofa and whatever we could scrounge for food and made the most of our predicament by sharing jokes and scraps of Clipper club offerings. Everyone was blaming Mayor Lindsay for not ordering the snow ploughs out and the planes could not move on the frozen runways as ice was forming on the wings and controls. I felt that Mayor Lindsay would not be able to overcome this additional setback to his career although I always admired what he had tried to do for New York.. I enjoyed the program as it brought back memories of that time.
Very good documentary…interesting to see NYC in times past…should have been longer however…perhaps even a series on NYC contemporary history…..
I also enjoyed viewing this documentary of the Lindsay years, although I agree with LFW that it should have been a least an hour longer in order to capture more of “Fun City” during that dynamic time. I also loved hearing the music, from that time, in the background.
To follow up on my above comment, think about John Lindsay’s post mayoral life. He went to practice law at Webster Schieffield, and that firm went under and was taken over by Richard Nixon’s law firm, Mudge Rose. Then, while Lindsay was a partner that firm went under. He then ran for the Senate in the Democrat primary and finished third to the flawed Elizabeth Holzman and Bess Meyerson. Ed Koch, who blamed Lindsay for the 1973 fiscal crisis during that Senate campaign took pity on him and gave him a job which got him health insurance benefits which he, unfortunately, badly needed–all of which symbolized what Joyce Purnick saw on his last day in office, FAILURE.
To Mr. Levine: I believe it was Rudolph Guilianni that gave the former mayor a made up job in order for Lindsey to qualify for the at the time required ten years of service in order to receive health benefits for life.