Begun during the mayoral administration of Robert F. Wagner, Jr., it was continued after he left office in 1965; however, since Wagner’s successor John Lindsay would no longer allow them to have an office in City Hall, it was renamed the Governor’s Committee and was headquartered elsewhere. The Wagners continued their active association with it.
Lillian Poses was in every way a marvel; one of the earliest women graduates of a law school, she had worked for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration until returning to New York after World War II. Just a list of the organizations for which she worked in her later years gives a hint of her breadth and zeal: the Governor’s Task Force on Unemployment, the Council Against Poverty, UNESCO, and the International League of Human Rights.
For the Governor’s Committee event, I was able to tap all elements of the real estate community, including the top real estate developers, architects, engineers, subcontractors, and the construction trade unions. Harry Van Arsdale, president of the city’s Central Labor Council (of unions), was a key ally. Every year, we’d have about a thousand people at a dinner at the Waldorf Hotel, and from them would raise significant sums for student scholarships. I enjoyed working on this dinner, especially because through this event I became very close to Phyllis and Bob Wagner. Phyllis was the widow of publisher Bennett Cerf; after Bennett’s death and that ofWagner’s wife, Phyllis had married Bob. She and I did many things together; in effect I adopted the Wagners as family, and for many years enjoyed their companionship.
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My uncles and cousins in Tishman Realty and Construction were, in general, appalled by my progressive leanings. Within the company my elders repeatedly pilloried me for those leanings. To these uncles, I was a maverick whose actions in the outside sphere horrified them because they were the precise opposite of liberals. But I came by my leanings
For years, we supported “Camp Central Park” which gave youngsters from inner-city neighborhoods a chance at summer fun. legitimately, having been brought up with progressive sympathies from my earliest years and having had those notions continually reinforced by my school, my mother, my Uncle Paul, by various friends and by what I saw happening around me in life, every day. My progressive upbringing also made me impatient with David and Norman’s political opinions, which I heard from them regularly; my uncles were not only conservative, they did not seem to have the same sense of right and wrong as I did. When I would vent about this or that injustice featured in the news, they’d say, “Oh, there you go again,” as though whatever I was talking about was either untrue or was meaningless to them. They equated being a progressive with being a Communist. They seemed unable to understand that a person could be progressive without being a Communist, or that if one criticized the way things were being handled in Washington, that did not mean one was not as patriotic as my uncles thought they were.
My habit has always been to put my money where my mouth is. Accordingly, I have always been a contributor to liberal causes and to liberal, even antiestablishment candidates for public office on the local and national scenes. Union leaders knew me as a tough negotiator in work situations, but they also knew that off the site, in regard to political questions I generally stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them. That understanding may have helped them accept my judgments and solutions in jurisdictional disputes.
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