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LaGuardia unveils trove of City Council records online

Past and present city officials gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new legislative archives collection at LaGuardia Community College. Photo courtesy LaGuardia
TimesLedger Newspapers

Scores of legislative documents, photos and other records that recount the sometimes mundane but other times controversial history of the City Council are now available in an online database LaGuardia Community College unveiled last week.

The topics to sift through are seemingly endless. One highlight of the online collection includes text of a local law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and letters in support of and in opposition to the bill dating from the 1970s and ’80s.

“I am quite disturbed over the fact that you do not stand for civil rights,” said one supporter of the bill, Alfred S. Farrugio, in a letter written in 1975 to then-Council Majority Leader Thomas Cuite. Cuite was the most powerful opponent of the bill, and long kept it from coming to a vote.

“If one really believes in freedom and equality, he would certainly not deny a minority its civil rights. You know, Mr. Cuite, our country was founded on the principles of freedom and equality,” Farrugio wrote.

The Council of the City of New York archive collection includes more than 930,000 documents and 66,000 photographs that have been microfilmed, digitized and put online on the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives website.

Local laws are searchable by date and topic from 1955-2005 and photos of Council members date from the ’80s to 2007.

Dr. Richard Lieberman, director of the LaGuardia and Wagner archives, said the legislative archive collection “represents an unparalleled snapshot of the legislative history of America’s biggest city.”

He said the history of the city has before mostly been told from the mayoral point of view because documents chronicling the legislative side were more difficult to access.

“This archive now makes it possible to tell the story of the New York City Council,” he said.

LaGuardia held a ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling the archives in the college’s C-building, at 29-10 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City, last Thursday.

At the event the college recognized former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) for their roles in making the collection a reality.

“From the very beginning both strongly believed that we needed to have a resource for Queens history in our borough,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College.

Vallone came up with the idea for an archive of Council documents and asked Lieberman in 1985 to house the collection, which at that time was dispersed in warehouses across the city. Nolan also recently provided funding for a climate control system for the archives.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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