On This Day in History, April 7: Borough Hall Again Becomes City Hall

April 7, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On April 10, 1834, by an act of the New York State Legislature, Brooklyn became a full-fledged city, no longer a village. One hundred years later, Brooklyn, although it had become a borough of Greater New York City, celebrated the day it was declared a city. The 1934 centennial celebration was observed from April 4th to 8th. New York City’s Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was invited to participate, to govern the city from Brooklyn Borough Hall and move his clerical staff and his family across the river from Manhattan. The following accounts in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle recall the event. William Weer reported on April 4, 1934:

“A hundred years after the old City of Brooklyn was founded this borough became today the seat of government of Greater New York.

“In honor of the centenary celebration, which will come to a climax Saturday [April 7] with a parade, dinner and other community activity. Mayor LaGuardia crossed the bridge — the Brooklyn Bridge — from City Hall to Borough Hall and established the city’s headquarters under the approving bronze face of Henry Ward Beecher.

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Brings Mayoral Flag

“He came with his secretary, his clerical staff, his customary energy and the Mayor’s flag, which fluttered from the mayoral car at the head of the procession and was set up beside his desk in Borough Hall.
“The desk and the office, which the Mayor made his own for the   

duration of his five-day stay in Brooklyn, were those of Borough President [Raymond V.] Ingersoll, who, for the time being, found other quarters.

“And within ten minutes of his arrival the transplanted Mayor LaGuardia had plunged into a series of interviews, conferences, all the details of the job of manning the business of a 7,000,000-population city, with much the same smoothness and efficiency that was customary on the other side of the East River. Officials and others from Manhattan had to cross the river to get the Mayor’s ear and Brooklynites didn’t. Otherwise, there was no outwardly visible change.

Will Live in Borough

“And just to make the change complete, the Mayor temporarily transferred his home here as well. Beginning today and continuing until Monday night [April 9], the home address of Mayor and Mrs. LaGuardia will be Hotel Towers, Clark and Willow Sts., on Brooklyn Heights.

“Moving the city government came after a full day spent by the Mayor and other city officials in Albany, battling over the still unpassed Economy bill. Leaving Albany by car late yesterday, the Mayor arrived at his Manhattan home, 1274 5th Ave., at 3 a.m. today. Six and a half hours later, he was being driven downtown to City Hall, which he reached at 9:59 a.m.

“Accompanied by his secretary, Lester B. Stone, he hustled into his City Hall office, came out in a few minutes and crossed over to the City Hall reception room and finally, at 10:12, walked out of City Hall, prepared for the invasion of Brooklyn.

“On the front steps, he was momentarily halted by photographers. At 10:15 the Mayor hopped off the steps and into his car. With him went Stone and Police Lt. James Harten, in full uniform, with gold braid and all, and carrying the Mayor’s flag —five gold stars superimposed on the city flag of dark blue, white and gold, with the city seal on the bar of white.”

From City Hall, the motorcade proceeded across the Brooklyn Bridge under an escort of four motorcycles, with sidecars, to Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

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Eagle reporter Isabelle Keating got a story on Mrs. LaGuardia’s arrival at the Towers Hotel on April 4, 1934:

“With five suitcases and a hatbox to see her through the rest of the week, Marie LaGuardia arrived in Brooklyn at 12:45 a.m. today to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the granting of the charter.
“She was in a jubilant mood over the celebration.

“‘It’s like a holiday,’ she said. ‘I’m delighted to be celebrating. We’ve had so little to rejoice over in the last few years, haven’t we?’

“Despite the program of festivities which awaits her here, however, the arrival of the Mayor’s wife at the Towers Hotel, where the city’s first couple will stay, was as quiet as that of the most obscure visitor to Brooklyn.
“Accompanied only by a reporter, she walked to the desk and, Lindbergh-like, said quietly, ‘I’m Mrs. Laguardia.’”

[Note: the Towers Hotel still stands as an imposing building in Brooklyn Heights. It was taken over for residential quarters by Jehovah’s Witnesses and beautifully restored.]

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