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 'Jamaica Bay Hurricane' by Guest Historian Chris Oakley
Guest Historian Guest Historian Chris Oakley says, in which a Category 4 Hurricane hits New York in 1960 If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit the Changing the Times web site.
Jamaica Bay Hurricane



October 27

In 1960, on this day reconstruction work began on Yankee Stadium.

 - Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium


July 12

In 1961, opening arguments were heard in the case of two New York City Department of Corrections officers who'd been suspended without pay six months earlier after being accused of using excessive force in disciplining an inmate who was serving time at Rikers Island for stealing fuel supplies after the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

NYC Department
NYC Department - of Corrections
of Corrections

The case, State of New York vs. Goren & Stabler, would end up becoming one of the biggest criminal cases in the city's history, opening up what one New York Post writer described as "a huge can of worms" within the DOC and sparking a decade-long effort to reform New York's prison system.



April 17

In 1964, on this day baseball's New York Mets played their first game at their new home field, Stengel Park. When ground was originally broken for the new ballpark in 1962 the team's owners had intended to call it Shea Stadium after the New York city council member from Queens who'd been the primary driving force in the effort to bring a National League expansion club to the Big Apple.

 -

However, a massive petition effort by fans of the late Casey Stengel convinced the Mets brass to change their minds. Stengel Park's center field wall would later be dubbed "the Hurricane Wall" because it faced in the direction of the spot where the Jamaica Bay hurricane had made landfall in 1960.

Among the highlights of Stengel Park's 44-year history would be the opening concert of the Beatle's 1966 U.S. tour; a victory by football's New York Jets over the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL championship game; an outdoor mass by Pope John Paul II in 1979; World Series wins by the Mets in 1969 and 1986; a Mets-Yankees "Subway Series" in 2000; and a Bruce Springsteen concert held shortly before the stadium was torn down in 2008 to make way for a larger stadium.



January 14

In 1961, on this day book-lovers in New York celebrated the reopening of New York Public Library branches in Brooklyn and Queens.                                                                          

New York
New York - Library
Library


February 7
United Nations

In 1961, on this day construction workers started the final stage of repairs on the UN's Turtle Bay headquarters..

United Nations - Headquarters
Headquarters


August 29

In 1960, on this day the New York Public Library began accepting donations to rebuild its main collection, much of which had been damaged or destroyed in the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library -


August 19
NYC Governor

In 1960, on this day New York State governor Nelson Rockefeller visited New York City to assess first-hand the damage inflicted by the Jamaica Bay hurricane. By the time he left, four of New York's five boroughs had been declared state disaster areas, paving the way for the residents of said boroughs to start receiving state recovery aid.

NYC Governor - Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller

On Staten Island, the one borough not seriously damaged by the hurricane, the United Nations opened a temporary headquarters while the organization's regular offices in Manhattan's Turtle Bay district underwent repair and cleanup. The UN would return to its Manhattan home in June of 1961.



August 20

In 1960, on this day thousands of mourners gathered at St. Patrick's Cathedral to pay their final respects to the late Casey Stengel; the funeral procession from St. Patrick's to Stengel's gravesite passed the ruins of Yankee Stadium along the way.

 - Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel

St. Patrick's, one of New York's oldest churches and one of the few buildings in Manhattan to survive the Jamaica Bay hurricane relatively intact, would later became a spiritual and social rallying point for New Yorkers in their efforts to heal the psychological wounds the storm had inflicted on them.



August 24

In 1960, on this day the Amsterdam News, one of America's largest black newspapers, printed an editorial rebuking the Wagner administration in New York for what the paper called "intolerable delays" in providing storm relief to the residents of Harlem.

 -


August 27

In 1960, on this day the US Treasury Department published a sobering report on the economic impact of the Jamaica Bay hurricane; the report estimated that it would take at least 4-6 months for metropolitan New York to recover from the storm and the stock market would be in decline for 6-8 weeks.

 - Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel


September 3
Republican Congressman

In 1960, on this day Republican Congressman John Lindsay of New York took to the House of Representatives floor to blast the Eisenhower administration for not being more efficient in getting federal help to the survivors of the Jamaica Bay hurricane. Lindsay's speech stunned President Eisenhower and outraged Vice-President Nixon, who considered it a personal insult, but it won the Congressman a great deal of admiration among his fellow New Yorkers as a man ready to go the extra mile to get their city what it needed to recover from the storm.

Republican Congressman - John Lindsay
John Lindsay


September 6

In 1960, on this day Radio City Music Hall hosted its first live theatrical performance since the Jamaica Bay hurricane as two dozen of Broadway and Hollywood's most famous stars, including singer/actor Harry Belafonte, staged a special production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" to raise funds for the aid of hurricane survivors.

 - Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte

Belafonte was a familiar face to many in the audience, having previously given countless concerts in the New York area and filmed the apocalyptic movie drama The World, the Flesh, and the Devil in Manhattan prior to the hurricane.



September 12

In 1960, on this day the New York City board of education teamed up with football's New York Giants to start a scholarship fund for student-athletes whose parents had been killed or injured in the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 - New York Giants
New York Giants


September 15

In 1960, the New York Post published an editorial titled "Wagner Has To Go" which called for Mayor Robert F. Wagner to resign and make way for a new mayor who could do a more efficient job of directing the flow of post-storm recovery aid to New York City's residents.

New York Major
New York Major - Robert F. Wagner
Robert F. Wagner


September 17

In 1960, on this day the Jewish-American women's philanthropic organization Hadassah started a fundraising drive to collect money to help New York's Jewish community rebuild synagogues that had been wrecked by the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 -


September 18

In 1960, on this day the Fire Department of New York published what was then its most comprehensive estimate of department casualties from the Jamaica Bay hurricane; according to its figures 213 FDNY personnel had been killed during the storm and 96 injured, with at least 64 firemen missing.

New York
New York - Fire Department
Fire Department


September 21
Baltimore

In 1960, on this day the Baltimore Orioles clinched the American League pennant with a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox; it was only the team's second-ever AL championship, their first having come back in 1944 when they were still the St. Louis Browns.

Baltimore - Orioles Logo
Orioles Logo


September 25

In 1960, on this day the New York Daily News printed a story about a write-in campaign to elect John Lindsay the new mayor of New York City; the story noted that this campaign had been gathering momentum since Lindsay's September 3rd speech to Congress.

Republican Congressman
Republican Congressman - John Lindsay
John Lindsay


September 27

In 1960, post-hurricane reconstruction efforts at Manhattan's Chrysler Building were dealt a major setback when an electrical fire broke out on the building's third floor, killing eleven construction workers and leaving six more hospitalized. The Chrysler, which had been slated to reopen in early November, would remain closed until March of 1961.

 - Chrysler Building
Chrysler Building


September 28

In 1960, on this day Idlewild Airport reopened.

 -  Idlewild Airport
Idlewild Airport


October 1

In 1960, on this day preacher and civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "Do Not Forget Harlem" speech in which he urged federal and state authorities to bring Harlem's share of post-hurricane recovery aid closer in line with those being received by predominantly white sections of New York City.

 - Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King


October 13
Baltimore

In 1960, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-10 to clinch their first World Series championship in franchise history.

The winning runs came on a two-out ninth inning home run by celebrated third baseman and Series MVP Brooks Robinson; it marked the first time in baseball history that the Series had been decided on a homer.

Baltimore - Orioles Logo
Orioles Logo

Eleven years later, the Pirates would get their revenge by beating the O's in seven games in the 1971 Series.



October 4

In 1960, Robert F. Wagner resigned as mayor of New York City after weeks of constantly growing criticism of his response to the Jamaica Bay hurricane; City Council president Abe Stark was sworn in as new mayor as 12:01 that afternoon to finish out the remainder of Wagner's term.

Stark, in turn, would be replaced by Congressman and surprise write-in winner of the 1960 mayoral elections John Lindsay.

New York Major
New York Major - Robert F. Wagner
Robert F. Wagner


October 8

In 1960, the Empire State Building officially reopened for business; for many New Yorkers, this was the surest sign yet that their city was recovering from the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 - Empire State Building
Empire State Building


October 10

In 1960, on this day the FDNY would revise its Jamaica Bay hurricane death toll up to 280 after the partly decomposed bodies of three firefighters previously reported missing were found in the ruins of a Queens apartment complex which had been one of the first buildings lost to the storm.

That figure of 280 would stand as the department's highest single-day body count until 9/11.

 -


October 18

In 1960, on this day the New York Rangers and a squad of NCAA all-stars held a special exhibition game at Madison Square Garden to raise funds for the families of NYPD officers killed or injured in the Jamaica Bay hurricane; the Rangers won 4-2.

The game was not only a valuable fund-raising tool but also a welcome profit boost for the Garden, which had seen its business cut in half as a result of the storm.

 - New York Rangers
New York Rangers


November 7

In 1960, on this day John Lindsay made American political history by becoming the first candidate ever to be elected mayor of New York City on a write-in vote.

Lindsay's first official act was to appoint outgoing mayor Abe Stark as a special consultant on disaster preparedness.

Write-in Candidate
Write-in Candidate - John Lindsay
John Lindsay


November 11
Pres. Elect

In 1960, on this day President-elect John F. Kennedy used the occasion of a Veterans' Day gathering in Boston to outline his ideas for expediting federal aid to New York City's post-hurricane recovery effort.

Pres. Elect - John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy


November 17

In 1960, on this day a delegation of civil defense officials from New Orleans visited New York City to learn how the lessons of the Jamaica Bay hurricane could be applied to protecting their own city against future storms.

 -


November 20

In 1960, on this day young New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin achieved national prominence when, in his latest article, he profiled a Brooklyn family that had been left homeless by the Jamaica Bay hurricane. His heartrending account of the family's plight sparked a flood of donations to the Red Cross on their behalf and earned Breslin a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

 - Jimmy Breslin
Jimmy Breslin


December 4

In 1960, on this day New York mayor-elect John Lindsay and President-elect John F. Kennedy met at the Kennedy family estate in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to discuss further details of the Kennedy Administration's plan to aid New York City's post-hurricane recovery efforts.

Pres. Elect
Pres. Elect - John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy


December 10
NYC Department

In 1960, on this day two New York Department of Corrections officers were suspended without pay after evidence surfaced that they had used excessive force in disciplining an inmate who was serving time at Rikers Island for stealing fuel supplies shortly after the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

NYC Department - of Corrections
of Corrections


December 15

In 1960, on this day the FBI arrested nearly two hundred known and suspected organized crime figures in a sting operation meant to break the back of a Mafia profiteering scheme tied to post-Jamaica Bay hurricane reconstruction efforts in Brooklyn and Queens.

Federal Bureau
Federal Bureau - of Investigations
of Investigations


December 21

In 1960, on this day 25-year-old Queens bar manager Kitty Genovese, who'd been severely injured in the Jamaica Bay hurricane and spent over four months in an irreversible coma, died at Columbia University Hospital of a cerebral aneurysm.

 - Kitty Genovese
Kitty Genovese


December 24

In 1960, on this day the New York Philharmonic held a special Christmas Eve benefit concert for workers involved in New York City's post-hurricane recovery efforts.  

New York
New York - Philamonic
Philamonic


December 28

In 1960, on this day the New York City parks department began accepting design proposals for a memorial in Central Park commemorating those who died in the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 -


January 5

In 1961, on this day the Yankees held a press conference to report on the progress of reconstruction efforts at Yankee Stadium.                                                                            

 - Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium


January 8
New York

In 1961, the New York Knicks held their first annual charity raffle to raise funds for the families of Madison Square Garden employees killed in the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

New York - Knicks Logo
Knicks Logo


January 20

In 1961, on this day the New York City mayor John Lindsay and several of his aides attended President John F. Kennedy's inauguration at the personal invitation of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Republican Congressman
Republican Congressman - John Lindsay
John Lindsay


January 26

In 1961, on this day the last New York State National Guard troops left New York City, where they had been assisting state and local police in keeping law and order in New York City since the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 - National Guard
National Guard


February 14

In 1961, on this day the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan hosted a special Valentine's Day banquet for firemen, police officers, and emergency services personnel who'd been involved in the post-Jamaica Bay Hurricane recovery effort. This banquet would become an annual event at the hotel over the next three and a half decades.

Waldorf Astoria
Waldorf Astoria - Hotel, NYC
Hotel, NYC


March 9

In 1961, on this day the Yankees announced they would dedicate their upcoming season to the late Casey Stengel. This would prove to be a powerful motivator for the Bronx Bombers; New York would win an MLB-record 132 regular season games that year and sweep the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 World Series.

 - Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel


March 22

In 1961, on this day former neighbors of the late Kitty Genovese pooled their money to establish a college scholarship fund in her memory.                                                      

 - Kitty Genovese
Kitty Genovese


April 13

In 1961, on this day the New York City parks department unveiled its choice for the design of the monument to the victims of the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 -


June 18

In 1961, on this day the United Nations returned to its longtime headquarters in Turtle Bay after nearly ten months on Staten Island.                                                                

United Nations
United Nations - HQ in New York
HQ in New York


July 4

In 1961, as part of New York City's Independence Day celebrations, the Statue of Liberty was reopened to visitors after having been closed for months due to structural damage inflicted by the Jamaica Bay hurricane.

 -

Over the next twelve months tourist visits to the Statue would pump tens of millions of dollars into New York's local economy and further speed along the Big Apple's economic recovery from the disaster.



July 12

In 1961, on this day New York City mayor John Lindsay visited Washington, D.C. to debrief Congress on the progress of his administration's post-Jamaica Bay Hurricane recovery efforts.

Write-in Candidate
Write-in Candidate - John Lindsay
John Lindsay

Lindsay spent much of his time in the nation's capital in conference with Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, stirring up rumors Goldwater might be seeking Lindsay's endorsement for a possible future presidential run.



July 27

In 1961, on this day the NYPD, PAPD, and FDNY held their first joint post-Jamaica Bay hurricane disaster drill. The exercise was carried out at the directive of New York City mayor John Lindsay, who wanted to be sure the city's first responders weren't caught off guard by future hurricanes as they had been by the Jamaica Bay disaster.

 -

One of the NYPD officers involved in the drill, a rookie patrolman named Raymond Kelly (pictured), would later serve two terms as the city's police commissioner.



July 17

In 1961, on this day the celebrated jewelry store Tiffany's, which had been operating out of a Long Island storefront since the Jamaica Bay hurricane, returned to its original Manhattan home amid huge fanfare and a surprise visit by author Truman Capote, who had immortalized the jeweller in his classic short story Breakfast at Tiffany's.

 -


July 22
New York

In 1961, the New York Yankees earned their 80th win of the '61 baseball season, posting a 6-1 drubbing of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park; in doing so they set an MLB record for the fastest pace set by any major league club to reach the 80-wins plateau during the regular season

New York - Yankees Logo
Yankees Logo

They would finish the year with 132 victories, another MLB record, and sweep the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 World Series. Sportswriters across America would credit the Bronx Bombers' phenomenal success that year to the motivational factor of New York's preseason decision to dedicate its regular season to the late Casey Stengel.



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