By Bill Parry
The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College has added 122 years’ worth of historical documents donated by the Real Estate Board of New York to its on-campus repository in Long Island City.
Established in 1982, the Archives already included the personal papers and official documents of Mayors Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert F. Wagner, Abraham Beame and Ed Koch; the records of the New York City Housing Authority, the Astoria-based piano maker Steinway & Sons, and the City Council; and a Queens Local History Collection.
“REBNY’s decision to contribute this collection to our college’s LaGuardia and Wagner Archives is monumental,” LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow said. “Researchers seeking understanding about New York City will have more than 125 years of documentation about land use, ownership, design trends, and building codes — revealing the people who have built our city and lived, worked, and visited here, as well as signals about what the future may hold.”
Highlights of the collection include every REBNY Diary and Manual, an annual book that compiles changes in building codes and zoning updates, reflecting major issues facing the industry each year, and tracks REBNY membership comprising the city’s leading real estate professionals. It also features more than 300,000 property cards for houses, buildings and other private properties dating to the 1920s.
“As an educational tool, our students will have the rare privilege of studying from original documentation — an experience that should deepen their understanding of our city’s history, and how it’s linked to their current lives,” Mellow said. “It becomes an intellectually alive process, showing the students that they’re a part of history.”
Assets from the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives’ 14 collections, which total more than 2.3 million documents, are regularly studied by students, journalists, policy makers, and other researchers.
“Having the REBNY collection exist next to the records on both NYCHA and the City Council is entirely apposite,” said Richard Lieberman, professor of history and director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives. “Researchers will have a single source from which to access New York City’s public and private real estate history for the past 125 years, and to examine the legislative policies from the City Council that impacted this history. Both NYCHA and REBNY, representing public and private housing, are essential parts on New York City’s story — together revealing how our neighborhoods were shaped, community revitalizations, and much more.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparr