Andy Battle: “IBM Comes to Brooklyn”

Andy Battle

“IBM Comes to Brooklyn”


Friday, April 25th

‘In his talk, Watson acknowledged a second role for IBM Brooklyn—in addition to manufacturing computer cables, the plant would serve as something of a social experiment. Unlike other plants, IBM Brooklyn was the product of impulses that transcended the simple profit motive. Watson recounted his friendship with the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated in California two weeks before the plant opened in June. Kennedy had a “vision” of what could be done in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Watson explained, and IBM Brooklyn was in some measure the fulfillment of that vision. The company had at first planned to locate in Harlem, but Watson’s friendship with Kennedy had resulted in a post on the board of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Development and Services Corporation, a group of business executives assembled by Kennedy to serve as the “power” half of his new community development corporation for Bedford-Stuyvesant. This association had in turn sealed IBM’s commitment to Brooklyn.’


Emily Brooks: “Marijuana in La Guardia’s New York City: The Mayor’s Committee on Marijuana and Federal Policy, 1938-1945”

Emily Brooks

“Marijuana in La Guardia’s New York City: The Mayor’s Committee on Marijuana and Federal Policy, 1938-1945”

April 4, 2014


In 1938 Mayor Fiorello La Guardia wanted to talk about marijuana. The Mayor, whom President Franklin D. Roosevelt had once described as “the most appealing man I know,” frequently got what he wanted. La Guardia had been a staunch opponent of alcohol prohibition, and questioned the danger posed to New York City by the drug the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had dubbed the “surest road to insanity.” The conversation that La Guardia sparked spanned six years, engaged psychiatrists, police officers, politicians, and criminals, and resulted in the publication of one of the most comprehensive and divisive studies that the country had yet seen on marijuana. This paper explores the story of this conversation, which highlighted the conflicting agendas of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which sought support for marijuana prohibition, and municipal actors led by Mayor La Guardia, who questioned the value to the city of prohibiting the drug. The conflict between these two sets of actors, which occurred primarily in committee meetings and the pages of academic journals bore little direct connection to the concerns or opinions of a broader public. The work of the Mayor’s Committee and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics response to it, however, reveals one set of tensions in policy making and within what scholar Wendy Brown has described as the “unbounded terrain of powers and techniques, an[d] ensemble of discourses, rules, and practices,” that constitute the state.