SPOTLIGHT ON: Black History Month and Women's History Month
By Christine Bruzzese
Since 1976, February has been celebrated as Black History Month, starting with a proclamation by President Gerald Ford. March has been designated as Women's History Month by law and Presidential Proclamation. To commemorate these months, this article honors pioneers of New York's Finest, the New York City Police Department.
Samuel J. Battle was sworn in as the first African-American police officer in the NYPD in 1911. The book One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne chronicles Battle's story. The author describes how Battle came to join the police force, his struggles to be accepted and how he ultimately achieved success. He was also instrumental in mentoring Wesley Williams, the first African-American firefighter in the New York Fire Department. Samuel Battle was promoted to sergeant in 1926 and lieutenant in 1935. In 1941, Mayor LaGuardia appointed him as the first black member of the NYC Parole Commission. An intersection at 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Manhattan was named for him in 2009. Battle passed away at the age of 83 in 1966.
Gertrude Schimmel joined the New York City Police Department in 1940. Policewomen, as they were then known, were not allowed to be promoted or go out on patrol. She wrote a novel Joan Palmer: Policewoman that was published in 1960 and is part of the Municipal Library collection. Along with a group of fellow female officers, Schimmel filed a successful lawsuit against the NYPD, paving the way for women to take the sergeants' exam and thus be promoted. On March 12, 1965, Schimmel became the first female Police Sergeant in the NYPD. Subsequently, she became the first woman lieutenant in 1967 and captain in 1971. As a captain, she helped develop the first experiments with women officers working on patrol. Another first: she was promoted to Deputy Chief in 1978, the highest rank to be achieved by a woman in the Department at the time. Schimmel retired in 1981 and passed away in 2015 at the age of 96.
Washington Heights and Mayor LaGuardia's Committee on Unity
Recently, the Municipal Reference Library received the book, Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and The Promise of New York City by Robert W. Snyder. The book's discussion of local history is just one of decades of documents on Washington Heights in the library.
One of our holdings, A study of intercultural behavior and attitudes among residents of the Upper West Side (1944) is a rare peek into discussions about race by New York's city government in the 1940s. It was published by Mayor La Guardia's Committee on Unity (MCU) in 1944 and discusses relationships between Black and white families living in Washington Heights. The study also breaks down the white population by religion: Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. The MCU's origins can be traced to an emergency summit organized by Dorothy Funn in the wake of Harlem's 1943 riot. Mayor La Guardia, along with 2,000 labor, religious, and civil rights leaders, attended this summit. As a result, he created the Mayor's Committee on Unity (MCU). La Guardia frequently relied on demographic studies to make decisions about obstacles that arose from tax distribution, racist violence and public transportation. Today, you can find many of these studies in the Municipal Reference Library.
To conduct research in Washington Heights the MCU worked with City College and a coalition of neighborhood organizations. They conducted surveys which provided a detailed assessment of economics and social relationships which provide a complex illustration of divisions in the neighborhood. As a current resident of Washington Heights, I was fascinated, discomforted, and educated by reading their survey. During my morning walks through the neighborhood I can't help but think of the survey and wonder how housing discrimination functions today.
This report is just one example of how the materials in the Municipal Reference Library possess vital information that can help us understand our city in a deeper and more meaningful way. The materials in the Library provide a range of perspectives on important moments in history. Without them, my understanding of our city, my neighbors, and myself would surely be limited.
Be sure to explore some other resources in the Municipal Library on black history and women's history. There are many city agency reports and published books on related topics.
Explore our catalog at: http://www.nyc.gov/records to learn more.
Report from Municipal Records Management Division
By Terrance T. McCormick
Municipal Records Management Division (MRMD) is continuing with its guidance in the areas of Records Management and Information Governance. One such guidance is the electronic records management initiative. In collaboration with DoITT, MRMD is helping to define the electronic records management system scope. This includes the implementation of a Content Management System that will assist the City in managing records electronically while tracking and applying the records retention and disposition policies and schedules. The system will be robust enough to work both as a stand-alone system as well as being able to connect with an agency's current records/document management system in a federated manner. In addition, MRMD will define the formal requirements for the records management system and ensure that they support specific fundamental functions.
MRMD also released its RIM Portal to all Mayoral Agencies. The Portal includes the Box Tracking Tool and Assessment Matrix. The Box Tracking Tool is a monthly reporting tool that will assist DORIS in tracking the quantities of records stored in all locations used by agencies as well as enable DORIS to quantify how the updated retention schedules are reducing hard copy records across the City. The Assessment Matrix is a quarterly report in which DORIS will use the information provided to assist agencies with their RIM program implementation.
MRMD is also continuing to assist all Mayoral Agencies in updating their records retention schedules by following the MU-1 or applicable schedules created by the New York State Archives. Thus far, 60% of the agencies have updated their schedules in some capacity.
Lastly, MRMD has hired seven additional Stock Workers to assist with the Municipal Records Center and Bush offsite storage facilities. These new additions are essential in maintaining stellar service to the agencies.
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