A history of mayoral vacations

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Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family plan to take an 8-day vacation to Italy next week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family plan to take an 8-day vacation to Italy next week.

New York City mayors, they’re just like us!

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that he would be leaving next week on an 8-day family vacation to Italy with his wife, Chirlane, and their children, Chiara and Dante. Aside from a brief getaway as mayor-elect in Puerto Rico right after the 2013 general election, this marks the first time that Mayor de Blasio has taken extended time off, and is reportedly the longest vacation taken by a mayor in 25 years.

New York City mayoral vacations are almost never simple, fun-filled excursions. Some are fraught with controversy, others are innocuous getaways with media present, and some a mix of business and leisure. Dating back to Fiorello La Guardia on through to Michael Bloomberg, City & State compiled a brief history of how some of the Big Apple’s mayors spent their down time.

Fiorello La Guardia (1934-1945)

De Blasio often cites the “Little Flower” as one of his political heroes, but while the mayor has wasted no time in scheduling his first vacation, La Guardia was supposedly famous for taking very few days off. Shortly after taking office in 1934, a reporter asked La Guardia whether he planned on taking a vacation, to which the dimunitive Italian-American replied, “That depends on the budget—both the city’s and my own.”

Interestingly, according to a book titled La Guardia on the history of the airport that bears his name, Mayor La Guardia’s convoluted return flight from a vacation was the impetus for the construction of the airport. La Guardia reportedly refused to deplane in Newark, claiming that his ticket said “New York” and that he would only step off the plane on New York soil. The plane instead landed at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, where La Guardia noted that the small field was too far from Manhattan to meet the needs of commercial airlines and their passengers.

William O’Dwyer (1946-1950)

O’Dwyer is best known for resigning as mayor amid a police scandal in Brooklyn (and subsequently taking a job as ambassador to Mexico under President Harry Truman), but before that O’Dwyer was a popular public figure who evidently was not shy about taking frequent vacations (for which he was often criticized) and carousing with various women. Unfortunately for him, several of those trips would be cut short or scrapped as a result of controversy back home.

O’Dwyer’s Christmas trip to the West Coast in 1947 was interrupted because of an impending storm back East. O’Dwyer would cancel another California vacation in 1948 in order to fly to the city to decide on a potential subway and bus fare increase. One year later Dwyer would cut short a vacation in Mexico to deal with a three-day old bus strike in the city—the seventh time O’Dwyer had to cancel a vacation to tend to a municipal crisis.

Vincent Impellitteri (1950-1953)

Impelliterri is more famous for replacing O’Dwyer after his resignation than for anything he did as mayor, but he did manage to spark a minor outcry when he decided to take a vacation in Florida in 1951 despite not having filled six vacancies in the city’s magistrate court. Impellitteri defended his decision to go to Miami (where, in a sign of a different time, he met with Cuba’s president, Carlos Prio Socarras), noting that it was the first he had taken since becoming mayor.

“I haven’t had a vacation in a year and a half,” he said. “I think it’s about time the mayor of New York was entitled to a two-week vacation after working 12 to 14 to 16 hours a day—and that’s seven days a week.”

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