January 25, 1891|
Lower East Side, New York City
|Died||May 23, 1966
Beth Israel Medical Center
Manhattan, New York City
|Cause of death||Stroke|
Lazarus Joseph (January 25, 1891 – May 23, 1966) was an American lawyer and politician from New York. He was a member of the New York State Senate from 1934 to 1945, and New York City Comptroller from 1946 to 1953.
He was born on January 25, 1891, on the Lower East Side of New York City, the grandson of Rabbi Jacob Joseph. Lazarus remained a Shomer Shabbos Jew even as a high ranking politician, and as City Comptroller campaigned for the Kosher Meat Laws in New York City. Lazarus graduated from New York University School of Law in 1912, and practiced in New York City. In 1931, he was appointed as a Deputy Assistant New York Attorney General, working in the Security Frauds Bureau.
Joseph was elected on December 28, 1933, to the New York State Senate (21st D.) to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Henry G. Schackno. He remained in the State Senate until 1945, sitting in the 157th, 158th, 159th, 160th, 161st, 162nd, 163rd, 164th and 165th New York State Legislatures.
The New York Times praised Joseph after his election to New York City Comptroller in 1945, stating that "In the eleven years that he served as a member of the State Senate, Lazarus Joseph earned a reputation as an expert in budgetary and financial matters and as an authority on real estate law and finance." The November 7, 1945 article goes on to note that he also earned "...a wide reputation on budget matters in State Senate sponsored mortgage legislation." This opinion was echoed for former New York State Governor Herbert H. Lehman who called Lazarus Joseph "...an industrious, conscientious and far-sighted public servant." (New York Times, October 26, 1949)
During his terms as comptroller, Joseph tackled budgetary issues facing the city, facing many years in which the city prospered, and others that the city did not fare as well. New York City had a series of bond issues during the latter years of Joseph's tenure, and he was reported to have traveled to Albany to request the governor's assistance in funding the city's budgetary deficits. Some of the issues affecting Joseph that were widely reported included keeping public transportation fares limited to ten cents, and the attempted closing of WNYC to curtail budget constraints upon the city.
As city comptroller, Joseph participated in the groundbreaking of the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
During the 1950 mayoral election, Joseph declared that Acting Mayor Vincent Impellitteri – who was running for the mayoral post – "had neither the experience nor ability to be Mayor of New York City...," and lacked "sufficient experience" with only two months in the post, and called Impellitteri's Estimate Board record "blank." Nonetheless, Impellitteri went on to be re-elected. (New York Times, November 4, 1950)
Although Joseph reportedly sided in the Board of Estimate with Mayor Impellitteri during the latter's term in office, Joseph supported Borough President Robert F. Wagner Jr. of Manhattan for the Democratic nomination for mayor in the 1953 primary election. Correct in his prediction, Joseph called Wagner a "sure winner."
Considered a kingpin in the New York political arena, Joseph was lobbied for support of major projects affecting the City of New York. Eleanor Roosevelt mentions meeting with Lazarus Joseph (April 4, 1953, as quoted in "My Day," Mrs. Roosevelt's diary) to advocate for the preservation of social welfare projects.
Upon the close of his eight years in office as comptroller, Lazarus Joseph left the city with cautionary advice; "that it is easy to borrow, but the reckoning always must be met in the expense budget, and by the taxpayer." (New York Times, November 18, 1953). His warning was not heeded, as debt load led the city into bankruptcy some twenty years later, when President Gerald Ford refused to assist New York with its deficit.
The New York Times reported that Joseph became ill Thursday, May 19, 1966, and died of a stroke at Beth Israel Hospital, Tuesday, May 23, 1966.
Joseph was noted as a philanthropist prior to being elected to public office. His record shows that he was active in many charities, including the 92nd Street Y, United Jewish Appeal and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.
After World War II Joseph championed the rehabilitation of 1,500,000 Jewish survivors of Nazism, calling it "the duty of every American citizen, Christian or Jew, black or white." (December 16, 1946, New York Times.) His attendance was recorded in news reports covering fundraisers in support of the new State of Israel during the years following its declaration of independence.
Mr. Joseph appeared to be willing to lend his name to assist charities that he identified with, as he was a guest of honor in December 1934 at a fundraiser for the Hebrew Home. He also played an active role in the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, a yeshiva co-founded by his father Raphael, named after his grandfather, New York City's first chief rabbi.
While attending New York University, Joseph played basketball for two seasons on the NYU varsity (1910–1911). After graduating from NYU, Joseph continued to play basketball with the Mohegans - reportedly one of the top amateur teams in New York City - where he helped the squad defeat some of the top teams of the era, including Seton Hall University and Williams College.
A burglary in Joseph's home made the news in the 1930s when two of his wife Henrietta's diamond rings were stolen from their Bronx residence. A Bronx police officer was accused, then cleared of the crime.
His 22-year-old son Jacob Joseph was a captain in the United States Marine Corps who was killed in action at the Battle of Guadalcanal on October 22, 1942. New York City Mayor O'Dwyer, memorialized Captain Joseph in City Hall together with members of the Board of Estimate, other city officials and 1,000 friends in presence. A New York City playground was later named in Captain Joseph's honor.
- NYC Department of Parks & Recreation data on Jacob Joseph playground
- "The Yeshiva on Henry Street" by Dr. Marvin Schick, President of RJJ School
- "Jews in Sports" website
|New York State Senate|
Henry G. Schackno
|New York State Senate
Gordon I. Novod
Robert S. Bainbridge
|New York State Senate
Sidney A. Fine
Joseph D. McGoldrick
|New York City Comptroller
Lawrence E. Gerosa