John V. Lindsay, Mayor and Maverick, Dies at 79

Published: December 21, 2000, New York Times

John V. Lindsay, the debonair political irregular who represented Manhattan's Silk Stocking district on the East Side for seven years in Congress and was a two-term mayor of New York during the racial unrest, antiwar protests, municipal strikes and other upheavals of the 1960's and early 70's, died late Tuesday night at Hilton Head Medical Center, near his home in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 79.

The cause was complications from pneumonia and Parkinson's disease, said his daughter Katharine Lake. Mr. Lindsay had been in failing health for years, suffering from Parkinson's, heart trouble and the effects of two strokes that left his speech slurred and impaired his capacity to read and walk.

An athletic, buoyant man most of his life, Mr. Lindsay spent his final years in a vale of adversity. Two law firms with which he was associated went out of business. He underwent heart surgery and collapsed in public twice. At times, he had no pension or health insurance. The riches evoked by his patrician manner turned out to be illusory, and he and his wife, Mary, lived for years in a one-bedroom apartment.

But friends and old allies said he bore up with a dignity they remembered from his maverick Republican years in the House of Representatives from 1959 to 1965, from his turbulent years as Republican-Liberal and Liberal-Fusion mayor from 1966 to 1973, and from his fading years as a Democrat who fell far short of a presidential nomination in 1972 and a Senate nomination in 1980.

With the hindsight of decades, historians and political experts have given the Lindsay mayoralty mixed reviews. It was a tumultuous eight-year ride marked by strikes, racial divisions, fiscal problems and a profound alienation of the city's white working and middle classes that only grew worse as the Lindsay stewardship went on, with effects still being felt by many today.

But it was also a remarkable era in which many New Yorkers took a new pride in their city and its urbane, matinee-idol mayor, who hobnobbed with movie stars and battled the bureaucracy, who took his star quality into the streets in shirt sleeves, at times picking up litter himself or berating Park Avenue doormen for letting limousines double-park, and who once strode into a bar to order dumbstruck sanitation workers back to their unattended trucks.

As New Yorkers of his day recall, he created a Kennedyesque excitement, bringing into city government bright young people of wit, zeal and imagination. He insisted that the parks were for the people, not cars, and filled them with concerts and go-go dancing and kite-flying contests, psychedelic sidewalk painting and other ''happenings.'' He promoted New York as Fun City, a cornucopia of theater, arts and other goings-on. Unlike politicians who criticized antiwar protests and civil rights marches, he joined them.

And when riots tore at Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles and other cities, he walked the steamy night streets of Harlem and other black areas, tie askew, jacket flung over the shoulder, taller than anyone else, talking to people with only a detective at his side: a calm figure of civic dignity. And while other cities burned, New York had only minimal looting and violence.

A Celebrity-Politician In New York and Nation

Trailed everywhere by reporters and cameras in the nation's media capital, featured in national magazines and on television network news programs, a familiar face on Johnny Carson's television show, Mr. Lindsay became known to millions of Americans as a glamorous celebrity-politician battling New York's iniquities in what he called ''the second toughest job in America.''

But to many New Yorkers, there seemed to be more style than substance in Mr. Lindsay, who was often unaware of political realities of the city where he had grown up. Critics said a stiff idealism rendered him unwilling or unable to see through the bluster of labor leaders, to play choreographed bargaining games or make backroom deals.

Aides insisted that Mr. Lindsay was not inflexible. But the cultural abyss between the aristocratic reform-minded mayor and the old-guard municipal labor leaders was painfully obvious, and after Mr. Lindsay invited trouble by failing to back up his own tough talk with hard bargaining, his administration was plagued with strikes and slowdowns by transit workers, teachers, police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers.

Other Lindsay endeavors went awry. He tried to establish an independent Civilian Complaint Review Board to oversee police actions, but voters rejected it in a referendum. He hoped to balance budgets, but saw the city lurch into staggering debt, despite imposing its first income and commuter taxes and resorting to budget maneuvers that led to fiscal crises years later.

Perhaps his most serious failure, Mr. Lindsay himself agreed, was trying to help poor black and Hispanic people in ways that alienated the city's white middle and working classes. Trying to give communities more control over public schools, for example, he provoked a bitter, racially divisive teachers' strike that shut down the school system for two months in 1968.

Later, seeking to build low-income housing in middle-class Forest Hills, Queens, he unleashed a torrent of racial and class divisions; it was an unknown young lawyer, Mario M. Cuomo, who came to the rescue and mediated the dispute. Critics called these Lindsay initiatives the politics of polarization.

The depth of feeling against Mr. Lindsay became starkly apparent when a huge snowstorm buried eastern Queens in 1969. Stranded homeowners met the visiting mayor on unplowed streets with a barrage of invective that crystallized the wide grievances of the white middle class, which regarded him as a ''limousine liberal'' biased toward minority members, the rich and glittery Manhattan.

''The reception I got was virtually unanimous,'' the mayor recalled. ''There were a number of suggestions about what I might do with myself, and there was a good deal of fascinating speculation about my ancestry.''

A Second Term Won On Independent Ticket

Mr. Lindsay's second term at City Hall was even stranger than the first. He won with a campaign of mea culpas, on a Fusion-Independent ticket that took only 42 percent of the ballots against Republicans and Democrats who split the larger, more conservative vote and in effect canceled each other out.

The fun faded. Racial tensions grew. Welfare rolls doubled. Crime increased and there were riots in city jails. Open enrollment at the City University began a new era of eased educational standards and larger student bodies that raised costs sharply. The cost of generous health programs rose. The impact of earlier labor settlements finally struck. Middle-class flight to the suburbs reduced the tax base. New taxes had to be imposed.

But even as these problems were ballooning, Mr. Lindsay, urged on by a coterie of ambitious political aides, was becoming a Democrat and running for president. His 1972 race for the Democratic presidential nomination barely got off the ground. Defeated in the Florida and Wisconsin primaries, he withdrew and cast his support to Senator George S. McGovern, who was overwhelmed by Richard M. Nixon in the general election.

By 1973, his last year in office, Mr. Lindsay had become a more seasoned, pragmatic mayor. Having moved from Republican congressman to Liberal mayor to Democratic presidential contender, largely under the tutelage of aides like Robert Price and Richard R. Aurelio, who had by then resigned, Mr. Lindsay had become his own political boss, handling patronage, dictating strategy, courting labor leaders and middle-class voters and leaving more day-to-day government operations to subordinates.

''He started out as an idealist, thinking he could accomplish all those things he discussed in the campaign,'' said his wife, who had become his closest adviser. ''He has learned how to operate; not just doing things your own way. The years as mayor have made him more cynical, and also more tolerant. He tries to be more understanding.''

Exhausted, virtually without a political party, his ebullient hope for urban regeneration subdued and his dreams of the White House shattered, Mr. Lindsay did not run for a third term and left office on Dec. 31, 1973, for an extended European vacation with his wife.

One of Five Children Of a Prosperous Family

John Vliet Lindsay was born in Manhattan on Nov. 24, 1921, a twin and one of five children of George Nelson and Florence Eleanor Vliet Lindsay. His father, the son of an English brick manufacturer who emigrated from the Isle of Wight in 1881, was an investment banker and chairman of American Swiss Corporation, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse. John's mother, who traced her Dutch family to the American Revolution, was a graduate of Wellesley who gave her four sons and her daughter a taste for the theater, the opera and museums.

The family was prosperous, but not ostentatiously so. It lived on Riverside Drive and later on Park Avenue, and had a summer home in Cold Spring Harbor, on Long Island. John went to the Buckley School for Boys in New York, then to preparatory school at St. Paul's, in Concord, N.H., where he was active in rowing and other sports, and from which he graduated in 1940. At Yale, he majored in history and, in a program compressed because of the onset of World War II, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in three years, in 1943.

He joined the Naval Reserve as an ensign and served as a gunnery officer aboard a destroyer, participating in the invasion of Sicily and, in the Pacific theater, in the American landings in Hollandia, the Admiralty Islands and the Philippines. He won five battle stars and was a lieutenant when he was discharged in 1946.

After the war, Mr. Lindsay returned to Yale to study law. He also met Herbert Brownell Jr., a New York lawyer active in Republican politics. After Mr. Lindsay earned his law degree in 1948, Mr. Brownell helped him get a job with the New York law firm of Webster, Sheffield & Chrystie, and to start moving in the right Republican circles.

In 1949, he married the former Mary Harrison, who survives him. Also surviving are three daughters, Mrs. Lake, Margaret Picotte and Anne Lindsay; a son, John Jr.; a brother, Robert V. Lindsay, and five grandchildren.

Mr. Lindsay and his wife gave up their Manhattan apartment in 1997 and, after two years in Old Lyme, Conn., moved in 1999 to a retirement community on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Mr. Lindsay's political rise was swift. In 1949, he became a governor of the New York Young Republican Club; in 1951, he was one of 11 founders of the Youth for Eisenhower movement; in 1952, his work at the Republican National Convention impressed Mr. Brownell, who became President Dwight D. Eisenhower's attorney general in 1953. By 1955, Mr. Lindsay was Mr. Brownell's executive assistant and the Justice Department's liaison with the White House, the cabinet and Congress. As such, he helped draft civil rights, immigration and other legislative bills.

In 1958, with Mr. Brownell's encouragement, Mr. Lindsay ran for Congress in the 17th District, which extended from Harlem to Greenwich Village on the East Side. Though ethnically and culturally diverse, with towers and tenements, swaths of business, publishing and broadcast centers, even a theater district, it was known as the Silk Stocking because it took in wealthy residential areas along Fifth and Park Avenues.

A Liberal Tilt Leads To Isolation in Congress

It was the one district in Manhattan that traditionally sent Republicans to Congress, and it had been represented since 1946 by Frederic R. Coudert Jr., a conservative Republican whose strength at the polls was clearly waning.

Mr. Coudert, who had barely beaten a Democrat in 1956, stepped aside and the Republicans nominated Elliot H. Goodwin. Mr. Lindsay defeated him in the primary, though, and went on to beat a Democrat-Liberal, Anthony B. Akers, by a narrow margin in the general election.

In Congress over the ensuing seven years, Mr. Lindsay affirmed his independent-liberal credentials again and again, often voting with the Democrats on civil rights, immigration, housing, school construction, foreign aid and other issues. In 1960, he introduced a bill to set up a federal Department of Urban Affairs; in 1962, he proposed legislation embodying Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller's plan for a federal program of medical care for the aged. He also was re-elected three times, by successively larger margins.

By 1965, however, Mr. Lindsay's unorthodox Republicanism, though attractive to constituents, had left him isolated in Congress and he was ready for a move. The New York mayor's office had always been a political dead end, but Mr. Lindsay thought it could also be a national platform. If the country's priorities turned to urban needs, and if he could become a spokesman for the cities, Mr. Lindsay reasoned, City Hall might be a steppingstone to higher office, perhaps even the presidency.

There were formidable obstacles. New York was overwhelmingly Democratic, with large Roman Catholic and Jewish voter rolls. And in an immigrant-and-establishment city of enormous complexity, where racial hostilities and class divisions, poverty and wealth, vested interests and resistance to change, all seethed in a caldron ready to boil over, mayors were traditionally men who could keep the lid on.

John Lindsay was hardly the type: a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Republican with an unnerving streak of unpredictability. Indeed, in contrast to Robert F. Wagner, a Catholic and a Democrat whose appoint-a-commission, seek-a-consensus approach had been holding down transit fares, municipal wages and most social and labor unrest for 12 somnolent years, there was almost nothing politically or personally orthodox about Mr. Lindsay when he ran for mayor in 1965.

He was only 43 years old, a handsome 6-foot-4 Yale graduate with an aura that spoke of prep schools, privilege and boyish idealism. His background, his staunch liberal independence, had played well in the Silk Stocking district. But would they play across the rest of the city?

No Republican had been mayor of New York since Fiorello H. La Guardia in the Depression and World War II years. But times were changing. President Lyndon B. Johnson had begun the Great Society social programs. Civil rights struggles were under way and racial tensions were escalating. The Vietnam War was beginning to intrude on the American conscience. Hippies and the counterculture were spreading. The nation was paying more attention to its aging, infirm cities.

Like La Guardia, Mr. Lindsay, a superb campaigner, submerged his Republican credentials in an independent candidacy that many Democrats and Liberals could support. But he also won the crucial backing of key Republicans in the state, including Governor Rockefeller and Senator Jacob K. Javits, and their support helped provide the final winning ingredient: $1.5 million in campaign money.

It did not hurt that Mr. Lindsay had voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, had been one of the first lawmakers in Washington to oppose the war in Vietnam and had refused to support his party's presidential candidate, Barry M. Goldwater. He almost seemed like a Democrat. Mr. Wagner did not seek a fourth term, and Mr. Lindsay, working hard on the sidewalks and in the speaking halls, won a tight race, eking out a victory over the Democrat, Abraham D. Beame, and William F. Buckley, on the Conservative ticket.

Shining Promise Turns Into Muddy Division

The Republican mayor-elect of New York was national news, and America was suddenly paying attention. What it saw was a lanky Mr. Smith with an engagingly open smile, talking about shining ideals, about a great city where people would work together, about replacing old power brokers and party-hack government with dedicated young people who cared about democracy and equality.

''John Lindsay was the best mayor New York ever had before he took office,'' a press aide to Mr. Wagner quipped.

But on Jan. 1, 1966, as Mr. Lindsay was being sworn in, the bubble burst. New York's vast lifeline of subways and buses was shut down by a transit strike that had been looming unattended for weeks. ''My God,'' said a straphanger who found the subway abandoned. ''Wagner left and took all the trains with him.'' There were bad gags about the mayor ending subway crime on his first day, but the reality was worse.

The longtime president of the Transport Workers Union, Michael J. Quill, had danced a pas de deux every second New Year's Eve with Mayor Wagner, blustering threats of a strike for weeks in a tyrannical brogue, and then settling at the 11th hour on terms that would let him -- and the city -- each claim victory.

The cognoscenti understood it to be a kind of charade. Mr. Quill and other municipal union leaders, in fact, trusted Mr. Wagner, who never mistook bluster for substance. His father, a United States senator, had written the 1935 Wagner Act, codifying rules for union organizing and adjudicating unfair practices.

In his final days in office, Mayor Wagner, true to custom, did nothing to avert a transit walkout, and Mr. Lindsay -- not yet in charge and determined to avoid the appearance of a backroom deal -- waited until it was too late. Then, instead of negotiating, he lectured the union chief on civic responsibility.

''Coward! Pipsqueak! Ass!'' Mr. Quill bellowed at the new mayor, referring to him contemptuously as ''Lindsley.'' Defying court orders against the strike, Mr. Quill went proudly to jail, and Mr. Lindsay took to the airwaves to rally the citizenry.

A Costly Battle of Wills Anoints a New Mayor

The strike went on for 13 days, with New Yorkers walking, riding bikes or staying home. The cost to the city, in lost productivity and wages, was a whopping $1.5 billion. Finally, a settlement was worked out: $52 million for two years, double the size of any transit pact negotiated by Mr. Wagner. For the city, it was a bad deal that would raise other unions' demands and commit administrations to heavy labor costs for years to come. For Mr. Quill, in the twilight of his stormy life, it was a resounding last hurrah. For Mr. Lindsay, it was a rude awakening.

The strike had been about more than money. ''It was a cultural collision that had more to do with symbolic power than dollars, as each man sought to make a statement about who who should rule New York,'' Chris McNickle wrote in his 1993 book, ''To Be Mayor of New York.''

Early in his first administration, Mr. Lindsay announced that he would give back $5,000 of his $50,000 salary, saying the city needed it more than he did. He got rid of pothole inspectors. He banned cars from big parks during weekends and nonrush hours, and had his parks commissioner, Thomas P. F. Hoving, organize musical events and other happenings to draw people back to the greenswards. He opened a bicycle path on the Brooklyn Bridge. He established the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting and campaigned to bring filmmaking back to the city.

After Dick Schaap, a columnist for The New York Herald Tribune, coined the phrase Fun City, the mayor adopted it to promote New York as a mecca of theater, art and other culture. The phrase came back to haunt him later when the trains stopped running and uncollected garbage piled up in the city streets.

While Mr. Lindsay brought urbanity to City Hall, there was another side of him that the public rarely saw, but one glimpsed by subordinates, reporters and others up close. In his first days in office, the mayor, enraged at criticism by City Hall reporters, banned the press from the main-floor washroom.

Lindsay aides said that in contrast to his sparkling performances on late night talk shows, the mayor was often aloof in private, looking over the heads in a meeting, his conversations punctuated by silences. Some said he displayed no curiosity about the lives of his staff members, was intolerant of their quirks and seemed incapable of warmth, except toward his family.

Fighting bureaucracy, he reorganized 50 departments into 10 super-agencies, each with an administrator who reported to the mayor. The plan streamlined overlapping jurisdictions and functions, but critics said it ultimately only added more layers to the bureaucracy.

Creating 'Night Mayor' And 'Little City Halls'

Another Lindsay plan to turn dozens of neighborhood storefronts used in his campaign into ''little City Halls'' -- ostensibly to give the voters grass-roots access to city government -- was cut down by City Council Democrats, who said they would in effect become Lindsay political clubhouses. The mayor instead opened a half-dozen neighborhood government offices.

He also created the ''night mayor,'' usually one of his top commissioners or administrators, who could be reached at any hour of the night to deal with problems or complaints. Like the neighborhood offices, the night mayoralty was eventually abandoned as needless and ineffective.

Mr. Lindsay also enlarged and reorganized the Police Department, modernized its communications system and appointed innovative commissioners, including Patrick V. Murphy and Donald F. Cawley, who were committed to rooting out corruption, integrating the force and establishing performance standards.

But he also antagonized many officers by announcing, within months of his inauguration, an executive order creating an independent Civilian Complaint Review Board to hear charges against the police, especially allegations of brutality against black and Hispanic people. A police union lawsuit blocked the action, and the issue finally went to the voters, who rejected the idea.

It was a major blow to Mr. Lindsay's prestige and to the cause of civil rights in what had long been a bastion of liberalism in the country. But it was only one of a number of Lindsay initiatives that were widely viewed as special concessions to black New Yorkers.

In 1968, Mr. Lindsay responded to black parents' demands for more control and more black teachers in their neighborhood schools by putting into effect, on an experimental basis, a school decentralization plan in several black areas of the city, including Ocean Hill-Brownsville, in Brooklyn.

Studies were cited that said integration was sputtering in New York, that schools had a poor record educating black children, that it was psychologically harmful for blacks to attend schools with mostly white teachers and administrators. The Ford Foundation, among others, had urged the city to pursue decentralization, and the Legislature had agreed to finance the plan.

Challenging a white, largely Jewish school bureaucracy, whose authority was to be pared by decentralization, Rhody McCoy, the administrator of Ocean Hill-Brownsville, transferred 13 teachers and 6 administrators, most of them Jewish, out of his district. In effect, he dismissed them without pedagogic reasons, and it was said that their real offense was to oppose decentralization.

The action was denounced as illegal by the United Federation of Teachers, which called a strike that closed 85 percent of the city's 900 schools for 55 days, putting a million children out of classrooms and disrupting thousands of families. The strike's bitterness was horrendous, with threats of violence and diatribes laced with racism and anti-Semitism; Mr. Lindsay denounced the slurs and ugly conduct as intolerable.

Teachers' Strike Leaves A Legacy of Tensions

The strike ended when the state suspended Mr. McCoy and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville board on grounds that it had violated valid union contracts by transferring the teachers and administrators without cause. Later, the Legislature fashioned a compromise, decentralizing city schools into 32 districts and giving locally elected boards power to run their elementary and junior high schools, but adopting strong protections for teachers' jobs. But the episode left a legacy of tensions between blacks and Jews that went on for years, and Mr. Lindsay called it his greatest regret.

The last six months of 1968 were ''the worst of my public life,'' Mr. Lindsay later said. The schools were shut down, the police were engaged in a slowdown, firefighters were threatening job actions, sanitation workers had struck for two weeks and the city was awash in garbage, and racial and religious tensions were breaking to the surface.

The depth of feeling against Mr. Lindsay in the boroughs outside Manhattan was not widely understood beyond New York. But it became apparent to the nation after a Feb. 9, 1969, blizzard buried the city in 15 inches of snow. While major arteries were plowed quickly, side streets in Queens were buried for days, and homeowners greeted the visiting mayor with boos, jeers and curses. The scenes, captured on national television, conveyed a message that the mayor of New York was indifferent to the middle class.

Mr. Lindsay's hope for a second term appeared to fade with his popularity. Robert Price, who had run the 1965 mayoral campaign, had left after a year as deputy mayor. But Richard Aurelio, who had managed Senator Javits's campaign, replaced Mr. Price, and David Garth, the political consultant, joined the team. Louis Harris, the pollster, became an adviser, and crucial decisions were made.

One was to grant more generous wage and pension settlements to the municipal unions, undercutting their opposition. Another was to win back the Jewish vote by campaigning in middle-class Jewish communities in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx -- and having the mayor apologize for his mistakes. It grated on him, but the mayor made speeches and commercials saying he had mishandled the snowstorm and had let the school strike go on too long.

The mayor lost the Republican nomination to John Marchi, a conservative state senator from Staten Island. But the Democrats also put up a conservative, City Comptroller Mario A. Procaccino, and the major party candidates split the growing conservative majority and allowed Mr. Lindsay, running as a Liberal-Fusion candidate, to win the election with only 42 percent of the vote.

A Second Term Marked By a Host of Problems

Mr. Lindsay's second term was marked by growing racial and class tensions; substantial increases in crime; sharply rising costs for municipal labor, welfare rolls, health and education; and a deteriorating fiscal posture for the city.

It was also marked by disclosures of wide police corruption that began with allegations by two officers, Frank Serpico and David Durk. In articles by David Burnham of The New York Times, the officers contended that businessmen, gamblers and drug dealers were paying bribes to many officers to overlook crimes, and that senior commanders and even some top city officials had failed to act on evidence of graft.

Mayor Lindsay appointed an investigating commission under Whitman Knapp. In 1972, after a two-year inquiry, it concluded that corruption was endemic in the department, infecting ''a sizable majority'' of officers. Reforms included the assignment of drug, gambling and vice cases to specialized investigative units and establishment of ''integrity control'' officers to ferret out misconduct.

The problem that always plagued Mr. Lindsay -- alienating the white middle and working classes whenever he tried to help minorities -- arose again in 1971, when the mayor, trying to comply with federal orders to move thousands of poor black people into middle-income white communities, or risk the loss of federal housing funds, proposed building the city's first ''scatter-site'' housing, a low-income, high-rise project, in the middle-class, largely Jewish neighborhood of Forest Hills.

Pandemonium broke out. Residents said the development would bring in crime, drugs and social problems, erode property values, corrupt the schools and force people to move out. There were rallies and marches. Residents vowed to block construction with their bodies. On the other side, civil rights advocates said neighborhood preservation was a euphemism for racial bigotry, and insisted that killing the project would sabotage integrated and open housing everywhere. The fight inflamed racial tensions and nagged at consciences all over town.

Mr. Lindsay finally asked Mr. Cuomo to mediate, and Mr. Cuomo gained his first wide public attention by fashioning a compromise that cut the project's size in half, from three 24-story buildings with 840 apartments to three 12-story buildings with 432 apartments. It also increased the proportion of elderly residents and turned the project into a cooperative -- the first public housing co-op in America. It was built in 1972, and the crime and other problems never came to pass.

Running for Presidency Creates Ill Will at Home

But resentments against Mr. Lindsay were magnified just as he was making a decision to run for the presidency. Winning the White House was hardly more than a remote possibility, as Mr. Lindsay well knew. But he had long dreamed of it, his advisers were pushing hard, and he was aware that the national exposure could establish him as a spokesman for the cities and enhance his chances in years to come.

Running as a Republican was out of the question. Richard M. Nixon had the nomination sewn up and Governor Rockefeller, with whom a feud had degenerated into poisonous mutual distaste, stood in Mr. Lindsay's way. So in 1971, he joined the Democrats and began attacking Mr. Nixon over the war in Vietnam and the nation's housing, health, education and other needs.

Mr. Lindsay's race for the Democratic presidential nomination was over quickly. He was defeated in the Florida primary and dropped out after coming in sixth in Wisconsin. Moreover, it was resented by many Democrats, who saw him as an interloper, and by many New Yorkers, who saw him campaigning around the country instead of attending to business at home.

Switching to the Democrats also deprived the mayor of the financial support of many Republicans in New York, among them social and business leaders who had shared his liberal ideas and backed him unconditionally because they regarded him as a man of integrity. The mayor's party shifts and his futile presidential race were seen by these allies as opportunistic.

Moreover, the city's financial problems were deepening. When Mr. Lindsay's second term drew to a close, welfare rolls had more than doubled, to 1.2 million people. Labor contracts had committed the city to enormous future costs. City debt had grown in Mr. Lindsay's tenure to $9 billion from $2.5 billion.

Budget Maneuvering Causes Years of Ripples

Though he had vowed never to borrow for the city's daily expenses, Mr. Lindsay had been borrowing for years as the economy declined and the cost of city services soared. And his administration had resorted to budget gimmicks that mortgaged the future -- paying salaries on July 1 instead of June 30 to charge them to another fiscal year, borrowing against overestimated future revenues, using capital budget money for noncapital items, and on and on.

Many experts traced the city's mid-70's fiscal crisis to the Lindsay years, though Mr. Lindsay disagreed, insisting that it may have come sooner if he had not imposed new taxes.

By the mayoral election year of 1973, Mr. Lindsay had become a far more pragmatic politician and a better administrator -- even his opponents said so. But the Republicans and the Democrats had abandoned him, and Alex Rose, his old Liberal Party ally, urged him not to run again. Mr. Lindsay left office at the end of the year, exhausted.

He became a commentator on ABC's ''AM America,'' a precursor to ''Good Morning America,'' resumed his partnership in Webster, Sheffield and wrote articles for periodicals. He also wrote a novel, ''The Edge,'' published in 1976. He wrote two other books, ''Journey Into Politics,'' a 1967 account of his political career, and ''The City,'' a 1969 memoir of his first term and his re-election.

He had one more political fling, a 1980 Democratic primary race for the United States Senate. He was beaten by Elizabeth Holtzman, who lost the general election to Alfonse M. D'Amato.

From 1984 to 1991, he was chairman of the Lincoln Center Theater, and was credited with a significant role in its rejuvenation.

But his health was failing, and as his medical bills mounted, his financial status deteriorated, too. He had never been rich, and his eight years as mayor left him seven short of qualifying for a city pension under rules then in effect. After Webster, Sheffield folded in 1991, he joined Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, Nixon's old law firm, but it went out of business in 1995, leaving him without health insurance.

Friends, including Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, came to the rescue. Mr. Lindsay was named special counsel to the City Commission for the United Nations, with health coverage and a $25,000-a-year salary. It also made him eligible for a city pension in May 1997, under new rules requiring only 10 years of municipal service.