First Earth Day: Interview with NYC Mayor John Lindsay

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NBC Today Show
Hugh Downs/Paul Cunningham
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day, New York City Mayor John Lindsay is interviewed live in Union Square Park; Lindsay stresses the need for more mass transit to reduce automobile pollution.



"First Earth Day: Interview with NYC Mayor John Lindsay." Paul Cunningham, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 22 Apr. 1970. NBC Learn. Web. 6 May 2017.


Cunningham, P. (Reporter), & Downs, H. (Anchor). (1970, April 22). First Earth Day: Interview with NYC Mayor John Lindsay. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"First Earth Day: Interview with NYC Mayor John Lindsay" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 04/22/1970. Accessed Sat May 6 2017 from NBC Learn:


First Earth Day: Interview with NYC Mayor John Lindsay

HUGH DOWNS, anchor:

Well Earth Day has dawned of course in the East but it will officially get underway here in New York within just a few minutes. And Union Square is now being readied for the day’s activities and for a report we want to switch to Today reporter at large Paul Cunningham in Union Square.


Of course you recognize him. With me here on Union Square on the sidewalk, which is being swept up, is one of New York’s most ardent supporters of Earth Day, Mayor Lindsay. And Mayor Lindsay, right behind us as you know is a group of a, a class, a fourth grade class from the Sacred Heart School here in Manhattan, and I’m going to give you a chance to do some interviewing along with me, to find out whether this message is really sinking in with the young. Suppose you start with some of the children, here’s a mike.

MAYOR JOHN LINDSAY: Yeah I even have my interview card.


MAYOR LINDSAY: Girls, what are you doing today?

YOUNG GIRLS: Cleaning up New York City.

MAYOR LINDSAY: Why are you doing it?

YOUNG GIRLS: To keep the city clean.

MAYOR LINDSAY: How about having Earth Day everyday?


MAYOR LINDSAY: But you have to go to school too.


CUNNINGHAM: Let me ask you dear, what have you done or what do you think you should do yourself to help clean up, and keep the city cleaner?

YOUNG GIRL: Grab a broom and start sweeping.

CUNNINGHAM: That’s very good. Incidentally Mayor Lindsay, have you done any sweeping yet? You’re always having your picture taken with a broom, have you done it yet today?

MAYOR LINDSAY: Sure, had a little sweeping today, but I pick up litter when I walk along the street. What I do is I bend down, pick up, somebody throws a newspaper or a tin can or a bottle I pick it up and try to set the example that way.

CUNNINGHAM: Now you’re quite a walker, there’s a report that you’re going to walk the entire, is it 45 blocks that will be blocked off on Fifth Avenue today?

MAYOR LINDSAY: Yea. Fifth Avenue, 59th Street to 14th Street and then 14th Street from 7th Avenue to 3rd Avenue which is a big L in Manhattan, I’ll walk the whole distance today.

CUNNINGHAM: Now if you had to make a point of what you think is the most important pollutant, the worst pollutant here in Manhattan, how would you break it down?

MAYOR LINDSAY: Well, people argue over, you know the figures on this kind of thing. Unquestionably incineration, and automobiles are the biggest contributors to pollution.

CUNNINGHAM: What do you think, as the Mayor of the largest city in America, can be done about the automobile? I know that we’re going to dramatize it here today with a parade along 14th Street, people riding battery operated cars and bicycles, but what do you think can be done in a city like this?

MAYOR LINDSAY: Well, the main thing is of course, is a big subject, which is mass transportation. We’re building twelve new subway lines in New York City. And that’ll make a big difference. We’ve, the city is contributing a billion dollars over the next ten years to mass transit construction. And then more, more and more we are discouraging automobile use in the central business areas, particularly.

CUNNINGHAM: But isn’t the biggest problem attitude, how do you get people like-


CUNNINGHAM: New Yorkers to change their mode of life, to be willing not to bring a car into the city, to be willing to pocket that empty cigarette pack or something?

MAYOR LINDSAY: Yea we have to make Earth Day an everyday habit in people’s lives, you know, there’s nothing more discouraging to me then to see somebody litter. And I go right up to them and talk to them about it, and people are careless about it, they don’t think, they just throw something on the ground. Attitude is the biggest problem that we have of all, and the real pollutants you know are people, because people pollute. If it wasn’t for people you wouldn’t have pollution, and people can change that once they get it in their minds to change.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, hopefully we’re getting to the young here too on Union Square on Earth Day. Paul Cunningham, now back to the Today studios.