The editorial ran Wednesday, April 24, 1963. The next day, Mr. Laurence, as chairman of the fair’s science committee, appeared before the city’s Board of Estimate to promote the project. On Friday, The Times reported that he had testified on behalf of the Queens plan and that, after a two-hour debate, the board had voted unanimously to approve the $3.5 million appropriation.
The episode was a serious breach that The Times grew to regret, according to Dr. Kiernan, who learned of the reaction from the archival papers of John B. Oakes, the editor of the editorial page at the time. He was out of town when the editorial ran “and, when he came back, there was hell to pay,” Dr. Kiernan said.
Mr. Laurence was ordered to take no more payments for his work on the World’s Fair project and to write no more editorials on the costly endeavor. Dr. Kiernan added that the journalistic fallout appears to have contributed to Mr. Laurence’s retirement the next year — on New Year’s Day, 1964. Then 75, he went to work full time for Mr. Moses.
“There’s no evidence that Laurence understood the ethical issue,” Dr. Kiernan said. “It was, “Hey, I did it on my own time.’”
In retirement, Mr. Laurence’s star dimmed. The society pages no longer took notice of him and his wife. They moved to Majorca, a Spanish isle in the Mediterranean. Dr. Kiernan said Mr. Laurence kept up a correspondence with Mr. Moses. The two men shared not only a birth year, 1888, but also, he said, “a sense of affection.”
Money remained an issue.
In 1967, Mr. Laurence wrote The Times to say it had shortchanged him during his time with the Manhattan Project and owed him $2,125 in back pay, or today more than $30,000. The paper, he said, “should in all fairness reimburse me together with the proper amount of legal interest.” It demurred.