The History of the New York City Legislature

By Frederick Shaw | Go to book overview

PREFACE

NO GOVERNMENT offers such abundant opportunities for direct participation and first-hand knowledge of the political process as municipal government. Conducted far from the typical citizen's personal observation, federal and state governments are likely to appear remote and obscure. Municipal government, however, is highly visible; it affects the citizen's life in a multitude of ways; it is on the job every minute of the time. That is why local government has been called a "school for self- government in larger affairs."

The general purpose of this book is to explore the history of a municipal institution--New York's legislature--since the consolidation of the city. Its specific aim is to compare the work of the City Council that began its deliberations in 1938 with that of the defunct Board of Aldermen. I did not propose, however, to confine the scope of this volume to the scrutiny of a single municipal body. For this reason I have not limited the narrative to events within the legislative chamber, but have endeavored to integrate it with the city's political history. Thus Chapter V, "The Alderman and His Bailiwick," is concerned not merely with relations between the typical alderman and his constituency, but also with his services to his political organization and the manner in which the daily performance of those services helped maintain the organization's power. So, too, the section on the collapse of Tammany Hall describes the events that made possible a thorough overhauling of the city charter in the 1930's; it may also be considered a segment of the city's political history.

In the past New York was often called the "Metropolis of America"; today it is known as the "World's Capital City." Is it not a singular fact that while this city outstrips most mem

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