Governing New York State: The Rockefeller Years

By Robert H. Connery; Gerald Benjamin | Go to book overview
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The State and the City

FRANK J. MACCHIAROLA

The relations between New York State and New York City are the product of a long and tumultuous history. Old political scandals, reform movements, party divisions, and power struggles of yesteryear all left their marks on the roles of the city and the state. The script is not a story of "good guys versus bad guys," but rather one of politics played against a background of economic realities. Relations today are tremendously complex chiefly because the state, especially under Governor Rockefeller's administration, at long last began to face urban problems. As pointed out elsewhere in this volume, after long periods of inactivity, the state moved rapidly and extensively into housing, health, mass transit, education, welfare, and planning. 1 Nowhere is this more evident than in the relations between New York City and the state. The interaction of these two governments can be seen first in a traditional legal context and then in their political and economic aspects.

The usual municipal experience has been one of restricted powers for cities and widespread rights of incursion into local affairs by the states. The almost universal operation of Dillon's Rule, which found cities without inherent rights and therefore "mere creatures of the state," acted to establish legally restrictive guidelines for municipal activity. Indeed, the view that cities were mere "municipal corporations," with only those powers granted in their charters, was endorsed

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The author wishes to thank Stephen Berger, Carol Brownell, Dall Forsythe, and Ronald Stack for their helpful comments and suggestions.
1
See above, pp. 73-84.

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