5
BOOSTING A BOROUGH

BOOSTERS

Antebellum President John Tyler once said, “There is nothing like the elbow room of a new country.” To Bronx promoters, there was nothing like a new borough. For decades, diey promoted their area with a booster spirit reminiscent of early frontier cities, claiming that “geography and topography have predestined the old county towns of Westchester as the business centre of the metropolis of the Western Hemisphere.”1 Boosters expected monetary gain but believed progress and growth would benefit all. Thus they welcomed and encouraged the northward expansion of the city. As long as the city grew, progress would indeed be good for the Bronx.2

Bronx residents believed their area was “the logical line of expansion of New York City.”3 Since the trend of the city's growth had always been northward, the boosters applauded whatever promoted that “natural” tendency and opposed anything that aided migration to other parts of the metropolitan area. Over the years, they opposed bridges and transit connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens and the consolidation of Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond counties into a Greater New York City.4 In 1897, that most vocal of Bronx boosters, James Lee Wells, argued against the move because the city “is already confronted by the very serious problem of how to take care of the recently acquired territory to the northward.” That territory was the Bronx, an area he and other promoters described as the “natural accretion” of New York.5

Consequently, throughout village, ward, and borough years, Bronx interests linked themselves to Manhattan. Their first efforts culminated in the 1874 annexation of Morrisania, West Farms, and Kingsbridge. Afterward, owners of land east of the Bronx River called for annexation of the towns of Westchester and portions of Eastchester and Pelham because, as the Record and Guide wrote, “these places “were” practically part of New York City as

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