The History of the New York City Legislature

By Frederick Shaw | Go to book overview

3. HOME RULE, 1924-1937

A city is not a province to be administered by some outside authority, but a government.--HORACE DEMING1

UNTIL 1924 New York was not a self-governing community. The city legislature could exercise no authority whatever without a grant of power from the state. And from the state legislature at Albany flowed a continuous stream of special or local laws. Charter-revising legislation was enacted in such numbers that New York's charter became a "thing of shreds and patches." In 1921 a charter revision commission published a volume of digests of special laws of the legislature pertaining to New York City which filled 1300 pages in fine print. Nor did the state legislature confine itself to delimiting the powers of the municipal government. A large proportion of its time was spent in passing special legislation dealing in minute detail with the organization and operation of city governments. One local law increased the space in New York City's Hall of Records to be allotted to the Register and Commissioner of Records from 10,000 to 40,000 feet. Another abolished the grade of doorman in the New York Police Department.2

For two generations various officials and official bodies in the state condemned the recourse of individuals to the state legislature for special bills as a serious abuse. The New York Charter Revision Commission of 1907, for example, scored the "frequent legislative interventions which have practically destroyed all self-government, created more local mischief than they have

____________________
1
The Government of American Cities ( New York, 1909), p. 153.
2
Report of Chart. Rev. Comm. of 1907, p. 11; Home Rule for New York City ( New York, 1916), unpaged; Joseph D. McGoldrick, "Home Rule in New York State," American Political Science Review, XIX ( 1925), 695.

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