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Governing New York City

Governing New York City: Politics in the Metropolis

Copyright Date: 1960
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 836
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  • Book Info
    Governing New York City
    Book Description:

    This widely acclaimed study of political power in a metropolitan community portrays the political system in its entirety and in balance-and retains much of the drama, the excitement, and the special style of New York City. It discusses the stakes and rules of the city's politics, and the individuals, groups, and official agencies influencing government action.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-686-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-xviii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 1-8)
    Wallace S. Sayre and Herbert Kaufman
  4. Part One Background and Setting

    • CHAPTER I Birth and Growth of the Greater City
      (pp. 11-38)

      The census of 1890 did more than mark the end of the frontier in the United States. It disclosed also that the nation’s three largest cities were closely crowding each other for the coveted honor of first place: New York City with a million five hundred thousand people, Chicago with a million one hundred thousand, Philadelphia with a million fifty thousand. Chicago was coming up fast; no one could predict how the census of 1900 might rank the urban giants.

      But two years before the census takers of 1900 began their canvass, a new urban phenomenon had been created. “Greater”...

    • CHAPTER II The Stakes and Prizes of the City’s Politics
      (pp. 39-66)

      Nearly everyone in the city takes some part in the city’s political and governmental system. Taking part in “politics”—that is, engaging in deliberate efforts to determine who gets public office (whether elective or appointive) and to influence what public officials and employees do—is an almost universal vocation among New Yorkers. Not all participate to the same extent or with the same intensity, and many of them are unaware that they are participating in politics at all, except as voters on Election Day. But in fact they are engaging in the city’s political process in many other ways—as...

    • CHAPTER III Contestants for the Prizes of the City’s Politics
      (pp. 67-91)

      As one might expect from the nature of the stakes, there is, within the context of agreement that unites the people of the city, a steady and vigorous competition for the rewards of political action.

      The contestants fall into five groups: the party leaders, the public officials, the bureaucracies, the nongovernmental groups (including the press and the other mass media of communication), and the officials and bureaucracies of the state and federal governments involved in city affairs.

      None of these categories is monolithic. Each has several components, and each component functions with considerable autonomy, although some categories have a nominal...

    • CHAPTER IV Rules of the Contest
      (pp. 92-118)

      The stakes of the city’s politics are high, the contestants plentiful and determined. Consequently, despite the broad consensus under which the quest for the stakes of politics is conducted in the city, the contest might deteriorate into a shapeless, even violent, free-for-all if it were not for the existence and wide acceptance by the participants of rules that give form and order to the processes of the city’s government and politics.

      The rules governing the city’s political contest are a complex web. Constitutional provisions, federal and state statutes, the city charter, the city’s Administrative Code, numerous executive orders and administrative...

  5. Part Two Strategies of the Contestants:: Efforts to Determine Who Gets Public Office and Employment

    • CHAPTER V The Structure and Operation of Nominating Machinery
      (pp. 121-166)

      Occupants of elective public office are, as noted earlier, among the chief factors determining who gets what stakes of politics. The formal powers of elected officials place them in a position to exercise considerable influence in the formulation of major public decisions, and they appoint or control officers and employees influential in the formation of lesser policies. Hence, one of the more obvious strategies of contestants for the prizes of political action is to get elective office for themselves when they can, or at least to use all the strength they can summon to secure the election of persons whose...

    • CHAPTER VI Elections
      (pp. 167-211)

      Only the electorate can formally and legitimately decide who will occupy the elective seats of government. Parties and “independent bodies” merely offer candidates; the electorate makes the final choices among the candidates. Even in the sections of the country where there is only one party to speak of, this ritual of democratic practice is preserved. Where an element of competition exists, the practice is far more than mere ritual. It is a real exercise of substantial power. Parties, candidates, and groups of every kind can entreat, implore, deceive, and even coerce voters, but only the voters can decide the outcome...

    • CHAPTER VII Appointments and Removals
      (pp. 212-246)

      More officials are appointed to office—some of them by elected officials, some by other higher-ranking appointed officials—than are elected. All those positions occupied by the people usually described as “employees” of the governments in the city are also filled by appointment. Thus the process of appointment to public office or to public employment pervades the politics and government of the city.

      The appointing officers see the offices and positions which they are dispensing from one angle of vision; the groups seeking to influence the appointing process see the offices and positions from a quite different perspective; and the...

  6. Part Three Strategies of the Contestants:: Shaping Governmental Decisions

    • CHAPTER VIII Administrators of the Line Agencies
      (pp. 249-319)

      Many prizes of politics, it was noted earlier, are commonly contained and distributed in governmental decisions affecting public services, financial benefits, and costs to the people of the city. For this reason, many groups organize to participate in the governmental process, seeking by their strategies to determine the nature of the governmental decisions relevant to their own situations.

      These participants are most often concerned with the official behavior of the line agencies—that is, the administrative agencies in direct contact with all or part of the populace that perform the regulatory, enforcement, and service functions of government. The immediate targets...

    • CHAPTER IX Officials of Special Authorities
      (pp. 320-348)

      Until 1921 when one spoke of a state or local public agency in New York State it was fairly clear that the reference was either to a line or overhead agency of the state government or to one of its political subdivisions (including school districts). Then a new governmental form appeared on the scene—new, that is, to New York State, although the government corporation device, to which public authorities are related, had been used earlier by the federal government and by some foreign governments. But the prototype of the authorities in New York State was the Port of London...

    • CHAPTER X Leaders of the Overhead Agencies
      (pp. 349-401)

      The leaders of the overhead agencies of the city government are important participants in the political process. The prizes they distribute flow from their assignment to exercise close supervision and influence over many types of decisions by the line agency administrators, their capacity to influence the decisions of the Mayor and the Board of Estimate on many matters, and the fact that they direct a significant number of line operations in their own agencies. In doing all these things, the overhead agencies exert influence not only on each other and on the constituencies which each acquires but also on the...

    • CHAPTER XI The Leaders of the Organized City Bureaucracies
      (pp. 402-451)

      The bureaucrats in the city government are important participants in the city’s politics. Like the other participants—the party leaders, the elected and appointed officials, the leaders of nongovernmental groups—they seek to influence a wide range of governmental decisions which have special relevance to their interests. Some they can influence as individual members of the city’s numerous administrative agencies. Opportunities for individual influence vary from agency to agency and are greatly affected by the rank and status of the bureaucrat. For the most part, the bureaucrats influence the decisions of the city government through their efforts as organized groups:...

    • CHAPTER XII Party Leaders and Governmental Decisions
      (pp. 452-480)

      Party leaders give most of their energy and attention to the decisions governing nominations, elections, and appointments—that is, to the decisions determining who shall hold office. But they are not indifferent to other types of governmental decisions, especially any that affect their influence over the nominating, electing, and appointing processes. The interest of party leaders in public policy seems to vary directly with its possible effect upon their role in choosing officials. In fact, this perception of their relation to public policy impels party leaders to be most concerned with discrete aspects of policy and its application rather than...

    • CHAPTER XIII Nongovernmental Groups and Governmental Action
      (pp. 481-521)

      People turn to their governments to obtain protection and services not conveniently obtainable in the market place or elsewhere. Consequently, what governments—public officers and employees—do is important to them. Naturally they try to influence the decisions of officeholders in all levels and all branches of government, organizing themselves into groups for this purpose, or employing groups established with other ends in view. Nongovernmental groups have thus become major elements in government and politics in New York City.

      All groups are not equally concerned with all aspects of government or with all governmental decisions. Those with a broad range...

    • CHAPTER XIV Courts and Politics
      (pp. 522-557)

      Like all other governmental officials and employees engaged in the quest for the stakes of political contest, judges and their staffs are both claimants and distributors. The special character of the judicial process sets them apart from those whose primary functions are the formulation and management of government programs, so they are most conveniently treated separately. Nevertheless, they are participants in the political contest, involved as fully as all the others who take part in it. Many individuals and groups expend a great deal of energy trying to influence court personnel (from judges down); judges and other court personnel, in...

    • CHAPTER XV Officials of Other Governments in the City’s Political Process
      (pp. 558-606)

      The officials of the governments of New York State, the United States, and of neighboring states and localities are deeply involved in the government and politics of New York City. This is due to the dependence of all the major components of a modern industrial society upon each other, an interdependence engendered by the economic, transportation, and communication systems. A more specific reason, however, is the division and sharing of powers, functions, and responsibilities among the city, the higher levels of government, and adjacent units of government. For both these reasons, officials and employees of other governments are constantly drawn,...

    • CHAPTER XVI The Council
      (pp. 607-625)

      “The council,” provides the city charter, “shall be vested with the legislative power of the city, and shall be the local legislative body of the city, with the sole power to adopt local laws….” It consists of 25 councilmen, each elected from Councilmanic Districts coterminous with state Senatorial Districts in the city, plus the President of the City Council, who is elected on a citywide basis. Nine councilmen are from Brooklyn, six from Manhattan, five from The Bronx, four from Queens, and one from Richmond, all elected at the same time as the Mayor for four-year terms. Their basic salary...

    • CHAPTER XVII The Board of Estimate
      (pp. 626-656)

      The Board of Estimate occupies the center of gravity in the city’s political process. Almost all other participants ultimately converge upon the Board because of the inclusiveness of its powers. The other participants may begin their efforts elsewhere—with the party leaders, or the Mayor, or department heads—but because the Board’s consent is so often necessary before an action can be taken, most participants eventually must come to the Board. Some contestants prefer to begin with the Board.

      The Board also provides, in its biweekly public meetings, the central stage for the city’s political contest. On no other occasion...

    • CHAPTER XVIII The Mayor
      (pp. 657-706)

      The office of mayor, like the presidency and the governorship, is an institution of many purposes, the object of many expectations from the city’s citizens, officials, party leaders, bureaucrats, and interest groups, and the source of both rewards and frustrations for its incumbent. But above all these variations and inconsistencies, the office of Mayor is first and fundamentally a symbol of unity for the city. The Mayor and his office are the visible expression of the city, its personification as an organized community, its leading ceremonial figure on occasions of state.

      Yet the Mayor has a still more important role...

  7. Part Four Conclusions

    • CHAPTER XIX Risks, Rewards, and Remedies
      (pp. 709-738)

      A full view and a fair judgment of New York City’s many-faceted political and governmental system has been a matter of national as well as local debate for at least a century and a half. Historians and journalists, statesmen and politicians, social scientists and other analysts, writers in verse and prose have all been fascinated by the power, the variety, the size, and the significance of the city, its politics, and its government. But they have not achieved consensus. The city in the nation, the city in the state, the city in its metropolitan region, the city as a city,...

  8. Appendices

    • APPENDIX A Memoirs, Biographies, and Autobiographies Of Prominent New Yorkers
      (pp. 741-745)
    • APPENDIX B Sources of Information About New York City
      (pp. 746-752)
    • APPENDIX C Governmental Organization Within the City of New York
      (pp. 753-790)
      Robert H. Connery
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 791-815)