Department of History

Fieldston School                                                                                                                                                                                             .

Inventing Gotham

 

 

The Lady or the Tiger, November 5, 1894, page 19

 

Document-Based Question : Consolidation and Greater New York

As you read the following documents pay close attention to what is being said and how each document might be used to construct an answer to the question below.  Be sure to note the source of each document – often who is speaking is as important as what is being said.

 

 

Answer the  following question using the documents below and your knowledge of the events surrounding consolidation:

 

Which individuals, groups and factions supported consolidation and which opposed it? Why? In the end, why does it pass?

 

 

 

Document A

Source: General Jeremiah Johnson (future Mayor of Brooklyn), 1834

 

Between New York and Brooklyn there is nothing in common, either in object, interest or feeling <ETH> unless it be the waters that flow between them. And even those waters, however frequently passed, must forever continue to form an insurmountable obstacle to their union. ––

 

 

Document B

Source: Consolidation Committee of the State legislature, 1834

 

If heaven breathes its blessing upon the procedure, you will lay the foundation of the most magnificent city in the universe.

 

 

Document C

The New York Tribune (a Republican newspaper), 1849

 

…[Consolidation would provide an] amicable and permanent settlement of the troublesome ferry question, the supplying of Brooklyn with Croton water, and the payment by our New York merchants who live there, of a fair proportion of the city's taxes.

 


Document D

Andrew H. Green

Old York Library


Source: Andrew H. Green

 

There is thus, in the world over, no other area of a hundred and fifty square miles whose welfare could be better promoted by one general administration.

 

Great as our interests in this result [consolidating the city] are, they are trivial in comparison with those which our example will affect throughout this country, the world, and history and without exaggeration it may be said that we owe it to ourselves, to all our countrymen, and perhaps even to mankind...

 

Document E

Source: popular joke.

 

"Why did British General Howe capture Brooklyn?"

"So he'd have a place to sleep before he took New York."

 

 

Document F

Source: Puck Magazine, 1894


  Selfish Objections to a Good Match. Brooklyn Politicians and newspapermen oppose NYC (man) marriage proposal to Brooklyn (woman)

 

 

Document G

Source: The Reverend R.S. Storrs, “Remarks at an anti-consolidation mass meeting, January 13, 1896,” in League of Loyal Citizens Pamphlet no. 6, p. 10

 

“It is a question, whether good government is possible in such an immense, shifting, heterogeneous population of three million...with a large proportion of recent immigrants, and into which the political sewage of Europe is being dumped every week...the Chrysotom of Brooklyn preferred to rely on Brooklyn’s comparatively homogeneous population, two thirds of which had been trained from childhood in American traditions, for good local government.”

 

Document H

Source: St. Clair McKelway, editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, printer’s proof of speech to the Montauk Club, March 11, 1893, McKelway Papers.

 

“We have no streets analogous to your Fifth Avenue, but neither have we any resembling those of your tenderloin district. With us are as yet no extremes of wealth or poverty; but the families of moderate means are becoming fewer with you.”

 

Document I

Source: Consolidation League

 

The Friends of Greater New York grew into the Consolidation League which numbered anywhere from 25,000 to 41,000 members. They offered the following twelve reasons for union in their summary pamphlets:

 

1.              A reduction of one half in our tax rate.

2.              An increase of capital for investment and lower interest on mortgage.

3.              Better and cheaper homes in our great vacant spaces.

4.              Increase of employment for labor and increased wages.

5.              Increase of prestige for all commercial and financial institutions.

6.              A healthy stimulus to all branches of business.

7.              Increased social prestige and civic pride in the Greater New York.

8.              A comprehensive system of public improvements, such as bridge, tunnels, water works, park, roadways, and a means of rapid transit.

9.              A new charter and better safeguards for good government.

10.            New life and vigor resulting from harmony.

11.            Leadership of American cities for Greater New York.

12.            Finally the honor and dignity of the first city of the world. (Schroth 109)

 

Document J

Source: League of Loyal Citizens

 

Those against consolidation were also basing their arguments for and against union on pride. They did not want to sully Brooklyn’s reputation as a hard working religious community by joining it with New York’s history of corruption. St. Clair McKelway, editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, was also a key player in the League of Loyal Citizens. They felt that “Old Brooklyn” deserved devotion and loyalty as can be seen by the arguments presented by a series of leders that the Brooklyn Eagle ran on its editorial pages:

 

*                Brooklyn is a city of homes and churches.

*                New York is a city of Tammany Hall and crime government.

*                Rents are twice as cheap in Brooklyn as in New York and homes are to be bought for a quarter of the money. The price of rule here is barely more than a third of what it is in New York.

*                Government here is by public opinion and for the public interest. If tied to New York, Brooklyn would be a Tammany suburb, to be kicked, looted and bossed as such.

*                Vote against consolidation now and let the speculators wait till a better time, when New York will offer something like fair terms. (Schroth 110)

 

 

Document K

Source: New York Times, May 1, 1888

 

Consolidation “is a question which often arises in the minds of citizens of New York who have faith in its future growth and in what Mayor Hewitt has called its “imperial destiny.”

 

 

Document L

Source: Results of the Consolidation Referendum of 1894

 

On November 6, 1894, the citizens of the proposed metropolis voted to voice their opinion on consolidation.

                                  

District For Against
New York County 96,938 59, 959
Kings County 64, 744     64, 467**
Queens County 7,712 4,741
Richmond County 5,531 1,505
Town of Westchester 374 206
Town of Eastchester 620 621
Town of Pelham 251 153
Total 176,170 131,706

NOTES:

The only places were a majority was anti-consolidation was in Flushing and the Town of Eastchester.

 

The Town of Mount Vernon also participated in the referendum at the request of its citizens. However, neither Green nor the Greater New York Commission ever sought to include it. The town voted against the measure.

 

**Numbers include towns annexed at the end of 1894 - without these towns Brooklyn proper voted against consolidation by 1,034 votes.