To Consolidate or Not to Consolidate
That is the Question
By Stanley Abel and Allen Mintz

Some time ago Henry Stevens sent me this entire because he knew of my interest in this issue.

What the meaning of the inscription was neither of us knew.  My co-author, Stanley Abel, a history buff and New Yorker knew that it referred to an historical event of the City of New York.

At the end of the nineteenth century New York, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island were all independent cities.  New York was an affluent business community and the others were bedroom or farm communities with serious financial problems.  For instance, the tax rate in New York was $1.82 and in Brooklyn was $2.85 per hundred dollars of assessed value.

New York was fifty five million dollars below its debt limit while Brooklyn did not have enough money to pay for water and sewer lines that were needed.  The idea behind consolidation was that by combining the communities, the outflow of tax monies from New York would give the other towns the cash to do necessary improvements while lowering their tax rate.

Andres Graves had first broached this idea in 1868, but nothing was done about it.  The New York State Chamber of Commerce, New York’s Mayor Abram S. Hewitt, and the State Legislature approved it in 1888.  On the other hand The Loyal League of Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Eagle argued that the consolidation would destroy the homogenous community that existed.  Of course the property owners in these communities were all for consolidation because it would lower their taxes.

In 1894 all areas concerned voted on the plan in a nonbinding referendum.  Except in two small towns in Queens the plan won.

In 1895 the Governor approved the plan and New York annexed the areas.  By this annexation the City of New York increased its population from 2 million to 3.4 million and became the most populous city in the United States.

References for this article were:

GOTHAM by E. G. Burrows and published by Oxford University Press 1999

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NEW YORK CITY Edited by K. T. Jackson and published by Yale University Press 1995

Website Designed by: Hatch Creative, LLC