On May 4, 1897, the charter of "Greater New York" becomes law. It is entitled,
"An act to unite into one municipality under the corporate name of the City of New York, the various communities lying in and about New York harbor, including the City and County of New York, the City of Brooklyn and the County of Kings, the County of Richmond, and part of the County of Queens, and to provide for the government thereof."
The new city was comprised of five boroughs of Manhattan (New York County), Borough of The Bronx, Brooklyn (Kings County), Queens (Queens County), and Staten Island (Richmond County), totaling 359 square miles. The population around this time was 3.1 million and was expanding rapidly due to massive immigration and growing industries at the turn of the century. The future New York City was the second largest city in the world, exceeded only by London.
A call for consolidating the city and outlying communities first seriously began in 1868. Champions of consolidation feared that other booming urban areas would surpass New York City into second place among the nation's great cities. Advocates of independence argued that consolidation would cause Brooklyn to lose its identity, becoming a mere appendage of New York City. Brooklyn was the nation's third largest city at the time.
A member of the Board of Commissioners of Central Park introduced the idea. Andrew H. Green, later known as "the Father of Greater New York" made an eloquent plea before the Legislature for the creation of a greater city. A commission to study consolidation was created as a result, and although the plan presented several bills for the creation, each was defeated. Finally, in 1894, Mayor Thomas F. Gilroy told the Common Council it was the destiny of the city to be enlarged to encompass the metropolitan area. After several vetoes, the Charter was finally approved by the new Governor Frank S. Black, on May 4, 1897.
THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE is the Mayor, to be elected for a four-year term at the general election in November, 1897; it is to be noted that this is the "off-year," not the year for federal and state elections. Administrative departments under the Mayor include law, police, water supply, highways, street cleaning, sewers, public buildings, lighting and supplies, bridges, parks, buildings, public charities, correction, fire, docks and ferries, taxes and assessments, education, and health. At the head of each is a commissioner or a board.
LEGISLATIVE POWER is vested in "The Municipal Assembly of the City of New York," comprising a council and a board of aldermen. The former is to have 28 members, elected from "council districts" for a term of four years, plus a president to be chosen on a general ticket. The latter is to receive $5,000 salary, the other members, $1,500. Every ex-Mayor of "The City of New York," so long as he remains a resident, shall be entitled to a seat in the Council without a vote.
ALL ORDINANCES or resolutions are subject to the Mayor's veto, but may be passed over the veto by a two-thirds vote in each branch, provided that "in case the ordinance or resolution involves the expenditure of money, the creation of a debt, the laying of an assessment, or the grant of a franchise," it shall require a five-sixths vote. Among other powers specifically authorized are the acquisition of additional water-works, restricting the height of buildings to be hereafter erected, granting franchises (limited to 25 years) for street railways, and the maintenance and regulation of ferries.
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