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New York City Politics

Governing Gotham

Bruce F. Berg

Publication Year: 2007

Most experts consider economic development to be the dominant factor influencing urban politics. They point to the importance of the finance and real estate industries, the need to improve the tax base, and the push to create jobs. Bruce F. Berg maintains that there are three forces which are equally important in New York City politics:

  • Economic development.
  • The city’s relationships with the state and the federal governments, which influence taxation, revenue, and public policy responsibilities.
  • New York City’s racial and ethnic diversity, resulting in calls for representation, recognition, and equity in the delivery of services.

Berg’s focus is on all three forces, as well as the interplay among them.

            Along the way, Berg covers a range of topics, including the Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg administrations; the battles over sports arenas; party politics; rising immigrant groups and the role of their leaders; changes to the city’s charter; and New York City politics in the post-9/11 era.

            An engaging look at the complex nature of urban politics, this book is the only one of its kind to offer a comprehensive narrative of the challenges, frustrations, and successes of New York’s governing institutions, and their prospects for meeting the city’s long-term needs.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I became interested in urban politics while taking courses with David Caputo at Purdue University and with Bernard Ross and Wayne Hoffman at American University. I was fortunate to be a graduate student studying urban politics at the time of the New York City fiscal crisis. At that point, my study of urban politics and New York City politics became nearly synonymous. Teaching and living in New...

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Chapter 1: Introduction

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pp. 1-19

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the governance of American cities is influenced by a variety of forces. These forces include the fiscal needs of the cities’ political systems and the constraints that affect the systems’ ability to raise revenue; the cities’ position in the American federal system; and the increasing...

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Chapter 2: The Economic Development Imperative

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pp. 20-57

As discussed in the previous chapter, the city’s attempt to build sports venues reflects a commitment to promoting economic growth across the city, even though there is frequently disagreement over the ways in which economic growth is being pursued. The city’s intent to promote economic growth and the diverse strategies it employs to do so have become institutionalized over the last...

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Chapter 3: The State and the City

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pp. 58-87

In chapter one, the role of the state Public Authorities Board in rejecting the Jets/Olympic Stadium and approving the Nets basketball arena was discussed. In chapter two, the state’s role in assisting the city with economic development was examined further. The state is involved in every aspect of city governance. Dillon’s Rule, discussed in chapter one, gives the state the ability to intervene in...

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Chapter 4: The Federal Government and the City

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pp. 88-119

New York City’s relationship with the federal government is very different from its relationship with New York State. As seen in the intergovernmental relationships surrounding the fiscal crisis, the federal government is not legally responsible for the actions of the city or its officials, while the state is. The federal response to the city during the fiscal crisis, similar to the response after the...

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Chapter 5: Racial and Ethnic Diversity

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pp. 120-159

Throughout New York City’s history, racial and ethnic groups have looked to advance themselves up the economic and political ladders. For reasons of discrimination, choices made by the group’s members, or circumstances connected to the economy and the political system when they arrived in the city, advancement up those ladders has not occurred at the same rate for each group. Groups...

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Chapter 6: Political Parties in New York City Governance

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pp. 160-179

Political parties structure the electoral process, the most important aspect of achieving democratic accountability in the governance of the city. Just as significant, however, the evolution of interparty as well as intraparty politics in New York City explains some of the shifts in attitudes of the political system toward issues of race and ethnicity. To a lesser extent, inter- and intraparty politics...

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Chapter 7: The Charter, the Mayor, and the Other Guys

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pp. 180-211

Chapter three discussed the control that the state can exercise over New York City. It discussed the concept of home rule whereby states give local governments limited authority to govern themselves. Home rule includes, in most cases, the power of the local entity to “frame, adopt and amend charters for their government and to exercise powers of local self government, subject to the constitution...

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Chapter 8: The City Council

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pp. 212-243

In 1993, Ronald Lauder, millionaire and cosmetics heir, initiated a campaign to place a charter amendment before the voters in November calling for term limits for all city elected officials. In 1989, Lauder had unsuccessfully run for mayor, losing to Rudolph Giuliani in the Republican primary even though he spent approximately fourteen million dollars, four times more than Giuliani (Roberts 1993a)...

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Chapter 9: The Municipal Bureaucracy

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pp. 244-280

The primary role of the city’s executive branch is to implement the laws and programs created by the legislative branch in conjunction with the chief executive or responsibilities granted in the city charter. Since New York City is a unit of local government, some of the laws and programs being implemented or administered by its executive branch are created by the state legislature and governor...

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Chapter 10: Conclusion

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pp. 281-292

This final chapter will address three themes related to the governance of New York City. First, it will summarize the impact of the economic growth imperative, federal and state relations with the city, and racial and ethnic diversity on the governance of the city. Second, the prospect that forces, other than the three emphasized in this discussion, are influencing the governance of the city will be...


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pp. 293-322


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pp. 323-338

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813543895
E-ISBN-10: 0813543894
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813541907

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2007