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American Dictators

Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine

Steven Hart

One man was tongue-tied and awkward around women, in many ways a mama's boy at heart, although his reputation for thuggery was well earned. The other was a playboy, full of easy charm and ready jokes, his appetite for high living a matter of public record. One man tolerated gangsters and bootleggers as long as they paid their dues to his organization. The other was effectively a gangster himself, so crooked that he hosted a national gathering of America's most ruthless killers. One man never drank alcohol. The other, from all evidence, seldom drank anything else.

American Dictators is the dual biography of two of America’s greatest political bosses: Frank Hague and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Packed with compelling information and written in an informal, sometimes humorous style, the book shows Hague and Johnson at the peak of their power and the strength of their political machines during the years of Prohibition and the Great Depression. Steven Hart compares how both men used their influence to benefit and punish the local citizenry, amass huge personal fortunes, and sometimes collaborate to trounce their enemies.

Similar in their ruthlessness, both men were very different in appearance and temperament. Hague, the mayor of Jersey City, intimidated presidents and wielded unchallenged power for three decades. He never drank and was happily married to his wife for decades. He also allowed gangsters to run bootlegging and illegal gambling operations as long as they paid protection money. Johnson, the political boss of Atlantic City, and the inspiration for the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, presided over corruption as well, but for a shorter period of time. He was notorious for his decadent lifestyle. Essentially a gangster himself, Johnson hosted the infamous Atlantic City conference that fostered the growth of organized crime.

Both Hague and Johnson shrewdly integrated otherwise disenfranchised groups into their machines and gave them a stake in political power. Yet each failed to adapt to changing demographics and circumstances. In American Dictators, Hart paints a balanced portrait of their accomplishments and their failures.

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Battleground New Jersey

Vanderbilt, Hague, and Their Fight for Justice

Nelson Johnson

New Jersey’s legal system was plagued with injustices from the time the system was established through the mid-twentieth century. In Battleground New Jersey, historian and author of Boardwalk Empire, Nelson Johnson chronicles reforms to the system through the dramatic stories of Arthur T. Vanderbilt—the first chief justice of the state’s modern-era Supreme Court—and Frank Hague—legendary mayor of Jersey City. Two of the most powerful politicians in twentieth-century America, Vanderbilt and Hague clashed on matters of public policy and over the need to reform New Jersey’s antiquated and corrupt court system. Their battles made headlines and eventually led to legal reform, transforming New Jersey’s court system into one of the most highly regarded in America.



Vanderbilt’s power came through mastering the law, serving as dean of New York University Law School, preaching court reform as president of the American Bar Association, and organizing suburban voters before other politicians recognized their importance. Hague, a remarkably successful sixth-grade dropout, amassed his power by exploiting people’s foibles, crushing his rivals, accumulating a fortune through extortion, subverting the law, and taking care of business in his own backyard. They were different ethnically, culturally, and temperamentally, but they shared the goals of power.


Relying upon previously unexamined personal files of Vanderbilt, Johnson’s engaging chronicle reveals the hatred the lawyer had for the mayor and the lengths Vanderbilt went to in an effort to destroy Hague. Battleground New Jersey illustrates the difficulty in adapting government to a changing world, and the vital role of independent courts in American society. 

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Courting Justice

Ten New Jersey Cases That Shook the Nation

Edited by Paul L. Tractenberg with a Foreword by Deborah T. Poritz

Since 1947 a modernized New Jersey Supreme Court has played an important and controversial role in the state, nation, and world.  Its decisions in cutting-edge cases have confronted society’s toughest issues, reflecting changing social attitudes, modern life’s complexities, and new technologies.

Paul Tractenberg has selected ten of the court’s landmark decisions between 1960 and 2011 to illustrate its extensive involvement in major public issues, and to assess its impact. Each case chapter is authored by a distinguished academic or professional expert, several of whom were deeply involved in the cases’ litigation, enabling them to provide special insights. An overview chapter provides context for the court’s distinctive activity.

Many of the cases are so widely known that they have become part of the national conversation about law and policy. In the Karen Ann Quinlan decision, the court determined the right of privacy extends to refusing life-sustaining treatment. The Baby M case reined in surrogate parenting and focused on the child’s best interests. In the Mount Laurel decision, the court sought to increase affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents throughout the state. The Megan’s Law case upheld legal regulation of sex offender community notification. A series of decisions known as Abbott/Robinson required the state to fund poor urban school districts at least on par with suburban districts.

Other less well known cases still have great public importance. Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors reshaped product liability and tort law to protect consumers injured by defective cars; State v. Hunt shielded privacy rights from unwarranted searches beyond federal standards; Lehmann v. Toys ‘R’ Us protected employees from sexual harassment and a hostile work environment; Right to Choose v. Byrne expanded state constitutional abortion rights beyond the federal constitution; and Marini v. Ireland protected low-income tenants against removal from their homes.   

For some observers, the New Jersey Supreme Court represents the worst of judicial activism; others laud it for being, in its words, “the designated last-resort guarantor of the Constitution's command.” For Tractenberg, the court’s activism means it tends to find for the less powerful over the more powerful and for the public good against private interests, an approach he applauds.

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Envisioning New Jersey

An Illustrated History of the Garden State

By Maxine Lurie and Richard Veit

See New Jersey history as you read about it! Envisioning New Jersey brings together 650 spectacular images that illuminate the course of the state’s history, from prehistoric times to the present. Readers may think they know New Jersey’s history—the state’s increasing diversity, industrialization, and suburbanization—but the visual record presented here dramatically deepens and enriches that knowledge. Maxine N. Lurie and Richard F. Veit, two leading authorities on New Jersey history, present a smorgasbord of informative pictures, ranging from paintings and photographs to documents and maps. Portraits of George Washington and Molly Pitcher from the Revolution, battle flags from the War of 1812 and the Civil War, women air raid wardens patrolling the streets of Newark during World War II, the Vietnam War Memorial—all show New Jerseyans fighting for liberty. There are also pictures of Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to vote after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment; Paul Robeson marching for civil rights; university students protesting in the 1960s; and Martin Luther King speaking at Monmouth University. The authors highlight the ethnic and religious variety of New Jersey inhabitants with images that range from Native American arrowheads and fishing implements, to Dutch and German buildings, early African American churches and leaders, and modern Catholic and Hindu houses of worship. Here, too, are the great New Jersey innovators from Thomas Edison to the Bell Labs scientists who worked on transistors. Compiled by the authors of New Jersey: A History of the Garden State, this volume is intended as an illustrated companion to that earlier volume. Envisioning New Jersey also stands on its own because essays synthesizing each era accompany the illustrations. A fascinating gold mine of images from the state’s past, Envisioning New Jersey is the first illustrated book on the Garden State that covers its complete history, capturing the amazing transformation of New Jersey over time.

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In the Godfather Garden

The Long Life and Times of Richie "the Boot" Boiardo

Richard Linnett

In the Godfather Garden is the true story of the life of Richie “the Boot” Boiardo, one of the most powerful and feared men in the New Jersey underworld. The Boot cut his teeth battling the Jewish gang lord Abner Longy Zwillman on the streets of Newark during Prohibition and endured to become one of the East Coast’s top mobsters, his reign lasting six decades.

To the press and the police, this secretive Don insisted he was nothing more than a simple man who enjoyed puttering about in his beloved vegetable garden on his Livingston, New Jersey, estate. In reality, the Boot was a confidante and kingmaker of politicians, a friend of such celebrities as Joe DiMaggio and George Raft, an acquaintance of Joseph Valachi—who informed on the Boot in 1963—and a sworn enemy of J. Edgar Hoover.

The Boot prospered for more than half a century, remaining an active boss until the day he died at the age of ninety-three. Although he operated in the shadow of bigger Mafia names across the Hudson River (think Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, a cofounder of the Mafia killer squad Murder Inc. with Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro), the Boot was equally as brutal and efficient. In fact, there was a mysterious place in the gloomy woods behind his lovely garden—a furnace where many thought the Boot took certain people who were never seen again.

Richard Linnett provides an intimate look inside the Boot’s once-powerful Mafia crew, based on the recollections of a grandson of the Boot himself and complemented by never-before-published family photos. Chronicled here are the Prohibition gang wars in New Jersey as well as the murder of Dutch Schultz, a Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Newark mayor Kenneth Gibson, and the mob connections to several prominent state politicians.

Although the Boot never saw the 1972 release of The Godfather, he appreciated the similarities between the character of Vito Corleone and himself, so much so that he hung a sign in his beloved vegetable garden that read “The Godfather Garden.” There’s no doubt he would have relished David Chase’s admission that his muse in creating the HBO series The Sopranos was none other than “Newark’s erstwhile Boiardo crew.”

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Inside Newark

Decline, Rebellion, and the Search for Transformation

Robert Curvin

For decades, leaders in Newark, New Jersey, have claimed their city is about to return to its vibrant past. How accurate is this prediction? Is Newark on the verge of revitalization? Robert Curvin, who was one of New Jersey’s outstanding civil rights leaders, examines the city, chronicling its history, politics, and culture. Throughout the pages of Inside Newark, Curvin approaches his story both as an insider who is rooting for Newark and as an objective social scientist illuminating the causes and effects of sweeping changes in the city

Based on historical records and revealing interviews with over one hundred residents and officials, Inside Newark traces Newark’s history from the 1950s, when the city was a thriving industrial center, to the era of Mayor Cory Booker. Along the way, Curvin covers the disturbances of July 1967, called a riot by the media and a rebellion by residents; the administration of Kenneth Gibson, the first black mayor of a large northeastern city; and the era of Sharpe James, who was found guilty of corruption. Curvin examines damaging housing and mortgage policies, the state takeover of the failing school system, the persistence of corruption and patronage, Newark’s shifting ethnic and racial composition, positive developments in housing and business complexes, and the reign of ambitious mayor Cory Booker.

Inside Newark reveals a central weakness that continues to plague Newark—that throughout this history, elected officials have not risen to the challenges they have faced.  Curvin calls on those in positions of influence to work for the social and economic improvement of all groups and concludes with suggestions for change, focusing on education reform, civic participation, financial management, partnerships with agencies and business, improving Newark’s City Council, and limiting the term of the mayor. If Newark’s leadership can encompass these changes, Newark will have a chance at a true turnaround. 

Watch a video with Robert Curvin:

Watch video now. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-d6zV2OQ8A).

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New Brunswick, New Jersey

The Decline and Revitalization of Urban America

By David Listoken, Dorothea Berkhout, and James Hughes

While many older American cities struggle to remain vibrant, New Brunswick has transformed itself, adapting to new forms of commerce and a changing population, and enjoying a renaissance that has led many experts to cite this New Jersey city as a model for urban redevelopment. Featuring more than 100 remarkable photographs and many maps, New Brunswick, New Jersey explores the history of the city since the sixteenth century, with an emphasis on the dramatic changes of the past few decades. Using oral histories, archival materials, census data, and surveys, authors David Listokin, Dorothea Berkhout, and James W. Hughes illuminate the decision-making and planning process that led to New Brunswick’s dramatic revitalization, describing the major redevelopment projects that demonstrate the city’s success in capitalizing on funding opportunities. These projects include the momentous decision of Johnson & Johnson to build its world headquarters in the city, the growth of a theater district, the expansion of Rutgers University into the downtown area, and the destruction and rebuilding of public housing. But while the authors highlight the positive effects of the transformation, they also explore the often heated controversies about demolishing older neighborhoods and ask whether new building benefits residents. Shining a light on both the successes and failures in downtown revitalization, they underscore the lessons to be learned for national urban policy, highlighting the value of partnerships, unwavering commitment, and local leadership. Today, New Brunswick’s skyline has been dramatically altered by new office buildings, residential towers, medical complexes, and popular cultural centers. This engaging volume explores the challenges facing urban America, while also providing a specific case study of a city’s quest to raise its economic fortunes and retool its economy to changing needs.

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New Jersey Politics and Government

The Suburbs Come of Age

Barbara G. Salmore

This fourth edition is thoroughly updated to reflect the challenges New Jersey has overcome and those it continues to face: sustaining growth and opportunity in a multicultural society, providing quality education, and protecting the environment. State politics and government have been almost entirely reshaped in recent decades, and those changes are analyzed in every chapter of this edition.

Offering a comprehensive overview of New Jersey politics and government, chapters cover the state’s political history; campaigns and elections; interest groups; the constitution; the development of government institutions; relationships with neighboring states, the federal government, and its own municipalities and counties; tax and spending policies; education; and quality of life issues.

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Rutgers since 1945

A History of the State University of New Jersey

Paul G. E. Clemens with an essay by Carla Yanni

In the 1940s, Rutgers was a small liberal arts college for men. Today, it is a major public research university, a member of the Big Ten and of the prestigious Association of American Universities. In Rutgers since 1945, historian Paul G. E. Clemens chronicles this remarkable transition, with emphasis on the eras from the cold war, to the student protests of the 1960s and 1970s, to the growth of political identity on campus, and to the increasing commitment to big-time athletics, all just a few of the innumerable newsworthy elements that have driven Rutgers’s evolution. 
 
After exploring major events in Rutgers’s history from World War II to the present, Clemens moves to specific themes, including athletics, popular culture, student life, and campus dissent. Other chapters provide snapshots of campus life and activism, the school’s growing strength as a research institution, the impact of Title IX on opportunities for women student athletes, and the school’s public presence as reflected in its longstanding institutions. Rutgers since 1945 also features an illustrated architectural analysis, written by art historian Carla Yanni, of residence halls, which house more students than at any other college in the nation.
 
Throughout the volume, Clemens aims to be balanced, but he does not shy away from mentioning the many conflicts, crises, and tensions that have shaped the university. While the book focuses largely on the New Brunswick campus, attention is paid to the Camden and Newark campuses as well. Frequently broadening the lens, Clemens contextualizes the events at Rutgers in relation to American higher education overall, explaining which developments are unique and which are part of larger trends. In celebration of the university’s 250th anniversary, Rutgers since 1945 tells the story of the contemporary changes that have shaped one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the country.

 
Table of Contents
1    Becoming a State University: The Presidencies of Robert Clothier, Lewis Webster Jones, and Mason Gross
2    Rutgers Becomes a Research University: The Presidency of Edward J. Bloustein
3    Negotiating Excellence: The Presidencies of Francis L. Lawrence and Richard L. McCormick
4    Student Life
5    Residence Hall Architecture at Rutgers: Quadrangles, High-Rises, and the Changing Shape of Student Life, by Carla Yanni
6    Student Protest
7    Research at Rutgers
8    A Place Called Rutgers: Glee Club, Student Newspaper, Libraries, University Press, Art Galleries
9    Women’s Basketball
10  Athletic Policy
11  Epilogue

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Soft Corruption

How Unethical Conduct Undermines Good Government and What To Do About It

William E. Schluter

New Jersey has long been a breeding ground for political corruption, and most of it is perfectly legal. Public officials accept favors from lobbyists, give paid positions to relatives, and rig the electoral process to favor their cronies in a system where campaign money is used to buy government results. Such unethical behavior is known as “soft corruption,” and former New Jersey legislator William E. Schluter has been fighting it for the past fifty years.
 
In this searing personal narrative, the former state senator recounts his fight to expose and reform these acts of government misconduct. Not afraid to cite specific cases of soft corruption in New Jersey politics, he paints a vivid portrait of public servants who care more about political power and personal gain than the public good. By recounting events that he witnessed firsthand in the Garden State, he provides dramatic illustrations of ills that afflict American politics nationwide.
 
As he identifies five main forms of soft corruption, Schluter diagnoses the state government’s ethical malaise, and offers concrete policy suggestions for how it might be cured. Not simply a dive through the muck of New Jersey politics, Soft Corruption is an important first step to reforming our nation’s political system, a book that will inspire readers to demand that our elected officials can and must do better.

Visit: www.softcorruption.com (http://www.softcorruption.com)
 

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