The City of Greater New York was the term used by many politicians and scholars for the expanded City of New York created on January 1, 1898, by consolidating the existing City of New York with the East Bronx, Brooklyn, western Queens County, and Staten Island. The section of the Bronx west of the Bronx River had been annexed to the City and County of New York in 1874 and was known as the Annexed District.
In the years leading up to consolidation, the City of Brooklyn had expanded by annexing all of the other towns and cities in Kings County. Only the western part of Queens County was part of the consolidation plan. In 1899, its three eastern towns separated to form the new Nassau County.
While remaining a county in relation to the state, each county became a borough within the city, with the Bronx reunited to form a fifth borough that shared New York County with Manhattan. A separate Bronx County was established in 1914, making the present New York County co-extensive with the Borough of Manhattan.
The term City of Greater New York was never a legal or official designation as both the original charter of 1898 and the newer one of 1938 use the name of City of New York. It is still used in modern-day books relating or including the time period when the consolidation took place.
Since the late 1820s there had been some discussion of a unified city, with the New York State legislature voting in 1857 that the region surrounding New York City should become one more efficient body. They attempted to do so by government vote, in order to improve harbor facilities and link the systems of trade, but distrust of large projects killed the plans. The consolidation movement was the work of politicians both local, city, and state, most prominently the president of the "Greater New-York Commission" and "The Father of Greater New York"Andrew Haswell Green. He was a member of the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, which provided him a platform to push his views.
The next challenge to the independence of the boroughs was a self-promoted and government-appointed commission. The commission led the "Vote for Greater New York" movement and was the force behind it coming to fruition. Some opponents derided the effort as "Andy Green's hobby," but eventually they were proven wrong. The center of the plan was the consolidation of the twin cities of New York and Brooklyn, whose fire departments had been merged into a Metropolitan Fire District in 1865. The addition of Long Island City and various rural areas anticipated future development of those areas. With Republicans historically more powerful in Brooklyn and Democrats elsewhere, partisan politics played a role, each major political party hoping to dominate the consolidated city.
The plan required a referendum in all affected areas, though the organizers of the referendum clearly had a bias towards the consolidation. They even released a full page advertisement in The New York Times before the vote took place, urging them to vote "For Consolidation".
Opposition, concentrated in Brooklyn and other outlying districts, focused on loss of local control and fears of ethnic and racial minorities. Independence-minded Brooklynites did not want their regional identity to be overtaken by New York. Some newspapers such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle argued that consolidation would destroy the mostly homogenous, Protestant character of the city. Opposing newspapers were accused of seeking to retain the revenues of official advertising, while opposing politicians were accused of graft. Concerns over how Brooklyn's water supply would be maintained and how future financial backing would be possible were legitimate. Considerations of finance and water supply prevailed, and the people of Brooklyn voted by a narrow margin to consolidate.
Since the enlarged city contained the majority of the state of New York's population, and the enlargement increased the city's already enormous power within the state, the state legislature established certain oversight powers within the city. For example, some issues of taxation and changes in governmental procedures require state approval or granting of specific home rule powers.
Conversely, the State Constitution was amended to provide that no city could elect the majority of the State Assembly, a provision later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The New York City Board of Estimate, created in the consolidation charter with equal votes for each borough, was struck down on similar grounds in 1989.
Staten Island is geographically the most distant of the five boroughs, linked to the other four only by a single bridge and a ferry. In 1993 it held a non-binding referendum on the issue of seceding from New York City to become an independent city and county. Ultimately, 65% of Staten island residents voted to secede, through the approval of a new city charter making Staten Island an independent city, but implementation was blocked in the State Assembly. The Staten Island secession movement was defused by the simultaneous election of Rudy Giuliani as New York City mayor, who fulfilled two of the borough's biggest demands: the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill and making the Staten Island Ferry free.[a]
North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and the rest of Hempstead were excluded from the vote.
The area included a radius of twenty miles, with the city hall in New York as a center to circumscribe it