Home Rule Politics in New York

Sam Roberts’s recent New York Times article on the fractious relationship between New York City and the state government in Albany points to a host of issues I have studied, including how home rule doctrines have evolved through a series of tense political moments, shaping the character of municipal government.  What’s compelling about Roberts’s reporting is that he doesn’t fall back on abstract platitudes about local control or the best scale for government; Albany’s efforts to restrict the home rule powers of New York City were always about specific actions undertaken (or not) by municipal government, and the political and economic consequences of those actions. In the nineteenth century, Albany sought to control patronage politics in the city. Today, real estate developers fund coalitions in the state house to thwart rent controls and other restrictions on the market and hamstring the city’s power to tax its wealthiest residents to improve housing, transit, or public health.


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