The New City Government January 1, 1898 Part II


Method of Paying Taxes

Although the head offices of the chamberlain, the controller and the receivers of taxes and arrears are located in the Borough of Manhattan, each of these officials will have a branch office in the principal city or town of each of the four other boroughs, and no citizen will be compelled to go to the main offices in order to pay taxes, arrears or assessments, but may settle his indebtedness to the city at the office of the department located in the borough in which the property assessed is situated. Copies of the assessment rolls will also be forwarded by the controller to the various borough offices, so that owners may be able to consult them at their convenience.

One of the most important duties falling to the lot of the controller is the designation of the form in which the bonds of the city shall be issued. He is, however, instructed by the act to see that these bonds are issued as corporate stock in shares of the value of not less than &500 each, payable in gold coin or its equivalent in legal currency, and redeemable in a term of not less than ten and not more than fifty years. All such corporate stock is free from taxation except for state purposes. The Municipal Council and Board of Aldermen will be judges as to the necessity of an issue of stock, the controller acting upon their resolution.

When advised by either the commissioners of the sinking fund or the Board of Estimate as the case may be, the controller may also issue short term bonds for purposes of water front or street improvement, and he may, upon his own authority, raise money in the same manner for the payment to state taxes, the requirements of the fixed appropriations, the payment of judgments recovered against the city and other special demands duly specified in the charter.

The first controller of the enlarged city is a popular Brooklynite recognized in financial circles as a banker and financier of more than ordinary ability, and under his direction the accounts of the city should be in a flourishing condition four years from now.

Concerning Councilmen and Aldermen

The legislative power of the new city is vested in two houses, known respectively as the Council and the Board of Aldermen. What may be termed the upper house (the Council) is presided over by an elected officer whose salary is fixed at $5,000 a year. This officer will take the place of the mayor and assume the responsibilities of the chief executive, whenever the latter may be unable, either by sickness or absence from the city, to attend to his duties. During such temporary assumption of the mayor's duties the president of the Council may not exercise the mayor's rights of appointment or removal, nor may be approve or veto any ordinance, unless the absence from office of the mayor shall extend beyond a period of ten days.

There are twenty-eight members of the Council in addition tot he president and the mayor, the latter, as has already been noted, holding a seat ex-officio. Each of these members receives a salary of $1,500 a year, and will serve for four years, while the members of the lower house, the aldermen will serve for only two years at a time, and receive a salary of $1,000 a year each. The chairman of this second body will be elected from among the aldermen by a vote taken among themselves, an open vote deciding the matter. He may be removed, when once chosen, only by a four-fifths majority vote of the members of the board. The council will, at its first meeting, appoint a city clerk, who will serve for a term of seven years, at a salary of $7,000 a year, and he will choose a clerk for the Board of Aldermen and a deputy, to serve in each of the boroughs, in addition to a reasonable number of staff clerks for the routine work of his office. The duties of the city clerk are similar to those of the officer holding a like position in any really large city.

The Municipal Assembly, which meets for the first time at noon on January 1, will from that date thereafter set its own dates and hours for holding sessions, although power is given to the mayor to call an emergency meeting at any time, upon the receipt of a requisition signed by at least nine members of the Board of Aldermen and three members of the council.

Every legislative act of the Municipal Assembly must have received a majority vote of all the members elected to each house, and three-fourth vote of all the members will be necessary. The act also provides for the proper amount of caution in regard to expenses in cases in which the expenditure of money is involved, or where a debt is created, an assessment levied, or a franchise granted, expenditures for ceremonies or entertainments of any kind. An exceptionally wise clause in the charter also provides that in no case shall any contract entered into by the city be discharged by the payment of more than the stipulated price, save only with the unanimous consent of every member of the two houses. In addition to having the power to appoint special committees for the proper carrying out of its ordinances, the assembly has the power at any time to appoint a special committee to investigate the workings of any of the city departments.

The Granting of Franchises

Special attention has been given by the framens of the charter to the subject of the granting of franchises by the Municipal Assembly. While the right to grant privileges to railroad and ferry companies is given, the members of the Assembly are warned that they are trustees of the public property, and that any taxpayer, claiming his right as a co-trustee, may prosecute them at any time for violation of that trust. No franchise granted for the first time by the officials of the new city Government may extend over a period of more than twenty-five years, after which time, should the Assembly decide to renew the privilege for another twenty-five years, a revaluation has first to be made, in order that the city may make terms which will be fair to the taxpayers. If the members of the Assembly see fit, they may insert a clause in such agreements, whereby, at the end of the period of twenty-five years, the property of the company to which a franchise has been granted shall revert to the city, with or without compensation, it being then at the option of the council to dispose of the plant thus acquired, or to operate and continue the work of the company as a public enterprise, in fact, if compensation is awarded, this experiment must be made for a term of at least five years. In every case where the grant of a franchise is made, the city will specify in the agreement, that in the event of failure to give an effective service to the public, the franchise may at any time, prior to the expiration of the term of twenty-five years, be withdrawn. No franchise can be put through the Assembly in a sudden or unexpected manner, as thirty days must elapse from the introduction of such a motion and its final passage. The Board of Estimate will have passed upon it, its provisions will have been published for twenty consecutive days in the City Record, and twice in the public press, and at last the vote must be carried by three-fourths of the members of both houses, and receive the approval of the Mayor. Should it fail in this last particular, a five-sixth majority must be secured. Renewals of franchises will be treated in the same manner as though the application was made for the first time. The city holds all its property in perpetuity, and cannot give it away or sell any portion of it, save only such buildings or parcels of land which are no longer fit for public use.

Website: The History
Article Name: The New City Government January 2, 1898 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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