1894 City Island Newspaper Editorial Addressing Annexation by New York City
One of the most interesting aspects of the debate over whether residents of City Island would vote in favor of annexation was the complete and utter confusion among virtually everyone (including City Islanders) regarding precisely WHY New York City wanted to swallow up the island.
City Island, frankly, was difficult to reach. In 1894 it was considered to be truly way out "in the country" according to one account. It clearly was "way out" in Long Island Sound.
In 1894, City Islanders had many questions about annexation. It is fascinating, today, to try to think like our forbears and ask the same questions. There were questions nearly a quarter of a decade before in 1870 regarding whether New York City's Tammany Hall wanted to annex City Island and much more of the surrounding region to feed its need for corrupt purposes. In 1894, residents of City Island continued to fear precisely the same thing.
On August 4, 1894, City Island's little local newspaper published an editorial that questioned whether the promises made by New York City to encourage City Islanders to vote in favor of annexation. Interestingly, the editorial asked many of the questions that troubled City Islanders. The editorial provided in part:
"What can she want to possess in this direction? Is it water front? There is plenty of water frontage in other quarters better adapted to the needs of New York than we can lay claim to. Does she want another asylum for the confinement of the insane, her criminals, or her paupers? She wants the nicest spot on the Sound if she wants City Island for that purpose. Does the city want us as more territory for corruption purposes? Does she want more property holders to help bear the presdent indebtedness, and that which soon promises to come to light? The city will not improve facilities for reaching us anyhow. This must come through private enterprise, and will not come until there is a demand for it."
Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the entirety of the editorial that appeared in the August 4, 1894 issue of The City Island Drift. The text is followed by a citation and link to its source.
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The Herald of July 29 has, through a reporter, placed a number of our residents on record concerning the annexation question. But one man is placed on record as against it, he being Mr. Seaman Williams. Three others, Mr. J. O. Fordham, Mr. A. Robertson, and Mr. Henry Piepgras are in favor of the question. J. O. Fordham is made to say that he favors annexation but gives no reasons. Mr. Robertson is made to say that 'Annexation cannot fail to improve the island, and improve the facilities for reaching it. Such improvements would certainly increase business.' As to the last sentence we agree; but concerning the clause, 'improve the facilities for reaching it' we disagree. New York will not improve the facilities for reaching us unless there is something here that it would be for her interests to possess, and this can be acquired without annexation. What can she want to possess in this direction? Is it water front? There is plenty of water frontage in other quarters better adapted to the needs of New York than we can lay claim to. Does she want another asylum for the confinement of the insane, her criminals, or her paupers? She wants the nicest spot on the Sound if she wants City Island for that purpose. Does the city want us as more territory for corruption purposes? Does she want more property holders to help bear the presdent indebtedness, and that which soon promises to come to light? The city will not improve facilities for reaching us anyhow. This must come through private enterprise, and will not come until there is a demand for it. In another issue, we will try to point out why there is no present demand and how to condition matters to cause a demand.
Mr. Piepgras states that 'We want anything which will improve business and I think that annexation will do it. If taxation is increased by annexation, we shall get more for our money than we have ever before received.' As to the first sentence we are at a loss to find any reason. As to the last sentence we are wonderfully in doubt. If the record of the 'annexed district' as it is called, above the Harlem, is any standard of judgment, the prospects are that we would have to wait ages before we got anything for our money.
Improvementsthat the 'annexed district' should have had years ago, are just developing. It is thought that they were paid for once, but property holders find they will have to pay for them again. Besides this district is really a portion of the great metropolis, while we are 'way out in the country' and two hours ride from city hall. If one will take the trouble to examine the material that will show what we have received for our money, we are convinced that he will find that we [are] in better condition than some towns that use more money."
Source: Annexation Discussion, The City Island Drift, Aug. 4, 1894, Vol. 1, No. 30, p. 2, cols. 1-3.
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I have written before about New York City's efforts to annex all, or a large portion, of the Town of Pelham during the last few decades of the 19th century. For a few examples, see:
Tue., Mar. 15, 2016: More on New York City's Plans to Annex Pelham and Lower Westchester County in 1870.
Fri., Jan. 29, 2016: Did Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall Have Designs on Pelham and Plans to Annex It to New York City in 1870?
Wed., Jan. 16, 2008: Plans To Annex Pelham and Make It Part of New York City in 1870.
Thu., May 10, 2007: Report That Pelham Favored Annexation of Much of Westchester County by New York City in 1870.
Wed., Apr. 6, 2005: A Behemoth Looks to the Suburbs: Talk of New York City Annexing Pelham As Early As 1870.
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