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New YorkThe Politics of Urban Regional Development
By Michael N. Danielson Jameson W. Doig
University of California PressCopyright © 1982 Michael N. Danielson and Jameson W. Doig
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGovernment and Urban Development
Cities grow and deteriorate, highways and houses spread across the urban landscape, racial and ethnic minorities cluster in ghettos, sources of water supply are polluted and reclaimed. These and other features of urban development are found in every major metropolitan region in the United States. And the basic elements differ little in other advanced industrial societies. The patterns of development that characterize the modern metropolis are the product of the complex and continuing interactions of geographic, technological, economic, political, and other social factors which constantly mold and alter urban society.
Our central concern in this study is with the role of government in shaping urban development in modernized societies. More specifically: To what extent do the actions of governmental organizations have a significant independent influence on urban development, rather than having no significant role, or affecting development only by ratifying and supporting decisions previously made in other subsystems of the society, such as the private marketplace? By governmental organizations, we mean those organizations which authoritatively allocate values (i.e., make binding rules) for a society, and which are primarily oriented toward this function, together with subordinate units of such organizations. The actions of governmental organizations must be examined in the context of the broader pattern of human relationships concerned with the authoritative allocation of values, i.e., the political system.
The New York region is the focus of our study. Our immediate concern is the analysis of the role of government in shaping development within this metropolis, the largest and most complex in the United States. We also seek broader relevance. The approach used in this study should be helpful in understanding urban development in other areas; and our conclusions concerning the impact of city and suburban governments, public authorities, state and federal agencies, and other governmental units will suggest generalizations that apply in other regions, especially in the United States.
The difficulty in assessing the influence on urban development of any one set of organizations should be emphasized at the outset. There is, as York Willbern points out, a "chicken-and-egg" character to the question. The many governmental and nongovernmental organizations operating in the metropolis influence each other continuously, making it very difficult to sort out the impact on development of any one factor. Moreover, the problem of determining cause and effect is particularly complex when one is analyzing causal factors related not to a clearly measurable outcome (such as the number of automobile accidents), but to a much broader set of outcomes comprising "urban development."
These difficulties have not prevented social scientists from assessing the impact of governmental organizations and other institutions on urban development. The most intensive analysis of this issue, certainly in terms of the New York region and perhaps for any modernized urban complex, was that conducted in the late 1950s by Raymond Vernon, Robert C. Wood, and their colleagues in the New York Metropolitan Region Study. Their conclusion is, to quote Wood, that "public programs and public policies are of little consequence" in shaping the metropolis. Governmental organizations "leave most of the important decisions for Regional development to the private marketplace." Other observers such as York Willbern and Scott Greer have generally reached the same conclusion with regard to urban development in the United States.
Our own position differs from that of Wood and Vernon and others who emphasize the dominance of economic factors. Admittedly, in some situations, governmental action appears to do little more than ratify decisions made in the private marketplace. On the basis of our review of the Wood and Vernon studies, however, together with additional evidence presented in the following chapters, we argue that governmental influence is frequently important. In many cases, public programs significantly modify or amplify developmental trends, and in some instances, governmental actions have a critical initiating role in shaping urban development. These variations in governmental influence can be understood in terms of several factors-areal scope, functional scope, and the ability to concentrate resources. In this study, we define these factors, and then use them to analyze the influence of various types of governmental units.
Before examining the complex issue of cause and effect raised by the question of what influence-if any-does government have on urban growth and change, it is necessary to define what we mean by "urban development." Some studies refer to "urban development" as the process of change in urban areas; other discussions use the term to denote the outcome of the process at any point in time. The latter definition is used in this volume. More specifically, our analysis focuses on the distribution of residences in urban regions, in general and by income level and race; on the distribution of jobs; and on the location of major transportation facilities. This focus is similar to that used in the Vernon studies, although that analysis gave primary emphasis to the distribution of jobs and residences.
In our study, as in Vernon's, the main emphasis is on "physical" aspects of urban society. The quality of education, police behavior, the welfare system, health care, and other service areas are not directly under scrutiny. It may be that many of the forces-governmental and otherwise-which are considered in our study also shape these aspects of urban life, but we leave that exploration for another study.
We begin our analysis of the influence of government on urban development in the New York region by briefly examining the governmental system. The remainder of the chapter explores in detail the general problem of evaluating governmental influence on urban development. This analysis provides the framework which is used in the chapters that follow.
Governments in the New York Region
As Robert Wood has commented, the tristate region centering on New York City contains "one of the great unnatural wonders of the world"-an interrelationship of governments "perhaps more complicated than any other that mankind has yet contrived or allowed to happen." The governments of three states and the nation share responsibility in the metropolis with more than two dozen county political units, over 700 municipalities, and several hundred specialized functional districts. The number of governmental units in the New York region in 1977 is shown in Table 1.
Of nearly 2,200 nonnational units of government in the New York region, the three states possess the broadest array of powers. Each state has a wide range of policies that affect its portion of the metropolis, and all local government activity is subject to ultimate state control. But since New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut share these responsibilities, state policy in the New York region is far from uniform. Each state has distinct traditions of local government, and different policies for transportation, education, welfare, recreation, state aid to local governments, and other matters that affect the metropolis. These policies and programs are shaped not only by the needs and demands of residents of the New York region, but also in response to a variety of other urban and rural pressures in each state. Another important characteristic of state action is the fragmentation of programs among functional agencies within each state, many of which, such as highways and education, have considerable autonomy from the governor and legislature.
As in most metropolitan areas, local governments in the New York region vary greatly in size, governmental structure, policy goals, tax resources and expenditures, and political styles. One of these local governments, New York City, encompasses almost half of the region's population. Like the state governments, the complex governmental system of New York City is characterized by internal fragmentation and functional autonomy. In addition to New York, the region includes several large cities-Newark, with 329,000 residents in 1980, and Jersey City with 224,000, together with Paterson (138,000) and Elizabeth (106,000). Jersey City is itself the largest center in a cluster of older cities comprising Hudson County, with a total population of 557,000.
The region also includes more than a dozen other cities with populations of over 50,000, many of which would be metropolitan centers if located outside the New York region. Interwoven with this complex of cities are suburban counties and municipalities, ranging from the placid local governments in the affluent enclaves of Westchester and Morris counties to the more intensively settled and financially hard-pressed suburbs of Middlesex and Nassau counties.
Finally, layered over this mosaic of governments are the special units, most of which have relatively narrow functional responsibilities. Most common are the school districts, which spend up to 75 percent of the local tax dollar in the region's newer residential suburbs. Most powerful are the regional public works enterprises, particularly the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with assets of over $3.6 billion in tunnels, bridges, airports, port facilities, a rail transit line, bus and truck terminals, and a world trade center. Until recently, great influence also was wielded by the cluster of specialized agencies long controlled by Robert Moses, a public entrepreneur without peer in urban America, whose monuments include bridges, tunnels, parks, parkways, garages, housing projects, and a coliseum. Two new regional organizations were added in the 1960s-the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which now controls the Long Island Rail Road, the subways and toll bridges of New York City, and other transport facilities; and the Urban Development Corporation, created by New York State in 1968 to build housing and other projects without the encumbrance and inconvenience of local zoning and building restrictions. Beyond the school districts and the regional authorities are several hundred other special districts concerned with such problems as water supply, sewage disposal, parking, and housing, and with jurisdictions ranging from several counties down to individual municipalities.
The impact of these governments on citizens varies greatly, depending on where they work and live. Tax burdens differ from state to state, from city to city, and from suburb to suburb. The per pupil expenditure for education, the amount and nature of public housing and downtown renewal, and other public services vary widely. Integrated regional policies for these and most other matters of public concern do not exist in the New York area.
These variations in effective demand and public policy in different parts of the region are readily illustrated by expenditures on education and on welfare-related services. Some comparative data for New York City and suburban counties in the New York portion of the region are summarized in Table 2. These figures illustrate the relatively heavy per capita outlays for welfare and related services in the region's largest older city, compared with suburban areas.
The wide variations among municipalities can also be indicated by comparing annual school expenditures per pupil within the New York region. At the upper end of the range are wealthier suburbs, while a number of older cities are concentrated toward the lower end of the scale. Table 3 gives a sample of the figures for the New Jersey portion of the region. Similar disparities are found in taxable valuation ("ratables") and tax burdens in the region. In the affluent suburb of Millburn, for example, ratables average $18,760 per resident, and the effective local tax rate (per $100 of actual value) is only $3.50. But in Elizabeth, only $8,495 in ratables stand behind each resident and the tax rate is $4.36; while in Jersey City, the ratables figure drops to $3,003 per capita, and the tax rate climbs to more than $7.50.
Excerpted from New York by Michael N. Danielson Jameson W. Doig Copyright © 1982 by Michael N. Danielson and Jameson W. Doig. Excerpted by permission.
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