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WHAT'S THE MATTER
WITH NEW YORK
From the collection of the
San Francisco, California
WHAT'S THE MATTER
WITH NEW YORK
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW TOBK . BOSTON . CHICAGO . DALLAS
ATLANTA . BAN FBANCISCO
MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON .BOMBAY . CALCmTA
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
OF CANADA, LIMITED
Reproduced by permission of
Rollin Kirby and the New York World-Telegram.
DESIGN FOR A MUNICIPAL FOUNTAIN
THE MATTER WITH
A NATIONAL PROBLEM
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NORMAN THOMAS AND PAUL BLANSHARD.
All rights reserved no part of this book may be
reproduced in any form without permission in writing
from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes
to quote brief passages in connection with a review
written for inclusion in magazine or newspaper.
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1932.
SET UP BY BROWN BROTHERS LINOTYPERS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY THE FERRIS PRINTING COMPANY
SEVEN FUTURE CITIZENS OF NEW YORK
W. T., M. T., F.T., R. T., E. T., P. B., JR., AND R. B.
in the hope that they will live to be proud
of their city
MORE years ago than he likes to remember one of the
authors of this book it doesn't matter which returned
for a brief visit to his native town with all the weight of
a very recent college degree upon him plus the sophisti
cation acquired from twelve whole months in the metrop
olis. To this youth a shrewd old judge imparted infor
mation that has stuck, although much else has been for
gotten. "Boy," said he, "don't tell me that Tammany
could teach us many tricks. Our small town politicians
know them all. But the paving supply men do tell me our
town has an honest council. When one of our Council-
men contracts to deliver his vote he stays bought even if
some late comer offers to raise him."
The obvious moral of this tale is that we are not hold
ing up New York City in this book as a sinner above all
other American communities. Indeed, we suspect that
the point of our story is that in essence it is typical. Ad
mitting with proper humility that "New York isn't the
United States," acknowledging that its sheer size alone
gives it certain peculiar problems, accepting at its full value
the good old American horror-not-unmixed with fascina
tion at the very name of Tammany, we still affirm that
there are dozens of cities, towns, and rural counties that do
not need to go to school in the Wigwam in order to learn
how to make politics pay politicians at what terrible cost
to the community our chapters illustrate.
But we do not, in this book, indulge in any detailed
comparisons, odious or otherwise. That is one of many
things that do not lie in the field we have marked out for
ourselves. We indulge ourselves in a last chapter on the
City of the Future, but we do not go at length into the
question of the future of cities in the light of our progress
in communication, transportation, and the distribution of
electrical energy. We summarize the findings of the Sea-
bury investigation, but we are not its official recorders, nor
do we confine ourselves to its revelations and recommen
dations. We discuss the place of structural changes in
government in any program for a nobler city, but we do
not seek to write a new charter for New York. We are
Socialists, eager to make New York an example of effec
tive municipal socialism, but we are not laying down a
platform for a party. What we do is to try to give facts
about the past and present of New York City government,
and then to interpret those facts and to suggest what can
be done about them. We cannot in every chapter remind
the hoped-for reader what we beg him never to forget;
namely, that behind the politics of New York lies the
economics, the politics, the ethics of a sick acquisitive soci
ety, drawing inexorably near to the end of its epoch.
Yet, even in this day when not only cities but a whole
social order groan and travail in pain, it seems to us well
that we should understand the meaning and possibilities
for good or evil of the government which touches so inti
mately the lives of the seven million people of many na
tions and races, gathered from the North, the East, the
South, and the West, who call New York home.
How critical we are and why of government in New
York, of its political machines, of its privileged classes,
and its unprivileged masses the book must speak for
We criticize, not because we despair but because we
hope. We who are not native New Yorkers would be less
than honest and less than grateful if we did not acknowl
edge the spell New York has laid upon us, the sense of
living vitality which she imparts, and the good comrade
ship which we have found within her borders. It is a city
worth saving from the shame of economic exploitation
and political corruption. It is a city, great masses of whose
workers with hand and brain, for all their seeming apathy
or cynicism or despair, deserve a government which will
be theirs, rather than their exploiters. They will take a
long step toward it when they begin to see the contrast
between the shame that is our city's and the splendor that
might be the crown of glory to all its sons and daughters.
In a sense this book is a cooperative effort with several
of our associates. We wish especially to express our deep
indebtedness to two of those associates, Henry J. Rosner
and E. Michael White, whose research underlies many of
the most important chapters and whose critical comments
have been invaluable. Our thanks are due also to H. Eliot
Kaplan for facts concerning the city's civil service and to
Beatrice Mayer for patient and cheerful work upon the
manuscript and index.
Before we were halfway through the book it became
evident that we could not record all of the important and
exciting developments in New York's recent civic scandals
without stretching the discussion to impossible lengths,
and yet we were loath to omit any important events be
cause we wanted to make this a reference book for writers
and civic workers as well as a critical discussion for the
general reader. We have made what seems to be a logi
cal compromise by discussing the major scandals in detail
and adding as Appendix I a "Calendar of Scandals during
the Walker Administration" which lists without too great
solemnity the major events in the reign of Jimmy the First
will it be Jimmy the Last?
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 1
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 16
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 44
MORE TIN BOXES 63
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 79
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 92
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 111
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 129
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 155
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN
RACKETEERING IN LAND
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS
THE CONSUMER PAYS
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY
THE CITY MANAGER AND PROPORTIONAL
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 314
I. A CALENDAR OF SCANDALS DURING THE
WALKER ADMINISTRATION 331
II. THE SEABURY CHARGES AGAINST MAYOR
WHAT'S THE MATTER
WITH NEW YORK
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES
WHEN James J. Walker resigned as mayor of New
York on September 1, 1932, the event was important not
only to the seven million people of the metropolis but
to the seventy million people of America whose lives
are now controlled by the governments of cities. New
York presents in an exaggerated degree problems that
are universal in a machine-age democracy. It is important
in its own right because it contains in Wall Street the
financial capital of America and because millions of Ameri
cans are more or less culturally dependent on its news
papers, magazines, and publishing houses. It is equally
important as a large-scale model of the thing we call a
city, a city with bosses, political machines, rackets, gang
murders, franchises, aldermen, realtors and reformers.
How desperately necessary it is to control these things
we call cities is worthy of some consideration before we
turn to New York's troubled affairs. The notion that that
government is best which governs least was born in the
country in an age of simple agriculture and handicraft
arts. It can have no meaning in a modern city. However
bad our city government is, it is indispensable to masses
of workers who do not grow their own food or make their
2 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
own cloth but live housed in tenements, are fed by com
plex processes under which the city is never far removed
from hunger, who would die of thirst but for a city water
system, and who are herded back and forth in city sub
ways. Our health, certainly our protection from epidemic
disease, depends far more on the city board of health
than upon the best family doctor. The education of our
children is in the main a city function. So is our protec
tion from fire and theft. The courts of the people are city
courts, with little chance of appeal to the august tribunals
in Albany and Washington. And in these bitter years of
depression hundreds of thousands of American workers
have learned that if they are to escape from the starvation
of unemployment it is primarily the city upon which they
must depend. Few of us can do for ourselves what the
city government does for us collectively.
New York has a peculiar need of a strong and efficient
government because it is so artificial a creature of the
machine age. Its economic as well as its political life
depend upon collective control, and in many cases that
control is national. It is an overhead city feeding upon
the hinterland. The centripetal forces that hold it to
gether are felt in San Diego, Key West, Seattle, and
Bangor. Its political boundary lines are little more than
signposts past which the automobiles whiz. A great part
of its population pours out of the skyscrapers at night to
sleep in neighboring states and completely ignore the civic
problems of the metropolis. Incidentally, it can be said
that so artificial a city may not have a stable future. What
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 3
the machine has created the machine may destroy. The
necessity for concentration which created the great city
in the first place is now being destroyed by the telephone,
the telegraph, the radio, the motor bus, and the airplane.
Prophets like Frank Lloyd Wright think that the city is
doomed. Stuart Chase warns us that modern science has
made the great city a place of danger in time of peace and
war because of the peril of broken gas mains and aerial
Whatever the machine age may do to the city its im
portance in national life is bound to grow because of
another factor. It has become the frontier of the struggle
between organized capital and the forces of social change.
In Russia under the leadership of a remarkable group of
intellectuals, the city proletariat has not only overthrown
the old order in the city but has carried to a bewildered
and often reluctant countryside a coercive gospel of social
ist salvation. So the city which to the shepherd and peas
ant has always been the symbol and home of a predatory
culture appears in a new role as the pioneer of a system
that challenges old acquisitive standards.
In America we have not come yet to anything resem
bling the revolutionary organization of the city proletariat
of Europe, but it would be foolish to disregard the possi
bility. New York is worth studying not only as a sample
of civic failure but as a possible cradle of economic revolt.
As yet its working class is unbelievably docile, but the
fourth successive winter of unemployment may not leave
4 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
At present neither proletariat nor intelligentsia is much
interested in city government. Forty per cent of the Amer
ican voters do not bother to go to the polls at all. When
Walker resigned as mayor of New York the one organi
zation that defended him most warmly was the Central
Trades and Labor Council of the American Federation of
Labor through its president, Joseph P. Ryan! Among the
intelligentsia it is smart to be cynical concerning all forms
of democracy and especially local democracy. A man who
discusses intelligently the color line in South Africa and
the freedom of India will consider a street-car franchise
in Brooklyn beneath his mental range, and he will be posi
tively disgraced if any one asks him to run for alderman.
His attitude toward city investigations is that they are
amusing and worthless exhibitions of human ignorance.
Well, are investigations worthless? We believe they
are not, and we think that it will be worth while to look
back a moment at some of New York's great investiga
George Washington Plunkitt, a famous old Tammany
district leader who operated a bootblack stand in front of
the New York County Court House about 1900, once said:
"There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it
works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin': I seen
my opportunities and I took 'em." 1
Never did one slogan express better the history of New
York political machines since the year 1789 when Tam
many was founded. An old Tammany song quoted by
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 5
M. R. Werner in his Tammany Hall summed it up
Swamp 'em, swamp 'em
Get the wampum
Of late years, particularly while Al Smith was running
for president, an effort has been made to throw a cloak
of gentility about the early activities of Tammany. An
egregious paper-bound history of the society has been put
out which omits or distorts everything that a history
should tell. The truth is that Tammany always has been
a center of corruption and it has never reformed. It has
on occasion modified its methods in the face of public
indignation but as soon as the public indignation has
cooled down it has gone as far as the law would permit.
(Strictly speaking, Tammany is confined to Manhattan, but
we shall frequently use the word in its popular sense to
describe the Democratic organizations in Greater New
The founder of Tammany, an upholsterer named Wil
liam Mooney, who had been charged with deserting the
American army and joining the British during the Revo
lutionary War, spent nearly $4,000 of city money in addi
tion to his salary on his family and himself in the year
1809, and was removed from office. Like Sheriff Tom
Farley in 1932, his standing with Tammany was not
affected by his removal for he was later chosen a Grand
6 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Sachem of the society for several terms. From that day to
this Tammany has fought every investigation by legisla
ture or grand jury, and has welcomed back into its ranks
the discharged convicts and the dismissed officers. Aaron
Burr was the first real leader of Tammany, and did much
to shape its permanent policies.
Looking back on the story of New York's great scandals
one can understand why Lord Bryce once remarked that
city government is the great failure of American democ
racy, and why H. G. Wells, when he visited Chicago many
years ago, said: "I would as soon go to live in a pen in
a stockyard as into American politics." Yet the story in
retrospect is not one of despair. Waves of reform have
been followed by waves of reaction, but each reform
movement has wrought some permanent improvement in
the life of the city. We may take, for example, the last
five investigations or drives against New York corruption,
the fight of The Times against Tweed in 1870, the fight
of Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst and the Lexow Committee
against police corruption in 1894, the exposure of Croker
by the Mazet Committee in 1899, the Meyer investigation
in Hylan's administration, and the Seabury investigation
in Walker's. Only one of these investigations, the Meyer
inquiry, failed to produce appreciable results in improving
the city's life. Every one of them would have succeeded
more completely except for the fact that the organized and
bitter opposition of Tammany was supported by wealthy
The fight against William Marcy Tweed was led by
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 7
George Jones, editor of The Times, with the able assist
ance of Harper's Weekly and the famous cartoonist,
Thomas Nast. Jones was bitterly attacked by the Tweed
newspapers as an Englishman and the husband of an
actress, and all of Harper's books were barred from the
public schools. While he was stealing about a million
dollars a month from the city, six of the wealthiest men in
New York, headed by John Jacob Astor, gave Tweed a
certificate of character for which it is alleged that their
taxes were reduced. 3 Jay Gould advanced a million
dollars as bail to free Tweed from jail, whereupon
Tammany renominated and reflected him to the State
But in spite of his wealthy friends Tweed died in Lud-
low Street jail and his dapper boy-friend, Mayor A. Oakey
Hall, the 1870 counterpart of Jimmy Walker, was thor
oughly disgraced. It is true that only one man, Tweed
himself, was convicted as a result of the great scandal, but
the Tweed Ring was broken up, two of the Tweed Ring
judges, Albert Cardozo and George Barnard, resigned or
were removed, and reformers learned how to expose some
of Tammany's favorite devices for theft. After Tweed's
death some of the crudest forms of looting the public
treasury were abandoned, and Tammany thereafter cen
tered its attention on exploiting private citizens for city
service and protection.
Such exploitation in the underworld reached its climax
in the nineties during the great depression of Cleveland's
second administration. (Perhaps there is a connection be-
8 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
tween civic conscience and financial failure.) Prostitution
in those days was open and widespread in New York,
especially on the lower East Side, and the Rev. Charles H.
Parkhurst, pastor of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian
Church, who was also president of the Society for the Pre
vention of Crime, discovered that an organized system of
bribery existed under which the police collected millions
in tribute for failure to enforce the law. Parkhurst began
thundering from his pulpit in 1892, at a time when Croker
was in temporary retirement in Ireland, and he kept thun
dering until the business men became disturbed and the
Chamber of Commerce persuaded the legislature to ap
point the Lexow investigating committee.
Parkhurst, who is still alive, has been described so often
as a mere vice crusader that his non-Puritan aspects have
been almost forgotten. He could swear most effectively in
ecclesiastical language "the polluted harpies that under
the pretense of governing this city, are feeding day and
night on its quivering vitals. They are a lying, perjured,
rum-soaked and libidinous lot" * but Lincoln Steffens has
pointed out that he was a shrewd leader, "wise" to politics
in the suggestive sense of that word. Certainly he knew
how to dramatize his fight. He put on a pair of checked
black and white trousers, hired a detective for six dollars
a day and expenses, and went out to see the underworld
for himself. His stories, told from the pulpit, forced the
Lexow inquiry which, on the basis of three million words
of testimony, disclosed a regular system of police inter
ference at the polls and police payments from disorderly
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 9
houses. The facts played an important part in destroying
organized prostitution in New York and ultimately in
bringing the voting machine.
It remained for the Mazet inquiry of 1899 to lay before
the public the spoils system of Tammany. Republican Boss
Platt forced the inquiry. Croker was the star of that
inquiry. His answers on the witness stand set a record
in frankness, and accordingly in the education of the pub
lic. The audience at that inquiry when Croker testified
behaved very much like the cheering Tammany henchmen
who applauded Mayor Walker when he testified before
Seabury, but the reaction of the newspaper-reading public
was sharply hostile. Croker for the first time laid bare
the modified methods of Tammany in winning "honest
graft." "If you can show me," he shouted at Counsel
Frank Moss, "where I have taken a dollar from this city
you can cut that right arm off."
Moss could not show how Croker had taken city funds
directly, but he proceeded to show how Croker as an auc
tioneer and contractor made money by getting contracts
which his puppet city officers had the power to grant. One
passage from Croker's testimony has become classic as the
Q. Let us see if my deductions are correct. The judges
appointed by Tammany Hall appoint referees, who, in line
with their party obligations, appoint auctioneers. . . . And
it is the duty of those auctioneers
A. That referee is appointed by the judge, and he ap
points whatever auctioneer he pleases.
Q. But if that referee is a good Tammany man, he should
10 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
appoint an auctioneer who is in line with the party, should
he not, as a part of the patronage?
A. It all depends on the kind of a Tammany man he is.
Q. If he appoints your firm he does a good party act, does
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Why? If he appoints your firm he does a good party
act, you say. Now, I ask you why does he do a good party
act when he appoints your firm?
A. Well, all things being equal, he has a right to do it.
He is a Democrat himself and he ought to appoint Demo
Q. And he ought to do that thing which puts into your
pocket money, because you are a Democrat too?
A. Yes, sir. . . .
Q. Then you are working for your own pocket, are you
A. All the time; the same as you. 6
The big corporations of Croker's day did business with
him as the big corporations of to-day do business with our
present Tammany officials. The Manhattan Elevated Rail
road Co. gave his trucking company favors just as the
North German Lloyd gave $50,000 to a Tammany lawyer
in 1930 for a pier lease because it was cheaper to do that
than to fight.
After the Mazet inquiry the City Club issued a pamphlet
in which it said mournfully: "Ground is not wanting for
the belief that the power of Mr. Croker is sustained,
directly and indirectly by 'respectable and prominent citi
zens' who believe that it is better to uphold the bosses
than to 'imperil the interests, perhaps those of widows and
orphans, committed to their charge.' In other words the
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 11
theory is that a citizen is justified, when acting as a direc
tor, or as the manager of a company in 'doing business*
with a political machine, however corrupt and however
dangerous to the state." We shall encounter that same
theory again and again in the evidence of business men
before Judge Seabury in 1932.
Although the Seabury inquiry has not yet been com
pleted as this book goes to press, its accomplishments have
already been substantial. It has not only destroyed an
organized vice ring that had developed a new form of
extortion, and brought about the removal or resignation of
many magistrates, police officers, and a mayor, but it has
so aroused public opinion that a reconstruction of the city
charter giving representation to minority parties may be
the final outcome.
As we look back over the history of New York City
investigations we cannot help but conclude that investiga
tions do get results. The Tweed prosecutions stopped the
worst forms of direct robbery of city funds; the Lexow
investigation did much to destroy organized prostitution;
the Mazet inquiry made elections more honest and ex
posed the Tammany machine to public gaze; the Seabury
investigation may yet give us proportional representation,
and it has accomplished many minor changes which we
shall discuss in later chapters.
The greatest weakness of all New York's investigations
has been their short-lived effect. "These reform move
ments are like queen hornets," said an East Side gangster
whom Werner quotes. "They sting you once and then
12 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
they die." Even when "they sting you once," the sting is
fatal to only a few victims. Of all the big men of Tam
many exposed by Judge Seabury only Sheriff Farley and
Mayor Walker were forced out of office. Tammany has
not only succeeded in protecting most of its own but it has
quickly come back to power after every exposure. It was
defeated at the polls in 1871 after the Tweed scandals
and then came back into power three years later. William
L. Strong, the reform mayor elected after the Lexow in
quiry, lasted two years and then gave place to one of
Tammany's worst tools, Robert A. Van Wyck. Seth Low,
president of Columbia, served one term as mayor after the
Mazet inquiry and then yielded to Tammany's choice,
George B. McClellan.
The cynic may say that these spasms of reform were
useless, but the fact remains that the quality of municipal
service in New York has immensely improved since the
days of Tweed and the constant fight for reform has
played a real part in that improvement. The failure to
defeat Tammany permanently has been due not so much
to the failure of investigations as to a particular weakness
of reform groups. They are unwilling to face the fact
that only a party machine can defeat a party machine.
They either vote the Republican ticket or put a "fusion"
liberal mayor in place of a Tammany scoundrel and then
walk away and leave him, convinced that their victory is
proof of the wisdom of non-partisanship in elections.
Three or four years later the Tammany machine is back
in power again.
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 13
One striking example of the naivete of most civic re
formers was the acclaim given to Joseph V. McKee when
he succeeded Walker as mayor in September, 1932. Be
cause McKee immediately made some drastic cuts in city
waste he was hailed as a city savior. The Seabury inquiry
had just revealed that the real trouble with New York
was its control by a corrupt Democratic machine. McKee
had been a faithful member of that machine, and had
voted for the Equitable bus franchise and the salary
grabs. He said after assuming office: "I am an organiza
tion Democrat, always have been, and always will be."
Yet this was the man hailed by many newspapers and
realty groups as the coming redeemer of the city.
One mistake of the reformers is their willingness to
believe that the Republican machine wants reform any
more than Tammany does. Boss Platt was willing to use
a reformer to beat Croker, but one term of reform was
enough for him. He declared that for the doctrine of
non-partisanship in local elections he had "the sincerest
and profoundest contempt." He knifed Seth Low in the
mayoralty fight of 1897 and threw the election to Tam
many's Van Wyck. The same thing will happen over
again if reformers trust to the Republican Party to give
them any permanent relief from the abuses of corrupt
machine rule. And there is a certain justification for this
contempt of non-partisan groups. Their results are never
Theoretically perhaps we might imagine a city of
seven million people voting wisely regardless of party.
14 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
In practical life the picture is impossible. A little reflec
tion compels us to expect what the history of modern times
in every country confirms ; that politics is and must be an
occupation requiring time, an exacting avocation if not a
full-time profession. The more complex a community is
the greater is the need of the unifying influence of a politi
cal party. And a political machine is not necessarily
evil. What makes New York's political machine evil is
the purpose it serves and the way it serves it.
Democracy, in brief, requires government by parties
because the citizens are too numerous, too ill-informed
and too preoccupied to come together spontaneously to
choose the policies and leaders they wish to prevail. Polit
ical machinery has to be worked. The parties work it. Or,
slightly to change the figure, political government, espe
cially in modern times, is an engine which cannot be kept
going by volunteer stokers and late October bonfires.
Your professional politicians are the stokers. Nor need
the term "politician" be one of opprobrium. A man who
organizes other men in a political group for a high social
purpose may be one of the nation's most useful citizens.
This is not, of course, to disparage non-partisan action by
civic groups to win the support of all parties for intelli
gent measures of reconstruction. One of the chief sources
of strength of the City Affairs Committee is that it stands
for no party or candidate, but for measures that any
progressive party or candidate should support.
One more defect is outstanding in all the investigations
of New York. They do not plumb deep enough into the
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES 15
underlying economic base of Tammany's power. The
power of every urban democratic machine in this country
could be traced back to an urban plutocracy if the inves
tigators had the will and the understanding to do it.
Tammany is an organization for private profit existing in
a business system operated for private profit and the two
cannot be separated. If Tammany did not exist some
other machine would rise to take its place, since the own
ing class in this country needs political brokers to carry
out its will.
The proof of this statement is in the facts that this
book sets forth. We hope that before we are through the
reader will agree with us that the roots of civic corruption
in American life lie deep in a predatory economic system
and that the fight for clean government is only one battle
in the larger struggle for a just social order.
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS
A TEACHER in a school in an outlying region in New
York reports that he has a bright class. He asked the boys
how they would go about getting a new sewer laid an
important question in that district. At once they told him:
"We'd get a petition signed by the property holders and
then we'd go to see the district leader." Surely a much
more realistic answer than they could have made by
memorizing the Constitution of the United States and
familiarizing themselves with that strange jumble of laws
which the charter of New York City has become. Almost
any textbook will anatomize for you the legal skeleton of
the body politic; very few will tell you what breathes into
it the breath of life and sets it moving. Some textbooks,
the ones used in New York public schools for instance,
purport to describe city government without even men
tioning Tammany Hall.
The fundamentals of New York's legal structure are
simple. New York, like all American cities, is a creature
of the state. Its powers are derived from the legislature,
not the sovereign people. Despite the growing sentiment
for home rule and an alleged home rule act, the state can
and does interfere with the city by means of all sorts of
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 17
mandatory laws. Very few of the items of a program of
municipal socialism for New York could be carried out
without running to Albany. A legislature in which up
state rural counties are disproportionately represented
could, if it so desired, rip up the whole city government.
A governor of New York can on charges remove the
mayor and the borough presidents although the mayor
nominally administers a budget almost three times the
size of the state budget and usually exercises far more sig
nificant power over the life and well-being of its people
than any governor.
This rule of New York City by New York State is one
of those anachronisms which survive in America because
we treat historical accidents as sacred. The boundary lines
of the state, running northward as they do near the Hud
son River, and stopping at the southern tip of Manhattan
Island, cut off New York City from the Jersey, Pennsyl
vania and Connecticut hinterland of which it is a natural
part. The tying of New York City with its distinctive
urban problems to the vast and conservative rural area of
up-state New York permits the conservative Republicans
to play the countryside against the city. If the arrange
ment worked for intelligent and progressive legislation
and the destruction of Tammany, it might be excusable,
but in practice the Republicans at Albany are more re
actionary on questions of social legislation than the Demo
crats. They thwart every forward movement toward un
employment insurance, municipal housing and the better
regulation of power companies.
18 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
As everybody knows, the present City of New York was
created in the year 1897 by uniting the great cities of New
York and Brooklyn and the scattered villages of Staten
Island (Richmond County) and Queens County, Long
Island. The new city took in four counties. These were
not consolidated. On the contrary, a fifth county, Bronx,
was created. Bronx was a separate borough from the be
ginning of Greater New York; the other boroughs were
coterminous with the counties. Of course the counties
have the full or more than the full complement of
courts, sheriffs, recorders, and the like, all of them sup
ported by the city budget but none of them legally sub
ject to city control. Aside from the function of giving
jobs to faithful friends of the political machine, the
counties have lost all meaning. They survive because of
institutional inertia and Tammany obstruction to reform.
The official government of New York can be seen on
almost any Friday in the winter time by visiting the cham
ber of the Board of Estimate in that little gem of architec
ture nestled in the shadow of the Woolworth Building,
the City Hall. The name of the official government is the
Board of Estimate and Apportionment. The visitor who
arrived there about 11 o'clock on a Friday morning during
the Walker administration and waited until 12 would see
seven men stroll in behind the dapper mayor and take
their seats behind a large semi-circular desk on a plat
form. The mayor without any apology for being an hour
late would begin proceedings by saying through his loud
speaker: "Call the roll." The clerk would call "Mayor,
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 19
Controller, President of the Board of Aldermen, President
of the Borough of Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens
and Richmond." These are the men who are elected every
four years to govern the city. Three of them, the Mayor,
the Controller, and the President of the Board of Alder
men, are elected at large by the whole city, and they each
have three of the board's 16 votes. The borough presi
dents are elected by each borough and their votes vary,
the Manhattan and Brooklyn presidents having two votes
each, and the others one.
At most meetings of the Board of Estimate the borough
presidents are mere figureheads. Often they send substi
tutes to represent them except when a borough crisis
arises. Otherwise they sit sleepily waiting for the clock
to creep to 1:30 when they can go out to a two-hour lunch
and transact their important political business. We do not
recall in our experience at Board of Estimate meetings a
single instance of a comment on any problem by a borough
president which showed any careful study of a city-wide
situation. The borough presidents sit on the board
frankly for logrolling purposes to get all available appro
priations and patronage for their boroughs.
Yet this semicircle of sleepy-eyed politicians with a
weary showman in the middle is one of the most pow
erful governments in the world, reckoned in the dollars
which it spends and the citizens it controls. It affects
the life of the average New Yorker much more than the
Congress at Washington or the Assembly of the League
of Nations and one reason why it is such a tragic failure
20 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
is that the average New Yorker never stops to realize this
fact. It is the only legislative body in New York City
with any real power. Nominally it shares its power with
the Board of Aldermen, a body of 65 local politicians
chosen by Tammany and affiliated bodies, but actually
this Board of Aldermen has little power and uses less.
It meets once a week for an hour in cool weather and
rushes through an approval of the actions of the Board of
Estimate. It can and does change the names of streets. It
can help to pay itself good salaries. Each alderman for
his hour a week receives $5,000 a year and is aided in his
deliberations by the protective care of eleven sergeants-at-
arms who receive $26,520 a year. The Board of Aldermen
is one house of the Municipal Assembly and the Board
of Estimate is the other, but only the Board of Estimate
can initiate the budget and the Board of Aldermen cannot
One reason why the Board of Aldermen is so inept is
that there is almost no opposition in it to Tammany rule.
It includes 64 rubber-stamp Democrats and one voluble
Republican. It has amounted to less than nothing since
the period several years ago when a delegation of Socialist
aldermen made it a platform for some penetrating com
ments on New York City government.
The same statement could be made concerning the
ineptness of the Board of Estimate. Tammany has no
political opposition in the board. Borough President
Harvey of Queens, nominally Republican, is as docile as
a kitten. Controller Berry fights Mayor Walker because
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 21
he has political ambitions and because he represents the
Smith wing of the party, but he too must pull his punches
in a crisis, for Tammany has the power to destroy him.
The only colorful fighter on the Board of Estimate in
recent years has been Berry's substitute, Deputy Controller
Frank J. Prial, and he has caused Mayor Walker sufficient
trouble to make the public appreciate what one deter
mined critic in the inner circles may mean to the tax
The mayor who presides over the Board of Estimate is
a person of vast powers. He appoints the executive heads
of the city departments, the masters of police, fire, correc
tion, charity, health, hospitals, sanitation, docks, tenement
houses, parks and playgrounds. He appoints also the
magistrates and the judges of the Court of Special Ses
sions, and the judges of the Children's Courts, and the
members of the Board of Education, and the majority of
the members of the Board of Standards and Appeals
although he cannot remove magistrates. If he is a Tam
many man (and he usually is) then the Tammany brand is
on every department and loyalty to Tammany is the con
dition of appointment.
The controller is the next most powerful city officer to
the mayor. He is the city's chief financial officer although
he does not draw up the budget that is left nominally
to the Director of the Budget, Charles L. Kohler, an old-
time Tammany district leader. The borough presidents
have as their chief prerogative the control of roads, sewers
and building permits in their own boroughs, a rich source
22 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
of patronage. The wisdom of this borough form of gov
ernment we shall discuss later. Here we may point out the
anomaly of having five sewer departments in five different
boroughs and one water department for the whole city;
five building bureaus and one Tenement House Depart
ment; five highway departments and one Board of Sanita
tion to keep the streets clean.
Such in outline is the structure of New York's official
government. It does immense business. Its budget for the
fiscal year 1931 was $621,000,000. It carries 142,650 per
sons on its payrolls. It has developed an elaborate civil
service and has in some of its departments experts, almost
unknown to the general public, who would be an orna
ment to any community.
But the real government of New York does not func
tion at City Hall. It functions at many district clubhouses
throughout the city, and at the county Democratic head
The four most powerful rulers of New York govern
ment are the four Democratic bosses of the four large
boroughs, John F. Curry in Manhattan, John H. McCooey
in Brooklyn, John Theofel in Queens, and Edward J.
Flynn in Bronx. When, in September, 1932, it became
necessary to decide whether Mayor Walker should run
again for mayor, the press and the whole city recognized
that the real decision lay in the hands of these four men.
Here was a city of seven million people choosing its chief
magistrate through four men, not one of whom has ever
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 23
shown any great intellectual or business distinction, not
one of whom would be chosen by any great corporation,
school, or newspaper to direct its destinies.
The reason for this singular spectacle at least it would
appear singular if we had not become so utterly accus
tomed to it is that New York is ruled by a closely knit
predatory machine whose methods are quite familiar
in every large city in America. The machine is based
solidly upon the common man's self-interest plus the con
trol of the powers that will satisfy that interest.
Murray Seasongood, formerly Mayor of Cincinnati and
now president of the National Municipal League, sums up
the matter thus: "It is assumed that every one wants some
thing. Even the strictly honorable want honors. In the
list of illegitimate favors are to be counted; unconscion
able grants to public utilities; undeserved deposits to
friendly banks; low valuation for taxation to large cor
porations and individuals with a pull; a complaisant
building inspector; delinquent taxes allowed to remain
delinquent; appropriation for public purposes of property
no longer desired by the owner at a price far in excess of
actual value. For the less powerful, there are grants of
market or parking privileges, poor relief, indigent soldier
burials, taking care of traffic citations, lending dogs from
the dog pound, and so on down to the right of unmolested
profitable street-begging." *
To which we may add that in our experience we have
never seen any pushcart peddler essentially more obse-
24 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
quious to Tammany in the height of Jimmy Walker's
power than representatives of some of the great Mer
chant's Associations which wanted something.
Under the Tammany system the place where men go
when they want something is the district clubhouse pre
sided over by the district leader. Behind a desk in this
clubhouse the leader sits for several hours almost every
night in the year while petitioning citizens interview him.
They want city jobs or excuses from jury duty, or peddlers'
licenses, or mercy from a local magistrate. The district
leader hears their stories and reaches a decision. If he
agrees to do something, the arrangement is colloquially
called a "contract." It is not necessarily based on any
direct payment to the leader or even a pledge to vote the
Democratic ticket. The leader takes it for granted that
when he gives favors to people they will support him
politically. He is always on the lookout to secure young
followers to work for the machine on promise of promo
tion to a good job if they are faithful. "Better join my
club," said a district leader recently to one of our young
Socialist friends. "I can give a bright future to a young
man like you and I need somebody who can read and
The leader's income is derived partly from the dues of
his club and partly from a city salary for some sinecure,
but mostly from the kind of commissions and direct graft
which we shall describe in the next two chapters. Before
the Seabury inquiry began Professor Joseph McGoldrick
of Columbia, who is an authority on New York's govern-
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 25
ment, said that "a gross return of $100,000 a year is
probably fairly common" for the Tammany district leader,
and the inquiry proved that his estimate was modest. 2
Roughly speaking, a political district corresponds to an
assembly or aldermanic district.
The Republicans and Democrats usually maintain at
least one clubhouse in each district, although the Repub
lican clubs have been going bankrupt in the lean years of
the depression at an alarming rate. Each district has its
Democratic and its Republican leader, who are usually
friends, except at election time, and even then ready to
unite against the Socialists. The Republican and Demo
cratic leaders need each other. Powerful as the Demo
cratic leader is, one of his constituents or clients may have
some trouble about a passport or the admission of a rela
tive at Ellis Island or bootlegging or an income tax case
which the Republican leader presumably is in better posi
tion to care for when the Republican party is in control at
Washington. What is simpler than for the leaders to
meet and exchange "contracts"! The Republican leaders,
however, are greatly handicapped by the rule that a Fed
eral employee cannot actively take part in politics. Main
taining a Republican machine on a strictly amateur basis
is a difficult task in opposition to a Tammany machine
which may directly or indirectly affect the choice of 600
job-holders in each political district.
The district leaders are the governing oligarchy in each
county and they choose the Currys, McCooeys, Theofels
and Flynns. Curry, boss of Manhattan, was elected by the
26 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
district leaders by a very close vote, and he acts accord
ingly. The cherubic-faced McCooey of Brooklyn has a
grand machine and is able to do marvelously well for all
his relatives, but he has to respect his district leaders and
his fellow county bosses, notably Curry of Tammany, and
he does not forget it. There is no one boss to-day in
New York of the dimensions of Croker or even Murphy.
Each county boss is only primus inter pares, and he knows
There is not even, technically speaking, a city-wide
political machine, Democratic or Republican. The county
is the unit and technically, Tammany is confined to Man
hattan. Its commanding position in the alliance of five
Democratic machines is due to its age and prestige, and its
control of the borough which, though no longer the most
populous, is still the center of wealth and civic activity.
Tammany proved its power, when with the all-important
help of Al Smith who later regretted his choice it sup
planted Hylan of Brooklyn with Walker of Broadway in
1925. Since then Walker's fortunes and Tammany's have
been closely intertwined.
But it should not be supposed that because Tammany is
dominant in the Democratic organization to-day it will
always remain so. Flynn of the Bronx has been backing
Roosevelt consistently, and McKee is Flynn's protege. If
McCooey should join forces with Flynn New York might
see a real war in the Democratic Party. It would be a war
without principles, solely for personal advantage.
The district-leader government maintains a nominally
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 27
democratic form. The party members in each county
choose a county committee an immense affair which in
Manhattan numbers over 5,000 people and this county
committee chooses a County Executive Committee of
about 30 district leaders who really run the government of
the borough. The County Executive Committee has two
very important subcommittees which are inner circles of
wisdom and power, the Steering Committee and the Law
Committee, referred to in popular parlance as the War
Board. The county leaders like Curry and McCooey are
chosen by the district leaders of the executive com
Above this official party hierarchy is the window-dress
ing of the Tammany Society itself, which is a fraternal
order having 13 sachems and an annual celebration on
the 4th of July. Nominally, Tammany Hall, the popular
name for the Democratic organization in Manhattan, is
separate from the Tammany Society. Actually the separa
tion is a legal fiction and both are controlled by the same
group. When a crisis occurs, the big official limousines
with city-paid chauffeurs roll up of an evening to Tam
many Hall on 17th Street and Union Square and the dis
trict leaders, and sometimes the sachems, put their heads
together in the inner sanctum where the dour-faced Curry
sits beside a desk with a silver-framed portrait of Alfred
E. Smith upon it. Here mayors, judges and governors are
made and unmade.
The one thing that a district leader must always do is
to control the primaries in his district. This depends not
28 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
only on his skill in dispensing all sorts of favors but on
his success in holding his precinct leaders in line. These
precinct leaders get out the vote at elections, and what is
more important for the machine, at primaries. It doesn't
take many votes in a precinct to win the ordinary primary.
The precinct captain can always count on his own old
guard, the 600 officeholders in each district, the grateful
recipients of favors, personal friends and relatives. Before
the non-partisan reformer is aware of what has happened,
the nominations of both old parties are completed and he
is left to protest in futility, especially if the Socialist Party
is too "radical" for him and he shrinks from the party
label. Only in the rare event of a well-organized attack
by a rival aspirant to power in the organization, or the
still rarer event of a popular uprising does the district
leader need to worry. Political death comes with failure
to carry a precinct or a district in the primary. To lose
your district in an election may be forgiven Mr. Curry, at
least once, has openly and successfully supported an oppo
nent of a leader who failed to carry his district but to
lose your district in a primary is political suicide.
We have said that the power of the political machine
rests upon its ability to give all sorts of people something.
That something has almost infinite variety. It shades from
legitimate and kindly service to men and women, bewil
dered by the complexity of the city, to highly illegitimate
service to some favored contractor, landowner, or criminal
with a pull whose case must be fixed. Government even
in its more serviceable aspects is still a fearsome thing to
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 29
the average man and he looks around as from time im
memorial for a friend and protector. This the district
leader or one of his lieutenants is. Nor is he usually anx
ious to tell his constituent that he does not always need
his intervention with the lower courts and the various city
boards. Your typical politician is always ready to claim
credit for unnecessary services.
Much is sometimes said of the political machine espe
cially Tammany as a great benevolent organization.
Actually it is generous with other people's money. It does
not forget its own coffers. A typical district leader
never gives away anything of his own, unless it is his time,
and even for that he is well repaid. The main reliance
of a district leader is the favors he can get from the city
administration which he helped to put and keep in office.
His own largesse, such as the spectacular gifts of the old
Sullivan clan at the holiday season, or the outings of a
Tom Farley association, are secondary. Even they are paid
for out of the pickings of the leader which he derives as
perquisites of his power.
Religious and national fellowship also tends to
strengthen Tammany, which is led by Irish Catholics, who
cleverly play for the cooperation of conservative Jewish
voters and usually get it. The radical Jewish voters are
the most intelligent and hopeful group in the city but
they by no means constitute a majority of Jewish citizens.
Tammany's methods of religious allottment we shall dis
cuss later. Suffice it to say here that Tammany is very
wise in its appeals to religious and racial feeling. "Po-
30 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
litical leaders of each faith," says Prof. Joseph McGold-
rick, "attend the functions of all. Goldfogle marches in
the St. Patrick's Day parade. Walker and McCooey at
tend the Purim ball. Smith issues a message of greeting
at Rosh Hoshannah. The P. V. McCarren Club last year
distributed $2,000 worth of matzoths."
The Protestants are not so effective in New York poli
tics because they are divided and because there are not so
many of them as Catholics or Jews. The Catholics and
Jews combined outnumber the Protestants six to one.
Greater New York has 1,734,000 Catholics and 1,765,000
Jews, but only a little more than half a million Protestants.
Of course, these statistics are for church membership only.
Almost half of the people of New York do not belong
to any church.
The faithful servants of a district leader are promoted
on a systematic basis. At least twenty members of the
average district club have good paying city jobs. The
humble but all-important precinct leaders are given minor
clerkships or those famous sinecures, the corporation in
spectorships, which entail no work and may bring pay
from both the city and the corporations "inspected." The
youngest and most unimportant lawyers are sent to the
State Assembly where the pay is low, only $1,500, and the
frequent absences from the city inconvenient. The next
highest office for the faithful is that of alderman which
pays $5,000 a year but which is usually reserved for the
docile and the stupid as a position in which any brilliance
would be an embarrassment to the party. Above these
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 31
lower orders come the big commissionerships and chief
clerkships with salaries above $5,000, which the district
leaders themselves take as side lines. Above these come
the judgeships and the borough presidencies, all con
trolled by the same bosses. The ownership of the mayor
is the condition for control of most of these appointments,
which is the main reason why Tammany is always so much
more interested in that office than in any other.
Eighty-five Republican and Democratic district leaders
on the city payroll have an average salary of $7,300. Of
course, they occupy positions at the top of various depart
ments where they are exempt from civil service examina
tions. The Civil Service Reform Association in May, 1932,
published a list of 106 Democratic and Republican dis
trict leaders and their relatives on the payroll who drew
$715,000 a year from the city without taking civil service
examinations. 8 In many cases the leaders secure official
jobs for several members of their families and reap a
personal harvest through such side lines as insurance and
real estate. A woman Tammany leader (each district has
a woman co-leader for decorative purposes) is usually
satisfied if a husband or son is given a city job. Some of
the leaders and their salaries, with their relatives indicated
by brackets, include:
Daniel E. Finn New York County Clerk, $15,000.
(Daniel E. Finn, Jr., secretary to Supreme Court Justice,
(Mrs. Mary A. Finn, Deputy Clerk, Municipal Court,
32 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Mrs. Mary E. Dunne, no position.
(Joseph J. Dunne, Third Deputy Commissioner, Tenement
House Department, $6,000.)
Christopher D. Sullivan, Member of Congress.
(Christopher D. Sullivan, Jr., attendant to judge, Court
General Sessions, $3,000.)
Harry C. Perry (former leader), Chief Clerk, City Court,
William L. Kavanagh, Deputy Commissioner Water Sup
ply, G. & E., $8,500.
Charles W. Culkin, former actuary auditor, Finance De
(Thomas J. Culkin, secretary to commissioner, Department
Water Supply, G. & E., $5,000.)
(Gerald P. Culkin, clerk to justice, Municipal Court,
William J. Ahearn, no position.
(Edward J. Ahearn, law assistant, Surrogate's office, New
York County, $8,000.)
Mrs. Mary E. O'Connell, no position.
(Maurice O'Connell, clerk to justice, Municipal Court,
Solomon Goldenkranz, First Deputy Commissioner of
Terence F. McKeever, Member of Board of Assessors,
Walter T. Fitzsimons, Deputy Commissioner of Records,
Surrogate's Court, New York County, $9,000.
Charles L. Kohler, Director of Budget, $17,500.
Martin G. McCue, Clerk, Surrogate's Court, New York
(Martin G. McCue, Jr., clerk to justice, Municipal Court,
Andrew B. Keating, Deputy Controller, $10,000.
Thomas M. Farley, former Sheriff, New York County,
$15,000 now removed.
(Terence V. Farley, Clerk, Municipal Court, $4,500.)
John E. Sheehy, Sheriff, New York County, $15,000.
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 33-
H. Warren Hubbard, Commissioner of Public Works,
Mrs. Katherine D. Codding, no position.
(Arthur H. Codding, Secretary to Commissioner, Board
of Transportation, $4,800.)
Mrs. Clara Gompers, no position.
(Louis Gompers, secretary to justice, City Court, $4,500.)
James J. Sexton, President Department Taxes and Assess
William J. Heffernan, Commissioner of Elections, $8,000.
Henry Hasenflug, Under-Sheriff, Kings County, $6,500.
(Henry Hasenflug, Jr., Clerk Board of Elections, Queens,,
(August Hasenflug, confidential clerk to justice, Kings
County Court, $5,750.)
(John Hasenflug, clerk to justice, Municipal Court,
Hyman Schorenstein, Commissioner of Records, Kings
John Theofel, clerk, Surrogate's Court, Queens County,.
chairman executive committee, $8,000.
John A. Lynch, county leader, President Borough of
David S. Rendt, Commissioner Public Works, Richmond,
Philip F. Donohue, treasurer of Tammany Hall, member
Board Water Supply, $12,000.
James F. Egan, former secretary of Tammany Hall, Public
Administrator, New York County, $10,000.
Valentine J. Hahn, Commissioner of Elections, $8,000.
John J. Knewitz, Commissioner of Records, Bronx, $9,000.
John R. Crews, Commissioner of Taxes and Assessments,
Jacob A. Livingston, Commissioner of Elections, $8,000.
The last four of these gentlemen are Republican district
leaders, a fact which should surprise no one because Tarn-
34 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
many believes in purchasing the docility of the Repub
licans by such appointments. When James J. Walker
represented New York at the Philadelphia Sesquicenten-
nial he summed up Tammany's magnanimous attitude
toward the Republicans in this speech: "If Bill Vare, Fred
Kendrick and Charley Hall lived in New York, they'd be
Tammany leaders, and if John McCooey, Judge Olvany
and Jim Egan lived in Philadelphia, they'd be making up
the Republican slate. We're all God's children and I don't
believe in taking party politics too seriously."
The Civil Service Reform Association estimates that
half of all the employees on the city payroll who are
exempt from civil service examinations could be elimi
nated without loss and thus save New York City $25,000,-
000 a year. That $25,000,000 helps to keep the Tammany
machine in power. Ostensibly, of course, it is payment for
service, and no one can prove how much is graft until an
independent efficiency commission is permitted to make a
real survey of all city jobs and to eliminate the chair-
warmers. While the political deadheads sit comfortably
upon the city payroll, the mayor and other leaders divert
attention by delivering solemn speeches on economy. The
various Tammany department heads "economize" while
they are traveling about the city in unlabeled automo
biles driven by chauffeurs on the public payroll. They
cruise in 71 Cadillacs, 12 Lincolns, 24 Packards, 10 Pierce
Arrows and a Duesenberg. When McKee succeeded
Walker in September, 1932, he reduced this automobile
extravagance, but we doubt that the reduction will be
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 35
permanent. The Tammany government leaders have in
corporated city limousines into their family standards of
living, and to return to subway riding would be just too
In Mayor Walker's administration the Tammany office
holders threw all caution to the winds in rewarding
themselves. The Mayor boosted his salary in 1929 to
$40,000, almost three times the salary of a member of the
President's cabinet. The salary of Charles Kerrigan, the
Mayor's assistant, was raised to $17,500, of the controller
to $35,000 and of the president of the board of aldermen
The question may arise why we permit such favoritism
to political leaders. Don't the civil service laws protect
us? Yes and no mostly no. Tammany has developed a
smooth-working system for evading the purpose of the
civil service laws in the selection of the city's employees.
It is aided in this maneuvering by a politically controlled
Municipal Civil Service Commission. The state constitu
tion says that "appointments and promotions in the civil
service of the state, and of all the civil divisions thereof,
including cities and villages, shall be made according to
merit and fitness, to be ascertained as far as practicable
by examinations which, so far as practicable, shall be
competitive." A splendid law, but what is "practicable"?
Practicable, says Tammany, means if it can't be done
any other way. Tammany's interpretation of the law has
accomplished the following results with the city's 142,650
employees. (This number includes 3,500 county em-
36 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
ployees.) At the top of the government and the payroll
come the mayor and other elected officials, and the heads
of departments, 244 in all, who never need to pass any
examination except that administered by the district
leaders. They get $3,000,000 a year, an average of more
than $12,000 each. They are called the unclassified officers
and they include the district leaders we have just listed
and other favorites of the machine. Next under them on
the payroll come about 900 employees of the "exempt
class" such as secretaries and deputies. They receive
$6,700,000 or more than $7,400 each. They are exempt
supposedly because of their intimate personal relationship
to the heads of the government but actually because of the
opportunity which this classification affords to pay large
salaries to political henchmen.
Next beneath these exempt favorites come a non-com
petitive class of 11,250 employees who do the cheaper
forms of work in hospitals and public institutions. They in
clude orderlies and untrained nurses and scrubwomen. The
assumption is that the qualities of such workers can be
discovered only by experiment and not by examination.
They must submit some kind of a record of their experi
ence but it is usually only a formality. The city pays them
about $10,000,000 a year, or $17 a week each some work
only part time. In practice they are almost as dependent
upon political favoritism as their overlords. They fawn
upon the district leaders and work for the organization
ticket with the desperate earnestness of men whose bread
is at stake.
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 37
Next to them in the scale come the 54,600 city work
ers who actually pass competitive examinations and draw
$148,000,000 from the taxpayers, and the 44,500 school
teachers. These two groups are the backbone of the civil
service. Beneath them in the scale come about 27,250
laborers whose only examination is a physical examination
and who are allegedly employed by the city in the 'order
of their application. In practice these "laborers" some
times include typists and clerks squeezed in by their politi
cal friends after failure to pass examinations in their
Officially this is the picture of New York's government
by civil service. The system has one outstanding merit ; the
departments controlled by the mayor including police, fire,
health and docks, have a flat rule that employees must be
chosen in numerical order as they pass the civil service
examinations. But the courts, the borough presidents'
offices, and the Finance Department are not controlled by
these rules. And, what is much more important, virtually
every civil service department is ruled by a political chief
whose recommendations for promotion may be based on
partisan bias. Many of the departments where competi
tive examinations are supposed to rule are rotten with
Last year, for example, the City Court chose seven
clerks supposedly by civil service examinations. The jus
tices, of course, had almost nothing to do with their selec
tion. The orders came from Tammany Hall that, what
ever the result of the examination might be, three men
38 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
were to be squeezed in somehow. We will call them Her
man Cohen, James Callahan and Louis Cravello and we
will simplify the situation for purposes of brevity. When
the examination was held these men came out llth, 12th
and 15th as follows (names fictitious):
1. John Gordon
2. Richard Hoyt
3. Karl Miller
4. David Bowman
5. Patrick Malone
6. George Merrick
7. William Dietrich
8. Ernest Babcock
9. Jan Capek
10. Isidore Lash
11. Herman Cohen
12. James Callahan
13. Mark Van Norden
14. Peter Turner
15. Louis Cravello
The Tammany arithmetic experts puzzled a long time
over this list before they worked out a method of elimi
nating enough men to put Cohen, Callahan and Cravello
in office. This is how they finally accomplished the trick.
The famous 1 in 3 civil service law says that when an
opening is to be filled by civil service examination, the
department needing a new employee must take one of the
first three men on the list of successful candidates. The
acceptance is recorded by a process called certification.
The Civil Service Commission in this case certified the
three highest men, John Gordon, Richard Hoyt and Karl
Miller to the City Court. The department passed over the
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 39
first two on the list in choosing the first clerk and certified
Karl Miller because he was a local district worker. Then
the Civil Service Commission certified the first three re
maining names and sent back the list for the appointment
of the next clerk with Miller eliminated and David Bow
man as No. 3. The department chose Bowman for the
same reason it had chosen Miller. Then a Tammany in
sider brought pressure to bear upon Patrick Malone (No.
5) and persuaded him on a plea of "harmony" to waive
appointment, so the third certification of the three highest
names placed George Merrick at No. 3 under Gordon and
Hoyt. The department thereupon chose Merrick (No. 6).
Now, a trick in the law helped Tammany to reach its
favorites. The law says that when a man who has passed
a civil service examination has his name certified three
times to a department by the Municipal Civil Service Com
mission and each time his name is passed over for some
one else, then his name is dropped from among the appli
cants for that particular job. So after three trials, the first
two men on this list, John Gordon and Richard Hoyt, were
dropped, and when the list was returned to the department
for the selection of the fourth clerk Dietrich, Babcock and
Capek who had originally been seventh, eighth and ninth
were now first, second and third. Capek was chosen, and
Dietrich, Babcock and Lash were certified as the three
highest for the selection of the fifth clerk.
At this point the Tammany manipulators saw that they
could not squeeze in Cohen, Callahan and Cravello even
by this trickery of elimination unless one remaining appli
cant was forced out. Four clerks had been already chosen
40 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
and there were only three berths left. So they forced out
Lash by a series of threats which finally persuaded him
that his life would not be worth living if he should secure
the position. That made Cohen, the first of their favorites,
No. 3 on the fifth list, and they chose him for the fifth
clerk. Then Dietrich, Babcock and Callahan were certified
for the sixth list and the department chose Callahan. Here
the rule of three rejections entered in again and Dietrich
and Babcock, each of whom had been passed over three
times, were eliminated.
So, on the final list of three for the selection of the
seventh clerk, Louis Cravello, whose appointment had
been the chief aim of Tammany from the beginning, was
certified as No. 3, and was chosen. This is what the order
of * 'merit and fitness" looked like when Tammany was
1. John Gordon (eliminated by jugglery)
2. Richard Hoyt (eliminated by jugglery)
3. Karl Miller (chosen)
4. David Bowman (chosen)
5. Patrick Malone (persuaded to withdraw)
6. George Merrick (chosen)
7. William Dietrich (eliminated by jugglery)
8. Ernest Babcock (eliminated by jugglery)
9. Jan Capek (chosen)
10. Isidore Lash (forced out)
11. Herman Cohen (chosen)
12. James Callahan (chosen)
13. Mark Van Norden (left at the post)
14. Peter Turner (left at the post)
15. Louis Cravello (chosen at last)
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 41
It is not surprising in these circumstances that almost
every man who wants a civil service job in New York feels
impelled to make a contact with a district leader in addi
tion to preparing for his examination. The examinations
themselves are probably administered honestly enough but
the rule of 1 in 3 and other tricks of the trade may nullify
the highest standing. An applicant who is not wanted by
the politicians may be called in and told plainly that he
is not wanted, or he may have the situation and its possi
bilities entirely misrepresented to him. Sometimes a favo
rite receives a tip to underbid his competitors for a job
and, after he has been working a short time, his salary is
Special tricks are permissible in the making of contracts
with "experts." The Board of Education hired the fa
mous Dr. William H. Walker, brother of the Mayor, as a
medical examiner and consultant without examination be
cause the civil service law permits the city to hire scientific
or professional service of an "expert nature" on a part-
time basis. 5 Dr. Walker's right to hold such a job with
out examination is now being contested in the courts by
the Civil Service Reform Association.
The fight for civil service standards in New York dur
ing the last ten years has been, on the whole, a losing
fight. Tammany has increased the exempt positions 30
per cent since 1920 and its war of attrition constantly
goes on. The State Civil Service Commission has thus far
been the chief bulwark of the merit system and, fortu
nately for New York City taxpayers, no new exemptions
42 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
may be granted without state sanction. The state commis
sion is constantly attacked by the city civil service commis
sion to open the political floodgates to Tammany patron
age, but in 80 per cent of the cases in the last five years
the state commission has refused.
In this outline sketch of the political engine which runs
the somewhat complicated machinery of Greater New
York it remains to add only a few words about the func
tion of women as voters since the adoption of the nine
teenth amendment. Despite the intelligent activities of
such groups as the League of Women Voters and the
Women's City Club, women in general have fitted very
docilely into the Tammany scheme of things. The per
centage of women who vote at all is even lower than the
percentage of men. The masses of women, being pecul
iarly responsible for spending the family income and
peculiarly charged with the duty of seeing that their chil
dren are fed, are peculiarly susceptible to the fears and
favors doled out by district leaders. Few women, even
among those who are dependable Democratic or Republi
can voters, are very active in party affairs along their own
Both parties have women as co-leaders in the districts;
none of these co-leaders has developed great power in her
own right. Tammany has no women sachems and no
women on its important committees. In a great many dis
tricts women do the bulk of the clerical work as election
inspectors, and Socialists know from experience that they
can be at least as adept as the men in vote stealing. In
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS 43
short, until now the coming of woman suffrage has made
no perceptible difference in city affairs except that on the
whole women, for ecclesiastical and other reasons, are a
little more inclined to be suspicious of such things as
Socialism. Sex has little to do with civics of either the
theoretical or the practical brand. City politics, we con
clude, are better explained in terms of Marxism than
THE NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX
THE new Tammany is the old Tammany with the wis
dom of age and experience added. Its guile and aplomb
have increased until to-day it has a legal device for every
possible type of looting and a moral explanation for every
bribe. As the years have gone on a noticeable shift in
tactics has occurred. The votes of aldermen and other city
officials are almost never sold directly and the city treasury
itself is relatively safe from theft. The real fortunes
of the new Tammany are gathered through brokerage
Look, for example, at the Tin Box Brigade, who crossed
the witness stand before Judge Seabury. Farley was inter
ested in gambling rights, Culkin in building permits,
Doyle and Olvany in zoning privileges, Maier in pier
leases, Dr. Walker in compensation fees, and McCormick
in marriage licenses. A large part of the activities of these
gentlemen was and is strictly legal, and it is to be noted
that no one of them, even the notorious Dr. Doyle, was
convicted of any crime as a result of the Hofstadter legisla
tive investigation. That is the characteristic of the new
legal graft of Tammany Hall. For every type of exploita-
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 45
tion it has developed a technique for coming within the
limits of the law. And if occasionally some undisciplined
or crude member of the brotherhood does step over the
edges of legal propriety, what a host of legal luminaries
spring forward to defend his constitutional rights before
Tammany appointed judges!
Sometimes the exploitation of the public by Tammany
brokers takes place entirely outside of official activities.
Boss Curry and Boss McCooey sell insurance and what
ambitious young contractor doing business with the city
could fail to see the advantages of such useful contacts?
Theofel sold automobiles whose streamlines appealed to
the esthetic sense of an astounding number of Queens
officials. We shall describe his methods later.
The patriots of the Tin Box Brigade can be under
stood only if they are regarded as members of a genial
brokerage brotherhood. They did not regard themselves
as particularly guilty. Not one of them in testifying before
Seabury broke down and told the whole story. If they
had been able to express their defense in general socio
logical terms they would probably have said that they
were applying the methods of the business system to poli
tics a bit too successfully. Other men got jealous, chiefly
Republicans, and forced an investigation to get in on the
Farley became the most famous of the brigade chiefly
through accidental circumstances. Probably he was no
worse than his associates ; he simply captured the spotlight
first and was unlucky enough to arrive on the scene at a
46 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
time when Franklin D. Roosevelt could politically afford
to demonstrate a high moral courage. Genial, popular
Thomas M. Farley was Sheriff of the County of New
York and leader of the 14th district of Manhattan. He
had been successively alderman, deputy county clerk and
county clerk a quite typical career for a popular servant
of the people who was faithful to Tammany. Then Sea-
bury got him. He was arraigned before a packed house
at a time when New York was ready to listen. Seabury
asked him to explain bank deposits of $360,000 in seven
years. He stuttered and stammered. His total salary and
other explainable income during those seven years had
not been more than $90,000. Where did the other $270,-
000 come from? Farley finally confessed that he kept at
home a "wonderful tin box" and that he drew out from
time to time the moneys which swelled his bank accounts.
"Now, in 1930," Seabury asked, "it appears that you
deposited in cash in the Chatham and Phenix and in the
Harriman and in the Emigrant over $13,000 in cash.
Where did that cash come from, Sheriff? A. Well, that
is my salary check is in there.
"Q. No, Sheriff; your salary checks aggregated $12,-
876.09, which is exclusive of the cash deposits which dur
ing that year you deposited in those three banks. A. Well,
that came from the good box.
Q. Kind of a magic box? A. It was a wonderful box."
New York rocked with laughter. The first big act of
the Seabury show had scored heavily.
Judge Seabury filed with Governor Roosevelt charges
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 47
against Sheriff Farley, saying: "That he has demonstrated
his incompetence to hold the said office of Sheriff, by
reason of his ignorance of the duties of his office and the
laws of this State pertaining to the same, and by reason
of the appointment to and retention in office under him
of incompetent and unworthy persons; that he has sworn
falsely under oath at public hearings before the Joint Leg
islative Committee; that he has failed to account for or
to explain the receipt and possession of large sums of
money in excess of his salary as a public officer or income
received from any admitted occupation or from invest
ments, upon all of which grounds and by reason of any
and all the charges hereinabove enumerated, it is respect
fully submitted that said Thomas M. Farley should cease
to be an incumbent of the office of Sheriff of New York
Farley was removed from office but not from his posi
tion as a leader of the Tammany organization. After his
amazing testimony three great banquets were given at one
of New York's leading hotels, supposedly at $40 a plate,
at which he was the guest of honor. Many of New York's
leading business men and several prominent churchmen
were present at those dinners.
Along with his charges against Farley, Seabury had
submitted facts against two of Farley's under sheriffs,
Peter J. Curran and Joseph Flaherty, which were startling
enough to provide a sensation in ordinary times but which
Governor Roosevelt blandly ignored. About Curran, Sea-
bury said: "Between 1925 and 1931 he deposited $662,331
48 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
exclusive of the proceeds of notes discounted, sales of
securities and interest, practically none of which is credibly
explained." That was almost twice the deposits of Farley,
but Mr. Curran remained in office under Roosevelt's ap
pointee, Sheehy, after his chief, Farley, was removed,
and the City Affairs Committee squandered a few postage
stamps in trying to get him removed.
Farley was only the first of a series of tin box sensations.
The other brokers had other sources of revenue pre
sumably Farley's sources were largely in the underworld.
James J. McCormick, leader of the 22nd district, Man
hattan, believed in love and marriage fees, and as deputy
city clerk he pocketed at least $150,000 in such fees in six
years. 2 During those six years he put $384,788 away for
a rainy day. He was indicted but acquitted.
Much more important than these district leaders were
the two great zoning racketeers, Dr. William F. Doyle and
Judge George W. Olvany, the former leader of Tammany
Hall. (For the chronological order of these scandals and
the official details we refer the reader to the Calendar of
Scandals in Appendix I.) Doyle held the spotlight for
many months because of his persistent silence and the
elaborate maneuvers of the Tammany legal hierarchy in
protecting him. He was a former veterinarian who had
acquired magic power over the zoning regulations of the
city and incidentally banked more than a million dollars in
the process. 8
In a city like New York the right to change the zoning
laws may make or break a man's fortune. The city has
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 49
adopted very strict and, on the whole, intelligent regula
tions to exclude factories from residence districts, to con
trol the location of gasoline stations, and to determine the
setback of high buildings. Since all laws should accom
modate themselves to changing conditions the city has
given to the Board of Standards and Appeals the necessary
power to make modifications in the zoning laws upon
application. The application is usually presented to this
board of five people, all of them political appointees, by
some professional representative or sponsor. Naturally,
the citizen whose land may be raised in value from
$10,000 to $50,000 by a special ruling is anxious to em
ploy the representative before this board who will produce
the best results.
From 1925 to 1931 apparently every one in the city
except Mayor Walker who knew anything about city gov
ernment, knew that Doyle was the man to see about zon
ing regulations. Although he was never admitted to the
bar, he won for his clients between June 22, 1922, and
Dec. 31, 1929, 244 permits for garages in districts other
wise restricted against them and after permit applications
had been turned down by the building superintendents in
the various boroughs; 52 permits for gasoline stations
which had previously been turned down by the building
superintendents of the Fire Prevention Bureau; 187 modi
fications of departmental orders either under the State
Labor Law, the Fire Prevention Rules, or the Building and
Tenement House Department Rules ; 7 permits to vary the
height of buildings curtailed by the zoning law; and 6 per-
50 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
mits for wet wash laundries in restricted districts, after the
permits had previously been refused by the building super
Most significant of all, during 1928 and 1929, Doyle
persuaded the Board of Standards and Appeals to reverse
itself in forty-nine cases after he had taken these cases on
appeal when other lawyers had failed.
These amazing decisions were almost all concurred in
by the three present members of the Board, Guilfoyle,
Connell and Holland, whose vote is necessary in order to
make any modification in the zoning law.
Next in fame to the practice of Dr. Doyle before the
Board of Standards and Appeals had been the practice of
the firm of McCooey and Conroy, headed by John
McCooey, Jr., son of the successful Brooklyn philanthro
pist, and now promoted to the Supreme Court.
The case of the application of McCooey and Conroy
on behalf of Joseph Zorn for a gasoline station permit at
2576 86th Street, Brooklyn, will serve to illustrate the
kind of case in which favored practitioners got concessions
from the Board.
The decision in that case, handed down on June 9,
1931, is nothing less than astounding. The applicant
obtained a permit for a gasoline station in 1928. This
permit was obtained by fraud and after the fire commis
sioner, superintendent of buildings, and the Board of
Standards and Appeals refused to set the permit aside,
it was declared illegal on July 7, 1930, by Mr. Justice
Cropsey of the Supreme Court of Brooklyn, whose deci-
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 51
sion was sustained by the Appellate Division and the
Court of Appeals. On the basis of that decision the Board
of Standards and Appeals revoked the permit on the
ground that it had been fraudulently obtained
Mr. Zorn pleaded guilty on April 19, 1929, in the
Magistrate's Court to a charge of violating the building
zone resolution in attempting to install a gas tank without
any authorization. Despite the decision of the Supreme
Court, the Appellate Division and the Court of Appeals,
despite the action of the Board itself in revoking this per
mit, and despite the record of the applicant's guilt in the
Magistrate's Court, when an application was made to the
Board in 1931 by the same Mr. Zorn, by McCooey and
Conroy, for a permit to operate this very same gasoline
station, and a variation of the zoning law on the ground
of hardship, the Board of Standards and Appeals granted
the application and refused to pass upon the question of
fraud, thereby flouting its own decision and the decision
of the Supreme Court.
In the end Seabury was completely baffled by Doyle.
In order to force him to talk a special session of the legis
lature passed special immunity laws, and then all that
Doyle would say was that he never had given a bribe to
a public official. Then why had he declined to answer a
perfectly plain question in the first place and why had he
argued that an answer might tend to incriminate him?
He had admitted splitting fees but he steadfastly denied
giving any fees to city officials. To whom did he pay
them? Directly to the Tammany overlords? Certainly
52 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Tammany supported him more anxiously than any other
man involved in the inquiry. John F. Curry personally
fought the battle in the courts to keep him out of jail for
During all this agitation Mayor Walker preserved an
attitude of aloofness. His close friend, William E. Walsh,
chairman of the Board of Standards and Appeals, resigned
under fire, was indicted and, as usual under Tammany
prosecution, acquitted. The mayor finally appointed a
"citizens' committee" to look into the board's practice.
The committee reported that the entire board should be
reorganized, whereupon Walker thanked the learned col
laborators, put the report in a pigeonhole and did noth
ing. The men who gave Dr. Doyle and John McCooey
such astounding favors are still running the Board of
Standards and Appeals.
The theory that there was a direct and corrupt connec
tion between the Board of Standards and Appeals and
Tammany gains some plausibility when the case of George
W. Olvany is studied. Olvany sold his political influence
with the Board of Standards and Appeals in several
famous zoning cases and then concealed his interest in
the cases by having another lawyer serve as the attorney
of record. Olvany received his fees for such practice while
he was leader of Tammany Hall and concealed the receipt
by taking his firm's share in cash instead of checks. How
the racket operated was revealed in the case of the builder,
Fred F. French, and his construction of a building at
551 Fifth Avenue. 6
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 53
Mr. French wanted to build a certain wall in his new
building somewhat higher than the height limit prescribed
by the setback provisions of the zoning law, so he ap
proached Olvany's law firm to get help from the Board
of Standards and Appeals. He was referred to a lawyer
whom he knew named John N. Boyle and was told to
deposit $35,000 with Boyle to get the permit in sixty
days, the money to be held in escrow and returned if the
Board did not give him what he asked. The Board did,
whereupon Boyle at the request of a member of Olvany's
firm gave $25,000 in cash to a firm member, took $5,000
as his own fee, and returned the rest to French. Where
did the $25,000 go? Judge Olvany took a high position
in the whole matter and declined to allow Seabury to
examine his firm's books.
But Judge Seabury gave the city a fairly convincing
picture of the income-producing habits of a Tammany
leader before he was through with Olvany. He showed
that the same kind of farming-out process in zoning cases
that had occurred in the French Fifth Avenue building
case had occurred also in the cases of No. 1 Wall Street,
the Irving Trust Building, and a block of residences in
the Murray Hill district, which had been rezoned in spite
of strong local protest. Olvany would assign the work
to some other lawyer of record and take the prodigious
fee himself. Perhaps that is one reason he lost his position
as head of Tammany Hall he was reputed to be grasping
and ungenerous with his spoils. But there can be no doubt
of his success. His firm deposited $5,283,000 in the bank
54 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
from 1925 to 1931. In one instance Fred F. French after
paying $75,000 not only got the Board of Standards and
Appeals to change a zoning regulation in Tudor City but
he even persuaded the Board of Estimate to amend the
building zone resolution affecting that area over the oppo
sition of the board's own engineers. Olvany's firm re
ceived $71,000 of the $75,000 fee for its strenuous labors
in this case without appearing in the record.
After Seabury had demonstrated how to get a change
in the zoning laws he proceeded to demonstrate how to
get a pier lease and a bus franchise. Bus franchises are
granted by the Board of Estimate after public hearings
and each franchise is supposed to be granted to that
responsible bus company which will give the city and pas
sengers the best contract. As we shall show in a later
chapter, the franchises are not usually granted on an
impartial basis. Some companies appear with loaded dice
and their unfortunate competitors find themselves under
attack on the most trivial grounds. In the case of John A.
Lynch, borough president of Richmond, a franchise for
the Tompkins Bus Corporation was granted on July 28,
1927, to operate buses on Staten Island, although this com
pany's record was full of irresponsible and illegal acts.
Lynch recommended the Tompkins company, and, since
he was borough president of the area where the buses were
to operate and since he had just dutifully voted for Mayor
Walker's notorious Equitable bus deal, his recommenda
tion was followed.
Why did Lynch vote for such a company when it made
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 55
an inferior offer to the people of his borough? The Sea-
bury probers asked and answered. They found out that
Lynch had unloaded a losing newspaper in which he was
heavily interested on Gordon, head of the Tompkins bus
concern, during the week before the granting of the fran
chise. Lynch was to shake off all his liabilities and receive
a substantial sum in addition. Said Judge Seabury: 6 "An
unbiased consideration of the testimony makes it perfectly
apparent, in my opinion, that there was an understanding
between Borough President Lynch and Gordon, by which
Gordon relieved Lynch of an incubus in return for which
Lynch agreed to, and did, use his influence in causing a
franchise to be delivered to Gordon's company." Lynch
is still borough president of Richmond and will vote on
the next bus franchise which comes before the Board of
The process of getting a pier lease is somewhat more
complex but equally common in New York's history. The
graft is usually thinly disguised as a legal fee so that
prosecution is difficult, particularly since there are several
steps in the process at which a pseudo-lawyer may inter
vene. The Tammany technique was revealed in the case
of Judge W. Bernard Vause.
Federal Attorney Charles H. Tuttle was investigating a
wildcat concern called the Columbia Finance Corporation
in 1929 in those days there appeared to be a distinct
line between wildcat and legitimate finance corporations
when he chanced to examine the bank records of W.
Bernard Vause, Brooklyn county judge. He was aston-
56 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
ished to find a series of checks from the United American
Lines, Inc., some of them as high as $25,000. He probed
deeper and discovered that Vause had participated in a
$250,000 deal for three pier leases, having been "retained"
by several shipping companies to get pier leases from the
Sinking Fund Commission, a New York City department.
He convicted Vause for using the mails to defraud and
sent him to a federal prison under a six-year sentence, but
the mystery of those pier leases has never been explained.
Vause was not the attorney of record in the pier cases and
he never appeared before the Sinking Fund Commission
which granted the pier leases. But he received $60,000
in fees after the leases were granted. Tuttle could not
probe the Sinking Fund Commission and the Dock De
partment because he had no power to do so as a federal
attorney. He could only refer the whole question of the
$250,000 "slush fund" to the aged and worried Tammany
prosecutor, Thomas C. T. Crain.
Crain, who is a pastmaster at futile gestures, launched
his "investigation" by writing Judge Vause a letter de
manding an accounting of his fees, which letter went into
the wastebasket unanswered. Mayor Walker solemnly
announced that his Commissioner of Accounts, James A.
Higgins, would make an investigation of the Vause pier-
lease deal. If the investigation was ever made the public
has not heard the results. This man Vause, incidentally,
had made a speech to a Brooklyn grand jury in December,
1926, urging it not to show any Yuletide leniency to
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 57
This Vause pier-lease scandal was one of the most per
fect illustrations of the Tammany method of sidetracking
an investigation. Because the mayor is the mayor he is
given a newspaper headline every time he announces that
an "investigation" will be made of some scandal in his
administration. The public indignation dies down pending
the outcome of the investigation, and months later every
one has forgotten that no result of the investigation was
Pier leases in New York have been a scandal for a
generation. It is universally believed in shipping circles
that fortunes must be sunk in political fees to get a favor
able lease for ocean-going steamships on the New York
waterfront, and during the Seabury investigation this
belief was confirmed. No less a personage than Charles F.
Murphy himself saw the possibilities in dock leasing as a
middleman. The New York World of October 1, 1905,
described the budding pier lease racket of those days:
The complete inside history of the New York Dock
Department under Tammany Hall ... is a record which
out-Tweeds Tweed ... the dock privilege allotted to Tam
many Hall and the tools of Tammany Hall, if rented out
at their true value, would pay interest on the bonds and
the allotment toward the sinking fund twice over.
This astounding system in dock contracts was organized
by Charles F. Murphy, the present leader of Tammany Hall.
. . . The present graft system may be said to have begun
under the supervision of Murphy himself when Dock Com
missioner under Mayor Van Wyck. . . .
During Mr. Murphy's short career as leader of Tam
many Hall his contracting firm has acquired, mainly through
58 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
manipulation of the Dock Department, contracts aggregat
ing $30,000,000. . . .
It is not at all peculiar that the largest contracts awarded
to the Murphy firm are companies which have too much at
stake to risk a clash with Tammany Hall. . . . Any work
they might contemplate could be hampered in numberless
ways. Permits could be refused or delayed, or issued with
costly restrictions. . . . The contractors, if not of Tammany
Hall, could be harried by the Building Department and the
Bureau of Encumbrances and a dozen petty Tammany
officials. . . . 7
Denis Tilden Lynch in an article in the Herald
Tribune has pointed out that even during the war the
political dummies who acted as lessees of city piers under
the Tammany system charged the steamship companies
from two to five times as much as they paid the city for
them. General William Black, Chief of Engineers of the
U. S. Army in 1920, gave certain startling illustrations of
the profits in this pier racket as follows:
Price Per Day Price Per Day
Paid to the City Charged by Lessee
by Lessee to Steamship Company
Now, all this material was available as a background
for a real investigation of pier leases in 1930 when Charles
H. Tuttle asked District Attorney Crain to probe the situa
tion. Mr. Crain found nothing worthy of comment
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 59
although the same information was accessible to him that
was later unearthed by Judge Seabury. When the City
Affairs Committee used this negligence as an argument
against Mayor Walker in its charges before Governor
Roosevelt in 1931, the mayor brushed the argument aside
by saying that even Republican Tuttle had failed to find
evidence against any member of the Dock Department!
Precisely! Tuttle was a federal attorney and could not
investigate the Dock Department. He could only prose
cute individuals for violation of federal law such as for
using the mails to defraud or evading the income tax.
The charter says that applicants for a pier lease must
apply first to the dock commissioner and then to the com
missioners of the Sinking Fund. These are all political
personages, outside of the civil service, and usually the
dock commissioner is a district leader and member of the
inner ring of Tammany Hall. In recent years the law in
granting pier leases has been carelessly disregarded and
the real control over leases exercised by the mayor. The
North German Lloyd Steamship Company discovered how
difficult it was to penetrate the Tammany breastworks in
the fight to secure a pier lease. This lease was of immense
importance to the company because it had been compelled
to dock its great passenger liners in New Jersey and Brook
lyn. The company's officials mournfully remarked on the
witness stand before Seabury that in no other part of the
world where they did business was it necessary to use cir
cumlocutions and influence in the perfectly simple business
of getting a place to dock a boat. In New York it
60 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
was different. New York was unique in a number of
The company, being told that direct approach was a
waste of time, approached David Maier, ex-convict and
friend of Mayor Walker, to get a lease on a new pier not
yet completed. Maier told the officials at first that it
would cost them perhaps $3,000 to get a lease, and later
he said perhaps $10,000. Then the suggested price was
shoved up to $25,000, and Maier said the one way to get
the lease was to hire an eminent Tammany lawyer, Wil
liam H. Hickin, who has since been elected president of
the National Democratic Club. Hickin was hired, and
after years of jockeying and manipulation, he was paid
a "fee" of $50,000 with the understanding that all except
$20,000 was to be passed on to others. Hickin refused to
waive immunity before Judge Seabury. He refused to give
the names of the persons to whom he passed on his win
nings. The bank records, however, show that he drew out
$45,000 of the $50,000 in cash a few days after he re
ceived the North German Lloyd check, and that shortly
afterwards he was without any substantial funds.
How Tammany Hall operates in these pier-lease cases
was indicated by one letter from the Lloyd lawyer to his
home office. David Maier, he said, "gave these assurances
in the most positive manner, saying this is a reward due
and promised him for thirty years of service, and that
nobody can take it from him. He states that his position
with the new leader is very good." This Maier is the
gentleman whose presence on the boat with Mayor Walker
NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE 61
on a trip to Europe caused so much stir. When the com
pany finally got the lease, it wrote Mayor Walker a warm
letter of thanks, but a slight mistake was made in sending
this letter. It was mailed about two months before the
commissioners of the Sinking Fund actually granted the
This pier that the North German Lloyd Line finally
leased proved to be a great source of riches for both Tam
many and some Republicans. Olvany was aware of it and
so was Colonel Edward C. Carrington, the Republican can
didate for borough president of Manhattan in 1931. In
fact Carrington' s company, the Hudson River Navigation
Corporation, owned the pier site on which the new pier
was built and he hired Olvany 's law firm to get as high a
price as possible for it from the city. He asked the city
to pay him $3,177,000 for a pier and site assessed at
$633,000. The city finally paid two millions. Just why
he asked such a large amount became apparent when it
was revealed that heavy demands were made upon him.
He had to pay Olvany, and he was asked to pay Dock
Commissioner Cosgrove for the commissioner's approval
of the purchase. Two good things came out of this scan
dal almost immediately. Colonel Carrington as a candi
date for public office was thoroughly discredited, and the
city got the pier site for half a million dollars less than
the price set by the dock commissioner in the reign of
At one moment in his inquiry Judge Seabury seemed to
be just on the point of disclosing the real inside story of
62 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
New York's pier racket. F. Traugott Keller, chief engi
neer of the Dock Department, admitted splitting fees in a
private hearing after it was disclosed that he had large,
unexplained bank accounts. He was to come back the next
day for further examination. He died that day in front
of a subway train. No one would testify that he was mur
dered. Perhaps he was not.
MORE TIN BOXES
THE high points of comedy in the examination of the
Tin Box Brigade by Judge Seabury came with the appear
ance of James A. McQuade, now sheriff of Kings County,
and Dr. William H. Walker, brother of the mayor. The
testimony of these men both brought to mind that remark
of E. L. Godkin, which is quoted by M. R. Werner in his
Tammany Hall: "The three things a Tammany leader
most dreaded were in the ascending order of repulsiveness,
the penitentiary, honest industry, and biography."
McQuade deposited $520,000 in the bank in six years
although his salary during that period totaled less than
$50,000, and he could not remember any other gainful
occupation except his political job as register of Kings
County. His testimony is worthy of transmission to future
Q. Now it appears, Mr. Register, that in the year 1925,
you deposited in the Kings County Trust Company your
salary checks for the amount of $9,365.40. That is in accord
with your recollection?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. It also appears in that year you deposited in cash, not
other checks, there were other checks, too, but deposited in
cash $55,833.07; that you deposited other checks in addition
64 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
to your salary checks for fourteen odd thousand dollars, and
that your total deposits for that year in the Kings County
Trust Company amounted to $80,058.41. Now bearing in
mind what you have told us about not having any other
gainful pursuits than your public office, will you be good
enough to tell me where you got the seventy odd thousand
dollars in 1925, which you deposited, $55,000 of which was
A. Money that I borrowed. If you want me to get to the
start of it, I will have to take and go over the family in its
entirety, without feeling that I am humiliated in the least
or am not humiliating the other 33 McQuades. If this Com
mittee can take the time, it can take the time to listen, and
you can, and the public in general, I will go over it from
I unfortunately went into politics. I say that cautiously.
Q. You don't base that on that deposit, do you?
A. I am going to get to that deposit, if you will let me.
If you will let me. I bailed a man out who stole off
McQuade Brothers $260,000, which necessitated the fold
ing up of the McQuade Bros, firm, selling eight seats they
had in the Exchange for $6,000 a piece, that afterwards
brought $225,000. After they liquidated, the 34 McQuades
were placed on my back, I being the only breadwinner, so to
speak, and after that it was necessary to keep life in their
body, sustenance, to go out and borrow money.
After they paid up all they could, I took over their respon
sibilities. It was not necessary; I felt it my duty, being that
they were my flesh and blood, part and parcel of me, to
help them. I am getting along in fairly good shape, when
my mother, Lord have mercy on her, in 1925 dropped dead.
I am going along nicely, when my brother, Lord have mercy
on him, in 1926 or 1927 dropped dead. But doing nicely
when I have two other brothers, and when my brother died
he willed me his family, which I am still taking care of,
thank God. Two other brothers, who have been very sick,
and are sick, so much so that when your Committee notified
me, I was waiting for one of them to die.
MORE TIN BOXES 65
They have 24 children that I am trying to keep fed,
clothed and educated, which means that I must borrow
money. The extra money that you see in this year or any
year from that year on has been money that I borrowed,
not ashamed of it
Q. Now, Mr. Register,
A. If the Lord lets me live, I intend to pay it all. And I
borrowed more in 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929, and in the
last month alone, I think, I borrowed $10,000 to keep the
roof over their homes.
Q. Well, now, Mr. Register, will you be good enough to-
indicate from whom you borrowed this money?
A. Oh, Judge, offhand I could not. I borrowed, which
you ought to remember. I was introduced to you, Judge, in
the Pennsylvania Railroad depot by the late Judge McCall,
who said to you at that time, "This is my friend, Jim
McQuade, Judge Seabury, and he is in need, and I am going;
to help him." I don't know whether you remember or not.
Q. I am sorry; I don't recall it, Mr. Register.
A. I was standing right beside you, and the Judge asked
me if I would ride down with him, and I told him I
couldn't. The next day he gave me $5,000. That was the
start of my trying to keep the McQuade family together.
Q. Well, now, Mr. McQuade, you understand, I take it,
that you were accorded a full opportunity to make any state-
ment that you wanted to make in private, and that you de
clined. You understand that, don't you?
A. Yes. I haven't the faintest idea what it was. I am not
ashamed of anything that I am testifying here.
Q. Now, you have told us this story, which from your
version of it, shows the great charity and benevolence that
actuated you in reference to the members of the McQuade
family, to whom you have made reference. That all relates,
as I understand it, to money that you paid out from time
A. That is right.
Q. Doesn't it?
A. You see, in these deposits, Judge
66 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Q. Doesn't it relate to money that you paid out?
A. From time to time for them.
Q. Well now, my question, Mr. Register, I wasn't inter
ested at all in what you did with the money. I am quite
ready to assume that you made charitable and benevolent
dispositions of the money. Let us assume that, for the sake
of argument. My question is: How, in the year 1925, with
your salary of $9,365.40, you deposited $80,000-odd?
A. I would, for instance, borrow $1,000 off John Brown.
In two weeks' time John wanted that $1,000, and I would
borrow $1,000 off John Jones. Another, maybe two weeks
or less, he would want that. I would get it off John Smith,
where in reality there would be possibly $10,000 deposited
for the $1,000 that was actually working.
Q. I see just over and over again using the same $1,000?
A. That is it, trying to keep my
Q. Can you give the names of the persons from whom
you borrowed this money that brought your total deposits
of that year up to $80,000?
A. I can't, offhand, Judge, remember that far back. I had
troubles enough to
Q. Have you any data or writing that will enable you to
designate the persons from whom you borrowed these sums?
A. As the money was paid, it was off my mind, and I
thanked God for it and destroyed anything that I might have.
Q. Destroyed everything you might have?
A. After I paid it, it was no good to me.
Q. Why do you give thanks to Divine Providence?
A. I give thanks to Divine Providence for permitting me
to pay those people who were kind enough to loan me the
After this colloquy an enterprising reporter from the
Sun got on a street car and went out into the farther
reaches of Brooklyn to discover how well McQuade was
feeding his 33 destitute relatives- He found a number of
MORE TIN BOXES 67
them on the city payroll, being very comfortably taken
care of by the taxpayers. He found among the 33 rela
tives rotund and prosperous real estate owners in Queens
who seemed quite superior to the good sheriff's kindness.
But all of this did not threaten Mr. McQuade's chances
for election as sheriff of Kings County, since he had
already been designated for the office by McCooey before
he testified and nothing less than an earthquake could
defeat a McCooey choice in McCooeyville.
The case of Dr. William H. Walker, the mayor's
brother, is almost as striking. Dr. Walker is a pudgy,
rather forlorn-looking person whom it is hard to associate
with his dashing, voluble brother. He is not a member of
the American Medical Association or the New York Acad
emy of Medicine. When he was first made medical exam
iner of the Board of Education, the Civil Service Reform
Asociation contested his choice in the courts on the ground
that he had not passed a required examination for the
place. He was finally allowed to stay because of a tech
nicality and he draws from this position $6,500 a year. He
is also a member of the Board of Retirement for city
pensions from which he receives $25 per meeting, and an
examiner of pugilists under the jurisdiction of the State
Boxing Commission, for which he receives $50 a per
formance, perhaps 50 times a year.
Dr. Walker's main source of income, however, is not
official. It consists chiefly of fees split with four doctors
who treat city employees for injuries. To understand the
proceeding it will be necessary to explain just how the
63 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
compensation racket works in the practice of medicine in
When a worker is injured in the performance of duty
the State Workmen's Compensation Law makes the em
ployer responsible for medical care but it gives the em
ployer the right to designate the doctor. This gives an
opportunity for collusion between crooked doctors and
employers in exploiting the insurance companies who must
pay the bills. Racketeering doctors may render fake bills
with the consent of the employer and they may compen
sate the employer for his cooperation by incorporating in
their bills names of employees who never existed and so
make it possible for the employer to be paid for medical
attention to a ghost. More commonly inferior clinics are
run in connection with insurance companies which are
interested in minimizing illness and giving cheap treat
ment to injured workers.
In the case of the city the system gives Tammany a
chance to send the city's injured employees to doctors who
will split fees with the political ring. Judge Seabury dis
covered that four doctors had almost a monopoly of com
pensation cases of city employees and that during 37
months, from January 1, 1929, to January 31, 1932, they
received $216,000. Direct evidence was introduced to
show that in scores of cases these fees were split with
Dr. Walker on a 50-50 basis to the odd penny. No check
was made by the corporation counsel who appointed these
doctors to see whether the services which the city paid for
were actually rendered, or if the treatments given were
necessary and reasonable. 2
MORE TIN BOXES 69
When Dr. Walker appeared on the witness stand before
Seabury he was frightened and nervous. He gave the most
pathetic exhibition of "truth telling" in the entire inquiry.
His combined bank accounts with the four doctors, it
appeared had totaled $431,000 from 1928 to 1932, an
astonishing harvest for a man wholly unknown in the
upper world of medicine. 3 His explanations of checks he
had received from Dr. Thomas J. O'Mara, one of the four
city compensation doctors, was still more astonishing.
He admitted receiving about $10,000 to $12,000 a year
from Dr. T. J. O'Mara in split fees but he denied that these
split fees came from city compensation cases. He argued
that they came from other compensation cases which he
shared with Dr. O'Mara and he swore that he himself had
never done any work on city compensation cases. This
was important because if he had done any paid service
directly for a city patient the doctor who split city fees
with him could be charged with misappropriating public
funds. To save both himself and Dr. O'Mara he had to-
pretend that the money received from Dr. O'Mara had
nothing to do with city funds, and at the same time he had
to concoct an elaborate yarn about the extensive coopera
tion between himself and O'Mara to explain these mys
terious checks. How he faced the music is revealed by
Q. Now, are you willing to swear that these fees that for
the last five years of Dr. O'Mara's that he has split with you
were not, any of them, in relation to city compensation
A. They were not.
70 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Q. You are willing to say that they were not?
Q. Doctor, I show you a check or warrant from the city
payable to the order of Thomas J. O'Mara. That is the
Dr. O'Mara with whom you have split some fees?
Q. Here is a warrant or check for $233.20 and here is
another one for $1,269. Will you be good enough to look
at them and note their date is on March 3, 1931? March
3 and 4, 1931?
Q. That is right, isn't it?
Q. Now, will you be good enough to look at this check
that I hand you and tell me whether it bears Dr. O'Mara's
A. It does.
Q. And whether it is made payable to your own order?
A. It is. ...
Q. You observe that that is just one-half, isn't it, of the
amount of the warrants paid to Dr. O'Mara in those city
A. I presume so. I haven't added it up. I take your word
Q. Doesn't the date of the check serve to refresh your
recollection that when Dr. O'Mara got those checks for city
compensation cases he deposited them in his bank and drew
a check to your order for one-half of the amount? Doesn't
it refresh your recollection, Doctor?
A. I haven't any recollection of it, but the check speaks
for itself, that I received it. ...
Q. Now, you see, Dr. O'Mara got $1,502.20 and on the
next day I think O'Mara sends you a check for $751.10,
just one-half of that amount. Now does not that, Doctor,
serve to refresh your recollection that at least in cases repre
sented by these two checks from the city to Dr. O'Mara
MORE TIN BOXES 71
under date of March 3 and 4 for city compensation cases
that Dr. O'Mara did split his fee 50-50 with you?
A. I never knew anything about the doctor receiving those
Q. Can you tell me any other reason why Dr. O'Mara
should have sent you exactly one-half of the amount that he
received in compensation cases one day after he received the
checks from the city?
A. No, I don't.
Q. What was it for, Doctor, if it was not a division and
split of this commission?
A. It was for medical work that I performed for him.
Q. But not medical work in reference to compensation
A. Not city compensation cases.
Q. You still stick to that?
A. Yes. . . .
Q. Now, Doctor, you say this check for $751.10 was for
some medical services that you rendered?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you ever send any bill to anybody for those serv
ices you say you rendered?
A. No, I depend upon Dr. O'Mara's records entirely.
Q. You still say it was not a split on city cases?
A. Yes, sir. . . .
Q. Now, I show you another check to Dr. O'Mara from
the city for $436.45 under date of June 27, 1931, services
compensation law. Do you notice that?
Q. Did Dr. O'Mara give you half of that payment to
A. I haven't any recollection of it. I never knew Dr.
O'Mara received that check.
Q. What date did he receive that check?
A. The check is dated June 27, 1931.
Q. Now I show you a check by him to your order on
72 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
July 1, 1931, for $218.23, and tell me whether that serves
to refresh your recollection that Dr. O'Mara did split that
fee with you even to the extent of giving you that half cent,
you will observe?
A. I haven't any recollection of it.
Q. Well, if it wasn't a split of Dr. O'Mara's fee, what
was it, Dr. Walker?
A. It was the same as the other, the same as the other
Q. You couldn't give me any explanation for the other
except to say it was medical services?
A. Well, I will say the same thing again.
Q. Did you render any bill for these services?
Q. Don't you think that, perhaps, Doctor, you may be
in error and that really you did split these city compensation
fees with Dr. O'Mara?
A. No, sir. . . .
Q. Now, Doctor, will you please look at this next check
I hand you, under date of August 5, 1931, for services
rendered by Dr. O'Mara, and paid for by the city under the
compensation law, for $407.30. . . .
Q. And this check, under date of August 6, 1931, for
$162.40 to O'Mara, in a compensation case. Do you note it?
A. I do.
Q. And this check of August 6, 1931, for $181.75 to
Dr. O'Mara in a compensation case you note it?
A. I note it.
Q. This one under date of August 6, 1931, to Dr. O'Mara
in a compensation case for $196.80.
Q. And this one under date of August 6, 1931, to Dr.
O'Mara from the city in a compensation case for $194.15?
Q. You observe those checks seven of them, are there
MORE TIN BOXES 73
Q. Doctor, I show you another check under date of
August 6, 1931, to Dr. O'Mara from the city in a compen
sation case for $237.20.
Q. You note that, do you not?
A. Yes. . . .
Q. All right; so that we have seven checks between those
dates to Dr. O'Mara in city compensation cases, aggregating
$1,382.62. On August 12th, didn't you receive a check that
I hand you from Dr. O'Mara for $691.30?
A. I presume I did the check is cashed.
Q. That doesn't rest on presumption, does it? That rests
on the firm foundation of knowledge?
Q. Wasn't that half of those seven checks that Dr. O'Mara
got from the city in compensation cases?
A. I will take your figures for that.
Q. I don't mean, isn't it half of that amount; I mean to
ask whether that $691.30 wasn't the split that Dr. O'Mara
made with you in the cases referred to on those checks of
warrants from the city?
A. He gave that check for services I rendered.
Q. Services in reference to these cases?
A. These cases I didn't know anything about.
Q. What cases did you render services for, for which you
got this check?
A. Any cases he asked me to look at.
Q. Have you got any record to show what those cases
A. I haven't now.
Q. Did you ever have any?
A. At the time he was giving me
Q. Didn't you keep any record yourself?
A. No, he kept track.
Q. You didn't keep any record?
Q. (Continued) of the amount he owed you?
74 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Q. He paid you thousands of dollars altogether, didn't he?
Q. You kept no record of the cases in reference to which
that money was paid?
Q. . . . doesn't it seem strange to you that in these par
ticular city compensation cases you received exactly one-half,
even to the odd number of dollars and the odd number of
cents doesn't that seem very strange?
A. I didn't even know it was so until now.
Q. Now that you do know it is so, doesn't it seem very
strange to you?
A. It is evidently a coincidence.
Q. It's a coincidence. And doesn't it seem very strange,
too, that the coincidence happened in so many separate series
A. Yes. 8
When the City Affairs Committee took the evidence
produced before the Hof stadter committee and made it the
basis of charges against Dr. William H. Walker and his
four associates, before the Grievance Committee of the
State Department of Education, the learned but cautious
doctors who make up that body announced that fee-split
ting was unethical but that they could do nothing against
it unless fraud and deceit had been revealed. The com
plainant in the case (one of the authors) declared that
he did not wish to "make a solitary victim of Dr. Walker.
He is a symptom and a sample of a great medical racket.
It would be as silly to remove him without getting at the
MORE TIN BOXES 75
racket as it would be to sew up a wound with proud flesh
So the case rests as this book goes to press. The Tam
many forces are using all their power to protect Dr.
Walker and to prevent a thorough investigation. The
chances of revoking the licenses of these fee-splitting doc
tors is remote because Tammany has powerful friends
among the doctors and powerful pleaders to present a dis
torted interpretation of the law to machine-made courts.
Morally the case against Dr. Walker is complete he took
what an honest citizen would call graft. But if one mem
ber of the Grievance Committee of the Board of Regents
is under Tammany control Dr. Walker's license will never
be revoked. The revocation of a doctor's license by the
Grievance Committee requires a unanimous vote.
Dr. Walker is still in the employ of the Board of Edu
cation to-day. Which leads us to discuss for a moment
how politics takes the tin boxes even into our school sys
tem. The schools have at their head over one hundred
superintendents, principals and directors of special
branches who receive about $10,000 a year and who take
either a perfunctory examination or none at all. The open
sesame to all of these positions is the recommendation of
a major political leader.
It is easy to imagine the effect of such a system upon
the morale of the pupils, teachers and officials of New
York's schools. Dr. Henry R. Linville of the Teachers
Union has summed up the results.
In the first place only those teachers who are able to
76 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
command political influence are regarded by their fellows
as being in line for appointment to the prize positions. In
the second place, the necessity of having political connec
tions for educational advancement leads teachers to join
Democratic clubs, and even to give up old religious affilia
tions for others of more practical value. This tendency is
obviously demoralizing to the integrity of character of
ambitious teachers and to the profession as a whole. In
the third place, education itself becomes bound hand and
foot to the system of politico-economic racketeering that
is characteristic of practical government and business in
New York City.
Public education in New York City is an enormously
expensive institution. But even so, it is conceivable that
much greater expenditures than the $150,000,000 required
to conduct the schools of New York each year would be
made available willingly by the people if the school sys
tem contributed substantial results in improved civic and
social leadership, or in a recognizable improvement in the
intelligence and social good will of the young people who
graduate from the schools. In spite of the good intentions
of many teachers to create a better citizenship through
education, it is known by all young people that Tammany
Hall stands for real and immediate success, and will help
any smart young fellow to get what he wants. The result
is that an attitude of cynicism toward the teachings of
good teachers or good schools is one of the commonest of
attitudes among the adolescent school children of New
MORE TIN BOXES 77
By virtue of the situation the officials of the New York
public school system are in no position even now to con
demn, or to refer in a deprecatory manner, to the conduct
of ex-Mayor Walker while he was in office. The present
superintendent of schools is fond of telling how much he
owes to the friendly interest of "Johnny" Ahearn but the
record shows that some twenty years ago Ahearn was re
moved by Governor Hughes from the office of president
of the Borough of Manhattan for incompetence and for
failure to protect the interests of the people.
Quite as shocking as any revelations of the Tin Box
Brigade made by Judge Seabury was the self-revelation of
Tammany by the Democratic members of the Hofstadter
committee. Assemblyman Louis Cuvillier, looking like an
aged gargoyle, sat to the left of Chairman Hofstadter
during the entire inquiry and fought Judge Seabury like a
counsel for the defense. No interjection was too irrelevant
or stupid for him to make. On many occasions he sought
to put such fantastic explanations and excuses into the
mouths of witnesses that they recoiled and asked the privi
lege of making their own excuses.
Judge Seabury was wholly justified in saying at the end
of his Intermediate Report:
From the start Tammany Hall has done everything within
its power to obstruct and interfere with the exposure of the
conditions brought out in the testimony. There can be no
question about the participation of Tammany Hall in the
legal proceedings which have been taken in the attempt of
some of the witnesses to avoid interrogation. Curry's action
78 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
in springing to the defense of Dr. Doyle, as well as his sub
sequent testimony, establish it. Not a single one of the mis
creants has been repudiated by Tammany Hall, or even
criticized by it, for the official wrong-doing which has been
shown; on the contrary, Tammany Hall has taken these
wrong-doers to its bosom, has lent them all the aid and com
fort that it could and has acted as their protector and advisor
It is perfectly apparent that what these men did is part of
the system upon which Tammany Hall exists and expands;
that Tammany Hall approves it and is ready to extend its
arm to the utmost to protect and perpetuate its sordid traffic
in political influence.
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS
IN a democracy the mandate of a government is derived
from voters at duly constituted elections. New York never
has an approximately honest election. The degrees of dis
honesty vary from year to year with varying circumstances.
These circumstances include such matters as Tammany's
desire to roll up an impressive vote and the Republican
desire to make a real fight. However, Tammany always
keeps its hand in at a little cheating even when it is wholly
unnecessary for victory, and Republican desire for victory
is never so strong that the party can or will prevent collu
sion between nominally Republican and Democratic elec
tion inspectors in certain assembly districts. Such collusion
is, of course, the chief root of fraud.
This matter of elections in New York and we do not
believe that New York is a sinner above all other cities
is worth some consideration. It was one of the gravest
weaknesses of the Seabury investigation of 1931-1932 that
it wholly ignored the question despite the fact that specific
and detailed grievances were laid before it. In conse
quence Judge Seabury was in the position of investigating
the dishonesty of a Tammany administration whose man-
80 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
date is habitually vitiated by fraud in the elections, which
fraud he and his associates did not even consider.
One member of the Hof stadter Committee, Assembly
man Hamilton Potter of Suffolk County, was genuinely
concerned over the situation, and at one time contemplated
definite action by the legislature. Almost nothing came
of this, presumably because of the old familiar fear of
up-state Republican legislators that they live in houses of
quite too brittle glass for them to start throwing stones.
A legislative committee did make hurried inquiry into the
laws recently and spent two days on hearings in New York
which were neglected by all but Socialists.
The trouble with New York elections would not seem
to one reading the election laws to rest with the laws
themselves. On the surface they seem ample and adequate,
but their interpretation by the courts has left them full
of loopholes especially in the matter of possible coloniza
tion. So, too, do the voting machines, now in general use
throughout the city, seem well designed to reduce the
chance of accidental or deliberate error in the count. The
merits of voting machines were impressed on reformers
by Tammany's long opposition to their use. It is true that
since their adoption the all-night counts with their chance
for honest error and for all sorts of dishonest tricks,
including violence, have been eliminated. Nevertheless,
Tammany has proved that man is mightier than any im
The chief weakness of the voting machine from a
mechanical point of view is the fact that in its present
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 81
legal form it does not, like a cash register, print its totals.
They appear on the back of the machine in rather small-
sized figures. While the law provides that the machine
must be opened and so turned that the face on which
totals are recorded is plainly visible to all election inspec
tors and properly certified watchers of all political parties,
it is an easy law to ignore or evade. Watchers, even of the
Republican party in New York City, are often inexpert,
easily brow-beaten, and in many districts they either fear
or actually experience physical violence if they protest.
Besides there are rarely enough watchers for every pre
cinct. That leaves only the Republican inspectors for
Tammany to take care of. And that is easy. We have
seen precinct after precinct where there have been more
Republican officials than Republican votes. We have seen
more precincts where the Socialist vote as reported was
zero, one, two or three, although we have been able in
those same precincts to get small mountains of affidavits
of Socialists who swore that in those precincts they voted
What happened? The Republican or allegedly Repub
lican inspectors obligingly looked the other way while a
Democratic chairman read off the minority party vote and
a Democratic secretary recorded it with a substantial sub
traction. In 1927 when all Tammany's bag of tricks was
used in a certain district to prevent the reelection of the
popular Socialist, Jacob Panken, judge of the municipal
court, in one precinct where there was prima fade evi
dence of irregularity the voting machine on court order
82 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
was reopened. It showed 35 votes for Judge Panken;
other testimony showed that the chairman had called out
eleven and the secretary had written down nine, not on
the regular form, but on a slip of paper from which later
he had expected to transcribe it to the regular form oblig
ingly signed in blank by "Republican" election inspectors
who then cleaned out altogether!
Incidentally that good Tammany war horse, Magistrate
Simpson, who later resigned under fire, refused even to
hold the alleged Republicans for the Grand Jury. That
same year in that same district a Republican candidate for
municipal court judge openly mourned in Socialist district
headquarters that he "hadn't money enough to keep the
boys in line." The "boys" were nominally Republican in
spectors and watchers who according to general belief
were conveniently blind and deaf for the sum of twenty-
five good Tammany dollars. (The rate varies according
Against this deliberate misreading of the machine
through collusion between the old parties court orders for
reopening the machines are no real protection. To obtain
such orders is expensive, cumbersome and requires an
amount of prima -fade evidence of fraud not worth the
cost and trouble of collecting.
But where, you may ask, are the police? Hand in glove
with the Tammany-Republican machine. Even a decent
cop regards it as a mortal danger to his job to interfere
on his own initiative, or even at the request of a minor
party watcher, with any irregularity at the polls short of
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 83
murder. With rare exceptions the New York cop at an
election precinct takes the monkeys of Nikko as his exam
ple. He hears, sees, speaks no evil. No, not quite. We
have known some specimens who if an honest, non-
Tammany man is attacked at the polls will always see him
in the role of aggressor and grab him, intimidate him, or
actually arrest him. Meanwhile the gangster escapes.
But we are getting a little ahead of our argument. The
point about the voting machine is this: if it were so con
trived that it printed in duplicate or triplicate the final
result and these copies were properly filed it would at least
be much harder than it now is to misread, misreport or
doctor the record. That is what reformers never thought
of when the machine was introduced.
Another serious point about the machine is its adapta
bility or lack of adaptability to proportional representa
tion. At any rate the history of voting by a mechanical
process is one more proof that we cannot be saved by law
or machinery if we lack the will or power to organize for
our own protection. Some weary hours, some two A.M.
battles, knavery and physical violence, some ballot fixing,
the machine prevents. With the addition of automatic
printing of results the area of its protection might be
extended. More cannot be said for it.
Tammany's best means of gathering in votes at the
expense of its political opponents is not misreading the
voting machines but sheer intimidation on election day.
In this process of intimidation gangsters, racketeers, judges
and avowed political workers make common cause. Yes,
84 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
and school teachers. In one experience one of the most
persistent violators of the law against lobbying near the
polls was a Tammany school teacher who used her ac
quaintance and influence with parents openly and success
fully all day long in the polling places in the basement
of the school where she taught. We have seen in a
big school basement a crowd of lingering visitors or
hangers-on, including in the same group a judge, a district
leader, an assemblyman and a well-known local gangster,
all united in bonds of amity, each in his way impressing
the voters with the manysided might of Tammany and
the wisdom of doing its bidding. We have been gra
ciously offered personal immunity as a favor by a typical
Tammany alderman in a polling place, in which the same
alderman had been inciting some of his followers to vio
lence against a Socialist watcher. The crowd in that
polling place could have had its composite picture taken
for the kind of men who loot cities. The worst of them
proudly wore party badges. Ordinary citizens, as a
passer-by explained, believed "an honest man hasn't a
chance. Dutch Schultz's men are operating in this district
to-day." (Schultz is a notorious beer runner and racketeer. )
There is a certain degree of respect for persons in the
administration of physical violence. In such assembly dis
tricts as the 2nd, 4th, 17th in Manhattan to name only
three a Socialist candidate for high office is relatively
secure from personal attack if he visits the polling places ;
the ordinary watcher is far less safe. There have even
been instances where prominent Republicans have suffered
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 85
the indignity of the "bum's rush" out of a polling place.
And one of the authors of this book can testify that such
immunity as he has enjoyed has not extended to his com
panions or to the tires of his car.
We suspect that the fighting Congressman La Guardia
will agree with Socialists that the one thing Tammany
fears is a counter organization, known to include a num
ber of well-set-up young men, residents in the same neigh
borhood as the election inspectors. Short of that, well-
trained watchers can do much. So, too, can temporary
deputies to the attorney general appointed by him to watch
the polls that is, if the attorney general is Republican.
In 1931 the Democratic attorney general appointed depu
ties whose purposed or ignorant blindness and misinter
pretation of law greatly assisted Tammany in piling up
the majority it needed to "vindicate" the Walker admin
These conditions, we repeat, do not prevail merely in a
very few isolated precincts; they are habitual in district
after district in the greater city. Well-informed news
paper reporters are cynically aware of them, but editors,
like other respectable citizens, usually vote in districts or
at hours when nothing out of the way happens. Or else
they are so calloused to sensation that nothing matters
short of open riot. Hence the standing headline: "All
quiet at the polls." And for this and possibly less cred
itable reasons it is next to impossible to get the average
New York newspaper genuinely interested in an honest
86 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
How does this intimidation work? You live, let us say,
in a Democratic district where there are reasons for the
leader to make a big showing. You are one of the group
not definitely lined up already by fear or favor on the
boss's side. Your name is checked to show that fact. If
English is your native language and you have reasonable
self-assurance and a job out of the boss's reach, you can
usually vote your own way, even if that way is Socialist
or Communist, unless some one has thoughtfully voted
for you first which sometimes happens. But if your Eng
lish is poor, you seem bewildered, or financially insecure,
what then? Assuming that you have given the Tammany
canvasser no assurances, you run a hostile gauntlet as you
stand in line at the polls even though that hostility may
not result in immediate violence. When you come to the
machine you may be offered "assistance" or even have it
forced upon you. Assistance is the polite term for the
intrusion of a Tammany inspector with you into the actual
voting place where he pulls the levers for you. In a great
many cases, of course, it is accepted or welcomed by bewil
dered voters or those desirous of some favor from the boss.
Legally, assistance can be given only to those who at
the time of registration ask for it and then only on the
ground of certain physical disabilities like blindness. Two
inspectors of different parties must then accompany the
voter to the machine. In precinct after precinct the law
is contemptuously ignored. Reliable Socialist watchers,
after vainly protesting, have seen the majority of the voters
of a precinct accompanied to the machine by a good
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 87
Democratic relative or an inspector or both. Often not
even the bluff of a proper entry is made on the election
books. We have been jovially assured in some precincts
that "the people here are too dumb to vote any other
way." The miserably exploited Porto Rican colony in Har
lem, mostly Spanish-speaking but entitled to vote, is at
present the group for whom "assistance" is the rule rather
than the exception. Thus in 1931 in one precinct of the
17th Assembly district 136 voters were marked for "assist
ance" 75 for bad eyes! 38 were previous voters whose
need for assistance was not set forth according to law.
For this and other offenses one group of election inspec
tors in Harlem on Socialist complaint, was mildly disci
plined by the Board of Elections after the 1931 election
and the chairman of the inspectors faces a criminal indict
ment in proceedings forced by Socialists in spite of an
apathetic district attorney's office. But such action, taken
at considerable expense of time and energy in one precinct
only, except for its possible exemplary effect, seems a little
like bailing out the Hudson with a bucket.
Moreover there is a uniform record of laxity in the
courts in enforcing election laws. Thus a woman election
inspector, caught red-handed voting the third time, was
discharged by a Tammany magistrate on the ground that
she was voting for absent loved ones and meant no harm!
Even the higher courts for reasons best known to them
selves have rendered decisions which hamper the war
against colonization or the use of floaters by permitting
men to have voting residences which are not where they
88 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
really live. There is a good deal of colonization or its
equivalent in New York City. It is a favorite Democratic
jest that up-state Republicans vote the tombstones. We
have actually known one definite case where some one
registered and voted on the name of a man dead for at
least a year. No one was punished.
Other election tricks include wholesale ringing up of
votes near the end of the day on the names of voters who
have not appeared to vote for themselves. More common
is spying on the voter through holes and cracks, especially
if he rejects assistance. Out of many instances of this sort
we recall the case of a pushcart peddler who was followed
out on the street and warned by a Tammany captain that
he could not ply his trade in that district since he had
voted for one Socialist.
Stories like this, magnified by men's fears in a great,
cruel city, have an immense effect in cowing the electorate.
Few there are who will go to court to swear to irregulari
ties. They or their friends, they think, are sure to be hurt.
They complain, they cry for justice, but it must come to
them from on high. Repeatedly we have been asked to
work the miracle of making an effective complaint al
though the men and women who ask it are utterly unwill
ing even to make affidavits. Before you, critical reader,
become too scornful of such weakness, consider just how
much of a price in time, delay, possible insult you would
pay for carrying through a fight under our endlessly slow
and wearisome judicial system in which the prosecuting
authorities are all on the side of those who should be
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 89
prosecuted. And if to this difficulty you must add possible
risk to your job or to your cousin who works in the Hos
pital Department, just how far would you carry your
To sum this matter up: the Tammany technique of fear
and favor for controlling the electorate emphatically ex
tends to actual voting on election day, and of course, on
primary day if opposition makes it necessary. The methods
of fraud and intimidation include shipping in alleged
voters from another district or city, physical or psycho
logical intimidation at the polling places, actual voting
for those voters whose English is imperfect, and delib
erate misreading of the voting machine totals. Republican
candidates are the victims of such tactics almost as much
as minor party candidates, yet this large scale fraud is
only possible because of the habitual collusion of the
Republican county organizations such as they are with
their Democratic big brothers. Rarely does the Republican
leadership in any county bother to fight for the whole
ticket. It bargains for special candidates, and it could not
control all its nominal inspectors even if it so desired.
Its rewards are what the Democrats give them: some cash
and favors, and here and there a judgeship. Why else was
Morris Koenig elected judge in New York after a noto
rious deal with Murphy except that his brother Sam, the
Republican leader, was so obliging an ally to Tammany?
The question is often raised whether fraud, intimida
tion or theft of votes really changes the result of the elec
tion. Probably not often in the principal elections, but
90 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
there is no way of knowing. In the old days of paper
ballots, William Randolph Hearst was probably counted
out in his race against McClellan and then enough ballot
boxes were conveniently lost to make a recount ineffectual.
Socialists in assembly and aldermanic districts have fre
quently been counted out. Sometimes they have won on
recount proceedings. August Claessens in a Harlem as
sembly district in 1921 was counted out and later seated
on recount by a comfortable margin. There is no reason
to think conditions have changed for the better.
But Tammany knows that aside from a mere vulgar
necessity for winning, its demonstrations of power on
election day are immensely significant in keeping its
dominion of fear over the electorate. Election fraud and
intimidation help in the process of keeping whole dis
tricts cowed, apathetic, docile, even grateful as slaves are
grateful for small favors. There is no public opinion of
any great weight against these election frauds so long as
they stop short of riot and murder. Taking the state as a
whole Republicans gain as much as Democrats by fraud.
Why interfere with each other, especially when unpopular
and scarcely respectable minor parties are the chief suf
ferers? Hence a situation in which even the Seabury inves
tigation ignored election methods altogether. Investiga
tion into them would not particularly have furthered the
man-hunt against Walker into which politics and popular
psychology virtually forced the inquiry.
Unquestionably the election code could be strengthened.
The machines could be improved so that they could print
GANG RULE AT ELECTIONS 91
the results. Something might be gained if election inspec
tors were civil service appointees. They would at least
be more literate and efficient and possibly though not
certainly they would be less amenable to political orders.
A few typical criminal prosecutions might have an exem
plary effect. More and better watchers is a good slogan
for every minor party. But until new faith in political
action, new understanding of its importance and effective
organization arouse the working masses out of their apa
thy, elections will remain approximately as dishonest as
they now are.
JUSTICES AND THE LAW
WHEN Mayor Walker began his first term in 1926 the
rumblings of a great judicial scandal had already begun.
Hylan's appointments to the Magistrate's Court had been
notoriously bad. Walker proceeded blithely to carry on
the tradition by appointing all the political henchmen who
were thrust upon him by the district leaders without
apology and without the pretense of consulting the bar
associations. This obedience to the district leaders was
not painful for the mayor. It fitted in quite admirably
with the pledge that he had given at the beginning of his
administration that he was and would remain an "organi-
As his administration proceeded and the worst judicial
scandals of New York's history were unfolded in the
newspapers, the mayor's loyalty and aplomb were un
ruffled. We do not remember a single occasion during his
two administrations when he specifically denounced any
judicial crooks or assisted in their exposure. The entire
movement for exposure and reform was forced upon the
city against Tammany opposition by the Socialists and
reformers, by the Republican federal attorney, Charles H.
Tuttle, by Fiorello La Guardia, and by the newspapers.
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 93
In the face of growing scandals the prosecuting machinery
obviously broke down. Feeble "investigations" were
started by the feeble District Attorney Grain. The grand
jury which inquired into the Magistrate's Court in 1930
reported generalities, and concrete "leads" were not fol
In allowing these judicial scandals to develop without
more serious efforts at reform, Tammany made a grave
mistake. Concerning the courts we Americans still pre
serve a peculiar kind of sensitiveness. We take our con
gressmen and our senators with something less than seri
ousness but we preserve the fiction that the moment a
man is elevated to the bench he somehow rises above his
political past and acquires a new insight and impartiality.
Tammany has profoundly shocked even hard-boiled New
York by creating a court system that has gone beyond all
the limits of ordinary political manipulation.
One reason for the shock has been the unrealistic edu
cation in civics of New York public school children, to
which we have already referred. The school textbooks
omit all reference to machine control of the courts. In
deed, a pupil in the public schools would imagine, if he
did not read the newspapers, that our magistrates were
wise and benign citizens chosen for their knowledge and
impartiality, that the people actually nominate and elect
their judges, and that the judges are removed if they show
The truth is, of course, that almost every judge in New
York City holds his position by virtue of an initial loyalty
94 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
to the Democratic or Republican machine. He may have
become an honest and scrupulously fair judge in the
process of his development many of the worst machine
judges acquire new stature when their debts have once
been paid but his honesty and fairness seldom have any
thing to do with his appointment. The sine qua non of
both appointment and election is party loyalty and service.
The magistrates are nominally chosen by the mayor but
actually by the Democratic leaders of the districts in which
vacancies occur. The Supreme Court judges are chosen by
the county political leaders.
Nominally, the judges of the Supreme Court, the Court
of General Sessions and the City Court are elected by the
people. Judicial conventions are called which go through
democratic forms, but these conventions blindly approve
any slate prepared by the leaders. The system occasionally
permits a man of outstanding ability to become a judge
if he is reasonably loyal to his party, but the tendency is
to exclude all men of independence and courage. Bril
liance in a New York City judge is accidental ; conformity,
at least at the beginning of his career, is essential.
No finer illustration of the working of the system in
the higher courts could be found than the notorious judi
cial deal in the Second Judicial District (Brooklyn,
Queens, etc.) in 1931 by which seven Democratic and five
Republican Supreme Court judgeships were bargained for
over the political counter like so many sacks of wheat.
New judges were needed in this district but the new posi
tions could not be provided for without the support of the
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 95
Republican legislature. The district was Democratic, so
the Republicans refused to create the new positions unless
they were promised some of the judgeships. The deal
whereby the leaders named the 12 judges was so realisti
cally described before Judge Seabury by John Theofel,
Democratic boss of Queens, that we shall quote from his
testimony at some length:
Q. Now, Mr. Theofel, you know that during the last
session of the Legislature a law was enacted increasing the
number of Justices of the Supreme Court in the Second
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Also increasing the number of County Court Judges,
was it not?
A. One judge.
Q. In your county?
Q. And increasing the number of City Court Judges?
Q. Two. And how about Municipal Court?
A. Two. . . .
Q. All right. Now, you understood that some of those
were to go to one county, others to another, didn't you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And there was nothing in the law about what county
the Justices should come from, was there?
A. No, sir.
Q. If that was to be determined in advance, then it had
to be a determination arrived at by the leaders, didn't it?
A. I should imagine so.
Q. Well, now, before this law was enacted, do you re
member a meeting in the spring in Brooklyn?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. When was it that you held that meeting in the early
96 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
A. I think it was, Judge.
Q. And before the bill was enacted into law?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And who was present at that meeting?
A. Mr. McCooey, Mr. Rendt, Mr. Krug, Mr. Rasquin and
myself. [County leaders] . . .
Q. And where was that conference held?
A. Mr. McCooey' s office.
Q. Was it a private office or a public office?
A. Political office.
A. It is the building owned by the organization.
Q. By what organization?
A. The Democratic Organization of Kings County.
Q. And who called the conference?
A. Why, I was telephoned and invited down.
Q. That was a conference of all the Democratic leaders
in the Second Judicial District?
A. Yes, sir. . . .
Q. Now, taking into account [the] grave perils that re
sulted from the law's delay, did those who were assembled
there arrive at any conclusion as to the method by which
they could remedy these grave abuses?
A. The only way to remedy it was to get more Judges.
Q. Well, how could those who were assembled there,
every one of them Democrats, get more Judges?
A. I don't know.
Q. They couldn't, could they?
A. Not without the assistance of somebody. . . .
Q. And then did anyone suggest how many more Judges
might be provided for?
A. Well, they said, somebody said, or they discussed the
matter that it couldn't, that we couldn't get more Judges
unless the Republicans put them through.
Q. That is, in the Legislature?
A. Yes, sir. . . .
Q. Well, now, Mr. Theofel, didn't somebody say that the
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 97
Republicans wouldn't put it through and create more Judge-
ships, because if they did, the Democrats would elect them
A. I wish they had of put them through, Judge.
Q. Well, they wouldn't, would they?
A. They didn't.
Q. And didn't someone say the reason why they wouldn't
was because the Democrats would elect them all?
A. I think the Democrats would have elected the whole
Q. The whole twelve?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. No matter who they put up or on the ticket?
A. I think so. That is only my opinion. I may be wrong.
Q. At any rate, you statesmen who were there assembled
(laughter gavel). . . .
A. Thank you.
Q. Recognizing the difficulties, were there to devise a
method for relief for the Supreme Court calendar, weren't
A. Well, we were looking to get more Judges; also to
help the calendar.
Q. And was the net result of that conference that it was
agreed that the gentlemen who were assembled there repre
senting the Democratic leaders in the Second District, should
enter into a deal with the Republican leaders, if they could
get a bill through creating more Judges? Was that the
understanding in words and effect?
A. Well, I don't know whether they should enter in or
the Republican enter in with us. I don't know which it
was. . . .
Q. Wasn't that, in substance and effect, the result of this
conference of Democratic leaders?
A. Along those lines.
Q. You wouldn't say that my statement of it was inaccu
rate in any substantial respect, would you?
98 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Q. Was the manner in which those places should be
allocated to counties after the bill became a law, discussed?
A. Well, they talked about so many for Brooklyn and so
many for Queens. I was trying to get as many as I could for
Q. You, as a loyal Queens leader, wanted as many as you
A. I would like to have gotten the whole 12 if I could.
Q. You would have taken the whole 12 (laughter
gavel). You could have used them there, couldn't you?
A. I believe so. ...
Q. How many did they cut you down to?
A. Three. .
Q. That is, they cut your county down to three?
Q. You had to make provision for the Republicans in
that three, didn't you?
A. Well, it is up to me to get away with three Demo
crats, if I could.
Q. If you could. Well, now, you never expected, if three
were to be allocated to Queens County, that you would be
able to get away with the whole three?
A. I tried hard enough, Judge, but the Republicans
wouldn't let me.
Q. You had to give up one, didn't you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And how many did Mr. McCooey want allocated to
A. Well, I guess he got five.
Q. Five. Whatever you could get in Queens County, you
were to name, and whatever he could get in Kings County,
he was to name?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And he got five in this conference, didn't he?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Well, now, how much did Rendt get from Richmond?
A. He got one Judge.
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 99
Q. One. How was he going to meet his Republican sit
uation? (laughter gavel). With only one Judge.
A. That was a tough job.
Q. It was a tough job. Well, why didn't they make it
thirteen judges and give two to Richmond?
A. I don't know. . . .
Q. Well, now, all this apportionment was determined
upon, as I understand it, in the spring of this year, before
the bill was enacted into law?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And was anything said as to how many of the twelve
they would have to give the Republicans for passing the
A. I don't know. I believe it was up to you to get away
with as many as you could.
Q. It was up to them to get away with as many as they
A. Yes, sir. If I could have got away with the three, I
would have grabbed the three for Queens, but as I said, my
Republican leader would not stand for it.
Q. No. Well, it was tentatively understood, was it not,
that with reasonable skill the Democrats ought to be able
to hold seven out of the 12?
A. Well, that was the general opinion.
Q. General opinion. It was not thought fair that they
should give the Republicans more than five just for passing
A. Well, it was a Democratic district, Judge.
A. And the vote would show that if the Republicans
passed the legislation without doing business with the Demo
crats, that the Democrats could go out and nominate 12
Democrats and elect 12.
Q. Therefore there had to be some kind of a gentleman's
agreement, didn't there?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. That if the Republicans would create the judgeships
100 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
the Democrats would not grab them all but would give five
to the Republicans and take seven to themselves?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And that is the way, in the ordinary course of human
events, the thing finally worked out, wasn't it?
A. About the way, yes, sir.
Q. And then it came down to selecting the number that
had been allocated to Queens?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You didn't assume to dictate to Mr. McCooey whom
he should select in Kings, did you?
A. No, sir.
Q. And Mr. McCooey did not assume to dictate to you
whom you should take in Queens?
A. Well, he didn't dictate.
Q. Well, did he suggest?
Q. That was a matter for you to fight out with your
Republican colleague, wasn't it?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And who was the Republican partner in Queens?
A. Mr. Ashmead.
Q. Mr. Ashmead. He represented the Republicans?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you represented the Democrats?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Well, did you gentlemen confer on how many you
should get and how many Mr. Ashmead should get and
whether or not Mr. Ashmead would endorse your two and
whether or not you would endorse his one?
A. Yes, we did. . . .
Q. And as the result of the conference between you and
Mr. Ashmead it was understood between you and Mr.
Ashmead, was it not, that you should name two Judges in
Queens and that he should name one?
A. Yes, but Mr. Ashmead would have taken the two if
I would have let him get away with it.
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 101
Q. He was perfectly willing to take the two and give
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You wouldn't let him get away with that?
A. Not if I could help it. I tried to get the three.
Q. You tried to get the three but he wouldn't let you get
away with that, would he?
A. No, sir.
Q. So that as the result of these meetings between you
and Mr. Ashmead it was finally agreed that you should
have two and that he should have one?
A. Yes, sir. . . .
Q. You have told us very clearly the arrangement in
reference to the Supreme Court Justices. Now, was there
any arrangement as to the City Court Justices?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you were to get in Queens County how many City
Q. And you were to have one and Ashmead one?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And was that also the subject matter of your conversa
tions with Ashmead?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Were there any County Judges created?
Q. Who was to get the County Judge?
A. I had one of our Assemblymen introduce that bill,
Q. You had one of your Assemblymen introduce that
A. Yes, sir. There was only one County Judge.
Q. Wasn't that the subject of negotiations with Mr. Ash
A. Well, I believe Mr. Ashmead was to help us get the
legislation through on it.
Q. Well, the legislation did go through and there was
102 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
one County Judge additional for Queens created, wasn't
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And who was to nominate him?
A. We were, the Democrats.
Q. The Democrats. And was Ashmead to support it?
A. Yes, sir, he agreed to support.
Q. He agreed to. And how many Municipal Court
Q. And how many of those two Municipal Court Judges
were you to get?
Q. And how many was Ashmead to get?
A. There was only one more.
Q. He was to get the other?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And when you got them all together, why, you were
both to endorse that ticket, weren't you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And that is what you have done, isn't it?
A. Yes, sir. . . .*
It was not a surprise after this testimony when one of
the prospective candidates for the Supreme Court justice
ship allotted to the Republicans in Queens testified that
the Republican judge selected was supposed to contribute
$5,000 to the county committee's treasury. It is certain,
however, that one of the judges involved was not required
to pay a cent for his post. He was young John McCooey,
Jr., 31 years old, relatively inexperienced and unknown
except in his amazing successes before the Board of Stand
ards and Appeals which we have already described. He
and his father had reason to feel deeply grateful to Frank-
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 103
lin D. Roosevelt who had made the judicial deal possible
by signing the bill which created the twelve new judge-
ships after he had been repeatedly warned by civic leaders
that a corrupt bargain was in the making.
For the common man the justice meted out in the lower
courts is much more important than that meted out in the
Supreme Court. If we include the traffic cases over half a
million New Yorkers are arraigned in the Magistrate's
Court in a single year, and for most of them this arraign
ment is their sole contact with the judicial machinery of
their city. If they are to develop "faith in American insti
tutions" this is the place to acquire it. If the misfits of a
great city are to be redeemed by intelligent social service,
this is the social worker's opportunity.
New York has a confusing network of lower courts for
criminal and civil cases. Ordinary criminal cases are cov
ered in an ascending order of seriousness by the Magis
trate's Court, the Court of Special Sessions and the Court
of General Sessions. The Magistrate's Court takes care of
cases of drunkenness, vagrancy and disorderly conduct di
rectly, and its three branches, the Children's Court, the
Traffic Court, and the Family Court, take care of the minor
offenses in these specialized fields. The Court of Special
Sessions also handles certain misdemeanor cases which
have passed through the Magistrate's Court. Felonies such
as murder and arson go to the Court of General Sessions.
Outside of Manhattan the county courts function in place
of the General Sessions Court. Civil cases involving less
104 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
than $1,000 may go to the Municipal Court, and $1,000
to $3,000 to the City Court. In the State Supreme Court
suits for any amount may be brought. Estates are cared
for by the Surrogate's Court, which is a county institution.
The quality of the judges tends to improve in propor
tion to the square of the distance from a local Tammany
leader. The magistrates are at the bottom, the regular
Supreme Court justices a little better, the Appellate Divi
sion slightly tainted, and the Court of Appeals subservient
only to the congealed traditions of American capitalism.
The magistrates and Special Sessions judges are chosen by
the mayor, the Appellate Division chosen by the governor
from the elected justices of the State Supreme Court, and
the other judges elected. The Court of Appeals is the
highest state court and to it come the important cases after
they have been appealed from a Supreme Court judge to
the Appellate Division of a given district.
In all of these courts the pay is good and the term of
office is long, sufficiently good and sufficiently long so that
every judicial appointment or nomination is fought for
vigorously, and, it is said, paid for handsomely in service
or campaign contributions. A State Supreme Court justice
receives $25,000 a year, $5,000 more than a justice of the
United States Supreme Court, and his term is fourteen
years. A magistrate receives $12,000 a year for ten years.
The chief judge of the Children's Court receives $18,000
a year, $3,000 more than the Vice President of the United
States. There is no need of his being a specialist in child
welfare and his duties take only a few hours a day. No
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 105
further comment is needed as to the quality of these Chil
dren's Court judges than to point out that ex-Mayor
Hylan was appointed a Children's Court judge when he
threatened to become politically embarrassing by cutting
in on the Tammany vote after Tammany had decided to
discard him. When Hylan was appointed, a New York
columnist wrote that the children of Queens would now
be tried by their peer!
The thing which makes the Magistrate's Court so im
portant is not only the half million cases which come up
before the fifty magistrates each year but the fact that this
court is in many cases the portal to higher courts where
serious offenses are tried. In 1929 there were 17,000 pris
oners arraigned before the magistrates on charges of fel
onies. A magistrate under political pressure may dismiss
an important prisoner after a perfunctory hearing, or he
may ruin the career of a poor man who refuses to bow to
the local district leader. If the magistrate exercises reason
able caution in following the orders of a district leader, it
is almost impossible to prove malfeasance in office.
One magistrate during the height of the 1930 scandals,
was quoted as saying: "If I were a political leader called
into court to help out a constituent, I would not feel that I
was using my political authority to defeat the ends of jus
tice. I would feel as though I were in the position of a
military judge advocate in the army, sworn to see that
every person brought to court, no matter how incapable of
self-help, should have all his deserts whether they were
comfortable or uncomfortable for him."
106 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Of course, the district leader does not come into court
as a judge advocate but as a political fixer and overlord
who is more powerful than the magistrate himself. Gro
tesquely enough, the leader is quite commonly a clerk or
other official in the magistrate's or in some higher court,
so that citizens who want justice may go directly to the
real seat of authority. Rotund, heavy-footed John Theo-
fel, whose testimony we have just quoted, is chief clerk
in the court of Surrogate Hetherington, who was put in
office by Theofel and who returned the compliment by
promptly whitewashing Theofel after charges were
brought against him by the City Affairs Committee.
The scandal of the magistrates' courts of New York is
not new; like prosperity under capitalism it is cyclical.
In 1908 the Page Commission, appointed by the legisla
ture, investigated the inferior criminal courts of New
York and found many of the abuses which still persisted
when Judge Seabury made his investigation 22 years
later. The Page Commission said: "The ordinary scene in
the magistrate's court is one of confusion and utter lack of
dignity. . . ." It denounced what would have been
called the bail bond racket, if the word racket had then
been popularized. Frank Moss, former police commis
sioner and president of the Society for the Prevention of
Crime, said before the Page Commission: "I think there
are more anarchists bred in those places (lower criminal
courts of New York City) than are made in the meetings
of the anarchistic clubs. I think that many a man who
in his heart is innocent and who is brought up by the
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 107
police unfairly before a court which handles him unfairly,
whatever may be the reason, goes out with a feeling of
hatred toward the institutions which we desire to sus
The present wave of court scandals centered originally
about Magistrates Vitale and Ewald, and grew with the
disappearance of Justice Crater. Vitale was a magistrate
who had the bad fortune to eat a dinner one night in his
honor in the midst of a hold-up in which it developed that
half a dozen of his fellow diners were rather famous gun
men. Famous but not so quick on the draw as the gun
men who robbed them that night. The incident aroused
much comment. La Guardia and a Socialist leader de
manded Vitale' s removal. The Association of the Bar of
the City of New York recommended Vi tale's removal
after they had discovered that the magistrate had accepted
a $19,940 "loan" from the enterprising gambler, Arnold
Rothstein, and that his bank deposits contained a mysteri
ous $100,000. Vitale was removed as judge but not dis
barred as a lawyer, and to-day he is practicing law merrily.
Like many of his associates he has not been disqualified
as a lawyer because he was an unfit judge.
The case of Magistrate George F. Ewald attracted even
wider attention. Ewald was caught originally in the stout
income tax net of Charles H. Tuttle. It was discovered
that he or his wife had paid out $10,000 about the time
that he became a magistrate, and the discovery created
enough of a sensation to cause a special grand jury in
vestigation on order of Governor Roosevelt, with Hiram
108 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
C. Todd as special prosecutor. Ewald was indicted for
bribery shortly after he had resigned from office and
Martin J. Healy, his district leader who was also first
deputy commissioner of Plant and Structures, was charged
with accepting the bribe. Why should Mrs. Ewald pay
$10,000 to Mr. Healy at such an appropriate moment?
Mrs. Ewald at first refused to answer on the ground that
it might incriminate her, but she finally came forward with
the fantastic story that she lent $10,000 to Healy to buy a
house on Long Island without keeping any receipt or de
manding any security. Mrs. Ewald was relatively poor and
Mr. Healy was rich. Mrs. Ewald was not a friend of
Healy's, but out of the generosity of a warm heart she
advanced the $10,000 and ergo her husband became a
magistrate! Two American juries looked that evidence
squarely in the face and disagreed! The Ewalds and Healy
were finally freed.
A conclusion like this prompts us to speak very harshly
of the state of public mind that allows such "explana
tions" as those advanced by Mrs. Ewald to establish a rea
sonable doubt in a jury's mind. It also constitutes an in
dictment of the laws of evidence as developed in our court
system. Why should not a jury be allowed to take into
account the fact that a person accused of crime refuses to
waive immunity when first arraigned? In actual life the
ability to tell a straight story concerning one's conduct
when first charged with crime is an important indication
of innocence, and any delay which permits the building
up of a cooperative set of lies should be taken into ac-
JUSTICES AND THE LAW 109
count as an indication of guilt. In the courts, however,
full time is allowed to build up elaborate evasions and
defendants may refuse to testify without prejudice to their
case. We see no reason why anyone charged with any
crime should be allowed to refuse to testify, least of all a
public official or any citizen charged with committing a
crime in connection with public life.
The Ewald case was not only a revelation of the break
down of our jury system in producing convictions, but it
brought into the open a whole set of Tammany lawyers
who play with the machine on occasion and yet try to
maintain their professional respectability. The special
grand jury investigating Ewald set out to discover just
how common the practice was of paying $10,000 for a
judgeship, and who commonly received the money. Natu
rally it summoned first the real ruler of political Manhat
tan, John F. Curry, but when Mr. Curry was asked on
September 24, 1930, to waive immunity before this grand
jury, he stamped furiously from the room and told the
host of expectant reporters that he had been "insulted."
Whereupon seventeen Tammany district leaders followed
their chief and refused to waive immunity.
The nature of the insult to Mr. Curry is rather difficult
to understand in view of the known situation in New
York courts. Since the magistrates are chosen by district
leaders and it is almost universally believed that they pay
* 'campaign contributions" to these leaders in return for
their appointments, the question naturally arises: How are
the contributions distributed? Does Mr. Curry receive anjr
110 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
of them? What does Mr. Curry consider a fair contribu
Miss Annie Mathews, noted Tammany worker and co-
leader in the 19th district with Martin J. Healy, who was
charged with accepting the bribe from Ewald, gave away
the Tammany case in a charmingly nai've speech before
the League of Women Voters. Wouldn't a judge be a
"rotter," she asked, if he got an appointment for the
Supreme Court bench from a district leader for 14 years
at a salary of $25,000 a year and then just said "Thank
When Mr. Curry could not appreciate the relevance of
the grand jury's very pertinent questions about buying
judgeships, the heavy artillery of Tammany's legal brigade
came to his rescue the next day with an open letter.
Eleven of the city's most powerful lawyers, knowing full
well that their endorsement would be used to ght any
thorough investigation of New York corruption, wrote
Mr. Curry that "your attitude and position reflected in a
high degree what was becoming to any citizen of dignity
and self-respect in the community. . . .You should be
commended for defending a right of inestimable value to
every citizen." The eleven lawyers were George Gordon
Battle, Daniel F. Cohalan, Edward S. Dore, Philip J.
Dunn, Terence J. McManus, Jeremiah T. Mahoney, James
A. O'Gorman, Max D. Steuer, Leslie J. Tompkins, Samuel
Untermyer and Frank P. Walsh.
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS
AFTER the Vitale and Ewald cases the public was ready
for anything. Seabury in his investigation of the Magis
trates' Courts did not disappoint it. He proved point by
point the thesis that the rottenness of New York's lower
criminal courts was part of an organized spoils system.
The one big disappointment about his investigation was
its restriction to Manhattan and the Bronx. That destroyed
half its usefulness. When the investigation finally came,
it included only magistrates' courts although other sec
tions of the New York city courts were just as obviously
a part of the Tammany system. It left Brooklyn and
Queens magistrates' courts out of the picture although the
manipulations of Boss McCooey in Brooklyn and Boss
Theofel in Queens had been quite as notorious as the ex
ploits of Boss Curry in Manhattan and Boss Flynn in the
Bronx. This restriction of the inquiry was maneuvered by
Governor Roosevelt, evidently acting under great pressure
from his party machine. He did the least that he could do
under the circumstances; asked the Appellate Division in
a letter on August 21, 1930, to investigate the Magis
trates' Courts of Manhattan and the Bronx. We shall dis
cuss Roosevelt's part in this situation later.
112 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Considering these limitations and the obstacles thrown
in his way by Tammany, Judge Seabury's report on the
Magistrates' Court was an outstanding document, more
remarkable than his later reports in the general city
His investigation proved three things concerning the
magistrates' courts, (1) that they were part of a corrupt
spoils system, (2) that certain individual magistrates
were sufficiently corrupt or incompetent to be removed,
and (3) that a mechanical rearrangement of the lower
criminal courts would make them more efficient.
There was nothing new or startling about these conclu
sions since they had been matters of common knowledge
for years among civic workers, but Judge Seabury made
them known to the average New Yorker by skillful dram
atization. As a result of his inquiry Magistrates Jean Nor-
ris and Jesse Silbermann were removed from office by the
Appellate Division, Magistrates Francis McQuade,
George W. Simpson and Henry M. R. Goodman resigned
under fire, 6 police officers were convicted of crime, and
13 resigned or were suspended from the force. Judge Sea
bury's one important failure in this investigation was the
failure to convict any magistrate of actually paying cash
for his office. He was unlucky enough to find not a single
dying or disappointed judge who was ready to shrive his
soul by telling the final truth about his life.
In the absence of such a star stool pigeon some of the
magistrates provided effective entertainment by describing
the manner of their appointment. Magistrate August
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 113
Dreyer found that his law business was failing, so he won
promotion in the following manner:
I was a Democrat, and I belonged to the organization
about eighteen years. This theatrical practice was going
downhill fast, upon the ground that the National Vaude
ville Artists started, which was taking care of all differ
ences, which were settled by arbitration by the National
Vaudeville Artists. The Equity was started with Mr. Paul
Turner there, and they took care of all their differences, so
that really what was left in the theatrical business was
nothing but to take a divorce suit, and I felt that I did not
want to take any divorce suits. I simply went around to my
organization at the time, which was the 25th, and I spoke to
George Donnellan, who was leader at the time; he is a
General Sessions Court judge. I said: "Listen" he was not
a judge at the time I said: "Listen, George, for eighteen
years I never knew what a reference or receivership or guar
dianship was, never got a 5 -cent piece, never held a political
office. Here is my position, my practice absolutely gone,
the National Vaudeville Artists settle their differences with
the Actors' Equity, who settle their differences through Paul
Turner, what am I going to do? I think I am entitled to
get a judgeship for all I have done for eighteen years, spent
my time three times a week, never asked for anything, never
bothered about references," I said, "I think I am entitled to
some recognition." Well, he says: "I will be honest with
you, you are entitled to some recognition. You never an
noyed me or bothered me, other lawyers were after me to
see what I could get for them." I said: "I think I am en
titled to it." x
P.S. He got the job.
Although the Inferior Criminal Courts Act specifically
forbids a magistrate from engaging in other profession or
occupation while he is on the bench, Magistrate McQuade
114 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
regarded the act so lightly that he served openly in the
management of the New York Giants and even sued the
club to reinstate him as treasurer. When about to be con
fronted with these facts, he resigned, but not before he
had contributed this classic of political frankness:
Q. Now, in your own words, Judge, will you state to the
Court, just how you came to be appointed Magistrate?
A. Well, I was active around in politics, and so on, and
I had the endorsement of Mr. Hyde, who was City Cham
berlain at the time, and Senator Sullivan interested himself
Q. Senator who?
Q. Tim Sullivan?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Just how did you manage to get this new appoint
A. Why, I asked Mr. Murphy, who was the head of
Tammany Hall, if he saw fit to give me the long term. Of
course, I asked him to speak to the Mayor, if he would, at
that time Hylan, and he did, and Hylan gave me the long
Magistrate Maurice Gottlieb told of his appointment
Q. Now, will you tell us a little more about the circum
stances of your appointment to the bench, Judge? Was the
appointment made upon the recommendation of Judge
Mahoney or was it merely that he sponsored you through
your district leader and through organization circles?
A. Well, I can explain that. I have been a member of
Tammany Hall over 40 years. I have lived in Yorkville for
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 115
30 odd years. My folks lived in Yorkville for 50 years. I
am a member of the Osceola Club for over 20 years. Judge
Mahoney I was very active with Judge Mahoney in help
ing to elect him leader, that must be 12 or 15 years ago, and
I might say that when he became leader I was fairly well
known as his right-hand bower. I took care of things politi
cally. I helped get the house that our clubhouse is in. I have
done things to help build up our organization in our dis
trict. . . . Judge Rittenberg, my predecessor, was very sick.
I had known Moe Rittenberg for probably 30 or 35 years.
A call came for a man to fill his place, as temporary magis
trate. I spoke to Briarly. There seemed to be no logical
man for the position but myself. After all, I had spent
money, time and help to build up the organization.
In appointing magistrates and in nominating other offi
cials Tammany observes an unwritten law of religious and
national allotments. While the leading figures in the
Democratic machine are Irish Catholics, the Jews and
Protestants must be appeased. Senator Royal S. Copeland
is a leading Methodist; District Attorney Crain is an
Episcopalian (Tammany has a fondness for Protestant
district attorneys) ; Controller Berry is a Presbyterian;
Borough President Samuel Levy of Manhattan is a Jew;
Joseph V. McKee, president of the Board of Aldermen, is
Catholic, as are Mayor Walker and a host of other lead
ers. A rough balance of religious and national allotments
is maintained in the courts and the other city offices by
assigning a Jew to succeed a Jew, a German to succeed a
German and so on. When Julius Miller, borough presi
dent of Manhattan, was made a Supreme Court judge it
was taken for granted that this Jewish leader should have
116 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
a Jewish successor if a reasonably able one could be found.
Accordingly Samuel Levy, a leading politician in Jewish
fraternal orders, took his place and promptly demon
strated his party loyalty by allowing a subordinate to dis
tribute the employment cards from a public city employ
ment office through Tammany clubhouses just before elec
tion day. After this event he was elected President of the
National Jewish Orthodox Congregations of the United
States and Canada.
When Francis X. Mancuso resigned under fire as a
judge of the Court of General Sessions because he was
caught as a director in the $5,000,000 failure of the City
Trust Co., it was taken for granted that another Italian
should get his position, so Governor Roosevelt appointed
Amadeo A. Bertini who resembled his successor so strik
ingly that he refused to waive immunity before a grand
jury. When Magistrate Jesse Silbermann was being ques
tioned by Judge Seabury in the Magistrates' Court investi
gation, he calmly admitted that he had been chosen by
Mayor Walker because the mayor had "decided to appoint
a Hebrew from the Bronx."
The power of the Democratic organization in New
York remains as it has for so long remained in the hands
of Irish Catholic leaders. Curry, McCooey, and Flynn of
Bronx the big three bosses of New York political life,
are all Irish Catholic. Their important district leaders are
Irish Catholic. Half of the sachems of Tammany Hall
are Irish Catholic and not one Jewish. That is one rea
son no doubt, why the Catholic Church in New York has
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 117
been so far behind the Protestant churches and synagogues
in denouncing civic corruption and why no newspaper in
New York ventures to mention this fact editorially for
fear of being accused of religious prejudice. We know
many good Catholics in New York who resent this civic
inertia of their own church very keenly.
The Rev. Edward Lodge Curran, editor of the official
organ of the International Catholic Truth Society in a
recent pamphlet on "Graft" said: "Tammany is once
again under fire and once again the testimony of its op
erations, wrested from its unwilling witnesses only
through fear of perjury, reveals the prevalence of the same
plundering and personally profiting attitude toward the
administration of city government that has characterized
its history since its association with Aaron Burr. . . . The
leopard does not change his spots. The excuses of the
older grafter were blunt. The excuses of the newer grafter
are naive. The testimony of the older grafter reads like a
melodrama. The testimony of the newer grafter reads
like a fairy tale."
About the creedal and racial allotment of Tammany in
the magistrates' courts Judge Seabury was caustic in his
final report. He said:
Ability and fitness for the office, where they exist, are
as a rule, purely accidental. The selection is made primarily
to strengthen the power of the party. This explains the
principle by which appointments are parcelled out to meet
the alleged claims of particular political districts; it also ex
plains the even more vicious principle by which race, nation
ality and creed often dictate the selection of Magistrates. 3
118 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
In his more general comment on the root of the prob
lem in the Magistrates' Court, Seabury summed up his
findings in a striking passage:
The reason why we are no better off today under the In
ferior Criminal Courts Act than we were prior to its enact
ment is that the Inferior Criminal Courts Act left unim
paired and free to flourish the basic vice in the Magistrates'
Courts, i.e., their administration as a part of the political
spoils system. It left the Magistrates to be appointed by a
political agency, the Mayor, upon the recommendation of
the district leaders within his -political party and these men,
as we know, have regarded the places to be filled as plums
to be distributed as rewards for services rendered by faith
ful party workers. The Courts are directed by these Magis
trates in cooperation with the Court clerks, who are not Civil
Service employees and who are appointed without the slight
est regard to fitness or qualification, but solely through poli
tical agencies and because of political influences. The assist
ant clerks and attendants, though nominally taken from the
Civil Service List, are still, in almost all instances, faithful
party workers who, despite Civil Service provisions, have
secured their places through political influence as a recom
pense for services performed for the party. The insidious
auspices under which the Magistrates, the clerks, the assist
ant clerks and the attendants are appointed are bad enough;
the conditions under which they retain their appointments
are infinitely worse, because they involve the subserviency
in office to district leaders and other politicians. It is a by
word in the corridors of the Magistrates' Courts of the City
of New York that the intervention of a friend in the district
political club is much more potent in the disposition of cases
than the merits of the cause or the services of the best lawyer
and, unfortunately, the truth of the statement alone prevents
it from being a slander upon the good name of the City.
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 119
To which may be added this further indictment, that
behind the Tammany system of appointing judges on the
basis of political favoritism lies the economic system
which makes the profession of law parasitic. In a profit
economy where the great fortunes are paid to manipu
lators and owners the lawyer who wishes to make money
gravitates toward the upper reaches of big business. He
becomes a servant of a great corporation and spends most
of his time and energy defending one property interest
against another property interest. If he enters the field of
criminal law he soon adopts the principle that he will
charge his customers all that the traffic will bear. That is
the principle of the business system in which we live, so
why should the lawyer be expected to rise above it? The
lawyer serves the rich client if possible and the poor client
only if the rich one is unavailable. A constant stream of
poor people visit our offices in search of legal aid which
they need but cannot afford.
The result of the pecuniary competition in the legal
profession is that the whole field of legal aid for the poor
in both civil and criminal cases is abandoned to second-
rate lawyers and tenth-rate magistrates. The lawyer who
concerns himself with the agonizing struggles of the un
employed tenant and the wife of the drunk is looked upon
by his own profession as a man who has failed to make
good. The "big lawyers" rarely take such cases except
when they are so well established as financial advisors and
corporate manipulators that they can afford to stoop gra-
120 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
ciously and render conspicuous aid in the presence of the
The one bright spot in the situation for the poor litigant
is the excellent work of the Legal Aid Society. In 1931
the society gave advice or cooperation in 40,200 civil and
criminal cases, charging a fifty-cent fee in most civil cases
and nothing at all in criminal cases. The Voluntary De
fenders Committee of the Legal Aid Society works for the
most part in the Court of General Sessions where prison
ers are prosecuted on felony charges. Without the aid of
this committee the poverty-stricken prisoner charged with
burglary or arson, for instance, would be in a helpless
position. The law says that the judge in such cases may
assign counsel to the prisoner but no provision is made for
paying the counsel. The young, salaried lawyers of the
Voluntary Defenders Committee who handle such cases
at an average cost of $28 a case get many contributions
for their work from the great corporation law factories,
where the "big" lawyers of New York spend their time
fighting over property rights.
The poor prisoners in the Magistrates' Court do not
have any free lawyers to defend them because the Legal
Aid Society does not have enough money to provide law
yers for these courts. The society can afford to defend
only the felony cases in the Court of General Sessions. A
poor man who is arraigned in a Magistrate's Court is
asked by the judge: "Do you wish to have counsel?" If
he replies that he has no money, it means that he can have
no counsel. Even if he is charged with a serious crime he
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 121
must go through these preliminary stages without the help
of a lawyer. If he tries desperately to raise money for a
lawyer, he is more than likely to fall into the hands of the
bail-bond racketeer who works in partnership with a
Most New York lawyers are so frantically busy trying
to extract an income from business quarrels that they are
not interested in reform of the courts. No better illustra
tion of this charge could be found than the continued
failure of the bar to overcome legal delays. When the
City Affairs Committee made its attack upon the three-
month vacations of New York Supreme Court judges in
the summer of 1931, the Supreme Court of Brooklyn was
three and one-half years behind its calendar and the Su
preme Court of Manhattan one and one-half years behind.
In spite of this fact many judges had been stretching
their inexcusably long summer vacations (July, August
and September) to include several weeks of June and
many extra days at the Christmas and Easter seasons. In
June, 1930, nine judges sitting in the Brooklyn Supreme
Court averaged fifteen days out of a possible twenty-
three; in June, 1931, eight judges in this same court av
eraged seventeen days out of a possible twenty-three. In
December, 1930, these same Brooklyn Supreme Court
judges lost twelve trial days in addition to Christmas
When there is such obvious neglect of duty in the
higher courts, it is natural that the Magistrate's Court
should emulate the standard. The magistrates come in late
122 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
and leave early. In 1928 the enterprising members of
the Women's City Club decided to check up on the magis
trates of Manhattan to discover what time they arrived in
the morning and left in the afternoon. The ladies discov
ered that on the basis of a six-day week the average court
session lasted only three hours and eleven minutes a day.
These magistrates, it should be remembered, do not have
any weighty documents to examine in off -court hours as
appellate judges have. Their duties can almost all be per
formed during the court session.
Judge Seabury commented on the Magistrate's Court
incompetence by saying:
"In the Magistrates' Courts of the City of New York,
the business of the court is generally concluded very early
in the afternoon, and even while the court is in session
many of the employees are not kept continuously engaged
in the performance of any duties. In the Children's Court
the justices sit but a few hours each day. An examination
of the Report of the Court of Special Sessions for the
year 1931 discloses on its face that this court does not
transact sufficient business to keep its judicial and clerical
staff busy more than a part of each working day.
"There is, in my opinion, no doubt that the number of
employees in our inferior criminal courts could be sub
stantially cut down, at a great saving to the public, if the
personnel were limited to competent, efficient and indus
And again he said:
"In the Borough of Manhattan which has a population
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 123
of about 1,900,000 we have 27 judges in the inferior
criminal courts and 9 judges in the Court of General Ses
sions, making a total of 36. Detroit with a population of
about 1,550,000, has but ten judges in the whole of its
Incidentally the cost of New York's elaborate and over
manned system of Magistrate's, Children's and Special
Sessions Courts, comprising seventy-four justices and a
whole army of underlings, is $3,271,000 a year.
Judge Seabury might have added that the real burden
of responsibility for making the courts of New York effi
cient rests upon the lawyers and that thus far they have
been timid to the point of cowardice in criticizing incom
petent judges and correcting inefficient practice. When
the City Affairs Committee made the very modest sugges
tion that the summer vacations of Supreme Court judges
be cut to two months instead of three, not a bar associa
tion in the city went on record in favor of the plan in spite
of the fact that it had wide newspaper support.
Incidentally, it should be said that the Municipal Court
of New York is probably just as corrupt as the Magis
trate's Court. One of us can testify that when he began a
campaign for court reform in 1927 he was flooded with as
many complaints against the Municipal Court as any
other. This court has thus far escaped an investigation.
As we write this book six months after Judge Seabury 's
final report on the Magistrate's Court not a single magis
trate who was removed from office or resigned has been
disbarred from the practise of law, and not a bar associa-
124 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
tion in the city has moved to discipline those notorious
officials as lawyers. If a man is morally unfit to be a judge
he is morally unfit to be a lawyer. Yet the bar associations
permit the unfit ex-magistrates to continue their large
and lucrative law practises.
The timidity of the bar associations was never better
illustrated than in the famous telephone call of John F.
Curry to Justice Henry L. Sherman of the Appellate Divi
sion to ask for a stay keeping Dr. William F. Doyle out
of jail. Justice William Harmon Black had found the
veterinarian guilty of contempt of court and sentenced
him to thirty days in jail for refusing to testify before
Judge Seabury. Doyle's lawyers led by Samuel Falk, son-
in-law of the Republican count boss, Samuel S. Koenig,
asked for a chance to get a stay in execution of the jail
sentence, and Judge Black agreed on condition that Judge
Seabury was to be notified in time to appear and fight the
request for a stay. Instead of appealing to an appellate
justice in New York, where Seabury could appear, Tam
many took the case to Justice Sherman in Lake Placid.
Boss Curry telephoned to Lake Placid from his own apart
ment and arranged to have Doyle's lawyers apply for a
stay there at 11 o'clock the next morning. At 10:35 that
morning Judge Seabury in New York was notified that the
application for the stay was being made before Justice
Sherman at Lake Placid, three hundred miles away. Jus
tice Sherman granted the stay. Seabury had been tricked
and judicial canons violated.
The Association of the Bar of the City of New York
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 125
never even rebuked Justice Sherman for this action. It
made an "investigation" and issued a mournful report
regretting the "unfortunate" intervention of Mr. Curry
and exonerating Justice Sherman.
Occasionally some lawyer says what he thinks about
Supreme Court judges. Meier Steinbrink in 1924 said:
"The majority of Supreme Court judges do not really
work. Some of them are lazy. Of course there are a few
who really work, but as for many of them, I would not
give them $1700 a year as law clerks not to mention the
$17,500 they receive. They and equally lazy lawyers are
the primary cause of the congestion in our courts." * Now
Mr. Steinbrink is himself a Supreme Court judge, and the
salaries of Supreme Court judges have been raised to
$25,000 instead of $17,500. He gained his new dignity as
part of the judicial deal which we described in the last
Judge Seabury's plan for reforming the Magistrate's
Court is deserving of respect largely because it recognizes
its limitations. He admits that no plan of reorganization
can amount to anything of permanent value unless the
courts are freed from the control of the present dominant
political machine. To that end he suggests that magis
trates should be chosen by the Appellate Division of the
Supreme Court rather than the mayor, and for the sake of
economy and efficiency he recommends that the present
minor criminal courts of New York City should all be
consolidated in a new Court of Special Sessions whose
branches would all operate in a few central buildings.
126 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
The best argument for the appointment of magistrates by
the justices of the Appellate Division is that these justices
are more independent of their party machines than a
mayor. They have been appointed for ten-year terms and
their line of promotion often leads away from the local
machine toward Albany and Washington. Some of them
are old enough so that a ten-year term marks the end of
their political life and they have nothing more to ask of
Probably nothing will come of Judge Seabury's sugges
tions for a new method of appointing magistrates pre
cisely because the suggestions would take away from both
Republican and Democratic machines an important part
of their patronage. A constitutional amendment would be
necessary to bring about the change, and at Albany such
an amendment would encounter the united opposition of
the old party bosses. This hopelessness of getting real
legislative remedies in Albany underscores our belief that
a city government can rarely be redeemed independently
from national or state politics. What New York City
needs is not only a program of reform but a state-wide
party to put it into effect. Without such a party even
Judge Seabury's program of reform could be adopted and
jettisoned as so many structural reforms have been nulli
fied in the past. The mayor is now the tool of the Demo
cratic machine in appointing magistrates; transfer his ap
pointive power to the Apellate Division and after the first
wave of public indignation had subsided, a machine gov-
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS 127
ernor might be discovered appointing an Appellate Divi
sion pledged in advance to choose local magistrates recom
mended by district leaders. Such things have been known
to happen in the past. For this reason we emphatically
oppose the transfer of the power to appoint magistrates
to the Appellate Division as a futile gesture.
A City Club committee which studied Seabury's sugges
tions for reform of the Magistrate's Court apparently had
the same fear of pollution of the Appellate Division. It
said: "The committee is of the opinion that such a change
(appointment of magistrates by the Appellate Division)
would not accomplish its purpose, but rather its tendency
would be to put the Appellate Division into politics."
All suggestions for the reform of the lower courts boil
down to this, that hardly any mechanical change, no mat
ter how good in itself, will be worth making unless the
"contract" system in use by the Tammany district leaders
is abolished. Under that system the district leader, sitting
at his desk in the clubhouse each night tells Jim Jones or
Tom Smith: "I'll fix that with the judge." And he does
fix it with the judge because the judge is his creature.
Some reformers have suggested that magistrates should
be elected instead of being appointed by the mayor. The
suggestion seems futile to us because the same men would
be chosen by appointment or election as long as Tammany
controlled the judicial conventions. Nor does the jury
system in the Magistrate's Court offer a very intelligent
way out. Juries are expensive and slow moving.
128 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
That part of Judge Seabury's suggestions for the Magis
trate's Court which has the best chance of adoption is his
program concerning lawyers and bail-bond racketeers who
now exploit the poor in the most pitiless manner. We
shall discuss these things when we treat of the police in
the next chapter. Of one thing we feel certain, that the
establishment of an office of Public Defender for those
unable to hire a lawyer would be a great forward step in
all the criminal courts. Justice will be a mockery for the
poor as long as they must depend upon the vagaries of
private charity for legal defense. A Public Defender with
assistants for every branch of every criminal court would
go far to eliminate the worst types of injustice.
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW
THE poison of favoritism and incompetence seeps down
from the courts to the police, the shyster lawyers and the
court clerks. The system cannot be rotten at the top and
pure at the bottom. Bribery, illegal detention, fee-splitting,
and the third degree have become established parts of the
New York City police system because the political ma
chine that governs New York does not sincerely desire an
impartial or fair enforcement of the law. Says the Wicker-
sham Commission in summarizing its findings on law
lessness in New York City:
"The investigators were repeatedly told not by sen
sation mongers but by observers of high position and abil
ity, long experience and unquestioned disinterestedness
that the courts know that some of the prosecutors are
crooked and the prosecutors know that some of the courts
are crooked, and both know that some of the police are
crooked, and the police are equally well informed as to
them. If a policeman or detective who has worked hard
and effectively to land a bad criminal in jail sees him get
off through improper influences, he will tend to be less
zealous in the next prosecution. He will be inclined to
130 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
take the easiest course and merely try to get a confession
without a too nice regard for the means employed."
And, the commission adds: "The third degree is widely
and brutally employed in New York City. . . . Third-
degree methods, authoritatively reported to us as recently
employed include: Punching in the face, especially a hard
slap on the jaw; hitting with a billy; whipping with a
rubber hose; kicking in the abdomen; tightening the neck
tie almost up to the choking point; squeezing the testicles.
Methods are favored which do not leave visible marks,
because these attract the attention of the courts and some
times lead district attorneys not to use the confession.
There is said to be a practice that the arresting officer
does not commonly do the beating ; another man will do it,
so that when the arresting officer takes the stand it cannot
be charged that he used force."
We do not pretend that New York police are unique
in their use of the third degree. Practically every large
police station in the country has a room apart from the
others where prisoners are questioned, and it is common
knowledge that these rooms are used for practices which
could never stand the light of publicity. In New York the
third degree has long been a matter of public record, ac
cepted with more or less complacency by people who can
not think of themselves in the role of the persecuted vic
tim. When in July, 1932, twenty-year-old Hyman Stark
was so badly beaten by Mineola police that his Adam's
apple was broken and he died of strangulation, a burst of
protest came from the press and there were quick indict-
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 131
ments of 13 policemen. But many prominent citizens im
mediately rushed to their defense, and a jury finally ac
"The Police Defense Committee," said the New York
Sun, "organized by George W. Loft, the former head of a
chain of candy stores and now president of the South Shore
Trust Company; William Welden, Jr., Nassau County man
ager of the Greater New York and Suffolk Title and Guar
antee Company; Dr. Theron W. Kilmer and Edward Sykes,
was formed to raise money and to bring public opinion to
the point of approving the act of the police in beating
Hyman Stark to death, crushing his throat and allowing him
to strangle on blood, even though they had plenty of evi
dence against him and his companions to convict them of
the robbery and beating of the aged mother of a detective,
and had no need to torture the prisoners to extort confes
' 'If you let down the bars, kiss the gangsters on each
cheek and offer them pink tea, our women and children will
not be safe, and they must be safeguarded against these
crooks at all costs,' the former candy maker said.
" 'Nassau County has been reasonably safe as a result of
the methods used by our policemen. It may be true that they
went a little too far in this case, but who is the man who
hasn't made a mistake in his life? Do not forget the won
derful service these men have rendered in the past for the
citizens of Nassau County.
' 'In the words of big Chief Devery, "There is more law
in the end of a nightstick than there is in all the courts of the
The blow that killed Hyman Stark was probably no
harder than other blows that have disfigured New York
prisoners without killing them. M. Fiaschetti, former head
of the Italian squad of detectives, does not stop with
132 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
fists. He uses a baseball bat. In his book, You Gotta Be
Rough, he says: "I went to the Tombs and got myself a
sawed-off baseball bat and walked in on all those dogs.
Yes; they came through with everything they knew."
Sometimes they "come through" with things that they
do not know just to avoid one more skull-crushing swing
of the baseball bat; and then the "confession" is repudi
ated in the courts while a baffled jury tries to solve the
riddle of which side is lying. In the long run the violence
of the police defeats its own ends for every confession is
distrusted if the prisoner chooses to repudiate it, and,
when the public is aroused over some particularly fla
grant example of the third degree, no judge dares to accept
a confession at its face value if it is repudiated. Three
days after the killing of Hyman Stark by the police of
Mineola, there appeared this significant story in the
In County Court, Brooklyn, H. Abramowitz, 19, of 71
Herzl Street, Brooklyn, charged with first degree robbery,
repudiated a confession which Assistant District Attorney
Charles N. Cohen sought to introduce.
Abramowitz told Judge Franklin Taylor that police got
him out of bed, refused to tell him what he was being ar
rested for until they got him to Miller Ave. station, Brook
lyn, and when he denied knowledge of the robbery, twisted
his arm until he screamed in pain.
"To save it from getting broke," he said, "I was ready
to say I did anything they wanted me to."
Judge Taylor directed a jury to acquit Abramowitz when
his counsel, Harry B. Siegel, pointed out that on three prev
ious times when the case was called the State produced
no witnesses. It had none today.
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 133
The Wickersham committee found that assault and
battery of prisoners by New York police had been popular
for a long time. It quoted a former New York dis
trict attorney, R. H. Elder, who said: "The third degree
has now become established and recognized practice in
the police department of the City of New York. Every
police station in the city is equipped with the instruments
to administer the torture incident to that process." Mr.
Elder's opinion is not unique. The Association of the
Bar of the City of New York appointed a committee in
1927 to report on lawless practices of the police and the
committee which included three former district attorneys
of New York County and three former United States
attorneys for the southern district of New York, among
whom were Emory Buckner, William Travers Jerome and
Charles S. Whitman, said: "From our aggregate experi
ence and from such information as we have been able to
acquire in our study of present conditions, we are of the
opinion that these accusations (of brutal and violent as
saults to extort confessions) are well founded." *
The records of the Voluntary Defenders Committee of
the Legal Aid Society bear out Mr. Elder's statement. The
lawyers of this committee who interview prisoners in
jail have found violence against prisoners so common that
the prisoners do not even bother to report it on most
occasions they assume that it is a matter of police rou
tine. Of 1,235 prisoners helped by the Legal Aid Society
in 1930, 289 said they were beaten by the police, and
the lawyers of the society believed their stories were suf-
134 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
ficiently credible to record the method of extra-legal pun
ishment. The records of punishment of the men who were
listed in the society's statistical table read: "Night stick;
Kicked in stomach; Hit in jaw; Beaten; Knocked out
teeth; Rubber hose; Fists, rubber hose; Blackjacked;
Clubbed on ear; Struck with shovel; Broke wrists;
Dragged by hair all day; and so on and on. Of these
289 victims of police violence 166 were given the violent
treatment as part of the third degree.
Contrary to the usual belief, the police of New York
do not confine their third-degree methods to hardened
offenders. Of the 166 third-degree victims listed by the
Legal Aid Society in 1930 nearly half were first offenders,
and only 17.5 per cent had felony records. One boy of
15 was beaten with fists; twelve boys of 16 were beaten
with nightsticks, blackjacks, rubber hose and fists; sixteen
boys of 17 included one kicked in the testicles. And
so on. 6
Many of these boys had come through the New York
public school system where, in the civics textbook, they
had seen a picture of the New York County Court House
bearing this inscription: "The True Administration of Jus
tice is the Firmest Pillar of Good Government."
The physical result of such treatment was made public
in the famous Barbato case in which the prisoner "con
fessed" the murder of Julia Museo Quintieri after a ter
rific beating, was sent to the death house, and later
released when the method by which the confession had
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 135
been extracted was made public. Dr. Radin who examined
Barbato testified: 6
Q. Now, doctor, will you tell this jury what your exami
A. I found echymoses, that means black and blue marks,
over the right arm, with some swelling of the arm, with a
hemetoma over the middle of the arm. A hemetoma is a
little collection or tumor of the blood. There were several
abrasions over the right elbow and right forearm. Abrasions
are superficial scratches. There are livid stripes over the
right forearm and back of the right hand. There are echy
moses, black and blue marks, over the left arm, also over
both eyelids on the left eye; over the left malar bone, that
means cheek bone here (indicating); there were some abra
sions in the right temporal region, that is, up here (indi
The Court. Witness indicates by placing his hand on the
A. (Continuing.) There were a few echymoses over the
back of the neck, and he complained of pain on manipula
tion of the head. There are some echymoses over the right
scapula; that is, the shoulder blade. There were echymoses
over both sides of the back and in the left lumbar region;
that is, the left loin, in the left lower axillary region the
axillary region is the side of the chest, and the left lower
axillary region would be the lower part of the side of the
chest there were echymoses over the right buttock and over
the front of the right thigh and over the front of the left
thigh and over the back of both thighs; there were some
abrasions of the right leg."
The worst forms of police brutality usually come in a
"drive" that is staged after some sensational crime. Then
the police must do something, anything, to appease public
136 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
anger. Grover Whalen, as commissioner of police, had as
the slogan for his drives: "There's plenty of law at the
end of a nightstick." It should have read: There is plenty
of lawlessness at the end of a nightstick. Whalen an
nounced in a public attack upon the Communists that
"these enemies of society were to be driven out of New
York regardless of their constitutional rights." Fortu
nately for the Communists and the Constitution, Whalen' s
nightsticks were wielded in so bloody and public an en
counter that even New York's complacency was disturbed.
It was perceived that nightsticks under certain circum
stances might make Communists more rapidly than Marx
ian speeches, and Mr. Whalen retired from his original
position with his gardenia and his reputation badly wilted.
When children were shot by gangsters in the streets of
New York in the summer of 1931 Commissioner Mul-
rooney ordered a great "drive" of indiscriminate arrests
in which the first night's haul of 105 persons contained
not a single victim chargeable with a definite crime. The
New York police department does not bother to observe
the law that requires the prompt arraignment of a
prisoner before a court, and in this negligence lies one
explanation for the frequency of the third degree. The
law itself contains a loophole. Section 165 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure says: "The defendant must in all cases
be taken before the magistrate without unnecessary delay,
and he may give bail at any hour of the day or night."
He may give bail at any hour of the day and night not
must. It is a misdemeanor for a police officer to violate
Reproduced by permission of
Rollin Kirby and the New York World-Telegram.
'AW, IT'S ONLY A KID!"
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 139
this law; but what does it mean? What is "unnecessary
delay"? The New York City Charter makes a most lenient
interpretation of this law. In section 338 it provides that
the policeman immediately after he has made an arrest
must convey "in person the offender" to the nearest sitting
magistrate, but that if this magistrate is not sitting the
prisoner may be kept in the station house until the next
regular sitting of the magistrate. So a man may be ar
rested in the late afternoon, beaten to a pulp at various
intervals during the night, and washed up carefully in
the morning after his confession has been extracted. Or
he may be taken from police station to police station while
his relatives are sent to the station he has just left. Or he
may be "detained" in a police station without being ar
rested so that the police officers can truthfully say later
that he was arraigned immediately after arrest.
It is the poor, of course, and not the rich who are sub
jected to illegal violence by the police. We have never
heard of an officer of the Bank of United States or a Wall
Street speculator being put through the third degree. Even
middle-class murderers like Judd Gray and Ruth Snyder
are subjected only to the ordeal of long questioning. If
some of our wealthy traffic-law violators experienced the
police handling given to Socialist strikers they would be
somewhat more concerned with police lawlessness.
We approach the proposed remedies for this situation
with a sense of despair. We do not believe that the ordi
nary policeman on the beat is to blame for illegal deten
tion and the third degree. These practices are part of a
140 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
system that has been allowed to grow up largely because
of public inertia and the survival of savage traits. Most
New York policemen are courteous, hard-working serv
ants of the law, probably tainted by liquor graft but other
wise self-respecting citizens. Their pay is not high even
the first-class policemen average less than $60 a week
and their physical risks in gang-ridden New York are con
siderable. Their conduct is determined not so much by
themselves as by police tradition. In London the police
tradition is against violence and the third degree is un
known. In New York it is an accepted part of police
practice because New York is part of the United States
and almost every city in the United States suffers from
the same affliction.
No official exposures or programs for reform seem to
have any effect upon police conduct. The Page Com
mission in 1908 said almost precisely the same thing about
illegal detention of prisoners in station houses that Judge
Seabury said in 1932. The Page Commission said con
cerning the detention of prisoners in station houses ille
gally: "The plain provisions of the Greater New York
charter . . . have been repeatedly violated by the police."
Judge Seabury in his magistrates' report said: "One of
the most insidious influences in the administration of jus
tice is the atmosphere and relationships that exist in and
around police stations. These stations scattered through
out the city are isolated outposts, little controlled by pub
lic opinion because the operations that go on there are so
mysterious that little can be known of them by outsiders.
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 141
In almost every case of framing that came out during the
investigation, the police station was the place where the
dirty work of bribery and fixing was carried on. ...
"If we add to this sinister process the fact that the
third degree, when it is practised, is generally done in the
police station, we have an overwhelming argument for a
complete reform of the station house, which as a practi
cal matter, cannot be accomplished, or else a method by
which the prisoner shall be taken into court without an
intermediary trip to the station house. Legislation should
be enacted providing that all persons on arrest, regardless
of the offense charged, should be taken directly before a
magistrate, the charge read to them, the statement of the
arresting officer taken upon the record and an opportunity
given to the prisoners, after first advising them of their
rights, to make a statement of their own. ... At least
one term of the court should be in session at all hours of
the day and night, to which arrested persons could be
This last suggestion of a twenty-four-hour magistrate's
court for the prompt arraignment of all prisoners is the
most practical device to avoid the fixing of cases by both
the police and criminals. The danger hours in any crim
inal case are the hours between arrest and arraignment.
During those hours the shyster lawyer, the district leader,
the bail racketeer, and the over-ambitious policeman all
may have their chance to exploit the prisoner or distort
the truth. Professor Raymond Moley suggests that the
present system can be revised without any change in the
142 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
law. The present deputy assistant district attorneys who
are supposed to function in the Magistrate's Court are use
less. Professor Moley would have them dismissed and
lawyers hired by the Police Department to examine every
prisoner arrested in the presence of a magistrate immedi
ately after his arrest. 7
Certainly a city of the size of New York could afford
to have at least one emergency magistrate sitting in each
borough all night to prevent the police from forcing a
"confession" upon any prisoner before he has had a chance
to say guilty or not guilty before a magistrate. But no
law revising the practice of handling criminals will be
effective in the long run unless public opinion forces its
observance by the police. Good, sound laws against un
necessary detention in police stations have been on the
statute books of almost every state in the union for many
years, but the police of nearly all our larger cities have
ignored them. The police are so powerful that they can
make their own law if their superior officers do not inter
In the case of the liquor racket in New York, it is a
matter of universal knowledge that a system of speak
easy protection exists with payments to police and pro
hibition enforcement officers. One speakeasy proprietor,
writing a public confessional recently, said that each
speakeasy paid about 25 per cent of its gross receipts for
protection. The testimony before the Hofstadter com
mittee indicated that small speakeasies pay their tribute to
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 143
the ordinary plainclothes patrolmen, but that, to use Judge
Seabury's words, "the larger operators, who could and
were willing to pay well for protection, were reserved for
the higher-ups. This does not mean that the lower police
officers were not left with plenty of opportunities for
graft. One of them who was shown to have deposited
$99,000 in ten years, stated that 'the cop,' such as himself,
got only 'the crumbs from the table/ '
The real feast of liquor and gambling graft in New
York is spread for the higher-ups, and it is a feast so
tempting that it would corrupt any set of human beings
below angelic standards. Grover Whalen estimated that
there were 32,000 speakeasies in Greater New York
when he was police commissioner; more impartial author
ities have placed the estimate at twice that number. The
scale of prices for protection was indicated in the case of
Police Inspector Mullarkey of Queens, who asked $500 a
week for himself and $100 a week for an assistant for
the right to run an alcohol manufacturing plant in Queens,
but finally settled for $200 a week. He disappeared dur
ing the Seabury hearings.
The situation in regard to liquor racketeering in New
York to-day is so abnormal that we have purposely
avoided any extended discussion of it. The liquor traffic
has always been a source of trouble for the government
of New York, but since the adoption of the Eighteenth
Amendment it has been peculiarly troublesome because of
the amendment's unpopularity. Since the great majority of
the people of the city do not want prohibition, they do not
144 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
hesitate to cooperate with bootleggers and police in flout
ing the law. In these circumstances, there is bound to be
a system of protection for an industry which the majority
of New Yorkers consider justified.
If we are going to have a liquor trade and it now
seems inevitable that we must have the Socialist solu
tion of government ownership and operation of the in
dustry seems the most logical one. Take profit out of
liquor and half the gangs in America would have nothing
to live on. Sell liquor at cost under the most careful
regulation and the bootlegger would soon lose his cus
In the exposure of the framing of innocent women by
the vice squad, it was discovered that even the experi
enced reformers of the Committee of Fourteen, an anti-
vice committee, had been completely hoodwinked for
years by a secret alliance of policemen, magistrates, law
yers and bondsmen. Outraged women had been report
ing these frame-ups for years, but the position of the
police is so powerful that no one believed the women's
stories until Judge Seabury's aides discovered one police
stool-pigeon, Chile Acuna, who exposed the whole con
spiracy. Acuna, once a well-to-do immigrant from South
America, died not long after the exposure while suffer
ing from a brain tumor in a Brooklyn hospital. If he
had been a gangster and turned upon his gang, his
life would have been snuffed out in a few hours. As
it was, the police, whom he had betrayed, did not dare
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 145
to kill him because they knew that his death, like the
death of gambler Rosenthal on the orders of Police
Lieutenant Becker in 1912, would have brought down
upon them the vengeance of an aroused public.
We cannot believe that Mayor Walker and the leaders
of Tammany Hall actually knew the full horror of the
exploitation of innocent women by the vice squad, but
it is fair to say that the conditions which grew up in
the vice squad were a direct result of their negligence
and misgovernment. When groveling politicians buy
their way to the bench with money or political service
they do not change their character over night. When
Tammany puts an aged and feeble judge into the most
difficult legal post in the United States, the office of Dis
trict Attorney of New York County, it means that Tam
many wants certain crimes overlooked. In the case of the
vice squad (since abolished) the whole system of exploita
tion would have been impossible if the District Attorney
had paid any attention to the Women's Court.
New York, considering its size and wealth and the
large population of visitors in search of amusement, does
not have a great amount of organized prostitution. Opin
ions differ as to the amount of street-walking, but it is
probable that the proportion ir less than in Chicago,
Detroit, and other large American cities. Tammany can
not be accused of fostering vice on a large scale for its
Those cases of prostitution which come to the atten
tion of the police are brought into a section of the Magis-
146 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
trace's Court, where they are tried by a magistrate with
the help of a representative of the District Attorney's
office. This representative should be a man of integrity
and of sound training in social service work. Under Tam
many he is not. For seven years the post was filled by
John C. Weston, a former Tammany process server who
did not even bother to submit reports to the District
Attorney's office. He united with the vice squad in de
veloping a vice ring which extorted hundreds of thou
sands of dollars from innocent women by having them
arrested falsely, bailed out at extortionate rates by a
bondsman in the ring, and then bled by a racketeering
lawyer who split with the police. The story is the most
hideous thing in the whole history of New York. It
was concealed for many years because the innocent women
who were the victims did not dare to risk the ruin of their
The ring worked through stool-pigeons hired by the
police department. The stool-pigeon would select his vic
tim, arrange to give a signal to a vice-squad patrolman
in plain clothes, enter the woman's room on some pre
text, give her some marked money or place it on a table,
perhaps strip off his coat, and then signal the policeman.
The officer would come bursting into the room, arrest the
woman for prostitution, and take her to jail. He would
appear to be entirely innocent of any desire to frame the
woman, and the stool-pigeon would conveniently dis
appear. The officer would inform the victim that she
could get out on bail immediately if she went to a cer-
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 147
tain bondsman who was in the ring. The bondsman
would adjust his charge for bail according to the amount
the victim could pay, usually getting an attachment
against her bank book and charging her ten per cent for
bail, although the legal rate is three per cent. Then she
would be told that she could have her case fixed if she
would hire a certain lawyer, also a member of the ring.
Each vulture in the ring would extract his toll, and
when the case finally came before the magistrate it
would be dismissed on recommendation of the District
Weston, the assistant to the District Attorney, for rec
ommending dismissal, would get $25 to $150. Alto
gether he helped in the dismissal of 600 cases and orig
inally claimed a profit of $20,000. The policeman's
"split" would depend entirely on the amount extracted
by the bondsman and lawyer the totals over a period
of years might amount to a substantial fortune. Officer
Quinlivan of the vice squad, said his wife banked $88,000
in five years, of which $61,000 was in cash. Officer Mor
ris acquired about $50,000, of which $10,000 came from
"gambling," and $40,000 from his "Uncle George," who
died conveniently after giving him $40,000 in one-thou
sand dollar bills while they were going to Coney Island ! 8
Quinlivan went to prison and Morris was dismissed from
the force. Altogether there were six policemen convicted
of crime and 13 resigned or suspended from the force;
the lawyers escaped more easily. Two lawyers were
disbarred and one reprimanded as a result of Judge Sea-
148 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
bury's exposure of the ring. The vice squad itself was
No summary of the methods of the police in the vice
frame-ups can do justice to their cruelty. Let the Seabury
record in the Potocki case tell the story of one woman's
Mrs. Potocki, for two years before her arrest, had been
supporting her two little girls. From 8 P.M. to 4 A.M. she
worked as a charwoman. When she returned home she could
sleep only an hour or so before giving her two children
breakfast and sending them off to school. Then she went
downstairs to work in a restaurant until 3:30 P.M. She had,
in addition, been selling liquor to friends to add five or ten
dollars a week to her income.
At 5:30 P.M., September 23rd, 1930, she was entertain
ing two friends, Marie Barry and Jack Keeve, when she
heard a knock at the door. Two plain clothes men, Lewis
and McFarland of the Vice Squad, stood outside and said
they had been sent by a friend to get a drink. When they
had persuaded her that they were "all right," she let them
in. Drinks were poured and $15 placed on a table. Mrs.
Potocki' s two friends left at approximately 7 P.M. She then
told the officers that they must go. Just as she began to
remove the bottles from the table, Lewis struck her on one
side of the jaw and then on the other. She screamed as she
fell; Lewis stood over her and demanded $500. Lewis then
fell upon her and ripped off her clothing.
At that moment, Mrs. Barry, who had returned to get a
package which she left, knocked at the door. McFarland
opened the door for her and struck her on the jaw with such
terrific force that the blood spurted from her mouth. Mean
while, Lewis was still wrestling on the floor with Mrs.
Potocki. In his effort to overcome her resistance he hit sev
eral times, and beat her severely. McFarland at the same
time was holding Mrs. Barry by the hair and dashing her
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 149
against the wall. Finally Lewis dragged Mrs. Potocki to
the telephone and called for the patrol wagon.
At 9 P.M. the two battered women were taken to the Old
Slip Station. Mrs. Potocki, who is corroborated by Mrs.
Barry, testified that she called for a doctor all night, but no
one paid the slightest attention to her cries.
The trial took place before Magistrate Earl Smith, who
was so shocked by the evidence of police brutality that he
not only discharged the woman but sent the minutes to
Chief Magistrate Corrigan.
Dr. Louis Goldblatt of the Beekman Street Hospital testi
fied before me that he examined Mrs. Potocki on September
26th, at which time he made the following findings: Con
tusions below the left eye on the right and left arms and
upper sternum "marks above the right breast, which re
sembled teeth marks" contusions on both breasts the
abdomen and upper thighs, on both inside and outside sur
faces, and tenderness over the ribs in front, so that it hurt
her to breathe. 9
Officers Lewis and McFarland are now in Sing Sing.
Now that the vice squad has been abolished, the two
most important next steps in a thorough clean-up of the
Magistrate's Court are the public ownership and opera
tion of a central bond office for bailing out all prisoners
and the elimination of scores of surplus court clerks and
attendants who act as fixers for shyster lawyers. The eli
mination of the surplus court attendants will not come
while Tammany is in power because these attendants are
an important factor in the Tammany machine, but a pub
lic bond monopoly would be quite possible in spite of
Tammany if a centralized Magistrate's Court is adopted.
Possibly Tammany would not oppose such a reform be-
150 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
cause the bail-bond racketeers are only scavengers on
the edge of the system. Their elimination would affect the
power of the district leader only slightly.
The bail-bond racket, as it now operates, has developed
partly because New York is so large and impersonal.
Originally the theory of bail was that a prisoner who had
responsible friends could gain his liberty if those friends
trusted him so much that they were willing to risk their
property in his defense. Such property usually consisted
of a house or land and still does in our smaller towns.
But in New York only a small minority of the people own
any property that can be used for bail. The average poor
man has no friends who could bail him out even if they
wanted to. The result is that when he is arrested he
must fall back upon a bonding company or an individual
bondsman to whom he has been referred by the police
man or the court attendant. Usually these bondsmen
have little offices near each Magistrate's Court with a
runner to stay in the court room and get tips from the
police and court attendants and an office man to make
These companies and individual bondsmen operate in
New York Magistrate's Courts without any careful regu
lation or inspection. They are extortionists pure and sim
ple or, more accurately, vile and sophisticated. They
charge their victims three or four times the legal bail-
bond rate of three per cent; they may use the same piece
of property over and over again in various courts as
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 151
security so that if a number of prisoners jumped bail
simultaneously, the city could not recover; and they hire
"chiselers" to get trade whose salaries become an over
head charge upon the poor who are arrested. One bail-
bond racketeer named Steiner who was exposed by Judge
Seabury and sent to the penitentiary, extorted from Miss
Anna Johnson, a doctor's nurse, on a vice frame-up, her
entire savings of $600. 10
The establishment of one publicly owned bail office
which would have a monopoly of the bail-bond busi
ness and which would not be operated for profit, would
permanently destroy the bail-bond racket because it would
take away the pool of profits on which the racketeers
thrive. The State Insurance Fund for workmen's com
pensation has set an admirable precedent for such a ven
ture. A public bail office would have no salesman's over
head in its expenses and it would have no motive to force
high bail for trivial offenses. Judge Seabury' s recom
mendations for destroying the bail-bond racket tend in
this direction, but they do not, in our judgment, go quite
far enough. He recommends low bail in minor cases
and points out that in England, where low bail (a pound
or two) is accepted in most offenses, there are practically
no professional bondsmen. A standard of $25 bail instead
of $500 for most minor offenses would be a distinct gain
for the poorer prisoners, but as long as some private
profit existed in the bond business the vultures would
circle about the Magistrate's Court, preying upon their
152 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
victims. A publicly owned bail office operated by the
State Insurance Fund would put these vultures out of
Judge Seabury found that the bail racket was very
closely tied up with the incompetence of the Probation
Department. Long before his investigation it had become
evident that both the probation and parole systems in
the city are a grim and expensive joke. Again and again
ex-prisoners from Welfare Island have come to our offices
and told of a system of payments for parole which they
say is still in vogue. We cannot prove their stories be
cause we have no power of subpoena and because the
ex-prisoners themselves are so afraid of "the system"
that they will not take the witness stand.
The quality of men who care for the moral welfare
of discharged prisoners under the Tammany regime was
disclosed in 1930, when Edwin J. Cooley, head of the
Probation Department of the Court of General Sessions,
resigned under fire after it was discovered that he had
authorized the controller to make payments to his sister
for seven months in 1929, during part of which time she
was employed in Buffalo. He was acquitted by a jury
after a trial in which he was prosecuted by an inexperi
enced young assistant district attorney and defended by
one of the ablest lawyers in New York.
In the Probation Department of the Magistrate's Court
the care of prisoners on probation is slipshod, incom
plete and irresponsible, particularly so in the Women's
Court, where the supervision of young girls is especially
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW 153
important. Young girls with venereal disease planning
to start their life over again after medical treatment and
discharge have found that the probation department has
sent letters to their distant parents, saying that their
' 'daughter is in the hospital with an infectious disease"
and is being held in the Women's Court. Judge Seabury
and his staff showed that such stupidity was typical of
the department. Almost no check-up was made upon
the stories of delinquent girls on probation they might
have continued as prostitutes and no one would have been
the wiser. Very few of the girls were visited once a
month, as the law required, and the most flimsy and un
verified "reports" were accepted without further investi
gation. "Dear Miss McCauley," one girl wrote, "I am
well. Hoping you are the same. Oblige." This was the
kind of "report" which was accepted for a whole year
as "supervision." One "report" on the case of a male
probationer deserves to stand with this. "The defendant
is of good character and habits, with the exception that
he stays out late at night, associates with undesirable
companions, refuses to work, and will not obey the rea
sonable dictates of his parents."
Many of the magistrates have chosen to dismiss their
prisoners rather than place them in charge of such para
gons of stupidity which paragons, by the way, cost the
city $250,000 a year. Even when a prisoner has a long
police record the magistrate often dismisses his case with
out placing him on probation. Judge Seabury discovered
196 such cases in the Magistrate's Court in 1930 alone.
154 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
He strongly condemned the chief probation officer of
the Magistrate's Court for incompetence and negligence,
and recommended the junking of the present probation
system and the creation of a central probation bureau
with specialized branches and a health clinic for all the
criminal courts of Greater New York. Nothing has been
done about Judge Seabury's recommendations. Nothing
will be done until Tammany control of the courts is
That is the conclusion that we must come to after sev
eral years of observation of New York justice. The most
perfect forms of social service are nothing but flashy deco
rations unless the political group in control at City Hall
has a sincere desire for honest and efficient government.
THE two greatest wonders of American city politics
have been William Hale Thompson and James Joseph
Walker. Although Thompson in his day was the greatest
political clown in the United States he never attained the
personal popularity of our Jimmy. Jimmy did not need to
"bust King George on the snoot" or carry around a cage
full of rats bearing his opponents' names. He was his
own show. He was one of the most adroit and charming
campaigners that this country has ever produced. His
popularity in New York was based upon the solid founda
tion of good public speaking, quick wit, and a real per
sonal warmth. Given that combination even his weak
nesses were an asset until he resigned. Once the glamour
of power had been taken from him people began to won
der just what qualifications he had to direct one of the
greatest corporations of history.
Early in his first term he set out to be a tabloid mayor.
He exhibited his cleverness at innumerable dinners; he
did the graceful and appropriate thing at all sorts of
sporting events; he welcomed everybody from channel
swimmers to cardinals. And in all of these arduous labors
156 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
he had the movie cameras grinding at his elbow and the
reporters frantically scribbling notes.
We have called Walker at the head of this chapter a
machine-made mayor and the description is quite accurate
because without the support of the Tammany machine he
would have been destroyed by his own weaknesses far
sooner than he was. But almost equally he was a press-
made mayor. He was "good copy for the boys." There
were thousands of stories about him in the newspapers dur
ing the seven years after his election, and of course, most
of these stories created a favorable impression upon the
reader because in them Walker was presented as saying
or doing something important or interesting. Shrewd men
know that the sheer weight of publicity is the important
initial factor in creating a political hero in America, and
Walker knew how to use his commanding position as
mayor to win that publicity.
The reporters liked him because he was easy and warm
hearted and lent them money and thought of something
to say that would fill an assignment. They swallowed his
every utterance, for the most part uncritically, and gave
him front-page headlines. This was especially true of the
regular reporters who covered the City Hall beat. On this
beat in recent years the great New York dailies have had
routinists rather than crusaders. Perhaps their point of
view has been affected by the knowledge that hostile criti
cism usually makes it harder to get the next day's story
from incensed officials. At any rate, when an important
fact concerning unemployment relief, bad city manage-
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 157
ment, or constructive social reform was brought before
the Board of Estimate by a protesting civic group or party,
the fact was nearly always subordinated in the next day's
news story to some blatant and empty promise of action
by the mayor. The average New Yorker, reading only
headlines in the newspaper, judged Walker by those head
lines. The newspaper editorial writers might try to undo
the work of the headlines by commenting soberly on civic
problems but the subway strap-hanger did not read the
Moreover, until the World-Telegram entered the field
Walker was not faced with the kind of blistering day-to
day exposure that was necessary to destroy his popularity
with the common voter. The old World and the new
Herald-Tribune were intelligently hostile but the Times,
New York's most influential paper, did not take the ini
tiative against Walker. It waited until some one else
did the exposing. And, as always, Hearst was incalculably
crafty, preaching high civic morality while backing
Walker and his gang by every journalistic artifice. Hearst's
hand was apparently the guiding one in Walker's final
resignation, for it was Hearst who made him believe that
his vindication at the polls would be overwhelming.
Then, when Walker had resigned, Mr. Hearst slapped him
on the wrist.
Walker's prestige was increased by the mediocrity of
the men around him. We have already pointed out that
the borough presidents who sat on the board with him
were colorless and obedient, voting like automatons for
158 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
the administration measures after the usual logrolling for
their district interests. Probably the most colorless and
obedient of all was the nominal Republican, George U.
Harvey of Queens, who worked hand in glove with
Walker on almost every Tammany measure and even in
troduced the resolution which raised Walker's salary from
$25,000 to $40,000 a year.
Joseph V. McKee, who succeeded Walker as mayor of
New York, sat at the right of Mayor Walker for almost
seven years on the Board of Estimate with a pained ex
pression on his face looking like a "bored Prince of
Wales." He is a much quieter and more dignified person
than his predecessor and Walker's clowning made him
wince. He accepted it because he was forced to accept it
as a member of the machine. Toward the end of Walker's
reign when it seemed that the desertion of a sinking ship
might be good politics, he sometimes rebelled against his
chief, but in nearly every important vote he stood with the
Walker handled his powers as mayor with the utmost
recklessness. On all the occasions when we visited the
Board of Estimate during his administration he was never
once on time. Quite commonly he was an hour late for the
opening of the session, although his presiding over this
board was the most important duty of his office and often
the most pressing legislative matters had to be held up
until his arrival. Likewise in our experience we have
never known him to take less than an hour and a half for
luncheon, even while sweating crowds were standing up
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 159
in the board chambers waiting for his return. When he
did arrive he often scolded a citizen who was protesting
against some measure for taking one minute over his
allotted five minutes. His tact and charm were not always
evident in the legislative chamber. Often he appeared so
tired and cross from his labors of the previous day, or
night, that he hardly seemed to know what was going on.
He was savage and coarse in shouting down (through his
loud speaker) many a luckless citizen who aroused his
James Joseph Walker came to the mayoralty through
steady promotion at the hands of his Tammany colleagues.
Born in 1881 on Leroy Street in old Greenwich Village,
he came from an Irish family steeped in Tammany poli
tics. His father had been a Tammany alderman, assem
blyman and leader of the old Ninth Ward. In his youth
he wanted to be an actor and this aspiration explains a
large part of his conduct as an adult. He did become a
passable pianist and vaudeville gag man, making $10,000
on one song, "Will You Love Me in December as You
Do in May." He met his wife while he was a gag man
in a musical comedy and she was in the chorus. He de
cided to become a lawyer and work for "the organiza
tion," so, after graduating from the New York University
Law School, he was sent to the assembly and later to the
senate as one of the young "slaveys" of Charles F.
At Albany, where he served for fifteen years, Jimmy
Walker revealed two qualities necessary for political sue-
160 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
cess. He always voted with the machine and he made a
host of warm personal friends. In personality and con
duct he was the antithesis of the dullness and routine of
legislative life at Albany. He dressed boldly, drank gaily,
and fought for the freedom of sports. He gradually be
came known as a warm-hearted "regular fellow." His
party finally chose him as its leader in the Senate, a post
usually occupied by a rising young subordinate of the ma
chine who can be trusted to have no mind of his own in
serious matters. It was from this post that Tammany
promoted him to City Hall, with the potent help of Alfred
After the stupidities of the Hylan administration the
city and Tammany Hall gave a sigh of relief when a per
sonable and plausible mayor moved into City Hall. Hylan,
who had been forced on the Democratic organization by
Hearst as his price for supporting the party ticket, had
neither intelligence nor charm, and he was one of the most
erratic mayors New York ever had. The Tammany lead
ers were relieved when Walker took office because they
again had a man at City Hall who would obey orders, and
the people were relieved because they were rid of a color
less bore. Walker not only obeyed orders with alacrity
but he boasted before and after election that he was and
would be a Tammany mayor.
He promptly appointed as heads of various departments
a whole string of Tammany district leaders whose quali
fications for the offices consisted of loyalty to the machine
and personal friendship for Jimmy. His judicial appoint-
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 161
merits, also, were machine appointments made without
heed to the recommendations of bar associations. The
degraded character of his administration was partly con
cealed by a brilliant publicity stunt, the appointment of a
gigantic committee on plan and survey for the city, com
posed of 472 more or less distinguished members. The
various activities of this gigantic committee distracted pub
lic attention for months. Sub-committees were appointed
and books were written and reports filed away; and if
Walker ever read the reports there is no evidence of it.
There was, for example, the report of the mayor's com
mittee on budget and finance, commonly known as the
Lehman report. It went in great detail into the clumsy
and inefficient method of making the city budget and
recommended a complete change in procedure. It recom
mended that each year's budget should contain a capital
outlay program so that the taxpayers would know what
public improvements were contemplated the present
budget does not contain these items. It recommended a
change in the fiscal year so that there could be a more in
telligent consideration of the budget. None of these
reforms was adopted. Each year the budget comes up
before the Board of Estimate in such an obscure and in
complete form that the civic organizations are almost
helpless in criticizing it. The citizen who wants to know
what the city is getting for its expenditures cannot find
out from the budget because these things are not itemized.
Fortunately for Walker he entered City Hall at a mo
ment when America faced its greatest wave of investors'
162 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
prosperity. Land values soared, business expanded hysteri
cally, and millionaires were made over night in Wall
Street. The extravagance and mismanagement of the ad
ministration were forgotten in the national exuberance.
Walker laid corner stones and cut ribbons, and opened
bridges, and claimed the credit for himself and for his
administration of spending the new excess wealth.
He was fortunate, also, in having a good watch-dog
over his treasury in the person of Controller Berry. Berry's
department had a number of surprising blind spots es
pecially a blind spot concerning unemployment relief
needs but it undoubtedly saved the city from the worst
forms of drunken spending. In fact, as we write these
lines, the City of New York is not in bad financial condi
tion, considering the national situation, and it has not been
in bad financial condition during the Walker administra
tion. The looting of funds during the Walker regime has
consisted for the most part of a levy upon private business
by political brokers who had 2oning laws, franchises, or
permits to sell. It is probable that only in the payment of
high salaries to Tammany chair-warmers has there been
any extensive misappropriation of public funds, although
some evidence exists that public works are built below
contract specifications. We would not condone any of
this petty graft; it is serious enough. But it is trivial com
pared to the large profit-taking of private business at the
expense of consumers and workers.
The record of the Walker administration can be quite
naturally discussed under the two heads which we have
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 163
already suggested, brokers' loot and personal loot. Walker
from the beginning of his administration used his power
to give to the Tammany machine the personal loot of
highly paid, decorative positions. The non-competitive
jobs at the top of the city's administration gave him the
chance to bestow rewards on almost all the leading serv
ants of the machine. In several cases he appointed power
ful district leaders who were notoriously unfit. There
were for example the cases of James F. Geraghty of the
Bronx and Charles L. Kohler.
The City Affairs Committee in its charges against
Walker in March, 1931, cited the appointment of James
F. Geraghty as commissioner of licenses and Charles L.
Kohler as director of the budget. During Walker's first
administration the regulation of private employment agen
cies had become such a scandal that the State Industrial
Survey Commission had recommended that the regulation
be put in state hands. Walker's answer was to place in
the office of commissioner of licenses in charge of em
ployment bureaus a Bronx district leader, Geraghty, who
had been officially condemned for incompetence by the
Meyer Legislative Investigating Committee when he was
in charge of the Division of Licensed Vehicles. The
Meyer Committee disclosed that "the administration of
the Division of Licensed Vehicles of the License Depart
ment under Deputy Commissioner Geraghty not only
made it a hot-bed of petty graft but that the safety of the
public had been seriously menaced by the large number of
licenses as taxicab drivers issued to ex-convicts."
164 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Geraghty is still in office. Kohler was made Budget
Director by Walker after serving as secretary of the
Health Department during some of its most serious scan
dals, scandals concerning which Judge Charles H. Kelby
in his report on August 10, 1927, had said that "it is hard
to believe that the executive heads of the department were
not cognizant of conditions."
We cite the cases of Geraghty and Kohler because they
are instances of the way in which Walker was allowed by
Governor Roosevelt to whitewash his administration in
answering the charges of the City Affairs Committee in
1931. Walker misrepresented his record and his misrepre
sentations were accepted by the public as a vindication
because Roosevelt refused the committee the privilege of a
rebuttal. In the case of Geraghty, Walker dismissed the
charges against him by describing the Meyer Committee
findings as "merely the reflection of a disappointed inves
tigator," and by saying that "Mr. Geraghty's resignation
from the License Department had no relation to the inves
tigation, nor was it caused by anything adduced before
The truth is that the Meyer Committee thoroughly ex
posed and condemned Geraghty in the most specific words :
With the advent of the present administration, the Chief
of the Division of Licensed Vehicles was shorn of power.
An official subordinate was made his actual superior in
charge of the issue of licenses and one of the Deputy Com
missioners, James F. Geraghty, a district leader in the Bronx,
was placed in direct charge of the Division. From time to
time the complicity of taxicab chauffeurs in crimes of vio-
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 165
lence, often committed in broad daylight, roused public con
cern. While this branch of the inquiry was under way,
Geraghty's resignation was invited and submitted. . . .
Geraghty's tolerance is not difficult to understand in view
of his own standards of conduct in public office. For in
stance, when his political club held an "outing" twenty-seven
taxicabs were furnished him gratis by an association of taxi-
drivers, which itself paid the men who owned the cabs.
When his club gave an affair this same organization was
requested to and did buy $100 worth of tickets. When the
bill for the transfer of jurisdiction over the licensing of cabs
and drivers was pending, employees of the division professed
to fear for their positions and raised a fund for expenses
in working up opposition by the sale of raffle tickets among
the persons licensed by the departments. In a word the divi
sion has been completely demoralized.
As Walker blandly ignored the real record of Geraghty
so he ignored the ominous Dr. William F. Doyle and his
astonishing practice before the Board of Standards and
Appeals. In his reply to the City Affairs Committee
charges he did not even mention Doyle. The facts about
Doyle were a public scandal during the mayor's entire
administration, having been spread on the records of the
Board of Aldermen by George U. Harvey on May 26,
1925, seven months before Walker took office. The Har
vey resolution demanded a special investigation "to in
form the people of the city how a veterinarian could come
before city boards as an architect and amass a fortune of
$2,000,000 in three years." Walker not only had the
power to remove the members of the Board of Standards
and Appeals who made Doyle's success possible, but he
had a whole corps of investigators already on the city
166 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
payroll waiting to be used in just such a scandal. The
1931 budget of the city showed that the mayor's commis
sioner of accounts, who is really his chief investigator, had
under him two deputies, eighteen examiners, sixty-two
accountants and six examination inspectors ready for a
It is indicative of the public attitude toward politics that
Walker's failure to be a good mayor was not considered
half so serious as any personal dishonesty that might be
charged against him. The City Affairs Committee's
charges against Walker in 1931 set forth certain convinc
ing reasons why Walker should be considered an incom
petent and irresponsible mayor of a great city; the Sea-
bury charges of 1932 set forth equally convincing reasons
why the mayor was personally unreliable. Of the two sets
of charges those of the City Affairs Committee were more
serious from the point of view of the average citizen's
welfare because they showed the actual breakdown of
government under Walker's reckless rule.
But a large part of the New York press attacked the
committee's charges as too general simply because they
did not produce sworn testimony concerning the commis
sion of a crime. Few stopped to ask how a voluntary civic
body could produce sworn testimony without the power
of subpoena. The charges which had been intended only
as the starting point for an official probe, were attacked
as incomplete, and under cover of the attack Governor
Roosevelt was given the chance to dismiss them without
loss of prestige. If he had immediately called for a public
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 167
trial and appointed competent prosecutors, the mayor's
unfitness for office would have been established in a week.
After this experience it became evident that Walker, no
matter how unfit, could not be removed unless he was
convicted of a crime, either morally or legally. The line
of the attack of Seabury upon Walker was marked out for
him by circumstance. He had to prove that the mayor
either accepted a bribe or came so close to it that the dis
tinction was not a difference. He was compelled by the
nature of the electorate to make his investigation a man
hunt. He avoided the worst pitfalls of such a man-hunt
by showing the inter-relations of corruption, but it is to be
regretted that he did not make a methodical survey of the
government, department by department, to show the ex
tent of its demoralization.
The most obvious material ready for Seabury' s use was
the Equitable Coach scandal. The Citizens' Union had
underscored it and the Socialist candidate for mayor in
1929 had made it a major point of attack upon Walker.
It was peculiarly a personal scandal because the whole city
knew that the mayor himself had personally jammed
through the Equitable franchise against all opposition.
As we look back upon the Equitable scandal now it
seems strange that no one took the trouble to go to the
heart of the complex situation and point out the financial
meaning of the deal. A great new industry was develop
ing which was destined to supplant street cars, and the
company which secured a monopoly franchise of this in
dustry for greater New York would be in a position to
168 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
reap a prodigious harvest. Probably the promoters of the
Equitable Coach Company were modest in estimating their
profits at $19,000,000 in ten years. The streets of New
York were worth that much to any bus monopoly and
they knew it.
It was not surprising that a group of financial adven
turers began working on the new mayor from the begin
ning of his first administration, using as contact man the
mayor's loud-mouthed salesman friend, Senator John A.
Hastings. As soon as Hastings' intimacy with the mayor
became known he became a "bus expert," a "taxicab
expert," and what have you.
What happened then is too well known to need any
complete description here. Hastings had organized a
bus syndicate composed of Frank R. Fageol and Charles
B. Rose, bus manufacturers, and William O'Neil, a tire
manufacturer. Two weeks after Mayor Walker was
elected in 1925 they incorporated the Equitable Coach
Company and filed an application for a city- wide bus fran
chise. Hastings was put on the new company's payroll
at $1,000 a month and expenses. The corporation was
apparently set up in such a way that Hastings and his
associates would have made $19,000,000 in ten years with
out investing a nickel. The initial capital was to come
out of the dear public, who would presumably rush
to buy stock when the franchise was awarded and leave
the insiders with their promotion stock paid for.
The Equitable Coach Company was not apparently
worse than many other companies which exploit streets,
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 169
gold mines, and consumers. True, it had practically no
financial backing and almost no experience in running
buses. Chairman Delaney of the Board of Transporta
tion must have blushed a little when he concocted a report
that gave a clean bill of health to the company, but he
swallowed his doubts and did his duty like a faithful son
of Tammany. The reason why the Equitable Coach Co.
was exposed was that it had to secure a contract with
New York City after public hearings, and its franchise
would not stand the glare of publicity. In jamming
through the franchise, Mayor Walker and his associates
clearly violated section 74 of the city charter which com
pels the city to make an investigation of the money value
of a franchise before granting it a fact which strangely
enough was not brought out at the Seabury hearings. The
thing which finally killed the franchise was that reputable
bankers would not back it. They pretended that the
Equitable' s prospects were not bright. We believe that
this was only a pretext, that the franchise would have
made millions for its backers, and that the bankers shied
away because they saw that the franchise was so tainted
that it threatened to become a public scandal.
Walker jammed through the Equitable franchise by
bargaining with the Bronx and Richmond leaders to give
them their own franchises separately, signed the contract
on August 9, 1927, and sailed for Europe on August 10th
with a $10,000 letter of credit bought for the mayor in
cash by J. Allan Smith, the Equitable's New York repre
sentative. He says that the two events had no connection!
170 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
He produced friendly witnesses at his trial before Gov
ernor Roosevelt in August, 1932, to show that all of the
$10,000 not contributed by himself came from other peo
ple. But the coincidence of that letter of credit being
taken out at that particular moment for Mayor Walker
by the chief promoter of the Equitable was a little too
plain to ignore. The "explanation" was reminiscent of
McQuade and his relatives, and Dr. Walker and his split
Meanwhile such a storm had been raised by the award
ing of this franchise to an irresponsible fly-by-night cor
poration that the mayor and the Equitable promoters had
to start the fight all over again when Walker returned
from Europe. Some of Walker's superiors in Tammany
were obviously worried by the scandal. J. Allan Smith
wired to Fageol two messages which deserve to be classics
in local political literature because they show how Tam
many appeals to its financial masters. "No answer yet
your suggested financing stop He (Hastings) advises
War Board (Tammany Hall) notified boy friend (Mayor
Walker) time limit (for commencement of operation of
buses under Equitable franchise) was April 15th stop
Have made progress upstairs (General Electric Com
pany) and arranged meeting late yesterday between Judge
(Charles W. Appleton) and boy friend (Mayor Walker)
before he (Mayor Walker) left for Florida stop Judge
(Appleton) reported favorable progress and expected to
see his boss (Owen D. Young) today and advise me
Monday stop His boss (Young) poor health ordered
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 171
away for months but if he (Young) says yes we can get
extension Will keep you advised."
"John (Hastings) made mistake as his boy friend
(Mayor Walker) did not want further negotiations with
Philadelphia banker (Albert M. Greenfield) but says go
ahead with Brooklyn party (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit
Corporation) Chairman Board (Gerhard M. Dahl) agree
able and like(s) you Things look bright."
(The words in brackets were not in the original tele
grams, but since we personally heard the testimony in this
case and Judge Seabury embodied substantially these in
terpretations in his rebuttal to Mayor Walker without
protest by the mayor, we feel warranted in including
The second of these two telegrams suggests what cer
tain political insiders have believed for a long time that
the Equitable Coach deal was part of a great transit plan
in which the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation
and Gerhard M. Dahl, its head, had bargained success
fully with Tammany Hall for transit monopoly of the
city. The B. M. T., which had originally been bitterly
opposed to the Equitable's bus franchise was suddenly
converted to it and offered to cooperate. The borough
president of Brooklyn was also converted to the Equitable
franchise, and the McCooey machine later helped to put
through the award of a bus franchise in Brooklyn to the
B. M. T. for $2,000,000 when it was worth more than
$14,000,000. Gerhard M. Dahl was receiving about the
172 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
time of the Equitable discussion an annual bonus of
$75,000 a year, in addition to a salary of $100,000, chiefly
for "improving relations with the public" a fact which
we shall discuss later. Mayor Walker became exceedingly
friendly both with Dahl and with the promoters of the
Equitable. When the Equitable franchise was finally ve
toed by the Transit Commission (a State body) because
the company could not show any financial backing, Dahl
and the B. M. T. gave Fageol, the Equitable's promoter,
a handsome order for new buses in spite of the fact that
another bus manufacturer had made a lower competitive
The thing which gave the whole Equitable deal an ugly
look was not only Mayor Walker's letter of credit bought
by J. Allan Smith but the fact that nearly all of the
Equitable promoters except Hastings refused to waive
immunity when they came before Judge Seabury. The
public could not believe after that that their transaction
It would be strange indeed if the capitalist politicians
and the franchise promoters of New York did not coop
erate to give each other unearned profit. The conception
of both the Democratic and Republican parties is that the
streets, piers, markets, wires, and land of the community
are raw materials for private exploitation. If these basic
factors of wealth production were socialized, the blessed
private initiative of the Hastings, Fageols, and Dahls
would be diluted and the city would languish. We shall
discuss the meaning of such initiative more fully in the
chapters on buses and public utilities.
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 173
Walker finally fell not because he sold out the city to
private traction interests but because he was too reckless
in receiving money from friends whose generosity had
developed after he became mayor. Paul Block, for exam
ple, might have been more plausible in explaining his
$246,000 beneficence to the mayor if his generosity had
dated back to Walker's pre-mayoralty days. As it was,
the story of how Block opened a stock account for the
mayor on the inspiration of his warm-hearted ten-year-old
son, who wondered how such a well-dressed mayor could
live graciously on $25,000 a year brought loud laughter
from the city. Probably those laughs hurt the mayor more
than many of Seabury's factual thunderbolts.
Both the Block incident and the Sisto incident showed
how difficult it is to convict a modern public official of
receiving a bribe. A stock account may be used with per
fect safety to pay almost any ill-gotten gain while the
stock market is going up. Graft during a depression is
more difficult to conceal.
In the Sisto case, as in the Block case, the mayor re
ceived stock profits without any written commitment on
his part to pay for any stock or to pay losses on any stock.
His friends simply "let him in." In one case he received
$246,000, in the other $26,000. The $26,000 from J. A.
Sisto had definite signs of taint. Sisto was heavily inter
ested in taxicabs and the mayor, shortly after he received
the Sisto bonds, fought for legislation that would have
greatly benefited the big taxi companies. That the mayor
finally failed to win as favorable a measure for the taxi-
cab owners as he had originally planned is beside the
174 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
point. He obviously intended to impose upon the industry
the kind of regulation that in the end would have meant
great gain to such a holding company as Sisto represented.
Sisto's sworn testimony concerning the $26,000 gift flatly
contradicted the mayor's. Sisto said that the money was a
gratuity and that he had paid an income tax on the entire
amount. (See Appendix III for Seabury charges against
Walker floundered pathetically in explaining these gifts
from Sisto and Block. He said that they were not gifts but
profits on investments and that he would have borne the
losses if there had been any. If they were profits, then
why did he not pay income taxes upon them? The law
does not permit one member of a partnership to pay the
income tax for another. We believe that if Walker's own
story of Sisto's $26,000 and Block's $246,000 is accepted,
the ex-mayor is clearly guilty of violating both the State
and Federal income tax laws. Probably he could not be
prosecuted because in these cases the testimony of Sisto
and Block that their contributions were gifts rather than
dividends would be accepted at face value by the Federal
government, and during the years when those gifts were
made there was no Federal gift tax.
Seabury' s weakest point against Walker was his charge
that the mayor had violated the law by owning some
bonds of the Reliance Bronze and Steel Corporation when
it was supplying the city with traffic-light standards. The
charge should never have been made because Walker had
obviously done nothing wrong in owning these bonds.
MACHINE-MADE MAYOR 175
Probably the unexplained millions of Walker's personal
business agent, Russell T. Sherwood, did more than any
one thing to force him out of office. Here was a man
running away after giving about $75,000 of somebody's
money to an unnamed person who was a friend of some
body. The tabloid readers could understand that. The
unnamed person became the most named unnamed person
in the history of the planet. Somebody suggested building
a monument and laying a wreath upon the tomb of the
unnamed person. Sherwood forfeited all his property in
New York rather than return to face Seabury, and an
income tax levy of almost $50,000 was made against him.
The public could not think of any reason for Sher
wood's disappearance except his connection with the
mayor. He had been a $3,000-a-year assistant in Walker's
former law office and suddenly, when Walker became
mayor, his bank deposits jumped to $98,000 in Walker's
first year and totaled $961,000 during the first five years
and eight months of Walker's rule. And, significantly
enough, almost $750,000 was in cash. Sherwood paid
many of the mayor's and Mrs. Walker's bills out of his
bank account and then, when asked to explain where it
all came from, disappeared.
To the end Walker kept up his amazing front. He
screamed that he was being persecuted by Republicans for
political advantage; he forgot that long before the Repub
licans had forced an investigation the Socialists and non-
partisan civic groups had disclosed ample grounds for his
removal. He saw that his defense had failed and that he
176 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
was about to be removed; so he resigned with the final
flourish of a vaudeville star. Slinking off the stage as if
already a fugitive from justice he would not deny himself
that final curtain.
And to the end Walker was backed by the machine
which he had served so faithfully. The Tammany leaders
did everything in their power to save him. They obstructed
the Seabury hearings until those hearings became at times
almost a riot. They packed the hearing room on the days
of Walker's appearance by sending a gang of district ruf
fians through an unguarded back door to cheer him. They
sent filibustering lawyers to Albany for the mayor's trial
before Roosevelt to raise every fantastic objection possible
to a straight-forward discussion of the facts. They kept
their machine intact after Walker's downfall, and it still
rules New York. It rules New York so completely that,
if the present form of voting is continued, they can prob
ably put James Joseph Walker back in the City Hall at
any time that they wish.
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY
BY a queer twist of fate the public hero of the drama
of Walker's resignation was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He
it was whom the Western and Southern papers described
as the stern yet fair arbiter who sat in judgment over the
Tammany mayor. The legend of his strength and courage
spread through the land. Had he not defied the corrupt
overlords of his own party? Had they not sought to de
stroy him at Chicago? What better proof could one want
that Franklin Roosevelt was the White Knight who led
the forces of civic virtue?
Whereupon we who have lived in New York and for
lo these many years have fought the steadily losing fight
against the Tammany machine added a third volume to
our Library of Presidential Fairy Tales. It was called
How Roosevelt Slew the Tammany Dragon, and it sat on
the shelf beside How Coolidge Crushed the Boston Police
Strike, and How the Great Engineer Brought Efficiency to
Lest we seem a trifle bitter about Franklin Roosevelt
let us add that he is a nice person who once graduated
from Harvard, has a good radio voice, and is as sin
cere as old party politics will permit. But as to his
178 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
relationship to Tammany and New York City cor
ruption, which is the sole interest of this chapter, it is
the record of a weak man who has been incredibly lucky.
To use the words of Walter Lippmann: "It is well known
in New York, though apparently not in the West, that
Governor Roosevelt had to be forced into assisting the
exposure of corruption in New York City. It is well
known in New York that, through his patronage, he has
supported the present powers in Tammany Hall. It is
well known that his policy has been to offend Tammany
just as little as he dared in the face of the fact that an
investigation of Tammany had finally to be under
taken. . . .
"I do not say that Mr. Roosevelt might not at some time
in the next few months fight Tammany. I do say that on
his record these last three years he will fight Tammany
only if and when he decides it is safe and profitable to do
so. For Franklin D. Roosevelt is no crusader. He is no
tribune of the people. He is no enemy of entrenched privi
lege. He is a pleasant man who, without any important
qualifications for the office, would very much like to be
The illusion of Mr. Roosevelt's courage is an inheritance
from his youth when, for a few weeks in 1911 as a young
State Senator from Dutchess County he fought William
F. Sheehan, who was Charles Murphy's choice for the
United States Senate, and, after winning his fight, voted
for the Tammany candidate ultimately. After that one
rebel yell he was amiable, regular. He played with the
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 179
machine, attended its banquets and mass meetings, and
became known in the district clubhouses as a "good fel
low." He was made governor by Alfred E. Smith who
needed a popular Protestant with the right name as a state
running mate on the presidential ticket to offset the preju
dice against an Irish Catholic son of Tammany.
When Roosevelt ran for governor in 1928 Walker had
already been in office for nearly two years, and the char
acter of the man was quite evident. Roosevelt did noth
ing to offend or criticize the machine which put both
him and Walker into office. When the notorious Olvany,
whose real estate manipulations we have already de
scribed, resigned as Tammany leader in 1929, Roosevelt
issued a statement praising him. He continued to do
business amiably with John F. Curry. His wife joined
the committee of leading citizens to ask James J. Walker
to be a candidate for reelection in 1929. 8
During his second year as governor (1930) his position
of innocent aloofness was challenged by Fiorello La
Guardia, Charles H. Tuttle and the Socialist Party. The
scandals in New York City government came thick and
fast. Rothstein had been killed and Magistrate Vitale had
been removed by the Apellate Division for accepting a
loan from the gambler. General Sessions Judge Mancuso
had been forced out after the failure of the City Trust
Company. Roosevelt, instead of scouring the city for a
successor to Mancuso who would command universal re
spect, accepted the Tammany designee for the post, a man
who was condemned as unfit for his place by the New
180 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
York County Lawyers' Association and who later refused
to waive immunity before the Todd grand jury. He re
fused to make public his files relating to Bertini's ap
pointment after a demand for such publicity by Louis
Then in March, 1930, the Republicans in Albany tried
to get Roosevelt to investigate New York City on his own
authority and the governor vetoed the bill. The Socialist
Party, after the Vause pier lease scandal, asked Roose
velt in June, 1930, to initiate a Moreland Act investigation
of the New York City situation and the Republicans
offered to support a special session of the legislature to
give the governor adequate powers for such an investiga
tion. Roosevelt declined in a letter that was scholarly and
evasive. He treated the phenomena of corruption in New
York not as connected parts of a pattern of political con
duct but as isolated incidents to be referred to the Tam
many prosecutors and their aides. He would intervene in
New York City, he said, only when there was "a failure
on the part of local inquisitorial bodies." In practice that
meant the reference of Tammany crimes to the aged
Curry henchman, T. C. T. Crain.
Roosevelt was shrewd enough in all of his moves never
to appear as the agent of obstruction. He fell back adroitly
on good constitutional alibis. When he turned down the
Republican and Socialist request for a Moreland Act inves
tigation of New York City he volunteered heartily to have
plenty of investigations by grand juries and the Appellate
Division. These investigations, of course, would be lim-
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 181
ited to specific areas and grievances and would not expose
the whole picture of the corrupt rule of the city by his
party, This is precisely the strategy that he finally used
when the scandals in the city became so great that it was
bad politics to ignore them further.
When Charles H. Tuttle disclosed the Ewald scandal
and Grain failed to get an indictment Roosevelt not only
initiated a grand jury investigation of the particular case
but he asked the Appellate Division to investigate the
Magistrates' Courts in Manhattan and the Bronx. The
public uproar was so great that he could do nothing less,
but his move for these restricted inquiries saved Tammany
from the much more serious revelations that seemed to lie
behind Vause's expensive pier leases and Doyle's adjust
able zoning laws.
Charles H. Tuttle was perfectly justified when, in run
ning for governor against Roosevelt in 1930 he said: "In
the face of this record the Governor has been as blind,
deaf and dumb as Tammany Hall could wish him to be.
He has pretended to regard each scandal as mere distinct,
unrelated and isolated cases to be taken up separately each
apart from the other, until the evidence in each became
too strong to ignore. He declined to see what even the
unanimous Democratic press sees namely, a common
bond and a common significance."
To which Roosevelt replied in his closing campaign
speech: "Without further evidence I am not convinced
that the seven million people of New York City cannot
handle their own affairs and unless by such evidence I am
182 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
so convinced I will not interfere with their affairs. With
out sufficient evidence I have refused to believe that all
judges in New York City are corrupt. Without sufficient
evidence I have refused to believe that all officeholders in
New York City are dishonest."
So the bold progressive was reflected governor and
Tammany was "vindicated." As each new scandal arose
Roosevelt demonstrated just the right proportion of cau
tion and concern. When in the grand jury investigation
of the Ewald case Prosecutor Hiram Todd called John F.
Curry and other Tammany leaders to the witness stand,
they all refused to waive immunity. Todd refused to lis
ten to their evidence unless they did waive immunity.
Roosevelt, faced with a virtual admission of guilt by his
own party chiefs, was obliged to do something to save
their faces or dissociate himself from such company. He
evolved a neat formula for doing both at once.
He wrote a solemn public letter to Mayor Walker de
claring that no man should hold public office and refuse
to waive immunity in regard to his public acts. Walker
and the Tammany leaders took the cue. The leaders
declared their willingness to testify as to their public acts
but not as to their private acts. The buying of judgeships
which Todd was probing into was, of course, a private
act. Todd rightly refused to listen to the Tammany leaders
unless they agreed to testify before him without condition.
They refused to waive immunity completely, and in the
end, they escaped examination. Roosevelt acquiesced in
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 183
this evasion and never added a word of rebuke to his
pious public utterance.
But still the scandals in New York City grew and the
Republicans in Albany finally decided to force a legislative
investigation. They forced it through a joint resolution
which Roosevelt never signed because he did not need to
sign it. They and not Roosevelt chose Seabury as the coun
sel for that investigation. When it was all done Roosevelt
could not refuse to sign the appropriation bill for the
investigation without committing political suicide.
While the public demand for an investigation of New
York City was growing, the City Affairs Committee,
through its chairman and vice-chairman, John Haynes
Holmes and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, brought charges
against Mayor Walker; and the City Club filed charges
against District Attorney Thomas C. T. Crain. Both sets
of charges were intended to be only indictments calling
for investigation and public hearings. Both charges served
their purpose admirably because they focussed the wide
spread discontent against the Walker administration on
definite points of infection and probably played a deter
mining part in inducing the legislature to vote a complete
investigation. The details of the charges against Walker
we have discussed elsewhere; here we are concerned with
the role that Roosevelt played in relation to those charges,
a role which the public has never thoroughly appreciated.
The City Affairs Committee's charges against Mayor
Walker were detailed and broad in their scope. They were
184 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
so serious in their nature that no fair judge could possibly
have discovered their truth or falsehood without some
first-hand investigation of the departments of New York
City's government. Governor Roosevelt never made any
move to make such an investigation and, what is more
damning, he never even referred the charges to the legis
lative committee which had been created for the express
purpose of making an investigation of Walker's adminis
tration. The legislative committee to investigate New
York City had been created while the charges of the City
Affairs Committee against Mayor Walker were still pend
ing and, as soon as the committee was created, Mr. Holmes
and Dr. Wise hastened to assure Governor Roosevelt that
they would be delighted to have their charges referred to
Governor Roosevelt declined to refer them. He had
received a warning from Tammany that it would consider
the reference of these charges to the Hofstadter committee
an unfriendly act. He did an amazing thing. He referred
the very brief complaint of the City Club against District
Attorney Crain to Judge Seabury for a thorough investiga
tion with hearings ; he sent the long and detailed charges
against Mayor Walker to the mayor for a reply, then
refused the City Affairs Committee the opportunity to
refute the insolent and evasive reply of the mayor, and
finally dismissed the committee's charges against Walker
as "too general." He did not have the courage to say
that they were false he had never investigated a single
city department to discover whether they were false or
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 185
true and he feared the effect of the smashing rebuttal that
the City Affairs Committee could have made. He chose
rather to pick upon the aged and feeble Crain, submit him
to public torture upon charges which contained not a
single detail, and dismiss the 15-page detailed charges
against Tammany's powerful mayor as "too general"
without denying a single one of them.
Roosevelt escaped a barrage of public condemnation by
lucky circumstance. The average New Yorker had begun
to think of the Seabury inquiry as the hope of the city
long before Roosevelt had reached a decision on the City
Affairs Committee's charges against Walker. In the ex
citement of the new inquiry the dropping of the charges
was not considered serious. Seabury, the public reasoned,
would get at the facts more thoroughly than any unofficial
Seabury discovered enough official and unofficial cor
ruption to shock a continent but it was not enough to pro
duce a tremor at the executive mansion in Albany. During
all the tin-box revelations which we have outlined in pre
vious chapters not one word of condemnation or one sug
gestion of reform came from Governor Roosevelt. Many
of the officials exposed were directly responsible to the
governor for their conduct and removable by him. The
complete evidence against them was published in full day
by day in the great New York dailies where Governor
Roosevelt could not have failed to see it. Still silence
from Albany. Sheriff Farley, the most notorious of the
Tin Box Brigade, testified before Seabury on October 6th
186 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
and his complete testimony was published October 7th.
Silence from Albany for eighty-five days! Then Seabury
decided to officially call the attention of the governor to
the evidence against Sheriff Farley. He transmitted that
evidence to Governor Roosevelt on December 30th, al
though Roosevelt had had the opportunity to read all the
important features of it in the newspapers weeks before.
Then Seabury waited. The Committee of One Thousand
and the City Affairs Committee put the case against Farley
in the form of definite charges on January 18th. Roosevelt
did not even have the courtesy to make Seabury's statement
about Farley public until the City Affairs Committee had
wired him asking for an explanation of his neglect. Sea-
bury waited until January 24th, one hundred and ten days
after Farley had testified, before Roosevelt finally decided
to give Farley a public hearing.
By this time the newspapers were clamoring so loudly
that further inaction had ceased to be good politics. Far
ley was summoned to Albany where he floundered in his
tin box explanations even more pathetically than he had
on the witness stand in New York. Roosevelt removed
him gently, without one word of anger, and without any
suggestion that his transgressions, as Seabury had proved,
were not individual sins but samples of a definite system
of plunder by a political machine of Governor Roosevelt's
In removing Farley, Roosevelt made a statement which
will remain the outstanding mystery of his political career.
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 187
It was a ringing statement of high moral principle such
as a man might make who had decided to burn all old-
party bridges behind him and fight for a genuine political
reconstruction. He said: "As a matter of general sound
public policy, I am very certain that there is a requirement
that where a public official is under inquiry or investiga
tion, especially an elected official, and it appears that his
scale of living or the total of his bank deposits far exceeds
the public salary which he is known to receive, he, the
elected public official, owes a positive public duty to the
community to give a reasonable or credible explanation
of the sources of the deposits, or the source which enables
him to maintain a scale of living beyond the amount of
There, for once, spoke a man and not a politician !
Roosevelt must have known when he made this state
ment that if he followed it through the entire Tammany
machine would be wrecked. Unwittingly or sagaciously
he had given the reformers and Judge Seabury the very
handle they had been looking for. He had proposed a
moral rather than a legal test for fitness to hold office in
New York. He had lightened the burden of proof placed
upon Seabury in his arraignment of Walker. Before the
Farley statement Seabury was beholden to prove that
Walker had actually accepted a bribe or misappropriated
city funds; now he only had to produce unexplained bank
accounts. Roosevelt's position was made even more sig
nificant by the fact that on January 25, 1932, Seabury
188 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
issued his intermediate report summarizing the evidence
against a whole group of Tammany chieftains and show
ing that Farley was no worse than the rest.
The City Affairs Committee promptly jumped into the
fray again with a test for Roosevelt's new formula. Was
the governor talking political rhetoric or really changing
his attitude toward Tammany? John Haynes Holmes and
Stephen S. Wise signed charges against Sheriff James A.
McQuade of Kings County and sent them to Roosevelt;
and they also sent to Roosevelt a copy of their charges
against John Theofel, Democratic boss of Queens and
Chief Clerk of the Surrogate's Court of that county, whose
removal they asked by Surrogate Hetherington. Both these
men had been convicted out of their own mouths of hav
ing large bank deposits for which they could give no
credible explanation. Both these men had been denounced
by Judge Seabury in language as definite as his denun
ciation of Farley.
Roosevelt met the new attack by the City Affairs Com
mittee in language so violent and with anger so un
affected that his real attitude toward the whole Tammany
machine was revealed as by a flash of lightning. It be
came apparent that his statement of high political morality
in removing Farley was the utterance of an aspirant to the
Presidency. He had no intention of following it up. He
showed more anger in one burst of resentment against
Mr. Holmes and Dr. Wise than he had revealed in the
whole course of the investigation of New York corrup
tion. He not only refused to remove McQuade or rec-
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 189
ommend an investigation into the conduct of Theofel,
but he utterly ignored the other Tammany officials who
remained in office with huge bank accounts unexplained,
two of them, Flaherty and Curran, assistants to Farley.
He consulted with John F. Curry as to Farley's successor.
Then he appointed Curry's choice, John E. Sheehy, who
calmly proceeded to leave in office the subordinates of
Farley who were guilty of the same offense for which
Farley had been removed.
Fortunately for the honor of the New York press, not
a newspaper in the city except The Times took Roose
velt's refusal to remove McQuade and Theofel as an act
of political courage. Roosevelt in his reply had attacked
the leaders of the City Affairs Committee personally, say
ing: "If you would exert yourselves patiently and con
sistently in pointing out to the electorate of New York
City that an active insistence on their part would result in
better qualified and more honest and more efficient public
servants, you would be rendering a service to your com
munity which at the present time you are not performing."
He refused to remove McQuade on the ground that the
voters of Kings County had elected him sheriff after read
ing of his testimony before Judge Seabury and that there
fore he was legally purged. "If our system of government
were changed," he said, "so as to give to the Governor the
duty of overriding and nullifying a definite elective choice
by removing an elected official for acts committed prior
to his election, with full public knowledge thereof, such
change would create in Albany a power so dangerous in
190 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
the hands of an unscrupulous Governor that the will of
the electorate could be wholly destroyed." In refusing to
take any action against Boss Theofel he accused the City
Affairs Committee of grave impropriety in asking him to
exert pressure upon a "high judicial officer."
The reply of the committee, sent by Mr. Holmes and
Dr. Wise, probably did more than any one thing to destroy
the confidence of liberals in Roosevelt because it summed
up in its conclusion many important facts concerning
Roosevelt's negligence. It said:
You purport to be indignant over our "grave im
propriety" in urging "that you use your utmost interest
and influence to secure the removal from office of the
clerk of the Surrogate's Court." You are shocked that
any one should suggest that you "exert pressure" upon
"a high judicial officer." This, sir, is the sheerest
quibbling! You know perfectly well* what we meant
in our appeal. We meant and we mean that, had you
been worthy of your high office, as alert to the peoples'
interest as to your own political advancement, you
would months ago have summoned the surrogate of
Queens County into your presence and demanded that
he act on the facts brought to light by the counsel for
the Hofstadter Committee. So far as the public records
show, you have done nothing to bring the conduct of
his clerk to the attention of the surrogate, who is by
law, responsible to you. This in spite of the fact that
the surrogate, taking example and advantage of your
neglect, did nothing for five months after the facts
concerning Mr. Theofel had been made public. The
surrogate's present action is only the result of our prod
ding. Had you moved with the promptness and vigor
which the moral aspects of the case demand, there
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 191
would have been no need to ask you to use your influ
ence to secure the removal of Mr. Theofel. Your own
culpable inaction was at once the cause and occasion of
You pretend that Surrogate Hetherington is a high
and independent judicial official. You know that the
surrogate and scores of other officials in Queens County
are the creatures of John Theofel, the Democratic
leader of Queens, put in office by his power, and kept
in office for his advantage. Mr. Theofel himself has
publicly admitted that he put the surrogate in his pres
ent position. If you do not command or force action
against Mr. Theofel, how can you expect his political
underling to do so?
Your objection to our appeal for help in the removal
of Mr. Theofel is outdone by your peremptory rejec
tion of our charges against Sheriff McQuade, of Kings
County, on the ground that he was elected to his pres
ent office after the public revelation of his incredible
bank accounts. You contend that the legislative system
"allows to the registered voters full opportunity to
select any citizen no matter what you and I may think
of the qualification of that citizen for the office." Dare
you say, sir, that the citizens of Brooklyn had a fair
chance to weigh the guilt or innocence of Mr. McQuade
at the last election? Let us remind you that the dis
closures before the Hofstadter Committee concerning
Mr. McQuade' s unexplained bank accpunts were not
made until October 7, which was two full months after
he had been designated for his present office by the
Democratic party convention. He was named at this
convention on August 7, confirmed in the primaries
on September 15, and did not testify before the Hof
stadter Committee until October 7. His nomination on
the Democratic ticket in Brooklyn, as you well know,
was equivalent to election.
Furthermore, at the election of last November, the
192 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
voters of Brooklyn were not presented a clear-cut issue.
They had read sketchy newspaper accounts of a public
hearing and of vigorous protestations of innocence by
Mr. McQuade. No charges were then made against
Mr. McQuade by any civic committee or any prosecut
ing attorney. You now tell us that you would not have
voted for Mr. McQuade had you "been a resident of
Kings County last autumn." Why did you not state
this before the election? How could you expect the
voters to reject Mr. McQuade in the absence of such
courage of leadership as it was your opportunity to
offer? Why did you not summon Mr. McQuade before
you while he was running for his new office and de
mand the truth about the allegations that had been
made against him? At that time the voters did not
have before them any such ruling as you laid down in
the Farley case, to the effect that an official who could
not explain his bank accounts should be removed from
public office. . . .
You purport to be profoundly shocked at our request
for the removal of a public official for offenses com
mitted before his reelection. Your statement on this
question is a patent evasion of the issue. It has support
neither in law nor in morals. Mr. McQuade committed
an offense for which he has indicated no repentance
and, as far as we can judge, he has not turned over a
new leaf nor broken with his past. His associations
remain what they were in 1930, and perhaps he is still
"supporting" the thirty-three relatives to whom he re
ferred in his testimony before the Hofstadter Commit
tee. You know, sir, that Mr. McQuade was guilty of
exactly the same offense for which you removed Sheriff
Farley and that he had the same unfitness for office on
November 4 that he had on November 2, 1931. In
the case of an offending official, your task as Governor
is to judge him, not on the basis of legal technicalities,
but on the grounds of moral fitness. The law in grant-
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY 193
ing you the power of removal exempts you from those
judicial limitations and circumscriptions which too often
tend to obstruct justice in the courts.
We recognize that the power to remove an official
for past offenses after his reelection is open to abuse,
but that danger of abuse is no excuse for failure to
act when the moral issue is clear.
We insist that the very power of removal was given
you by the Constitution of this state in order that you,
as an executive and not a judge, might be free to oust
an unfit public servant even when he had not com
mitted an offense reviewable in a court of law or clear
cut enough to be adjudged at the polls. . . .
You say that you are "becoming convinced" that
"corruption in public office and that unfit servants in
public office" are even more abhorrent to you than to
us. Your record belies this boast. The Tammany brand
is as clear on that record as the stripes of a tiger. You
removed Sheriff Farley for his unexplained bank ac
counts only when Judge Seabury forced you to this
action, and then you replaced the Tammany leader of
the 14th District with the Tammany leader of the 15th
District. The new sheriff whom you appointed still is
retaining in office at this date two deputies, Curran
and Flaherty, who are guilty of the same offense that
caused you to remove their chief.
You have shown more indignation in attacking us
than you have demonstrated against all the corruption
revealed in New York City in recent months. When
Judge Mancuso retired under fire you appointed Judge
Amedeo Bertini in his place, although the New York
County Lawyers' Association declared that Bertini was
not fitted for the position of judge of the Court of
General Sessions. You appointed Bertini on recom
mendation of Tammany leader Charles L. Kohler and
Bertini promptly revealed his caliber by refusing to
waive immunity before a grand jury that was investi-
194 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
gating a $100,000 transaction that followed his ap
pointment. At the beginning of the special grand jury-
investigation into magistrates' courts you allowed six
high officers in the Walker administration to refuse to
waive immunity in regard to their unofficial acts with
out rebuke from you, although you must know that the
sale of judgeships is unofficial and that the only legal
ground for refusing to waive immunity is that testify
ing might lead to conviction of a crime. You adroitly
evaded the responsibility for these officials' acts by re
buking them for refusing to waive immunity concern
ing their public acts, but you gave them a convenient
loophole by permitting them to remain silent concerning
unofficial acts. You pursued the same tactics recently
in the Farley case when you aided and abetted the
Tammany leaders who are fighting Judge Seabury by
hinting that they are not obliged to testify in private
hearings. Hastings and Walker immediately took your
cue and announced that they refuse to testify at private
hearings. . . .
Never once, during all the months in which disclo
sure has been piled on disclosure of the unspeakable
corruption of government in New York, have you vol
untarily denounced those Tammany leaders who hold
power in your party and office in this community. On
the contrary, you constantly consort and consult with
those, your Tammany masters and managers, and use
shameful ingenuity in trafficking for their good will as
revealed in your communication to us. This catalog
of your actions in relation to the Tammany machine
in New York is not pleasant to read and is its own
refutation of your claim to leadership in the work of
To which any postscript would be superfluous.
Governor Roosevelt's reply to the City Affairs Commit-
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY
tee was cryptic. He said: "If they (Holmes and Wise)
would serve their God as they seek to serve themselves,,
the people of the city of New York would be the gainers."
The governor was playing for Tammany's support at
Chicago so he postponed Walker's day of retribution ta
the last possible moment. He could have forced the mayor
to face the music late in May, as soon as Walker had
testified before Seabury, which would have allowed ample
time to remove the mayor before the Democratic conven
tion. Instead he dawdled and dodged and finally per
mitted His Honor to postpone his answer until July 29,
two months after his public testimony. Then, when the
nomination had already been secured, the White Knight
of Albany took his civic conscience out of mothballs and
sat in judgment over Walker. He became, as we pointed
out at the beginning of this chapter, the public hero of
the last act in the Walker drama.
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL
THE fiction that Roosevelt is a bold enemy of Tammany
has a companion myth. It is that the Republican Party in
New York City is a bold enemy of Tammany and that it
stands for clean government. The Republican Party has
nominally controlled the Borough of Queens for three
years under the "reform" administration of George U.
Harvey, and the borough's government during those years
has been as full of scandal and incompetence as if it had
been ruled directly by Jimmy himself. It is well to remem
ber this when we are inclined to blame all the political
ills of New York upon the Democratic organization.
The announcement in 1932 that the center of popula
tion of New York City was in a cemetery in Queens was
greeted by the public with both amazement and amuse
ment. Not many people had realized to what extent the
city had been moving to Long Island in recent years ; they
had learned to think of New York as centered in Man
hattan and its skyscrapers. Brooklyn, it should be remem
bered, is now larger than Manhattan in population, and
Queens is the fastest growing part of the city.
One of the great disappointments of the Seabury in
quiry was the failure to expose thoroughly the govern-
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 197
ment of Queens. For this failure we cannot too harshly
blame Judge Seabury because his time and his appropria
tion were sharply limited. It was necessary to show defi
nite results in Manhattan in order to maintain public
interest in the inquiry. He did pillory the Democratic
boss of Queens, John Theofel, most effectively only to
have Governor Roosevelt dodge the issue of forcing Theo-
fel's removal from office by pretending that the boss's
underling, Surrogate Hetherington, must take entire
Queens has been victimized by realtors and political
parasites until its people are ripe for both political and
economic rebellion. Its people are largely small home
owners who bought houses from the makers of subdivi
sions at boom prices and then, when the depression ar
rived, found themselves in possession of little else but
mortgages. Queens could yet be the most beautiful and
well-planned section of New York if it had intelligent di
rection because it still has room to grow. At present it
might be called typically American. It sprawls unevenly
over a vast territory with alternate stretches of ugliness
and beauty, and no central concept of development any
where. Incidentally it is one of the finest illustrations
extant of the social cost of our burial customs. If New
York practiced cremation the people of Queens to-day
could have as parks for the living many acres of land now
consecrated to the dead.
The record of political corruption and incompetence
in Queens would be hard to equal anywhere in the United
198 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
States. If we ignore the interim term of President Patten,
five of the last six borough presidents of Queens have
been under fire of official charges, removed from office,
resigned, or ended up in prison. Maurice E. Connolly,
the Democratic borough president in the first part of
Walker's reign, cost the taxpayers of his borough many
millions of dollars by conspiring with a sewer ring to pay
extortionate prices for defective pipes. He was convicted
in 1928 and sent to prison after the most desperate efforts
were made to save him. W. L. D'Olier, head of a sani
tary corporation, who was regarded as an important wit
ness against the sewer ring, was shot to death shortly
before the trial, and the grand jury returned a murder
verdict. J. M. Phillips, head of the ring, died under
strange circumstances two months before the trial.
Connolly, of course, was a friend and associate of Tam
many and the failure to discover his sewer graft was a
distinct source of embarrassment to Walker and Berry.
The sewer contracts with their exorbitant prices for pipe
had been registered in the controller's office and it was
difficult to explain why some examination of them had not
been made. Certainly, the fraud would have been imme
diately revealed if some one in the Finance Department
had been willing to give the matter a little attention.
When Connolly was finally exposed, one of those pecu
liar accidents of journalism occurred which sometimes
bring fame to dullards and oblivion to heroes. The pub
lic thought that the then Republican alderman, George U.
Harvey, had been responsible for Connolly's downfall.
The truth is that Harvey only entered the scene to exploit
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 199
the sewer scandal after Attorney Henry Klein had forced
it before the public. Klein did not even know Harvey
when the Connolly exposure began. Harvey took Klein's
material and used it for charges against Connolly before
Governor Smith. The history of Harvey's reputation is as
curious a story of manufactured public opinion as the tale
of Calvin Coolidge and the Boston police strike.
Harvey is a little man with a light voice who on occa
sion wears the uniform of a colonel. He has richly earned
the title of Tammany's Little Colonel for he has been as
faithful to the machine in all major policies as one of its
own district leaders. He defended Mayor Walker warmly
when the latter was under charges before the governor,
and made the first move for the mayor's salary increase
and the mayor's notorious bus program for Queens (see
the next chapter) . He was accused of being a member of
an organization affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, and the
evidence seemed to us convincing. He became borough
president after the sewer scandals, when the Democrats
of the borough were divided, with the support of a non
descript group called Independent Democrats who were
led by Martin Mager, John J. Halleran and Irving Klein.
Martin Mager, the official leader of the Independent
Democrats, was convicted in December, 1929, of bartering
political jobs for pay but he escaped with a $500 fine
because of his health. He continued to act as unofficial
leader of the group for a long time after his conviction,
apparently with the friendly support of Mr. Harvey. In
deed, he was indicted again in 1931, this time for having
conspired with Klein. Irving Klein, vice president of the
200 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Independent Democrats, under Mager, who was made
superintendent of highways by Mr. Harvey, finally ended
his political career in 1932 when he was convicted of
defrauding the city in the Rosati road-oil case. John J.
Halleran, chairman of the Board of Directors of the
Queens Independent Democrats while Mager was presi
dent and Klein vice president, is still Mr. Harvey's Com
missioner of Public Works although he was directly in
volved in the Mager case by the testimony of Corporation
Inspector Michael J. Lyons, and in the Rosati oil case by
his admission that he had no system of checking up on
the Rosati contract.
Halleran was toastmaster at a banquet of the Independ
ent Democratic Organization of Queens on March 22,
1930, at which Martin Mager was guest of honor three
months after Mager 's conviction for job selling. The pro
gram of that banquet contained two poems worthy of quo
tation, each printed on a separate page under the portrait
of its subject. Under the portrait of Martin Mager the
Our fondest respect and deep admiration,
Undying loyalty, is our obligation.
Respect, for the honest methods he uses.
Love, for the confidence he never abuses.
Efficient, honest, staunch, true to the end,
An honor to have him call you a friend.
Democratic, unassuming, personality that beams,
Enveloped in the hearts of the people of Queens.
Restoring Democracy to its proper metre.
Is MARTIN MAGER, OUR DEMOCRATIC LEADER.
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 201
The poem under the picture of John J. Halleran read:
OUR EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN
Kindly listen voters, and a story I will tell
About a man that did his job, and did it very well,
When called upon to do a job, in nineteen twenty nine,
A task, I'm sure, which many men, would readily decline,
Because the sewers and street cleaning departments of
Were in the most deplorable condition, that we have ever
As head of these departments, Commissioner of Public
He went right at it with a will, no duties did he shirk,
He's been there little more than a year, what else is there to
Just look at the improvements, those departments have
And is he content, to take a rest, with the good work he has
He said, "Do you think those things are good? Well my
work has just begun."
He organized democracy, for Independence, truth and fair
Of which, he's executive chairman, with belief in right and
We take our hats off to you, John, we're with you to a man,
Our efficient Commissioner of Public Works,
THE HON. JOHN J. HALLERAN.
Mr. Halleran is a strapping big realtor who may or may
not be more dishonest than most realtors. He is interested
in the expansion of Queens and has a considerable stake
in that expansion. His brother and partner, Laurence B.
Halleran, made a profit of $10,000 by selling some land
202 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
for the use of the New York Air Terminals, Inc., in con
nection with the closing of Old Bowery Bay Road in
Queens. Supreme Court Justice MacCrate in handing
down a decision against this corporation for taking the
road said: "I find that the defendant without permit stole
part of Old Bowery Bay Road, a public highway, with the
knowledge and assistance of the Queens Borough offi
cials." The acting borough president referred to in Jus
tice MacCrate's decision was John J. Halleran.
Halleran and his technical superior, Mr. Harvey, stoutly
defended their friend Klein through many scandals and
only threw him overboard on May 27, 1931, when he had
been indicted and when it became evident that their own
political lives were at stake.
In the John Doe inquiry into Queens corruption in 1929
Justice Tompkins, in announcing his findings on June 27
of that year, said: "There would seem to be in this case
some very sharp practice on the part of Commissioner
Klein and his attorney Fred Leder. There is really no ex
planation or not a sufficient one as to why he (Klein)
so suddenly revoked Leary's permit (for dumping) and
then issued it again to his own attorney Leder, who is
engaged in the practice of law and not in filling in pri
vate property. . . ." When County Judge Adel sentenced
Martin Mager for job selling on December 20, 1929, he
publicly rebuked Klein as a falsifier by saying in open
court that he did not believe a word of his testimony.
In October, 1930, Deputy Controller Frank J. Prial,
after hearings, found Klein guilty of placing many dead-
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 203
heads on the payroll of his department. In October, 1929,
Klein was charged in a magistrate's court with accepting
a bribe from a contractor. He admitted that he had re
ceived $4,000 as a "loan" in the form of $1,000 and $500
bills from a contractor whom he had never met before with
out giving any physical security although the contractor
knew that Klein held $100,000 worth of property. This
bribery charge was dismissed in a most extraordinary de
cision by Magistrate Simpson who later resigned under
fire when Judge Seabury made an investigation of his con
duct. In the face of all these scandals George U. Harvey
and John J. Halleran sat unperturbed, continuing to
express confidence in their friend Klein.
Mr. Harvey's great mistake had been in admitting to his
administration an honest man who later exposed him.
Fritz Brieger was appointed superintendent of street clean
ing at the beginning of the Harvey administration but
when he became familiar with the methods by which
Martin Mager mulcted city workers out of a portion of
their pay each week as a reward for giving them jobs he
presented to Harvey charges against Mager, Klein, and
Halleran, and declared that he would not continue in
office with them. Finally he resigned, and opened up a
fight that came to a climax in charges against Harvey
before Roosevelt in May, 1931.
To anyone who studies the case against Harvey impar
tially, it will appear that his record in many ways paral
lels that of Walker. Neither of the two men violated the
law in such a way that the violation could be proved, but
204 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
both men used their official position in the most reckless
Harvey became a director of the New York City Air
port, Inc., a creation of his aforementioned commissioner
of public works, John J. Halleran, and the commission
er's brother Laurence B. Halleran. The corporation used
his name widely in its prospectus and published a letter of
his on official borough stationery, saying that "this enter
prise should receive support because of its sound business
principles." For this service he received 500 shares of
stock in the corporation which had a par value of $2,500.
Actually the stock became worthless because the state at
torney general on complaint of the City Affairs Commit
tee held a series of sensational public hearings in which it
was demonstrated that the corporation was one of the
wildest dreams of a wild era. The Hallerans admitted on
the witness stand that the prospectus of the corporation
was misleading and that Commissioner Halleran had
"appraised" at $3,000,000 in 1929 the identical land
which his brother in 1930 told the tax department was not
worth $300,000. The land had been assessed in 1929 for
Concerning this land the company's prospectus said:
The founders of the company, all of whom are members
of the Board of Directors, are turning over to the Airport
real estate ground values appraised at $3,000,000 unim
proved, and $4,500,000 improved, exclusive of structures,
comprising administration building, swimming pool, bar
gains, etc., which will cost approximately $700,000.
The greatest amount of common stock which can be out-
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 205
standing is 900,000 shares of a par value of $5 each, or a
total of $4,500,000, which is the exact price at which the
ground value has been appraised. There are no bonds or
Thus it will be seen that purchasers of common stock at
par will, for all intent and purpose, be buying an undivided
interest in a rare tract of land at exact appraisal figures.
The stockholder who believed this appeal and invested
his savings would find that $2 of every $5 went to the
promoter, and that before his stock was worth a penny it
had to survive the assault of a $1,285,000 mortgage on a
bit of marshy meadowland worth perhaps $400,000.
Public officials are sometimes beguiled into foolish
business projects because they are too busy to investigate,
but this excuse will not suffice in the case of Mr. Harvey
and the New York City Airport. He did not quit as a
director when the truth about the corporation was made
public and he retained Mr. Halleran as his public works
commissioner after Mr. Halleran had admitted making
the false appraisal solely for the purposes of promoting
the corporation. He still continued as a director after it
had become known that the promoter, William Paul
Buchler, was to get $2 for every $5 share of stock sold and
the founders had pocketed 250,000 shares for themselves
in founding the company. They had so rigged the finances
of the company that it is difficult to see how the innocent
lambs who bought stock could have saved a penny of their
investment if exposure had not come.
Fortunately for the stockholders the vigorous prosecu
tion of Assistant Attorney General Paul J. McCauley
206 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
threw the Hallerans and Harvey into a panic. McCauley
denounced them for misstatements in stock selling. They
offered to dissolve the airport corporation and return
every cent invested by the stockholders. The State ac
cepted the surrender and issued a dissolution certificate.
The promoters agreed to a stock-sale injunction and no
body went to jail. The directors went back instead to gov
ern a borough of one million people.
But Mr. Harvey's troubles had only begun with the
smashing of the New York City Airport, Inc. Fritz
Brieger brought charges against him before Governor
Roosevelt, declaring that he had obtained loans aggregat
ing $11,500 for his own corporation from a company
that was then trying to sell a snow remover to the city,
and that Harvey had acted as a promoter of that snow
remover at the time he was receiving the loans. Governor
Roosevelt in censoring Harvey for his conduct said:
The documents before me set forth a course of conduct
on the part of the Borough President which should be in
compatible with ideals of official conduct. It is true that
criminal dishonesty is not demonstrated. But some of the
items set forth in the papers show, on the part of the
Borough President, disregard for or lack of understanding
of the type of official and unofficial behavior which we look
for and hope to find in so important an office.
It is clear that the Borough President has borrowed money
for his own personally owned corporation from interests
which were engaged in negotiating business transactions
with the Borough of Queens. Outside of a few small items
charged off for sounding out sentiment for Mr. Harvey as
Governor these loans were repaid. The Borough President
appears to have made no money on this transaction. . . .
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 207
While it was clearly bad taste to become indebted to inter
ests doing business with the borough, there is no demonstra>
tion that there was an actual use of the official power of the
office of Borough President in order to secure pecuniary
advantage to the officeholder.
This conclusion follows with equal force from a consid
eration of the other major charge filed, to wit, the charge
concerning the Airport Corporation, of which Mr. Harvey
was a director and stockholder. It is true that he was willing
to lend his name to a stock-promotion scheme of a highly
suspicious nature, to write a letter of endorsement of the
venture and to accept 500 shares of its stock for nothing,
still there is no indication that any borough action was in
duced by him to assist this airport corporation in such a way
that he himself would derive financial benefit. . . .
My conclusion from a study of these documents is that the
conduct of the Borough President is deserving of censure,
but that facts submitted do not warrant the institution of
actual removal proceedings. . . .
Lucky Mr. Harvey! He accepted $2,500 of stock for
becoming dummy director in a parasitic corporation and
then escaped removal apparently because Governor Roose
velt's conscience in August, 1931, had not yet reached the
sensitivity that it attained in the Farley and Walker cases
in 1932. The governor let Mr. Harvey off with a rebuke
because there was "no indication that any borough action
was induced by him to assist this airport corporation."
Strange that the writing of a promotion letter on official
borough stationery and the use of his name and official
title on promoter's literature should fall outside of the
category of "borough action"!
The truth is that Queens is still blessed with Mr. Har-
208 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
vey because Mr. Roosevelt was placed in an impossible
position at the time the charges were brought against
the borough president. He had only shortly before dis
missed the sweeping charges of the City Affairs Commit
tee against Mayor Walker without even granting a hear
ing. If he had dismissed a Republican official after that
without overwhelming evidence of an actual crime he
would have appeared partisan and no candidate for the
presidential nomination could afford that dreadful stigma.
Meanwhile Queens will continue to be the borough
which reforms without reforming. To change from a
Democratic to a Republican administration is well, it is
like changing from a Republican to a Democratic admin
istration. If Queens voters become disgusted with Mr.
Harvey they may fall back into the arms of their Demo
cratic boss, John Theofel, who still draws $8,000 as chief
clerk of the Surrogate's Court. "I have never seeked a
raise in salary in the office since I have been there," said
Boss Theofel at a Seabury hearing. When asked to de
scribe his onerous duties he could not even remember the
names of the departments that he was supposed to super
vise. The testimony read in part:
Q. What different departments do you understand they
A. I am not a lawyer, Judge.
(Then he remembered the Guardian's and Probate De
Q. Well, now what other departments have you beep
required to supervise? Speak a little louder if you will.
A. We have the Guardianship Department.
Q. And the Probate Department?
TAMMANY'S LITTLE COLONEL 209
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Now what else?
A. I can't just recall offhand, Judge, the different depart-
Q. There are other departments?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. But you don't offhand just recall what they are?
This is the man who appoints the assistant district at
torneys and magistrates and surrogates and Supreme Court
judges of Queens. Also, this is the man who sells auto
mobiles. He was the chief stockholder in Wilson Bros.,
Inc., run by his son-in-law, which sold high-priced cars,
sometimes above the market price, to the eager customers
who held public office in the borough. In the words of
Seabury's Intermediate Report:
The County Clerk of Queens County bought his car from
Wilson Bros., Inc.; the District Attorney of Queens County
bought his car from Wilson Bros., Inc; the Borough Presi
dent of Queens bought his car from Wilson Bros., Inc.;
Magistrate Marvin of Queens County bought his car from
Wilson Bros., Inc.; Park Commissioner Benninger of Queens
County bought his car from Wilson Bros., Inc.; Assistant
District Attorney Loscalzo of Queens County bought his car
from Wilson Bros., Inc.; and Sheriff Burden of Queens
County bought his car from Wilson Bros., Inc.
Theofel's most characteristic gesture came in the cam
paign of 1928 when he was treasurer of the Queens
County Campaign Committee. When the committee was
settling the bills, Chairman Smedley said: "John, take a
thousand for yourself "
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN
THE street battles of Tweed centered about street-car
franchises, the street battles of Walker about bus fran
The streets of New York are now the center of an in
tense and dramatic fight for $70,000,000, which is the
stake involved in bus franchises in Manhattan, Brooklyn,
The operation of buses in New York is a potential gold
mine. A bus requires no tracks, no wires, no conductor,
no signalman, yet it moves as rapidly as a street car. Be
cause it does not block traffic and because it operates
quietly the bus is in universal demand to replace the
street car. The story which we tell here of the bus fran
chise fight in New York can probably be repeated in a
dozen American cities.
The future of New York streets belongs to buses; there
can be no doubt of that. The questions still to be decided
are who will own the buses* and how much shall the city
get for its -streets. Those were the questions behind the
Equitable scandal, which we have discussed elsewhere, the
Queens bus fight, and the battle in Brooklyn between the
City Affairs Committee and the B.M.T. The Walker
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 211
administration tried to give away the streets of New York
for less than half of what they were worth. In Manhat
tan and Queens the uproar of opposition temporarily
stopped the outrageous deals proposed; in Brooklyn the
deal was concluded, but the City Affairs Committee chal
lenged the franchise in the courts and has already won
two preliminary skirmishes in the State Supreme Court
and the Appellate Division.
The obvious solution to the bus problem in New York
would be municipal bus ownership and operation. The
Socialist Party has been fighting for this solution for a
generation. It has constantly pointed out that the private
ownership of public utilities keeps those utilities "in poli
tics" because it gives the traction manipulators a motive
for buying politicians. In the case of bus operation the
argument for municipal ownership is especially strong.
The streets belong to the city and the control of municipal
bus lines is relatively simple. The nickels and dimes that
passengers pay for fares can be metered beyond the possi
bility of substantial graft and the price paid for equip
ment is standard throughout the country. One bus com
pany official of Queens made this perfectly clear in a hear
ing in the municipal building in 1931 when he calmly
informed the public that he would make $4,000 a day net
profit in Queens alone if the city granted him a franchise. 1
The question naturally arose why a city which is com
plaining of high tax rates should deny itself this $4,000 a
day. The immediate answer is that the city does not now
have the power to own and operate its own buses, since
212 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
that power has never been granted to it under the home
rule law by the Republican reactionaries at Albany. These
Republicans have adopted the theory that any excess
profits involved in a new industry must be the rewards
of private initiative. The Tammany administration has
repeatedly asked for the right of the city to operate its
own buses and has repeatedly been refused. In recent
years the request has been made so faint-heartedly as to
arouse suspicion of substitute compensations from the big
private bus interests of New York.
When the Equitable bus franchise was finally defeated
in 1929, Walker set out to grant separate bus franchises
in various boroughs. While small private bus lines in
various parts of the city took care of immediate traffic
needs by operating on temporary permits, Walker dick
ered with certain favored companies for ten-year fran
chises. His favorite in Brooklyn was the Brooklyn Bus
Corporation, owned by the B. M. T. and headed by Ger
hard M. Dahl, while his favorites in Queens were two
local companies known as the North Shore Bus Co. and
the Jamaica Bus Co. Neither one of these Queens com
panies could produce any reasons why they should be
favored above other companies. The North Shore Com
pany was pitifully weak financially and its president made
mysterious and conflicting financial statements to various
public bodies. The Jamaica concern had had almost no
experience in running buses. It was controlled by Park
Rowley, intimate friend of Mayor Walker, and its treas
urer was Fred C. Harris who held a power of attorney
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 213
giving him access to the safe deposit box held jointly by
Mayor Walker and his fugitive business agent, Russell T.
Mayor Walker, with the help of Borough President
Harvey of Queens, attempted to divide up Queens into two
sections and give the exclusive ten-year franchise in each
section to one of these two favorites. Queens was in an
uproar. Hundreds of citizens came to the City Hall under
the leadership of vigorous local civic organizations and
almost turned a session of the Board of Estimate into a
riot. The opposition of these civic bodies was chiefly
based on resentment against Walker and Harvey for at
tempting to take away the franchises from the local pio
neers who had served them faithfully with independent
bus lines. The City Affairs Committee produced figures
prepared by Henry J. Rosner to show that the proposed
Walker-Harvey franchises to the two favored companies
would yield the city $535,000 a year less than the offer of
an important competitor, the Nevin-Queens Bus Corpora
tion. The committee showed that the favored companies
would make 112 per cent a year profit by the Walker
Walker tore up the committee's statement at a public
hearing and threw it into the wastebasket. He shouted
the word "faker" at the Socialist spokesman, Norman
Thomas. But the facts produced by the opposition were
sufficiently impressive to defeat the franchises. Controller
Berry refused to vote with the mayor and, finally, Bor
ough President Harvey, frightened by the local fury
214 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
against the deal, deserted the mayor also and pretended
that he had favored the local bus operators from the
This Queens bus scandal was in our opinion the clearest
case in the entire Walker administration of a violation of
public trust, and it would have been sufficient in itself to
force out of public office every man who voted for the
Walker deal. A clearly superior bid for the use of the
city's* streets was' voted down with a loss to the city that
would have totaled $5,000,000. The reason why the
scandal did not play the leading part in the Seabury in
quiry was that the deal was never completed. Walker
could not hold his own associates in line. A block north
from City Hall during the winter of 1931-32 witnesses
were appearing before Seabury. All through that winter
Walker continued to stand for his Queens bus favorites
even in the face of an exhaustive report by Deputy Con
troller Frank J. Prial, which concluded that "the proposed
franchises be not entered into at this time."
The deal was not finally defeated until an uproarious
session of the Board of Estimate in May, 1932, at which
both the authors of this book were called enemies of the
public. Joseph V. McKee, president of the Board of Alder
men, who had been wavering in his decision, then decided
to desert Walker also and join Controller Berry and
Borough President Harvey in opposition.
So the Walker-Queens deal was defeated and, as we
write these lines, the next Queens bus battle is about to
begin. The franchises in Queens are still ungr anted. The
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 215
Walker administration, at last thoroughly frightened, an
nounced that bus franchises in Queens would be granted
on the basis of open and fair competition. Immediately
one of the two companies which Walker had favored
offered the city two and one-half times the percentage of
receipts which Walker had formerly accepted as adequate.
It was evident to everybody then that the mayor had been
trying to give away the city's streets for a song and had
been caught flat-flooted. Even after the franchises to
favorites had been defeated the Bureau of Franchises pro
duced a "financial" report in the summer of 1932 dis
qualifying the Nevin-Queens and several other companies
and approving the favorites, among others. It showed the
most brazen favoritism in applying to various companies
the financial tests which all bus companies are supposed
to meet. Accordingly there is no guarantee that because
Walker was caught flat-footed in 1932 his associates will
not repeat the same type of deal in 1933. Walker did
not act alone in the Queens bus scandal. John H. Delaney,
looking like a Presbyterian deacon, acted with him, and
so did Joseph V. McKee, until he saw that the course was
If these men are still in office when this book is pub
lished they will be called upon to explain their action at
a certain meeting of the Committee of the Whole of the
Board of Estimate which took place on April 19, 1932.
Originally Walker's two favorite bus companies in Queens
had not offered the city any share at all in their profits
outside of the usual 5 per cent of revenue, and- both
216 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Delaney and McKee had accepted the deal complacently.
Then when the Nevin-Queens Company offered 50 per
cent of all profits above 6 per cent in addition to the
usual 5 per cent of gross, and the public uproar had
blocked the original steal, Delaney sought to save the
mayor's face by coming forward with a more reasonable
deal. On April 6, 1932, he advocated a Queens franchise
that would give the city half of all profits above 6 per
cent after the first two years of operation. (The Nevin-
Queens Co. offered half of all profits above 6 per cent
from the beginning of operation.) He could not get
Walker's favorite companies to accept even this compro
mise, so on April 19 he presented a revised contract to the
Committee of the Whole of the Board of Estimate which
would give the city half of all profits above 8 per cent,
instead of 6 per cent, After three years instead of two*
The difference to the city between the offer which Delaney
favored and the Nevin-Queens Co. offer was $2,250,000.
Mr. McKee sided with Delaney in support of the lesser
offer. What hold did these two Queens companies have
on the administration to force such a public surrender at
the very height of the Seabury investigation?
The difficulty of removing unfit officials from public
office is illustrated by this Queens bus case. In private life
a trustee of an estate who sells a piece of property for
$1,000 when he could get $2,000 would be promptly
removed. In municipal affairs a subterfuge can almost
always be discovered to disguise the real character of an
act of betrayal.
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 217
In the case of the Brooklyn bus franchise the Walker
administration escaped a great scandal chiefly because
there was not sufficient local uproar to force the situation
on to the front pages of the newspapers. The franchise
was actually granted to the Brooklyn Bus Corporation, a
subsidiary of the B. M. T., on June 4, 1931, on a basis that
would yield 150 per cent profit while a superior bidder
was disputing the claim, and newspapers of New York
were too busy with other scandals to dig out the basic
story. The City Affairs Committee, whose representative
was prevented from speaking at the. last public hearing
on this franchise, took the case to the courts where its
counsel Louis Waldman produced some astonishing fig
ures to* show how the city had been mulcted. He pointed
out that the. offer of a competing company had been ig
nored although it was $200,000 better than the offer of
the B. M. T. He produced a table of profits under the
franchise, based largely on the studies of the well-known
bus engineer, A. Joseph Hoffman, which showed that the
B. M. T. stood to win $14,877,000 in ten years on a
maximum investment of $1,325,000.
The question occurred to many citizens whether this
was the kind of friendship with the public that Gerhard
M. Dahl, chairman of the board of both the B. M. T. and
the I. R. T., had been paid to maintain. He had been paid
handsomely enough and somebody had produced hand
some results. When he was called to the witness stand by
Judge Seabury and asked how much he had been paid as
a bonus for "improving relations with the city," the Re-
218 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
publican majority on the committee balked Judge Seabury
and blocked further questions. The truth finally came out
when one of the authors who owns one share of B. M. T.
stock exercised his legal rights as a stockholder and dis
covered that Mr. Dahl received during 1928, 1929, 1930
and 1931 $675,000 in salary and bonuses, probably a
higher compensation than that received by any railroad
president in the United States. The stockholders of the
B. M. T. had apparently received no specific information
concerning this unusual generosity at their general meet
ings. They had perfunctorily approved all the actions of
their directors at routine sessions where general resolu
tions of approval had been introduced, and there was
nothing in the resolutions of approval to indicate the
compensation received by Mr. Dahl.
Mr. Dahl's huge income underscored the sorry failure
of public regulation. Here was a great public utility fight
ing for the seven-cent fare and working many of its em
ployees seven days a week ten hours a day, yet able to pay
its chairman $100,000 a year in salary and a $75,000
bonus even in years of depression. And the State Transit
Commission which is supposed to approve and regulate
all transit companies in New York, could not touch a
nickel of Mr. Dahl's compensation, could not even ascer
tain that compensation, because Mr. Dahl is hired by a
holding company and the state can regulate only operating
companies. Mr. Dahl does not directly help to move a
wheel on the traction lines which his gigantic holding
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 219
company, the B. M. T., controls through operating sub
Usually when such holding companies milk the consum
ers, workers, and small stockholders their legal methods
are unimpeachable. Happily the B. M. T. has made a
serious blunder in getting its virtual monopoly of bus op
eration in Brooklyn through the franchise of the Brooklyn
Bus Corporation. It overlooked section 74 of the city
charter which was written after several great traction
scandals with the specific purpose of preventing the kind
of thing that has happened in the case of the Brooklyn bus
franchise. Section 74 which is a sort of consumers' Magna
Charta says: "The Board of Estimate and Apportionment
shall make inquiry as to the money value of the franchise
or right proposed to be granted and the adequacy of the
compensation proposed therefor, and shall embody the
result of such inquiry in a form of contract with all the
terms and conditions, including the provisions as to rates,
fares, and charges."
The city has never made an inquiry as to the money
value of the Brooklyn bus franchise and has never pub
lished an estimate of that value. It has put into the fran
chise the required figures on fares without ascertaining
how much the cost of operation or the total profit would
be. So it has sold a franchise worth over $14,000,000.
for a little more than $2,000,000. If the City Affairs Com
mittee wins its pending suit to annul this franchise the
city could then offer the franchise anew to the highest
220 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
responsible bidder and recapture for the taxpayers five to
A study of the bus record of the Walker administration
shows clearly that its neglect of public interest has been
deliberate. It has produced pounds upon pounds of offi
cial reports on bus franchises and has always managed to
avoid the one central fact that would reveal its stake in
the spoils, namely, the money worth of bus franchises.
In 1926 Mr. Delaney labored and brought forth the huge
Sixth Report of the Board of Transportation on Omnibus
Franchises, which was supposed to be an economic guide
for the city in its dealings with the bus industry. It not
only neglected the all-important problem of franchise
money-values but it misstated the whole financial problem
of organizing a bus company.
Starting a bus line in New York City, if the necessary
permits are secured, is a very simple thing financially.
The operator needs only $2,500 for each $10,000 bus and
$1,000 extra per bus for working capital. All the other
costs are eagerly advanced by the bus manufacturer who
gives $7,500 credit on each $10,000 bus and allows four
years to pay it. The B. M. T. can buy buses without any
down payment at all.
Mr. Delaney in making his "studies" of the bus industry
did not take these facts into account but reckoned the
entire investment of bus operator and bus manufacturer
as necessary capital outlay upon which a bus company
could rightfully earn as much as 22 per cent in perpetuity.
Why a bus operator should be allowed to earn any profit
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 221
upon a bus manufacturer's investment is more than we can
understand, and why it should be permissible to earn 22
per cent when courts are setting 8 per cent as a fair return
on a public utility investment is a riddle that Mr. Delaney
should be called upon to solve.
Delaney, like Walker, has heard his master's voice and
so has failed to fight for a constructive city bus policy.
He could have had a municipal bus system in operation
by this time if he had worked half as earnestly for it as
he worked for the Equitable Coach Company.
As a holding company the B. M. T. is an amateur com
pared to the corporate octopus which is now seeking a bus
monopoly of Manhattan, the New York Omnibus Cor
poration. This company is the local arm of the corporate
hierarchy which is best known in New York as the Fifth
Avenue Coach Company. The top of the hierarchy is
controlled by four Chicago business men whose removal
from the operating companies puts them in a position to
escape local regulation and at the same time to milk those
operating companies through parasitic intermediaries. The
story of the success of this bus combination is amazing.
At the top of the combination is the Omnibus Corpora
tion of Chicago which is controlled by a voting trust held
by seven trustees, four Chicagoans and three New York
ers. The Omnibus Corporation owns the Fifth Avenue
Bus Securities Corporation, which owns the New York
Transportation Company, which owns the Fifth Avenue
Coach Company, which owns the New York Railways
222 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Corporation. The New York Railways Corporation owns
a whole nest of feeble and half bankrupt street car com
panies including the Bleecker Street and Fulton Ferry
Railway Company, the Broadway and Seventh Avenue
Railway Company, the 23rd Street Railway Company, and
the 34th Street Crosstown Railway Company. As far as
actual service is concerned, the New York Transportation
Company, the Fifth Avenue Bus Securities Corporation,
and the Omnibus Corporation are simply leeches upon the
Fifth Avenue Coach Company, since the coach company
passes on its earnings to the upper members of the hier
archy without getting any considerable service in return.
The New York Transportation Company, the Fifth Ave
nue Bus Securities Corporation, and the Omnibus Cor
poration are drones which pay dividends out of the earn
ings of the working bee, the Fifth Avenue Coach Com
The various corporate members of the hierarchy have
approximately the same boards of directors. The pathetic
street car companies at the bottom of the hierarchy are
paupers, but the upper members of the hierarchy are not
obliged to come to their assistance, and continue to declare
enormous dividends out of the profits of the Fifth Avenue
Coach Company while asking privileges from the city for
the railway companies because they are virtually bankrupt.
The Transit Commission has no power to go behind the
Fifth Avenue Coach Company in this hierarchy because
it can regulate only operating concerns.
Courts have commonly ruled that a public utility is
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 223
entitled to an 8 per cent return on investment, but the
Fifth Avenue Coach Company, whose stockholders' orig
inal investment was $50,000, has received $3,600,000 in
dividends in the last eight years, an average return of
950 per cent annually on its original investment. The
company's officials have admitted that the stockholders
never put a dollar into the company except the original
$50,000 and the earnings thereon. In defense of these
astounding dividend figures it is contended that the com
pany plowed back its dividends over a long period of
years, since no dividends were paid prior to 1923, but
this contention is nullified by the fact that the company's
surplus and fixed capital have increased far in excess of
any normal dividends which might have been plowed
back into the company. If the company had started at the
beginning of its existence and plowed back 10 per cent
dividends every year, paying dividends upon the plowed-
back dividends, it still would have been worth only $600,-
000 in 1923 when it started its big dividend splurge. Actu
ally it was worth approximately $8,000,000 in 1923.
The stockholders invested only $50,000 in the company
and all subsequent additions to the capital have come
from the dimes of New York passengers. These dimes
have not only given the stockholders almost 1,000 per cent
dividends in recent years, but they have piled up a surplus
which totaled $10,780,613 in 1930. In 1930 the company
actually earned almost one and one-half million dollars,
since it declared a dividend of $500,000 and put $994,000
into its surplus.
224 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
In the lean years when dividends were not being paid
the loss of dividends was more than balanced by tremen
dous increases in fixed capital. Even during recent years,
when prodigious dividends have been paid, the fabulous
appreciation in the fixed capital of the corporation has
continued. During the eight years past when the company
has paid an average dividend of 950 per cent on its actual
investment, its capital value has doubled. 3
There is one fly in the ointment of the Fifth Avenue
Coach Company, however. Its legal claim to operate
buses on Manhattan streets is not at all clear and the city
is now at last contesting that claim in the courts. Accord
ing to the reports of John A. McCollum, Chief of the
Division of Franchises of the Board of Estimate and the
1917 report of Lamar Hardy, the Fifth Avenue Coach
Company received its franchises originally through a legal
blunder, since it applied for these franchises as a business
corporation whereas it should have applied as a railroad
corporation. The legislature attempted to rectify this blun
der by a special act but, according to Mr. McCollum, the
act itself was an unconstitutional grant of a special privi
lege. If Mr. McCollum' s opinion is accurate, at the pres
ent time 46 per cent of the Fifth Avenue Coach Com
pany's lines are illegally operating under the legislative
grant, 16 per cent are operating by revocable consent, and
25 per cent are operating with* no consent or franchise
whatsoever. This leaves only about 13 per cent of the
present franchises held by this company which are not
questioned by the city.
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 225
Behind these Fifth Avenue Coach franchises lies a net
work of old street-car franchises, some of them perpetual
and some of them bought by bribery in the days of Tweed,
now reposing in the hands of the new bus hierarchy by
virtue of its purchase of the New York Railways Cor
poration. A fascinating history of New York capitalism
could be written about these franchises. Most of them do
not have a going value of one penny but they have been
bought up by the bus hierarchy at a bargain because of
their nuisance value. A street-car company may be losing
money steadily and still have a certain practical value if
it possesses a perpetual right to New York streets. It can
demand a good price to get off the streets and permit the
operation of buses, or it can demand valuable bus fran
chises for itself.
This latter demand is now being made upon the city
by a collection of half-bankrupt street-car companies
which have been gathered together by the bus hierarchy.
These companies, subsidiaries of the New York Railways
Corporation, have applied for the right to motorize their
lines and get both longitudinal and crosstown bus lines
under franchises which would yield them 145 per cent
profit, about $2,066,000 annually on an initial investment
of $1,431,500. One of their claims to these franchises is
that they have certain ancient and heavily moist street-car
securities which they may "sacrifice" for eleven millions
of capitalization in the new bus monopoly. The city is in
an embarrassing position because some of the street rail
way companies can stubbornly hang on to their ancient
226 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
perpetual franchises a long while and still make enough
money to pay operating expenses.
We of this generation are now being asked to pay for
the city's recklessness in the days of Tweed and before.
We are refused the right to have municipal operation by
the state law and we are prevented from starting with a
clean slate and granting the Manhattan bus contracts to
the highest bidder because of franchises, many of which
were purchased by bribery in the days of Tweed. If in the
early days the profits of the street-car lines had been fairly
distributed, much of the present outstanding stock would
never have been issued and no one would now be attempt
ing to foist it upon the present generation. For many
years the companies which later united to form the New
York Railways Corporation were milked by insiders who
controlled subsidiary lines and holding companies. In
some cases the subsidiary lines were rented to holding
companies for more than their total annual revenue. The
overcapitalization goes back to Civil War days. In the
period after the Civil War electric car lines which should
have been capitalized at not more than $40,000 a mile
were forced up a Jacob's ladder of heavenly finance until
they reached the peak of $2,000,000 a mile in 1903.*
One bond issue of $700,000, a fraction of which the
City of New York is now asked to validate, may be used
as an illustration of the way in which fake services have
been saddled upon the city and later investors as real
obligations. Its history has been traced by E. Michael
White. It is the 4% bond issued in January, 1865, by the
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN 227
Bleecker Street and Fulton Ferry Line which later became
and is now part of the New York Railways Corporation
structure. That bond never did represent more than
$268,000 of real investment. The other $432,000 of the
$700,000 together with $900,000 worth of capital stock
were distributed to insiders for the franchise of this
Bleecker Street Line which the city gave away for nothing.
That $700,000 bond had paid $1,828,000 in interest on
an actual outlay of $268,000 up to July 1, 1931, when the
first default in interest payments took place, although
part of the line had been abandoned for many years.
According to the prevailing ethics of capitalism the men
who are now trying to get a bus monopoly in Manhattan
are quite irreproachable. Some of them are capable ad
ministrators, and here and there among the security
holders can be found the usual widows and orphans in
whose name any exploitation of the public is excused.
The genuine investors who made a sacrifice to purchase
securities are now inextricably tangled up with the pirati
cal insiders who contributed nothing. The big financial
manipulators at the top of the bus hierarchy are no more
parasitic than most of the owners of U. S. Steel or A. T,
and T. their misdeeds are simply better advertised be
cause they are manipulating a public utility which must
make some of its contracts in the open.
Fortunately there are three factors favorable to the city
in the present fight against a Manhattan bus monopoly for
the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. Both Controller Berry
and Joseph McKee are opposed; the legality of the com-
228 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
pany's present franchises is in dispute; and a formula for
municipal operation is possible.
The formula for municipal operation is this. The city
is not allowed to inaugurate a municipal bus system itself,
but under section 73 of the city charter, it may recapture
a bus line by paying adequate compensation and operate
it thereafter. Thus far Tammany has made no use of this
power. It has stuck stubbornly to definite-term franchises,
which would block the efforts of the city to include the
buses in a comprehensive municipal transit system. We
believe that a unified municipal transit system is the only
sane way out of the present bus tangle and we believe
that the logical next step toward that end would be the
granting of terminable franchises only, and then only to
the highest bidder, so that the city might take over the
system at the earliest practical moment and get the maxi
mum return for its streets. Such a municipal bus system
is doubly important in view of the pending move for city-
wide transit unification.
RACKETEERING IN LAND
WE have pointed out that the corruption of New York
political life can be traced back in large part to the prac
tices of our business world. Mayor Walker, if his own
story is to be believed, gambled in Wall Street with Paul
Block and cheerfully took $246,000 from his friend
without a qualm because he lived in an atmosphere of
speculation where such things were part of traditional
conduct. Among his friends no stigma was attached to
getting something for nothing as long as the larceny
laws were avoided.
This wholly uncritical attitude toward money made
by speculation in Wall Street is even more evident in
the conservative politician's attitude toward land values.
Everywhere in America local politicians acquire their
fortunes quite largely by speculating in land, and no
sense of guilt disturbs their consciences. The realtor is
America's typical business hero. He creates almost noth
ing. He shrewdly studies the changing currents of popu
lation, directs those currents on occasion by tremendous
ballyhoo, and steps in to take for himself the increment
created by the influx of the crowd.
New York City is the most perfect model of the real-
230 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
tor's heaven. The little strip of land called Manhattan
Island, which was sold to Peter Minuit for $24 three
hundred years ago, is now assessed at more than five
billions. The land in the whole five boroughs of Greater
New York was "worth," in 1930, $8,731,778,851 that is
to say it was assessed at that amount and probably had a
market value of ten billions. 1
The people of Peter Minuit' s little island pay fortunes
to the owners of the island for its use. Some of our great
est New York fortunes, such as the Astor fortune, were
made largely by sitting tight (or cruising on yachts) while
the millions crowding into New York increased the land
values. For a time New York City land increased in value
at the rate of $600,000,000 a year. The most conspicu
ous unearned fortunes have been won by the holders of
certain "golden corners" in Manhattan. The land on
which the Stock Exchange was located was assessed at
$500 a square foot we speak in the past tense because, as
we write this book, a movement is on foot to reduce assess
ments one to three billions. One realtor in the boom
years claimed that the land on the northeast corner of
Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street was "worth"
$36,000 per front inch. Of course he never persuaded
any one to agree with him. The land on which the Em
pire State Building is located, which sold for less than
$10,000 a hundred years* ago, was valued at seventeen
millions before the depression began.
The size of the toll extracted from the productive work
ers of New York by the* land-owning class can best be
RACKETEERING IN LAND 231
appreciated by imagining that the first settlers in New
Amsterdam had been Socialists and had imposed upon the
whole region a Socialist system of land tenure under which
the users of land leased their plots from the government.
(The community, of course, has the natural claim to land
since no person's labor has created it.) If that had been
the case, the people who live in New York would have
had few tax worries, for most of the costs of government
would have been covered by land rentals. Many of the
great unearned fortunes that form the basis for cruel
snobbery would never have been created. The city would
have been planned to give the maximum of light, air and
happiness to its inhabitants rather than to increase the
profits of downtown landholders.
These imaginative reflections are not, of course, new.
Henry George, when he ran for mayor of New York, told
the people what private land speculation cost them and
advocated the single tax to recapture for the community
the values of the land which the community created. He
made a profound impression upon his generation, the
young Samuel Seabury being included among his dis
ciples. Given our system of private ownership of land the
corruption of New York politics by land speculation is
inevitable. The average American would be disgraced in
the eyes of his fellows if he knew in advance of a com
ing increase in the value of a certain plot of land and did
not take advantage of that knowledge. The Tammany
politicians, in harmony with American morals, have
worked out a system of advance knowledge and under-
232 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
cover manipulation that deserves to be called a land
racket. It was partially exposed in the years 1927 to 1930
by the Citizen's Union, the City Affairs Committee and
Controller Charles W. Berry. Its final exposure came in
the report of Leonard M. Wallstein, as a special corpora
tion counsel, on land condemnation in January, 1932.
The law says that when the city government wants a
certain piece of land for a school building, a court house,
or a street it may condemn the land for a public use and
compel the owner to sell it. The owner may negotiate for
the highest price obtainable with the Finance Department
or he may refuse that price and appeal to the State Su
preme Court to set a price. The procedure sounds inno
cent enough and would be innocent enough if our city
fathers were men who could keep secret their plans for a
public improvement and if the judges who preside in our
Supreme Court were not land gamblers in their philosophy
and good friends of Tammany realtors.
New York was shocked in 1930 when the City Affairs
Committee announced that it had made a study of the cost
of land bought by the city for school sites from 1925 to
1928 and had discovered that the city had paid 3.2 times
the assessed value of these sites, although the assessment
officers were sworn to value each piece of property to the
best of their ability at its true market value. Figuring the
excess expenditure over market value on school sites as
typical waste, the committee estimated that New York
citizens were losing about $29,000,000 a year on the con
demnation racket. They pointed to the site of the public
RACKETEERING IN LAND 233
school at 115th Avenue and 201st Street, Queens, which
was sold to the city for thirteen times its assessed value,
and to several other school sites which were sold at six,
seven and eight times their assessed value.
These revelations came shortly after Justice Dunne had
awarded $12,500,000 to certain Rockaway Beach property
owners for land which was assessed at about one-tenth of
this price when the project was authorized in 1924 s
Mr. Wallstein in a long series of hearings and in a
subsequent report, showed the public how it is high
jacked out of millions of dollars every year by a ring of
real estate dealers, city land "experts," condemnation
lawyers, judges and political bosses. Through the activi
ties of the ring the city threw away during the boom years
of 1926 to 1930 at least $20,000,000 a year. The ring
was not an illegal conspiracy as the ring of lawyers and
bail bondsmen in the Magistrate's Court was. It was, and
is, a group of sharp-practicing lawyers who got advance
tips from insiders in city departments, solicited trade from
the land owners on a percentage basis, and proceeded to
win from indifferent judges and mildly protesting repre
sentatives of the city awards that were tantamount to a
raid upon the public treasury. The exposure of the racket
indicated how futile our criminal laws are in the case of
established exploitation. A judge who sends a thief to jail
for stealing an apple will calmly award a lucky land
owner five times the assessed value of his property with
out any careful examination of the owner's claims, and
the city may lose the price of a million apples.
234 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
In the case of the Libby Hotel and the Chrystie-For-
sythe Street widening, Justice Philip McCook awarded the
owners $2,850,000, although shortly before this event a
corporate mortgage had been foreclosed on the hotel with
the contention that the site was valueless, causing the
stockholders to be wiped out.
The city government is involved in the condemnation
racket in three ways, through political leaders who sell
undesirable land to the city at a high profit, through city
officials who trade on their inside knowledge of construc
tion plans, and through Tammany realty experts who get
prodigious fees for overvaluing land to be purchased.
Pink-cheeked, benevolent Boss McCooey of Brooklyn, for
example, apparently made $69,656 profit on a Brooklyn
school site located across from some gas tanks, as re
vealed in hearings before Mr. Wallstein.
He worked through a business associate named Charles
D. Cords who bought certain pieces of land in Bay Ridge
at 5th Street for $57,500 with the help of a $15,000 loan
from Mr. McCooey, whose name did not appear as owner.
A committee of the Board of Education was looking for
a school site, and the committee, naturally enough, in
cluded some good friends of Mr. McCooey. On its first
trip of inspection, however, it apparently did not know
that Mr. McCooey was interested in the Cords' property,
so it recorded a frank opinion in its field notes about
another site that was two full blocks away from the gas
tanks: "Too near the gas tanks Out." But on a later
field trip the committee included Miss Margaret J.
RACKETEERING IN LAND 235
McCooey, a sister of the Brooklyn boss and one of the
superintendents of our school system. The report on the
Cords' land was more favorable. In fact, the Board of
Superintendents with Miss McCooey present, finally con
cluded that the Cords' property, situated in the middle of
gas tanks, incinerators, heavy industrial traffic, and a
sparsely populated neighborhood, was "especially adapt
able to school purposes."
But the parents of the locality raised such a furore that
the local school board of District 36 in Brooklyn was
moved to protest against the site to the city Board of
Education. Mr. McCooey was undismayed. He called in
the chairman of the local school board who was the re
cording secretary of the Ninth Assembly Regular Demo
cratic organization and converted him on the spot into an
enthusiastic proponent of the gas-tank land. He called
in the secretary of the local school board, a Miss May
Golden, with equal success. He was quite frank about the
basis of this success. It was not sex appeal. It was "friend
ship." Mr. McCooey had gotten her brother appointed a
magistrate. "I would start off with this premise," he con
fided, "that inasmuch as I had a great deal to do with the
appointment of her brother as magistrate, that she natu
rally would be friendly to me if I wanted her friendship
for this site." His premise was correct.
The local school board reversed its position and begged
the Board of Education to use this choice land. Dr. Wil
liam A. Boylan, since promoted to the presidency of
Brooklyn College, and Dr. William J. O'Shea, the pliant
236 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
gentleman who now presides over New York's public
schools, heartily favored the site and Dr. Boylan pushed
it before the Board of Estimate with the declaration that
the property had "a delightful outlook." In spite of some
unpleasant remarks by the Controller the city finally took
title and the question of price went to the courts.
The judge in the case was Mitchell May, a regular
machine Democrat and friend of McCooey. The city's
real estate expert, Edward J. Gaynor, who had known
Mr. McCooey for twelve years and had been appointed
an expert for the city with McCooey' s recommendation,
valued the whole piece of land at $264,000, more than
three times the assessed valuation and $120,000 higher
than the valuation of the controller's office. Of course
the Cords-McCooey experts shot higher than Mr. Gay
nor to establish the well-known principle of balance, and
set their estimate at $353,000. The assistant corporation
counsel representing the city, who had been approved for
his appointment by Mr. McCooey, handled the experts
with a perfunctory gentleness, forgetting to bring out the
fact that neighboring lots were selling for about half of
what the claimants were asking. Justice May tolerantly
split the difference and set a price of $303,000. A touch
of lovely charm was added to the whole proceeding by the
revelation that Mr. McCooey's profit in the deal was a
wedding anniversary gift to his wife! 3 Incidentally, the
land still stands idle, since no one wants to use it for
Mr. Wallstein's investigation also revealed that certain
RACKETEERING IN LAND 237
positions in the offices of the Board of Education and the
Board of Estimate have been used as listening posts for
acquiring advance knowledge of city purchases. Usually
the listening posts are handled with such caution and the
connection with the land racketeers is so carefully camou
flaged that no one can be convicted of a crime. The
favorite device for land manipulation is a small corpora
tion with an innocuous name created by the inside poli
ticians and realtors to buy up land in anticipation of a
demand for it by the city. Usually the corporation is con
trolled through dummies or relatives.
Francis T. McEneny was removed as chief examiner to
the president of the Board of Aldermen after it was dis
covered that he and his friends had engaged in "substan
tial and apparently profitable transactions in connection
with school sites," and his crony Morris Warschauer was
transferred from his position as secretary of the committee
on buildings and sites of the Board of Education for simi
lar reasons. But Mr. Warschauer is still assistant secretary
of the Board of Education after making explanations of
his bank accounts that Leonard M. Wallstein called "fan
tastic," and Perry Winston is still assistant engineer on
the staff of the secretary of the Board of Estimate after
it was disclosed that his friends had made handsome
profits by dabbling in school sites and then thrown away
their check books and canceled check vouchers. Mr. Win
ston gets advance knowledge of the plans of the Board
of Education for all its new buildings. Just before he
recommended a school site on 23d Avenue in Brooklyn
238 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
some friends of his brother-in-law organized the Ralmac
Realty Corporation which sold the recommended land to
the city at a profit of $13,000 in ten months on an invest
ment of $12,000. At about this time the sister of Mr.
Winston's brother-in-law (the women of this family are
also brilliant business promoters) was making $20,000
on a cash investment of $4,000 in the site of the Abraham
Lincoln High School. This high-school site, incidentally
was assessed by the city's tax experts at $321,800 but
when the city attempted to buy it the city's own real estate
expert, Charles Schiffman, valued it at $300,000 higher
than the tax valuation, which explains in part the aston
ishing success of the distant relatives of Mr. Winston in
the real estate business.
Mr. Schiffman received $4,600 as an expert's fee for
his optimism in valuing this land for the Abraham Lincoln
High School and a rebuke from Mr. Wallstein for im
proper business dealings because he helped to get a loan
for some of the claimants in this very case from an assist
ant corporation counsel.*
We should not be unduly severe in judging the Mc-
Enenys, Warschauers, Winstons and Schiffmans. Perhaps
they believe that there should be more business in govern
ment. The almost universal rule in big business is for the
insiders to take advantage of what is called "business
opportunity," which means foreknowledge of dividend
statements and purchase needs.
The expert racket dovetails into the condemnation law
yer's racket. The important condemnation cases in the
RACKETEERING IN LAND 239
city are handled by the firms of Talley and Lamb, and
Skinner and Bermant. Alfred J. Talley, the big gun in
condemnation proceedings in New York, was a close asso
ciate of Charles F. Murphy and was urged as a possible
successor to Murphy in the leadership of Tammany Hall
The condemnation law firms actively solicit business
from owners of prospective city land "like salesmen sell
ing lead pencils and suspenders," as one witness testified
in the hearings before Mr. Wallstein, although this solici
tation is specifically forbidden by a court rule which
applies to Manhattan and the Bronx. The rule says: "No
attorney shall directly or indirectly solicit a retainer or
employment to present, settle, prosecute or defend any
claim or action, or employ or authorize any person so to
solicit on his behalf." Far from observing this rule the
law firms of the city swoop down like vultures on the land
owners of any neighborhood where a civic improvement
is planned, sometimes fifteen years in advance of actual
sale, and "sign them up" in a house to house canvass
with an agreement that the law firm shall receive 5 per
cent of the total award. That means, of course, $50,000
for a million dollar award which can often be secured
from friendly courts with very little labor.
The labor, in fact, is nearly all in getting the clients
and holding them together. The actual condemnation
cases are perfunctory affairs. The claimants have an ex
pert who has become known as a professional optimist.
The city has an expert who is only slightly less optimistic.
240 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Both are paid handsomely for brief service; the city usu
ally pays its experts $100 a day, and in the Chrystie Street
condemnation case their bills totaled $124,065. In that
case Nicholas F. Walsh received $40,000, Samuel Augen-
blick, $40,000, and Walter T. Murphy $32,000 as city
land experts. In the Rockaway Beach condemnation case
Congressman John J. Boylan who represents John F.
Curry's district at Washington, included in his $39,000
bill to the city five days for "attendance at court" which,
according to the Congressional Record, he had spent in
Washington. 6 Part of his bill was disallowed but he still
kept a nest egg of $200,000 which he had received as an
expert in condemnation cases between 1924 and 1930.
The experts in the past have not been permitted to
bring in to condemnation proceedings the assessed value
of the property to be bought although such value is the
only index which the city can use in deciding to purchase
the property, and they have likewise been prevented by
idiotically narrow court rulings from bringing in the most
pertinent evidence of all, the recent sales price of the
property to be bought. In some states assessments are bad
barometers of value but not in New York City, since the
state equalization tax tables show that here the assessed
value of property comes very close to the market value.
The story of the way in which New York Supreme
Court judges have refused to permit assessed value to be
noticed judicially in condemnation cases is to us one of
the most startling proofs of the dry rot in our legal pro
fession. Because some judges had misinterpreted the law
on this subject, succeeding judges and succeeding lawyers
RACKETEERING IN LAND 241
fell in line and duly quoted their predecessors' foolish
ness. The aim of a condemnation proceeding, to deter
mine actual value, seems to have been quite lost sight of.
When the experts had finished their testimony in a
condemnation case, the judge, who may or may not have
been listening to the proceeding, usually "split the differ
ence" between the competing optimists. Mr. Wallstein
just for fun tabulated 164 of these split-the-difference
decisions on school sites and found that the judges in
making twenty-five million dollars worth of judgment
came within seven hundredths of one per cent of splitting
the melon exactly in half. To suspect collusion in such
cases would be as irreverent as to question the conspicuous
guilelessness of the average New York divorce case.
Mr. Wallstein has suggested a number of reforms for
condemnation proceedings and some of them have been
adopted at Albany. Condemnation proceedings, as soon
as another legislature has approved a pending constitu
tional amendment and the people have voted for it, will
be taken out of the hands of a single Supreme Court judge
and given to a special condemnation tribunal of three
judges to be periodically assigned by the Apellate Divi
sions. Assessed valuations may be considered by judges
and must be considered by the Corporation Counsel who
represents the city. More complete publicity is provided
All these reforms are good in themselves and Mr. Wall
stein deserves the public's thanks for initiating them, but
he would probably be the first to admit that they will be
useless unless there is some honest will to serve the public
242 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
interest in the government that rules New York. And in
this case the reform legislation will be handicapped by one
of the oldest traditions of American capitalism, the allo
cation to private owners of the increased value of land.
A proper philosophy and practice of taxing land values
would solve all these problems. The trouble starts when
the community allows a land owner to keep the land value
which it (the community) has created. Realtors will con
tinue to be economic highwaymen as long as they are
honored in proportion to their success in capturing these
values. Judges will consistently give the benefit of the
doubt to private speculators rather than the government
in the purchase of land until our ethics of land ownership
have changed. What we need, if Mr. Wallstein's reforms
are to have more than a temporary effect, is more judges
on the bench who have read Karl Marx and Thorstein
Veblen and Henry George, and taken them seriously
enough to understand that there is a difference between
earned and unearned wealth. Which is to say that we
need more socialist and fewer conservative judges. Inci
dentally, we are not sure that Mr. Wallstein himself
would make the very best judge. He saved the city
$4,459,000 in the Rockaway Beach condemnation case,
then took a $160,000 fee for himself in addition to heavy
expenses for a few months' work. His criticism of the
land racketeers lost some of its force thereby.
Meanwhile New York's transit construction program
has reached an impasse because the city government did
RACKETEERING IN LAND 243
not undertake to pay for subway construction out of the
unearned wealth of the land owners along the subway
lines. There is no reason why taxpayers as a whole should
pay for all subway costs when specific pieces of land are
trebled and quadrupled in value by the subway. These
specially benefited pieces of land should be stripped of
their extra unearned increment added by the construction
of the subway, especially since the extra expense involved
in building subways rather than elevated railroads is in
curred chiefly because the elevated would injure land
values along its course. At present 82 per cent of the
cost of new subways is added to the burden of the tax
John H. Delaney, chairman of the Board of Transporta
tion, originally favored special assessments to aid in build
ing the new Eighth Avenue subway but the pressure of
the real estate interests was too strong for him. The idea
of special assessments for subway construction is sound
and practical if properly applied just as sound and prac
tical as the special assessment for park and road construc
tion. It was heartily endorsed by Mayor Walker's own
committee on budget and finance in 1928. The committee
felt "that the location of new subway lines and particu
larly the location of stations result in an entirely fortuitous
gain to the owners of certain pieces of real estate. This
gain might be recovered through the adoption of the spe
cial assessment method."*
New York's first subway, started in 1904, might have
been paid for entirely out of special assessments upon
244 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
benefited land without any injustice. That subway which
cost $43,000,000 added $80,000,000 in value in seven
years to one section of Manhattan and the Bronx in excess
of the increase which was considered normal in the city
as a whole. The increases in the value of land adjoining
other subways have not been so consistent, but they have
been sufficient to underscore the need of special assess
ments. Certainly a large part of the city's investment of
$386,000,000 in the old subways could have been cap
tured quite painlessly by special assessments.
The City Affairs Committee made a study of the in
crease in land values along the new Eighth Avenue sub
way from 1924, when it was first announced, to 1930, two
years before it opened. The committee's figures for the
thirty blocks from 13th Street to 43d Street show that the
two adjoining blocks on each side of the subway rose
$94,000,000 in value in that time, an increase of 78 per
cent. The general rise in land value in the rest of Man
hattan was 64 per cent during those years. It is very con
servative, therefore, to say that the subway itself added
$17,000,000 (the difference between 78 per cent and 64
per cent) in excess value to the Eighth Avenue region
between 13th Street and 43d Street from 1924 to 1930
very conservative because, while this method of calcula
tion is not accurate in itself, the subway also added mil
lions in value to the blocks west of Ninth Avenue, which
we are not including in the total increment. The subway
between 13th Street and 43d Street cost $21,000,000. If
$10,000,000 of its cost had been paid by special assess-
RACKETEERING IN LAND 245
ment, the owners of the adjoining land would still have
had a handsome margin of excess increment.
It is not too late to apply this principle even now to the
Eighth Avenue subway, and it is certainly in order to
apply it to the construction of all new subways. We be
lieve that it is the only logical way to save the five cent
fare on New York transit lines. The objection commonly
made to special assessments for subway construction is
that the increase in value due to such construction is
impossible to calculate in advance, the factors involved
being so complex. The logical way to avoid this difficulty
would be to adopt an adjustable special assessment which
can be increased or decreased on each specific piece of
land according to its rise in value.
If, for example, the city in building the Eighth Avenue
subway between 13th Street and 43d Street, had decided
to assess ten millions of the cost on neighboring land, it
could have drawn a line about the territory it considered
specially benefited and then based its assessment year by
year on the assessed value of 1924. Let us say that it took
$1,000,000 a year out of this area. Each annual levy
would be based on the rise in value of the land since 1924.
All land which had failed to rise since 1924 would be
exempt. A piece which rose $10,000 in 1925 might pay
$100; a piece which rose $20,000 might pay $250; a piece
which rose $30,000 in 1925 and went back $20,000 in 1926
might pay $375 in 1925 and $100 in 1926; and so on.
This system of adjustable special assessments is applied
now to the Westchester County sewer system. It avoids
246 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
the immense difficulty of calculating in advance the pre
cise increment that the subway will add to any given lot. 7
If this method had been applied roughly to New York
land many years ago there would be no difficulty in financ
ing subways to-day. In the last twenty-five years two sec
tions of Manhattan, the financial district below Fulton
Street, and the mid-town section around the Pennsylvania
Station and the Grand Central Terminal have increased a
billion and a quarter dollars in value. 8 In both cases the
new values have been due very largely to good subway
facilities. These areas have paid higher taxes because of
the higher values, but they have not paid their fair share
for subway construction in view of the immense increase
in their value.
Next to a special assessment on land near subways the
most logical way to finance new traction lines would be a
land increment tax. The city could consider the valuation
of each piece of land at a certain date as the base, and tax
the owner two per cent of the excess value above that
amount each year. That plan (a one per cent increment
tax) was recommended in 1912 by Mayor Gaynor's com
mittee on taxation. If it had been put in force then the
yield from a two per cent tax would have been $58,000,-
000 in 1928 and $68,000,000 in 1929.
Behind these suggestions of ours for subway financing
lies a philosophy of taxation for all civic improvements.
We believe that all taxes in the last analysis should be
based upon the ability of the taxpayer to pay in short
upon income, but that the income which is unearned
RACKETEERING IN LAND 247
should be taken by the government first. No income in
capitalist society is more fundamentally unearned than
the income from city land values, and therefore a program
of increased taxation for civic improvements should begin
with those values and end with the public ownership of
land. One way to bring about that public ownership
would be to appropriate the rental value of land apart
from its improvements.
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS
THAT the richest city in the history of the world should
have some of the world's worst slums is not a fact that
annoys or surprises the average New Yorker. Gross in
equalities in housing are such an accepted part of our life
that, to borrow an analogy from Bernard Shaw, we be
come accustomed to them as we become immune to the
taste of water because it is so constantly in contact with
our mucous membranes that we believe it has no taste.
Most men who live in New York do not stop to wonder
why some men live in palaces and some in hovels because
they have never even raised the deeper question why some
are rich and some are poor.
The poor, we say, are entitled to as good water as the
rich even if they cannot afford it, as good public school
education, and as good fire protection. This communistic
attitude toward education, water, and fire protection was
not, of course, an innate idea. It came after long struggle
and agitation and the usual pronouncements by the rich
that these public beneficences would undermine the ster
ling independence and initiative of the poor.
To-day we are on the threshold of an era when we will
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 249
recognize housing, at least in cities, as a sociai responsi
bility in the same sense that education is. Hitherto a
man's house has been his chief symbol of social success
or failure, almost as individualistic a thing in his economic
life as food and clothes. But with the building of great
cities houses have become less and less individualistic. The
very right to have a home has become a restricted privi
lege instead of a right. A man's living quarters have come
to depend more and more on the accidents of work loca
tion and the density of surrounding population.
In modern megalopolis the very men who make the
city, who clean its streets and shovel its coal and run its
subway trains, may be exiled from it when they quit work
at night. To-day in New York the average worker simply
cannot provide a decent home for himself on the average
wage. We have been so victimized by the spirit of the
real estate speculator that we have almost forgotten the
logical ideal of a city as a pleasant place for common
people to live together.
At the outset of this discussion of housing let us say
frankly that we see no satisfactory solution within the
limits of our present economic system. So long as the
distance between rich and poor remains what it is, there
will be palaces on some Park Avenue and slums on some
East Side. It would require a complete social revolution
to establish the perfectly sound and obvious moral prin
ciple that in a sanely organized city every human being
willing to work is entitled to good lodging. And it would
require just as complete a social revolution to effect the
250 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
planning of a city without regard to the private profit of
But we do not despair of moving rapidly in the direc
tion of those ideals even within our present economic
order. And in the process we shall nurture a finer genera
tion to establish a nobler order. Housing in New York
has become a sorry tragedy for both rich and poor and
so at last New York's intelligentsia are beginning to talk
about it. On Park Avenue the unpaid and unpayable
mortgages lie as thick and deep as the Persian rugs. All
over the city the architects are hungry and the builders are
bankrupt while hundreds of thousands of building trades
workers walk the streets. All this in a city which needs
cheap apartments badly.
The basic difficulty lies in providing homes for the low
est paid third of the population. The rich and the middle
class can always find lodging that is adequate even if too
The Committee on Plan and Survey appointed by
Mayor Walker said in 1927: "A third of the city's popu
lation over two million people live under unsatisfac
tory conditions, many under distressing conditions, some
under disgraceful conditions. For thousands home is a
mockery. It consists of two or three small rooms of which
but one is adequately lighted and often even not that
one and none of which is adequately ventilated; rooms
that in the hot summer day become an inferno of torture
to little children, the sick, and the weak.
"For the persons living in these homes there is little
Reproduced by permission of
Rollin Kirby and the New York World-Telegram.
GETTING HIS CUT
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 253
privacy; there are no reticences; they must share the
process of living with other families; they must use a
common water closet; they must get all the water they
use from a common faucet in the public hall; the fire peril
menaces them at all times. . . .
"This is the state of two million people, over a third
of the city's population, viz., those who live in the so-
called old-law tenements or those erected before the tene
ment house law of 1901 worked its beneficent changes."
For these lower two million of New York's population
this tenement house law destroyed some of the worst inde
cencies of the old slums but it did not provide good houses
for workers within the reach of their incomes. It nomi
nally prevented the construction of interior bedrooms, it
compelled the landlords to provide a toilet for every fam
ily, and it reduced the building coverage on each lot so
that tenements could no longer occupy 90 and 95 per cent
of the plot on which they stood. But of course it was put
in force very gently, and at the present rate of demolition
these old-law tenements will not be cleared from New
York for 134 years. Louis H. Pink of the State Housing
Board points out that from 1920 to 1925 the old-law
suites decreased only 2.8 per cent and that there were still
566,000 of them in the city in 1925. * Years ago an inves
tigation proved that the infant death rate and the tuber
culosis death rate in rear tenements were double those in
regular tenements in the same neighborhood, but there are
still many rear tenements in New York.
When the tenement house laws had been passed the
254 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
question arose: where can an ordinary worker live in New
The average industrial worker in New York does not
receive more than $30 a week in good times and the aver
age family requires four rooms to live decently. To allow
a minimum for food, clothing, and sickness that family
should never spend more than one week's income for one
month's rent, which means a maximum of $7.50 per room
per month. Where is such housing to be found in New
York to-day? The answer is that it is not to be found at
all except in the old-law tenements of the slums where
over 1,500,000 people still live. The New York working
class family must therefore crowd too many people into
each room or spend more than a proportionate share of its
income on rent. Usually that means the psychological or
physical degeneration of the family.
The obvious answer is government housing at cost
and possibly some subsidization of housing for the very
lowest of the income groups. The chief reason for the
high cost of housing to-day, aside from the antiquated
methods of production which we shall discuss later, is the
cost of credit. When a private builder constructs a house
he must pay 9, 10 and 11 per cent for his money, and
when these costs are passed on to the tenant they mean a
rental too high for the average worker. The government
can borrow money at 4 and 5 per cent, and so reduce the
cost of housing at least $3 per room per month. To
launch a government housing program, therefore, seems
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 255
the surest way to provide fit housing for the average
The economic reasons for such a program in New York
are almost self-evident. Private builders have failed to
provide the houses that the workers need within the range
of the workers' income. Almost all the housing in New
York in recent years has been built to rent at $15 a room
a month or more. When presidents' conferences and
building congresses meet to discuss housing they conceal
or ignore this simple fact and print pictures in handsome
booklets of model tenements renting at $5 and $10 a room
a month more than the workers can afford to pay.
The most flagrant ballyhoo artist in the field of housing
was Mayor Walker. His heart beat more noisily for the
slum dwellers of the East Side than for any other part
of the population. He made enough speeches about hous
ing at election time to float a balloon. For our own amuse
ment we checked up the headlines that Mayor Walker
received on his imaginary housing program in the New
York Times, and here are some summaries, mostly in the
words of the Times Index, of the first two years of his
housing headlines. The headlines began even before he
was mayor. If we had included the housing headlines of
his whole administration there would have been room for
nothing else in this chapter.
October 27, 1925 Walker outlines housing program for
November 19, 1925 Walker says in Miami speech he
256 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
studied development there as aid in relieving New York
December 11, 1925 Walker plans to have commission
he appoints for survey of population look into housing con
February 5, 1926 League of Mothers Clubs of United
Neighborhood Houses urges Walker to support program for
better housing and cheaper rents.
February 9, 1926 Advisory housing commission formed
at meeting of representatives of 50 organizations, in response
to Walker's suggestion.
May 23, 1926 Walker pledges aid of city administration
to relieve housing shortage, in speech at opening of Sunny-
June 26, 1926 Walker appoints August Heckscher spe
cial emissary to investigate European housing and recom
mend reconstruction to relieve congestion in New York City.
December 2, 1926 Walker invites "old east siders" to
dinner in honor of August Heckscher, to enlist aid for re
building of congested areas of New York City.
December 3, 1926 Walker appoints August Heckscher
head of commission to plan construction of model tenements
on New York City's east side at dinner at Libby's Hotel.
December 5, 1926 Walker appoints August Heckscher
chairman of Commission to start work of rebuilding East
Side with model homes.
March 11, 1927 Walker introduces bill in Estimate
Board for 20-year tax exemption on model tenements built
by limited dividend companies organized and existing under
state housing law.
May 27, 1927 Board of Estimate passes Walker's hous
ing bill for tax exemption. [This was the one achievement
of his administration in this field, and it was entirely the
result of the efforts of others.]
June 23, 1927 Walker signs tax exemption housing bill.
July 8, 1927 Walker outlines plan for city to take land
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 257
in crowded districts by condemnation action and become
partner in erection of model houses; conference with bankers,
realtors and philanthropists.
July 28, 1927 Walker will introduce resolution into
Board of Estimate branch of municipal assembly, calling for
popular referendum on amendment to city charter to remove
ill barriers to his condemnation plan.
July 29, 1927 Board of Estimate votes favorably on
Walker's resolution and proposes local law introduced by
lim to aid his housing plan.
August 19, 1927 Walker radiophones message on his
Dill and tenement study in Europe from London.
August 23, 1927 Walker talks with J. V. McKee by
radiophone on London tenements.
September 11, 1927 Walker inspects Rome's tenement
Not a single brick was laid or a single plan for a house
:ompleted as a result of this prodigious volume of bally-
100. Seven blocks of cleared land still lie sprawling in
:he heart of the East Side where Walker dreamed about
i housing development at Chrystie and Forsythe Streets.
The city has had the title to this land for years and the
Walker administration could have developed a plan for
t in a month.
To get back to the economics of housing, a room which
:ents for $12 a month when built by a private speculative
xiilder can rent for about $9 a month when built by a
imited dividend corporation, and $7.50 to $8.00 a month
vhen built by the city. The City Affairs Committee took
he Brooklyn Garden Apartments as a sample in 1931 and
produced figures to show just how such apartments could
258 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
be built on $3 land (per square foot) in Brooklyn and
Queens to rent for $7.50 to $8.00.
The reason for the cheapness of public housing, of
course, is the cheapness of government borrowing plus
the exemption from taxation. The principle of tax ex
emption is not new since it was the basis of the State
Housing Law of 1926. That law seems to us now a most
feeble instrument but it did mark a great forward step
in public opinion concerning housing. It allowed housing
corporations which limited their dividends to 6 per cent
to have all their buildings exempt from taxation for
twenty years if they built houses under the supervision of
the State Housing Board that would rent for a maximum
of $12.50 a room a month in Manhattan, $11 in Brooklyn
and the Bronx, $10 in Queens and Richmond, and $9 else
where in the state. 2
The theory of this law was excellent and the men who
sponsored it were men of lofty purpose, but the benevo
lent capitalists who were supposed to come forward with
their wealth did not materialize in large numbers. All the
projects coming under the law have housed only about
6,000 people while private builders in the same period
have built housing for at least 600,000. And even those
projects which have been built under this law have con
sisted largely of cooperative projects which probably
would have been built without the law and several of
which were planned before the law was passed. The two
splendid housing projects of the City Housing Corpora
tion at Sunnyside, Long Island, and Radburn, New Jersey,
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 259
do not come under the tax exemption law because they
are colonies of fairly high-priced, privately owned homes.
The beautiful and admirably managed cooperative apart
ments of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers in the
Bronx and on Grand Street require an investment of
$2,000 for each four-room apartment before the tenant
can enjoy the $ll-a-room rent. This investment can be
paid in small installments but it stands as a barrier against
the workers who need good housing most. Probably the
best example of limited-dividend housing which does not
require a down payment by the tenant is the Brooklyn
Garden Apartments with an average rental of $10.75 a
room a month.
Probably we must look to Brooklyn and Queens for the
model housing of the future, for there good land can still
be procured for less than $3 a square foot, and large
enough plots are available to develop regional projects.
Slum clearance is a fine phrase to toy with but with our
present condemnation procedure it will probably come
last in a municipal housing program. The city paid
$16.50 a square foot for the land which it captured on
Chrystie and Forsythe Streets in the heart of the East Side
after Mayor Walker had decided that a housing program
would be a good campaign diversion. It is not the most
suitable land for a model housing experiment but even
here apartments could be built by the city to rent at $9.50
to $10.00 a room a month and still pay 4 per cent on
the city's investment.
We visualize the New York of to-morrow as a city
260 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
with relatively few private homes. The notion that para
dise begins with personal home ownership is one that has
been drummed into Americans for so long by presidents
(bank and otherwise) and realtors that it is hard to dis
lodge. Nevertheless for the average American industrial
worker home ownership is a chain that may bind him to
a poor job or no job, and that may limit his right to fight
against unjust conditions. Moreover, New York in our
time is not likely to become a place where any but the
upper economic third of the people can afford to own
individual homes with open land, and still have enough
money left to travel to work. The rich will continue to
crowd out the poor no matter how valiantly some of the
technicians of the Regional Plan work for a better spread
of the population.
It seems that the only way out for housing is the con
struction by public funds in the outlying boroughs of
great apartment projects surrounded by open space. The
projects could be self-supporting so that the money for
construction could come either from the Reconstruction
Finance Corporation or from a city bond issue. The tax
payers would not lose a cent in either case. The tenants
would pay the bill just as the car-riders pay for the
Hudson Tunnel. Europe has demonstrated that such
dreams are as practical as public schools. Socialist Vienna
has led the way.
In New York Socialists, also, have been pioneers in the
fight for such a program. Now many civic groups are
taking up the fight. Recently the Public Housing Con-
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 261
ference and the City Affairs Committee have proposed
a plan for realizing the ideal of municipal housing with
the least waste motion. They proposed a city department
of housing for local responsibility and a constitutional
amendment to give the city power to go into the housing
business. They frankly recognize that housing must be a
public utility if the average worker of New York is to
have a decent apartment within the reach of his income.
The plan will be fought by the realty interests and dis
torted by the politicians, but it is bound to be tried some
day because there is no other way out of the housing
Along with the revolution in housing finance there is
likely to come a revolution in housing construction, and
perhaps the latter will in the end be the more important
factor in bringing down prices. The building industry is
to-day almost the only great industry that has not adopted
mass production methods. Perhaps the New York of the
future will be made up almost entirely of buildings that
have standard wall panels, and standard ceiling strips, and
standard everything else, all made on moving belts in
H. G. Wells with his uncannily prophetic imagination
said thirty years ago: "I find it incredible that there will
not be a sweeping revolution in the methods of building
during the next century. The erection of a house wall,
come to think of it, is an astonishingly tedious and com
plex business; the final result exceedingly unsatisfactory.
. . . Everything in this was hand work, the laying of
262 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
bricks, the dabbling of the plaster, the smoothing of the
paper; it is a house built of hands and some I saw were
bleeding hands just as in the days of the pyramids, when
the only engines were living men. . . . Better walls than
this and less life-wasting ways of making them are surely
If better walls are to be built into better homes it will
be necessary to have better regional planning as New
York's population grows. Thus far the city has not lacked
planners but they have been, for the most part, private
realtors disguised as civic leaders. The Russell Sage Foun
dation tried to supplant the hit-and-miss planning of these
private realtors with a comprehensive survey and plan
of the whole New York region including ten million peo
ple, 5,528 square miles, and 436 local government authori
ties. The 12 volumes of the Regional Survey and Plan
of New York and its Environs constitute an impressive
piece of work in almost every field except housing. Here
the regional planners were cautious and noncommittal,
regretting the slums but shying away from a public hous
ing program. They propose, however, one useful reform
which the cities of Europe, particularly Berlin, have found
of immense value, the giving of the right to the city gov
ernment to buy outlying land for future development.
Such a right would make possible the planning of decen
tralized public housing developments in the suburbs as
part of a gigantic regional plan.
As we approach the third bitter winter of unemploy
ment the plea for a great public housing program comes
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS 263
with treble force. Some day the rotting old-law tenements
of New York must be cleared away and new housing
built. Why not now? A housing program that would give
new apartments to one million of New York's two million
unsatisfactorily housed inhabitants would give work to
30,000 in the building trades for five years. What more
intelligent way could be thought of to fight the depression
with constructive relief?
THE CONSUMER PAYS
THE average New Yorker is almost wholly dependent
for daily comfort on several great corporations which
have monopolies or near monopolies of the things that he
must have. He must have milk, and the chances are nine
to one that he will buy from one of the two great dairy
firms of Borden's or Sheffield's. He must have electric
light and gas, and in both cases he is likely to buy them
from one great holding concern, the Consolidated Gas
Co. He must have a telephone, and again he has no
choice. His bill must be paid to the New York Telephone
Co., which is owned in entirety by the American Tele
phone & Telegraph Company. If he is an ordinary man
he must ride in a subway or an elevated train, and con
tribute to one central consolidated monopoly of the
B. M. T. and the Interborough. He must have water and
mail, but here the private profit and the private monopoly
have been destroyed and he shares in two of the safest
and fastest distributive systems in the world without the
annoyance of any scandals about inflated values.
New Yorkers pay a price of untold millions to the
great private monopolies every year an excessive price
because these monopolies use their power to defeat effec-
THE CONSUMER PAYS 265
tive regulation. Theoretically the law protects the con
sumer completely. The State Public Service Commission
is supposed to regulate all telephones, gas and electric
light companies; the State Transit Commission is ordered
to do likewise in the field of subways and surface cars.
In practice the public is in a state of continuous defeat
because the private utilities have enough money and
power to thwart the agencies of control.
The biggest dragon of all in the utility field is the Con
solidated Gas Company, which owns the New York Edi
son, the Brooklyn Edison, the New York and Queens
Electric Light and the United Electric Light and Power
corporations. It also owns most of the gas companies
of New York City and is so wealthy that it can afford
to fight for years in the courts against any order to reduce
its rates. It is so extensive and powerful that the expert
who testifies against it rests under a cloud in the pursuit
of his professional career. (The utility interests are fond
of saying that there is no such thing as a power trust, and
in the national field there is some plausibility in their
claim, but New York has a power trust in both name and
fact.) To-day in the middle of the depression when the
prices of every other commodity on the market have gone
down, gas prices and electric rates are only a little below
the 1920 level.
The City Affairs Committee in a brief filed with the
Public Service Commission early in 1932 showed how
ridiculous the electrice rate schedule was in the face of
falling costs. Since 1920 the cost of almost everything
266 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
that the electric companies buy has been reduced. Coal,
copper and labor have come down. The operating ex
penses of generation per kilowatt hour dropped, from
1920 to 1930, 58 per cent for the New York Edison,
71 per cent for the Brooklyn Edison, and 50 per cent
for the United Electric Light and Power. The lower costs
of operation for the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens
companies since 1920 have resulted in a saving of
$13,389,000. Of course there was a most substantial fur
ther decline in prices during 1931 and 1932.
When companies save so much money at the expense
of the consumer, it is natural that they should pay large
dividends. Dividends have increased as operating econo
mies have been realized. Even during the depression, the
New York Edison, the United Electric Light and Power
and the New York and Queens Electric paid 12 per cent
for both 1930 and 1931. The Brooklyn Edison continued
its usual 8 per cent dividend, which seems innocent
enough in itself but is not so innocent when we note that
it tucked away many unnecessary millions in its surplus.
Being a holding company Consolidated Gas is able to
use certain familiar little tricks to step up its profits. For
example, it sells money to its subsidiaries at a much
higher price than it must pay, and pockets the difference.
This result is accomplished by selling its own preferred
stock to the public to yield 5^ per cent and passing the
money on to subsidiaries for common stock which pays
the Consolidated 12 per cent. The differential of 6y 2 per
cent goes to the Consolidated stockholders and costs the
THE CONSUMER PAYS 267
consumers of New York $3,900,000 a year. This capital
could just as well be obtained directly from the public
by the New York Edison Company, for example, at 5^
per cent and so eliminate the extra profit to the Consoli
dated. Or the Consolidated itself could raise this money
by selling preferred stock at 5^ per cent and passing on
the money so raised to its subsidiaries without a huge
A holding company should be a mechanical conven
ience and a genuine aid to economical management. In
the case of the Consolidated the device has been used for
The Consolidated reduced its rates in 1931 with a great
fanfare of trumpets, announcing a voluntary cut of
$6,000,000. Upon examination the gift horse appeared
not so attractive as advance notices indicated. Even after
the reduction, about 50 per cent of New York residential
users paid more for their electricity than they did in the
boom year of 1928. The new rates put a disproportion
ate burden upon the poorest users, taxing every customer
a one dollar monthly minimum. These rates in New York
are still inexcusably high. In Ontario under public owner
ship of the electric industry the customer's minimum
charge is 33 cents. For 100 kilowatt hours a month a
New Yorker pays $5.55 while residents of Toronto, even
after a 10 per cent allowance is made for the taxation of
a public plant, pay $1.73. Let the comparative figures for
small and large users in various American and Canadian
cities speak for themselves:
268 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
COMPARATIVE MONTHLY BILLS
40kwh. 100 kwh. 250 kwh. 500 kwh.
New York City 2.55 5.55 13.05 25.55
Toronto (adjusted 10% to
allow for taxes) ..... 1.13 1.73 3.23 5.73
Jamestown, N. Y 1.40 3.25 6.63 12.25
Los Angeles, Calif 1.92 3.42 6.82 11.82
Seattle, Wash 2.20 3.40 6.30 8.80
Washington, D. C 1.88 4.70 11.75 23.50
(Jamestown, Los Angeles and Seattle have publicly owned
Whether rates are reckoned comparatively or by cost
analyses we pay too much for electricity in New York
City. We pay approximately $19,000,000 a year more
than we need to in order to give the electric companies
a fair return for their capital. That means an average
excess charge of $12 a year for every domestic consumer
in New York.
If we judge New York's electric rates by the standards
of public ownership rather than the standards of conven
tional investment the overcharge is $17 a year for each of
the 1,600,000 domestic consumers of New York City. A
publicly owned and operated electric industry would not
need to pay more than 4 per cent interest to attract capi
tal in normal times, and this reduced interest rate would
save New York consumers $26,500,000 a year.
Under the present electric rate schedule the small light
users partially subsidize the large power users. The argu
ment was formerly made that these residential users
should bear the chief burden because they were respon
sible for the peak load (the largest amount of electricity
THE CONSUMER PAYS 269
needed at any one time) and this peak load forced the
companies to spend many millions for equipment adequate
to meet it. That argument does not hold to-day. The big
industrial users are responsible for the peak load that
demands great equipment and yet they are still favored in
the rates. The residential consumers with their steady
demand are the backbone of the trade, but they are still
discriminated against. It has been charged that the small
retail consumer who pays the maximum rates is actually
paying the entire cost of producing and distributing New
York's electrical energy and that if the system were run
on a non-profit basis, the current used by the big power
consumers could be given away. 1
Gas consumers are in the same plight as electricity con
sumers. The Brooklyn Union Gas Co., which serves 680,000
domestic consumers, has actually increased its rates for
small users in the middle of the depression (August,
1931). It is paying steadily 10 per cent dividends on a
stock capitalization that is forty per cent water.
Whenever the state Public Service Commission under
takes to reduce electric, gas, or telephone rates, the Con
solidated Gas or the New York Telephone Co. takes its
case to the courts, presents an array of experts to support
its claims, and appeals and appeals and appeals from all
adverse decisions. In March, 1932, the commission prac
tically admitted in accepting the new electric rate schedule
that it did so because of the hopelessness and expense of
fighting the Consolidated. When the commission grap
pled with the New York Telephone Co. in the last great
270 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
rate case 62,864 pages of testimony were taken with
4,323 exhibits in the first ten years.
The telephone monopoly is one of the most respectable
and efficient of our utilities. It spends enormous sums
in good-will advertising in the newspapers and magazines.
While its head, Walter S. Gifford, was chairman of the
President's Relief Organization it was revealed that the
New York Telephone Co. (owned entirely by the Ameri
can Telephone and Telegraph Co.) had given $233,000
to charitable causes in three years and charged it to operat
ing expenses, which means that the consumer would ulti
mately be asked to pay it. The company did not take
cheerfully the suggestion of one stockholder that all chari
table contributions should be taken from the company's
surplus, and when the Public Service Commission's chair
man asked it to do so the company refused. It took the
case to the courts where it is still in litigation.
At the present moment the telephone monopoly is mak
ing itself extremely unpopular by assessing all users of
hand-set telephones an extra charge of twenty-five cents a
month in perpetuity. In Washington, Baltimore and Vir
ginia other branches of the American Telephone & Tele
graph Co. allow their customers to pay $4 cash or $4.50
in twenty-five cent monthly installments for a hand-set
telephone, and then all extra charge is discontinued. The
difference between the New York and Washington
methods of charging means an extra payment of $8,540,-
000 in the next five years by New York's 813,000 users
of hand-set phones. Even if the company's own figures
THE CONSUMER PAYS 271
of the extra cost of the new hand-sets were accepted, the
cost of interest and amortization would be only 3 cents
a month. The telephone monopoly is skimming almost
$2,000,000 worth of extra cream each year from New
York consumers by its hand-set rates. 8
When the telephone company is faced with facts like
these it falls back for defense upon the conservative rul
ings of the courts. It maintains that the courts have given
it the legal right to receive a fair return upon its capital.
What is a fair return and what is capital? The answers
to those questions are so divergent that a corps of lawyers
and experts can quarrel over them ad infinitum for a
good price. The common-sense answer seems to be that
investors in a protected public monopoly even under the
ethics of capitalism should never be paid more than a fair
dividend on prudent investment. The courts, however,
have taken a "larger view" and have permitted the com
panies to reckon the reproduction cost of their present
equipment as an important factor in setting rates. Here
a whole world of guesses and hopes enters into the cal
culation of value.
The New York Telephone Co. in 1926 asked for an
8 per cent return on an intra-state valuation of 615 mil
lions. 3 According to the New York Public Service Com
mission that was an overvaluation of about 250 millions.
The rates asked by the company were 24 millions a year
higher than those suggested by the public body. The New
York Telephone Co. went to the most ludicrous extremes
in padding its valuation figures. Its own engineers had
272 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
estimated its fair value at 160 millions above the figure
of the Public Service Commission, but it was not satisfied.
It hired another group of utility engineers from Stone and
Webster who shoved the valuation up 106 millions more.
The difference in telephone rates based on these two esti
mates would be $7,400,000 a year for the telephone cus
tomers of New York State. And the cost of all this statis
tical juggling, which in the case of these two sets of
experts was one million dollars, and which in the case of
the whole rate fight of the telephone company totaled
over six millions, was added to the costs of operation and
must in the long run be paid by the consumer.
The telephone company denies that it ever has tried to
get a penny on watered stock or inflated estimates. The
Public Service Commission is relatively helpless to protect
the consumers in such a situation because neither the
Republican nor the Democratic Party is willing to support
an aggressive fight on the utilities, and because the com
panies can always appeal any adverse ruling to a reac
tionary court. Moreover the Public Service Commission is
undermanned and undersupplied with money so that it
cannot, even if it would, take an aggressive attitude
toward the utilities. Some of its members, notably George
R. Van Namee, who was political manager for Alfred E.
Smith, have taken an aggressive attitude in defense of the
utilities on almost every possible occasion. Chairman
Milo Maltbie and George R. Lunn, the fairly progressive
members of the commission, often find themselves out
THE CONSUMER PAYS 273
A similar situation in more acute form exists in the reg
ulation of transit lines. The city has had to fight through
every court in our judicial hierarchy to maintain a per
fectly obvious provision in our subway contracts for the
five-cent fare. Having defeated reactionary judges the city
must now engage in another long struggle to recapture its
subway lines at a fair price from traction interests that
have the support of a conservative regulatory body, the
State Transit Commission. (The Board of Transportation
appointed by the mayor builds subways ; the Transit Com
mission appointed by the governor regulates them.)
The moral of all these painful struggles is that when a
city surrenders its public utilities to private monopoly, its
troubles begin. The city and state had sense enough when
the Holland Vehicular Tunnel and the George Washing
ton Bridge were built to make them public enterprises
under the Port Authority, so that profiteering at the ex
pense of taxpayers was avoided. Would that our prede
cessors had had as much sense when they started the
The city after building nearly all the subways and part
of the elevated lines was foolish enough to turn over its
original system to several great corporations which are
now united in one combination under the chairmanship of
the B. M. T. head, Gerhard M. Dahl. The city put
$386,000,000 into the old systems while the traction inter
ests put in $325,000,000. In order to raise the $325,000,-
000 from private sources (the city was too close to the
legal debt limit then to borrow all the money itself)
274 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Mayor Gaynor signed the famous dual contracts in 1913
which turned over the transit system to the predecessors
of the present B. M. T. and Interborough on terms highly
favorable to the companies. The companies and the city
were supposed to get 8.7 per cent on their investment but
in practice the profits went to the companies.
They had prior claim to the interest on all investments
in the system except $2,650,000 annual interest on the in
vestment made by the city in the first subway. Aside from
this interest the city never received a nickel on its invest
ment until in 1929 the Interborough began paying inter
est. The B. M. T. has never paid the city a cent on its
investment and it is likely that the Interborough, having
gone into the hands of a receiver, will soon stop all inter
est payments except the obligatory $2,650,000 a year. The
system is $223,000,000 behind in its schedule of payments
due to the city but only $5,000,000 behind in its payments
to the private owners.
What a partnership ! The city pays for more than half
of the subways, gives the companies prior claim to almost
all payments, takes almost nothing in return for its invest
ment, and then is fought year by year in the courts by
company lawyers whose huge bills are charged to operat
ing expenses. The only thing that has made the situation
tolerable is this, that New Yorkers can ride 27 miles for
a nickel in the subway system if they are not smothered
or crushed by their fellow strap-hangers before the end of
We are paying the price now for the bad bargaining
THE CONSUMER PAYS 275
of Mayor Gaynor. He did not even force the companies
to contract for an intelligent plan of recapture by the city.
It is true that the city can buy back most of the subway
system by serving notice on the companies of its intention
to recapture and by paying them their total investment
plus 15 per cent minus an agreed annual deduction. But
this right of recapture is not inclusive of any one major
system of subways. In Manhattan the city can recapture
either the East Side subway or the West Side, but not both
at least not until 1963. It cannot recapture the elevated
lines at all for they have long-term franchises.
The incompleteness of the right of recapture gives the
companies the chance to make an expensive nuisance of
themselves by refusing to give up the non-recapturable
parts of the system unless the city pays a handsome price
for the whole. The city does not want an octopus with
some of its most useful legs cut off, especially since in this
case some of the legs might come to life independently.
Now, at last, the need of unifying all the transit lines
in the city has become acute because the new municipally
owned Eighth Avenue line must be coordinated with the
existing lines. There are three major problems involved:
how much shall the private investors in the B. M. T. and
Interborough get for their stock, how much fare shall the
passengers pay, and who shall run the unified system. We
believe that if the situation is properly handled by the city
the whole system can be unified under city operation with
out disturbing the five-cent fare. Thus far the city, the
State Transit Commission, and the companies have been
276 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
jockeying for position. Walker was obviously favorable
to unification under the B. M. T. but he dared not aban
don the five-cent fare voluntarily because of the tremen
dous loss in votes it would entail.
Also he had to reckon with Samuel Untermyer. Unter-
myer, however reactionary his political connections may
be, has been a terror to the B. M. T. and to the adminis
tration officials who are friendly to the B. M. T. Chair
man John H. Delaney of the Board of Transportation is
afraid of Untermyer 's scorching vocabulary and great per
sonal prestige. "The line-up of Mr. Delaney and the
B. M. T.," says Mr. Untermyer, "is just another Equitable
Bus experience on a vastly bigger scale."
The B. M. T. will not say exactly how much it expects
for its lines but at one time it was holding out for more
than $500,000,000. Untermyer sought to compromise
with the company by suggesting $489,000,000, although
he admitted that the estimate was many millions too high.
The company refused to negotiate on this basis and finally,
in December, 1931, the Transit Commission by a vote of
2 to 1 offered a plan that set a net price of $474,500,000.*
Nobody has accepted the plan yet. Untermyer declared
that the commission price was really more than $500,000,-
000 when all the company's obligations were reckoned in,
and he denounced the figure as fifty to seventy-five mil
lions too high.
It is easy to demonstrate that this $474,500,000 price is
too high, although the traction companies are still pre
tending that it is too low. The City Affairs Committee
THE CONSUMER PAYS 277
made a study in March, 1931, which set $420,000,000
as a fair price. Since then the decline in stock prices and
in the number of passengers makes $400,000,000 an
At the moment that the Transit Commission presented
its plan to the public it proposed to pay the traction com
bine $150,000,000 more than the market value of the
stock. The proposal meant a payment of $80 a share for
B. M. T. stock which in August, 1932, was selling for
$25, of $100 for B. M. T. preferred which was selling
for $61, and of $50 for Interborough stock which was
selling at $7. B Some of the most ludicrous exaggerations
of value crept into the estimate. The inventory included
773 wooden cars a generation old at $7,998 each, although
these cars probably cost about $9,500 originally, and some
of them have recently been sold for $100 to $350. For
almost obsolete elevated lines, some of which are actually
losing money, the traction combine was to receive
$70,000,000 more than cost less depreciation. This was a
high price even if the elevated lines had had a bright
Fortunately the recent scandals involving Walker, the
Equitable Coach Co. and the B. M. T. have frightened
some of the Tammany officials and there is hope of an
agreement on unification at a fair price. Speaking bluntly,
neither the Transit Commission nor the Board of Trans
portation as now constituted can be trusted to drive a fair
bargain for the city except through fear of a scandal if
they do not. The one good official that the public has had
278 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
to watch its interests in traction affairs, Charles C. Lock-
wood of the Transit Commission, has resigned to accept
a Supreme Court judgeship, sardonically enough as a part
of the notorious judicial deal for 12 judges engineered by
the Democratic and Republican bosses. Lockwood made
a brave fight against the domination of the Transit Com
mission by the B. M. T. but was uniformly outvoted by
his conservative colleagues William G. Fullen and Leon
In resigning Lockwood wrote a stinging attack upon his
colleagues' attempt to pay the B. M. T. half a billion
dollars for its interests. He said that the company had
already spent at least a million dollars for lawyers and
engineers to puff up its value for bargaining purposes.
"The prices and values of these properties," he said,
"seem to have gone higher and higher since 1929, while
the prices and values of about everything else in the world
have gone lower and lower." He estimated that under the
plan which Delaney and the conservative transit commis
sioners were trying to jam through, the city would pay
$37,000,000 each to the Interborough and B. M. T. in
excess of the estimates of original and reproduction cost
by the commission's own engineers. 6
The hope of getting municipal operation of a unified
subway system grows. Mr. Delaney has already indicated
a partial surrender on that point. The revelation of Mr.
Dahl's $675,000 bonus and salary in four years has indi
cated to the public where its money goes under private
operation 13,500,000 passengers could ride on that sum.
THE CONSUMER PAYS 279
The new arrangements for the municipal operation of the
Eighth Avenue subway are excellent, with experienced
engineers in charge at reasonable salaries, with higher
wages for the workers, and with the abolition of the
seven-day week. It is not likely that Tammany will dare
to risk a traction disaster by putting inexperienced favor
ites in responsible positions. Whatever petty favoritism
may exist it will be trivial compared to the parasitic
manipulations that have occurred and occur under B. M. T.
Meanwhile the transit battle of the century will not be
finished until it is decided whether we shall continue the
five-cent fare. 7 The struggle boils down to this: if all the
costs of construction are taken into account, the New
York passenger who pays a five-cent fare does not pay
for his ride. About three cents comes out of the taxpayer.
We believe that this sharing of subway costs by the tax
payer is perfectly just because the subways have added
billions of dollars of value to New York land, but in time
of depression the question rises whether the taxpayer
should still bear this burden, especially since a $50,000,-
000 annual outlay is involved in paying for the new
Eighth Avenue subway in a hurry. Mr. Delaney wants to
pay for the new subway quickly because it is much cheaper
to pay for it that way. It saves many millions in interest
rates that the city would otherwise have to pay on long-
term loans. The real estate interests are fighting the
Delaney plan bitterly because it means higher taxes now.
If they win, taxes will be reduced and we will have the
280 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
seven-cent fare. If Mr. Delaney wins, taxes will stay high
for a few more years, but the five-cent fare may continue
We believe that the Delaney plan is far sounder than
the plan of the real estate interests. These interests are
always willing to skim for themselves the heavy cream
that comes from rising land prices but when those land
prices begin to fall, they seek to push the burden of sub
way maintenance onto the strap-hanger. They fought and
defeated the plan to pay for the subways by special assess
ments on neighboring land, which plan would have saved
the city from its present financial embarrassment.
From the strap-hangers' point of view the elevated
trains are approximately as good as subways, but the tran
sit system has been submerged at tremendous expense to
the city so that it would not ruin the value of adjoining
property. The strap-hanger has a right to insist that a large
part of this added cost should come from such adjoining
For thousands of working people in New York, espe
cially in time of unemployment, a difference of three
cents in transit fare is a serious problem. Often it is the
difference between walking and riding. The life of the
working people has been built on the stable fact of the
five-cent fare. If the real estate interests have their way
the extra three cents paid by a passenger will go to
bankers and bondholders for increased interest on city
loans in order to relieve the present generation of tax
THE CONSUMER PAYS 281
Putting it mathematically, the real estate interests would
have us borrow money for the subways on fifty-year bonds
which means that for each dollar we get we must pay
$2.53 in interest and amortization. Mr. Delaney wishes
to pay for the subways in four-year bonds so that for each
dollar we spend we must pay $1.111 in interest and amor
tization. The difference in interest is the difference be
tween 11 per cent and 153 per cent. Mr. Delaney's scheme
is cheaper in the long run while the business men's scheme
will be $38,000,000 a year cheaper in the next few years.
If the Delaney plan is abandoned in favor of fifty-year
bonds the five-cent fare must be abandoned too because
the State Legislature has decreed that the New York sub
way system must be self-supporting and it could not be
self-supporting if we paid $2.53 for each dollar of sub
All of which reinforces what we said under the head of
the land racket. If the city had levied special assess
ments against adjacent land originally, the subways would
never have been a financial nightmare, and the gentlemen
who ride to work in limousines would not now be attack
ing the five-cent fare as uneconomical.
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY
OVER and over during this recital of the facts that are
known about New York's government to say nothing of
the facts that are suspected the reader must have been
tempted to cry: Why has New York loved Tammany so
long and so well? Why did a whole city take to its heart
a playboy mayor so completely that he won an overwhelm
ing victory at the polls in 1929 in spite of the vigorous
and well-grounded attacks of his Republican and Socialist
Whatever our final answer to these questions, neither
authors nor readers have any right to formulate it until we
have specifically considered some aspects of New York
City's life to which we have referred thus far only in
New York City, physically, is a monument to the might
of a machine age and to the crimes of capitalism. Artists
and architects may quarrel over the New York sky line,
city planners may well deplore the folly of concentrating
so great a population on the tip end of a narrow island,
but to the average layman that sky line is an outward and
visible sign of the power and glory of human achievement.
Neither height nor depth has deterred Man the Builder.
He has bored under great rivers on which can float the
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 283
commerce of the world; he has spanned them with bridges.
The traveler by rail enters the city through splendid tem
ples such as the ancients built for the worship of the gods.
And yet if he arrives at the Pennsylvania station by night,
he has to pick his way out of some of its underground
exits past sleeping men who have nowhere to lay their
heads except upon concrete steps. These men are workers,
some of them perchance the very workers who have built
the towers which lift the traveler's eye up to the night
and its stars. This is what the richest city in the world
has done to its most useful human beings.
In the dreary, man-made deserts of most of residential
New York men live not from love of noise and dirt and
ugliness but from necessity. That necessity is not the work,
primarily, of New York City's government or of Tam
many Hall. It is born of the capitalist system which turns
over land to the landlords and great industries to the profit
takers. The sins of Tammany are dwarfed when com
pared to the monumental injustice of that system with its
palaces and slums.
One despairs of giving halfway accurate figures on
wealth and poverty in New York in the depression of
1932. A conservative estimate of the number of unem
ployed, based on figures of factory employment and the
data of the Welfare Council, is one million. That is one-
third of all those gainfully employed. The needle trades
which are centered in New York are almost idle; build
ing is at a virtual standstill. Even the luxury of great
Babylon is less apparent than a few short years ago. But
284 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Fifth and Park Avenues still flaunt an opulence that one
would not think could exist less than half an hour away
from the poverty of Harlem and the rookeries of Sullivan
Street and Avenue C.
We shall, however, go back to the last year of the
golden epoch of vaunted prosperity 1929. In that year,
according to the State Department of Labor, the average
wage paid to men in city factories was $36.86 weekly. If
men worked 52 weeks a year that would mean an annual
wage of $1,917. But New York work, especially in the
needle trades, is highly seasonal. It is conservative to say
that for such workers a forty-two-week year is a good aver
age. That brings the annual average income to $1,547 for
factory workers. Below them are day laborers and semi-
casual workers. The estimate of the Housing Commission
in 1926 was that one-third of the families in New York
had incomes less than $1,500 annually.
The lowest official estimate in 1926 for the cost of
living was that made by the National Industrial Confer
ence Board, the employers' organization. It was $1,752
for a family of four supported by an industrial worker;
$1,907 for a family of five. Compare these figures with
the figures of income! Nor is this all. The Conference
Board figure, checked by figures of social workers, and by
the actual budget studies of the Heller Committee for
Research and Social Economics in San Francisco, was far
below a decent standard on rent, medical care, recreation
and savings. A truer estimate of a standard which would
allow for health, decency and a high school education for
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 285
the children would, in 1929, have fixed a level of $2,700
for a family of four $1,200 above the average income of
Since 1929 the average weekly wage has dropped ap
proximately 17 per cent for those still working. Living
costs have declined 17 Y 2 per cent. But it is notorious that
the chief burden of relief has fallen on the poor; that it
is the generosity of the poor to the poorer far more than
any organized charity or public relief which has averted
wholesale starvation. That unknown factor of sharing
which has saved life has terribly reduced the standard of
living. The gains of a decade in housing have been lost
by the enforced doubling up of families. Such in dry sta
tistical terms is the situation for workers in New York.
It means that men grope in garbage cans for extra food;
that babies swelter and die in the summer heat of the
It is hard to explain why New York labor has been so
docile in the face of these conditions and why it has been
so much less effective in party organization than European
labor. In England the working class grew in political
experience after 1832, while an aristocracy, which had
seen the democratic handwriting on the wall, gave the
government a leadership that was competent even though
selfish. Few labor leaders were drawn out of their class
because there were few prizes they could win in an upper
class. In America the prizes have been more abundant and
the desertions to the army of upper-class and lower-class
racketeering more common. There has been no disinter-
286 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
ested group to give us clean or efficient government, and
no homogeneous base for our democracy.
Our pioneer psychology and our scores of national
groups have complicated the situation in New York.
Millions of immigrants have taken New York only as a
place to pass through. Others have seen their village
habits and customs break up with such bewildering speed
that the second generation has little in common with the
first. Unfortunately the forces present in New York life
have not made for labor solidarity. Peasant groups have
come from many nations without labor background. By
the end of the nineteenth century New York had become
one of the largest Irish, Italian, German, and Greek cities
in the world. The religions and the languages were bases
of division. The tug of American bourgeois psychology
(what Hoover would call "individualism") was against
labor political solidarity.
We record these facts merely to show the difficulties in
building a politically-conscious labor movement in New
York, not to blame the sins of Tammany upon our for
eign population. Native-born Americans can play as dirty
politics as any immigrant group that ever came to New
York. Philadelphia, one of the most corrupt and ill-gov
erned of American cities, has always had a comparatively
low per cent of foreign born.
For the owning class New York City is still not only the
economic but the social capital, seat of the enormous con
centration of wealth in Wall Street and of fashion on
Fifth and Park Avenues. In 1929 New York with five
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 287
per cent of the population had 26 per cent of the mil
lionaires. In that same year an inquiry which one of the
authors of this book undertook to get some idea of the
upper range of rents the lower he knew elicited from
a woman realtor the information that a "ducky apartment"
could be had for $75,000. It is fair to say that $40,000
pent houses and $20,000 apartments under the roof were
more usual. To-day, while 200,000 New Yorkers are liv
ing on a relief allowance of about five cents a meal, the
restaurants and night clubs of the rich ask enough for a
meal to maintain a starving family for a week.
During the golden age of Calvin Coolidge the Park
Avenue Association did some boasting which Stuart Chase
put into an illuminating picture of how the upper half
lives or perhaps we should say the upper fortieth. Along
the avenue, it appeared, lived 3,000 to 4,000 millionaires
whose money was in many cases earned for them by coffee-
growers in Brazil, cattle men in Nevada, and miners in
Africa. They spent perhaps $280,000,000 a year. The
average family income was over $100,000 a year, enough
to keep a worker's family alive on its average wage for
66 years. One Park Avenue apartment boasted sixty mil
lionaires under a single roof.
How Thorstein Veblen would have relished these illus
trations for a new chapter on Conspicuous Waste! Park
Avenue found that it was extremely difficult to furnish an
apartment at all adequately for less than $100,000. Stuart
Chase tells of a single bathroom in jade and gold costing
288 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
A TALE OF TWO DINNERS
Monday, Sept. 19, 1932
Imported Caviar $2.50
Green Turtle .70
ROTIS (to order)
Long Island Duckling 5.00
New Peas .80
Calavo Alligator Pear (i/ 2 ) .65
Stewed Fresh Peaches
Hotel Pierre Special Coffee
New York City's Official Food
Budget for a Family of Five
for One Week.
Milk 7 bottles "B" $ .77
15 cans Evaporated 1.00
Bread 13 loaves .91
Oatmeal 1 box .08
Cornmeal 2 Ibs. .10
Macaroni 1 Ib. .08
Brown Rice box .15
Wheatsworth Cereal box .13
Flour 31/2 lbs - - 10
Potatoes 17 lbs. .25
Cabbage small .10
Onions 2 lbs. .12
Turnips iy 2 lbs. .10
Carrots 1 Ib. .05
Dried Lima Beans 1 Ib. .10
Green Split Peas i/ 2 Ib. .04
Tomatoes 2 cans .17
Kidney Beans 2 lbs. .16
Prunes 1 Ib. .05
Apples 3 lbs. .10
Oranges 7 .14
Stewing Lamb 2 lbs. .26
Cheese 1/2 Ib. .11
Eggs 1 doz. .25
Salmon 1 can .12
Butter 1 Ib. .29
Lard 2 lbs. .16
Salt Pork 1/ 2 Ib. .05
Sugar 5 lbs. .23
Coffee 1 Ib. .19
Molasses 1 can .14
Cocoa 1 box .10
Salt 1 sack .05
Matches 1 box .04
Soap 3 bars .10
Scouring Soap .06
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 289
And how Park Avenue adorned itself in those golden
days! Four thousand daughters of the rich spent annually
$21,000 apiece on clothes. Enraptured with the music of
the opera they invaded the boxes at the Metropolitan,
exposing their expensive backs. Outside of the opera door
hungry men stood watching. They still stand watching.
The Park Avenue Social Review advertised a sable coat
for $70,000 absolutely in the mode! The gracious leaders
of the charity set appeared at Beaux Arts balls in golden-
leaved dresses, all for the benefit of the poor. Mrs. So
and So gave a benefit performance on her Long Island
estate for vacations for the poor little children of the East
Side. Mrs. Graham Fair Vanderbilt spent a fortune in one
night and displayed to her delighted guests the entire cast
of Earl Carroll's Vanities. It was estimated that a good
coming-out party for a debutante of the social register
cost at least $20,000. Mrs. Paul Dubonnet, social arbiter,
gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times.
"On a $10,000 a year clothes budget a woman can easily
be nicely dressed if she buys no furs or jewels," Mrs.
Dubonnet said. "It costs a tremendous amount of money
to be among the best-dressed women in the world. Most
of these women spend at least $60,000 a year. ... A
decent sable wrap costs $50,000, and you simply can't get
a mink coat that you would wear under $12,000."
It is in this accepted contrast of wealth and poverty
that the real crimes and tragedies of New York are rooted.
What is most wrong with New York is capitalism near the
end of its epoch, not Tammany Hall. Indeed Tammany
290 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Hall can only be understood as one of the tools of capital
ism in dealing with masses of workers who must be man
aged because they have votes and who might use them to
claim real power if they were aroused by a sound politi
cal movement of their own.
Previous chapters have described the nature of the polit
ical machine, the sort of favors it renders and the basis of
its appeal to masses to whom it offers some sense of pro
tection and human power in the cruel jungle we call civi
lization. The condition of this appeal to the masses is, of
course, that they should not effectively take economic
power into their own hands. If Tammany is to be what
former Ambassador Gerard told the Harvard Club it was,
a bulwark against municipal socialism, it must keep alive
the illusion of friendship for the people and, at the sam<
time, cultivate among the workers an acceptance of the
inevitability of capitalism and its ethics. It must temper
the poverty of the city masses with bread and circuses and
Tammany does not so much rob the rich to give to the
poor as rob both rich and poor. Yet from another angle
it can hardly be said to rob the rich at all. It exacts only
a moderate commission for keeping the masses quiet ai
confirming landlords, bankers, public utility owners an<
the whole House of Have in their favored position. That
is why our repectable classes are so cautious and fearful
in their attacks on Tammany. That is why we do not know
of a single powerful millionaire in New York to-day who
is fighting Tammany aggressively.
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 291
Tammany's methods simply reflect the prevailing busi
ness ethics. The rule of capitalist business is to capture
as much unearned wealth as possible regardless of social
welfare. In politics that may be called graft but in busi
ness it is called the reward of sagacity. Wall Street has
charged the people of New York far more than Tammany
for its sagacity. Nothing that Judge Seabury has uncov
ered matches in the way of arrogant corruption the South
American loans, the oil scandals, or the amazing case of
Kreuger and Toll. No tin boxes have produced such magic
fortunes as the bonus Bethlehem Steel gave to its presi
dent, without knowledge of workers or stockholders. The
flaunting luxury of New York comes not from political
extortion but from the legalized extortion of a profit sys
tem that gives huge rewards to absentee owners and suc
cessful manipulators regardless of their service. The poli
ticians are weak imitations of the business men. The
estimable folk who want to keep high standards of public
service in city government without touching the basic eco
nomic wrongs of our time expect the unreasonable. An
electorate genuinely aware of the evil of all unearned
wealth would strike at Wall Street long before it reached
So general is the poison of the racketeering standard
in our civilization that it is hard to say how much cynicism
or consciousness of ill-doing is possessed by the individual
politician, business man, lawyer or gangster. Mayor
Walker, Sheriff Farley, Magistrate Silbermann, Al Capone,
and Harry Sinclair, when some measure of justice over-
292 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
took them, were probably sincere in thinking themselves
abused. Doubtless they felt that they had done what
everybody else would do in like circumstances. It is on
the whole a cause for some hope that there is as much
of a standard as there is of "public office as public trust."
That standard has been sorely battered by the impact upon
urban democracy of those who want for themselves things
that belong to society. Many a landlord seeking tax reduc
tion and many a public utility magnate seeking a franchise
has bribed the government whose venality he outwardly
deplores. Then he has told the world that corruption
would make socialism unworkable!
It is clear enough, on this view, that the remedy for
New York's ills in government as for the deeper ills of
mankind in these years of crisis is a change in system.
Social revolution is the ultimate social reform, not neces
sarily a revolution of violence but a thorough reconstruc
tion of the control of our lives. City government under
capitalism can be improved but it cannot be wholly re
leased from that exploiting class which uses it as a tool.
Of course no city under our scheme of things can change
a social order by itself. We need an international move
ment for that.
What municipal socialism can do in New York we shall
suggest more fully in our final chapter. Here we would
point out the impotence of the conventional good govern
ment movement to capture the imagination of the elector
ate or reach its deep-seated ills. We need a greater vision
and a practicable plan to make exploited workers see that
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 293
they can win for themselves infinitely more than any
friendly district leader can give them.
We shall be better able to consider the task and possi
bilities of municipal socialism in this city of riches and
poverty if we examine briefly two aspects of Tammany's
relation to the working masses which conclusively show
how it uses its power to divert their attention from funda
First, let us discuss Tammany and organized labor.
New York city workers are better organized than in most
American cities. The building and printing and needle
trades are, or were up to the depression, sufficiently organ
ized to exert a high degree of power over hours, wages
and working conditions. The story of the rise of the
needle trade workers by organization out of their most
wretched sweat-shop condition is one of the most heroic
chapters in American history. Also that story is an illus
tration of the limitations of labor unionism in so capital
istic an environment as ours where the contagion of the
racketeering spirit spreads to all sections of society.
Our concern, however, is with the relation of Tammany
and its city government to the workers, organized and
unorganized. In a word, these relations are eminently
"practical." Tammany in cosmopolitan New York in
order to survive has had to acquire a capacity for racial
and national tolerance and inclusiveness. It has always
had to be at the farthest pole from snobbishness or the
high-hat manner. Its voting strength is among the masses.
Hence Tammany and Tammany's government have been a
294 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
little quicker than some other political machines to yield
well before the breaking point on certain measures of
social amelioration. Tammany has seen the wisdom of
having a "liberal" labor policy which has become more
liberal in proportion to Socialist pressure.
In public work Tammany's government has been less
tight-minded and sadistic than the government in some
coal, steel and textile regions. It has been wise enough
not to get an anti-labor reputation, but always hard-boiled
in suppressing "the radicals." The strutting Grover
Whalen was not led to resign as police commissioner be
cause of his stupid and brutal handling of strikes and
Communist demonstrations, but because he crowded
Jimmy Walker from the spotlight. His successor, Com
missioner Mulrooney, has done a better job because he is
a "practical cop," not because of any theories on civil
liberties or the rights of labor. Every great strike in New
York sees plenty of jailing of peaceful pickets. Workers,
accordingly, do not trust for protection to the justice of
their cause but to the influence they can get by "practical"
means. Tammany is always ready for business, ready to
grant justice from the police for political support. The
justice is needed by radicals and conservatives alike and
there are many ways of paying for it. Arnold Rothstein,
according to indications, was probably a "fixer" with
police and magistrates in the Communist-led fur and
cloak makers' strikes of several years ago.
Tammany's great tie, however, is not with the workers
as workers but with a certain type of labor leader. So
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 295
far has this tie-up gone that we have heard a prominent
labor man declare privately in a burst of candor that "the
Central Trades and Labor Council (dominated by these
labor leaders) was Tammany first and labor afterwards."
This council scarcely makes a pretense of nonpartisanship
in its endorsements. A Tammany candidate would have
to be caught red-handed in blacklisting labor not to be
endorsed. Joseph P. Ryan, president of the Central Trades
and Labor Council, has been Mayor Walker's stanchest
defender. He was one of the only two citizens who ap
proved the salary grab which raised the pay of members
of the Board of Estimate after the depression began. He
publicly advised the mayor to ignore the socialist recom
mendations for unemployment relief in 1930. For this it
is said that Mr. Ryan has had his reward in certain valu
able extra-legal privileges. Some of his predecessors and
associates have got jobs. Ex-Sheriff Farley got his start
as business agent of the Cement and Concrete Workers
Union. J. P. Holland was called from the presidency of
the State Federation to a well-paid post on the malodorous
Board of Standards and Appeals. Leadership in the typo
graphical union helped John H. Delaney's rise to the
chairmanship of the Board of Transportation where his
real ability and industry are subordinated to orders from
the Hall. Other leaders get less conspicuous favors.
What the workers got and get is something very differ
ent. In 1926 Mayor Walker used both force and mislead
ing promises to help break the exceedingly well justified
strike of the subway workers on the Interborough. Then
296 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
he approved a bill, or rather agreed to forego claims
against the company on behalf of the city, which included
$1,600,000 spent for strike breaking and anti-union
All through his administration, as through Hylan's, the
city avoided paying the prevailing rate of wages required
by law to carpenters, painters and others on jobs done
for the city under contract. It continued the vicious
padrone system of hiring help in public schools and the
exploitation of firemen in city schools who work 10 and
12 hours a day. It lifted not one finger to help the 25,000
subway and bus employees who work seven days a week
on jobs over which the city has at least some indirect con
trol. No provision against such work on the new 8th
Avenue subway or on the bus routes was made or even
suggested by Tammany or by the labor leaders themselves
until Socialists and the City Affairs Committee had made
it an issue before the Board of Estimate. Meanwhile
"fixers" waxed fat on labor cases in magistrates' courts.
Tammany's record on unemployment is equally "prac
tical." The richest city in the world has made a pitiful
showing on unemployment relief. This we say without
denying that in a national emergency like ours the federal
government with its power of credit and currency and its
power to tax incomes and inheritances over the entire
country has a responsibility for providing means for un
employment relief greater than the city's. The city is
handicapped by limitations on its power to tax. But this
should not free the city government of responsibility, espe-
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 297
dally in a crisis. The whole policy of the Walker admin
istration toward unemployment relief was that of casual
and reluctant generosity under pressure. The poor were
supposed to cry loudly and long, and then perhaps City
Hall would listen.
The first coherent and practicable program for unem
ployment relief for the city was presented by Louis Wald-
man and Norman Thomas in behalf of the Socialist Party
and a number of labor unions in March, 1930. It was
thrown out by the mayor on the plea that under state law
the city could spend no money for "outdoor relief" except
for the veterans and the blind. Repeatedly Socialists called
attention to the fact that the city did have such power
under Section 404 of the laws of 1919. Morris Hillquit
supported this position in a notable argument before the
Board of Estimate. It was finally upheld by the Attorney
General of the State. But Mayor Walker on the basis of
an opinion of his corporation counsel an opinion that no
one has ever been able to find in written form held that
no such power existed and finally acted on the basis of
special legislation procured from the Legislature. All that
the city did for the first year and a half of the great depres
sion was to collect a fund from its employees under pres
sure and belatedly open a few municipal employment
bureaus long after they had been demanded by socialists
and civic reformers.
Actual direct appropriations for work relief from the
city did not begin until April, 1931, and for home relief
until January, 1932, the third winter of the depression.
298 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
From then on even the conservative Welfare Council
fought earnestly for more adequate appropriations be
cause the situation was getting out of hand. Private char
ity was wholly inadequate to meet the need. In the fall of
1931, 125,000 families in America's capital of wealth
were in need and could get no relief from city or private
charity. The mayor's heart bled for the unemployed but
they continued to starve. Why there were no more riots
we do not understand. A mayor getting $40,000 a year
was allowed to use the poverty of the taxpayers as an
obstacle to adequate relief. All taxpayers, it appeared,
were small home owners! The enormous unearned incre
ment of landlords in good years was wholly forgotten.
To make a long and painful story short, under pressure
of bitter events, Communist demonstrations, detailed and
practicable socialist demands and pleading from the Wel
fare Council and other groups, the city did increase its
gifts. Somehow the unemployed pulled through, although
the hospitals were overtaxed with those whom worry and
undernourishment had laid low. But the lesson of the
winter of 1932 did not penetrate Tammany skulls. In the
worst months of the whole depression up to that time, the
spring of 1932, the city home relief stations stopped regis
tering the names of hungry people who came to apply for
aid. At that time new families in distress had been regis
tering at the rate of 5,000 a week, the private agencies
had stopped taking new cases, and the city had cut its
allowance for work relief from $15 to $10 a week.
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 299
How does a family live in New York on $10 a week? If
that question seems difficult it might be well to relieve
the brain by asking: How does a family live in New York
on nothing at all? For many thousand families in New
York this last year the only answer has been begging and
slow starvation. The city's great bankers and Controller
Berry put a damper on city aid by their warnings about
increasing the budget. The precaution was quite unnec
essary since the city could have borrowed millions on good
terms if the fervor of Liberty loan campaigns had been
reproduced. The plain truth was that New York's upper
class never was half so much concerned about starving
babies in city tenements in 1932 as it was about starving
babies in Belgium in 1917. The notorious Block-Aid plan
created a tremendous ballyhoo and a pretense that the
situation could be met by private charity. The Social
ist Committee on Unemployment authorized Norman
Thomas to support the plan in a radio address largely
because it believed that some money for the starving was
better than no money, but the drive was almost futile,
raising only $1,300,000 after a campaign that obscured
the real picture of inadequate aid.
Now, as we approach the fourth winter of depression
the situation is more desperate than ever. Henry J. Ros-
ner of the City Affairs Committee sums up the crisis by
saying that we must have $6,000,000 a month for unem
ployment relief while the city is appropriating only
$3,000,000. The 50,000 families receiving home relief
300 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
from the city are trying to live on $1 a day, and the
33,000 families who have work relief must live on $1.50
a day. Outside of the pale there are at least 50,000 fami
lies in desperate need who are getting no relief at all.
As Mr. Rosner points out, this situation could be met
by a perfectly simple and direct plan. The city could pro
vide the necessary $6,000,000 a month for unemployment
relief by selling five-year unemployment bonds to its own
sinking fund at a low interest rate, and the cost to the
taxpayer would not be more than 2 per cent of the city
budget in 1933, and 4 per cent in 1934. New York has
the money; it is simply a question whether the unem
ployed will get it by riots or legislation.
Meanwhile, the record of the last three years has dem
onstrated how hollow is the claim of Tammany that it is
a friend of the poor as a class. It owes its "popularity"
among the poor to the fact that it rewards certain chosen
leaders of labor who betray their class for personal gain.
It distributes food baskets and work tickets from district
headquarters in return for votes. It is practical, always
practical, never disturbing the balance of power between
rich and poor, and so winning support or tacit acceptance
from the rich because it teaches the poor to stay in their
place. It can always beat the "good government" groups
in appealing to the poor because those groups have no
economic vision of the way government can be used to
give security to workers. In fact for the workers the
average "good government" movement with its anxious
taxpayers pleading for economy offers no relief from star-
THE CITY OF RICHES AND POVERTY 301
vation. These business-men reformers do not impress the
workers as being really interested in their fate. Why
change from Tammany with its occasional food baskets to
budget commissions of realtors? Why indeed bother
about civic reform when the question is: When do I eat?
THE CITY MANAGER AND PROPORTIONAL
ASK the average good citizen who concerns himself
with municipal affairs what he thinks is the most con
structive thing to do in the war against Tammany and
nine times out of ten he will tell you: "Install the city
manager plan." Ask him just what the city manager plan
is and what it may mean for New York and the chances
are that his reply will be a bit vague, but probably he will
tell you, correctly enough, that the city manager plan
means that under it the voters elect a council which in
turn chooses an efficient executive as administrative boss
of the city government, leaving questions of policy for the
council to determine. The mayor, if there is a mayor, is
only chief among equals on the council, a presiding officer
who usually takes over the ceremonial side of the work
of a chief magistrate the luncheons, corner stone layings,
reception of more or less distinguished visitors and similar
activities which absorbed so many of the Hon. Jimmy
Walker's working hours and which he so adorned. Mean
while the city manager, a trained official, can attend to
business, relatively immune from politics and politicians.
Theoretically there is much to be said for the plan. It
THE CITY MANAGER 303
makes the business of being a city executive something of
a career to which earnest and ambitious youth may look
forward without the uncertainty and dread which attend
the vicissitudes of modern politics. The city's chief execu
tive officer can attend to business without the distractions
of campaigning. Presumably he will have been chosen
for an executive capacity which does not always charac
terize the man who can win the support of the dominant
city organization and the approval of a majority of his
fellow citizens. Deeds will count more than honeyed
words and performance more than wise cracks. This effi
ciency, those who still care for democracy may argue, is
not purchased at the price of democracy. The council,
the policy forming body, is democratically elected. In
deed, it may be claimed the city manager plan is a happy
solution of the necessary marriage of trained ability in
administration to popular choice of the policies under
which we are to be governed, without which political
democracy is doomed. Nevertheless emotionally a good
deal of the enthusiasm for the city manager plan in New
York springs less from the desire to make democracy effec
tive than from the desire to obtain that efficient dictator
for whom so many sons and daughters of the American
Revolution now yearn.
Practically, the city manager plan has to its credit rea
sonable success in small and medium-sized American cities
some 400 of which now enjoy its benefit, conspicuous
success in the large city of Cincinnati, no success in Kan
sas City, and not enough success in Cleveland, the largest
304 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
city in which it has been tried, to hold popular favor. On
the basis of all this is the city manager plan the way out
for New York, or even an important part of the way out?
If so, under what conditions is it likely to be effective?
There is a danger that Tammany's almost certain oppo
sition to any city manager plan will persuade some earnest
souls that what Tammany hates or fears they must love.
It by no means follows that, because Tammany would
prefer to let well enough alone and would regard the
change to a city manager plan as the kind of reform
which would damage its prestige, therefore the adoption
of the city manager plan would be the beginning of the
end of Tammany. Very much to the contrary, any form
of the city manager plan under which the council was not
elected by proportional representation would in the long
run be more easily manipulated by Tammany and its allied
organizations than the present mayor and board of esti
mate form of government. The easiest thing Tammany
now does is to keep the Board of Aldermen in the boss'
or bosses' vest pocket. Generally the citizens pay no atten
tion to the qualities and records of minor candidates for
office. New York has a voting population of three million
of whom about one-third stay away from every election
and about one-half from minor elections.
To a lover of New York nothing is more discouraging
than an off-year municipal election when no mayor or
other important city- wide official is to be chosen. In 1931,
for instance, not even the Seabury inquiry could shake off
the apathy of an off-year election, to which newspapers
THE CITY MANAGER 305
and public gave only perfunctory and routine attention.
That was the year when in three of the five counties
Supreme Court justiceships were coolly bartered between
the Democratic politicians and their Republican boy
friends without effective protest. Tammany was far less
put to it that year and educational discussion of the city's
needs was far less heeded than in the mayoralty cam
paign of 1929 before there was a Seabury inquiry. If in
1931 a mayor had been elected, no doubt Tammany would
have won, but not by so wide a margin. Unquestionably
a vigorous candidate for mayor, even if defeated, would
have carried a few of his supporters into minor offices.
As it was, Tammany elected every alderman but one and
made a clean sweep of almost all other offices.
The plain truth is that for better or worse the American
electorate as a whole is psychologically attuned to the
presidential, not the parliamentary form of government.
It personalizes issues. One man may arouse it; a dozen
or a score in different districts cannot. If the triumph of
the council and city manager plan in so many cities seems
to disprove or weaken this generalization it does not fol
low that there would be similar success in New York
City. The immense size of the city, its local divisions, its
well-developed regionalism, its lack of homogenity, make
it peculiarly necessary that its form of government and
manner of election campaign should make it easy to con
centrate the attention of the electorate on a responsible
official. This would be far harder to do in New York in
the election of a council than of the mayor and board of
306 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
estimate. With election of the council by proportional
representation the advantages of the plan might make it
worth trying. Of this more later. But the election of a
council by plurality votes, whether by districts as the alder
men are elected now, or by city-wide vote, would make it
easier, not harder, for the political machines, once the
first ardor of reform had passed, to perpetuate their
power. Responsibility in the eyes of the average voter
would be diffused rather than concentrated.
Nor is the case for the city manager plan any city
manager plan strengthened when one examines what it
has accomplished or the particular weaknesses of the pres
ent situation in New York.
Here are two cities in the same state: Cincinnati and
Cleveland. Both had city manager plans. In Cincinnati
the plan has thus far been very successful; in Cleveland
its most loyal friends could claim for it only a modest
degree of success and in 1931 the city reverted to the
mayor and council form of government. Cincinnati is
politically speaking far less progressive than Cleveland in
national politics, and Cincinnati unlike Cleveland never
had a Tom Johnson interlude of intelligent and mod
erately successful municipal radicalism! On the contrary,
it was one of the worst boss-ridden cities in the country.
Perhaps the very shame of Cincinnati's plight prompted
its municipal awakening! The chief difference, however,
between Cincinnati and Cleveland was this: in Cincinnati
the city manager plan was the achievement of the so-called
charter group or party which did not disband after it had
THE CITY MANAGER 307
carried its new charter but continues to this day as an
active, well-organized municipal party which has been
fortunate in the quality of the men and women it has
attracted and peculiarly wise and fortunate in the men its
council has chosen as city manager particularly the pres
ent incumbent, C. A. Dykstra.
In Cleveland, on the other hand, the old party machines
had no such organized opposition. They did business at
the old stand. A city manager declared publicly that he
could carry on only by apportioning patronage 60-40
between the Republican and Democratic organizations.
Nor were the two city managers in Cleveland's experience
any outstanding proof that under this plan one gets abler
executives than under popular elections. The home of
Tom Johnson, yes, even of Newton D. Baker, has had
mayors fully up to the standard of its city managers. Un
der these circumstances the failure of the city to continue
the city manager plan was, if not a triumph for good gov
ernment, at least not a victory for the powers of darkness.
It most certainly was a warning to city manager zealots
that a plan without a party to carry it out is a vain
This conclusion is ten times strengthened by an exam
ination of New York's needs. New York City does not
suffer primarily because of the incompetence of its high
executives. Take the mayors during the 20th century:
McClellan, Gaynor, Mitchell, Hylan, Walker. With the
exception of Hylan any one of them was able enough to
fill the post quite as able as the average city manager.
308 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Even Walker had the ability if he had cared to use it. All
of them in varying degree were subject to political pres
sure. If they were men of courage they could stand out
against such pressure better with an independent mandate
than could the manager for a Tammany council.
Let us go a step farther: New York does not suffer pri
marily from incompetence or even from structural faults
in its governmental system. Of the latter there are plenty
but they are minor faults. The charter should be simpli
fied, superfluous officers should be eliminated, the counties
should be consolidated and so should most of the admin
istrative functions of the borough president's offices. These
things should be done with or without a city manager
plan. They are not done or have not heretofore been done
precisely because the present arrangement gives the poli
ticians more jobs. They get a good brokerage fee for dis
charging their primary function as brokers between the
masses with a vote and the classes with power and privi
lege. It is from this source that most of our municipal
On the whole the structure of the Board of Estimate
and the various departments is excellent. There is a good
deal of routine competence in New York City's govern
ment. With all its faults, its budget is more honest and
more illuminating to its citizens than most great corpora
tion reports to stockholders. And by great corporations
we do not refer merely to Dahl and the B. M. T., the
Bank of United States, or Insull's house-of -cards holding
THE CITY MANAGER 302
Where New York goes wrong is in the underlying ar
rangements: to whom does the government belong, what
ends does it serve, what is its policy? Its scandals arise
out of the attempt to carry over the profit ethics of busi
ness into government. Behind every significant abuse un
covered by Judge Seabury, and some not uncovered, is the
demand of some organized special privilege for power and
profit. Sometimes that special privilege is illegal, an un
derworld racket, but the most costly rackets are in them
selves legalized. Landlords want low taxes and great con
demnation awards, privately owned public utilities want
franchises that are gold mines, and so it goes. New York
could have efficient administration in the ordinary narrow
sense of the term without disturbing any of the real
sources of exploitation of the toiling producers and
Since the great problem is to capture the government
for the service of these workers with hand and brain the
vital question becomes one of policy. Our aim should be
to use government as an instrument of economic service
and the redistribution of wealth. We should visualize the
city hall as the center of municipal socialized ownership
of those public utilities that now make some rich at the
expense of workers and consumers. That means a direct
conflict with the real estate and other property interests
who conceive of government as a nuisance, a burden, or
an ally in exploitation.
No city manager worth his salt could do a significant
piece of work in New York without challenging the pri-
310 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
vate utility and real estate interests. If he tried to carry
out efficiently and honestly a policy concerning wages and
hours o city workers, the right to organize, methods of
unemployment relief and taxation, he would find himself
blocked completely by both old parties. And if he de
sired to be what every great executive must be, a shaper
of policy, he would probably go farthest with a direct
mandate from the electorate.
At a conference on political problems an outstanding
American historian remarked that in the small city where
he lived there was a fairly satisfactory city manager plan
in operation but that when all was said and done its chief
use was that the real estate and public utility interests got
almost what they wanted more cheaply than when they
had to pay illegal graft! New York City can hardly be
roused to so inglorious an achievement as that!
The real thing that some cities have which New York
needs is not the city manager plan but proportional repre
sentation. It might be worth trying the city manager plan
if by some psychological quirk or practical turn of politics
it was tied up to proportional representation.
Our present single-member district plan of electing
aldermen has the practical effect of disfranchising all
minorities. If the Democrats by using the office-holders
in each district as a machine can win a plurality of ten
votes in every district in the city, the Board of Aldermen
is 100 per cent Democratic. In the election of 1931 the
Democrats polled 65 per cent of the votes and elected
98.5 per cent of the aldermen 64 out of 65. Under
THE CITY MANAGER 311
proportional representation this is what would have hap
Party Votes Cast under P. R.
Democratic 851,216 (65%+) 42
Republican 339,020 (25.9%+) 17
Socialist 110,254 (8.4% + ) 6
Others 8,773 (.7%)
As a matter of fact under proportional representation
the Socialists and Republicans might well have had a
majority because hundreds of thousands who stayed away
from the polls would have voted if they had had any hope
of electing a candidate. Less than half the eligible voters
went to the polls in that election.
When we speak of proportional representation we refer
to the Hare system of the single transferable vote. Under
this system a voter who is voting for five members of a
city council, for example, puts the figure 1 in front of
his first choice, the figure 2 in front of his second choice,
and so on. If there were 100,000 votes cast and 5 were
to be elected, the * 'quota" for electing any one man would
be 20,000. The voters would vote by boroughs instead
of small districts, so if the minority parties could con
centrate on one man enough to get 20,000 votes for him
in the whole borough, he would be elected.
This end is accomplished under proportional represen
tation by the system of transferring votes. When a voter
votes for one candidate as his first choice and that candi
date is elected without counting his vote, or hopelessly
312 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
defeated, then the voter's second choice is counted. Under
proportional representation no primaries are held and no
party labels are put on the ballot. Candidates are nomi
nated by a petition signed by a certain number of voters.
The effect of the voting according to choices is to give
each party or group representation on the council in pro
portion to its vote.
This system of proportional representation is simple for
the voter but difficult and complex for purposes of count
ing. The result of an election in New York would not be
known for several days after the vote. Hence the machine
politicians attempt to misrepresent the idea as unwork
able, whereas it has been successful in thousands of elec
tions throughout the world and it offers no great difficul
ties to a set of independent experts who could be hired to
supervise the count.
Under proportional representation minority parties could
nominate their strongest men and put forward their
strongest programs. There would be genuine, wholesome
and constructive opposition in governmental bodies. More
over there could be a certain sort of cooperation against
Tammany which would not require the impossible and
wholly undesirable attempt to bring Socialists and other
radicals together with nondescript reformers who do not
accept the Socialist platform.
On no other terms is effective action against Tammany
possible. Every politician and political writer knows it,
but proportional representation cannot be realized for
New York without legislation at Albany giving the city
THE CITY MANAGER 313
the chance to revise its charter and install this system. For
that right all good citizens must fight if they wish to throw
off the Tammany yoke.
One thing more besides proportional representation,
Cincinnati also possesses which New York needs. That
is a permanent party interested in good government. But
New York needs and we suspect that Cincinnati will
soon find that she needs a party not confined to the mu
nicipality or to avowedly municipal affairs. As we have
repeatedly pointed out, no program for using city gov
ernment as the real servant of the people can get far with
out going to the state legislature. Even if the nature of
American constitutional systems did not make this true,
it would be true that there is no logic or compelling power
in a good government appeal to the masses which does not
require community control over the private corporations
which now exploit them. That means in the long run
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE
IN the first chapter of this book we asked the question:
Are investigations worth while? We answered the ques
tion affirmatively with the tremendous qualification that
in our present society no mere investigation of inefficiency
or corruption could go to the deep roots of misery in that
amazing jumble of splendor and squalor, luxury and pov
erty, which is New York. The city of the future requires
more than house cleaning; it requires a new house.
Now, what of that future? How shall the house be
Properly to answer the question, or even to try to answer
it, would require another and different book than this.
We should have to consider the work of the city planners,
the monumental report on regional planning of the com
mittee which the Russell Sage Foundation set up, Lewis
Mumford's criticisms of it, Frank Lloyd Wright's drastic
prophecies of the end of cities, and a host of other
material, German, French and English. Some things in
harmony with the scope of this book we shall point out.
The city of the future, if it makes use of the skill now
available, can be a city of order, convenience, and beauty
such as no amount of individual wealth can buy for its
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 315
possessors in our present jungle. Planning for such a city
in physical terms is obviously a regional rather than an
urban problem. In such planning for New York, we are
handicapped by a governmental structure and a state divi
sion which long antedated modern New York. A regional
plan for New York, involving as it must the three states
of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and 436 local
government authorities, will be no easy matter to carry
out. Evidently the whole problem of effective govern
ment for such areas will have to be reconsidered with an
eye to the changes wrought by the machine age. If we
were commissioned by a Socialist government of the
United States to establish governmental efficiency in the
New York region we would erase the state lines that now
surround New York City altogether and create a new
unit with half of the overlapping machinery of govern
Until such obvious common sense overcomes present
inertia such an instrument as the Port Authority of New
York is the best example of regional administrative ma
chinery that may create cooperation between states. We
may soon come to an official planning commission set up
by agreement between New York, New Jersey and Con
necticut and guiding by expert advice the physical develop
ment of the New York area. Certainly we cannot satis
factorily trust to chance or to purely selfish interests the
solution of the problems of parks, breathing spaces, food
and water. The water supply for New York City has al
ready been a matter of controversy not only between the
316 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
counties and towns in New York State but also with Penn
More difficult even than the physical problems of the
city of the future are the economic problems involved.
On the whole the Russell Sage Foundation planners
evaded the landlord issue. They simply accepted the exist
ing economic order, landlordism and all. How you can
accept it and get a city worthy of the love and pride of
free citizens we cannot see. There are things that can be
done, for instance, about the essential process of land con
demnation which we have pointed out, but how can we or
our children afford to build even such a modest improve
ment on New York as the Sage Foundation planners de
sire, if the right of absentee owners to rental values on
land goes virtually unchallenged? Those rental values
were created by society and must be reclaimed by society.
And how can any city by itself be anything but an ameli-
oriative agency in relieving a poverty that is rooted in an
international order of society?
Our communist friends would answer that question by
saying that almost all attempts to build a new city are
fruitless except through a social revolution. We share the
communist's scepticism concerning the adequacy of ordi
nary civic reform, but does it follow therefore that there
is no use in doing anything until we can do everything?
Is no minor change for the better in the quality and extent
of New York City's service to its people worth the effort?
We think that it is. Properly to arouse New York requires
the inspiration of a great challenge and a great ideal, but
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 317
that ideal cannot be put on ice or otherwise conserved for
one great revolutionary moment. A community utterly
incapable of moral indignation against the sort of thing
that has been set forth in this book will not suddenly dis
close a capacity for effective action in some great moment
of crisis. Fathers and mothers taught to endure with
cynical complacency the kind of housing, the police meth
ods, and the gangs of New York which combine to invite
their children into a life of crime are very poor builders
of some future cooperative commonwealth.
Of course preparation of even the most tentative pro
gram for a future New York brings home to the authors,
as it must to the readers, the limitations inherent in a
decrepit and dying economic order. It is hopeless to build
the city of the future as we would want it within the con
fines of the lunatic world that a dying capitalism gives us.
The city and the social order must be changed together.
The program for the city must be part of a larger program
of social change. And experience has shown that this
municipal socialism is vital in itself and in addition is an
excellent education for the larger international task. In
Europe and in such American cities as Milwaukee and
Reading the workers have found an admirable field for
experience and experiment, not to mention their very
solid accomplishments in civic reconstruction. With all
the limitations on our cities, city government, and espe
cially New York's city government touches daily life, as
we have seen, more intimately than any other govern
mental agency. There is no loss or diversion of energy,
318 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
then, in formulating a plan and fighting for municipal
socialism as part of the general campaign for a new social
What is more important just now for the city of the
future than static plans or blue prints of its streets is
dynamic power directed on right lines to achieve it. We
need first of all the awakening of a vivid consciousness
among the apathetic masses that there can be a city which
would do more collectively for all the great company of
workers of hand and brain than any "boss" can do for
them individually. Next, we need a general policy and a
program for immediate advance. Finally we need definite
organization of a party to carry it out.
A policy for the New York of the future might be
stated thus: (l) organize the city governmental machine
so far as possible without waste, favoritism, or inefficiency;
(2) let the people through their government own and
operate the great natural economic monopolies without
private profit or special privilege; (3) let the workers of
hand and brain share in the control of those monopolies.
In practice such a policy means first the complete reor
ganization of New York City's government to eliminate
every chair-warmer and political favorite, every superflu
ous bureau and parasitic nephew. Then it means the im
mense expansion of the government to include the owner
ship and control of the industries of electric power, gas,
subways, telephone, buses, and at least some housing. No
man could prophesy the exact limits or the exact sequence
of such a program. It would depend largely on the devel-
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 319
opment of a national socialist movement. It would de
velop step by step as the collective activities of the city
have already developed schools, fire departments,
museums, traffic police, ferries, road building, hospitals.
For many of these changes we have already sketched a
program in the preceding chapters. Let us recapitulate a
little, fill in some gaps, and comment as we go along.
1. Structural and administrative changes. County lines
should be abolished within the city, some county offices
eliminated and others consolidated. There should be one
district attorney's office with the necessary bureaus and
district branches rather than five. Now criminals can
dodge around the five counties. This device was one of
several to which men involved in the milk scandals some
years ago resorted in order to escape full justice.
The administrative work of the borough presidents'
offices, notably the building and highway bureaus, should
also be consolidated into city departments. This would
not automatically cure the inefficiency and graft rampant
in them, but it would permit centralized planning and
make more difficult the pressure of local politics.
There should be a scientific study of the entire city
administration looking to the elimination of purely politi
cal jobs and a dollar's worth of work for a dollar's pay.
On the face of it in such departments as Health and Hos
pitals the work of experts is starved while political
deputies of no technical or administrative competence
draw big salaries.
The city manager plan and our doubts concerning it we
320 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
have already discussed. Emphatically there should be pro
portional representation. To accomplish this and the other
structural changes necessary the citizens of New York of
all political faiths must unite to get new power from the
legislature to rewrite their own charter. The revision of
the home rule act is the necessary first step.
2. Election machinery. New Yorkers are entitled to
more information on the conduct of their government.
During election campaigns, the city radio station should
be open impartially at stated times for a constructive state
ment of the platforms and purposes of the different
The present general dishonesty of elections requires
machinery that will automatically print the totals on the
voting machines or photograph the backs of them for offi
cial records. It might also help the situation to stiffen the
law on assistance to voters, and possibly to impose civil
service tests on election officials. Only a strongly organ
ized party, not controlled by Tammany, as the Republican
machine is controlled, can use the necessary pressure to
end election frauds.
3. Police and courts. Here again what is wrong lies too
deep for change by law or administrative fiat. We do not
believe that power over the police should be taken from
the mayor as some have suggested. The police commis
sioner, however, might well be regarded as a permanent
administrative official, to be removed only by the mayor
for cause, which cause should include a failure to carry
out the program as to police methods adopted by the re-
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 321
sponsible city executive. The third degree might be
checked to some extent by providing for immediate ex
amination of the prisoner before a designated investigat
ing magistrate, as we have already suggested, and a sys
tem of Public Defenders should be established immedi
ately for all poor defendants.
As to the courts, we know of no panacea either by elec
tion or appointment of judges. Approval of magistrates
or municipal court judicial nominations by bar associa
tions means next to nothing as these associations are
among the chief sinners in regard to the low standard of
legal ethics and practise. Public ownership of the bail-
bond business would help the poorer victims of shyster
lawyers and the police.
4. Social services. New York's penal institutions and
her almshouse on the ironically misnamed Welfare Island
in the East River are a disgrace. They should be removed
to a region not so needed for a public park and not so
available to the drug trade which seems according to
reports of former inmates to flourish in the prisons under
high political protection despite the vigilance of Commis
sioner Patterson, one of the best of the Walker cabinet.
The trouble with other departments like Health, Hos
pitals and Sanitation, as we have indicated, is not that we
do not have in them some expert and loyal servants, but
that they and their service are starved while political
office holders fatten. In these social services the require
ment is efficient administration of one branch of what
should be a great cooperative community.
322 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Unemployment relief we have already discussed. The
principal initiative in large scale relief, public works, and
the five day week belongs to the federal and state gov
ernment. The city under present conditions should in
crease its appropriation, keep politics out of the relief
picture, and push public works, including a housing pro
5. Public utilities. Subway lines should be unified under
public operation. The general plan should include the
correlation of city owned and operated bus lines. Opera
tion should be under boards which give the users of the
service the majority control, but with representation also
for different categories of workers.
In connection with providing power for subways the
city should also provide itself and its citizens with elec
tricity at cost to break the strangle hold of the electric
and gas monopoly with its outrageous charges, and when
experience in public operation had been gained the city
could buy out the electric and gas monopolies at a price
that included no watered values and pay for them with
municipal bonds yielding a low interest.
Milk should be declared a public utility and its distribu
tion should be taken over by a stated municipal corpora
tion working in conjunction with bona fide farmers' co
operatives. Only so can the outrageous spread between
farmers and transportation companies and the ultimate
consumer be prevented. Few things cost the public more
than the control of the milk situation by two great hold
ing companies whose competition rarely reduces prices to
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 323
consumers or raises them for farmers, but simply adds to
the evils of private monopoly the costs of competing
agents and milk wagons.
6. Housing and taxation. Public housing, as we have
already argued, is the only answer to slums, tenements and
their evil consequences. The best plan in the present
emergency would be to set up a public housing depart
ment which could borrow from the federal government
for large-scale housing operations at the same rate that
the government borrows. Limited dividend companies
which pay six per cent on invested capital invested capi
tal under the housing law must be one-third of the total;
the other two-thirds can be raised by mortgage cannot
and will not provide homes for the workers who need
them most. Housing, moreover, must be related to parks,
playgrounds, transportation, and above all taxation pol
icies of the city.
The city's principal tax dependence could be a tax to
expropriate the rental value of land not the improve
ments on the land. Thus the city in behalf of society
would become the landlord. Taxation should be shifted
to this basis within a decade. The state may also make
allowances to the city from income and inheritance taxes
for specific purposes during a transitional period.
7. Education. New York's public schools have a cum
bersome, bureaucratic management which is shot through
with all kinds of politics, not excluding ecclesiastical pol
itics. Its highest executives are usually mediocrities, and
Chamber of Commerce ideals predominate. In spite of
324 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
some devoted teachers, the system grinds out robots and
Babbitts. Again the spirit and ideals of the system are
more important than structural and administrative changes
in achieving the city of the future. The thing that is the
matter with our schools is the blight of Tammany control
and no perfection of educational machinery can overcome
We can imagine some gentle reader who has just
scanned this program looking up in surprise and asking:
"But how about graft? You have just written a book in
which you have piled instance upon instance of ineffi
ciency and corruption in New York's government, and
now you propose to give to that corrupt government more
and more power over our lives." Yes and no. We propose
to give more power to city government but not to a Tam
many government. What is much more important, we
propose to take away from speculative business the pri
vate profit which now causes corruption in city politics.
Look back over this book and you will see what we
have repeatedly emphasized, that the money which buys
politicians comes from private profiteers who have bus
franchises to buy, transit stock to manipulate, and well-
located land to sell. If the city owned the franchises, the
transit stock, and the land, the pool of profits that now
buys the politician would be taken away. The socialist
answer to graft is not to clap the grafter into jail, although
a socialist government would punish grafters ruthlessly,
but to remove the spoils from private exploitation.
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE 325
If there were no Equitable bus franchise to give out
it would pay nobody to supply a very generous letter of
credit to a city official. If there were no unearned profits
to be made out of an advance tip on land there would not
be the immense graft connected with condemnation pro
ceedings. Graft in connection with the Dock Department
arises not primarily from building the docks but from rent
ing them. New York's marvelous publicly owned and
operated water system has been far freer from scandal
than has been the relation of the city to privately owned
gas and electric supply.
This is not to argue that municipal or any other kind of
socialism will automatically end all graft. There is no
political machinery which gluttons, fools and cowards can
drive with perfect safety. But socialism by the new point
of view which it inculcates and its steady destruction of
opportunities to make immense unearned private profits
strikes a mortal blow at the racketeering spirit which cor
rupts both government and business to-day.
All of which makes it doubly clear that what New York
needs is a program for regeneration that is part of a
national program. Few of the major reforms we have
suggested could be accomplished against the opposition
of reactionary state and federal governments. It should
be even more obvious that the things that matter most to
the workers cannot be attained by mere good govern
ment. No good government program in our memory has
ever gone to fundamentals or promised exploited workers
anything to shake them loose from their dependence of
326 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
fear and favor on the district leader. The Mitchell fusion
government had certain administrative virtues which it
failed to capitalize in the minds of the voters. It had no
program at all to break the grip of public utilities or milk
companies or to conquer slums. Is it any wonder that
masses of workers were indifferent to it and would not
have continued it even if its end had not been compli
cated by the passions of the World War?
The city of the future, if it is to be a city of beauty and
well being, will be part of a cooperative commonwealth
in which all our great productive powers are dedicated
to the needs of men rather than to the profits of absentee
owners. And to dream that there will be cities or urban
areas in which man's collective power will combine with
nature to give him comfort and beauty is not Utopian.
The collective control of our cities is increasing year by
year. Our schools and libraries, our improved public
health service, such cooperative houses as those that the
Amalgamated Clothing Workers have built, the marvel
ous park system of Westchester, the state park board on
Long Island, especially at Jones Beach, and the work of
the Port Authority of New York these things are not
Utopian. They are joyous realities. Other great cities can
show other successful experiments in cooperative economic
government. When we have made it generally possible
to expand this work all along the line in every city in
America then the social revolution will be assured. To
make that possible is the inescapable debt we owe to
CITY PROBLEMS AND INVESTIGATION CURES
1 Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, by William L. Riordan.
2 We are indebted to Werner's excellent book for much of the mate
rial in this chapter, including the quotation from H. G. Wells.
8 See Current History, November, 1928, article by D. T. Lynch.
* My Forty Years in New York, by Charles H. Parkhurst.
5 Werner, p. 335, from Mazet Investigation, Vol. I, p. 336 ff.
HOW NEW YORK'S GOVERNMENT WORKS
1 Harvard Graduate's Magazine, March, 1930.
2 Joseph McGoldrick's article, "The New Tammany," in the Ameri
can Mercury of September, 1928, is, in our opinion, the best description
ever written of the operations of Tammany Hall.
3 See the 1932 report of the Executive Committee of the Civil Service
Reform Association for the full corrected list which was largely reprinted
in the New York Times of May 18, 1932.
* McGoldrick, supra.
5 See paragraph 11, Section IX of Rule V of the rules of the
Municipal Civil Service Commission.
THE NEW TAMMANY AND THE TIN BOX BRIGADE
1 Testimony of the Joint Legislative Investigating Committee, p.
1034. Hereafter this will be referred to as Seabury Minutes.
2 Intermediate Report to Samuel H. Hofstadter of Samuel Seabury
as counsel to the Joint Legislative Investigating Committee, dated Janu
ary 25, 1932, p. 127, hereafter referred to as Intermediate Report.
3 Intermediate Report, p. 196 and Exhibit B, 15.
328 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
4 An open letter to Mayor Walker from the City Affairs Committee
on the Board of Standards and Appeals, July 19, 1931.
5 Intermediate Report, p. 13 ff.
ibid., p. 51.
7 This and the subsequent quotation are from an article by Dennis
Tilden Lynch in the Herald-Tribune, July 17, 1932.
8 Intermediate Report, p. 94.
MORE TIN BOXES
1 Seabury Minutes, p. 1162ff.
* The Seabury charges against Mayor Walker, p. 19.
8 New York Times, June 2, 1932.
JUSTICES AND THE LAW
1 Seabury Minutes, p. 2435 ff.
8 Final Report of the Page Commission, New York State Assembly,
Document 54, April 4, 1910.
3 New York Times, Oct. 6, 1930.
THE SHAME OF THE COURTS
1 Final report of Samuel Seabury to the Appellate Division, First
Judicial Department, March 28, 1932, p. 31.
* Ibid., p. 35.
8 Ibid., p. 48.
* Quoted in the Brooklyn Eagle, May 19, 1925.
THE LOWER WORLD OF THE LAW
1 Report on Lawlessness and Law Enforcement of the National Com
mission on Law Observance and Enforcement (Wickersham Commis
sion) No. 11, p. 86.
2 New York Sun, July 28, 1932.
3 P. 242. Quoted in Wickersham report, p. 92.
* Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Annual Report
of the Committee on Criminal Courts, Law and Procedure for 1927-28.
B See that excellent book "Our Lawless Police," by Ernest Jerome
6 Wickersham report, p. 95.
7 New York Times, August 28, 1932.
8 Seabury Magistrates' report, p. 96.
9 Ibid, p. 87.
10 Ibid, p. 109.
ROOSEVELT AND TAMMANY
1 New York Herald-Tribune, January 8, 1932.
2 New York Times, July 15, 1929.
3 New York Times, November 2, 1930.
* New York Times, April 2, 1932.
CITY STREETS AT A BARGAIN
1 Report of Controller Berry on the Proposed Contracts for Bus
Franchises in the Boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, October 9, 1931,
2 See "The Truth About Queens Bus Franchises," a pamphlet pub
lished by the City Affairs Committee.
8 Poor's Manual of Public Utilities, p. 504 jff., and the original reports
of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company on file with the New York Transit
* The history of the capitalization of the present street-car system is
taken from a report by Corporation Counsel William P. Burr, based
upon an investigation made by the Board of Estimate in 1919, approved
by the Board, and embodied in the minutes of May 20, 1921.
RACKETEERING IN LAND
1 A valuable discussion of land values in New York with statistical
tables is contained in Land Values in New York in Relation to Transit
Facilities, by E. H. Spengler, Columbia University Press. A general
discussion is contained in the Regional Plan of New York and Its
330 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
2 New York Times, September 23, 1930.
8 This whole story is outlined in the report of Leonard Wallstein
as Special Corporation Counsel on Land Condemnation, January, 1932,
p. 22 ff.
*lbid., p. 24, 26, 27.
B New York Evening Post, October 15, 1930.
6 The Finances and Financial Administration of New York City,
1928, p. Ivi.
7 This system is permitted by Chapter 603 of the Laws of New
York of 1926.
8 Spengler, supra, p. 128.
HOUSING HUMAN BEINGS
1 Louis H. Pink, The New Day in Housing.
a For an excellent discussion of recent developments see Recent
Trends in American Housing, by Edith Elmer Wood.
8 "Anticipations," quoted by Grosvenor Atterbury in Regional Survey
of New York, Vol. VI.
THE CONSUMER PAYS
1 Brief filed by the Community Councils with the New York Public
Service Commission in Case 6367.
2 Petition of the City Affairs Committee to the New York Public
8 Report of New York State on Revision of the Public Service Com
mission Law, 1930, Vol. I. These and the following facts are taken from
the minority report, p. 265 ff.
*The plan was outlined in The Times of December 21, 1931.
6 Based on Untermyer's analysis, The Times, September 27, 1931,
and stock market quotations of August 18, 1932.
* The Times, January 1, 1932.
7 An excellent summary of the whole transit unification problem was
written for The Times of March 6, 1932, by Harold Phelps Stokes.
A CALENDAR OF SCANDALS DURING THE
(We acknowledge with gratitude the fact that this cal
endar is based in fact and partially in language upon that
invaluable guide to current events, The New York Times
Index. We have, however, condensed many items from the
index for purposes of brevity, and in a number of places we
have frankly interpreted facts in our own language, so The
Times should not be held responsible for opinions. Where
several events in sequence are grouped together under one
date, the date chosen is that of the earliest event.)
October 21: Walker praises Tammany's records in dra
matic speech at rally at Tammany Hall; vows clean city.
November 15: Walker in radio speech at Miami says
Southern women and children may visit New York with
safety in his administration.
December 9: Walker says Olvany will settle patronage
disputes throughout city.
January 2: Walker urges reorganization of city government
and simplification in inaugural speech.
January 6: Judge O. A. Rosalsky says crooks will have no
chance under Walker government.
332 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
January 6: Patrolman Brennan kills S. Kranin in station
house while intoxicated.
January 9- 112 arrested on gambling charges; formation
of squad by Police Inspector Lahey indicates means of check
ing up action by district inspectors.
January 11: Magistrate Vitale frees 30 arrested in raid on
Oriona Social Club on ground of illegal arrest; Magistrate
Glatzmyer frees 41 of 44 taken in pool-room raids.
January 13: Democrats in Board of Aldermen defeat
efforts to put Mrs. Pratt, only Republican, on important
January 13: President McKee introduces custom of having
Board of Aldermen business session opened with prayer.
January 13: Walker pledges rule for people's interests,
with no politics.
January 25: Courts free over 200 taken in raids on Trilby
Inn, Amex Dist. Dem. Club and Elmore Social Club, Inc.,
for lack of evidence.
January 29: Leonard Wallstein, counsel for Citizens
Union, asks New York State Supreme Court to block former
Commissioner Enright's pension on charge that former
Mayor Hylan granted it in violation of home rule act. Pension
January 31: Mclaughlin scores handling of welfare and
contingent fund, organized by Enright for emergency aid to
policemen; investigation shows that badges for honorary
officials, European trips of officers to study conditions, ex
penses of sessions of international police conference, salary
of E. E. Hart as publicity man, fees of A. Honiger for teach
ing "Eye Language," T. R. Gaines for teaching breathing
and other expenses came from fund.
February 6: Walker opposes, as against principle, pro
posal to transfer some authority of New York City Standards
and Appeals Board to State Public Service Commission.
February 25: Police Commissioner Warren says city has
lost $500,000 already in street cleaning graft and figure may
March 2: Automobile Graft Twenty summonses issued
in investigation of Attorney J. I. Cuff of forgery and bribery
in Brooklyn Traffic Court, involving two members of motor
cycle squad and many motorists; rubber stamps with fac
simile signatures of judges used and motorists paid from
$10 to $30 to have cases dropped.
March 6: Citizens Committee appears before Board of
Education to ask restriction of size of high schools to 2,000
pupils each; Pres. G. J. Ryan says it would be too expensive.
March 16: Mayor Walker describes bad condition of
Bellevue psychopathic ward to Committee of Whole of
Board of Estimate; says money for new buildings should be
spent on it; will make personal survey of city hospital con
ditions. (The Bellevue psychopathic pavilion was not voted
until three years later.)
April 3: Patrolmen J. Feit, P. Murray and J. Alutto placed
on trial in graft and bribery case connected with snow re
moval. Convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to three
months in workhouse.
April 14: Walker rises early to ride horse, Cedar King,
in Central Park.
April 27: Supreme Court Justice Proskauer, in Citizens
Union suit against granting ex-Mayor Hylan's pension, holds
pension void, rules home rule amendment grants city no
power in matter of pensions. Sustained by Court of Appeals.
May 19: Brutality New York County Lawyers Assn.
complains to Commissioner Mclaughlin and District Attor
ney Banton of third degree methods; McLaughlin reported
to have replied, approving "strong arm" methods in such
May 20: Gambling and vice Police raid Tammy Central
334 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
Club, Democratic organization of 12th Assembly District,
for second time in three days; 35 arrested but freed in night
May 22: Application of American Civil Liberties Union
for use of Stuyvesant High School for free speech meeting
denied by Board of Education. Denial approved by patriotic
societies and State Chamber of Commerce.
June 10: Walker tells newspaper men he favors putting
buses on streets of city as soon as possible.
June 12: Controller Berry writes letter to Mayor Walker
charging him with habitual tardiness at the Board of Estimate
meetings. This was six months after he had taken office.
June 14: Walker names 472 persons to city planning and
June 22: Harris suspends three inspectors of the Food and
Truck Bureau as result of investigation into adulteration of
August 7: Mayor Walker appoints Judge C. H. Kelby to
head centralized investigation of milk graft covering five
August 31: Harry C. Perry Democratic Club, Tammany
organization of Second Assembly District, raided.
September 6: Reports that Tammany is annoyed by raids
on district clubs by Commissioner McLaughlin, Governor
Smith's appointee, with resultant resentment to Smith.
September 18: Controller Berry's report on passenger cars
used by divisions of city government, exclusive of policy,
fire and street cleaning vehicles, puts expense in 1926 at
over $3,000,000; calls it factor in budget increase.
October 27: Freedom of thought Teachers Union cites
records of J. W. Hughan, R. G. Hardy and A. Lefkowitz in
charge of discrimination in promotion, due to personal views
on public questions. Superintendent O'Shea says public
opinion backs refusal to promote three radical teachers.
October 27: W. G. Krane urges high school teachers' asso
ciation of New York City to "enroll as Democrats but vote
as you please."
December 7: Controller Berry refuses to authorize payment
of $3,500 for scrolls, badges and other items in connection
with welcomes to crown prince and princess of Sweden and
of crew of President Roosevelt; scores "bad English" of
December 8: W. Bernard Vause, Brooklyn judge, urges
grand jury to show no Christmas leniency toward criminals.
January 6: Women's night court of Brooklyn condemned
as unfit by New York State Prisons Commission.
February 11: Schieffelin says that Governor Smith evades
duty in milk graft prosecution in deference to G. W.
February 20: Ex-Mayor Hylan bets E. F. Foley that Walker
will not pose for picture at Palm Beach; loses.
March 31: Commissioner Harris declares millions of dol
lars' worth of bootleg cream was smuggled into city during
season of scarcity.
May 24: Walker in speech at Institutional Synagogue,
New York City, says he is "pro- Jewish Gentile."
July 1: Dr. William H. Walker threatened with loss of
post on medical board of New York City Board of education
for failing to take required civil service tests.
July 21: Conviction of T. J. Clougher on graft charge
upheld in court of appeals.
July 29: Bus franchise awarded to Equitable Coach Co.;
Service Transportation Corp. and Tompkins Bus Corp. also
get franchises; Walker signed contract August 9 and sailed
for Europe August 10 with $10,000 letter of credit arranged
by J. Allen Smith of Equitable.
336 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
August 10: Kelby in report to Mayor Walker shows evi
dence of graft in food inspection division of Health Depart
ment prior to present administration in 148 criminal cases
sent to district attorneys in four counties.
August 17: Mrs. R. B. Pratt demands ousting of C. L.
Kohler, budget director and former secretary of Health De
partment, as result of graft expose; Citizens Union assails
his record, calls Kelby inquiry a fiasco. Kohler still in.
December 16: Harvey submits charges concerning Queens
sewers to Governor; Governor Smith appoints Scudder head
of inquiry. Max Steuer defends Connolly. Shearn later
May 6: W. J. Lougheed voluntarily offers affidavits charg
ing huge graft in connection with alleged padding of pay
rolls of temporary employees.
May 15: Investigator for Commissioner of Accounts Hig-
gins uncovers thefts in Manhattan and Brooklyn; Lougheed
and three others plead not guilty. Lougheed later pleads
May 29: Assistant District Attorney Ryan charges $2,600
of $3,390 weekly went to "dummies" on street cleaning
June 9: Oswald found guilty of grand larceny in street
cleaning case; McGee acquitted.
June 1 6: Taylor dismisses three in snow graft case.
July 4: J. M. Phillips, alleged head of Queens ring, dies
while under indictment for graft.
July 11: A. Courtney, W. McClutchy, B. Barone, A.
Casenza and E. Dunnegan convicted of payroll padding in
street cleaning scandal.
July 17: State Socialist Party asks Governor Smith to in
vestigate administration; makes 11 charges. Smith declines
to grant inquiry.
July 22: Commissioner of Health Harris resigns as result
of lack of cooperation from mayor in cleaning up health
September 3: W. L. D'Olier, president of Sanitary Corpo
ration, regarded as important witness in forthcoming prose
cutions, found dead of shot; police uncertain of suicide.
September 28: Grand jury returns murder verdict in
October 18: Connolly and Seely found guilty; former
October 19: Connolly at Welfare Island.
November 6: Arnold Rothstein murdered.
December 14: Warren resigns as police commissioner.
Grover Whalen appointed.
February 1: W. Schroeder assumes office as commissioner
of hospitals, and appoints Cadley and Fay as deputies.
February 4: Women's City Club report scores lateness in
opening magistrates' courts.
February 12: City Trust Co. doors closed.
March 14: Annual police parade revived by Commissioner
March 16: G. W. Olvany resigns as Tammany leader.
Governor Roosevelt praises Olvany 's service.
March 28: F. Brieger resigns from Harvey cabinet;
charges borough president caters to politicians.
March 29: Whole official legislative program of New
York City slaughtered.
March 29-' L. G. Godley of Transit Commission rejects
Equitable plan on funds and company will lose franchise.
April 24: Curry elected Tammany leader; defeats E. J.
Ahearn, in whose favor McCue resigns; old Tammany idea
victorious; Mayor Walker becomes dominating force; influ
ence of Smith and Foley regarded as destroyed.
338 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
May 12: Mrs. M. Sullivan, leader of raid on Birth Con
trol Clinical Research Bureau, demoted by Whalen.
September 28: La Guardia declares Magistrate A. H.
Vitale received loan from Rothstein. Thomas scores Vitale.
October 4: Walker pays surprise visit to Tammany
Hall; reaffirms fealty; promises to follow leadership of J. F.
October 10: General Sessions Judge Mancuso resigns from
bench in City Trust Co. case.
October 11: Supreme Court Justice T. C. T. Crain, Demo
cratic nominee for district attorney, says powers of office
will not lie dormant if he wins.
October 12: Mancuso, Frederico Ferrari, A. Di Paola,
I. Siegeltuch, L. Rose, S. Soraci and F. S. Paterno indicted
on charges of violating penal law relating to misconduct of
directors of moneyed corporations.
October 16: Alfred E. Smith appeals for reelection of
Walker on his record.
October 18: Amadeo A. Bertini appointed to fill Judge
Mancuso' s place until January 1; later refused to waive
immunity before grand jury. Died March 2, 1931.
October 19: Central Trades and Labor Council endorses
T. M. Farley, Democrat, for sheriff.
October 26: Thomas makes public report on school con
struction, prepared by Cooperative and Constructive School
Survey in 1924; says Walker has ignored findings.
October 30: J. P. Ryan, president, Central Trades and
Labor Council, says labor is for Walker; only "red" group
backs La Guardia.
November 2: More than 100 indicted on charge of
November 6: Walker elected by 497,165 plurality; hails
vote as vindication.
November 6: Jury finds Frank H. Warder, former state
bank superintendent, guilty of accepting $10,000 bribe while
Superintendent of Banks in City Trust case; sentenced to 5
to 10 years in Sing Sing.
December 6: Judge Nott directs jury to acquit McManus
of the murder of Arnold Rothstein.
December 17: Resolution fixes mayor's salary at $40,000,
controller's at $35,000 and president of Board of Alder
men at $25,000, offered by Harvey. Harvey denies seeking
Democratic favor by measure.
February 16: Bar Association asks removal of Vitale.
March 7: One hundred injured in riot of Communists in
Union Square. Thomas, Civil Liberties Union, and others
protest police brutality. Thomas presents petition for
Whalen's removal March 17th.
March 13: Vitale continues testimony, admitting he made
$165,000 in 4 years while on bench and that he had $125,-
000 when he got loan from Rothstein.
March 14: Vitale removed by Appellate Division on
account of Rothstein loan.
April 22: Governor Roosevelt vetoes bill to transfer cus
tody of registration books from election inspectors to police.
May 7: W. Vause indicted on charge of using mails to
defraud. Also indicted for perjury by Federal grand jury
on testimony relating to fees for pier leases. Guilty on 13
counts, sentenced to 6 years in Atlanta.
May 12: U. S. Attorney Tuttle subpoenas income tax re
turns of Doyle and investigates bank accounts; extensive
May 14: Discovered that Dock Commissioner Cosgrove
has filed no report since 1926, though annual accounting is
340 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
May 21: Whalen resigns as Police Commissioner. E. P.
May 22: Citizens Union opposes appointment of J. F.
Geraghty as commissioner of licenses; cites criticism of de
partment during his previous administration. N. Thomas
charges him with leniency toward private employment
June 10: Judge W. B. Vause resigns from bench.
June 11: Civil Service Reform Association charges viola
tion of law in paying salaries to Dr. W. H. Walker, R. E.
Walsh and 8 clerks in Brooklyn Municipal Court.
June 21: Roosevelt rejects Socialist Party's plea for
June 27: Chairman Walsh of Board of Standards and
Appeals indicted by New York County grand jury on charge
of accepting gratuity while holding public office, and by
Federal grand jury for failure to file income tax return for
1929. Resigns as chairman. Acquitted.
August 5: Witness testifies to Federal grand jury that
George F. Ewald paid $12,000 to be a magistrate.
August 17: Association of Bar of City of New York asks
Governor Roosevelt to investigate charges of corruption in
appointments of magistrates; S. S. Wise and Norman
Thomas also appeal.
August 21: Doyle cleared of perjury charge, jury dis
agrees on tax evasion.
August 23: Budget calls for 10 additional sergeants-at-
arms for Board of Aldermen; positions pay $2,280 a year
and require services of employees only 1 day a week.
August 24: Roosevelt drops idea of city-wide inquiry.
August 26: Appellate Division votes to investigate magis
trate's court in Manhattan and Bronx; Thomas calls investi
gation ludicrously inadequate.
September 18: Ewald and Healy refuse to waive immunity;
grand jury examines their bank accounts; Ewald, wife and
September 24: Seabury and Kresel get wide powers to
September 25: J. F. Curry and C. H. Kohler and other
Tammany leaders refuse to waive immunity; Mrs. Healy
refuses to be sworn.
September 29: Governor Roosevelt in letter to Mayor
Walker asks that Tammany men testify; mayor promises to
demand that aides answer questions.
October 4: Seven Tammany leaders to waive immunity
partially; Special Prosecutor H. C. Todd objects to limi
tation to official acts only and rejects offer because office-
buying is excluded.
October 5: Roosevelt acquiesces in Tammany leaders' de
cision and C. H. Tuttle charges Roosevelt with attempting
to bury investigation by limiting immunity waivers to official
October 6: Tammany lawyers back J. F. Curry's stand on
refusing to sign immunity waiver.
October 7: Roosevelt, in letter, refuses to authorize wide
investigation of courts.
October 8: Roosevelt refuses* to make public files relating
to appointment of Bertini.
October 13: City Affairs Committee reports enormous
wastes in condemnation of school sites.
October 18: Board of Estimate votes $40,000 for inquiry
into past and present condemnation proceedings, to be con
ducted by Leonard Wallstein.
October 28: Roosevelt says allegations of wholesale corrup
tion are made for partisan purposes.
November 4: H. Riegelman charges that 35,000 have
registered fraudulently in New York County.
November 25: Appellate Division opens public hearings
342 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
on magistrates court; J. C. Weston, former process server,
exposes vice ring of bribery, graft and corruption in Women's
November 26: At Appellate Division hearings girl tells
how she was "framed" in Women's Court vice ring; wit
nesses tell of Magistrate Silbermann's alleged favoritism on
bench; bail bond "racketeering" revealed.
December 4: Acuna identifies 13 policemen as "framers"
in vice cases; girl victims testify at Appellate Division hear
ing; cost of "ring" to taxpayers estimated at $50,000 to
December 10: Magistrate McQuade resigns as Seabury
moves to investigate his conduct on bench.
December 12: Bank of United States closes.
January 7: Magistrate Goodman resigns under fire; pleads
January 17: Magistrate Simpson resigns as he faces
January 23: Ewald case ends in dismissals.
January 31: Magistrate Brodsky cleared of any wrong
February 8: Forty witnesses in vice frame-ups vanish.
February 11: Isidor Kresel resigns as special counsel in
Appellate Division inquiry because of indictment (later
acquitted) as director of Bank of United States.
February 25: Levey tells of speakeasy graft collected by
Quinlivan and O'Connor; got $40 a day as collector.
February 26: Walker's administration defended by Harvey.
February 27: Roosevelt signs bill providing contingent
fund for investigation.
February 28: Appellate Division of Second Department
opposes extension of court inquiry to Brooklyn, Queens and
February 28: Jean Norris got $1,000 for testimonial ad;
admits to Seabury it was unethical; admits convicting women
on unsupported word of policemen.
March 8: Governor Roosevelt, in reply to charges by City
Club, says he will order investigation of District Attorney's
office; appoints Seabury to head investigation.
March 18: City Affairs Committee files formal charges
against Mayor Walker.
March 24: Roosevelt sends copy of charges to Walker with
request for reply.
March 24: Legislature puts through resolution providing
for general inquiry into New York City affairs with Seabury
as counsel of legislative committee.
March 26: Tammany warns Roosevelt that it will con
sider it an unfriendly act if he refers charges against Walker
to legislative investigating committee. (Roosevelt did not.)
April 12: Borough President Harvey orders public hearing
on charges of City Affairs Committee against Klein, Queens
superintendent of highways.
April 17: Mayor's Committee recommends abolition of
Board of Standards and Appeals and substitution of 2 units.
(Nothing was ever done about it.)
April 20: City Affairs Committee asks Roosevelt for oppor
tunity to file rebuttal.
April 21: Walker files answer to City Affairs Committee's
April 22: Holmes and Wise characterize Walker's reply as
reckless and superficial; ask governor to preside at trial of
mayor, or appoint commissioner.
April 22: District Attorney Crain says he was satisfied with
his own investigation of courts.
344 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
April 26: F. Brieger files charges against Harvey in third
plea for action by governor.
April 29: Roosevelt dismisses City Affairs Committee
charges against Walker; rejects rebuttal plea.
April 29: Board of Estimate votes to grant franchise to
Brooklyn Bus Corp. for 20 lines, 17 Brooklyn and 3 Queens,
and Mayor Walker signs franchise.
May 2: Slot machine profit $20,000,000 inquiry shows;
witnesses describe organized system.
May 16: Supreme Court Justice MacCrate accuses Queens
Borough officials of assisting New York Air Terminal, Inc.,
to close part of Old Bowery Road, public highway, for de
velopment of air field.
May 17: Testimony suit in New York Air Terminal, Inc.,
reveals that L. Halleran, brother of J. J. Halleran, received
$10,000 fee for airport deal; Commissioner Halleran ex
May 26: Irving Klein and F. H. Shepheard indicted on
bribery charges; Klein dismissed from post as superintendent
of Queens Highway Bureau. Both acquitted but Klein later
convicted on separate indictment.
May 28: M. Mager, Queens politician, indicted on charge
of having conspired with Klein; not convicted.
June 9: Attorney General Bennett orders investigation of
stock selling methods of New York Airport, Inc. Borough
President Harvey and Commissioner J. J. Halleran are
June 9: As result of fight against tentative awards in
Rockaway Beach condemnation case, city saves $4,459,643;
L. M. Wallstein receives $160,000 fee for service.
June 16: Assistant Attorney General P. J. McCauley
alleges gross misstatements in stock selling of New York
City Airport, Inc.; Harvey resigns from board of directors
but later withdraws resignation.
June 18: Prosecutor shows letter from Harvey, accepting
place on board of New York City Airport, Inc., was used as
basis for advertising promoting stock sales.
June 23: L. B. Halleran admits no board action on sale to
New York City Airport, Inc., for $80,000 of land costing
$22,000; J. J. Halleran concedes advantage was taken of
June 26: Magistrate Jean Norris found guilty on 5 charges;
removed from office as unfit.
July 3: Halleran admits he does not agree with some of
promotion methods of New York City Airport, Inc.; secre
tary of state issues dissolution certificate for corporation.
State ends inquiry.
July 3: Magistrate Silbermann removed from bench by
unanimous vote, for giving political favors.
July 11: Board of Estimate hearing on Queens bus fran
chises; dissension between Controller C. W. Berry and Mayor
Walker over forms of grants to North Shore Bus Corp. and
Jamaica Buses, Inc.; Walker attacks N. Thomas and refuses
to allow P. Blanshard to ask questions.
July 20: City Affairs Committee asks Mayor Walker to
exclude Doyle and McCooey and Conroy from further prac
tice before Board of Standards and Appeals.
July 24: Justice Sherman of Appellate Division grants
stay to Doyle; Seabury says stay was obtained by trickery and
July 26: Seabury traces telephone call from J. F. Curry
apartment to Lake Placid, N. Y., where Justice Sherman
granted stay to Doyle.
July 28: Doyle jailed as appeal is denied on contempt
August 5: Roosevelt dismisses charges against Harvey with
August 15: Doyle denies having bribed officials.
346 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
August 15: Blanshard, of City Affairs Committee, sues to
annul Brooklyn Bus Corp. franchise, and asks writ to bar
August 18: N. Thomas asks bar Association to investigate
action of Justice Sherman in granting stay to Doyle.
August 26: Governor Roosevelt, in message, presents pro
posed bill to give Hofstadter Committee immunity power,
and proposed revision of penal code; immunity bills passed
August 31: City Affairs Committee attacks Fifth Avenue
Coach Co. and says 4 Chicago men "milk" revenues through
system of holding companies.
September 1: Seabury, in report on District Attorney Crain,
recommends dismissal of charges, but criticizes conduct of
office; Governor Roosevelt follows recommendation.
September 26: Investigation reveals that out of 514 per
sons arrested in gambling raids of 1926 and 1927 only 5
were held for Special Sessions.
October 5: G. W. Olvany, refusing to testify on fees in
cases before city departments, pleads confidential relation
between lawyers and client.
October 15: Supreme Court refuses to dismiss Blanshard's
suit on Brooklyn buses.
October 16: Central Trades and Labor Council endorses
almost all Democratic candidates.
October 17: Sherwood in Mexico on honeymoon.
October 29: Mayor, in campaign speech, transforms revela
tions into vindications of administration.
November 2: Sherwood arrives at San Antonio; disappears.
November 5: Promoters agree to stock-sale injunction of
New York City Airport, Inc.
November 5: N. Thomas charges vote theft in 2nd, 4th
and 17th Assembly Districts; sending complaint to Board of
November 10: Olvany's income reported to have totaled
more than $2,000,000 during 4y 2 years of Tammany Hall
November 13: Tammany club leaders testify falsely dated
relief cards were distributed during registration week.
November 16: City Affairs Committee charges Borough
President Levy with having used unemployment relief fund
to get votes.
December 2: Chairman of 23d district election board re
moved as result of N. Thomas' charges; others censored.
December 18: J. T. Quinn admits that as Sheriff he re
ceived $32,000 from late J. M. Phillips, sewer contractor;
Deputy City Clerk J. J. McCormick attributes larger part of
his income to tips from bridegrooms.
January 13: Sale of fugitive Russell Sherwood's assets
brings $310 after court seizes his property as punishment
for evading Seabury.
January 22: Mayor Walker acclaimed at Tammany victory
dinner says investigations seek only self-glorification.
January 25: Seabury makes Intermediate Report.
February 25: Sheriff Farley removed by Roosevelt after
February 27: Seabury in speech indirectly attacks Roosevelt
for delay and deference to Tammany.
March 1: Roosevelt appoints District Leader John Sheehy
to succeed Farley as Sheriff with approval of John F. Curry.
March 3: H. C. Perry, chief clerk of City Court, tried by
City Court judges for falsification of bank accounts and
March 6: City Affairs Committee files charge against W. L.
Kavanagh of Department of Water Supply for unexplained
bank accounts. Charges later dismissed by his superior, John
Dietz, after whitewash.
348 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
March 10: Former Sheriff Farley acquitted by jury of
taking interest on funds in his care.
March 1 7: William J. Flynn of Bronx revealed as making
huge profit by building garage on area he had made
March 18: City Affairs Committee asks removal action
against John Theofel, boss of Queens.
March 27: City Affairs Committee asks Roosevelt to re
move Sheriff J. A. McQuade of Kings County.
March 31: Roosevelt in letter to Holmes and Wise refuses
to remove McQuade and attacks City Affairs Committee
April 1: R. C. Bastress and J. I. Cohalan convicted of
accepting bribe and get four-month terms.
April 2: City Affairs Committee through Holmes and
Wise reply to Governor Roosevelt.
April 13: J. J. (marriage license) McCormick indicted for
evading taxes. Never convicted.
April 15: Seabury shows that laxity in Bureau of Weights
and Measures reported to Mayor Walker and Commissioner
Higgins was punished only by scolding.
April 27: C. B. Rose testifies that Senator Hastings de
manded contribution to Mayor Walker's campaign in 1925
as step toward obtaining Equitable franchise. Hastings to
get third of Equitable' s stock without investing anything.
May 5: Surrogate Hetherington dismisses City Affairs
Committee charges against John Theofel.
May 5: Controller Berry charges that Commissioner De-
laney fixed reports on bus franchises to suit Mayor Walker,
and mayor forced Board of Estimate to approve Equitable
May 7: Queens bus franchises defeated in uproarious
meeting of Board of Estimate; Walker calls N. Thomas and
P. Blanshard enemies of the public.
May 12: Evidence about bonuses of Gerhard M. Dahl by
B. M. T. ruled out of order by Hofstadter.
May 13: ]. A. Sisto admits giving $26,000 in bonds to
May 23: City Affairs Committee asks Sheriff John Sheehy
why he does not remove Deputies Curran and Flaherty be
cause of unexplained bank accounts.
May 26-27: Walker testifies before Seabury and entire
testimony is published in press.
May 21 to June 4: Governor Roosevelt is silent about
June 1: Seabury reveals that Russell Sherwood drew large
sums from secret account before Mayor Walker sailed for
June 2: Dr. W. H. Walker revealed as splitting fees with
physicians handling workmen's compensation cases.
June 9: Seabury sends charges against Mayor Walker to
June 18: Irving Klein convicted of falsifying records in
Rosati road oil case.
June 20: Samuel Levy, Tammany henchman and borough
president of Manhattan, elected president of National Jewish
Orthodox Congregations of United States and Canada.
June 23: Roosevelt orders Walker to answer removal
July 29: Walker replies to Seabury charges.
August 4: Governor Roosevelt orders Mayor Walker to
answer Seabury charges at public hearings in Albany.
August 12: Walker hearings begin.
August 29: Supreme Court Justice E. J. Staley rules that
Roosevelt has power to try and remove Walker, but severely
attacks governor for method of conducting hearings.
September 1: Mayor Walker resigns.
THE SEABURY CHARGES AGAINST MAYOR
1. That he has failed properly to execute the duties
which, as Mayor of the City of New York, it was incum
bent upon him to discharge; that he has so acted in his
official capacity as to prejudice the best interests of the people
of the City of New York; that, in the course of his official
conduct, he has been actuated by improper and illegal con
siderations; that he has while holding the office of Mayor,
been guilty of gross improprieties; and that his explanations
of circumstances seriously reflecting upon the manner in
which, as its chief executive, he has conducted the affairs of
the City of New York, have been either so incomplete or
so unworthy of credence as not to constitute acceptable
2. That the Mayor accepted ten $1,000 Reliance Bronze &
Steel Corporation bonds, ten $1,000 Parmelee Transporta
tion Company bonds, and thirteen $1,000 Hygrade Food
Products Corporation bonds, said thirty-three bonds being
of the aggregate value of approximately $26,000, from
J. A. Sisto, who then had a large financial interest in bring
ing about a limitation of the number of taxicabs operating
in New York City and who was desirous of inducing the
Mayor to bring about such a limitation of the number of
said taxicabs; that thereafter the Mayor actively sponsored
and caused to be enacted legislation, the passage of which
was, to his knowledge, desired by the said J. A. Sisto and
by certain corporations, in the securities of which the said
J. A. Sisto and Samuel Ungerleider & Company were sub
3. That at a time when Samuel Ungerleider & Company,
in association with the aforesaid J. A. Sisto, was substan
tially interested in the future of Parmalee securities, the
value of which would be increased by a limitation of the
number of taxicabs operating in New York City, Samuel
Ungerleider & Company paid Russell T. Sherwood, the
Mayor's financial agent, $22,000 more than the then market
worth of shares of stock which Ungerleider & Company
purported to buy from Sherwood; that thereafter the Mayor
actively sponsored and caused to be enacted legislation, the
passage of which was, to his knowledge, desired by the said
J. A. S'isto and by certain corporations, in the securities of
which the said J. A. Sisto and Samuel Ungerleider & Com
pany were substantially interested.
4. That the Mayor, in violation of the provisions of Sec
tion 1533 of the Greater New York Charter, was the owner
of ten $1,000 debenture bonds of Reliance Bronze & Steel
Corporation, convertible into stock of the corporation at the
election of the holder thereof, with which corporation the
City of New York, on or about February 3, 1931, entered
into a contract for the purchase of 104 traffic light standards,
at a purchase price of approximately $43,000.
5. That, to the great detriment of the City of New York
and its inhabitants, the Mayor, in violation of his duty,
advocated and used the influence of his office to procure an
award of a bus franchise for the Boroughs of Manhattan,
Brooklyn and Queens to Equitable Coach Company, Inc., a
corporation which he knew was not fit or qualified to
6. That the Mayor advocated and used the influence of
352 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
his office to procure said award of said bus franchise to the
Equitable Coach Company, Inc., in furtherance of a plan
to benefit a group of persons of whom his friend and asso
ciate, Senator John A. Hastings, was one.
7. That the Mayor improperly made possible and facili
tated the purchase of 300 shares of Interstate Trust Com
pany stock, which stock was received by or on behalf of
J. Allan Smith, Frank R. Fageol and John A. Hastings,
promoters of the Equitable Coach Company, Inc., and May
Arter Smith, wife of J. Allan Smith, prior to the date when
that company was granted a bus franchise by the City of
New York, but while its application therefor was pending,
and that 200 shares of this stock were used to secure a loan
of $23,000, which sum was deposited in the account of
J. Allan Smith, Trustee, the account which was used to
defray the expenses of procuring said franchise.
8. That on or about the day prior to the signing of the
Equitable franchise, the Mayor was provided with a Letter
of Credit, in the amount of $10,000, which was paid for in
cash by J. Allan Smith, one of the promoters, and the agent
of all of the promoters, of the Equitable Coach Company,
Inc., and that subsequently, and after the exhaustion of the
said Letter of Credit, but while the Equitable Coach Com
pany was and continued unable to comply with the require
ment of its franchise that it commence operations thereunder,
and during the period when the Equitable Coach Company
was, from time to time, applying for and receiving from
the Board of Estimate and Apportionment extensions of the
time within which to commence such operations, the said
J. Allan Smith paid a draft in the amount of $3,000, plus
interest, for the payment of which the Mayor was liable.
9. That the Mayor permitted himself to be placed in a
position inconsistent with the position which he, as a public
officer, should at all times have maintained, by accepting
substantial gratuities, which he calls "beneficences," from
persons who might seek benefits from the municipal author
ities. In the case of Paul Block, such "beneficences" were
accepted from a person who subsequently became interested
in a corporation which sought, and procured, approval from
the Board of Transportation of a tile which said Company
intended to manufacture for use in the subway.
10. That during the period of five years next succeeding
his entering the office, Mayor Walker, for the purpose of
concealing his interest therein, caused his financial transac
tions to be conducted through, and in the name of, Russell
T. Sherwood; that this agent, during said period, deposited
in bank and brokerage accounts close to a million dollars,
of which upwards of $700,000 was in cash, and that the
Mayor has failed and refused satisfactorily to explain the
sources of the moneys belonging to him and deposited by
Sherwood in said accounts.
11. That as soon as it became known that the Joint
Legislative Committee desired to examine the said Russell
T. Sherwood with respect to his financial transactions on
behalf of the Mayor, the said Sherwood disappeared, and
the Mayor has failed and neglected either to cause his agent
to return, or to cooperate with the Committee in its efforts
to locate him, thereby preventing the disclosure of facts
essential to a complete investigation of the conduct of his
office by the Mayor.
12. That on May 23, 1932, a subpoena duces tecum of
the Joint Legislative Committee was served upon Mayor
Walker, calling for the production, on May 25, 1932, of all
records of his personal financial transactions from Janu
ary 1, 1926, to date. When the Mayor appeared on
May 25, 1932, for examination at public hearing, he brought
354 WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH NEW YORK
with him, in response to this subpoena, the following
Cancelled vouchers of his account with the Chatham &
Phoenix Bank & Trust Company for one month in
1930 and 3% months in 1931;
Stub check books for the same account for one month
in 1930 and eleven months in 1931 and for 1932.
When questioned as to his failure to produce check books
or cancelled vouchers for the years 1926, 1927, 1928 and
1929, he stated that if any records were in existence they
were in the law office with which he was connected before
he assumed the office of Mayor, but that he had not per
sonally made inquiry as to whether or not those records were
He was examined in public a second time on the day
following, but produced no further documents or papers in
response to the subpoena.
On June 2, 1932, ten days after the service of said sub
poena upon him, and seven days after the conclusion of his
examination, he produced, in further compliance with the
subpoena, cancelled vouchers of his Chatham & Phoenix
Bank & Trust Company account for the period January 5,
1927, to June 21, 1927. At this time he also produced
check stub books on the same account for the period begin
ning June 21, 1927, and ending with November, 1930.
That the Mayor has not produced a single record showing
his financial transactions during the year 1926 nor for the
first five and a half months of 1927.
That he has not produced the cancelled vouchers of his
Chatham & Phoenix checking account for the period from
January 1, 1926, to January, 1927; for the six months,
June 21, 1927, to December 30, 1927; for any part of the
year 1928; for any part of the year 1929; for the first eleven
months of the year 1930; for the eight and a half months
from April 16 to December 31, 1931, nor for any part of
the year 1932, of which nearly five months had elapsed at
the time when the subpoena was served.
13. That Mayor Walker, in his testimony before the Joint
Legislative Committee, was neither frank nor truthful, and
that his purpose in being evasive and untruthful was to
hinder and obstruct the Joint Legislative Committee in the
prosecution of the investigation which the Legislature
directed it to make, and to prevent an effective investigation
of his activities as Mayor of the City of New York, and a
complete disclosure of his conduct in such office.
14. That the Mayor neglected his official duty in per
mitting his Corporation Counsel to designate, in City com
pensation cases, doctors who split their fees with the Mayor's
15. That in the matters above referred to, and generally
since he assumed office, the Mayor's conduct has been char
acterized by such malfeasance and nonfeasance in disregard
of the duties of his office as Mayor, and he has conducted
himself, to the prejudice of the City of New York and its
inhabitants, in a manner so far unbecoming the high office
which he holds, as to render him unfit to continue in the
office of Mayor.
Abraham Lincoln High School site,
Accomplishments of New York,
civic and private, 326.
Acuna, Chile, 144.
Administration, changes proposed
Aldermen, see Board of.
Amalgamated Clothing Workers'
American Telephone and Telegraph
Apartments, cooperative, 259.
Association of the Bar, 107, 125;
report on third degree, 133.
Astor, John Jacob, and Tweed, 7;
family fortune, 230.
Augenblick, Samuel, appraisal fees,
Automobiles, city-owned, 34.
Bail-bond racket, 150-152.
Barbato case, 134-135.
Barnard, Judge George, 7.
Battle, George Gordon, 110.
Berry, Controller Charles W., 20,
115; administrative record, 162;
on Queens bus franchise, 214;
exposure of land racket, 232.
Bertini, Amadeo A., 116; ap
pointed by Roosevelt, 179.
Black, General William, on pier
Black, Justice William H., 124.
Block, Paul, beneficence to Walker
Block-Aid Plan, 299.
Board of Aldermen, 20.
Borough Presidents, powers of, 21-
Board of Education, hiring of Dr.
Walker, 41 ; purchase of land for
Board of Estimate, 18-20; a source
of information on city purchases,
237; structure of, 308.
Board of Standards and Appeals,
49; decisions of, 50; investiga
tion of, 52.
Boylan, John J., fees for land
Boylan, Dr. William A., 235.
Boyle, John N., 53.
Brieger, Fritz, fight against Harvey,
Brooklyn Bus Corporation, 212,
Brooklyn bus franchise, 211, 217-
Brooklyn Edison Company, 265.
Brooklyn Garden Apartments, 257.
Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corpo
ration, 171-172; owner of Brook
lyn Bus Corporation, 212; sub
Bryce, Lord, on city government, 6.
Buchler, William Paul, 205.
Budget, see Kohler, Charles L.
Building permits, secured by Doyle,
Burr, Aaron, leader of Tammany,
Bus franchises, 13, 54-55, 167-174,
210-228; business and Tammany,
Cardozo, Judge Albert, 7.
Carrington, Edward C., 61.
Catholic Church, 116-117.
Catholics in politics, 29-30.
Chamber of Commerce, share in
Lexow investigation, 8.
Chase, Stuart, 3, 287.
Chrystie-Forsythe Street widening,
Cincinnati, government in, 313.
Citizen's Union, in Equitable Coach
scandal, 167; exposure of land
City Affairs Committee, strength
of, 14; charges against Curran,
48; charges against Walker, 59,
163, 166, 183-185; charges
against Dr. Walker and asso
ciates, 74; charges against Theo-
fel, 106, 188; attack on judges'
vacations, 121, 123; charges
against Farley, 186; charges
against McQuade, 188; reply to
Roosevelt, 190-194; fight on
Brooklyn bus franchise, 211, 217,
219; in Queens bus franchise,
213; exposure of land racket,
232; study of increased land
values, 244; on housing, 257-
258, 261; on subway recapture
price, 277; against seven-day
week, 296; in unemployment re
City Club, pamphlet on Croker,
10; report on court reform, 127;
charges against Grain, 183.
City manager plan, 302-304.
Civil Service Commission, Munici
Civil Service Laws, evasion of, 37-
Civil Service Reform Association,
Claessens, August, elected on re
Cohalan, Daniel F., 110.
Columbia Finance Corporation, 55.
Committee of Fourteen, hoodwink
ing of, 144.
Committee of One Thousand,
charges against Farley, 186.
Committee on Plan and Survey,
Condemnation proceedings, reforms
Connolly, Maurice E., 198-199.
Controller, powers of, 21.
Consolidated Gas Company, 265-
Cooley, Edwin J., resignation of,
Copeland, Royal S., 115.
Cords, Charles D., 234.
Cosgrove, Dock Commissioner, 61.
Courts, laxity in enforcing election
laws, 87; cases covered by, 103-
104; importance of Magistrate's,
Crain, Thomas C. T., investigation
of pier leases, 56; investigations
of magistrates, 93, 115, 180;
charges against by City Club,
Crime, Society for the Prevention
Croker, Richard, exposure of, 6;
testimony of, 9-11.
Cropsey, Justice, 50.
Culkin, and building permits, 44.
Curran, Peter J., in Seabury investi
gation, 47-48; no action against
by Roosevelt, 189.
Curran, Rev. Edward Lodge,
Curry, John F., 22; at Tammany
Hall, 27; support of district
leaders, 28; private activities,
45; support of Doyle, 52; in
sulted, 109; intervention for
Doyle, 124-125; refusal to waive
immunity, 182; consultation with
Cuvillier, Louis, conduct in Sea-
bury investigation, 77.
Dahl, Gerhard M., 171, 212; sal
ary, 217-218, 273.
Delaney, John H., report on Equi
table Coach Co., 169; in Queens
bus franchise, 215-216; report
on bus franchises, 220; on spe
cial assessments, 243; fear of
Untermyer, 276; from typo
graphical union, 295.
District-leader government, income
of leader, 24; County Executive
Committee, 27; selection of
county leaders, 27; centering in
Tammany Hall, 27; promotion
in, 30-31; salaries of, 31-34.
D'Olier, W. L., 198.
Dore, Edward S., 110.
Doyle, Dr. William F., and zoning
privileges, 44; building permits,
48-50, 51-52; stay of sentence,
124; Harvey's charges against,
Dreyer, August, testimony before
Dubonnet, Mrs. Paul, on clothes
Dunn, Philip J., 110.
Dunne, Justice, 233.
Education, changes suggested for,
Elder, R. H., on third degree,
Elections, district leader's role in,
27-28; abuse of voting machines
at, 80-83; lobbying at, 83-84;
violence at, 84-85; illegal prac
tices at, 86-87; colonization in,
88 ; Tammany technique at, 89 ;
off-year, 304; changes proposed
Electric rates, 265-269.
Elevated lines, recapture price offer,
Employment agency scandal, 163.
Equitable bus franchise, 13, 167-
Ewald, Magistrate George F., resig
nation of, 107-110.
Fageol, Frank R., 168-172.
Falk, Samuel, 124.
Farley, Sheriff Tom, 5; charges
against by Committee of One
Thousand, 186; gambling rights,
44; and tin box, 45-47; investi
gation of, 185-186; started in
Fiaschetti, M., You Gotta Be
Fifth Avenue Coach Company, 222-
Five-cent fare, 279-280.
Flaherty, Joseph, in Seabury in
vestigation, 47, 189.
Flynn, Edward J., 22.
French, Fred F., testimony before
Fullen, William G., 278.
Future, policy for, 318-324.
Gas rates, 269.
Gaynor, Edward J., 236.
George, Henry, campaign for
George Washington Bridge, 273.
Geraghty, James F., exposure of,
Gifford, Walter S., 270.
Godkin, E. L., quoted, 63.
Godley, Leon, 278.
Golden, Miss May, 235.
Goodman, Henry M. R., resigna
tion of, 112.
Gottlieb, Maurice, testimony before
Gould, Jay, and Tweed, 7.
Government, general impotence of,
292 ; fundamental soundness of
city, 308; present weaknesses in,
Hall, A. Oakey, 7.
Halleran, John J., 199-205.
Halleran, Laurence B., 204-206.
Hare system of voting, 311-312.
Harper's Weekly, 7.
Harris, Fred C, 212.
Harvey, George U., on Board of
Estimate, 158; charges against
Doyle, 165; friend to Tammany,
199-207; in Queens bus fran
Hastings, Senator John A., in Equi
table Coach scandal, 168-172.
Healy, Martin J., in Ewald case,
Hearst, W. R., in campaign against
McClellan, 90; attitude toward
Herald Tribune, 58; attitude toward
Hetherington, Surrogate, 106, 188.
Hickin, William H., 60.
Higgins, James A., investigation of
pier leases, 56.
Hillquit, Morris, support of "out
door relief," 297.
Hoffman, A. Joseph, 217.
Holland, J. P., 295.
Holland Vehicular Tunnel, 273.
Holmes, John Haynes, 183, 188.
Housing problem, solution for, 254-
Hudson River Navigation Corpora
Hylan, administration of, 6; ap
pointed judge, 105; as mayor,
Income of families, 284.
Interbprough subway, 274.
Investigations, effects summarized,
Irving Trust Building, 53.
Jamaica Bus Co., 212.
Jews in politics, 29, 30, 115, 116.
Jones, George, fight against Tweed,
Judges, reason for appointments,
94; quality of, 104; salary and
Kelby, Judge Charles H., quoted,
Keller, F. Traugott, 62.
Klein, Henry, 199.
Klein, Irving, 199-203.
Koenig, Morris, elected judge, 89.
Kohler, Charles L., Director of the
Budget, 21; exposure of, 163-
Labor, American Federation of, 4.
Labor, docility of, 285; and Tam
La Guardia, Fiorello, in investiga
tion of magistrates, 92 ; demands
for removal of Vitale, 107; at
tack on Roosevelt, 179.
Land, values, 230; condemnation
racket, 232-242; appraisal fees,
239-240; values increased by sub
League of Women Voters, 42, 110.
Legal Aid Society, 120-121; report
on third degree, 133-134.
Legislature, in judgeship deal, 94-
Levy, Samuel, 116.
Lehman report, 161.
Lexow Committee, 6-9.
Libby Hotel, damages, 234.
Linville, Dr. Henry R., 75.
Lippmann, Walter, on Roosevelt,
Living expenses, 284.
Lockwood, Charles C, 278.
Low, Seth, mayor, 12, 13.
Lunn, George R., 272.
Lynch, Dennis Tilden, 58.
Lynch, John A., and bus franchises,
McCauley, Paul J., 205.
McClellan, George B., Tammany
mayor, 12; elected over Hearst,
McCooey, John H., 22 ; private ac
tivities, 45; profit on land deals,
McCooey, John, Jr., and zoning
laws, 50; in judgeship deal, 102.
McCooey, Miss Margaret J., 235.
McCook, Judge Philip, 234.
McCormick, and marriage licenses,
44; indictment and acquittal, 48.
MacCrate, Justice, decision quoted,
McEneny, Francis T., 237.
McGoldrick, Professor Joseph,
quoted, 25, 30.
McKee, Joseph V., as mayor, 13;
reduction of city automobiles,
34; on Board of Estimate, 158;
on Queens bus franchise, 214-
McManus, Terence J., 110.
McQuade, James A., testimony be
fore Seabury, 63-67.
McQuade, Francis, resignation of,
112; testimony before Seabury,
114; charges against, 188.
Machine, city-wide political, 26.
Mager, Martin, 199-203.
Magistrate's Court, importance of,
Mahoney, Jeremiah T., 110.
Maier, David, in pier lease deals,
Maltbie, Milo, 272.
Mancuso, Francis X., 116.
Manhattan, bus franchises in, 221-
228; street railways, 222.
Manhattan Elevated Railroad Co.,
favors to Croker, 10.
Mathews, Miss Annie, 110.
Mayor, powers of, 21.
May, Mitchell, 236.
Mazet Committee, 6, 9-11.
Meyer Legislative Investigating
Committee, 6, 163-165.
Miller, Julius, 115.
Milwaukee, government of, 317.
Moley, Professor Raymond, 141-
Mooney, William, founder of Tam
Morris, vice squad profits of, 147.
Moss, Frank, quoted, 106-107.
Mulrooney, Commissioner, 294.
Mumford, Lewis, 314.
Murphy, Charles F., 57.
Murphy, Walter T., appraisal fees,
Nast, Thomas, fight against Tweed,
National Industrial Conference
Nevin-Queens Bus Corporation,
Newspapers, and elections, 85; on
Roosevelt's refusal to remove
New York Air Terminals, Inc.,
New York and Queens Electric
Light Co., 265.
New York City, results of investi
gations of government, 11-12;
improvement in government, 12;
state supervision of, 16-18;
budget, 22; persons on payroll,
22; real government of, 22; re
muneration of employees, 35-37;
annual loss in land condemna
New York City Airport, Inc., 204-
New York Edison Company, 265.
New York Omnibus Corporation,
New York Telephone Co., 270-
Norris, Jean, removal from office,
North German Lloyd, pier lease,
North Shore Bus Co., 212.
No. 1 Wall Street, 53.
Olvany, Judge George W., and
zoning privileges, 44 ; and build
ing permits, 48, 52-54; praised
by Roosevelt, 179.
Omnibus Corporation of Chicago,
O'Mara, Dr. T. J., fee splitting of,
O'Neil, William, 168.
O'Gorman, James A., 110.
O'Shea, Dr. William J., 235.
Page Commission, report quoted,
106-107; on detention of pris
Panken, Jacob, campaign for re
Park Avenue Association, 287.
Parkhurst, Dr. Charles H., 6, 8.
Phillips, J. M., 198.
Pier leases, 44, 55-62.
Pink, Louis H., 253.
Platt, Republican boss, 9, 13.
Plunkitt, George Washington, 4.
Police, interference at polls, 8 ; and
disorderly houses, 8 ; use of third
degree, 130; brutality of, 135-
136; character of, 139-140; and
speakeasy protection, 142-144;
vice squad, 147; Mulrooney,
Commissioner of, 294.
Politics, organized, necessity of, 14.
Port Authority of New York, 315.
Potter, Hamilton, 80.
Potocki case, 148-149.
Prial, Deputy Controller, Frank J.,
21, 202; report on Queens bus
Probation Department, incompe
tence of, 152-154.
Proportional representation, 306-
Protestants in politics, 30, 115.
Public Housing Conference, 261.
Public utilities, 265-281.
Queens, situation in, 197; bus
franchise in, 213-216.
Quinlivan, vice squad profits, 147.
Ralmac Realty Corporation, 238.
Reading, government of, 317.
Realtor, the, a business hero, 229.
Regional Plan, 315.
Reliance Bronze and Steel Corpora
Religion, deference to, in appoint
Republican party, and reform, 1 3 ;
in judgeship deal, 102; request
for investigation, 180; acts to
force investigation, 183; coop
eration with Tammany, 196.
Roosevelt, Franklin D., and Farley,
46-47; and charges against Cur-
ran, 47; and judgeship deal,
103; investigation of Ewald case,
107; authorization of investi
gation of courts, 111; dismissal
of City Affairs Committee's
charges, 166; attack on by La
Guardia, 179; attitude toward
Tammany, 178-195; rebuke to
Rose, Charles B., 168.
Rosner, Henry J., 213; on unem
ployment relief, 299.
Rothstein, Arnold, loan to Vitale,
107; "fixer," 294.
Rowley, Park, 212.
Russell Sage Foundation Regional
Plan, 262, 314-315.
Ryan, Joseph P., 4, 295.
Schiffman, Charles, 238.
School system, politics in, 75-77.
Seabury, Judge Samuel, 44; and
Farley, 46; on bus franchises,
55; cross-examination of Mc-
Quade, 63-66; and Dr. W. H.
Walker, 68-74; Intermediate Re
port quoted, 77-78; cross-exami
nation of Theofel, 95-102, 208-
209; investigation of Magis
trates' Courts, 111-112; final re
port, quoted, 117-118; report on
Magistrates' Courts, quoted, 122-
123; plan for reforming courts,
125-128; on third degree, quoted,
140-141 ; Potocki case record,
148-149; exposure of bail bond
racketeering, 151; weakest charge
against Walker, 174; investiga
tion of Farley, 185-186; investi
gation of Queens, 196-197; ex
amination of Dahl, 217.
Seasongood, Murray, quoted, 23.
Sheehan, William F., 178.
Sheehy, appointed by Roosevelt,
Sherman, Justice Henry L., 124.
Sherwood, Russell T., 175.
Silbermann, Jesse, removal, 112;
Simpson, George W., resignation
of, 112, 203.
Sinking Fund Commission, 56.
Sisto, J. A., gift to Walker, 175-
Smith, J. Allan, 169; telegrams to
Fageol, 170-171 ; letter of credit
for Walker, 172.
Smith, Alfred E., 5; support of
Socialists, in elections, 81, 82, 84,
88, 90 ; in investigation of magis
trates, 92 ; solution of liquor
problem, 144; attack on Roose
velt, 179; request for investiga
tion, 180; program for unem
ployment relief, 297; Committee
on Unemployment, 299.
Social service, improvements sug
gested for, 321-322.
Speakeasy, protection, 142-144.
Stark, Hyman, case of, 130-131.
State Housing Law, 258.
Steffens, Lincoln, on Parkhurst, 8.
Steinbrink, Meier, on judges,
Steuer, Max D., 110.
Street railways, 222.
Strong, William L., reform mayor,
Subway, costs of building, 243;
method of financing, 243-246;
problems of recapture, 273-275;
recapture price, 277; hope for
municipal operation, 278 ; five-
cent fare, 279-280; financing of,
Supreme Court, in condemnation
Talley, Alfred J., 239-
Tammany, investigations of, 4-15;
spoils system, 9-11; and busi
ness, 1 1 ; comeback after investi
gations, 12; underlying economic
base, 1 5 ; dominance of, 26 ;
Curry at, 27; district leaders of,
28; evasion of civil service laws,
35-42; legal graft of, 44; sup
port of Doyle, 52; importance
of elections to, 90; mistake
in judicial scandals, 93; consid
eration of religion in appoint
ments and nominations, 115-117;
influence on practice of law, 119-
121; support of Walker, 176;
hold on the people, 290 ; attitude
toward labor, 293-296; ties with
labor unions, 295; record on un
Tammany Hall, see Werner, M. R.
Tammany Society, 27.
Taxation, plan for, 323.
Teachers Union, 75.
Theofel, John, 22 ; private activities,
45 ; testimony on judgeship deal,
95-102; acquitted of charges,
106; charges against, 188; testi
mony before Seabury, 208-209;
sale of automobiles, 209.
Third degree, 130-141.
Thompson, William Hale, 155.
Times, The New York, against
Tweed, 6; attitude toward
Walker, 157; attitude toward
Tin Box Brigade, 44.
Todd, Hiram C, 108, 182.
Tompkins Bus Corporation fran
Tompkins, Leslie J., 110.
Tompkins, Justice A. S., quoted,
Trades and Labor Council, Central,
Transit Commission, offer on sub
Tuttle, Charles H., 55-56; in in
vestigation of magistrates, 92;
charges against Ewald, 107; at
tack on Roosevelt, 179; dis
closure of Ewald scandal, 181.
Tweed, fight against, 6-7.
Unemployment, 283, 296-300.
United American Lines, payments
to Vause, 56.
United Electric Light and Power
Untermyer, Samuel, 110; and sub
Utilities, public, plan for operating,
Van Namee, George R., 272.
Van Wyck, Robert A., Tammany
mayor, 12, 13.
Vause, Judge W. Bernard, 55-57.
Veblen, Thorstein, 287.
Vitale, Magistrate, removal of, 107.
Voting machines, drawbacks of, 80-
83 ; misreading totals of, 89.
Waldman, Louis, 217; program for
unemployment relief, 297.
Walker, James J., resignation of,
1, 4; administration of, 6; on
party politics, 34; salary raises,
35; action on investigation of
Board of Standards and Appeals,
52 ; appointment of magistrates,
92; appointments of, 160-161;
political background, 1 59- 1 60 ;
machine-made mayor, 156; aided
by publicity, 156-157; Seabury
charges against, 166; City Affairs
Committee's charges against, 166;
in Equitable Coach scandal, 168-
172; gifts from friends, 173-
174; attitude on bus franchises,
211; in Queens bus franchise,
213-216; on housing, 255-257;
in subway strike, 295.
Walker, Dr. William H., employ
ment of, 41 ; compensation fees,
44; fee splitting, 67-75.
Wallstein, Leonard M., exposure of
land racket, 232-233, 238.
Walsh, Frank P., 110.
Walsh, Nicholas F., appraisal fees,
Walsh, William E., indictment and
Warschauer, Morris, 237.
Wealth in New York, 287-289.
Welfare Council, on unemployed,
Wells, H. G., on American politics,
6 ; on housing and building, 261-
Werner, M. R., Tammany Hall, 5,
Weston, John C, 146; profits from
vice racket, 147.
Wickersham Commission, quoted,
Winston, Perry, 237.
Wise, Rabbi Stephen S., 183, 188.
Whalen, Grover, on nightsticks,
136; on speakeasies, 143; resig
nation of, 294.
White, E. Michael, 226.
Women, in New York politics, 42-
43; framing of, 144-149.
Women's City Club, 42, 122.
Worker, housing requirements,
World, New York, quoted, 57-58;
attitude toward Walker, 157.
World-Telegram, quoted, 132; atti
tude toward Walker, 157.
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 3, 314.
Zoning laws, 48-49 ; evasion of, 49-
54, see also Doyle, Dr. William
Zorn, Joseph, gasoline station per