An Eyesore and a Plague
At the turn of the 20th century, New York City’s millionaires started moving to the suburbs in Long Island and Westchester County. They had enormous homes and just about everything money could buy. There was just one problem: they weren’t alone. Around the same time, ordinary, middle-class New Yorkers started exploring the suburbs themselves. The millionaires were horrified to see commuters and tourists enjoying their suburban paradise. But the beaches and the roads were public: how could the millionaires possibly stop people from using them?It was actually pretty easy. All they had to do was pass one tiny amendment to an obscure part of New York State law…This is the story of how New York’s turn-of-the-century millionaires incorporated their private homes as legal municipalities, and how they used this power to exclude outsiders, dodge local taxes, and attempt to recreate feudal Europe in the New York suburbs.
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