Lobbying for one cause or another has always been a part of the daily life in New York City. These days, in the Bronx, it's the borough president who is the most prominent person lobbying for the interests of those living in the borough. Things have changed from the rough days of a century or so ago, when citizens of what was to eventually become the Bronx had no elected official to contact for help with everyday problems.
In 1874, the mainland west of New York was annexed by the city, and in 1895 the area east of the city was annexed. But even before the annexations, the citizens of those areas were pushing for their interests. At the time, the citizens of what became the Bronx did not have a representative devoted solely to their interests.
It wasn't until 1890 that the office that preceded the Bronx presidency was created. The Commissioner of Street Improvements was the first office in what became the presidency, according to Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan. The office was created to fill an urgent need to have passable roads in the area, which was still partly rural at the time.
"Wagons would sink to their hubs, and horses to their chests, in a rainstorm on those dirt roads," says Ultan, a professor at Lehman College and Fairleigh Dickinson, and a lifelong Bronx resident who was appointed to the unpaid position of borough historian in 1996 by then-president Fernando Ferrer. "A group of businessmen and citizens lobbied to create the office."
In 1898, the city annexed Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, and created the five boroughs. The Bronx presidency was created at that time to represent those living in the borough. "The mainland became the Bronx, named after the river, and the president's office was now a four-year office," says Ultan.