Identity Crisis : Understanding
Yonkers as Both City and Suburb
Firstly, before 1788 Yonkers was considered a township and it did not exist as one individual political entity because of its geography. As Joseph Madden writes,
Subsequently, an intimate connection existed between these political boundaries and the geography of the area. Due to the hills sloping down from the north into the central part of Yonkers, a division existed between the east and west. Subsequently, traveling eastbound from the Hudson River remained a problem, but more importantly, such geographical divisions caused various political conflicts. Thus, Yonkers’ terrain in the formative years prohibited “true political representation of east and west Yonkers” by one supervisor, or the town representative on the county level.
These geographical divisions stunted political fluidity, but they fostered a beneficial demographic living arrangement such that members with differing socio-economic statuses all lived within close proximity of each other. While there is insufficient data documenting the four decades after 1788, by the 1840’s, four major societies lived together despite their varying ethnicities, places of birth, number of acres owned, occupations, religions, races, and net worths. These four major societies are categorized as rich farmers, rich non-farmers, businessmen, and laborers.As Madden asserts,
Consequently, with the various classes all living within the same area due to the geography, industry slowly developed because the upper-class (net worth averaging over $10,000) created businesses and employed the laborers. Industries even began moving to Yonkers because of the land, funding, and workers, such that job opportunities increased disproportionally to the native population.
Hence, this surplus of jobs encouraged people to move to Yonkers “and live away from the problems associated with New York City.” Shifting from an agrarian to an industrial economy, Yonkers gradually became a magnetic town, complete with population increases, and thriving businesses, ranging from hats to saw and flour mills. Yonkers also became an attractive option for many people because it harmonized agrarian solitude with financial stability. Consequently, whereas Yonkers’ geography once promoted industry, industry then promoted Yonkers’ geography.
 Joseph P. Madden, A Documentary History Of Yonkers, New York. Volume 1: The Formative Years, 1820-1852. (Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc, 1992), 9.
 Madden, Documentary History, 17.