The Record and guide (v.39no.981(Jan. 1 1887)-no.1006(June 25 1887))

(New York, N.Y. :  C.W. Sweet,  -1887.)



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  v. 39, no. 1001: Page 695  

May 31, ISSt

The   Record  and   Guideu


n on three sides by " water walls," roofed by " the brave o'erhanging
firmament," how could such a spot fail to bring health to the body and
peace to the mind ? And whafc a sanifcarium could be there established !
The ever-moving panorama of the Sound, with ifcs fleets of steamers and
sailing vessels, yachts and fishing boats ; fche happy throngs of picnic
parties, the games of athletic cliibs, ths merry shoufcs of romping children,
would infuse such an elemenfc of joyousness infco the s'lrroundings as to
make simple rest ia itself a recreation. No more desirable or suitable spot
could be selecfced for a sanifcarium. Bufc we should not look to the effect of
the parks on the health of the people only ; we should not overlook the
subtle influence they will exercise on the manners, fche morals, the imagina¬
tion, the creative genius and artistic instincts of the population—an influ¬
ence not less real because intangible, nofc less valuable because ifc cannot be
reduced to dollars and cents. Comniunion with nature not only educates
the eye and refines the taste, but it softens the manners and elevates the
moral perceptions ; and, thanks to the size of the mosfc important parks of
fche system, our people can enjoy that communion to tha fullest extent
undisturbed by cifcy sights and sounds—" can mingle with the universe and
enjoy the charms of solitude fco their heart's content."

Let us by all means have small parks. We cannot have too many of
them; but we should nofc confine the denizens of our tenement districts
exclusively to the cifcy squares. It is natural that they should long to get
into the country, away from the dust and din and stifling heats of their
crowded quarters in the city, away out of sight of its scorching pavements
and the noisome odor of filthy streets and reeking gutfcers. Surely fche
great metropolis can afford to give to its hundreds of thousands of workers
a park by the Sound, where they can drink in new life and health in its
refreshing, invigorating breezes.

Within three years that part of Westchester County in which Pelham
Bay Park is located will be annexed to New York. This fcerrifcory was
included in the original bill of annexation, the present northern Une having
been continued from the Bronx to the Sound, which is the proper eastern
limifc of the cifcy; bufc as objections were i-aised afc the time the bill was
infcroduced in fche Legislafcure ifc was decided to compromise by making the
Bronx the boundary.

By embracing this tract in the new park domain prior to the proposed
exfcension of fche northern line to the Sound the city has saved hundi-eds of
thousands if not miUions of dollars on the purchase. It is evident that the
Supreme Court does not believe its acquisition is either premature or
undesirable. Referring to the objections raised by the opposition, that
tribunal, in its decision on the lsfc of December, 1884, declaring the act
constitutional, said: " At most the appropriation of this land is but a short
sfcep into the future, and as it must soon be required for this object, if it is
not wholly so at present, the time for obtaining it has already arrived.
For the recreation and enjoyment of fche present inhabitants of the city it
will be advantageous, for those who are soon to follow them it will be
indispensable, and to meet the present and prospective ivants of the city
prudence requ'ires that the property shoidd now he obtained.''^ The Court
of Appeals, to which the case was carried, also made this park the subject
of special reference, affirming the decision of the Supreme Court. " We
must," said the highest tribunal in the Sfcate, "assume what we can see is
at leasfc possible and parhaps probable that the lands over the border are so
uear, so convenient of access, so likely to be overtaken and surrounded by
the city's growth, so desirable for the health and recreation of the citizens,
and so cheaply to be got in comparison with the consequences of delay, as
to indicate a primai'y and predominant city purpose in a mafcter itself
within the ordinary range of municipal action."

But it has been urged that the expense of the maintenance of Pelham
Bay Park will be a heavy burden on the taxpayers of the cifcy. Why
should ifc be ? If six or seven hundred thousand persons visit Glen Island
every summer, and probably over thrice that number go to other resorts in
the vicinity of New York, is ib not evident fchafc a large revenue would
be derived by the city from the letting of privileges, the granting of leases
and Ucenses to those who would cater iu a multipUcity of ways to the vast
throng of pleasure-seekers who would resort to the great park by the
Sound ? Much more than the infceresfc on fche bonds, which is 3 per cenfc,,
would be derived from fchis source. There is no befcfcer paying investmpnt
than that in parks. The parks of London and Paris are among their chief
attractions, and all their largest pleasure grounds are miles beyond the
limits of those cities. The Fairmount of Philadelphia, which contains about
2,700 acres, is eight miles in length and over two in width. Before the
movement to increase our park area commenced London had 15,0C0
acres and this has been increased to 22,000, one tract alone, the great
Epping Forest, having an extent of 6,OD0 acres, or nearly one-half the area
of Manhattan Island. Of these 22,000 acres, 2,000 only are within the cifcy
limits. How is it wifch Paris? Of ifcs 172,000 acres, less than 500 are within
its boundaries.

The opposition by which Pelham Bay Park has been assailed is bufc a
repefcition of the war waged against Central Park. The opponents of the
Central contended that the expense would bankrupt the city, that it would
become the resort of thieves and vagabonds, and they sent delegation after
delegation and petition on petition, remonstrance on remonstrance to the
Sfcate capital profcesting against the passage of the bUl; but, fortimately,
they did not succeed. They insisted that it was too far from tbe centre of
population and that the city would not grow up to it in half a century. It
is now about thirty years since the land was acquired and to-day it is
dwarfed by the city's marvelous growth and in a few years more it wiU
be divided into sections by the streets which must intersect it to facUitate
the traflac and travel east and west.

The costly experience of the city in the case of Cenfcral Park wiU nofc be
repeated, for, with the exception of some necessary roads and walks,
comparatively little work wUl be needed in the new pleasure grounds.
When Central Park was acquired it was one of the most uninviting sections
of the island, and a considerable portion cf it had been used as dumping
grounds. As far back as 1860, four years affcer the land waa paid for, one
of the daUy papers said " it was neither a park, a stoue yard, nor f^ piece

of waste land, and that affcer three years labor and an expenditure
of millions of dollars New York is aim ist as parklass as ever." It
was simply a space for a park and tb-cifcy had to make one and pufc ifc
fchere at a cost of $2",000 an acre, in addition to the six millions six hundred
and odd thousands paid for the land. The woods had to ba planted, the
large tracts of marsh filled in, roads and walks constructed, and the
so called lakes male.' In the accompUshmjab of this ne^jessary work
fifteen years were consumed before it was ready for use.

AU of the new parks created by tha acfc of ISSt are nofc only required for
fche fufcure, bufc for the present, and when they are formally declared open
they wiU be thronged by tens of thousands of our population eager to enjoy
that pleasure of unrestricted use denied them in our beautiful, picturesque,
showy and arfcificial Central, which has never been in fche true sense of the
term the people's playground. Too far from the cifcy! from a cifcy advanc¬
ing wifch giganfcic strides to ifcs predestined position, fco fche first place among
the capitals of Christendom. If its progress during the. lasfc half century
furnishes a fair basis on which to esfcimate its future growfch, then within
the lifetime of many who are stUl in their teens ifc will have a population of
seven or eight millions.

It is to be regretted thafc the work of the Commissioners of Appraisal
should be retarded by fche persistent efforts to repeal the law, and that a
measure so beneficent in its characfcer should have been atfcacked with such
virulence thafc in one flagranfc instance ifc was made fche cause of a malicious
personal persecution. The misapprehension, in many cases doubtless
honesfcly entertained by some of fche opponents of the movement as to its
true character and the motives of its promoters, has at lasfc, I believe, given
way to a proper appreciation of the projecfc, and of its vast importance to
the sanitary welfare of the people, independent of the financial gain to the
city. As to the assertion so freely, so unjustly, made that the movement
for new parks was a laud speculation, and thafc fchis charge was especially
true of Pelham Bay Park, the writer knows absolutely whereof he speaks
when he states that not one of the owners of that park knew that his land
was included in the area flrst indicated, and which embraced all
thafc was finally selected in the location of that magnificent
pleasure ground. Ib is proper also to say righfc here that the most
determined opposition to the selection of this particular park was made by
several of the owners of property within its limits, that these property
owners got up and forwarded petitions to fche Legislature againsfc the pas¬
sage of the biU, thafc fchey employed counsel who appeared before the
Legislative Commifctee and Governor Cleveland and used every effort to
defeat its enacfcmenfc. There never was a movemenfc of the kind in this or
any other city so wholly free from speculation of any description. Ifc was
conceived in the besfc and purest of motives, having in view the one great
object, the public good.

A.nd now a few words in conclusion as to the financial question. On fchat
point it is sufficienfc afc present to say thafc the cifcy will have fchis splendid
park domain entirely free of cost; fchafc, as in the case of the Central,
more than the amount of the bonds and the 3 per cent, interest thereon
will be paid back into the city treasury from the increased tax income
on the enhanced value of the surrounding lands—yes, more than enough to
pay for the smaller down-town parks which are to be created under the act
just passed.

If, in a monarchical counfcry, fche opening of " The People's Palace,"
which took place in London the other day, was made fche occasion of a
royal pageant, and the dedication of an additional park area of 7,000
acres a few years ago was celebrafced by fche civic authorities of
that cifcy, should we nofc celebrate with appropriate ceremonies the
opening of the people's parks next year by a grand municipal hoUday ?

Sincerely yours,           John Mullaly.

New York, May 17,1887.

The Building Situation—A Conservative

Mr. Charles Buek thinks there is too much building going on just at
presenfc in New York and ifcs viciniby. The supply of houses, he believes,
will be greater than any demand that is likely to spring up for them. Ifc
is true there is no such craze in fche price of vacanfc lands and lofcs as obfcains
in the Western cifcies. Our trouble is overbuilding. Many houses con-
sti-ucted last year are as yet uasoll, aad yefc fchis year wiU see many more
edifices erecfced fchan were pufc up lasfc year.

" Bufc," asked fche writer, ''is ifc nofc fci'ue that fche country is prosperous ?
People are making money in every sorfc of business enterprise. The owners
of the $8,000,000,000 of railroad bonds and stocks are feeling very happy
jusfc now, for the markefc price of their securities have appreciated. Is ifc
nofc a fact that when money is made in general business that a certain pro¬
portion of those who bad accumulated wealth always found their way to
New York to invest in real estate ?"

" That is quite true," answered Mr. Buek, " but nevertheless the people
who have builfc cosfcly houses recently flnd it very difficult to sell them.
There are quite a number of very choice new residences, particularly on
the west side, which are seeking owners. Indeed, the demand has dropped
off quite suddenly. I judge tho talk about a 'boom' has scared
people, as no one cares to pay top prices for property. There may
be a better market in the fall, and if business is prosperous there
doubtless will be. Vacant- lots seem to me to be as high as they
should go. Of course there is no such craze aboufc vacanfc land here
as there is out West and in parts of the South. Bufc nevertheless
lots are high and prudent builders wiU not care to invesfc in them
at any marked advance of their price. I think The Record and
Guide ought to warn capifcalisfcs and builders fco pufc on fche brakes and not
to keep on bmlding unless a better demand makes its appeai'ance." Mr.
Buek thought weU of the region west of Morningside Park, but its future
depended upon the character of the flrst houses put up. If they were smaU
in size and tasteless in appearance it would ruin the neighborhood. Now
that the region easfc of the park has been practically buUt up, it would be
hard to say where the new fashionable quarter wiU be esfcablished. It
uiay be the Morningside Park region, provided the first houses constructed
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