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JANUARY 20, 19|2
NEW YORK'S PROPOSED CIVIC CENTER
May Be Had At Less Thaa the Cost of the Old Tweed Court House, Which
Added Nothing to Taxable Value of Adjacent Property—Post Office Should Go, T
The County Court House of TAveed ring
fame cost about $11,0(30,000. It added
nothing to the taxable value of adjacent
property. Like the Post Office, it was
an unsightly encroachment on City Hall
Park. It looks now as if both may be
remoA'ed and the park restored to this
uses for which it was originally intended.
One has only to glance at some of the
early prints of City Hall Park in Valen¬
tine's Manuals to appreciate the disfig¬
urement caused by the Post Office, the
rear of which with its tangle of delivery
wagons shuts in the old-time view from
the broad steps of the City Hall. On the
assured initiative of Senators O'Gorman
and Root there is reason to believe that
Congi-ess will vote to surrender the Post
Office site in favor of a roomier situa¬
tion in or facing the contemplated civic
center north of the park.
From the expressions of approval wh):ch
the projected civic center has met Avith
in all quarters one might conclude that
sentiment as regards park reservations
has undergone a change since the post
Oflice and the Tweed Court House were
built. The change, however, has been
not so much in the sentiment of the com¬
munity as in deference on the part of
the municipal administration to public
opinion. There have always been schemes
on foot for despoiling City Hall Park, as
well as every other park in the city. At
one time, for example, it was proposed
to erect in City Hall Park a reservoir
for the distribution of water to be
brought from the Bronx River; at an¬
other time the corporation actually voted
land in the park lor the City Hospital.
However, there seems to have been hut
one period when the general statement
held true that the city administration
was willing to defy the preA'ailing senti¬
ment to ratify such schemes of spoliation.
The plan now advocated is virtually to
restore and to extend City Hall Park.
It has grown out of the necessity of pro¬
viding- a modern County Court House
More than a score of sites have been
considered for tha new building. The
final choice lay between the Chainbors
street frontage opposite the park and ihe
blocks bounded roughly by Leonard, La^
fayette, Baxter and Park streets and by '
the plaza formed by the junction of seA'"-
eral streets to the southward. The Cham¬
bers street site would have lent itself
better to artistic treatment in immediate
connection with the park, but the cost of
acquiring it was regarded as prohibitive
The preference being given to the near¬
by cheaper site, the committee took a
broad view of the needs of the city an.l
rtcommended that ground be taken for
other proposed structures besides the
Court House. The civic center which the
cummittee look forward to embraces sev¬
eral blocks and parts of blocks outside
of the area roughly described above. The
accompanying diagram brings out the de¬
tails of the committee's suggestions as
to the land to be acquired. The entire
civic center, inclusive of buildings, should
not cost much more than the taxpayers
were mulcted by the Tweed ring for the
pvc?ent Court House.
Here is a statement of the motives
Avhich actuated the committee:
"We have proceeded upon the assump¬
tion that no adequate treatment of this
question can possibly be arrived at which
dees not view the Court House as, in the
first place, possessing good open .sur¬
roundings, and further as being part of
an important group of public buildings
which the city will undoubtedly be called
upon to build in the not far distant
"It is obvious that since such buildings
AvU! all have to be placed in this general
vicinity, it is better to group them, for
convenience, for economy, and for the
pr<,-i-l!gc of the city. Also that it is bet¬
ter business to make provision for them
now, rather than to wait until the neces^
sity for them compels the acquiring of
th^ir sites one by one.
"Hence all the schemes presented here¬
with'tiontemplate such development,' now
or at some future time, and although
each one of them shows the minimum
of area which would be required to pro¬
vide a mere site for the County Court
House, it must be home in mind that we
regard that as a temporary condition—a
step in Ihe ultimate development,"
The area to be taken by the citv, both
for the Court House and the incidental
parking purposes, would be 120 city lots,
or 300,000 square feet in all. The city
already owns the triangular block be¬
tween Pearl, Duane, Center and Park
streets, with an area of 7,277 square feet.
the Hall of Records bounded by Reade,
Thomas. Elm and Lafayette streets. The
committee also wishes to see the old
Criminal Court House, which is now in
a dilapidated condition, pulled down and
a new one erected opposite the Tombs
Prison on the other side of Center street
and just to the north of the park.
It is, hoAvever, estimated by the Real
Estate Bureau of the Finance Depart¬
ment that the cost of .acquiring the prop¬
erty in condemnation proceedings would
he from $(j,000,€(X> to $0,500,000. The
committee suggests that as park space
THE MUNICIPAL BUILDING AS IT IS TODAY.
in n„^^„f?™''^'''"^ '■'^'^ photograph with the following one, the progress ou the buildmg
Pn,.ir,=^ H, T "^^ '=?" ""^ "°,^®*'- ^°'^^ ""ie granite is yet to be set ou the buildins to
Ti,™,f. '^"ejower stones, aud the upper portion of the tower still remains to be enclosed The
hpi?i^^^Pv!,^Ti ^^'^'"^^''^,^'','"'^^ ^^'"^ ""'"-^ '■^^ exception of a few. hundred feet whitli is
ivn^RH^iZ ' ^^ "alance of the granite, 3000.000 cubic feet is now stored under the Brook-
/.-...nl .%.'.,^ ?®^^/ ^? ^.t..%^'' ■'"^'^ ^^ ^°*"^ ^^ fie -iveather psrmils. The contract for tbe
^'k?. f= T J^ m April. 1910. This means that in a little over one year'and a half 700.000
i,^ii,?^. I 2,, .^'■^"''^^'1=^? "if^" quarried, cut, carved, and over half this ciuantity set in the
Ouiidiug This IS admittedly the greatest record ever achieved iu the history o£ the busi¬
ness m the matter of preparing granite.
or 2.9 city lots. The assessed valuation and new streets are to he provided a
on the property to be taken is $4,42(3,500. certain portion of the cost should be
Here are the figures by blocks; assessed locally on the property holders.
Assessed the balance being met by the issue of
1 lot. Square Ft. Value, corporate stock.
'^'LlflTette^'a"^'^' Sti^e ,,^^^3 figures do not cover . the addi-
streets ............... 40 317 Sl 290 OOO t'o^al land reciuired for carrying out in
Between Leonard, Worth ' ' ' ^^^^ the civic centre idea, but not em-
Centre and Baxter sts. 69,063 1,184,500 braced in the Court House plan.
Between Pearl, Worth, t^^,, (.nmmitfpe cavi'
Elm and Centre sts... 23,346 -609 000 ..^t ^O'?}"""^^ says.
Between Worth Pearl -Ju^.vuu ..-pj^g g,(g proposed Avould permit the
Centre and Park sts,. 51,769 863,000 erection of the Court House Avithin what
Between Pearl. Duane, ' ill effect would be a new city square.
Lafayette and Centre with a noble approach from the south and
q4i»t =„»;............J, '^■'^^^ 371,000 with open spaces to the west, enlarging
portion' Sf bTo c"k ^"^ permitting the further development
bounded by Duane of Avhat is now Mulberry Bend Park.
Reade, Elm and La-^ The property that is taken is all rela-
fayette streets .......105.026 310,000 lively cheap in character. The require-
^ , , -------- -—■-------^- ments of adequate light and air would be
To^^l ................299,600 $4,436,500 satisfactorily met, the Court House placed
Hence, it was thought well to buy for within easy access of the City Hall and
future improA'ements the blocks behind the Hall of Records and the Municipal