Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
NE'W YORK, MARCH 8, 1913
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH REAL ESTATE?
Unfair Laws—Excessive Taxation — Overproduction of Buildings and
Few Buyers—Must Stop Expensive Fads and Regulate Building Height.
By ALFRED R. KIRKUS
Secretary of the New York, the Manhattan, the Central and the Colonial Real Estate Associations.
WHAT is the matter with the real
estate market? Not only is real
estate in New York City paying most
of the expenses of the city, but the
city is paying most of the expenses of
the State. Meanwhile, it is self evident
that realty is ceasing to appeal to the
general investor as in times past.
Is it any longer an investment? Is it
any longer the "old reliable" that the
conservative investor can put his money
in? Up to a few years ago, when the
drygoods trade, the stock market or
other business became dull, the investor
turned to real property with a sigh of
relief. Today what?
We find a neighborhood like lower
Fifth avenue, only lately improved by
buildings designed for and occupied by
high class houses, partially filled—but
ruined by sweatshops.
While the City builds a Municipal
Building for the housing of its various
departments that will depopulate scores
of office buildings, we build monstrosi¬
ties of 56 stories and file plans for others
varying from 30 to 45 stories to empty
and ruin scores of others, and if the
stamp tax on securities is increased by
the proposed legislation, more and more
will the over-production in this line be
The old silk, velvet and lace centre,
owned or occupied by conservative,
fine old firms, is emptied and going beg¬
ging at 25 cents on the dollar, to fill
15, 20 and 25 story buildings, which are
turning hitherto fine residential streets
into canyons and turning out at night
more persons than the streets can hold.
Retail houses are crowded from one
location to another by the encroach¬
ment, almost to their doors and win¬
dows, of more sweatshops.
Meanwhile, Albany churns out bills
by the score, making laws, laws, laws
that bind and pinch property owners;
it creates a Fire Prevention Bureau one
month and a State Factory Law the
next to supersede it, and tear down or
re-build buildings, a few months ago
considered first class; to drive people
into "modern fireproof" towers as un¬
fit for human habitation as dungeons
underground, for no sunlight goes be¬
low the fifth or sixth story from the top.
Are there to be no homes in Manhat¬
tan any more? Are there to be no streets
on which we can walk without being
pushed off the sidewalk? Are we to
have no light, air or safety? Are we
to give up buildings where only two or
three tenants have been known and
are to be found after years and years of
■ tenantry and leave them bare, empty
Tbe time has come when the
Municipality and the State should
be made to have more considera¬
tion for the rights of property.
The Real Estate market has never
before been so depressed. Every¬
where It Is being said that the time
has come to speak out and resist
further oppression from whatever
source It comes, and to do some¬
thing to restore former conditions.
The author of the present article
is tbe executive officer of cor¬
porations owning millions of dol¬
lars of property. He protests
against unnecessary factory laws,
against unregulated building, ex¬
cessive taxation and the waste of
Enormous Waste of Values.
Should not consideration be given to
the enormous waste caused by the de¬
struction of present buildings in order
to replace them by some new skyscraper
far in advance of real demand?
What shall we do? We must first
find out what is the real cause of such
upheavals, we must stand together for
honesty, improvement, and for opposi¬
tion to unjust or at least unfair laws.
We must stand for equal and properly
adjusted taxation, for regulation of the
height of buildings, and for freedom
from regulation from Albany t the ex¬
pense of the City.
Must Stop Over-Assessing.
We must support our administration
in providing for safety and proper and
equal supervision, and we must oppose
expensive fads—and oppression from
organizations or departments catering
to popular or hysterical waves of so¬
cial unrest; and more than anything, we
must oppose the suave speculator and
get-rich-quick builder, who on a shoddy
building operation, backed by an over¬
loaded mortgage and padded rent roll,
lies in wait for the innocent "lamb."
The owners of the older style buildings
must realize the importance of good
floors, first class and generous modern
plumbing, good elevator plant, and
elevator service, and paint and kalso¬
mine; and the realty investor may well
consider the improvement or remodel¬
ling of present buildings, rather than
building new ones to add to the over¬
The city authorities must recognize
the differences in taxable value of lo¬
calities where rentals have fallen 25 per
cent, to SO per cent. The State must
refrain from mandatory laws compel¬
ling buildings to be made fireproof or
modern buildings to be re-modernized; it
must recognize that low buildings made
slow burning are far safer for the housing
of workers or business than so-called
fireproof buildings, so high that the
hundreds coming down their staircases
in case of fire in the contents, or panic
in the building, will be killed in heaps.
Must Regulate Building Height.
We must recognize the rights of
others, we must regulate the height
of our buildings so that the light is not
stolen from our neighbors or their light
put out by ours. We must have sun
once in a while, not electric light all
If necessary we must create zones in
which we shall have our homes, our re¬
tail, our wholesale, our factory and otir
marketing business kept one from the
other—reached not by flying expresses,
but by a transportation service, fast,
but practically continuous. We must
have frequent subway stations with
frequent trains of a length that can be
quickly stopped, unloaded and started.
We must ask that our moneyed insti¬
tutions will consider that loans made at
or about 4 per cent, on 60 per cent,
real equity are safer, better and more
legitimate than on 90 per cent, of in¬
flated values at 5% to 6 per cent, and
We must equip our fire department
with up-to-date apparatus and live men.
We must make our insurance companies
realize that good "moral hazards," at¬
tention to tidiness, prevention of fires
and inspection of risks to reduce rates
rather than raise them is better than
fireproofing and sprinklers and large
Factories must be placed in buildings
whence the employees can reach their
homes easily and cheaply, where they
can reach the ground easily, and where if
there should be an alarm, the firemen
and police can easily reach them to help
or calm them. Where their safety lies
in easy escape, and not in automatic
sprinklers wetting them down while they
look into the clouds.
Investors must be educated to ap¬
preciate that five or six story build¬
ings, even non-fireproof, are far safer
for occupancy than the most approved
skyscraper, and that in any reasonably
constructed building, the requirements
of the present Bureau of Fire Preven¬
tion have not proved arbitrary or un¬
Is this Utopia. Is it not the real.
Real Estate business?