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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 67, no. 1720: March 2, 1901

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^larch 2, 1901. RECORD AND GUIDE. ESTABUSHED^ (^AP^H^l>i^ 1856. DE/ffTEDfO REAtEsTAJT.SniLDlf/o A,Rpf<'TECTdl^E.H0U3E:>i0lI)DE0CirtAIlCit SusitiESS AftoThemes ofGeHei^I. lWTE;^tai|. PRICE PER TEAR IN ADVANCE SIX DOLI.ARS. Puhliahed every Saturday. TELEPHOKB, COKTLANDT I37O. Communications should be addressed to ' C. "W. SWEET, 14-16 Vesey Street. /. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager. "Entered a( the Post-Offlrr at Nejo Yorlc. N. 7., a-t second-class matter." Vol. Lxvir. MARCH 2, 1901. No. 1720. THERE is no cloubt that the public is regarding the great steel combination shyly, not to say suspiciously, and it looks very much to-day as if the whole line of Steelers will be rather less attractive in the garb of the United States Steel Co. than in their original and primitive dressings. An idea is ob¬ taining currency that the amalgamation is wholly and solely based on the idea that a market can be found for a lot of indi¬ vidually unattractive securities when they have ibeen consoli¬ dated into one. Quotations of the new stocks in advance of issue have not been what were expected and reveal rather more desire to realize on the constituent issues than faith in the success of the new consolidated one. Still, the consolidation will he a good thing for business generally in that it will have averted the trade war that was practically declared a couple of months ago and a trade war that would have disturbed everything if it had gonetothelengthof hostilities. It may be that the present owners of the steel plants will have to carry them in the new securities until they have better demonstrated their worth, but being actu¬ ated by the highly disinterested motives they all profess, they will not mind this. They have doubtless had, too, no end of fun in working for positions in the combinations, though some claim that they could show scars if they wanted to, that they will feel themselves fully rewarded by its accomplishment. On the whole the public attitude is a wise one. There is so little revealed re¬ garding the properties entering the combination, nothing of the disposition of a large part of the new stock, and so many doubts may arise of the success of a combination of such proportions that it is right that the present owners should keep their prop¬ erties until they can be more Jrank regarding their condition and prospects. It must be remembered, too, that although gi¬ gantic, this combination will not include a numher of quite large plants, the Pennsylvania and Cambria for instance, and none of the Southern plants. These may form counter combinations to meet the competition of the first, and there may he trade dif¬ ficulties after all as a consequence. While conditions in the stock market were saved by the return of railroad investments to popular favor late in the week, and it is pleasant to note that with few exceptions trade cejitres report conditions to be satisfactory, and that their reports find confirmation in the con¬ tinuing increase of railroad earnings. HE decision of the Court of Appeals against the "prevailing rate of wages law" will have far-reaching consequences. That law, as is well known, provided that contractors perform¬ ing work on municipal and other public contracts shall pay the rate of wages "prevailing in the locality wherein the work is performed." The Controller had held up payments otherwise due to William J. Rodgers on the ground, admitted by Mr. Rodgers, that he had not paid the union scale of wages. A test suit was made of the case, and first the Appellate Division, and then the Court of Appeals decided that the city must pay the money due under the contract. The ground of the decision substantially is that the dictation to a contractor of the amount of wages he must pay to his employees infringes the right, which the con¬ tractor, as a private individual, should enjoy, of settling with his men their scale of compensation. Its immediate effect, ac¬ cording to the city authorities, will he to save the corporation of New York some millions of dollars which are claimed under suits now pending; but the ultimate effect is much more far- reaching. As the Record & Guide pointed out several weeks ago, a strong tendency has existed for years past to pay munic¬ ipal laborers more than is paid for the same service hy private Individuals, and the "prevailing rate of wages law" was an at¬ tempt to force the contractors for municipal work to yieid to the demand of labor unions, just as the municipality itself had ibeen obliged to yield. The decision of the Court of Appeals de¬ feats this attempt. It means that contractors will be able to em¬ ploy unskilled labor at perhaps three-fourths the price which the city must pay; and the results will he twofold. The municipality will be saved many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on its contracts, and private contractors will have a great advant¬ age over the municipality ia doing municipal work. For it must he remembered that, even if the municipality itself should not be obliged by law to pay the union rate, it would in practice, that is, for political considerations, be obliged to do so. The Tenement House Commission's Bills MAINTAINING, as we have always done, that the solution of the tenement house problem can be found rather in en¬ couraging tbe building of tenement houses than hy discouraging it; and being strongly averse to any experimental increases-in the public expenses at the present time, we feel compelled to oppose the bills of the Tenement House Commission which have been sent to the Legislature by Gov. Odell with the request that they lie promptly enacted. The Governor cannot have taken the trouble to study the report of the commission to which the bills were a complement; otherwise we think he would not have acted so precipitately. The report itself is an admirable document, and shows that the commission gave careful attention to the gathering and ai-rangement of the data bearing upon the ques¬ tion they had to consider. It shows, too, that they learned some things that were good for them to know and were not afraid to own it. This is a change from the suspicious and know-it-all attitude of the old-time tenement reformers that is cheering to witness and encourages the hope that hereafter the basis for the discussion of this question will be the rational one. Striking proof of this change of position is found in the admissions in the report that serious interference with professional building would he followed hy consequences most to be avoided and that tene¬ ment landlords can no longer be charged with greed and rapac¬ ity, because on the whole the average returns on tenements are moderate, and not the extortionate profits that the tenement re¬ formers have always hitherto asserted they were. It is a pity that the commission did not follow these admissions to their log¬ ical end and refrain from making recommendations calculated to check tenement building and to make still more moderate the profits arising therefrom, but had contented themselves with those of their suggestions intended to bring old tenements some¬ what nearer the standard of new ones, and to encourage the building of puhlic baths, laying out parks and the other things that the municipality may very well do to improve the aspects of tenement sections. They might, too, have provided in a more eeonomical way than they have done for the systematic inspec¬ tion of tenements in order to keep both landlord and tenant alive to hygienic requirements. The chief provisions of the commission's bills will be found summarized on another page, to which readers are referred for information on the technical changes proposed. Their perusal will show that they are first of all designed to prevent the fur¬ ther erection of four-family tenements on twenty-five foot lots. The abolition of the air-shaft and the restriction of area of lot to be occupied to seventy per cent, would guarantee this. It is true, the commission claim that a tenement can still be built to pay on such a lot, but admit that it could have only twelve rooms on a fioor instead of fourteen as under the present regula¬ tions, a reduction of rentable space accompanying the admit- tedlymoderate returns on tenements that negatives their conten¬ tion. Moreover, there are restrictions as to height that would tend to still further reduce rentable space and consequently In¬ come, so that it is fair to conclude that with the passage of the bill embodying these provisions, the four-family twenty-five- foot tenement would no longer be built. This form of tenement is certainly not a lovely thing, but it is the one that is most nu¬ merously built, because it is the only one that can he readily financed and marketed, and it is it that has. hitherto, provided for the housing of our constantly growing industrial population. Take it away, with no certainty that larger ones will be built in sufficient number to meet growth of the demand of that popu¬ lation for housing, and Intenser congestion must follow, with In¬ creased rents and further hardships for the poor. Experience has proved that the larger tenement is not easily handled, and it would need a very severe- demand to induce builders to undertake it. It may be argued that if the builder cannot build the twenty- five-foot, he must of necessity build the thirty-foot or the forty- foot or the fifty-foot tenement, but this does not by any means follow; be may decide not to build at an, but to divert his capi¬ tal into some other channel instead. It is mere childishness to