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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 68, no. 1758: November 23, 1901

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November 23, 1901. RECORD AM) GUIDE. 687 Dr/bid) TO F^L EsvKn. BuiLdiKc ApcifiTEtmmE^{ousoioiL DesofijiidiI. BUsiiJess AffoThemes of GEtfeR^.IjftERPT. PRICE PER. YEAR IN ADVANCE SIX DOLLARS Published every Satarday ConunufllcatioiiH should, bo addressed to C. W. SWEET, I4"I6 Veaey Street, New Yorli J. T. IiINDSBT, Buainess Manager Telephone, Cortlandt 3157 "Entered at the Post OMce at New York, N. Y.. as second-class matter.' Vol. LXVIII. NOVEMBER 23, 1901. No. 1758. LAST week we pointed out the uncertainties of the exchange situation, and this found verification in ttie movements of gold this weeii—heavy sliipments in tbe early and cancella¬ tions in ttie later part. At the same time our mail brings British financial papers recording the relief only expressed at the time of their mailing, at the passing of the danger of a demand from the. United States itself on Europe for gold. After this, it is supererogatory to point out that the monetary situa¬ tion is as impenetrable as it is uncertain. Tbe circumstances bring our market into close relations with the European mar¬ kets, and tbe. condition is admittedly unsatisfactory. The re¬ lief afforded by the already heavy shipments of gold from this Bide bas not been sufficient to enable the Bank of England to reduce its discount rate from the bigb figure of 4 per cent., and the distress in industrial circles, as well as the heavy failures of tbe year makes the present season, always one of some scarc¬ ity, one of unusual anxiety and tension. Tbe best tbat can be said of the case is that with ample warning and apparently care¬ ful preparation for an emergency, the crisis will probably pass before the close of tbe year, without much more damage than ordinarily comes from some stringency and pinching here and there. As to our own case, December is usually a month of high money rates and falling prices, and, although last December was a notable exception to the rule, it looks as if precedent is going to be followed tbis year. Already tbe movement of gold and the advances In the home rates for money have scared away most of the outside buying and, while pool and professional operations manage to give an appearance of liveliness to tbe stock market, and create some marvelous turns in the day to day aspect of things, the situation is not satisfactory enough to warrant the- expression of optimistic conclusions as to the move¬ ments of prices, tbe admitted excellent condition of general business and the prosperity of the railroads notwithstanding. AN address was delivered one day this week by Robert Da Forest who, it will be remembered, was chairman of the late Tenement House Commission, which, as reported by the daily press, contains some puzzling statements. Mr. De Forest is reported to have declared: "The tenement house dweller does not ask charity, but demands as his right, simple justice." Simple justice from whom? Prom the community who have, according to his friends, neglected him, or tbe landlord, who has kept all his contracts with him? Then further Mr. De Forest is reported to bave said: "Justice to tbe working classes is not tbe only reason why we should improve their bousing conditions, charity to ourselves is quite as cogent. Putting the question on the lowest plane of self-interest, will it not pay all of us to be better protected from moral and physical con¬ tagion, even if it involve a loss to our pockets?" What are we to understand from this? Is it an admission that the leaders in tenement house reform bave at last reached the conclusion that tbe heavy pecuniary sacrifices they demand for bettering the conditions of tbe tenement house should be borne by tbe community and not by the landlords as sucb alone? Mr. De Forest has been mentioned as the gentleman who will undertake the task of forming the new Tenement House Department, and administering the tenement bouse law; and, until the doubts created by his speech are cleared up, it will not be possible to determine whether his appointment, if made, would be an in¬ timation to the owners of tenement houses, that tbey could con¬ sult their lawyers as to what protection they could obtain in the courts against tbe obnoxious provisions of the law, or as an intimation that they will not be required to pay for tbat "char¬ ity" to the community, whose cogency Mr. De Forest himself bas admitted and urged, except, of course, as taxpayers, in common with the owners of other classes of property. It would be obviously unfair that one part of the community should alone pay the cost of so great a benefit to tbe whole; and yet, if it should be proposed to make a common charge of it, what will the other part say? Such a proposition would certainly test the sincerity and reveal tbe true extent of the desire for tenement reform and place it on a better basis of "simple jus- tive," than it has hitherto stood upon. The Debt Limit. A3 were the present, tbe incoming administration are threat¬ ened, at the opening of their term, witb a temporary exhaustion of the city's credit for raising money to make im¬ provements; that is to say, that owing to the appropriations tbat must be made for work in band, or pledged, and to the constitutional limit on the borrowing powers of the city, there will be no margin on January 1 on which to order new works of public utility. Four years ago the city's credit was swamped by the bunching into a common obligation of the newly con¬ solidated city, all the debts of tbe constituent cities, towns and villages, and tbe embarrassment was very great until by a violent increase in real estate valuations a new margin waa created and public work could be resumed. This has been, however, in a sort of hand to mouth way, wholly inadequate to tbe needs of the community, because financial conditions would not permit the making of a programme more compre¬ hensive or scientiflc. Comptroller Coler has stated that when Mr. Low takes office, the legal debt limit will have been reached; tbat is to say, the city's bonds outstanding will equal the ten per cent, of the real estate valuation to which they are restricted by the Constitution of the State. Consequently, with every one of tbe five boroughs clamoring for and needing works of devel¬ opment, the new administration, like the old, will not be able to do anything until tbe new valuations are confirmed next July, and not much then, because it is not probable tbat the tithe of tbe increase will exceed $7,000,0u0 or $8,000,000. It is singular, that, although it has been apparent for a good many years that the limitation of its borrowing powers waa embarrassing to a city of the size and importance of this, only one official, the present Comptroller, has suggested a remedy, and., although municipal questions are common subjects of dis¬ cussion in the press, only one journal, the Record and Guide. has pointed a way out of the difficulty. This shows how per- functive are official, and how merely commentative journalist views of the important problems involved in municipal govern¬ ment. Prior to consolidation, the Record and Guide, forseeing the embarrassments likely to come upon tbe city, because of ita manifold wants and limited credit, suggested that the municipal means should be supplemented by calling in tbe aid of private capital to carry out some of the work that need not be the ex¬ clusive task of the municipality, so tbat all the funds the law allowed the city to create could be concentrated upon work that only tbe city could do. Tbe development of tbe doeka under long leases might be given as an instance of the one^ and the building of bridges as an instance of the other. Comp¬ troller Coler's remedy is the exclusion from the constitutional limit of debt incurred for works tbat are self-sustaining, such as docks, water supply and rapid transit. Both suggestions contemplate final ownership, free and clear of tbe improve- ments, by the city, in one case by tbe expiring of leases, and in the other by the operation of a sinking fund. The Comptrolier'a suggestion will probably find quickest sympathy with the pub¬ lic, not only because be speaks witb a very potent voice, but also because it is more easily understood and does no damage to much favored though little understood ideas involved in the term "municipal ownership." Its disadvantages lie in the facts, that it takes three years, under favorable circumstances to obtain an amendment of the constitution, and that it is some¬ what difficult to say in advance what will be self-sustaining works. On the other hand, the Legislature could, in one ses¬ sion, empower the city to treat with private capital for the execution of certain public works, and once begun, tbe system would be capable of indefinite expansion. Every day is making it still more certain that something will have to be done to elasticize tbe city's financial system, espe¬ cially in the credit department. The means at its disposal for carrying out its gigantic work are wholly inadequate. This was shown while making up the last budget, when the head of the Department of Education stated that tbat department ought to have a yearly increase of $5,000,000 to carry out its work evi¬ dently; now tbe average annual increase in the borrowing power is about $8,000,000. It may be said tbat each and every department is annually turned away from the Board of Estimate dissatisfied. Not only are the borrowing powers of the city inadequate to meet present demands, but the future will see new ones arise. We are traveling the road already traversed by Loudon in the matter of tbe housing of tbe poor so closely- discouraging the investment of private capital in suitable build-