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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 69, no. 1777: April 5, 1902

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April 5, 1902. ■»*» RECORD AND GUIDE. 591 DE/oifl) TO Real Estate . SulLDI^'c A.rcj^itectu!S X'^SEriom DEaoBjntnl, B[i:i!t^E-iS Alb Themes of GeiJer^, IKCEBPT- PRICE PER YEAR IN ADVANCE SIX DOLLARS Pttbtisfied every Saturday Oommunlcatioua Bhould be addresBed to C. W. SWEET, 14-16 Vesey Street, New York X. T, UNSSEY, Business Manager Telephone, Cortlandt 3167 'Entered at the Post Office at NeiD Tork. K. T., as second-class matter." Vol, LXIX. APRIL 5, 1902. No. 1777 WITS SUPPLEMENT. JSvery aubso-iber of the Eecord and Guide shovld receive nith the issue of this date a supplement describing the present status of apartment house building in New York Ciiy, and comparing the latest types of New York apartment houses with-those erected in London and Paris. THERE has been an increase of activity in the Stock Market and some more commission business has been attracted hy the sensational movements of certain issues. The transac¬ tions have a larger element of gambling in them than ever, and, while it is apparently in the power of a clique with money to put up any stock they choose, people who do not want to take risks of carrying stocks through a break wili do well to con¬ sider the matter carefully before they embark on little specula¬ tive ventures. Generalized, the situation invites new opera¬ tions, but when it comes to particularizing a quite serious diffi¬ culty arises. Take the independent and Vanderbilt Northwest- erns, for instance. Should anyone be attracted by their recent sensational advances what assurance has he got from the crowd of known gamblers who are said to be engineering this move¬ ment from Chicago that there is anything in it but a pool operation to make a scoop. As for the general business situa¬ tion, that remains nnimpaired. In all staple lines steadiness and strength are the predominant features. Money eased off somewhat owing to increased supplies. Sterling continues high and flrm. The arguments in favor of higher prices for listed securities are also unchanged. Epitomized, they amount to this: As everything comes up in Spring, why not the prices of stocks? MAYOR LOW has been complaining about those provisions of the new charter which tie his hands in exercising any effective control over city employees. Whenever an office is abolished the incumbent must receive a preferred place on the waiting list, and the consequence is that the heads of depart¬ ments are obliged to take back into other positions men whose offices have been abolished and who may be entirely unsuited to the work. This provision of the new charter undoubtedly tends to be destructive of any real departmental discipline. Its obvious purpose is to secure permanency of official employ¬ ment and to protect under-offlcials from discharge for political purposes; but, however laudable this purpose may be, the ten¬ dency of civil service reformers has been to push means to this end altogether too far. The primary object of all civil-service rules is to secure administrative efficiency; and nothing is more destructive of such efficiency than to make the minor offtcials largely or wholly independent of their superiors. As long as a man can keep his office under any circumstances, un¬ less guilty cf serious fault, ae is uot likely to over-exert him¬ self in his worit or to carry out loyally tbe designs of his su¬ periors. There can be no efficiency in administration without the possession of disciplinary powers on the part of heads of departments. This is the trouble with the police force at the present time. It is practically independent of the Commis¬ sioner, so long as it cannot be convicted of actually disobeying the laws, and the consequence is that it persistently and sys¬ tematically ignores the wishes and policy of the administra¬ tion. According to the Mayor, the same thing is also happening in the other departments, and he has a right to complain of it. His power of dismissing heads of departments is worthless as long as these chiefs are themselves unable to secure responsible and faithful subordinates. This question of municipal employ¬ ment in all its branches is one which has not as yet begun to be satisfactorily solved in this city, and the civil-service re¬ formers make as fundamental an error In their way as' Tam¬ many does In its way. Municipal Ownership of Public Utilities. '"T"' HE question of municipal ownership of street railways, -^ gas and electric lighting has just been submitted to the voters of Chicago, with results that are surprising and en¬ couraging to the rapidly increasing number of economists who believe in t,hat policy. More than 150,000 people recorded their votes in favor of municipal ownership, and only 25,000 voted against it. The city is not committed to anything by the Issue of the referendum, for the vote was taken only for the purpose of testing public opinion; btit as long as the majority in favor of city ownership was so overwhelming, it is extremely prob¬ able tbat measures will be taken to make the popular verdict effective. If such measures are taken, we shall have another illustration of the enterprising readiness of Chicago to apply new and useful ideas. In this respect the Western Metropolis is far ahead of New York, It is already trying with some suc¬ cess a system of registering land titles, and should it try munici¬ pal ownership of public utilities also, it will have taken its place in the front rank of American cities who are progressive, not only in population, hut in ideas. There can be no doubt that a city which is willing to face, if necessary, the ways and means of municipal ownership is in a much better business situation than a city which is afraid of such an alternative. By this statement we are far from meaning that it is hetter for New York or any other munic¬ ipality to adopt municipal ownership under any event. On the contrary, the system of private operation, if not ownership, has distinct advantages. But the great difficulty is that a city which is not prepared, if necessary, to construct and operate street railways, electric light plants and the like is utterly un¬ able to get from private corporations terms which represent the full value of such privileges. The capitalists who under- ■take these enterprises have been accustomed to making profits out of all proportion to the money invested in them and the risk they involve; and municipal officials who are ne¬ gotiating with such capitalists are quite unable to get full value for the city's property, unless they are able to threaten, as an alternative to a bad bargain, exclusive municipal owner¬ ship and operation. The threat should be seriously made. It is always possible to calculate roughly what a given fran¬ chise is worth, and if no private capital is ready to come for¬ ward and pay that value in full, the city should he in a posi¬ tion legally and mentally to go ahead on its own account. The lease of the New York Subway, now under construction, is a case in point. The Rapid Transit Commission undoubtedly secured the best terms that it could from private capitalists, for such capitalists were not willing to embark on the work unless they could see ahead of them a large proflt. But at the same time the bargain was undoubtedly a very bad one for the city. During the whole term of the lease it will not receive more than the interest on the cost of construction and enough added to pay off the bonds when they mature. Perhaps this is all the Subway will be worth diiring the flrst five years or more of its operation; hut hy the time Washington Heights and the Bronx are well settled it is obvious that the value of the Sub¬ way will be enormously increased, and that this increase will go exclusively into the treasury of the Subway Co, The re¬ cently completed Metropolitan Railway in Paris is already earn¬ ing ten per cent, for the operating company under conditions in many respects less favorable to it than those which the New York company enjoys. The city of New York would undoubtedly have made a better bargain if the Rapid Transit Commission had been able and willing to reject all the bids and undertake the operation as well as the construction of the system of rapid underground transit. The Record and Guide does not call attention to this matter for the purpose of fruitlessly criticizing accomplished facts. The Subway contract will be a gold mine to New York com¬ pared to the street railway, gas and electric lighting franchises. But the important consideration is that New York is only be¬ ginning the construction of its system of underground transit, and it is essential that any other subways which are constructed by the city should uot he leased to private companies except on very much better terms. In a short time the Brooklyn tunnel will be offered for lease, and in the course of a few years other extensions will follow. One of the daily papers is already agitating for an Bast Side Subway, an addition to the system which cannot he long postponed. In case of all these exten¬ sions the city should get better terms than it did for that por¬ tion of the system now under construction; and in case private capital refuses to offer such terms the threat of municipal ownership, should be used, and, if occasion arises, be carried into action. The same is true with all street railway fran-