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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 84, no. 2170: October 16, 1909

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October i6, 1909 RECORD AND GUIDE ^77 ESTABUSHEd'^ march Siu^ 1868. DnM>IOl^LESTAJZ.BU]L01l/0%cKlTEC7UnE.KoiJSQ(01DDD3Cf(«llH Bi/sn/ESSAtfeThemes OF GEffcRAl IrlitflfaT.: PRICE PER YEAR IN ADVANCE EIGHT DOLLARS Communications should be addressed to C. W. SWEET Published EVery Saturday By THE RECOBD AND GUIDB CO. President, CLINTON W. SWEET Treasurer, F. W. DODGE Vlce-Pres. & Genl. Mgr., H. W. DESMOND Secretary, P. T. MILLER Nob. 11 to 15 East 24th Street, Ne-*v York C(ty (Telephone, Madisou Square, 4430 to 4433.) "Entered at tlie Post Office at New York, N. Y., as second-class matter," Copyrighted. 1000. by The Record & Guide Co. Vol- LXXXIV. OCTOBER 16. 1909. No. 2170 NO THINKING MAN could have mixed -with the enor¬ mous crowds that flooded the streets during the Hud¬ son-Pulton celebration without being struck by the fact that the problem of surface track congestion would during the next ten years become the most critical problem connected with the future growth and prosperity of New York City. It is absolutely essential that steps should be taken in the near future to study this problem from every point of view and to consider the most practical methods of dealing -with it. The question is: How can the pressure of vehicular and pedestrian trafiic, particularly during a period of public cele¬ bration or excitement, be taken care of -with safety and -with¬ out too much expense? The buiiding of Subways will obvi¬ ously do nothing to make this problem less acute and mo¬ mentous. On the contrary, improved means of transit will, at least so far as Manliattan is concerned, tend to increase rather than diminish its difficulties. When the whole out¬ lying district within a radius of fifteen miles from the heart of Manhattan is directly connected with the central borough by express trains, the result will be a still greater conges¬ tion of traffic, whenever and wherever there is any reason for a crowd to congregate. There are over 5,500,000 people living within this territory at the present time. In another ten years its population will be almost 7,500,000. Iu an¬ other twenty years it will be at least 9,500,000. Manhattan will be the place to which a large increasing proportion of these people will come for a certain proportion of their pleasures and business. In the meantime that borough wili be passing through a corresponding process of local growth, in order to provide the necessary facilities to enable this crowd to amuse themselves and to transact their business. An increasingly large number ot people from all over the country will be sojourning in its hotels. Its chief avenues and streets will become a solid mass of skyscrapers. The constant process of improvement and cheapening that is tak¬ ing place in motor-cars will result in an increase in vehicular traffic greater in proportion than the increase in population. If it is difficult for the street system of the city to accommo¬ date this traffic now, what will it be flfteen or twenty years from now, when that traffic will have at least doubled in amount. A man has only to recollect what has been accom¬ plished during the past ten years in the way of building up Manhattan and of increasing the crowds of vehicles and peo¬ ple on its streets to understand that a corresponding process, extending over another ten years will produce a condition of congestion which will gradually become intolerable. THE PROBLEM of dealing with this present and future congestion has never been really seriously, scientifically and comprehensively studied. Obviously, some means must be adopted to increase the capacity of the streets of Manbat- tain in certain central and peculiarly congested locations. But what means? Various plans have been proposed to in¬ crease the street capacity by cutting through new thorough¬ fares or by widening existing ones. Some of these plans must eventually be adopted, but it is becoming increasingly obvious tliat proposals looking towards an increase of street room in the central districts of Manhattan are becom¬ ing impracticable, because of the expense. It is still possible for the city to improve its street, layout by cutting through Sixth and Seventh avenues to the south, because the prop¬ eity which would have to be acquired for the carrying out of such plans is not prohibitively expensive. But, manifestly. it is no longer possible for the city to increase the area of such centres of congestion as Greeley and Lougacre squares by the purchase of abutting private property. Ten years ago the expenditure might not have beeu prohibitive; but now, when real estate values near the most important centres of congestion, run all the way from $100 to $300 a square foot, it is obvious that not even New York can afford the luxury of such improvements. Yet, it is in precisely such centres of congestion as Longacre and Greeley squares that some increased street room is absolutely necessary. The question remains, then, what can be done; and assuredly this question cannot be ans-wered without a close and com¬ prehensive examination of tbe problem in al! its bearings- The new Board of Estimate should cause such an investiga¬ tion to be made; and the taxpayers' associations of this city should urge upon the Board the importance of such a step. The report of the Commission appointed by Mayor McClellan did not cover the uecessary ground. There is no use at all in laying out a comprehensive scheme of street improvement that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and of shifting the responsibility upon the remote future of finding the necessary money. What the city needs to know is what can be done now or within the next flfteen years to meet the immediately critical situation? No plau or part of a plan should be approved without a careful consideration of the probable expense, and without possible means of raising the money. Such a commission is becoming an absolute neces¬ sity; and the increasingly intolerable condition ot conges¬ tion will force its appointment sometime within the next few years. WHEN SUCH A COMMISSION is appointed it will do well to consider a suggestion recently made by Mr. Theodore Starrett in a letter to The Sun. Mr. Starretfs idea is that the streets in ail centres of congestion should be double decked- The idea has, of course, frequently been broached before; but it has never been embodied in what looks like a really practicable method of constructing the double-decked streets. "A continuous elevated sidewalk of glass and iron, forming a balcony at or about the level of the second story window sills, with bridges over the street crossings would," he says, "theoretically double the sidewalk capacity; but owing to the fact that the trafflc would be un¬ obstructed the pedestrian capacity of the street would be fully quadrupled." We agree with Mr. Starrett that even the briefest investigation of this idea bestows upon it some surprising advantages. It could be built piecemeal, first for a block or two at such congested points as Broadway and Forty-second street. Fifth avenue and Thirty-fourth street. Fourth avenue and Forty-second street and Broadway and Porty-second street. Gradually the system couid be ex¬ tended to cover the principal arteries of traffic. A balcony attached to the stee! frames of the buildings, leaving the lower street level unobstructed would be the most advan¬ tageous form of these sidewalks, but in the beginning the balcony in front of old fashioned buildings could be sup¬ ported by iron posts. When the pedestrian travel is diverted to the upper level, the present footways could be narrowed on all the streets, just as they have recently been narrowed on Fifth avenue. A lower sidewalk ten feet wide would be sufficient for ail people who would -wish to travel there; and iu this -way the congestion of vehicular and pedestrian traffic could be relieved at the same time. Mr- Starrett is also right in believing that double-decked sidewalks would be extremely profitable to the property owners in front of whose buildings they were placed- Instead of having only one ground fioor, they would have two; and this would be an enormous advantage from the point of view of retail trade. Customers alighting from vehicles would for the most part enter below and pedestrians from above. The circumstance which contributes most to the value of real estate is the number of people who pass by it and to whom it is access¬ ible; and this idea would increase the accessibility of all centrally situated property without in any way injuring the interests of the abutting property owners. The owners of neighboring real estate are always hostile to street wideu- ings and extensions, because such improvements usually cause them great inconvenience and loss, and if tbey wish to avoid such losses in the future, they will do well to con¬ sider very seriously Mr. Starretfs suggestion. It has the unusual advantage of accomplishing a necessary public im¬ provement, not only without hurting any individual prop¬ erty owner, but also with every probability of being as bene¬ ficial to the private interests affected as to those of the public.