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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 91, no. 2347]: March 8, 1913

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BUILDERS AND NE'W YORK, MARCH 8, 1913 iHlilllll iHiiiaiiiiiiiiiHiii 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. I .iiiiiii— 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. "Misconstruction." 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 apparent. 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. Oppressive Legislation. 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 deserts? 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 public funds. 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¬ production. 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 the time. 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 "expenses." 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 dividends. 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¬ reasonable. Is this Utopia. Is it not the real. Real Estate business?