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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 97, no. 2513: Articles]: May 13, 1916

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REAL ESTATE AND NEW YORK, MAY 13, 1916 WEST SIDE IMPROVEMENT MEANS MUCH TO FUTURE GROWTH OF THE CITY Real Estate Board Asks Hearings So That En¬ tire Project May Be Thoroughly Understood THE plans for changing the New York Central's West Side trackage sys¬ tem, now before the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, have been consid¬ ered jointly by the Committee on Rail¬ roads and Transportation and the Com¬ mittee on Docks, Terminals and Water Fronts of the Real Estate Board of New York. The following statement has been issued: "The Real Estate Board, in the short time available, has given considerable study to the question of the proposed plans for the New York Central's West Side tracks. The growth and prosperity of New York has been in a very large measure due to the facilities for receiving freight by rail and water from all parts of the world. Conditions are now chang¬ ing. Submarine tunnels are to a great e.xtent replacing lighterage. Shippers now expect and require, in many in¬ stances, that freight cars run up to or into their buildings. Grade crossings in a large city have become a great source of danger to life, and in this instance the removal of the tracks from grade is the paramount issue. "If New York is to remain the first city of the country, it must compete with other cities in giving facilities for receiv¬ ing freight from all railroad and steam¬ ship lines that can enter the city in ways compatible with present day needs. "With these points in view, it would seem that the granting of a franchise such as is proposed and the conserving of the rights of the people of New York so far as opportunities for the entering of other railroads are concerned, should be given great care and opportunity for discussion by public bodies that are in¬ terested, and reasonable time allowed for this purpose. Resolutions to this end the Rea! Estate Board of New York has passed and presented to the Board of Estimate." The Policy Adopted. .\t Monday's hearing Chairman Pren¬ dergast announced that the cominittee had adopted the policy of giving the full¬ est opportunity for remarks from citi¬ zens, but not engaging in any dialogue at this time. In due time the commit¬ tee would reply to the criticisms in one document, and in categorical order if need be. President Coleman of the West End .Association read a report to the associa¬ tion from Charles Downing Lay, land¬ scape architect, upon the efifect of the proposed track changes upon the land¬ scape of Riverside Park. Mr. Lay esti¬ mates that the cost of the restoration of the park, where injured by building the railroad structure through it, will be $572,906. He further says: "It seems to me of infinitely greater importance to remove the docks at 79th and 96th streets, and to fill out the bulk¬ head line, making this large area close to the water useful to the people, than it does to deck the railroad right of way, when decking means the spoliation of the park, for a small increase of not very useful park area. "The present docks are to many peo¬ ple more objectionable than the railroad, which can everywhere be overlooked and forgotten, and once electrified, will sel¬ dom be heard. "It is important, too, to keep the pres- BOARD ASKS HEARING. Resolved: That it is the opin¬ ion of the Real Estate Board of New York that the City of New York should give to the public the city's' views of the relative esti¬ mated value of the present fran¬ chise of the New 'York CentrEil Railroad Company on the 'West Side of the Borough of Manhattan, as compared with the estimated val¬ ue of the franchise proposed in the report of the Committee on Port and Terminal Facilities, made to the Board of Estimate and Appor¬ tionment on April 22, 1916; that the city should likewise prepare and make public the tentative agreement with the Railroad Com¬ pany; and that hearings on the subject should be continued until ample time has been given for the consideration of such franchise values and tentative agreement. Resolved further: That, after such information has been made public, the Real Estate Board of New 'York be gfiven a public hear¬ ing on the question. eiit line and width of the railroad right of way. Encroachment east of the pres¬ ent wall with its consequent injury to the park should not be tolerated, except _at Grant's Tomb, where the rising grade make a location further to the east more desirable. "The crossing of the railroad for ac¬ cess to the river is not a difficult matter, as anyone knows who has studied the many beautiful bridges in Central Park. There is no doubt but what the railroad can be made as inconspicuous in River¬ side Park as the transverse roads in Central Park. Indeed, with skillful planting, well-designed bridges and some modelling of the surface on the westerly side of the railroad, the park will be more picturesque and beautiful than with the wide strip of more or less badly disguised covering of the deck. Developing Bulkhead Line. "That the city's money would be spent to better advantage in developing to the bulkhead line and improving this area than in deckin.g the railroad. "It must be seriously considered whether such a large terminal as pro¬ posed for _133rd-155th streets could not be placed in some other and less beauti¬ ful spot. So little of New York is re¬ served from commercial development that it seems a pity to give up any of the beauties of our famous drive. "Giving the city a bridge at 70th street does not mean that the docks above will be_ abandoned without a fight, and cer¬ tainly 70th street should not be made a thoroughfare to the new dumps when 68th street is so much better." Charles L. Craig, chairman of the Law Committee of the West End Association, made an extended criticism of the plan so far as it relales to Riverside Park. He said some of the published reports of the plans had been vitally mislead¬ ing in respect to landscaping outshore of the park after the railroad had been Mr. Craig said: "Where the published illustrations show a finished park and promenade outside of the railroad tracks, the plans indicate merely an unfinished sloping off from the tracks, without landscaping or surfacing of any kind west of the tracks. "The fact is that a great stretch of the present park east of the railroad, approximately 100 feet in width and nearly three miles in length, extending from 73rd street to 129th street, is cut away; thousands of trees, bushes and shrubs are excavated in order to move the railroad tracks eastward from their present location, so as to occupy the present landscaped park. widening at the south end into a railroad yard of twenty tracks, over which rises a roof 35 feet above the rails. This roof, north of 72nd street, consists of four and one- Iialf acres of gravel six inches thick, which is called a playground. To ac¬ complish this result requires an excava¬ tion approximately twenty feet deep run¬ ning from 72nd street to 129th street, and extending eastward into the present park in some places more than 100 feet and on an average throughout the park approximately 75 feet." Questions Statement. Mr. Craig further said: "In its re¬ port the Terminal Committee says: 'These advantages will be secured to the City of New York without the expendi¬ ture of city funds and without the sur¬ render of any of the city's waterfront to the exclusive use of the railroad com¬ pany.' (Report, p. 28). "It is incredible that such a statement should be made. From 42nd street to Slst street, in order to provide a right of way for the railroad company, the city obligates itself to the relocation of Twelfth avenue so as to move it east¬ ward a considerable distance. In order to do this, condemnation proceedings must be taken and a large amount of private property thereby acquired for the relocation of Twelfth avenue. Every dollar of the damages to be awarded against the city in such condemnation proceedings must be paid by the city. The railroad pays nothing. Change of grade damages are also involved in the intersecting cross streets resulting from the relocation of Twelfth avenue. It is impossible accurately to state in this report the extent of the foregoing dam- ages,_ but as the private property to be acquired extends for nearly a half a mile along the waterfront, the awards for damages will ' e large. "In the present right of way through Riverside Park the railroad tracks can be depressed from 5 to 10 feet, and when so depressed the park improvement can be easily and inexpensively carried over them. In fact it is not indispensable if the tracks are depressed that they should be roofed over at every point when elec¬ trically operated. This is vastly prefer¬ able to the arrangement proposed. It involves practically no expense, for the very work that the railroad must do to electrify its lines will depress the tracks. "The extension of the stockyards and 60th street yard northward into River¬ side Park, whether east or west of the present tracks, should be eliminated from further discussion. "No man can foresee the future New