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the Manhattan bridge approach, where connection can be made with the Fourth avenue route in Brooklyn already authorized; and
Whereas, Portions of this system have been laid out as separate routes by the former Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners and approved by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the Mayor, and consented to by a majority in value of the owners of abutting property, or by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in lieu thereof; and
Whereas, The construction of such a system will require the modification of certain of the said routes; now therefore be it
Resolved, That the question of the legality and feasibility of such a system be referred to the Counsel and Chief Engineer to the Commission for a report and to prepare the necessary plans and papers for submission to the Commission.
The resolution was adopted.
Fourth Avenue Subway for Brooklyn.
On June 1, 1905, the former Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners laid out the Fourth Avenue Subway route in Brooklyn, as a part of a rapid transit system for the whole city. On July 14, 1905, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment by affirmative vote of all its members except the president of the Borough of Queens, who did not vote, approved the route and the construction of the subway. On July 28, 1905, the mayor gave his approval.
On December 7, 1906, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment adopted a resolution recommending to the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners that alternate bids be invited.
First For construction alone, and
Second For construction, equipment and operation of various routes, which included the Fourth Avenue and Bensonhurst route.
On July 4, 1907, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, at the request of the Rapid Transit Board, modified this resolution so as to authorize the Rapid Transit Board to let contracts for construction only.
On June 27, 1907, the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners fixed a date for a hearing on the form of contracts for the Fourth Avenue subway. Before the day for the hearing arrived the Public Service Commission succeeded to the powers and duties of the Rapid Transit Board and the question came up whether the Commission should carry out the plan laid out by its predecessor. The following took place in the Commission upon this question:
Commissioner McCarroll presented a resolution, and said:
"Of course it is well known to the Commission, as it is to the public, that the question of the Fourth avenue subway has been under consideration by the Committee of the Commission for some little time. The public has perhaps naturally been somewhat impatient, assuming that the newspapers may have expressed the public sentiment, but it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that the thinking public should know that in acting on a matter of such importance as this, this Commission was under obligation to take such time as the Commissioners deemed necessary and wise for the proper consideration of the subject, and so while there may have been some impatience on the part of some of those to know the attitude and determination of this Commission, yet the Commission has proceeded with proper deliberation and discussion, appropriate to the importance of the subject. having been closed, I now desire to offer this resolution :"
Resolved, That this Commission proceed at once with the prosecution of the work of the Fourth avenue subway, pursuant to the plan as laid out by the Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners, and duly approved in accordance with law by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and that the contracts now before us for
such construction be offered for bids and duly let after the same shall have received the final approval of this Commission.
The resolution was moved and duly seconded. Upon the roll call the following statements were made:
Chairman Willcox-"In voting on this resolution, I desire to state that inasmuch as I understand, memoranda are to be filed with the Commission, that the Fourth avenue subway plans were prepared and adopted by the Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners before they went out of office in July last. These plans were adopted after one or two years' deliberation by the said Board. Subsequently, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, by resolution unanimously passed, approved of the same and practically set aside funds for the construction of the subway in question. It seems to me, therefore, that this whole matter has been duly passed upon, and that the action taken by these two Boards, if not legally, is morally binding upon this Commission. While it is doubtless true that this Commission could refuse to proceed with the advertising of contracts now before it, I believe that such a step should not be taken, except for the most weighty reasons and for causes which were not properly considered by the Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Whether the amount of money necessary for the building of this road, in the judgment of any person, could be better applied for the building of some other road, does not seem to me relevant at this time. This Commission has not the power to appropriate money for transit purposes, and inasmuch as the city, through its duly elected board, has practically set aside the funds for the building of this road in accordance with the plans of the Rapid Transit Commission for its construction, this Commission should now proceed to advertise for bidders and to award the contract.
I therefore vote aye." Commissioner McCarroll "In voting on this motion I prefer not to make any statement, and certainly not an argument, which is scarcely appropriate now; but in view of the fact that this has been done, I would like to submit the following
As is known to the Commission, I found many reasons which decided my vote for this resolution. I will now specify four. I vote for it, first and foremost. because I am a confident believer in the development and growth of the city of New York. I consider that we cannot be too foresighted and diligent in doing everything in our power to promote this, especially so when enterprising men are spending many more millions to take people to New Jersey and the suburbs than New York has yet spent altogether or will spend for some time to come, including this Fourth avenue and additional systems of transit.
Second, because this is a part and a beginning of a comprehensive system of transit development the trunk of the lines, so to speak reaching from one end to the other and serving the whole city, the construction of which we should progress and hasten with all possible dispatch.
Third, because this Fourth avenue route, going as it does over the Manhattan Bridge and through the congested section of travel at Flatbush avenue and Fulton street, supplies another outlet, which will distribute the travel away from the Brooklyn Bridge and thus give relief and local facilities to a large and crowded section, while fulfilling the larger purpose of development and growth of the city.
Fourth, because the city of New York, by its legally constituted authorities, namely, the Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, has in due form of procedure authorized and approved the construction of this route. We ought to give all respect and weight to its decision thus expressed and follow it in the absence of some commanding reason why we should do otherwise.
I vote aye."
Commissioner Bassett - Mr. Chairman, in voting 'no' on this resolution, I wish
to file this memorandum:
This resolution commits this Board to the building of the Fourth avenue subway beyond the locality of the Long Island Railroad station, and on this account I wish to register my objections briefly in writing. I would be strongly in favor of building it to the corner of Flatbush and Fourth avenues approximately.
While there is much force in the contention that decisive action has been taken by the Board of Estimate and our predecessors, the Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners, and that ours is the somewhat perfunctory duty of carrying out what has already been determined upon, yet under the provisions of the Rapid Transit Act, which gives us power to rescind or alter up to the time of signing a contract, it seems to me that if in the opinion of any member of this Commission the objections to the construction of this subway on the plan proposed are so grave as my own are, he is in duty bound to vote against the proposition. Under the present law I do not think that an operator will be found for this subway when completed, and I consider that I am bound by my oath of office to act according to my best judgment under the law as it now is, and without dependence upon expected future changes. If an operator cannot be found, the city will have to operate the road, and my belief is that for an indefinite time it will be operated at a loss.
The only congestion that the subway will relieve exists between the Long Island railroad station and Manhattan, and a short subway, about one and one-half miles in length, would accomplish this instead of building one thirteen and one-half miles long. The Fifth avenue elevated road south of the Long Island station is not used to more than one-third of its present capacity. Third-tracking that road would double its present capacity, making it possible to transport six times the people that are now carried.
South Brooklyn suffers today from two things: (1) Non-fulfillment by the railroad companies of their franchise obligations, and (2) extreme congestion between the Long Island railroad depot and the borough of Manhattan. The first item is capable of compulsory remedy; a short subway would remedy the second and leave from fifteen millions to twenty-five millions to construct and equip other subways in the downtown district and lower Manhattan for the benefit of all Brooklyn. If $25,000,000 of the city's money goes into the construction of the Fourth avenue subway and fifteen millions more into its equipment, I fear that other relief now urgently needed for the benefit of all Brooklyn in the congested districts may be indefinitely postponed. A subway terminating in the vicinity of the Long Island railroad station could be used by express trains operated on the Fifth avenue elevated road, which could carry the identical traffic across the Manhattan bridge that would be carried by the proposed subway, thus doing away with any demand for elevated tracks on the Flatbush avenue extension. Later, the subway could be extended to South Brooklyn, when the traffic warrants it.
If the argument is that a municipal subway is justified to open undeveloped sections and increase assessed valuations, then this subway should run in some direction that now has no rapid transit, like Rugby or Eastern parkway. I do not believe in that argument. The Fourth avenue subway parallels existing rapid transit lines, and along New Utrecht avenue it runs for miles underneath the Rapid Transit railroad. Grade crossings must before long be eliminated on New Utrecht avenue, which will mean an elevated structure probably paid for to the extent of one-half by the city, or else the condemnation at enormous figure of the property and franchise now owned by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company.
For several years past, my opinion has been that the solution of Brooklyn's traffic problem lies in the expenditure of money in the downtown, East river and lower Manhattan districts, and that this region should be attended to before running subways to the suburbs. When I was appointed on this Commission I was, like most other residents of Brooklyn, loath to do or say anything that might mean the loss of the $26,000,000 dedicated by the Board of Estimate to the Fourth avenue subway. My position at that time could not be better illustrated than by reminding my fellow commissioners that, early in July, I spent a considerable time in pointing out the geographical features of Brooklyn transit, and in general strongly advocated the desirability of the Fourth avenue subway, not having then made a special study of the relation of the enterprise to the Elsberg Law and the contingency of not finding an operator under that law. You will remember that the chairman and Commissioner Maltbie asked me, at that time, to look more especially into the subject of the operating contract under the Elsberg Law. This I proceeded to do, with the result that I found myself unable longer to favor the entire Fourth avenue subway under existing law, and of course I could not act one way and believe another."
Commissioner Maltbie "I wish to file the following memorandum :
Mr. Chairman, it is with great regret that I feel compelled to vote against the majority of the Commission upon this resolution, and particularly because I realize with what care and thoroughness you have considered every phase of the question. But the facts have convinced me that it would be unwise to proceed at present with the construction of the Fourth avenue and Bensonhurst subway, and I must, therefore, vote in the negative. In my opinion, the city of New York as a whole, and Brooklyn particularly, would be benefited to a far greater degree by the construction of subways in the already congested portion of Manhattan and Brooklyn than by the construction of a line which, in the main, will run through an undeveloped and sparsely settled area, and which will benefit only a small part of Brooklyn.
I do not wish to be understood as favoring the revocation of the route, for lines must be projected into undeveloped suburbs, but it does seem unwise at this time to begin the expensive construction of a subway so largely in an undeveloped district, when there are other areas already densely populated and already far more in need of rapid transit than the southwestern part of Brooklyn.
Further, this district has been provided with transportation facilities to a degree, and with the improvements which this Commission could order, they would be more nearly adequate than those in other sections of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.
However, if it were financially possible to proceed simultaneously with subways in other parts of the city where there is greater need, the objections to the immediate construction of the Fourth avenue subway would be less serious. But the Comptroller has asserted that there is no more money available for subway construction, which means that if the sum of $25,000,000 or thereabouts is used upon the Fourth avenue subway, the rest of Greater New York must wait for relief until the assessed value of property increases or the constitutional provisions regarding the debt limit are amended.
There is still another point of view. It has generally been admitted by those who favor the immediate construction of the Fourth avenue subway that no bids would be received if a contract for construction equipment and operation were advertised. It is also maintained that the subway will not be self-sustaining for a considerable period of time. If this is true, and those who have favored the subway have presented no tangible evidence to this Commission or its predecessor to prove it is false, the city will be in the position of having constructed a deficit-producing subway, when it is generally conceded that subways in other parts of the city would be self-supporting from the start. Then, too, if the city does not find a company willing to equip and operate the subway when built, the city itself must equip, and this will require an additional outlay of approximately $15,000,000, which may still further delay the construction of subways in other parts of the city.
But assume that the residents of Brooklyn are entitled to an expenditure of $25,000,000 for the relief of their transit congestion, where could this sum be spent most advantageously? The Fourth avenue subway, at least that portion of it beyond Flatbush avenue, will not greatly relieve congestion, for there is little congestion beyond Flatbush avenue which could not be relieved by the present facilities when improved; and the main argument in favor of the proposed subway is that it will build up a traffic of its own. If this is true, the line will afford practically no relief to the congestion in the central portion of Brooklyn or on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the vast majority of the residents of Brooklyn-those who do not live in the Fourth avenue and Bensonhurst district will receive practically no benefit from the construction of this route. Hence, far greater relief would be obtained for Brooklyn as a whole if a portion, at least, of the funds now available were spent upon additional lines in the centre of Brooklyn and the lower portion of Manhattan to relieve the present crush at the Manhattan terminal of the Brooklyn Bridge and to carry those residing in Brooklyn from their houses to their offices without a long walk from the bridge to their offices, 70 per cent. of which are located south and west of the bridge terminal.
In the opinion of many, Mr. Chairman, the question of the advisability of letting these contracts for construction only had been settled by our predecessor, the Rapid Transit Commission, and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment prior to July 1st, when we took office. It is also held that if a mistake has been made
the Public Service Commission is entirely relieved from any responsibility. A brief résumé will show to what extent these statements are true:
On October 11, 1906, the Rapid Transit Commission sent a communication to the Board of Estimate suggesting to the Board that alternate bids be invited for a number of rapid transit lines which had previously been approved by the various authorities; one set of bids for construction, equipment and operation combined; and another set for construction alone.
The Board of Estimate adopted this suggestion upon December 7th, and made it valid so far as the following seven lines were concerned:
1. The Seventh and Eighth avenue route.
2. The Lexington avenue route.
3. The Third avenue route.
4. The Jerome avenue route.
5. The Fourth avenue and Bensonhurst route.
6. The Tri-Borough route (so-called).
7. West Farms and White Plains route.
The Rapid Transit Commission decided to proceed first with the Lexington avenue route, the Seventh and Eighth avenue route, and the Jerome avenue route, apparently believing, as the public did generally, that these were the routes which would be of the greatest benefit to the city and which were most urgently needed, as they would relieve areas of great congestion.
The contracts were prepared and alternate bids were invited, but no bids of any nature were received, not even for the construction of a single section.
The natural course to have been adopted then, it would seem, because of obvious defects in the plan of alternate bidding, especially in this instance, was for the Board of Estimate to authorize the advertising of contracts for the same lines for construction alone, and this had been done successfully in the case of the bridge loop subway in Centre street. But this was not done, and the Rapid Transit Commission did not suggest that it should be done, although upon May 31st the Commission did adopt a resolution requesting the Board of Estimate to rescind its resolution of December 7th (authorizing alternative bidding), and to empower the Commission to let contracts for construction alone upon the Fourth avenue and Bensonhurst route. This suggestion the Board of Estimate approved upon June 4, 1907, and upon June 27th the Rapid Transit Commission passed a resolution fixing the last Thursday of July as the date for the hearing upon the form of the contract.
These facts show that the Rapid Transit Commission did not attempt to go further with the lines considered most important and indeed could not have gone any further until a resolution authorizing the Commission to do so had been passed by the Board of Estimate. But it was possible for the Rapid Transit Commission to have requested the Board of Estimate to pass a resolution permitting the advertising of contracts for construction alone in small sections, if it had been considered wise. But instead, the Rapid Transit Commission requested the Board of Estimate to rescind its previous action upon the Fourth avenue route and to authorize the letting of contracts for the construction alone, which was done.
If the case is to be considered as having been closed by this action, the Public Service Commission is already obligated to proceed with the advertising and letting of the contract regardless of the merits of the route over all others. But I cannot believe that the Rapid Transit Commission intended to take such an important and irrevocable step within one month from the expiration of their term of office. In my opinion, they merely wished to progress matters as rapidly as possible, and leave the question to be threshed out upon its merits, recognizing that this Commission has the right at any time to ask the Board of Estimate to rescind its previous action and authorize a different form of contract.
In conclusion, therefore, Mr. Chairman, I am forced reluctantly to vote against this resolution, because I believe that there are other routes which would benefit the city to a far greater degree and which ought to have the preference in view of financial conditions, and because I do not believe that it is incumbent upon us to proceed at once under the resolutions now in force, at least not until the Board of Estimate has been requested to allow the advertising of contracts for construc