The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter V
Part IV

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


With this new company, the railroad administration made a contract for conducting the express business on all carriers included in the railroad administration. The foreign departments of the express companies furnish a shipping service of good to any part of the world. Express companies also furnish travelers' checks. The service offers guide in special express cars and the careful handling of small or fragile packages in safety trunks. On spite of this the large majority of the 25,000,000 persons served by the rural postal delivery remain without express service.

It is a little extraordinary that with all the work that has gone into the business of handling passenger traffic and cargo in general very little attention should have been paid in the city to the organized carrying of the necessities of life. In 1919 Mr. J. C. Day, commissioner of the public markets, drew attention to that fact. The city of New York, he said, had spent hundreds of millions during the last few years improving methods for handling passenger traffic and scarcely one dollar to improve facilities for handling food supplies. "We must rely," he added, "upon terminal facilities which were obsolete twenty-five years ago. It costs more to get a pound of food from the pier or railway terminal in New York City to the consumer than it does to transport it from Florida or Buffalo to the city. Why? Mainly because our facilities for handling goods after they arrive in the city are ancient and congested and really belong to the age of the stage-coach and the tallow dip." The problem is to get foodstuffs from the producer to the consumer with the least possible amount of labor in handling and rehandling. Factors in the transportation of such supplies and, indeed, of all goods perishable and otherwise, are in respect to the railroads and water routes, most concerned specifically the Barge Canal, the use of express and of parcel post, and intelligent cooperation with outlying districts, and with the State as to quantity of production available for the city.

A triple-decked street plan, diverting foot, rail and vehicular traffic into three separate levels on New York's congested thoroughfares, has frequently been proposed for traffic relief, and it is hoped that in course of time the plan will be simplified to the extent of making it available for practical execution. During the war, in pursuance of the program of conservation put out by the Commercial Economy board of the Council of National Defense, the establishment of cooperative delivery systems as far as possible, the reduction of regular deliveries to one per day over such a route, the elimination of special deliveries, and the restriction of return privilege to three business days from the time of purchase, were details adopted by the merchants of the city. One of the largest department stores in the city tried the plan of one delivery a day independently of its competitors, and found that there was not only practically no protests, but that it got on with approximately 100 fewer trucks. A large department store which restricted the return goods privilege found that during the first month the goods returned by its customers amounted to $162,000 less than in the corresponding month of the year before, in the face of increased volume of business.

There was a good deal of opposition to the idea of the government engaging in the express business, but the advantages of government participation were accounted so solid that the proponents had the satisfaction of seeing their plan put into operation. The Act of Congress of August 24, 1912, authorizing the established of a Parcel Post System, provided that on and after January 1, 1913, fourth-class mail matter should embrace all of the matter, including farm and factory products, not embraced by law in either the first, second or third-class, not exceeding eleven pounds in weight, nor greater in size then seventy-two inches in length and girth combined, not liable to be injurious to postal employees or mail equipment, and not of an unreasonably perishable character. An effort was made also to include an express provision in the new Parcel Post Law. The law at once proved a success and its use has increased enormously since its establishment. The opposition of the express companies was perhaps natural, for it has trainee a great deal of business away from them, and some of the companies had to go out of existence, while others had to have a reorganization.

The Air Mail--We have the authority of Postmaster-General Harry S. New that recent tests of carrying mails across the continent in airplanes have proved to the satisfaction of the Postoffice Department the entire practicability of the plan. The department maintains transcontinental service between New York and San Francisco, limited to day-light hours. It was announced in March, 1924, that with an appropriation of $2,500,000, the government plans to transport a daily mail between New York and San Francisco on a airplane scheduled of twenty-six hours ands fifteen minutes. This has since been inaugurated acceding to a prearranged plan and an air mail service to San Francisco by way of Cleveland, Chicago, and Cheyenne takes an average time of below thirty hours. Some of the New York mail now is carried westward to coast by rail. Some of the New York mail now is carried westward partly by mail and partly by airplane, with deliveries at San Francisco and other Pacific coast points in forty-four hours. The Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America, an organization member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Untied States, maintains its central office in New York City as a research and advisory bureau for service as a trade association, for aerial defense, and for the development s of commercial markets. It was done much in cooperation with the Federal Government departments to promote the speeding up of the mail, the use of aircraft as peace vehicles, their employment in surveys, crop protection and forest patrol work, as agents of conservation and reclamation measures and for special transportation and coast guard work. In the course of recent flights the navy's great dirigible cruised about for twelve hours in the vicinity of New York and proved conclusively the flexibility of that type of airship, as well as its great carrying capacity.

The destruction of the "Shenandoah" on September 3, 1925, is the sort of accident that must be occasionally looked for under special condition and that must be guarded against with all the care that scientific knowledge can provide. It was ripped apart by a thunder squall neat Caldwell, Ohio, thirty-five miles north of Marietta, at five-thirty in the morning, and fell a broken and shattered thing into the fields below. The navy's third venture in the Zeppelin line was built at Friedrichshafen by the German government as in part payment of their war indemnity. The dirigible arrived in New York on October 16, 1924, after a roundabout but successful voyage of fewer than eighty hours. It was afterwards named the "Los Angeles" and exchanged her hydrogen content for helium gas preparatory to a series of practice cruises to demonstrate the practicability of the dirigible for commercial purposes. The "Shenandoah" was an American-built dirigible and made a number of important voyages, the most notable being that to the Pacific Coast.

Markets and the Food Supply--The markets have, of course, been the chief feature of study in the distribution of the food supply. The market system of New York has automatically assumed a classification as primary, secondary, and retail. What is known generally as Washington market includes not only the officially designated retail market on the block bounded by Fulton, West, Vesey, and Washington Streets, but the dozen or more blocks extending to the northward and occupied by large number so wholesalers, jobbers and commission men. These really form the nucleus of New York's primary market. The six secondary markets are: West Washington, Gansevoort, Harlem, Westchester, Bronx Produce House, and Wallabout. Besides these there are wholesale fish markets and a wholesale oyster market. The central primary market extends from Fulton to Laight Streets, between Hudson and West Streets, and is augmented by a number of Hudson River piers used primarily for the receipt and handling of foodstuffs. The tracks of the New York Central Railroad's west side freight line terminate in this district and that road also handles a large amount of food products at its Hudson River piers. Western fruit is handled principally by the Erie railroad and arrives at Hudson Rivers Piers 20 or 21, where it is sold by the consignees, generally at auction, during the morning following its arrival. The buyers are usually jobbers from the Washington market section and from other districts perhaps as far away as Paterson or Bridgeport. Florida fruit and produce arrive at the Pennsylvania Piers 27, 28, or 29. Produce from southern New Jersey is trucked from the Pennsylvania or Jersey Central rail terminal in Jersey City to the commission houses in the primary market district. A large amount of food reached New York on the Clyde and Mallory line steamers and Northern produce via the Fall River and Eastern steamships, and the Hudson river lines.

The greater part of the live poultry for New York's 175 chicken slaughter houses comes from the Lackawanna Railroad and is trucked from its special poultry terminal in Hoboken to what is known as the West Washington Market. This was formerly a part of the original downtown Washington Market that was moved uptown to the section bounded by Bloomfield, West and Gansevoort streets and Thirteenth Avenue. It is devoted almost exclusively to meat and live poultry, though a small amount of dressed poultry, eggs, fruit and vegetables is sold there. Fully two-thirds of the markets capacity is utilized by the large meat packers, whose stalls are provided with the New York Central Railroad trackage facilities. In this respect the West Washington Market can be considered a primary market. Obviously, New York's food supply was not developed in a day. the milk supply of the city, for example, began presumable with the arrival of the 103 animals from Holland in 1625, and from that time until now both the supply and the demand have continued to increase. From 1625 until 1841 New York's milk was a local product, obtained for along time from cows that grazed at will on the island's vegetation. Later on the main supply came from cows kept by the brewery and distillery stables as a means of utilizing their mash and slops.

When the Erie Railroad was opened to Goshen, New York, in September 1841, Thomas Selleck, station agent at Chester, New York, conceived the idea of collecting a quantity of the excellent Orange county milk for shipment to consumers in New York. The farmers had no faith in Selleck's plan, because their previous experience in hauling butter to New York had proved unprofitable. A milk depot was secured at 193 Reade Street and the first shipment, 240 quarts, in bright blue wooden churns of the old-fashioned pyramid type, was sent down by Philo Gregory, an Orange county farmer. This was the first consignment of milk ever shipped on a railroad and the first ever brought into New York for sale in a public market. Selleck had notified many New York families of the expected arrival and the supply was quickly exhausted. The Orange County farmers were greatly pleased with their experiment and the New York slop milk dealers were deserted by their customers, who soon began to wait in long lines to secure the fresh milk on its arrival by train-boat each morning. The New York dealers also began coming to Selleck for their supplies and he was preparing to open additional depots when his business was taken over by the Orange County Milk Association, New York's first combination in that line. New York's milk supply arrives chiefly by rail in special fast trains. The milk is carried in heavy tin containers, though some of the roads are now running porcelain-lined tank cars to carry bulk milk for their largest shippers, whose distributing stations are adjacent to their tracks, the New York Central, West Shore, Ontario and Western, Lackawanna, Erie, Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley, and Jersey Central railroads, each bringing in from one to four trainloads daily.

Dressed meat is generally handled through the distributing stations maintained by six or more large packers, whose abbatoirs are located in various parts of the country. These stations are preferably located close to the tracks of the refrigerator car lines and constitute another adjunct of the primary market. Local dressed meats, however, have a very large sale in New York as approximately sixty-five per cent of the total arrives on the hoof. Practically all of New York's fish supply is handled through the Fulton market, established in 1831. Very little of this fish arrives by boat from the ocean; practically all comes by express in iced boxes carried in refrigerator cars. New York's charter especially provides landing facilities for oyster boats, the present market being located, since 1912, at the foot of East Pike Street, where a part of Pier 22 and the adjoining bulkhead space is occupied by oyster boats.

These details give an idea of the magnitudes of New York's traffic in foodstuffs arriving from interior producing centers and the enormous amount of produce required each twenty-four hours to sustain the population congregated within the metropolitan area. The diagrams prepared by investigators in the engineer's bureau of the New York Port Authority show in graphic form the remarkable problems which look for solution as a condition of New York's continued expansion. They show that over seventy per cent of the fruits and vegetables are brought in by the railroad trains, so that the railroad terminals are vital links in the market system. Thus 8,000 car lots are brought in by truck, and 31,000 car lots by water, to 104,000 car lots brought in by the railroads, the total number of car lots being 143.000. Of the distribution centers in the metropolitan area there are thirty-three in down town Manhattan, twenty-five at Wallabout, seventeen in Harlem, ten in Gansevoort, seven miscellaneous out of town, five in Newark, and three miscellaneous local. The average length of haul of fruit and vegetables receipts is 1,500 miles. The fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in one year fill 140,000 to 150,000 freight cars, enough to make a train 2,000 miles long, with the engine in New York and the caboose in Denver. The net receipts of car lots in 1921 were; Potatoes, 22,974; bananas, 13,348; apples, 12,136; oranges, 10,518; onions, 8. 162; grapes, 6,801; cantaloupes, 4,933; lettuce, 4,915; peaches, 4,217; all others, 52,483. Eighty-five per cent of the rail receipts pour into a small strip on the lower West side of Manhattan Island. This concentration meets the demand of the trade for centralized market, but it results in an excessive amount of trucking in and out of a heavily congested area. The long haul fruit traffic of the Erie Railroad, delivered at Manhattan piers, has grown from 4,405 cars in 1900, to 22,640 cars in 1920. At this rate it is calculated 50,000 cars may be expected in 1930.

Mayoralty Election of 1925--At the time of writing, which is at the close of the summer of 1925, a mayoralty election is impending, and the needs of the city are being energetically discussed. The candidates are setting forth what they think are the urgent problems that confront the city. According to Mayor Hyland, who has been in office since 1917, the five outstanding questions are: Education, Health and Recreation, Transit, Traffic, Suppression of Vice. Senator James J. Walker, the Tammany candidate, ranks the problems in this order: Transit, Education, Traffic, Suppression of vice, Additional Bridges and Tunnels. To the question: "What is the big issue, as you see it, in the coming Democratic primary?" Mayor Hyland has answered: "The big issue if whether the control of the city government shall be wrested from the people and placed in the hands of the traction barons and Wall Street gamblers. It is well known that these traction and financial interest want to seize the subways, which are now being built with the people's money, obtain the most valuable bus franchises, turn over to the city the old elevated and worn out surface lines at a profit of at least $500,000,000, increase the carfare from five to eight, or perhaps, ten cents; clean up hundreds of millions of dollars through inflation of their traction stock and ultimately unload this stock in the innocent investing public." In answer to the same question, Senator Walker has said: "The biggest issue is intelligent, forward-looking constructive administration of the business of the city of New York."

To the question: "Do you believe the present method and organization are best suited for selecting the best men for candidates and for meeting the voters' wishes?" Mayor Hyland has answered: "I believe in party government, Experience has proved that government through political parties has made for the prosperity and welfare of the people. Necessarily the candidates of the respective parties must be designated. I know of no fairer or more representative methods of selection of such candidates than by a primary vote, if honestly conducted. Unfortunately, sometimes, those in control of the party machinery become drunk with power and indifferent to the desire of the majority of the members of their party and through chicanery, connivance and dishonesty endeavor to thwart an honest expression of their party voters. It is also true that the vote at the primary may not be actually expressive of the will of the majority of the members of a political party because of failure of enrollment. The remedy is by the education of the people to the importance of the primary elections and the necessity for such enrollment, and that they vote on primary day." To the same question Senator Walker answered: "The present method of nomination by primary vote unquestionably leaves the control of the party in the hands of the majority of the enrolled members. It is difficult to quarrel with that system if one believes in democratic government."

To the question: "What function do you believe Tammany hall should perform in New York City and is it properly performing that function?" Mayor Hylan answered: "Tammany hall is recognized as the Democratic organization in the borough of Manhattan, as constituted under the election law. It should perform the function of carrying forward the principles of democracy, i. e., that the government of the city shall be administered by persons from among the people, who are ready to serve solely in the interests of the whole people, and not of any particular faction, group or interest. Its leader should not secretly connive with financial, traction or special privilege-seeking groups and boldly attempt to deliver the rank and file of the organization into the hands of these groups." To the same question Senator Walker replied: "Tammany Hall is the headquarters for the New York Democratic County organization and its committees brought into existence by law. Its proper function is to promote the cause of good government, to being about progressive legislation, and to keep intact the Democratic forced of the city to the end that they may by unity of action encourage good government, foster the public welfare and furnish the city of New York with the best public officials obtainable. This came be well attested by the fact that all of the progressive legislation enacted in the first twenty years came from the Tammany representatives from the city of New York in the State legislature."

To the question: "What in your opinion is New York's greatest problem?" Mayor Hylan answered: "New York has several. The education of its youth I regard as the paramount consideration of the city government. Next in order are the physical conditions for health, play and recreation of women and children. Next the solution of our transit and traffic problems, which are every day becoming more and more complex because of the constant growth of our population and the development of outlying rural sections. Then the suppression of crime and the keeping of the city free from vice." To the same question, Senator Walker replied: "New York's greatest problems are: 1. Additional transit facilities. 2. Adequate appropriations for our schools. 3. Relief of traffic as well as its regulation. 4. Full and complete protection of life, health and property. 5. Additional bridges or tunnels to meet the city's requirements. 6. Grade crossing removals on the railroad systems entering the city. 7. Additional large areas for public parks looking to the future. 8. Rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings used for housing the wards of the city. 9. Extension of rapid transit system on Staten Island. 10. The effectuation of the Port Authority plan to promote and protect the commerce and industry of the city. 11. Proper disposal of the garbage and sewage."

To the question: "How do your candidates propose to solve that problem?" Mayor Hylan answered: "By continuing to build more public school. There were 155 new school constructed and opened between January 1, 1918 and June 30, 1925. At the opening of the fall term this year thirty-seven additional new public school will be ready for occupancy. This is a total of 192 new public school buildings, with sittings for 243,4579 pupils. Our expenditure of more than $160,000,000 for school construction exceeds by about $50,000,000 the appropriations made for such purposes in the previous twenty years. By constructing more boardwalks, bathhouses, recreation centers, and places for play, by keeping our parks improved and open for public use, and affording every measure of relief to the people from the cold of winter and the heat of summer. By keeping the city from vie and crime as it has been kept during the last seven and a half years. By the early completion of the independent subway system, which is now being built, and its development and enlargement; and the maintenance in all events of the five-cent fare; by continuing our fight for better service through additional car and trains on the existing subway, elevated and surface lines, and for the abolishment of the Miller-appointed, State-controlled Transit Commission composed of Messrs. McAneny, Harkness, and O'Ryan, who have failed and neglected to compel the transit companies to give proper service on the existing lines; and by placing on our city streets a municipality owned and operated bus system. By the development of new arteries of traffic to relieve existing street congestion, to eliminate waste incident to traffic delays and to throw further safeguards around New York's 6,000,000 people." To the same question Senator walker replied: "these problems can be solved by an intelligent, careful, painstaking administration of the city's affairs, and by cooperation with State agencies for the solution of part of them." #7.

Question of New Bridges--Apart from the issues selected for emphasis by the candidates for the office of mayor, the question of new bridges remained of paramount interest to a great many people. Despite subways and river tubes, bridges continue to be the great arteries of travel for more than one-sixth of the population. Every working day about 1,250,000 people cross the four spans that connect Manhattan with Brooklyn and queens. New bridges would appear to be imperative. The increasing number of motor cars, the growing volume of traffic by motor trucks and the strain upon rapid transit lines have reached a point where further development of the city's scattered boroughs depends in large measure upon the construction of additional bridges. This pressure centers upon the East river bridges. With the population of Manhattan virtually a fixed quantity, expansion may come only in the outlying boroughs and this depends on the means of communication. Underground construction now planned or under way will care for a mere tithe of the prospective gain in Brooklyn , queens and Bronx. In the case of Brooklyn and queens, at least, bridges instead of under-water tubes are the evident and urgently needed means of relief. In the opinion of William Wirt Mills, commissioner of Plant and Structures, four new bridges will be needed to care for this pressure of traffic across the East River. He would place one of these between the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges, a second above the Manhattan, a third beyond the Queensboro, and a fourth, the tri-borough, somewhere in the vicinity of Astoria, still further up the river. Already $50,000,000 has been appropriated by the Board of Estimates to undertake a survey of the tri-borough bridge, which is expected to rise from the Manhattan end of East One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, connecting with Randall's and Ward's Islands, one spur running northward to the Bronx and another to queens--three miles of construction.

Study of the question has brought the conviction that bridges can be built more economically than under-water tubes and with a larger degree of service, according to Commissioner Mills. "We have a problem in East river transportation that must be met, not only with a view to the immediate volume of traffic, but after consideration of the development that waits upon this solution. East of Fourth Avenue, Manhattan has remained practically unchanged, while the middle and western sections have been transformed. We have numerous streets running along the East river almost unused that could be turned into great north and south thoroughfares deflecting traffic from the central streets and across the bridges into our neighboring boroughs. Four bridges are needed and we hope to supply the first of them in the tri-borough span." This bridge would have few equals in the world, linking together three of the greatest centers of population,. Its estimated cost has been placed at from $30,000,000 to $50,000,000. The bridge would rise forma point near Fist Avenue, Manhattan, extend across the river to Randall's Island, the northern spur running thence to St. Ann's Avenue and Southern Boulevard, The Bronx. The second spur would continue to Ward's Island across Little Hell Gate, thence by way of Hell Gate to Potter Avenue, Queens. Such a structure would serve to link the new Nassau Boulevard, Astoria Avenue and other queens streets directly with Manhattan. Southern Boulevard would become a major outlet of The Bronx.

The possibilities bound up in this undertaking cannot be well understood by a casual glance. Property values in three boroughs would be enhanced. Motor traffic would be simplified to a degree unknown to those who travel the East River bridges. Rapid transit lines conceivably might add new and vast facilities to those already at the disposal of the two boroughs across the river. the new relationship between Queens and The Bronx holds forth broad possibilities. But one slow-moving ferry line connect these two great boroughs, plying from College Point, Queens, to Clason Point, Bronx. The survey for this all-embracing tri-borough bridge is going forward under the direction of Edward A. Bryne, chief engineer of the department.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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