Page images
PDF
EPUB

unnecessary, would frequently work great hardship and oppression. It would only be another burden on the already overburdened real estate of the city. It should be sufficient if the city has the right to sue for the debt.

To make the expense a lien on rents is still more objectionable for similar reasons.

14. We think that a five days' notice of a preliminary injunction against the department is much too long. It would be safe to leave the time to the court, as in five days much damage could be done.

15. Board of standards and appeals: The establishment of this board is, after the general consolidation, probably the most important feature of the bill. Its functions are delicate, its powers varied and extensive, and its composition will be of the utmost importance. It should before all be a board of experts, of men of experience in building, and familiar with its various problems and phases. No others can intelligently pass upon the many questions of material and method that will constantly come before it, both in the laying down of rules and regulations, and the decision on appeals. Unless its members are experts, known as such, the board cannot command the confidence of the building public.

It should also be an impartial and entirely non-partisan board, politics should in no wise enter into it.

The board as constituted in the bill does not appear to us to meet these requirements. To make the commissioner of buildings a member, even the chairman, to hear and pass upon appeals from his own orders and decisions, makes the board anything but impartial. No man can be an impartial judge of his own actions, and it should be borne in mind that those who appeal have already argued their case before him personally. Few appellants would care to appear against him before the board.

The fire commissioner also should not properly be a member, being in no sense familiar with the questions coming up. The chief of the fire department, the actual commander of the fire fighting force, has been and would be a very useful member, the commissioner probably not at all. With the other three members to be appointed by the mayor, without any qualification or limitation, the entire board would be appointees of his and inevitably partisan. The provision that the mayor shall “consider” certain nominations if made, is of course entirely ineffective and of no value.

The method for so many years in force for the appointment of the very similar body known as the board of examiners of the bureau of buildings, and which body the proposed board of standards and appeals is intended to supplant, has stood the test of experience, and has worked well in practice. The members certified to the mayor by the societies named in the charter, and also designated in the draft bill and appointed by him, have always been of high character and standing, their decisions have always been arrived at with painstaking care, and no breath of suspicion or scandal has ever touched them. It is not material what organizations be selected by your Commission, so that they be truly representative of the different professions, trades and interests to whom the city must look for its further building up and improvement. Such a body to be truly representative and truly deliberative must consist of more than five members. The seven in the present body are none too many, and nine would be better. The great sister boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, which have peculiar problems of their own, should be represented.

A board consisting of men so selected by the several associations for their special fitness, based on an intimate personal knowledge of their professional and business standing, and in daily touch with the problem they are called upon to solve, can be trusted to make rules and regulations reasonable and practicable and to render decisions that will command the respect of the community.

Mr. ALEXANDER MCIXTOSH addressed the Commission.

Mr. AICINTOSH: I represent the Brooklyn chapter of the American Institute of Architects. I have come here to express the unanimous resolution adopted by my society to support the principle recommended for uniting the various city departments so far as the construction, approving and repair of buildings is concerned. Regarding the administration, my societs was almost unanimous in recommending that it be combined under the various borough officials.

Mr. ELMER SCHOONMAKER, addressed the Commission. Mr. SCHOONMAKER: Mr. Chairman I represent the Taxpayers Alliance of the Bronx. I came here as a representative of the Taxpayers' Alliance of the Bronx for the best interests of the Association.

By Mr. ELKUS:

Q. You heard the statement made by Mr. Arctander who spoke for the same association ? A. I was outside at the time and Mr. Arctander came up on a certain proposition to take my place while I was absent.

Q. Are you going to make the same statement. A. No, I am not. I am chairman of the tenement house committee and the building laws of the Taxpayers Alliance, composed of twenty-three taxpayers' associations of the Bronx, and he as an architect expressed propositions which I could not go into detail about to the advantage of the members present but I would like to state that one of the principal facts which exist in our borough is that the tentative plan we are principally in favor of is for the consolidation of the tenement house and fire prevention bureaus in the building department and we believe the building department is the proper department to control that proposition. As many of our members who are not very wealthy capitalists have to borrow money on their building propositions, when they present plans to the different departments they have got to go from the building department to the tenement house department and from the tenement house department to the fire prevention department and to the water department and I do not know how many other departments before they can get their plans approved. Now then before these people can build their buildings they have to place upon their buildings a builders' loan and interest charged from the time their loan is placed. These people are put to numerous expenses which are unnecessary and caused by the delay of these different departments before these plans are approved. For that reason we are in favor of the tentative plan which is laid down by the State Factory Investigating Commission, with the exception of one proposition. We are in favor of the borough presidents appointing the heads of the building departments for the purpose of obtaining borough autonomy. Borough autonomy must be obtained in order to get through thse measures; not that we have any objection to the mayor or the mayor's powers or anything that he might suggest, but the mayor is surrounded by certain conditions which can not work to the best advantage of the outlying boroughs and in the interest of the property owners of those territories. For that reason we are opposed to the centralization of these powers in the mayor and having him appoint the Commissioners as proposed by this tentative plan. That is the only objection which the Taxpayers Alliance raises to the tentative plan suggested by the State Factory Investigating Commission. Now if they are willing to concede to these conditions we are willing to use our best efforts to bring forth the best conditions which are laid down in their tentative plan; otherwise we will oppose because we consider the conditions at the present time would be better than to have it where the mayor would lay down those conditions and laws and dole them out to the borough presidents; where the building department heads were appointed by the mayor of the city and placed in that territory. We feel that that would be detrimental, that it would create different opinions which would create disturbances in the different departments and would not be to the best advantage of the taxpayers, who when they want to put up a building want to do it in the most immediate and most economical way and with the least expense possible that could be done and for those reasons we are opposing the proposition to the mayor appointing the heads of the department. We wish that the deputy in each borough be appointed by the borough president and controlled by that borough. We are in favor of the tentative pian with the Commission appointed — they are not particular about how the Commission is appointed or how it is arranged but we want certain bodies that are certainly familiar with the facts and conditions of the different boroughs that will put forth the energy and the best interests and not delay and cause expense to the taxpayers of the borough of the Bronx, or Manhattan, or Kings, Queens or Richmond, or any other borough. We are looking out for the interests of all of the five boroughs, while the conditions at the present time are different in each borough. There are certain fire laws which cover certain territory. There are certain laws that provide for territories in which nonfire proof buildings can be built, frame buildings of different conditions that do not come under the fire law which we want controlled by the borough and are put under the best fire conditions that can be expressed as a tentative plan or any plan that can be introduced. We are willing to accept those plans but we want borough autonomy under all conditions, and that is what we stand for and what we are in favor of. Now if this tentative plan will accede to those conditions we will certainly use our best efforts to enforce those conditions but as far as the Commission which is appointed we are not particular who may appoint those Commissioners from the different boroughs who are interested in the building laws, if they will use their best efforts to bring about the best conditions and the most economical conditions. We are willing to favor any of those recommendations presented here to the best interests of the different boroughs.

Now I do not know that I could go into further details. I believe that the other speakers have presented this in proper shape and force and we thoroughly understand what the different sentiments of the different boroughs are, but as for the Taxpayers Alliance of the Bronx we are all poor property owners paying tribute and we are paying dearly for what we are getting at the present time. We believe that the mayor has too much power at the present time, that he can not represent all of the outlying boroughs and give them proper attention which the borough presidents and his colleagues in office can give to the people who are in these outlying boroughs.

Hon. MARCUS M. Marks addressed the Commission.

Mr. ELKUS: Mr. President, you have considered the plan which we have been discussing ?

Mr. MARKS: Considered it long before the tentative bill was drawn. I have prepared a short statement in order not to take up too much of your time, which explains my attitude.

It is the general report that the acuteness of the evil of overinspection and conflict of crders in connection with buildings in our city, has been brought about largely through the recent activities of the fire prevention bureau and the State Labor Department.

« PreviousContinue »