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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
January 13, 1900

Hearing on President Guggenheimer's Resolution of Restriction.


Madison Avenue Residents' Objections—Mr. Guggenheimer Says 90 Per Cent. of the People Approve.

The question of the restriction of traffic in Fifth Avenue, which is advocated in a resolution drawn by President Guggenheimer, now pending before the Council, was taken up by the Committee on Streets and Highways of that body yesterday. A large number of attorneys and business men, representing many interests, appeared before the committee and presented their views on both sided of the case. No decision was reached by the committee.

President Guggenheimer opened the discussion with a long argument, in which he advocated the adoption of his resolution, which he said would meet the approval of 90 per cent. of the citizens of New York if a vote could be taken upon it. He deplored the fact that Fifth Avenue, the "show" street of the city, was indiscriminately used by all classes of traffic, regardless of the rights of persons using or owning light vehicles, who were precluded from driving in most of the other thoroughfares. Every large city in the country and in Europe, he said, had streets that were restricted to the use of pleasure vehicles. New York, however, was deficient in this respect.

Mr. Guggenheimer quoted extensively from editorials which have appeared in The New York Times, and from an article which appeared in Wednesday's issue of this newspaper, and which presented statistics of the traffic which causes the congestion which his resolution is intended to relieve.

"In this matter of the congestion of Fifth Avenue by trucks, drays, express and other wagons," Mr. Guggenheimer said. "the truckmen or drivers have, in many cases, no legitimate excuse for their presence in Fifth Avenue. They use it, probably, because it is asphalted, rather than the other parallel avenues. There are good pavements on the east and on the west sides which are capable of receiving heavy heavy traffic. I have no doubt that the owners of the trucks and express wagons, represented by the Truck Owners' Association of the City of New York and the various express companies, are not responsible for all of the evil of which we complain."

Of his motives in advocating the measure before the committee, Mr. Guggenheimer said:

"I wish, at this point, to meet an objection which has been raised against the proposed legislation. It has been stated by men who are opposed to the passage of this resolution that it represents the worst form of class legislation. I protest most emphatically against such an interpretation. I was influenced in preparing the resolution, not for the sake of the upper classes of New York City's population, but to benefit the public generally. If I believed for one moment that there was the slightest element of discrimination against the truckmen personally or against the working classes of our city, I can assure you that I would be the last person in the world to request the Board of Public Improvements to prepare an ordinance to exclude any portion of our fellow-citizens from their legitimate use of Fifth Avenue.

"But the opposition to the proposed measure does not come from the truckmen or drivers of express wagons, who do not care what avenues they use in order to perform their daily duties, but from the wealthy business houses, from the great stores, and from the corporations who employ such truckmen and drivers. The opposition to this remedial legislation comes with such insistence and vehemence from this latter class."

In closing, Mr. Guggenheimer urged the committee to report the resolution favorably in order to avert interference by the State Legislature.

David Milliken, Jr., representing the Association for the Preservation of Fifth Avenue, spoke in support of the resolution, but urged that the restriction be applied only in the months included between Oct. 1 and June 1, and that delivery wagons be permitted to traverse the avenue at all times.

William R. Corwine, Secretary of the Merchants' Association, said that that body favored the resolution. Fifth Avenue was being invaded by business houses and was fast losing its old characteristics, he said, and something ought to be done to retain as many of these as possible.

"I'm a member of the Merchants' Association," said G. Waldo Smith, "and I don't believe the association ever took the matter up in any way. Mr. Corwine only represents himself and President King. He isn't empowered to speak for the association."

Mr. Corwine did not reply to this. Then Councilman Murphy, the Chairman of the committee, called for remarks from the opponents of the measure, and a half dozen men jumped to their feet. It was manifest at once that the opposition was present in force, and that the express companies, merchants, and residents of Madison Avenue had determind to take part in the fight. Among those who represented one or another of these interests were Lewis Cass Ledyard, John W. Ball, G. Waldo Smith, Charles Steele, J. F. Dooley of Knox & Woodward, and J. R. Soley.

Mr. Ball presented a long petition against the resolution, signed by residents of Madison Avenue and a number of merchants. The Madison Avenue people did not want the traffic diverted to their street, and the merchants desired that they might not be kept from delivering their wares to their customers.

Mr. Smith, who prefaced his remarks by a declaration that he represented himself alone, said that Fifth Avenue was the only reasonable route which could be traversed by truckmen in making deliveries to the east side. He pointed out the obstructions, in the way of street car and elevated railroad lines, in other streets both east and west of Fifth Avenue, and said that drivers found the latter thoroughfare the best for their purposes, on account of its width and its easy grades. "If this resolution is adopted," he said, in conclusion, "it will work to the advantage of one person and to the disadvantage of fifty others. The only way to settle the difficulty is to adopt a resolution keeping all pleasure vehicles off Fifth Avenue."

Mr. Steele, who spoke for the Adams Express Company, said that he had opposed such a resolution frequently, but had never looked upon it as a serious matter until a high city official had presented it. Between Twenty-fifth and Fifty-ninth Streets, in Fifth Avenue, he said, there were 250 business houses and 185 private residences, and of these 63 business houses in one day signed a petition against the resolution. That showed the trend of sentiment, he said, and he hoped the Municipal Assembly wouldn't set itself against the wishes of the people.

Mr. Ledyard, in beginning an address against the resolution, said that originally the Association for the Protection of Fifth Avenue had been formed for the purpose of keeping street cars off that thoroughfare. Of late, however, he said, it had done nothing but make appeals to residents, asking them for $10 a year to help keep the street in repair. He disputed the necessity of warding off the heavy vehicles and declared that such an action would be unjust to a great and important section of the city's population.

Mr. Milliken replied to this, saying: "It is humiliating to reply to the slurs cast on the association by Mr. Ledyard, who has made absolutely untrue statements. It is cowardly and mean to make attacks like these on a worthy institution." Mr. Ledyard assured the committee that he had not the slightest intention of offending any one, and the apology was accepted in good part by Mr. Milliken. A moment later the committee arose.

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