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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
February 23, 1900

Truckmen Oppose the Measure to Keep Heavy Wagons Off—Favored by Express Companies.

ALBANY, Feb. 22.—The Assembly Cities Committee gave a hearing to-day on Mr. Weekes's bill prohibiting trucks, excepting for delivery purposes, on Fifth Avenue, New York City, between Twenty-fifth Street and Fifty-ninth Street, between the hours of 2 and 7 P. M. from Oct. 1 to June 1.

John W. Ball submitted a protest signed by New York merchants and property owners against the bill.  The measure, he said, was class legislation.

Matthew Judge, of the New York Truckmen's Association, said the bill was unwarranted interference of the rights of the citizens, and had raised a storm of indignation from all classes, except those living on Fifth Avenue.  If the bill became a law, he declared, a large force of policemen would be required daily to drive the trucks off the avenue with drawn clubs.

Isaac Goldberg denounced the measure as class legislation and sarcastically called attention to the fact that the rich residents of the avenue were perfectly willing to permit the masses to use the street in their absence at the seashore or in the mountains during the Fall and Summer months.

B. E. Donnelly, a truckman, said that the expense of laying the asphalt pavement on Fifth Avenue had partially been borne by the truckmen, some 1,200 in number, who paid from $3 to $5 for a yearly license.

J. E. Judge, counsel for the Truckmen's Association, said this pet scheme of a favored few to bar trucks off the avenue had been frustrated by the Municipal Assembly and now it was sought to accomplish the purpose by means of special and class legislation.

W. F. McConnell, Assistant Secretary of the Board of Trade and Transportation, opposed the bill.  He said the bill was directed at the business interests of the city.  Almost all the food products brought into New York City came in below Twenty-third Street, and had to be carted up town, and the only available street or avenue free from surface and elevated railroads was Fifth Avenue.

Mr. Weekes, speaking for the bill, said he was willing to amend so as to permit the collection as well as the delivery of merchandise during those hours, which amendment he knew was satisfactory to the express companies.  He took the ground that his bill was not a new proposition, inasmuch as Seventy-second and One Hundred and Twenty-second Streets, Morningside and Riverside Drives, and the Speedway were restricted.  He said that the bill was as much in the interests of the poor as it was of the rich.

James Milliken declared Fifth Avenue should be kept as a park approach, and if that was not done, the city might as well close up the thoroughfare.  He said the opposition of the truckmen, which was but half-hearted, and not a concentrated movement, had been instigated by the residents of Madison Avenue.  Mr. Milliken asserted that 2 per cent. of the trucking in the city went up Fifth Avenue, and that there "wasn't a truckman in New York City that didn't curse the pavement on Fifth Avenue for its asphalt."  Traffic was so congested there during the business hours of the day that it was unsafe to drive along it.

W. Thompson, who said he had been a truckman, but had improved his opportunities, and now lived in a tenement on the west side, spoke for the bill.  He alleged that the avenue was no place for any truck horse, as it could not get a foothold on brittle asphalt, and that the officials of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would be perfectly justified for arresting the driver for cruelty.  As an illustration of how crowded Fifth Avenue is with vehicles of all sorts during the afternoon, Mr. Thompson said that it often took him fully ten minutes to cross the avenue at Forty-second Street, owing to the blockade.

H. S. Julian, General Manager of the American Express Company, said that the bill in its amended form was acceptable to his company and the other express companies.

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