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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 12, 1922

Looking into the future when Greater New York will have a population of 25,000,000, Dr. John A. Harriss, Special Deputy Police Commissioner in charge of traffic, sees the city from the Battery to Forty-second Street occupied by storage and provision warehouses, manufacturing and wholesale business buildings.  From Forty-second Street to Fifty-ninth Street there will be only office and commercial structures.  Fifty-ninth to 110th Street is to be a "de luxe" shopping district, along the main thoroughfares, and near them; from 110th to 125th, we shall have an "additional shopping district"; above, extending north to Westchester and east to the Connecticut State line and far into Long Island, is pictured a vast residential area for all purses.  Atlantic steamships will dock on Long Island.  Expansion across the Hudson River into New Jersey is left out of the dream.  Yet the overflow in that direction has been going on since the Civil War.  New York City's housing and traffic problems would be much easier of solution if the Empire State extended to the Delaware.  It is to be supposed that Dr. Harriss visualizes the future metropolis in a grand manner in order to fix attention upon the urgency of planning relief for a traffic congestion that is already a nightmare in a city of less than 6,000,000 people.

The immediate question is what can be done to keep our motor vehicles going and to protect pedestrians.  Dr. Harriss, who is a practical man when he deals with the city as it is, proposes as a remedy for present street conditions the construction of spacious crosstown boulevards with provision underneath them for the parking of cars.  As the cost in the aggregate would be great, he proposes a beginning with a thoroughfare in the worst congested district, between Forty-second Street and Fifty-ninth.  It would be 360 feet wide, necessitating wreckage of buildings on both sides from river to river: sixty feet for the two sidewalks, one hundred feet for ordinary eastbound traffic and one hundred feet for westbound, with one hundred feet in the middle, divided for west and east bound express traffic.  The express traffic would pass under north and south bound streets, with ramps to a Sixth Avenue elevated express highway and to a Park Avenue viaduct.  The Deputy Commissioner's estimate of the cost of condemnation of houses, land and construction is $70,000,000, which seems to be optimistic.  As a matter of fact, no one can know what the cost would be.  The real estate "promoters" would have something to say about it.  Present assessments can hardly be taken as a safe basis.

Utterly to decry the scheme would be captious.  Something must soon be done to free the city from the tentacles of motor transportation, and anybody with a rational idea should have the floor.  Dr. Harriss renders a public service by opening the debate.  He has made an intensive study of the problem, and has already eased the traffic glut by his watch-towers and crossing regulations.  He would also do something to keep the taxicab "cruisers" in check.  He has suggested a central city garage under ground, where drivers could wait for telephone orders, returning when their trips were made. More traffic policemen he thinks needful for crossings that are known to be  dangerous.  No mechanical device can replace bluecoated directors of traffic.  It is high time their numbers were increased.

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