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Staten Island : a report by the President of the Borough of Richmond to the Mayor online

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974.726 V

Van Name, Calvnn D.

Staten Island

The New York
Public Library

Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations





_. t .

STATED-.,. -i KW YORK 10302

Books and non-print media may be returned to
any branch of The New York Public Library.

Materials must be returned by the last date
stamped on the card. Fines are charged for
overdue items.

Form #0727

* -









President of the Borough of Richmond
during the World War


V noi




January 6, 1920.

Honorable John F. Hylan,

Mayor of the City of New York,

City Hall, Manhattan.

In accordance with Section 383 of the Greater New
York Charter the annual report of the President of
the Borough of Richmond for the year 1919 is here-
with submitted. Included in the report are detailed
records of the operations of the bureaus of the De-
partment of the President of the Borough of Rich-
mond. This report is also accompanied by a number
of photographs and exhibits in illustration of features
of the same. There will be found data indicating the
manner in which the appropriations of public funds
have been expended or authorized, and details as to
the collection of moneys received by the borough ad-
ministration for various purposes during the calendar

During the World War the administration of pub-
lic affairs in this borough took on aspects and con-
ditions that were new in municipal government. I was
the President of the Borough, having served since
July 29, 1915, and having been elected and re-elected
by the people of Staten Island. All of my time and
energies were directed to the war after the formal
declaration of hostilities April 6, 1917. The para-
mount matter in this department was aiding in the
winning of the war, and all other matters were made
secondary thereto.

In consequence of the war, rates for labor and the
cost of materials entering into public work advanced
above all rates and costs that ever existed before.
Men would not work for the limited wages allowed by

the Board of Estimate, and they constantly depleted
the forces by going into nearby shipyards for the
higher wages paid there.

I had the honor of serving the City as President of
this Borough over two years prior to your inaugura-
tion as Mayor, January i, 1918, but I was very much
restricted because of a deplorable attempt to settle upon
this Borough a garbage reduction plant, on Fresh Kills,
to receive and dispose of the garbage of Manhattan,
Brooklyn and Bronx.

There was but the smallest measure of home rule
allowed to this Borough during the balance of that
City Administration.

With the advent of January i, 1918, however, new
conditions obtained which have brought about much
progress and much encouragement to people desiring
to make Staten Island their home, and to business men
and leaders of industry desiring to take advantage of
the opportunities our Borough affords.

In the summer of 1918 by your orders an end was
put to the garbage reduction nuisance on Fresh Kills,
and your fatherly assurance was given to your people
here that it never would recur. It never will recur. As
an aftermath there are remaining two actions at law
against me in my official capacity, now r pending in the
Supreme Court, claiming damages for several hundred
thousand dollars, alleging in the pleadings that it was
because of violent opposition by me that the enterprise
was ruined, and the objectionable activities suspended.

Under new conditions, and with the hearty support
of the City Administration, the work of my department
has been planned and carried on in a manner gratify-
ing to our people.

Staten Island

Dutchmen, the first white settlers of New Amster-
dam, upon their arrival, sailed past the shores and hills
of Staten Island, and some of them attracted by its
promising appearance decided to settle here.

They found on Staten Island, rivers, creeks, bays,
miles of deep water, sandy shores, and heavily wooded
hills. Further, they were able to obtain with ease an

abundance of game, fish and oysters. They found the
soil adapted to the raising of vegetables. To them the
double vocation of fishing and farming was profitable.
This had the characteristic of two chances for food for
their families, one on the water and the other on the
land. Dutchmen, Walloons and Huguenots came, and
for the next two centuries increased, and they adopted
the same ways of life, making Dutch their common lan-

Some of the names, other than family names, that
have survived are Kill (stream or short river), Rob-
bens' or Robyns' (seals') Reef, Prince's Bay (bay of
the Prince of Orange'). Kill Van Kull, /Vchter or
Arthur Kill (the kill behind the land), Fresh Kill,
Groote Kills or Great Kills, Holland's Hook (Hook
van Holland), (corner of Holland), Huguenot, New
Dorp (Newtown), Staten Island (Staaten Eylandt),
Clove (cleft or cut between the hills).

The Indian name of Staten Island was Aquehonga
Monadnock (the island of forests). The Dutch name
was Staaten Eylandt (the island of the Staats General,
which was the ruling body of the Netherfand). The
English name was Richmond Count}-.

In 1776 one hundred English ships anchored in New
York Bay, and a large army of English and Hessian
soldiers under General Howe took possession of Staten
Island and fortified all of the important points to pro-
tect themselves against the Americans who assembled
in large numbers on the New Jersey shore.

For the purpose of making a last effort to bring
about peace between Great Britain and the Colonies,
General Howe met for conference Benjamin Franklin,
John Adams and Edward Rutledge, representatives of
the American Congress, in the Billopp house, Totten-
ville, but nothing came of it, and the war continued.

This Billopp house is still standing, and in fairly
good repair. Efforts have been made in vain by patri-
otic societies and others to induce the State of New
York to purchase and preserve the historic building.
Recently I have applied to the Board of Estimate for
an appropriation with which to purchase it, and pre-
serve the building and grounds. Failing to obtain a

direct appropriation I will in conjunction with the his-
torical societies request of the Board of Estimate that
the same be acquired for park purposes, to be a part
of the park system of the City of New York, and to
be known as the Billopp House Park. I urge the active
aid of your Honor.

In 1858 an event took place in which your Honor
has shown considerable interest, and asked several ques-
tions. At the time it caused wide excitement. It was
the burning of the old Quarantine hospital at Tomp-
kinsville by citizens of the county, who after having-
protested in vain against the presence of a yellow fever
hospital in their midst, took the law into their own
hands and applied the torch.

The State Quarantine Hospital buildings were lo-
cated on land at Tompkinsville, north of and adjoin-
ing Arrietta Street, and through which now runs Bay

Determination to which a community may in very
desperation be driven by a persistent course of oppres-
sion even when pursued under the cloak of State au-
thority is well illustrated in this Quarantine case.

Strong opposition had been made by Staten Island-
ers. Cases of yellow fever occurred among people re-
siding outside the walls of the grounds as early as 1848.
Later the Board of Health of the Town of Castle -
ton was organized. In July, 1858, Dr. Mundy of the
town board of health reported that efforts of the board
were ridiculed by the State authorities, and that the
State authorities looked upon the lives of the people
of Richmond County as a matter of secondary impor-
tance, and hardly worth consideration.

At a meeting of the board on September I, 1858, a
resolution was adopted reciting the grievance and its
long continuation, and ended in these words : "Re-
solved that the board recommend the citizens of this
Town and County to protect themselves by abating this
abominable nuisance without delay."

And they did. On the next night (September 2,
1858) citizens entered the Quarantine enclosure, and,
after removing the patients from the several hospital
buildings, set fire to and burned down every building
connected with the establishment.

The governor of the State declared the island to be
in a state of revolt, and sent over several regiments of

No person was punished for any complicity in the
matter, but the county paid for the property destroyed.

The buildings were never rebuilt.

The State endeavored to establish a hospital on
what was known as the Wolfe farm at Seguine's Point,
Prince's Bay, in the Town of Westfielcl, now the Fifth
Ward of the Borough of Richmond ; the buildings
were erected, patients suffering with infectious diseases
were treated, but a disease spread to some part of
the town. The people of West field exercised less
leniency and patience than did the people of the Tomp-
kinsville end of the island. The Westfield people
had a few quiet meetings, and resolved to protect their
lives and to face the fiercest punishment the law could

When the citizens were ready they were given the
signal at night by a trusted agent, and a number went to
the hospital buildings, removed the sick, applied the
torch, and flames were soon issuing from the buildings.
They returned other nights, until all the buildings were
reduced to ashes. The vigilantes moved with the ut-
most caution. In the daytime they scarcely recognized
each other, as detectives infested the community.

Later the State again erected some cheap structures
on the same land to serve until suitable buildings could
be constructed, but they were no sooner raised than the
torch was again applied by masked men, who were the
leading citizens in that section of the island.

Likewise in this Seguine's Point case no one was
punished for any complicity in the matter, but the
county paid for the property destroyed.

In 1860 Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a native
of Staten Island and the owner of the ferry between
Manhattan and the east shore of Staten Island, built a
railroad from Clifton to Tottenville. In 1889 his
family constructed a great mausoleum on the highest
ground of Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp, and in
this are the body of the great man, who was the
founder of the Vanderbilt fortunes, and the bodies of

his direct descendants bearing the Vanderbilt name.
From the steps of this great tomb is a wide view of the
Atlantic Ocean, Long Island and Sandy Hook. The
spot is daily visited by scores of tourists, the highway
to it being in perfect condition, flanked by rare and
costly flowering shrubs selected by experts because of
their great beauty.

During the Civil War Staten Island furnished far
more than its quota of soldiers, many of whom laid
down their lives for the preservation of the Union.

About 1880 Erastus Wiman, believing in the com-
mercial advantages of Staten Island, secured control
of the railroad built by Commodore Vanderbilt be-
tween Clifton and Tottenville. Mr. Wiman then built
the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad from South
Beach by way of St. George to Holland's Hook, and in
place of several ferries to Manhattan, established one
from St. George. The large railroad drawbridge
which spans Arthur Kill was also erected through his
influence, giving Staten Island direct rail connection
with the railroad trunk lines south and west.

In 1895, systems of electric street cars were installed
on the north and east shores and between Port Rich-
mond and Concord.

In 1898, Staten Island became a part of the City of
New York under the name of the Borough of Rich-

In 1904, the ferry between St. George and Man-
hattan was purchased by the city of New York, and
operated by the Department of Docks and Ferries; and
in 1905, the five large ferryboats all of the same size and
character were constructed, and paid for by bonds of
the City. They were named Manhattan, Brooklyn,
Bronx, Queens and Richmond. They were superior to
all ferryboats, and fully complied with the specifica-
tions of the contracts as to quality, durability and speed.

Among prominent men who resided on Staten
Island were William Howe, Commander of the British
forces in the War of the Revolution ; Thomas Dongan,
Governor of the Province of New York, and Earl
of Limerick ; Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the
United States; Daniel D. Tompkins, Governor of the


State of New York, and twice Vice-President of the
United States ; Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, Wil-
liam H. Vanderbilt, Joseph Garibaldi, the Italian Lib-
erator; Santa Anna, President of Mexico; Ralph
Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, August Bel-
mont, George William Curtis, Erastus Brooks, William
Winter, Edgar Wilson Nye (Bill Nye), Father John
M. Farley, curate in St. Peter's Church, New Brighton,
who afterward became Archbishop of New York and
later Cardinal; Edwin Markham and Charles Sumner
Burch, afterward Bishop of the Episcopalian Diocese
of New York.

Staten Islanders are a proud people, and justly so.

Nowhere on the American continent is there a place
more favored by nature than is their island home. Its
beautiful hills, commanding views of the ocean, its
magnificent forests, its lakes, its seashore, its climate,
tempered by the proximity of the ocean, combining
to make it an ideal human habitation. Those who live
here love it, and the thoughts of those who have left
it often turn with an affectionate memory to the happy
days spent among its hills and forests.

Six miles south of City Hall, Manhattan, or an
equal distance south as looth Street is north of City
Hall, are 36,000 acres of the City of New York; com-
prising an area almost three times the size of the
Borough of Manhattan, and which on account of
natural advantages is unequaled for residential, busi-
ness, or industrial purposes.

This area of fifty-seven square miles comprises the
Borough of Richmond, or Staten Island, and is the
most southerly part of the City of New York.

Staten Island with its elevations, its natural ter-
races, its hillsides and valleys, is the available asset of
the dense population of New York City.

The Borough of Richmond is composed of Staten
Island, and several small islands. The most important
of the small islands is Shooters Island, upon which
is a great shipbuilding plant.

Staten Island and the small islands also comprise
the County of Richmond. In other words, the
Borough of Richmond and the County of Richmond
are the same area.

The Borough constitutes eighteen per centum of the
area of the City. It is almost as large as the Boroughs
of Manhattan and Bronx combined. It is third in size
of the five boroughs. Its length is thirteen and one-
half miles from northeast to southwest, and its greatest
width nearly eight miles. Richmond is the least popu-
lated of the five boroughs, and has 2,027 people to the
square mile.

The distance from St. George in Richmond to the
Battery in Manhattan is about five and one-half miles.
The distance from Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn to
Fort Wadsworth in Richmond is about one mile. The
population is 120,000. The assessed valuation is $i 10,-
000,000. For interior communication Richmond has
twenty-three and one-half miles of double track steam
railway, used for freight and passenger service, and
thirty-six miles of trolley road, twenty-nine of which
are double tracked.

It has the following ferries :

Municipal Ferry to the Borough of Manhattan,
twenty-three minutes.

Ferry to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, fifteen minutes.

Ferry to Bergen Point, Bayonne, New Jersey, five

Ferry to Elizabethport, New Jersey, five minutes.

Ferry to Carteret (Roosevelt), New Jersey, five

Ferry to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, six minutes.

In shape it is nearly a triangle, separted from Man-
hattan by upper New York Bay, from Brooklyn by
the Narrows, and from New Jersey on the north and
west by the deep waters of Kill Van Kull, Newark Bay
and Arthur Kill. On the southeast side, which is the
longest side, it is washed by the waters of Raritan
Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

The aim of the civic societies of Staten Island is to
evolve a Borough which will be conceded to have all
the benefits of suburban life, and at the same time have
the worthwhile advantages of a large city.

This Borough is one of the most beautiful parts of
the city, and has drives, walks, lakes, streams and won-
derful views.


It lies at the gateway of the greatest port in the

It has high ground, perfect drainage and good

The interior is remarkably beautiful. It is largely
a park, and is in its pristine beauty. There are hun-
dreds of acres of the finest of trees which have been
growing for centuries. Scores of miles of the finest
macadam highways pass through wild hedges to and
from important villages, and the Borough Government
forbids the cutting or trimming of these hedges, which
are indeed beautiful, and of a rarity unknown else-
where in a large city.

There are valleys, rivers, inlets and bays. There is
much high land in the interior, and there is high land
on the edge of the water. The hills at Fort Wads worth
are the last land of the city passed by tourists when
leaving port, and the higher hills of the island are the
first land of Greater New York seen upon their return.

Many poems and stories have been written in praise
of this "Gem of the Bay," but not exaggerated, as can
be verified by a ride over inviting highways and along
enchanting shores.

The interior of our Borough is ideal for homes.
There is a rise from the shore to a height that is un-
equaled anywhere on the Atlantic Coast.

A gem of country of verdant richness; a place of

interesting history, of quiet highways and byways; a

place for relaxation and healthful neighborly life

-that makes a home worth while translated to the

heart of the greatest city in the world.

On the shores there are miles of the safest bathing
beaches, upon which thousands enjoy themselves
every pleasant summer day.

During the past two years the increase of popu-
lation has been large. Business of all kinds has been
revived and is now thriving. Wages are high, and
work is plentiful for all.

I am convinced that the next census will show re-
turns that will be very gratifying to many people who
within the past two years have made large investments


I am gratified because of the development of the

Staten Island's twenty-one miles of unequaled
frontage upon deep water make the Borough of vast
importance to the city in its efforts to maintain the
present supremacy of the Port of New York.

Its docks as compared with all others of the port
will be nearer the ocean, nearer American coast ports,
and nearer Europe.

The direct rail communication with the south and
west with which Staten Island is favored makes it the
natural gateway for foreign trade.

There are thirty-five miles of waterfront en-
circling Staten Island, divided as follows :

Fort Wadsworth to St. George Ferry, 2.8 miles.
St. George Ferry to the pier of Procter & Gamble,
opposite Elizabethport, 5.7 miles.

Procter & Gamble's pier to Ward's Point, op-
posite Perth Amboy, 12.7 miles.

Ward's Point to Fort Wadsworth, 14.2 miles.
In all, to be exact, 35.4 miles.
The commercial waterfront upon deep water now
ready for development from Fort Wadsworth north,
west and south along the Narrows, Kill Van Kull,
Newark Bay and Arthur Kill is 21.2 miles. The out-
side water frontage on Raritan Bay and the ocean is
14.2 miles.

During the past year 1,629 American ships and
2,832 foreign ships entered New York Harbor. New
York is the greatest of all sea ports.

Manifestly, the chief factor in the success of a
port is its connections by land and water with inland
points. These connections are by railroads, rivers
and canals. A seaport is a funnel through which com-
merce of a country flows. Railroads and waterways
are the feeders of a port. The important port ques-
tion is how to collect merchandise at its points of
production, and deliver it to the ships, with the least
effort and expense. If a railroad brings the goods to
a port it is essential for cheap handling that the cars
run directly to the dock where the vessel loads.
It should be possible to unload the ship at the
dock upon cars which can deliver the cargo to any


destination. Or to discharge it overside to canal
boats, barges or lighters for delivery at waterside
warehouses, or by inland waterways if so consigned.
As a foreign shipper favors a port where handling
charges are known to be moderate, a slight difference
in the cost of handling frequently determines at which
port a vessel will discharge.

The harbor of New York because of its natural ad-
vantages is the City's greatest asset. Each one of us
spends more for the unnecessary handling of commodi-
ties which go to supply our everyday need than we
spend for our subway or street car travel. The de-
velopment of the harbor and the maintenance of the
facilities on a high basis of usefulness mean more to
every citizen of New York than efficiency in any other

Since the beginning of the war the port of New
York has been the main channel through which goods
have been shipped to our Allies. Through the Kill Van
Kull and Arthur Kill in one year, 1916, there were
carried 36,998,965 short tons, valued at $978,000,000.
In 1915 the tonnage was 32,421,950 short tons, valued
at $520,500,000. In one year there was an increase of
4,500,000 tons. There are men with whom the pros-
perity of the port is not of importance, and they have
asserted that conditions for receipt and shipment of
goods were not as they should be. If conditions were
really bad it would be difficult to explain the growth of
the commerce of the Port of New York under the dif-
ferential railroad rates in favor of other ports on the
Atlantic coast.

New York is a harbor of islands connected by belt


line of floating and sailing lighters that has developed a
unique facility unequaled in any port of this or any
other country, and no handling devices or machinery
can alter this condition, or improve the situation so
long established, and proven so efficient in the volume
of business handled in comparison with other localities.
There are four very important features necessary
for the proper location of a modern terminal in the
Port of New York, namely : deep water, direct all rail
connection with the hinterland, a situation within the
limits of free lighterage delivery, and accessibility for


trucking from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Staten Is-
land's waterfront embodies all of these desirable fea-
tures. This Borough has the largest area, in the city,
of unimproved deep waterfront, available for develop-
ment of port facilities.

It has been carefully estimated that the large ton-
nage of cargo steamers is distributed as follows : sev-
enty-five per centum goes to the railroads for transpor-
tation, fifteen per centum is held for storage, and ten
per centum for local delivery in Manhattan. There-
fore increased facilities should be created with a view
to the handling of rail consignments in the most direct
and modern way. Staten Island claims the distinction
of being the only borough having direct all rail con-
nections with the various trunk lines of railroads to
the South and West. This is by means of the rail-
road bridge crossing the Arthur Kill and linking Staten
Island with New Jersey. It is a special advantage not
enjoyed by any other borough. This facility is much
appreciated by shippers on Staten Island, especially in
stormy winter weather when floats and lighters
are tied up or delayed by ice or fog.

For years one thousand feet piers existed only in
Manhattan and Brooklyn, but now Staten Island has
a number of them, and plans have been decided upon,
and the capital made available for others.

These piers are located on the east shore of the Bor-
ough. This locality for docks and warehouse business
offers ideal features. A careful study has been made
by me here and in Europe of the various facilities of
ports, and I confidently state, after an examination of
the plans of the proposed new terminals, that they
will not only be of the latest type of improved develop-

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Online LibraryCalvin D Van NameStaten Island : a report by the President of the Borough of Richmond to the Mayor → online text (page 1 of 3)