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Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784-1831 (Volume 4) online

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to the future regulations of the Corporation, when other wharves and
Slips shall be laid out to be erected at Harlaem. That for the present
M r Vredenburgh pay the Yearly rent of fifteen Dollars commencing
[258] from May 1. 1806. That the said rent of $15 per annum be not
raised during the term of 21 years unless some permanent regulation
shall be made generally respecting docks and Slips at Harlaem

All which is respectfully submitted

John S Hunn St Com 1 "
Bj. Romaine

Ordered that the same be confirmed and that M r Vredenburgh
have liberty to erect a wharf agreeably to the terms thereby recom-


Resolved that the Road masters be authorized without delay, to
call upon the late Road masters who may have any part of the tools
belonging to the Corporation in their possession and to receive the
same in behalf of the Common Council

Resolved that the Lamp Committee cause a Lamp or Lamps to
be placed at the Dock at Brooklyn near the ferry stairs similar to
those heretofore ordered at the other ferries in this City. And that
the Comptroller take measures to have the same lighted.

Resolved that the Mayor issue his Warrants on the Treasurer to

Iss d Warrts

NOS 1471 Benjamin Romaine for earth to be carted into Collect.. $1000.

1472 John H Sickles for Building Committee 2000.

1473 James Cheetham printing for Street Commissioner.... 100.

1474 Thomas Boyle for repaying Broadway 100.

1475 Charles Loss for Surveying 50.

1476 Samuel Stilwell for Surveying 58 5 %oo

1477 John Hardy for Services 30.

[259] In Common Council, July 1 st 1805

Present DeWitt Clinton Esquire Mayor

Mangle Minthorne
George Janeway
Jacob De la Montagnie
Abraham King
James Fairlie
James Drake
William W Gilbert
Wynant Van Zandt Junior
Philip Brasher

Jacob Shute
Simon Van Antwerp
Jacob Mott

^Esquires. Abraham Bloodgood
Aldermen. Andrew Morris

George J Warner
Clarkson Crolius
Joseph Board


A Petition of James Baker for his proportion of the Estate of his
father Gardner Baker deceased was referred to the Comptroller.

A Petition of George Lewis that a debt due to his Brother James
Lewis deceased be paid out of the Estate of Thomas Smith in the
City Treasury as far as the same will extend was referred to the City

The Memorial of the Trustees of New York Dispensary praying
liberty to Erect Wings to the [260] House used as a Kine pox institu-
tion and for a donation for that purpose was received and referred to
Alderman Drake. M r Bloodgood and M r Shute who reported in favor
thereof Ordered that the said Petition be granted and that the sum of
$200 be given to enable the Trustees to carry the same into effect

24 CITY OF NEW YORK l July 1805

The Petition of Arthur Smith and others that the paving a part of
Greenwich Street may be deferred was referred to the Street Com-

Petitions of Eliakim Ford and others against paying the monies
assessed to them for regulating New Slip, to regulate Delancey and
Lewis Streets, for a bulkhead at Cortland Street were referred to the
Street Commissioner

A Petition of William Baker for a Water grant between Water
and Front Streets was referred to the Comptroller

Petitions of Thomas Stagg and others to regulate the foot of
Dover Street of Robert Lylburn relative to his grant in the Com-
mons and of Edward W Laight and others for the payment of
Monies due to them for the assessment of property taken to regulate
and continue Cherry Street were referred to the Comptroller and
Street Commissioner

Lawrence Moore. House Carpenter Church Street and Jacob
Blank Cartman. Elm Street were appointed Firemen to Company N
23. and Ephraim Marsh Rector Street. Stone Cutter, was appointed
a fireman [261] of Company N 24 in the place of Charles Tunder

A Petition of Garret B Abeel and others against taking Manure
from the New Slip was referred to the Board of Health

A Petition for a Pump in North Moore Street was referred to the
Alderman and Assistant of the fifth Ward

A return from Captain Gobel of the Officers who attended to
apprehend Vagrants and disorderly persons on the 23 June, and of
persons offending against the police Laws was reffered to the Attorney
of the board.

A return from Captain Gobels Watch Company was referred to
the Watch Committee.

The following report was received from the market Committee

The Market Committee Report. I That the ground on which
Hudson market now stands is too valuable to be appropriated for a
market, and is situated in a Street too important for the purpose.

II That the said Market is in a state of Decay will be useless in
two or three Years, it being built upon a construction that is incon-
venient to the public not productive of such a revenue as a new one
upon an approved plan will undoubtedly be

III That the Corporation Slip is at present a Nuisance, it being
so Shallow, that a considerable part [262] of the bottom lays bare at
Low Water which renders it dangerous to the health of the Citizens in


that part of the City that the dock around it is rotten and has part of
it already given way. The Committee therefore, are of opinion it will
be for the public advantage to run a Xew bulkhead across the Slip in
the manner laid down in a map now presented drawn by M r Mangin.
and proceed to fill up the same, and to Erect a substantial and commod-
ious market, on the ground to be filled up. to be built of Brick &C

George Tanewav 1
Ti Drake Market

|.l l_/Ii.lNC c f~*

. ,. Committee

Ja s rairhe

Ordered that the same be Confirmed

The following report was received from the Committee to whom
was referred the applications respecting a new ferry at Corlaers hook.

The Committee to whom was referred the report of the Street
Commissioner and also the several papers in relation to the applica-
tion for a Xew ferry at Corlaers Hook.

Respectfully Report.

That your Committee have examined the subject referred to them
with considerable attention a Majority of them have viewed the situa-
tion of the land on both sides of the River, and all the subscribers have
also heard the several parties for. and against the application.

Upon a subject of so much importance as well [263] to the public
interest, as to the individuals concerned.

Your Committee did not form an opinion without a proper degree
of caution and deliberation, in presenting their report they have con-
sidered it their duty to assign the reasons and the principles by which
their decision has been ground.

In the first place ferries are establishments of the greatest public
importance. And in creating them the convenience, safety and ac-
commodation of the Community are the principal objects to be attained
the Charter of this City having invested the Common Council with
the right of forming those establishments at their discretion. Your
Committee considers that right in the nature of a trust which they are
bound to exercise in such a manner as shall best promote the con-
venience and benefit of the public.

Your Committee believe it perfectly immaterial and totally foreign
to the principles which should govern the decision of this board, to
enquire whose property is benefitted. or is not benefitted by those in-
stitutions, such enquiry might lead to favoritism and partiality, but
never could advance the general interest. As representatives of this
City, it appeared to your Committee that the public is entitled to ex-

26 CITY OF NEW YORK I July 1805

pect that the board will invariably adopt such measures as are calcu-
lated to benefit its constituents in general.

Two questions therefore presented themselves to the Committee.
First whether the place proposed by the petitioners is in reality the
best? and Secondly whether if that should be the Case any circum-
stances [264] did exist which should induce the Board to reject the
better place?

Upon the first of these heads your Committee entertained no
doubt, for Independent of the examinations which had formerly taken
place the spot had been recently viewed by the Street Commissioner
and by two of the City Surveyors, the result of their investigation was
such as to convince them that the natural advantages of the situation
proposed by the petitioners afford it a manifest superiority and of
course entitled it to the preference of the board.

Upon examining the report of the Street Commissioner your Com-
mittee found it to be correct and they are decidedly of opinion that
from the foot of Grand Street to Merrills point is not only the best
place for a public ferry, but that it would be unwarrantably hazard-
ing the interests of the public to permit the present opportunity of
securing it to pass by.

In Stating to the board, the most important particulars in which
the situation of the present petitioners is entitled to a preference, we
shall only enumerate the following.

I The Landings between Willetts and Woodhulls are not nearly
opposite to each other, while those between Cannons and Morrells are
sufficiently so. the difference in distance is also very great, being more
than one sixth part of a passage across the River.

II The ferry at Woodhulls is situated in a Cove which during
the winter season is generally obstructed with ice. It appeared to
your Committee by very satisfactory evidence that during Seven
Weeks of the last season the [265] landing at Woodhulls was entirely
useless and the boats were frequently drawn by horses to Merrills
point [which] is generally accessible and notwithstanding the severity
of the last season boats could ply between thence and Cannons every
day. It was indeed contended before the Committee on the part of M r
Willett that as the last season was uncommonly rigorous no conclusion
should be drawn from thence they cannot however but view it as af-
fording a very strong reason in favour of Merrills landing for as that
was accessible during a Winter so unusually severe it may reasonably
be inferred that it will generally remain so and again it is well known
that even ordinary winters produce a considerable quantity of ice and


though the Channel of the River may remain unobstructed yet the
Creeks and Coves are usually filled.

III. The favorable position of Cannon and Merrills Landings, in
relation to the situation, course and direction of the tides and eddies
affords another ground of superiority, equal to those which have al-
ready been mentioned, the course of the flood proceeds from the point
of Corlaers hook to Morrills and from thence in an opposite direc-
tion it strikes the Brandemula shore, with the flood tide when the
wind is up the river to effect a passage from Woodhulls to Willetts
would always be difficult and with a horse boat most frequently im-
practicable for the tide points along the opposite shore are so strong
and rapid as to render it very nearly impossible to pass them with a
large boat, and unless they are passed so as to admit of putting [266]
across near Morrells the boat will not reach nearer than Brandemula
many other cases of difficulty might be mentioned, but the Committee
content themselves with observing that in general passages can be
made with much more certainty, safety, comfort, and expedition be-
tween Cannons and Morrells that [than] at the present place

IV. The foot of Grand Street on this side appears to your Com-
mittee the best, and most eligible spot for the establishment of a ferry,
because it is by far the widest Street in that part of the City, because it
communicates with the greatest number of intersecting Streets be-
cause a public bason of seventy feet is there reserved, and because
the Market to supply that portion of the City will in all probability be
established there, and it appears obvious to your Committee that the
Market and the ferry should be United and communicate at the same

V. It appears to your Committee that in general the present ferry
is alone adapted to the Summer Season and to mild and clement
weather. It is only at favorable periods and with suitable tides that
large boats, capable of transporting horses and Carriages can be
made to ply. but that between Cannons and Morrills a passage can be
generally effected at all periods.

In addition to the aforegoing reasons the Committee might mention
several others also entitled to considerable weight, near woodhulls
Wharf on the opposite side there is situated a reef of considerable
extent which is said to occasion rough Water and to be considerably
dangerous whenever the Wind is high [267] this reef which cannot
be avoided in a passage from Woodhulls to Willetts. is entirely out of
the Course from Cannons to Morrills. Upon the whole the result of
the investigation exercised by your Committee has been to convince

28 CITY OF NEW YORK 1 July 1805

them that the present ferry is established at an improper and incon-
venient place that it is not calculated for permanent duration and that
the place proposed by the Petitioners is far the most suitable for a
valuable and durable establishment.

With regard to the second point whether any circumstances existed
which unfortunately committed the board to select the worst place
and to refuse the best for a permanent establishment? Your Com-
mittee have also endeavoured to consider that question with all the at-
tention it deserves, they submit to the board the opinion they have
matured together with the facts and the reasonings which have led to
its formation.

It appears from an examination of the Minutes that some time
in 1802 a petition having been presented to the board for the establish-
ment of a ferry from the Ground of M r Willett. to that then owned
by Samuel Titus, that on the 29 November following the Committee
reported that such an establishment would be usefull. shortly after-
wards the board proceeded to consider such report and agreed to
establish a ferry at that place to commence at a future period.

on the 14 February 1804 and before any Grant was made or
ordered to be made to M r Willett Thomas Morrell presented a petition
for a ferry. [268] this petition was ordered to lie upon the table, and
no Notice was afterwards taken of it on the 27. February upon re-
ceiving the Report of the then Comptroller, a lease was directed to be
made to M r Willett for six Years without rent upon condition of his
making the necessary Wharves and ferry Stairs and restoring them to
the Corporation in good order.

M r Woodhull having become possessed of the land of Samuel
Titus, a similar lease was afterwards directed to be made to him
which was afterwards extended for a twelve month longer as a
further Compensation for his improvements.

No agreement was made with either of those parties that such
ferry should remain a perpetual one. indeed none could have been

Alderman Minthorne one of your present Committee was also a
member of the Committee who reported upon the subject of the
present ferry he perfectly recollects that such former Committee
were solicitious to procure an establishment at or near the place pro-
posed by the petitioners and that they endeavoured to obtain the con-
sent of the proprietors for that purpose a ferry being deemed neces-
sary the former Committee reported in favour of the establishment as


the best that could then be procured but certainly did not imagine
that the public became thereby precluded from the better place.

Your Committee being fully of opinion that the public interest will
be promoted by granting the prayer of the petitioners it therefore only
remains to be considered [269] whether any valid impediment exists in
the engagement with Woodhull and Willett. Your Committee are
equally decided in their opinion that no such impediment can be found.

For in the first place the petitioners are contented with receiving
a lease to commence from the expiration of those of Woodhull and
Willett in the next place they do not pray an exclusive right, but
are willing to receive a concurrent one.

What is the interest of M r Woodhull and M r Willett in the ferry
and how would such a grant affect them? It is plain to Your Com-
mittee, that their only right is as Lessees, the whole ultimate and
proprietary right of the establishment is in the Corporation From the
expiration of the Leasses all the interest of the Lessees ceases and it
is in the power of the Corporation to direct whatever regulation may
be thought proper : In this view of the subject it must be evident
that the interests of Woodhull and Willett cannot be effected, by an
act which is limited to take place after those interests expire

It was also urged to your Committee that Woodhull and Willett
had been at considerable expence in building Wharves and other ac-
commodations for the ferry on this head the Committee would ob-
serve that although it is always a subject of regret when individuals
lose by an enterprize. Yet that circumstance cannot operate as a sub-
stantial ground of argument. For M r Woodhull and M r Willett must
have known that the board could not be considered as pledged to them
for a longer period [270] than their leases express, and it would have
been perfectly absurd in them to have imagined that the board would
remain forever bound to continue an infeiror [inferior] ferry when a
far superior one can be procured.

Your Committee further observe that any expences in which they
have engaged are also the result of a fair negociation and for which
they have received the very consideration they contracted for. A
Lease for six years without rent was granted to them as the stipulated
price of those improvements, and if in the event they should not realize
the benefits they anticipated still it furnishes no sufficient inducement
in this board to sacrifice the interests of the public in their behalf.

Another argument against the adoption of this measure has also
been suggested which on a slight view appears to possess some spec-
iousness and is therefore worthy of reply It has been said that it

30 CITY or NEW YORK 1 July 1805

would be legislating for a future board on this head your Committee
would observe that the measure recommended by them is not to be
considered as an act of Legislation for a future board but that it is
making such provisions for the permanent welfare of the public as is
not only justifiable but strictly necessary, and they take the present
opportunity of refuting an idea which if sanctioned would nearly
destroy the usefulness of this Corporation, for if it was considered
that the common Council were only to direct such regulations as are
to Commence or be Completed during the period for [which] its pres-
ent members are elected it is plain that few [271] undertakings of an
extensive or durable nature could ever be accomplished. The powers
of the Common Council would be subject to continual diminution and
would vary with the seasons of the Year In December and January
its authority would be greater than in September and October be-
cause in the former period members would have near a twelve month
to serve, but in the latter they would be confined within the compass
of a few weeks, the regulation of a Street the construction of a Com-
mon Sewer or the erection of a market would be considered as im-
proper because the measure could not be completed until the inter-
vention of another board. In opposition to an idea so extremely
pernicious Your Committee would observe that though the Common
Council in respect to the periods of its election is annual yet in its
public relations it is always the same body and is bound to consult the
permanent interests of the Community a future board is properly
bound by the Acts of its predecessors when those acts are judged ex-
pedient for the public benefit, nothing is more common and more nec-
essary than the adoption of measures of a permanent nature and such
is the practice of every day. In all affairs which concern the property
or the more important and durable Interests of the public it is neces-
sary to look beyond the present hour, thus leases are granted foi 1
twenty one Years or for a longer period, how often have leases been
renewed for several Year[s] before their expiration? Thus property is
purchased or sold in fee, Thus an exclusive establishment is consid-
ered [272] as vested in M r Willett for six years and inasmuch as it
was necessary to provide a ferry the present board is properly bound
by the Act of its predecessors though a far superior establishment
could now be procured Thus likewise the ferry leased to M r Willett
was established by one Common Council and by them directed to be
put into operation during the administration of another. When the
building of a New City Hall was directed it was never mentioned as
a valid objection to that measure that it could scarcely be commenced



by the members who directed it and that it was legislating for many
future boards. It was never deemed an impediment that it was antici-
pating the revenues of several Years over which the then members
could have no controul and engaging their Successors into unvoidable
expenditures of an extent so great as to prevent other improvements
which they perhaps might deem more necessary. It cannot be requisite
to cite a greater variety of instances in support of a principle thus
obvious should such an objection be suffered to prevail, it would
prevent every solid and substantial improvement, destroy the useful-
ness of the Corporation, and confine its powers within a very narrow
sphere. Your Committee are convinced that it is the duty of the
board to provide for the best and permanent interests of the City
whether those interests are future or immediate and that if they should
be convinced that the contemplated establishment is necessary they
would not be justifiable in hazarding it by the Caprice of individuals
the accidents of time or the vicissitude of events. It is plain to [273]
Your Committee that nature has constituted that spot the best for a
ferry It will ever remain so It is therefore necessary and proper to
secure it It was also mentioned to Your Committee as improper to de-
termine the place of a New ferry before the expiration of the present
Leases inasmuch as it may tend to diminish the value of the property
of M r Woodhull and M r Willett and prevent them from selling their
lots at as high a price as they might otherwise obtain

And your Committee are aware that this consideration furnishes
the principal motive of their objection

The opinion of the Committee on this head has already been men-
tioned. The effect of a ferry upon the value of private property has
been regarded by them as totally foreign to their enquiries. They
have considered themselves as acting in behalf of the public, and as
bound to promote the public interests satisfied that the spot proposed
by the petitioners is by far the best and that [it] is the duty of the board
to secure for public purposes while an opportunity exists. Your Com-
mittee have considered that a former Committee was desirous of ob-
taining it but could not procure the consent of the then proprietor that
consent has now been obtained but it may hereafter be with drawn
the property may fall into the hands of infant proprietors who are un-
able to cede, ground to the public and indeed a variety of impedi-
ments might occur which would prevent the public from obtaining an
establishment so essential to their accommodations under these cir-
cumstances, and acting with a view to [274] promote the general

32 CITY OF NEW YORK l July 1805

benefit, your Committee are decidedly of opinion that it is proper and
necessary to secure the best establishment for the public while it is at-

Indeed the very reasoning which has been most strenuously urged
in opposition to the immediate adoption of the measure, upon being
duly investigated by your Committee appears to dictate a prompt de-

Ferries are not established with a view to any effect upon private
property but if they are calculated to increase its price, and if a con-
viction should exist that it will hereafter be necessary to change the
place of their establishment. Justice and duty to the public most evi-
dently dictate that instead of concealing such intention, notice should
be given to the inhabitants. Why should M r Woodhull and M r Willett
be permitted to dispose of property under an idea and with representa-
tions which this board are convinced to be fallacious?

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