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Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784-1831 (Volume 9) online

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" objection however does not appear to be solid. Those payments
" are taken by reason of the ground and of the improvements upon
" it ; and when the Right to the Soil is taken away, they go with it as
" mere appendages.

" I ought perhaps to apologize for not sending you my opinion
" sooner upon these points ; but I have been so much indisposed since

30 March 1818 COMMON COUNCIL MlNUTES 573

" I saw you and till the present time, that I had neither strength nor
" spirits for the attention requisite to their consideration."

With great respect &c.

(sign'd) Richard Harrison.

It was then moved that the consideration of the subject be post-
poned until the next meeting of the Board which was lost. Mr.
Van Amringe then presented the following:

" Resolved, that the Counsel of the Board be instructed to proceed
forthwith in the legal measures necessary to be taken to put this
Board in possession of the Waters between the foot of Roosevelt
Street and James' Slip and the waters between the foot of Oliver
Street and Catharine Slip both on the East River. The question be-
ing, at the request of Mr. Stevens, divided [110] as to the two Basins
contemplated, the divisions were severally agreed to, and the Counsel
was directed to take order accordingly.

The following Communication was received from Richard Varick
Esquire, relative to the Resolution of the 23 d inst.

" The Honorable the Common Council of the City of New York "
" Gentlemen

" On the 24 th instant I received from the Clerk of the Common
" Council a certified Copy of a Resolution of the Board, of the 23 d ,
" touching the bounds of the Street now called Bleecker Street, which
" has occasioned a controversy between us, that has been apparently as
" eagerly sought for by your agents, as it was unwillingly entered into
" on my part, and which I do not at this moment feel myself at
" liberty and ready to abandon.

" I have also received a Duplicate of the Resolution, under cover
" of a letter of this date, from John M c Comb, wherein he names his
" Two Surveyors, to wit Stephen Ludlum and Edward Doughty, who
" cannot be deemed impartial characters, as they have prejudged the
" Cause in their Certificate to the Alderman and Assistant [111] of the
" Eighth Ward and Doctor Graves, upon whose Report you have
" acted.

" In this state of things, it is proper and respectful in me, promptly
" to inform you, that with the mature advice of Counsel I cannot now
" accede to the proposition contained in your Resolution.

" I avail myself of this opportunity, again to admonish the Com-
" mon Council, as I have done their Street Commissioner and other
" known agents, to desist from the trespasses begun and pursued to
" some extent in digging away my ground and destroying my fences

574 CITY or NEW YORK 30 March 1818

" and buildings, and which have not been wholly discontinued, even
" since the 9 th instant."

I am with due respect,

New York Your obedt. Servt.

28 March, 1818. (sign'd) Rich d Varick.

It was then moved that the Memorial of Richard Varick which
was presented on the 9 th instant, but the reading of which on account
of its great length was dispensed with be now read which was
agreed to, and the said Memorial was read. A Representation was
presented from Mr. Bleecker the Comptroller exculpatory of some
charges made against him in said Memorial which Representation
was read. After some prefatory observations by Mr. [112] Akerly,
he presented certain Resolutions hereafter inserted. On the ques-
tion of agreeing to the same being taken, it was carried in the Affirma-
tive. It was then resolved that the said Memorial of Richard Varick,
the Representation of the Comptroller and the Resolutions be entered
at length on the Minutes : and the Street Commissioner was directed
to proceed under the direction of the Counsel.

(Here follow the aforesaid Memorial, Representation and Resolu-

" Memorial of Richard Varick Esqr."

1 To the Honorable the Common Council of the City of New

" It falls to my unfortunate lot again to address you (altho' I
have hardly bodily strength or animal spirits sufficient, since my late
severe illness, which commenced on the day on which I last wrote to
you, to make this Epistle as full and pointed as my case requires)
on the subject of the injury to my Real Estate lying between Thomp-
son and Sullivan Streets and bounded on the late Samuel David's
Street : yet my duty requires that I should not be silent.

" Let me then observe to you, [113] that on the Nineteenth day of
January last I addressed to you a respectful Memorial, stating to
you that I was the Proprietor of that Square of ground; that I had
purchased it from Robert Benson Esquire about sixteen years ago:
that Mr. Benson derived title thereto from the late John W. Watkins
Esquire ; and that about twenty five or twenty six years ago, the said
John W. Watkins built a dwelling house on the premises near Sul-
livan Street, and a Stable and Carriage house on the North west cor-

30 March 1818 COMMON COUNCIL MlNUTES 575

ner of the square, on Samuel David's Street, and also a Green house
on the North bounds thereof and on the line of Samuel David's

" I likewise stated to you, that the late Anthony Bleecker owned
all the lands East of my Square and on both sides of Samuel David's
Street, which was then opened Eastward no further than Wooster
or Third Street; and that Mr. Bleecker also owned the Square north
of my ground: and if I recollect right, I also made known to you
that to my own knowledge, and that of others yet living, the said
Anthony Bleecker had encroached on the North Side of Samuel
David's Street more than ten feet, as far as his lands were bounded
thereon : and I also stated to you that upon Actual measurement from
[114] my North Bounds, or the South bounds of Samuel David's
Street, to the North bounds of Nicholas Bayard's Lands, as laid down
on the Map thereof, there was an abundant Surplus of ground for
Samuel David's Street (of fifty feet in breadth and more) and for
all the Lots north thereof, as appeared from a Copy of one of the
Maps of that land, which I had purchased, to ascertain my rights, from
one of the late Surveyors of the City: No Map thereof being to be
found in the Street Commissioner's Office, which ought to have been ;
but, as has since been discovered one was concealed among the papers
of the late Mr. Goerck, in the City Comptroller's office, who is the
son of the late W. A. Bleecker.

" In that Memorial I also represented to the Common Council, that
the Contractor for digging out Samuel David's Street, (the name of
which has been lately changed to Bleecker Street,) had so far ad-
vanced in digging out that Street as soon to endanger my Buildings
and Fences, which being of Stone foundations and paved within and
without, could not, together with the Fences, with safety to my garden
be removed at that season of the year; and I therefore solicited the
Common Council to give such orders [115] to the person or persons
employed by them, in digging out and regulating that street, in the
exercise of their rights, so to conduct themselves that my individual
property might not be injured or impaired.

" This my Memorial was presented to the Common Council, and,
as I was afterwards by accident informed, that it had been read and
referred to the Alderman and Assistant of the Ward, together with
the Street Commissioner, to take order, so far only as to prevent my
property being injured; but without any instructions to examine
into the truth of my allegations, with respect to the encroachment of
Anthony Bleecker on Samuel David's Street, as for measurement, to

576 CITY OF XEW YOEK 30 March 1818

ascertain whether there was or was not Surplus ground for that
street, now called Bleecker Street, and the Lots north of it. And such
the event has proved for that Committee have not reported on it, nor
returned the papers to the Clerk's Office, where I have in vain applied
for official papers thereof.

" I was afterwards advised that some days after the 19 th of Janu-
ary, when the digging had very nearly approached my ground, Mr.
M c Comb had imparted such order of the Board to the Contractor:
hut I have since been informed, that his conduct and language [116]
on that occasion were as least equivocal.

" As soon as I was informed of the Reference, I sought for Mr,
M c Comb at the Street Commissioner's Office, but he was not then to
be found there: Afterwards however I met him in the front of the
Hall, and I mentioned to him the references, and that I wished to at-
tend the Committee to measure the ground: and I beg leave now to
state to you. Gentlemen, that on that occasion Mr. M c Comb very
significantly and in a voice of tone and manner which indicated Im-
portance, answered me ; There was no necessity of measuring It
" had been before that sufficiently measured." This unsuitable an-
swer to a citizen at least his equal in every point of view, and who
complained of inaccurate measurement, together with his answer to
me before I presented my Memorial to the Board; when stating to
him that the ground was mine, he answered with an air ' That the
" Corporation ought not to take my ground " thereby insinuating at
least that the ground within my inclosure was not mine And on
another occasion, when I observed to him that the pavements and
fences could not be taken up in winter, he answered very tauntingly
" That there was some- [117] times open weather in which the fences
and pavements could be removed," induced me to believe that there
was no justice to be obtained from such a man, and that moreover
there was some secret in the business which had never been disclosed

to me.

" Permit me, Gentlemen, further to state, that a few days thereafter
I was advised that if Mr. M c Comb had really given any order to the
Contractor, interdicting him from proceeding, it was not complied
with, and that my ground at the North East Corner thereof was ac-
tually dug down, and at the Corner of my fence excavated and un-

" To be satisfied of the truth of this information, I walked out
to my place, in extreme cold weather, on the 31 st January, and found
the information I had received to be correct.

30 March 1818 COMMON COUNCIL MlXUTES 577

" Having thus in person viewed the Trespass, I did, on the second
day of February last, address a long letter to the " Mayor, Recorder,
Aldermen and Assistants or Common Councilmen in Common Coun-
cil," complaining of the encroachment and Trespass : and I more-
over stated to you, that I myself, together with the persons under
whom I claimed, had been in the quiet possession of that Square for
twenty five years, [118] which gave me title against all the world:
and I again repeated to you, that there was an abundant Surplus of
ground, north of my ground, to satisfy the claim of the public and
Individuals, and that there were no improvements on the North side
of Bleecker Street to prevent the scite of that street being corrected,
and many other matters not necessary to be here repeated.

" This letter was of necessity sent by me to the City Hall by a Ser-
vant ; for at that moment I was taken ill of a severe pleurisy, and have
been confined to my Bed and sick chamber for near a month : and dur-
ing that time remained unadvised of what had taken place.

" On my recovery I was informed by a friend that my letter had
been referred to the Alderman and Assistant of the 8 th Ward and
Street Commissioner, and that there had been a Report made thereon,
in consequence of which the Contractor, whose name I have been
since informed is John Sloan, had been authorized by the Common
Council to proceed in his course of digging down my ground and
destroying my Buildings and Fences as a part of Bleecker Street, in
which Mr. Sloan has manfully acted the part assigned him.

[119] "I have lately, thro' a friend, obtained from the Clerk's
Office of the Common Council an official copy of the Report of that
Committee : But it does not appear whether that Committee had or
had not any instructions as to the line of conduct to be pursued by
them, as ought to have appeared, unless it may be inferred from the
certificate of the Surveyors thereto annexed, both of which I beg leave
to repeat and record in this place, to preserve a Record thereof as
an honorable and important public document for my use. lest they
should be purloined or withdrawn, as other papers have heretofore
been, from among the Common Council Records and not returned
there again.

" The Report of the Committee to the Common Council is in these
words to wit:

" The Alderman and Assistant of the Eigth Ward and Street
" Commissioner, to whom was referred the Memorial of Richard
" Varick Esqr. respecting a supposed encroachment on his premises, by
" the digging out and regulating Bleecker Street, Report : That they

578 CITY OF NEW YORK 30 March 1818

" have caused a Survey to be made by two of the City Surveyors,
" (a certificate of which accompanies this Report,) by which it will
" appear that Mr. Varick has no cause of complaint of an encroach-
"ment, [120] as his Stable stands within two inches of the true line,
" and his Fence stands ten feet on Bleecker Street, giving all the
" ground, according to the Map of the Block he purchased Your Com-
" mittee are therefore of the opinion, that the Contractor for regu-
" lating Bleecker Street ought to be permitted to proceed, as he is
" suffering considerable damage by delay."

23 Feby. 1818. (sign'd) Arthur Burtis

Jac. B. Taylor.
R. Graves

St. Com pro tem.

" Copy of the Certificate of the Surveyors, annexed to the Report."
' We have, as directed, measured the Block of Ground owned by
" R. Varick Esqr. between Houston and Bleecker Streets, on the
" Northwest side of Thompson Street and find that the Northeast
" end of Mr. Varick's Stable is 407 feet 10 inches from the north East
" side of Houston Street, being two inches back from the line of
" Bleecker Street. The fence of Mr. Varick's enclosure stands ten
" feet six inches on Bleecker Street, allowing said Bleecker Street to
" be fifty feet wide at that point."
18 Feby. 1818.

(sign'd) Steph. Ludlum
Edw d Doughty

City Surveyors.

I beg leave further to state to you, [121] Gentlemen, that I am in-
formed from official authority, that the Report of the Committee above
transcribed was accepted and approved by the Common Council, with-
out a dissenting voice, altho' there were then present several high-
minded and otherwise very correct men of both political parties; and
the Contractor was directed to proceed in his illegal and high handed
work of destruction.

" I now assure you, Gentlemen, that I possibly may have laboured
under a mistake, until my reading this Report and the accompanying
information that the Common Council had approved the same im-
parted to me the first intimation thereof, that the Common Council
of the City of New York, their Committee, their Street Commissioners,
or Surveyors, or any of them had the power thus promptly and sum-
marily, and that without a hearing, to decide upon the titles of lands

30 March 1818 COMMON COUNCIL MlNUTES 579

which the Statute Law of the State, commonly called the Statute of
limitations, guarantees to the possessor and declares good and inde-
feasible title to the owner of such lands.

" I have been hitherto unwilling to ascribe to the members com-
posing the Common Council improper or unworthy motives for their
conduct [122] toward me, but as a man who for near half a century,
both in and out of public service, and that without reproach, have
earned my property, I am unwilling to part with this part of it,
which in the first purchase thereof, as well as in subsequent improve-
ments, has cost me very large sums of money, without the best evi-
dences of right to it being exhibited, and that in a legal cause by my
adversaries, whose claim, in this instance, appears to me to be novel,
and as extraordinary in the means to enforce it.

" I have sometimes been led to suppose that upon the solicita-
tions of Mr. Bleecker, and the probable want of correct information
from the then Street Commissioner and some of the City Surveyors,
of the quantity of ground north of Samuel David's Street, and per-
haps the sinister conduct of some one or more designing individuals in
a past Common Council, that [the] Board have incautiously permitted
Mr. Bleecker to encroach on the North side of Samuel David's Street
opposite to his land, when the name of that street was changed to
Bleecker Street, and the same carried thro' Eastward from Third or
Wooster Street to the Broad way :

[123] "And at other times, that the Corporation, in the ideal
plenitude of their power, had boldly tho' covertly agreed with Mr.
Bleecker to convey to him or to permit him in silence to occupy ground
along the North side of Samuel David's Street and thus encrease the
value of his estate there, on condition that he would, for the aggran-
disement of his own estate, lay out the street now called Bleecker
Street from Wooster Street to the Broad way, and give in the Sur-
plus ground which he owned South of the South line of Samuel
David's Street to be continued to the Broadway; and had then de-
termined to claim from myself and Mr. Nicholas Law and from me
particularly in a manner not the most delicate and unexceptionable,
or even legal manner, the ground which was supposed to be Surplus
ground within my enclosure. The after piece favors the latter sup-

" Be all this as it may, Gentlemen, I have purchased my estate and
originally not enclosed it myself. There was a surplus of ground of
Bayard's, and I am bound to defend that part within my Fence against
all legal claims, to entitle me to recover over on the Covenants in my

580 CITY or NEW YOEK 30 March 1818

Deed, especially as the buildings which you have directed to be de-
stroyed were on the ground [124] when I purchased. And, Gentle-
men, I repeat to you that the Laws of the State secure and fortify
my possession, as the best estate in the world, even against the claim
you set up to my property : and I again thus publicly assert and shall
in due time abundantly prove my assertion, that there is surplus of
ground North of my enclosure to satisfy all demands and further,
that any man who does say, (understanding the subject) that my en-
closure comprehends any part of Samuel David's Street, (and mean-
ing no quibble about the name Bleecker Street) is a liar and the truth
is not in him ; and I stake my reputation to prove my assertion from
your own public documents which some of you are perhaps uninformed
of : and the Actors in this scene, who proceed understandingly in this
business, incur the denunciations pronounced in the sacred volume,
to wit " Cursed is he who removeth his neighbour's landmark " and
may this curse attend them.

" Matters having been thus brought to a crisis between us, and
I being determined at all events never to submit to such harsh treat-
ment as I have received and am threatened with from the Guardians
of this city, without a serious struggle for my rights, I now [125] in-
form you, gentlemen, that from a regard to my dear-bought and im-
proved interests, and my own reputation, and knowing, as I believe,
the powers of the Common Council on the subject, I have been put
to the painful alternative of submitting, or at very considerable ex-
pence retaining able Counsel ; which I have done, with a view of ex-
amining in an open and public manner into the conduct of those whom
I consider my oppressors ; and to this end I have directed Suits to be
instituted in the Supreme Court against your Street Commissioner,
who avows himself to be your agent and to be by you authorized to
commit the trespasses, and against others, and from time to time, for
the trespasses committed & to be committed on my possessions and
also a Suit in chancery to try your high-handed proceedings, and to
be relieved against illegal Assessments founded upon the usurpation
of powers not committed to you. And I trust that with the aid of
gentlemen of high Standing in the Community, and who have been
from their infancy regularly bred and have practised as surveyors,
and who can give constructions to Maps, and not by those better
calculated for building pig-pens and selling drams at the [126] counter
than for Surveyors, and upon some such you are unfortunately obliged
to depend for information, I shall be able to shew that there are lands
sufficient, north of the South Bounds of Samuel David's Street or my

30 March 1818 COMMON COUNCIL MlNUTES 581

enclosure, to satisfy the claims of the Corporation, as well as the
measurement of the number of Lots laid out in the Map of Nicholas
Bayard's ground, and that the assertion " that I have any public
ground in my possession under the present control of the Corporation "
is utterly base and false. And I shall be able to exhibit, in very vivid
colors, to a Court of Justice and Juries of my Fellow-citizents,
instances of tyranny and highhanded oppression rarely to be met
with in a well ordered community, and in no instances in this city to be
surpassed, except one case, in which the Corporation of this city, not
many years ago, attempted to wrest from me, under color of law,
a very great part of an estate, at the foot of now Fulton Street, then
worth more than fifty thousand dollars, owned by me under a grant
from their predecessors to my Ancestor, dated in the year 1743, and
respecting which all the deeds had been recorded for nearly twenty
years, and which [127] they found to their Interest to purchase from


I am very respectfully
New York Gentlemen

9 March, 1818. Your obedt. servt.

(sign'd) Rich d Varick.

' Representation of the Comptroller."

' It was not until the 27 th inst. that the Comptroller had a knowl-
edge of the Contents of a letter which had been presented to the
Common Council by Mr. Richard Varick on the 9 th and was then
referred to a Committee without being read at the Board. Having
been favored with a perusal of this extraordinary document, which
alike impeaches the reputation of the Members of the Corporation,
as well as that of several of its officers it becomes a duty to repel an
insidious charge, calculated to lessen that confidence which has hitherto
been placed in the integrity of the undersigned.

" In the second page of the letter before mentioned, the writer
says " No Map thereof (Nicholas Bayard's land) being to be found
in the Street Commissioner's Office, where it ought to have been, but,
as has since been discovered, one was concealed among the papers of
the late Mr. Goerck, in the City [128] Comptroller's Office, who is the
son of the late Mr. A. Bleecker."

" To refute this unfounded charge, it is positively denied that the
above mentioned Map, or any other whatever has at any time been
concealed in the Comptroller's Office, or elsewhere, to his knowledge.

582 CITY or NEW YORK 30 March 1818

A number of old Maps were deposited, promiscuously, on the upper
shelves in the northerly closet of said Office, about six years ago, at
the time of removing from the Old Hall ; several of which have been
taken out from time to time by the Street Commissioner and his
Assistant, when wanted for public purposes ; and the City Surveyors
have always had free access to these Maps as well as other papers in
the Office, whenever they wished to obtain information. The idea
conveyed of the concealment of a certain Map to answer interested
purposes, the Comptroller pledges his veracity, is totally destitute of
the shadow of truth, and should a single member of the Common
Council have the least doubt on his mind as to the correctness of this
assertion, the investigation of a Committee will remove every scruple
and prove highly grateful to the wishes of the subscriber.

" It is quite inexplicable [129] what could have induced the writer
of the " Epistle " to make insinuations of the nature above alluded to ;
as the undersigned was entirely ignorant of the matter in dispute
respecting the ground, until he heard the papers read at the meeting
of the Common Council.

" Not at all participating in the interests involved in the question,
he has never had his mind biassed as to its result.

" In the 10 th page a supposition is made of a clandestine agreement
or secret understanding between the Corporation and the deceased
Father of the undersigned, in laying out streets in a sinister manner
for the aggrandisement of his own Estate.

" A surmise so cruel and unjust awakens feelings of indignation,

Online LibraryNew York (N.Y.). Common CouncilMinutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784-1831 (Volume 9) → online text (page 49 of 66)