“For Greater Cities” (February 16, 1900)
Bills to Enlarge Troy and Rensselaer—Hearings Before the Cities Committee of the Assembly—Reasons Presented why the Cities of Rensselaer County Should be Allowed to Annex Outlying Territory—For and Against—A Lengthy Session—Strong Reasons Presented for Annexation—Lansingburgh Said to Favor the Proposition.
Hearings were held before the Cities Committee of the Assembly yesterday afternoon in the matter of the Greater Troy bill and a similar measure for enlarging Rensselaer, Troy’s sister city to the south. The hearing on the Rensselaer bill was held first, commencing about 5 o’clock and concluding at 6:15 o’clock. The hearing on the Troy bill was finished at 7:15 o’clock, when the committee went into executive session without announcing its decision.
A large number of citizens of Troy and Rensselaer and residents of Lansingburgh, Brunswick, Wynantskill and North and East Greenbush were present, and the legislators did not need to be told that some measure affecting Troy was up for discussion. The crowd patiently waited through the hearings which commenced at 2 o’clock on New York’s Ramapo water bills.
Randall J. Le Boeuf, corporation counsel for Rensselaer, and Hon. L. E. Griffith of Troy presentedthe principal arguments for the local bills. A number of other speakers was heard, including Judge Nason, Corporation Counsel Andrews of Albany, former Senator Nussbaum of Albany, former Mayor Van Alstyne of Albany, Frank W. Thomas, W. W. Morrill of Troy and others.
The arguments were made forcibly, and the committee appeared to be impressed with the merits of the measures.
Among those present were the following from Troy: Hon. L. E. Griffith, J. V. Jacobs, chairman of the Republican County Committee; Judge Henry T. Nason, W. W. Morrill, A. P. Finder, F. W. Thomas, George B. Fales, Arthur G. Sherry, W. M. Closson, president of the Common Council; Alderman G. W. Fredenburgh, Arthur T. Smith, Supervisor Ellis, Assemblymen Galbraith, Russell and Ahern, of Troy, W. H. Wilkinson, J. F. Mahoney, Robert Courtney, E. S. Bunce, James P. Hooley, C. H. Ward, J. H. Boland, City Justice T. F. Doherty, Sayre McLeod, A. H. Deavitt, C. T. Faulkner, Dr. O. F. Kinloch, James W. Coffey, formerly comptroller of Troy; William Ferguson, Samuel Hanna, C. W. Palmer. From Lansingburgh: George W. Daw, J. F. Farrell, J. L. Rice, Murray Campbell, J. H. Winslow. Wynantskill: Archibald Dodds, Henry Frazee. North Greenbush: District Attorney W. O. Howard, John B. Collier, John Smith, C. W. Crockett, Supervisor H. E. Melius, Alexander Chapman, Louis Willett, John J. O’Neil, George Haught, Under Sheriff James M. Wendell. Brunswick: Supervisor J. B. Cottrell, William C. Irving, Herbert Adams, George N. Manchester, Henry Thomas, Bernard Hilt, Jacob Adams and W. H. Harrington. Senator F. M. Boyce of Schodack was also present.
It was 6:15 o’clock when the hearing on the Greater Troy bill was reached, and it was agreed to give those present twenty minutes to present statements. The twenty minutes, however, grew into an hour. The hearing was lively, and the committee found plenty of humor in the situation through comments and questions by Assemblyman Treanor of New York and replies by Judge L. E. Griffith, the latter speaking for the bill. The committee thought the situation in respect to the town of North Greenbush very humorous. At the hearing on the Rensslaer annexation bill it was proposed to take in the southern part of the town of North Greenbush, and at the Troy hearing the bill included the upper part of North Greenbush. At first the committee did not see things clearly. Mr. Treanor finally said: “One wants one part of Greenbush and one the other. What becomes of the middle strip?” There was a general laugh when it was stated that apparently no one wanted the middle.
Assemblyman Galbraith was the first speaker. He outlined the bill, stating that it was proposed to take in the village of Lansingburgh and a part of Brunswick on the north and northeast, and a portion of North Greenbush and Wynantskill on the south and southeast. He said that the people of those outlying towns and villages did business in Troy, and were directly interested in the life of Troy. He said the greater part of the people in those places were in favor of the bill, especially Lansingburgh, which was practically an extension of Troy, as far as the streets were concerned. He said Brunswick, Wynantskill and North Greenbush were overflows of Troy. Mr. Galbraith pointed out how the people of the placed named were directly interested in Troy from a business standpoint. He said the White charter for second class cities now in operation in Troy would govern the greater city, and that each community would shoulder its own burdens; thus the new portions would not be compelled to pay for old improvements in any other part. He said according to the terms of the bill the consolidation would go into effect January 1, 1901.
Assemblyman Lewis asked if the bill should not properly be an amendment to the new White charter for Troy. Mr. Galbraith replied that the bill was more than an amendment.
Residents of North Greenbush were first on the floor to oppose the bill. C. W. Crockett stated that the community which was perched on what is known as Stow’s hill, just south of and touching the Iron Works district, was not in favor of the consolidation. He said many men living there work in the iron mills. The men, Professor Crockett stated, had by economy and thrift purchased homes on the hill, where, on account of the lower town tax, it was cheaper to live. He said the community enjoyed good roads, good water, good laws and did not desire a change. It was at this point that the committee became curious as to what sort of a town North Greenbush was, one city reaching out for one part and the other city for another part, leaving a third part undisturbed. Professor Crockett continud, stating that the iron industry had slacked in South Troy until hundreds of workers had been forced to leave the city. He said those who remained could hardly pay the taxes called for now and if extra taxes were to be levied, as would be the case in a city government, the men would be forced to give up their property. He said the matter had been thoroughly canvassed in the district. Petitions had been circulated, and there had been a public meeting where there was but one voice raised in favor of the bill.
L. A. Willett, also of North Greenbush, was heard. He said the people living on Stow’s hill did not live there because of the good air, but because the rent was cheaper, due to less taxation on the owners. He said the tenants would move away if the rents were raised, and that rents would be higher if city taxes were levied. Mr. Willett, who is a real estate dealer, spoke of the depreciation of values in real estate on the hill, and told a story of a man who seven years ago had borrowed several thousands of dollars from the Pioneer Building and Loan Association being refused $600 by the same organization recently because he offered as security a building on Stow’s hill. Mr. Willett said the people who lived on Stow’s hill earned their money in Troy, but they also spent it in Troy.
John Vandenburgh of North Greenbush spoke on the evils which an increased tax would bring, and said it would be a mistake to make a city out of a farm.
Frank W. Thomas of Troy said he represented the taxpayers in Brunswick. Mr. Thomas said he opposed the bill for three reasons; first, because it did not provide for equitable taxation of farm lands; second, it contained no referendum clause; third, because it was a blow at the prosperity of the town of Brunswick.
Chairman Kelsey asked Mr. Thomas if he meant that all Brunswick was opposed to the measure, and Mr. Thomas replied: “Yes, sir.” Mr. Thomas said it was a blow from a political party to which Brunswick had always stuck through thick and thin, and for that reason it was felt the more strongly. He charged the promoters of the bill with taking in 3,000 acres of farm land in addition to the thickly settled parts. He said no judgment had been shown in taking the part of the town which had been selected.
Mr. Thomas told the committee that the people of Brunswick were thrifty, and for all this many of them had a hard time to get along now. He said if taxes were to be increased many would have to sell their lands. He said the people in Brunswick spent their money in Troy and always had the interests of Troy at heart, but did not desire to live in Troy, if it could be avoided. The attorney told the committee that the idea of annexation was not new, that it had been brought up by both parties in the past and was always beaten.
Assemblyman Treanor broke in with an inquiry concerning Lansingburgh, asking if it was true that Troy and Lansingburgh were to be united. When he was informed that such was the proposition Mr. Treanor laughed and said: “I never thought I would see the day when that would happen. I have heard many a hymn sung about Troy and Lansingburgh.”
Mr. Thomas continued his arraignment of Troy. He said Brunswick people living on farms did not want to pay for street lights away off in Troy. The committee evidently was again in the dark. Chairman Kelsey asked how far Brunswick extended from Troy, and Mr. Thomas said four miles. The committee was surprised until L. E. Griffith corrected Mr. Thomas by showing that the latter had meant the whole of the town of Brunswick, when the bill only proposed to include that portion which is close to the city.
Mr. Thomas charged the promoters of the bill with working for political ends only. He also said that with an increased number of supervisors from the larger city, the country part of the county would be outvoted in the Board of Supervisors, and the tax equalization would be changed in favor of the city. He said the wards would then rule the towns.
He protested that Brunswick should be allowed to vote on the bill. Said he: I am willing to admit that an honest, upright man sits in the mayor’s chair of Troy now, but the change was very recent, however. We all know what Troy has been. When the city hall is run in a good, clean manner, when the police department is not in the hands of schemers against the public peace and honor, when Troy herself is purified, then let her say to Brunswick ‘Come in.'”
J. H. Winslow said he came to find out what the framers of the bill proposed to do with Lansingburgh. He wanted to learn concerning improvements and how they were to be made and how paid for. He said he would gladly welcome a greater Troy if it would be a better Troy. Mr. Winslow said people who owned small houses and lots and lived practically fromhand to mouth were afraid that if Lansingburgh were annexed and extensive improvements were made the increased taxation would force them to sell their property as they could not pay the greater tax. Mr. Winslow spoke along this line of taxation and asked the committee to protect the people, who could not protect the people, who could not protect themselves in an emergency of this kind.
Hon. L. E. Griffith then spoke for the bill, as no others opposed it. The time was growing short, and the committee from its long sitting showed weariness. On account of this Mr. Griffith was forced to curtail his speech, and several others, who were prepared to urge the bill, were not heard at all. Mr. Griffith said Mr. Winslow was a large real estate owner and did not desire to pay any more taxes than was absolutely necessary. Mr. Griffith continued that Mr. Winslow was the only one from Lansingburgh present who was opposed to the bill, and that this must show the committee how Lansingburgh stood in the matter. He said all Lansingburgh was for the bill.
Mr. Griffith told the committee that he had appeared before the Legislature on previous occasions when an annexation bill for Troy and Lansingburgh was up, and that he had at those times opposed the measure. He said the present bill was the fairest possible, and was so recognized by all fair-minded residents of the localities. Mr. Griffith, answering Mr. Thomas’ references to Troy’s political impurity, said he had every confidence in the honesty of purpose of the present government. He added that the present mayor did not take the seat by the aid of Mr. Grffith’s vote, but the latter thought Mayor Conway to be honest and upright and a mayor who would do his best to give the city a good government.
Chairman Kelsey interrupted to ask where Lansingburgh and the towns would be benefited by the bill.
Mr. Griffith replied that the village and towns would get city improvements and would grow rapidly. He said Lansingburgh was stagnant now because of the slowness of village improvements. He said: “The village macadamized the principal thoroughfare last fall, and I can tell you that the people do not want the village to takee charge of any more improvements.”
Mr. Griffith said the persons from North Greenbush who said the iron mills were idle and that there was no work did not know the real situation. He asked them about the Burden mills, which had not been idle for years and which gave employment to hundreds of hands. He also asked about the Albany iron works.
Mr. Griffith said: “The truth is that we have practically given them the benefits of a city government. We have almost lighted their streets and we have paved to their very doorsteps. They practically live in Troy. They have the benefit of the police protection, of Troy’s fire protection. We ask them to contribute to the city for the cost of this government. Farm lands cannot be assessed as city lots. You all know that. The general law provides for that.”
Assemblyman Lewis interrupted to ask Mr. Griffith about a bill which proposed to give Lansingburgh a city charter. Mr. Griffith replied that Lansingburgh was too small by itself to be a city and the people were not in favor of such a step.
Chairman Kelsey: “Do they want this bill?”
Mr. Griffith: “Yes. Is there a soul here to say it is not wanted? I challenge opposition. It was generally advertised in the newspapers. Everyone in Lansingburgh knows of this bill and the hearing to-day. Do you hear any one say ‘We don’t want it?'”
Mr. Winslow interjected: “Then it is safe to let the people vote on it.”
Mr. Griffith said the people on the outskirts of the city enjoyed the benefits of city protection, but did not pay for privileges.
Mr. Griffith showed how Troy was compressed and needed spreading ground. He said the population to the square mile was as follows: Albany, 10,000; Rochester, 9,000; Syracuse, 6,000; Buffalo, 10,000, and Greater New York, 12,000. Troy has over 13,000 to the square mile.
Mr. Treanor interrupted to state that a good part of the area of Greater New York was yet bare of buildings. Mr. Griffith replied quickly that that was what Troy desired—room to spread and put buildings on. He continued: “Troy gets the highest rents in the state. We have good streets and improvements which attract people. If good roads lead persons to those farm lands near the city and people buy them to build houses and live there we are surely increasing the value of those farm lands. The owners can sell them for more money. Of course we will tax them, but not until those lands have increased in value, as I have said. What we want is a chance to grow and all will share in the general prosperity.”
Mr. Griffith reviewed the state of Troy’s schools, showing how people from all the outlying territory sent children to enjoy the benefits of them. He said at present the parents had to pay for this privilege, and if the territories were annexed this privilege would be free. Mr. Griffith predicted a greatly increased prosperity to all if a greater Troy were an actuality.
Judge Nason was the final speaker. He was given three minutes by the committee. Judge Nason said he spoke as a county officer, interested in the county in general. He said he knew annexation was needed, as Troy was the emporium for the county, where farmers purchased supplied, and a closer compact would facilitate all interests. He said Troy had been handicapped in the past because it had no room to grow, and for that reason Rochester and Syracuse had outstripped it in the race for business. He said that everywhere the principle of annexation, the centring of communities, was recognized. He said Troy needed Lansingburgh, and Lansingburgh needed Troy. Judge Nason was sure that Lansingburgh was fated to become part of Troy. He said the streets were contiunuations of one another, and a stranger could not tell where the village ended. He said he did not know of two communities that should more naturally come together, not excepting Boston and Chelsea and Brooklyn and New York. He urged the committee to permit the making a a greater Troy possible.
Mr. Griffith announced that Mr. Winslow was satisfied now with the bill, as Mr. Griffith had been able to assure him that under the White charter improvements to a locality could not be made unless the property owners directly interested desired; in other words, they should first petition for the improvements.
Mr. Lewis confirmed Mr. Griffith’s statement to that effect, and Mr. Winslow said if that was true then all Lansingburgh would be in favor of the bill.
The committee went into executive session.
Troy Daily Times. February 16, 1900: 3 cols 2-4.