Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, May 20, 2005

1888: Pelham Fears Bankruptcy Due to the Creation of Pelham Bay Park

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During the late 1880s, as New York City assembled lands to create Pelham Bay Park, Pelham panicked. Land within Pelham that was acquired by New York City for inclusion in Pelham Bay Park was, by law, exempt from taxation. As more and more Pelham land was incorporated into the limits of Pelham Bay Park, less and less tax revenue made its way into the Town's coffers. Pelham began increasing its tax rate. Finally, W. R. Lamberton of Pelham had had enough. He issued a letter to the Mayor of New York City that attracted the attention of The New York Times. The article about his letter appears immediately below:



Mayor Hewitt yesterday received a piquant and vigorous letter from W. R. Lamberton of Pelham, asking for is official aid toward the passage of Assembly bill No. 24, known as the Park Taxation bill. Mr. Lamberton says that the total area of the town of Pelham is about 3,000 acres, assessed for about $1,200,000, and of this 1,700 acres, now assessed for about $500,000, are within the limits of Pelham Bay Park, and will therefore be exempted from taxation. Says Mr. Lamberton:

'The taxable property of the town will thus be reduced to 1,300 acres, valued at $700,000, and the tax rate will be increased to nearly 6 per cent. This means bankruptcy for the town. The people simply cannot pay their taxes. The town will be obliged to maintain miles of expensive highway through the park, without the right to tax a foot of the land on either side of the highway. The town will be obliged to maintain the same schools as now, without the right to tax many hundred acres now helpting to support and properly tributary to such schools.'

Mr. Lamberton says that the police expenses of Pelham will be greatly increased on account of the park by reason of the visits of New-Yorkers, and he continues in a burst of indignation:

'But perhaps the crowning injustice of all under the existing law is that the entire burden of the bonded indebtedness of the town will be thrown upon less than one-half of its territory. And this is an injustice not only to the town and its taxpayers, but to the bondholders as well. If it is right for the Legislature to take away one-half of their security why not three-quarters or nine-tenths or all? The principle is the same in either case.'

Mr. Lamberton calls the Mayor's attention to the fact that the citizens of Pelham have always opposed the park on account of its exemption from taxation, and he proposes that New-York shall pay taxes upon its park property like an ordinary taxpayer until Pelham be annexed to the city. The bill now before the Legislature, he says, will increase the taxes of the city by only one eight-hundredth of 1 per cent, on its assessed valuation, which small amount will save Pelham from bankruptcy."

Source: Pelham In Despair. Foreseeing Bankruptcy Through the Park Scheme, N.Y. Times, Feb. 5, 1888, p. 10.

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