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, February 06, 2009

More on Pelham's Displeasure with the Loss of Pelham Bay Park Lands from the Tax Rolls in the 19th Century

Readers of the Historic Pelham Blog will know that I have been researching Pelham's displeasure in the 19th century with the removal of Pelham Bay Park lands from the Town's tax rolls. See:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009: Pelham Has Second Thoughts in 1887 About the Proposal to Create Pelham Bay Park.

Thursday, February 5, 2009: New York City Corporation Counsel to Pelham in 1887: We Told You So!

Further research reveals that Pelham residents were so upset with the impact on their taxes that they succeeded in getting a bill before the Assembly Committee on Cities in the State legislature to compel New York City to pay taxes to the Town of Pelham on the Pelham Bay Park lands. A lengthy article on the topic appeared in February 5, 1888 issue of the New-York Tribune. The text of the article appears below.






There is a bill now under consideration before the Assembly Committee on Cities, the object of which is to compel the city of New-York to pay taxes on the Pelham Bay Park property in the town of Pelham, Westchester County, taken by the city for park purposes. The Commissioners of Appraisal, George W. Quintard, Luther R. Marsh and J. Seaver Page, have finished taking testimony, but have not yet made their report on the awards to be made the owners of the value of the property taken. Mayor Hewitt, when asked what he thought of the bill to compel the city to pay taxes on the park property, said:

'This bill will be discussed, among others, when the heads of departments meet with me on Monday. It would be manifestly improper for me to discuss it now. This I can say, however, that last year I tested against the city being compelled to take this property for a park. It is outside the city boundaries and too far away for the purpose for which it is intended. Such a thing as taxing public property is entirely unknown. Hence the introduction of this bill. If it passes, it will leave the city, so far as this park is concerned, at the mercy of the town authorities of Pelham. They can place on the park almost any valuation they please, and a consequent high tax, and the city would be powerless to prevent it. The entire scheme of the Pelham Bay Park, from first to last, is wrong.'


President Coleman, of the Tax Department, said: 'The idea of taxing this city for a public park is entirely novel and, of course, wrong. The park was forced on the city, in the first place, against the protest of the city authorities. There is no necessity for a park there for twenty years to come, and probably not at that time. No park belonging to the city should be outside the city limits. All the city authorities protested against the scheme of a park at Pelham Bay, and an endeavor was made to exclude it from the new parks scheme. If this new bill passes, New-York City will be compelled to pay the greater part of the taxes of the town of Pelham. That much is certain. If it could be done, it would be much better to allow the land to revert to the original owners, and pay them for any damage they may have sustained by reason of their lands having been taken for the new park.'

'Could not the city sell enough of the land acquired by it to reduce largely the park area and in good part reimburse itself for the outlay up to that time?'

'To enable the city to do so would need a special act, and would probably be resisted by the adjacent land owners whose property might be depreciated in value in consequence of the reduced area. The better way, if it can be done, is to abandon the Pelham Bay Park scheme altogether and pay the property owners for the small amount of damage they have received. This is better than to go on and spend millions of dollars for a park that will only benefit Westchester County.'


A well-known citizen of the town of Pelham has sent a letter to Mayor Hewitt calling his attention to the fact that the town of Pelham has a total area of about 3,000 acres, assessed at $1,200,000. Of this area, 1,700 acres, assessed at $500,000, are located within the limits of Pelham Bay Park. Under the present law this park property will, as soon as acquired by the city, be exempt from taxation. The taxable property of the town will be reduced to 1,300 acres, valued at $700,000, and the tax rate increased to nearly 6 per cent. This means bankruptcy for the town. It will be obliged to maintain many miles of expensive highway through the park without the right to tax the latter. The town will be obliged to maintain the same schools as now without the right to tax many hundred acres now contributing to their support. With the largely increased excursion travel, the town will have to increase its police force and this will add to the expense. The entire burden of the bonded indebtedness of the town will be thrown on less than one-half of its territory. The letter asserts that the great majority of the citizens of the town were opposed to the park. It is proposed that the city continue to pay taxes on the land to the town of Pelham until the town is annexed to the city. If the bill is passed it will increase the taxes of the city only 1-800 of 1 per cent on its assessed valuation and it will save the town of Pelham from bankruptcy."

Source: To Tax Pelham Bay Park, New-York Tribune, Feb. 5, 1888, Supplement p. 9, col. 6.

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