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.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Pelham Fights City Hall: Pelham Fights Creation of Pelham Bay Park During the 1880s

During the 1880s, the City of New York worked furiously to create a massive park to be known as Pelham Bay Park.  In 1884, the state legislature enacted a statute authorizing the taking of lands in Westchester County -- including much of the Town of Pelham -- for the creation of the new park. 

Initially, many in Pelham embraced the effort to create the new park.  As land acquisitions progressed, however, a true mess arose.  Since the land continued to be within the Town of Pelham until physically annexed by New York City, Pelham taxpayers remained obligated to pay for maintenance of the roads and for other such services.  As landowner, however, the municipality of New York City was not required to pay Pelham taxes, meaning that fewer Pelham taxpayers (those who owned properties that had not been acquired by New York City) continued to be responsible for maintaining the vast swath of property from Pelhamville to City Island and, thus, saw their tax burdens increase. 

Pelham responded with a fight.  Among other things, it sought repeal of the legislation that created Pelham Bay Park.  I have written about this nasty battle on several occasions.  See:

Tue., Jan. 19, 2010:  Pelham to New York City in 1888: "You Should Pay Taxes"!

Fri., Feb. 06, 2009:  More on Pelham's Displeasure with the Loss of Pelham Bay Park Lands from the Tax Rolls in the 19th Century

Thu., Feb. 05, 2009:  New York City Corporation Counsel to Pelham in 1887: We Told You So!

Wed., Feb. 04, 2009:  Pelham Has Second Thoughts in 1887 About the Proposal To Create Pelham Bay Park.

Mon., Jan. 21, 2008:  Litigation Over Compensation for Pelham Property Owners Whose Lands Were Taken by New York City for the New Pelham Bay Park

Fri., Sep. 23, 2005:  Pelham Tries To Kill the Plan to Create Pelham Bay Park: 1887

Fri., May 20, 2005:  1888 - Pelham Fears Bankruptcy Due to the Creation of Pelham Bay Park

Images of Pelham Bay Park Published in 1884.
Caption Below Images:  "1. View of the Park Shores from City Island. [Top]
2.  Long Island Sound from the Park.  [Center]  3.  Pelham Shore [Lower
Left]  4.  Pelham Bridge.  [Lower Right] PELHAM PARK, NEW
Source:  Harper's Weekly, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1442, p. 514 (1884).

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes another in the series of news items published during the 1880s detailing Pelham's displeasure with New York City's efforts to create Pelham Bay Park.  The article, immediately below, is followed by a citation to its source.

"More About Pelham Park.

Major Hewitt wrote to Corporation Counsel Lacombe a few days ago asking whether, in case the legislature repealed that part of the park act of 1884 requiring the city to take Pelham Bay Park, in Westchester county, the owners of the land would have a good claim for damages against the city.  Mr. Lacombe replied at once that he was in doubt whether the courts would sustain such a claim.  He thought, however, that if the act was repealed the legislature would make it a condition that the property owners be compensated for any actual expense they may have been put to in the premises.  He says:

It is greatly to be regretted that the large number of residents and taxpayers of the town of Pelham, of whom you speak, did not appear in the early part of 1885, to assist the local authorities in passing the bill which was then being urged to repeal the act of 1884, before any particular expenditure had been had or damage accrued under its terms.  They sedulously kept aloft at that time, the excuse advanced in favor of some of them being that their social surroundings would be made so unpleasant for them if they undertook to secure the repeal of the bill that they would not dare oppose the wishes of their neighbors in the matter.  Had they possessed at that time some measure of the courage which they now exhibit, the passage of the repeal act, at a time when it could do least harm to the city, might have been secured."

Source:  More About Pelham Park, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Apr. 2, 1887, p. 2, col. 1. 

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