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Title: Down Town Brooklyn - A Report to the Comptroller of the City of New York on Sites for Public Buildings and the Relocation of the Elevated Railroad Tracks now in Lower Fulton Street, Borough of Brooklyn
Author: Committee of Ten Citizens of Brooklyn, - To be updated
Language: English
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A Report to the Comptroller of the City of
New York on Sites for Public Buildings
and the Relocation of the Elevated
Railroad Tracks now in Lower
Fulton Street, Borough
of Brooklyn




First Plan
Second Plan
Third Plan
Fourth Plan
Fifth Plan
Sixth Plan


April 18th, 1913.

_Dear Mr. Pratt:_

It appears to me that the time has now arrived when some definite
policy should be formulated regarding a number of needed improvements
in the Borough of Brooklyn, with particular reference to a settlement
of the court house, bridge terminal and other questions. We have had
considerable discussion regarding these matters, and while this
discussion has developed, as it naturally would, many divergent views,
I am confident that it has also served a most useful purpose because
now we all have a much better idea of the work that has to be
undertaken and the importance of intelligent and united action
governing it.

It is very necessary that some one should take the lead and I,
therefore, suggest that you endeavor at the earliest possible time to
effect a meeting of those interested as citizens and officials in
developing the best plan for Brooklyn's improvement, with a view to
having a definite policy proposed and so determined at this time that
the only thing necessary in the future will be the authorization of
the funds to carry the plan into effect.

There should be a civic center in Brooklyn. We have a nucleus of such
a center in the present Borough Hall. We need a new terminal for the
Brooklyn entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge, a better approach to that
bridge by the present elevated railroad lines, the removal of the
elevated railroad tracks from lower Fulton Street, a new court house,
a new municipal building and a thorough improvement of that section
running from the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Washington Street
to the terminal of the Brooklyn Bridge, using this improved section
for the purpose of carrying out a general beautification of the
proposed civic center.

All of these things cannot be done at once, but they are all a part of
what should be a general plan. I believe that if the subject be
approached in a spirit of civic patriotism a general plan can be
developed which will mean the ultimate procurement of all these
much-needed improvements, and in such a way as to be of the greatest
benefit to Brooklyn as a borough.

Yours truly,


  Brooklyn, New York

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon receiving the foregoing letter, Mr. Pratt conferred with a large
number of officials and citizens interested in the progress of
Brooklyn, and acting upon their advice formed a committee of ten,
believed by him to be representative of the various points of view,
for the purpose of making a systematic study of the problems set forth
and to formulate a report with definite recommendations. The report
and recommendations of the committee appear in the following pages.



Since the appointment of this committee on the 30th day of April,
1913, it has had frequent meetings, conferences and hearings.
Conferences have been had with representatives from organizations that
have given time and study to the subjects within the scope of this
committee. Several public hearings were held, notice of which was
given in the public press. Written communications have been invited
from all persons interested. Architects have been employed to advise
and we have had the help of competent engineers.

At the outset the committee has been compelled to recognize the
situation of Brooklyn and its relation to Manhattan and Greater New
York. Brooklyn has always labored under the disadvantage that,
although its residents have helped create the great assessed
valuations in lower Manhattan, it did not before consolidation receive
any benefit from the taxation of those values. In this respect
Brooklyn was not and even now is not like independent cities such as
Buffalo, Cleveland or Chicago, where both residences and office
buildings contribute alike to support the same municipal government.
Prior to consolidation on January 1st, 1898, Brooklyn had reached the
limit of her constitutional borrowing capacity. The city needed many
new schools and more bridges and tunnels across the East River. Along
with many disadvantages that flowed from consolidation, there came
the great advantage that Brooklyn at last received a portion of the
tax money raised on the real estate in lower Manhattan, to which
Brooklyn people had helped to give a high value. It must, however, be
recognized that Manhattan is the central borough, and that as the
business and municipal center of Greater New York she is entitled to
pre-eminence in buildings to transact the city's business. Now that
the boroughs constitute one city, Manhattan must help to give the
outlying boroughs those utilities that their growth reasonably
requires, and the outlying boroughs must recognize Manhattan as the
business and official center.

For the last twenty years the industrial population in Brooklyn has
been greatly increasing. Officials and loyal citizens who desire that
the historic character of Brooklyn should be preserved cannot afford
to wait ten years before a beginning is made to brighten up the
downtown district. Continued migrations of home owners from Brooklyn
to New Jersey and to counties outside of Greater New York may weaken
the ability of the borough to preserve its entity and character. If it
should once become a somewhat neglected industrial annex of Manhattan,
the result would be injurious both to Brooklyn and Manhattan. No
greater calamity could happen to every part of Brooklyn than to have
the borough lose its civic pride.

When we add to the foregoing considerations the fact that Greater New
York has nearly reached the constitutional limit of its borrowing
capacity, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that persistent
and long-continued demand will bring indefinite millions of dollars to
Brooklyn in the near future. The vast contemplated expenditure for
rapid transit railroads brings a share to Brooklyn, but even to
validate the dual rapid transit contracts it was necessary to dedicate
to subways $50,000,000 out of the $65,000,000 of self-supporting dock
bonds exempted under the recent constitutional amendment, while we in
Brooklyn know that more than $15,000,000 are needed for dock
improvements in Brooklyn alone during the next ten years. In order to
obtain a sufficient margin within the debt limit, assessed valuations
have been placed at full value, and in some cases beyond prices that
property will bring in the open market. Until the comprehensive rapid
transit plan is completed in the course of four to six years, it
cannot be expected that there will be a substantial increase in
assessed valuations, taking the city as a whole.

With all of these considerations before us we have concluded that the
strictest economy must be observed in improving the downtown district
of Brooklyn, and that every dollar expended should be not only of the
greatest use for the special purpose to which it is put, but also that
every dollar expended should give co-ordinated results. Therefore we
consider that such lands as are taken for public buildings should also
contribute toward the opening up and improvement of the central
business locality.

Outside of money for rapid transit lines, docks, schoolhouses and
street improvements, it is not likely that the Borough of Brooklyn
will within the next eight years receive any substantial sums except
for the new municipal building and a new court house. If these
buildings are placed in isolated locations where they have no relation
to one another nor to the borough center, it will be most unfortunate.
Like the Academy of Music, which is surrounded by narrow streets,
they would confer only a partial benefit. Therefore the question of
their location is more than finding a good spot for a court house or
municipal building. The problem is to find locations that will be
convenient for the public business, have a relation to each other and
other public improvements, and contribute to the acquirement of more
open space where it will do the most good.

We think that the Borough Hall locality should be preserved and
improved as the borough's municipal center. Some say that we should
look to Eastern Parkway, some to Flatbush Avenue Extension. But
Borough Hall Park is the old-time and long settled center. The large
office and financial buildings are there. It is convenient of access
from every part of the borough. Every new rapid transit line will be
directly connected with it. It is opposite the district of
corresponding use in Manhattan. It is separate from the congested
shopping district and will undoubtedly remain so. Some advocate
Flatbush Avenue Extension as the best place for new buildings. The
future value of the Extension even for public buildings cannot be
denied. Canal Street, Manhattan Bridge, the Extension and Flatbush
Avenue furnish a continuous broad thoroughfare from the North River to
Jamaica Bay. When Greater New York becomes a city of 10,000,000
people, it may become the axis for magnificent public buildings both
in Manhattan and Brooklyn. But Canal Street today is a locality of
small business and it is premature to try to force its Brooklyn
continuation into prominence as a civic center. Although Manhattan's
new court house will be built on Center Street, yet the front door of
Manhattan's civic center will be the City Hall Park for the next
thirty or forty years, and Canal Street at its best will be only the
back door. When the big business of Manhattan reaches Canal Street it
will be time enough to use city money for great public buildings on
the Extension. If Brooklyn were an independent and self-contained city
like Boston and Chicago it might experiment without fear in building
up a new civic center, but Brooklyn today must look well to hold her
own against the constant draft that Manhattan makes on her financial
and office center.

Brooklyn Bridge is today and for a long time will be the main entrance
to Brooklyn. The district between the bridge and Borough Hall has
become depressed and unsightly, mainly because the retail shopping
business left it, and Brooklyn, unlike independent cities, had no
wholesale mercantile business to take its place. No city can hope to
improve and brighten itself and still neglect its front door. The
Clark Street subway will have a station near lower Fulton Street. The
federal government has appropriated money to enlarge the Post Office.
The bridge terminal has ceased to be a terminal and has become a way
station, so that now the structures that deface the entrance to
Brooklyn can be taken down, as Bridge Commissioner O'Keeffe proposes,
and a solid, simple, low-lying structure substituted for the sheds and
aerial monstrosities. Surely now is the time to link such an
improvement with the clearing up of the whole district.

The borough must within a few months either grasp or lose its chance
to start this work. As part of the dual rapid transit system the city
has issued to the Municipal Railway Company, controlled by the
Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, a certificate to third track its
Fulton Street elevated line from the East River to East New York. The
complications in perfecting the dual contracts, and the need of haste,
were so great that the problem of freeing Borough Hall Park and lower
Fulton Street of the elevated railroad was not solved and inserted in
the contracts, but immediately after the signing of the dual plan,
Mayor Gaynor, Borough President Steers, the Public Service Commission
and the Board of Estimate took action resulting in the preparation and
passage by the Legislature of an amendment to the Rapid Transit Act
providing for the re-location of the tracks and the making of a
contract for that purpose between the Public Service Commission and
the company. Thus the way is paved for the removal of the elevated
tracks to Adams Street, taking them entirely out of lower Fulton
Street and Borough Hall Park. Orders for the fabrication of steel for
the third track construction will soon be placed, and if the contract
for re-location is not made, the steel will be ordered for
reconstructing the elevated railroad in its present location. It would
be unfortunate indeed if additional outlays should serve to perpetuate
the railroad in Borough Hall Park. At the same time that the tracks
are removed, it is desirable that the city should do as much as
possible in opening and improving the unsightly locality between
Fulton and Washington Streets. As an independent proposition the
taking of so much land has not appealed to some of the members of the
Board of Estimate, but an entirely different question is presented if
this area can be used in part for one of the new public buildings.
Plan 6 shows the locality as it would appear after the tracks are
re-located and the plaza opened. Washington Street should be widened
to correspond to the width of the open space now opposite the
Mechanics' Bank Building. Some say, why not widen Washington Street
taking forty or fifty feet of private land along its westerly side and
do nothing to disarrange the rest of the property between Washington
Street and Fulton Street? The answer to this is that the taking of
parts of the buildings would in many cases be almost, if not quite,
equivalent to a total destruction of the entire properties. If the
city should acquire for public purposes the three blocks lying between
Fulton Street and Liberty Street on the west and Washington Street on
the east, it could widen Washington Street to the required width of
110 feet, use the space opposite the Post Office for one of the new
buildings, and design the open space near the bridge as a dignified
and fitting approach to Brooklyn Bridge, corresponding to some extent
to the open space partly covered by the Manhattan municipal building
at the other end. This should be done in connection with Commissioner
O'Keeffe's plan of reconstructing the bridge terminal. The new public
building located here would not act as a stopper in the bridge plaza,
because the space now between the Mechanics' Bank Building and Myrtle
Avenue is of a fixed width and acts as a fixed limitation. If
Washington Street is widened to the same width, the approach to the
bridge plaza proper would be better than if the bridge plaza should
extend all of the distance to Borough Hall Park. In the latter case
the plaza would be too large and not pleasing in form. A considerable
part of this real estate is already owned by the city.

By chapter 390 of the laws of 1909 the Supreme Court justices of this
department were empowered to select a site for a new court house and
recommend it to the Board of Estimate. In 1910 they selected the two
blocks bounded by Court, Clinton, State and Livingston Streets, and on
December 20th, 1911, the report was made by the Board of Sinking Fund
Commissioners to the Board of Estimate. The Board of Estimate has
taken no action thereon.

In July, 1911, the Board of Estimate determined upon the southeast
corner of Court and Joralemon streets as a site for the new municipal
building, taking in both the corner and the land covered by the
present municipal building. The land has been acquired, plans for the
building have been prepared, and when the Board of Estimate makes an
appropriation for building, actual construction can begin. If,
however, the recommendations of this report should meet with favor,
the municipal building would be erected in another place.

The committee has endeavored to deal with these four factors, viz.,
court house, municipal building, bridge plaza and re-location of
tracks, so that the money expended should not only bring the best
result for each factor, but at the same time bring the additional
benefit of relating the four factors so that all will unite to improve
the downtown center. We shall now compare the cost and advantages of
the four factors as presented in the Clinton Street court house site,
and as presented in the other plans that reasonably meet the needs of
the situation.



(See diagram marked Plan 1)

1. Cost of bridge changes and re-location of
     tracks as estimated by the Department
     of Bridges, and assessed value
     of additional property required for
     same                                                $4,012,095.00

2. Assessed valuation of land and buildings between
     Washington and Fulton streets                        1,249,100.00

3. Assessed valuation land and buildings,
     Clinton Street site for court house                  1,527,700.00

4. Municipal Building site at south-west
     corner of Court and Joralemon streets
     (title now vested in the city)
          Total                                          $6,788,895.00

This plan places the new court house on the site selected by the
judges, and the new municipal building on the site that has been
condemned for this purpose at the corner of Court and Joralemon
streets to which will be added the land covered by the old municipal
building. For the purpose of these comparisons no values are placed on
land and buildings now owned by the city.

The item of $4,012,095 for Brooklyn Bridge changes and re-location of
tracks is the same in each of the six plans, and includes the assessed
values of the entire half blocks east of Adams Street. The re-location
of the tracks on Adams Street will require a six track structure
between the bridge and Myrtle Avenue and a three track structure
between Myrtle Avenue and Fulton Street. Adams Street is not wide
enough for so many tracks. The preponderating engineering opinion is
that the city should not widen Adams Street, but remove the structure
to the half block east of Adams Street. The space fronting Adams
Street under the solid track floor would be available for renting. The
cost of taking the half block by condemnation would not materially
exceed the cost of taking forty feet along the block fronts. The
question of damages to abutting owners would be avoided, and Adams
Street would be made better for traffic and business than it is now.
Part of this large item would be paid by the railroad company. Under
the terms of the third tracking certificate already issued the company
is to pay all of the cost of reconstruction and betterment of the
structure in its present locations, and it is understood that the
company will pay at least an equal amount when the tracks are
re-located under the new law. If the re-location brings other benefits
to the company it would seem that even a greater portion of this item
should be borne by the company. The new law provides that the division
of expense shall be arranged between the Public Service Commission and
the company, subject to the approval of the Board of Estimate.

The new court house according to this plan would be 600 feet from the
Hall of Records. Although the books and files kept in the Surrogate's
and Register's offices are not needed so frequently in trials as the
papers from the county clerk's office, it is a distinct disadvantage
to have them so far away from the court house.

The new court house, on this site, would be unrelated to any other
improvement. It would also be entirely surrounded by private property,
admitting of no architectural development and bearing no relation to
the court house itself. The land is entirely covered with buildings
valuable for their present use and is a recognized center for
physicians. If the court rooms are made to face toward the streets
they will increasingly be subjected to street noises, for we find that
no streets in this locality are quiet. Automobiles and auto-trucks
abound. If this site were acquired for the new court house the Board
of Estimate would probably refuse either to open the bridge plaza or
widen Washington Street. The result would be that practically no
general improvement to the financial center would be made. The
Joralemon Street front of Borough Hall Park, probably the most
dominating site in the borough, would contain three buildings, the
Hall of Records, the old court house and the new municipal building,
none of them harmonizing with the others, and bringing little or no
distinction to the most prominent site in the borough. The old court
house would be relegated to criminal business to the detriment of this

It would seem that the city's plan for future buildings should make
some use of the Polytechnic Institute land. It is only a question of
time when this school will move elsewhere. This plan throws away the
opportunity of making profitable use of this land.

The main objection to this plan, however, is that, although expensive,
it brings practically no help to downtown Brooklyn. It dissociates the
desired factors and does not relate them. It simply procures an
isolated court house, leaving the business center of the borough as
badly off as before.



(See diagram marked Plan 2)

1. Cost of bridge changes and re-location of
     tracks as estimated by the Department
     of Bridges, and assessed value of
     additional property required for same               $4,012,095.00

2. Assessed valuation of land and buildings
     between Washington and Fulton streets                1,249,100.00

3. Assessed valuation of land and buildings
     Flatbush Avenue Extension site for
     court house                                            564,650.00

4. Municipal Building site at south-west corner
     of Court and Joralemon streets
     (title now vested in the city)
       Total                                             $5,825,845.00

In this plan the court house would be 1,730 feet from the Hall of
Records. The transaction of court business on the border of the retail
shopping district would increase street congestion. It is distant from
the present office district, and, if selected, injury to the present
office district would result. It is inconvenient to residents of
certain parts of the city. If court rooms fronted on the street they
would yearly become more subject to noise. The available space would
not afford as large an interior court as would be desirable if the
court rooms were to face inside. If this site were acquired, the
bridge plaza would probably remain unopened. Like Plan 1, this plan
scatters the benefit of the four factors under discussion, and does
not unite them.



(See diagram marked Plan 3)

1. Cost of bridge changes and re-location of
     tracks as estimated by the Department
     of Bridges, and assessed value of
     additional property required for same               $4,012,095.00

2. Assessed valuation of land and buildings
     between Washington and Fulton streets                1,249,100.00

3. Assessed valuation of land and buildings in
     the two blocks bounded by Boerum
     Place, Livingston, Court and State
     streets                                              1,507,900.00

4. Municipal Building site at south-west
     corner of Court and Joralemon streets
     (title now vested in the city)
       Total                                             $6,769,095.00

Like the Clinton Street site, this site would be so expensive that its
purchase would probably preclude the opening of the bridge plaza. If
the present court house should be retained, the new court house would
be hidden and without any effective relation to Borough Hall Park. If
it had outside court rooms they would be noisy. Schermerhorn Street
would either need to be closed or else carried through the building by
tunnel. In the former case one of the streets most needed for traffic
would be lost, and in the latter case the street would need to be
artificially lighted both night and day and even then would be
troublesome to maintain. This plan is open to all of the objections of
Plan 1. Indeed it is even less desirable as it interferes more with



(See diagram marked Plan 4)

1. Cost of bridge changes and re-location of
     tracks as estimated by the Department
     of Bridges, and assessed value of additional
     property required for same                          $4,012,095.00

2. Assessed valuation of land and buildings between
     Washington and Fulton streets                        1,249,100.00

3. Assessed valuation of land and buildings in
     block bounded by Boerum Place, Livingston,
     Court and Schermerhorn
     streets                                                881,900.00

4. Polytechnic Institute and buildings fronting
     on Court Street not taken by the city
     for new Municipal Building site                        733,700.00
       Total                                             $6,876,795.00

This plan has been pressed by very competent persons and we have given
a large amount of detailed study to its merits. It contemplates that
the old court house and municipal building should be torn down, and
that the new court house should be set far back from Joralemon Street,
the open space in front of it being flanked by the Hall of Records on
one side, and a building of corresponding design on the other, to be
used for children's and women's courts. The court house would be built
on both sides of Livingston Street, which would be double-decked so
that the noise of surface cars and vehicular traffic could not reach
the court rooms. This noise is now considerable on account of the
slight grade from the Court Street to the Boerum Place level which
requires the application of brakes on the down grade. On account of
the widening of Livingston Street this block is only 160 feet deep.
Any form of treatment would seem to be unduly expensive and even then
the court house would not be quiet, as the court rooms would be
subjected to the noise from the crossovers at the corners of
Livingston Street with Court Street and Boerum Place. The municipal
building would need to be placed on the plaza site or elsewhere. One
of the main objections to this plan is that the arrangement of all the
buildings must be on an axis that does not correspond with Borough
Hall, the park, or Washington Street, and on this account the open
place between the flanking buildings as well as the buildings
themselves would stand awry.



(See diagram marked Plan 5)

1. Cost of bridge changes and re-location of
     tracks as estimated by the Department
     of Bridges, and assessed value of
     additional property required for same               $4,012,095.00

2. Assessed valuation of land and buildings between
     Washington and Fulton streets                        1,249,100.00

3. Site for new court house takes part of last

4. Municipal Building site at south-west corner
     of Court and Joralemon streets
     (title now vested in the city)
       Total                                             $5,261,195.00

This plan contemplates placing the new court house on Washington
Street opposite the Post Office, and the new municipal building at the
corner of Court and Joralemon on the site condemned for that purpose.
It separates the court house from the Hall of Records. The chief
objection, however, is that the available space is not sufficient. A
court house of the size desired would be compelled to assume an
awkward shape, and it would be so narrow that an inner court to light
court rooms facing on it would be out of the question. Throughout our
work we have kept in mind the desire of the judges for quiet rooms for
the conduct of trials. Washington and Fulton streets are noisy on
account of surface cars and vehicles and it would in our opinion be
undesirable to have court rooms front on these streets. The court
house is to be a much larger and more imposing building than the new
municipal building, and it should not be placed on a contracted site.



(See diagram marked Plan 6)

1. Cost of bridge changes and re-location of
     tracks as estimated by the Department
     of Bridges, and assessed value of additional
     property required for same                          $4,012,095.00

2. Assessed valuation of land and buildings between
     Washington and Fulton streets                        1,249,100.00

3. Site for Municipal Building takes part of
     last item.

4. Site for court house takes Polytechnic land
     and buildings, etc., in addition to land
     now owned by the city                                  733,700.00
       Total                                             $5,994,895.00

This plan contemplates that the court house would occupy all of the
present court house block except the Hall of Records; that it should
have a large inner court with court rooms opening upon it; and that
the municipal building should be placed on the plaza site.

The available area for the court house would be 147,700 feet. The
inner court could be 150 feet by 200 feet with a superficial area of
30,000 feet. The building, if six stories high, could easily have four
floors devoted to court rooms. Each floor would afford space for nine
court rooms, each forty feet by fifty feet, and one large court room
for extraordinary trials, 50 feet by 65 feet. This would make forty
court rooms in all and there would be ample space for a jury room and
robing room in connection with each court room.

The street noises would be an objection to this site if the court
rooms fronted the street. We are advised, however, that the fronting
of the court rooms on the inner court would protect them entirely from
street noise. Ventilation in so large a building as this would
necessarily be furnished by a power system, and would be independent
of the movement of outside air. Indeed, it seems to be conceded that a
power system succeeds only when windows are not opened and shut at
will. Moreover, trials are not held during the hot months of July,
August and September. On account of these considerations we are of the
opinion that inside court rooms can be fully as comfortable and as
well ventilated as if they fronted on the streets. The inner court
would be so large that there would be an abundance of sunlight. This
would not be the case with the lower stories if the building were
fifteen or twenty stories high, but our investigations have shown that
with a building not over six stories in height, the sunlight will be

Careful consideration has been given to the subject of noise during
construction. The first portion of the new court house built would be
that fronting on Borough Hall Park between the present court house
and Court Street. This would be followed in due course by the
construction of the Livingston Street front after the Polytechnic
Institute would be able to locate in a new place. Later the remaining
portion of the new court house would be built where the old court
house now stands. It cannot be denied that there would be some
inconvenience to court work from construction noise while these
successive portions were building, but if the new municipal building
is erected within the next few months on the site selected for it
adjoining the old court house, there will be the same degree of
construction noise. Moreover, wherever the new court house is built,
it is almost certain that it will be followed by some new construction
in the immediate locality. The main thing is to obtain freedom from
noise after construction is over, and we believe that the work of the
courts could be conducted in inside court rooms on this site with more
quiet than in outside rooms on any of the other sites that have been
suggested. We find that the first wing of the new building could be
built as a unit providing sixteen to twenty court rooms with all
requisite minor rooms and facilities. These would be more court rooms
than are now in use. This would afford the needed expansion in
connection with the use of the old court house, which has fourteen
court rooms. The later completion of the Livingston Street wing would
furnish a total of thirty-two court rooms in the new building. This
would permit the abandonment of the old court house so that the last
wing could be built where the old court house now stands. If the money
for the construction of the new court house is appropriated from time
to time, as will probably be the case, it will be no disadvantage to
have the different parts successively available for construction.
Forty new court rooms will not be needed for some years, and there
will be a saving of interest to the city if the entire expenditure is
not made at one time. The county court now has four court rooms, the
supreme court ten, the appellate division one, and the appellate term
one--in all sixteen. The act empowering the judges to select a site
and approve a court house does not contemplate that the county court
will be provided for in the new building. If, however, a forty court
room building should be erected, it is evident that the county court
should be housed in it or else many of the court rooms would be idle
for a long time.

The new court house in Manhattan will provide fifty to sixty court
rooms. A new Brooklyn court house containing forty court rooms would
provide as much space as is likely to be needed during the next forty
years, and the city would hardly care to lose interest on unnecessary
space for a longer period. When, however, the civil business
transacted in the new court house should need all of the court rooms,
the city would probably feel the need of a separate criminal court
building in some other part of the borough. It is unlikely that the
county court will continue both its civil and criminal terms
indefinitely. The tendency in all large cities is to separate civil
and criminal trials both as to judges and location.

The new court house in this location would be near the Hall of
Records, a comparatively new, sound and dignified building. Both
judges and trial lawyers are accommodated by having the real estate,
surrogate's and county clerk's records and books near at hand. Part of
the large space under the new court house could be used for moisture
proof vaults for the storage of obsolete papers that are already
crowding the county clerk's office.

The great advantages of this site to the borough are apparent. It
holds the court business of the borough in the locality which has for
generations become adapted to it. It preserves and improves the
present office center. It is the most convenient spot in the city for
judges, litigants, lawyers and jurors, and is also the most accessible
from the court, municipal and financial centers of Manhattan. The new
rapid transit lines will make it more accessible from every part of
Greater New York.

The present location of the Polytechnic Institute is not well adapted
for educational purposes. Its future growth is circumscribed and
probably it is only a question of a few years when another location
must be found for this growing institution.

The site for the municipal building on Washington Street, opposite the
Post Office, would have an area of approximately 52,000 square
feet--being an irregular plot 380 feet by 150 feet. It would be a
moderately high office structure and would fit an irregular plot of
ground better than the more monumental court house. It would also be
adjustable to the site bounded by office buildings with the height of
which it would harmonize. The distance of the new municipal building
from Borough Hall would be 800 feet. In Manhattan the distance between
City Hall and the new municipal building is 640 feet. A station of the
new Interborough subway will be near the corner of Fulton and Clark
streets. This will be the great Manhattan west side subway, running
south from Times Square through Seventh Avenue, Park Place and William
Street, thence under the East River at Old Slip, thence through Clark
and Fulton streets to the junction with the two tracks under Borough
Hall, not now used, but which when used will make Brooklyn's four
track subway to Flatbush Avenue, Long Island station, Park Plaza and
Eastern Parkway.

Not only will the placing of the municipal building on the Washington
Street site allow the much needed widening of that street without
extra cost, but the erection of the court house on the present site as
provided in this plan will admit of the widening of the streets by
which it is bounded, viz., Livingston, Court and Joralemon streets.
This consideration is important in view of the concentration of street
cars and other traffic at this center of street circulation.

No other plan presents equally good sites for the new court house and
the new municipal building. This plan has the further merit that it
harmonizes the four factors, i.e., court house, municipal building,
bridge plaza and re-location of tracks, in a manner where each factor
brings additional benefit to every other factor. The removal of the
elevated tracks without opening up the bridge approach would be only a
partial improvement. Placing the court house on the Clinton Street
site or Flatbush Avenue Extension site would have no relation whatever
to the other three factors. This plan logically, harmoniously, and at
comparatively small expense paves the way for the improvement of the
entire area between Brooklyn Bridge and the Hall of Records and
furnishes frontages that will attract the construction of substantial
and handsome business buildings.

For these reasons we recommend:

1. The removal of the elevated railroad tracks from Borough Hall Park
and lower Fulton Street, pursuant to the permissive legislation passed
by the last session of the legislature as an amendment to the Rapid
Transit Act.

2. The acquirement by the city of the land not now owned by the city
between Fulton Street and Liberty Street on the west and Washington
Street on the east, also three lots in the small block opposite Clark

3. The widening of Washington Street to 110 feet, which is the same
width as the throat between the Mechanics' Bank Building and Myrtle

4. The location of the new municipal building between Fulton and
Washington streets approximately opposite the Post Office.

5. The location of the new court house on the present site of the old
court house, such site to include the land intended for the new
municipal building, and also the rest of the land in that block on
Court and Livingston streets, all court rooms to front on a large
interior court.


Dated, June 21st, 1913



We, the undersigned, while agreeing with Recommendation No. 2 of the
foregoing report, believe that all of the three blocks between Fulton
Street on the west and Liberty Street on the east, should be acquired
by the City and not only the three lots opposite Clark Street. Our
reasons for this belief stated briefly are, that the buildings erected
upon these blocks are of poor construction and unsightly and their
condition will not be improved by the bridge approach, nor will a
better class of buildings be erected in their stead. They stand as a
menace to the improvement of Fulton Street north of Clark and if not
removed will carry upon their rear walls billboards and signs which
will mar the effect of the new bridge approach. If they are not
removed the traveler, approaching Brooklyn by means of the Bridge
cars, will have but a momentary glimpse of the improved plaza and the
new municipal building as the train swings around into Adams Street.
If, on the contrary, the buildings are removed the effect of the
improvement will be noticed as soon as Sands Street is reached. This
will be the more noticeable to travelers by the trolley and to
pedestrians using the bridge.

The assessed valuation of these blocks is $442,850. If they are
acquired by the City it is our belief that the increase in the
assessed value of property upon Fulton Street immediately opposite to
the blocks in question will more than equal the assessed valuation of
the property taken.


[Illustration: PLAN 1]

[Illustration: PLAN 2]

[Illustration: PLAN 3]

[Illustration: PLAN 4]

[Illustration: PLAN 5]

[Illustration: PLAN 6]



It was recognized from the beginning of the study of this problem that
any recommendations must of necessity take into consideration existing
conditions and must co-ordinate with any general plans for the
development of the borough as a whole. A thorough study has been given
this question and it may be stated with reasonable assurance that the
proposed location and general arrangement of the court house and
municipal building not only do not in any way conflict with future
changes but contribute very largely to the accomplishment of further

An exhaustive argument has been made already on the location of these
buildings. In addition to the reasons already given for the suggested
locations, it may be stated that the plaza site is not well suited as
a location for the court house. On such a location the interior light
courts would be too small to successfully serve the court rooms, and
the block too irregular. Furthermore, since the character of the
municipal building is that of a high office structure, a less regular
plot of ground is required as a site than is the case with the more
monumental court house. This building is more adjustable to a site
bounded by office buildings with the height of which it will

The court house is the focal point of a system of arteries leading to
various centers--Washington Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, Court
Street to the docks, Fulton Street to the retail business center at
its intersection with Flatbush Avenue, and finally, Willoughby
Street to Fort Greene Park.

[Illustration: _Proposed new location of elevated railroad tracks and
sites for Court House and Municipal Building_]

Willoughby Street, along its distance from the Borough Hall Square to
Fort Greene Park, should at some time be used as a relief to Myrtle
Avenue and for that distance should be the important and improved
street. Furthermore, it will become, if developed, a strong factor in
relieving that portion of Fulton Street below Flatbush Avenue of the
traffic from the eastern section of the Borough, which has for its
objective point Borough Hall Square. This artery, leading directly to
Fort Greene Park, centers on the Martyrs' Monument. Since this
monument has been carefully placed on the axis of Willoughby Street,
it is not only desirable but economical to bring it into value.
Willoughby Street crosses Flatbush Avenue at its highest point and
from this intersection the façade of the proposed court house will
come finely into view. There will be, therefore, strong reasons for
developing Willoughby Street.

The location of the municipal building on the plaza site will allow of
the widening of Washington Street. It will further the improvement of
the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The erection of the court house on the present site near Borough Hall
will admit of the widening of the streets by which it is bounded,
namely, Livingston Street, Court Street and Joralemon Street.

Improvements such as these are very important in view of the
concentration of street cars and other traffic at this center. Further
relief might be had by placing additional street car loops at the
Bridge plaza where part of the cars that now crowd Borough Hall
Square might be carried around the north end of the proposed Municipal

The buildings located as proposed do not make a formal group in the
strict sense of the word. They may be made, however, to count
together. One's attention, immediately on crossing the Brooklyn
Bridge, whether by the cars, by vehicle or on foot, will be controlled
by the façade of the municipal building with its foreground of public
space and on passing beyond this building into Washington Street,
one's attention will be carried with interest to the façade of the
court house which will frame the Borough Hall silhouette and dominate
Borough Hall Square.

Owing to the location of the Borough Hall on the Washington Street
axis, it is recommended that no central motif be used in the court
house design. The façade of the court house must be designed as a foil
to the broken silhouette of the Borough Hall and its cupola. Should
the Borough Hall be ultimately removed, the axis may be controlled by
a central feature of monumental or commemorative character. The
converging lines of the lower cornice of the buildings, of the curbs
and of the lamp posts, carry the eye forward to this motif and to the
façade of the court house.

Co-operation between the architect selected for the municipal building
and the United States Supervising Architect should be urged, so that
this building and the Post Office will be harmonious in architectural

Various monuments and architectural details are suggested on the
plans. They must all be in harmony and in scale with one another and
with the buildings. Their setting must be carefully studied in detail.
The placing and proportioning of balustrades, of pools of water, of
grass plots and in particular of trees must be done in the finest way,
as it is only by a careful attention to all these details that this
group can be brought into harmony of high order in keeping with its

[Illustration: _View from Borough Hall toward Brooklyn Bridge showing
proposed Municipal Building_]

The spaces surrounding the public buildings, where not needed for
circulation, should be parked and trees should be planted wherever
they will serve to enhance the buildings, screen undesirable objects,
at the same time not interfering with business interests. The same
variety of tree should be planted throughout and should not exceed 25
to 30 feet in height.

Of almost equal importance is the question of lamp posts--their
height, design, spacing and fixtures. It is suggested that this be
exhaustively studied in the light of modern invention so as to make of
the streets and open spaces involved, a model for other parts of the

The paving of these streets and open spaces also should be perfect.
Creosoted wood block is recommended for its all round qualities.

The above recommendations, if carried into effect, will contribute to
making this entrance to Brooklyn harmonious and impressive. The
studies submitted in plan and perspective should be understood to be
only general suggestions along the lines indicated.


_Court House:_

The courts and allied departments, at present situated in the old
court house building, in the Borough Hall, in the Hall of Records and
in rented quarters, which would be housed in this building, are:

Supreme Court,
Supreme Court, Appellate Division,
County Court, Criminal Parts,
County Court, Civil Parts,
Grand Jury,
County Clerk,
District Attorney,
Commissioner of Jurors,
All Court Stenographers and Clerks,
Justices' Chambers,
Justices' Reference Library,
Law Library.

Space occupied at the present time by the various departments is as

                                                Square Feet.
County Clerk                                          20,000
District Attorney                                      8,000
Sheriff                                                2,200
Commissioner of Jurors                                 1,600
That space included in the Old Court House,
  Appellate Division, in the Borough Hall,
  Appellate Term in rented quarters
  including justices' chambers, about                120,000

The bill for the selection of the court house site does not provide
quarters in this building for the County Courts, but it is likely that
for several years all County Court business would be handled in the
new court house.

[Illustration: _View from Brooklyn Bridge toward Borough Hall showing
proposed new Court House in the distance_]

A safe assumption for a new building providing ample light courts and
set back fifty feet from both Court Street and Joralemon Street is
ten court rooms per floor. A building having four court floors and two
additional floors would have an area of approximately 450,000 square
feet. Each court room unit, moreover, would be amply supplied with
judges' robing room, clerks' room, and necessary witness, counsel and
jurors' rooms. This building would be about 110 feet high to the main
cornice. In addition, space would be provided for an emergency
hospital, for newspaper reporters, and for a general public waiting

The new court house would provide seventy to eighty thousand square
feet on the first floor, sixty-five to seventy thousand square feet
approximately on the court room floors, and fifty thousand to sixty
thousand square feet on the upper floor which should be planned as
justices' chambers.

_Hall of Records:_

Space vacated by the county clerk, at present housed in the Hall of
Records, would provide twenty-five per cent. additional room for the
Surrogate's Court and the Registrar. Should a new structure of the
same height as the court house be erected at some future date, and set
back from Court Square and Fulton Street, the space available for
those departments would be nearly doubled.

_Municipal Building:_

A building on the plaza site about eight stories high, would have a
floor area equivalent to the building now planned to be placed on the
Joralemon Street site. It would adequately house all of the
administrative departments and bureaus. The chief officials would
doubtless remain in Borough Hall. Borough Hall could be used entirely
for administrative business as the Appellate Division would move to
the new court house.


Dated, July 25th, 1913

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Down Town Brooklyn - A Report to the Comptroller of the City of New York on Sites for Public Buildings and the Relocation of the Elevated Railroad Tracks now in Lower Fulton Street, Borough of Brooklyn" ***

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