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No. 32.


JANUARY 25, 1900.

Message from the Governor Transmitting Report of the New York Commerce Commission.

ALBANY, January 25, 1900.

To the Legislature:

I herewith transmit the report of the New York Commerce Commission which was appointed by my predecessor in pursuance of chapter 644 of the Laws of 1898. This report represents an immense amount of wholly disinterested labor, undertaken solely with a view of accomplishing something effectual to stop the decline in the commerce of New York. The thanks of the State are due the members of the commission for the marked ability and untiring industry they have shown throughout their labors.

In the first place, I call your especial attention to what the commission reports as to the main cause of the damage to New York's commerce; that is, to the way in which the railroads, and especially the railroads of our own State, discriminate against

her in the interest of competing ports. The commission presents a summary of its conclusions and recommendations, and the first ten subdivisions of this summary relate to this railroad discrimi nation imposed by what is known as the differential agreement between the trunk line railroads to the American Atlantic seaports. The commission shows that this discrimination is made so as to overcome the advantage which New York would have under natural conditions as the cheapest route to foreign markets for the products of the West, and comments with especial severity. upon the New York railroads which have received benefits from the State and yet participate in the discrimination, to the serious injury of New York. It does not appear, however, that any legislative action is at present recommended; and the commission simply through its report seeks to give widespread publicity to the facts, holding that the evil can be remedied by improving the canals, canal terminals, etc.

The Canal Committee of which General Greene is chairman (the report of which I am transmitting at the same time) was appointed solely to consider the canal problem. The Commerce Commission was appointed to consider the whole problem of New York's loss of commerce, inquiring into all the causes, and seeking to find out all possible remedies. It speedily discovered, however, that the question of the canal was really the central question around which hinged all others concerned with benefitting the commercial development of New York or arresting the decline of this development. This is a further proof, if any be needed, of the immense importance of the canal and of the extreme unwisdom of abandoning it as an outworn institution.

The commission makes eight recommendations as to legislative action. As to seven of these there can be no question in my

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opinion. Proper terminal facilities should be immediately provided, as the commission outlines. The act regulating the fees and charges for elevators should be amended. The act limiting corporations designed to navigate the canals to a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars should be repealed. The canal piers should again be reserved exclusively for canal boats. New York city should be allowed to carry out its plans for the construction of piers, and improvement in dock facilities, and also to acquire possession of the waterfront between Gansevoort and Twentythird streets. With some hesitation I agree also to the wisdom of passing an act prohibiting the conveyance in perpetuity of any land under water within the limits of the Greater New York, but providing for the lease of such land with power of renewal. This is obviously proper for the crowded districts of the city. In remote parts of the city, however, the terms must be sufficiently liberal to encourage private parties to take hold and build up improvements which will help the whole waterfront.

The commission, as of the first importance, recommends action on the State canals themselves. They agree with the committee of which General Greene is chairman that in the first place, the canals cannot be abandoned; that in the second place, a ship canal ought not to be built by the State; and that in the third place, the present canal must be enlarged. On these three fundamental points the reports of the commission and committee are at one. They differ, however, as to whether the thousand-tonbarge canal should be built at a cost of some sixty millions of dollars, or whether the canal improvements proposed in the Act of 1895 should be carried through at the cost, as they estimate it, of fifteen millions of dollars. This difference corresponds to the undoubted differences of opinion on this subject among the

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