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Home Talk-The Item, Feb. 27, 1929 – Narrows tube fate depends on Albany

February 27, 2023 Editorial Staff
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Construction of the Narrows tunnel, which is favored by municipal leaders from Mayor [Jimmy] Walker down, depends, it was said recently, on the creation of the Bridge and Tunnel Authority for Greater New York. A bill providing for this body, sponsored by the city administration, is before the Legislature.

According to prominent city officials, the bill is almost certain to become a law. The only contingency it has to be afraid of, it is claimed, is the hostility of the Republican majority in the Legislature, and its desire to place the administration in an embarrassing position for the election next November. It is known that Governor [Franklin] Roosevelt is in favor of the bill.

Governor-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt with Mayor Jimmy Walker at the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park on Dec. 27, 1928. Walker, who succeeded Mayor John F. Hylan, resigned in 1932 amid a corruption scandal. AP photo

Roosevelt is acquainted with the need of the city for interboro transit connections, especially for the Borough of Richmond, which is in a state of virtual isolation. It is for this reason that the Narrows tunnel has met with almost unanimous approval. The Governor also knows, officials say, that the city bonding debt limit has about been reached, and it has no way of providing for the construction of expensive though needed transit facilities.

One of the chief reasons for favoring a tunnel in connection with the money problem is the availability of the Hylan freight-and-passenger tunnel shafts, at the foot of 68th St., and on the other side at St. George. This will reduce the necessary expenditures by several millions of dollars.

Members of the Board of Estimate are all in favor of the Narrows tunnel, and behind the bill, it is believed, although they are wary of being quoted on any single improvement. They prefer they stand on their general program of transit construction.

Since the Board favors the project, and there is every prospect that the bill will pass the Legislature, Mayor Walker, who has said a number of times that he was for a Narrows tunnel, providing he knew where the money was to come from, is believed to be at work preparing some financing scheme for the improvement.

Tolls for bridges and tunnels will have to be collected, it was said by a high city official, whether or not the bill passes. If the bill does not pass, private companies may get the privilege of constructing the transit connections through city franchises. If the bill does pass, the city will probably use the toll method of financing anyway, he said. The bridge and tunnel bill provides for tolls.

John F. Hylan was mayor of New York City from 1918 to 1925. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

“Even though the city should have a debt limit leeway of $400,000,000 between now and the first of March, 1930,” he said, “we still could not indulge in the building of bridges and tunnels. The subway takes up $100,000,000 a year, the schools $60,000,000, public improvements the Board of Estimate already is committed to another $100,000,000, more or less, and then comes the Delaware water-works project, which cannot be delayed and will cost between $800,000,000 and $400,000,000. There is also a point where the sale of city bonds reaches the saturation point, on the part of the public.”

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(Special thanks to Brooklyn Public Library)


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