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The Record and Guide.
n THE RECORD AND GUIDE,
Published every Saturday.
191 Broadwav, 1^T. "ST.
ONE TEAR, in advance, SIX DOLLARS.
Communications should be addressed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway.
J. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager.
APRIL 25, 1885.
Land Transfer Reform Commission.
The majority and minority reports of this Commission were
presented during the past week to tlie State Legislature. This
Comm.ission was appointed in June, 1884, and from time to time
we ventured to express the hope that the members would have
frequent meetings during the fall, so that a report and the necesÂ¬
sary bills would be ready by the opening of the Legislature. Mr.
Dwight H. Olmstead, whose name stood flrst in the appomted list,
would lia\ o been by courtesy and usage Chairman of the Commission^
He, howe\er, waived his rights in the matter and proposed that Mr.
Southmayd should act as Chairman. The Commission was not
cabled, together until December, when it was found that they
differedou a vital matter. A majority of the Commission, Messrs.
Sbuthmayd, CoggeshaU and Riker, wishing to index city property
by lots, whUe Messrs. Olmstead and Strong favored Indexing by
blocks. Mr. Strong was subsequently won over to the majority
side. Instead of making the report in January so that some action
could be taken, the majority delayed sending in their bUls and the
reasons tlierefor, until the middle of April, too late to be acted
upon this year. The majority of the Commission ask for a conÂ¬
tinuance of their authority for another year.
We wUl not at this time undertake to give our opinion as to the
point In dispute between the advocates of the lot and block system
of indexing. Ideally the former is the perfect one, but practically
Mr. Olmstead gives some very good reasons to show why it may
not work. This is a matter which primarily effects real estate
owners, and its settlement should be left to the decision of a ComÂ¬
mittee of The Real Estate Exchange. As this Commission, which
cannot agree, are all lawyers, the Committee to decide upon the
matter should be exclusively composed of business men interested
in real property, who would, of course, avail themselves of the
technical knowledge of the professional lawyers. But the ExÂ¬
change should be ready with the necessary bills at the openÂ¬
ing of the Legislature next year. It is of the utmost moment to
real estate interests and the new Exchange that land transfers
should be made inexpensive, titles secure, and that no unnecessary
time in transferring ownership should be wasted. In other words,
the object to be attained is to have the same certainty, expedition
and economy in transfers of real estate which now obtains in
change of ownership of personal property, such as stocks and
bonds. In one hour millions of dollars worth of bonds can change
bands in Wall street for a trifling fee and without a question
as to ownership ; but a month is required to pass a title to real
estate; the oflicial and legal fees for doing so being absurdly
high, and then there is no security of title to compensate a buyer for
the pains and penalties imposed on the real estate interests by the
sanction of law.
That there is a perfect system which is practicable is proved by
the experience of other countries. On this point Mr. Dwight H.
Olmstead in his minority report says :
Unquestionably the best and most scientific way of transferring land by the
aid of a public record, and the only one which will prevent an accvunulation
of the records, is that devised by the late Sir Robert Torrens, and now in
successful operation iu New Zealand, Australia, British Colombia and
many other of the British colonies.
It is substantially the same system as that sought to be brought into use
by the Land Transfer Act of Lord Cairns, enacted by the British Parliament
in 187.5, but which not being made compulsory aud not being suited to the
EngUsh modes of conveyancing, failed of effect. A similar bill has been
introduced into the Ontario Legislature of Canada this winter. This system
presents two salient features.
1. A guarantee of titles by the government.
2. A registration of titles in the Registry office.
It will be observed that the main feature of the Torrens system, apart
trom the guarantee principle, is the method now in use throughout the civilÂ¬
ized world for the transfer of registered stocks, ships, bouds and other
personal securities, namely, by the so-caUed registration of the title which
consists substantially in the appUcation of the rule that no transfer shall
be actually made unless and untU it is entered on the registry books, the
deed being considered a mere power of attorney for the purpose of
authorizing the transfer, thus assimilating the mode of transferring land
to ordinary stock ti-ansfers.
In the Torrens system the further rule is adopted that each transÂ¬
fer, when so entered, shall be indefeasible e'icept iu case of actual fraud
on the part of the transferee, thus abrogating the law of equitable notice
and equitable assigmuent.
The essential thing sought to be accompUshed after the first entry on
the local index being to ensure the vaUdity of each transfer of the title as
it passes from owuer to owner.
This is really the ideal system of land transfer reform, but the
whole American bar, including Mr. Olmstead himself, declares that
it cannot be adopted in the United States. In a new country, they
say, it would be practicable, but that it is out of the question La
the complication of titles which exist in communities which have
grown up under a very different system. But it ia to be noted that
the British Parliament, which is not dominated by lawyers as is
every legislative body in the United States, passed Lord Cairns' act
in spite of the protest of the British lawyers, who have, however,
succeeded in nullifying the purpose of the law for very obvious
reasons. In 1872 the Reichstag of Prussia authorized the municiÂ¬
palities of that kingdom to guarantee titles in the same manner as
the colonial governments do in the British South Pacific colonies.
It has been so successful and popular that at last accounts the
Imperial Reichstag was being urged to extend the provisions of this
Prussian act throughout the German empire. If it is possible to
have a government or municipal guarantee of title in an old nation
like Germany, there can be no insurmountable objections to its
adoption m this comparatively young country.
But it is obvious that there will be the most powerful opposition
to the consideration even of this radical but necessary reform in
our land laws. The lawyer is supreme in the United States. He
is backed by extravagantly paid officials to whom the laws give
authority to plunder real estate owners. The guarantee title comÂ¬
panies also which have come into existence and are such a power
in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, will oppose any state or
municipal guarantee, as with such assurance of title there would
be no place for these organizations. The real estate interest must
look out for itself, and should not be influenced or controlled by the
corporations, ofiicials and lawyers who profit by the monstrous
land laws under which we are now living.
We have in our possession the full text of the reports of the
majority and minority of the Land Transfer Reform Commission,
but they are so voluminous that we cannot even give an abstract
this week. We wfll endeavor to publish their salient features next
week. The reports show that all the gentlemen concerned have
worked hard and intelligently, and they deserve the thanks of real
estate owners for their unremunerated labors.
The Broad Cross Streets.
The most notable sale of real estate during] the past week was
that of the house and lot. No. 24 East Forty-second street. The
dimensions were 26x98.9 and the price |70,250. This indicates an
appreciation of property lying between the Grand Central Depot
and Sixth avenue, which has long been expected by far-seeing real
estate experts. This part of the city is destined to be used for
hotels, apartment houses, stores and places of amuEement. Manager
A. M. Palmer is of opinion that the great metropolitan theatre
of New York will be situated somewhere in this particular
It has always been believed that the broad streets extending from
river to river would, as the city grew, become more and more
desirable for business purposes. Naturally the improvement in
values commenced at locations at which were concentrated the
largest number of persons. These happened to be the "L" road
stations ; hence the marvellous change which has taken place within
a few years on Fourteenth street, between Third and Sixth avenues
Twenty-tliird street next became a centre of interest, due to the
crowds which come to and from the station corner of Sixth avenue.
These met the currents of travel from upper and lower Broadway
and Fifth and Madison avenues. Thirty-fourth street will also in
time be metamorphosed into a business thoroughfare. Many
of the stores which should be situated on this cross street are to
be found on Fifth avenue, below Forty-second street. Property on
Forty-second street, between the Grand Central Depot and Sixth
avenue wfll probably command even higher prices in time than
eitlier Fourteenth or Twenty-third streets, for as a thoroughfare it
must be more largely used as the number cf people increase who
use that depot to enter and leave the city. The new annex to this
depot will liave a tendency to improve Forty-second street easterlyt
Were it possible to get rid of the reservoir and sell the ground east
of Bryant Park for business purposes, a very great enhancement of
values would take place on this, the crown of Murray HiU. Hotels,
great apartment houses, stores, and perhaps a theatre would be
called into existence on the site of the present reservoir.
All the broad streets have a future. Thirty-fourth street wUl be
bettered when it has a horse car line, and if ever the cable
system should come into existence it would greatly advantage every
thoroughfare available for a transverse road. The ferry travel natÂ¬
uraUy and necessarily adds to the numbers who make use of the
broad streets. New York is becoming more and more a business,
though not necessarily less a resident city, for while more space is