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^larch 2, 1901.
RECORD AND GUIDE.
ESTABUSHED^ (^AP^H^l>i^ 1856.
DE/ffTEDfO REAtEsTAJT.SniLDlf/o A,Rpf<'TECTdl^E.H0U3E:>i0lI)DE0CirtAIlCit
SusitiESS AftoThemes ofGeHei^I. lWTE;^tai|.
PRICE PER TEAR IN ADVANCE SIX DOLI.ARS.
Puhliahed every Saturday.
TELEPHOKB, COKTLANDT I37O.
Communications should be addressed to '
C. "W. SWEET, 14-16 Vesey Street.
/. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager.
"Entered a( the Post-Offlrr at Nejo Yorlc. N. 7., a-t second-class matter."
MARCH 2, 1901.
THERE is no cloubt that the public is regarding the great
steel combination shyly, not to say suspiciously, and it
looks very much to-day as if the whole line of Steelers will be
rather less attractive in the garb of the United States Steel Co.
than in their original and primitive dressings. An idea is obÂ¬
taining currency that the amalgamation is wholly and solely
based on the idea that a market can be found for a lot of indiÂ¬
vidually unattractive securities when they have ibeen consoliÂ¬
dated into one. Quotations of the new stocks in advance of issue
have not been what were expected and reveal rather more desire
to realize on the constituent issues than faith in the success of
the new consolidated one. Still, the consolidation will he a
good thing for business generally in that it will have averted the
trade war that was practically declared a couple of months ago
and a trade war that would have disturbed everything if it had
gonetothelengthof hostilities. It may be that the present owners
of the steel plants will have to carry them in the new securities
until they have better demonstrated their worth, but being actuÂ¬
ated by the highly disinterested motives they all profess, they
will not mind this. They have doubtless had, too, no end of fun
in working for positions in the combinations, though some claim
that they could show scars if they wanted to, that they will feel
themselves fully rewarded by its accomplishment. On the whole
the public attitude is a wise one. There is so little revealed reÂ¬
garding the properties entering the combination, nothing of the
disposition of a large part of the new stock, and so many doubts
may arise of the success of a combination of such proportions
that it is right that the present owners should keep their propÂ¬
erties until they can be more Jrank regarding their condition
and prospects. It must be remembered, too, that although giÂ¬
gantic, this combination will not include a numher of quite large
plants, the Pennsylvania and Cambria for instance, and none
of the Southern plants. These may form counter combinations
to meet the competition of the first, and there may he trade difÂ¬
ficulties after all as a consequence. While conditions in the
stock market were saved by the return of railroad investments
to popular favor late in the week, and it is pleasant to note
that with few exceptions trade cejitres report conditions to be
satisfactory, and that their reports find confirmation in the conÂ¬
tinuing increase of railroad earnings.
HE decision of the Court of Appeals against the "prevailing
rate of wages law" will have far-reaching consequences.
That law, as is well known, provided that contractors performÂ¬
ing work on municipal and other public contracts shall pay the
rate of wages "prevailing in the locality wherein the work is
performed." The Controller had held up payments otherwise due
to William J. Rodgers on the ground, admitted by Mr. Rodgers,
that he had not paid the union scale of wages. A test suit was
made of the case, and first the Appellate Division, and then the
Court of Appeals decided that the city must pay the money due
under the contract. The ground of the decision substantially is
that the dictation to a contractor of the amount of wages he
must pay to his employees infringes the right, which the conÂ¬
tractor, as a private individual, should enjoy, of settling with
his men their scale of compensation. Its immediate effect, acÂ¬
cording to the city authorities, will he to save the corporation
of New York some millions of dollars which are claimed under
suits now pending; but the ultimate effect is much more far-
reaching. As the Record & Guide pointed out several weeks
ago, a strong tendency has existed for years past to pay municÂ¬
ipal laborers more than is paid for the same service hy private
Individuals, and the "prevailing rate of wages law" was an atÂ¬
tempt to force the contractors for municipal work to yieid to the
demand of labor unions, just as the municipality itself had
ibeen obliged to yield. The decision of the Court of Appeals deÂ¬
feats this attempt. It means that contractors will be able to emÂ¬
ploy unskilled labor at perhaps three-fourths the price which the
city must pay; and the results will he twofold. The municipality
will be saved many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on
its contracts, and private contractors will have a great advantÂ¬
age over the municipality ia doing municipal work. For it must
he remembered that, even if the municipality itself should not be
obliged by law to pay the union rate, it would in practice, that
is, for political considerations, be obliged to do so.
The Tenement House Commission's Bills
MAINTAINING, as we have always done, that the solution
of the tenement house problem can be found rather in enÂ¬
couraging tbe building of tenement houses than hy discouraging
it; and being strongly averse to any experimental increases-in
the public expenses at the present time, we feel compelled to
oppose the bills of the Tenement House Commission which have
been sent to the Legislature by Gov. Odell with the request that
they lie promptly enacted. The Governor cannot have taken the
trouble to study the report of the commission to which the bills
were a complement; otherwise we think he would not have acted
so precipitately. The report itself is an admirable document,
and shows that the commission gave careful attention to the
gathering and ai-rangement of the data bearing upon the quesÂ¬
tion they had to consider. It shows, too, that they learned some
things that were good for them to know and were not afraid to
own it. This is a change from the suspicious and know-it-all
attitude of the old-time tenement reformers that is cheering to
witness and encourages the hope that hereafter the basis for the
discussion of this question will be the rational one. Striking
proof of this change of position is found in the admissions in the
report that serious interference with professional building would
he followed hy consequences most to be avoided and that teneÂ¬
ment landlords can no longer be charged with greed and rapacÂ¬
ity, because on the whole the average returns on tenements are
moderate, and not the extortionate profits that the tenement reÂ¬
formers have always hitherto asserted they were. It is a pity
that the commission did not follow these admissions to their logÂ¬
ical end and refrain from making recommendations calculated
to check tenement building and to make still more moderate the
profits arising therefrom, but had contented themselves with
those of their suggestions intended to bring old tenements someÂ¬
what nearer the standard of new ones, and to encourage the
building of puhlic baths, laying out parks and the other things
that the municipality may very well do to improve the aspects
of tenement sections. They might, too, have provided in a more
eeonomical way than they have done for the systematic inspecÂ¬
tion of tenements in order to keep both landlord and tenant
alive to hygienic requirements.
The chief provisions of the commission's bills will be found
summarized on another page, to which readers are referred for
information on the technical changes proposed. Their perusal
will show that they are first of all designed to prevent the furÂ¬
ther erection of four-family tenements on twenty-five foot lots.
The abolition of the air-shaft and the restriction of area of lot
to be occupied to seventy per cent, would guarantee this. It is
true, the commission claim that a tenement can still be built
to pay on such a lot, but admit that it could have only twelve
rooms on a fioor instead of fourteen as under the present regulaÂ¬
tions, a reduction of rentable space accompanying the admit-
tedlymoderate returns on tenements that negatives their contenÂ¬
tion. Moreover, there are restrictions as to height that would
tend to still further reduce rentable space and consequently InÂ¬
come, so that it is fair to conclude that with the passage of the
bill embodying these provisions, the four-family twenty-five-
foot tenement would no longer be built. This form of tenement
is certainly not a lovely thing, but it is the one that is most nuÂ¬
merously built, because it is the only one that can he readily
financed and marketed, and it is it that has. hitherto, provided
for the housing of our constantly growing industrial population.
Take it away, with no certainty that larger ones will be built
in sufficient number to meet growth of the demand of that popuÂ¬
lation for housing, and Intenser congestion must follow, with InÂ¬
creased rents and further hardships for the poor. Experience has
proved that the larger tenement is not easily handled, and it
would need a very severe- demand to induce builders to undertake
it. It may be argued that if the builder cannot build the twenty-
five-foot, he must of necessity build the thirty-foot or the forty-
foot or the fifty-foot tenement, but this does not by any means
follow; be may decide not to build at an, but to divert his capiÂ¬
tal into some other channel instead. It is mere childishness to