A GRAVE MISTAKE.
IN permitting the records of the executive branch of the health department of New York city, and those in particular of that department in the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, to be removed from the Criminal-court building to the premises formerly occupied by the New York Athletic club Mayor Van Wyck has committed a serious error The Criminal-court. building is fireproof; that of the old athletic club is nothing more or less than a flretrap. The new depository of the health records is a fourstory brick building, at Fifty-sixth street and Sixth avenue, with basement and attic floor, and was erected in 1884. It was built according to tiie ordinary methods in vogue in those days, and no attempt was made even at the standard of fireproof building then in fashion.
As the science of fireproofing was then in its infancy, even if the fireproof building methods of the day had been followed, such a structure would have afforded the poorest kind of protection to the valuable documents now stored within its walls. How much more unsafe,therefore, must the existing Hretrap bo in case of a fire breaking out within its walls—a contingency which may happen at any moment, in spite of every precaution to the contrary I It is true that the city fire department is as efficient as any in the world, and that its members, with their apparatus, could be on the spot in a very short space of time. But the Windsor hotel, which was situated in a less dangerous neighborhood, was in every respect a building far better calculated to resist fire than that of the New ork Athletic club, and it was within at least as easy reach of fire houses as tiie other. Yet in broad daylight it was burned to the ground, and not as much as a letter was saved from its ruins What, then, would be tiie fate of such a flretrap as that in which are stored records of the most vitally important nature, whose loss might mean ruin, even shame—say, to many, of whose birth and marriage registers the board of health is the sole custodian? The outcry that was raised against the storing of such documents in a non-fireproof building which was partially burned some time ago, compelled the municipal authorities then in power to take the proper steps for the erection of the modern fireproof building which is now being put up on Chambers and Centre streets. Yet, although a similar outcry was raised when it was proposed to effect the change in the offices of the board of health, the present municipal administration, to which is intrusted the task of adequately providing for the safety and convenience of the citizens, utterly ignored tiie clamor raised against the removal of the records to a building whose fitness for what is expected of it may be judged of by thefollowing description: Its outside walls are of ordinary brick. In it is just enough iron or steel to secure stability. There are a few iron or steel pillars and columns, and the main girders are of the same material. But the cross-beams—those upon which the floorings are laid—are of wood; the floorings themselves are wooden, and the partition walls are of the ordinary wood and plaster construction. All doors, staircases, and trimmings are of wood —and, what is worse, most of the wood certainly looks like resinous pine. Tiie building is totally devoid of fireproofing. and the whole interior is nothing more or less than a tinderbox. In the Criminal-court building, on the contrary, from which the department has moved, nothingbut the furniture and some trimmings are of wood. All girders and beams are of steel. All floors, though some are sheathed with wood, are of cement interlaid with cellular fireproof bricks, and it is recognized as. in a large degree, at least, a fireproof building. In the present building tiie marriage, birth, and death records are placed in a large room on the third floor of the building. On its south side is a row of windows ;on the other sides are the flimsy and inflammable partition walls. Should a fire start above or below, the room would be almost equally exposed to it. Should there he a fire in the building opposite the windows, it would easily find its way into the record room. Other records are housed on the first floor under similar conditions, and some are hidden away in what is called the “vault”—the old swimming tank of the athletic club, whose walls are of solid masonry, five feet thick at the bottom, and tapering to some three feet at the top. A doorway lms been cut in the side and a roof built over it, forming a close chamber about sixty feet long by twenty broad. A row of cheap pine shelves has been built against the walls, and a double row placed in the middle of the room. The door is apparently of iron, and the impression is sought to be conveyed that the chamber is fireproof. Tiie door, however, is only of light wood, covered with thin sheet iron, and affixed to the doorway by a more pine frame! All these defects have been pointed out to Mayor Van Wyck, but, as politics dictated the leaving of the building and politics caused its being put to its present uses, we can easily see why nothing short of a political revolution can change the situation.