OBSTRUCTING THE FIRE APPARATUS.
MAYOR VAN WYCK has publicly put himself upon record as being against four lines of surface tracks being laid upon any street or highway in New York city. He may, therefore, reasonably be counted upon as a cooperator with those citizens who live upon, and in the immediate neighborhood of Amsterdam avenue, in the borough of Manhattan, in their fight against the Third Avenue Railroad Company, which has recently received permission from Commissioner Keating, to break up that thoroughfare, in order to change the motive power of its two lines of track from horse power to electricity, as has already been done by the Metropolitan Traction Company on the two centre tracks upon that avenue. The citizens in that neighborhood oppose the step, on the score of danger to the lives and limbs of those who have to cross that avenue on their way to school, to church, or to business, and contend that by an amicable arrangement the Third Avenue Company might be enabled to use the centre tracks, and thus free the street from the other two lines of track. There are legal obstacles in the way, which can be decided only by the courts. Mayor Van Wyck however, can bid his subordinate, Commissioner Keating, revoke the permit he has given to the Third Avenue Company, until the courts have decided the matter one way or the other—and, if the question rested solely upon the force of public sentiment, there would be no doubt as the court’s decision. The danger of allowing four lines of electric cars to run up and down one of the busiest thoroughfares in the borough of Manhattan is obvious. Putting aside the ordinary risks to those who live upon,or make daily use of that avenue, it must not be forgotten that the permission to lay an additional double track for such cars threatens also the lives of our firemen, and the lives and property of those who live on the adjacent streets covered by the fire stations in the avenue. As it is, with electric cars running up and down the centre of the avenue, and a line of horse cars running outside of the other tracks, with only four feet between them on the inside, and the usual vehicular traffic jammed into a few feet between the sidewalks and the car tracks, it is hard enough for the fire apparatus to get along at all, much less to make good time, when answering an alarm. If four tracks are laid down, then some of the pieces will be compelled to go up a side street into Columbus avenue or down into the Boulevard, so as to reach the scene of the fire without being obstructed, and, in this way, the precious seconds which, as Chief Bonner has so often pointed out, “count in the beginning of a fire” will be lost. In this case, owing to the obsession of the thoroughfare by the four tracks of the rival companpanies some expensive piece, or pieces of fire apparatus will one day be wrecked—there have have been several narrow escapes already— a big conflagration will ensne; valuable property will be destroyed; and still more valuable lives will be sacrificed. We say nothing as to the additional risks to which the firemen are exposed from collision with these speeding electric cars or with vehicles on the small portion of the avenue still left to ordinary traffic, and pass over the danger which menaces them of being thrown off and killed or grievously injured by the upsetting, or the sudden turning of the apparatus out of the way of one of the street cars. We have already seen enough of that—and we shall assuredly see: much more of it, and more of our gallant fiermen sacrificed to the corporation-juggernaut, if. these additional electric cars become an accomplished fact. The firemen keep silent in the matter—there are those among the car company directors and stockholders who assert that such risks are all in the firemen’s day’s work. Chief Bonner,however,has already opposed the scheme; but his opposition, has availed naught with those in whose hands lies the remedy. Yet, although these valued defenders of the people cannot personally or officially move in business, we are sure that, if those at the head of the fire department would imitate Mr. Van Wyck as a citizen, and openly avow this antagonism to the project, then Mayor Van Wyck, in his official capacity, would see a way to ordering Commissioner Keating to withdraw his permit and hold it in abeyance until the matter has been fought out in the courts. Such a line of action would be fair all round.