The ownership of the water-front varies greatly according to the boroughs, the municipality having comparatively little property except around the Island of Manhattan, which forms the old city and county of New York. Around the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Richmond boroughs ownership is generally in the State of New York or private individuals or corporations, though this ownership in many places has not yet been finally determined by decisions of the courts in legal proceedings which have arisen through claims made by the municipality as successor to the old townships now incorporated in the city limits.

In Manhattan the municipal ownership is about three-fifths of the water front, and it is in this borough that the water-front has attained its greatest value and where the greatest congestion exists. To give in detail an idea of water-front titles in the various boroughs - strictly a legal question - though interesting and generally little known, would occupy too extended space for this chapter. I must confine myself to saying that around Manhattan the Dutch West India Company, claiming ownership, made the earliest transfers of title, and a map exists of such of these transfers as were situated below Wall

Water-Front Of New York City In 1902 Compiled From The Greater New York Water-Front Survey, Maps, Etc

Borough of

Manhattan.

(Miles.)

Borough of

The Bronx.

(Miles.)

Borough of

Brooklyn.

(Miles.)

Borough of Queens. (Miles.)

Borough of

Richmond.

(Miles.)

Totals.

Length of shore line of water-front (i. e., measured along bulkhead where property is improved and along high-water mark where property is unimproved).....

39.9

105.6

132.3

116.0

51.0

444.80

Length of water-front including detail around piers, slips, basins etc........................

88.2

112.9

197.2

132.0

69.6

599.90

Length of water-front owned by the City measured along the shore line............................

23.51

20.60

3.87

0.08

0.03

49.09

Length of water-front owned by the City measured along details.....................

58.23

20.91

5.59

0.32

0.03

85.08

Old and New Plan combined:

Length of improved property measured along bulkhead.........................

...............

...............

...............

...............

...............

...............

Belonging to the city....................

10.68

1.04

1.45

0.07

...............

13.24

Belonging to private individuals.......................

5.81

(a) 3.42

(b) 20.21

(c) 8.36

(d) 9.33

47.13

New Plan:

Bulkhead wall built on City property completed to granite facing about...........................

6.

......................

0.50

......................

......................

...............

Old and New Plan combined:

Length of improved property including detail around piers, slips, basings, etc..............

...............

...............

...............

...............

...............

...............

Belonging to the City..................

45.29

1.71

3.17

0.31

...............

50.48

Belonging to private individuals...................

17.96

(a) 8.82 <

;b) 55.93

(c) 14.65

(d) 31.43

128.79

City property not improved but available for commercial improvement, measured along high-water line, being total City property less Park Property................

7.14

4.79

...............

0.01

0.03

11.97

City property used for park purposes, measured along bulkhead and high water lines.......................

5.69

14.77

2.42

...............

...............

22.88

Water-front owned by the City at Blackwell's and Randall's Islands......................

5.96

...............

...............

...............

...............

5.96

Water-front owned by the City at Riker's, Hart's and

North Brother Islands..........................

...............

5.00

...............

...............

...............

5.00

(a) This includes the wharves and piers on U. S. Govt. property at Fort Schuyler, i. e., property not belonging to City.

(b) This includes the wharves and piers on U. S. Govt. property at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Fort Hamilton.

(c) This includes the wharves and piers on U. S. Govt. property at Willetts Point.

(d) This includes the wharves and piers on U. S. Govt. property at Tompkinsville (Lighthouse Dept) and Fort Wadsworth.

Street. All further transfers by this company, of course, ceased with the first occupation of New Amsterdam by the British (1665). In regard to this occupation and the subsequent change of sovereignty from the British Crown to the People of the State of New York, it must be borne in mind that, by force of treaties, statutes and well-established principles of law, all the land which in 1775, the beginning of the War of Independence, belonged to the Crown of Great Britain became vested in the People of the State. With respect to lands to which titles before that had been legally acquired by individuals, either from the British Crown or under Dutch rule prior to 1665, the change from Dutch to English sovereignty and through the Revolution from the Crown to the People of the State, effected no forfeiture, of itself, of the individual ownership in such lands.

Immediately upon the assumption of English sovereignty, the City of New York received its first English municipal charter, known as the Nicoll Charter. This was followed by the Dongan Charter (1686), the Corn-bury Charter (1708) and the Montgomerie Charter (1730), in all of which last three charters grants of water-front property were made to the municipality by the Crown, these grants being, however, subject to grants already made by the Crown to private individuals. The first of these grants to the city, and which was in the Dongan Charter, was of the land between high and low water mark all around the Island of Manhattan and confirmed to the municipality ownership of the first docks built - which had been constructed in the city at the foot of what is now Broad Street, through which in early days was a canal. These were known as the East and West Wet Docks, into which docks what would now be called a pier, but which was then called a bridge, extended.

The Cornbury Charter gave to the old City of New York ferry and other rights along the Brooklyn shore, and the Montgomerie Charter gave to the city the land under water in the Hudson River to a distance 400 feet beyond low-water mark, from a little stream called Minetta Rivulet (emptying into the Hudson at what is now about the foot of West Houston Street), down to the Battery; and thence, excepting a short stretch which was in front of the then British Fort George, up the East River as far as Corlear's Hook.

After the Revolution the State made various grants to the city around the Island of Manhattan, and some grants to private individuals. But most of the private ownership around Manhattan arose through direct grants made in turn by the city of property which it had thus received from the Crown or the State of New York; and the bulkhead rights and pier rights, which are now being condemned as the work of municipal improvement of Manhattan's water-front progresses, came generally from grants by the city or from authority given by the city under various statutes (such, for example, as the Law of 1798) to private riparian owners to build out piers over land still owned by the city, or to construct bulkheads, with rights of cranage and wharfage on these piers and against these bulkheads, to those paying for their construction.

In connection with the foregoing it is interesting to note that the original line of high-water mark along the East River was Pearl Street, and along the North River Greenwich Street.