Ordinance for appraising and assessing vacant lots in the city of New Amsterdam

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The director general and council of New Netherland, seeing and observing by daily experience that the previous ordinance and edicts are not obeyed according to the true meaning thereof, but, notwithstanding the repeated renewal of them, that many spacious and large lots, even in the best and most convenient part of this city, lie and remain without buildings and are kept by the owners either for greater profit, or for pleasure, and others are thereby prevented to build for the promotion of population and increase of trade and consumption, as well as for the embellishment of this city, whereunto many newcomers would be encouraged in case they could procure a lot at a reasonable price on a suitable location, agreeably to the foregoing edicts. Which neglect, if not contempt thereof, in reserving and retaining such extensive and spacious lots, whether for profit or for pleasure, is owing principally to the fact that no penalty or fine is imposed by the forementioned edicts, and that the proprietary owners are, for a great many years, occupying and reserving the lots free of any tax in expectation of greater profit, or using them for pleasure, as orchards and gardens, whereby building and population, and consequently the advancement of commerce, consumption and the prosperity of this city are retarded, contrary to the good intent and meaning of the directors of the Chartered West India Company, lords and patroons of this province, as first grantors and distributors of the lots with a view, to have the same built on for the embellishment, peopling, increase of the inhabitants, trade, consumption and prosperity of this city, as expressed in the granted patents, with the additional stipulation and submission: Of such taxes as may be imposed thereon by the aforesaid lords or their agents, In observance and obedience whereof the aforesaid director general and council have lately caused the vacant and unimproved lots to be measured by their sworn surveyor in the presence of the burgomasters of this city, according to the survey of the streets, and found some hundreds of lots inside the walls of this city vacant and not built on. In order that these may be the sooner built on, in accordance with the good intention and meaning of the aforesaid directors, agreeably to the previously enacted ordinances, indeed, that the disorder arising from the possession, free of any tax, of such spacious and extensive lots for profit or pleasure, may be prevented, and those who are inclined to build may be accommodated with lots at a reasonable price, the director general and council hereby ordain, in amplification of the above-mentioned edicts, that all vacant and unbuilt on lots which were lately measured and laid out by the surveyor of the director general and council, be immediately after the publication and posting hereof, assessed and appraised, first and foremost by the owners in possession, themselves, to the end that they may not hereafter complain of under valuation, and that so long as the owner retains the lot or lots, or allows them to remain without proper and habitable houses built thereon, he shall pay for the same yearly the 15th penny in two installments, the one half on May day; the proceeds to be applied to the fortification of this city and the repairs thereof.

And the burgomasters are authorized and ordered after the publication hereof, to summon the owners of the lots without regard of persons before them at the city hall of this city; to cause the assessment to be made; to have it recorded by their secretary in due form, and to have the proceeds received by their treasurer, and in case of opposition or refusal, to fine the obstinate person civilly; to appraise his lots according to the value and the situation of the locality, on condition that it be left to the choice of the owner in possession to retain the lots appraised by the burgomasters on payment, as stated, of the 15th penny thereof, or otherwise to give them up for that price to the burgomasters for the benefit of the city.

It remains in like manner, on the other hand, at the option of the aforesaid burgomasters to take the lots appraised by the owner himself, for the account of the city, and to convey them to others who are disposed and ready to build, at that price, if the owner himself will not, or cannot build in conformity to the aforesaid edicts, or to leave them to the owner until they are built on by themselves or others, when the impost or tax imposed for valid reasons on the unimproved lots, shall cease.

And in order to promote the population, settlement, beauty, strength and prosperity of this city, the director general and council ordain and command that, from this time forward, no dwelling houses shall be built near or under the walls or gates of this city, before or until the lots herein mentioned are properly built on.

Thus done in the session of director general and council held at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 15th of January 1658.[1]


Also in LO, 325-27.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., New Netherland Documents Series: Vol. 16, part 1, Laws and Writs of Appeal, 1647-1663 (Syracuse: 1991).A complete copy of this publication is available on theĀ New Netherland Institute website.