Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 104
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 104
 
the fire-chief spoke have rushed into battle at almost every session of the legislature, whenever a step was taken to arraign them before the bar of public opinion. No winter has passed, since the awakening conscience of the people of New York City manifested itself in a desire to better the lot of the other half, that has not seen an assault made, in one shape or another, on the structure of tenement-house law built up with such anxious solicitude. Once a bill to exempt from police supervision, by withdrawing them from the tenement-house class, the very worst of the houses, whose death-rate threatened the community, was sneaked through the legislature all unknown, and had reached the executive before the alarm was sounded. The Governor, put upon his guard, returned the bill, with the indorsement that he was unable to understand what could have prompted a measure that seemed to have reason and every argument against it and none for it.
  But the motive is not so obscure, after all. It is the same old one of profit without conscience. It took from the Health Department the supervision of the light, ventilation, and plumbing of the tenements, which by right belonged there, and put it in charge of a compliant Building Department, “for the convenience of architects and their clients, and the saving of time and expense to them.” For the

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