Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 107
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 107
the relief of the people he has paralyzed with his treacherous discretion clause, carefully nursed in the school of practical politics to which he gives faithful adherence. The thing has been the curse of our city from the day when the earliest struggle toward better things began. Among the first manifestations of that was the prohibition of soap factories below Grand Street by the Act of 1797, which created a Board of Health with police powers. The act was passed in February, to take effect in July; but long before that time the same legislature had amended it by giving the authorities discretion in the matter. And the biggest soap factory of them all is down there to this day, and is even now stirring up a rumpus among the latest immigrants, the Syrians, who have settled about it. No doubt it is all a question of political education; but is not a hundred years enough to settle this much, that compromise is out of place where the lives of the people are at stake, and that it is time our years of “discretion” were numbered?
The Old Style of Tenements, with Yards.
As a Solid Block of Double-deckers, Lawful until now, would appear.
  At last there comes for the answer an emphatic yes. This year the law has killed the discretionary clause and spoken out plainly. No more stairs of wood; no more encroachment on the tenants’ sunlight; and here, set in its frame of swarming tenements, is a wide, open space, yet to be a real park, with flowers and grass and birds to gladden the



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