Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
mortality records by Dr. Rodger S. Tracy, the registrar of records, showed that while in the First Ward (the oldest), for instance, the death-rate in houses standing singly on the lot was 29.03 per 1000 of the living, where there were rear houses it rose to 61.97. The infant death-rate is a still better test; that rose from 109.58 in the single tenements of the same ward to 204.54 where there were rear houses.1 One in every five babies had to die; that is to say, the house killed it. No wonder the Gilder commission styled the rear tenements slaughter-houses, and called upon the legislature to root them out, and with them every old, ramshackle, disease-breeding tenement in the city.
A law which is in substance a copy of the English act for destroying slum property was passed in the spring of 1895. It provided for the seizure of buildings that were dangerous to the public health or unfit for human habitation, and their destruction upon proper proof, with compensation to the owner on a sliding scale down to the point of entire unfitness, when he might claim only the value of the material in his house. Up to that time, the only way to get rid of such a house had been to declare it a nuisance under the sanitary code; but as the city could not very well pay for the removal of a nuisance, to order it down seemed