Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 120
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 120
 
whites and negroes, living together. The houses are decayed from cellar to garret, and filthy beyond description,—the filthiest, in fact, we have ever seen. The beams, the floors, the plaster on the walls, where there is any plaster, are rotten, and alive vermin. They are a menace to the public health, and cannot be repaired. Their annual death-rate in five years was 41.38.”
  The sunlight enters where these stood, at all events, and into 58 other yards that once were plague spots. Of 94 rear tenements seized that year, 60 were torn down, 33 of them voluntarily by the owners; 29 were remodelled and allowed to stand, chiefly as workshops; 5 other houses were standing empty, and yielding no rent, when I last heard of them. I suppose they have been demolished since. The worst of them all, the Mott Street Barracks, were taken into court by the owner; but all the judges and juries in the land had no power to put them back when it was decided upon a technicality that they should not have been destroyed offhand. It was a case of “They can’t put you in jail for that.”—“Yes, but I am in jail.” They were gone, torn down under the referee’s decision that they ought to go, before the Appellate Division called a halt. We were not in a mood to trifle with the Barracks, or risk any of the law’s delays. In 1888 I counted 360 tenants in these tenements,

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