Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
At this writing, with the department not yet fully organized, it is too early to say with any degree of certainty exactly how far the last two years have set us ahead; but this much is certain:
Discretion is deadat last. In Manhattan, no superintendent of buildings shall have leave after this to pen tenants in a building with stairs of wood because he thinks with luck it might burn slowly; nor in Brooklyn shall a deputy commissioner rate a room with a window opening on a hall, or a skylight covered over at the top, the outer air.1 Of these things there is an end. The air shaft that was a narrow slit between towering walls has become a court, a yard big enough for children to run in. Thirty per cent of the tenement-house lot must be open to the sun. The double-decker has had its day, and it is over. A man may still build a tenement on a twenty-five-foot lot if he so chooses, but he can hardly pack four families on each floor of it and keep within the law. He can do much better, and make an ample profit, by crossing the lot line and building on forty or fifty feet; in consequence of which, building being a business, he does so. In a lot of half a hundred tenement plans I looked over at the department yesterday, there were only two for single houses, and they had but three families on the floor.