Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 286
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 286
 
fires that gave it its bad name. It was in Thieves’ Alley that the owner in the days long gone by hung out the sign, “No Jews need apply.” I stood and watched the opening of the first municipal playground upon the site of the old alley, and in the thousands that thronged street and tenements from curb to roof with thunder of applause, there were not twoscore who could have found lodging with the old Jew-baiter. He had to go with his alley, before the better day could bring light and hope to the Tenth Ward.
  What became of the people who were dispossessed? The answer to that is the reply, too, to the wail that goes up from the speculative builder every time we put the screws on the tenement house law. It does not pay him to build any more, he says. But when the multitudes of Mulberry Bend, of Hester Street, and of the Bone Alley Park were put out, there was more than room enough for them in new houses ready for their use. In the Seventh, Tenth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Seventeenth wards, where they would naturally go if they wanted to be near home, there were 4268 vacant apartments with room for over 18,000 tenants at our New York average of four and a half to the family. Including the Bend, the whole number of the dispossessed was not 12,000. On Manhattan Island there were at that time more than

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