Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 30
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 30
 
of again only once as an epidemic, till people had forgotten what it was like,—enough to make them listen to the anti-vaccination cranks,—and politics had the health department by the throat again and held the gate open. We acquired tenement house laws, and the process of education that had begun with the foraging ground of the swine was extended step by step to the citizen’s home. Short steps and cautious were they. Every obstacle which the landlord’s cunning and the perversion of the machinery of the law to serve his interests could devise was thrown in the way. It was a new doctrine to that day that any power should intervene between him and the tenants who represented his income, and it was held to be a hardship if not downright robbery. The builder took the same view. Every tenement house plan was the subject of hot debate between the Health Board and the builder, or his architect. The smallest air-shaft had to be wrung out of him, as it were, by main strength. The church itself was too often on the side of the enemy, where its material interests were involved. Trinity, the wealthiest church corporation in the land, was in constant opposition as a tenement house landlord, and finally, to save a few hundred dollars, came near upsetting the whole structure of tenement law that had been built up in the interest of the toilers and of the city’s safety with such infinite

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