Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 94
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 94
stuffy rooms bring to mind this denunciation of the tenement builder of fifty years ago by an angry writer, “He measures the height of his ceilings by the shortest of the people, and by thin partitions divides the interior into as narrow spaces as the leanest carpenter can work in.” Most decidedly, there is not room to swing the proverbial cat in any one of them. In one I helped the children, last holiday, to set up a Christmas tree, so that a glimpse of something that was not utterly sordid and mean might for once enter their lives. Three weeks after, I found the tree standing yet in the corner. It was very cold, and there was no fire in the room. “We were going to burn it,” said the little woman, whose husband was then in the insane asylum, “and then I couldn’t. It looked so kind o’ cheery-like there in the corner.” My tree had borne the fruit I wished.
  It remained for the New York slum landlord to assess the exact value of a ray of sunlight,—upon the tenant, of course. Here are two back-to-back rear tenements, with dark bedrooms on the south. The flat on the north gives upon a neighbor’s yard, and a hole two feet square has been knocked in the wall, letting in air and sunlight; little enough of the latter, but what there is is carefully computed in the lease. Six dollars for this flat, six and a half for the one with the hole in the wall. Six dollars



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