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The Battle with the Slum (New York City) Paperback – January 27, 1998
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Tammany Hall, the Democratic party machine, was responsible for political patronage jobs that were do-nothing plums; a photo shows the street-cleaning of Tammany broomsmen versus that of a reformer who took over cleaning the precinct's streets. Various charitable societies worked strenuously to ameliorate the worst of the slums, to pass laws requiring light and air in tenements, though landlords were clever in circumventing or perverting the legal requirements (a window in a room could be on an inside wall; the airshaft--a thin passageway between buildings was all the air many apartments got.) Schools were at first overcrowded rooms with no desks, no ventilation and seventy students attempting to learn. Reformers got desks, ventilated buildings, smaller class sizes. This is a fascinating story of how people worked together to try to better an abusive situation in the poorest sections of American cities.
I thoroughly enjoyed Riis's other book 'How the Other Half Lives', and looked forward to reading this one. Alas, this wasn't possible. Maybe a hardcover version would be better?
While THE BATTLE WITH THE SLUM also includes photographs and statistics, it also reports on HOW these conditions have to be handled, and details the victories Riis and the reformers achieved in ridding the area of its more notorious elements. In almost militaristic fashion, Riis and the reformers battled corrupt local political machines (read Tammany Hall), interested businesses, and greedy landlords. Each neighborhood is practically mapped out like a battlefield. While HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES gives the reader an appreciation for the suffering that the poor, BATTLE WITH THE SLUM gives the reader an appreciation for Jacob Riis and what others like him have done.