Abuse Against An Italian At Barge Office 1902

One of the aims of the Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants has been the improvement of the extremely bad conditions that have long existed at the Barge Office landing. After a thorough investigation, it has been found that the landing, as a gate of exit to thousands of immigrants, is far too narrow and conditions are bad on account of the numerous "steerers," "crooks," hangers on and express men. There is also an insufficient number of policemen and these are physically unable to handle the large crowds.

The following note, written by an immigrant to one of the officers, gives an insight into the conditions: "Excellency, Yesterday I landed in New York; the first thing I met was a policeman, who clubbed me. I am going to write tot he King of Italy how they do things in the land of the free. Viva Italia."

The Society brought the matter to the attention of Commissioner Partridge, who assigned Inspector Brooks to investigate. The inspector said: "When even the President of the United States desires information regarding these complaints, the matter certainly is serious." (President Roosevelt had directed the Commissioner of Immigration to examine complaints made by citizens.)

At Inspector Brooks' request the Society made suggestions regarding improvements and changes at the landing. The inspector talked with the officers and employees of the society. The Commissioner of Immigration, also, is interested, but can do nothing at the landing, as it is not in his jurisdiction.

Inspector Brooks, as a beginning, instructor the officers patrolling Battery Park to patrol the landing and enforce the law regarding the soliciting by "steerers" and "runners." Inspector Cross who has succeeded Brooks in the precinct has taken no action and conditions at the landing are practically as bad as ever. The Society presented to the Police Commissioner the following suggestions for improving the conditions:

"The actual arrangements for landing are bad, and tend to encourage some of the abuses which exist. The immigrants are landed in bunches, and they have to pass through a narrow gate which tends to crowding, and they are at once set loose in the streets of a strange city, surrounded by strange sights and noises, which confuse them. They also are hampered by "runners," who harass them in one way or another. If the immigrants could be landed in the Barge Office itself, and be met there by representatives of Italian Societies, intelligent policemen, "runners" of approved character, and recognized friends, they could be advised and pass into the streets with definite directions, or in care of representatives of Societies. This plan is one which this Society recommends very strongly in the belief that if properly administered, it would do away with all of the trouble and abuses that exist at present. Of course, some of the details would have to be worked out with your help and with the assistance and cooperation of the United States authorities. You can depend on this Society for doing all that it possibly can.

"A much larger force of policemen should be stationed at the Barge Office and some plan of instruction to them devised. In this connection it might be well for this society to station a representative at the Barge Office, who should have the same relations toward the policemen as has our representative at Ellis Island.

"That the express men, who work with the runners, should not be allowed to approach the Barge Office, but should be stationed as far off as Whitehall street. More discipline should be brought to bear upon the runners and while they should be allowed to exercise their trade, they should not be permitted to make nuisances of themselves. An immigrant should not be allowed to be attacked by a half dozen runners. All licensed runners should wear their badges prominently displayed. They generally carry them in their pockets, and this prevents their identification when they do wrong.

"The police should be instructed to patrol the whole of Battery Park with more attention than they do now, for it seems to be haunted by a number of sharper, w ho practice vario0us games upon ignorant foreigners.

"Unlicensed runners, steerers and other persons not having anything to do but loaf around the Barge Office landing should be driven away.

"No license should be issued to a boarding house keeper for Italians, or to any "runner," without his application being approved by the society.

"If possible, some fixed schedule of rates should be charged by the runners. Even if there is no power anywhere short of the Legislature to fix these rates, the policemen at the Barge Office should be instructed to interfere when exorbitant rates are charged. it also would be well if some policemen at the Barge Office could speak Italian."

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Abuse Against An Italian At Barge Office 1902
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle July 19, 1902
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