The Health Department: Condition of the Five Points 1873

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At a meeting of the Board of health yesterday, the Sanitary Committee presented a report in reply to the request of Mayor Havemeyer in relation to the business of emptying and cleaning cess-pools, and removing night-soil from the City. The Mayor was informed that the board considered the old mode of removing night-soil in open carts decidedly unhealthy, and recommended that air-tight carts and apparatus be used.

The building No. 71 Allen street was ordered to be vacated, as being in a condition dangerous to life and detrimental to health.

Dr. Janes, the Sanitary Superintendent, was directed to make a report on the condition of the life-saving apparatus in charge of the beard.

The following report of Assistant Sanitary Inspector Tracey on the condition of the Five Points was presented:

I have this day inspected the streets which intersect each other at the Five Points.

It is now more than a year since the grading of these streets was commenced, and they are still in a condition to excite genuine alarm and the gravest apprehensions with regard to the health of the persons living in this portion of the City during the coming Summer.

These streets, comprising nearly the whole length of Worth street, from Centre street to Chatham square, several hundred feet of Park and Baxter streets and Mulberry street, from Park to Chatham, have been filled in with earth to a depth varying from 1 to 6 feet, ever since last summer. Not being paved, the surface became irregularly sunken, affording hollows for pools of stagnant water, and making the whole locality put on the appearance of a suburb instead of the heart of a great City. The primitive and rough appearance of the streets soon had an effect upon the resident population. It became impossible to keep garbage boxes in front of houses, for they were sure to be destroyed by boys. Ashes, garbage, animal and vegetable refuse of all kinds, and slops were thrown into the streets and there remained. Before the storms and severe weather of the past Winter came on, the streets, difficult as it was to accomplish it, were kept pretty clean. But when the snow and ice came in quantity, these streets became almost impossible for vehicles, and a thorough street cleaning was impracticable. The refuse of the Winter, accordingly, became mingled with the frozen mass that occupied the street from curb to curb to a height of from two to four or five feet, and on the approach of warmer weather, settled down into the mud, where it was churned up and thoroughly mixed with the surface dirt of the filling. In this condition the streets remained until the snow had entirely disappeared, and they became accessible to carts, when by dint of scraping up a great amount of extra mud, the surface has been tolerably well cleaned of visible refuse.

This whole filled space is, at present, a succession of hids and hollows, converted by every rain into a mess of mud of the filthiest description. When dry weather supervenes, a few of the more elevated portions become dry, but the greater portion remains mud at all times. The mud varies in color in different localities from a slate bluish green in Baxter-street to a dingy black in Mulberry street, according, I suppose to the character of the filth churned up with it. The odor in the vicinity is disgusting and sickening, and fairly comparable to that of a long disused cess-pool, when freshly opened to the air and stirred up.

If the place be allowed to remain in its present condition, it is absolutely certain, in my opinion, to give rise to a large amount of preventable disease. The only proper prophylactic is paving.

I made a short report of the same tenor as this in October last, and I now reiterate my opinion with the greater vehemence, because I firmly believe that unless the locality be paved, and that speedily, it will serve, as the hot weather comes on, as a nest of disease, which may prove more pestilential in its character, and assume more alarming proportions than the worst that has been expected.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Health Department: Condition of the Five Points 1873
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


New York Times May 21, 1873. p.4 (1 page)
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