Sanitary Condition of the City 1856

The Wretched Condition of the Streets
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To the Editor of the New York Daily Times:

In your article on Home affairs in the Times of yesterday, you refer to Mayor Wood as having called attention, in a late message, to the military defenses of this City, and add that it would have been well to look a little at home and the health of the City. Surely you could not have forgotten that in the same message Mayor Wood devoted a long space to the sanitary condition of the City, with very full recommendations as to its preservation. The Common Council have omitted to act upon those suggestions. The Board of Health was called together last week by Mayor Wood, who laid before it important information regarding the public health, and I have the best reason for knowing that he is extremely vigilant and diligent in doing his whole duty in the premises. Where is the encouragement for a public officer, if he is deprived of his due credit and censured by implication for omitting to do the very thing he has done.


If the writer of the above had read our remarks a little more closely he would have discovered that we cast no imputations whatever upon the Mayor, nor said anything at all about his looking at home. In the Message alluded to the Mayor devotes four pages tot he defenses of the harbor, and but three to the public health. However, we do not wish to convey an idea that the Mayor is neglectful of the public health, so far as his constitutional authority permits him to attend to it, and we are most happy to learn that he has called together the Board of Health and laid important information before them. We only hope that the Board may be induced to act according to the exigencies of the season. It is of but little use to point out where the blame should lie for the state of streets; it is enough to know that there is a most shameful and culpable neglect of duty by somebody, through whose carelessness and dishonesty the public health is imperiled and the comfort of our citizens destroyed. The poor, and the busy denizens of our streets who cannot fly to the country when the hot weather sets in must remain and breathe a pestilent atmosphere. One of the most fruitful sources of malaria are our public markets, where our citizens must resort daily for their supply of vegetables and meats. These places, which should, of all others, be kept in a condition of the strictest cleanliness, are, in truth, so shockingly filthy that we cannot fitly describe them without the use of language which would be unsuitable to the columns of a public journal. Two of these great markets, the Fulton and Washington, stand so near the river that the tide washes them daily, and might keep them perfectly sweet and clean, if the least attempt were made to purify them.

But nothing is done towards putting those municipal nuisances in a decent condition, and, as they are the property of the City, and under exclusive corporation control, and a corps of officers are paid for attending to them, it is well enough to inquire why they are neglected, and who is responsible for their neglect. Perhaps the Mayor can tell.

The markets are under the control of the Superintendent of Streets and Lamps, and this officer has for his coadjutors two Committees on Markets in the Common Council, and between them they appoint a clerk to each market, whose duty it is to see that the rules for their regulation are properly enforced; then there are policemen to report any neglect of duty, and an Alderman of the Ward, besides Councilmen, to keep watch of the public interests. Yet, with all these officials, some of whom are paid for the special duty of superintending the markets, they are most scandalously neglected, and the places where the people most resort for their daily supplies of food are filthy, breeding-places of disease which cannot be visited at all by people who have delicate nerves.


Website: The History
Article Name: Sanitary Condition of the City 1856
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


New York Times July 3, 1856. p.4 (1 page)
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