A History of Tenement House Legislation in New York 1852-1900 Part II
 

By Lawrence Veiller
 
 
In the presence of great and imminent peril to the public health, by reason of impending pestilence, the Board was granted very unusual and extraordinary powers; but such powers were not to be exercised except with the written assent of at least six members of the Board, and only after a public proclamation by *the Governor as to the existence of such danger. The Board was also authorized to establish a code of health ordinances for the protection of the public health in the district. These ordinances were to be published for three weeks, at least, in the public press before they should take effect. The law also provided for the duties and rights of the employees of the Department, and other powers of the Board not especially concerned with the regulation of tenement houses.

In 1870 the powers vested in the Metropolitan Board of Health by the Act of 1866 were transferred to a local Board of Health created by the new charter adopted in that year. This local Board of Health succeeded to all the powers and duties of the State Board, and the enforcement of the health laws has been vested in this local body without change since that time.

ADDITIONAL POWERS OF THE BOARD OF HEALTH AND DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS TO MAKE REGULATIONS.-The Tenement House Act of 1867, in addition to the specific powers which were given to the Board of Health, also vested that body with certain discretionary powers to make rules and regulations as to cellars and as to ventilation, when the Board was satisfied that such regulations would secure equally well the health of the occupants, and provided that such regulations should not be inconsistent with the provisions of the existing laws. These powers were somewhat added to in 1892, when it was provided that, in addition to the power to make regulations as to cellars and ventilation, the Board should also have power to make regulations as to the proportion of any lot to be covered by a tenement or lodging house, as to light and ventilation, the supply of water
above the first story, and the use of such buildings for a stable or for the storage of rags. In 1895, in addition to these powers given to the Board of Health, the new tenement house act also gave to the Superintendent of Buildings the power to make rules and regulations not inconsistent with the other provisions of the act, these regulations to govern the arrangement and distribution of the uncovered area, the size, lighting, location and arrangement of air shafts, rooms, cellars and halls; and the Superintendent of Buildings was also empowered to modify or change these regulations from time to time. These powers of both the Board of Health and the Building Department were continued in the Greater New York Charter, and exist at the present day, excepting that the Department of Buildings no longer has the power to modify or change the regulations.

(1867) — Chapter 9O8, Section 18.

"The Metropolitan Board of Health shall have authority to make other regulations as to cellars and as to ventilation, consistent with the foregoing, where it shall be satisfied that such regulations will secure equally well the health of the occupants."

(1882) — Chapter 410, Section 667. — Continued.

(1888) — Brooklyn —Chapter 583. Section 39. (Brooklyn Consol. Act.) Provisions of Law of 1867, reenacted.

(1892)—Chapter 329, Section 1. (Section 667, Consol. Act, amended as follows):

"The Board of Health shall have authority within present provisions of the law, to make other regulations than the foregoing in special cases as to the proportion of any lot to be covered by any tenement or lodging house, as to cellars, supply of water above the first floor in any house, and the providing of fixtures therefore, light and ventilation, and the use of buildings or premises for a tenement house, for a school or stable, or for the storage of rags, when it shall be satisfied that such regulations will secure equally well the health of the occupants and the public health, provided however, that in all such cases any modifications made by such
regulations shall be in accordance with the conditions of a permit in writing, issued by the said board of health."

(1895) —Chapter 567, Section 8. (Amends Section 661, Consol Act)

"The superintendent of buildings is hereby empowered and directed to make rules and regulations not inconsistent with the requirements of this title, and which in addition to the requirements of this title shall be the conditions of approval for the plans and permits; these rules and regulations shall govern the arrangement and distribution of the uncovered area, size, lighting, location and arrangement of shafts, rooms, cellars and halls, and may be modified or changed from time to time by the superintendent of buildings."

(1895)—Chapter 567, Section 12. (Amends Section 667, Consol. Act.)

"The superintendent of buildings shall have authority to make other regulations as to light and ventilation of all new tenement or lodging- houses consistent with the foregoing; when he shall be satisfied that such regulations will secure equally well the health and safety of the occupants; likewise the board of health shall have authority to make other regulations as to cellars and as to ventilation of completed buildings, consistent with the foregoing, where it shall be satisfied that such regulations will secure equally well the health of the occupants."

(1897) — Chapter 378, Greater New York Charter, Section 1304.

"Every house, building or portion thereof in the city of New York, used, occupied, leased or rented for a tenement or lodging-house must conform in its construction, appurtenances and premises to the requirements of this title, and its use and occupation shall be regulated subject to the ordinances of the Sanitary Code, applicable thereto, and the orders of the board of health duly made, pursuant to its authority, duty and powers conferred and enjoined upon it in this chapter."

(1897) —Chapter 378, Greater New York Charter, Section 1323.

Provisions of Section 12, Chapter 567 of the laws of 1895, continued with the exception that the words " superintendent of buildings " are changed to "department of buildings."

SANITARY INSPECTORS. — The first health law in New York State, viz.: that enacted in 1866, authorized the newly created Board of Health to appoint as many as fifteen sanitary inspectors, and to prescribe their duties and regulate their salaries; ten of these inspectors were required to be physicians of skill and of practical professional experience in the cities embraced by the metropolitan district, and the remaining inspectors were to be selected with reference to their practical knowledge of scientific or sanitary matters; each inspector was required to make a written report twice a week to the Board of Health, stating what work he had done, and also calling the attention of the Board to any matters which he thought might be of interest to them and to the public health. In 1887 this provision of the health law was amended by increasing the number of sanitary inspectors from fifteen to twenty-five, and the number of those who were required to be physicians of experience, from ten to twenty. In the same year another act was passed, at a later date, amending this law, which provided that the number of sanitary inspectors should be increased from fifteen to a number not exceeding forty; and of these, twenty were to be physicians of skill and practical experience. In 1895, in the amended tenement house law, it was provided that the number of sanitary inspectors should be at least thirty-five, and that the Board of Health should have the power to appoint at least five additional inspectors if the Board deemed it needful. In the Greater New York Charter, with the consolidation of the work of the Health Departments of Brooklyn and of New York and the other boroughs, it became necessary to increase the number of these sanitary inspectors; the Charter accordingly increased this number from thirty-five to fifty, and authorized the Board of Health to appoint twenty additional sanitary inspectors whenever they deemed it needful; also the number of inspectors required to be physicians of skill and practice was increased from twenty to thirty, and the sanitary inspectors were no longer required to make a written report twice a week, once a week being deemed sufficient.

(1866) — Chapter 74, Section 11

"The Metropolitan board of health may appoint and commission such number of ' sanitary inspectors' as the board may deem needful, not exceeding 15, and, from time to time, prescribe the duties and salaries of each of said inspectors, and the place of their performance (and of all other persons exercising any authority under said board except as herein especially provided) ; but at least 10 of such inspectors shall be physicians of skill and of practical professional experience in said district, and the residue thereof shall be selected with reference to their practical knowledge of scientific or sanitary matters, which may especially qualify them for such inspectors. Each of such inspectors shall, twice in each week, make a written report to the said board, stating what duties he has performed, and where he has performed them, and also such facts as have come to his knowledge connected with the purposes of this act, as are by him deemed worthy the attention of said board."

(1882) — Chapter 410, Section 588. — Continued.

(1887) — Chapter 84. Section 4. (Amends Section 588, Consol. Act.)

Continued, but number of sanitary inspectors increased from 15 to 25; number of same to be physicians increased from 10 to 20.

(1887) — Chapter 489, Section 1.

Above provision amended as follows: Number of sanitary inspectors increased from l5, to " not exceeding 40," number of same to be physicians increased from 10 to 20, also the following additional clause inserted: "The additional sanitary inspectors heretofore duly appointed and commissioned may be included among the sanitary inspectors mentioned in this section, and may continue to act as such without re-appointment. All of the said inspectors shall have such practical knowledge of scientific or sanitary matters as qualify them for the duties of their office."

1895) — Chapter 567, Section 3. (Amends Section 588. Consol. Act.)

"The board of health shall appoint and commission at least 35 sanitary inspectors, and shall have power to appoint five additional sanitary inspectors, if it deems that number needful, and from time to time prescribe the duties and salaries of each of said inspectors, and the place of their performance and of all other persons exercising any authority under said board, except as herein especially provided ; but twenty of such inspectors shall be physicians of skill and of practical professional experience in said city ; the additional sanitary inspectors heretofore duly appointed and commissioned may be included among the sanitary inspectors mentioned in this section, and may continue to act as such without re-appointment, but nothing herein contained shall curtail any of the powers vested in the health department by section 580 of this act, and the number of sanitary inspectors for whom provision is made in this section shall be exclusive of the special inspectors for whom provision is made in section 580. All of the said inspectors shall have such practical knowledge of scientific or sanitary matters as qualify them for the duties of their office. Each of said inspectors shall twice in each week, make a written report to said board stating what duties he has performed, and where he has performed them, and also such facts as have come to his knowledge connected with the purposes of this chapter, as are by him deemed worthy of the attention of said board, or such as its regulations may require of him; which reports with the other reports herein elsewhere mentioned shall be filed among the records of the said board."

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A History of Tenement House Legislation in New York 1852-1900 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Tenement House Problem; Including the Report of the New York State Tenement House Commission of 1900. By Various Writers; The MacMillan Company-New York 1903
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