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

By Lawrence Veiller
 
 
(1899) — The Building Code — (An ordinance adopted December 20,1899). Section 148

"Each commissioner of buildings shall have power, with the approval of the board, to vary or modify any rule or regulation of the board, or the provisions of chapter 12, of the Greater Now York charter, or of any existing law or ordinance relating to the construction, alteration or removal of any building or structure erected or to be erected within his jurisdiction, pursuant to the provisions of section 650 of the Greater New York charter." •

Section 149.


The board of examiners for the boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx shall be constituted as prescribed by section 649 of the Greater New York charter. Each of said examiners shall take the usual oath of office before entering upon his duties. No members of said board shall pass upon any question in which he is pecuniarily interested. The said board shall meet as often as once in each week upon notice from the commissioner of buildings.

"The members of said board of examiners, and the clerk of said board, shall each be entitled to and shall receive ten dollars for each attendance at a meeting of said board, to be paid by the comptroller from the annual appropriation to be made therefore upon the voucher of the commissioner of buildings for the boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx."

TENEMENT HOUSE FUND. — In 1879 a special fund, known as the tenement house fund, amounting to $10,000, was required to be appropriated annually for the use of the Board of Health in connection with tenement house work. This provision of the law was reenacted in the Consolidation Act and is a part of the Greater New York Charter, being the present law upon this subject.

(1879) —Chapter 504, Section 4.

"The board of estimate and apportionment of the city of New York shall, within twenty days after the passage of this act, transfer from any unexpended balances standing to the credit of any department of said city, or shall otherwise provide, and shall annually hereafter appropriate to the credit of the health department, the sum of $10,000, to be known as the ' tenement-house fund,' to be expended by the board of health."

(1882) — Chapter 410, Section 194, Part 9.

The board of estimate and apportionment shall annually include in its final estimate the following sums, which shall be annually raised and appropriated. The sum of $10,000 to the credit of the health department to be known as the tenement-house fund, to be expended by the board of health."

(1897) —Chapter 378, Greater New York Charter, Section 230, Part 9 —Continued.

PERMANENT TENEMENT HOUSE COMMISSION. — The tenement house law of 1887 was enacted as a result of the investigations of the Tenement House Commission appointed by the legislature in 1884. This Commission was very much impressed with the fact that a large part of the evils of the tenement house system was due to the fact that there was no permanent body interested in securing tenement house reform, and the Commission felt that if there were such a permanent body, matters would be very much remedied. They accordingly enacted a requirement that the Mayor of the city of New York, with certain of his officials, should constitute a Tenement House Commission to consider the subject of tenement house reform-.These public officials consisted of the following: The Mayor, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, a delegate from the Bureau of Buildings of the Fire Department, and the Commissioner of Street Cleaning. This body was required to meet annually between the fifteenth day of November and the thirtieth day of December, for the purpose of considering the subject of tenement and lodging houses in the city, and to make such recommendations for improvement of the laws affecting them, as they might deem to be for the public welfare; their recommendations were to be sent to the Governor of the State and also to the Senate and Assembly on or before the fifteenth day of January in each year, and this body was, in addition, empowered to consider also the way in which such laws were being enforced in the city. This provision of the law, however, was repealed in 1895, as it was found that the different city officials were so fully occupied with their regular duties, that it was impossible for them to give any time or thought to this very large and important question.

(1887) — Chapter 84, Section 2. (Amends Section 533, Consol. Act.)

"The mayor and one commissioner from the department of health, a commissioner of the department of public works, one delegate from the bureau of inspection of buildings, and the commissioner of the department of street cleaning, shall meet annually, between the 15th day of November and the 30th day of December, for the purpose of considering the subject of tenement and lodging-houses in the city, and shall make which recommendations of improvement in the laws affecting tenement and lodging-houses as they may deem for the good of the people of the city; they shall cause such recommendations to be sent to the governor of the state, and to the senate and assembly annually on or before the 15th day of January ; they shall also consider the subject of the execution of said laws, and shall recommend to the board of health such changes in the same as they may deem to be for the good of the people of the city."

(1895) — Chapter 567. — Repealed.

FIRE PROVISIONS

EGRESS OR ESCAPE IN CASE OF FIRE MEANS OF. — The first provision in reference to this subject was enacted in the year 1852 in the Brooklyn law, when it was provided that all buildings should have scuttles in the roof made of or covered with metal. In 1860 a further provision was added, that there should be a ladder or stairs leading to such scuttles, and in the same year the New York law was amended, requiring, in addition to scuttles and ladders, a system of fire-escapes upon all dwelling houses occupied by more than eight families. This law provided that, out-side of the building in question, but connected with it, in such a way as to afford a place of refuge for the tenants, there should be a set of stairs in a fireproof building. This was practically a plan for a separate tower fire-escape, and has been advocated by many persons at different times. The law further provided that if such a system of tower fire-escapes was not adopted, there should be, on the outside of the building, fire-escape balconies of metal connected by fireproof stairs, and that, in addition, the rooms on each floor should communicate by doors. If neither the tower escape nor the fire-escape balconies were furnished, then the building was required to be constructed fireproof throughout; there was a further provision that all scuttle ladders should be iron, if movable, and that the size of the scuttle should not be less than two feet by three feet> In 1862 the law was again amended, the tower fire-escape no longer being required; nor was it required that where buildings were not built as provided in the previous law, they should be fireproof throughout. The new law applied to all dwelling houses containing six families above the first floor, and which were also more than forty feet high, and also to all dwelling houses containing more than eight families above the first floor, irrespective of their height. A scuttle in the roof was still required to be provided ; all rooms on each floor were to connect by doors from front to rear; and every building of this kind was to have on the outside a practical fireproof fire-escape of a form to be approved by the Department of Buildings. There was also a further provision for means of egress, where front and rear tenement houses were built on the same lot, in such cases, the front and rear buildings were to be connected by an iron bridge over the roof, but where such buildings were built fireproof, and where there were two or three of such buildings adjoining each other, of equal height and with flat roofs, the bridge was not required.

The next change in the law was in 1866. The law of that year provided that all buildings of any kind should have scuttles or bulkheads in the roof, constructed fireproof, with stairways or iron ladders leading to them; with the further provision that the ladders should be kept so as to be ready for use at all times, and the scuttles were not to be less in size than two feet by three feet. The other provisions of the law of 1862, in reference to placing fire-escapes on such building, and having the different rooms connect by doors, etc., were reenacted. In 1867 the first tenement house law was passed; this provided that every building used as a tenement or lodging house should be provided with a proper fire-escape of a form to be approved by the Inspector of Buildings.

In the same year an amendment was passed to the general building laws; this required that every dwelling house occupied by four or more families above the first floor should have a proper scuttle in the roof, with a stairway leading thereto; also, that all the rooms on each floor should connect by doors from front to rear ; that all such buildings should have on the outside a practical fire-escape of a form to be approved by the Superintendent of Buildings; and with the further important provision that no front and rear tenement houses should thereafter be erected upon the same lot, unless each of the said houses was built fireproof. In addition, the Superintendent of Buildings was given very large powers to order alterations made in existing dwelling houses occupied by four or more families above the first floor, to secure a safe and secure means of escape in case of fire, and was authorized to make such alterations himself upon application to the Supreme Court for an order so to do, in case the owner should fail to make them within a reasonable time, the expense of such alterations to become a lien upon the property. The next year this law was again amended, the new law providing that all dwelling houses occupied by two or more families on any floor above the first, and also that all dwelling houses more than three stories in height, containing more than four families, should have a proper bulkhead in the roof, with a stairway leading thereto; that all rooms should connect by doors from front to rear, and that the building should have on the outside a proper fire-escape. The powers granted to the Superintendent of Buildings, under the law of the previous year, in reference to making alterations in buildings already erected, were reenacted.

This law was repealed in 1871, and considerably modified. The now law required that any dwelling house more than two stories in height, occupied by two or more families above the first floor, and also all dwelling houses, either thereafter erected or already built, more than three stories in height, and occupied by three or more families above the first story, should be provided with such fire-escapes, alarms, doors and ventilators, as might be directed by the Superintendent of Buildings. In 1874 a new amendment to the law was passed, continuing the provisions of the previous act with a slight change, the ventilators not being required. This law was reenacted in the Consolidation Act of 1882, except that the powers previously vested in the Superintendent of Buildings were transferred to the Fire Department. In the same year, the provision of the Tenement House Act of 1867, requiring all tenement houses to have proper fire-escapes, approved by the Superintendent of Buildings, was reenacted. In 1885 the law was again amended, and a similar provision was enacted, requiring that all dwelling houses already erected, or that thereafter were to be erected, over two stories in height and occupied by two or more families on any floor above the first, should be provided with such good and sufficient fire-escapes or other means of egress in case of fire, as might be directed by the Superintendent of Buildings, and the Superintendent of Buildings was expressly authorized to direct that such means of egress be provided in all cases. In 1887 the law was again changed, the provisions of the previous year being reenacted, with the following additional provision: That similar fire-escapes should be provided for every building already erected, or that might thereafter be erected, more than four stories in height, occupied, or built to be occupied, by three or more families above the first story. In the same law it was also provided that in every tenement house over five stories in height thereafter erected, to be occupied by two or more families on any floor above the first, at least one flight of stairs should extend to the roof and be enclosed in a fireproof bulkhead.
 

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A History of Tenement House Legislation in New York 1852-1900 Part VII
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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