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hearing thereon, suits are at once instituted for penalties, and this speedily secures the necessary compliance, except in a limited number of cases. It is rarely necessary for the Board to execute its own orders, by reason of the refusal or neglect of the owners or lessees of property; though occasionally nuisances are of so aggravated a character that the abatement of the same cannot await the delays necessarily attending suits for penalties.
During the period covered by this Report, the number of orders issued by this Board for the abatement of nuisances was sixteen thousand four hundred and eight. Of this number, six thousand three hundred and fifty-one were issued under the first subdivision of section 14 of chapter 74, Laws of 1866, by the terms of which the party served is allowed three days in which to demand a hearing by the Board of the testimony which may be presented, to show that the order should be modified or revoked. In cases where no hearing has been asked for, and the order has not been complied with, final orders to the number of twelve hundred and twenty-one have been issued, and the Board has directed the Attorney to commence suits for penalties for non-compliance with such orders. All other written orders, in number ten thousand and fifty-seven, have been issued under the second subdivision of section 14 of chapter 74, Laws of 1866, and are of a peremptory character requiring that the nuisance be abated within five days; and, if not complied with, the Attorney bas been directed to commence actions for penalties for non-compliance. In a few of the most aggravated cases, the Sanitary Superintendent has been directed by the Board to execute the orders, but the want of money for that purpose
prevented the Board from promptly executing many orders for the abaternent of important nuisances, and has compelled it to resort to suits for penalties.
The following is a statement of the subjects of the orders above referred to :
Alleys, cleaned, disinfected, drained, graded, paved, or repaired.
made, or repaired.
trapped. Ponds, drained or filled. Premises, cleaned, disinfected, connected with sewer, fumigated, or repaired. „Privies, disinfected, emptied, and cleaned.
Privy-louses, altered, cleaned, constructed, removed, or repairde.
Suits for Penalties.-Upon application to the Corporation Counsel, this Board was duly authorized to commence actions for penalties in the name of the Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty for non-compliance with the orders of the Board, and for violations of the Sanitary Code. By section 81 of chapter 335, Laws of 1873, this Board is authorized to appoint an Attorney, and William P. Prentice was duly appointed to that office. In the laborious duties of said office he has been assisted by George S. Hastings, the Chief Clerk of the Board. The following summary will show the volume and character of the business transacted in the office of the Attorney during the year ending April 30, 1874;
Number of actions commenced......
132—3,117 Of this number there are now pending...
531 Judgment of dismissal, or nonsuit...
62-3,117 Amount realized in settlement of actions, and deposited
with the City Chamberlain during the year....... $9,872 22
In all cases of discontinuance or settlement of suits, compliance with the order, ordinance, or law, upon which the proceeding was based, has been made a condition precedent. By this method, the collection of but a small percentage of the penalty incurred has not been attended with the diminution or sacrifice of a proper respect for the authority of the Board.
Tenement-Houses.--The thorough enforcement of chapter 908, Laws of 1867, commonly known as the “ Tenement-House Act," has resulted in a considerable improvement in the condition of the tenement-houses of this city. Additional means of ventilation have been generally secured; privies and drains bave been improved; the attention of owners and lessees to the proper care of tenement property has been enforced, and the attempt has been made, with some success, to educate the people in the densely-populated parts of the city as to the necessity of cleanliness, and obedience to the sanitary regulations of this Board. But the twenty-four thousand tenement-houses of the city require, and will continue to require, constant supervision and frequent inspection. Rooms will be found overcrowded; windows and doors and apertures for ventilation will often be purposely closed; refuse matter will be thrown into the sinks and water-closets, clogging the waste-pipes and sewer connections; and filth will accumulate in the halls, cellars, and yards. The greatest watchfulness on the prrt of this Board cannot entirely relieve this city from the evils oť overcrowd.ug. It is confidently believed that rapid and cheap transit, by which a part of the laboring population of the city would obtain houses in rural or more sparsely-populated districts, will afford the desired relief. When mechanics and laborers can reach their homes in quick time, and at a moderate cost, it is believed that they will not all be content with their limited quarters in the tenement-houses and densely-populated wards of the city. To the health and comfort of the poor of New York, cheap and rapid transit is of the utmost importance, as the most practicable method of relief from the surplus population which now compels them to locate their families in those overcrowded parts of the city adjacent to their workshops or the places of employment. The enlargement of the city limits will, it is hoped, induce some portion of the tenement-house population to remove from their crowded homes, which at best are very unhealthy, to small and more isolated cottages in the districts beyond the Harlem River. The Board considered this subject of sufficient importance to memorialize the Legislature, urging the necessity for cheap trains, morning and evening, as an inducement to the laboring-classes to seek houses in the new wards ; such inducement having been found very effective in London and Boston. The Reports of the Sanitary Committee upon the relief of overcrowded districts is appended. The statistics of mortality afford ample and indisputable evidence of the value of the sanitary work of the Board of Health of this city among the habitations of the poor. During the past year the Board has given special attention to this subject, and has caused a careful inspection to be made of those tenement-houses which, during the year 1872, exhibited the greatest mortality, and by the proper order in each case has endeavored to improve the condition of the premises. The privies have been cleaned or disinfected, and, whenever so located that the odors entered the doors or windows, ventilating-sbafts have been ordered, extending from the interior of the privies to a point above the roofs of the buildings. No greater improvement for large tenement-houses has been introduced than properly-constructed ventilating-shafts, which convey the privy-odors away from the habitations of the crowded poor. The cellars of tenementhouses, when reported unfit for human habitation, have been vacated; whitewashing and other methods of cleanliness have been ordered and enforced, and various other measures have been inaugurated for the protection of the inhabiants from the usual diseases of the summer months, and from impending pestilence. This important subject will continue to receive the necessary attention of this Board.
Under the powers conferred by section 11 of the Tenement-House Act, the Board has caused twenty-four such houses as were certified by the Sanitary Superintendent to be unfit for human habitation, by reason of want of repair, or because of their being so infected with disease as to be likely to cause sickness amony their occupants, to be vacated, and has ordered that the same be not reoccupied until rebuilt or properly repaired. Prominent among these were Nos. 5, 7, and 9 Mulberry Street, formerly an old church, but then occupied by twenty-one families, containing some eighty individuals. On consulting the records of deaths in the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the death-rai for 1872, in these premises, was shown to have reached the height of 96.7 per 1,000. Complaints on four other buildings, found dangerous from faulty construction, were referred to the Department of Buildings. This provision of the act referred to has been found most valuable and salutary, and its enforcement results in the erection of new and improved buildings, or the thorough repair of those most conspicuous for dilapidation. Relief is not only afforded to the suffering tenants, but in every case the owners or lessees of the property have found that the increased receipts for decent accommodations amply justified the improvements ordered by the Board.
Cellars.—During the early part of the year 1873 the Board of Health ordered a thorough inspection of the cellars of the city used as buman habitations. This sanitary inquiry was directed to the following subjects, viz.: number, size, and condition of rooms occupied ; number of persons in family; number of lodgers ; diseases and mortality of cellar population; condition of floors, and of
space underneath ; height of ceilings above the level of the adjoining ground, in front and rear; the diameter and depth of, and space in front and rear; number and size of windows; means of ventilation, and condition of drainage. The result of this important investigation was, that about five hundred and fifty of the cellars in that part of the city south of Houston Street were declared unfit for human habitation, and were ordered to be vacated. By constant and persistent pressure by the officers of the Health Department, both upon landlords and tenants, about four hundred of the orders to vacate cellars were complied with, but early in June one hundred and fifty orders were returned to the Board with the report that all peaceful and persuasive efforts to secure compliance had been exhausted. The Board therefore directed the Sanitary Superintendent to execute and enforce the orders referred to, and during the month of June, with the aid and assistance of the Sanitary Company of Police, all cellars below Houston Street, which had been declared unfit for human habitation, were vacated by the ejectment of the persons occupying them, and of their furniture and effects. In the performance of this duty, the officers of the Health and Police Departments exercised due kindness and consideration toward the choleric and unfortunate people removed, and carefully avoided the destruction or injury of their property. On the 12th of August
, the Board
directed the Sanitary Superintendent to cause an inspection to be made of all cellars north of Houston Street, and such as were found deficient in light, ventilation, or drainage, or not conforming in other respects with the provisions of the Tenement-House Act, were ordered vacated, and to be no longer used as human habitations. The action of the Board in this particular has resulted in a great improvement in the sanitary condition of the unfortunate class heretofore crowded into the dark, damp, and unhealthy cellars of the city.
House-Drainage.-During the past year the investigations of the Sanitary Inspectors have shown that some of the greatest and most frequent evils with which the occupants of our dwelling-houses are afflicted, are caused by imperfect sewerage.
This evil is not confined to any particular class of dwellings, but is found in the best and the poorest houses alike, and is mainly attributable to the defective manner in which the house-drains or their connections have been laid ; to a lack of good trapping and ventilation, and to the imperfect knowledge of the sanitary requirements of dwellings on the part of the persons usually intrusted with the construction of this class of work.
House-drains, to be safe and harmless to the inmates, should at all times be air and water tight, and have ample ventilation. But this much-desired condition is seldom found, and seems to be rather the exception than the rule, as experience has clearly shown that there are many causes constantly arising which tend to impair the efficiency of even the best-laid drains. From the liability of such drains to get out of repair and become the media for conveying the poisonous gases generated in the street-sewers into our dwellings, it will readily be seen that means should be taken for shutting off the gases in the main sewers from the house. This has been effectually done in many cases by providing a water seal or trap in the drain-pipe before connecting the same with the main sewer. Where there are wash-pipe connections with the soilpipe from wash-bowls, bath-tubs, sinks, and safes, they should be well trapped by means of independent traps, and frequently supplied with water, and there should be a ventilating-pipe extended from the soil-pipe to the roof, which should be as near the diameter of the pipe intended to be ventilated as practicable. Where the sewer-pipes are laid below the surface of the cellar, the joints should be made with a good quality of cement, and the surface of the cellar likewise well cemented, and, before laying the drain, its bed should be well rammed, so as far as possible to prevent a settling of the ground and a breakage of the pipes from that cause.
Street-Cleaning.-By chapter 677, Laws of 1872, and by chapter 335, Laws of 1873, the Board of Police has full and exclusive
power and authority, and is charged with the duty of causing all streets, avenues, lanes, alleys, gutters, wharves, piers, and heads of slips, to be thoroughly cleaned, from time to time, and to be kept at all times thoroughly clean. Although the Board of Health is relieved of all direct responsibility in respect to the cleanliness of the streets,