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5,000 East Siders Hear Mayor Condemn City’s Fire Traps

April 9, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

More than 5,000 residents of the lower East Side, nearly all Jewish, gathered yesterday afternoon in Hamilton Fish Park on East Houston street to hear a group of speakers, including Mayor La-Guardia and B. C. Vladeck, member of the New York City Housing Authority, denounce old-law tenement houses as dangerous fire traps and demanded their immediate replacement with low-cost modern housing.

Mayor LaGuardia, who was introduced by Harry Schlacht, chairman of the meeting, declared that he was determined to have vacated all old-law tenement houses that were fire traps and that no amount of opposition would deter him. He said there was great opposition to his housing plans and that selfish interests were involved. He disclaimed any originality in proposing the plans and said he was surprised that the slums had not been cleared “a long time ago.”

“The moment a house is unsafe for tenants, no one has a right to keep such a house,” the Mayor declared. “I am going to vacate them all. We cannot and must not boast of our skyscrapers as long as these blocks of tenement fire traps remain.”


In simple, informal language the Mayor went on to discuss the problems of his administration with the audience. He appealed to them for help in carrying out his plans for making the city “a better and happier place to live in.”

Valdeck pointed out that there are 67,000 houses in the slum areas of New York which had been condemned as unfit for human habitation. He pointed out that the park in which he was speaking is completely surrounded by old-law tenement houses, many of them very dangerous fire traps and that his audience, including more than 1,000 children, were potential victims of the owners’ greed for profits.

“For several generations,” he declared, “the real estate interests of New York have managed to profit from the growth of the city at the expense of the people. The 67,000 old-law tenements in New York City, most of which are fire traps are hazardous to the health and morals of the people, have been built and maintained with only one thing in view and that is to enrich the land owners, the contractors and the money lenders.


“Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue are built upon the misery of the slums. The people of the City of New York must sooner or later understand that speculation in land values and high returns on investments can be carried on only at the expense of their health, their safety and their general wellbeing.”

Vladeck declared that the Housing Authority was determined to abolish the slums and that the slums would go, “when greed would be replaced by human rights.”

Other speakers who addressed the meeting included Miss Helen Hall, new head of the Henry Street Settlement House; H. M. Goldberg, president of the East Side Chamber of Commerce, and Harry Landau, post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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