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its general agent, and I held the position event proved that we were wise. You for a year, giving all my spare time to the bring up the people slowly to a reform planning and carrying out of such work programme, particularly when it costs as seemed to me ought to make a record money. They will pay for corruption for a reform administration. We wanted with a growl, but seem to think that virit to last. That was a great year. They tue ought always to be had for nothing. wanted a positive programme, and my It makes the politicians' game easy. notions of good government were nothing They steal the money for improvements, if not positive. They began and ended and predict that reform will raise the taxwith the people's life. We tore down rate. When the prophecy comes true, unfit tenements, forced the opening of they take the people back in their shelparks and piaygrounds, the establishment tering embrace with an “ I told you so !" of a truant school and the remodeling of and the people nestle there repentant. the whole school system, the demolition There was a housing conference at which of the overcrowded old Tombs and the that part of the work was parceled out: erection on its site of a decent new prison. the building of model tenements to the We overhauled the civil courts and made capitalists who formed the City and Subthem over new in the charter of the Greater urban Homes Company; the erection of New York. We lighted dark halls; closed model lodging-houses to D. O. Mills, the the “cruller" bakeries in tenement-house banker philanthropist, who was anxious cellars that had caused the loss of no end to help that way. I chose for the Good of lives, for the crullers were boiled in fat Government clubs the demolition of the in the early morning hours while the ten- old tenements. It was my chance. I ants slept, and when the fat was spilled in hated them. We had had a law passed the fire their peril was awful. We fought the year before empowering the Health the cable-car managers at home and the Board to seize and destroy tenementrecalcitrant School Commissioners house property that a threat to Albany. We backed up Roosevelt in his the city's health, but it had remained a fight in the Police Board, and---well, I shall dead letter. The authorities hesitated never get time to tell it all. But it was a to attack property rights, vested rights. great year. That it did not keep the Now that Theodore Roosevelt sat in Good Government clubs alive was no the Health Board, fresh from his war on fault of my programme. It was mine, the police lodging-rooms of which I told, I guess. I failed to inspire them with they hesitated no longer. I put before the the faith that was in me. I had been Board a list of the sixteen worst rear going it alone so long that I did not tenements in the city outside of the Bend, know how to use the new tool that had and, while the landlords held their breath come to hand. There is nothing like an in astonishment, they were seized, conorganization, if you know how to use it. I demned, and their tenants driven out. did not. Perhaps, also, politics had some- The Mott Street Barracks were among thing to do with it. They were in for play them. In 1888 the infant death-rate ing the game.
I never understood it. among the 350 Italians they harbored had But if I did not make the most of it, I been 325 per thousand—that is to say, had a good time that year. There were one-third of all the babies died that year. first the two small parks to be laid out That was the kind of evidence upon over on the East Side, where the Gilder which those rear tenements were arraigned. Committee had pointed to the smothering Ninety-four of them, all told, were seized crowds. I had myself made a member that year, and in them there had been in of the Citizens' Committee that was ap- four years 956 deaths—a rate of 62.9, pointed to locate them. It did not take when the general city death-rate was us any nine years, or six, or three. We 24.63. I shall have once more, and for did the business in three weeks, and, the last time, to refer to “A Ten Years' having chosen the right spots, we had War" for the full story of that campaign. the Legislature make a law authorizing As I said, it was great. the city to seize the property at once, Conceive, if you can, the state of mind ahead of condemnation. We were afraid of a man to whom a dark, overcrowded Tammany might come back, and the tenement had ever been as a personal
affront, now suddenly finding himself broken the back of the slum and made commissioned with letters of marque and precedents of our own that would last a reprisal, as it were, to seize and destroy while. Mr. Roosevelt was personally the enemy wherever found, not one at a sued twice, I think, but that was all the time, but by blocks and battalions in the good it did them. We were having our laying out of parks. I fed fat my ancient innings that time, and there were a lot of grudge, and grew good humor enough to arrears to collect. The city paid for the last me for a dozen years in those two. property that was taken, of course, and They were the years when, in spite of more than it ought to have paid, to my hard work, I began to grow stout, and, way of thinking. The law gave the owner honestly, I think it was tearing down of a tenement that was altogether unfit just tenements that did it. Directly or in- the value of the brick and timbers that directly, I had a hand in destroying seven were in it. It was enough, for “unfit” whole blocks of them as I count it up. meant murderous, and why should a man I wish it had been seventy.
have a better right to kill his neighbor The landlords sued, but the courts sided with a house than with an ax in the with the Health Board. When at last street ? But the lawyers who counseled we stopped to take breath, we had fairly compromise bought Gotham Court, one
of the most hopeless slums in the Fourth The annual reports of the Department of Ward, for nearly $20,000. It was not Education were models of how to say worth so many cents. The Barracks with a thing so that no one by any chance their awful baby death-rate were found to could understand what it was about. be mortgaged to a cemetery corporation. was possible to prove from them that, The Board of Health gave it the price while there was notoriously a dearth of of opening one grave for its share, and school accommodation, while children tore down the rear tenements. A year or knocked vainly for admission and the two later I traveled to Europe on an ocean Superintendent clamored for more schools, steamer with the treasurer of that grave yet there were ten or twenty thousand yard concern. We were ten days on the seats to spare. But it was not possible to way, and I am afraid he did not have get the least notion from them of what the altogether a good time of it. The ghost real need was. I tried for many months, of the Barracks would keep rising out of and then set about finding out for myself the deep before us, sitting there in our how many children who ought to be in steamer chairs, from whichever quarter school were drifting about the streets. the wind blew. I suppose he took it as The truant officers, professionally discreet, a victory when the Court of Appeals thought about 800. The Superintendent decided upon a technicality that the Bar- of Schools guessed at 8,000. The officers racks should not have been destroyed; but of the Association for the Improvement of so did I, for they were down by that time. the Condition of the Poor, with an eye on
I have said more than once in these the tenements, made it 150,000. I canpages that I am not good at figuring, and vassed a couple of wards with the truant I am not; a child could do better. For officers' reports before me, and upon the that very reason I am going to claim full basis of what I found there reasoned that credit for every time I do a sum right. It there must be about 50,000. They. may not happen again. Twice during scorned me at the City Hall for it. It that spell, curiously enough, did I down- was all guesswork, they said, and so it right distinguish myself in that line.
We had first to have a school census, shall never be able to tell you how; I and we got one, so that we might know only know that I did it. Once was when where we were at. But when we had the I went before the Board of Estimate and result of that first census before us, Apportionment to oppose an increase in behold! it showed that of 339,756 chilthe appropriation for the Tombs which dren of school age in the city 251,235 the Commissioner of Correction had were accounted for on the roster of public asked for. His plea was that there had or private schools, 28,452 were employed, been a large increase in the census of the and 50,069 on the street or at home. So prison, and he marched up a column of that, if I am not smart at figuring, I may figures to prove it. To the amazement reasonably claim to be a good guesser. of the Board, and really, if the truth be The showing that a lack of schools which told, of myself, I demonstrated clearly threw an army of children upon the street from his own figures that not only had went hand in hand with overcrowded there been no increase, but that there jails made us get up and demand that could not be without criminally over- something be done. From the school crowding the wretched old prison, in which executive came the helpless suggestion already every cell had two inmates, and that the thing might be helped by increassome three. The exhibit was so striking ing the classes in neighborhoods where that the Commissioner and his book- there were not enough schools from sixty keeper retired in confusion. It was just to seventy-five. Forty or forty-five pupils the power of the facts again. I wanted to is held to be the safe limit anywhere. have the horrid old pile torn down, and But the time bad passed for such pottering. had been sitting up nights acquainting We pulled ourselves together and spent myself with all that concerned it. Now millions in building new schools while “ the it is gone, and a good riddance to it. system” was overhauled; we dragged in
The other computation was vastly more a truant school by threatening the city involved. It concerned the schools, about authorities with the power of the State which no one knew anything for certain. unless they ceased to send truants to
institutions that received child criminals. teachers on whom the machine has a grip, But a man convinced against his will is of or thinks it has; but there is another the same opinion still; we shall have to school vote that is yet to be heard from, do that all over again next. My pet when the generation that has had its right scheme was to have trained oculists to play restored to it comes to the polls. attached to the public schools, partly as a That was the great gain of that time. It means of overcoming stupidity-half of was the thing I had in mind back of and what passes for that in the children is beyond all the rest. I was bound to kill really the teacher's ; the little ones are the Bend, because it was bad. I wanted near-sighted; they cannot see the black- the sunlight in there, but so that it might board-partly also that they might have shine on the children at play. That is a an eye on the school buildings and help child's right, and it is not to be cheated us get rid of some where they had to burn of it. And when it is cheated of it, it is gas all day. That was upset by the doc- not the child but the community that is tors, who were afraid that “private practice robbed of that beside which all its wealth would be interfered with.” We had n t is but tinsel and trash. For men, not quite got to the millennium yet. It was money, make a country great, and joyless so with our bill to establish a farm school children do not make good men. to win back young vagrants to a useful So when the Legislature, urged by the life. It was killed at Albany with the Tenement-House Committee, made it law challenge that we “had had enough of that no public school should ever again reform in New York.” And so we had, be built in New York without an outdoor as the events showed. Tammany came playground, it touched the quick. Thereback.
after it was easy to rescue the small parks But not to stay. We had secured a from the landscape gardener by laying them hold during those three years which I under the same rule. It was well we did think they little know of. They talk at it, too, for he is a dangerous customer, the Wigwam of the “school vote," and hard to get around. Twice he has tried mean the men friends and kin of the to steal one of the little parks we laid out, the one that is called Seward Park, from keep me from putting in the heaviest the children, and he“ points with pride” licks I can, in the campaign that is comalmost to the playground in the other, ing for turning the schools over to the which he laid out so badly that it was a people bodily, and making of them the failure from the start. However, we shall neighborhood center in all things that convert him yet ; everything in its season. make for good, including trades-union
The Board of Education puzzled over meetings and political discussions. Only its end of it for a while. The law did not so shall we make of our schools real cornersay how big the playground should be, stones of our liberties. So, also, we shall and there was no precedent. No, there through neighborhood pride restore some was not. I found the key to that puzzle, of the neighborhood feeling, the home feelat least one that fitted, when I was Secre- ing that is now lacking in our cities to tary of the Small Parks Committee. It our grievous loss. was my last act as agent of the Good Gov- The club prevailed in the end. At ernment clubs to persuade Mayor Strong least one school let it in, and though the to appoint that committee. It made short boys did break a window-pane that winter work of its task. We sent for the police with a ball they paid for it like men, and to tell us where they had trouble with the that ghost was laid. The school playboys, and why. It was always the same ground holds aloof yet from the neighborstory: they had no other place to play in hood except in the long vacation. But than the street, and there they broke win- that last is something, and the rest is dows. So began the trouble. It ended coming. It could not be coming by any in the police station and the jail. The better road than the vacation schools, city was building new schools by the score. which are paving the way for common We got a list of the sites, and, as we ex- sense everywhere. " Everything takes pected, they were where the trouble was ten years,” said Abram S. Hewitt, when worst. Naturally so; that was where the he took his seat as the Chairman of the children were. There, then, was our field Small Parks Committee. Ten years beas a playground committee. Why not kill fore, when he was Mayor, he had put two birds with one stone, and save money through the law under which the Mulberry by making them one? By hitching the Bend had been at last wiped out. We school and the boys' play together we held our meetings at the City Hall, where should speedily get rid of the truant. He I had been spurned so often. All things was just there as a protest against the come to those who wait—and fight for school without play.
them. Yes, fight! I say it advisedly. I I asked the Board of Education to have come to the time of life when a man make their school playgrounds the neigh- does not lay about him with a club unless borhood recreation centers. So they he has to. But-eternal vigilance is the would not need to worry over how big price of liberty! To be vigilant is to sit they should be, but just make them as up with a club. We, as a people, have big as they could, whether on the roof or provided in the republic a means of fighton the ground. They listened, but found ing for our rights and getting them, and difficulties in the property." Odd, isn't it is our business to do it. We shall never it, this disposition of the world to forever get them in any other way. Colonel make of the means the end, to glorify the Waring was a wise man as well as a great establishment! It was the same story
His declaration that he cleaned when I asked them to open the schools the streets of New York, all prophecies to at night and let in the boys to have their the contrary notwithstanding, by“ putting clubs there. The saloon was bidding for a man instead of a voter behind every them, and bidding high, but the School broom,” deserves to be put on the monuBoard hesitated because a window might ment we shall build by and by to that be broken or a janitor want extra pay for courageous man, for it is the whole gospel cleaning up Before a reluctant consent of municipal righteousness in a nutshell. was given I had to make a kind of prom- But he never said anything better than ise that I would not appear before the when he advised his fellow-citizens to Board again to argue for throwing the fight, not to plead, for their rights. doors wider still. But it isn't going to
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