Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tenement Living: Diseases (1)

Topic: Malaria in the Dirt Piles 1901

Deputy Street Commissioner Quinn, Health Commissioner Black and controller Coler will be ably assisted by many of the respectable business men and property owners of Coney Island if they really intend to give the famous resort a thorough sweeping and washing.

While there has been so much talk of late about the city purchasing certain garbage plants at an enormous cost, the Coney Island people have been wondering why the city authorities do not take it upon themselves to again put in operation the crematory now located at Coney Island. The sight of heavily laden garbage trucks being drawn through the streets and up over Ocean parkway has long been a disgusting nuisance and the suggestion has been made that it could be done away with by burning the garbage at the crematory as did the officials in the former town of Gravesend.

It was said yesterday that the plant at Coney Island could be placed in first class condition for a very small expenditure, and in a short time. Nobody seems to know why the plant was abandoned at the time of annexation, but the residents do know that the resort has been sadly neglected since that time by the police and health departments.

When the old town was in existence great care was taken by the reigning officials in preserving the health of both resident and visitor, and the way it was carried out was in gathering all the garbage and trucking it over to the crematory, where it was burned. The island was not nearly as thickly settled in those days as it is today, but the crowds of visitors on Sundays and holidays were equally, or almost, as large and a considerable amount of garbage would be collected in twenty-four hours. The town officials introduced a system, however, and the men who held the contract for cleaning the streets and collecting the garbage were forced to keep constantly at work. That resulted in making Coney Island a remarkably clean place, when the big crowds were taken into consideration.

Every one who has visited Coney Island during the past five years has noticed the condition of the main thoroughfare, Surf avenue and the many board walks and they have often wondered how it was that an epidemic did not seize hold of Coney Island and carry off the people to their graves.

Every season since the former town people decided to become a ward in the old City of Brooklyn and later one little corner of Greater New York, the garbage conditions have grown decidedly worse and today finds the more thickly settled portion in the grasp of malaria, caused, the local physicians declare, by the rotten condition of the island. Thousands of people now make their homes the year round at Coney Island, whereas in the days of the former town, the permanent residents were few.

The crusade made by the street cleaning force of men during the past week has not amounted to a great deal. Most of the time has been passed along the beach, where, it is said, a large quantity of refuse and objectionable matter has been collected. Perhaps the beach needed the cleansing, but no complaint was ever made as to its alleged filthy condition. The people have entered numerous complaints, however, against the filth that is permitted to lay in the streets leading to the beach and on Surf avenue, through which thoroughfare hundreds of thousands of people pass. A futile attempt has been made to clean the thoroughfare, but practically the same conditions exist.

A new dumping ground has been chosen at Coney Island and the terrible odor that is noticeable in passing by brings one back to the days when Contractor Charles Hart "planted" hundreds of scow loads of filth on the meadow land near the Harway avenue bridge. Hart's Park, as some have named it, is now covered with green grass and all kinds of vegetables are growing there.

The vicinity of West Eighth street and Neptune avenue is now being filled in with filth and the residents are complaining. All kinds of refuse, it is said, is being dumped there. The land is partly meadows and there is a narrow roadway which leads across to the West End railroad tracks, and it is along side this road that the filth is noticeable. A number of complaints have also been made about the lots in the rear of the Albermarle and Prospect Hotels, on Surf avenue, near the old Culver depot. A policeman who had occasion to cross the lots yesterday stepped in a soft spot and sank down over his shoes. He said it was garbage and the smell coming from it was horrible. Down at the intersection of Thompson's and Henderson's walks and Surf avenue, barrels and bosses filled with refuse are piled up in the morning and it is well along in the afternoon before it is removed. The filth is still to be found along the board walks, many of which it has been said, should be torn up and filed in with earth, and despite any effort that may have been made toward cleaning Coney Island, a tour of the resort yesterday showed that conditions are just as they were before the crusade was commenced. The trucks are few and far between and when they do put in an appearance they are loaded up over the tops of the wagon and much refuse drops to the street.

Source: Brooklyn Eagle August 4, 1901 Page: 40

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