A Journey Through Chinatown

Mulberry Street

Images copyright RK Chin,
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see also: Mulberry Storefronts

Corner of Canal and Mulberry, facing north-northwest. 05 November 2005

Old school building, 21 February 2002. This building houses the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the Chinatown Manpower Project, Chen & Dancers dance company, and a senior citizen center.

The Museum documents the Asian American experience in America. The Chinatown Manpower Project provides vocational training, education, employment, and economic assistance programs.

14 March 2002. Chinese chess, Columbus Park. Everyone was crowded around, heatedly giving advice on which piece to move in an increasingly hopeless scenario.

Many senior citizens hang out at the park playing dominos, cards, and generally shooting the breeze.

Fish Market 28 October 2006

Fruit stands on the corner of Canal and Mulberry. 19 February 2002

A remnant of the past, a passageway which leads into a rear tenement, 79R Mulberry Street. see [FN 1] below for tenement law history.

15 September 2007 The Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy.

Footnote 1:
Tenement houses first sprung up around the early 1800s in answer to New York's housing shortage. They were cheap to build, and landlords often maximized profits by packing as many people they can into one. Living conditions, however, was extremely poor. Charitable organizations, and the press cited the rampant overcrowding, poor sanitation, and the lack of fresh air, sunlight, and heat circulating through buildings. Fire safety was also a huge concern.

Even though a uniform building code was first adopted in 1867, which required a window in every sleeping room, as well as privies in every tenement, the laws were not fully enforced until 1901 when a new building code (the "Tenement House Act"), along with an enforcement agency behind it, went into effect. The new law virtually outlawed the construction of tenements by requiring all buildings -- both new and old -- to have interior flush toilets, a fire escape, and ventilation shafts for both air, and light. Forced to abide by the new laws, many landlords began adopting the "dumbbell" design type of tenement where there is a small narrow airshaft in the back of the building providing the legal window, air, and sunlight to all its residents.

In 1935, passage of the "Multiple dwelling act" not only improved fire safety, and ventilation in the building, but also required flush toilets in every apartment, not just a toilet per floor which was the case in many buildings. Buildings today are still classified according to whether or not it is an old law tenement (built before 1901), or new law (built after 1901), but regardless, they all must meet today's building codes.


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