New York City had many tenement buildings built on the Lower East Side during the 19th century to help house the large immigrant groups that were arriving. A tenement is a sub standard family dwelling usually occupied by the poor or new immigrants that had no money. They were also known as “railroad flats” so called becasue the rooms were linked together like a train with windowless internal rooms. As the immigrants arrived on the shores of New York they went searching for living accommodations. The landlords of these tenements would build the buildings outside look inviting as well as the interior of the lobby with hand painted murals and gas light. Some of the buildings were dressed up as nice as the fanciest New York hotels. When an immigrant family saw a tenement they thought they liked they would approach the landlord that was stationed in the lobby to inquire about an “apartment” and asked to go see it. The landlord would not let them up and would reply” look how beautiful my building is and see how nice the lobby is what can be wrong with the apartment upstairs. Sign the lease here and I will let you up”. Well were the immigrants surprised when they saw the substandard living conditions they just signed up for. Some buildings were built with certain immigration groups in mind. The picture of the building with the Star of David was built for the Jewish immigrants. This building is on Grand St. in what was Little Italy is a good example.

As you join our “NYC tours” you will see many magnificent buildings and architecture that you would not find on your own. You will also learn about tenement life how and who helped change the tenement laws that made life better for the tenants.

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