The Lung Block: A New York City Slum & Its Forgotten Italian Immigrant Community

On view at the Municipal Archives Gallery, 31 Chambers Street, First Floor, April 26 - August, 2019

Visiting Nurse in tenement yard, Jessie Tarbox Beals, ca. 1912.

In 1933, a lively Italian immigrant enclave on the Lower East Side was wiped from the map. Although indistinguishable from the rest of the Lower East Side in many ways, this particular block existed under the shadow of a sinister narrative: death was embedded in the very walls of each building.

According to the wealthy white Progressive reformers, this Lung Block – a generic term for a place where tuberculosis proliferated – represented a threat not just to its poor immigrant residents, but to the city at large.

Explore the history of immigrant housing and reform efforts in NYC at the start of the 20th century through one community.