Life on the Lower East Side was bustling. Immigrants from many European countries had come to make a better life for themselves and their families in the United States. But the wages they earned were so low that they could afford only the most basic accommodations — tenements. Unfortunately, there were few laws protecting the residents of tenements, and landlords took advantage of this by allowing the buildings to become cramped and squalid. There was little the tenants could do; their only other choice was the street. Though most immigrants struggled in these buildings, many overcame a difficult start and saw generations after them move on to better apartments, homes, and lives. Raymond Bial reveals the first, challenging step in this process as he leads us on a tour of the sights and sounds of the Lower East Side, guiding us through the dark hallways, staircases, and rooms of the tenements.
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