My apartment is somewhat tenament like

Back in December I took a day trip with my mother down to the Lower East Side to visit the Tenement Museum. It was an interesting trip. Although I thought that the tour of one of New York City’s last standing tenement buildings- the last families vacated in the 1930’s – was a little too short, it was very much interesting to think that hundreds of families occupied the building over the span of decades in the growing city of immigrants.

The tour was rushed and so my memories of the cramped quarters aren’t too clear, but the one thing that will always stick in my mind was the condition of the walls and ceilings – which have been preserved so that the public can know the hard conditions in which these families lived. The apartments, which housed many families at a time, were covered with dozens of layers of wall paper over the years. Unfortunately, they were glued to the walls with flour paste, which attracted rats and pests and increased the overall health risks of the buildings. It was one thing to have tight spaces, tainted milk and no egress in the case of fire, it was another thing altogether to be put in harm’s way due to the decorative coverings on their walls. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for these families to live in those conditions.

I’ve lived in some shitty places, apartments with roaches and mice and drooping ceilings, but still, I really have little to complain about. I’ve been protected from the elements. Still, I’ve been at this apartment here in Albany for nearly three-and-a-half years and since I’ve lived her I haven’t complained about much. I know that $800 for a three bedroom place with two porches and hardwood floors isn’t a bad deal and that it could be worse. I could be living in Gabon, starving with only a tin roof over my head. Still, everytime I go into my bathroom and I look up and see the awful mold on the walls and ceilings, I’m reminded a bit of what the working class Germans, Irish, Italians and Slavs must have had to live through in those awfully tight tenements.

My landlord’s known about it for years and yet the mold has continued to grow to the point where it simply can’t be good to breathe in. Finally last week he sent over his small Englishman maintenance guy to install a ventilation unit in our john. I’m just starting now to understand how gross it really is.


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