By Tina Peabody
As preparations began for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, there was considerable concern about presenting a cleanly image to visitors. Bernard Sachs and E. H. L. Corwin, both officials of the Committee of Twenty on Street and Outdoor Cleanliness, argued in a letter to the New York Times that the World’s Fair was an opportunity to pursue comprehensive sanitary improvements in New York City. “The 'Wonder City of the World,' beyond a doubt;” they wrote, “the 'cleanest city,' by no means. But we must make it that." Another letter to George McAneny, the Fair Corporation’s Chairman of the Board advised an increased police presence to enforce sanitary standards. "This is important to the interest of the city when the Fair crowds come,” the letter read. “Do we want to exhibit a clean or an unclean city [sic].” Municipal engineer George A. Soper suggested making sanitation a “major element” of the World’s Fair, including exhibits on sanitation and public health. He argued that sanitation would be of interest to the general public, and was crucial since the Fair would be built on “one of the most insanitary parts of the City” – a former ash dump in Flushing Meadows.
Do We Want to Exhibit a Clean or Unclean City? Private Contractors, Scavengers, and Waste Disposal at the 1939 New York World’s Fair
“Does the United States Need a Medical Revolution?” Communism, Birth Control, and National Health Insurance in 1940s New York
By Richard Howe
By the end of the 19th century most of the streets and avenues laid out on the island of Manhattan by the 1811 Commissioners Plan and its 1870 northern extension by the Central Park Commissioners had been opened to traffic and as much as two-thirds or more of them had been paved. The island’s rural estates had been broken up and sold after having been subdivided into building lots conforming to the blocks in the street plan. Most of the island up to about 168th Street had been densely built up, with nearly 100,000 buildings —- over 80,000 of them residential -— carpeting the built-up area. At least 90% of all the buildings on the island -— and 99% of the residential buildings -— were no more than six stories tall; the average height was about five stories: 60 feet at a nominal 12 feet per story. And at least 75% of the buildings were 20–25 feet wide and 60–80 feet deep. But why? Why so many buildings, and why so many in just this range of sizes?
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