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Old 12-27-2012, 07:49 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 20 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
Since the OP clarified "without the really bad stuff," I assume that the question was primarily about city form -- in other words, a return to the form of the city from that era, minus the politics, health issues, etc. A hypothetical flight of fancy.

Unless one is arguing that the city form itself was a direct contributor to those problems.
Don't know about politics, but there were political machines in many major cities. As for health problems, yes, overcrowding and primitive sewage systems were a direct contributor to many diseases. The link below discusses the situation in the later 19th century in US cities.

Immigrants, Cities, and Disease: Immigration and Health Concerns in Late Nineteenth Century America | US History Scene

Large waves of immigration in the nineteenth century, made New York City America’s largest and most diverse city, but also its most unhealthy, as the large spike in population made it more susceptible to disease.17 Compared to other large urban areas, such as Boston or Philadelphia, New York’s death rate due to disease was considerably higher.

By the 1920s, things had gotten better, but there was still a lot of TB and other diseases.

Diseases and Plagues in History and Modern Times, Part 2 | WordFocus.com
From their beginnings until the twentieth century, cities have been pestholes. In fact, only when towns became big cities did massive die-offs become a regular part of human life.

When farmers and villagers started crowding into cities, this immunologically virgin mass offered a feast to germs lurking in domesticated animals, wastes, filth, and scavengers.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:51 PM
 
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I realize that overcrowding was a contributing factor to disease, but given that the current built environment in some of these areas is almost identical to what it is now, I think it's safe to say that the design of the city itself is not the reason. Now packing in large numbers of people into a small space, sure. But that's different than the built environment itself.
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:13 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
I realize that overcrowding was a contributing factor to disease, but given that the current built environment in some of these areas is almost identical to what it is now, I think it's safe to say that the design of the city itself is not the reason. Now packing in large numbers of people into a small space, sure. But that's different than the built environment itself.
New York City is rather extreme in its early 20th century. The tenements in the poor immigrant districts were far more overcrowded today:

Manhattan?s Population Density, Past and Present - Graphic - NYTimes.com

or see the diagram here:

http://www.city-data.com/forum/26442657-post125.html

East Village is fairly similar back then and then considered part of the Lower East Side. Of course, the built form is exactly the same today and there are few disease issues anywhere in the city. So, yes a 1920s design (or older, the Lower East Side was end of the 19th century at the latest) and transporation network with modern-day living standards, medicine and sanitation would be healthy. In fact these areas would probably be more pleasant without the automobile (at least the side streets); cars are mostly useless anyway in the area, they just add to air and noise pollution. Horse and buggy traffic seems not to be much of an issue, traffic was light enough that children could play in the street:

Ms. Jacobs recalled helping her father distribute newspapers in the mornings to houses on the block, and playing games in the street, where the only traffic was an occasional horse and wagon.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/ny...-as-it-is.html

Gives an idea of tenement life back then. Her great-granddaughter is living in the same building.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post

Large waves of immigration in the nineteenth century, made New York City America’s largest and most diverse city, but also its most unhealthy, as the large spike in population made it more susceptible to disease. Compared to other large urban areas, such as Boston or Philadelphia, New York’s death rate due to disease was considerably higher.

Don't want to start arguments on what's in the article but the chart at the top shows how much life expectancy differed in New York City from the rest of the country:

Why New Yorkers Last Longer -- New York Magazine

Part of the cause might have been just poverty in 1900
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:21 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 20 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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When I was researching this issue last night, I came across a factoid that the Tb infection rate in NYC was estimated to be 100%, so it was more than poverty at work. Of course, not everyone had clinical disease. Regarding cholera, while a well can become contaminated, the effects will only be borne by the people who use the well for drinking water. When a city water supply is contaminated, everyone is exposed and many get sick.

Cholera, King Cholera. Sickness and Death in the Old South. Genealogy, History, Family History, American South.
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:18 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
East Village is fairly similar back then and then considered part of the Lower East Side. Of course, the built form is exactly the same today and there are few disease issues anywhere in the city. So, yes a 1920s design (or older, the Lower East Side was end of the 19th century at the latest) and transporation network with modern-day living standards, medicine and sanitation would be healthy. In fact these areas would probably be more pleasant without the automobile (at least the side streets); cars are mostly useless anyway in the area, they just add to air and noise pollution. Horse and buggy traffic seems not to be much of an issue, traffic was light enough that children could play in the street:

Ms. Jacobs recalled helping her father distribute newspapers in the mornings to houses on the block, and playing games in the street, where the only traffic was an occasional horse and wagon.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/ny...-as-it-is.html

Gives an idea of tenement life back then. Her great-granddaughter is living in the same building.
Look again, that was the Upper East Side (in what is today Yorkville). The building -- 500 1/2 East 84th street -- still exists, and since it was built in 1910 it would be a New Law tenement (with courtyard rather than airshaft) at worst.

The Lower East Side was rather more crowded.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:01 AM
 
Location: TOVCCA
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The smell from manure and urine in the streets from the horses was said to be overpowering.

A fascinating book:

The Good Old Days---They Were Terrible! by Otto L. Bettmann is eye-opening.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:28 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
I realize that overcrowding was a contributing factor to disease, but given that the current built environment in some of these areas is almost identical to what it is now, I think it's safe to say that the design of the city itself is not the reason. Now packing in large numbers of people into a small space, sure. But that's different than the built environment itself.
err not quite. During the early 20th century laws requiring bathrooms in buildings and laws regarding window placement and min. apartment sizes came on the books. In short a lot of the 19th century stuff has been torn down by now but was more common back then. In short the design of buildings has changed a bit since then.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
I realize that overcrowding was a contributing factor to disease, but given that the current built environment in some of these areas is almost identical to what it is now, I think it's safe to say that the design of the city itself is not the reason. Now packing in large numbers of people into a small space, sure. But that's different than the built environment itself.
Well until water sewage became treated and drinking water became chlorinated outbreaks of cholera were common. However once those problems get fixed a new one shows up Polio(which ironically was caused by cleaning up...i.e. infants were no longer exposed to a weaker form of the virus and then got it later as children when they came upon contaminated water and had no immunity. )

Vaccination however puts an end to many human disease.
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:58 PM
 
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The thing to realize about the 1920's is they were a period when a lot of these urban problems were being reduced, if not solved. In New York, new buildings in the Bronx and Brooklyn, made possible by subway extensions, were much better than those on the Lower East Side. Similar expansions, some transit-based, some car-based, were happening in other cities. The 20's are interesting because, from a historical perspective, they sit on the cusp between the latter 19th Century city and the mid-20th Century city.
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Old 12-28-2012, 04:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chirack View Post
err not quite. During the early 20th century laws requiring bathrooms in buildings and laws regarding window placement and min. apartment sizes came on the books. In short a lot of the 19th century stuff has been torn down by now but was more common back then. In short the design of buildings has changed a bit since then.
Most of the buildings I've lived in have dated to the years between 1900 and 1930. They all have bathrooms and windows.

I still think the OP's original intention was not to debate whether or not we want to literally live in the 1920s, but rather whether or not we'd want a modern city that was not designed with the automobile in mind. I guess I assumed that in this hypothetical scenario (as the post said without all the bad stuff) we would be talking about buildings that meet modern safety and public health requirements. There are still a lot of late 19th and 20th century buildings around today; the interiors have been updated where necessary. The neighborhood form remains the same.
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