IT is related that a century ago Irish laborers digging a trench in the Mount Morris section of Manhattan found “pillars of gold.” Whether these pillars were gold coins stacked one on another in columns or gold coins of foreign origin sometimes called pillars, the account does not say. But the reaction of the discoverers to their find is graphically given. The diggers grabbed the loot and departed that job for good, which is what all manner of men have been doing on Manhattan since. With the proceeds these fortunate Irishmen probably moved out of the lower East side to a healthier and more fashionable neighborhood, for such is the habit of our immigrants.
Racially New York is a foreign city. The original Dutch stock numbered only a few thousands, and the English never pushed immigration into New York as they did into colonies north and south. The English emigrants were chiefly gentle families after land, and their indentured servants, bound out for a term of years to pay for their passage. Mixed Dutch and English who made up the bulk of the city’s population in Colonial days, assisted by the drift from other parts of America, could hardly have increased fast enough to let New York reach its present size without immigration.
One school of thought, basing its conclusion on statistics, holds America’s population would be approximately what it is if no immigrants had ever entered the country. In the 1790’s Elkanah Watson, the father of the Erie Canal, forecast America’s population on the basis of the first census, using the high birth-rate of the day as his multiplier, and arrived at a schedule approximately the same as that attained in fact with the assistance of immigration. This schedule is frequently quoted to show that every immigrant has, through economic competition, kept one American from being born or has assisted in his early demise. Opponents of this theory say that the high birthrate of Colonial and Revolutionary days could not have continued and hence a pure Nordic America would be far less populous than the present mixed America is. Another opinion is that attempts to deny access to America’s riches to other peoples would have resulted in forced entry, war, and perhaps conquest. Since New York was the third city in the country when immigration began, and as the chief port of entry gained more than other cities from this source, it seems fair to conclude that New York owes its present leadership to immigration more than to any other single source. The root of New York’s rent roll reaches back to Europe and taps the life-streams of its vigorous migrating peoples.
Immigrants came to America to better their condition, and also because those who hired them could profit by their entry. Never in all the history of the world had migrants shifted peacefully in such large numbers or over so wide a distance. War marked the migrations of Jews from Egypt to Palestine, of Greeks along the Mediterranean, of German tribes toward Italy, of Goths and Huns westward across Europe, of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Danes into England, the right to settle being won by success in arms. These movements had tremendous historical significance, yet the numbers involved were small compared to the millions who crossed the Atlantic to take root in America. While we are still too close to the phenomenon to be sure of the full historical significance of American immigration, it is altogether likely that future historians will rate it beyond all other folk movements in influence upon the political and social evolution of the planet.
Among the early settlers were many groups fleeing from persecution either religious or political, among them the Pilgrims, French Huguenots, Irish Catholics, Quakers, Palatine Germans, and smaller groups of protestants from Bohemia, Switzerland, and the Italian Piedmont. While the later Irish and German immigration overshadowed the earlier movement from those sources, both peoples added considerably to America’s population before the Revolution. Irish immigration began in 1698, and continued up to the Revolution. Irish blood, in protest against both poverty and tyranny at home, steadily trickled into the several American colonies. The so-called Scotch-Irish from Ulster pre-dominated; but no part of Ireland was unrepresented in this early migration. The Irish spread widely, finding abiding places in all the Colonies, and provided many of the Revolutionary leaders. A roster of the Irish buried in Trinity Churchyard shows New York City’s share in this early Irish movement to America.
While the early Irish arrived in small groups and by their command of English soon became mixed with the earlier population, the Palatine Germans came by boatloads and settled in compact communities which still maintain lingual and cultural distinctions. In Pennsylvania their descendants are the Pennsylvania Dutch of today, in New York the Palatines of the middle Hudson and the upper Mohawk valleys. When the ancestors of these Germans were driven from their homes along the upper Rhine, they sought refuge in England, where their poverty-stricken condition ex-cited the sympathy of Mohawk chieftains then in Lon-don on a ceremonial visit to Queen Anne. The Mohawks offered land to the refugees, who soon were shipped to the New World. Some 3,000 arrived in New York harbor in 1709-10, of whom about 350 remained in New York City while the others went upstate. Their arrival caused great excitement; for this was the first mass migration to New York since its settlement, adding ten per cent to the population of the province. The majority of the Palatines were at first settled on Livingston Manor land in four camps on either side of the Hudson above Poughkeepsie, where their stay is commemorated by the place-names of Germantown, Rhinebeck, and Rhinecliff. A little later, weary of paying Livingston rents, numbers of them moved on to the upper Schoharie valley and then to the upper Mohawk, where they received the free lands promised them by the Indians.
The American Revolution added another German element, the so-called Hessians who came to fight in the British cause and remained to settle as permanent residents. From 1776 to 1782, upwards of 30,000 German soldiers, hired out by their princes to George III, arrived in America in regiments mustered not only in Hesse but in several other German principalities. Of the 30,000, about 12,500 did not return; 7,700 lost their lives, the other 4,800 either deserted or elected to stay here when their regiments returned. Many went to the western frontier of Pennsylvania, to take up life in the Palatine sections where their language was spoken. Because of their sober character, many of them prospered, founding large families which are still influential. For instance, from the loins of one Hessian deserter has sprung one Virginia family with 2,500 members of the same name, with as many more living descendants through daughter lines. The first American Astor, brother of John Jacob Astor, came to America as a “Hessian” sutler.
After the successful termination of the Revolution the tide of immigration set in promptly, as the good news spread among the common people of Europe that the land of liberty lay open to them. Immigrants arriving from 1783 to 1816, in spite of the break caused by the naval war of 1812, exceeded 250,000 exclusive of Negroes. Each decade showed an increase: 50,000 arrivals from 1790 to 1800 70,000 from 1800 to 1810 114,000 from 1810 to 1820.
From 1820, the number of immigrants continued to rise rapidly, and New York became the favored port of entry, perhaps because the opening of the Erie Canal in that decade provided the easiest entry into the interior of the country, where free land beckoned and labor was in demand. The figures show how nearly New York came to monopolizing the immigration business of the country.
The profits of this trade were enormous, not only to the shipping interests, but to the general trade of the city. Poor as the immigrants might be, each contributed something to the landlords and the tradesmen. A steady flow of cheap labor gave entrepreneurs a magnificent opportunity to reap profits. While millions of new-comers went on into the interior, hundreds of thou-sands remained in the great city to populate insanitary tenements swiftly raised for their accommodation. The frauds practiced upon immigrants became a national scandal; ignorant of our language and customs, fresh from countries where at least some feudal protection had been given them, these poor folk were preyed upon fiercely by the sharpers and gangsters of their day. The creation of Ellis Island in 1892 as a special station for immigrant entry helped to reduce this pillage as well as to protect the public health from contagions introduced by the newcomers.
Who were these 18,000,000 folk who added their blood to the American life stream from 1820 down to the turn of the century? By countries of origin by no means an infallible identification as to race or hearth-languagethey were as follows: Germany, 4,970,450; Ireland, 3,803,865; England and Wales, 2,635,749; Norway and Sweden, 1,197,055; Italy, 862,875; Austria-Hungary, 849,171; Russia and Poland, 742,256.
One might assume from this breakdown of nineteenth century immigration that half of the immigrants were Nordic stock, one-fourth Celtic; and that one-third of them already could speak English on arrival. But those of German origin included a considerable proportion of German Jews, and Jews also made up parts of the contingents from Russia, Poland, and Austria-Hungary. The latter polyglot empire also contributed Magyars, Germans, Bohemians, and four other Slavic folk groups. Racial distinctions are perhaps of slight importance of themselves, but reinforced by customs, religion, and tradition, and hardened by prejudices both within and without a close-dwelling group, they present the nation, and particularly New York City, with some extremely durable social problems.
The attitude of these various peoples toward urban life, represented by New York City, is highly significant. The Swedes and Norwegians, apparently, went through the city like geese on the wing, making straight for the prairies of the Northwest, only an occasional skilled artisan lingering in the metropolis. So, too, for the English. The Germans and Irish dropped large numbers in New York before the rest of them went on. In general the peasant stock from the various Slav peoples went on into the interior; but the Jews and Italians, both capable city dwellers, mostly settled down to grow up with New York City.
In point of time the Irish led the way in the great mass migration of the nineteenth century. Potato famines helped to push them out of their home land; the free institutions of America helped to pull them toward this country. Their numbers increased speedily up to 1870, fell off in the decade following, and rose again from 1880 to 1890, falling off after the latter year. At one time the Irish formed the largest immigrant bloc in New York; they and their descendants now number nearly one million souls. While surpassed in numbers by the Jews and Italians, the Irish bloc exerts more political influence than either of the others.
The Germans came in two great waves, the first of which reached its apex from 1851 to 1860, in reaction to political difficulties when the hopes of the German masses seemed to be crushed forever by the victory of reaction over the revolutionary movement of 1848. For two decades after 1860, the German tide ebbed, to rise in a new flood from 1881 to 1890, when 1,425,000 Germans entered, more than double the total from any other country. The first wave, flowing from a desire for liberty, contained many persons who proved exceptionally talented and idealistic, while the second one seemed to have its mainspring entirely in the desire for economic betterment.
From first to last, the German population of New York has been clannish, as a natural reaction to language differences. In the early forties the East side neighborhood of Little Germany, or Kleindeutschland, was bounded by Houston Street on the north, East Broadway on the south, Lafayette Street on the west, and Attorney on the east. While some of the earlier German arrivals lived farther south on the East side, these gave way gradually to Irish in that sector and moved north to Little Germany, which also gained population with every boatload from the Fatherland. After the ’48 immigration Little Germany expanded rapidly eastward, reaching to Pitt Street and Monroe Street by 1854. Eighteen years later, in 1872, the geographical limits of Little Germany are described as having “become decidedly more complicated.” To-ward the north Little Germany had crept up to Eleventh Street, and Germans packed solidly the blocks from Eleventh to Houston between Avenue C and Second Avenue, reaching Third Avenue in several places.
Little Germany had a German theater, patronized German opera, and maintained characteristic saloons and beer halls, some of which are still in existence along Third Avenue. With increasing prosperity, the most affluent residents began to move uptown. The 1872 account notes the presence of an island of substantial German homes on Third Avenue near Thirtieth Street and another group east of Third Avenue between Fiftieth and Sixtieth streets, where families occupied separate homes instead of tenements and nearly every house had domestic servants. The German tendency toward good living was beginning to manifest itself. Not mentioned in 1872 was the Yorkville German district now centering at Eighty-sixth Street and Third Avenue; but the course of development is clear. In the ‘eighties, under pressure of the second great wave of German immigration, more early corners retreated northward from the Little Germany below Eleventh Street, leaving that area to the new arrivals, and starting from the already established base at Sixtieth Street pressed northward until they monopolized the Yorkville area, now the chief German section. Even in the intervening areas there were signs of German habitation. In the ‘fifties sarcastic references to “that too numerous class of German innkeepers” were written, and fifty years later it was said that one was never out of sight of a German saloon all the way from Grand Street to Ninetieth Street along the Bowery and Third Avenue line.
The Irish were in force south of Little Germany and also on the West side, where the Hell’s Kitchen area attracted some of the lower elements of the race and became a synonym for lawlessness. In general, the Irish showed no such geographic cohesiveness as the Germans. Once they had improved their condition so that they could seek better quarters, the only tie which could hold them to a neighborhood was religious. As Catholic churches soon arose in all parts of the city, the Irish began to march north on Manhattan and out to the other boroughs.
The lower East side has been called a battle ground of races; but it is a battle ground in which victory has belonged to the retreating army and not to the advancing one, since East side housing, with its old-style tenements, was generally wretched. For the Irish and Germans to leave the lower East side as fast as they could was not a victory for the Italians and Jews who took their places but rather for those who went on to better homes in newer areas.
As noted in the foregoing table, the Italians and Jews were a little late in finding the golden earth of Manhattan. By 1898 fewer than 900,000 Italian immigrants had come into the whole country. By 1905 there were 400,000 Italians, immigrants and their children, in Greater New York. A survey of that date shows several Little Italies in Brooklyn, one in Harlem, and the largest and oldest Italian quarter on the lower East side, south of Houston Street, north of Canal Street, east of Broadway and west of the Bowery. This area, it will be noted, is part of the Little Germany which was so thriving in 1872. Within thirty years it had completely changed its racial character.
In 1930 the Italian population of the city had increased to 440,000 foreign-born and, with the children of the first generation, swelled beyond the mil-lion mark. In 1905, the Bowery divided the Italian quarter from the Ghetto or chief Jewish quarter to the eastward. That famous old street, once a pleas-ant rural highway shaded by trees, had become a “street of cheap shops; fifteen and twenty-five cent lodging houses, garish fakir shows, and barrooms of ugly reputation, frequented by seafaring men, tramps and fallen outcasts.” It was the place for honest men and decent women to shun; the old song ran: “The Bowery, the Bowery; I’ll never go there any more.”
In the Ghetto, which in 1906 lay parallel with Little Italy and east of the Bowery, lived 450,000 of the 750,000 Jews then in New York City. Within fifteen years they had ousted Germans and Irish from whole sections, but scarcely had they made good their possession when the Ghetto itself was invaded by the Italians.
In the Durland and Sessa study 1 the following picture is given of this struggle for dreary space in New York’s worst slum area:
Recent years have found the Italians crossing the Bowery and slowly establishing themselves around the edges of the Ghetto. In some instances they have penetrated the very heart of the Jewish quarter. . . . Most of the Italians now living east of the Bowery are from the south of Italy.
The rector of a German Catholic church at the corner of Stanton and Pitt streets gave the authors of the study a melancholy picture of what the stressful fifteen years had brought to his parish. When he arrived from Germany, the neighborhood was filled with prosperous German and Irish homes, two and two-anda-half stories in height. Year by year for fifteen years Germans and Irish had been drifting away, until nearly all were gone. The separate houses were razed to make room for cheap, jerry-built five- and six-story tenements, which depreciated so swiftly that they were soon slummy.
“These were the places the Italians sought. So long as any houses with rock-bottom rentals exist, the Italians will continue to invade the Ghetto. But the moment rock bottom rentals disappear,” prophesied these investigators, “the Italians will seek other localities.” The fact is that within the last seventy-five years no one ever seemed to love the lower East side well enough to live there all his days, unless he was compelled to do so by poverty. Even Al Smith cleared out, for all his sentimental affection for the quarter of his birth. One of the last of the aristocrats of the East side was Richard Dudgeon, who invented a steam carriage before the Civil War and founded the manufacturing plant in Broome Street which still bears his name. Mr. Dudgeon lived in some state near his plant, which was then a pleasant, homey area, and almost to the day of his death he rode horseback to his country estate in Harlem each weekend.
The Germans set the Irish in motion; the Jews did likewise for the Germans, and the Italians did likewise for the Jews, who as circumstances permitted drifted out to Harlem, the Bronx, East New York and the western side of Manhattan. The tenements they vacated in the lower East side became the objects of a bit-ter economic struggle between the in-pressing Italians and new Jewish arrivals from Europe. These later Jewish immigrants came from eastern Europe: Russia, Russian and Austrian Poland, Rumania, and Hungary, from areas where their political rights were circumscribed and where they were more or less persecuted.
The Jews are now the largest foreign element in New York’s population. The Jewish Communal Survey of 1925 shows that the lower East side still held more than half the Jews on Manhattan, but the old Ghetto’s proportion of all New York City Jews had fallen from 23.5 per cent in 1916 to 15.2 per cent in 1925. Harlem and Yorkville also had lost Jewish population proportionately; in Harlem they had re-treated before the Negroes; in Yorkville before Germans and Italians. While the Jewish retreat from the old centers has affected nearly all the boroughs, in Manhattan the drift was marked to the northward and westward, toward Broadway, Riverside Drive and particularly toward Washington Heights. The Bronx became a Jewish stronghold.
In both years, 1916 and 1925, Jews formed approximately thirty per cent of the population; but in the nine-year period three of the four outlying boroughs had gained Jewish population at the expense of Manhattan, and Brooklyn had definitely replaced Manhattan as the leading borough in Jewish population.
While the Jewish population of Manhattan as a whole was declining nearly a quarter, all the older sections yielding and only one new section gaining, the old Ghetto on the lower East side, though decreasing numerically, still held more than half the Jews on the island and had even increased its proportion of Manhattan Jews. It is still the Jewish stronghold religiously, the fortress of the orthodox as well as the refuge of the economically defeated section of New York’s Jewry. The successful, in the main, have cleared out, and those less fortunate remain. But each generation produces its quota of the successful who migrate. The trend out-ward from the old Ghetto is one of the constants of New York City’s real estate market, as the landlords of that area know to their sorrow.
Until immigration declined, first during the World War, and second through the application of the present quota system, the retreat from the East side was of no concern. New arrivals, chiefly Italians, would fill up the low-priced tenements. But presently there were too few arrivals to keep the old-style tenements filled. Property on the East side began to slide back in value and, in many cases, go to rack and ruin. Most of the buildings had been badly constructed and ill kept up, because the tenants demanded little. Presently the landlords were fighting to meet their taxes. As a result buildings have been razed to reduce the tax load, plots have been sold at low prices to the city for parks and public housing projects, and various movements are on foot to rehabilitate the district by improving parts of it to the point of appealing as places of residence to white-collar workers in the near-by financial district. Whether these activities will draw the Jews back to the East side is a question; while that is not the intent, it may be the eventual result, as Jewish white-collar workers abound and many of the other white-collar workers have become quite successfully acclimated to suburban living.
The Negro is the last to take up the role of pushing other breeds about on the map of Manhattan. Italians and Jews might push the Germans out of the East side, and Italians might compress and filter into the old Ghetto; but in Harlem both Jew and Italian have been routed by Negroes. In 1930 there were 327,000 Negroes in New York City, of whom 224,000 lived in Manhattan and nearly all of these north of Nintieth Street. Harlem proper contained 170,000 of these and the adjoining streets between Nintieth and 155th, west of Eighth Avenue and Central Park, about 40,000. In these areas Negro population increased by 32,000 from 1920 to 1930, while the total population decreased slightly. For every Negro who moved in a white moved out, with 1,000 whites over for good measure. This tendency of whites to depart a district in even larger numbers than those of the supplanting Negroes adds a peculiar poignancy to the plight of landowners in an area coming under Negro influence.
Harlem’s Negro bloc threatens the districts east and west. The line of cleavage between Negro Harlem and the Italian district on the upper East side used to be Fifth Avenue; now it is Madison Avenue, with upper Park Avenue a battle ground. From 1920 to 1930, against stiff Italian opposition, Negroes increased in this district by almost 2,000. On the other side of town Morningside Heights holds out against them, but north of the Heights they press on toward the Hudson. Amsterdam Avenue appears to be about half Negro between 135th and 155th streets. If the Negro population continues to increase and is not drawn off in other directions, Harlem, as the world knows it these days, may squeeze west to Broadway and interpose a solid black belt between 125th street and Washington Heights.
In this advance the shock troops of the colored population are negroid rather than Negro. Some of them are not even negroid, at least to the unprejudiced or inexpert eye. They call themselves Spanish and speak that tongue. Hailing from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other West Indian isles, accustomed to racial mixtures, and holding no prejudice against mulattoes and little against Negroes, they experience no apparent difficulty in living happily among Negroes or at least on the edges of Negro settlements, in which the “Spaniards” do well at small businesses. These folk, not noticeably off color in the racial sense, edge out from the black bloc as internal pressure develops, and the Negroes follow them as night follows day. The random attempts to restrict Negro movements appear on this account to be doomed to failure in the future as they have always failed in the past. Apparently nothing can relieve the pressure except the natural alleviation which seems to be coming to pass through the decline in the Negro birthrate and better economic and social conditions in the South, which are effective in reducing Negro migration to the North.
Noteworthy is the fact that, although the city has never failed to grow in population, the greatest density of population in Manhattan Island occurred from 1905 to 1910 as a result of the huge immigration wave from southeastern Europe. In 1910 three census tracts held more than 800 persons per acre and sixty-seven held more than 300 persons. The lower East side, south of 14th Street and east of Fourth Avenue, the Bowery, and Catherine Slip, had an average density of 543 persons per acre, and forty-six of its most congested blocks averaged 970 inhabitants per acre. On the West side were three blocks with more than a thou-sand inhabitants per acreaverage, 1,013.
Now observe the change in density of population in Manhattan which followed the extension of rapid transit facilities. In the twenty-five years from 1905 to 1930, the forty-six most congested lower East side blocks fell from an average of 970 per acre to 438 the three most congested upper East side blocks from 853 inhabitants per acre to 546, and the most congested West side blocks from 1,013 per acre to 463. In all three cases the reduction of congestion was fifty per cent or more. The exodus had been almost entirely composed of previous residents, for in 1925 the later arrivals from southeastern Europe constituted seventy-five per cent of the tracts holding 300 persons per. acre and almost 100 (96.7) per cent of the tracts holding 600 persons per acre.
New York’s native white stock of native parentage has been swamped by immigration until it is now hopelessly outnumbered. In the Greater City the native whites of more than one generation of American residence number only 28 per cent of the total population; on Manhattan, only 21 per cent.
Obviously New York is today a foreign city racially. The observer will see many evidences of this fact, not only in the foreign language signs on business places and the countenances of the population, but also in the city’s way of life. European news has more local interest in New York than news from the interior of America; one of the first lessons a newspaper man from the hinterland must learn is that happenings in Poland, Germany, or Italy mean more to New York readers than happenings in Chicago or California. European influences have slowed down the speed of street crowds, imposed an absolute veto on Prohibition in its day, and popularized outdoor dining.
To each of these great in-flowing movementsIrish, German, Italian, and JewishNew York City presented rich opportunities and grave dangers. The Germans accepted the one and met the other with their usual calm and orderliness; those who prospered did so without unsettling the established fabric, and those less fortunate accepted their lesser lots without rebel-lion. Not so the Irish, Italians, and Jews. The Irish early made a bid for political power through Tammany Hall, of which they gained control, and since the Civil War, except for various intermissions, have been influential and usually commanding in the city government. The Italians are now rising in politics, the Italianate Mayor LaGuardia being the herald of a new political dispensation; but in art and music their influence al-ready has been large. In all lines of trade, particularly in the manufacture and merchandising of garments, the Jews have shown their racial acumen. They have been active also in real estate operations, especially in owning, building, operating, and managing apartment-house properties. A continuing feud runs between Negro tenants and Jewish landlords in Harlem, where Jews preceded Negroes in residence, acquired properties, and continue to collect rents.
However, the energies of these peoples, released by the liberties characteristic of American life, have not been confined to entirely legitimate pursuits. While New York City has no monopoly of gangster activity, and rural native-stock gangsters in the Middle West and Southwest have stolen the limelight from their urban competitors of the immigrant breeds, the racial character of New York’s gangs is a matter of police record. At present law officers rate the gangster tendencies of the various New York population blocs as followsJewish, Italian, Irish, with the Germans only occasionally contributing, and the Negroes not at all as yet. For years the Irish led in disorderly combinations; then the Italian gangs became the most dangerous; so the later rise of Jewish gangsters indicates that gang crimes bear a distinct relation to immigration history. The gangs emerge from their racial blocs to challenge authority when the native-born children of immigrants reach adolescence. Foreign-born parents, subject to definite social controls in Europe, live peacefully themselves but are unable to bring their children up in the old ways under new conditions, and equally unable to prepare their children to accept quiet lives under the temptations offered by the American scene.
Every little while the existence of gang crime leads to outcries that the schools, the churches, and the city at large are not doing their duty by the younger generation. As a matter of fact all three institutions have done excellent work for the city’s children; within the limits of the existing social order, with its financial emphasis on profits and the adulation visited upon ruthlessness within the law, they could hardly have done more. The essence of the cure for these disorders is time, which will presumably lessen the temptations to crime by providing other incentives than the ones which now drive New York’s mixed population so furiously.
Even if this change of emphasis does not occur, social stratification will smooth down and repress many of the irregularities of the present, which are from one aspect part of the exuberance of youth. It is still true that one who makes a fortune in America, by whatever means, rises somewhat in the social scale; the mass feeling toward a noted gangster is one of hearty interest rather than hate or fear. The fellow is coming up in the world, at the expense of outsiders but not of his own kind. Only the increase of American solidarity can erase this exaggerated consciousness of kind which protects racially recruited gangs at the expense of the body politic.
It is often said that the racial groups in New York are so cohesive that they withstand all efforts to break them down. Harlem gets blacker, they say, year by year; and it is true that Italians in later life often have less English at their command than they had earlier. Circumstances forced them to learn English in order to trade; and after their trading days are over they sink back into the cushion of an Italian quarter to become as Italianate in their American old age as they were in their Italian youth. One must admit that the pull of these great “colonies” is immensely strong, particularly as it involves a religious phase in which a foreign language is used for ceremonial purposes. Nevertheless, the centrifugal forces are everlastingly at work; the young and the successful do break away from the home sector; intermarriage, business associations, and the desire to rise socially have their effects. While the racial map of New York City will always be spotty, the long-run tendency must be toward greater homogeneity. Biologists committed to “pure race” theories will point with alarm toward this mongrelization; but something of the sort has been going on in America from its beginnings, and its continuance is not only inevitable but probably also essential to the continuance of the United States as one nation. Every nation, ours included, is a race in the making.
There are indications that the population of New York City is approaching stability, both as to quantity and as to kind. No longer do immigrants arrive by the millions each year; the birthrate is declining and certain decentralizing forces seem to be at work, among them the automobile and electric power. One of the chief industrial functions of New York City (and the great city adds more value through manufactures than any other in the country) has been to serve as a place of trial for new business ideas. Here capital can be secured quickly and cheaply; space is always available, and every special skill known to labor can be mustered on short notice. These new and small industries, when success seems assured and large space is required, move out into the suburbs or farther afield in search of cheap rents and lower expenses. Some of their workers go with them, although it is always a trial to get a New Yorker west of the Ramapos as a permanent resident.
It seems logical that the influences which have been whittling down Manhattan’s population for twenty years will continue to do so in spite of all landlord efforts to hold the people on the island, and also that eventually those same influences will operate in restraint of density on the other boroughs, which to date have gained what Manhattan has lost and more. Only recently, because of the decreased rentals of high-grade apartments, there has been a rise in Manhattan’s population, but this is no more likely to last than is its cause, the depression of 1930-33.
From high to low, Americans seem definitely to prefer suburban and rural living wherever that sort of living can be attained without too great economic sacrifice. If this conclusion is correct, then it follows that the big drive is over in Manhattan real estate values.
There will be changes corresponding roughly to variations in the value of money and in the public mood, as it swings from optimism to pessimism. Local influences will be at work, running all the way from changes in the tax rate to the sites chosen for public improvements. But the great ground swell of population pressure, which is the dynamic under land values, seems to be lessening. While this may be bad news for landlords, those primarily interested in social values view the prospect with rejoicing. Once the growing pains are over, urbanitythe pleasant side of urban civilizationmay be expected to develop in a society with more leisure and greater unity.
The immigration stream, dammed by the World War and the quota system, was entirely reversed by the 193033 depression, arrivals being fewer than departures in 1931, 1932, and 1933. Here is the trend of the human flow during the last twenty years, during which immigration into the United States declined from an average of a million entries a year to a net loss after departures had been taken into account.
The immigration stream continued at an accelerated pace from just under 450,000 in 1900, to over one million in 1905. From then until the outbreak of the World War, Europe’s hordes flowed in unchecked in numbers, ranging yearly from 750,000 up to 1,218,-480 in 1914. A drop to 326,700 in 1915 was due to the war. After the end of hostilities, the number of arrivals fluctuated greatly year by year because of the unsettled condition of Europe and immigrants were again turning to the New World in large numbers, 800,000 in 1921 and 700,000 in 1924. Restrictions and the quota system then checked them so effectively that in 1931 emigration exceeded immigration by 10,-327. This deficit was increased to 112,000 in 1932 and continued on into 1933 when departures exceeded arrivals by 93,074.
This end of the tremendous influx of foreigners at a rate greatly in excess of the country’s ability to assimilate them socially, came none too soon for the country’s welfare, but taken in conjunction with the general depression it has undoubtedly had an immediate ad-verse effect on New York real estate. In pushing the quota system of immigration control upon Congress, labor union interests failed to look beyond the obvious, with unfortunate results to the highly unionized building trades, as well as to real estate values. Housing for a million immigrants a year, or an equivalent number of persons displaced by the immigrants, was one backlog of steady lot sales and house construction. When immigration began to dwindle, the lag was somewhat hidden by an easy money boom in office building and apartment house construction; but as that fell away the wolf began to howl outside the door of nearly everyone with a stake in real estate. Obviously, Manhattan land values would gain by a revival in immigration and will be retarded somewhat as long as the present policy continues.