Tenement on Roosevelt St in NYC

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Tenement House on Roosevelt St. in NYC
Tenement House on Roosevelt St. in NYC

 From the Pages of “How the Other Half Lives” 

In 1922, my mother was born in the Lower East Side of NYC.  She was 1 of 7 children of immigrants from southern Italy who came to the USA around 1915. Her first home was a tenement on Roosevelt Street near the Tenement Museum. When I visited the museum, I purchased the book by photojournalist Jacob Riis, “How the Other Half Lives” (published in 1971, an unabridged replica of the 1901 edition). This led to a conversation with my Mom when I learned where she lived. The accompanying photo of Roosevelt Street tenement houses appears in the book. 
My Mom lived across the street from St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic church. where she was baptized. The parish was established in 1888. It was the first “national" parish in the United States founded for Italians, who previously had to worship in the basements of Catholic churches controlled by Irish-American congregants.  I believe these wooden tenements were torn down in the late 1920s. And today the church is gone along with the entire length of Roosevelt Street. The area was razed after WW II to create the Alfred E. Smith Houses and the Chatham Green apartments. 
My family is an example of the American Dream realized. I credit quality public education. My grandparents had minimal education and were mostly illiterate. They struggled financially as low-wage laborers. Their children completed high school and worked their way into the middle class. Most of them became suburban homeowners. I was the first in the family to earn a college degree and become a “professional.” 

Place(s): New York, Italy
Year: 1915

– Joe Ritacco

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant