Tag Archives: new york city

NY Rising Presents: Life on the Lower East Side

Life on the Lower East Side, 1850-1910

University Settlement’s New York Rising students spent last year learning how to be prepared for emergencies such as hurricanes, power outages, transportation disruptions and severe snowstorms.  Now, they are looking back in time and will explore three major disasters that impacted the lives of immigrants living on the Lower East Side of New York City…our very own University Settlement neighborhood.  They will learn about the great heat wave of 1896, the sinking of the USS Slocum in the East River, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

While each of these historic event resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, they also resulted in changes to laws that still impact our lives today at home and in the workplace.   However, before we looked at each event, the students began to learn in greater detail what life was like for a newly arrived immigrant…perhaps someone like you…who arrived not knowing how to speak English, not knowing where their family was going to live, and not knowing how they were going to earn a living.  Fortunately for us, reformer Jacob Riis was on the scene with his camera, documenting the conditions of those living on the Lower East Side.  So today we can see exactly how difficult and challenging their lives were.

University Settlement played a major part in helping new immigrants back in the 1880s and 1900s, just as it does today. You can learn more by clicking here.

The students each chose one of the photos published by Jacob Riis and were asked to write a short essay from the view point of someone in the photo.  We hope you enjoy their essays. Read one below and click here or on the link below to read more:

LIFE IS SO HARD

by Ada Huang

From the 1850’s through the early 1900’s, thousands of immigrants arrived in the United States and lived in New York City. I was the one of them.

My name is Nolan and I am 40 years old. I came from Ireland. I am very poor. I live in an old building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where rents for the crowded apartment buildings are low. There are 20 families living in my building, 4 on each floor. I live in a tiny room with 7 unmarried men. The room is dark, dirty and without windows. I only have one desk, one chair and one plank to sleep on. I have to put the plank on the desk and the chair back to make my bed at night and then put the plank away next to the wall during the day. Otherwise, there is no space.

The building is dark and airless because the buildings are packed close together. Some buildings are built in the yard between the front and the back of other buildings. We all sleep on the roof on hot summer nights even though it is dangerous. There is no electric lighting in the building. We only use gas lanterns to light the apartment at night and there is also no running water inside the apartment. We have to get water from an outside pump and everyday we have to share the one indoor toilet in the hallway. You can’t imagine how long we have to wait for the toilet every day, especially in the morning. We have to go to a public bath once a week to take a shower.

I worked for a very small coal company delivering coal. I worked 10 hours a day and 7 days a week. I needed to carry heavy containers of coal to the customers every day. Sadly, I lost my job a few days ago. Now, I only have a few pennies and a loaf of bread left. If I don’t find a new job soon, my landlord will kick me out.  What a hard life!

Click here to read more.

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More Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

This time Class 3A wrote about current or past jobs. Read one below and then take the quiz to test your understanding:

Esther Li

My First Job

I left high school in 1986 and I got my first job. The company’s name was Seagull Flashlight Company. It was the second biggest flashlight brand in China. It shipped to Asian countries. Although at that time China was not modern and people were not rich, we still had street lights at night. But in other Asian countries, they didn’t have street lamps, so they needed to use flashlights. So in fact other Asian countries were poorer than China. They had to use many, many flashlights. My company was very busy.

My company had seven departments: ingredients, metal pressing, sanding, polishing, assembly, packaging, and headquarters. I was a general worker first. I worked in the assembly department for two years. My duties were checking product quality and assembling flashlights. It was piece work.

After two years I became an office worker. I was an accountant. My job duty was counting how many products each worker made every day. Workers’ pay depended on how many pieces they made. So if you were hard working, you would get more money. At that time, people didn’t have computers, and the calculator was not popular. They almost always used an abacus to count, so when you came to our office, you would heard tap, tap, tap.

I also had to handle phone calls and handle money. I was multitasking. Every day I was tired, but I was happy. I had a good group of co-workers. Sometimes on weekends we went to have a picnic or sing karaoke. The job was hard and tiring, but we were young so the next day we had energy again.

Time flies. I worked at Seagull Flashlight Company for twelve years. In twelve years I made many friends and learned job skills. I did this job until I opened my own business.

Click here to read more.

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Your Story, Our Story

Your Story, Our Story features objects that tell personal stories of American immigration and migration.

This national project uncovers the patterns that bind us, no matter where we came from or how long we’ve been here. Explore stories from across the country, upload the story of an object that carries meaning in your family, and join us in telling the story of American immigration and migration.

In collaboration with the Tenement Museum, Class E4 (taught by Allyn Wong) share their stories online.

Click here or on the image above to read!

 

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Our Family Table

Here’s a video called “Our Family Table,” highlighting how University Settlement helps people in NYC – please share!:

 

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Our Lives in New York, Too

Class 2P also wrote about their lives in the Big Apple. Read one below and then take the quiz afterwards to test your understanding:

Yan Zhen Deng

My Life

My name is Yan Zhen Deng. I’m from China. I speak Chinese.

I have a son. He is four years old. He is so cute. He is average height but he is thin. He has short black hair. He is sporty and restive but he is warm. I really love him. Every day we take a bus to school. He is so happy because he likes all the cars. Also in my house we have a lot of toy cars. When he finishes school, the first thing he does is play with his cars. One day I asked him, “Why do you like to play with cars?” He told me, “When I grow up, I want to be a driver. That is a great job.” I like this job and my son does too. It is very interesting.

Now about my life. I am a student right now. Every day I wake up at 7:00 am. And then I brush my teeth, wash my face, make up my face, and get dressed. After that I try to wake my son up. But my son is a lazy boy. He likes to sleep. So when I tell him to wake up and get ready for school, he always tells me, “I don’t want to go to school. I am so sleepy. Give me more time.” At 7:40 am we go to take a bus. Sometimes we are late and miss the bus. We will wait for ten or fifteen minutes. It is so crazy. At 8:20 am I drop off my son at school and I take the train home and eat breakfast.

After breakfast I take the N train to my school. My classmates are easy-going and friendly. Sometimes they are stubborn but funny. And my teacher is funny and kind. I am so happy studying English with my classmates and my teacher.

Oh, I forgot! Now I live in New York. It is a beautiful city. It is crowded but flourishing. I can’t say any more because I want to cook dinner for my son. That is my life. If you want to know more about my life, let me know. Bye.

To read more, click here.

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Our Lives in NYC

Class 3A recently wrote about their lives in New York City. Read one below and then take the quiz afterwards to test your comprehension:

Ruzan Ghazaryan

My Lazy Life

Hello, my name is Ruzan. I am 30 years old. I am from Armenia. Armenia is a very small country, with 2 million people, but it is a very beautiful country with mountains and rocks. I moved from Armenia to New York one year ago with my husband. Now we are living in uptown Manhattan, near Riverside Park.

In my free time I read books, watch movies and TV shows, play tennis, ride bicycle, walk, and explore New York. Also every day I go to my English class at the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program on Eldridge Street. On the way to my class I read a book. It’s a very good way to improve my English and spend my time, but sometimes when I am very tired I just sit and watch people on the train. Some of them don’t like it. That’s why I love and hate the New York subway. You lose a lot of time on it but you can find interesting ways to pass the time.

In New York I work at a cat shelter. It is a volunteer job, but I love it. In general I love all kinds of animals. That’s why I applied to the veterinarian assistant program at CUNY College. I hope I will be accepted and can help more animals. I have a dream to build a shelter in Armenia, because my country doesn’t want to spend money on homeless animals, and there are two NGOs that help animals with people’s donations. When I was in Armenia I worked in those shelters too.

I am very lucky because in every crazy thing I do my husband supports me. We go hiking and camping when we have free time, or sometimes we work in the shelter with each other. Both of us are Nature lovers. I think life doesn’t have any meaning, but I found something: it is love—love to people, animals, nature, even to insects (for example, spiders).

To read more stories, click here.

 

 

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This Feels Like Home

Poster Image

Marc Nuñez’s Gotham Dance Theater

This Feels Like Home

Artist-in-Residence

Saturday, October 14 at 8:00pm | Speyer Hall | 184 Eldridge St

Sunday, October 15 at 7:00pm | Speyer Hall | 184 Eldridge St

Ticket Information

$15 General

$10 Students and Seniors

Purchase Tickets

This Feels Like Home is a performance in collaboration with recent immigrants who are part of University Settlement’s Adult Literacy program, their English Language teacher, Julie Condon, and Marc Nuñez’s Gotham Dance Theater. Together, they have created an embodied vocabulary, capturing the full dimensions of leaping into an American life. Experience how they create moments of joy and celebration amid a balancing act of expectations, obligations and contradictions.

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