About the exhibition

In 1933, a lively Italian immigrant enclave on the Lower East Side was wiped from the map. Though this area was in many ways indistinguishable from the rest of the Lower East Side – a bustling, immigrant stronghold characterized by densely populated tenement buildings – since 1899, this particular block existed under the shadow of a sinister narrative: that death was embedded in the very walls of those buildings, and that this Lung Block – the generic term for a place where tuberculosis proliferated – represented a threat not just to the residents, but to the city at large.

The Lung Block: A New York City Slum & Its Forgotten Italian Immigrant Community exhibition is located in the vitrines on the ground floor of the Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Ave, NYC, and open to the public from April 25th to October 31st 2019. As part of a larger show on display at Department of Records building at 31 Chambers Street, beginning April 25, 2019, this exhibition draws upon Stefano Morello and Kerri Culhane’s recent scholarship to look at the progressive narrative of the Lung Block as the slum-epicenter of disease, contrasting it with the lived experience of the majority Italian immigrant tenement dwellers living in the area, thus redressing a glaring omission in the historical record.

The discourse surrounding the Lung Block illustrates a typical pattern of slum-making and gentrification, and in many ways typified the plight and perceived perils of the Lower East Side immigrant in the popular imagination. At this time – when anti-immigrant sentiment has been brought to the fore on the political stage; the very real connection between health and housing continues to be explored; and affordable housing and gentrification remain among the most contentious topics in local debate – the Lung Block story has many parallels in the present.

Don't miss the related public panel discussion around this exhibition and research on Wednesday, April 10th, in the James Gallery at 6:30 pm for "The Making of a Slum: A Discussion on Immigration, Housing & Health Policy in New York City, Past & Present".

Co-sponsored by New York City’s Department of Records, The Calandra Institute, and Queens College Makerspace.

Wheelchair Accessibility