1902 Encyclopedia > New York City > Municipal Charities

New York City
(Part 7)

Municipal Charities

The municipal charities are in the hands of a department of the city government called the Commissioners of Charities and Correction, consisting of three commissioners appointed by the mayor, who have charge of all prisons for persons awaiting trial, of all city hospitals, almshouses, workhouses, and lunatic asylums, and of the penitentiary city prisons. Most of these institutions are situated on small islands in the East River, known as Blackwell’s, Ward’s, Randall’s, and hart’s Islands, the last-named containing a municipal industrial school.

Two charities are, however, exempt from the control of the department. one, the House of refuge on Randall’s Island, which is the property of a private corporation that receives vagrant and disorderly children, and gets its income partly from the labor of the inmates, partly from the proceeds of theatrical licenses granted by the city, and partly from State grants. The other is the Juvenile Asylum, which also is managed by a private association, and partly supported by State grants. The influence of political partisanship on the appointment of the officers under the control of the department of charities and correction has been found to result in such serious defects of management, as regards the hospitals and charities especially, that a voluntary association, composed mainly of ladies, and known as the State Charities Aid Association, was formed in New York some years ago, and has obtained from the legislature powers of compulsory inspection. Its volunteer visitors are thus enabled to visit and examine all the institutions belonging to the city, as well as those of the State at large, and report on their condition both to the public and to the superiors of the officers criticized. The emigrants, of whom by far the greater portion pass through New York, are also placed in charge of Commissioners of Emigration, appointed by the mayor, whose duty is to afford all information and assistance which helpless strangers are likely to require on their first arrival in a foreign country. Their duties include also the discovery on shipboard, and detention for return to the country of their origin, of all paupers, cripples, and insane persons or others who are likely to become a charge to the city. These functions are discharged in a huge wooden structure known as Castle Garden, on the southernmost point of Manhattan Island, at the lower end of Broadway. Their magnitude varies from year to year. In 1883 about 405,000 emigrants of all ages and both sexes passed through the hands of the commissioners.

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