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Jacob Riis Triangle

Bessemer St., 116 St., 85 Ave.


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This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This tiny parkland is named in honor of Jacob August Riis (1849-1914), a crusading journalist, author, and photographer who lived in this neighborhood for several decades around the turn of the 20th century. Born in Denmark, Riis immigrated to New York in 1870 and worked odd jobs, sometimes sleeping in doorways when money was scarce. In 1877, the New York Tribune hired Riis as a police reporter, and he soon began documenting poverty even more dire than he had experienced, particularly in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Five Points neighborhoods. Around 1887, Riis developed an interest in photography and took his camera on trips inside overcrowded tenements and seedy drinking holes. How the Other Half Lives, Riis’ book of essays and photographs detailing the lives of various immigrant groups in the Lower East Side, was released in 1890 and became a national sensation. Reformers, most notably then City Police Commissioner and soon to be the 26th President of the Unite…

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