This was the moniker given at the turn of the century to the gritty block bounded by Cherry, Catherine, Hamilton (Monroe), and Market Streets near the South Street Seaport.
The name comes from the high number of residents who suffered from contagious respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis.
“I know of no tenement house block in this city which is so bad from a sanitary point of view,” wrote Tenement House Commission head Robert De Forest in 1903.
Early 1900s journalist Ernest Poole recalled (by way of Philip Lopate’s excellent book Waterfront) that the Lung Block was home to 4,000 people, eight bars, and five “houses of ill fame.”
“And with drunkenness, foul air, darkness and filth to feed upon, the living germs of the Great White Plague, coughed up and spat on floors and walls, had done a thriving business for years,” recalled Poole.
The Lung Block finally bit the dust in the early 1930s, when public funds enabled developers to build Knickerbocker Village, which still stands at the site today (at right in 1934, from the NYPL Digital Collection).
There was at least one more Lung Block in the city: from Lenox to Seventh Avenues between 142nd and 143rd Streets in Harlem.
[Above photo: part of the Lung Block in the 1930s]