New York City harbors were used for trade and business. To get to the west was a long voyage. The creation of the Erie Canal made it easier, faster, and cheaper to travel and transport goods. The Eire canal also created jobs which were hard to find. The overcrowding of the city made it very competitive to obtain a job. Ethnic groups established societies that were on hand to help immigrants find homes and jobs.
Older buildings were converted into several apartments. The old brewery in five points could be considered the first tenement house. Building were four of five stories high with narrow hallways. The conditions were horrible. They were dark dirty and smelly. The population per acre rose to 165.5 persons in 1850. The rent varied between $3.00 and $13.00 even with an apartment with windows. The immigrants rarely complained about rent. The landlord threatened the immigrants of eviction because there was always someone else waiting for rooms. The water came from a street pump or well in the back of the building where the toilet was located. Water was carried to the kitchen sinks from the outside. They didn’t have bathtubs or showers. They went to bath houses or in the river. It was difficult to keep clean under these horrible conditions. Many died from disease and infections.