Dumbbell tenement

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Dumbbell tenement

A five- to seven-story multiple dwelling unit in urban areas, characterized by a long, narrow plan with an indentation on each side, forming a shaft for light and air; hence its resemblance in plan to a dumbbell.

dumbbell tenement

A multiple-dwelling substandard apartment building; commonly three to five stories high, containing relatively long narrow apartments within it; has windows only at the front and rear of each apartment. Shafts located on one or both sides of the apartment provide air and a little light in the rooms that do not face the front or rear of the building. The floor plan of each floor resembles the outline of a dumbbell. Also called a railroad flat.
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Tenements built before 1901 are sometimes referred to as "Old Law Tenements."
J-51 was created in the 1950s when NYC had a substantial inventory of Old Law tenements which did not have central heating, central hot water, or, in some cases, indoor plumbing.
Despite the limited success of the Progressives to upgrade the city, during and after World War II thousands of Old Law tenements were declared slums primarily because they lacked toilets, central heating, and elevators, or because their rooms and windows did not meet modern standards.