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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/451

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APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

FEBRUARY, 1899.



VEGETATION A REMEDY FOR THE SUMMER HEAT OF CITIES.

A PLEA FOR THE CULTIVATION OF TREES, SHRUBS, PLANTS, VINES, AND GRASSES IN THE STREETS OF NEW YORK FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH, FOR THE COMFORT OF SUMMER RESIDENTS, AND FOR ORNAMENTATION.[1]

By STEPHEN SMITH, M. D., LL. D.

ONE of the most prolific sources of a high sickness and death rate in the city of New York is developed during the summer quarter. It has been estimated that from three to five thousand persons die and sixty to one hundred thousand cases of sickness occur annually in this city, from causes which are engendered during the months of June, July, August, and September. An examination of the records of the Health Department for any year reveals the important fact that certain diseases are not only more frequent during the summer quarter than at any other time, but that they are far


  1. In 1872, while a Commissioner of Health, I had occasion to examine and report on the causes of the high death rate during the summer months in the city of New York. The chief cause was determined to be the excessive heat which characterizes those months. It was recommended in the report to the Board of Health that legislation be secured empowering and requiring the Department of Parks to plant and cultivate trees, shrubs, plants, and vines in all the streets, avenues, and public places in the city. A bill was drafted and introduced into the Legislature, but it did not become a law, and no further effort has been made to secure such legislation. Meantime, two tree-planting societies have been established, one in the Borough of Brooklyn and the other in the Borough of Manhattan, which are endeavoring to awaken public interest to the importance of planting a suitable number and variety of trees in the streets for purposes of ornamentation. The aim of this paper, which is largely based on the report of 1872, is to revive the project of giving the Department of Parks jurisdiction over the trees in the streets, and require it to plant and cultivate additional trees, shrubs, plants, and other forms of vegetation for the improvement of the public health and for the purpose of ornamentation.