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Shocking' 54-Square-Foot Tenement Apartments Housing Chinatown Immigrants in NYC


"These rooms are like a cage for animals."

It might seem hard to believe, but in New York City, there are some living in a 54-square-foot room. They're not part of the tiny house movement either but find this the best option for themselves for decades as they try to earn a living in the United States.

No individual bathroom. No individual ceilings above rooms. Lights on 24/7. Sound like prison? It's not -- just a tenement house in New York City's Chinatown.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

CNN's Poppy Harlow took viewers through such an establishment where many immigrants are living more than one to a six-foot by nine-foot room sometimes. This is, Harlow pointed out, the size of many people's walk-in closets.

"These rooms are like a cage for animals," CNN's translator reported one man who had lived there for 20 years saying."But he keeps staying here because it's very hard when you don't have any legal status to get a residency anywhere else."

The bathroom, which is community dorm room style, is not only for using the facilities or washing oneself but for washing food, dishes, laundry and more.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

Rent for such a lifestyle is between $150 to $200 per month.

The conditions in the tenement housing pose a fire hazard, CNN reported Executive Director for Chinatown Partnership Wellington Chen saying.

"For the average American sitting at home in Iowa, do they know that this exists?" Harlow asked.

"I would say a lot of New Yorkers don't even know," Chen said.

On Facebook, Harlow described the tenements as "hidden" and "shocking."

In addition to the cramped conditions, less than ideal bathroom situations and potential for fire, there are other problems associated with the tenement home, including the landlord saying some residents are illegally renting out bunk space in their rooms only meant for one person.

Watch the full report to get a glimpse of this lifestyle:



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