Poverty has been a documented issue in New York since the early part of the 19th century. Exact numbers of those living in poverty at that time, however, are unknown, because a formal federal poverty threshold wasn't established until 1963.
Records of poverty prior to 1963 can only be used as a comparative measure of how people lived in relation to the typical standard of living for the given time, as there were no parameters that actually defined "poor." Slum life as well as homelessness was rampant during the latter half of the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution drew immigrants attempting to escape war and famine in other nations. Before the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, there was no formal process for receiving immigrants into the country. Many went on to live, undocumented, in the New York's slums or on the streets.