[Table of Contents]

2. New York City Tenant Organizations and
the Post-World War Housing Crisis

Joseph A. Spencer

Notes

1. Works Progress Administration Historical Records Survey, Box 3647, New York City Municipal Archives, (hereafter cited as WPA Survey); Katherine J. Meyer, "A Study of Tenant Associations in New York City with Particular Reference to the Bronx," Master's thesis, Columbia University, Department of Sociology, 1928, p. 8.

2. Report of the State Board of Housing Relative to the Housing Emergency Arising out of the Recent World War, New York State Legislative Document (1928) No. 85, p. 21.

3. Tenement House Department figures cited in Clarence Stein, "The Housing Crisis in New York," Survey 44 (Sept. 1920): 659-661.

4. Frank Mann to Mayor John Hylan, Mar. 5 and Oct. 11, 1918, Hylan Papers, Box 276, New York City Municipal Archives (hereafter cited as Hylan Papers); New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919, sees. 2 and 4.

5. The widespread nature of this speculation is detailed in Report of the Mayor's Committee on Taxation and Investigation of Mortgage Loans and the Mayor's Committee on Rent Profiteering (New York, 1919), pp. 39-40 (hereafter cited as Report of the Mayor's Committee); New York Times, Dec. 3, 1919; New York Call, Apr. 18, 1919.

6. Report of the Mayor's Committee, pp. 3941; New York Times, Feb. 24, 1918, sec. 7.

7. Ada H. Muller, "A Study of a Bronx Community," Master's thesis, Columbia University, Department of Political Science, 1915, pp. 15-26. Muller noted that the vast majority of families had an income of less than fifteen dollars per week and that in 1915 (even before the onset of the housing crisis) Hebrew Charities had a heavy caseload in the area.

8. New York Call, Dec. 31, 1916, Jan. 1, 2, 4, 1917; New York Times, Jan. 1, 1917; Daily North Side News (Bronx), Jan. 2, 4, 1917.

9. New York Call, Jan. 6, 1917; Daily North Side News, Jan. 6, 1917.

10. Daily North Side News, Jan. 3, 10, 1917.

11. Ibid., Jan. 19, 1917; New York Call, Jan. 18, 1917.

12. New York Tribune, Feb. 6, 1918; New York Times, Feb. 10, 1918, sec. 4; Daily North Side News, Jan. 29, 1918.

13. Home News (East Harlem and Yorkville ea.) Jan. 6, 1918. (Unless otherwise specified, Home News citations are for the Bronx edition. ) At this time the city's health code had no provision requiring a landlord to provide heat.

14. Daily North Side News, Feb. 24, 1918; New York Times, Feb. 10, 1918, sect. 4; New York Tribune, Jan. 30, 1918. The Bronx alone had twenty-five hundred eviction cases between Dec. 1917 and the end of Feb. 1918; Daily Forward, Jan. 12, 20, 1918

15. New York Call, Feb. 8, 10, 16, 1918; Home News (West Harlem and Washington Heights ed.), Jan. 13, 1918; Daily North Side News, Feb. 24, 1918; Home News (East Harlem and Yorkville ed.), Feb. 10, 1918.

16. New York Call, Feb. 8, 10, 16, 1918; New York Tribune, Jan. 30, 1918; Daily Forward, Jan. 12. 20, 26, Feb. 9, 1918.

17. New York Times, Feb. 5, 1918; Home News (Harlem ed.) Feb. 10, 1918.

18. Home News (Harlem ed.), Feb. 27, Mar. 3, 10, 1918; New York Tribune, Mar. 12, 1918.

19. New York Call, Feb. 16, Mar. 13, 31, Apr. 9, 1918.

20. Ibid., Apr. 30, May 19, 21, 28, June 2, 1918; Brooklyn Standard Union, May 3, 1918; Daily Forward, Jan. 28, 31, Feb. 1, 3, 4, 23, 1918.

21. New York Tribune, May 16, 1918.

22. Daily North Side News, Jan. 28, 1918.

23. Ibid., Feb. 24, Apr. 14, 1918; New York Times, Feb. 10, 1918, sec. 4; Apr. 7, 1918, sec. 3; Daily Forward, Jan. 29, Feb. 23, 1918.

24. New York Call, Aug. 13, 16, 20, 26, 29, Sept. 1, 4, 9, 17, Oct. 5, Dec. 31, 1918; Home News, Aug. 8, 20, 25, Sept. 10, 19, 1918; Daily Forward, Sept. 2, 1918.

25. New York Call, Dec. 31, 1918; New York Tribune, Nov. 1, 1919.

26. New York Call, June 8, 21, July 4, 5, Aug. 24, Sept. 9, 1918; on one day, for example, Judge Robitzek of the Bronx Municipal Court heard twelve hundred dispossess motions. Daily North Side News, July 5, 1918; Daily Forward, Aug. 22, 24, Sept. 11, 14, 1918; Home News, Aug. 23, 1918.

27. New York Call, Oct. 22, 25, 29, 1918; New York Times, Nov. 7, 8, 1918; Daily Forward, Sept. 26, Nov. 7, 1918; James Weinstein, The Decline of the Socialist Party in America: 1912-1925 (New York, 1967), p. 154. Both the Socialist party and the tenant movement suffered a tragic loss even before the election with the premature death of Joseph Klein.

28. New York Call, Dec. 14, 1918.

29. Report of the State Board of Housing, ID. (1928) No. 85, p. 21.

30. Letter to the New York State Reconstruction Commission quoted in New York Times, Apr. 17, 1919.

31. New York Times. Feb. 23, 1919, IX.

32. A selection of these Letters is contained in Hylan Papers, Box 348. "Hylan Housing, 1918-1919."

33. Daily Forward, Apr. 9. I 1. 1919.

34. Home News, Feb. 19, 1919; New York Call, Jan. 11, 31, Apr. 10 1919; New York Times, Mar. 11, May 8, 1919; Daily Forward, Apr. 16, 1919; Joint Legislative Committee on Housing, Hearings, 1919-1920, 7 vols., unpublished.

35. Report of the Mayor's Committee, pp. 38-39; New York Times, Apr. 30, May 3, Sept. 2, Oct. 22, 1919; Home News, Nov. 2, 1919

36. Nathan Hirsch to Governor Alfred E. Smith, June 12, 1919, and Charles Lockwood et al. to Smith, Smith Papers, Box 260-46; New York Times, May 8, 1919.

37. Author's interview with Sophie Epstein, Oct. 29, 1975.

38. Report of the Mayor's Committee, pp. 41, 43, 51; press release of the Mayor's Committee, dated Nov. 9, 1919, Smith Papers, Box 260-46; Home News, Sept. 11, 24, 1919; New York Times, Sept. 24, 1919, Sept. 14, 1919, sec. 7.

39. Report of the Mayor's Committee, p. 48; Bronx Home News, Sept. 4, 21, Dec. 9, 1919; New York Call, Apr. 25, 1919.

40. Report of the Mayor's Committee, p. 42.

41. New York Call, May 4, 1919.

42. Ibid., Apr. 22, 25, May 6, 1919; New York Times, May 7, 1919; Daily Forward, Apr. 25-30, 1919.

43. New York Call, Apr. 26, May 3, 5, July 17, 20. 25, 1919; Daily Forward, Apr. 3, 1919.

44. Brooklyn Eagle, Sept. 5, 6, 7, 1919; New York Call, Sept. 5, 1919; New York Times, Sept. 5, 6, 1919.

45. New York Call, Sept. 10, 1919; New York Times, Oct. 18, 1919.

46. New York Tribune, Oct. 31, 1919; New York Sun, Oct. 21, 1919; New York Call, July 17, 1919.

47. Report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Housing, September 20, 1920, L.D. (Special Session, 1920) No. 11, p. 5; Home News, Sept. 20, Oct. 2, 12, 1919.

48. New York Tribune, Oct. 1, 1919.

49. Ibid., Oct. 12, 1919.

50. Home News, Nov. 30, 1919.

51. Ibid., Sept. 20, Oct. 2, Nov. 30, 1919.

52. New York Times, Sept. 4, 1919; New York Call, Sept. 11, 1919.

53. New York World, Oct. 7, 1919; Joint Hearing of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Cities, Mar. 23, 1920, mimeographed transcript in Smith Papers, Box 260-4611. (Hereafter cited as Hearing Transcript, Mar. 23, 1920.)

54. New York World, Oct. 4, 1919; New York Call, Nov. 22, 1919.

55. New York Tribune, Nov. 23, 1919.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid., Oct. 18, 31, 1919.

58. New York Tribune, Oct. 8, 31, 1919; Home News, Oct. 21, 1919.

59. Home News, Nov. 2, 1919; New York Call, Oct. 2, 1919; New York Times, Oct. 6, 1919.

60. Ward V. Tolbert to Governor Alfred E. Smith, Nov. 3, 1923, in Smith Papers, Box 200-51 -1.

61. New York Times, Nov. 6, 1919; Home News, Oct. 7, Nov. 6, 1919.

62. Thomas E. Vadney, "The Politics of Repression: A Case Study of the Red Scare in New York," New York History 49 (1968): 58-74.

63. Melvin I. Urofsky, "A Note on the Expulsion of the Five Socialists," New York History 47 (1966): 41-51.

64. Home News, Oct. 5, Nov. 9, 13, 16, 18, 20, 1919; Fleetwood Community Council to Smith, Feb. 25, 1920. Smith Papers, Box 260-46.

65. Brooklyn Eagle, Mar. 4, 5, 12. 1920; Home News, Feb. 1, 5, 8, Mar. 7, 9, 1920; Hearing Transcript. Mar. 23, 1920, pp. 75-77; Commission of Housing and Regional Planning Hearings, 1923, p. 318, (hereafter cited as Stein Commission, Hearings, 1923).

66. The following is a list of last names of all community council and conservative tenant association leaders listed in the press in 1920: Boyle, Sullivan, McGlynn, Crowley, Donnelly, Craig, Ely, Arthur, Goldfarb, McPherson, Ryan. Cooney, Anson, Murphy, Cahil, and Gray. In addition, two of the community councils met in parish houses of Catholic churches. Home News, Nov. 13, 16, 1919.

67. Home News, Feb. 5, Mar. 16, 25, 1920.

68. Ibid., Feb. 29, 1920; Evening World, Mar. 9, 1920. A Home News account of a Fair Play Rent Association meeting on Feb. 23, 1920, demonstrates the patriotic fervor of the organization. The meeting began with a "patriotic program": three men presented a dramatization of the Spirit of '76, a man dressed as George Washington gave a speech, and the daughter of FPRA founder Patrick McGlynn recited a poem entitled "The True American."

69. Home News, Feb. 1, 5, 8, 12, 29, 1920.

70. New York Times, Feb. 9, Mar. 7, 1920; New York Call, Mar. 8, 1920; Daily Forward, Mar. 3, 1920.

71. New York Times, Feb. 9, 1920.

72. Ibid., Mar. 7, 8, 1920; World, Mar. 7, 1920.

73. New York World, Mar. 19, 1920; New York Journal, Mar. 13, 1920; New York Times, Mar. 12, 7, 1920.

74. New York Call, Mar. 25, 1920.

75. Ibid., Mar. 5, 18, 22, 1920.

76. It was not until mid-April that other tenant leaders disavowed any connection with Gitlin and branded him a sham.

77. New York Times, Mar. 7, 1920; Brooklyn Eagle, Mar. 7, 1920.

78. New York Call, Mar. 19, 1920.

79. New York Tribune, Mar. 4, 1920.

80. New York Call, Mar. 4, 10, 24, 1920; Hearing Transcript, Mar. 23, 1920, pp. 18, 64, 65; New York Tribune, Mar. 4, 1920.

81. Hearing Transcript, Mar. 23, 1920, p. 120.

82. Stanley Coben, "A Study in Nativism: The American Red Scare of 1919-1920," Political Science Quarterly 79 (Mar. 1964): 52-75.

83. "American Jew" to Smith, Mar. 25, 1920, in Smith Papers, Box 260-46, pt. 1.

84. Brooklyn Eagle, Mar. 17, 1920; Hearing Transcript, Mar. 23, 1920, p. 66; Report of the Mayor's Committee, Appendix; Home News, Mar. 9, 1920.

85. Hearing Transcript, Mar. 23, 1920, pp. 77, 122.

86. New York Call, Mar. 30, Apr. 21, 1920; New York Tribune, Mar. 31, 1920; New York Times, Mar. 30, 1920.

87. Daily Forward, Mar. 16-19, 21, 28-31, 1920.

88. New York Times, Mar. 30, 1920.

89. Ibid., Mar. 31, 1920.

90. New York Tribune. Mar. 4, 1920; Home News, Mar. 2, 1920; Brooklyn Eagle, Mar. 9, 17, 1920; New York Call, Mar. 10, 1920.

91. For the full text of the laws see Edgar Lauer and Victor House, The Tenant and His Landlord (New York, 1921), Appendix A. Besides the major provisions mentioned in the text, the April Rent Laws gave tenants several other advantages. Chapter 135 allowed tenants to make an oral answer before the clerk, thus eliminating the expense of hiring an attorney; chapter 132 allowed the court to give affirmative relief without the defendants having to file a separate action; chapter 131 made it a misdemeanor for a landlord to harass tenants by curtailing services.

92. New York Call, Apr. 21, 1920.

93. Ibid., Apr. 1, 18, 24, 1920.

94. Ibid., May 2, 1920.

95. Joint Legislative Committee on Housing Hearings, July 29, 1920, p. 2947.

96. Ibid., pp. 2936, 2937, 2966.

97. Joint Legislative Committee on Housing Hearings. July 19, 1920, pp. 2853 - 2854; Report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Housing, L.D. (Special Session, 1920) No. 11, p.5.

98. New York Call, June 9, 22, 23, July 1, 8, 10, 31, 1920.

99. Joint Legislative Committee on Housing Hearings, July 22, 1920, p. 2912; New York Call, July 31, Aug. 4, 1920; Stein, "Housing Crisis in New York," p. 659.

100. Examination of the Call for the summer of 1920 demonstrates the extent to which the reelection effort dominated party activities. The campaign was successful, as all five were reelected at a special election prior to the special session.

101. New York Call, Aug. 3, 11, 1920; Home News, Aug. 1, 12, 1920.

102. Joint Legislative Committee on Housing Hearings, July 1920, passim.

103. Stein, "Housing Crisis in New York," p. 659.

104. Report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Housing, L.D. (Special Session, 1920) No. 11, p. 5. Emphasis in original.

105. Text of the laws can be found in Lauer and House, Tenant and Landlord, Appendixes A, B.

106. New York Times, Dec. 3, 1920, Oct. 3, 1920.

107. Ibid., Jan. 21, 1921.

108. Ibid., Nov. 3, 1921.

109. For a detailed account of the Socialist party schism, see David Shannon, The Socialist Party of America (New York, 1955), chap. 6.

110. New York Times, Jan. 24, Feb. 4, 11, 1925.

111. New York State Commission on Housing and Regional Planning Hearings, 1925, p. 61. (Mimeograph, hereafter cited as Stein Commission Hearings, 1925.)

112. Stein Commission Hearings, 1923 and 1925, passim; Mayer, "Study of Tenant Associations," passim; Smith Papers, 200:51; New York Times, Feb. 8, 1921.

113. Stein Commission Hearings, 1923, pp. 81, 172-179; Stein Commission Hearings, 1925, p. 52.

114. For example, if a tenant paid a rent increase for three months, he forfeited his right to charge subsequently that it was unreasonable.

115. Stein Commission Hearings, 1925, pp. 70-140 passim.

116. Stein Commission Hearings, 1923, p. 285.

117. Mayer, "Study of Tenant Associations," pp. 21 - 23.

118. Ibid., pp. 24-26.

119. Stein Commission Hearings, 1923, p. 101.

120. Stewart Browne to Alfred E. Smith, Jan. 2, 1924, Smith Papers, Box 200: 51-1.

121. Samuel Untermeyer to Alfred E. Smith, Mar. 5, 1923, Smith Papers, Box 200:102.

122. Stein Commission Hearings, 1923, pp. 7-333 passim; quote from p. 237.

123. New York State Legislative Document (1924) No. 43, pp. 11-14, 22, 27.

124. New York Times, Dec. 8, 1925, Jan. 5, 1926.

125. Stein Commission Hearings, 1925, pp. 4 - 144 passim.

126. Ibid., pp. 12, 58.

127. For details of such tenant meetings, see the Home News, Oct. 24, 1925-Feb. 15, 1926.

128. Home News, Sept. 25, 1925; New York Times. Oct. 17. 1925.

129. Home News, Sept. 25, 1925; New York Times, Oct. 13, 16, 19, 1925.

130. Home News. Oct. 14. 22, 1925; New York Times, Oct. 21, 22, 23, 1925.

131. New York Times, Jan. 16. Feb. 6, 1926.

132. WPA Survey, Box 3603. "Housing Guidebook for NYC" pp. 35-36.

133. Data from Real Estate Board of New York, Apartment Building Construction in Manhattan, 1902-58 (New York, n.d.), pp. 9, 18, 119.

134. Tenth Report of the Tenement House Department (for the Years 1918 - 1929) (New York, 1930), pp. 162-163.

135. WPA Survey, Box 3634, "Housing in New York, first Draft," passim.

136. Tenth Report of the Tenement House Department, pp. 162-163

137. Home News, Feb. 5, 1927.

138. New York Times, Feb. 9, 1927.

139. Ibid., Mar. 22, 24, 1927; Apr. 24, 1927, sec. 10.

140. Home News, Mar. 12, 15, 1928.

141. New York Times, Mar. 10, 1928.

142. Ibid., Mar. 14, 22, 1928; Home News, Apr. 7, 1928.

143. Home News, May 18, 1929.

144. The legislature had, however, reenacted protections against unjust eviction and provisions for stays of eviction in certain hardship cases.

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