New York rent strikes during the 1918 “Spanish” influenza – Open Democracy

Tenant-landlord antagonism deepens

“If you don’t like it, you can move.” This was the common refrain of the New York landlord. Landlords were figures of hate for many, habitually known as “hogs” and “sharks,” or referenced with the racialising trope of “Shylock.” The scales of justice in a capitalist society are always tipped towards the protection of private property and those who hold it and it was egregiously so in war-time New York. Courts and police appeared to exist solely to support landlords and their incredible power over the lives of their tenants. A landlord could categorise their tenant as “undesirable” at any point and have strong legal grounds to remove them with no evidence required. Some would capriciously choose not to rent to tenants with children. Others felt emboldened to pass judgement over tenants’ spending and lifestyles, telling them they could afford rent better if they didn’t spend so

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