Moving Day In New York

As anybody knows, moving day is certainly stressful, but imagine what it would be like if every other person in your city was moving on the same day. That’s the dilemma every New Yorker faced from Colonial times until World War II. May 1st was designated as “Moving Day,” the one day a year when people in New York moved. It’s said that the tradition came from the Dutch, who set out for Manhattan on May 1st and celebrated each year by swapping homes on that day. Later, landlords were required to notify their tenants of rent increases on February 1st, which would take effect three months later at 9 a.m. on May 1st. Tenants waited until May 1st to move and the streets would be jammed with moving vans and Long Island farmers’ wagons led by horses. It cost $2 per one-horse truckload within two miles and a whopping 50¢ per extra mile. By the end of the 19th century, many New Yorkers spent their summers in the suburbs and moved upon their return, making October 1st a second Moving Day. When World War II began, the tradition lost steam, and once rent control went into effect shortly thereafter, the custom was erased completely.