The History of Moving in NYC

The History of Moving in NYC

Moving Day (May 1st), also know as “May Day,” was a New York City tradition that originated in colonial times and lasted all the way until the mid-20th century, just after WWII.

Historically, every year on February 1 (“Rent Day”), landlords would inform their tenants of what the new rent would be after the end of the quarter. They would then spend the warm days of Spring shopping around for the best deals they could find on a new home.

On the first day of May, all leases would simultaneously expire at 9 AM. The result was a day of pure chaos in New York City. The streets filled with moving carts and people carrying their belongings to their new homes. Farmers would even come from as far as Long Island and New Jersey to rent out their wagons at high prices.

Today, Moving Day obviously no longer exists in practice (and it’s admittedly a little alarming that something so inefficient ever did), but we celebrate International Moving Day on May 1st, and some remnants of the tradition still exist. Here’s a timeline of the history of moving in New York City:

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As the city got more crowded and a series extraneous circumstances limited the possibility of Moving Day over time, the tradition eventually fizzled out and was replaced by a much more practical (but much less entertaining) system.

Today, most commercial leases still end on either May 1 or October 1, a lasting remnant of the New York City tradition that once was. Happy International Moving Day!

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