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When Tenants Claimed the CityThe Struggle for Citizenship in New York City Housing$
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Roberta Gold

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038181

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038181.001.0001

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“So Much Life”

“So Much Life”

Retrenchment in the Cold War

(p.64) 3 “So Much Life”
When Tenants Claimed the City

Roberta Gold

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores conflicting developments in the context of tenant experience during the height of the Cold War. Set against a national background of McCarthyite repression, suburban growth, conservative gender ideology, and class stratification, the chapter discusses two fronts of tenant activity: the construction of labor-union cooperatives and the fight against “urban renewal.” It considers the dislocations of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, many from vigorous working-class neighborhoods, in the name of slum clearance. It also examines the tenants' urbanist rebuttal to the postwar ideal of suburban housing as well as the gains they earned despite the losing fight over redevelopment. For example, tenants who mobilized to save their homes revitalized the local consciousness of tenants' rights and helped sustain a kind of pragmatic feminism at a time when women were typically excluded from politics. This “defensive” dimension of tenant activism became an arena in which a generation of what Frances Goldin called “premature feminists” engaged in no-holds-barred political contests.

Keywords:   slum clearance, suburban growth, gender, cooperatives, urban renewal, housing tenants, suburban housing, redevelopment, feminism, tenant activism

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