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Carol Greitzer: Helping Defeat Tammany Hall & Saving Greenwich Village

This is one of a series of blog posts which highlights the information found in our Village Independent Democrats collection, added to our Preservation History Archive in early 2024.

Carol Greitzer is a politician, activist and longtime member of the Village Preservation Board of Advisors. During her decades-long career, much of which took place within Greenwich Village, Greitzer has had a significant impact upon neighborhood history, preservation efforts, the women’s movement, and more. And she got her start in the Village Independent Democrats, which is well-documented in our new archival collection.

Carol Greitzer making announcement on bus, no date. View larger image as JPG

Carol Greitzer was a founding member of the Village Independent Democrats (VID), a reform democratic club founded in 1956. In 2023, VID donated their archive to Village Preservation, and we have recently digitized and shared the first installment of it, which covers the club’s work from 1955 to 1969. During this period, Greitzer successfully ran for several elected positions, advocated for historic preservation protections within Greenwich Village, tenants’ rights, the removal of cars from Washington Square park, and much more.

During the club’s early years, one of their main objectives was to remove the grip of Tammany Hall on local politics, something Greitzer played a significant role in achieving. When the club was founded, Carmine DeSapio, the last boss of Tammany Hall, was the Democratic District leader for the First Assembly District South, which encompassed much of Greenwich Village. Some felt DeSapio and Tammany Hall were not only filled with corruption, but were also failing to properly advocate for and represent the needs of Greenwich Village residents. Thus starting with the 1957 election, the Village Independent Democrats began to run candidates to try and unseat DeSapio. In 1957 the club ran Herman Greitzer (Carol Greitzer’s Husband at the time) and Gwenn Worth against DeSapio and his club for the male and female Democratic district leader positions. Although they were unsuccessful, they managed to garner an impressive 37% of the vote in the primary. In 1959, the club tried again, this time running Gwenn Worth and Charles McGuiness, but still ultimately found themselves unsuccessful. It was not until 1961, when Carol Greitzer ran with James Lanigan, that they would finally defeat DeSapio and his female running mate Elsie Gleason Mattura.

1961 Pro Lanigan and Greitzer Pamphlet. See entire document as PDF.

The archive features many of the campaign materials used by Greitzer and Lanigan during 1961 District Leader campaign. The materials are telling about the gender inequality of the time — even among what were “progressive” communities. For instance, in a document featuring bios of both candidates, Greitzer’s reads: “CAROL GREITZER, a young and attractive housewife and mother.” DeSapio’s Tamawa Club, by contrast, did not even allow women to be members. In 1961, in the midst of her election against DeSapio, Carol Greitzer wrote a segment on this topic for an issue VID News:

In a similar vein, in 1960, when Greitzer was elected President of the Village Independent Democrats, a newspaper headline covering the news read, “Lady Will Lead Anti-DeSapio Club in the Village,” indicating how unusual it was a for a women at the time to be in such positions of power.

Carol Greitzer and Ed Koch as District Leaders. View entire document as PDF.

In 1963, Carol Greitzer ran and defeated DeSapio again, this time running with Ed Koch. Greitzer won again in 1965 and ran unopposed in 1967. In 1969, she ran for City Council. She won, and remained a member until 1991.

Carol Greitzer for City Council Booklet. View entire document as PDF.

Throughout her career, Carol Greitzer had a significant impact upon Greenwich Village. She was a major proponent of preservation, and heavily advocated for historic district and zoning protections within Greenwich Village. Her 1961 Campaign bio for Democratic District leader highlighted:

“During the Christmas holiday a few seasons ago, she led two children’s treasure hunts through the Village, searching out a trove of historical landmarks threatened with extinction. This was part of a successful drive to obtain emergency zoning legislation to preserve the charm of the Village and ward off further encroachment by the buildings or luxury houses.” Read entire bio as a PDF.

Carol Greitzer’s also played in important role in removing traffic from Washington Square Park, transforming the Jefferson Market Courthouse into a library, advocated for tenants rights in the face of planned displacement for the proposed Verrazano Street, and much more.

This information comes from the latest addition to our Preservation History Archive, the Village Independent Democrats Collection: 1955-1969. Check out this collection to learn more about the group, and the important contributions they made to Greenwich Village and all of New York City. 

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