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The Village Independent Democrats and Housing

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

The Village Independent Democrats (VID) are a reform democratic club founded in 1956. Much of the club’s advocacy work was related to improving the lives of Greenwich Village residents, including in the areas of housing and tenant advocacy. Village Preservation has previously highlighted some of this work, in relation to Title-I developments, housing discrimination and their battle against the proposed Verrazano Street.  Today we will take a look at some of the other work that the VID did in this realm, which often involved the preservation of existing housing, strengthening rent control laws, adaptive reuse and new developments that matched the scale of the neighborhood.

From a 1961 VID Flyer. View Entire Document as a PDF.

In 1961, the VID released a document detailing the history for their organization, and highlighting their platforms on various issues. One of these was housing, which they explained as:

“VID supports strong rent control legislation, opposes easy ‘hardship case’ rent hike; wants eviction laws tightened; has provided legal aid for hundreds of evictees; backs strengthened Fair Housing laws; proposes a new city housing policy based on the needs of tenants rather than the financial return of the city; encourages more middle-income ‘vest pocket;’ or small-area projects; deplores ‘bulldozer’ projects that drive longtime Villagers out of the community; suggest use of low-interest Mitchell-Lama funds for other than Title I housing, and demands termination of the needless Verrazano Street project that would dislocate scores if Villagers.” Read more here. 

1961 VID Campaign flyer. View entire document as PDF.

The March, 1961 Issue of the VID News further outlined how the club was helping in these areas. This included advocating for the strengthening of rent control laws. To do so, the VID were founding and active members of the Housing Emergency Legislative Program (HELP). This was a city-wide group of over 70 tenant organizations and political clubs that would help advocate for stronger rent control laws. HELP hosted conferences, gathered letters of support and sent delegates to Albany. This issue of VID news, also highlighted the club’s support of “Vest Pocket” housing, which emphasizes the importance of preserving the neighborhood’s existing housing, while also advocating for new housing to be built on lots that were already vacant. Read more here.

In November of 1961, VID hosted a Housing Forum panel called, “What can be done about the housing shortage in New York City?” Notable panelists included Congressman William Fitts Ryan and Jane Jacobs. The goal of the panel was to “Initiate a Detailed V.I.D. housing Program”.

From our Village Independent Democrats Collection. View as PDF.

In 1963, VID began conducting surveys of neighborhood apartment buildings to check for potential housing violations. The goal of this was twofold, meant to both improve the housing conditions for existing residents, and to demonstrate that with proper building upkeep, urban redevelopment is not a necessary measure to create good housing. Read more about this program here.

Around the same time, VID Democratic District Leader Carol Greitzer had been working on a bill to create housing for artists. Greitzer was a founding member of the Citizens Committee for Artists Housing, and had arranged the initial meeting in which artists were able to discuss their needs with city officials. This law allowed for artists to legally occupy loft buildings, such as those in Soho and Noho. Read more about this in the 1964 Issue of the VID News.

Much of 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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