News & Politics

The Discriminatory Village Landlord Responds


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

October 15, 1958, Vol. III, No. 51

[For the most part, in these Clip Jobs, I’ve been selecting just one item from a consecutive issue for each day’s post. But I’m going to do something different for the next three days. Here’s why: 1958’s Issues 50 and 52 (October 8 and 22) are exceedingly dull. Poor Dan just didn’t have much to put into them, apparently, and after searching for something worth excerpting, I threw up my hands. (Rest assured, the battle over Washington Square was still raging.) But the issue that came out between them, October 15, more than makes up for it–three items in that issue are terrific, and I’d hate to leave out any of them. So for the next three days, I’m excerpting those three pieces–a response from the real-estate agent on Christopher Street, Edmond Martin, who had posted a sign saying that “Negroes” couldn’t look at his apartments; an announcement for the Voice‘s “Saloon Society”; and a great interview with Allen Ginsberg by Marc Schleifer, the man who had just a few weeks before (September 10) thrown an atom bomb at liberal readers. Enjoy. — Tony O.]

From Edmond

Dear Sir:

Edmond Martin can be reached for comment…

I believe local law No. 80 is contrary to the Constitution of the United States.

I believe it might take a Constitutional Amendment abolishing any rights of private property, to induce obedience to this local law No. 80…

My critics feel I am denying the Negro something. I will deny anyone the use of someone else’s property–denied for a reason or denied for no reason, excepting where there is an existing lease or loan as in some sense to someone else. But the idea that I have to give reasons why I do not rent to any specific person is quite repugnant to me. I could not be that perfect. Therefore on the “intergroup” basis I put up a little signed notice.

I go by averages, eliminating anyone whose percentage group as to undesirability for use in my buildings is easy to classify. It does not work perfectly and is not intended to be a judgment on the individual. So I think it best. This is my business, not my social life. I believe I understand my tenants. Some of them would not object, some of them would, and some of them would rather not talk about it; and in any event it may be considered by some psychologists an undesirable thing for tenants to support a landlord in an opinion. The landlord might be seeking unfair advantage of them even in seeking such support. It is more normal for those opposed to express their opposition. The landlord is a normal object to be kicked around, being in the minority as a multiple-dwelling landlord and manager, anyway. To those so kicking I may be considered like the dog in the Sputnik. And I sometimes wonder what is going on down there. The psychologists may have told the tenants I am dead. I have a certain amount of trouble finding out. Certainly the communications are not too good.

I am not being sarcastic really but attempting to relieve the situation. The tenants can all tabulate the fact that I do not normally rent to Negroes, now that they have been told so clearly in the public press.

There are other groupings I do not rent to normally.

Whether I should publish my reasons or reasonings I do not know…

I will not waste my time or have my staff discussing apartments with persons I already know I will not rent to.

If the City Administration thinks it is going to win by forcing me to waste my time, I would, of course, demand a Court Trial (Sixth Amendment) to determine if I have the right to live under the protection of the Constitution.

This is indeed a judicial and not a legislative or an executive question. It is a question of private human rights in privately owned property privately financed. Of that I am in the affirmative. This property is not a “public carrier,” has no monopoly justifying any such definition, and therefore of that I am on the negative. — Edmond Martin, Christopher Street

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 23, 2008


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