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January 13, 1960, Vol. V, No. 12
Village Realtor Still Says ‘No’ to Negroes
Greenwich Village realtor Edmond Martin made it clear last week that he was still carrying the banner for the “new conservatism.”
As the object of New York City’s first test case to enforce the local Fair Housing Practices Law (Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs law), he declared unequivocally in a Harlem newspaper: “I’m not going to be a slave for the Negroes. I will spend every cent I have to fight this case, and I’ll sink with my flags flying if I have to!”
Mr. Martin had posted a sign in his Christopher Street real-estate office in 1958, which stated that he would refuse to show apartments to Negroes on Constitutional grounds. He obviously welcomed the action subsequently taken against him by the city after the story broke in The Village Voice in October, 1958. At the time he was the first landlord to be called for a hearing before the Commission on Intergroup Relations.
Mr. Martin last week told The Voice that he would continue to insist on the right to classify tenants by race. He said it simplified business procedures.
When asked whether he discriminated against Jews or other minorities in renting apartments, he said: “I went into business in 1923, but I don’t think we ever made a point of not renting to Jews.” “For a while,” he volunteered, “we hesitated to rent to Orientals, but we found we got such a nice class of Orientals and we could see we would not be overrun by them that we started letting them have apartments.
“This could be the case with a rare Negro who was a writer or artist,” Mr. Martin remarked, but he added that if he were to make an exception at the present time, it would only complicate matters.
He described himself as a “Bill of Rights’er” who “generally speaking, can’t help agreeing with Mr. Buckley.” William Buckley, an expositor of contemporary conservatism, is author of “God and Man at Yale” and “Up From Liberalism.”
Mr. Martin explained that the fundamental rights he is defending are “my life, my property, and my sacred honor.”
Asked whether his challenging the anti-bias law cost him any business, he said: “I don’t think honesty hurts anybody. I’m thinking of human rights, not business.” He added hastily: “Of course, I’m thinking of my business at the same time.”
Mr. Martin had told the Amsterdam News last week, and repeated to The Voice, that he was just being “honest,” whereas other landlords evaded the law by saying “we have no vacancies or the apartment was just rented.”
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