Volume 80, Number 18 | September 30 - October 6, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Herman Greitzer, 90, V.I.D. founder ran vs. DeSapio

By Albert Amateau

Herman Greitzer, a founding member of the Village Independent Democrats club and the first V.I.D. candidate for district leader against Carmine DeSapio, died Fri., Sept. 3, at the age of 90 in Kingston Hospital, in Kingston, N.Y.

He had been in ill health for the past seven months, said his wife, Sarah Draney, an artist. Herman Greitzer moved to the Village in 1954 with his then-wife, Carol Greitzer, who later served in the City Council. A lawyer, he was active in Adlai Stevenson’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1956.

He was invited to DeSapio’s Tamawa Democratic Club and attended a meeting or two, but was put off by the club’s disengagement from Stevenson’s second bid for the presidency against President Dwight Eisenhower. With other like-minded liberals, including Ed Koch, who became New York’s mayor two decades later, the late Ed Gold, Eleanor Roosevelt and former Governor Herbert Lehman, Greitzer became involved in the Reform Democratic movement and helped found V.I.D.

“He was a very nice man of high ethical standards, and very important in the formation of the Village Independent Democrats,” said Koch.

In a bitter campaign, Greitzer was the new club’s first candidate against DeSapio for district leader.

Greitzer lost by a vote of 3,773 to 2,171. It was the first Democratic primary contest for leadership in 19 years in what was then the First Assembly District South. It was also the first ever to be decided by a direct vote in a primary of enrolled party members of the district. In previous years, district leaders were chosen by a majority of the duly elected members of the Democratic County Committee. The reform, largely brought about by DeSapio himself, was enacted in 1953 and was implemented for the first time in the Sept. 10, 1957, primary election.

“It was a nasty campaign,” his former wife, Carol Greitzer, said this week. “He was accused of being a Communist. William Kunstler, whom we didn’t know, called and offered to represent Herman if he needed it,” she recalled.

They were divorced in 1965. Herman Greitzer later married Sarah Dranes, whom he met in 1985 while buying her artwork in Soho.

Herman also served as president of V.I.D. and was the club’s candidate for the State Democratic Committee.

Born in the Bronx on Nov. 30, 1919, to William and Ida Greitzer, he attended public schools and graduated from City College. During World War II he served in the Army and was discharged as a captain in Japan. He served as a civilian press officer at the War Crimes Trials in Tokyo, and after the trials he returned to New York and went to Columbia Law School.

After becoming a lawyer he went to Washington, D.C., to work first for the U.S. Department of Commerce and then in the Appellate Division of the Department of Justice under Warren Burger, who was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to his wife, a daughter, Elizabeth Greitzer, her husband, Jeff Durrell, and grandchildren, Matthew and Katherine Durrell, of London, also survive.

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