Ed Koch Accused of Ethnic Cleansing?

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

May 13, 1965, Vol. X, No. 30

Jones Says Koch Wanted Fewer Italians in District

By Mary Perot Nichols

In New York City the real political battle is between Democrat and Democrat. By comparison, the war with the GOP has all the tension of a panty raid.

Last Friday afternoon J. Raymond Jones, politico-in-chief of Manhattan's Democrats, tried to put the old political whammy on Greenwich Village Democrat District Leader Edward I. Koch -- and for keeps. He accused Koch of saying, "I can't win with all those Italians in there. I want them out."

The remark was allegedly made by Koch at a meeting on May 3 of Democratic leaders, called by Jones, to show them the new district lines. The lines had been drawn up by a Democratic group under the scrutiny of Jones.

Koch denied the charge. "Jones knows he can't buy us off," Koch said, "so he wants to destroy the Village."

However, Jones's allegation was backed up by Louis Grossman and Richard Levy of the Corporation Counsel staff, who attended the meeting.

Jones's attack on Koch came one day after the Village leader had gone to Albany to demand that Greenwich Village not be split in two, as it was under the plan of his fellow Democrats. He also publicly attacked the Democrats for acting like the Republicans in not using a non-partisan commission to lay down the district lines. Koch expressed the belief that his remarks in Albany were the cause of Jones's angry words.

Village politicians are trying to evaluate the future effect of Jones's "anti-Italian" charge against Koch. There is some uncertainty as to why Jones, who heads Tammany Hall by virtue of Wagner's backing, would set up a situation that opens the door to Tammany Chief Carmine G. DeSapio. The Mayor had played a key role in forcing DeSapio from power.

One prominent member of the Village Independent Democrats expressed considerable bitterness over the Jones charge. "When DeSapio was in power the Italians were being thrown out of the South Village right and left by real estate operators," he said. "Since we started to fight for them, the whole situation has changed. We stopped the city from putting the Verrazano road through the South Village and we're fighting against the Lower Manhattan Expressway. Has anyone seen DeSapio fighting for these people?"

One leader who attended the Democratic leaders meeting on May 3 said that Koch had been unwisely rough in his attack on Jones and that he had caused Jones considerable irritation. This leader believes that Jones's counterattack in the press resulted solely from personal annoyance at Koch.

Koch insists that his fight to keep the Village an intact political unit is exactly what the Italian-American community wants and is proof that he does not wish to eliminate the South Villagers from the district. Whatever Koch's view, the hard political reality is that the Italian-American South Village consistently votes in the neighborhood of 80 per cent for DeSapio.

Reform circles in Greenwich Village re now fairly certain that Carmine DeSapio will make another attempt to win back Democratic leadership of the district. Differences in the Village over the organization of the poverty program and Jones's charges against Koch are expected to give his campaign the impetus it needs.

[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. Go here to see this article as it originally appeared in print.]


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