New York University CORE (pt. 2)
In late July, Kaplowitz was taken to court. He was convicted but slapped on the wrist with a $150 fine. In response, NYU CORE in August collected a truckload of garbage (including a bunch of dead rats) from the Eldridge street buildings and unloaded it at nearby City Hall. This technique was created by Brooklyn CORE a year earlier. 100 demonstrators chanting ‘slumlords must go!’ accompanied the action, two of which were arrested after scuffling with the police. Also arrested were chapter chairman Joel Freedman, Stephen M. Gordon, John K. Schaefer, George Cannon, Jeffrey Kalb, Antonio Vasquez, Eleuterio Gonzales and Alexander Sandy Boyer. They received 5-10 day jail sentences.
By mid-fall, NYU CORE had convinced tenants to start a rent strike by withholding their rent. It was collected by CORE and put into an escrow account. Pete Myers served as rent strike chairman. Activities were coordinated from an office opened up across the street at 198 Eldridge street.
But There's a Downside...
Tenants were told about the attack which resulted in them forming a tenants organization. Among the members of NYU CORE such as Steve Gordon, the commitment to being non-violent became a big issue. Member Elliot Wurtzel had received an abusive phone call earlier and a bomb threat had also been made that night against NYU’s Loeb Student Center where NYU CORE had its home office. Within a few days, after radio, TV and newspapers had reported the attack, Rivera was committed to the violent ward at Bellevue Hospital. After talking to neighbors and discovering he had a history of mental illness, members of NYU CORE came to believe there was no attack, that Pablo lied and cut himself.
Despite this, NYU CORE succeeded in getting the city to take Kaplowitz
to court again. He was convicted of over 200 offenses, but only fined
$375 with the possibility of jail time if didn’t comply in the
The Significance of What They Did
It should also be noted that even though the campaign was made up of a mixed group, it was led by mostly Jewish students fighting Jewish landlords. This is significant because Jews, as opposed to Black Power militants, were pointing to the racism of Jewish landlords as a real and legitimate concern. It also speaks specifically to the contributions of Jews to the civil rights movement.
Civil Rights historians Meier and Rudwick saw NYU CORE’s work as significant because it ‘prefigured’ the growing militancy in CORE, its involvement with rent strikes in 1963-64 and the rent strike movement itself. The historian Joel Schwartz argued that the claim to be the first to use direct action, such as picketing and rent strikes to confront landlords, ‘could have been made as much by the beleaguered New York University CORE on the Lower East Side as by Jesse Gray’, perhaps the most well known rent strike leader in the city.
The Last Metro