By Sabina Mollot
Lee Lorch, the leader of Stuyvesant Town’s desegregation movement, who died on February 28, was honored this week in Albany with a resolution introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman.
Unlike a bill, a resolution of this nature is something that’s passed by the entire legislative body, and in this case was done to honor Lorch’s legacy as a civil rights hero.
“It’s an opportunity for the Senate to acknowledge, in an official way, someone’s life work,” Hoylman explained.
He got the idea for the resolution after it was suggested to him by former ST-PCV Tenants Association President Al Doyle. Doyle brought it up after Lorch died at the age of 98.
Lorch, who had a long career as a mathematics professor, moved to Stuyvesant Town after serving in the Army’s Air Corps during World War II. He believed that Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village should have been open to non-whites and practiced what he preached by letting a black family live in his apartment for a year while he was away on a job at Penn State. He also, with a small group of neighbors, formed the Town and Village Tenants Committee to End Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town. The group eventually swelled to 1,800 members and after a succession of political and court battles with owner Met Life, Met backed down on its discriminatory leasing policy. However, this wasn’t before Lorch lost his job as a professor at City College and later other colleges due to his activism and he was still eventually driven out from his Stuy Town apartment. In 1959, he moved to Canada and remained there until his death.
In his presentation to his colleagues in the Senate, Hoylman described Lorch as “an unsung, great hero of the Civil Rights Movement” and “a man of great courage and conviction.”
By Sabina Mollot