BY EDWARD YUTKOWITZ | Village Independent Democrats, one of the longest-standing reform political clubs in New York City, has donated its archives to Village Preservation (formerly Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation).
The club, which has met virtually since the beginning of the COVID crisis, is also set to resume monthly live, in-person meetings, beginning this Thurs., Sept. 14 at the Northwell Health Center, at 200 E. 13th St., just off Seventh Avenue South. Those who wish to participate via Zoom can learn more at VillageDemocrats.org.
Village Preservation will preserve VID’s archives, which chronicle the rich history of Greenwich Village, and make them available to the public. Since 1980, Village Preservation has worked to protect the unique architecture and promote and celebrate the unique cultural heritage of Greenwich Village, the East Village, Soho/Noho and the Meatpacking District.
Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, said, “The Village Independent Democrats have been a powerful progressive force in Lower Manhattan for decades. Its archives chronicle a unique period in New York City history. We plan to digitize key elements of the club’s archives and make them available online to the public and to researchers. We’ll store its posters and other campaign materials, and exhibit them when opportunities present themselves, and make them available to researchers, historians, students and the general public.”
“We are grateful that Village Preservation will store and preserve the historical archive of our club, including political posters that span the decades of our political activism, and make them accessible for research and study,” VID President Jonathan Geballe said. “Village Preservation will help VID promote our legacy of progressive politics among younger voters for generations to come.”
Founded in 1957, VID has been in the middle of some of the most controversial political battles in New York City. The then-upstart club started out by toppling Tammany Hall, the powerful political machine that had run Lower Manhattan, continued on through the civil rights struggle and the tumultuous ’60s, and gave rise to a new generation of anti-war political leaders like Ed Koch (who later famously broke with VID). The club continues to be a powerful force for progressive politics in its home neighborhood of Greenwich Village and in the New York metropolitan region.
In addition, with the donation of its archives and the move to a “hybrid” model of Zoomed live meetings, VID has closed its Perry Street clubhouse, which had been its home for more than 40 years. In the digital era, the clubhouse had simply outlived its usefulness.
In a sense, it’s the end of an era for VID, one of the last political clubs in New York City to even have a clubhouse. Clubhouses were a throwback to the days of patronage and ward bosses and the proverbial smoke-filled back rooms. They were places for political leaders to strike deals, dole out patronage positions, cultivate candidates for office, and wield great influence over the quality of life in New York City neighborhoods.
From its inception, VID took a different approach, which was to reform the political machine that ran Lower Manhattan. At times, the club could draw as many as 1,000 people, who packed the organization’s former clubhouse on W. Fourth Street, overlooking Sheridan Square, just across the street from the Village Voice newspaper office and the literary watering hole The Lion’s Head tavern.
Today the home club of Assemblymember Deborah Glick, state Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Erik Bottcher, VID continues to play a leadership role in New York City politics. Led by Jonathan Geballe, the club stays true to its tradition of progressivism and commitment to bettering life in Greenwich Village and the country.
“While we’re sad to give up our clubhouse, VID sees this as a new beginning of political activism,” Geballe said. “Our enhanced digital presence, including a new Web site, will augment our basic work of political persuasion and organizing: door-knocking, signature-gathering and person-to-person conversations, both locally and in swing congressional districts in the New York metropolitan area.”