The Real Deal New York

Stuyvesant Town desegregation activist dies at age 98

Lee Lorch pressed owner of the complex to admit African-American tenants
March 03, 2014 04:00PM

Lee Lorch, a mathematician and longtime Stuyvesant Town resident who led the campaign to desegregate the complex, has died at the age of 98.

Lorch, who took up residence in the housing facility in the spring of 1946 after his service in World War II, became a pivotal player in efforts to force Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the facility’s owner, to scrap its whites-only admissions policy.

Lorch helped to organize tenants in the newly-built complex starting in the late 1940s. He invited a black family to live in his apartment after a 1947 lawsuit against Metropolitan brought by three black veterans failed in state courts. He became vice chairman of a tenant group called the Town and Village Tenants Committee to End Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town, which ultimately grew to a membership of 1,800 tenants.

Stuyvesant Town tenants barricaded themselves in their apartments and picketed outside Metropolitan Life’s headquarters in 1952. Ultimately, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 would make discrimination in sales, rentals or housing refinancing illegal.

Asked in a 2010 interview whether he would have handled any of his activism differently, Lorch said he would have done “more and better of the same,” according to the New York Observer. [NYT]Julie Strickland