Black doormen seek justice from Eliot Spitzer
Cyril Josh Barker | 8/22/2013, 9:13 a.m. | Updated on 8/22/2013, 9:13 a.m.
Former-governor-turned-city-comptroller-hopeful Eliot Spitzer touts equal treatment for all races in his campaign’s TV ads, but three Black former doormen of an Upper East Side building owned by Spitzer’s father claim the candidate isn’t following through on his image.
Four Black men, who served as doormen at 150 E. 57th St., were awarded a total of $1.3 million in 2008 after a jury found they were racially discriminated against when they were fired by Spitzer’s father, Bernard Spitzer.
Leonard Boyce, Akim Rodriguez, Anthony Haydenn and Trevor Morris were all terminated within a two-week period of each other. Bernard Spitzer appealed the case to Manhattan Court of Appeals. He won in 201l and got a new trial.
Out of the five judges, three were hired by Eliot Spitzer during his time as governor and state attorney general.
Boyce has since passed away due to a stroke. The three remaining plaintiffs are now calling on Eliot Spitzer to address the issue and make things right, and they don’t plan on giving him their votes.
The case goes as far back as the late 1990s, when they accused Bernard Spitzer of taking them off the job because they were Black and did not fit the building’s “look.” They were subjected to demeaning tasks such as cleaning toilets with toothbrushes. They also claim one of the white employees said they would be fired because they were Black.
Having been on the job for only a few months, they were not eligible to join the union, so they could not utilize the union’s protection.
“It then came to pass,” said Haydenn. “I was fired two weeks before Christmas for a reason that was so superficial. The man said because there was a urine stain on the toilet. Me being a doorman, that was not part of my job description.”
Haydenn claims that he overheard a white co-worker say, “Now I see why Spitzer doesn’t want any n—s in this building.” It was that statement that won Bernard Spitzer’s appeal; his lawyers stated that the conversation was hearsay. In their testimony, they also claimed that whenever Spitzer came into the building, Bernard wanted the Black employees out of the lobby.
During their time in the building, the men said they never encountered any problems with the tenants. The men claim that during the trial, Bernard Spitzer’s lawyers tried to justify the diversity among employees in the building by only presenting white and light-skinned Latinos.
“I could have been relieving someone on their lunch break, and I would have to wait until [Bernard] Spitzer came out of the building. That was how they ran the lobby when [Bernard] Spitzer came into the building,” said Morris. “I’m watching the [Eliot] Spitzer campaign ads, and it’s pretty disgusting. He’s putting minorities in his commercials.”
In a statement, Eliot Spitzer’s camp said the verdict was an “injustice” against the elder Spitzer.
“There is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of discrimination made in the complaint. This has nothing to do with Eliot, and any attempt to smear him or his dad is both desperate and despicable,” a spokeswoman said in a published report. The AmNews reached out to Eliot Spitizer’s office several times, but there was no response at all.
Eliot Spitzer is taking over his father’s real estate company, because the elder is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Up to now, the trial has been delayed a total of five times, with a trial date set for late November. The city comptroller candidate was not involved in the hiring or firing of the four men; at the time, he was serving as attorney general.
“I don’t think he would make a good comptroller,” Rodriguez said. “This is going on in his family. Us being fired because of our skin color is just not right. I’m not looking for money; I’m looking for an apology and compensation.”