Black Doormen Want Justice From Spitzer Family

(Photo by Friscocali, Creative Commons license)

Just a few doors down from Barami, to its left, is 150 East 57th Street, the building owned by Bernard Spitzer where four black former doormen allege the father of Eliot Spitzer racially discriminated them. (Photo by Friscocali, Creative Commons license)

Four black former doormen of an Upper East Side building are asking Eliot Spitzer for justice in a case involving his family that dates to the late 1990s. Amsterdam News‘ Cyril Josh Barker reports that at the time, Akim Rodriguez, Anthony Haydenn, Trevor Morris and the late Leonard Boyce worked as doormen at 150 East 57th Street, a building owned by Bernard Spitzer, the father of the now candidate for city comptroller.

But after being fired within two weeks of each other the four filed a lawsuit for racial discrimination. In 2008, a jury agreed and awarded them a total of $1.3 million. However, the elder Spitzer won an appeal in 2011 – one of the judges had been appointed by Eliot Spitzer during his term as governor – resulting in a new trial that after multiple delays, is set for November of this year.

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.

According to Haydenn, there was no justification for the firing.

“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.

The men did not have any issues with tenants, but rather with management, as described by Morris.

“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.”

With Bernard suffering from Parkinson’s disease, his son is taking over the real estate company. During the hiring and subsequent firing of the men, Eliot was serving as attorney general and did not have any involvement in the company. Meanwhile, the Spitzer camp denies any presence of discrimination in the case.

“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.

Still fighting all these years later, Rodriguez said that he is not asking for much.

“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.”

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