Queens CORE

Queens, a suburb filled with single family homes, unlike the tenements of Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, is largely a residential area. As NYC’s largest borough, it's surprising that so little was written in the New York Times or even the Amsterdam News about Queens CORE compared to the other NYC CORE chapters. Like almost all the other NYC chapters, it has no archive. Even though there is not much in the national CORE archives about Queens CORE, there was more going on beneath the surface than was known.

Russell Everet was Queens CORE's first chairman. He was followed by Hamilton Banks (Black), a former member of the NAACP. His vice chairmen were Amos Carnegie and Dr George Kaufman (White). Other early members include Rev. L. Charles Gray (Black), Everment Robinson, Ava Mills, Clara Schroeder, Audrey Scott, Ida Timpone (White), Ken Daly, Roger Khan (White), Gular Glover (Black) and Connie Carr (Black).

The first office was located at 114-06 Merrick Rd. The space was so small, though, that meetings were sometimes held at the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans or in members' homes. Queens CORE’s first meeting, for example, was at the home of Martha Livingston in August 1962.

First Demonstrations
The chapter’s first real demonstration was considered to be against the White Castle on Hollis avenue and Frances Lewis Boulevard, part of Bronx CORE’s July 1963 campaign against the fast food restaurant chain.

The earliest mentions of Queens CORE in the press had to do with housing demonstrations. The chapter utilized the classic CORE technique of sending in separate Black and White couples to test housing. As with New York CORE in its early days, White members would even go the extra step of renting an apartment and then have a Black couple move in instead.

Early on, Queens CORE worked to integrate Elchester Avenue. When the Fleur De Lis apartment complex denied a Black couple, Queens CORE led a successful campaign to desegregate it. After sevnty five people picketed the complex for three days, the couple was granted a lease.

It also worked with Long Island CORE on the Jamaica NAACP’s demonstrations at the Rochdale Village construction project,‘the world’s largest cooperative’, during CORE’s summer of 1963 campaign against the construction industry. On September 5, 1963, at least three members from Queens CORE - Franklin Anderson (22, construction worker), Andy Young (Black, 34, dance instructor) and Susan Schwartz- (White, 18) chained themselves to a crane at the worksite. Along with Alex Passsikoff (51, White) of Brooklyn CORE, they were arrested with 42 year old Black educator Herman Ferguson. Ruth Schwartz (White, 30, no relation to Susan) from Long Island CORE was also arrested for protesting their arrests. The judge, in dismissing all charges against them, complemented their actions in comparing them to ‘the patriots of the Boston Tea Party’.

The Split
Most of Queens CORE’s work was in support of other CORE projects such as a march on City Hall, a picket at the United Nations and the first 1964 citywide school boycott. It had a hard time creating its own projects due to internal tensions, much of which was blamed on the chapter’s middle class nature. Seen as somewhat apolitical and having no overall ‘frame of reference’, it was suggested the chapter be disaffiliated because of confusion over whether it had an office, constitution or program. Some officers had already resigned as the chapter consciously went about rebuilding.

Dr. George Kaufman and Roger Kahn were the leaders of the opposing factions. The Kaufman group was seen as being of ‘ more middle class values’ but working to keep the chapter going and build off of the momentum it had. The Kahn faction, generally a younger group, was seen as the one that carried on the bulk of action. Kahn had already led an effort to relocate the chapter to the ghetto but was defeated primarily by Kaufman.

The infighting got so nasty that Kaufman charged Kahn with being a communist. Kaufman, however, was felt by other members to be a ‘Stalinist’. The irony is both Kaufman and his wife were Marxists while Kahn was a socialist, as were many of his faction.

The reports filed by CORE field secretaries favored the Kahn group. Even though it was recommended Queens CORE be disbanded, it was also recommended it be reorganized around the Kahn group. Instead, the Kahn group seceded and formed a new CORE chapter in Queens, South Jamaica CORE.

chairman Dr. George Kaufman
Dr. George Kaufman, a medical doctor, had become chair of Queens CORE that spring at a time when most chapters were emphasizing Black leadership. According to his wife, member Elayne Jones (Black), his Jewish parents sat shiva for seven days when he married her. Alberta Wright was his vice chair. Moe Tandler and Morton Freedman (both White), friends of Kaufman who lived down the block, were the chapter’s lawyers. Other officers include Dorothy Conway and Marie Booker. Even though the chapter claimed approximately one hundred and ten members it was still a relatively small group compared to Jamaica NAACP with at least five thousand members.

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