Abe Greiss, sculptor who fought urban renewal with Jane Jacobs

By Albert Amateau

Abe Greiss, a sculptor who was a neighbor of the late Jane Jacobs and fought by her side 60 years ago to save the West Village from a devastating urban renewal project, died Sun., Sept. 25, in his Greenwich St. home at age 92.

He was an advertising art director for Macy’s for 20 years and taught at Fashion Institute of Technology.

He also owned the Greiss Gallery, at 217 Charles St., where he showed his own work and that of other artists, including Willem de Kooning and Louise Nevelson, said his daughter Victoria Greiss.

“He sold a de Kooning for $300 in 1956,” Victoria said. “Andy Warhol freelanced for him at Macy’s.”

“Abe was very articulate and calm. He was the first president of the West Village Committee to fight the 14-block urban renewal area,” recalled Art Stoliar. “That was before community boards took hold and the West Village Committee was where everybody went to find out what was going on,” Stoliar said.

Carol Greitzer, a former councilmember and longtime Village activist, recalled Abe’s years of advocacy alongside Jacobs.

In a 2004 article in The Villager about Jacobs’s visit to the neighborhood, Greiss recalled that his family and Jacobs shared a backyard.

Born in Newark, where he went to high school, he served in the Army Air Force during World War II. He met his wife, Carmen Vega, in Washington Square Park, Victoria said. While in the Air Force, he painted a large mural in the officers’ club in Greensboro, N.C.

A jazz and blues aficionado, he was a friend of luminaries including Lead Belly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee.

In addition to his daughter Victoria, his wife Carmen Vega Greiss, another daughter, Avia Petersen, and a son, Jeffrey Greiss, also survive. Redden’s Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.