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Long-simmering feud between Gramercy Park elites erupts again over access rules


Arlene Harrison has ruled Manhattan’s only non-public park — exactly where only elites with aged-revenue names like Tara Rockefeller or stars like Jimmy Fallon have keys — with what her enemies say is an iron fist because 1997.

But a very long-simmering feud with her main nemesis, Aldon James, the former president of the Gramercy Park Nationwide Arts Club, has erupted once more.

James accuses her of enacting even much more rules at the previously heavily-controlled two acres that Harrison, 78, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, patrols nearly just about every working day with a clipboard.

Plaques outline the procedures, some of which can be witnessed from the exterior and others that incorporate for a longer period lists that are concealed from view.

“It’s outrageous,” James mentioned of the rules which forbid, among the other factors, smoking, consuming alcohol, bicycle riding, taking pics, walking a puppy, actively playing athletics, throwing a Frisbee or feeding wildlife. Some of the newer policies, he said, include a ban on any kind of musical leisure.

Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, has been accused of getting way too stringent with policies at the park.
Stephen Yang

The public is banned from the park. Anyone who slips in illegally generally does not know a vital is also required to exit the park, and get locked in.

“Arlene’s making it too exclusive and rarely anybody will come right here any more,” James claimed.

James, who presents his age as “senior citizen,” also instructed The Post that the park has gotten shabby even however Gramercy Park residents pay $350 for an particular person vital and structures in the park radius shell out $10,000 for two keys.

The park, created in 1831, is held in popular by the residents in 39 encompassing townhouses, apartment buildings, and clubs, and can only be accessed by them. It’s managed by five trustees of the Gramercy Park Believe in.

A list of rules for visitors of Gramercy Park.
A list of policies for people of Gramercy Park.

Far more troubling, however, are questions about the hefty 6-figure wage Harrison, who calls herself the “mayor of Gramercy Park,” has drawn in new yrs as head of the non-income Gramercy Park Block Affiliation, according to its tax filings.

In 2019, she produced $119,312. In 2015, when the association took in $368,966 in donations, Harrison’s wage was $165,385.

Harrison states she is effective 70 hrs a 7 days at the park but it’s not obvious particularly what she does.

“All my pals in the region tell me they only see her out there in the morning for an hour or so at a time sitting down around,” James explained. “I’ve by no means viewed her there 70 hours a week. She has not picked up a rake or a shovel. They have cameras all in excess of the park. Get the video from them. Can they establish she’s there 70 several hours a week? I’d lay my lifetime down to say no.”

Harrison has mentioned she does outreach operate on behalf of the non-revenue team but James said there is no indication that these operate would require up to 70 hrs of labor.

In accordance to its site, the association’s stated mission is “to teach the inhabitants of the location identified as Gramercy Park as to the safety and security issues in this historic community, and to convey about civic betterment in get to boost the very well-currently being of those who dwell and/or function in the higher Gramercy Park spot.”

Resident Alton James claims that Harrison and other association members "run this place like the Mafia."
Resident Alton James claims that Harrison and other affiliation customers “run this spot like the Mafia.”
Helayne Seidman

Nevertheless the affiliation has created donations that never look to in good shape its platform, these kinds of as $15,000 they gave Blue Life Subject in Staten Island in 2018.

Harrison, association vice president Tara Rockefeller, treasurer Norman Kurlan and officer Kamel Boutros did not return messages in search of comment,

“Arlene and her pals are very secretive,” James reported. “They run this area like the Mafia.”

The two have lengthy slung mud at each other. James referred to as her and other park trustees out in 2000 when James helped direct a subject trip of minority little ones from a close by community faculty to the park. He said one of the trustees phoned the law enforcement to report the college students due to the fact the trustee said ‘this is a personal have faith in not for these variety of youngsters.” James instructed a area paper referred to as the Villager and they published a tale. Businessman and political activist Invoice Samuels, who was on the board of the Arts Club for several years, examine the tale and confronted the chairman of the park trustees.

Harrison was not a trustee of the Gramercy Park Have faith in but as president of the Block Association “she supported all of them in throwing the youngsters out of the park,” Samuels stated. “I was in shock that this variety of racism was occurring ideal out in the open.”

Samuels was so angry he submitted a suit in federal court docket versus the Gramercy Park Belief alleging they discriminated towards the children.

“I spoke to some of the dad and mom at the time,” Samuels claimed. “Their kids arrived house in tears.”

Samuels mentioned his attorneys asked for a $15,000 settlement for just about every of the children and for the suitable for them to pay a visit to the park each and every Martin Luther King Day.

As an alternative, he claimed, the park trustees ponied up $40,000 for each individual university student in trade for not getting the proper to arrive go to when a year.

“Arlene was 1 of the important folks who did not want the little ones there,” Samuels reported. “Aldon James is a hero.”

Gramercy Park residents pay $350 for a key to the park.
Gramercy Park people pay back $350 for a important to the park.
Helayne Seidman

James also has his detractors. He was pushed out as the Nationwide Arts Club’s president soon after a long and bitter 2013 lawful fight, in which he paid $950,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that he ran the club for his very own advantage, while he experienced doubled the club’s membership in his 25 yrs in charge. He informed The Write-up he was harmless of any wrongdoing and mentioned his operate-ins with Harrison about the yrs are partly to blame for what he mentioned was unwell will toward him.

James took a Submit reporter on a tour of the park, as soon as termed “one of Manhattan’s crown jewels,” but which which looked considerably unkempt Friday. The gravel paths appeared as however they hadn’t been raked in weeks. The foliage and plantings seemed as if another person took just the bare minimum of care.

A lot of of the park benches, specifically the a single containing a plaque in memory of Constance Gibson, the famous park trustee who oversaw the park for about 50 several years until her dying at age 94 in 1997, are smudged with chook droppings or grime.





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