Focus on 9/11 illnesses at 18th memorial ceremony

Officers stand at attention during the memorial for the 18th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in front of the 13th Precinct on East 21st Street on Wednesday morning. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Speakers emphasized the ongoing effects of 9/11-related illnesses on members of law enforcement and first responders during the 13th precinct’s annual remembrance ceremony of the 2001 World Trade Center terror attacks this past Wednesday.

Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison, who assisted the 13th precinct in the aftermath of 9/11 and for months following, noted that more than ten times the number of NYPD members have died from 9/11-related illnesses since 2001, compared to the 23 NYPD members who died on the day of the attacks.

“Eighteen years later, hundreds of first responders continue to die on a regular basis of 9/11 related illnesses. Here are the numbers of the second tragedy that continues each day,” she said. “There were 400 toxic chemicals at the site. The number of first responders and survivors enrolled for monitoring or treatment is nearly 100,000. All the families ever ask is that we never forget. We can continue to honor those who died that day by being the ones who remember. It’s the very least we owe to the victims and the families they left behind.”

Patrick Lynch, President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, emphasized that many members of the NYPD have died from related illnesses and many others are currently suffering.

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Texas girl battling cancer travels to New York to meet NYPD

Seven-year-old Abigail Arias, pictured with her family, Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison and members of the 13th precinct and the NYPD (Photos courtesy of Blue Lives Matter NYC)

Last week, the Gramercy Park Block Association welcomed 7-year-old Freeport, TX Honorary Police Chief Abigail Arias (badge# 758), her father Rueben, mother Eileen, brother Ethan and Freeport Police Chief Raymond A. Garivey to Gramercy Park.

Blue Lives Matter NYC co-founders Sgt. Joseph Imperatrice, Det. Carlos Delgado and PO Chris Brinkley organized a trip to New York City for Arias, who dreams of becoming a police officer, but suffers from a incurable form of kidney cancer.

To welcome Arias to Gramercy Park, GPBA President Arlene Harrison and Kathleen Scupp organized a pizza party, and invited local NYPD, including Manhattan South Chief Salvatore Comodo, Det. Greg Welch and Emergency Service Truck 1, and 13th Precinct Neighborhood Coordinating Officers. The party was co-hosted by the Gramercy Park Hotel and Maialino Restaurant.

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GPBA honors cops killed in the line of duty

Family members and colleagues of fallen officers at the memorial event (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Gramercy Park Block Association honored the members of the NYPD that have been killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 6. The memorial event at the National Arts Club has become an annual tradition that the organization has been carrying on since 2015.

The event stemmed from the Blue Lives Matter NYC movement started by three members of the NYPD after the murders of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in December 2014. The goal was to help families of the slain offers in their time of need and GPBA president Arlene Harrison joined with the organization the following year.

“It has now become a nationwide movement, and I have done everything I can to spread the word, by organizing a social media network of over 150 police groups around the country,” Harrison said of Blue Lives Matter.

Harrison explained that the GPBA was formed in 1993 after her 15-year-old son was beaten in Gramercy Park with a mission of protecting the neighborhood by working closely with the police department. The GPBA also organized a relief effort within the 13th Precinct for a number of months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

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Arts Club honors its old adversary

Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, was recognized for her years of community service at the National Arts Club’s 120th anniversary gala. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images North America)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

In an event no one in the neighborhood could have foreseen sans a crystal ball just a decade ago, the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park honored Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison at the club’s 120th anniversary gala.

While Harrison and the club have enjoyed a positive working relationship in recent years, she was actively involved in investigations that resulted in the ousting of the club’s former president, O. Aldon James, for misusing the club’s funds and real estate.

Arthur Barnes, chairman of the gala held on Saturday, November 3 and a member of the club’s board of governors, said that the awards were specifically in recognition of community service and the award for Harrison was due to her long-standing relationship with the club and Gramercy Park.

“She’s a tremendously effective advocate of Gramercy Park,” Barnes said. “She’s been a member of the club for many years and we wanted to recognize her leadership within our community, including with the 13th Precinct only two blocks away, and with Brotherhood Synagogue and Calvary Church.”

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Former Calvary rector Rev. Pike celebrates 80th birthday

Rev. Tom Pike with Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison and and Gramercy Park executive assistant Alex Nguyen (Photos by Ira Fox)

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Pike, formerly the rector of Calvary-St. George’s, celebrated his 80th birthday on Wednesday, January 10 at the parish house.

At the event, a video tribute in Pike’s honor was shown, made by Alex Nguyen, Matt Veligdan and Kamel Boutros. Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison also made some remarks cheering Pike’s accomplishments as a religious leader and a community one.

“Our community has always counted on you for your wisdom, compassion and support,” she said. “We can’t thank you for all you have done for us and meant to us. We look forward to many more years of leadership and friendship.”

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Gramercy Park packed on Christmas Eve

Photos by Ira Fox

By Sabina Mollot

On Christmas Eve, carolers came from far and wide to celebrate the evening at Gramercy Park. Christmas Eve is the one day of the year when the gated park is open to the public, and Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association and park trustee, estimated that there were over 1,000 people in attendance. Some, however, couldn’t fit into the park where police were manning two open gates.

“Everyone eventually got in, but the park was packed and (police) said no one was complaining,” Harrison said. “Everyone seemed very delighted to be there.”

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National Night Out Against Crime

Anil Sheokumar, representative for Public Advocate Letitia James; Rachel Atcheson, liaison from the mayor’s office; 13th Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney; Detective Vincent Arlotta; 13th Precinct Community Council President Frank Scala; event organizer Jo-Ann Polise, 13th Precinct Community Council member Pat Sallin and Police Officer John Considine (Photos by Sabina Mollot and Jo-Ann Polise)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday night, crowds came out at parks across the country for parties that were held as part of National Night Out Against Crime. Established in 1984 as a way to highlight the importance of partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, National Night Out is typically celebrated with a block party where neighbors can also get the ear of cops on issues of local concern.

Each year, one of these events is held by the 13th Precinct Community Council at the Second Avenue playground of the Simon Baruch Middle School.

At Tuesday’s event, Arlene Harrison, the president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, said she was there to show her support for the NYPD following a recent fatal shooting of a Bronx officer.

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Street re-dedicated to fallen cop

Officers of the 13th Precinct attend a ceremony in honor of P.O. Anthony Sanchez who was gunned down in the line of duty. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Officers from the 13th Precinct joined friends and family members of slain Police Officer Anthony Sanchez on Friday for a ceremony to rededicate the section of East 20th Street between Second and Third Avenue named in his honor on the 20th anniversary of his death.

Sanchez had worked at the precinct for 10 years with his partner, now-retired Detective Roy Ruland, who attended the ceremony last week, in addition to Sanchez’s widow, Elizabeth, and mother, Loretta.

Sanchez’s son John couldn’t make it to the ceremony but Elizabeth read a statement he had prepared, where he expressed the pride he felt whenever he came across the part of East 21st Street that had been co-named in honor of his father.

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Civic groups oppose city proposal for half of street fair vendors to be community-based

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community organizers are worried that proposed new rules requiring participation from local businesses in street festivals will affect their revenue because they feel there won’t be enough participation from neighborhood vendors.

The Mayor’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management (OCECM), which oversees the Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), proposed new rules for street festivals, including a requirement that 50 percent of participating vendors have a business or local presence within the same community board as the festival, as well as a limit on how many are allowed per community board every year, decreasing the number from 18 to 10.

Carol Schachter, who’s the vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, said that a number of groups depend on revenue from local street fairs to fund programming for the neighborhood. Schachter attempted to provide testimony about the issue at the public hearing held last Thursday but noted that the hearing was held in a small room without enough space to accommodate all those who wanted to speak.

“Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association hosts events like tangos in the park. They rely on street fair revenue,” she said. “We don’t have money as community organizations to pay for these things otherwise. We need that money for National Night Out: the giveaways, ice cream truck, they all have to be paid for and it’s paid for by revenue from street fairs.”

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13th Precinct remembers 9/11 on 15th anniversary

Officers of Emergency Service Truck #1, the 13th Precinct, the K9 unit and NYPD retirees who returned for the WTC Remembrance Ceremony along with Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison in front of the 13th Precinct on East 21st Street (Photo by William Baker/Courtesy of the PBA of the NYPD)

Officers of Emergency Service Truck #1, the 13th Precinct, the K9 unit and NYPD retirees who returned for the WTC Remembrance Ceremony along with Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison in front of the 13th Precinct on East 21st Street (Photo by William Baker/Courtesy of the PBA of the NYPD)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Officers of the 13th Precinct and residents of Gramercy commemorated the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center this past Sunday.

Officers gathered outside the precinct at 8:30 a.m. and observed a moment of silence at 8:46, the time that the first plane collided with the north tower.

Calvary Church on East 21st Street hosted one service at 11 a.m. on the day of the anniversary and invited Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, to speak about the parish’s partnership with the community in the days and weeks following the attacks.

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Calvary-St. George’s gets a not-quite-new rector

Expansion of programs at St. George’s and beautification of church planned

Rev. Jacob Smith

Rev. Jacob Smith

By Sabina Mollot

As far as any of the parishioners are concerned, Reverend Jacob Smith, who’s been the priest-in-charge at Calvary-St. George’s for the past three years, has been the church’s leader for all that time.

However, due to certain formalities within the structure of the Episcopal Church, it wasn’t until last month that Smith, who’s been serving the double parish for the past decade, was called as its new rector. Normally, he explained, someone who began as a pastoral assistant, as he did at Calvary, wouldn’t get to become a rector at the same church, so his situation was an exception.

The city’s 199-Episcopal Church network also took the unusual step in seeking the counsel of the Diocese in calling Smith, and he’ll be assisting in the leadership of St. Ann’s, a church for the deaf. The date of his institution has not yet been set.

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Gramercy Park community activist Audrey Sisson Kasha dies at 88

A public memorial service will be held for Audrey Sisson Kasha on Thursday, June 30.

A public memorial service will be held for Audrey Sisson Kasha on Thursday, June 30.

By Sabina Mollot

Gramercy Park resident Audrey Sisson Kasha, 88, died on June 12, a month after suffering a severe stroke.

Kasha was for many years involved in her community, having been the one to suggest the formation of the Gramercy Park Block Association in 1993.

This was after another resident, Tim Harrison, was beaten by a roving gang on the street. The association, run by Tim’s mother Arlene Harrison, was formed the next year and has remained devoted to local safety and quality of life ever since. Meanwhile, Kasha also served as one Gramercy Park’s trustees, including for some time as its counsel.

Arlene Harrison said she’ll remember Kasha for her dedication and her skills as a writer and editor for much of the trustees’ and block association’s literature.

“Just when we thought our writing was in perfect shape for Audrey to review, she would find at least 15 errors,” Harrison said.

She was also a founding member of the Tilden Democratic Club, which she was very active in, both in going to meetings and petitioning.

Until her retirement over 25 years ago, Kasha, a resident of 60 Gramercy Park North, served as chief of staff for the now-deceased Democratic Assemblyman William Passanante, who represented the Greenwich Village area.

Harrison noted that Kasha was often referred to as Passanante’s “brains” by the Assemblymember himself and that they remained good friends for decades.

Kasha was also known for throwing dinner parties, where guests raved over her cooking, and for being an avid church-goer at Calvary. She also met frequently with a group of people, who, like her, had involvement in politics, called The Schleppers.

Kasha had a grown son, Matthew, who worked in the music industry, and died in 2005. She is also predeceased by her sisters Gloria and Maxine. Kasha has one remaining sibling, her brother Peter Kasha, whose five-year-old son Ethan and wife Zena Kasha was very close with.

She was buried last week in Warwick, New Jersey with a small service for family members. On June 30 at 6 p.m., there will be a public memorial service held at Calvary Church, located at 277 Park Avenue South and 21st Street. Reverend Jacob Smith will be officiating.

Gunman robs couple outside Gramercy Park

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A man and woman walking around Gramercy Park were mugged by a man who turned a gun on them before demanding they hand over cash and jewelry.

This was around at 11 p.m. on Sunday night, according to Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison, who shared news of the robbery in an email to neighbors on Tuesday.

The couple, who Harrison said do not live in Manhattan, had just left the nearby Pete’s Tavern after a date when they decided to take a walk around the park. After walking up Irving Place and almost making a full loop around the park, they came across a man who looked lost at the corner of East 21st Street and Gramercy Park West.

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Snapping the snowstorm: Gramercy Park in pictures

Making the best of a weekend of being snowed in, numerous residents of Gramercy Park headed outside, cameras in tow, to capture the blizzard’s beauty as well as the opportunity to enjoy the snow with their families. The neighbor photo project was organized by Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association. Here are just some of the photos. The rest (over 100) can be seen on Harrison’s Flickr.

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Calvary’s candlelight concert will feature Arabic music as well as caroling and jazz

Last year’s service and concert (Photo courtesy of Calvary/St. George’s)

Last year’s service and concert (Photo courtesy of Calvary/St. George’s)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, December 6, Calvary-St. George’s Church will continue one of the oldest church traditions in the country with its 127th annual holiday candlelight service and concert.

The event, which will feature a broad mix of traditional and contemporary music in different styles as well as Christmas caroling, will also for the first time, include some Arabic music with Arabic instruments. This was planned by the parish’s music director, Egyptian-born Kamel Boutros, in a sign of peace between different cultures following the recent terrorist attacks.

Joshua Encinias, an executive assistant at the Episcopal parish, said the concert each year is a mix of old and new in its musical program. The candlelight is an old Anglican tradition from the United Kingdom, he explained, with Calvary’s candlelight caroling event being the first known concert of that type in the United States.

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