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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Thirteenth Precinct holds 9/11 ceremony

Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney of the 13th Precinct and Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney of the 13th Precinct and Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The NYPD gathered with community residents last Friday morning to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks and honor the officers of the 13th Precinct, Moira Smith and Robert Fazio, who lost their lives.

The ceremony began at 8:30 and there was a moment of silence held at 8:46 a.m., the time that the first plane flew into the North Tower at the World Trade Center.

Reverend Tom Pike, former rector of Calvary Church, gave an invocation for the memorial, first reflecting on the dedication of the men and women of service who were working that day.

“Someone here was telling me earlier that there were two things he would never forget,” Pike said. “One was walking down those stairs out of the tower. The second thing he said was, ‘I’ll never forget that I saw people walking up those same stairs, the men and women in uniform, and I’ll never forget those faces.’ We’ll never forget these people.”

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Slain cop remembered at GPBA event at Arts Club

Arlene Harrison with guests at the event from the 13th Precinct and other precincts (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Arlene Harrison with guests at the event from the 13th Precinct and other precincts (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Gramercy Park Block Association honored slain police officer Brian Moore at the annual gala last Thursday held at the National Arts Club, which was attended by cops from the 13th Precinct, Emergency Service Unit Truck 1, 71st precinct in Brooklyn and Moore’s precinct in Queens.

GPBA president Arlene Harrison usually takes the opportunity at the event to recognize the officers of the 13th Precinct at the yearly event, emphasizing the community’s close relationship with the NYPD, and this year she paid a particular tribute to Moore.

Members of the anti-crime team at the 105th precinct, police officers Christopher D’Antonio, Jason Roemer and Nicholas Demeo, as well as Moore’s partner Officer Erik Jansen, were also in attendance.

Detective Nancy Yule, who has been with the NYPD for 33 years and on the Detective Squad for Manhattan for the last 12, has worked with Harrison in the past, since the office for the Manhattan detectives is inside the 13th precinct.

“She really outdid herself with this,” Yule said of the gathering, referring to the number of members of the NYPD at the event.

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

This one’s a job for PCV/ST Public Safety

Re: “Feeling helpless over neighbor’s noise,” T&V letter, Feb. 26

Mr. Weiner writes, “I didn’t call up security because I heard from other people they don’t do much or were told not to.” Since he has lived here for over 20 years, he should have known to seek help from our wonderful Public Safety department. These hard-working men and women are doing their best to keep everyone happy, not an easy task. We should support them and respect their efforts by trusting that they will do everything that can to keep this place safe and peaceful. They are responsible for enforcing management’s rules for maintaining a high quality of life here in our community, including management’s noise policy.

If your neighbors are not as considerate as they should be, don’t hesitate to call upon Public Safety to come to the rescue. They are here to protect us, not only from thieves, muggers and thugs, but also from each other. They have and they will. Call them.

John Cappelletti, ST

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13th Precinct cops shown love at luncheon

Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison plants a kiss on Lieutenant Sammy Ponce of the 13th Precinct, where she  was one of the organizers of a luncheon last Thursday.

Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison plants a kiss on Lieutenant Sammy Ponce of the 13th Precinct, where she was one of the organizers of a luncheon last Thursday.

By Sabina Mollot

In a show of support to local cops following the shooting deaths of two officers and amidst the unofficial but can’t-miss-it-either standoff between the NYPD and the mayor, Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, held a luncheon last Thursday to recognize the work of the 13th Precinct.

The low-key ceremony and lunch at the stationhouse was attended by current and former officers on the beat, and organized, along with Harrison, by the precinct’s Detective Ray Dorrian and GPBA Board Member Kathleen Scupp.

At the event, Harrison acknowledged the cops’ rift with City Hall in a speech, saying the community’s support remained unwavering.

“Now, while the president, the attorney general, the mayor and the police commissioner continue to play their increasingly dangerous political blame games, your lives are more than ever on the line,” she told the crowd. “When you are not safe, no one is safe. When you are in danger, we are in danger. Once again we return here today to embrace you, to support you, and to tell you how grateful we are to you and how much we love you.”

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Letters to the Editor, Cartoon, March 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Thanks to those who helped save The Players

The Gramercy Park community is excited that The Players has finally decided to do the right thing to “Help Save The Players” by electing a highly qualified and dynamic new president, Arthur Makar, and putting a Strategic Turnaround Plan in place.

This is an important first step in the process of addressing the club’s debt, reforming its governance, and rebuilding its membership. For the first time in a very long time, we can be hopeful about the future of The Players.

In light of this, we’d like to acknowledge the efforts of those who “Helped Save The Players” by documenting and reporting the gross mismanagement and dire circumstances at the club, as it accrued $4 million in debt and was in “imminent danger of closing.”

Since a major focus of the GPBA’s mission is historic preservation, we could think of no more important challenge to undertake than to help save The Players. The club not only stands as a monument to theatre life in New York City, but is a cultural treasure of the American people. Its 1844 Greek Revival townhouse at 16 Gramercy Park South is a National Historic Landmark, and sits on one of the original lots laid out in the 1831 Samuel B. Ruggles Gramercy Park Trust. A statue of The Players’ founder Edwin Booth, sits in the center of Gramercy Park.

Because of our community’s passionate interest and concern for The Players’ survival here, we refused to be bystanders as the club’s facade and financial circumstances continued to deteriorate. We felt it was our obligation to work closely with the media to bring to light the alarming findings of The Players Financial Audit Committee’s (FAC) 18-page report, documenting its shocking mismanagement.

Our deepest gratitude goes to the FAC, spearheaded by Lee Pfeiffer and Lynne Lerner, for their relentless pursuit of the truth, despite many obstacles put in their path. The FAC’s dogged determination and countless hours of work led to their extensive report detailing the desperate circumstances at the club. It was their report, which was the catalyst for the turnaround of the club.

We also want to thank Town & Village Editor Sabina Mollot for her outstanding reporting of the mismanagement and dysfunction at The Players. Mollot, who is widely known for her excellent in-depth investigative journalism, was someone we counted on at every turn to bring to the public’s attention the sad state of affairs at The Players.

Without the determined efforts of the FAC, the media and The Gramercy Park Block Association in exposing the truth, we believe The Players had little chance of survival on Gramercy Park.

Arlene S. Harrison
President, The Gramercy Park Block Association
Trustee of
Gramercy Park

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Players aims to attract corporate crowd

Arthur Makar, president of The Players, hopes to attract young, corporate members, but first focus on improving the cash-strapped club. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Arthur Makar, president of The Players, hopes to attract young, corporate members, but first focus on improving the cash-strapped club. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Arthur Makar, the man who’s been the president of The Players for a total of two weeks, knows that turning the financially strapped club around isn’t going to be simple. Still, he said, while seated for an interview with Town & Village in one of the club’s spacious rooms, “It isn’t rocket science. It’s more like ditch digging.”
His vision for the club, which was founded in 1888 as a place for men of the theater to rub elbows with those in other lines of work, goes back to its roots. The idea, he said, is to reach out to the some of the community’s corporate neighbors — Credit Suisse, New York Life and other financial institutions — and rebrand the club as the place to go to make deals over lunch.
Makar, who’s also the executive director of the nonprofit organization Fight for Sight, noted in a recent PowerPoint presentation to the club’s members the importance of attracting young professionals “who can afford annual dues.” For some time the average age of members has been 50, although Makar said he’s started seeing more in their 20s and 30s.
Currently, there are 375 members who pay around $2,000 in annual membership fees as well as an additional 75 or so who are honorary or lifetime members. It’s not nearly enough, considering some members are non-local and many of those who are local work in other neighborhoods, and don’t use the club during the day.
Still, Makar said marketing the place to potential members isn’t going to happen any time soon. First, the club has to improve its dining service — and image. An inspection earlier in the month by the health department left the club’s front door with the dreaded scarlet letter — a C. The grade was issued for six sanitary violations, including evidence of live mice and improper storage of food.
“We have to get it from a C to an A,” said Makar. “We have to make sure we address all those issues.”
Once that happens, Makar said he wants to make the club’s dining experience feel more special, by improving the ambiance in the dining room. “Just basic things. You light votive candles and make sure the lighting isn’t up to a roar.”
Another plan is to offer additional dining with a more upscale menu in the club’s Kinstler room, which offers a direct view of the park across the street. This has had a soft launch already “to test the waters.”
In his PowerPoint presentation, Makar stressed that he didn’t want members to only be dining at the club out of a sense of duty.
“A good restaurant always has patrons,” he said. “We do not want you to feel that dining at the club is an obligation to keep the club solvent. We want you and your guests to enjoy the experience.”

Workers repair the club building’s facade. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Workers repair the club building’s facade. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Meanwhile, the club’s new general manager, Michael Smith, is in the midst of working out a contract with its unionized kitchen and wait staff. Late last year, the club’s chef was let go and currently the sous chef is running the kitchen. Also last year, the club had trouble making payroll on several occasions and the club owed so much money to various vendors and to the government in taxes that even its then-president Johnnie Planco didn’t know the exact amount of debt. And even now, Makar, who’s worked in the nonprofit world for years, isn’t sure, either.
“I don’t have my mind wrapped around the numbers,” he admitted. “We haven’t had an outside examination of the books in three years.”
To get those numbers figured out by June, which is when the club’s membership holds its annual meeting, The Players has hired an auditing firm.
In the meantime, to bring in revenue, along with the dining room, there’s been a renewed focus on renting rooms out for events. There may also be a “reassessment” of member fees, which could mean a one-time spike in dues. There’s been talk about selling a prized painting by John Singer Sargent, but, said Makar, members would have to be informed about that and other options to bring in money first.
One thing he’s hesitant to do though is approach the club’s more deep-pocketed members for donations.
“In the past there were a lot of wealthy people to bail out the club,” said Makar, “but that kind of culture has changed. To move forward we really need to do more fundraising instead of discretely approaching someone.”
Asking the club’s more famous members, who include Jimmy Fallon and Uma Thurman, for any kind of help is also not part of his plan. Again, he said, improving services comes first as does keeping members in the loop of the financials, something that hadn’t been done in the past.
“We have to get that transparency in place before anyone give us a dime,” said Makar.
Transparency has been a part of a “strategic turnaround” plan the club’s board recently came up with, and has included the voting in of Makar, two new vice presidents and the club’s first ever chairman, James Larocca.
Makar’s presidency has since been cheered by Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, who’s been a critic of Planco and the board for not revealing the club’s debt to members sooner.
Harrison, after meeting with Makar, said she was “very impressed” with him due to his experience working in nonprofits.
“I believe he has the understanding and expertise in many areas of nonprofit management, including strategic planning, budgeting and fundraising, that are crucial for the turnaround of the club,” she said this week.
Makar, meanwhile, said he suspects he was elected because he’s relatively new. He joined the board last year after the club’s financial woes, much of which have been blamed on the former executive director, John Martello, were out in the open.
“I didn’t have time to get into all the politics,” he said.
Planco, meanwhile, also said Makar had his full support. Commenting on the regime change, Planco, a talent agent who rents an office at the club, said, “I think we all thought it was time for fresh horses. So I’m delighted. And I’m still here and will keep doing what I do.”
In other club news, the outside of the building on Gramercy Park South has seen some improvement. After having to come to a halt due to financial reasons, work recently resumed on its landmarked facade and a scaffolding that had shrouded the building finally came down last week.