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.