Gramercy block is co-named for former Children’s Court building

(Pictured L-R) Some of the project committee members gather at the sign unveiling: Claude L. Winfield; Judge Andrea Masley; Lois Rakoff; Tiffany Townsend; Dr. Samuel D. Albert; Louise Dankberg; Molly Hollister; Michelle Deal Winfield; Dr. David Christy, provost of Baruch College; and Council Member Rosie Mendez (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of around 30 people, mostly community activist types, gathered at the northwest corner of East 22nd Street and Third Avenue for a ceremony to co-name the block “Children’s Court Way.”

The project was in the works for the past two years, and was the idea of East Midtown Plaza resident Michelle Deal Winfield.

The Children’s Court used to be located on East 22nd Street, in what is now home to Baruch College’s Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute. Today, there is just a bit of lingering evidence as to what the building’s prior purpose was, like the marble water drinking fountain built specifically for a child’s height, as well as some of the stairs in the building that are four and a half inches high instead of the standard eight.

According to Gramercy: Its Architectural Surroundings, a book published by the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates in 1996, a court for children was first established in Manhattan in the former Department of Public Charities Building on Third Avenue and 11th Street. This was in response to a push by reformers to treat juvenile delinquents differently from adult criminals and take their family circumstances into account. However, this court, a division of The Court of Special Sessions, was still required by law to treat children in the same manner as adults.

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Nonprofits leaving Gramercy area

The United Charities building at Park Avenue South and 22nd Street that housed Community Service Society, Children’s Aid Society and New York City Mission Society (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The United Charities building at Park Avenue South and 22nd Street that housed Community Service Society, Children’s Aid Society and New York City Mission Society (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the announcement of its move to the Grand Central neighborhood in mid-August from the United Charities Building at 105 East 22nd Street, the Community Service Society is just one of a handful of other non-profit organizations moving away from the area formerly known as Charity Row. In a two-block area that used to house the Xavier Society for the Blind, New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Russell Sage Foundation, the Church Missions House at 281 Park Avenue South is one of the last hold-outs of the non-profits in the neighborhood, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The United Charities Building was jointly owned by three different anti-poverty organizations for the last 122 years. In addition to CSS, which owned 50 percent of the stakes, Children’s Aid Society and New York City Mission Society each held 25 percent of the stakes. In a press release from last year, the United Charities’ member organizations, which rely on government grants as well as private and foundation giving to sustain their programming, reported they were exploring the possibility of a sale in order to leverage resources and assets so they could continue their work. The Board of Directors for United Charities had voted unanimously to retain a brokerage firm because they realized that the sale of the building in the current real estate market could bring in significant funding for the three organizations.

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