Gramercy Park - Look Don't Touch: I've warned my family and friends that one day they'll probably see me on the evening news taking a perp walk into Manhattan's 13th Precinct police station. The reason, I will have been arrested for chaining myself to the front gate of Gramercy Park.
"Gramercy Park, which fills a two-block square between East 20th and 21st Streets and Third and Fourth Avenues, was originally a swamp. In 1831, real estate developer Samuel B. Ruggles drained the land and designed a square on the English model, with 61 lots facing a private, fenced-in park; he gave the park to the owners of the surrounding properties." (via MCNY)
The Gramercy Park neighborhood has been called the "Bloomsbury of America" for the collection of literati like Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, O. Henry and others who took inspiration from these tranquil surroundings.
Yet it represents everything I don't like about NYC -- the "who you know" social climbing crap that permits only those with keys to the park (people living in buildings surrounding the park or their guests) to enjoy the gorgeous open space. That's in a city starving for room to stretch. It's even become the model for a gated community in Minnesota.
This community garden in the East Village and -- on a grander scale -- Bryant Park are examples of how private and public interests can converge to provide safe, clean and welcoming space to the everyone. I'm not even arguing for anything close to the investment of time and money it would take to replicate that feat for Gramercy Park. Nevertheless, there's got to be a way to open Gramercy Park to the public, at least for a few hours each day so kids could enjoy it.
Instead, a few elitist biddies rule the private Manhattan park like their own country manor. An article in today's NYT gives me some hope that they're finally getting their comeuppance.
"In 2001, two trustees of Gramercy Park, the renowned private enclave on the East Side of Manhattan, were accused in a lawsuit of having discriminated against two groups of predominantly minority public school students."
"One defendant, Sharen S. Benenson, was accused of having unsuccessfully tried to evict one group and of having evicted the second. The other defendant, Arthur N. Abbey, who has since resigned as a trustee, was accused of having supported her behavior. The defense said the groups were asked to leave because they were too large."
"Last week, a participant in the case said a tentative settlement had been reached, with approval still needed from one or two of the eight plaintiffs remaining in the case. The eight are a club member and seven children and parents. Under the proposal, they would receive money, but there would be a denial of discrimination, said the participant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and would not say how much would be paid." (via NYT)
Of course, I don't think for a minute such a settlement will result in the park's gates being flung open but at least I get a smidgeon of satisfaction.
NYU Department of Fine Arts