Gramercy Park Block Association - Neighborhood News #518
The Players Survives on Gramercy Park!

The scaffolding is down, and with new leadership and a Strategic Turnound Plan, the club begins journey to restore financial stability, accountability and trust.



We are excited to tell you that after years of our community's deep concern about the survival of The Players on Gramercy Park, the club finally has a highly qualified and dynamic new president Arthur Makar, and a terrific new leadership team in place.   Hooray!


President Makar has a long history of proven success as an executive director and chief development officer in the non-profit sector.  Among his many areas of expertise are nonprofit management, strategic planning, budgeting, fundraising, community relations, public relations, board and program development, corporate and foundation relations.


We express our deepest gratitude The Players' Financial Audit Committee (FAC), who spent years and countless hours to Help Save The Players. In 2012 the FAC submitted an 18-page report documenting the gross financial mismanagement of the club under now former president Johnnie Planco and former Executive Director John Martello. Under their "leadership" the club accrued several million dollars in debt and was in "imminent danger of closing." Without the FAC's tireless efforts to bring the club's dire circumstances to light, it is our belief that the club would no longer be at 16 Gramercy Park South.    


Congratulations to Jim Kaufman and his extraordinary Strategic Turnaround Planning Committee who have after enormous input, review and assessment, "developed a turnaround plan to empower new leadership, rebuild and broaden the club's membership, reform its administration and finances, and enrich its theatrical life and programs." They have devoted their time, energy, and abilities to try to help the club to regain the trust and confidence of its members, to whom leadership now owes accountability.


We are also grateful to the small group of hardworking dedicated Players volunteers who showed up everyday, and never left the club's side while its future was in jeopardy.
Our Gramercy Park Block Association also expresses our thanks to DNAinfo News Editor Amy Zimmer and Town & Village Editor  Sabina Mollot, who worked with us throughout this difficult time, writing dozens of articles highlighting the tragic state of affairs at The Players.  
A major focus of the GPBA's mission is Historic Preservation. We could think of no more important challenge for us to undertake than to Help Save The Players.  The club's 1844 Greek Revival townhouse at 16 Gramercy Park South sits on one of the original lots laid out in the 1831 Samuel B. Ruggles Gramercy Park Trust. A statue of Players' founder Edwin Booth sits in the center of Gramercy Park.  The Players has a rich history on Gramercy Park and our community has a passionate interest in its survival here.

With a new leadership team and Strategic Turnaround Plan in place, we can finally breathe a sigh of relief and be optimistic about the The Players' future on Gramercy Park.

Troubled Players Club gets new leadership
The institution founded by actor Edwin Booth elected a new president and appointed a board chairman, continuing its efforts to get back on solid financial footing.


The Players Club, which has been struggling with debt, inept management and stagnant membership, has taken additional steps to turn itself around. The nonprofit has elected a new president and created the position of board chairman, moves that follow the hiring of a new general manager at the end of last year to help lift the once venerable institution out of its quagmire.


Last week, the club elected Arthur Makar as its president, replacing Johnnie Planco, who'd held the position for many years. Insiders had insisted that the talent agent had to go because he was part of the regime that caused the problems. Mr. Planco remains on the club's board.


Mr. Makar, who has been a member for just two years, is executive director of the nonprofit Fight for Sight, which provides money for eye and vision research.  He also is a member of the Cherry Lane Theater board.


"I think I was approached (about being president) because I know enough about the club, but I'm also new enough that I'm not a member of any clique. I'm open to the process of improvement," he said.


An extensive audit of the club's financials is expected in June and once the board sees the report, it can better formulate a plan to get the institution on solid footing, Mr. Makar added.

The club, which currently has about 425 members, is $1.5 million in debt, not counting a $2 million loan from a member that's expected to be forgiven. It lost about $450,000 last year.


Mr. Makar said he is committed to addressing some members' complaints that the board hasn't been transparent about the club's finances, and that he wants to run an open, honest organization. "This is an exciting opportunity for me," he said. "I like problem solving.


Meanwhile, James Larocca was appointed to the new role of chairman of the 125-year-old club on Gramercy Park that was founded by famed 19th century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth.  Mr. Larocca was formerly New York State Public Service Commissioner and is a produced playwright.  Eventually, the club would like to have notable entertainment figure as its chairman to raise its profile.


Some of the club's critics were pleased with Mr. Makar's appointment.


"The Gramercy Park community is grateful and delighted that The Players has finally decided to do the right thing to help save The Players by electing a new President,' said Arlene Harrison, president of The Gramercy Park Block Association. "The election of Mr. Makar and his new leadership team is an important first step in the club's turnaround, and we are optimistic for the first time in a long time about the club's future."


The club has made other moves to improve its future. Late last year, it appointed Michael Smith as it general manager. Mr. Smith has held management positions at the Harvard, Lotos and Williams clubs.  He replaced the previous executive director, John Martello, who was forced out. Many blamed Mr. Martello for the club's problems though he denied he was responsible.


Progress has been made. An agreement to start paying $250,000 in back taxes to the city has been reached. Members have donated $800,000 in the past few months to keep the doors open. The club installed a computer system that will allow it to see how much money is coming in from dinners and other events. A new events committee has revamped programming, started movie and jazz nights, and managed to make the New Year's Eve party a sellout.


Click here to read the article on Crain's website.