Gramercy Park Block Association - Neighborhood News #565
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

GPBA holds annual party at Arts Club

By Maria Rocha-Buschel


Manhattan South Detectives with GPBA President Arlene Harrison, GPBA Vice President Tara Rockefeller and daughter Eliza. Photos by Shannon Nallan

Hundreds of members of the Gramercy Park Block Association celebrated the Gramercy Park community at the organization's annual gala at the National Arts Club last Tuesday evening, with jazz provided by the Alex Nguyen Quartet. Last week's celebration was only the second time in recent years that the community group hosted its annual gathering at the club due to the O. Aldon James litigation, and GPBA president Arlene Harrison said that they're glad to be back. 


National Arts Club President Chris Poe welcomed the crowd.  "Never before have we been so proud to be a member of Gramercy Park," said Poe. "We want to thank the Park Trustees and Arlene Harrison who serves as our Mayoress, and who has been such a dedicated champion of our cause for all these years."


Harrison recognized the first responders who were at the event, emphasizing the close relationship that the GPBA has had with them for many years.


"Tonight we are honored to welcome many of our local first responders from the NYPD 13th Precinct, Emergency Service Truck #1, Manhattan South Detectives, Police Academy, FDNY Ladder 3 and Engine 5," she said. "They come to our neighborhood every day to keep us safe and are certainly a treasured part of our community family."


Harrison then read the names of first responders who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, followed by the playing of Taps and a moment of silence.  "We promised their families we'd never forget," said Harrison. "I'd like to take any opportunity we have to honor their memory," she added.  Click here to read Harrison's remarks honoring the first responders.


After historian Dr. Eugene Weise gave a short talk about some Gramercy Park history, GPBA member and activist Gerard Schriffen said a few impromptu words of praise about how much he appreciates Harrison's countless contributions to the community. 


"I've known her for 30 years and she is not normal," he said. "But I mean that in the most loving way. You know what a badger is; it's an animal that sinks its teeth into you and one of you will die. This community will never truly understand what she's done for us. There are projects that would have literally destroyed us had it not been for Arlene.  Everything she undertakes on our behalf, she wins!"


Harrison said that she was appreciative of Schriffen's words, noting that they have "fought many battles together" in the 30 years that they've known each other. 


"People want to apologize for me and they'll say, 'oh, she's actually really nice,'" Harrison said in response to Schriffen's praise of her relentless drive on community projects. "I don't want you to tell them that!"


She added that after recently attending her Cornell reunion and seeing most of her fellow classmates with walkers and canes, her total focus is on grooming the future generation. 


"We will set up a Gramercy Park office and all of our years of work will be digitized to sustain what we've been doing for decades," she said. "The office will include archives and a library to preserve the history of Gramercy Park. We will also select and groom the next generation to take over our work. If we don't hand it off to the next generation, we will have accomplished nothing."


This article has been edited from its original version.