No Walk in the Park

Gramercy Park keys are even more precious this year.Photo: Amber Terranova for New York Magazine.


Now that the city is finally warm, Gramercy Park is filling up with the privileged locals who are eligible for a key. But this season, getting through the coveted gates got a little tougher. Residents in the 39 buildings facing the park had to pay $350 to rent a key for the year, with a $1,000 replacement fee. (Last spring, the two fees were each $275.) And for the first time since 1905, the rules of Manhattan’s only private park have been amended, up to 22 regulations from 15. Jogging is now limited to “graveled areas or other areas designated by the Trustees.” Feeding birds is forbidden, as is playing with “Frisbees and hard balls.” Essentially, it’s against the rules to have any fun.

“I feel like I need a nanny or a nurse when I’m in there,” says Philip Bloch, an actor who lives on the park. “You have to be 3 or 300.” Last year, Bloch was reprimanded for eating a sandwich on the sacred grass—but he still paid for a key this year, mostly for the status, he says: “It’s a nice place to have a meeting.”

The National Arts Club, the eccentric association on East 20th Street that has battled the park’s trustees for years, tried to hold out. Its president, Aldon James, declared over the winter that he wasn’t signing the rules, citing a new ban on groups larger than six. “A lot of people feel they have been damaged,” says James. He’s since given in, having extracted an agreement giving the club a day’s free run of the park once a year. He’s somewhat embittered about the notorious incident four years back when the club brought a group of minority children from nearby schools into the park and they were shooed out by trustee Sharen Benenson. The kids sued, settling last fall for about $36,000 each, plus $50,000 for a boy who was pointedly confronted. William Samuels, an entrepreneur who paid their legal fees, has even speculated that the trustees have hiked the key fees to finance the settlement, a charge the trustees flatly deny.

Still, says Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, no one has formally complained. “We serve as fiduciaries for all the [building] owners,” she says, adding that the new rules “only came about after months of input.” And chairman of the board James Clark insists that plain old inflation was behind the price increases. (In the next few months, residents will be assessed to pay the legal fees.) He also doubts that most residents oppose the new rules or rates: “I think we sold more keys this year than last year.”

The Other Weinstein Flips
Bob swaps homes in the Beresford.
Miramax co-chair Bob Weinstein is making his broker, Stribling’s Alexa Lambert, very happy—or at least rich. He’s just signed a contract to sell (for roughly $14.5 million) the five-bedroom quadruplex tower pent-house he bought last fall on Central Park West for $12.75 million. (He never moved in.) But he’s not leaving the building—he’s buying an even bigger place downstairs, priced at $20 million. Weinstein declined to comment, and Lambert couldn’t be reached, but another Stribling broker was moved to remark, “Yeah, Alexa is having a really tough year.”

Sciorra Thing: It looks as though Williamsburg is—all together, everybody!—officially over for hipsters and Hasidim alike. The latest Soho type to arrive is Annabella Sciorra, who’s played the love interest of everyone from Richard Gere to Tony Soprano. She spent $1.2 million for a three-bed-room apart-ment in the Gretsch Building, the musical-instrument factory turned luxe condo, where her new neighbors include rapper-actor Busta Rhymes. Sciorra and her Corcoran broker, Monica Novo, had no comment. —D.S.

Photo: Chance Yeh/PMC.

Big Deals
195 Hudson Street
2-bed, 2-bath, 2,336-square-foot condo. Ask: $1.999 million. Sell: Approximately $1.9 million. Charges and taxes: $2,765. Time on market: Four months.
Most potential buyers refused to consider this property, a huge loft that comes with its own parking space, before a divorced Tribeca fellow took the plunge. Why? A Times story had just revealed a hailstorm of lawsuits over the developers’ allegedly shoddy workmanship. Corcoran broker Patricia Dugan dismisses the problems: “As with many new conversions, there are some mechanical issues, but these are always resolved in the end.” And apparently the buyer agreed.

Red Hook
91 Pioneer Street
2.5-bed, 2-bath, 1,550-square-foot townhouse. Ask: $475,000. Sell: $455,000. Charges and taxes: $956 per year. Time on market: Eight weeks.
Mention Red Hook to most New Yorkers and you’ll get the same response: Too far from the subway. Well, now there’s the brand-new New York Water Taxi, which zips around lower Manhattan and gets Wall Streeters from Red Hook to work in ten minutes. “It’s the best commute in the city,” says Douglas Elliman broker Mukesh Vasvani, selling hard. If you agree, this three-story Federal townhouse two blocks from the water was a steal. “Red Hook has so much going on in terms of development—lots of new condos, and an Ikea fighting to open up,” says Vasvani. “They’ll do well on it, that’s for sure.” —Sara Cardace

No Walk in the Park