A Look Back in

Gramercy Park History:

GPBA’s Role in the Takeover and Rehabilitation of the Kenmore Hotel

1994 federal seizure of the Kenmore Hotel, a warren of 641 rooms on East 23rd Street, was notorious for drug dealing and crime. Credit John Sotomayor/ The New York Times


October 1993:
Harrison’s Son Attacked on Gramercy Park 

Arlene Harrison’s then 15-year-old son was brutally beaten by a random “wilding” gang outside their home on Gramercy Park.

March 1994:
Formation of The Gramercy Park Block Association

As a result, Harrison and neighbors established The Gramercy Park Block Association, a community advocacy group dedicated to protecting the safety, security, and quality of life of the neighborhood.

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton co-hosted the Gramercy Park Town Hall meeting to address rampant crime.
Governor Mario Cuomo visited the Kenmore Hotel

March 1994:
Town Hall Meeting with Police Commissioner Bratton

Newly elected Mayor Rudolph Giuliani reached out to GPBA President Harrison to organize a Town Hall meeting to address rampant crime. The meeting was co-hosted by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Giuliani’s newly appointed Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and Harrison.

Over 900 residents and business owners crowded into the Brotherhood Synagogue to hear tales of horror about the 22-floor 641-room Kenmore Hotel located at 145 E 23rd St (next to the Post Office), which had become the “epicenter of crime in the neighborhood.”

Dire Conditions at the Kenmore

They described rampant drug dealing, armed robberies, break-ins (3-4 times a day), prostitution, rampaging gangs of former Rikers inmates, violent fights, murders and crime that spilled over into the streets.

They described collapsing floors, gaping holes, little sanitation, rats, no heat, electricity or hot water for weeks at a time, and for months elderly having to walk up 22 floors due to broken elevators.

Residents Living in Fear

Residents, many with special needs, were so frequently victimized that they became prisoners in their own rooms, living in constant fear and afraid to come out. Community residents feared walking by the Kenmore, and nearby businesses frequently closed.

Course of Action

Congresswoman Maloney and Police Commissioner Bratton remained with Harrison after the meeting to determine a course of action.

Maloney then went to the Justice Department and in 10 days Attorney General Janet Reno visited the Kenmore. Governor Mario Cuomo also visited the Kenmore.

In 1996, Mayor Giuliani unveiling restoration plans for the Kenmore.
In 1996, Congressman Carolyn Maloney celebrating the Kenmore Hall Partnership with the Gramercy Park community

June 8, 1994:
Federal Seizure of the Kenmore

After a series of undercover operations over a 3 month period, Federal Marshalls and the FBI seized the Kenmore Hotel, the largest asset seizure in the history of the federal government to this day.

The takeover succeeded in such a short time (3 months) because of evidence collected and carefully documented during an 8 year period by 13th Precinct Police Officer Scott Kimmins.

Officer Kimmins’ Role in the Takeover

On a daily basis, Officer Kimmins addressed hazardous conditions, mediated disputes, arrested dealers, comforted the innocent, and worked with city agencies to improve conditions and control crime.

Kimmins made daily visits to residents with special needs, who he treated like family who “needed my personal protection.” Residents counted on his visits, and those too terrified to leave their rooms, would come out only when he was there.

GPBA’s Role in Rehabilitation of the Kenmore

The GPBA gathered residential support for Housing and Services Inc. to take over the Kenmore, which underwent a $34M gut rehabilitation in 1999 and was renamed Kenmore Hall.  Harrison became Chair of the Community Advisory Board.

November 1999:
Kimmins and Harrison Honored 

Arlene Harrison’s then 15-year-old son Tim was brutally beaten by a random “wilding” gang outside their home on Gramercy Park.

Gramercy Park community and officials honor Hero of the Kenmore Police Officer Scott Kimmins
The takeover succeeded in such a short time (3 months) because of evidence collected and carefully documented during an 8 year period by 13th Precinct Police Officer Scott Kimmins.

Kenmore Hall Today:
A National Model of Affordable Housing 

Kenmore Hall’s population includes formerly homeless, chronically ill, frail elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS, and homeless veterans. It is now “a national model of affordable supportive housing”

GPBA Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ Support of Kenmore Hall

GPBA’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors continues to support the Kenmore residents throughout the year with food, clothing, furniture, educational supplies, other donations. We also provide volunteers for annual holiday dinners and other programs.

GPBA Neighbors Helping Neighbors Annual Pantry Drive: Kenmore Hall Staff pick up donations
GPBA Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Volunteers and staff serve holiday dinner
GPBA Neighbors Helping Neighbors volunteer at Kenmore Thanksgiving Dinner