Formerly the “epicenter of crime in the Gramercy Park neighborhood”, the GPBA played a major role in the 1994 federal takeover of the property, the largest asset seizure in the history of the federal government. Kenmore Hall is now a national model of affordable housing for formerly homeless, chronically ill, frail elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS, and homeless veterans.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton co-hosted the Gramercy Park Town Hall meeting to address rampant crime
Governor Mario Cuomo visited the Kenmore Hotel to meet with police and community leaders
The Gramercy Park Block Association played a major role in the takeover and rehabilitation of the Kenmore.
Below is a timeline describing GPBA’s involvement:
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.
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.
Kimmins and Harrison Honored
Parks Commissioner Henry Stern names Scott Kimmins “Kenmore” and Harrison “Petite Gendarme”, which means “little policeman.”
Recognition for Harrison and Kimmins
Kimmins and Harrison Honored
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 Volunteers Serve Holiday Dinner
GPBA Volunteers at Kenmore Thanksgiving Dinner
Links to Past Articles