National Arts Club board president O. Aldon James is a Gramercy Park rebel, ruffling the feathers of the park's elite by calling for more public access to the gated oasis. He's also, according to this DNAinfo exposé, a possibly unhinged loon who is using the historic artists' clubhouse as a storage facility for his flea market finds, junk, associates and relatives. DNA's Amy Zimmer reports that James has been renting out apartments in the club's landmark Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park South for far below market value, including one to his twin brother for $356 a month, which could put the nonprofit in some legal hot water. James, who lives in the club himself, has also done some redecorating.
Axed ex-employees of the National Arts Club (James has been accused of erratic firings) provided DNAinfo with photos of the mansion's interiors, and we're not talking about the well-kept classic rooms where the art exhibits and readings by Pulitzer Prize winners are held. Some of these photos were taken in 2009, and others were purportedly taken last month. They show the trashed state of several of the apartments and offices, which are filled with everything from art to plain ol' garbage. "Our president has gone from eccentric to totally crazy," one current board member said.
But there are two sides to every story, and James, who has led the National Arts Club since 1985, has many supporters?even if everyone seems to agree that the apartment rental thing is a bit dicey. As for the hoarding, a January 7 fire department inspection resulted in a violation for obstructed exits and hallways, but the building wasn't deemed unsafe. James, the club's PR firm and the club's lawyer all declined DNAinfo's request for comment. Hopefully, the next time Aldon James takes out his ladder to scale Gramercy Park's gates, he puts it back in its right place. Click through to the full story for more frightening photos.
· National Arts Club President Renting Out Apartments For Below-Market Rates [DNAinfo]
· National Arts Club [Official Site]
· National Arts Club coverage [Curbed]