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Features

Gramercy Park and some of the residential buildings encircling it with key access Gramercy Park and some of the residential buildings encircling it with key access
Throughout New York, luxury residential buildings flaunt the use of high-quality materials: statuary marble floors, bronze door handles and frames, onyx details. But the rarest and perhaps most highly coveted amenity of all is made from a commonplace nickel alloy: a key to Gramercy Park, the only private park in Manhattan.

History

In 1831, developer and urban planner Samuel Ruggles deeded two acres of his extensive property holdings to be used as a park surrounded by mansions, a practice inspired by London. While the first few years were spent draining the wetlands, the park was fenced in the mid-1830s and locked in 1844. It was the antithesis of Union Square, another of Mr. Ruggles' creations regarded as a park for the people.
Over the first 50 years of Gramercy Park’s existence, the gates were only opened once during the Civil War draft riots. The violence spread north from Lower Manhattan, and the Eighth Regiment artillery camped out in the park while defending the people.
In 1890, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would have allowed a cable car to pass through Gramercy Park. Local activists shut down that proposal, as well as one to run a street through it connecting Irving Place and Lexington Avenue. The second proposal in 1912 was the last serious attempt at breaching the park, and the gates have been locked ever since.
inside Gramercy Park (Corcoran)

Present Day

Gramercy Park is considered the unofficial front yard of the 39 buildings surrounding it. According to The New York Times, each building pays a yearly assessment fee of $7,500, which grants them two keys (buildings with more lots get more keys). Fear of having key privileges rescinded keeps the payments coming in.
The first keys to Gramercy Park were made from solid gold, and today’s park keys are treated as reverently as if this is still the practice. Zeckendorf Development intentionally chose 18 Gramercy Park South, a one-time Salvation Army residence, for a condo conversion based on park proximity and paid for the first year of park keys for buyers. The conversion of 36 Gramercy Park East went even further - the sponsor presented buyers with park keys and personalized brass keychains.
And while 57 Irving Place is two and a half blocks south of Gramercy Park, developer Madison Equities devised an ingenious strategy to get keys for buyers: If buyers were able to join the Players Club (founded by Shakesperean actor Edwin Booth, whose statue is a centerpiece of the park), which confers keys to members in good standing, Madison Equities owner Robert Gladstone would pay their annual dues for five years.
Of the 383 keys manufactured in 2012, 126 were managed by doormen and concierges in buildings on the park, who allowed residents to sign them out. Residents who do not wish to go through the building pay $350 a year for personal keys. All keys are numbered and coded, and the keys and locks are changed every year. Those who are foolish enough to lose their park keys are charged $1,000 for replacements. If the keys are lost again, the replacement costs $2,000.

Rules and Exclusivity

Nearly 200 years since Mr. Ruggles deeded the land, Gramercy Park remains accessible only to property owners of buildings directly on the park. In addition to the Players Club, members of the National Arts Club (the first private club to admit women on an equal basis as men), the Brotherhood Synagogue, and Cavalry-St. George’s Church are also eligible for keys to the park.

Guests of the five-star Gramercy Park Hotel are also allowed inside the park, but they must be escorted in and out by hotel staffers. Keyholders may be accompanied by no more than five guests at a time. Whoever holds the keys, the precious hardware is required for entering and exiting the park alike.
50 Gramercy Park North, 12B View of Gramercy Park from 50 Gramercy Park North, 12B (Christie's Real Estate
Gramercy Park Peek inside the park from the west gate (Wikipedia)
Gramercy Park-03 From the northwest corner (Wikipedia)
Mr. Ruggles described the park as ornamental as opposed to recreational, a mindset that remains in place well into the 21st century. The park closes at dusk every night. During the day, visitors are not permitted to ride bicycles, bring lawn furniture, play Frisbee or “hardball” sports, drink alcohol, smoke, walk dogs, or feed the birds.
The surrounding clubs, churches, and hotels make gorgeous wedding venues, but photography in the park is not allowed. Nor is commercial photography - witness the ado when an Airbnb guest with a key posted pictures of Gramercy Park to Google Maps in 2014. And for those unfamiliar with the park’s rules, “Mayor Arlene” Harrison, park trustee and founder of the Gramercy Park Block Association, is one of its fiercest protectors.
For one hour on Christmas Eve, the gates of Gramercy Park traditionally open for caroling hosted by Cavalry-St. George’s Church. For the rest of the year, most of us can only admire it from the fenced perimeter. Availabilities are naturally few and far between, but we take a look at listings that provide keys to the park as well as the apartments.
36 Gramercy Park East Entrance to 36 Gramercy Park East (Nest Seekers)

Residential buildings with keys to the park:

1 Gramercy Park West 1 Gramercy Park West






19 Gramercy Park South 19 Gramercy Park South

34-Gramercy-Park-East-1 34 Gramercy Park East via Compass

36-Gramercy-Park-East-1 36 Gramercy Park East via Nest Seekers

26-Gramercy-Park-South-1 The Irving via Warburg Realty

18-Gramercy-Park-South-1 18 Gramercy Park South via Brown Harris Stevens

44-Gramercy-Park-North-1 44 Gramercy Park North via Compass

50-Gramercy-Park-North-1 Gramercy Park Hotel via Douglas Elliman
9-Gramercy-Park-South-1 9 Gramercy Park South via Compass

60-Gramercy-Park-North-1 60 Gramercy Park North via Brown Harris Stevens

57-Irving-Place-1 Irving Place via Douglas Elliman

12-Gramercy-Park-South-1 12 Gramercy Park South via Warburg Realty
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Content Specialist Michelle Mazzarella Michelle is a contributing writer and editor for real estate news in New York City
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