- CHARITY BENEFIT
Though The National Arts Club might not be in our area, people who live here are members. The Club, which has been around for over 113 years, has been incased in a scandal that has threatened to tarnish the institution. Last night the Club’s president of twenty-five years and now former president, O. Aldon James, his brother and his attorney were expelled and removed in more ways than one. The six apartments that Mr. James, his twin brother John, their attorney and friend Steven Leitner resided in at 15 Gramercy Park South must be returned as well as the other apartments they controlled. Only members are allowed to live in the landmark building and part of the troubles are based on these apartments.
All three are under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office due to this and other entanglements. According to recent tax filings, O. Aldon James paid $1,143 a month in rent, his brother John paid $356 a month and Leitner paid $858 a month. According to a countersuit by the Club and some of its board members, the trio owes roughly $3 million for the misuse of the nonprofit apartments, funds and artwork. The suit was filed after the James brothers and Leitner fought not to be expelled and sued board members personally. The trio has caused $500,000 in damages by “willful neglect” in making repairs, which caused another $400,000 drop in the value of Club assets over missing items and art stored unsafely over the past six years. The trio still controls six apartments, two of which have no leases and the others are being rented at below market rates. For many years, the three occupied at least 15 apartments or offices at the Club and the three would move into new apartments after elderly tenants passed away without informing the Board. James removed watercolor paintings by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Auguste Rodin and, when ejected from the first set of apartments, “dozens of dead rodents and hundreds of dead cockroaches were found.” The trio also ate for free most nights with their friends, in the Club’s dining room. As of now, four of the apartments still have leases. When those leases are up “in a couple of months,” they will have to leave, stated the club’s lawyer Roland Riopelle.
The Board last night, in a united statement, let the world know that the men had violated the rules and policies of the Club. They can no longer enter the Club’s common spaces; have any other rights or privileges of membership in the Club or have any of the other privilege until they are restored to membership by a vote of two thirds of the Board of Governors.”
James and his partners in crime didn’t take no for an answer and, knowing about this meeting, filed in court again this week claiming that the Club was mistreating him, forcing his bags to be checked and hindering his ability to clear out the apartments. These three well-to-do men are not taking twenty-five years of basically living free without a major fight and do not care who else they hurt. One can only hope that in the end, justice will be served without tearing down part of New York’s history.