The dignified tranquility of Manhattan’s only private park is ensured by the heavy locks on the park’s gates.
The park has been functioning as a private front yard for the Gramercy home owners since being gated in the 1830s and locked in 1844. Ever since Mr. Ruggles, a visionary developer, deeded the land, Gramercy Park has remained accessible only to owners of the 39 homes surrounding the park.
As of 2012, there were 383 keys in circulation—each coded, numbered, and accounted for. A personal key comes for a fee of $350 and should be guarded well; the replacement cost is $1,000! Use of the park was granted for a yearly assessment fee proportional to the size of a homeowner’s property. Multiple lots incurred larger fees, with the number of keys granted accordingly.
To safeguard this jewel of a neighborhood from unwanted elements, the locks are changed every year. The keys (specially manufactured by Medeco) are impossible to duplicate. Exiting the park also requires a key.
The keys are not just a privilege of the Gramercy home owners, as they are also bestowed upon the members of the Players Club, National Arts Club , Brotherhood Synagogue, and Cavalry-St. George’s Church—all of which face or stand in close proximity to the park. The upscale Gramercy Park Hotel also grants its guests access to the park as a special perk. Key holders are allowed to bring no more than five guests, thus insuring dignified serenity within the park.
Every Christmas Eve, Gramercy Park’s gates open wide for a whole hour of public caroling hosted by Cavalry-St. George’s Church. If you happen to be one of those carolers, beware that the gates of the park will firmly lock behind you after your hour is over . . . and you will have to wait a whole other year. Alternatively, you can always just take a stroll around the park . . . or buy a home facing it?