The National Arts Club is turning trash into treasure.
Two of 14 apartments once controlled by controversial former president Aldon James are being turned from pigsties to palaces.
And the once-uninhabitable rooms could soon rent for as much as $100 per foot, according to local real estate brokers.
As these exclusive pictures show, James his twin brother John and friend Steve Leitner left the apartments squalid, with trash and trinkets piled high and a bathroom floor caked in feces and urine. Roach traps were scattered on the tile and a bathtub was filled to the brim with James’ belongings.
“I’m not sure how he shaved or bathed,” said new NAC President Dianne Bernhard, who provided photos of the condition of the spaces before club staffers cleared them out to Town and Village newspaper, a sister publication of Real Estate Weekly.
James had a very different take on the decor.
“My brother and I, we live like hamsters,” he said.
“Some people might say this place is a mess, and others might say this mess is a place. We wanted it to look haunted. It was organic. It was like ivy on the bricks.”
Of the 14 club apartments that James took over during his reign at the National Arts Club, four are still controlled by James, his brother and Leitner.
Two, however, were returned to the club this month and are undergoing badly needed renovation work.
Local brokers estimate the apartments could rent for as much as $100 per foot once the work is complete.
In the main room of one studio (6A), a gaping hole in the northwest corner of the wood floor left pipes and concrete underneath it exposed.
According to Bernhard, the exposed pipe kept leaking into the apartment below, but James didn’t want it fixed so that he could allegedly collect the insurance money.
The plumbing in both apartments (10A and 6A) are in need of repair, according to the club’s superintendent, and all the kitchen appliances and cabinets in 10A are in need of replacement. 10A is also a studio apartment that’s about 300 square feet. Both are still undergoing renovation and won’t be ready to live in until around July 1, said Bernhard.
Renovations for apartment 10B, another studio, are complete; it’s furnished and ready to live in, but according to the club’s lawyer Roland Riopelle, this room will be used as a transient room, rented out on a day-to-day basis to club members who aren’t local, in order to maximize revenue.
During James’ administration, the James Group used about 14 apartments and 27 member spaces to hoard things in. The only rooms remaining under their names now are one-bedroom apartments of about 700 square feet each.
Gramercy Park has long been a haven for a well-heeled, artsy crowd whose residency secures them a key to one of only two private parks in the city.
The 25th Governor of New York, Samuel Tilden lived in what is now the Arts Club and other noted residents have included the Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth — who founded the neighboring Players Club — movie star John Barrymore and circus legend Alfred Ringling.
Today, Gramercy Park residents include actress Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Rufus Wainwright and Amanda Lepore.