MANHATTAN — The National Arts Club's new president resigned after less than five months at the helm of the 115-year-old Gramercy Park institution that's been mired in controversy, DNAinfo New York has learned.
The Rev. Thomas Pike, the retired rector from the nearby Calvary-St. George's Church and former city Landmarks Preservation Commissioner, told the club's board last week that he was stepping down, club insiders said.
When he was elected in May, he told DNAinfo about his plans to get the club, which is in the historic Tilden mansion, on solid financial footing, but he told board members that he couldn't devote himself entirely to the job at hand, several people said.
"Rev. Pike had longstanding commitments he needed to take care of," said Dianne Bernhard, who stepped down from the presidency before Pike took over. "He's a great man in the community, and maybe the community needs him more."
Many locals considered Pike a welcome contrast to the 25-year reign of O. Aldon James, who faced allegations of fiscal mismanagement — and of using club apartments to hoard antiques and junk bought at weekly flea market jaunts — that resulted in a $950,000 settlement by the Attorney General's office.
"[Pike] had no idea the amount of time, energy and total commitment that would be involved in the National Arts Club," said Arlene Harrison, the president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, who is known as the "Mayor of Gramercy Park."
Rev. Pike did not respond to requests for comment.
Harrison's block association did a big membership drive when Pike was elected, bringing in nearly 160 returning and new members.
"Our neighbors in Gramercy Park are particularly disappointed because after decades of lawsuits and tumult we thought a man of peace was in the presidency," Harrison said, noting that both Bernhard and James lived at the club, and were available to members around the clock.
"The way the presidency was structured by the last two presidents, who lived on the premises, was that anybody who followed in their footsteps would have to give up everything," she added.
The club's first vice president Ira Goldberg, who is the executive director of the Art Students League of New York, has assumed the role of president in the interim.
Despite the leadership changes, Bernhard, now chair of the visual arts committee, remained positive about the club's future.
"Now that I'm not president I can focus on the arts and not litigations, and we're all happy about that," Bernhard said. "We have great programs all around with all of our committees. Everyone has a new dedication to excellence."
The board will decide on a new president in October.