Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The week of Pope Francis

Picnicking along Fifth Avenue. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015. The first day of Autumn. Yesterday was clear, cloudy, and breezy with temperatures around 70 by day and dropping down in the the low 60s by mid-evening. It was a beautiful day in New York, enhanced by the pearl grey clouds moving through.

This is the week of the Pope Francis I in New York even though he doesn’t arrive until tomorrow afternoon. Living in the city, you’re really aware of it, and have been for the past several days. The security is reported to be greater than ever before for a visiting dignitary. The numbers of police force, streets blocked off, etc. are impressive. The world that apparently demands it is depressive. The idea that anyone would harm His Holiness seems incredible. But so do many other things about this world we’re living in.
It is always difficult for New Yorkers, especially in Manhattan, when we’re visited by the President simply because any blockage on the grid that was laid out 208 years ago, causes gridlock and bottlenecks. Midday Manhattan is all business. Even the tourists are all business with millions passing by and passing through. When it doesn’t move it’s a problem for everybody.

This particular visit has been so anticipated and talked about, however, that many have already made a sort of a mental adjustment to it. Which is: don’t go anywhere you don’t really need to go for the next few days.

The Pope is in Washington as I write. He arrives at JFK tomorrow at 5 p.m. An hour and forty-five minutes later, at 6:45, he will be holding an evening prayer service for clergy at St. Patrick’s. The trip from JFK into Manhattan at that time in the afternoon is a good hour at very best, such is the traffic volume. With all lanes cleared they could make it to St. Patrick’s in half that time. Everybody else traveling those roads at that hour will just have to wait. Which means tomorrow afternoon many will be getting out of the way. Or dreading it.
The metal barricades in Central Park along the route Pope Francis will take.
But Friday will be the really big day for Pope Francis and for New Yorkers because it is also the beginning of UN Week. President Xi of China will be here, as will President Obama and I think President Putin will be making an appearance during this international convocation celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

The Pope will meet with the UN General Assembly at 8:30 am. At 11:30, he will officiate a multireligious service held at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. At 4 he will visit Our Lady Queen of the Angels School in East Harlem. And then at 5 p.m., he will lead a procession through Central Park. There were 80,000 tickets awarded by the city in a lottery pick. And then Pope Francis will attend Mass at Madison Square Garden.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan with the chair Pope Francis will use during Mass at Madison Square Garden.
That’s a long day for anyone, including a working Pope. The following morning he will be at JFK at 8:40 to fly to Philadelphia.

Pope Francis's residence (center) during his New York visit: 20 East 72nd Street, the former home of Mayor Hugh Grant (1889-1892).
Mayor Hugh Grant.
The nabe. While here in New York, His Holiness is staying at the 20 East 72nd Street residence of the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations. The mansion was built for former Mayor Hugh Grant (1889-1892), completed in 1895. Grant was thirty-one when he took office, the youngest mayor in the city’s history.

Son of a barkeep and real estate speculator with strong political connections, Grant was a member Tammany Hall and was city alderman in his mid-20s. He was then Sheriff of New York County from 1887 to 1888. The following year he was elected mayor and served from '89 to 1892. A probe by the New York State Senate in 1890 into political corruption in the City of New York, exposed the mayor to, among other things, some questionable exchanges of a very large amount of cash to the daughter of the head of Tammany Hall.

He ran again (for what would have been his third term) in 1894, but lost. His administration was denounced from the (Protestant) pulpits. Whether or not it was the probe, Mr. Grant did not run for re-election. One fiery critic declared that Mayor Grant and  his political colleagues  were "a lying, perjured, rum-soaked, and libidinous lot" of "polluted harpies." Another sunny day in little ole New York.

Nevertheless, Grant prevailed. Orphaned as boy, his father had left him a small fortune ($500,000 -- millions in today's currency), and in 1894 at age 36, he married Julia Murphy, daughter of US Senator Edward Murphy, a wealthy businessman from Albany. As a wedding gift he bought his bride number 20 East Seventy-second Street. Five stories, 11,000 square feet, the Grants had three children to occupy the mansion. Only fifteen years later, in 1910, the former mayor died suddenly of a heart attack at age 52. Having made millions in real estate and business, he left an estate to his wife estimated between $9 and $13 million ($250 million in today’s currency).

Julia Grant was a devout Roman Catholic. The house at number 20 contained many religious objects, and four years after her husband died, she had a private chapel built in the residence.  She named it the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.  Shortly after Mayor Grant died, she attended a Midnight Mass at the Loyola Chapel.
Julia Grant with her two daughters, Edna and Julie, and her only son Hugh, Jr.
Just before the service she handed Father David Hearn SJ a sealed enveloped containing a certificate on the Central Trust Company for $500,000 ($30 million in today’s dollars), the amount left for her own absolute disposal by her husband.

The Chapel of the Holy Spirit was built inside the Grant home in 1914, the same year Regis High School opened. (Photo courtesy Regis High School Archives).
The cash was needed to start a school to educate Catholic boys. She stipulated that her gift be used for a Jesuit high school with free education for those who could not afford a Catholic private school education.

Regis was established in 1914 on East 84th Street next  door to the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue. Mrs. Grant’s identity was kept “secret” for many years – although a portrait of her hung in the entry hall.

She died in 1944, but up until the early 1960s the Grant Family fully funded its tuition-free mission — as it remains today with approximately $13 million in operating expenses. Regis is the only tuition-free Catholic high school in the United States.

In 1975, Hugh Grant Jr. sold No. 20 East 72nd, to the Vatican to be used as a residence for the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the UN. Alice F. Mason, the redoubtable,  now-retired private residential real estate broker in New York, represented the Vatican in the sale.
Regis High School on 84th Street.
That block on East 72nd is entirely posh, bordered on Madison Avenue by the Ralph Lauren women’s store, and the Candela-designed co-op 19 East 72nd Street on the north corner. Just across the way from where the Pope is staying is the 45,000 square foot Carrere & Hastings designed mansion of the Emir of Qatar.

Completed a year after the Grant mansion across the street, it was originally built for Mr. Sloane of the W & J. Sloane furniture family. A wandering, adulterous (socially ambitious) wife, however, revealed her errant ways to her husband just before they were to take up residence in the palace.
19 East 72nd Street on the northwest corner of 72nd and Madison.
The Carrere & Hastings designed mansion for Mr. Sloane, now the residence of the Emir of Qatar.
Mr. Sloane moved into a hotel. Mrs. Sloane kept on with her inamorata, Perry Belmont, whom she married three days after her divorce from Mr. Sloane. The house was later occupied by Joseph Pulitzer the newspaper publisher and his famous. Later it was owned by Mr. Sanford, another rug tycoon, and even later it was the private school Lycee Francais.

The emir, I have been told – true or false – acquired it so that his wife would have some place to stay when she came to New York to see her children who are in school here.

Contact DPC here.