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Historic Knickerbocker Greys Face Eviction from Longtime Space at Park Avenue Armory

park avenue armory

Park Avenue Armory c/o Ajay Suresh via Wikimedia Commons

The Knickerbocker Greys, a historic youth group also known as the Greys, has had its home at the state-owned Park Avenue Armory for more than a hundred years. Now, as it faces eviction due to renovations at the armory — and with the group that oversees the space refusing to support them (h/t New York Post) — the Greys are seeking legal help from members of the legislature in Albany.

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By way of background, the Knickerbocker Greys is a program that teaches leadership along with marching and drill routines. It was founded in 1881 by Augusta Curtis, wife of New York physician Dr. Edward Curtis, who served under the Surgeon General of the Union Army. The Greys is the oldest afterschool program in New York City for children ages 6 to 16. In a time period when schools did not offer sports or afterschool programs and there was no concept of educational television, Curtis started the Corps as an activity for her son and her friends’ kids. The Corps gives kids an opportunity to develop their character, confidence, perseverance, social skills, and problem solving. The name comes from the knee-length pants, known as Knickerbockers, that were part of the original uniform.

ALSO READ: Seize the Day with Squadron A: The Upper East Side’s Historic Military Outfit

According to the Post, the Greys take up an approximately 800-square-foot space in the Park Avenue Armory, which is overseen by the Park Avenue Conservancy. The conservancy has not given any details about its renovation plans. It additionally is not offering the Greys another space in its facility, even though there is plenty of it (it is approximately 200,000 square feet and takes up the entire Park Avenue block between 66th and 67th streets), nor is it promising the Greys can have their space back after the ambiguous renovation plans are complete.

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The Greys cadets and their parents alike are heartbroken about the eviction, as they see the Armory as their home. They are similarly concerned about implications for the program, which has helped countless youth develop confidence, responsibility, leadership skills, and a sense of security and belonging.

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Earlier in May, the Greys traveled to Albany to meet with members of the legislature and advocate for their space. State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) is working to pass bipartisan legislation clarifying the Greys’ right to their space at the armory. The legislation would modify parts of the state’s old military laws and make explicit that the conservancy is required to give the Greys space in the armory. Assemblymember Alex Bores (D-Manhattan) is similarly committed to making sure the Greys can stay. Both Bores and Krueger are working hard to get the legislation passed before the legislative session ends in June.

The Greys are still at the armory as the eviction lawsuit moves through the courts. The cadets and their parents are hoping for good news soon. We have reached out to the Conservancy and will update this post if they provide us with additional comments.


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