National Arts Club prez replaced following dubious rentals at Gramercy building

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Embattled National Arts Club President O. Aldon James has gone on hiatus, after weeks of embarrassing accusations against him emerged, including claims that he hoarded personal belongings in the organization’s tony clubhouse at 15 Gramercy Park South and offered discounted rents and sweetheart deals to friends living there. James, who has vehemently denied the allegations, announced his leave of absence last night, according to the New York Times, roughly a week after dozens of young finches were found dead in Gramercy Park, purportedly released into the wild by James, a well-known avian aficionado. Dianne Bernhard, the new acting president, said that the bad publicity James generated wasn’t going over well with the board of governors. “We’ve had a barrage of newspaper articles, complaints from board members, members, tenants, staff [and] neighbors,” Bernhard said. “We felt like there was so much information out there that we didn’t know which was fact and which was fiction, and we needed to get to the bottom of it.” James argued earlier this month that the accusations against him, including claims of nearly 50-percent rental discounts given to friends at 15 Gramercy Park South, had been concocted by “several governors who want to be the boss and not lead through constructive discussion.” James’ hiatus is expected to last for a “couple of months,” according to a National Arts Club statement obtained by DNAinfo. [NYT] and [DNAinfo]