Stuyvesant Town

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View of central Manhattan from Stuyvesant Town.

Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town is a large private residential development on the East Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. One of the most iconic and successful of post-war private housing communities,[citation needed] Stuyvesant Town was planned in 1943.[1] Its first tenants, two World War II veterans and their families, moved into the first completed building on August 1, 1947.[2] The complex itself is based on Parkchester, which was completed in 1942. The same companies and developers also built Riverton, which was completed around the same time.

The model, middle-income housing development was named for the last Director-General of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, whose farm occupied the site in the seventeenth-century. In the late Nineteenth Century, the area became known as the Gashouse District because of the many huge gas tanks that dominated the streetscapes. The tanks, which sometimes leaked, made the area undesirable, as did the Gas House Gang and others that operated in the area. With the construction of the East River Drive, the area began to improve. By the 1930s, all but four tanks were gone and, while shabby, the area was no more blighted than many parts of the city after the years of the Great Depression.

Before the construction of Stuyvesant Town, the neighborhood contained eighteen typical city blocks, with public schools, churches, factories, private homes, apartments, small businesses, and even relatively new modern-style apartment buildings. In all, 600 buildings, containing 3,100 families, 500 stores and small factories, three churches, three schools, and two theaters, were razed. As would be repeated in later urban renewal projects, some 11,000 persons were forced to move from the neighborhood. In 1945, The New York Times called the move from the site "the greatest and most significant mass movement of families in New York's history" (NYT, March 3, 1945). The last residents of the Gashouse District, the Delman Family, moved out in May 1946, allowing demolition to be soon concluded.

Today, Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town is a sprawling collection of red brick apartment buildings with typical housing project-style architecture, stretching from First Avenue to Avenue C, between 14th and 23rd Streets. It covers about 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land. The development located between 14th and 20th Streets, Stuyvesant Town, has 8,757 apartments in 35 residential buildings and with its sister development, located between 20th and 23rd Streets, Peter Cooper Village, they have a combined 56 residential buildings,[3] 11,250 apartments, and over 25,000 residents. The combined development is bordered by the East River/Avenue C on the east, the Gramercy neighborhood on the west, the East Village (or Alphabet City) to the south, and Kips Bay to the north. The surrounding area to the West is notable for historic Stuyvesant Square, a two-block park surrounded by the old Stuyvesant High School, Saint George's Church, and the Beth Israel Medical Center.

File:Stuyvesant Oval2.JPG
The symbolic oval fountain of Stuyvesant Town.

On the first day the company received 7,000 applications; it would receive 100,000 applicants by the time of first occupancy. In 1947, rents ranged from $50 to $91 per month. Current rents range from $2500+ for a one bedroom apartment to $7000+ for a 5 bedroom unit.[4]


Peter Cooper Village

Peter Cooper Village is named after the philanthropist Peter Cooper.


Stuyvesant Town in the late 2000s, as seen from 1st Avenue.
Due to a housing crisis building since the Depression, Stuyvesant Town was already being planned as a post-war housing project in 1942-43, some years before the war's end. A provision was made that the rental applications of veterans would have selection priority.

Stuyvesant Town was controversial from the beginning. It was championed by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who, at the behest of Mayor La Guardia, sought "to induce insurance companies and savings banks to enter the field of large-scale slum clearance" (Moses, Letter to The New York Times, June 3, 1943). It was enabled by various state laws and amendments which permitted private companies to enter what was previously a public field of action. The new public-private partnership, and the contract entered between the city and the developer, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, were the source of much debate.

Among the issues at stake were use of the power of eminent domain for private purposes; the reversion of public streets and land, such as public school property, to private ownership; the 25-year tax exemption granted by the contract; and the rights of the company to discriminate in selecting tenants.

When the $50 million Stuyvesant Town plan was approved by the City Planning Commission on May 20, 1943 by a five to one vote, discrimination against African Americans was already a significant topic of debate. Councilmen Stanley M. Isaacs and A. Clayton Powell Jr. sought to introduce a provision into the contract that would prevent racial or religious discrimination in tenant selection. This provision was not accepted, with those rejecting it, including Robert Moses, arguing that the company's profitability would be harmed and that opponents were "obviously looking for a political issue and not for results in the form of actual slum clearance" (NYT, May 29, 1943). In the years after it opened, blacks were barred from living in the complex, with MetLife's president, Frederick H. Ecker, stating that "Negroes and whites do not mix."[5] Lee Lorch, a City University of New York professor, petitioned to allow African Americans into the development and was fired from his teaching position as a result of pressure from Metropolitan Life. Upon accepting position at Penn State, Lorch allowed a black family to occupy his apartment, thus circumventing the no Negroes rule. As a result of pressure from Met Life, he was dismissed from his new position as well.[6]

Lawsuits were filed on the basis that the project was public or semi-public, and thus violated anti-discrimination laws for New York City public housing. In July 1947, the New York Supreme Court determined that the development was private and that, in the absence of laws to the contrary, the company could discriminate as it saw fit. The court wrote, "It is well settled that the landlord of a private apartment or dwelling house may, without violating any provision of the Federal or State Constitutions, select tenants of its own choice because of race, color, creed or religion... Clearly, housing accommodation is not a recognized civil right" (NYT, July 29, 1947). The suit brought by three African American war veterans was thus settled.

By this date, Metropolitan Life was building a separate-but-equal housing project in Harlem, Riverton Houses. Some years later, the company admitted a few black families to Stuyvesant Town and a few white families to Riverton. Both projects, however, remain largely black and white, as do many housing projects to this day.

A host of other issues and controversies surrounded Stuyvesant Town's urban planning and design. From the first debates in 1943, objections were made to the haste with which the project was approved and lack of public participation in the process; the project's population density; the absence of any public facilities such as schools, community centers, or shops in the development; the gated-community, private property character and the denial of city residents to walk through a part of the city that was once public; violations of the city's master plan; and the walled-city character of its design. Lawsuits were brought by property owners of the land, but in February 1944 the Supreme Court of the United States refused to review the constitutionality of the New York State redevelopment companies law that enabled the development, despite the taking of public property for private profit, the granting of tax exemptions, and the public benefits advanced by the developers and their advocates.


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File:Stuyvesant Town - New York City.jpg
Stuyvesant Town's central green, the Oval.

Dubbed "Stuy Town" by many of its residents,[7] the complex is home to trees, grass, black squirrels, and twelve parks open to use by its residents. As initially offered by Metropolitan Life president Frederick Ecker in 1943, Stuy Town made it possible for generations of New Yorkers "to live in a park — to live in the country in the heart of New York."[citation needed]

Some of the essential services that are available to residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, include emergency electrical and plumbing maintenance, as well as a public safety force that is comprised primarily of sworn peace officers. While they are not permitted to carry firearms, they do carry batons, pepper spray, and handcuffs. As peace officers, they have full law enforcement powers, and they patrol the property in specialized vehicles.[8]

Stuyvesant Town until the late 2000s kept a waiting list of tenant applicants. This was eliminated when Metropolitan Life purchased the complex and attempted to convert it to luxury apartments.[citation needed] Opposition to Metropolitan Life's actions and plans to do so began with a protest in the center of the apartment complex in summer 2001, and grew into an organized effort.[citation needed]

Stuyvesant Town was once home to a yearly "flea market," a two-day event in which residents were encouraged to sell various secondhand wares and socialize with their neighbors.[citation needed]

Multiple schools reside in the area, including such as elementary school Public School 40, Middle School 104, Salk School of Science, United Nations International School, Immaculate Conception School, and the Epiphany School.

File:Stuyvesant Oval.JPG
A close look of the oval fountain.

As of late March 2009, security cameras have been installed and activated in all Stuyvesant Town buildings. In addition, sensors have been installed on the roof doors to prevent unauthorized access. The requirement of photo ID card-keys was introduced. The parking garages along Avenue C, 20th Street and 14th Street have also implemented a key-card access system and installed security cameras.[citation needed]

Town & Village newspaper

The community of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village has its own newspaper, Town & Village, a.k.a. the T&V. It was first published in 1947 and has been published every week since, covering news in Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, and Gramercy Park. It was founded by Charles G. Hagedorn and as of the late 2000s is published by Hagedorn Communications. Town & Village is not affiliated with MetLife or Tishman Speyer.

2006 sale

On October 17, 2006, MetLife agreed to sell Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town to Tishman Speyer Properties and the real estate arm of BlackRock for $5.4 billion. The sale was expected to close by November 15, 2006, according to documents CB Richard Ellis, a commercial real estate broker representing Met Life, sent to bidders. The sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village thus apparently was the biggest deal for a single American property in modern times. MetLife hired a broker, who started registering bidders, and intended to name a winner by November 2006. The sale had drawn interest from dozens of prospective buyers, including New York's top real estate families, pension funds, international investment banks and investors from Dubai, the New York Times said, citing real estate executives.[9]

New York City Council member Daniel Garodnick, a lifelong resident of Peter Cooper Village, attempted to organize tenants and investors to place a buyout bid on Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town. Initially, MetLife deemed the tenants group an unqualified bidder, but, after being pressured by elected officials, MetLife reversed itself, and distributed bid books to the tenant group; bids were to have been submitted by October 5, 2006.[10] Both the tenants' bid and one by Apollo Group fell short to Tishman Speyer's offer, though the latter came within $100 million of Speyer's $5.4 billion.[11]

On October 10, 2006, Senator Charles Schumer telephoned the chief executive officer of Metropolitan Life in an attempt to pressure the insurance company into accepting a tenant-sponsored offer for the complex.

On January 22, 2007, a class action lawsuit was filed against MetLife, Tishman Speyer Properties and their associates on behalf of the market rate tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. The suit claims that MetLife was improperly charging tenants 'market rate' rents while at the same time receiving real estate tax benefits from the City of New York (under the J-51 program, which requires property owners to maintain apartments as 'rent stabilized' during the period in which they are receiving benefits). The lawsuit asks for a monetary award of between $215 million and $320 million in rent overcharges and damages. Furthermore, it calls for the market rate apartments to be reverted to rent stabilization until the expiration of the J-51 benefit period, sometime after 2017.

On January 24, 2010, Tishman Speyer Properties gave up control of the properties by handing the complex to creditors, thereby avoiding a bankruptcy of the site.

Notable residents

Famous individuals who have lived in Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town include:

See also


  1. "HEARING ADVANCES BIG HOUSING PLAN; Further Action Due May 19 on Metropolitan Life Project," The New York Times, May 6, 1943. p. 36
  2. "Stuyvesant Town to Get Its First Tenants Today," The New York Times, August 1, 1947. p. 19
  3. "Google Maps view of development"
  4. "Stuyvesant Town Floorplans and Pricing"
  5. Bagli, Charles V. "$5.4 Billion Bid Wins Complexes in New York Deal", The New York Times, October 18, 2006. Accessed October 16, 2007. "The company barred blacks from living in Stuyvesant Town for many years, and its president at the time, Frederick H. Ecker, once said, “Negroes and whites do not mix.”"
  7. City Living: Stuyvesant Town , Newsday, November 2, 2006
  8. Stuy Town Peace Officer
  9. MetLife's Stuyvesant, Cooper Village Sale Could Hit $5B , Commercial Property News, August 30, 2006
  10. 25,000 Constituents, Their Destiny on the Line , The New York Times, September 22, 2006
  11. Bloomberg Keeps His Billions Separate From His Mayoral Obligations? Yeah, Right!, "The Village Voice", September 1, 2009
  12. Saul, Michael. "David Axelrod is a New York City boy who has Barack Obama's ear", Daily News, June 26, 2008. Accessed December 4, 2008. "Perched atop a mailbox near his family's apartment in Stuyvesant Town, 5-year-old David Axelrod watched intently as a charismatic John F. Kennedy rallied New Yorkers for his presidential campaign in the fall of 1960."
  13. Stonger, Karol. "No More Suspense", Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1989. "The Clarks, married in 1950, spent the first few years in Stuyvesant Town, a middle-income project in Manhattan."
  14. Witchel, Alex. "In the Heart of TriBeCa, A Pioneer Presses On", The New York Times, September 26, 2001. Accessed October 21, 2007. "Born at Mount Sinai Hospital, Mr. Nieporent grew up in Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan, the younger of two sons, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School."
  15. Lyman, Rick. "Be It Ever So Urban, It's Green", The New York Times, September 5, 1997. Accessed October 9, 2007. "Paul Reiser, the former stand-up comic who became a movie actor, scriptwriter, television star and best-selling author, grew up in this inward-looking urban cloister of red brick apartment houses between 14th and 20th Streets, from First Avenue to FDR Drive in Manhattan."
  16. Danielle Friedman. "FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR COMES PREPARED FROM THE FLOOR OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE", ' February 26, 2009. "Glick does have game. She was named to New York’s All-City basketball team while attending high school at Dalton. In those days, she commuted back and forth from Stuyvesant Town, where she grew up"
  17. JIM DWYER. "With Palin, Special Needs Get Spotlight", ' September 2, 2008. "“When Chris was born, there was absolutely nothing out there,” said Mrs. Burke, who raised her family in Stuyvesant Town."
  18. John Marchese. "My Escape From New York: Stuy Town", ' October 8, 2000. "Because Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village are run by a giant insurance company, the bureaucracy is rather Kremlin-like. As a supplicant, you assume that it will be greatly to your advantage to know somebody. Being a cop, or dating one, is said to help. When Lee Brown arrived in town to become David Dinkins' Police Commissioner, his name magically went to the top of the list at Peter Cooper Village. There are tales of an Irish Mafia that somehow has infiltrated the selection process. Frank McCourt once assured me that his last name was the secret to gaining a space years ago, long before Angela's Ashes ."

External links

Further reading

Coordinates: 40°43′54″N 73°58′40″W / 40.73167°N 73.97778°W / 40.73167; -73.97778es:Stuyvesant Town (Manhattan) fr:Stuyvesant Town zh:史岱文森镇

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