The Soapbox: Stuy Town’s VIP guest (Very Important Predator)

A hawk roosts on a Stuy Town air conditioner in February. (Photo by Jenny Dembrow)

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood in each one. All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 650 words, to

By John Cappelletti

You won’t see this celebrity very often in New York. In fact, you might never see him. He’s like the eponymous character in “The Invisible Man.”

But he does make an appearance every once in a while, like last summer for instance when he flew in from L.A., D.C. or some other location so competitive they use initials. Here there’s no competition. Attention, attention must be paid to this celebrity when he chooses to grace our lives with a welcome visit. Everyone at the park at Stuyvesant Oval where I hang out stops whatever they’re doing and moves to get a glimpse of him.

Semi-naked young people on the grass totally absorbed in painting their firm, shapely bodies with sunshine suddenly leave their comfortable blankets and move under our marvelous shade trees for a better view. Even though many of these beautiful trees have been chopped down by the landlord’s landscape designer, those that escaped the axe provide refreshing shade and filter the city air for residents like myself and I’m grateful to them.

Old folks relaxing on the wood and iron benches that line the cinder paths cutting through the Oval stop complaining to each other and focus their limited eyesight on our elusive visitor here. Stuyvesant Town has been designated as the unofficial home of the black squirrel because there are so many of these furry friends of the residents who have had their population driven sky high from being fed all kinds of nuts, including expensive black walnuts.

Children stop chasing each other around the new designer playgrounds or giggling and screaming at the new designer fountain when they spot our gourmet celebrity dining al fresco and point to him.

“What’s that, Daddy?” asks a little girl, looking up at a large bird in a tree.

“That’s a hawk, peanut. It’s rare to see them in New York.”

“What’s he doing, Daddy?”

“He’s eating, sweetie. His wing span must be close to three or four feet.”

“What’s he eating, Daddy?”

The young man in shorts and sandals pauses for a second before replying, “He’s enjoying a tasting menu. Isn’t he beautiful?”

“What’s he eating, Daddy?”

“Pizza. He’s eating pizza. Let’s go and get some,” he says, taking his daughter by the hand and leaving the area.

The hawk continues to tear off thin strips of his carpaccio de squirrel, unimpressed by all the attention he’s receiving from seemingly every man, woman and animal in the green park. Even when a family of crows lands on leafy branches surrounding him, making continuous cacophonous caws to chase him away, it’s clear that nothing is going to ruffle his designer feathers or disturb his serene dining experience. I’m happy he’s chosen to dine in our little park where people picnic on the grass, squirrels munch on English walnuts and pigeons peck at whatever forever. I am filled with admiration.

2 thoughts on “The Soapbox: Stuy Town’s VIP guest (Very Important Predator)

  1. Nice little piece of writing, but why the denigrating remarks about the senior citizens? It seems to me that senior citizens have become the pariahs of Stuyvesant Town. Certainly, we are made to feel that way. We are aware that Management despises us and wants us to die soon so that our apartments can be renovated and converted into dorms. We are all fully aware of the “Death Team” that is always on standby, waiting to hear that an old codger has just died and now is the time to swoop. Don’t even wait for the corpse to get cold.

    We are aware that if we complain about anything – anything at all – no matter how justified, our complaints will be met with impatience and scorn. We realize that Management and the younger tenants forget that, if they are lucky, they will be seniors themselves eventually and will be at the mercy of people just like they themselves are now.

    We moved in here back in the days when the project had no air conditioning and the nearby neighborhood was rife with crime, mostly related to drug use. We had to deal with the sound of guns being fired over in Alphabet City, as it was called then and the risk of being assaulted on the street any time of day or night. We didn’t complain because we loved our apartments, our neighbors and, believe it or not, we even had a fondness for Management and its teams of workers who did their jobs very, very well. We loved the property with its many trees and grass and we didn’t bitch about the fact that we couldn’t walk on the grass. We knew there was a good reason for this as Management wanted to keep it looking nice and maintaining the feel of an “Oasis in the City.”

    Now the property looks like an unkempt waste lot for the most part and most of the trees and almost all of the grass have been destroyed. And to add insult to injury, we folks who have been living here all or most of our lives are made to feel as though we are intruders; the proverbial brother in law who moves in, won’t get a job or take his feet off the dining table or stop passing gas and picking his nose and whose departure or demise is impatiently waited for and whatever means it takes to shift him will be used. Meantime, it’s perfectly alright to treat him like the garbage we think he is.

    As the orange guy in the WH would tweet: Sad.

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