By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday, StuyTown Property Services turned Oval Studio into a gallery space celebrating the community’s 70th anniversary.
The exhibition features various mementos from the property’s past, mostly on loan from residents. Items run from artwork showcasing the complex’s landscaping to photos of local businesses from days gone by to letters showing interaction between tenants and management. In one stern, type-written letter, a resident is informed that his child’s use of water gun on the grounds is a no-no.
The exhibition mostly steered clear of the property’s past major controversies, though, focusing on nostalgia, with a few exceptions. One could be the first year’s issues of this newspaper, which was displayed in a bound volume. (In the early years, an ongoing story involved Met Life’s policy of barring black residents.) There was also some other Stuy Town-focused reading material included.
A few books were on view, including Other People’s Money, the 2013 cautionary tale about the predatory equity that pervaded the 2006 sale of the property. There was also Eleven Stories High, a former resident’s memoir of life in a burgundy-bricked utopia, and an issue of In the Loop, a newsletter management used to publish.
Two old signs, one for Peter Cooper Village’s operating department, the other an outdoor sign for Stuyvesant Town, were also included. The Peter Cooper one was brought in by an engineering foreman after it sat unnoticed in an office, while the latter was discovered collecting cobwebs in a storeroom. However, the most commented on item in the collection so far has been a black and white photo of Sam the ice cream man.
“That’s the one that’s getting the most reactions,” Stephanie Moya, one of the resident docents, told us. “He was there for 20 years. People remember him.”
She added that overall, the exhibition has been received well, even helping estranged neighbors to reconnect.
While gesturing to a woman talking to a neighbor nearby, Moya said that they’d “just found each other after a long time.”
Peter Walterspiel, senior vice president of leasing and marketing at SPS, said he’s also noticed that people have rediscovered neighbors through the photos on display, not realizing they still lived onsite.
“In a community of 30,000 people it’s like a small town,” he said.
Interestingly, even photos of strangers have managed to evoke some emotional response from viewers.
“A lot of people relate to them,” said Moya. “We had one lady who said, ‘This is not my family, but it could have been.’”
On Monday, management announced that the exhibition, which is running through April 23, will have its hours extended. The hours now are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. each day. The event is residents only.