By Sabina Mollot
When Stuyvesant Town management announced last year that the sports tent, which had been installed at Playground 11 for a couple of winter seasons, would not be returning, the news was sad to local sports fans but a relief to others. One of the reasons for the oversized tent’s discontinued use was that its usage didn’t justify the energy it took to heat it, but another reason was neighbors’ complaints of noise.
One of the residents who’d been affected by the noise was psychotherapist Stuart Levinson, who said his eleventh floor apartment directly overlooked it. However, even with the tent gone, according to Levinson, the noise from the playground’s basketball courts, is not.
Recently, Levinson, who was also very vocal about his dislike of the tent, started a petition to ask StuyTown Property Services to get rid of the playground as well. Instead, he suggested, the space could be used for a community garden. The petition, which he sent to Town & Village, was signed by 30 people, all in his building, 285 Avenue C.
Levinson has been living in Stuyvesant Town for two years, which is when he married his wife, a resident of 20 years. So, he acknowledged, many of his neighbors have been living in the community long enough to either not notice the noise, anymore, or not care.
Still, said Levinson, he has yet to get used to what he calls the highly annoying pattern of dribbling and cheering by people playing basketball as well as some cursing. He lives on the eleventh floor of his building, but blamed the amplified noise on what he described a vacuum effect created by the way the nearby buildings surround the playground.
“When I was visiting, I wasn’t conscious of it,” said Levinson. “It was only when I started living there, probably 70-80 feet (above the playground). I know it’s been there forever. It’s good for the kids, but it’s ridiculous to have a recreational facility between five residential buildings, because sound carries. If someone wants a nap or if someone’s ill or if someone wants peace and quiet, they’re not going to get it.”
When the tent was still was open last winter, the noise was so irksome to Levinson that he requested that someone from the Environmental Protection Agency test the noise levels. The request was granted although Levinson said when the noise level was measured from his apartment it was at a time when not too many people were using the playground, so he was unable to prove his argument. He said he will ask for another inspection though at a different time of day, like after school lets out.
“I’m not against sports. I like kids,” Levinson said, “but I am in favor of the quiet enjoyment of my residence.”
Levinson may have also been spurred on by management’s recently announced plans to convert Playground 7 (known as home to the community’s hockey players) to a fitness equipment area. Additionally, he explained, based on what he’s seen in Stuyvesant Town, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
“Three people complained about squirrels and they got signage about squirrels,” said Levinson, referring to the recently installed signs asking residents not to feed the community mascot in or near the playgrounds.
His own complaining too on other issues has yielded some results, with Levinson recalling how after he reached out to management because of all the noise at the garden equipment storage area, which is located in his building, many of the landscaping supplies were moved elsewhere and new rubber-wheeled carts introduced to cut down on the noise of equipment and other items being carted around.
Removal of an entire playground on the other hand is likely to prove a tougher sell, and he knows it.
“I’m not equating it to construction noise, but it’s pretty annoying when you’re hearing constant dribbling and hooting and hollering,” Levinson said. “People say, ‘You live in New York City. You have to get used to it.’ But it’s right below my window.”
Compounding the problem, he said, is that the playground is open until dusk and residents are allowed to bring up to four guests.
For now, though, Levinson just may have to get used it. When asked about Levinson’s proposal, Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk indicated the playground will be kept as is.
“StuyTown Property Services is always open to resident feedback, including feedback on the property’s 15 playgrounds,” Hayduk told T&V. “But the sounds of children, adults and families recreating on PCVST’s playgrounds, albeit noise to some, has been a joy to others for 70 years. As such, StuyTown Property Services has no plan to alter the activities designated to Playground 11 at this time.”
The Tenants Association also has no plan to get involved in this fight, with TA President Susan Steinberg explaining the association doesn’t want to take sides.
“The playgrounds have been part of the community since it was built,” said Steinberg. “They are a fact of life here. While we sympathize with the need for quiet, there are plenty of tenants who see the playground as an amenity. The TA represents all tenants and does not take a position for one group against another.”
A few other residents Town & Village spoke with said they consider the playground noise just a part of living in Stuyvesant Town.
However, Sushil Mangal, whose building is next to Playground 11, said the noise definitely gets on his nerves. Mangal said he figured much of the noise from yelling and basketball playing was due to nonresidents using the playground. “I know because I see outsiders coming in,” he said.
On the other hand, Mangal’s longtime partner Maryann Rice said she no longer notices it.
“I’m more tolerant. You get used to the noise and you don’t pay attention,” she said.
A resident of the building on the opposite side of the playground agreed with her.
“It’s nice for the kids to have a safe place to play basketball,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Shelley. She added, “It was worse when they had the tent here. That seemed to amplify the noise. But as long as (the noise) stops by 9 p.m. I just tune it out.”