Opinion: A walk in the park

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

For many years the The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the first owner of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, advertised our environs as a “park-like residential community.”

A community of 110 buildings housing 25,000 persons situated amongst acres of green grass, trees, plantings and shrubbery removed from the teeming streets of Manhattan. Met Life was pretty much on point.

But the current ownership has taken this now-quaint community to greater heights of amiability and helpful amenities. So last week while visiting my mom, I decided to do something I have not done in years… to walk the length and breadth of our unique neighborhood.

I crossed over 20th Street from the redesigned playgrounds and basketball courts of Peter Cooper Village over to Stuyvesant Town. I walked passed Lenz’s, the venerable local deli/grocery store owned by the equally venerable Naz who has been a friend and merchant to our community for decades.

Then I made my way past the ice skating rink that occupies Playground 10. Mind you, Playground 10 is where I spent my childhood and adolescence. In those days, it was an empty square-shaped asphalt area perfect for all kinds of sports. I played football with some of Stuyvesant Town’s greats like Peter Meisel, Mitch Orfuss, Jerry Hirsch and Richard Witkin. With Meisel at quarterback that team went virtually undefeated for five consecutive years until inevitably college and life interfered.

As I walked by, all that nostalgia came rushing back like it was yesterday. It was there I met my teenage love, the beautiful Claire Heaphy.

I proceeded to the Oval which is the reconfigured hub of community life in Stuyvesant Town. The biggest changes are right there. Oval Study, 5 Stuy Cafe and more. I continued towards the resident services available near the Oval in customer-friendly locations.

I stopped by one of those service centers and spoke with Edith Gonzalez about an issue for my mom (an original tenant). Like this new generation of employees, Edith, a twenty-something young woman, was efficient, friendly and eager to help. Since she has only been working here for a few months, I described the many changes our community had undergone in seven decades. She was fascinated or perhaps just being polite. But she was fully engaged. I think she has a bright future in public relations.

From there I continued on my walk inside the interior of Stuyvesant Town encountering some veterans of the earlier years. It was my good fortune to run into John “Butch” Purcell. At times he has been referred to as mayor of Stuyvesant Town. He earned that title for his always gregarious nature and his friendships with so many residents. He helped dozens of young men and women escape drug dependency through his work at Beth Israel hospital. He also excelled on the basketball courts much to the chagrin of his opponents. Seeing Butch again reminded me that it is the residents who inhabit our living places as much as the grounds that makes this community special.

As I weaved my way around towards First Avenue, the vibrant community life was all around including the great shops along the perimeter.

Perhaps this community is not Utopia; it never was, especially during the exclusionary renting policies of the original owner. In 2019, we have problems like every other part of New York City.

But for my money, there is still no better place to grow up, raise a family or grow old. I need to get out and walk more often. We all should. It’s good for our health and good for our souls.

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15 thoughts on “Opinion: A walk in the park

  1. Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are a peaceful oasis in this busy city. I’m grateful and pleased to live here especially after Mr. Hayduk assumed his responsibility to oversee the operations of this huge complex of buildings.

  2. Is it possibly dementia, or did Sanders get paid a ‘commission’ by Blackstone to write this? The last years under Met Life weren’t so great, either….

  3. Is it perhaps dementia, or did Sanders get paid a ‘commission’ by Blackstone to write this garbage?
    Last years under Met Life weren’t so great, either.

  4. Steve I used to accord you a lot of respect. That’s history. I see you have drunken the REBNY/Blackstone Kool-Aid. Your review of what currently is the state of PCVST is a classic “Potemkin Village” mindset. As an former state official, I was also surprised at your glowing review of the Oval Café which is violation of the NYC zoning law since it functions a s a commercial enterprise, not a “resident amenity”. You also missed the rampant dormfication, started by Met Life in its later years put on light speed by TS and CWC, and now on warp speed by Blackstone/SPS. Of course the 20 something staff is courteous, they are trained to do so. For a reality check, go to the Stuyvesant Town Report blog or check out some current Yelp reviews for a true taste of what is going on here.

  5. I invite Sanders to walk with me next time. His glowing report is not what I see. Yeah, some of Stuy Town is nice, but did he have to skip over dog do-do or the club cars that go this way and that? Did he not pass the thrown-out uncovered mattress on the loops? (Illegal, btw, if not covered with plastic.) Did he not hear the noise? Did he miss the higher prices of rentals here and that young folks who can’t afford this place must pack in more friends illegally to their apartments for money-sake? Did he not go to 14th Street and realize that those residents are having a tough time sleeping because of the construction? Did he forget to stop in at the stores and check out their high prices? Did he not see less and less “mom and pop” stores? Even the corner of 20th and 1st had two popular restaurants, a Belgian and Mexican one. No more…. Where was he? Dreaming?

  6. Sanders is on the board of the TA so, clearly he is on the take. Just like the old days for the former politician.

    • Former Assemblyman Sanders does not serve on the Tenants Association Board., according to their leadership listing on their website.

  7. Correct. He also does not live here anymore (read the article-“-So last week while visiting my mom”- he would be ineligible for TA membership never mind the Board) so pls be accurate in your TA bashing.

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