Wayne pictured in his Stuyvesant Town apartment in 2012 (Photo by Christopher Gabello)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Former Stuy Town resident and author Teddy Wayne used his former home as inspiration for a new novel set in and around the property that is set to debut on February 25.
The novel, “Apartment,” is set in 1996, about seven years before Wayne moved into the neighborhood, so he conducted some background research on the neighborhood to make sure the details were accurate, such as whether or not the fountain was on the Oval then and if certain businesses in the area were open at the time. But Wayne said it was the environment in the neighborhood and the property that inspired him to examine the loneliness of these specific city dwellers.
“It was a formative place in my 20s,” he said. “I wanted to write a novel that revolves around this apartment and explore a friendship through this confined space.”
The story follows an unnamed narrator who is attending an MFA program while living in an illegal sublet in Stuyvesant Town, and he offers a spare bedroom rent-free to a classmate.
Long before it became the birthplace of punk rock, and later home to a glut of luxury high-rises, the East Village was a stronghold of Italian-American mafia activity. The roughly seven-decade-long era began around 1920, with organized crime activity taking place at local haunts of the day like Luciano’s Palm Casino on East 4th Street as well as the more seemingly innocuous Di Robertis Pasticceria on First Avenue.
The local angle as well as the monopoly on crime in the area during this period – mostly heroin trafficking — was of interest to Thomas F. Comiskey, a Stuyvesant Town native who had a long career as a supervisor and investigator with the New York City Department of Investigations. Following his recent retirement, Comiskey wrote and self-published a nonfiction book on the subject, called TheEast Village Mafia.
“When I worked for the NYC Department of Investigations, my leisure reading was mob books,” Comiskey explained. “As I read them I noticed that over all the situations and dates and people and places and eras, there was always something inevitably leading to the East Village. It’s been told in a general sense, but I don’t think the importance of the East Village gangs was known.”