John ‘Butch’ Purcell, mayor of Stuy Town, dies at 74

Residents left flowers at the entrance of Playground 9 in Stuyvesant Town this week following the news that John “Butch” Purcell, for whom the playground had recently been renamed, had died on Sunday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

John “Butch” Purcell, known to many in the community as the mayor of Stuyvesant Town, passed away on Sunday night at age 74. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and their son, John Purcell Jr.

Purcell earned his mayor nickname from being one of the first black families that moved into Stuyvesant Town in the 1960s, and he celebrated his 50th year in the community in 2018.

Purcell played basketball throughout his life and although he never went pro himself, he started coaching at 27. He coached athletes at Harlem’s Rucker Park tournaments from 1972 to 1992, as well as for the New York Pro Basketball League, and by his own estimate, coached more than 75 NBA players, including Julius Erving. He was honored by the Brooklyn USA Athletic Association for his coaching career in 2017.

In addition to coaching, Purcell also worked for more than 40 years in drug counseling at Beth Israel Medical Center, where he started working in 1967 for the hospital’s methadone treatment program. Purcell worked directly for the NBA during the 1980s as well, counseling players, and continued to counsel players and others until he retired in 2013.

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Stuy Town native writes book after surviving cancer

Alexa Cucchiara (Photo by Brian Edsall)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuy Town native Alexa Cucchiara is excited to be graduating from college next spring, but she has more reason to celebrate than most: she is doing so after surviving cancer and writing a book.

Cucchiara was a sophomore at Marist College in Poughkeepsie about two years ago when she started not feeling well and got a swollen lymph node about the size of a golf ball around her collarbone. She went to the doctor to get it checked but it wasn’t until September 2017 when she was about to start her junior year that a doctor confirmed that she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and would need chemotherapy.

“I turned 20 and then six days later I started chemo,” she said. “I would always joke around and would say, no, this is preparing me for adulthood. I would try to embrace it and have fun with it, even when I lost my hair and everything.”

Now studying at Fordham University in the Bronx to be closer to her family and network of friends who supported her while she was sick, Cucchiara at first couldn’t believe she had cancer and even when her doctor recommended surgery and chemotherapy for treatment, resisted the idea that she would have to leave school to recover.

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Tenant names removed from intercoms in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents were shocked and dismayed to learn this weekend that tenant names have been removed from all intercoms in all buildings throughout the property.

StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk said that tenant names have been removed from all video intercoms, in addition to the resident list that used to be next to the mailboxes, due to privacy concerns.

“Many residents, and at an increasing frequency of late, had requested their names be removed,” Hayduk said. “In light of not only our response to privacy concerns, but the general issue of privacy overall, we made the decision to remove all resident names from public areas.”

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association sent an email to residents on Sunday about the sudden change, noting that the disappearance of tenant names has resulted in strangers dialing resident intercoms, missed food deliveries and emergency caregivers needing directions to apartments. Now that tenant names have been removed, only apartment numbers and buzz-in numbers are listed.

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Female Boy Scout finally approved as Eagle Scout (Story corrected)

Eagle Scout Sydney Ireland (center, in uniform) celebrated her new rank at the office of NOW-NY with friends and family, including Taylor Abbruzzese from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s office, Jim Nedelka, NOW-NY President Sonia Ossorio, college friend Zora Duncan, her father Gary Ireland, her brother Bryan Ireland and family friend Paul Marshall, along with her dog (pictured at the bottom), Scout. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

UPDATE: See below for a correction to this story.

Stuyvesant Town native Sydney Ireland will officially be recognized as an Eagle Scout after a board of review voted to approve her Eagle Scout project on Tuesday evening. 

Now a freshman at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Ireland returned to New York this week for the first time since starting school so that she could meet with the board that ultimately approved her, officially making her an Eagle Scout. 

Ireland has been fighting to be recognized by the organization since following her older brother into scouting at the age of 4, and although the Boy Scouts of America officially changed the name of their premier program to the gender-neutral “Scouts BSA” to allow young women to participate starting this year, Ireland herself was not being recognized for the work she had already completed. 

The BSA even previously recognized her as a catalyst for the changes that were made to the program but denied her Eagle Scout rank by claiming that all the work she had done up to that point didn’t count, likening it to auditing classes in college. Although she had already completed one Eagle Scout project, she finished a second project in June, officially finishing all the requirements to become an Eagle Scout and making the board of review official. 

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Associated closing in Stuyvesant Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street will likely be closing by the end of this year, StuyTown general manager Rick Hayduk announced in an email to residents last Friday afternoon.

Hayduk noted in the message that management has been working with the store in an attempt to keep the market open through the holiday season, including by offering free rent, but the store reportedly still would not be able to guarantee that it could stay open through the end of the year.

The owners told management that the competitive environment for supermarkets, both locally and due to online ordering, led them to the decision to close.

Norman Quintanilla, who has been the manager at the store for the last 16 years, told Town & Village on Tuesday that they have notified employees that the last day would be December 10, but the store will likely end up closing by the end of November.

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Teens wanted for robbery in Stuyvesant Town

430 East 20th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police are looking for two teenagers who reportedly robbed a woman while she was trying to get into her building in Stuyvesant Town yesterday evening. 

The victim told police that she was walking up to the building at 430 East 20th Street around 7:40 p.m. on Monday, September 16 when she spotted the teens, a boy and a girl, standing outside the door. As she approached the building, she said that one of the teens told her that his phone was dead and wanted her to let them inside the building. 

The victim said that she told them they needed to call security if they wanted help getting inside and one of the teens allegedly responded, “You’re not opening the door because we’re black.”

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Blackstone will rent out all vacant units in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer along with Tenants Association members during a 2015 press conference to announce Blackstone’s purchase of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owner of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, has confirmed it will not purposely keep rent-regulated apartments vacant following criticism from local elected officials after reports that the company was doing so, Gothamist reported last Friday.

The position was a shift from earlier last week when the owner, Blackstone, would not commit to leasing all the regulated units, a strategy often referred to as “warehousing.” Gothamist also noted that the promise came after Mayor Bill de Blasio said that city officials would need to have “some serious conversations” with the company about the agreement it signed to keep the units affordable.

“We are renovating and leasing all vacant units, and we will continue to fulfill our commitment to voluntarily preserve 5,000 affordable apartments,” Blackstone spokesperson Jennifer Friedman told Town & Village, although she added that the company will still have to make “difficult choices” and “scale back certain investments” in light of the recent legislation.

Blackstone is now actively renting out all vacant units, although the company has spent the last several weeks working through how to conduct renovations, especially in recently-vacated apartments that have been occupied for decades.

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Mahjong with a side of shmear

Stuy Town resident Susie Fasbinder has started teaching mahjong classes at the Ess-a-Bagel in Stuyvesant Town on First Avenue. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town resident Susie Fasbinder wants to bring an old game to a younger generation—over a classic New York meal. Fasbinder approached Ess-a-Bagel owner Beverly Wilpon about hosting small games at the shop on First Avenue and Wilpon was open to it, thus “mahjong and a shmear” was born.

Fasbinder, who is also a children’s book author, learned how to play the game as a teenager and picked it up again in her 50s but began teaching classes because she was having trouble finding games locally. She started listing classes through Facebook groups and said that she taught about 30 people how to play over the last six to eight months before starting the classes in the Stuyvesant Town Ess-a-Bagel at 324 First Avenue.

Those initial lessons were private classes but she got the idea to open it up to the public when walking by the bagel shop, which also offers space to a knitting group on Tuesday nights. Classes started out on Monday nights but Fasbinder said that she’s adding a class on Wednesdays as well due to their popularity. Wilpon said that they already have classes scheduled through September and was surprised at how popular they ended up being.

Banu Chediek, a Long Island City resident, found the class after hearing about it from the knitting group that Ess-a-Bagel hosts on Tuesday nights and attended one of Fasbinder’s mahjong classes last month. Another student who attended last month, Lee Murphy, used to live in Stuy Town and Katie Ward, who lives in the East Village, also attended.

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Local writers wanted for monthly meetups

East Village Wordsmiths has been hosted at Ciao for Now on East 12th Street for the last year.

By Sabina Mollot and Maria Rocha-Buschel

For the past year, a group of writers led by Stuyvesant Town resident Leigh Anne O’Connor have been meeting monthly at East Village restaurant Ciao for Now where they take turns reading from new works.

In recent months the writing workshop, dubbed the East Village Wordsmiths, has grown in numbers, though O’Connor said there is still plenty of room for more.

“It would be great to have a steady group of performers,” she said. “Sometimes we’re there and we have an hour and 20 minutes but sometimes we’re done inside an hour. I want it to expand into having a solid show.”

O’Connor, who works as a lactation consultant for breastfeeding mothers, says she had been doing writing on the breastfeeding and other issues that involved raising children. One of her motivations for starting the group, though, came from a writing class that she took at the Tribeca 92nd Street Y where she got the opportunity to perform some of her work.

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New book explores old gangs of the East Village

By Sabina Mollot

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 The East 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.”

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Stuyvesant Town artist recreates ‘Lavender Scare’ for PBS documentary

Illustration of historic scene by John Sicoransa

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town resident John Sicoransa hadn’t heard of the Lavender Scare when film editor Bruce Shaw contacted him about creating drawings for a documentary on the topic, but he immediately knew he wanted to get involved once he learned more about the troubling period in American history.

The Lavender Scare, the subject of a new PBS documentary by the same name that premiered last Tuesday, ran concurrently with the Red Scare, a period following World War II when Senator Joseph McCarthy stoked fears about an increase in communism. The Lavender Scare began in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower declared homosexuals a security risk, in part because of a perception that they could be easily blackmailed. Federal workers were fired or forced to resign and others were denied jobs in the first place when the government suspected them of being gay.

McCarthy and attorney Roy Cohn, who later died of AIDS and was accused of being a closeted gay man, were responsible for many of the firings, which were supported by J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI.

“Once I heard the story outline and saw existing footage, I was all in,” Sicoransa said of the film.

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First Avenue florist retiring

Pete Tsoumas is retiring on Friday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

After 65 years in business, the colorful floral stand tucked in a corner at the Brooklyn-bound exit of the First Avenue L is selling its last bouquet on Friday. Current owner Pete Tsoumas has been operating the stand for almost 50 years, having taken it over from his grandfather and uncle after running three other stores in the city, and now he finally gets to retire. 

“If you told me I’d be here for 48 years, I’d say you’re crazy,” Tsoumas said. 

Tsoumas said that the construction on the station was a challenge but the main reason he’s closing up shop is his health and he’s looking forward to spending time with his family. 

“I need a rest. ‘If you don’t close on Friday, you won’t make it (to your appointment) in September,’” he said his doctor told him at a previous appointment, indicating that his stem-cutting arm gives him trouble.

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Stuyvesant Town golfers come out for clinic

On June 11, the Stuy Town Golf Club held a clinic that was attended by over 50 residents from all age groups. Because of its success, Stuyvesant Town management has asked that the club hold another event that has been set for July 15. The “Full Swing Clinic” will take place in Playground 10 from 7-8:30 p.m. with PGA pros Matt and Shaun. To attend, RSVP to info@stuytowngolf.org.

The club’s organizers are Rich “Coach” Remsen and Bill Oddo. Remsen will be hosting “Golf “FUNdamentals” Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-8 p.m. at Stuy Town’s Playground 3, weather permitting.

Other upcoming events include an outing to Rockland Lake Golf Course on June 23 (rescheduled from June 20 due to predicted unfavorable weather conditions. Another outing is scheduled for July 9 at Doral Arrowwood Resort in Westchester. Space limited, so if interested RSVP.  For more information, visit stuytowngolfclub.org.

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ST man seeking kidney donor

(Left to right) Wayne Dentice, Greg Dentice, Patricia Dentice, Cassin Loughrey, Barry Loughrey and Ryan Loughrey (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Greg Dentice is one of the “healthiest unhealthy people” his doctor has ever seen, and the contradictory statement makes sense when looking at the 23-year-old Stuy Town resident. Dentice is tall, although a little thinner than he used to be by his mom’s assessment, and works in construction pulling cabling for internet service. But he also has a rare disease that requires frequent doctor’s visits, hours of treatments, a strict diet and now, an organ transplant in the next few months in order to survive.

Dentice was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease known as Membranoproliferative  Glomerulonephritis (MPGN) when he was in sixth grade and until recently, the disease had been exhausting due to all the precise dietary restrictions but was manageable.

“Most foods are salty beyond what I would have imagined,” he said, explaining that his kidneys can’t filter out protein, sodium, potassium and phosphorous. “I was always an athlete but I had to portion control (once I was diagnosed) and I lost a lot of mass. Even Gatorade has phosphorous so I can only drink water.”

Dentice’s mother Patricia, a phys ed teacher at the Epiphany School for the last 20 years, said that figuring out the dietary restrictions is a balance.

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Bikes still a primary concern for Stuy Town-Peter Cooper residents

Executive Officer Ernesto Castro of the 13th Precinct (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper residents expressed concerns about cyclists around the property, especially the bike lane on East 20th Street between First Avenue and Avenue C, at the Tenants Association’s annual meeting last Thursday.

Resident Susan Mason said that a mom in the neighborhood said her stroller was hit while her child was in it. Mason did not specify if this was at the intersection of East 20th Street and First Avenue but said that the corner seems to be a problem.

“Since you’re trying to educate the bicyclists, it would be helpful if you could send officers to 20th and First because cyclists are constantly going through lights there,” she said.

The 13th Precinct’s executive officer, Ernesto Castro, noted at the meeting that there has been one collision reported at East 20th and First so far this year, and the NYPD usually focuses traffic enforcement on areas with more crashes, including East 23rd Street and Second Avenue, as well as at Sixth Avenue.

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