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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Fed up by basketball noise, ST man aims to get rid of playground

Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 11 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

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.

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Letters to the editor, Apr. 28

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Constant dribbling driving me crazy

Re: “Blackstone looking at ways to reduce noise,” T&V, Mar. 17

You were concerned enough to recently publish an article regarding the noise nuisances at Stuyvesant Town.  I am hoping you can stay on top of this.
It is outrageous to me that two full court basketball courts exist, from 9 a.m. to dusk (Playground 11), daily, directly below my building, 285 Avenue C, and several other buildings around the courts.

I am hoping you will continue to publish articles, op-ed pieces, etc., confer with our Tenants Association, and everything else possible to get them to severely cut the hours of operation, e.g. weekdays and weekends noon to 6 p.m.,  to eliminate one full court basketball court and add a second volley ball court, enforce a specific closing time by security, only allow one guest per resident, and enforce signs indicating no undue shouting, screaming, and cursing, which carries up to everyone’s windows.

I have spoken with at least 20 people in my building and others who feel the same as I do, that this is a clear noise nuisance, and violates the rules and regulations of our lease re: quiet enjoyment/noise.  To cater to a maximum of 25 kids and teens who use Playground 11 at any given time, compared to 30,000 residents, and eight 12-story buildings around the courts is simply absurd, inconsiderate, and off the charts.

Every weekday after work and all weekend, we are forced to listen to constant dribbling basketballs, shouting, screaming, cursing, clapping, etc., that under our lease, falls under “unreasonable disturbances…which are excessive and sustained for a long period.” If possible, I would have the basketball courts completely removed, and let them use the public courts which exist throughout our area.

We do not live on a college campus, school setting, country club, sports club, etc., and deserve as much peace and quiet throughout the day as logically possible.

Stuart Levinson, ST

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