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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Opinion: In the name of Butch

John “Butch” Purcell, also known as the mayor of Stuyvesant Town, pictured with his pooch Ginger (Photo by Kelly Vohs)

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

His name is John Purcell. To his legion of friends he is simply known as “Butch.” He has been a resident of Stuyvesant Town for over five decades. The basketball court Playground 9 near East 18th Street and First Avenue will from now on bear his name. This singular honor will be conferred on Butch in a dedication ceremony next Wednesday, September 25 at 10 a.m. And what a splendid choice he is for that honor.

There have been an array of luminaries to live in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village during those years. Important politicians, sports stars and entertainers as well as leaders of business and industry. So why Butch? Simply put… he deserves it!

Butch has spent his adult life helping young people. He has devoted much of his time keeping kids away from drugs and other self-destructive behaviors. When he has encountered those who have already gone down that poisoned path, he has shown them an off ramp.

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Citi Bike docks in Playground 9 to be moved

The new Citi Bike docking station in Playground 9 was installed at the end of last month, resulting in numerous complaints from residents about space from the playground being taken away. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuy Town residents were surprised and not entirely thrilled to see dozens of new Citi Bike docks inside Playground 9 installed at the end of June. After a number of complaints were sent to management, STPCV general manager Rick Hayduk announced last week that Citi Bike would be making adjustments to the docks later this month so that the water feature in the playground would be accessible.

Management had previously announced the arrival of the new docking stations in a June rent insert but residents on local Facebook groups expressed surprise about how much space on the playground that the new docks occupy.

The announcement from Hayduk, which came in the form of a notice posted in buildings throughout the property, said that Citi Bike was on-site last week and that they would soon be moving the docking stations to provide access to the water feature. Management expects this realignment to be completed by the third week of July. As of this week, the docks continue to block the water feature.

Councilmember Keith Powers met with Hayduk after he learned about the installation of the docks and his office has also coordinated with the STPCV Tenants Association, Citi Bike and the Department of Transportation. The DOT usually specifies station siting for Citi Bike but since the placement of these docks is on private property, STPCV and Citi Bike had more authority to pick a location. Powers’ office said that the selection of the site was done without their knowledge or that of the TA.

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Letters to the editor, June 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Bike dock will encourage trespassing

The following is an open letter to STPCV General Manager Rick Hayduk regarding the Citi Bike station that was recently installed in Playground 9.

Dear Rick,

I appreciate your keeping the residents apprised of what management is undertaking but I fear with the latest bike related undertaking you are working at cross purposes.

One of the more frequently heard complaints from the resident population is the plethora of bicycles on the premises. You have tried to establish rules governing their use that are blithely ignored. They are honored more in the breach than the observance. I don’t see how providing “quick and easy” access addresses the problem. We are already awash with Citi Bike docking stations along the perimeter of the complex. Why invite the interloper onto the premises?

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Crowds come out for flea market

Vendors Waltrine Cooke and Carolyn Laws-Parker both welcomed the opportunity to see neighbors at the resurrected event. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, the second flea market to take place after a hiatus of about 15 years took place in Stuyvesant Town under a mostly sunny and warm sky.

Around 530 vendors were selling their wares, a number that was slightly higher than last year’s. This time vendors had tables inside three playgrounds, instead of lining the Oval out to the loop roads. Vendors who spoke with Town & Village seemed to have mixed feelings about this, though all were nonetheless glad to see the flea market tradition living on.

At Playground 9, Marilyn Ray, who was stationed near an entrance, seemed happy with the arrangement as her table was a popular stop for those looking for vintage prints and ephemera. Asked how business was going, she answered, “Pretty good. It’s the prints that are selling better than anything else.”

Alicia Zanelli, a longtime resident selling some Peruvian-made items, was less impressed about how packed Playground 9 was with sellers. “Everyone’s getting squeezed,” she said. “We have so many beautiful areas. Open them up!”

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Dogs’ day out in Stuy Town

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday afternoon, an event for pets was held in Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 9, offering their owners a chance to chat with reps from local pet-related businesses as well as collect a few freebies like photo portraits of themselves with their furry friends.

Participating businesses included Boprey Photography, ABC Animal Hospital, Throw Me a Bone (training and walking service), Petland and Happy Dogs daycare center. Happy Dogs offered pooches free ear cleaning and a moisturizing fur rub as well as holding a contest with a $100 giveaway. Stuy Town management also offered giveaways of doggie bowls, tote bags and poop bags, all festooned with the property’s logo. Dog owners also got a chance to take home some artwork made from their dogs’ paws being dipped in paint.

Local dog owners seemed to appreciate the opportunity to get together without anyone yelling at them to get out of the playground and their dogs, almost of all which were rescues, seemed to appreciate the social interaction and attention.

Photos by Sabina Mollot

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Phones, razor scooters snatched in Stuy Town

Razor scooter

Razor scooter

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town has been hit by a thief (or thieves) swiping smartphones and possibly also razor scooters.

According to a father of a kid whose phone was stolen at Playground 9, the first known incident was on Saturday afternoon and he believes the culprits are nonresident youths possibly working as a team.

“They target youngsters who leave phones unattended and then steal razor scooters to make their getaway,” said the dad, who asked to remain anonymous.

The dad, whose son was victimized on Sunday afternoon, said when he approached public safety to file a report, a group of kids were also making a report about two other scooters being stolen that day.

The man’s son had put his phone down at the base of a flagpole and when he returned a few minutes later it was gone.

In another incident he heard about, an 11-year-old had his iPhone snatched from a basket in Playground 9 after he and a few friends were challenged to a basketball game by another group. After the game, the other team immediately took off.

In the Sunday incident, at around 4 p.m., one kid reported seeing the kid who took the phone from the flagpole on his blue razor scooter. The scooter’s owner confronted the kid using it, saying his name was on the underside of it. After seeing that, the alleged thief, who is described as black, around 14 years old and carrying a bulging black and red backpack, gave it back. About 20 minutes later, he was seen leaving the property on a different scooter.

The dad added he heard that one of the phones, which was being traced by its owner, ended up on Second Avenue and 29th Street.

A detective from the 13th Precinct told T&V on Monday the police had no reports of any phone or scooter thefts in Stuy Town. A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment.