Posts Tagged ‘Stuyvesant Town’

The squirrels that decorate New York buildings

November 17, 2011

Considering how many real little acorn diggers make New York their home, it’s no surprise that architects and designers pay homage to them on city buildings and in parks.

This bushy-tailed squirrel with a fat nut in its hand (paw?) is surrounded by a decorative motif that seems to symbolize fruitfulness.

It appears on a panel outside a long-defunct bank building on Fifth Avenue and 41st Street.

This cast iron squirrel statue guards the entrance to a playground at Stuyvesant Town, where about 100 billion gray or black squirrels scamper around all day, or at least it seems like that on a recent fall afternoon.

These twin squirrels mirror each other above an ornate entrance to a 1922 luxury apartment house at 55 Park Avenue South. They come across kinda evil, no?

A couple more squirrels are on an old Williamsburg Bank building and an Upper East Side apartment building.

Strange names for some city playgrounds

January 17, 2011

On 17th Street and Avenue C east of Stuyvesant Town is a little spit of land called “Murphy’s Brother’s Playground.”

So who was Murphy and why did his brother get a playground named after him?

It goes back to when this area was part of the old Gas House District and Tammany Hall ruled Manhattan politics.

John J. Murphy was the son of poor Irish immigrants who made a fortune in construction in the late 19th century and became a local politician.

But he owed a lot of his good fortune to his brother, a local saloon keeper and eventual bigwig at Tammany Hall named “Silent Charlie” Murphy.

In 1985, what was then Murphy Park underwent a name change to acknowledge Silent Charlie.

Though why Parks officials didn’t use his actual name is a mystery. Who wants to only be known as someone’s brother?

Poor Richard’s Playground, on Third Avenue and 108th Street, is a nod to the Poor Richard of Poor Richard’s Almanac, aka Benjamin Franklin.

Why pay homage to Ben Franklin? The playground is next to the city-owned Benjamin Franklin Houses.

Building Stuyvesant Town in the 1940s

June 2, 2010

In early 1945, more than 3,000 families moved out of the 600 or so old tenement buildings (such as these at left) between East 14th and 23rd Streets.

Everything on those blocks—including the tenements, two schools, three churches, and two theaters—was razed.

Within a few years they were replaced by the 9,000-apartment Stuyvesant Town, opened in 1947. 

Village writer Dawn Powell chronicles the former Gas House District and the building of Stuy Town (looking like legos in the NYPL photo below) in her diary:

“October 19 [1947]: Walking over to the East River Drive with Joe at night in rainy mist, seeing new houses of Stuyvesant Village rear up against old tenements, new stylish drive cutting through old streets, then the huge power plant—dark, oppressive, like a medieval forge—on to East River Park Drive. Silent boats and tugs gliding along, a body of man in doorway.”

The original Stuyvesant Town

January 10, 2009

Before the 9,000-apartment, red-brick housing development across Fourteenth Street opened in 1947, a small walk-up tenement at 219 Avenue B had the Stuyvesant name on its far more humble facade.

“Stuyvesant Apartments” is serious faded and covered in grime, but it was constructed in 1910, predating Stuy Town by 37 years.


There’s a lot of Stuyvesant in the vicinity: Stuyvesant Street near St. Mark’s Church, the old Stuyvesant High School building on East 15th Street, and Stuyvesant Square off Second Avenue in the teens.

No wonder: Petrus Stuyvesant, the Dutch-born director-general of New Netherland, had his farm—or bouwerie—here in the 1600s.

New York’s segregated past

September 2, 2008

The Riverton, a 12-acre complex between 135th and 138th Streets on Fifth Avenue in Harlem, sure looks like Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, down to the identical red-brick apartment houses and the same grassy space between buildings.

No wonder; Riverton may be smaller, but all three working- and middle-class communities were built in the 1940s by Metropolitan Life. 

Yet something is different about Riverton: The seven apartment buildings were put up as an alternative for African-Americans seeking to live in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Met Life built those complexes for white tenants only, a policy that officially stuck until 1950.

MetLife sold Riverton in 1976. The new owners have made headlines recently because they’re about to default on the mortgage. And of course, Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village have gone upscale now that they’re owned by Tishman Speyer.