Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town
Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town is a large private residential development on the East Side of the borough of Manhattanin New York City. One of the most iconic and successful of post-war private housing communitiesFact|date=June 2007, Stuyvesant Town was planned in 1943. ["HEARING ADVANCES BIG HOUSING PLAN; Further Action Due May 19 on Metropolitan Life Project," " The New York Times", May 6, 1943. p. 36] Its first tenants, two World War IIveterans and their families, moved into the first completed building on August 1, 1947. ["Stuyvesant Town to Get Its First Tenants Today," " The New York Times", August 1, 1947. p. 19] The complex itself is based on Parkchester, which was completed in 1942. The same companies and developers also built Riverton, which was completed around the same time.
The model, middle-income housing development was named for the last Director-General of
New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, whose farmoccupied the site in the seventeenth-century. In the late Nineteenth Century, the area became known as the Gashouse Districtbecause of the many huge gas tanks that dominated the streetscapes. The tanks, which sometimes leaked, made the area undesirable, as did the Gas House Gangand others that operated in the area. With the construction of the East River Drive, the area began to improve. By the 1930s, all but four tanks were gone and, while shabby, the area was no more blighted than many parts of the city after the years of the Great Depression.
Before the construction of Stuyvesant Town, the neighborhood contained eighteen typical city blocks, with public schools, churches, factories, private homes, apartments, small businesses, and even relatively new modern-style apartment buildings. In all, 600 buildings, containing 3,100 families, 500 stores and small factories, three churches, three schools, and two theaters, were destroyed. As would be repeated in later
urban renewalprojects, some 11,000 persons were forced to move from the neighborhood. In 1945, " The New York Times" called the move from the site "the greatest and most significant mass movement of families in New York's history" (NYT, March 3 1945). The last residents of the Gashouse District, the Delman Family, moved out in May 1946, allowing demolition to be soon concluded.
Today, Stuyvesant Town is a sprawling collection of red
brick apartment buildings with typical housing project-style architecture, stretching from First Avenue to Avenue C, between 14th and 20th Streets. It covers about 80 acres of land. Stuyvesant Town has 8,757 apartments and with its sister development Peter Cooper Villagethey have a combined 110 buildings, 11,250 apartments, and over 25,000 residents. It is bordered by the East River/Avenue C on the east, the Gramercy neighborhood on the west, the East Village (or Alphabet City) to the south, and Kips Bayto the north. The surrounding area to the West is notable for historic Stuyvesant Square, a two-block park surrounded by the old Stuyvesant High School, Saint George's Church, and the Beth Israel Medical Center.
In spite of its project-style architecture and layout, and its controversial history, Stuyvesant Town remains as desirable a place to live today as it was in 1946, when the
Metropolitan Life Insurance Companybegan taking applications. On the first day the company received 7,000 applications; it would receive 100,000 applicants by the time of first occupancy. In 1947, rents ranged from $50 to $91. Current rents range from $3000.+ for a one bedroom apartment to $7500.+ for a 5 bedroom unit.
tuyvesant Town history
Due to a housing crisis building since the Depression, Stuyvesant Town was planned as a post-war housing project already in 1942-43, some years before the war's end. Provision was made that the rental applications of veterans would have selection priority.
Stuyvesant Town was controversial from the beginning. It was championed by Parks Commissioner
Robert Moses, who, at the behest of Mayor La Guardia, sought "to induce insurance companies and savings banks to enter the field of large-scale slum clearance" (Moses, Letter to " The New York Times", June 3, 1943). It was enabled by various state laws and amendments which permitted private companies to enter what was previously a public field of action. The new public-private partnership, and the contract entered between the city and the developer, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, were the source of much debate.
Among the issues at stake were use of the power of
eminent domainfor private purposes; the reversion of public streets and land, such as public school property, to private ownership; the 25-year tax exemption granted by the contract; and the rights of the company to discriminate in selecting tenants.
When the $50 million Stuyvesant Town plan was approved by the City Planning Commission on
May 20 1943by a five to one vote, discrimination against African Americans was already a significant topic of debate. Councilmen Stanley M. Isaacsand A. Clayton Powell Jr. sought to introduce a provision into the contract that would prevent racial or religious discrimination in tenant selection. This provision was not accepted, with those rejecting it, including Robert Moses, arguing that the company's profitability would be harmed and that opponents were "obviously looking for a political issue and not for results in the form of actual slum clearance" (NYT, May 29 1943). In the years after it opened, blacks were barred from living in the complex, with MetLife's president noting that "Negroes and whites do not mix." [Bagli, Charles V. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/18/nyregion/18stuyvesant.html "$5.4 Billion Bid Wins Complexes in New York Deal"] , " The New York Times", October 18, 2006. Accessed October 16, 2007. "The company barred blacks from living in Stuyvesant Town for many years, and its president at the time, Frederick H. Ecker, once said, “Negroes and whites do not mix.”"] Lee Lorch, a City University of New Yorkprofessor, petitioned to allow African Americans into the development and was fired from his teaching position as a result of pressure from Metropolitan Life. Upon accepting position at Penn State, Lorch allowed a black family to occupy his apartment, thus circumventing the no Negroes rule . As a result of pressure from Met Life, he was dismissed from his new position as well. [http://www.yorku.ca/mediar/archive/Release.asp?Release=1190]
Lawsuits were filed on the basis that the project was public or semi-public, and thus violated anti-discrimination laws for New York City public housing. In July 1947, the
New York Supreme Courtdetermined that the development was private and that, in the absence of laws to the contrary, the company could discriminate as it saw fit. The court wrote, "It is well settled that the landlord of a private apartment or dwelling house may, without violating any provision of the Federal or State Constitutions, select tenants of its own choice because of race, color, creed or religion... Clearly, housing accommodation is not a recognized civil right" (NYT, July 29 1947). The suit brought by three African American war veterans was thus settled.
By this date, Metropolitan Life was building a separate-but-equal housing project in Harlem,
Riverton Houses. Some years later, the company admitted a few black families to Stuyvesant Town and a few white families to Riverton. Both projects, however, remain largely black and white, as do many housing projects to this day.
A host of other issues and controversies surrounded Stuyvesant Town's urban planning and design. From the first debates in 1943, objections were made to the haste with which the project was approved and lack of public participation in the process; the project's population density; the absence of any public facilities such as schools, community centers, or shops in the development; the gated-community, private property character and the denial of city residents to walk through a part of the city that was once public; violations of the city's master plan; and the walled-city character of its design. Lawsuits were brought by property owners of the land, but in February 1944 the
Supreme Court of the United Statesrefused to review the constitutionality of the New York State redevelopment companies law that enabled the development, despite the taking of public property for private profit, the granting of tax exemptions, and the public benefits advanced by the developers and their advocates.
tuy Town today
Dubbed "Stuy Town" by many of its residents [ [http://www.newsday.com/news/local/newyork/am-city1102,0,305823.story City Living: Stuyvesant Town ] , "Newsday",
November 2, 2006] , the complex is home to trees, grass, black squirrels, and twelve parks open to use by its residents. As initially offered by Metropolitan Life president Frederick Ecker in 1943, Stuy Town made it possible for generations of New Yorkers "to live in a park--to live in the country in the heart of New York."
Some of the essential services that are available to residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week include emergency electrical and plumbing maintenance, as well as a security force that is comprised primarily of N.Y.P.D. Special Patrolmen. While they are not permitted to carry pistols as with the N.Y.P.D., they have full arrest and summons powers and patrol the property in specialized vehicles to give an added sense of security presence on the property.
The Stuy Town waiting list, which was incredibly long, was abolished recently when Metropolitan Life spent millions on renovations for the almost 60-year-old complex in preparation first for bringing market-price rents to as many apartments as possible, and then to sell the complex to the highest bidder.
In 2006 and 2007, there was a widely-publicized controversy over the actions of Metropolitan Life in its attempts to turn the complex into luxury apartments. Indeed, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have, as many see it, become the front line for
rent controlbattles in New York City. Until recently, the under-$2,000/month rents for one bedroom and two bedroom apartments in the complex were in tune with market rates in Manhattan for much smaller apartments ("projects" apartments in Manhattan are vastly larger in comparison to typical apartments costing far more in rent). In recent years, the Alphabet City and Lower East Side neighborhoods of Manhattan have seen a surge in popularity and in property values, and as of 2005 the market rate for two bedroom apartments in Stuyvesant Town surpassed $4,000/month. Residents who have lived in the apartments for several years are thus paying thousands less than market rate due to rent control laws, and, in turn, Metropolitan Life had come under fire for, as many saw it, attempting to drive out rent-controlled residents, or raise their rents enough to be able to charge market rates.
Opposition to Metropolitan Life's actions and plans began with a small protest in the center of the apartment complex in the summer of 2001, and quickly grew into an organized effort to resist many of the
major capital improvementsthat Metropolitan Life stated were necessary for the complex, but which many residents just felt were being completed with the sole intention of raising rents, and prior to its eventual sale. (New York State law states that one of the few ways to raise rents is to add a portion of legally permitted major capital improvements (MCI's). Another way to create vacancies is to commence a legal action against illegal sublets or so-called non-primary residents who actually live elsewhere and are not entitled to the protections of Rent Stabilization. In addition, those tenants who earn over $175,000 per year and also have a rent of $2000 or more will lose their rent protection.)
Recent renovations, such as modernized elevators and lobbies, a new community center, a central fountain, putting green, and a highly controversial photo-ID key-card key replacement system, led residents to correctly surmise that Metropolitan Life was preparing the complex for sale. Initial suspected buyers included such disparate concerns as
New York University(NYU), a different owner, or to the residents themselves as a co-op. The requirement of photo ID card-keys was touted by the development as a security precaution, but was viewed as a means of identifying those residents who live there under the lease of an absent (or deceased) tenant for the purpose of improperly benefiting from low controlled rents. As of early 2006, the ID-key issue had appeared to have been set aside.
One result of the recent move to market rents has been a more rapid shift in the demographics of the community, from an aging community with many government workers such as police officers, firefighters, teachers and court employees, to more young professionals with extremely high incomes. This demographic shift, as well as a similar shift in the nearby East Village/Alphabet City -- the region south of 14th Street, and east of First Avenue -- is having profound effects on the surrounding area, its businesses, schools and character.
Stuyvesant Town was once home to a yearly "flea market," a two-day event in which residents were encouraged to sell various secondhand wares and socialize with their neighbors. This has been discontinued in recent years, sparking a minor outcry from some residents who miss the occasion.
Multiple schools reside in the area, including such as elementary school [http://schools.nyc.gov/OurSchools/Region9/M040/default.htm?searchType=school Public School 40] , [http://schools.nyc.gov/OurSchools/Region9/M104/default.htm?searchType=school Middle School 104] ,
Salk School of Science, United Nations International School[http://www.unis.org] , Immaculate Conception School, and the Epiphany School.
As of early April 2008, security cameras have been installed in most Stuyvesant Town buildings. When the project is completed, cameras will be installed in the basement, lobby, and elevators of each building. In addition, sensors will be installed on the roof doors to prevent illegal access. This is part of a larger project that will also see the controversial key-card system implemented in Stuyvesant Town, similar to the improvements made to sister community Peter Cooper Village. The parking garages along Avenue C, 20th Street and 14th Street have already implemented a key-card access system and installed security cameras.
Town & Village newspaper
The community of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village has its own newspaper, "Town & Village", a.k.a. the T&V. It was first published in 1947 and has been published every week since, covering news in Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, and Gramercy Park. It was founded by Charles G. Hagedorn and is now published by Hagedorn Communications. "Town & Village" is not affiliated with MetLife or Tishman Speyer.
October 17, 2006, MetLife agreed to sell Stuyvesant Town to Tishman Speyer Propertiesand the real estate arm of BlackRockfor $5.4 billion. The sale was expected to close by November 15, 2006, according to documents CB Richard Ellis, a commercial real estate broker representing Met Life, sent to bidders. The sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village thus apparently was the biggest deal for a single American property in modern times. MetLife hired a broker, who started registering bidders, and intended to name a winner by November 2006. The sale had drawn interest from dozens of prospective buyers, including New York's top real estate families, pension funds, international investment banks and investors from Dubai, the New York Times said, citing real estate executives [ [http://www.cpnonline.com/cpn/property_type/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003085456 MetLife's Stuyvesant, Cooper Village Sale Could Hit $5B ] , "Commercial Property News", August 30, 2006] . New York City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, a lifelong resident of Peter Cooper Village, attempted to organize tenants and investors to place a buyout bid on Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town. Initially, MetLife deemed the tenants group an unqualified bidder, but, after being pressured by elected officials, MetLife reversed itself, and distributed bid books to the tenant group; bids were to have been submitted by October 5, 2006. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/nyregion/22lives.html?ex=1160020800&en=b68158e4f6de830b&ei=5070, 25,000 Constituents, Their Destiny on the Line ] , " The New York Times", September 22, 2006]
Stuyvesant Town was constructed with a transfer of public benefits to Metropolitan Life. Among these, the land under the complex was transferred to Metropolitan Life free of charge, and Met Life enjoyed a
tax abatementfor many years. It was, therefore, expected that Metropolitan Life accommodate the needs of the community in determining the appropriate purchaser for the complex.Fact|date=March 2007 On October 10, 2006, Senator Charles Schumertelephoned the chief executive officer of Metropolitan Life to emphasize that the insurance giant should heed calls for a tenant-sponsored acquisition of the complex, rather than simply seeking to sell to the highest bidder.
January 22, 2007, a class action lawsuit was filed against MetLife, Tishman Speyer Properties and their associates on behalf of the market rate tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. The suit claims that MetLife was improperly charging tenants 'market rate' rents while at the same time receiving real estate tax benefits from the City of New York (under the J-51 program, which requires property owners to maintain apartments as 'rent stabilized' during the period in which they are receiving benefits). The lawsuit asks for a monetary award of between $215 million and $320 million in rent overcharges and damages. Furthermore, it calls for the market rate apartments to be reverted to rent stabilization until the expiration of the J-51 benefit period, sometime after 2017.
Famous individuals who have lived in or still live in Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town include:
David Brooks, conservative columnist
Mary Higgins Clark[Stonger, Karol. "No More Suspense", " Chicago Tribune", July 31, 1989. "The Clarks, married in 1950, spent the first few years in Stuyvesant Town, a middle-income project in Manhattan."] , mystery writer
Chuck Klosterman, essayist and humorist
Karl Malden, actor
Thomas J. Watson Jr., business visionary
Frank McCourt, author
Drew Nieporent[Witchel, Alex. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07E7D9123AF935A1575AC0A9679C8B63 "In the Heart of TriBeCa, A Pioneer Presses On"] , " The New York Times", September 26, 2001. Accessed October 21, 2007. "Born at Mount Sinai Hospital, Mr. Nieporent grew up in Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan, the younger of two sons, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School."] , New York restaurateur
Paul Reiser[Lyman, Rick. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506E7D71230F936A3575AC0A961958260 "Be It Ever So Urban, It's Green"] , " The New York Times", September 5, 1997. Accessed October 9, 2007. "Paul Reiser, the former stand-up comic who became a movie actor, scriptwriter, television star and best-selling author, grew up in this inward-looking urban cloister of red brick apartment houses between 14th and 20th Streets, from First Avenue to FDR Drive in Manhattan."] , comedian
John Lindsay, former New York City mayor
Park Merced, San Francisco, California
Park La Brea, Los Angeles, California
* [http://www.thedeal.com/dealscape/2006/10/dealwatch_stuyvesant_town_pete.php Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village timeline of sale]
* [http://dealscape.thedealblogs.com/2006/09/metlife_making_money_at_the_go.php MetLife: making money at the government's expense?]
* [http://www.thestreet.com/_tscrss/markets/realestate/10297581.html/ MetLife May Sell Stuyvesant Town]
* [http://www.therealestatebloggers.com/2006/07/28/metlife-looking-to-sell-peter-cooper-village-and-stuyvesant-town-in-nyc/ MetLife Looking to Sell Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town in NYC?]
* [http://www.pcvst.com/ Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village official tenants Web site"(MetLife sponsored site)"]
* [http://www.stpcvta.org/ Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association]
* [http://www.aparkrunsthroughit.com Official Web site "(MetLife sponsored site)"]
* [http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/Story.aspx?guid=%7B466724BB%2D2160%2D414C%2D8680%2D8C0B92DA355D%7D&siteid= "MetLife sells NYC apartment complex for $5.4 billion"]
* [http://www.corinnedemas.com/books/eleven.htm "Eleven Stories High: Growing Up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948-1968"] by Corinne Demas. State University of New York Press,
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