A Reporter’s Reflections: Growing up in Stuyvesant Town
Stuyvesant Town, New York – When I was eight years old, the large bushes and fences that blocked off the oval lawn in Stuyvesant Town on the Lower East Side felt like a well-guarded prison. The week’s prisoner: our softball. It had landed inside an area of grass that held several “Keep off the Grass” signs and metal fences.
A small brick security booth stood on one end of the oval next to a large fountain and guards patrolled the area in tiny blue Barbie-sized jeeps. One afternoon, my friend, Steven Rivera, risked embarrassment to save our soft ball and dived into the grass running across the lawn. But security spotted him and scolded him for his insolence.
“I got the ball,” he said red-faced, but with an accomplished smile.
Now, 15 years later, ownership of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village has changed hands not once but twice, and everything about that oval has changed. The small brick security booth is gone, replaced by a glass-enclosed octagonal security office at the complex’s edge. New, younger residents have moved in, many of them noisy college students, replacing the once serene elderly residents who used to sit on benches feeding the squirrels.
“Now everything is different, we would have been yelled at f we cross the grassy territory
and now it’s open for everyone, even dogs.”
– Steven Rivera,
The oval has turned into a social community littered with college students playing football or Frisbee or sunbathing in their bikinis. Parents whip out their kiddie leashes and watch their children wreak havoc on the grass while they have a picnic. No need anymore to use stealth measures to scuttle across the grass unseen to chase a softball.
“Now everything is different, we would have been yelled at if we cross the grassy territory and now it’s open for everyone, even dogs,” said Steven Rivera, 23, who moved from Stuyvesant Town last year and now lives in a co-op apartment on East Sixth Street. “People are carefree now just sitting on the grass or the pavement half naked trying to get a tan. Even old wrinkled men.”
The grouchy security guard that would scare off children with his flashlight now holds the power to give out fines up to $300 for excessive noise. College students seem to reap most of them or rowdy teenagers, who hang out on wooden benches smoking weed. Repeat offenders risk losing the option to renew their leases.
From the more powerful security guards to the number of trees (there are more of them), everything has changed. I started noticing the changes while in high school in 2004, but it soon became a daily routine of yellow construction trucks bulldozing through lawns and parks creating another useless amenity or planting another stack of bushes, creating a jungle like atmosphere.
Stuyvesant Town now feels as if it is trying to attract younger residents by undergoing yearly facelifts. The overall structure of the buildings are the same, but the nips and tucks have transformed Stuyvesant Town from family woman to a desperate housewife.