Toni Boornazian


A Little Neighborhood History

East 20th Street looking east in the direction of First Avenue, ca.1938. Two of the huge gas holders appear in the foreground.

Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town (PCVST) stretches from First Avenue to Avenue C and from 23rd Street to 14th Street. The 80-acre tract has a rich history. The area was originally called the Gas House District because it was dominated by giant gas storage tanks, or “gashouses,” from the mid-19th century to mid-20th century.

Buildings in the Gas House District, early 1940s

These tanks often leaked and made the area undesirable to live in, even becoming the namesake of the Gas House Gang, a popular New York City gang that operated in the area. As a result, residents of the district were predominantly poor, and many were immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Eastern European countries. However, the area began to flourish during the 1930s, following the removal of the tanks and the construction of the East River Drive, known today as FDR Drive.

Recognizing opportunity, the district became part of the large-scale urban renewal projects championed by Robert Moses in the 1940s. Moses sought to clear the area and build a housing development in anticipation of the returning World War II veterans and in lieu of a housing crisis which originated during the Great Depression. He convinced MetLife Insurance Company to build the complex, based on an earlier development in Parkchester in The Bronx. As a result, 600 buildings, containing 3,100 families, 500 stores and small factories, three churches, three schools, and two theaters, were razed. As would be repeated in later urban renewal projects, some 11,000 people were forced to move from the neighborhood through eminent domain.

Construction of Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town, ca. 1945

Construction of PCVST took place between 1945 and 1947; 110 buildings and 11,250 apartments were erected. The complex received 7,000 applications within the first day of initially offering the apartments and veterans received selection priority. Rents ranged from $51 to $90 per month. The complex’s first tenants, two World War II veterans and their families, moved into the first completed building on August 1, 1947. By that time, the complex had received 100,000 applications.

Historic building zoning map of PCVST and the surrounding area, ca.1955

MetLife President Frederick H. Ecker said that PCVST would make it possible for generations of New Yorkers “to live in a park – to live in the country in the heart of New York.” However, this did not extend to all New Yorkers. The only veterans MetLife Insurance Company supported were white veterans. The company, Moses, and prominent politicians discriminated against Black people and barred them from living in PCVST. They believed allowing Black people to live there would harm the complex’s profitability and make the area less desirable. Lee Lorch, a City College of New York professor, petitioned to allow Black people into the development, and was fired from his teaching position as a result of pressure from MetLife. Upon accepting a position at Pennsylvania State University, Lorch allowed a Black family to occupy his apartment, thus circumventing the rule. However, as a result of pressure from MetLife, he was dismissed from his new position as well. He ultimately had to leave the country to get work, in Canada, and remained in exile there for six decades. He died in Toronto in 2014.

Lawsuits to combat this sanctified segregation abounded. White residents of PCVST teamed up with Black activists to form the Tenants’ Committee to End Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town. Many of the veterans saw these racist policies as an extension of fascism, which they had fought against during the war. After nine years of activism, MetLife allowed three Black families to move into PCVST. The three white families who volunteered to leave had to promise to never return. Ultimately, this fight for equality helped lay the groundwork for the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which made housing discrimination a federal crime.

PCVST once contained original plaques honoring Frederick H. Ecker and marking the complexes as housing for moderate-income families, which were dedicated during the complex’s opening day in 1947. In 2002, when the property went luxury market rate, the plaques were removed.

In October 2006, MetLife sold PCVST to Tishman Speyer. The new ownership implemented significant capital projects on the property. Tishman Speyer relinquished control of the property in 2010. CW Capital remained the owner from 2010 until 2015, when they sold the property.

Today, the property is controlled by Blackstone/Ivanhoe Cambridge and is home to over 30,000 residents. Rents range from approximately $1,500 per month for a two-bedroom apartment to roughly $13,000 per month for a five-bedroom apartment. Some units are part of affordable housing and are rent stabilized. They remain immensely popular, 75 years after the units were first built. Much like in the 1940s, PCVST is a coveted home for people of all ages.

Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town Today

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Our local businesses continue to face challenges as the strangeness of our world becomes the norm. They need our support more than ever in 2022.

Below are two new restaurants: Pho House, serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine; and So DO Fun, serving flavorful Sichuan cuisine. A steaming bowl of flavorful pho or spicy prawns make for delicious and comforting options during these cold winter days. We encourage you to stop by and try out their pho, banh mi, rice, soups, and other offerings.

Pho House
75 Third Ave # 1
New York, NY 10003

155 Third Ave
New York, NY 10003

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Our Park Gets Frosted Again

The end of January brought the biggest snowstorm of the season so far. Parts of New York City received well over a foot of snow. Our park was coated in layers of fluffy, white flakes, becoming a temporary Winter Wonderland once again. This snowstorm frosted our park with icy beauty, and made the perfect medium for snowmen. Below and above are some photos of the park after the storm.

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A Look Back at 2021

The year 2021 was unique, challenging, blessed, and a bit of a blur. It’s been nearly two years since the pandemic began, and it can be hard to absorb that we are already in 2022. Below, we look back at SPNA’s 2021, full of our community’s perseverance and triumphs.


Perhaps the snowdrop was the best representation of our community’s surfacing into 2021. Despite their small stature, snowdrops persevere in the deepest frost, reminding us that we all have the ability to overcome, against all odds. Many of us were hopeful 2021 could be a better year, and even if it wasn’t as good as we hoped, we knew we could survive it together.

Our country welcomed a new president in 2021, and so did SPNA. Jason Money began his term as SPNA President with a promise to dedicate SPNA’s work to the Stuyvesant Square community.


SPNA President Jason Money


February began with one of the biggest storms of the season. Our park was covered in about two feet of snow, bringing us new, snowy neighbors.

On February 24th, we hosted our second virtual event: a jazz concert in celebration of Black History Month. Four extremely talented artists – Amanda Finch on vocals, Alex Nguyen on piano/trumpet, Sam Weber on bass, and Jay Sawyer on drums – performed a variety of songs by Black artists. Registered viewers attended the event from all over the world. To access a recording of the event, click here.


In March, one year after the pandemic started, filming resumed in Stuyvesant Square Park. NBC’s The Blacklist filmed scenes at night with high-powered lighting and set up their own lamp posts in the park. Before the pandemic, our park regularly hosted and received donations from film productions. This shoot was another sign of renewed life in the neighborhood and good things to come.


April brought spring and the first shoots of vivid green. The trees and ground weren’t the only things in our park becoming covered in green. NYC Parks’ Crew Chief Josie DeJesus and new SPNA board member Jeff Fagan painted bench slats green that had been replaced by the Parks Department using paint supplied by SPNA.


We were so fortunate to be able to bring back our free summer events, which are loved by so many in our community, in 2021. Our summer events began with yoga and meditation in the park, the perfect activity to partake in while appreciating all the spring flora.


Our summer events continued in June with a performance by the Richard Cortez Band in celebration of Pride Month and a tribute to Broadway by The Kidwell Sisters. The music electrified our park and entertained visitors of all ages.

On June 11th, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera presented Stuyvesant Square Park Crew Chief Josephine DeJesus with a citation from the City Council for her dedication to our park. Josie’s commitment to the park is on display and undeniable every day, but on June 2nd, her dedication reached a new level when she confronted an arsonist that was setting fires in the east and west sides of the park.

In addition to receiving an award from the City Council, Councilwoman Rivera presented Josie with an award from the United States Senate. That morning, the Councilwoman had breakfasted with Senator Chuck Schumer to discuss funding for our district at our very own Joe Jrs. Senator Schumer passed on the award to Councilwoman Rivera at the meeting.


Summer concerts continued in full swing in July with a performance by the Afro-Latineers. The band filled the park with music and an infectious summer vibe that were as bright as their orange shirts and the gorgeous flowers blooming in our park.


Our season of summer events ended in August with concerts by Alex Nguyen and Friends and a bossa nova performance by Ramsay Rawson. Visitors continued to enjoy spending time in the park, one of the few open, public, and green outdoor spaces in our city.


On September 12, 2021, St. George’s Episcopal Church and the Stuyvesant Square community celebrated the long awaited co-naming of 16th Street and 3rd Ave in honor of the great Harry T. Burleigh. Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, Reverend Smith, and other notable figures provided remarks to the community. SPNA provided refreshments after the ceremony. A powerful concert celebrating Burleigh’s music commemorated the auspicious occasion.


In 2021, SPNA was once again able to host our Annual Fundraising Gala. On October 7th, SPNA and its supporters came together for an evening of music, food, drink, and good company at St. George’s Episcopal Chapel. We remain extremely thankful to everyone who attended the event and contributed to making it such a success.

In addition, on October 24th, our neighbors and their furry friends indulged in some friendly competition for the Halloween Dog Park Costume Parade and Contest, organized by the Stuyvesant Park Dog Run. Pets and their owners walked the red carpet, showing off their creative, cute, and classy ensembles. Awards and cash prizes provided by SPNA were given for Best Doggie Costume, Best Dog Duo or Group, and Best Parent and Pup. In addition, one duo received an honorable mention. In addition to cultivating a joyful and fun event, the Stuyvesant Park Dog Run collected donations for Animal Haven here in New York City, helping to spread love and joy to animals across our city.


We had so much to be thankful for by the time we reached November. Our community made so much possible, from virtual events to in-person concerts, contests, and celebrations. Our park wouldn’t even look or feel half as good if it weren’t for SPNA Gardening Chairperson Doris Dieter and board member Claire Brennan, who organize all of the gardening events throughout the year. We appreciate the time and work all the volunteers this year have devoted to maintaining our park as a place of beauty and tranquility.

On November 6th, they organized a special volunteer day, where the SPNA community joined together to prepare the park for the cooler months ahead. Below is a family who came out to help with the event.

Our bi-weekly Gardening Club will continue to meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, weather permitting. Masks are required. No experience is necessary.

SPNA is also thankful for everyone’s support in our three-phase campaign to Save Our English Elms. Thanks to the generosity of our community, which participated in a matching grant provided by Partnership for Parks, we were able to raise the $6,200 needed for Phase One of Bartlett’s plan. In addition, with a $9,300 grant from the Greenacre Foundation, SPNA was able to cover the costs of Phase Two, which was accomplished across three days in November.


Last but definitely not least, December brought so many joyful moments to our park. We joined East End Temple on December 5th for a celebratory candle lighting, marking the eighth and last night of the festival of Chanukah. On December 12th, we came together again for a festive tree lighting with performances by The Kidwell Sisters. Finally, we were able to hold our annual Christmas Eve Caroling event, which was cancelled in 2020 and is cherished by our community.

We end 2021 just as the snowdrops we started – resiliently together. SPNA remains grateful to all our volunteers, neighbors, and supporters. We are blessed to start the year 2022 with your continued support, and look forward to the many new memories we will make this year.

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Our First Snow of the Season

On January 7th, New York City received approximately five inches of snow over the course of five hours. The first major snowstorm of the season frosted our park with icy beauty, and made the perfect medium for the first snowmen of the year. Below and above are some photos of the park after the storm.

As usual Josie DeJesus, pictured below, showed up before the sun rose ready to dig into the snow and make the park accessible for the community to enjoy. As Josie was the only staff member in on Friday, some SPNA board members and our neighbor, Will (camera shy), pitched in to help shovel the sidewalks and the pathways in the park. Pictured below is President Jason Money with Josie on Second Avenue.

SPNA also purchased two proper snow shovels and, along with the Stuyvesant Park Dog Run, purchased ice melt specifically to be used on the blue stone as it is less corrosive on the material and easier on our furry friends’ paws than the salt Parks uses.

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