Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are for sale. The asking price is around $5 billion.
I spent ten years living in two different apartments in Stuyvesant Town. My parents moved there shortly after I was born, and we stayed there until we moved out to the suburbs in 1980. I have few memories of the place, some good, some bad.
One of these memories involves getting hit by a car in one of the access roads. Mom swears it didn’t happen; I remember it vividly. I ran out from between two parked cars on an errand for mom, and a big steel bumper all chrome and rounded edges, nailed me on the hip. For that to have happened, and for me to be running alone (as I remember), I would have had to be in third or fourth grade, when I started walking to school alone. The guy got out of the car, and said, “Jesus kid, are you OK?” I was. I told him I didn’t talk to strangers, and ran away.
I remember bouncing around on the living room couch in the first apartment; I must have been about five. It was a couch that needed to be more homey, and it had a pattern of black-and-white dots on it. So I used a pencil (Mom says a crayon) to draw a house in a connect-the-dots sort of way on the couch’s left-side pillow. Mom was so very angry, for about ten minutes, and then she just laughed. Dad was exasperated, but neither of them hurt me or even yelled at me very much.
In second grade, I got rheumatic fever, and had to stay home with a baby-sitter/assistant for about seven months. A couple of times a day I had to take these metallic-tasting pills, and once a month I went to the doctor’s across the street from my school to have a huge needle-ful of penicillin shot into my ass. It hurt like hell, and to this day I don’t much like needles going into me. I took prophylactic penicillin until I was fifteen, one pill every day with lunch. I think I have had health problems in my life in part because of the constant presence of antibiotics in my system during my growing years. On the other hand, doctors assure me that I’d have died without them, so it’s a toss-up.
I remember playing in the parks in Stuyvesant Town, and trick-or-treating in the dimly-lit gray-green corridors of our building: One year I was a red devil, and a magician another year, and I think I was Legolas the Elf one year, before all this Orlando Bloom stuff came around.
Stuyvesant Town was not anyplace in particular to me. It was home, I’ll grant that. But mostly itwas the landscape on which my imagination built something else. The brick walls, the plate glass windows that were cold in winter, the plain parqueted floors in the apartments with my parents’ rugs over them, the gray-black tile in the hallways. It was part of the ordinary landscape.
But that ordinary landscape of Stuyvesant Town meant that I got to have my childhood in New York, because my parents lived in those rent-controlled apartments they talk about in this New York Times article. That apartment gave me access to the theater, and the museums, and the schooling, and the artwork, and the people-watching, that are now part of the habits of my life.
Until I read this article, I hadn’t thought about my New York childhood for years. But it has shaped me in more ways than I can imagine, and I think it’s time I got around to thanking the city properly, for making me who I am today.
Thanks, New York. You were a great baby-sitter.