Leo Bellino and Courtney Masters
Plans for the housing unit that would come to be known as “Stuytown” began in 1942-1943 after the housing shortage following the Great Depression. With a surplus of World War II veterans returning to America, New York City began planning housing units for these middle class families. But in order to create such large housing unit that would spread from 14th to 23rd street and 1st Avenue to the FDR Highway, the city had to displace a large group of people which the NY Times in 1945 referred to as “the greatest and most significant mass movement of families in New York’s history”.
The area had previously been called the “Gashouse district” because of the numerous amounts of gas tanks that had dotted the landscape. But by the 1930s, only 4 tanks were left and the neighborhood was destitute due to affects the Great Depression. The neighborhood consisted of tenement buildings, public schools, churches, and a couple of recently renovated middle-class housing. The move was surprisingly met with little resistance.
The project was completely funded by the corporation Metropolitan Life Insurance. Met Life promoted the new project as an “oasis in the city”, where one could get away from the hectic and chaotic feeling of Manhattan with the multiple parks and greenery located throughout the complex. When the housing project opened its doors in 1947, it originally only allowed non-whites and families to move into the building. In 1950, only 114 people out of the 30,000 residents were African American. E. B. White would have been aware of all these changes happening on the East side of Manhattan. When Here is New York was published in 1948, Stuyvesant Village and the Peter Cooper Tenements doors would have been opened to the white middle class families and veterans returning from World War II. E. B. White would have associated the housing project with middle class families in this oasis in the middle of Manhattan.
E. B. White’s Stuyvesant Village is extremely different than the Stuyvesant Village of today. A newly renovated one bedroom will rent for over $3,000 and the tenets are extremely diversified.
Bibliography and credits
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P. 34-35 “The city is literally a composite of tens of thousands of tiny neighborhood units. There are, of course, the big districts and big units: Chelsea and Murray Hill and Gramercy (which are residential units), Harlem (a racial unit), Greenwich Village (a unit dedicated to the arts and other matters), and there is Radio City (a commercial development), Peter Cooper Village (a housing unit), the Medical Center (a sickness unit) and many other sections each of which has some distinguishing characteristic.”