New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Watch the World

On January 12, 2010, I wrote of my first apartment in New York City - see the story here. Living on West 22nd Street in historic Chelsea was a unique privilege, once I grew to appreciate more and more in hindsight. This was truly a case of you don't know what you've got 'till its gone.

One of the great pleasures of my short life there was sitting on the stoop on a summer evening with friends and chatting amongst ourselves, with passersby and with neighbors. We had no idea we were reenacting an historic activity, something New Yorkers have done in many neighborhoods across five boroughs for ages.
I frequently sit on the stoop of my current residence, a townhouse in Greenwich Village (see Being Trumps Doing here). Unfortunately, my neighbors rarely do the same.

Stoop sitting still exists in some neighborhoods. In many, however, they have become resting spots for loiterers, visitors and drug users. Many buildings have installed wrought iron gates as a deterrent. Even though these gates are not locked, most nonresidents will avoid opening a gate.

The benefits of stoop sitting are many. It provides entertainment, socializing, becoming acquainted with neighbors, crime watch for improved safety, and some fresh air. I have met celebrity chef Mario Batali on a number of occasions taking a break and stoop sitting across from his restaurant, Babbo, on Waverly Place.

Stoop sitting in New York City was common by the early 19th century. New York City is a place where one finds a lot of running and chasing of people, places and things. But the savvy urban dweller or visitor will find that much can be seen and learned and people met by just staying in one place (see Taste here). Like the café habitués of Europe have found, people watching is a pleasurable activity unto itself. Find a spot on a park bench or stoop and watch the world go by :)

Photo Note: The stoop on the left is on Washington Square North, as viewed from my stoop (see it here). The stoop on the right is my first NYC apartment residence, located at 431 West 22nd Street. I believe the building may have remained a rental, accounting for its poorly maintained condition - such a pity.


Pedro D. H. said...

i would buy it...

Anonymous said...

When I visit New York I love to climb up those beautiful brownstone stoops. Have yet to sit on one. Is there an etiquette to stoop sitting ie do you have to be invited or do you just wander over and join anyone sitting out?

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Stoop sitting was also a way to cool off in the pre-air-conditioning days. The night air would cool faster than the sweltering apartments would.

Judit said...

I'm dying to live there!
I'm not sure about lot of things, but this is something that I'm completely SURE!

I envy you very much! :)

Joy said...

Aaww, that is really sweet. It's good to be able to do that with friends and enjoy every bit of your home. Long may stoop sitting continue!

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Brian Dubé said...

Anon - I don't know if there is protocol for outsiders sitting on stoops. Technically it is private, not public, property. Personally I have no problem. If you are not unruly, I would just do it. If tenants come in our out, ask them how they feel. Tell them your desire to watch the world, New York style :)
Terry - yes, and people used to sleep on fire escapes in those times also.
Judit - you're invited.
Joy - thanks.

Mary said...

All generations came out on a summer's eve for stoop sitting in Middle Village, Queens, in the 1950's: Aunt Helen - my grandmother's age - doing her tatting. (Anyone else know what that is?) Patty Taylor (our next-door neighbor,) my mother and anyone else's mother who happened to be around. The men stood to the side discussing cars, or home repairs, mostly. And us kids hung around listening to the grownups. (Can you imagine?)

--Mary P.

(I wrote something earlier but could not send it for some reason. I hope this goes. -M.)(The "Choose an identity" option is different.)

Web Design Portfolio said...

With the 'upscaling' and changing of neighborhoods comes a loss of neighborliness that was inherent in sitting on the stoop and watching the world go by . . . with commentary. Growing up in Queens it was quite common as well. The kids played stickball while the adults sat on the front stoop or porch. In those days I can remember knowing the names of all of my neighbors in a five block radius. Sure can't do that now!

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Mary said...

The good option for commenting is back now. Thanks.

Gabrielle said...

Can I come hang out on your stoop? Growing up in Australia, I watched Sesame Street and longed for a stoop to chat with neighbors and check out the world.