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.