Stuy Town Slum Clearance, 1946

Stuy Town Slum Clearance, 1946

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Slum Clearance to make way for Stuyvesant Town, seen from the corner of 14th Street and First Avenue, March 1946.

The neighborhood that is now Stuyvesant Town/ Peter Cooper Village was formerly known as the Gas House District, 18 city blocks primarily consisting of walkup tenements, which were declared “blighted” by the city in 1946, making them eligible for slum clearance. The complex was built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, who at the time insured one-third of the city’s population. MetLife developed Stuyvesant Town with the understanding that better living conditions would improve the company’s mortality numbers and therefore annual earnings. Stuy Town was inspired by architect LeCorbusier’s “tower in the park” vision, and its 110 buildings only cover 25% of the property leaving the rest for lawns, pathways, and playgrounds. In addition to reduced land coverage, the development housed only 302 people per acre, a drastic decrease in density compared with 1100 people per acre in Lower East Side tenements in 1900.

MetLife had a very specific idea of whom the development was intended for and no more than 3 percent of the 3,000 Gas House District families would be able to afford Stuyvesant town. Demolition of the Gas House District started in 1946 and the first families moved into a segregated “white only” Stuy Town in 1947. From day one, the racial segregation policies of Stuy Town would create conflict and it was not until 1951, following years of protest and the president of Met Life's passing, that Stuy Town finally accepted black families.

In 2006 MetLife sold StuyTown to Tishman Speyer for $5.4 billion, but just four years later Tishman would default on the mortgage, the largest commercial mortgage default in U.S. history.  In 2010 the property was valued at 1.9 billion, less than 40% of what Tishman paid for it, but has since rebounded and was purchased by BlackStone for $5.4 billion in 2015.

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