The Burden Of Eden

Stuyvesant Town's Struggle to Maintain Its Traditions

A New Documentary By William Kelly


The post-war idealism that was the impetus to create and maintain new affordable housing in Manhattan for the middle class found its design parallel in early 20th Century European modernist, indeed utopian, aesthetics (“Towers in the Park”); the complex combines high rise buildings and open spaces in order to bring the light and air of the suburbs into the city. Drastically divergent opinions emerge about the design. Among its detractors, Lewis Mumford describes it as “the architecture of the police state.” As the years pass, however, thousands of trees mature and come to dominate the landscape, transforming the harshness of massive block housing into what its creators had envisioned: the trees and open spaces creating a park-like setting. Today, Stuyvesant Town stands as one of the most successful projects of “urban renewal” and remains requisite study for students of history, architecture and urban planning. The complex has succeeded in ways that surpass even its creators’ dreams. Will that success, however, prove its undoing?