It’s the white-collar economy, stoop-id!
Brooklyn’s legendary brownstone stoops are little more than speed bumps for the borough’s career-addled, stroller-burdened and iPod-addicted residents, a new Parsons School of Design study has found.
“There are not a whole lot of people taking the time to sit on stoops anymore,” said Chelsea Briganti, one of three Parsons undergraduates working on a report and an awareness campaign that they’ve titled, “Sit Here.”
Briganti said the project aims to understand and address “the decreasing culture of social interaction formerly known as ‘stoop culture.’”
So far the findings have been depressing. The youngest wave of Park Slope residents prefers bars to stoops.
“They all say they wish there was more public culture,” Briganti said, “but they go to Southpaw [a Fifth Avenue rock club]” instead of sitting on stoops.
At the same time, Brooklynites say they wish they had the time to kick back on their million-dollar urban verandas — but Briganti sensed that it was just a pipe dream.
“We interviewed a lot of those people in, like, three minutes, as they rushed somewhere else,” she said.
The Parsons study plays on that sepia-toned Brooklyn of nostalgia where neighbors had time to gossip and kids played outdoors (skullies, anyone?).
But the stoop — from the Dutch “stoep,” or stairs — came to “Breuckelen” even before the Dodgers, as a vestige of a traditional class system that separated residents from servants and hired help, who were required to use the ground-floor entrance below.
“In the old days, people would load coal from the street into the basement while the family that lived there and its guests would step up from the street into the house,” said Simeon Bankoff, director of the Historic District Council.
The wide stone or concrete stair remained a talisman of fine homes until the 1920s, when street widening and building modernizations put it out of fashion. Air conditioning and TV hastened their demise.
But even as their numbers dwindle, stoops play an important role in the borough’s social fabric, Bankoff said.
“The stoop has always been the intermediary between the public and private realm,” he said. “It becomes almost an outdoor room.”
The students’ discovery that stoop use is declining is a bit ironic, considering a national preservation group recently called Brooklyn’s brownstones “a national treasure” right up there with the Grand Canyon.