Urban stoop

Urban stoop

In architecture, an urban stoop is a small staircase leading to the entrance of an urban apartment building or other building.


Originally brought to the Hudson Valley of New York by settlers from the Netherlands, this word is among the few items of Dutch vocabulary that have survived there from colonial times until the present. Stoop, "a small porch," comes from Dutch "stoep"; the word is now in general use in the Northeastern United States and is probably spreading. [http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=stoop]


Traditionally, the function of stoops in New York City was to provide formal access from the street to the principal or parlor floor, where the private living quarters in a single-family residence began. Both the parlor and dining room were on this floor. The kitchen and other service offices were in the basement, which had its own entrance on the street, usually a few steps below grade, and an interior staircase connected the basement with the parlor floor.

This arrangement was well suited to the single-family row houses that dominated New York until the end of the 19th century. Family and guests, by using the stoop, avoided tromping through the service section of the house. Deliveries of foodstuff and other supplies were made at the basement entrance, ensuring the privacy and order of the living quarters above. [cite news
last = Kellerman
first = Regina M.
coauthors =
title = More on the Stoop
work =
pages =
language = English
publisher = NY Times
date = 11 February 1982
url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C03EEDC123BF932A25751C0A964948260
accessdate = 2008-01-21

In his book "New York City: An Outsider's Inside View", author Mario Maffi suggests that originally New York stoops may have been a simple carry-over from the Dutch practice of constructing elevated buildings.

Urban Stoops as a Social Device

Traditionally, in North American cities, the stoop served an important function as a spot for brief, incidental social encounters. Homemakers, children, and other household members would sit on the stoop outside their home to relax, and greet neighbors passing by. Similarly, while on an errand, one would stop and converse with neighbors sitting on their stoops. Within an urban community, stoop conversations helped to disseminate gossip and reaffirm casual relationships. Urbanites lacking yards often hold stoop sales instead of yard sales.

Similarly, it was the place that children would congregate to play stoop ball.

In her pivotal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs includes the stoop as part of her model of the self-regulating urban street. By providing a constant human presence watching the street, institutions such as stoops prevent street crime, without intervention from authority figures. In addition, they motivate better street maintenance and beautification, by giving it social as well as utilitarian value.

Popular Culture

*A famous shot in the Francis Ford Coppola film "The Godfather Part II", shows Vito Corleone sitting on the stoop of his Little Italy apartment with his family.
*In the Spike Lee film "Do The Right Thing", many characters spend the hot summer afternoon on their stoops.
*In July 2005, a tenant shouted these words from the window of his Lower East Side apartment at a woman below whose dog was defecating on the stoop of his building: "Don't let your yuppie puppy poop on my stoop!" Overheard by passersby, this angry admonition entered the public consciousness as an often repeated catch phrase. Fact|date=February 2007
*In the cartoon "Hey Arnold", a character named Stoop Kid was afraid to leave his stoop. Stoop was also the name of the game he played in which the object was to harass people who walked past his stoop.
*"Stoopids", a derogatory term describing teenagers who loiter around stoops has enjoyed periods of popularity in the Northeast. Fact|date=February 2007
* "Johnny Ryall is the bum on my stoop I gave him fifty cents to buy some soup" is the first line of the song "Johnny Ryall" on the Beastie Boys album "Paul's Boutique".
* In the series "Sex and the City", Carrie Bradshaw regularly had scenes on the stoop of her brownstone.
* In Season 4 of "The Wire", the distinction is made between "stoop kids", who stay on the stoop where their parents can look after them, and "corner kids", who hang out on the corner and engage in illegal and anti-social activities.



*Jane Jacobs, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", New York: Random House, 1961
*Mario Maffi, "New York City: An Outsider's Inside View", Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004

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