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Stoopified

Posted by Jim Botticelli  August 12, 2013 01:23 AM

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MargaretMcGrathSpencerRileyFalconStEBos69.jpg
Photo by Margaret McGrath Spencer Riley

Neighbors enjoying stoop time in East Boston, 1969

It's summertime, and the sitting is easy. There's no better place for a city dweller to sit than out on the stoop, that short stairway topped with a platform bringing one to the entrance of an apartment building. Originating from the Dutch word stoep, not the Yiddish word schtupp, the stoop was introduced to the U.S. by settlers from The Netherlands when they came to New York. The word is in general use in the Northeastern part of the country and today is spreading.

"The first (city) builders brought with them their customs of erecting buildings that were elevated as protection against the havoc wreaked by North Sea floods, and flush to the street to make up for the lack of space in a canal-dominated city like Amsterdam," says author Mario Maffi. The stoop sitter gets to greet neighbors, trade gossip, reinforce casual neighborly relationships and enjoy the theater of life common to urban existence.

In her book The Death and Life  of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs credits the stoop as a step toward neighborhood self regulation. When humans are on the street, she says, the criminals are less emboldened so there's less need for police. Another benefit is that engaged neighbors take more pride in their surroundings. Besides, it can be a great time. Sit on yours today!

Ciao for Now ... JB    DJJimmyBee@comcast.net
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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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