Dear Spotlight readers


In summer in Brooklyn, the “stoops” – steps that lead up to the doors of the brownstone­s – reveal their social importance. When these houses were built in the 19th century, the stoops enabled locals to stylishly exit the dirty streets. It was certainly needed, as 200,000 horses left up to five million pounds of manure there – every day!

These days, people read, snack, chat, or just enjoy the sun on the stoops. It’s better, though, not to leave anything unattended, otherwise it will be gone. Whatever is left on the stoops is considered free to take.

This is New York, so bizarre things turn up, such as a wooden ashtray with a male member that my neighbor wanted to get rid of. “A gift,” she mumbled in response to my questionin­g look. A few days later, I saw it again: at a friend’s house, proudly on display with a plant in it.

In fact, stoops help to combat our throwaway culture. There is even an app called Stoober to help organize the transport of large objects such as leather sofas or wall cupboards via smartphone. The other day, I dragged my son’s children’s books down to the street. “Mom, no child takes books anymore,” he said with that eye roll that only teenagers can do. “Not the children, my dear, the parents!” I responded. By the evening, they were indeed gone. So was the plastic thing we couldn’t remember the purpose of. On the other hand, my colorfully embroidere­d beach bag, once a favorite of mine, was still there. I was a little offended as I carried it back inside. Heike Buchter

Heike Buchter is a correspond­ent in the New York office of DIE ZEIT.

ashtray Aschenbech­er

brownstone US Backsteing­ebäude

combat sth. [kem(bät] gegen etw. ankämpfen

drag sth. etw. schleppen

embroidere­d [Im(broid&rd] bestickt

(male) member Penis

manure [me(nu&r] Dung, Mist

mumble murmeln

offended beleidigt, verletzt

reveal sth. etw. zeigen, deutlich machen

via [(vaie] über, per

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