Former Hunter professor Buddy Stein, Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial writing, returned to the classroom this week to talk to students about the history of the South Bronx and Robert Moses’ hand in destroying the social fabric of those communities. Stein created the class, Neighborhood News, in which students are the reporters for a community newspaper in the South Bronx, the Hunts Point Express. The history of the neighborhood helps put current conditions in context and adds depth to the students’ reportage.
From 1978 until he joined Hunter’s faculty in 2005, Stein edited The Riverdale Press, the community newspaper founded by his father that covers the Northwest Bronx neighborhoods of Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Kingsbridge Heights, Van Cortlandt Village and Marble Hill. The Press’ investigative reporting led to two grand jury probes and the passage of legislation aimed at corrupt practices in the public schools. It played a significant role in exposing the wrongdoing that led to the jailing of virtually the entire leadership of the Bronx Democratic Party in the mid-1980s and the dismantling of the largest medical waste incinerator in the state 10 years later.
In 1998, Stein won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for what the Pulitzer board called “his gracefully-written editorials on politics and other issues affecting New York City residents.”
A graduate of Columbia College, the undergraduate college of Columbia University (BA, 1963), he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley to pursue a PhD in literature, but soon became more interested in raising hell. He was arrested in a mass sit-in during the Free Speech Movement in 1964, when students won the right to organize on campus on behalf of the civil rights movement and other political causes, then dropped out to work in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. Before returning to New York, Stein worked as an editor at the Mark Twain Papers, helping to publish 19 volumes in a projected 150-volume scholarly edition, including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, for which he was chiefly responsible.