The City Council approved a plan to rezone a large swath of the Upper West Side late Thursday night by a vote of 49-2. The plan, supported by the mayor, will limit the size of storefronts on Broadway, Columbus Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue above 72nd Street, and limit banks in particular to 25-foot storefronts. It was designed to address concerns voiced by Upper West Siders that the neighborhood is being taken over by large chain stores, which force out smaller shops and leave blocks feeling dead and empty. Under the plan, most new storefronts on Columbus and Amsterdam would have to be less than 40 feet.

The proposal was criticized by landlords and the banking industry as a heavy-handed government intrusion that could have unintended consequences; the neighborhood will continue to be filled with chains, they say, because that’s what locals want and those are the kinds of stable tenants that landlords are seeking. They also argued that holding businesses to just 40 feet of street frontage will stunt the neighborhood’s growth and keep small businesses from expanding.

City Council member Gale Brewer helped come up with a compromise plan that dealt with some of those worries. For one thing, it will allow businesses to apply for waivers to open stores as large as 60 feet. And larger stores that are already in place won’t have to subdivide if they are vacated. We have more on the changes and what they mean for the neighborhood here.

Brewer released a statement that read in part: “Old-time West Siders as well as young professionals have written and e-mailed, and stopped me on the street, to say how badly the neighborhood needs the protections contained in the proposal. They want a local, community-centered commercial environment that serves their needs, just as it has always done. And what store owners believe makes them successful is the diversity of many different stores on a block and many reasons for shoppers to come there. People do not visit and move to the upper West Side for the block-long stores and banks, and this proposal will ensure the look and feel of the upper West Side for the future.”

Mel Wymore, a City Council candidate who worked closely on the rezoning said: “City Council’s adoption of storefront zoning is a terrific example of government¬†responding directly and effectively to its citizens. ¬†Thanks to Council member Gale Brewer, Community Board 7, and Department of City Planning, the Upper West Side will continue to enjoy its wonderful mix of ¬†neighborhood stores, large and small.”

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 8 comments | permalink
    1. Maria Dering says:

      I am so happy to hear this news! Thanks to everyone who worked on this proposal. I’ve lived here for 30 years and, while I do shop at some of the Big Box stores, I dislike the ever-growing mall-ification of our neighborhood. So many small and wonderful businesses have closed and we are without some important basic services: shoe repair, good small delis, etc.

    2. Great work Gale Brewer and Mel Wymore!

    3. Jeremiah says:

      Congratulations Upper West Siders! To all the people who worked on this, how do we do it in our neighborhood? The East Village/Lower East Side is being suffocated by chain stores. What are the steps people took to make this happen? If every neighborhood fights back, we might be able to save this city.

    4. SethL says:

      This is a victory, I agree. I have lived on the Upper West Side my enmtire life, 34 years, and I miss the mom & mom stores and I as well loathe the giant banks and Duane Reades. That said, there are a few things that the “local/mom & pop” stores can and should do better to make them worthy of this new zoning plan. 1) How about take the time and care to clean the garbage (and when applicable, snow) off of your sidewalks and keep the gutters in front of your stores clean; 2) Keep your prices reasonable! The reason some of the bigger chains do well (like Duane Reade) is b/c the products cost less. I saw a sign in the West Side Judaica store begging people for active purchasing there b/c they are “local.” Well, their proces are off the charts high and absurd, so, just b/c they are local does not mean that they deserve our busines; 3) Keep your store well stocked! There is nothing more annoying than trying to give business to a local sotre and they are out of everything. Finally, and sort of unrelated, can we PLEASE do something about all of the idiots who continuously fail to clean up after their dogs on the Upper West Side? It is ridiculous. SO disrespectful. If you have a dog, CURB it, stop letting it urinate on our flower beds, and clean up its poop!!!

    5. KBinNYC says:

      One way to fight back against Duane Reade to is shop at local drugstores. Try Broadway Family Pharmacy at 85th. (I’m only a customer — no financial incentive to this recommendation.) They have everything anyone could possibly want at Duane Reade prices. AND a fabulous meticulous pharmacy.
      I’d also give a pass to places that are open late and cater to passers by, like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble. On some blocks they’re the only life after 9 PM.

    6. Neal Hurwitz says:

      Thanks! Big banks and stores and chains are OK here and there but we are losing all the little guys who make this place interesting and fun!

    7. JD says:

      I walk to my 75th St apartment from Columbia one evening a week, and there is an eerily noticeable decrease in street life as soon as you hit the 80s. I hope that the new zoning can help restore some vibrancy to the UWS, but I think it will take some time.

      As an aside, I REALLY miss New Pizza Town, whose space is being taken over by yet another overpriced apartment building with chain retail at street level. Can we get them to come back to the newly zoned area?

    8. jj says:

      Yep , this will be worse.
      The rents won’t change

      Now we will have a bank , a Starbucks , and a Duane Reade , instead of just one