2012: BIGGEST UPPER WEST SIDE STORIES OF THE YEAR

What will you remember about 2012 (other than the song “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, which never seemed to stop playing)? Luckily, you don’t have to wrack your mind for the answer, because we’ve got a list of local news stories that got the most buzz, along with the most-read stories on our site for the past year.

It was a newsy year around the globe, from Hurricane Sandy, to the wars in Syria and Libya, to President Barack Obama’s reelection, to the mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut. On the Upper West Side, we covered all sorts of significant local news. Here are the high-and-low-lights, in rough chronological order:

1. Big Commercial Rezoning

At the start of the year, local leaders made a pretty bold gambit to stop big-box stores — particularly banks and drugstores — from dominating the neighborhood. They wanted to limit the size of storefronts in the neighborhood to try to make sure small shops didn’t continue to disappear. Despite some opposition from the business community, a large commercial rezoning passed, and within months other communities were talking about adopting something similar. Under the new rules, storefronts on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues above 72nd Street cannot take up more than 40 feet of sidewalk space (by getting a special permit they can expand up to 60 feet). Two adjacent stores can’t take up more than 50 feet. On Broadway, banks can’t take up more than 25 feet.

The rules were drafted by Councilwoman Gale Brewer to stop a recent trend of landlords effectively forcing small shops out of the neighborhood to combine their spaces and rent them out to big banks and drugstores. “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,” Gale Brewer said at the time. The jury’s still out on whether it’s working. Just as the City Council was voting on the new zoning rules, 5 new banks were moving into the neighborhood. Read more about the rezoning here.

2. An Old Theater Reborn

The Alamo Drafthouse is a Texas cinema chain with a national reputation as a great place to watch movies and have food and drinks delivered right to your seat. The company announced in April that it would be bringing a new moviehouse to a very special spot: the old Metro Theater on Broadway between 99th and 100th streets, first opened in 1933. The Upper West Side was once the center of the world for great old cinemas. All of them have closed. But with the new Alamo theater coming in 2014, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Lincoln Square Cinemas showing a very robust lineup of great flicks, the neighborhood is once again becoming a movie-watching center. Read our interview with the president of the company about what to expect at the new theater here.

3. Awful Crimes

Violent crime is still quite low on the Upper West Side from a historical perspective, but two crimes in particular shocked and horrified the neighborhood.

On September 12 at around 11:15 a.m., a 73-year-old woman was beaten and raped while birdwatching in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields by a man she had first encountered exposing himself a few weeks before. David Albert Mitchell, a homeless drifter with a very violent past, was caught while walking up Amsterdam Avenue around 78th Street by three rookie cops. He had equipment that belonged to the birdwatcher. Mitchell was charged with seven felonies and allegedly groped two other women that day.

On October 25, Upper West Side mother Marina Krim came home to her apartment on 75th Street to find her two children, 2-year-old Leo and 6-year-old Lucia, dead in the bathtub from stab wounds. Police said their nanny Yoselyn Ortega killed the two children and then attempted to kill herself. Ortega was charged with first-degree murder from her hospital bed, and could be sent away for life if convicted. The Krims have set up a fund to honor the memory of their children. Upper West Siders built a makeshift memorial of flowers and notes at the building. One note said: “Love you, little angels.”

4. Homeless Shelters

Two homeless shelters (or essentially one mega-shelter) were opened in August on 95th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, holding up to 400 adults. The community received almost no notice, and had no opportunity to review or object to the plans. The shelter is being operated by former head of the Department of Homeless Services Robert Hess in a building leased by controversial landlord Alan Lapes (one of Lapes’ previous facilities was dubbed the “hell hotel”). The West 90’s were once a notorious “dumping ground” for very troubled people and the landlords who made a very pretty penny off of them (the 95th Street shelter charges the city $3,300 for each unit, even though there aren’t bathrooms or kitchens in the rooms). Neighbors are furious.

5. Hurricane Sandy

We were mostly spared from the wrath of the hurricane, but Hurricane Sandy was still a massive story that affected the lives of everyone who lives here. In the neighborhood, hundreds of trees were destroyed by the hurricane, as well as lots of property (photos here). Upper West Siders stepped up to help people displaced by the hurricane, volunteering at shelters and donating goods. In fact, lots of locals are still volunteering and taking food and other items to people whose homes were destroyed. All that said, consider yourselves very very very lucky.

Here are five of the most popular stories we published this year:

Here’s What Upper West Siders Hoard When Natural Disasters Approach

10 New Upper West Side Restaurants Opening Soon

Big Nick’s Offers 1962 Prices for 50th Anniversary Celebration; 60-Cent Burgers!

Fairway’s Rodent Nightmare Continues

Riverside Center, Biggest New Development on UWS, Breaks Ground

Want to walk even farther down Memory Lane? Check out our year in review from 2011.

Homepage image by NS Newsflash.

HISTORY, NEWS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. Peter J Rodriguez says:

      Love the “Rag” Great job in 2012 and Happy New Year.

    2. Karen says:

      I love reading the Upper West Side Rag. Thank you for keeping us Upper West Siders informed.
      Great work. Happy New Year

    3. Mel Wymore says:

      West Side Rag rocks! Thank you for keeping us all connected to our community, and for reporting on the details that matter.

      Happy New Year to Everyone!
      Mel

    4. Cato says:

      I’ll join the bandwagon: Thank you Rag! Thank you Avi!

      You are an important part of what remains of the Upper West Side. Please keep up the good work!

      Happy and healthy New Year!

    5. Howard Freeman says:

      The sensitivities around items #3, #4 and #5 notwithstanding, #1 was the big one for me in 2012. This affects so much about our daily life and quality of life. It’s one of those meta-changes that, were it different, would drastically change things that relate to other items mentioned above. For example, long dead blocks at night (i.e. uninterrupted building fronts) are prime spots for street crime.

    6. West Sider says:

      Thanks everyone! It’s great to hear the love, and it goes both ways.
      Happy New Year!
      Avi