THE BIGGEST UPPER WEST SIDE STORIES OF 2014

laptop guy
Some stories are so important, you can’t wait until you get home to read them. Photo by Ed Yourdon.

There were lots of big stories on the Upper West Side this year, but we’ve winnowed them down to a few big themes. Here, in no particular order, are some of the issues we concentrated on in 2014.

1. Pedestrian Fatalities and Street Changes

vigil3The year started off on a very depressing note, as three Upper West Siders were hit by vehicles and killed in January while crossing the street. The incidents that resulted in the Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee, were all somewhat different, but they served as a wake-up call to locals about the importance of making streets safer. (Photo at right is of a vigil after Stock and Shear’s deaths.)

Since then, the UWS has become one of the most active areas for Mayor De Blasio’s Vision Zero changes, with a large redesign to West End Avenue and the area around 96th street and Broadway. After a runner and a pedestrian died after getting hit by cyclists in Central Park, the city also began making changes there, and instituted a 20 mile-per-hour speed limit.

More changes are likely on the way, with Lincoln Square up next.

Some promising news: the number of pedestrian fatalities in New York City hit an all-time low this year.

2. Longtime Businesses Close

96 deli1No newsflash needed here, if you’ve been reading the site regularly. Upper West Side businesses that had been around for decades simply can’t make the rent anymore. Popovers closed on January 5, starting off the year on a sad note. And one of the neighborhood’s oldest businesses shut its doors for good just a few weeks ago: appliance store RCI on 98th street had been around for 80 years. Academy Floral says it first sold flowers in 1910.

Other more humble spots also succumbed, including Gotham Deli on 73rd, Westway Foods on 78th, 3 Star Coffee Shop on 86th and the 24-hour bodega/deli on 96th and West End. (pictured above) Dallas BBQ on 72nd street is set to serve customers for the last time tonight, December 31. It lasted 36 years.

3. More Food Options, Including Lots of Meatballs

The Upper West Side attracted all sorts of trendy new restaurants this year, including offshoots of downtown and Brooklyn chains like Parm and The Meatball Shop. Polpette, another meatball spot, also opened, completing the triumvirate of ground beef.

Even as longtime businesses close, some ambitious entrepreneurs (and chains too) see opportunity here and are ready to plant their flag. We’ll be posting a list of businesses to look for in 2015 shortly. In the meantime, scroll through our section on openings and closings to check out what we’ve been writing about.

4. Misery and Woe at 95th and West End Avenue

95 weaThe intersection of 95th street and West End Avenue was the scene of quite a bit of misery during the past year, several readers have pointed out. From the death of pedestrian Jean Chambers to a shocking stabbing of a building worker on West End between 94th and 95th. Less traumatizing, but nonetheless disconcerting to neighbors, was the news that the Salvation Army-run Williams Residences, home to hundreds of seniors, is set to be sold. The battle over that development continues.

5. Real Estate GetsĀ Upscale and Up-sized

While some of us stuff two kids, a dog and all our worldly goods into 650 square feet, developers are building suburban-size apartments in new developments, and renovating older buildings to combine units. In some buildings, 2,000-square-foot homes (at nearly $2,000 a square foot) are the new norm. Traditional 700-1,100-square-foot market rate rentals are disappearing fast. We delved deeper into the issue in this post.

Overall the real estate market remained hot but didn’t skyrocket quite as much as in past years. The median UWS home value hit $1.325 million, 2.2% over last year, according to Zillow.

6. A New Bookstore. Really!

For the first time in decades, a new bookstore opened on the Upper West Side. Book Culture, a Morningside store, decided to expand to a new space on Columbus between 81st and 82nd. The news was greeted with great joy in the streets and dusky parlors of our little neighborhood. And there’s reason to be optimistic that it could stay around — locals have vowed to actually buy stuff there instead of just browsing around like they did at the now-defunct Barnes and Noble. A fancy magazine publisher made an investment. And the owners are being smart about engaging the community, signing up members, holding lots of events and even setting up a letter-writing desk where they’ll mail your letters for you. Quaint overload!

Here are five of our most popular stories from 2014:

Rabbis, Jewish Activists Arrested After Blocking 96th and Broadway

UWS History: Astonishing Photo Series of Broadway in 1920 (and this follow-up, comparing it to 2014)

Rare 3-Bedroom Up for Sale in Historic Pomander Walk

Police Officer Opens Fire on Crowded Amsterdam Avenue Block Friday Night

Zagat Reveals Favorite UWS Restaurants

Thanks to everyone who read the West Side Rag and contributed during 2014! We have lots of plans for 2015 and will keep you updated. Please keep sending in tips.

And if you so desire, check out our year-in-reviews for 2013, 2012 and 2011.

NEWS | 10 comments | permalink
    1. Gevence says:

      Good choice of stories but to omit the non stop tour helicopter noise and pollution above us 10 hours a day I feel
      is an oversight.
      Contact http://www.stopthechopnynj.org/ for more info and petition.

      • Sam says:

        Where on the UWS do you live? The choppers aren’t up by me unless there’s a major crime or demonstration.

        • gevence says:

          I’m at West End Ave and 71st but just come down to the waterfront and you will hear and see them heading north to the GWB or turning around at 72nd St

      • Richard says:

        Too bad our elected officials, specifically our useless City Councilwoman Rosenthal don’t care about helicopter noise which is a real quality of life issue. She’d rather focus on a non-issue like the carriage horse ban.
        I wrote to her office in August and have yet to hear back ANYTHING. Oh yeah she put me on her email list, so I can look forward to her asking for $ when election time rolls around.

    2. Harriet says:

      WSR team — Thanks for providing another year of great hyper-local reporting, continuing to contribute to my feeling that, in spite of it’s changes, I still live in a small town.
      I continue to hope that at some point it will be a money-maker for you, rather than just your contribution to early 21st century internet journalism.

    3. UWSmediaguy says:

      Keep up the GREAT work; great reporting on the stuff people care about and proving that “hyper-local” journalism is the wave of the future and much needed in a city of neighborhoods.

      One question: you refer to the “now defunct Barnes and Noble”… did you mean at 66th Street? Or is the one on 82nd/Bway closing as well???

    4. Christina says:

      Chains, chains and more chains. Everyone get on the chain gang! No mom and pops to make it here anymore. šŸ™

    5. UWS Dad says:

      Great sumamry of the year’s themes. Thanks West Side Rag for always keeping me informed about my beloved UWS! Happy new year to all of your staff, and I’m looking forward to reading all about 2015’s news events from you.