By Jaclyn Anglis

Upper West Siders who live in buildings without their own laundry machines are alarmed by the recent closures of several local self-serve laundromats that are being priced out of the neighborhood. They’ve been collecting signatures on a petition trying to force elected officials to step in, some residents said at a community board meeting last week.

Locals sounded off about diminishing laundromats at a public forum at the Business and Consumer Issues Committee meeting. A crowd of about 25 listened to the concerns.

Marie Timell, who has lived here for 30 years, said she lived in one of seven brownstones on the same block, all owned by the same landlord, which had zero laundry facilities. She said many tenants lived there, so there is a need for a laundromat.

“I can’t afford to drive my laundry around to try to get it done,” said Timell.

Constance O’Dea, who has been an Upper West Sider for 37 years, said a lot of the residents in the West 80s have been there many years and are older, with limited incomes.

And she said her nearest self-service laundromat on Columbus between 85th and 86th street is planning on closing to become a restaurant, a year after another laundromat on 88th street closed, and shortly after a laundromat at 80th and Broadway shuttered. She said she has collected 182 signatures from individuals, plus two local businesses, that are dependent on the laundromat. She said in her opinion, the neighborhood hardly needs another restaurant.

But ability to do laundry is a need.

“If people don’t have anywhere to wash their things, they’re going to be forced out,” O’Dea said.

cpw cleanersLaundromats and dry cleaners are closing in other parts of the neighborhood too — CPW Cleaners at 100th street and CPW, pictured at right, is set to close at the end of the month after a rent increase.

Co-Chairperson George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero agreed that laundry is an essential service, and that if people did not have it, they may have to move. He recommended that they bring their concerns to elected officials, including the borough president.

“They can’t bring their laundry 20 blocks to wash,” he said. “I understand the dynamics.”

But he said on a community board level, all they can actively do is bring the issue to attention of elected officials, like borough president Gale Brewer. After all, laundromats are privately owned, and owners have the right to close if they want to.

Additionally, co-chairperson Michele Parker said some voices were missing in the equation, such as realtors and people who own the buildings. She said they also have to be part of the discussion.

“It’s going to be a slow process, but it’s going to be a process,” Parker said.

Top photo by Steve Calcott.

NEWS | 65 comments | permalink
    1. stuart says:

      This article does not mention which of “several local self-serve Laundromats” that have closed. Please provide a list so I am not disappointed when my laundry room is not working and I must go elsewhere. Also, most self service machines are ancient, poorly maintained, and dirty. Can anyone recommend any facilities with clean new machines? Thanks.

      • stuart says:

        24 hours and 45 posts later, there is still no list of the “several local self-serve Laundromats” that have closed. Has the author of the article (Jaclyn Anglis – there’s usually no by-line listed on this website) bothered to follow-up on any of these comments?

        • West Sider says:

          We’ve added a couple laundromats that attendees said had recently closed to the article: “she said her nearest self-service laundromat on Columbus between 85th and 86th street is planning on closing to become a restaurant, a year after another laundromat on 88th street closed, and shortly after a laundromat at 80th and Broadway shuttered.”


      • Westerina says:

        Stuart, you seem to be confusing the role of a journalist. WSR’s job is not to do your errands and prevent you from disappointment.
        Maybe 24 hours and 45 posts came and went because no one saw it as their responsibility to do a task that sounds a lot like something you should do for yourself.

        • Stuart says:

          Dear Westerina – I disagree with your comment. A well written and researched article would provide a list of closed Laundromats or a map showing the locations. The role of a journalist should be to provide details, which are always better than speaking (or writing) in generalities. I am not looking for anyone to do my errands or my laundry. Thanks so much for your concern.

          • Independent says:

            Good rejoinder, Stuart.

            Your point was completely valid. “Westirina”s response was absurd.

    2. Cato says:

      Get with the times, people!

      With precious few shoemakers left, when your shoes wear out do as your rich neighbors do (which is why there are so few shoemakers left) — toss ’em and buy new ones!

      So now, when your clothes get dirty, do as your new rich neighbors do — toss ’em and buy new ones!

      These aren’t the kinds of services the wealthy Yuppies overrunning our neighborhood want, so out they go. (Laundry?? EWWWWW!!!) But at least you’ll have more hoity-toity haute cuisine restaurants in their place.

      • Dee says:

        The rich don’t toss their laundry–they have high end machines in their condo or coop apartments. Clean, environmentally correct, private.

    3. brian says:

      Why don’t the people with the laundry need step in and take over these low growth / low margin businesses and operate them? Maybe there should be public funding for laundromats??? The next “dirty sock tax”? Seriously – are you really going to petition to try to keep bad businesses going? There are plenty of pick/up drop off services that operate all over the city/even across the park and other ways to solve the problem (petition your landlord to add vented washer/dryers in your apt?). Take some initiative in life and stop expecting everyone else to do everything to support YOU.

      • Christina says:

        Don’t be ridiculous Brian!!!! There is a definite need for these laundromats. Many people can’t afford the pick up/drop off services. And believe it or not there are landlords who don’t want to put laundry facilities in apts. Especially if they are small apts. So I wouldn’t get on your soapbox if I were you and spew out what people should do. Besides, no one is expecting people to do anything for them. It’s a service that is in demand. With your thinking people should stop going to supermarkets and grow their own food or go to restaurants so they can “stop expecting everyone else to do everything to support YOU”. Please!!!! Get real.

      • Margaret says:

        You know, I’ll argue the flipside. We tax-incentivize lots of different things- some worthier than others. The Upper West Side has lots of empty storefronts. Why shouldn’t we offer a reasonable tax incentive to keep laundromats in a historic brownstone-rich neighborhood where all of us need to get our laundry done, and not every unit or building needs / has its own laundry room.

        Wish I knew which laundromat Constance O’Dea was petitioning for. I would be pleased to sign.

        Also, I think self-service matters more to women doing laundry than men. Just the fabrics in women’s clothes – not all of them can go through the dryer.

      • kindly dr Dave says:

        Yeah, Brian, and if you don’t like the valet parking, give your car to the church…..oops, that put your chauffeur out of a job. Oh, well, let him work for Uber!

    4. senyc says:

      The forced reduction of these types of fundamental services are accurate signs of the poor being forced out of their neighborhoods.
      But – the UWS hasn’t been part of the real NYC in years…..

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        the poor are being forced out… AND the middle class.

        I love my shoe repair guy on Bway and 99th.

        just a decade ago, the UWS still had many affordable apts. thing changed very fast.

        but it is still mostly middle class… with many poor. we have to fight to stay here and make it livable for us.

      • Jeremy says:

        “forced reduction?”

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          economically forced. that’s a type of force.

          • Jeremy says:

            So the nut of that argument is “economic forces forced a store to close?”

            Stop the presses.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              no, the “nut” of the argument is what Senyc accurately and clearly said:

              “The forced reduction of these types of fundamental services are accurate signs of the poor being forced out of their neighborhoods.”

              economic forces are attacking the services that cater to the poor and middle classes. yes, nothing new here. but it’s not anything “natural” either. it involves CHOICES made by people in power (real estate interests and landlords).

            • Jeremy says:

              Don’t forget the Illuminati!

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              seriously? You seem like an intelligent person. are you so unfamiliar with a mainstream and standard, albeit progressive, political argument that you would compare it with a tin-hat conspiracy theory?

          • Lets not forget legislative and community pressure to sanitize the UWS. Zoning to prevent construction and regulate the types of businesses. Creating scarcity by reducing building height resulting in additional potential customers for small businesses suffering higher rents. Preventing businesses that provide competitively priced products for the lower and middle income residents from getting footholds in the neighborhood while high priced monopolies dominate. Bad policies that make things worse are pushing people out. Topping it off, politicians are scaring people into making the bad decisions of supporting faulty remedies for non problems.

    5. Violet says:

      Laundromats?!?! Doesn’t everyone live in a full-service luxury building with a washer/dryer in their unit these days??

    6. Bill says:

      This can only worsen a situation that has become increasingly noticeable over the years. I live in a building with a well-maintained laundry room and relatively new machines at a reasonable rate. It has become more and more common for people to come from other buildings to use our facilities. How do I know this? I have lived in the building for 40+ years and recognize most of the residents/domestics and as these people are dressed for the weather (rain, snow, cold, etc.) it is obvious that they’ve come in from the outside through our garage basement entrance, not the internal elevators. There is no rule against this, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a convenient time to do laundry when the machines are so often maxed out by these “poachers”.

    7. maryjane says:

      I don’t really see what this has to do with pricing people out of the neighborhood. As long as there are brownstones in the area, there will continue to be buildings without laundry rooms, no matter how expensive those apartments become. I agree that it is a concern, as I am one of those tenants.

    8. Alan says:

      Once again, mom and pop businesses are being priced out of the market. Landlords are getting top dollar, and the people suffer!!

      • Jeremy says:

        I’m gonna guess that most of these laundromats are hardly “mom and pop” establishments.

    9. Kevin says:

      There are enough people without laundry in their building that I believe this is more a case of specific businesses closing than a wholesale problem.

      All the comments seem to be assuming the laundromats are closing because of rent increases – but how do you know it is not due to revenue dropping? If an increasing number of people are using the pickup/dropoff laundry services than I can imagine laundromat revenues fall. That’s not great for people that prefer to do it themselves, but it’s also the neighborhood speaking with their wallets.

    10. C says:

      I have to wonder how much of this is less about getting “priced out of the neighborhood,” than the fact that most of the self-serve laundromats in the neighborhood are pretty disgusting, and are no longer competitive alternatives to the low-cost pickup and delivery services offered by most cleaners and others. I lived in a brownstone for many years, and the coin-operated machines in the landry room were basically a push from a cost perspective vs. cheap wash and fold services from the cleaners around the corner,

    11. AC says:

      In my past talking with the people who actually own/operate/manage Laundromats, it appears that rising cost of water is the main factor. A lot of these businesses are converting from self-service to ‘drop-off/pick-up only’ because they can offset the rising costs. Self-service machines are not running continually; whereas, drop/pick-up can be operated in a non-stop fashion by taking in more clients. Water Bills have increased in NYC tremendously over the last 10 years. Projected costs in 2016 will be over 200% of what was being charged in 0006!

    12. Taylor says:

      I’ve been meaning to write in about my disappointment with the laundromats in the area. We live in the West 90s near Broadway and are wondering where we can go for reliable service. Sometimes our clothes are wet after a run in the dryers and the attendants act like they can’t understand what we’re saying when we notify them or they tell us that we must not have used the “hot” setting. Not once has an attendant attempted to see if something may have actually been wrong with the dryer. Then we go in the next week to find the dryer “out of service.” It’s frustrating what laundromats can get away with that other businesses can’t. Where else am I going to go?

      • Sam says:

        Tower Cleaners on 93rd b/w BWAY and WEA is a great option. Same day service if you drop it off before 8 for both wash & fold and dry cleaning. Used them for years and never had a problem.

    13. richard says:

      Yeah I feal really awful for these people! I mean you have a rent stabilized apartment that most people would give anything to get and you still complain? Seriously this is the ultimate having your cake and eating as well.
      Unfortunately we happen to live in a capitalist society and this is what happens, perhaps those complaining could move to the socialist paradise of Cuba or Venezuela, I’m sure they would like it better (then they could complain about the lines for everything and lack of goods in the stores).

      • Mike says:

        … or Canada, Germany, or France. Amirite?

      • Elizabeth says:

        That is really asinine! So if you’re rent stabilized you have no right to complain about services in your neighborhood? Washing your clothes is not a luxury. I happen to be lucky enough to have a laundry room in my building. What about the elderly or disabled who can’t afford the pick up places and can’t travel many blocks to do their laundry. So we should ship them to Cuba?? You sound like a real humanitarian.

        • bravo says:

          Complain away but services in the city are, thank god, private enterprises. If the owners cared about their business (clean modern facilities! friendly service!) I believe thy would still be in business. Landlords have nothing to do with the businesses failing to modernize, update and be plain good. Remember Korean salad bars on every corner?
          I, for one, am happy to see those dirty loud blasts from the bad past go away.

          • BMAC says:

            Landlords may have nothing to do with businesses failing to “modernize” (although I question how exactly one “modernizes” a coin-op laundry), but they certainly do have plenty to do with raising rents to unsustainable levels, having a domino effect of driving low-margin (but necessary) services out of the neighborhood.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        they don’t have bread? let them eat cake!!

        no laundromat? use the dry cleaners!!

        of these sorts of attitudes have insurrections been made…

        • manhattan mark says:

          It looks like income inequality is the first crack in the
          foundation of Capitalism. If the average worker with a full time job cannot provide shelter, food, and clothes, and
          other basic necessities than the system is not working. Are
          we 25 to 50 years away from the “American Spring” ?

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        those rotten rent stabilized no-goodniks! they’ve got rent stabilized apartments… they also expect to be able to do their laundry? and shop at a supermarket? what a bunch of whiners.

      • rent-controlled joe says:

        me senses a little jealousy

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          if the so-called “market rate” people had any sense whatsoever they would be fighting to expand rent stabilization so they are included, or at least received some protections. and they would be supporting the Mayor’s efforts to repeal the Urstadt Law so NYC can get control once again of its housing market.

          with rent laws coming up and Albany in disarray, this is the perfect time to push for this.

          but it seems like many or most of the so-called “market rate” people, instead of pursuing that logical path, want to attack the rent stabilized people and make all the UWS apartments market-rate and not affordable. go figure. it’s not logical.

          • Erica says:

            Bruce, I find the vitriolic attitude towards rent controlled tenants disgusting. It makes me question the humanity of my neighbors.

            But those who pay market rents may be more attuned to, and comfortable with, ideas of private property, and paying fair market compensation for services provided. I’m a market rate renter now, and a property owner at other times, and I’m more than happy to pay for what I get. I am also more than happy to support rent-control or stabilization for people who aren’t able to pay more. This is be cause we need to balance the equities, not because I think I should get something for nothing.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              Erica, thank you for those reasoned comments.

              I’m an owner and was formerly a rent-stabilized tenant.

              the fact is that many market rate people, who have no protection, are being priced out of the neighborhood. Many are middle class people.

              When my building went condo, the rent-stabilized people were able to stay and negotiate — and won some concessions. they were protected by the law. the market rate people were thrown out with no protection as soon as their leases were due.

              I would like to see them get some protections. and that surely can only be good for the cause of affordable housing in NYC.

              i am looking at it from a public policy point of view.

          • Elizabeth says:

            Bruce, your posts are always informative and honest. Voice of reason. Thanks for taking the time to comment on these important issues.

            • bruce Bernstein says:

              thank you Elizabeth. i appreciate your encouragement.

              I started posting here because i was reading so many angry, racist, and even outright crazy comments, and i didn’t feel that they represented my Upper West Side neighbors.

              i think the more “mainstream” UWSers that post, the better the comments section will be — and the more representative of the neighborhood. The ranters are really just a small minority and are often the same people.

          • C says:

            I do not think market-rate renters necessarily disagree with the notion that we ought to be providing some measure of subsidy to lower and middle-income New Yorkers. As a former co-op owner and a market-rate renter, I am certainly of that view.

            I think the philosophical difference is simply whether the current rent regs are the best mechanism to do this. My view is they are definitively not. This is a view shared universally among economists, including the esteemed liberal Dr. Krugman.

            I do not view the current regs as potentially providing me protection if and when I am no longer able to afford living on the UWS. I view the rent regs solely in economic terms: they often benefit affluent people who do not need the subsidy, they create shortages and therefore keep my market-rate rent artificially high, and they discourage investment in buildings (especially as the two biggest drivers of owners’ expenses, property taxes and utilities are growing rapidly), leaving much of the rental stock in very poor condition. None of these conclusions are in dispute.

            I would rather provide rent subsidies to people under a certain income, and that income should be verified annually.

            • manhattan mark says:

              Rent Control was a simple attempt to stop landlords from
              gauging the population, it was put into effect during WW2
              when the vacancy rate was less than 5%. The landlords were
              entitled to a 6% return on their investment, and if they were
              not making 6% all they had to do was show their books to
              the rent commission and they could raise rents…as far as I
              know, no landlords showed their books. I don’t know what
              the vacancy rate is today but rent control stabilized the UPW
              and many other neighborhoods in the five boroughs during
              what were difficult times…maybe it’s time for some kind of
              commercial Rent control.

      • LMN says:

        How about those who live in market price apartments, without laundry, who actually go to the Laundromat to do our laundry because a)wash and fold is expensive and b) wash and fold ruins nice clothes.

    14. 2 Handicap says:

      If you don’t have laundry facilities in your building and you’re too lazy or old to walk a few blocks to a self-serve laundromat stop whining and go buy yourself a $20 washboard. You already have a sink/tub and water.

      Problem solved.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Are you serious?? If you’re joking it’s not funny. So compassionate are you, as Yoda would say…

        • 2 Handicap says:

          Liz dear, sometimes life isn’t easy. I provided a reasonable and inexpensive solution. What’s wrong with it besides not being compassionate?

          • Erica says:

            The fact that it isn’t compassionate is problem enough. How did we all become so cruel?

          • Elizabeth says:

            2Handicap, there are so many things wrong with your suggestion that there isn’t room enough on this forum to address it. Would you tell your elderly mother to get a washboard to do her laundry? Maybe YOU would! Ever heard of Karma?

            • BMAC says:

              2Handicap is clearly too busy working on his golf game. Golf: the sport of the common man!

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            i thought he was joking but i guess he’s serious. sigh.

      • LMN says:

        Sarcastic or not, I believe you are missing the point that the self service Laundromats are the ones going out of business.

    15. Carolyn Pellett says:

      Attention George Z : Aloha from your old neighbor
      Carolyn from W 78th St. Great to see you commenting on westsiderag.com! Married, huh? Congrats! Also remembering David H. Fondly.

    16. ICUDoc says:

      One thing that the elected officials could do is to make it easier for landlords to keep laundry facilities in the buildings that already have them. In one building I lived in, the landlord was forced to close the laundry because the city demanded a new chimney be run which would have cost over $40,000 – and the laundry made a profit of $1,000 per year max – no incentive to keep that laundry open!! City regulations need to be relaxed to encourage laundries in buildings….

      • Independent says:

        City regulations need to be relaxed to encourage laundries in buildings…

        Regulations relaxed? At what cost? Our health?

        You’re a physician?

        • ICUDoc says:

          Who says health is being compromised, or do you automatically assume that ALL city regulations are designed to be perfectly effective in improving health and safety? Some bureaucrat somewhere decides that the airflow on some vent needs to be a certain number without ANY safety data to support that regulation and – WHAM – you lose your in-house laundry facilities. Hey, no skin off my back – I am a physician so I can afford to take my laundry out to be done – if you can’t then good riddance – move out of Manhattan….

          • Christina says:

            @ICUDoc that has to be one of the most arrogant thing I read someone say in a long time! What do you mean if one can’t afford to take their laundry out… Get out and Good riddance??? I think it is You who needs to get out and move out and not live among the little people!! What a boorish snob you are! We don’t need your kind here!!!

    17. Claire Leffel says:

      XTREEM Clean, 98th and Amsterdam said yesterday that they will reopen on 94th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam.