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.
Laundromats 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.