By Eileen Katz

Joy Behar is one of the most distinct and unafraid comic voices out there. She may be a Brooklynite by birth, but she’s a proud Upper West Sider now. Behar’s first career was as a school teacher but it wasn’t long before she found her voice as a comic and opinion-maker, forging a path that led her to stage, screen and television. Behar has been honored with Emmy, MAC and GLAAD awards and she just recently kicked off the 20th season of The View on ABC where she continues to be a co-host. Find out what she loves about the neighborhood, and what she’ll do if they ever declare a “Joy Behar Day”.

Why the West side, Joy?

First of all, I work on the West side. The View is on the West side and I like to be close to my office so I don’t have to schlep. Number one. It’s very convenient. I find the Upper West Side very convenient. There’s the subways, there’s the Amsterdam and Broadway buses. It’s extremely convenient. No matter where you are in the city, you can always get home. I think that’s one of the most important things about it and plus I think it’s more fun here. It’s close to the theater district. It’s got great proximity to everything.

What do you think the best part of living up here is?

I’d have to go with what we were just talking about: the location! So close to everything.

Any down sides to living in this neighborhood?

Well, no. There’s no down side to any neighborhood that’s functioning properly, but unfortunately a lot of stores are closing because of the high rents and I resent it, frankly, and I wonder if the powers that be can do anything about it. You know, people who are in power are always talking about how they want to support small businesses and then they raise a bakery’s rent twenty thousand dollars a month and expect them to sell an extra million cakes. It doesn’t work. Then things close. Food Emporium closed along with so many others up by me and now these empty stores are just waiting to be rented again and they’re not going to be because these rents are just out of control. And I think there should be something done about that because without those stores, you don’t have a neighborhood. It kills the character and the convenience too. People need to buy food! It’s not just a million Duane Reades and banks that can keep people happy.

How do you think living here is different from living in any other neighborhood?

Well, a lot of neighborhoods are specific to one ethnic group. You know, there’s Chinatown, there’s Little Italy, Little Korea. But there are a few neighborhoods in New York City that are multi-national and the Upper West Side is like that. There are people of all colors and creeds and what have you. And I like that about it. It’s very heterogeneous.

Are there any favorite places you like to go to?

I like to go to the Atlantic Grill. I’m there constantly because it’s right near my office. I go to the Walter Reade Theater because they have great French film festivals and Jewish film festivals and all sorts of film festivals and I think it’s an incredible thing that we have in this neighborhood. People should take advantage of it! I mean you just don’t get that kind of thing all over the world. You just don’t! And there are other restaurants I go to in the neighborhood. Cibo e Vino, which I like, and Gennaro’s is my number one favorite Italian restaurant. You can’t beat Gennaro’s for great Italian food on Amsterdam and 92nd. They’re the best. It’s like eating in Italy, really.

What do you think makes someone an Upper West Sider?

Well, I think you find more Democrats than Republicans. You might find more Republicans on the Upper East Side. That would be the only thing I could think of. I mean a lot of intellectuals, artists, writers.

It’s time for the “boxers versus briefs” question: Riverside or Central Park?

central park blizzardCentral Park. Because to see Central Park when there is a newly fallen snow is one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. And to look out your window and see it or be able to walk through it is a luxury and it’s an incredible treat. I like that better than Riverside, which only faces New Jersey. What’s the point of that? Right?

If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one thing from Zabar’s, what would it be?

I don’t know. Their coffee’s good.

When “Joy Behar Day” is declared on the Upper West Side, how would you like people to celebrate?

I’d like for them to lower the rents! I’m telling you, that’s what I’m really pitching here! They need to change the rent laws for small businesses so people can open little stores. We need those little shoemaker stores and bring the locksmiths back and other independent businesses like that so people can have the neighborhood we used to have. That’s how “Joy Behar Day” can be celebrated!

To read all of our “Why the West Side” columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      I’m glad Joy Behar enjoys the UWS but her lack of knowledge of business and economics is glaring.

      Food Emporium closed not because of “high rents” but rather because competitors like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods offered (arguably) a better shopping experience and better products.

      Furthermore, Amazon is likely more responsible for the closure of so many small UWS stores than high rents are.

      • Young Sally says:

        Well it strikes me that you are partially correct. FE had a unionized workforce (unlike TJ and WF) so it had a higher cost of labor and the company ultimately collapsed under the weight of its debt burden.

    2. Bob says:

      Food Emporium had the highest prices around but there was never any lines. I love it.

      sadly, hardly familiar with this person, at all.

    3. Bruce Bernstein says:

      are you denying many many stores are closing on the Upper West Side due to high rents? if she is talking about the Food Emporium on 90th (or whatever the cross street was) and Bway, it DID NOT close due to competition from Trader Joes and Whole Food, both very far away.

      • Ken J. says:

        Food Emporium closed because they were owned by the A&P company, which went bankrupt and closed all of their stores.

    4. B.B. says:

      Food Emporium closed because the parent company (A&P) went bankrupt.

      Once this occurred remaining terms on leases for various locations were put up for bid, many FE spaces were not wanted because of the high rent. Along with West 90th Street, the Bridge Market on East 59th along with a few other FE locations failed to attract interest. OTOH both Key Food and Morton Williams took several locations. In fact Key Food purchased the name rights to Food Emporium via bankruptcy court. The FE supermarket in Trump building on Third Avenue between 68th and 70th still has that name.

      Supermarkets are very small margin businesses. FE like many old school NYC supermarkets had very high union labor costs. The judge overseeing A&P’s bankruptcy leaned hard to get any new purchaser of affected supermarkets to keep current employees.

      Old school NYC supermarkets are being squeezed on one side by Trader Joes, Whole Foods and other markets that mostly are non-union with lower costs. On the other side expansion of convenience stores like Duane Reade and RiteAid into mini-supermarkets are also cutting into legacy grocery store sales. Oh and don’t forget Fresh Direct along with the hundreds of fresh fruit vendors on street corners.

      • dannyboy says:

        I’d expect a name like “Emporium” on a Trump building. “Foods” not-so-much. Too straightforward.

    5. Joelle ettiene says:

      I love joy and that she’s our neighbor and I love that she gives cred to the Walter Reade theater! It is such an unsung treasure of the neighborhood. Thanks joy!

    6. E says:

      I agree with everything Joy has said, especially the rents. I think the entiure rent situation should be heard and spelled out for all. The focus needs to be on many of the mom and pop building owners who face constantly rising tax rates of +18%, yet these owners have been held to either no increase or 1% increase in the apartment rents. That being said, they likely have to look to the commercial for rent increases to cover the rest of their units being held without increases. Don’t forget utilities which many building owners pay for have also climbed(heat & water) Just want to level the field with information!

      • B.B. says:

        Commercial rents are not just going up in a vacuum. Most all such leases require renters to pay the LL’s property taxes in whole or a portion. The City has been raising commercial real estate taxes since Bloomberg. This and or assessments are going up all of which are passed onto whomever rents the space.

    7. Voting for Hillary says:

      There is a design component to the disappearance of the mom and pops and the quirky independents. All the new high rise apartment buildings have ground floor retail space designed to accommodate chain stores with their larger space requirements. The landlords prefer the characterless chains (or banks) to the mom and pops both because they can afford higher rents and because they are seen as being financially more stable, all to the detriment of our wonderful neighborhood.

      • Woody says:

        If you’re talking about chain stores like Staples, Duane Reade, CVS, Walgreens, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Best Buy, Chase, Citibank, etc., why would you need stores that sell mostly standardized items to have some sort of special ‘character’? They exist because the mom & pops couldn’t provide the same selection, price, return policies, and hours that these stores do. What would put in place of these stores if they disappeared tomorrow?

        The mom & pops of yesteryear were not great shopping experiences compared with these large stores that everyone complains about but keeps in business. That is, until they find out they can save a penny or two by buying from Amazon and Fresh Direct. Then even hated chain stores like the West 72nd St. Duane Reade close down leaving local people unemployed while warehouse people who work for Amazon in Arizona have jobs.

        People are hypocrites and don’t care about supporting local businesses because otherwise Amazon, Fresh Direct, eBay, and other companies that specialize in mail order wouldn’t be doing so well. UWS guilt just makes people whine a lot but they contribute to the problem.

    8. Janice says:

      Love Joy and agree with her 100% about rents being too high. I grew up here when there were tons of really cool mom & pop stores and I mourn them. The neighborhood is losing a lot of character because they’re gone. Greedy developers are ruining this city!

    9. cc says:

      There’s more Republicans on the Upper West Side than she could imagine – we’r just not as obnoxious as the Dems!!

    10. Ken says:

      Great piece yet again — interesting to hear her views on the UWS!

    11. Mark Moskow says:

      Everybody seems to want the government to solve problems that are created by the free market. Rents are higher because the developers are getting the rents. BUT- If we stop patronizing the chain stores then things might change. When Big Nick’s was forced out we realized that the Hotel Belleclaire was owned by Triumph Hotels owner and proprietor Shimmie Horn who has several hotels in NYC. We have business associates and friends in town all of the time looking for suggestions and we will
      NEVER EVER recommend the Hotel Belleclaire. We also boycott the new tenants. There are other hotels and we recommend them all. The only thing that hits these landlords is money and as residents we can exact change by patronizing the businesses we want to stay and boycott those we want to leave.

      • Wrapguy says:

        Yes, it’s sad Belleclaire forced out Big Nick’s by raising the rent. However the root cause of this was actually unnecessary legislation. Belleclaire’s entrance on 77th st is across from a church. As such, legislation prohibits them from obtaining a liquor license. Thus they planned to renovate creating an entrance on Broadway. Belleclaire did what any business would do in that situation. Big Nick’s suffered from unfortunate legislation trying to protect churches. Separation of church and state is a joke. Blue laws are completely out of place in today’s world.

    12. B.B. says:

      Regarding UWS supermarkets, don’t see DAG and or Gristedes last another generation or at least decade.

      D’agostino’s shelves are pretty much full now, and the stores have been holding “reopening” type events, but how long will things last? The underlying fundamentals of their business hasn’t changed and worse now they have to pay off those loans from Red Apple/Gristedes.

      Once that new TJ’s opens not very far from DAG it is going to bring some stiff competition.

    13. Peter says:

      I love this series and always look forward to it. But note how Ms. Behar says of the UWS, “There are people of all colors and creeds and what have you. And I like that about it. It’s very heterogeneous.” Maybe the choice of subjects for interviews could reflect more of that diversity? It’d be fun!

    14. Daryl says:

      oh Joy, next time it snows, come to Riverside Park .. its gorgeous