By Eileen Katz
Stephanie Little may have started out in The City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia, people!) but now can’t see herself living anywhere else but West 69th Street on the UWS in The Big Apple. She’s an actress/writer/producer/director who does her best to base her work in this neighborhood. It’s hard to find someone more passionate about living on the Upper West Side and reflecting it in her craft. You can check out her latest series, “The Other F Word” at thegirlfriend.com, 90% of which was filmed right here and whose cast and crew also live up here.
So Stephanie, Why The West Side?
I had been living downtown in a storefront in NOLITA, literally a storefront! After a little while I started thinking it might be a good idea to get off the street level. When I walked into this building I’m living in now, it just reminded me of home. I was so drawn to the building. It felt and still feels like home!
What’s the difference between the two neighborhoods?
They’re such different personalities! Night and day! I just love the neighborhood feel being up here has. And West 69th Street, where I live now just feels sooooo romantic to me. And so charming. I travel a lot for work – back and forth to LA and I just can’t tell you how excited I still feel every time the car turns onto my street. It’s home. I grew up in Philadelphia in a neighborhood like this, but here I get to say Central Park is my front yard and Lincoln Center is my backyard. How lucky am I?
Which leads me right into one of my favorite questions for us West Siders, Central or Riverside? What’s your park of choice?
Right, right!!! I remember from Susie (Essman’s) interview that she was all Riverside, but I’m a Central Park gal. I work out there, I spend so much time there and it was the inspiration for one of my films, “The Small.” It’s the plaques on the benches that really affected me…all the memorial plaques and I just couldn’t stop thinking about oh, the stories these park benches tell and I’m enamored of them and who the people are to the people who bought the plaques. The special meetings, memories or moments that they had there. It sparked the idea for this film, where having dealt with my own loss, and knowing how other people try to deal with loss, the thought was…wouldn’t it be great to have just 5 more minutes with that person? I’m so mesmerized by everything in that park. It’s just such a gift. And I just love that even given how long I’ve lived here, there are still parts of the park that I will visit that I’ve never seen. These nooks and cracks that I’m still discovering! Bridges and creeks! It’s amazing! There are times where I feel like a girl right off the Greyhound (bus) when I see that these things exist. And now that car use has been eliminated completely, it just feels safer and more accessible.
So you’ve clearly got a soft spot in your heart for Central Park, but tell me some of the other things you love here on the West Side.
Oh, the restaurants! I love so many of them up here. And I actually worked as a waitress for many years at Barcibo on 69th and Broadway, which for me gave me so much more of a sense of community because I was meeting people who were my neighbors! It seems ironic because people are like, you live in NYC, which is so big and you can be so alone, but for me, it was a great way to meet more people right where I live and run into them everywhere. It really helped me feel like a part of things here. It makes me so sad that it closed because of the rent. But I go to Bin 71 now and it’s fun to run into people I know from Cibo there now. And I’m very loyal to Indie Food & Wine, they are so supportive of the creative community up here and of course Joe’s Upper West Side (where we consumed lovely iced lattes and did this interview.) Oh, and also The Leopard at Des Artistes! I have a friend who takes me there every year for my birthday and it’s always such a special treat. And it’s around Christmas time with all the twinkly lights and it’s just magical!
What makes someone a typical West Sider?
Maybe kindness with a slight edge…kinda kind. There’s a certain texture to Upper West Siders. Supportive, too!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve witnessed that could only happen here?
Ok, this happened while I was waitressing at Barcibo one night. This woman had had a bit too much to drink and started becoming very belligerent to the bartender and she was getting physically aggressive with the staff. And it was the customers who came to our defense. Almost the entire restaurant came to our defense, because we could not physically touch her and she started physically attacking the bartender. It was thanks to the customers who helped until the police arrived, did their best to help settle her down where it wasn’t appropriate for us, as employees to do so. The customers looked out for us. That’s that sense of community where we weren’t looked down upon because we were the staff, we were actually all together in this. It was a very unfortunate situation, but so great to see everyone come together.
What’s the one thing you would change about things up here?
I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s really the rent situation. I really do my best to support the local mom & pop stores here. Like I just heard the Kangol hat store on Columbus closed. It’s just a sliver of a shop, but they just can’t keep going. Like Thomas Drugstore..a little more expensive, but I shop there because I want to do my part to keep them here. And 67th Street Wine & Spirits. I definitely do my part there too! Seeing all these shops closing really changes the personality of the neighborhood. You know, I look at it as each of these independent shops is someone’s dream and I know how important my dreams are to me and these people are working hard, doing the best they can for their dreams.
And so this is the natural transition to another independent UWS store, Zabar’s! Now it’s your turn to be stuck on a desert island with only one item from there. What’ll it be?
I’m such a fan of the deli meats, the bagels….but it would have to be a black and white cookie.
And when “Stephanie Little” Day is declared on the UWS how would we celebrate?
That’s gonna be such a fun day! Close down West 69th and probably get wine and cupcakes for everyone! And a big movie screen where we would watch some romantic comedies and some Woody Allen films.
I believe I know the answer to this one already, but if a street were to be named after you it would be…..
69th Street! I love everything about it…especially around Halloween when they shut it down and everyone goes really out of their way to make it festive and special. It’s what makes Fall my favorite time of year up here!
To read all of our “Why the West Side” columns, click here.