Top Stories of 2018: A Shuttered Cinema, Sick Raccoons, and a $10,000 Surprise

By Carol Tannenhauser

It seems like 2018 is just getting started, yet suddenly we’re making plans for New Year’s Eve! On the other hand, was it really only a year ago that Lincoln Plaza Cinemas closed? That was the big story of January, 2018, which began with a major fire in a vintage diner, and a massive snowstorm that dropped 10 inches on New York City. The Hudson River was partially frozen; a car burst into flames on Columbus Avenue; community policing came to the 24th precinct; and the Collegiate School moved to Freedom Place South. Women marched for the second time, and Congressman Jerry Nadler came home and criticized President Trump. The month ended with a Super Blue Blood Moon rising over New Jersey.

In February, Big Nick’s Burger Joint and Pizza Joint Too closed; Trader Joe’s was supposed to open, but didn’t, but H-Mart did (pictured at right). The big story, broken by West Side Rag, was that three subway stations along the B/C line would be closed for six months for extensive repairs and renovations. The outcry was immediate. State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal decried the lack of notice to the community. CB 7 wanted “mitigation.” The push for “accessibility” was led by City Council Member Mark Levine. The exact dates of the closings were announced, and everyone suspected that the stations would never be finished on time.

March was the start of the mail-fishing season, which shows no sign of abating any time soon, despite a joint investigation by the U.S. Postal Service and the NYPD. Crosswalks and lane markings were missing from major thoroughfares for months, and the rents were still too damn high, but the residential market was showing signs of softening. Norman, a chihuahua, went missing. The biggest story was the appearance of “super talls” on the neighborhood’s radar; Upper West Siders began to educate themselves — and, in some cases, mobilize.

A subway musician delighted straphangers on April 1st. In the days following, the weather played tricks on us, and a community group filed a lawsuit to stop the addition to the Museum of Natural History. A church took in an undocumented Guatemalan refugee, and the 20th precinct began community policing. The mosquitoes of 84th Street were finally defeated — we hope. But the big story was new School Chancellor Richard Carranza’s “racially charged” tweet, which raised the tension during the parent-led process of integrating middle schools.

May is the month Trader Joe’s finally opened. Big Nick’s reopened too with a new name and management. Quiet local resident Philip Roth died. We talked to people who had been racially profiled in the neighborhood.

Gerrymandered zoning lots were a big topic in June, particularly as they relate to how tall a building can be — or not be, that is the question developers, the City, community activists, and local elected officials were debating. On a tragic note, a woman died after falling from a subway platform at the 72nd Street station and being hit by an incoming train. Dovetail closed, and the controversial middle school integration plan was presented.

July brought a heat wave; you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. A woman was brutally assaulted on CPW by a 32-year-old resident of a homeless shelter on West 83rd Street. Central Park’s raccoon population was plagued by distemper, to the dismay of the Upper West Side’s many, many dog owners. To the dismay of expectant parents, we broke the story that the renowned birthing center at Mount Sinai West was closing.

The unbelievable and the unthinkable happened in August. First, a man jumped out of Sarabeth’s freezer during brunch, had a heart attack scuffling with police, and died later in the hospital. Then, a 23-year-old Australian woman, on “the trip of a lifetime,” was cycling in the bike lane running north on Central Park West, when a livery car pulled out in front of her, forcing her to veer into the path of a passing commercial garbage truck. Madison Jane Lyden was hit and killed between 66th and 67th Streets. A “ghost bicycle” was later placed there as a memorial.

September was the month of the primaries: Nixon vs. Cuomo, Jackson vs. Alcantara, among others. Nixon’s bagel order went viral; she lost the election; Jackson won; the IDC was overthrown. A homeless John Doe who died in Riverside Park after winning the hearts of many Upper West Siders regained his name. A dispute at a local theater went viral after allegations of racial profiling, but the full story was more than a little complicated.

Lo and behold, by October, all three subway stations were reopened on schedule, although 72nd Street sprang a leak shortly thereafter. For some, Yoko Ono’s ethereal mosaics made up for it. There were shocking incidents too. A women was murdered on West End Avenue, and two young girls, taped together, washed up on the shore of the Hudson River at 72nd Street. A Mandarin duck was spotted in Central Park, and the Museum of Natural History was enjoined from proceeding with its project.

In November, the midterms made Congressman Nadler a national figure, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. The IDC, on the state level, was voted out, and local community board members were term limited. The new Shakespeare & Co opened; reviewers drooled all over Mama’s Too; and Upper West Siders raised nearly $20,000 for the victim of the July 4th assault. Restaurateur and community activist Michael O’Neal died.

Now, it’s December, and the news in this incredibly vibrant, involved, and tight-knit (despite our disputes) community shows no signs of letting up. A notorious homeless shelter on West 95th Street is closing, as a controversial new one opens on West 94th. The Museum got the go ahead, only to have it snatched away by a stay pending appeal. The Mandarin duck got a weekend place in New Jersey; a challenge to another skyscraper on West 66th Street was denied; Goodwill closed; the post office wasn’t accepting packages, then was; Popeye’s is coming; the Christmas-tree sellers came and went; Maisel mania continues, as Tony Shalhoub proclaimed his love for the Basics Plus hardware store; and the West Side Rag won an award for “excellence in local journalism,” covering it all and more. But the biggest story of the month was the Christmas miracle involving the Upper West Sider who found $10,000 in a subway station and turned it in. It didn’t surprise us a bit!

Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, from all of us at WSR.

    1. notimpressed says:

      That man needs to learn how to fold a newspaper like an actual New Yorker.

    2. UWS_lifer says:

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

      The news that Popeye’s is coming is a God send!!! I’ll be second line strutting myself over there the day it opens.

      And the timing couldn’t be any better. I just had a full physical and my Doctor said that my fried chicken levels were “dangerously low”.:)

    3. Vera Pressman says:

      Best New Year wishes to all of you at WSR– you are invaluable to us on this side of town!

    4. Bill says:

      Thank you for the wonderful work you did this year, West Side Rag!

    5. Danny says:

      Thanks Westside Rag for all you do, to keep the Upper West Side the Shtetl that we love!

    6. Andrew says:

      UWS_Lifer, I agree with you about Popeye’s. This is going to save some round trips down to W. 23rd. I think we still have room to adopt a Taco Bell or Dairy Queen.

      • UWS_lifer says:

        I knew there were other men of great taste and sophistication living in this neighborhood!:)

        Happy New Year to you my fellow “foodie” and to all the good folks on the UWS.

        And to 2019, please be gentle with us.

    7. NYCUWS says:

      January: I thought that the moon SETS over New Jersey. Unless a Dothraki saying came to pass.

    8. JS says:

      Thank you to everyone at West Side Rag!

    9. Sarah says:

      Thanks for all your work this year, WSR.

    10. Andrew says:

      _Lifer, your warm wishes are appreciated. The same hoped for you garnished with glistening packets of salt.