Mark O’Toole sent us the following video in response to some of the angst that has filled the Upper West Side in recent weeks, as neighbors battle over homeless shelters and other issues.
After flipping through some recent stress-filled news reports, O’Toole shows some of the ways the neighborhood has remained lively, particularly in its street culture. And no, a few moving vans don’t mean that the neighborhood has emptied out. “It’s all shot on the UWS and somewhat counters the argument that it’s completely unsafe or that everyone has left,” he wrote in an email.
From Gray’s Papaya to Asset to Pier i Cafe, he chronicles the neighborhood’s new restaurant scene, which he notes feels “very European.” Check it out below.
He ends with a plea to “support your local restaurants, bars and business.”
He explained a little more about why he made it in an email to us:
“I’d been documenting NYC since COVID began. A lot of what I shot for my Channel was an empty NYC. However when all the news broke last month about the homeless being put into hotels on the UWS where I live, it was concerning, as it was for a lot of people. But when the story became international (i received calls from Ireland asking what happened to my neighborhood?) and then some people started to co-opt these local issues and present it as a poster child for chaos in NYC, I felt compelled to step in. Why? Because a) I’ve lived on the Upper West Side for over 16 years and I eat in these restaurants, which I believe are the lifeblood of communities and small businesses and b) this was not an accurate picture of what I was seeing on the ground. I spent about 10 days going up and down those avenues to get a better feel of the issues. What I shot in the film, I think presents a fairly accurate picture of those last 10 days. A far cry from the chaos some would have us believe exist throughout NYC. And while it’s not Disneyland personafied, it is New York after all. NYC is resilient. We have lived through recessions, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the 1918 pandemic. We might be down now, but we are most definitely not out.
Some of the restaurants featured are Cafe Luxembourg, Playa Betty’s, Amber, Il Violino, Emerald Inn, Jacobs Pickles, Freds, Pomedoro, Pasha, St James Gate, The Dead Poet, Nice Matin, Jings, Guyers, Arte Cafe, Sala Thai, Piccolo, Emack & Bolios, High Life, Tacombi, The Gin Mill, Jakes, Mokem, Flor de Mayo, Alachi Masala, Tiki Chick, Celeste, Patsy’s, Pappardella, Lilly’s, Francesco’s Piazza, Empire Schezuan….there maybe more….it was a long night.”
O’Toole also put together a video about Broadway’s woes earlier this summer, with ways to support artists.