Ebikes, Tree Limbs, Scaffolding; Residents Focus on Local Issues at UWS Coalition Forum

Virtual UWS Coalition Forum.

By Ann Cooper

Perhaps it was a sign that Omicron has peaked in New York City and no longer dominates our every conversation. Or maybe it was just proof of the adage: “all politics is local.”

Whatever the reason, the three local politicians who joined an online discussion with representatives of the Upper West Side Coalition of Block Associations and Community Groups Tuesday night were peppered with questions and opinions on a list of quintessentially city issues with little connection to COVID:

The officials invited to outline their agendas and field questions were: veteran Upper West Side politician Gale Brewer, now representing the 6th District on the Council, a post she’s held in the past; Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; and Shaun Abreu, newly elected to the 7th District City Council seat that Levine vacated to run for borough president last November. (The 7th District runs from Manhattan Valley north to Washington Heights.)

Brewer and Levine both joined the meeting late, after attending a vigil for Michelle Go, the Upper West Side woman pushed to her death in a subway station on Saturday. The new borough president, who called in while riding in a car after the vigil, spoke briefly about the pandemic, noting that once it is under control the city can more fully focus on other major issues such as climate change, wealth inequality, crime, and mental health.

Asked about her priorities for the year, Brewer brought the discussion back to local issues, including the so-called “dark stores” that she denounced earlier this month as unfair competition for Upper West Side bodegas and mom-and-pop stores. These new businesses promise speedy delivery (in just a few minutes) of groceries ordered on an app. “I hope nobody is patronizing them,” Brewer told the Coalition.

Brewer said she is on a campaign to go door-to-door to tell Upper West Side businesses they are responsible for sanitation around their storefronts. And she noted, but did not suggest specific solutions for a couple of current school issues: high teacher absences due to COVID, and a worrying drop in school attendance rates, which traditionally are above 90 percent. According to Brewer, attendance rates at city schools have fallen to 40-80 percent.

“Alas, there is no shortage of issues,” noted Upper West Side Coalition Board Chair Steve Anderson, who thanked the officials for speaking with the group.

The UWS Coalition, formed last year, unites block associations and community groups throughout the Upper West Side. The group has held a series of forums on traffic safety, land use, congestion pricing and other issues, all archived here. Next month, assembly members and state senators who represent the Upper West Side will be hosted by the Coalition at another virtual discussion.

You can watch the entire forum here.

NEWS | 35 comments | permalink
    1. Wayne Z. says:

      We have plenty of voices calling these issues out, but one thing I’ve noticed is NOTHING EVER CHANGES. Where does the blame belong? A failure of enforcement and justice at multiple levels on a daily basis.

      • David Zelman says:

        In answer to Wayne’s question is that we are. Think of what the theme’s of both Sanders and trump. Our elected officials don’t listen to us, they don’t respect us, they’re corrupt, and they’re untrustworthy. (trump lied). Yet we support them and reelect them. Hopefully that answers your question

        • EdNY says:

          I’m afraid you have in backwards. Sanders and Trump listen to their constituents – that’s how Trump got elected and Sanders gets re-elected and why polls show teh vast majority of voters who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 would vote for him again. Whether they accomplish anything that you agree with is another matter, of course. And it would be hard to argue that Trump has not delivered for his voters.

    2. Mark Moore says:

      Imagine you’re running a small business in Manhattan with all the tsuris that goes along with that and then Gale Brewer comes in to scold you about how you’re responsible for sweeping the sidewalk.

      • Peter says:

        Imagine you’re running a small business in Manhattan, basically 100% dependent for your livelihood on people choosing to walk in, and there’s giant pile of rotten chicken bones, oyster shells, dirty napkins, some indeterminable semiliquid substance, etc. strewn around right next to your door. And you do nothing for 4 days in a row until it gets scattered in the wind to your neighbor’s store.

        That’s literally what Amsterdam looks like every 15 yards between 72 and 86, for example.

        Good luck, “businessperson.”

        • Eric says:

          Perfect reply. This is what we’ve been living with for a few years. Good that a politician is actually LOOKING at the streets for problems, rather than reacting to the loudest voices, and saying something.

          These local businesses depend on the patronage of local residents. They owe it to those they serve to be good corporate citizens. This includes cleaning up after themselves and not contributing to the rodent problem, not to mention the neighborhood aesthetic.

          Also – with the plethora of pandemic pets, more attention to owners picking up their pooch’s crap. It goes with the territory of pet ownership.

      • Carlos says:

        I will reframe the issue. Among those most guilty of these problems are landlords of empty storefronts. Someone running a business usually makes an effort to clean up. I have found that the areas in front of empty stores are the biggest problems, both in terms of trash and in terms of people living there.

        If there were fines for this then perhaps they would also be more motivated to get their stores rented.

        And no, Gale, though I see their challenges, “ghost stores” are pretty far down the list of neighborhood challenges.

        • Lisa says:

          Trash bins are not emptied frequently enough. By 2 pm the bins on Amsterdam between 72nd and 73 are overflowing. Trash spreads around on the sidewalk. The squalor allows people to throw their refuse on the sidewalk without a qualm (after all, it’s already filthy). We need to double the number of trash bins at problematic corners and triple the pickups in these locations. Gale I’m looking at you. Surely with all the time spent in government you know how to get this done.

          • Paul says:

            Trash bins were already full when Covid hit and it’s way worse now because so many of us spend more time than before out doors and that includes eating on benches and in other public areas.
            Sanitation has to react to this by upping the frequency of collections from street bins.
            And, restaurants should pitch in with efforts to clean around the areas where their customers sit (Looking at you, Shake Shack on Columbus & 77).

            • Boris says:

              How do you arrive at the conclusion that “so many of us spend more time than before out doors”? Not as many people come into the City, many have left, and many work at home, not leaving the house as much.

            • Paul says:

              “How do you arrive at the conclusion that “so many of us spend more time than before out doors”?”

              I look and see what’s obvious.
              For example, until 2020, people would go into Shake Shack, order, sit, and eat. Now (unless it’s 20 degrees out) they cross the street and eat on the benches in Theodore Roosevelt Park. Their garbage becomes our garbage.
              Since Covid began, we get take out and meet friends in Riverside Park and eat, and put our garbage in the bins when done.
              People buy slices of pizza, eat them outside, drop the paper plates and soda cans in the bins at the corner. Similarly, you see people eating from take out trays on the Broadway median, and in other places where sitting is easy.

              And yes, folk work from home, which is here, as we’re a residential neighborhood. And people take breaks, get out for an hour or so, walk, eat, produce garbage.

    3. Paul says:

      While we’re on the bikes/cars/pedestrians issue, Mark Levine has said he’ll make car ownership a factor in Community Board membership selection.

      In the UWS about 25% of households own cars and about 35% of us live in households with cars. A far smaller percentage are regular bike users.

      Yet it’s the organized bike lobby that has members regularly appointed and reappointed, and even has a paid employee on the Community Board.

      By Boro President Levine’s reasoning the Board should be aout 60% those who only use walking, transit, taxis and Ubers.

      Perhaps the priority ought to be getting paid employees of lobbying groups OFF the Board?

      • Jay says:

        Except those 35 percent of households that own cars on the UWS mostly aren’t driving them 5 days a week.

        People own them to go to houses they or their relatives own outside the city.

        In a few cases, people do use them to drive to jobs in say New Jersey or Connecticut.

        Next to no one uses personal cars to drive from the UWS to say Chelsea to run errands. But driving such short distances is quite common in the suburbs.

        Furthermore, many people who own cars on the UWS keep them off the street in garages.

        • Isaac R says:

          If people want to own cars, they should be paying to store them in a garage, there’s no reason the city should be providing free car storage on prime UWS real estate.

          • David Zelman says:

            I disagree. Residents pay City tax and pay register fees. Those from other State/localities who get the free ride. 20% of vehicles parked in the street have out of state licenses, they park free.
            Vehicles registered in NYC would be able to park on the street within the boundaries of that neighborhood. The elected officials tell us that they can’t, that Speaker of the NYS Assembly Silver made a promise to keep street parking open, but I believe we can get resident parking, Our local officials don’t want to hear how.

        • A. Zion says:

          Do you know the price of garage space on the upper west side? Not everybody who lives here is rich and can afford to park in a garage. It once was possible to take a weekend drive for a bit of air outside the city but the bike lanes have taken away that small respite that a middle income Upper West Sider once had. And for what? The lanes are barely used – especially in the winter – the weather here is not ideal for bike riding. Older people aren’t generally riding to work or to the store. And neither are young people for that matter. The lane on Central Park West is mostly empty. The ebikes are on the sidewalks and bike riding is still dangerous. Why should the occasional biker by favored over the working and middle class New Yorkers who make up the majority of the residents? The wealthy aren’t bothered – they put their cars in the garage or perhaps the chauffeur drives in from elsewhere to pick them up. But it’s the average person who is affected and sadly no one cares about her.

          • Paul says:

            No offense intended to anyone who agrees or disagrees with the proposition “are cars ok?”

            The issue I’m trying to raise is the absurd bias in singling out car owners for scrutiny as some of our neighbors apply for membership on the Community Board.

            Why “do you own a car?” as opposed to do you bike or do you just walk/ride transit/hail cabs?

            If car ownership is a factor then our 51 member Board should be about 17 car owners, 7 bike riders and 27 neither.

          • Christine E says:

            @ A Zion. You don’t need to own a car to take your beloved occasional weekend drives. You can rent a car for that and free up valuable parking for the rest of the neighborhood.

            By renting a car, you probably will save money. According to NerdWallet, car insurance in NYC is $300-500/month. That will easily get you 2-4 car rental days per month, and will free you from the burdens of alternate side parking and kvetching.

            And can everyone please stop blaming the bike lanes for parking problems. Long before there were bike lanes or outdoor dining sheds, parking was a problem. I have lived in UWS for 20+ years. Whenever I rent a car, I routinely drive in circles for 45-60 minutes to find parking. The problem has always been too many cars, not too few parking spaces. (Yes I understand supply and demand. I am speaking from a public policy perspective.)

            • Zed says:

              NYC is the only large city in what I call “dense America” that gives anyone the right to park on its streets.

              “Dense America” includes NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philly and DC.

              NYC is dense alright, in two ways. All of those other cities give residents first dibs at scarce parking (for a fee). NYC throws open its doors to the world, free of charge. What a deal for us!

            • David S says:

              @Christine E:

              What led you to NerdWallet as a reliable source for NYC car insurance rates? I pay $150/month for complete coverage (collision, comprehensive, $1,000,000+ liability) on a four year old car. And I free myself from “the burdens of alternate side parking and kvetching” by paying for a monthly spot in a garage. For anyone who can afford to live on the UWS and own a car, there’s really no other sensible choice; the hours spent looking for a spot and moving one’s car to accommodate street cleaning rules are certainly worth more than the cost of a parking spot.

    4. GrumpyOldMan says:

      As a progressive it saddens me that for all their blather the politicians on whom we bestow the public trust have been epic failures in addressing large issues such as Rikers, homelessness, segregated schools and housing in addition to those concerns that impact the everyday quality of life similar to those enumerated in the article.

    5. Otis says:

      There are so many problems on the UWS and Brewer is making a big deal about “dark stores” in the neighborhood.

      The last time I checked these grocery delivery services are occupying storefronts that would otherwise likely be empty. They are employing people and paying taxes. Most importantly they are providing a service that residents want (otherwise they would not stay in business long).

      Instead of addressing the very real concerns in the neighborhood – homelessness, crime, filthy streets, unsafe subways…she is wasting everyone’s time with this nonsense.

      Pathetic.

      • Jeff says:

        Fully agreed. No one owes these businesses anything; it’s up to them to provide products and experiences that customers want.

        I do disagree in one respect. Focusing on this non issue would be pathetic in the absence of the numerous other very serious problems any of us can think of at a moments notice. Given the existence of so many real unsolved problems however, the focus on these stored isn’t merely pathetic; it’s disgraceful.

    6. Big Earl says:

      I wish Brewer would move on about the dark stores. The bodegas will survive just fine. Fly by night operations offering bananas delivered for 19 cents within 15 minutes appeal to a limited crowd. Bodegas are here to stay. And if not, too bad. It’s a free market allowing for competition. Let’s talk about some real issues like the scaffolding next to my apt that’s been up for over three years 🙂

    7. Jane says:

      What about the scaffolding? There is scaffolding on my West 60th for over 8 years..No repairs being done yet the scaffolding is falling apart and a piece nearly hit me in the head! Landlords are too damn cheap to remove and there is a law that once construction is done, scaffolding needs to be removed! Someone is not doing their job and sending out fines to the landlords.

      • LivesOnUWS says:

        Obviously the fines need to be much higher. It seems to me the building owners have a choice.

        Fix and complete the building maintenance in a timely manner thus removing the scaffolding.

        Or

        Pay for scaffolding, maintenance extensions/fines and not do the work.

        Somehow keeping the scaffolding there has become the cheaper option. Or you don’t have to be smart to be a rich building owner.

        • Ivy8 says:

          Agreed. The landlords make a financial choice to erect scaffolding or sheds and pay fines, rather than fix their buildings. That choice needs to be made harder, by substantially increasing the fine for any scaffolding up for more than a year. This is a blight on the entire neighborhood.

    8. Marc says:

      I’m all for storekeepers clean in front of their store fronts, In Europe the storekeepers mop and sweep. You can see owners mother at Telios on Broadway doing this. They need to take ownership.

    9. Richard Robbins says:

      Kudos to the UWS Coalition for organizing this meeting and all the other work they are doing. The organization and its active members who are working to help address community issues are a welcome addition to the UWS.

    10. KJ says:

      Why were Brewer and Levine late for the meeting?

      Because it was better politics to attend a vigil than to face their constituents in a planned and scheduled meeting?

      It makes me think that, to them, appearance is more important than dialog. I regret as much as anyone that an UWS woman was murdered, but I don’t think our elected leaders should blow us off so they can be seen at a vigil.

      • adami says:

        Ms Go’s family & friends probably have a different POV about attendance at the vigil. There’s plenty to be angry about these days, pick some higher ground.

    11. ml says:

      I don’t know how to drive but regarding car ownership as Community Board criteria per Mark Levine…

      Car ownership should not be an issue in CB selection.

      Mr. Levine did not make car ownership a factor in accepting campaign contributions right?

      Environmental concerns?
      What about people who use Uber a lot?
      Get daily ecommerce delivery?
      Fly for vacations?
      Etc.

    12. Jan says:

      wealth inequality?
      Get real.

    13. EdNY says:

      It’s high time to institute residential street parking permits, and they should come with a fee. The issue of street parking by out-of-state registered cars (a large chunk of which probably belong to city residents) and the continued quality-of-life issues engendered by the number of vehicles clogging the city’s streets can be partially addressed this way.

      • Michael says:

        100 percent agree to have residential parking charging a fee would be fine also.

        Hoboken NJ permitting system seems to be sensible as an example. Non residents can park for 4 hours