By Ed Hersh
With complaints about massive piles of garbage, fears about crime and the proliferation of smoke shops, concerns about bicycles on the sidewalk and the impact of congestion pricing on the neighborhood, a steady stream of residents queued up to meet one on one with Council Member Gale Brewer on the west side of Amsterdam Avenue, between 70th and 71st Streets, late Tuesday afternoon. It was billed as a “Pop-up District Office,” and Brewer got an earful.
“I targeted it because it is known as a problem block,” she said, noting she has long received complaints about it, even before the pandemic.
The block has both a CBD store and a smoke shop (Lincoln Convenience was robbed twice recently, once involving a shooting), a pizza place, and a McDonalds. It’s a block where pedestrians must run a gauntlet of obstacles: a giant rack filled with delivery bikes, piles of trash, outdoor tables, a COVID pop-up testing tent, a food truck, and a sidewalk fruit vendor.
Brewer wanted to hear directly from residents. “I do not feel safe in my neighborhood or getting on the subway,” one woman told her. Another asked, “Why are pot stores allowed to stay open 24 hours a day?” Andrea Sholl, a Lincoln Towers resident, pressed the point. “I resent that the [smoke shops] are open 24 hours a day. PS 199 is right around the block and there are three schools in a two-block area.”
An architect asked, “Why do all these bicycles have to be locked up in the middle of the block?” Several were upset about the impact of congestion pricing and what it would mean for their ability to “visit family in New Jersey” or “have access to parking spaces.”
In each case, Brewer listened, took notes, and gave out her card for follow up with her staff. But the issues on the block are complex, Brewer told us afterward, involving multiple city agencies, the police, and the building that houses the establishments itself, 201 West 71st Street.
“I’m going to have a stakeholders meeting to see what we can do together to improve this block,” she said. In addition to the NYPD, that meeting will include representatives of the departments of transportation and sanitation, the community board, business owners, and building management.
Brewer believes it is important for her to hold these pop-ups from time to time. “You really get a sense of what’s on people’s minds,” she said. “People will open up to you when it’s one on one.”
Say what you want about Brewer; at least she put herself front and center of the problem. But if there’s been complaints about this block before the pandemic, why is it taking this long to address the problem? I would love to see that block cleaned up!
Hey John, as many have had the same thought nothing really can be done here. It’s up to responsible landlords and government leadership to handle these problems.
Remember the days of NYPD patrolling street vendors vigorously, breaking up large crowds, escorting the homeless from the streets to shelters, etc. This doesn’t and cannot happen anymore under the new laws of our city and state. The police can do almost nothing on this block and many more like it anywhere in NYC.
It’s amazing how much the city has regressed in the 8 years DeBlasio was mayor. Not to mention the the virtual non-leadership during the pandemic where anything went and did. No street cleaning, no traffic stops, no controlling of escooters and gas scooters. Do you notice now how in NYC even gas scooters don’t follow the laws. I ride myself legally what this city has become is an abomination. People are breaking the law daily and in plain site.
We are in a true state of almost lawlessness.
As nice as the fruit vendor is on the corner of 70th notice how they have set up a 14-16 foot tent. How is that lawful?
Ever notice on this same block and other blocks all the street vendors park their cars illegally anywhere they want with no repercussions? They use them as storage vehicles and park illegally/double park all day.
Not that there weren’t mistakes made along the way. And in hindsight things can always be done better. But this city is so far gone compared to the days of Guilliani and Bloomberg. Love them or hate them, there are a lot of residents in this city that wish we were back in those times right now.
I split my time between LA and the UWS. Years ago as California was in a free fall of lawlessness and normalization of drug use – which compounded the homeless issues; I kept warning my NY friends that issues move west to east & be very careful what and who you vote in. California has become a one party state and say what you will about tour personal opposing party – there is a reason checks & balances are necessary to get things done and hold politicians accountable. Sometimes voting the other party to oppose a politician sends a warning signal and wake up call for those voted in to represent their districts.
There was a significant homeless presence on this plaza during the Bloomberg years,
Like many, you don’t seem very familiar with NYC before commenting.
Yeah, you’re right about DeBlasio and I’m not enamored with Adams either who is all talk and no action. Rudy was right for the time but now he has gone completely off the rails. Bloomberg will go down as one of the best mayors this city has ever had.
I think the rank and file of the Police Dept. needs a swift kick in the keister. Instead of talking to each other in groups and looking at their cell phones, they need to crack down on the pettiest of crimes. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that repeat offenders continue to commit crimes if they know they will out on the street without repercussions.
All the obstructions on the block need to be removed. The fruit stand like you mentioned, the table and chairs from the pizza joint (in the middle of the sidewalk) the bicycle racks and any other street vendors. Time to move the kids along who congregate in front of McDonalds as well. And if you don’t like the leases granted to certain businesses, the developers and not the co-op shareholders of that building need to be leaned on.
“I targeted it because it is known as a problem block,” she said, noting she has long received complaints about it, even before the pandemic.
This stretch of Amsterdam has been sleazy and dangerous for years. It is frightening to enter the McDonald’s. People openly smoke pot on the street. Homeless and derelicts congregate there.
Worst of all, there’s an elementary school a block away and parents have to walk their kids by this mess.
After all this time Brewer finally decides to pay attention to this street with a “pop up” shop.
It’s pathetic it took so many years to get her attention. Her response will likely be to conduct a study of the problems and to have meetings with members of the community and business owners.
In other words, NOTHING will get done.
Stop talking that crazy talk! This is GALE BREWER. Just look at her effectiveness over the years! Why only 12 years ago she promised to spearhead a program to raise all the money West Park Presbyterian Church would need for its restoration and look at it today! There is nothing like our representative, Gale.
She’s been very effective over the years — which is why she keeps getting re-elected. Apparently, you and your anonymous name and anonymous photo shield you from having anyone point out that you most likely have not attended any community meetings in the past 30 years.
Yes, that block is a hot mess and out of control, with barely any place to walk without crashing into someone or something. It needs to be better organized without the bicycles nearly hitting people, and way too much outdoor seating. It’s also become a crime magnet – either McDonald’s or the those new weed joints. And it’s filthy, with a lot of pizza rats. Horrible place for pedestrians, which I basically avoid day and night.
I feel like a lot of the reason this block is problematic is due to the shops that the landlord/management of 201 W. 71st. Why do they keep only renting to some of the worst types of stores? Did they really need to sign leases with TWO smoke shops?
It was awful before those two shops, actually.
And if the fruit guy’s tent bothers some, I like it because it’s a kind of sheltered pathway. I just feel a bit guilty for not buying fruit when I use it. I wish the tent covered the whole entire side of the street, on the way to the subway.
I am not president of her fan club but I give her credit for making the effort to be there. She cannot create change by herself but she can try to get something done. Thank you Ms. Brewer.
What this block needs is an old fashioned police officer telling people to “move along.” No loitering on this block, regardless of who you are. No teenagers hanging out. No elderly people kibbitzing. No parents stopping to wipe their baby’s nose. Apply this equally to everyone. It is not how we normally do things on the UWS but it is what is necessary at the moment.
HELLO – LOITERING IS LEGAL IN THIS STATE AND CITY.
Yes – EVERYONE can stand there ALL DAY and NIGHT and the NYPD have NO RIGHTS to move them.
If everyone would speak up to their elected officials about this – then maybe they would listen and something would get done. It is ridiculous that this goes on BUT YES, IT DOES.
AGAIN – IT’S LEGAL TO STAND THERE ALL DAY AND BLOCK STORES AND THE SIDEWALKS doing whatever questionable things There is no “move along” any more. This is our pathetic law in place now and Gale has NO DESIRE to change it. I know.
Not sure if I made myself clear as this upsets me so much. It is the loitering (lurking, hanging around, standing around and congregating for hours, smoking pot) that is fully legal and there are no rights for store owners to say anything.
Just want people to note that the NYPD are not legally allowed to make anyone move which is what I find ridiculous. This jeopardizes people’s safety when it is abused, which it is here.
Is disturbing the peace legal? Ask the residents of that building if the noise from the crowd hanging around McDonald’s, the pizza joint or other shops bothers them. I’m sure they would like to see them “moved along”.
What is disturbing the peace? The law allows them to talk as loudly as they like, aggressively come up to people, block the stores all day. The laws allow “freedom of speech” otherwise knows as aggressive panhandling. I wish it were not the case but every elected official seems to think it’s just fine and we can’t do anything about it. I have tried desperately. More people have to speak up.
I live at 201. The block is a problem but please don’t blame the building. The coop does not control the store front leases. When the building went coop the developers kept control of that part of the building. They have signed up the lessors of the stores and many in the building are just as peeved about them as others are. Many of the stores draw large crowds that hang out and that together with the nature of some the businesses causes the issues.
I’m assuming that it’s been many years since the building went co-op, and the developer continues to control the commercial space?
The developers always keep the retail spaces. Why would they sell them? The residential share holders of the co-op have no natural right to them.
Yes. Getting close to 40 years now, give or take a few years. Mr. Chused is spot on. The sponsor retained all of the commercial space. Our coop has no say is who rents space or what they do with that space.
Well, what company runs the commercial space AND the sidewalk maintenance?
Is it a management company for the original developer?
Is there a difference between the public sidewalk management, and the private part of the plaza?
It’s not the management company but I don’t know the name of the outfit that rents the space.
Nothing will get done because this is the new NYC. Brewer has no power to do anything. Landlords used to be selective in which tenants they chose before but not anymore. Anyone willing to sign a lease will be given a shot. This has much more to do with that specific building management and who they control as tenants more so then gov’t leadership. Nothing can be done here.
And these smoke shops appearing all over the city is an black mark on NYC. This is what happens when progressive leadership drag their feet trying to set up guidelines regarding recreational sales. Look at our neighbor NJ right across the river. They have real locations with real security and off duty cops providing security.
What NYC and NYS has proposed is a joke. To offer first priority to people who have suffered from unfair marijuana laws. This is the biggest joke of our generation. Who thought this would go well when first announced.
I’ve been to dispensaries in Las Vegas and they are run like secured institutions. Nothing like the joke of smoke shops and weed vans we see all over NYC.
This is just another example of another mishandled project/tax revenue stream. NJ sales are through the roof now. NYC/NYS could learn a lesson from other states as well as our neighbor.
I was eager to address my concerns ranging from safety, QOL so many weed shops, e bikes, homeless encampment, amongst other issues.
Unfort, while the event was slated to begin at 5:00, I waited until 5:30 and Ms Brewer had yet to arrive.
I left my info w her staffer, had hoped I’d hear back.
So far, no one has called or emailed.
You could always email her directly at email@example.com. She responds personally to that email.
Will Brewer be able to get 20th Precinct cops back to enforcement actions? Their presence and productivity have been markedly reduced since the June 2020 demonstrations. A city-wide phenomenon and problem.
Completely agree – NYPD has completely stopped enforcement of QoL and traffic offenses and has successfully allowed politicians to take the blame…
Just yesterday I was walking south on Broadway, around 79th. The light turned red on all north/south traffic… but not all; not for three motorized scooters, mopeds, electric scooters… sailing through the intersection without so much as a ‘by your leave’, free as they pleased, seemingly without even looking, & certainly not slowing down.
The law turning such an obviously nonchalant blind eye away from people who spit on it fills me to bursting with anger.
Did anyone consider that part of the problem on this block–other than its proximity to the 72nd Street subway station–is the coop building that rents to businesses that attract a problematic clientele?
If the shareholders of 201 West 70th Street (One Sherman Square) allow their board to rent to smoke shops, cheap pizzerias, etc, this is one result.
The stores belong to the original sponsor. Shareholders of the building have no control.
Who is the sponsor?
The shareholders of 201 have NO control over the commercial leases. We wish we did and bring it up any chance we get. This is our home too and we’d choose safety every time. The original developers control those leases and don’t share the same priorities.
201 Resident is right! We have no say in who rents the commercial space. The majority of us are as disturbed by the conditions as you are, Eric. And maybe more so because we live right on top of the eye sore.
re CBD Shops. can anyone point to crimes directly connected to them? it’s a legal product.
Two gunpoint robberies – including one where the robber shot someone – at the all-night CBD spot in the past month or so. Plus a stabbing in June at the the McDonald’s.
I appreciate the fact Gale had this meeting, up, but holding it on the last Tuesday in August at 5 PM in the week leading into the Labor Day holiday weekend was not the optimum time for a Town Hall on the critical issue of public safety. I appreciate also the fact Gale is making herself available to speak to constituents. During my recent campaign for NYS Senate I made it my business to walk the entire district once a week, and over 4 months of Street canvassing, I spoke with countless people one on one. This is what public servants need to do regularly, not just every few years on a target block that’s been a blight on the neighborhood for a long time. So please, Gale, do this more often, and with the 20th and 24th Precincts present.
As for public safety on UWS, I want to say there is a marked difference in QOL/ safety outside West 60’s to high West 80’s or so. . Those who live in safer areas should be aware that many of our neighbors live in much higher risk areas, where shootings, stabbings are robberies happen with more frequency. So while I like the idea of addressing this particular block and it’s specific issues, we do need comprehensive solutions that will reduce crime throughout Manhattan. We can start by fixing subway crime and getting on a path to restoring our commercial districts, attracting more investments and creating jobs. An unemployment rate that is double the national average is a contributor to the crime wave. Albany needs to fix some of our criminal laws so that judges can consider a person’s entire past record Of criminal activity, so recidivists are not returned to the streets.
BTW Thank you to everyone who voted for me! Over 10K votes was phenomenal.
Maria – thank you for you comment. I am chiming in from the UES, but these issues impact us all. In terms of restoring our commercial districts, and addressing street crime and attracting new business and tourists we must reform Local Law 11. The spread of scaffolding is a total blight and a drag on our recovery. There is another article on the issue recently in this publication, so I won’t revisit everything, but businesses are being severely impacted with shop keepers reporting a drop in retails sales of 20% or more when their shops are covered by scaffolds.. NY is the only major city with this ridiculous self-imposed burden and we have the power to reform it. Other major cities require inspections only every 10 years, and stagger them based on primary materials used in the structure (stone, curtain wall, etc..). We also need to increase and enforce penalties when scaffolds are left up more than the period of the permit. If our city looks like a dump. Why would anyone visit or invest here.
I’m sure that a long reply is appreciated by many, but your lengthy statement simply talks around issues and does not address any directly. It almost looks like a copy-and-paste job out of Wikipedia.
I know you are a hopeful politician, but really, please cease with the double-speak and focus on specific solutions. We have shootings, stabbings, and robberies–not to mention an ever-present sense of insecurity–and want action, not glibness.
That’s pretty rude. Clearly you are frustrated and scared as many of us are. Maria offered many actionable solutions as part of her campaign, both campaigns. Things like getting more police out, pressuring Albany to revisit bail and raise the age laws, working with small businesses to get stores filled, efforts to expand educational opportunities and create job training. I could go on but don’t want to repeat wikipedia. The person who won, he stated clearly during the debate that he doesn’t see an unusual spike in crime, is proud of his efforts to change bail laws, and played a big part in the solutions for a designated gun free zone in Time Square. Maybe direct your aggression at him and see if he can hang signs here? He also felt outreach workers should wear brightly colored and labeled shirts so that everyone knows that they are out there. Who did you vote for?
Eric, I ran for State Senate on a specific public safety platform, including making needed changes to State laws. My comment above states specifically what changes need to be made. Safety should be the top priority of every elected leader and I will continue to shine a light on any elected who is not willing to prioritize public safety.
Unfortunately, I learned that very few Dems running for office in NYC will even talk about crime. My heart breaks over every act of violence, and I am concerned for the safety of every single person. For this reason, I will continue to speak out on this issue and continue to push for public safety for everyone even when criticized for doing so. Just a few weeks ago there was a string of violent sexual attacks, including one literally on my doorstep. I am anything but glib on this issue.
Gale’s meeting was the first our community has had on this topic in years since her predecessor Helen Rosenthal actually wanted to abolish the police. I think we need more focus on this subject and I want our elected leaders to know the community is paying attention.
Well, I voted for you, and I’m really very sorry you didn’t win
Hi Lawrence. Thank you for voting for me. We will keep fighting for public safety. I will continue to attend the precinct meetings regularly. If you want to join the mailing list to get updates just sign up on my website.
What specific solutions are Gale or more importantly Brad Hoylman proposing? I assume you voted for the latter even though he continues to deny that there is any correlation between vagrancy and degenerate behavior and repeatedly letting criminals out with no bail. I guess I should be grateful he finally conceded that crime is up.
To me, let them out but have another course for them otherwise it’s rinse and repeat. What will change if nothing else in their life changes? Nobody is being locked up in jail for turning a library book in late yet again. Criminals break laws. That is what they do. Past behavior is the best indicator or future performance except in the stock market. A criminal isn’t going to wake up one day and say, “I’d like to be an office worker, let me go buy a suit.”
i have lived on the uws 40 yrs . I have not been on the subway in 4 years mor have i gone below 79 st in 2 yrs . The city is a sewer i am moving out . As a life long new yorker let the police do their job put the criminal in jail .Get the homeless off the street . Until this is done the city i used to love with never be back or livable
I mean, might as well move out if you’re not taking advantage of this city at all… Let younger people move in.
Sorry, older people are in your way?
Agree – It’s the randomness and all the gang related violence. These unregistered scooters are the perfect getaway vehicles for swooping in and making a quick exit. The city is out of control, there is no leadership, no recourse, and the electeds spend their days smoking their own weed as they reimagine Progressivism and the Emperor’s New Clothes.
I am always amused by the individuals who feel the need to announce their plans to leave New York. So go already! The rest of us will be here standing by the city — we know that New York has persevered through tough circumstances more times than anyone can count. No one ever wins by betting against us.
There was actually a time when this block was quite pleasant, a time that precedes the reign of the great Wilhelm, when electric bikes had actually been banned, our streets were not overrun by crazies in the name of compassion, and our public servants didn’t cherry pick laws to enforce. Now we have handcuffed ourselves with our own wokeness and pols like Gale throw up their hands and say: “Hey! it’s complicated”.
Of course it is complicated. It is a downright self imposed mess. We have created an environment where we dare not act to do anything that remotely resembles common sense, lest we offend even a little insect on the ground.
Until we really wake up and vote these non-sensical regressive “progressives” out of office and replace them with practical concensus builders, the situation will not improve.
How come I only read about this meeting AFTER it’s over? Perhaps it would have been nice to attend this meeting in person? Are all the notices for meeting such as this one on facebook (I’m not on facebook) or what?
Perhaps the whole concept of “pop-up” means that no one knows in advance about them (which makes little sense).
It reminds me of a couple months ago: walking down 72nd, I noticed a line of people hold large amounts of papers; upon questioning one of the burdened line-holder, I was told Linda Rosenthal was sponsoring a several-hours-long shredding session, which she allegedly does twice a year… this was fairly useless to learn at that late time, as I had, in the last several months spent over a $100 to shred various records & files.
It would of been nice to have been informed about that in advance too.
Mystery services; how twee.
PS- Maybe it IS my fault that I’m out of the loop, but aside from facebook (which I will not join) how is one informed IN ADVANCE about such public occasions?
PPS- Kudos to the West Side Rag for at least reporting about these matters, even though they’re over and done with.
Thanks for your comment. I did know about the shredding event—I think I received the flyer in the mai. I’m also not on FB and did not know about Brewer’s pop-up, which I would have attended.
Hi again. Gale’s weekly e mail blast is a good source for events. She announced the Tuesday meeting on this. You should be able to sign up for it on her government website.
You can take the initiative to sign up for their email newsletters. I don’t think either use snail mail anymore except around election time. This is how people communicate nowadays. Or maybe see if they will personally call you. Worth an ask especially if you give them your vote?
You can also buy a shredder for your home. They are not all that expensive and you can shred the most sensitive types of documents as needed. Make sure you buy one that has a built-in waste basket that can be easily removed and emptied. I’ve had mine for several years and love it. I have no need to go to ‘Shredding” events ever.
Kudos to Gale for taking the time to listen to the people. Maybe if Alvin Bragg and DeBlasio and the State Senate took the time, tens of thousands would not have fled
Maybe the intent is for people to leave which makes room for a whole new kind of New Yorker. There sure has been a steady stream of people , many who are reliant on big government supportive services. That pipeline continues to grow. Maybe all this chaos isn’t so random afterall? People reliant on big govt are more reliable voters?
Completely agree. That seems to be one of the goals.
In the case of 71st specifically/ several of the commenters pointed to the root cause in this case – the developers who oversee leasing of those businesses. Those are the people, including Gail Brewer, who must find a solution through them. And I really don’t buy that the co-op board at 201 can’t do more, a LOT more to force the developers to do something. Maybe the residents should kick out their current board and put new people in whose main focus is to do anything it takes to fix it.
Did you read the last post re: the coop at 201 West 70th? The master lease separates the commercial businesses—storefronts and parking garage—from the residences. Our board has no leverage, legal or otherwise, over the developer’s activities, nor do we get any rental income from the commercial businesses. None of us want the mess out there on Amsterdam to continue. It’s as odious to the residents as it is to everyone in the neighborhood. I spoke to Hoylman about the CBD stores and he said it’s the Mayor’s responsibility.
This used to be such a pleasant block with nice little places to get a bite to eat. A nice big Starbucks, Paris Baguette, Pokebab, Little Italy, McDonald’s, Pinkberry.
A good lesson in not letting the criminal element take even an inch..
The fruit vendor keeps his area spotless. He takes pride in his area. He is also just trying to make a living legally. He is polite and helpful. There is nothing wrong with his arm.
I agree! I would NOT like to see him get pushed out. He sells good products and keeps everything neat and organized. Please don’t include him in the list of problems on this block.
I called many politicians months ago when schools were in session. Finally some action.
It’s appalling. My hope is that at long last someone Will actually address this issue. When a police officer was asked about this his response was “Our hands are tied.”
Really??? That block has never been this bad.
Hate to say it, but the Macca’s has to go. It attracts a bad crowd that hangs out on the street because they can’t camp out in the restaurant itself. McDonalds is also synonymous with litter. For whatever reason many people seem to just buy food there so they can throw the containers and bags on the ground. It is sad that this block has been de-gentrified.
McDs has been there for many, many years, and pre-dates all these issues. Why should they have to leave because voters and cops are on sabbatical?
so what is this article trying to convey ? how is a smoke shop , a McDonalds and a pizza shop considered a “pop up district” and if its was … annd ?? whats the issue ? I have a feeling people are forgetting that we live in one of the largest most diverse cities in the world. if you feel that you need to live a quiet suburban life ,then please go ahead. this sensationalization is going to do nothing but misinform people on the problems of our city.
The smoke shop and smoke van proliferation shows what a total joke rule of law is in NY. I support legalization 100 percent. Doing it without a plan overnight just drives out responsible actors and cedes everything to criminals. drug dealer trucks parked at major intersections like 96 and Broadway are disgusting and an affront to the idea that laws are followed in this city.
Funny you picked up on the trucks at 96th and Broadway. Literally the busiest intersection on the UWS. They have no (reason to) fear.
I don’t live in this neighborhood, but I have multiple doctors at Lincoln Terrace and walk down that block often. I have never felt threatened or bothered by the bikes or the tables outside McDonald’s. That is a very wide sidewalk, about twice as wide as the usual sidewalk, and seems to me there is room for most of what is there. As for “loitering,” you should know that such laws have always been disproportionately applied to what whoever is considered “the wrong kind” of people, the “not like us” kind of people.
I wasn’t there but I hope the issue of motorcycles running red lights at 79th and beyond was mentioned as a serious safety concern.
Oops that’s 70th street where motorcycles run the red lights.