By Edith S. Marks, West Side Spirit Block Mayor
Ideally, every block will undertake to transform itself into a miniature park such as that of the 90th Street Block Association. Because of its active role in establishing block parties for special events, neighbors from other blocks join in. But there is no reason that each block can't develop its own itinerary.
The variety of small businesses, known colloquially as the "Mom & Pop" stores, traditionally offer unique services and merchandise. Unfortunately, rent hikes in the past several years have worked against the continuation of these stores. As they close or move to locations where the rents are lower, chain stores move in, replacing variety with a sameness of merchandise found all over the city, and for that matter, across the U.S. We need to have some kind of rent control for small business that will allow them to continue participating in the business community of the Upper West Side.
Housing, in particular, is a problem. While market rate housing has restored quality of life on the Upper West Side, housing for the middle class has lagged behind. We need a revival of the Mitchell-Lama program that will allow struggling residents to afford decent housing. Many of these original buildings have gone co-op, allowing the residents to continue to upgrade the property and add to the luster of the neighborhood.
Lastly, we need to keep the West Side as green as possible both by a positive program of recycling and encouragement to have more green spaces for rest and relaxation such as that provided by The West Side Community Garden.