Upper West Side Doesn’t Like What It Sees in the Mirror

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Anywhereswille, U.S.A., or the UWS? Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

You might be planning to hit up the Bed, Bath and Beyond or the Apple Store or the Barnes and Noble uptown this weekend, but the Upper West Side is very concerned that it not be perceived as a place for big-box shopping. That's why a neighborhood commission recently pushed back against a candy store they thought was too Jersey-mall (the exact phrase they used was "tarted up," in fact). Here's one typical neighborhood resident, whom the Times thought important to identify by her alma mater, perhaps, one can only assume, because she brought it up.

Susanna Brock, 27, a Harvard graduate who teaches at a private school in the area, lamented how hard it was to find “interesting boutique stores” in which to browse. “If I come out during one of my breaks, there’s no store to go into,” she said. “What am I going to do, look at toothpaste at Duane Reade?”

Although one urban planning professor, Mitchell L. Moss, told the paper that perhaps the neighborhood has only itself to blame (maybe the area, "once an enclave of professionals in relatively low-paying intellectual trades, was drawing chain stores because it has different newcomers, many of them affluent") the cri de coeur of put-upon souls like Susanna isn't falling on deaf ears. It's why the city is proposing to re-zone the neighborhood in such a manner as to discourage chain stores. No new store could have a ground floor wider than 40 feet, which would make it awfully hard to put in, say, a Target. How will Upper West Side residents ever find all the goods and services they need?

One Duane Reade on Amsterdam Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets, takes up more than three-fourths of the block; a Chase Bank on Broadway between 89th and 90th takes up half a block. One side of Amsterdam between 76th and 77th consists almost entirely of an Equinox gym, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Crumbs cupcakes and Giggle baby products.

Oh. They should be okay, then.