The corner grocery store sat on the corner of 78th Street and Amsterdam (375 Amsterdam) for over 30 years. It was like a lighthouse. It guided neighbors day and night.
It was a place where you could seek shelter from a storm. If it was late at night and someone unknown was making you uncomfortable you could walk in and someone at Westway would walk you home until you were safe. It was place for your delivery packages or your extra set of keys.
Before the advent of debit cards and ATMs, Westway would gave you cash for the taxi or let you take home eggs and milk without a cent in your wallet. They did this because they were family.
We saw our families grow. Each graduation from high school and college was shared with the same joy you would have for your own children.
When there was a black out, ice cream was handed out to anyone who wanted it. And when 9/11 arrived we wept together not just for the neighbor down the block who was lost but also for the firefighters around the corner.
We worried for those who were back in the Middle East, that they would be free from harm. We hugged each other publicly.
They serviced countless parents and students from the Collegiate School, Rodeph Sholom, P.S. 87, and P.S. 334 (on West 77th Street). They knew each child like their own.
It is true that they were not the prettiest and newest store. It was probably hard to decide to pay rent increases and reduce profits to pay for a fresh coat of paint. It was hard to compete with a Duane Reade that decided to sell food. But they stayed through the economic turmoil. Finally they could stay no longer.
A city is more than its buildings. It is about community. Every time a building is razed and small business lost we lose a piece of the fabric that blankets us and makes us feel safe. I am sad to lose a piece of my family.
We cannot continue to let this happen in a great city at the peril of being just any other city.
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