West Side Stories: 24th Anniversary

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Back in 1985, a plucky little weekly started appearing in Manhattan news boxes. Those days don’t feel so far away, perhaps because the issues we covered in our early years have a lot in common with today’s news: local politics, schools and, of course, the city’s rollercoaster real estate market.

Then again, so much has changed. Whereas stories of hookers and drug gangs once filled our pages, crime today is at record lows.

To celebrate our 24th year, we browsed through the archives to highlight a few headlines of years’ past. Looking back at the 1980s and early 1990s always makes us smile. After all, who would have thought that Ray Bans and skinny jeans would be back in style? We hope you enjoy the nostalgia, too.

Who’ll Enforce the Smoking Ban?

May 29, 1988
Remember smoking in the office? Lighting up in a restaurant? West Side Spirit covered the city’s first significant attempt to banish cigarette smoke from the air we breathe, the Clean Indoor Air Act of 1988. Somewhere, Mayor Bloomberg was taking notes.

The Pin-Stabbers and the System

Jan. 30, 1990
In the fall of 1989, a series of pin-stabbing attacks, which appeared to be racially motivated, left many women fearful of walking the streets. West Side Spirit  investigated an alarming trend of racially motivated gang crime and what the city was doing to stem it.

Street Hookers Invade West End Avenue

July 17, 1990
“I’m tired of kicking robbers off the front steps,” one resident of 605 West End Ave., at West 89th Street, told us. Prostitution, long a problem on Broadway between West 87th and 94th streets, crossed the line onto West End Avenue. Later that year, we reported how a pimp and his two prostitutes did booming business on West 30th Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues while a recently renovated office building nearby stood empty. The building’s owner blamed sex workers for keeping away paying tenants.

The Wild Man of West 96th Street

What happens when a dangerous homeless man adopts a neighborhood that doesn’t want him?
Feb. 18, 1992
This story, which investigated the black hole between the overwhelmed mental health system and overwhelmed criminal justice system, was West Side Spirit’s claim to fame. The paper chronicled Larry Hogue, a homeless man whose behavior terrorized residents of the West 96th Street environs. From running naked in traffic to pushing a teen in front of an oncoming truck (she was unharmed), the “Wild Man’s” activities were known to police, the city’s emergency psychiatric wards, the veteran’s hospital and other municipal bodies. Yet no one was able to get him off the streets.

The story generated a slew of media interest, from local television stations to 60 Minutes.

Lights, Cameras…But Little Action

Film industry members on West Side hurt as productions move outside the city
May 12, 1992
“There’s no work anymore,” one Teamster told us. “I’ve taken a $30,000 drop in pay this year. I’m about to go on welfare.” A recession coupled with cities that offered cheaper labor led to a 70 percent drop in filming for commercial productions, some estimated.

But then…

Studio City

With movie production booming, all the West Side’s a stage, and the residents are merely extras
January 7, 1999
Nearly seven years later, the tables have turned. The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting forecasted another record year of filming in the city. The industry was estimated to bring in $2.37 billion to the city’s economy, not to mention 78,000 jobs. But residents were quick to point to the downside: parking problems, impassable sidewalks and a general feeling that film crews had free reign over neighborhoods.

The Manhattan Yankees?

Baseball owner George Steinbrenner considers moving the Bronx Bombers to the West Side
July 1, 1993
Before the Jets were going to move to Manhattan, Gov. Mario Cuomo and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner debated the merits of moving the team to Manhattan (ah, the lure of the West Side rail yards).

The Invisible Fare

When blacks try to hail a yellow cab in Manhattan, all drivers see is a red flag
Dec. 2, 1993
Two or our reporters—one black, one white—hit the streets to test just how much race affects the chances of catching a cab. Of the 30 taxis hailed, more than one-third passed the black reporter in favor of the white one up the street. About half the drivers who did stop refused to take the black reporter to destinations like Far Rockaway, East New York and Upper Manhattan.

Young, Talented and Deadly

The rise and fall of the Upper West Side’s Most Dangerous Gang
July 6, 1994
Three law enforcement agencies and scores of investigators finally ended the terror-filled reign of a Manhattan Valley gang called the Young Talented Children. West Side Spirit tells the story of these homegrown murderers who ran a $5-million-a-year crack cocaine empire.

The Comeback Kids

Why middle class children are returning to West Side public schools
October 5, 1994
P.S. 199, on West 70th Street, once had to recruit students from District 6 in Upper Manhattan. But thanks to a lingering recession and a rising number of attractive public school options, 1994’s parents lobbied to get their kids in the door.

The Rail World

For decades, dozens of people have found a home in the railroad tunnels beneath Riverside Park. Now under community pressure, Amtrak officials are telling them to make tracks.
July 27, 1995
Community concern and Amtrak’s plans to regrade the tunnel access road and repair broken gates and exits means the people who have called the tracks home have to go. A year later, a cover story documented the last tunnel dwellers to leave (Sept. 13, 1996).

And Then There Were Two

First, Eeyore’s died. Last week, Endicott Booksellers went belly up. Now, it’s the scrappy Shakespeare & Co. vs. the behemoth Barnes & Noble in a war to win the hearts and wallets of Upper West Siders.
August 24, 1995
West Siders explained that when it comes to literary direction, a romantic atmosphere and supporting small business, it’s Shakespeare & Co. But they also confessed to liking Barnes & Noble’s seating availability, prices and vast selection. The battle of the books began.

Eats Meets West

For years the Upper West Side has been saddled with a reputation as a culinary no-man’s land. Are the tables starting to turn?
Aug. 23, 1996
Tim Zagat gives the nod to Ansonia and Restaurant 222. They’re both gone now, but many more have moved in to fill their shoes.

Quality Control

Has the city, in its zeal for cleaner streets, made it a crime to be homeless?
Oct. 23, 1997
Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “quality of life” initiatives win praises, but some wonder if the coercive measures against the homeless—for example, prohibiting lying on benches—are alienating an already distrustful population.

New West Side Bar Crackdown

Burden of Proof
July 8, 1999
The days when teens could waltz into West Side waterholes without being held up with trifling matters like identification seem to be over. Our 1996 investigation found that an 18-year-old was served in 16 out of 20 local bars. In the summer of 1999, reporters well into their 20s were turned away at the door.

In: Upscale Chains. Out: Your Grocery Store

The changing face of commercial real estate on Upper Broadway
March 29, 2001
Ritzy brands like Coach and Godiva Chocolates moved into the neighborhood, while rumors swirled that grocer Broadway Market, on the corner of 85th Street, would be history. Today, the market is still in the food trade.

What’s Next for 2 Columbus Circle?

West Siders say city leaders are trying to circumvent the public in deciding the site’s fate
May 31, 2001
The ground is laid for what will turn out to be a pitched landmark battle. While West Side politicians and activists called for hearings on the future of the lollypop building, a movie was being filmed inside.

West Siders Rally

Heroes answer the call of their city
Sept. 30, 2001
Calhoun classmates raised money at a lemonade stand to donate to the Red Cross, just a fraction of the humanitarian efforts undertaken citywide in the wake of the World Trade Center collapse. Among other angles of the tragedy, the paper also reported on West Side Council candidate Gary Snyder, who took shelter from the hail of debris under a truck, and 19 firefighters from the Upper West Side who perished while trying to rescue others.

Near Victoria’s Secret, They Are Not Amused

Thong’s return to windows offends some neighbors
Oct. 10, 2002

Hackles are raised over sexy storefronts featuring garters and gauzy negligees. “You have to understand, it’s a lingerie store,” a saleswoman told us.

Here’s How the West Won Out

East Side waited hours more to get power restored
August 21, 2003
After one of the largest blackouts in New York City history, the paper reports that a string of Upper West Side apartments started getting electricity back fairly early—about 6 a.m. on Friday (the power had gone out Thursday afternoon).

Columbus Circle Getting Armani, CNN, Top Chefs, Even Madonna

Time Warner project plans grand opening in Feb.
Oct. 2, 2003
West Siders get details about the long-awaited opening of the Shops at Columbus Circle (some might call it a mall). Luxury apartments were filling up and Madonna was scheduled to preside over the opening ceremony for the Time Warner building.

Are Your Kids Safe at School?

Find out whether students should be carrying ‘mugging money’
March 2, 2006
An attempted mugging at M.S. 54 on the West Side prompted the paper to investigate what the Department of Education is doing to keep students safe.

Saving Grace

From sharing space to selling air rights, religious institutions look at new ways to solve their real estate challenges
Sept. 20, 2007
Congregation B’Nai Jeshrun, the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew and West-Park Presbyterian harmoniously share a building, but other space solutions to meet the needs of the city’s changing congregations have drawn fire.

Tourist Traps

Critics say hotels are illegally encroaching on much-needed housing, but building owners say the law isn’t so clear
Nov. 15, 2007

West Side Spirit takes a look a how renting out so-called hotel space to tourists degrades the city’s affordable housing stock.

Is Broadway Dying?

Empty storefronts on every block send the neighborhood a gloomy message
Feb. 14, 2008
A proliferation of chain drug stores and banks seems to be driving rents up and mom-and-pops out. Plus, the paper takes a look at one space—the northwest West 87th Street and Broadway—which sits empty as landlords (the Zabar family) try to find a non-banking tenant who will add something to the neighborhood.

Compiled by Charlotte Eichna

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