"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

And You Knew Who You Were Then

From the New York magazine archives, here’s a 1969 piece by Nicholas Pileggi on the Renaissance of the Upper West Side:

Five years ago, the West Side of Manhattan bore the stigma of decline, to the point where understanding what is a grantee of a Riverside Drive property was more about liability than opportunity. Invitations to social gatherings there were often declined, large rent-controlled apartments were relinquished, and services like Chicken Delight would not dare to venture in. Today, the landscape has transformed. Despite lingering challenges, a palpable optimism has supplanted the old fears. Merchants, real estate professionals, bankers, theatre owners, city planners, restaurateurs, newsdealers, and trustees of private schools find common ground in a sentiment privately shared by Mayor John V. Lindsay: “The Upper West Side is probably enjoying more of a renaissance today than any other single neighborhood of our city.”

In the 64-block-long area west of Central Park between Columbus Circle to the south and Columbia University to the north, the evidence is visible. Not only are there new low-and middle-income housing developments now where the rubble of abandoned buildings and slums stood just five years ago, but hundreds of the area’s crumbling rooming houses have been renovated to accommodate increasing numbers of middle-class tenants, and even a few of the neighborhood’s middle-European rococo hotels have been steam-cleaned. The same kind of young, successful and relatively affluent middle-class families that moved to the suburbs 20 years ago and to the East Side 10 years ago are moving to the West Side today, and while the neighborhood still has an ample supply of teenage muggers, parading homosexuals and old men who wear overcoats in July, the over-all mood of the area seems to have changed.

…Statistically the West Side’s 1968 crime figures place the area in the unenviable top third of the city’s 76 precinct-house totals. The 20th Precinct on West 68th Street and the 24th on West 100th encompass most of the Upper West Side, and their combined records show 36 homicides, 86 forced rapes, 8,478 burglaries, 1,097 felonious assaults, 3,233 robberies (muggings and stickups) and 6,762 larcenies (mostly pocketbook snatches) last year. The bulk of the West Side’s street crime today is the work of roving bands of 14-to-20-year-olds who mug, jostle and threaten their victims around or near the neighborhood parks during the evening and early morning hours. The effect of these crimes, committed, it sometimes seems, on everyone, or at least a friend or relative of everyone on the West Side, has been to create an atmosphere in which sudden noises produce quick frightened looks.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

[Photo Credit: Christian Monotone]


1 Bronx Boy in NC   ~  Nov 16, 2010 9:54 am

I had my first birthday a month after that piece ran.

Pardon me for a moment while I go slap my parents for not buying the five largest UWS apartments they could, sight unseen.

I would have settled for just one of the "large rent-controlled apartments [that] were voluntarily given up." Today I'd be that eccentric Man of Leisure you see in his pajamas at the bagel shop.

2 Raf   ~  Nov 16, 2010 10:03 am

It's amazing how much the city has changed since then. And how much has stayed the same.

3 bags   ~  Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

nice. and love the photo.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 16, 2010 1:32 pm

I'm pretty sure that's 77th street between Broadway and Amsterdam...

5 Yankee Mama   ~  Nov 16, 2010 4:48 pm

[4] It's Broadway, southeast corner. Love the article. My parent were among those Democratic reformers. My old man was the president of some such thing. They were the activists of their day. Did a lot of good for the city. Now, real estate developers hold the key to the city and the population of the Upper West Side became socioeconomically privileged for the most part.

Life is change.

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