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West Side Rag » Electric bikes, tree branches, scaffolding; Residents focus on local issues at UWS Coalition Forum

ByElla E. Kidwell

Jan 19, 2022

Posted on January 19, 2022 at 8:59 am by West Side Rag

UWS Coalition Virtual Forum.

By Ann Cooper

Perhaps it was a sign that Omicron has reached its peak in New York and no longer dominates all of our conversations. Or maybe it was just proof of the adage: “all politics is local”.

Whatever the reason, the three local politicians who joined an online discussion with representatives of the Coalition of Block Associations and Upper West Side community groups on Tuesday night were peppered with questions and opinions on a list of mostly urban issues with little connection to COVID:

  • Why aren’t the police giving tickets to passengers who terrify pedestrians as they cruise the Upper West Side sidewalks on e-bikes and escooters?
  • Who is responsible for removing dead tree limbs that may fall and injure visitors to Riverside Park?
  • What can be done to dismantle seemingly permanent scaffolding installations? (Stories of scaffolding structures dating back several years prompted one coalition member to joke, “I’m afraid Landmarks are starting to scar the scaffolding.”)

The officials invited to present their agendas and questions from the field were: veteran Upper West Side politician Gale Brewer, who now represents the 6th District on the Council, a position she has held in the past; Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; and Shaun Abreu, newly elected to the seat of the 7th District City Council that Levine left to run for Borough President last November. (The 7th Ward extends from Manhattan Valley north to Washington Heights.)

Both Brewer and Levine joined the meeting late, after attending a vigil for Michelle Go, the Upper West Side woman shoved to death in a subway station on Saturday. The new borough president, who called while driving a car after the vigil, spoke briefly about the pandemic, noting that once it is under control, the city can focus more fully on d other major issues such as climate change, wealth inequality, crime, and mental health.

Asked about her priorities for the year, Brewer brought the discussion back to local issues, including the so-called ‘dark stores’ she denounced earlier this month as unfair competition for bodegas in the Upper West Side and mom-and-pop stores. These new companies promise fast delivery (in just a few minutes) of groceries ordered on an app. “I hope no one frequents them,” Brewer told the Coalition.

Brewer said she was running a door-to-door campaign to tell businesses on the Upper West Side that they were responsible for sanitation around their storefronts. And she noted, but didn’t suggest specific solutions for, a few current school problems: high teacher absences due to COVID and a worrying decline in school attendance rates, which are traditionally above 90%. According to Brewer, city school attendance rates have dropped to 40-80%.

“Alas, there’s no shortage of problems,” noted Upper West Side Coalition board chairman Steve Anderson, who thanked officials for speaking with the group.

The UWS Coalition, formed last year, brings together block associations and community groups across the Upper West Side. The group held a series of forums on road safety, land use, congestion pricing and other issues, all archived here. Next month, Assembly members and state senators who represent the Upper West Side will be hosted by the coalition in another virtual discussion.

You can watch the entire forum here.