A Glorious UWS 800-Person Wave Turns Back the Tide
Neighbors, as many of you already well know, there's been a true blue spectacle of a miracle come true.
Our beloved West Side Rag got in there first to cover a familiar sad song and then, heroically, to amplify the message of a couple New Yorkers who'd thrown up their sashes, mad as Hades, screaming "I'm not going to take it anymore."
It all started just a few short days ago when WSRag writer Carol Tannenhauser and publisher Avi Salzman put out into the ether a melancholic story the likes of which we've read time and time before. Death by a thousand cuts of Mom & Pops gone down. This time it was Westsider Books, longtime purveyor of used books at Broadway and 81st Street, putting out the last call and walking over to the light switch to call it a day.
What ensued was just plain amazing to watch in real time. Bobby Panza, inspired by a line in Carol's article, fired up a crowdfunder page on GoFundMe. Local philanthropist Sally Martell fueled the endeavor with a jump-starting $10K donation; the Rag got in there with its great coverage (major hat tip to Avi for being the pillar of UWS communications), and then other press outlets and booklover fora amplified the message thanks to Bobby. In what seems like a blink over $50K was raised from 818 (and counting) donors from near and far at an average donation of 64 bucks.
That's right. You heard me. A line in the sand was drawn. A few angels lofted up on their wings. And a veritable flood of good-willed neighbors and bibliofolks stopped 'taking it' and started a grassroots blaze of love for...wait for it...used books. Books! Old New York. Simple, old-time, hardworking merchants. Honest trade. City texture. Cultural color. Apparently, we, together, hold these truths to be self evident.
That 50K enables the store's owners to live another day, to bridge to the future, and to remain. For now.
Old Bloomingdaler Christopher Ming Ryan got in there like he did for Joon Fish Market (covered in Part 2 of this series) and captured it on film with Evan Fairbanks in yet another beautiful mini-documentary. (If you are an email subscriber of this blog, to see it you have to go to the blog post title above and read this post online).
Readers, that is what I call an excellent day in the neighborhood. But we're not off the hook. Lights go out up and down Broadway every month. And if we are not putting our boots on the ground and crossing their thresholds to support them, we have no right to be perturbed.
Put down your tablets and laptops and go drop some cash at our hardware stores, cobblers, delis (if you can find them), small restaurants and specialty stores. Tell them you love them with your business. Tell our city officials that commercial storefront vacancies are intolerable and antithetical to thriving cities.
And then bask in the glory of this miracle come true. The miracle is you.
With thanks to Bobby, Sally, Avi, Carol, Chris, Evan and to the owners of the 818 feet that were put firmly down punctuating the collective cry: "no more!" My heart is full of love for you all. And to the owners and staff of Westsider Books, long may you ride.