Losing the streets

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Rome is burning but the kind we planned to rail about before the heinous deadly truck attack was the record number of small biz closures in 2017 and how we’ve just got to stop fiddling. But first, thankfully, there’s no fiddling reaction to a one-man terrorist fatally mowing down eight young people bicycling and walking on a secure bike/walking path in Manhattan. Many others were terribly injured. The whole world is appalled and concerned that such abominable acts can happen — anywhere. But while all-out attention is being paid to prevention and justice, let’s not forget the continuing all-out support the grieving and the injured desperately need.

But the Burning Rome we’ve long been concerned about — losing our neighborhood small-business lifelines, was brought further to the fore by Arlene Kayatt’s Nov. 1 column in this space, “Beauty Street and Future Avenue,” warning about East 86th Street’s stores and eateries likely being replaced by yet more condo high-rises. That is except for a bevy of “beauty salons” we really don’t need. The last 86th Street movie house may also go. Even a medical center seems doomed. So many small retail stores and eateries have already been lost, including my favorite corner diner on First Avenue. And not to mention the loss of relatively affordable rental housing — homes. But where is the protest? We’ve got to get Nero to stop fiddling — in general, all over the city, to save and restore these veritable lifelines, which make the city so livable for all.

Why, oh why is Nero still fiddling? I recall U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s press conference welcoming Fairway to East 86th, which some of us worried could burden small grocery stores and even the large corner Gristedes, which is now also a memory along with the East End Gristedes where its longtime staff are still in touch with some of their elder patrons, Ah, far too little is said about the profound loss also felt by displaced business workers. Again, not only on the East Side I’m most familiar with, but all over the city — all over the city.

Sure, of course, you’re concerned and want to help if you just knew how or “had more time.” Well, again, for starters, check out this paper’s Useful Contacts column and call the officials listed there. Sure thank them, but also gently (at first) remind them that government’s first duty is to protect public welfare and these small stores and affordable eateries are veritable lifelines, especially, but not only for disabled or elder New Yorkers. They create community and neighborliness – prevent isolation. They make the city safer. Ah, yes, tell them how you suffer from the loss of your neighborhood lifelines. And use that strong verb! Indeed so much untold suffering results – and these stories must get out there, and in media, media, media. Not to mention the “social kind.”

Most unfortunately, these losses have not become an election issue, which could get voters out, if not in record numbers, then in higher ones that the record low we could approach. And it might just be standing-room-only at civic meetings where saving and restoring these lifelines are the number one order of public business. I wish the meeting notice for the highly active East 79th Street Neighborhood Association read “ROME IS BURNING – HELP US SAVE NEIGHBORHOOD BIZ!” It’s Thursday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. — at Temple Shaaray Tefila (79th and Second). Oh, the association’s catchment area includes much of the Upper East Side and with citywide concerns.

Ditto also for the 19th Precinct Community Council meetings that take place each first Monday of the month at the 67th Street precinct. Next time make it “HELP SAVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD BIZ TO PREVENT CRIME!” but do urge community relations officers (They’re at 212-452-0613) to make this a priority. Rome is burning.

And again, it can be done if enough of us try — if enough of us try. Thank you, Arlene, for your warning bells.

Concerned thoughts/ideas to dewingbetter@aol.com. To be continued, of course.

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