RESPECT – Holly Lynch – Medium
Whenever I need insight on NYC, its history, what’s important right now, or even just what’s showing at Lincoln Center, I ask one of the many “senior advisors” I volunteer with every Tuesday and Friday. So, when I needed to know what makes living on the Upper West Side so special, I turned to Mary-Ellen Grimes, a 77-year-old resident of west 68th Street and Mavis Swire, a 98-year-old lifelong resident of the lower West 60s. And their resounding response was “Location! Location! Location!”
Despite the economic, criminal, drug and “livability” issues the neighborhood has seen over the past century, the Upper West Side has been home to Mary- Ellen, Mavis and many like them who have given their lives to deliver that very “livability” we all enjoy every day.
They serve on the West Side Federation of Block Associations, speak as community liaisons to the 20th precinct, cook for the Rutgers Presbyterian Church’s weekend shelter, maintain Central Park, give their time at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, and then pick up those tried and true rally signs to fight the environmental injustice of super- talls and canvass for progressive candidates near and far. These incredible individuals have made our lives and neighborhood possible. Yet, we have betrayed them.
While the Upper West Side remains a vibrant location for many, we have increasingly neglected the needs of this vital population.
2 weeks ago, when the black-out happened, how many of us able-bodied residents reached out to see if any of them was stranded? Similarly, while we complain about the need to improve OUR subways, has any of us noticed that THEIR busses are increasingly unreliable? Even the bus routes they’ve grown to depend on have changed so much it takes a genius to figure out not only when the bus will arrive but where it will actually end up. For some reason, we assume they should hazard the subways just like us, when even the most agile of us has trouble squeezing onto every precariously over-crowded platform. So, imagine navigating them with a cane or walker and no functioning elevator?
Then, we have the landlords trying to push them out to raise rents to a “market-value” no one can afford, regardless of age.
Last, what’s up with the supermarkets and local food sellers? I know Mavis makes a mission every day of taking her walker out to a specific destination to buy her red onions for anti-inflammatory remedies and groceries for the aforementioned Rutger’s Shelter, just to stay active. But the only markets are Whole Foods and Trader Joes — more than a 1⁄2 mile distance uphill for her — while all the more local shops have been shuttered due to hiking rents.
All this is to say, it’s as if we WANT our seniors to self- isolate. Well, I for one, DO NOT. They got me out of bed and fighting for the community as a child, and they still get me out of bed today. So, let’s give them some supermarkets, some reliable busses, and some gosh-darn RESPECT.