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Nina In New York: Goodbye, Upper West Side. Hello, Outer Boroughs!

Zabar's

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

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By Nina Pajak

Last weekend, a very big deal happened.

We left the Upper West Side. It was where I was raised until I was six. Brought up on bagels and lox, Zabar’s, weird UWS early-1980s bums, and afternoon trips to the Museum of Natural History. It was where we’ve made our home for the last six years.

Unfortunately, we arrived roughly thirty years too late to be able to score a giant apartment for $300 a month, so we must move on. There’s a baby on the way and a gigantic dog already well installed on our sofa. It’s not like we didn’t try. But according to our extensive legwork and research, for 50 percent more than we were already paying, we could be the proud owners of a space that offered roughly 10 percent more square feet into which we could cram a second “bedroom.” I don’t do math, but I’m pretty sure those are bad figures.

So it’s off to the outer boroughs we go, a step I never would have predicted. And we’re happy and excited. It’s a whole new world. We’re practically in another country. Of course, it’s not without some amount of sorrow that we departed. I’ll miss you, Upper West Side. I’ll miss everything about you.

I’ll miss the elderly people jamming me with their elbows in the aisles at Fairway, cutting me in line and yelling at me for cutting them. I didn’t cut you! It’s okay. You’re old and only have three items in your basket.

I’ll miss the bizarre brand of crazy folks who populate the whole neighborhood, people who one might imagine either living under a bridge or in a mental institution. But instead, they live in classic sixes in gorgeous pre-war buildings and spend their days ferociously clinging to that moth-eaten, threadbare blanket of protection once known as “tenants’ rights.” Keep fighting the good fight. And when you cease, let me know because I’d love to get a crack at one of your apartments.

I’ll miss the patriot who hangs out in the mornings by the 72nd street subway stop, maniacally waving flags and flashing signs about America and Vietnam or something. He either lives in: his car, the SRO down the street, or an aforementioned classic six. Now I’ll never know.

I’ll miss the wacky dog clique, of whom I was once proud to call myself one. We staked out the dog run every morning and chatted and shook our heads at the inexperienced or the overly nervous or the ultra-aggressive. We witnessed profane screaming matches that made any actual dog fight look like horseplay. We banded together, unified by our mutual willingness to begin our days at 6:30AM with a knot in our stomachs.

I’ll miss Zabars! And their pumpernickel and lox sandwiches, which I can’t eat right now anyway for a plethora of reasons. I never even got to say goodbye. Similarly: it seems I have traded a neighborhood rich with frozen yogurt options for one which so far has zero. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this tragic, but you know.

I’ll miss Loehman’s, even though I briefly abandoned you during a period of extreme bedbug-phobia. There’s something about a communal dressing room filled with nosy old bargain-hunters that warms my heart (although my legs were always freezing).

I’ll miss the smell of Gray’s Papaya hot dogs in the morning. I’ll miss Arte Cafe, where we experienced some of the most laughably terribly service I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience, but where the bartender always poured us an extra couple of glasses at the end of the night. I’ll miss that restaurant I never had the patience to try because the lines were always too long, but which I enjoyed telling people “is supposed to be great.” I’ll miss our dry cleaner, who learned our names within a month of meeting us. I’ll miss walking to work. I’ll miss the parks and the Pier Cafe.

I won’t miss the rats. Or the McDonald’s which served as a magnet for nogoodnick teens and schizophrenic homeless people. Or the roaches covering the walls of the Boat Basin bar. Seriously, you guys. How am I the only one who sees them?

I’ll miss you, Upper West Side. You’re like that deeply flawed, profoundly lovable old friend who makes a person feel like they’re the only one who gets you (even when there’s a line a mile long of people who feel the same way). And in that sense, I know you’ll always be there for us. Don’t ever change.

Seriously, don’t. We have way too many Duane Reades and luxury condos popping up as it is. Enough.