NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s been a neighborhood institution for years, but now Upper West Siders are rallying to save a beloved pizza joint at 84th and Amsterdam.

Cynthia Tibbs recalls coming to Caesar’s Palace during a snowstorm when she was pregnant, and remembers how owner Jimmy Vezyrakis took care of her.

“This is the only man that put me in his truck with my pie and drove me home in my eighth month,” she told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

As Vezyrakis listened, his eyes welled with tears.

After 36 years in business, he closed his doors last week after his landlord asked for an eighty percent rent hike.

“With the help of my customers, I lived a beautiful, great American dream,” he said before a crowd of supporters, adding it was impossible for him to stay in business.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer says this shouldn’t be the case.

“My proposal would be that the tenant has a year, perhaps in a modest increase to stay at that location,” she said Monday.

Longtime customers are outraged.

“It’s absolutely disgusting, doubling or tripling his rent,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman. “I mean we’ve come to the pizza place after school or whatever. Our nieces and grandchildren have grown up eating pizza here.”

Brewer says greedy building owners are hurting the neighborhood.

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