Plugging the neighborhood

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  • Tony Danza, a partner at Alleva on Grand Street, last month asked what Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration might do to ensure the city's small businesses are not pushed out by high rents. Photo: Marcela, via flickr

Now here’s some media Easter/Passover deliverance — thanks to actor and Little Italy cheese shop owner Tony Danza’s call to the mayor on the Brian Lehrer radio show late last month. Bless him for his save-the-neighborhood-stores vision, and taking action (and more of us must — it’s good for our health and the cause). And due to his celeb status, this message miraculously received coverage!

Danza, who is a partner in Alleva Dairy on Grand Street, said to be the nation’s oldest Italian cheese shop, asked the mayor his thoughts “about what I like to call the ‘neighborhood wasting disease.’ You know we have so many longtime establishments that have anchored neighborhoods in this city that are just being pushed out by exorbitant rents.”

And while sympathetic, the mayor replied that there’s little government can do. Of the public sector’s ability to help keep small business afloat in the city, de Blasio’s said, “we are generally not in the position of subsidizing businesses and we don’t really have another great tool to do it.”

Now rent control possibility is indeed arguable, and Danza might have added that while the mayor is all for affordable housing, where will these residents find a nearby place to “break bread” or even buy it? Even our supermarkets are being priced out! And looking to the future, Danza at 65, might have noted how the fast-growing elder population especially needs nearby neighborhood stores and affordable eateries.

And don’t forget how the city’s over-riding stress on city transit — getting somewhere fast and conveniently, mostly to work or to school, while neighborhoods where we live are ever more, yes, like suburbia. The mixed-use diversity every group needs is in dire need of saving and restoring.

But what Danza’s impassioned plea did was get the message out there — celebs can do that.

Ah, but dear Tony Danza, you must do infinitely more — keep this desperate need out there, Get other celebs, small biz and the general public on board. And then run for mayor on a long-overdue Save the Neighborhood Party. Long overdue is a mayor who cares about saving small local businesses that meet neighborhood needs and keep the city’s fabric from being torn asunder.

About NY1, while many New Yorkers watch it for local news, small business loss along with city bicyclists’ habitual disregard for the laws of the road never got much coverage. But now under new boss, Spectrum, we’re losing Sunday’s “The New York Times Close Up” and, more distressing, “The Call” nightly show, when city residents get to call in or email their concerns.

And thank you, Susan Susskind for alerting me to the derniere “The Call” program — after 12 years, it’s being shut down — the hard truth is the public is being told to shut up. This too needs to get out there. Also that the last program got only a half-hour for that most gracious host, John Schiumo, to air some past “call-in” excerpts and to especially thank all his callers and emailers, especially the regulars. Schiumo really wanted to know what even the often not-so-enlightened had to say. Unlike some moderators, his comments were brief.

Schiumo said he was not weeping and would be at the station for a while yet. Half-jokingly, he suggested that prospective employers get in touch. We sure do need more self-effacing and gracious people in media – not to mention the White House — and, yes, in general. So here’s to viewers — all the concerned to “not go gently (silently) into that dark night...”

That directive could not apply more to the wrongful destruction of small neighborhood business. It also means plugging a Danza or a similar advocate for mayor, and a Save the Neighborhood political party — A near revolution, in other words, from the city status quo. And doesn’t that relate to what urban deliverance and redemption are all about?

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