The Mount Morris Park Historic District in East Central Harlem is supposed to be a classy place, where celebrities like Maya Angelou enjoy dainty cucumber sandwiches and intellectual discourse ensconced in their multi-million dollar brownstones. But a new liquor store on Lenox Avenue and 119th Street is threatening to turn the neighborhood into a garish, crime-ridden Pottersville—its flashy neon sign and bulletproof plexiglass has some appalled local residents rushing to condemn the establishment in the "pages" of DNAinfo.
Ruthann Richert, the treasurer of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, recently fired off an alarmed email to her neighbors about the liquor store, which is doing business beneath a large red neon "Wine & Liquor" sign and a giant yellow and red vertical "Liquor" sign. The subject of the email was "Abomination on Lenox! Help!" and Richert explains her opposition thus: "It's the old school, blazing liquor sign and it's just not tasteful." The group's president, Syderia Chresfield, goes one step further: "There used to be a liquor store that looked like this on every corner in Harlem. It brings down everything we are trying to build up. I don't like to use the word ghetto, but that's what it is." Seriously, couldn't they have at least used a cursive font, or called it a Ye Olde Spirit Shoppe or something?
The liquor store's opening symbolizes the death of a dream for Laurent Delly, co-founder of real estate advertising firm Property Roster. She tells DNAinfo, "We embrace small businesses but you have to respect our community. This is our grand boulevard. This could be our Champs de Elysse." Of course, not everyone is as shocked and appalled as the self-designated "community improvers." Rick Jones, 58, a handyman who has lived in Mount Morris Park for 30 years, says he's psyched about the liquor store, and argues, "Everything can't be nice. A liquor store is not supposed to be a fancy place. It's a place to get drunk."