“We have a strong sense of community here,” says Krista Wergeland, a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and member of a neighborhood group working to block an incursion of fast-food restaurants and chain stores.
Long known for being unique and down-to-earth, the Upper West Side is increasingly popular with national retailers like Starbucks, the Gap, and Barnes & Noble. “You wake up and ask yourself: What’s happening to the identity of this community?” said one resident. “This should be a neighborhood that meets local needs.”
In less than two months, neighborhood activists have gathered more than 3,200 petition signatures against a plan by Tricon Global, which owns several fast-food chains, to open a Kentucky Fried Chicken on 106th and Broadway.
Tempted by Tricon Global’s offer to pay double the going rent, the landlord has already kicked out Sambas Deli, a beloved family-owned business. Sambas was a bit shabby looking, says Wergeland, but it was a great store that focused on meeting the needs of nearby residents, unlike Tricon Global, which “doesn’t care and doesn’t have a sense of neighborhood.”
The group is planning a large protest when KFC opens in about a month, which will be followed by continuous picketing and a boycott. Last year, a similar boycott of a new CVS, which replaced a local grocery store, succeeded after just six months when the chain cited substantial losses and closed the store.
Wergeland hopes KFC will likewise fold. She’d also like to see the group find a new location for Sambas, as residents did last year for Broadway Farm, a fruit and vegetable market evicted for a Victoria’s Secret outlet.