Mob and Library Descend on Wash. Heights

Two international movements have found their way into Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, according to articles from Northattan’s Benjamin Snyder – a cash mob and a mini library.

Back in June, a cash mob hit Dichter Pharmacy on Broadway in Inwood. (Photo by Uptown Community Church via Northattan)

Back in June, a cash mob hit Dichter Pharmacy in Inwood. (Photo by Uptown Community Church via Northattan)

The worldwide phenomenon of cash mobs involve groups who descend on a local business with the intent of helping the store or restaurant see an upshot in money and customers in a short period of time.

Snyder reports that in Washington Heights, the group is an extension of the Uptown Community Church, which has engaged in seven cash mobs since last year, holding one every other month. According to organizer Valerie Valentine, the number of people in mobs can range from 30 to 100.

Businesses are selected based on need. “We’ve been looking at businesses that may have been struggling with the economic downturn,” Valentine said. They could use the money, and once a store has been hit by a cash mob, it “lets people know you’re there.”

In the past, the group has mobbed a pharmacy store, a florist and a diner, among others, raising anywhere from $800 to $2,500 in goods purchased, according to Valentine.

Has it been successful? Ask the Dichter Pharmacy, which was able to move to a larger venue afterward or the Beans and Vines restaurant, which also relocated to a larger place after the mobbing.

It’s not always a welcomed sight though. It can lead to long lines and overcrowding that other customers might not appreciate.

During the Dichter Pharmacy raid on June 23, people already at the store, including the owner, were shocked. “We completely filled the space wall-to-wall with people, with others waiting outside,” said Randy Gallegos, a member of the church. “The neighbors who just happened to be there were a little taken aback.”

Nonetheless, the popularity of cash mobs has spread from its origins in Cleveland, Ohio and gone on to mob businesses in 10 other countries, according to its website.

The Little Free Library in Hudson Heights offers a space for a book exchange of sorts in an area where the options of finding books are few and far between. (Photo by Benjamin Snyder via Northattan)

The Little Free Library in Hudson Heights offers a space for a book exchange of sorts in an area where options for finding books are few and far between. (Photo by Benjamin Snyder via Northattan)

Then, on the quieter side, there’s the mini library.

The Hudson Heights section of Washington Heights is not just home to Bennett Park, the highest point in Manhattan (265.05 feet above sea level). Down the road from the park by Pinehurst Avenue and 183rd Street is the Bennett Park Little Free Library, the only one of its kind in the borough, Snyder reports in a separate article – and one of the few places in the area to find books.

But unlike conventional libraries, this one relies solely on the books people leave and take in the miniature house that holds them. According to its founder, Paris-native Oshrat Silberbusch, “Sometimes it’s totally full; sometimes it’s a little more empty.”

The four-month old library is part of the Little Free Library movement which started in Wisconsin and now spans 15,000 in number across 55 countries.

Despite its small size, in the Little Free Library in Hudson Heights, language diversity still manages to cram its way in.

In the Hudson Heights branch, books range from Pokémon to Goosebumps to Twilight, while languages include French, German and Spanish. “It’s a very diverse neighborhood,” said Silberbusch. “I think the library should reflect, in genres in tastes and languages.”

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