As our series "One City, Many Mayors" continues, we move to the Upper West Side, where a local resident is working to beautify the neighborhood, one tree at a time. Manhattan reporter Michael Scotto has the story.
Whenever Melissa Elstein walks along the Upper West Side, her green thumb springs into action.
Elstein is the founder of the West 80s Neighborhood Association, a group whose main focus is on making the neighborhood look better.
The lawyer-turned-community activist splits her days teaching yoga to seniors and promoting activities aimed at adding a bit of the countryside to the concrete sidewalks of Manhattan.
Her obsession are trees and the beds they're planted in. She's often walking the streets, making sure they're cared for.
And urging business owners to turn the little patches of soil in front of their stores into mini-gardens.
Elstein cares for two tree beds on Columbus Avenue. Her work has convinced other people to do the same on other blocks.
"She's a great supporter of everything that has to do with beautifying Amsterdam Avenue," said one store owner.
"It says that the community cares," Elstein said.
Elstein formed the neighborhood association in 2008 when she and her neighbors became involved in landmarking issues along West End Avenue. And soon after she became interested in the environment.
"You find something you're interested in and it grows into something else and then you see how it is all interrelated and so I’m seeing the connection between quality of life issues, beautification with the environmental," said Elstein. "It's all connected."
That's why she tries to give home and business owners the tools to clean up their own blocks.
One of her biggest pet peeves is dog poop littering tree beds and sidewalks.
Whenever she gets fed up, she can turn to her other career in yoga.
A relaxation exercise that pairs well with her efforts to make the Upper West Side a bit more serene.