For months the box has laid, tattered and forlorn, next to a bus stop on a bleak strip of Riverdale Avenue, battered by the elements, covered in faded stickers, empty.
It’s the news rack that once contained issues of the Riverdale Review, the peppery free tabloid that suddenly stopped publishing sometime last spring. Now, editor and publisher Andy Wolf’s purported plans for the paper appear nebulous at best, as far as he’s willing to reveal them publicly.
“Due to unexpected health concerns, I have had to briefly suspend publication,” Wolf told The Riverdale Press last May. “We are all now fully back and healthy. We are preparing to resume publication shortly in a significantly expanded, aggressive and exciting multi-platform format that will include both print and electronic presence.”
“Parts are already in place,” Wolf said, declining to elaborate, adding that the new publication “will become apparent as it unfolds.”
Wolf’s purpose when he founded the Review a quarter century ago was to give residents a “different point of view” than what they read in The Press, a paper he found “hopelessly politically correct” and “harmful to the future of the community.” With the help of New York power broker Jerry Finkelstein’s News Communications — a chain of weekly newspapers from Manhattan to Montauk — the Review was born in 1993.
Wolf’s other newspaper, the Bronx Press-Review, dates back to 1940, according to the Library of Congress. It, too, appears to have ceased publishing. While its exact date of demise — and whether it’s permanent — remains unclear, it seems to have preceded that of its sister paper.
In 1992, Finkelstein’s company acquired Parkchester Publishing Co., publisher at the time of the Bronx Press-Review, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Press-Review took on a “Bronx-wide identity” to fill a vacuum left by the absorption of the daily Bronx Home News by the New York Post in the late 1940s.
The following year, News Communications started publishing the Riverdale Review, according to the SEC filing, a community weekly covering the “news, events, people and lifestyles” of Riverdale, distributed for free throughout the affluent neighborhood. It had a circulation of 19,000, referring to information extracted from financial statements as of 1996.
If and when the Review returns remains unknown. Last month, Wolf said only that the Review would resume publishing “in the near future,” refusing to elaborate. When pressed more recently, Wolf claimed a “new, vastly improved” publication is in the works “anticipated for early next year.”
To be sure, Wolf’s health problems were serious, he said, claiming he suffered a heart attack and stroke a couple years ago, but made a full recovery. But the wife of a colleague he identified as a “key employee” at the Review who handled all production and administrative tasks died, and he decided to retire to the Philippines.
“I found myself handling more than I could chew,” Wolf said. “I decided to scale back and take a break after 45 years in the newspaper business.”
If Wolf has been cagey about going into details regarding the Review’s future, several former advertisers also seem to have been left in the dark as to what happened — or what’s next.
Irene Goldstein, owner of Gotham Driving School in North Riverdale who advertised in Wolf’s newspaper before it disappeared, questions whether the halt could’ve had something to do with mismanagement, although she didn’t know Wolf personally.
“People who worked at the Riverdale Review were nice people, hardworking people,” Goldstein said. “But there was no management. I guess he just didn’t know how to manage the newspaper, or himself for that matter. I think at the end, he got overwhelmed with his health.”
Another former advertiser — Irene Moore-Korman, manager at Country Bank’s Riverdale branch on West 235th Street — was just as mystified.
“I really don’t know” why publication stopped, Moore-Korman said. “It’s kind of up in the air with what’s happening with it. We never really got an answer. We used to have the papers delivered to the branch, where anybody in the community could come by and pick one up. But that stopped a while ago.”
Cliff Stanton, meanwhile, isn’t surprised the Review may to be no more. The former city council candidate once organized a “Recycle the Review” campaign, a boycott of the free tabloid over what he felt was grossly biased coverage, including stories he claims unfairly sniped at P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil, where he formerly served as parents association president.
“The tenor of the writing, the tone that was struck, the content, created an atmosphere in the community that was detrimental,” Stanton said. “Before there was such a thing as fake news, I think people like me and the people who supported the ‘Recycle the Review’ campaign felt that this is essentially what we were dealing with. That it was pure opinion, vitriolic and hate-filled.”
Former associate editor John DeSio, on the other hand, offered a different take.
“We had the liveliest, most interesting, most provocative and most insightful weekly newspaper in the city,” said DeSio, who went on to become communications director for borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. “The newspaper’s reach was in other parts of the city and other communities as well.”
While DeSio acknowledged Wolf’s health problems set him back, he still foresees a Review rebirth. “I believe him when he says it is going to be back. He lived for it.”
Regardless of the Review’s political bent or the timbre of its coverage, Goldstein sympathizes with anyone running a business — whether a driving school or a newspaper — because she knows the struggle firsthand.
“I feel very badly because I was a customer for them for many years, and they helped me with my business,” Goldstein said. “To see a newspaper go down like that is a shame. I have a business, so I don’t want anybody to lose a business for any reason, whatever it is.”