Ur-New Yorkiness can be found in the most unlikely of places, so you have to keep you eyes and mind open. Strip malls would seem to be a product of suburbia and the enemy or urban authenticity. But the Skyview Shopping Mall in Riverdale rebukes that notion.
Why? Well, perhaps because, judging from its appearance, it was built back in the early '60s and was thus an early example of strip-mall architecture, when builders still strove to create something with a modicum of character. But mainly because it is filled with with mom-and-pop businesses that seem to have rented out their spaces the day the mall opened. (The black-and-white photo below testifies that at least two of the shops—the pharmacy and the deli—were indeed part of the mall when it began.)
There is a (kosher) Dunkin' Donuts here, and a Food Emporium. Beyond that, however, there's a pharmacy and a card store that your grandmother could have recognized as what a pharmacy and a card store should look like, exhibiting no advertising or sales techniques that were invented after World War II. Anchoring the mall are three well-established kosher businesses. (Skyview is a kosher wonderland, in fact; fully three-quarters of the stores have rabbinical supervision.) These are Skyview Wine & Spirits, which is renowned for having the best selection of kosher wine in New York City; Gruenenbaum's, a bakery with a small lunch place in the back (it has other locations elsewhere); and Skyview Glatt Kosher Deli, one of the last good real New York Delis left in the city. The last two also boast nifty signs.
The whole mall bristles with character and brassy Gotham integrity. You wouldn't find it anywhere else.