Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Newsstands Dying

Years ago, I wrote a lengthy piece on the history of New York's newsstands, how City Hall and other powers had been trying to replace and control them for decades, and how Bloomberg succeeded.



In 2003, Bloomberg signed the street furniture bill, aiming, in his own words, “to rationalize the streets of the city, where right now it’s a hodgepodge of unattractive things.” The city seized hundreds of stands from their long-time owners, replacing them with identical stainless steel and glass boxes by Cemusa, a Spanish advertising company. As the Times explained, “Before 2003, newsstand operators paid the city a licensing fee, but owned and paid for their newsstand.... Now the newsstands are owned by Cemusa.”

At one point, Bloomberg reportedly wanted the mom-and-pop operators to pay for the new stands—at a cost of up to $40,000 each. That’s like the government seizing your house, building a new house you’ll rent from a corporation, and then charging you for its construction. Luckily, that didn’t wash, but the old stands still fell.

A lawyer for the Newsstand Association called the bill “an unconstitutional taking of private property.” The courts sided with Bloomberg.



Now Thrillist reports that our newsstands are suffering. The Cemusa deal, chain stores, and the usual changes in consumption, are all sucking the life out of them.

“Everything is going down, down, down,” said one newsstand operator. “I’ve been here for twelve years, and every day is worse.” He blamed the proliferation of chains like Duane Reade and Walgreens. “This business will not be around for much longer."

The solution? One guy wants to see updated newsstands selling "millennial-targeted" stuff, like bike helmets and natural condoms. After all, he says--essentially agreeing with Bloomberg--“The [old] newsstands were...pretty crappy."

Or we could, you know, give the newsstand operators their private property back. And maybe, call me crazy, rezone the city to control the rampant virus of chain stores that's killing every small business in town. #SaveNYC.







15 comments:

Donnie Moder said...

Their main product, newspapers, are obsolete. Their second product, candy, is available for much less at a million Dune Reades, CVS and Rite-Aids on every block. Basically, all they got going are cigarettes and lotto.

Mitch Golden said...

I don't know about you, but the shininess of the new newsstands dissuades me from going. I think the old ones felt like an old shoe, much more comfortable.

I wonder why the owners don't change what they're selling just a little bit. Maybe a different selection of foods would help?

traceyjackson@mac.com said...

All of this is so sad. Things go and then suddenly you are aware they are gone and nothing looks like it used to.
You, Mr. Moss are a gift to NYC and those of us who care about what it was and what it's turning into.
Thank you for doing what you do.
Don't stop.

JOR said...

News is dead, or how people consume news has changed. People would rather read and believe the fake news in a newslisticle on that degenerate site Buzzfeed.

U.N. Owen said...

Another way CEMUSA's boxes are killing newsstands? They're putting them in utterly IDIOTIC places. There's 2 near me - BOTH are DIRECTLY in front of ...Duane Reade's (or, more accurately, 'Duane Reade, PRESENTED by (WTF?!?!) Walgreens' Right).

TheBlueMan said...

Jeremiah you need to run for something councilman or something ;) i think people would vote for you

JB said...

It's just like citibike; Bloomberg's goal was to convert public space into below market rate advertising, rather than the stated purpose of the project. I would wager the revenue from advertising on cemusa stands dwarfs the revenue from the stands themself.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Thanks Blueman. But I would never. I hate meetings and I am not diplomatic.

Joe Mamma said...

Nice chronicle on how Bloomberg (and Giuliani) murdered the soul of New York City for benefit of real estate moguls and big corporations.

John K said...

A perfect example of how neoliberalism yet again is killing off small local businesses while helping a global corporation. Do you think Bloomberg, let alone DeBlasio, gives even a second thought to this? I seriously doubt it.

Downtowner said...

It's a change of behavior. There's an old newsstand at the 2 Ave Subway station - on the lower concourse. I used to get my Daily News from him. It's a dingy, dumpy stand. But now - there are almost no papers there anymore. People don't buy newspapers like they used to. And the stands don't offer much outside of candy and drinks, and some, cigarettes and lotto. Not staples for the younger generations. It would be an interesting experiment if they rebranded selling, as the one guy said, more relevant items.

It also doesn't help most people walk around with their heads down at their phones - ignoring everything going on around them.

Sam said...

Jeremiah - I am curious: do these newstands actually own anything other than the shelter in which they operate?

I love newstands as much as the next guy, but like the proliferation of sidewalk cafe's, I often wonder why a private business is allowed to build or operate on what is presumably a publicly owned sidewalk? One that we, the taxpayer, are required to maintain?

I feel similarly about privately owned public spaces - what the hell does that even mean?

I don't like the idea of sections of our overcrowded sidewalks being permanently given to a private business - which includes newstands, and in contrast to street vendors.

rongee said...

Just heard the restaurant Pó, on Cornelia St. in the West Village, has closed its doors. Opened in 1993 by co-owners Mario Batali and Steven Crane, it was a huge neighborhood success. Crane closed the business due to a rent increase to $10,000 a month, from landlord Howard Dublin, of S.W. Management. Another great independent restaurant bites the dust !

Pelikan Man said...

This is not a comment on on your "Newsstands Dying" post but rather a heads up on a book I am sure you will take great pleasure in. Very possibly it is one you have already seen and read but in any case I wanted to bring it to your attention. The book is called THE GARGOYLE HUNTERS by John Freeman Gill, published in March of 2017 by Knopf and is a wonderful story about the 1974 heist of an entire historic Manhattan building. If you haven't already, pick up a copy and read the first paragraph of Chapter One on page 11. That will be enough to grab your interest. Will also add that I have read and enjoyed Jeremiah's Vanishing New York for a number of years. Lived in my younger days in an apartment on the corner of Charles and Bleecker between 1964-75.

Donnie Moder said...

Sad! Lived across the street in the late 90s. The coop I lived in is now 8 times more expensive. Often saw Batali was there.