Monday, September 8, 2008

Old Newsstands

I wrote about the disappointing changeover from the old newsstands to the new Cemusa boxes here and here. Recently, Forgotten New York invited me to do a more extensive piece on the old newsstands, with lots of photos. It was a pleasure to write something more in depth and to contribute to Kevin Walsh's most excellent site.

Please click here to read the article at ForgottenNY.

credit: Rachel Barrett

In my on-the-street research for the story, I snapped a bunch of pictures, but they don't compare to the work of Rachel Barrett. Her NYC Newsstand Project was featured in a New York Times story and slideshow this summer, and I later spoke with her about her work.

In 2006, she began seriously capturing the old stands with her camera. In her artist statement, she writes, “I was driven by a sense of nostalgia, a need to hold on, a refusal to let go. Photographs allowed me to do that, not just document something but record the end of an era, the what was that will never be again.”

I asked her what she thought of the new kiosks and she told me, “The Cemusa stands have no character, each one is just like every other--cold and robotic. A huge aspect of making the work was to demonstrate the loss of the individual, how the old stands were so evocative and emblematic of the neighborhood or the proprietor or the customers, and these new ones are completely void of all of that."

credit: Rachel Barrett

She has so far photographed 236 stands and is still tracking down the more elusive ones. Most elusive, though, has been commentary from the vendors. Rachel told me, "very few were willing to really talk to me, the camera definitely puts people on the defensive. I remember one man down in the financial district said he was looking forward to the new stand because they told him it would be much bigger and much easier to operate his business out of. I'm not sure they told him that he would lose his business to the city."

credit: Rachel Barrett


Anonymous said...

Can't wait until this blog vanishes, along with all the "old" newsstands, anything "old" NY, and "old" people.

Anonymous said...

"Can't wait until this blog vanishes, along with all the "old" newsstands, anything "old" NY, and "old" people."

Someday, you're gonna be old. Which to you is apparently 30.

JakeGould said...

I really have to confess, I think that the criticism of the old newsstands versus the new is a debate that most people won't understand and I can't side with. Yes, the old newsstands have "character", but most of the folks running the stands don't really care or understand.

From a functional standpoint, the new newsstands are better. And the old newsstands developed "character" from marginal owners running a marginal business trying to create a makeshift setup to sell their wares. Very few--if any--truly reflected the aesthetics of the owner. Petrella's Point is the rare example.

At some point you have to realize: These are old shacks that need upgrading and this is not a bad compromise.

I will say that the only "evil"-ish aspect I see is the city doing this to have uniform ad spaces to sell ads on the side of these things.

I wouldn't be surprised if a decade or so from now you'll see some of these stands closed down but still having bright/active ad screens on the side.

L'Emmerdeur said...

Does that Regis and Skeletor show end at 11AM?

Because that first comment came in at 11:01AM, and it sure sounds like some bitter, recently-unemployed Carrie-bot who was catching up with Curbed after turning off the morning talk shows.

I'm sure when their lease runs out, Wyoming will welcome them home with open arms. Alas, ain't been much new there since the 1960s.

Anonymous said...

All I see in those new Cemusa stands is Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new airbrushed New York City. Not anyone elses'. The first anonymous should move to the suburbs, because apparently he/she doesn't really like New York City too much if he/she wants and it and it's people to vanish. Why would you even be here, if that's the case? I'm 18, I came to the city because I love it, it's individuality, it's diversity, and it's acceptance of the lady walking down the street talking to her parrot, to the man who plays his heart out on the guitar every single day outside of the subway station. I mean it's cool if NYC isn't for you. Why not just go move to some gated community in NJ or something, and hang out at the mall? You sound more suited to that.