Newsstand Nixed (Again)

The newsstand currently operated by Abdur Patwary at the corner of Greenwich and Murray Streets.
Community Board 1 (CB1) is urging the City’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to reject an application by a Tribeca newsstand operator to open a second kiosk one block away from his current location.
The applicant, Abdur Patwary, first came before CB1 in 2010, with a request to open a newsstand at the northwest corner of Murray and Greenwich Streets. CB1 supported this application, and it was eventually approved.

But in December, 2016, Mr. Patwary came back before the panel, asking for support in his request to open another newsstand one block to the north, at the southwest corner of Warren and Greenwich Streets. (This location would have been directly in front of the entrance Whole Foods, and adjacent to a Citi Bikekiosk.)

Two years ago, CB1 passed a resolution opposing this request, noting that, “the proposed location for this newsstand is not suitable due to very heavy pedestrian traffic and commercial use resulting from the presence nearby of several large stores, including Whole Foods, which draw large numbers of pedestrians throughout the day and evening and make extensive use of the sidewalk for deliveries.”

DCA was guided by CB1’s 2016 resolution and vetoed Mr. Patwary’s request. But earlier this  year, he returned with a modified proposal — this one to build a new kiosk in what appears to be an even-more cramped location. He is now asking for space on the narrow, mid-block sidewalk along Warren Street, between Greenwich and West Streets, near the combined entrances to Barnes & Nobleand Bed, Bath & Beyond, and adjacent to the door that Whole Foods uses for loading its home delivery vehicles.

The mid-block location on Warren Street (highlighted in red), where Mr. Patwary is seeking approval to create a second newsstand.
CB1 reviewed this request in April and found the information provided by Mr. Patwary’s attorneys to be unresponsive, as well as potentially misleading. A resolution passed at the Board’s April meeting notes that, “the site plan provided by the applicant… did not accurately reflect the actual mid-block location of the newsstand,” and that, “the applicant agreed to provide an updated site plan showing the exact location of the newsstand [and] notify neighboring businesses to elicit feedback on potential congestion.”

But, CB1’s resolution says, “the Applicant’s attorney did not respond for over two weeks to an email requesting confirmation that the results of the above request would be shared,” and, “when they did respond, they stated that these requests were beyond the limited scope of Community Board review.”

If Mr. Patwary’s request is approved — the final decision on his application rests with the DCA, which regulates newsstands — it would be the third such establishment in a two-block street of Greenwich Street. (There is another newsstand at the northwest corner Barclay and Greenwich Streets.)

The resolution concludes that, “CB1 recommends disapproval of this application based on the significant potential for congestion and that placement of the newsstand in this location is likely to interfere with the free passage of pedestrians.”
Diana Switaj, CB1’s Director of Planning and Land Use (in yellow) stands at the location of the proposed newsstand.
Business such as Mr. Patwary’s may be a dying breed in New York: There were more than 1,500 sidewalk newsstands in the five boroughs of New York City during the 1950s, but only slightly more than 300 remain today. While sales of newspapers and magazines have dwindled with the proliferation of electronic media, the industry has sought to adapt. Today, lottery tickets are the single biggest source of revenue for operators, followed by tobacco products.
The City does not charge newsstand operators any rent. Rather, the licensing fee that permits a kiosk to occupy a street corner is priced at $1,076 for two years. (This contrasts with news vendors in subway and commuter rail stations, which pay their landlord, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as much as $30,000 in annual rent.)
In another encouraging development, the City Council in 2013 enacted a measure that boosted the maximum price a newsstand can charge for any of its merchandise from $5 to $10. (There are some exceptions to this limit, such as cigarettes.) As a result, sidewalk newsstands in prime locations can gross more than $300,000 per year — but the razor-thin margins on most of their merchandise hold profits for most vendors to the low five figures.
A source of revenue that might improve the bottom line for operators (the newsstand industry is dominated by first-generation Americans, particularly those — like Mr. Patwary — from South Asia) is the advertising banners that appear on the sides and backs of the structures. But all earnings from these go to Cemusa, the outdoor advertising company that pays the City for the exclusive right to sell these ads. In exchange, the company builds and maintains the structures all of New York’s newsstands, as well as more than 3,000 bus shelters.
Matthew Fenton

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