By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Newsstands are as much a part of street life in New York as bodegas and corner delis but after a recent influx of applications for new locations in the area, members of Community Board 6 have decided to revise the criteria for approving them in the district.
Protecting those existing delis and other small businesses is one of the reasons for the proposed changes to the criteria, said Andrew Gross, a member of the transportation committee who combed through the requirements that other boards in the city use to come up with changes for CB6.
“When there were applicants who wanted to put up newsstands in front of small businesses in the district, like bodegas and delis, it seemed like a competitive issue that could harm the pre-existing small businesses,” Gross said. “We’re not here to punish people for opening newsstands but this is a bit of an archaic system that hasn’t been updated in a while.”
Newsstands are ultimately approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs but potential operators are required to submit materials to the appropriate community board to give members an opportunity to comment on the application.
Some of the requirements that Gross included in the proposed new policies are to make sure that the newsstand won’t obstruct the sidewalk, limit the number of newsstands within a 750-foot area, ensure that the newsstand won’t interfere with crosswalks or bike lanes, prevent newsstands from opening within 200 feet of a pre-existing business selling the same merchandise and prevent newsstands from interfering with buildings of historical significance.
Gross said that the issue of newsstands opening in front of historical buildings was also partially the impetus for re-tooling the community board’s policies.
“One of the newest applicants wanted to build a newsstand in front of Scandinavia House and that wasn’t in the community’s benefit,” he said.
Gross also included a stipulation that owners should have to show how they plan to make the newsstand successful, with the goal of preventing newsstands from being built in the neighborhood and becoming quickly abandoned, but committee member Gene Santoro argued that the community board can’t necessarily have control over this.
“It’s not our business to know or care how they’ll make the business sustainable,” he said.
Gross conceded that it’s not CB6’s responsibility to assess the financial viability of a newsstand but he still felt that there should be protections in place to somehow make sure they don’t become vacant shortly after opening, especially because those applying aren’t usually taking over other newsstands that have been abandoned.
“They want to open new locations but then they also get left behind,” he said. “It’s not like a store that has a leasing agent. It’s a city-managed structure and it’s not really clear what’s going on (when they are vacated). The only thing we can control is when they come in.”