By Bill Parry
When the city installed a newsstand in Jackson Heights, it was so controversial two lawmakers want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. More than a dozen community leaders joined state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) on the corner of 37th Avenue and 76th Street, where the two announced they would introduce legislation that would change the Newsstand Licensing Law.
“Right now city agencies don’t have any discretion to refuse the installation of newsstands if the applicant follows the municipal criteria,” Peralta said. “All we are trying to do here is allowing the City Council to have the final word on the applications following the recommendations of the community boards. In this particular case, for example, Queens Community Board 3 voted twice against the proposed location for the newsstand, but the City ignored the recommendation and approved the application. The community said no, but the city went ahead and said yes. This bill will put the necessary mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening.”
Under current rules to get approval for a newsstand, if the required specifications by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Transportation, and the Public Design Commission are met, the city must issue a vendor license. Peralta created a petition to demand the city revoke the license issued by the DCA and the signatures will be delivered to City Hall.
“I have been working to prevent a newsstand installation at this location since 2011, when former Mayor Bloomberg first awarded a $1 billion contract allowing for their placement anywhere the operators want,” Dromm said. “I believe that this site is totally inappropriate due to an existing problem with the sidewalk congestion on 37th Avenue. Our communities need to have more of a voice. Therefore, I am introducing legislation that would require City Council approval for newsstands, just the way it is required for sidewalk cafes.”
Community Board 3 Chairman Steve Kulhanek explained why applications for the newsstand were denied in 2011 and 2014.
“Concerns included the general vehicular and pedestrian congestion of the location as well as the total lack of need of this sort of venture,” he said. “There are many nearby businesses that sell the exact same items. The Jewish Center of Jackson Heights is deeply offended by the siting of the newsstand next to their house of worship. We feel it appropriate for DCA to revoke the permit, remove the structure and return the sidewalk to its previous condition.”
The newsstand is right in front of the Foodtown supermarket, just one block from PS 69.
“Each morning and afternoon the front of our store gets filled with many parents and children on their way to and from school and we don’t need more congestion than what already exists and a newsstand makes it that more crowded,” Foodtown owner Jason Ferreira said. “Our stores have been serving the community for many years and the residents in the area agree. It’s unfair that the city and this vendor went against and around the will of the people. It defies the democratic process.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr