As prominent as they stand on street corners, also noticeable is their grime, rust, graffiti, cracked plastic, and trash, compromising quality of life and property values across our neighborhoods.
Some Manhattan intersections, such as 34th Street and Park Avenue, offer aesthetically pleasing and sanitary metal and glass street furniture with organized compartments for newspapers.
“The new compartmented type would take up less space and look better, however even they would have to be constantly maintained and kept clean,” said Marjorie Melikian of Rego Park. “Some boxes have been empty a couple years, gathering trash. The owners of those papers should be held responsible for their maintenance and take them down. If not, they should be denied permits.”
Some, though, feel newspaper boxes should be retained and kept sanitary.
“Newspaper boxes are part of the landscape,” said Marie Trope-Podell of Forest Hills. “They add character and color to the street. BIDs in Manhattan work very hard to clean their streets, so they could remove old papers and disinfect newspaper stations as well as boxes. Businesses could sponsor and maintain them.”
Owners of the newspaper boxes face greater regulations and penalties than one may speculate. Publications must certify to the Department of Transportation (DOT) that newspaper boxes have been cleaned and graffiti has been eliminated. In addition, daily logs consisting of maintenance activities are required to be on file for three years, and must be submitted to the DOT on request.
If the Environmental Control Board finds a box to be in violation, the publication faces a civil penalty of $250 to $4,000 per violation, which may vary according to the quantity of boxes owned.
DOT is behind an initiative to create coordinated street furniture, which includes redesigned bus shelters, newsstands, public toilets and bike parking. The DOT awarded a franchise to Cemusa in 2005 to design, manufacture, install, and maintain street furniture at no cost to the city.
Cemusa could potentially develop newspaper stations and accept proposals from local artists and residents.
Walter Sanchez, publisher of this newspaper and seven other community weeklies, worries some municipalities and officials may abuse such newsstands to punish newspapers whose opinions they don't agree with.
“We don't want a borough president or another city agency to be in charge of who gets a spot in the street furniture,” he said. “I am not convinced that they will not be used as leverage to charge what are typically exorbitant rates for newspapers to rent these spots.”