BY ELISSA STEIN | Almost as if by magic, last week a cumbersome newsstand appeared in the middle of the night on a busy corner of the West Village. Much to the surprise and frustration of locals, the already-busy northeast corner of Ninth St. and Sixth Ave. can now be called home to the largest-style prefab newsstand approved for use in New York City — in spite of recommendations from Community Board 2 last year that this was not an ideal locale for such a structure.
As soon as workers began demolishing the sidewalk, local residents sprang into action, contacting everyone from the Mayor’s Office to Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Community Board 2, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Department of Transportation about how this came to pass.
Although both D.O.T. and the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the newsstand’s installation, many people have legitimate questions about how the decision was made — as well as understandable concerns about pedestrian safety — and have yet to get a reasonable response from anyone.
This congested corner is already home to a crosstown bus stop and an entrance to the PATH train. Ninth St. also has a designated bike lane, which instructs riders to cross from the south to north side at that very spot, as they head across Sixth Ave.
And long before this new impediment arrived, residents were registering complaints with D.O.T. about this dangerous intersection — saying the light change is too brief considering the avenue’s width. Requests have been made, to no avail, for a countdown sign to help both vehicles and pedestrians navigate the crosswalk.
While D.O.T. claims the structure conforms to city regulations regarding pedestrian flow and sidewalk clearance, locals say it’s hard to imagine a city official ever did a reliable head count at this location. The corner in question is already often overflowing with youths heading home from school, baby strollers, wheelchairs, shopping carts, neighbors with canes and walkers and tourists with maps, along with crowds of commuters and visitors exiting the PATH train, who now will all have much more limited space in which to coexist.
Citarella, the storefront facing the new structure, often used the curb-cut at Ninth St. to transfer deliveries from trucks into the market. One of the store’s managers noted they will have now have to rethink their delivery process. He also wondered how busy pre-holiday shopping will be handled now that there will be so little room in front of the store for crowd management. And with the newsstand’s rain shield within arm’s reach of Citarella’s awning, the navigable space shrinks even more.
Apparently the proprietors of the boarded-shut newsstand at the corner of Sixth Ave. and Waverly Place will be relocating to this new spot. It seems the existence of newsstands on either side of Sixth Avenue and Eighth St., a 24-hour deli on the south side of Ninth St. and magazine shops on Sixth Ave. at 11th and 12th Sts., did not deter the city’s decision to move this newsstand two blocks north.
While the move may have made economic sense to the stand’s proprietors, and perhaps to the city officials who approved it, residents and merchants say it is compromising the safety and quality of life for countless locals. The lack of transparency and accountability from the city regarding its process and decision-making is leaving many understandably fuming. Arguments are mounting against both the structure itself and the safety issues it is creating. And while it’s hard to imagine D.O.T. reversing its decision, local activists say they will continue fighting — hoping the newsstand can be taken down as quickly as it was installed.
In a late-breaking update, Ninth St. advocates said they have heard back from Quinn’s Office that D.O.T., while confident that the new newsstand is in compliance, will do a pedestrian recount.