Volume 81, Number 12 | August 18 - 24, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Albert Amateau

Jerry Delakas at his newsstand on Astor Place.

Longtime vendor is seeking good news in bid to keep kiosk

By Albert Amateau

Jerry Delakas, presiding over a newsstand on Astor Place for nearly 25 years, is hoping that he can hang on to the corner business that the city wants him to leave.

“I’m almost 63 and I don’t know what I else I would do after a quarter century,” the white-haired Greek immigrant told a reporter this week.

If it were up to neighbors, Jerry would be selling newspapers and magazines on Astor Place as long as he liked. Since last May, hundreds of residents have signed a petition urging the Department of Consumer Affairs to save a neighborhood icon. And several hundred more people have already added their signatures online.

D.C.A., which regulates street newspaper kiosks, moved last April to pull the license for the newsstand on the triangle corner where Astor Place and E. Eighth St. intersect at Lafayette St.

The agency asserted that Jerry was not the legal operator despite the fact that he has been working there since 1987, seven days a week, fair weather and foul, for Katherine Ashley, who held the license.

Ashley died in 2006 and her husband, Sheldon, took over and continued the arrangement with Jerry until Sheldon died last year. But Kate Ashley wrote in her will that she wanted Jerry — whose given name is Gerasimos Delakas — to run the newsstand after her husband died, and “if possible to succeed me as franchisee.”

Sheldon Ashley’s estate applied in 2010 to renew the franchise, which D.C.A. denied because no one in the family would run the business as their principal employment.

“I stood by Kate and Sheldon for years — I was like part of the family,” Jerry said this week. Indeed, a lawyer for the Ashley estate urged Jerry to apply for the renewal himself, but that was denied too.

The agreement that Jerry made with Ashley 24 years ago to pay her $75 a week and run the stand was not legal, D.C.A. said.

“Newsstand owners cannot rent their licenses out,” the agency said. A State Supreme Court justice agreed in April and the agency moved to pull the franchise.

But Delakas’s lawyer, Gil Santamarina, filed a notice that he would appeal the court decision.

“Consumer Affairs told me that if I perfected the appeal in time for the Appellate Division’s October session they wouldn’t do anything until after a decision,” Santamarina said.

That done, it means that Jerry’s reign at the Astor Place newsstand will last at least through October. It gives his friends and neighbors, like Joan Schulz and Martin Tessler, some time to enlist more support.

Tessler, a former member of Community Board 2, which covers Greenwich Village, noted that Jerry’s kiosk is at the edge of the C.B. 2 border with Community Board 3.

“That’s probably why the issue hasn’t surfaced at Community Board 2,” said Tessler, who indicated that he would try to get Jerry’s cause on the C.B. 2 agenda in September.

The hand-circulated petition has more than 400 signatures, including about 80 from the Stewart House apartments at 70 E. 10th St.

Meanwhile, the online petition is still gathering support.

“Starbucks, Kmart, Kinko’s, Chase and Walgreens! Doesn’t New York deserve something true and sincere? Please let Jerry stay. He is Astor Place’s only grace,” Mia Sakai, a neighbor, wrote online. Jerry’s kiosk is across the street from Kmart and just in front of a Starbucks.

Jerry, who commutes every day from Sunnyside, Queens, supports a brother who has health problems and has no other family.

He was a merchant seaman, born on Kephalonia, an island off the Ionian coast of Greece, and came to the U.S. in the early 1970s when he left his ship in Boston.

For a few years he ran a newsstand in the lobby of a Lower Broadway office building. He then became one of the partners in a pizza stand on Cooper Square near the kiosk.

“I was passing by one day and I asked the couple if they needed some help — Abraham and Stella Schwartz,” Jerry recalled. “I worked with them side by side until they died, first Abraham and then Stella. And then Kate Ashley came and I ran it for her until she died. I’ve been here more than anyplace else,” he said.

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