Newsstand operator Marilyn Louie took her battle against City Hall to Community Board 3 last night. She won the board’s support in the form of a resolution urging bureaucrats to reverse a decision forcing the relocation of a newsstand that has stood at 18 Bowery (Pell Street) for 35 years.
Louie got more good news yesterday, as the Department of Consumer Affairs agreed to give her a one month extension to find an alternative location. It’s the second extension Louie has received since CB3 and City Councilmember Margaret Chin began advocating on her behalf. In response to our inquiries yesterday, a spokesperson for Consumer Affairs said, “the city continues to work with Marilyn Louie to find a solution that is consistent with siting criteria.”
According to NYC regulations, Louie’s newsstand is 3 inches too close to a neighboring building. On Monday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sent a letter to the Departments of Consumer of Affairs and Transportation saying, “It is wrong to force the owner, Marilyn Louie, to potentially lose her business and her livelihood over three inches.” Silver added:
Ms. Louie, whose father ran the newsstand before her, is a valued member of our community who not only provides an important service but goes above and beyond by helping local seniors read and understand their bills and other documents. I am asking that the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) grandfather this business at its current location – as the Department of Buildings does for some businesses that are not in compliance with zoning regulations – and that the Department of Transportation (DOT) sign off on its inspection.
CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer was outspoken last night about the bureaucratic entanglement. Although she praised the Department of Consumer Affairs for being “helpful,” Stetzer said, “No one agency is taking responsibility. Stetzer said it appeared the city was refusing to “grandfather” Louie’s business because they have been sued by newsstand operators in the past and are wary of “setting precedents.”
Last night, several residents spoke passionately in support of the 18 Bowery newsstand, saying it is an important community resource. CB3 member Thomas Parker suggested the city might be trying to hasten the demise of print publications. But in Chinatown, Parker declared, newspapers are alive and well! “Chinatown needs this newsstand,” he said.
It seems unlikely that Louie will be allowed to stay in her current location. Until now, she has rejected alternative locations in the neighborhood, saying they would either infringe on other businesses or lead to sharply reduced business. Last night, Louie told us she’s still focused on staying put. Her new deadline is March 31st.