November 15, 1996
Step aside, Saks Fifth Avenue. Move over, Bergdorf Goodman. And Tiffany’s, watch out. Newsstands may soon be coming to New York’s ritziest real estate.
The city plans to add 100 stands to the 330 already operating around Manhattan. And officials of the Municipal Arts Society said Deputy Mayor Fran Reiter told them that Fifth Ave. — home of some of the city’s toniest shops — won’t be held “sacred” when locations are picked.
Fifth Ave. merchants and esthetics experts look askance at the prospect of stands that might further congest the already heavily crowded sidewalks.
“We feel it’s inappropriate. Fifth Ave. has always been free of bus shelters and newspaper stands,” said Vanessa Gruen, special projects director for the Municipal Arts Society.
“My advice to the administration is not to go down that path,” agreed Tom Cusick, president of the Fifth Avenue Association.
Merchants along the avenue have traditionally resisted any sidewalk vendors. Their combined opposition — and heavyweight political clout — blocked any newsstands from springing up along Fifth Ave. between 42d St. and 57th Sts.
But the plan eyed by Mayor Giuliani’s administration and the City Council would replace the existing newsstands and open the new sites as part of a broader effort to open 30 automatic public toilets and 3,500 bus shelters.
City officials said all of the new fixtures would be carefully designed kiosks, probably with ads on the sides to help pay for installation and maintenance.
“We think it is going to be beautiful,” said Reiter, stressing that no locations have yet been selected.
In a bow to merchants’ fears, Reiter said any kiosks eventually designed for Fifth Ave. might be smaller, cylindrical structures that would take up less sidewalk.
The merchants weren’t appeased.
“Whether it is a square or rectangle or round shape, we don’t believe that newsstands makes sense,” complained Cusick.
But a sampling of Fifth Ave. strollers yesterday found support for the city plan. “I don’t think it will hurt if they regulate them — maybe keep them two blocks apart,” said James Morrison, 25, of Astoria, Queens.