Regulation of the Day 212: Locating Your Newsstand

New York City’s Administrative Code requires all of the city’s 330 newsstands to be located at least 9 feet 6 inches away from buildings. That way pedestrians will have a clear path to walk by. Marilyn Louie has run a newsstand in Chinatown since 1982. Before that, her father ran it. All in all, her newsstand has sat in the same spot for 35 years — precisely 9 feet 3 inches away from the nearest building. It took inspectors a few decades to get around to measuring, but now they want Louie to tear down her newsstand, citing the three-inch shortfall. Louie’s newsstand is also 4 inches closer to the curb than regulations allow.

There have been no pedestrian complaints.

Politics may play a role here. A Spanish company named Cemusa must have friends in high places, because the city government is in the process of requiring all newsstand owners to tear down their existing structures and replace with them with new ones — made by Cemusa. The New York Post reports that the new newsstands are “prone to leaks and break-ins,” so Louie’s reluctance to go along with the plan is understandable.

Cemusa is also installing new bus stop shelters and public bathrooms throughout New York City.

The city government has offered to let Louie move her business to one of several other spots by the end of the month. Louie, who struggles to make $40,000 per year despite working 7-day weeks, scouted out the proposed locations. They either lack foot traffic, or there are already numerous competitors already there selling similar merchandise.

Football is often called a game of inches. When it comes to regulation and the right to make a living, so is the game of life. What a shame that Marilyn Louie is finding this out the hard way.