Chinatown Newsstand Owner Wins Temporary Reprieve

Photo by Julie Shapiro

As the war between street vendors and those that seek to remove them from the city’s streets escalates on in Midtown Manhattan, one longtime vendor in Chinatown won a small victory, DNAInfo and The Villager reported.

Marilyn Louie, a newsstand owner on Bowery, got a one-month delay of her eviction. The Department of Consumer Affairs has told her that her stand slightly too close to the building it faces, DNAInfo reported:

Marilyn Louie, a Chinatown grandmother whose father opened a newsstand on the Bowery at Pell Street 35 years ago, has been fighting for months against city inspectors who say the stand is 3 inches too close to a neighboring building.

The Department of Consumer Affairs initially told Louie she had until Feb. 29 to find a new location for her stand, but agency officials told her Tuesday that they had pushed the deadline back to March 31, Louie said.

“I don’t really know if they’re going to let me stay here,” said Louie, who hopes the delay will lead to the city dropping its case against her.

The Villager reported on an outpouring of support for Louie at a recent Community Board 3 meeting:

Community Board 3 members, state and city officials and local residents joined together last week to ask the city’s Department of Transportation to cease its efforts to boot the newsstand from its current location on the southwest corner of Bowery and Pell St.

The newsstand doesn’t sell just newspapers, Louie told DNAinfo:

“I’m an info booth,” Louie said recently, between customers. “People ask me how to get the bus, how to get to the World Trade Center. I translate letters [for Chinese residents who do not read English] and I explain their bills. This is my second home. People know where to find me.”

Since the newsstand dates back to a time before the regulations that it now violates, Louie has argued that its location should be “grandfathered” and allowed to stand.

Louie’s father, a World War II veteran, opened the newsstand in 1977 and she took over after he died in 1982. Since then, Louie has worked there seven days a week, for 10 or more hours each day.

The stand was declared to be legal when it opened, Louie said, but city inspectors recently approached Louie and told her that new regulations implemented in the 1990s mean it’s 3 inches too close to the building line.

There is just 9 feet and 3 inches of sidewalk space between Louie’s stand and the nearest building, 18 Bowery, which is less than the 9 feet 6 inches the city requires, Louie said.

After the Community Board 3 meeting, Louie said she was “gratified” by the outpouring of support, but remained uncertain about her future, The Villager reported:

“I’m still confused,” she said. “Nobody’s telling me that I will be grandfathered and can still stay there or will I be moved somewhere across the street. Will I still be here 35 years from now?”

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