Thursday, April 14, 2011

The New York News Stand: R.I.P.; 'Coordinated Street Furniture' Replaces A Part of New York's Unique Architecture

Maybe it's because I worked in the newspaper business for twenty years or maybe it's just because it's a part of old New York that I love, but I am weirdly attracted to the old green shack-like newsstands that still dot some street corners of New York City. These newsstands have been around since the early part of the 20th century (maybe even earlier) and I'm sorry to report that their days are numbered. Since 2007, many of the newsstands have been replaced with steel and glass structures (a.k.a. 'coordinated street furniture') designed by a British Company called Grimshaw Architects and manufactured and installed by a Spanish company named CEMUSA. But more about that later.

The old stands grace many of New York's parks including Union Square, Central and Madison Square and in some of the outer boroughs (not Staten Island unfortunately) they may reside economically under the subway stairs perfectly positioned for workers or travelers going to and from the city. Some ooze charm, others are a bit on the seedy side like the one pictured above located on 7th Avenue in Chelsea but all are very much a part of the fabric of the city that I love.

CEMUSA Newstand
There must be almost a thousand items packed into these little kiosks: newspapers of course, but also magazines, candy, aspirin, grooming tools, Lotto, beverages, maps, books and nuts of every variety oftentimes including the proprietor of these compact 'corner stores'. There they stand, day in, day out, in good weather and bad, ready to dispense their wares and perhaps a bit of New York character to those who stop by.

I discovered not too long ago that a company called CEMUSA was responsible for replacing these newsstands, New York City bus  shelters and street toilets as well. The replacement project was started back in 2007 but here's the rub: you would think that an American company at least would have gotten the lucrative contract for these items but CEMUSA it seems is a Spanish company with an 'office ' in New York. And the architectural company responsible for the design is British!

Back in July, I did a post about how our American homes are filled with items made in other countries, chiefly China. Recently, ABCs Diane Sawyer did a week-long special on the same subject. Possible presidential candidate and New York cheerleader-in-chief, Donald Trump, frequently brings up our increasing reliance on cheap imports while American factories and workers lay idle.

CEMUSA Bus Shelter

To be sure, the CEMUSA deal to provide America's largest city with sterile looking kiosks has been well documented but it bears mentioning again. Apparently a deal was struck with the city that the kiosks would be provided free of charge in exchange for the lucrative digital advertising that these structures are capable of. I wonder how that's working out?

But seriously, isn't there an American company that might have been offered or given the same deal? Not only is it unbelievable that the kiosks with distinctive New York personalities are being replaced but that an American company isn't the beneficiary of the contract. I ask, where's the outrage?

I'll be sending this blog to Diane Sawyer, Donald Trump, Mayor Bloomberg and some other elected officials. If you feel strongly, I invite you to do the same. Check out  the attached links for some great photos and more information about the 'coordinated street furniture' project.

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