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Residents Fight Newsstand on Upper East Side

By Amy Zimmer | May 20, 2011 6:49pm | Updated on May 20, 2011 7:23pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UPPER EAST SIDE — No news would be good news for people living near the corner of Madison Avenue and E. 86th Street.

The residents are waging a war against a newsstand proposed for the busy corner, which they say would bring unwanted candy, soda and brightly lit advertisements to the neighborhood.

"It is not wanted, it is not needed and will not offer anything to the neighborhood that is not available within two blocks," said Patricia Yamada, 64, who has lived at 12 E. 86th St. for more than 30 years.

The building has roughly 350 apartments, 85 dogs and many kids who often take up a huge chunk of sidewalk as they're wheeled around in strollers. Residents say they also contend with tourists and school groups on their way to Central Park or Museum Mile.

The newsstand will have advertisements "lit up all the time," Yamada worried.

"H&M bikini ads are really pretty, but we don't need them here," she said. "It's a commercial thing."

Locals gathered 650 signatures on an anti-newstand petition in just three days. Angry tenants showed up en masse at a Community Board 8 meeting on Wednesday and convinced the board to vote against it.

The board's decision, however, is only advisory. The Department of Transportation gets the final say on the newsstand, and it bases its decision on technical sidewalk measurements, such as distances from hydrants and doorways.

DOT did not immediately respond for comment.

Residents also say the stand would take business away from the beloved hot dog man whose been on their corner for more than 20 years.

It would block the sight lines to Central Park as people walk from the subway and create obstacles for patients going to the block's several doctors' offices. They worried it would affect their property values.

"This newsstand just doesn't fit with our neighborhood. It's quiet and clean here," Bettina Nelson told Community Board 8. The newsstand would bring traffic, lights and those dreaded ads, she said.

Dahlia Mahdi, whose father applied to open the stand, spoke on his behalf at the community board meeting. She urged residents to give a break to her immigrant father trying to make a go of a small business.

"The bottom line is New York City is all about competition," said the 25-year-old Bronx teacher. "I haven't seen one place that doesn't have a Duane Reade across from a Rite Aid. Why can't my father have his dream?"

Hot dog vendor Naser Abouelenin, who has been on the corner just steps away from the proposed newsstand for 22 years, said the new stand would "ruin" his business by taking .

"I've spent almost half my life here," said Abouelenin, 44. "I've seen kids grow up. They call me uncle. It's not residents. It's not customers. They're family. I've had a long life on this corner. How can someone come and cut out my living like that?"

Tenants are very loyal to Abouelenin, who thwarted a car theft once and often helps residents put money in their meters, Yamada said.

Councilman Dan Garodnick wrote a letter to the DOT on Thursday calling the proposed newsstand "wholly unnecessary and even disruptive." He asked them to do a "rigorous review" of the application including pedestrian count on a day that the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art is open.

But Madhi said her father wasn't going to give up on his dream, either.

 "We're going to fight for this," Mahdi said.