EAST VILLAGE — There were no newspapers but plenty of customers as Jerry Delakas made a triumphant return to his Astor Place newsstand Tuesday, reopening it after a 44-day lockout by the city.
Friends, neighbors and those who have bought their papers and lotto tickets from Delakas for years — or even decades — stopped by to congratulate him on finally receiving an official license from the city. Delakas, 64, had run the newsstand for 26 years using another owner's license, until the city shut him down in December for operating illegally.
"[Delakas] has been here every day that I have walked past for as long as I can remember," said Sasha Berry, 48, a Murray Hill resident who often comes to the East Village to work as a musician. "I would always come to get my Village Voice from him."
"Not having Jerry is like not having the Cube," he added, pointing to the spinning sculpture across from the kiosk.
Delakas did not have time to restock his newsstand with papers, candy and drinks after learning Monday that he would be able to reopen — but dozens of supporters still turned out to watch as a city worker unlocked the newsstand and pulled open the shutter at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"I'm feeling great. I slept nice last night," Delakas said as he stood chain-smoking his signature Cheyenne cigars. "The atmosphere has changed."
He said The New York Times should be available from his stand starting Wednesday and the New York Post and Daily News by Thursday. The lotto machine already seemed to be working by Tuesday afternoon, and the snacks should be back within a week, he said.
"We have to get organized. A little bit of a mess to clean up," said Delakas, a Greek immigrant who lives on the Upper West Side.
Many passersby stopped to give Delakas a hug or a handshake, or have a quick conversation to catch up.
Esther Tessler, an East Village resident of 27 years, asked Delakas how his ill brother's health was. Delakas asked Tessler about her husband Marty, who helped get Delakas a cellphone while the shop was closed.
"I was just so used to seeing him. When I went into the subway he was there. When I came out he was there," Tessler said. "He was just always there."
One of Delakas' key supporters, East Village artist Kelly King, also turned up for the opening. She had accompanied Delakas earlier this month when he made a personal appeal for his own license to Mayor Bill de Blasio during a tour of Gracie Mansion. The city ultimately decided to grant Delakas a license, as long as he paid a $1,000 permitting fee and started paying off a $9,000 fine for operating illegally.
"This has been thrilling," King said of the newsstand reopening. "So many people have coming past with smiles."