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Forest Hills Corner Crammed With Newspaper Boxes, Residents Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | July 9, 2015 8:55am | Updated on July 9, 2015 11:38am
 There are about 20 newspaper boxes near the Forest Hills taxi stand.
There are about 20 newspaper boxes near the Forest Hills taxi stand.
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DNAinfo.com/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

It's freedom of speech vs. visual hodgepodge.

About 20 newspaper boxes have been placed near a taxi stand in Forest Hills, at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and 71st Avenue, jamming the busy corner that's already home to a subway station and several bus stops, some residents complained.  

But placing newsracks is considered a publisher's First Amendment right and, according to the Department of Transportation’s website, “there is no limit to the number of newsracks that can be placed on the sidewalk as long as each rack is in compliance with all other regulations.”

“It’s totally wrong,” said Stephen Melnick, a Forest Hills resident and member of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, adding that the boxes near the taxi stand should be spread out to other locations in the area to lessen the congestion on that corner. “It’s like a wall.”

The newsracks that distribute papers including China Daily, amNewYork and The Village Voice, have been amassing near the Forest Hills taxi stand for several years — and their number seems to be growing.

Melnick said that apart from being an aesthetic nuisance, the boxes can also become an obstacle.

“How do you get into a taxi with all these boxes around you?” he said. “With all this foot traffic and the taxis, we don’t have enough space on our sidewalks as it is.” 

The right to place newsracks has been reaffirmed by several court decisions, although public safety concerns usually give legislators some leverage allowing them to pass local regulations.

In New York City, for example, newsracks, which must be registered with the DOT and maintained by their owners, cannot be placed within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or in a driveway.

They also cannot be located within a crosswalk area, at a bus stop or closer than 15 feet to the entrance to a subway station.

But there seem to be no regulations about newspaper boxes being placed near taxi stands.

Earlier this year, local Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz introduced a bill to address the situation.

The legislation “would prohibit the placement, installation or maintenance of newsracks within 3 feet ahead or 25 feet to the rear of any designated taxi stand."

The proposed measure is still awaiting a committee hearing, according to Koslowitz's office.