Upper West Siders Fight to Rid Streets of Dirty Newspaper Boxes

by Alen Kanlic
A A
civitasnyc.org

Upper West Siders want newspaper publishers to take care of their distribution boxes.

Some Upper West Side residents say newspaper boxes in their neighborhood are constantly being used as makeshift garbage bins or as canvasses for taggers to spray graffiti on them.

What the newspaper boxes don’t have, according Hunter Armstrong of the community advocacy group Civitas, are newspapers. “They were never observed to have any publications, and they were rife with violations, covered with graffiti, full of garbage for months on end,” Armstrong said, “but [their removal was] never resolved.”

The Upper West Side’s Community Board 7 recently teamed up with Civitas in an effort to make the newspaper boxes more pleasant to look at. They are pushing for stricter regulations on the publishers so that they will take better care of their boxes. As the law stands now, publishers periodically fill out reports on the condition of their own boxes to the city, but the city says it doesn't have the manpower to double check the reported conditions.

Newspaper publishers faced stricter regulation back in 2002, but they were able to water them down in 2004 by arguing that the fines and maintenance limited their ability to distribute their papers and threatened the budgets of smaller papers.

Armstrong rejects this argument, saying that if cities like San Francisco and Boston can do it, then so can New York. He says the dirty and beat-up boxes show the city in a negative light. “When [people] walk around New York City sidewalks, and they see metal and plastic boxes turned upside down, covered in graffiti, or full of garbage, that doesn’t really fit the standard of world class streets.”

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