Published: January 16, 2014
Publication: Bedford and Bowery
By Jenna Marotta
Amidst congratulations and hallelujahs, Jerry Delakas rolled up the metal door of Astor Place Newsstand around 10:30 this morning, resuming the business he ran for 25-plus years before the city padlocked the place. Delakas had been operating his kiosk without an official license from the Department of Consumer Affairs. Ninety minutes earlier, the DCA dropped off 16 boxes of periodicals that were confiscated last month when the newsstand was forced to close. These out-of-date magazines will be returned to Delakas’s vendor, and new ones will be in stock next week. Newspaper sales are expected to resume tomorrow morning.
“We shook City Hall!” said Delakas. On January 5, Delakas and supporter Kelly King waited in line outside Gracie Mansion for four hours to meet the mayor in his new digs. King was a de Blasio campaign volunteer, and according to Delakas’s friend and neighbor, Martin Tessler, when it was their turn, Mayor de Blasio hugged King and within 60 seconds she’d explained Delakas’s plight.
“I says, ‘Astor Place Newsstand,’” said Delakas. “He says, ‘Great place.’”
Tessler said de Blasio had been made aware of Delakas’s legal troubles over licensing — which date back to 2011 — after de Blasio won the democratic primary in September.
Initially, Delakas faced a $37,000 fine, but within a few days of the reception at the mayoral mansion, Delakas was issued a license and the fee was slashed to $9,000. Tessler expressed gratitude to Arthur Z. Schwartz, the lawyer he introduced to Delakas and took on his case pro bono, as well as the mayor.
“I liken dealing with the DCA before de Blasio to dealing with Inspector Javert from ‘Les Miserables,’ who was going after Jerry as Jean Valjean,” said Tessler, a former member of Community Board 2.
Delakas had to pay $1,000 to the city before he took back possession of Astor Place News. As of noon, there’d been four purchases: a can of Diet Coke, a bottle of Diet Coke, a lottery ticket and a bottle of water. Which begs the question: how will Delakas possibly be able to raise the remaining $8,000 he must pay before the year’s end?
“What we hope to do is have a street fair sometime in April or May” as a fundraiser, Tessler said. “Close down Astor Place, and instead of the ubiquitous t-shirts, socks and shish kebab purveyors, we hope to have a rock band or some rock bands or even the piano player from Washington Square Park. A medley of music including pop, rock and even classical.”
The outstanding balance is due in three installments: $3,000 in May, $2,000 in August, and $3,000 in November. Both Delakas and Tessler think they’ll be able to raise the cash.
“We’re making headlines across the Atlantic!” said Delakas, who was about to do an interview with the Greek newspaper Ethnos. Delakas moved to the United States from Greece 40 years ago. “The atmosphere on this corner has been changed.”