The View From Manhattan Newsstands


Manhattan’s newsstands belong to South Asians, and this week the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who run them are struggling to stay afloat, financially, in Hurricane Sandy’s wake.

On Wednesday, newsstand operators were dismayed that the city’s subway remained closed and its streets were snarled in gridlock. That meant an unusually long commute from their homes outside Manhattan and less foot traffic walking past their businesses, dashing the optimism some felt when they were able to reopen after a two-day, storm-imposed hiatus.

Anurag Maheshwari in his newsstand on the Upper West side. Credit: SRILA NAYAK

“I have already had nearly three non-working days,” moaned Anurag Maheshwari, an Indian immigrant who operates a newsstand on 100th Street in Upper Manhattan. Maheshwari normally takes the subway to work from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens. But today, he paid for a taxi, fearful that the bus would take too long.

“I was forced to close my shop early on Sunday. I preferred to spend $50 on cab fare, rather than lose any more business,” said Maheshwari. “I might just stay with a relative in Manhattan tonight or somehow return home to my family and catch a bus very early tomorrow.”

Not surprisingly, geography played a large role in determining how profit and loss got parceled out across these businesses. Business owners who lived in boroughs outside Manhattan were forced to shut down early on Sunday evening, in order to make it back before the 7 pm subway closing. Maheshwari said that as a result, he lost about $1,000 worth of business due to Sandy.

Shahid Raja, undaunted by the raging hurricane kept his 93rd Street newsstand open even on Monday, the day Sandy made its landfall. Raja, who lives near his stand, said he did well because his was the only newsstand open in the vicinity on Monday.

“Everything was closed and people came to my shop to stock up on candies, newspapers and magazines,” said Raja, who hails from Pakistan.

On 116th Street, across from Columbia University, the newsstand operated by a Bangladeshi immigrant from Jamaica, Queens remained closed even as late as Wednesday afternoon. The shop’s downed shutters testified to the difficulties of returning to daily life, as the subway system stayed inoperable.




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