Bloomberg’s astronomical cigarette taxes hurt newsstands' profits, as did the decrease in Americans’ smoking habits -- now only about 14% of New Yorkers smoke cigarettes. “The tobacco business is gone,” decried a newsstand employee in Murray Hill who asked to be anonymous. “People used to buy two, three packs a day. Now it’s usually zero, sometimes one.”
“Everything is going down, down, down,” says another newsstand operator in Midtown East, who also didn’t want to give his name. “I’ve been here for twelve years, and every day is worse.” He cites the “big guys” (chain drug stores like Duane Reade and Walgreens) as his competitors. “This business will not be around for much longer,” he laments.
Newsstands were supposed to be an entrepreneurial opportunity established by the city. But now, Biederman says, “there’s a black market, with all the money going to the people who illegally sell them out.” Since the Cemusa takeover, Biederman claims newsstand operators will often illegally pay the two-year fee to the city and rent to others to run, which may explain why none of the half dozen operators I talked to were comfortable giving their full names.