An empty newsstand at the 96th Street station on the Second Avenue subway. Photo: Michael Garofalo
It was a New Year’s Eve party a century in the making. One hundred years after the Second Avenue subway was first proposed, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other dignitaries rang in 2017 at an invitation-only soiree in the new station beneath 72nd Street, enjoying hors d’oeuvres and drinks as the Q train took its inaugural trip on the new line. Memorably, a pristine newsstand on the station’s mezzanine was repurposed into a bar, with bottles of beer from New York breweries lining the shelves in place of candy and magazines.
The newsstands in the Second Avenue stations haven’t been put to use since.
Nearly four months after the turnstiles started spinning in New York’s newest subway stations, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has yet to contract a vendor to operate four newsstands on the Second Avenue line. Black kiosks branded with the MTA’s Second Avenue subway logo sit shuttered and empty on station platforms as riders wait for trains to arrive. Anyone in need of a cold drink or some reading material is out of luck. (There’s no chewing gum available either, but that’s not unique to the Second Avenue stops—subway newsstands are forbidden to sell it by the MTA.)
The MTA officially broke ground on the first phase of the Second Avenue subway in 2007, but did not issue a request for proposals for the newsstands at the stations until Dec. 19 of last year, less than two weeks before the $4.5 billion line opened to the public. The RFP said the MTA would continue accepting proposals until Jan. 12, well after the subway began service.
An MTA spokesperson said the agency would award a contract “soon,” and expects the newsstands to open “in a few months.”
The RFP offered four newsstands in total — one each at the three new Second Avenue stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets, and another at the expanded station at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue. The four stands were offered as a package to a single vendor for a five-year license term.
The MTA’s Real Estate Department is responsible for leasing agency-owned spaces such as newsstands to retailers, advertisers, parking lot operators and other tenants through a competitive RFP process. The department’s objective in awarding leases is “to maximize MTA Agency revenues while choosing qualified tenants who will meet their obligations and improve the appearance of MTA facilities and the quality of the amenities offered to the public at such facilities,” per its policies and procedures.
A 2009 audit of the MTA’s real estate portfolio by the state comptroller found that 600 rental units were vacant at the time of the audit, “many” of which “had not been actively marketed by the Real Estate Department, even though some of the units had been vacant for years.” MTA officials responded that some of the units were scheduled to be offered while others were not marketable at the time. The comptroller’s audit also found that the rent charged by the MTA “may not always be as high as it could be.”
Last month, the MTA board voted to award a $7.3 million contract to begin outreach services for the second phase of the Second Avenue subway, which would add three new stations expanding the line to 125th Street and is currently in preliminary planning stages.