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Council Bill Would Raise Newsstand Merchandise Limits

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Newsstand owners could soon be allowed to sell more items to customers if a City Council proposal raising the current $5 pre-tax limit on products wins approval. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

You can buy a pack of gum, a drink or a paper from a newsstand, but anyone in the market for a higher-priced item is out of luck.

Since 2002, newsstands have been limited to selling products that are $5 or less before taxes. The City Council will soon be considering legislation, though, that would double that price limit to $10.

"The four-dollar umbrella of 2002 isn't the same as the four-dollar umbrella of 2012 or 2013," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "A four-dollar umbrella in 2013, you're lucky if it's going to get you to the corner."

There are a few exemptions to the rule, such as magazines and prepaid calling cards, but the vast majority of items are required to be less than $5.

"The men and women you see behind me that are smallest of the mom and pop operators in New York, and I don't know about you, but after 12 years, I would need a raise, and they need a raise," said Robert Bookman of the Newsstand Operators Association.

Newsstand operators said the legislation would allow them to carry higher-priced items like more expensive umbrellas, camera batteries and cellphone chargers.

"It's a good idea, actually," said one newsstand owner. "Once we raise the price, we can sell more souvenir stuff, more customer-needed stuff."

However, raising the price limit could affect neighboring brick-and-mortar stores, stores that already sell many of the items some newsstands are eager to carry.

Industry groups representing bodegas and convenience stores did not respond to requests for comment, but one bodega owner NY1 spoke with, had mixed feelings about the plan. He feared that his business will suffer, but he said everyone has to make a living.

"It's already hurting our businesses," the bodega owner said. "They sell everything in there that we are selling, and we pay more, more than them in rent. So if they going to sell it, of course they are going to keep hurting our business more and more."

The legislation is scheduled to be introduced in the City Council on May 22. A City Hall aide said the mayor has not had a chance to review it.

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