Astor Newsstand Operator Suffers Supreme Setback, Stars in Documentary

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court has affirmed the city’s decision to evict the longtime operator of a newsstand at Astor Place — though a strongly-worded dissenting opinion has given the Greek immigrant a glimmer of hope.

The latest blow to Jerry Delakas’s livelihood comes as the result of an arrangement made in 1987 with his friend, Katherine Ashley. Ms. Ashley was the owner of the license for the newsstand, and Mr. Delakas paid her $75 a week to work there. When Ms. Ashley died in 2006, she wrote in her will that Mr. Delakas should inherit the license. It subsequently passed to other family members while Mr. Delakas continued to operate the stand. Last year, the Department of Consumer Affairs refused to let Ms. Ashley’s estate and then Mr. Delakas renew the license on the grounds that the deal was illegal.

The appellate division of the State Supreme Court concurred with that argument in a ruling filed late last month. Mr. Delakas “had to be aware of the illicit, under the table arrangement he facilitated by his payments to three separate owners beginning as far back as 1987,” reads the ruling, which is below.

IMG_0656Stephen Rex Brown Jerry Delakas

But a dissenting opinion written by two of the seven judges strongly disagreed. “The denial of his application was an unjustifiable exercise of discretion that shocks the judicial conscience given that it will deprive [Mr. Delakas] of the business that he has painstakingly built up over a period of more than 20 years.”

The lawyer for the chain-smoking newsstand operator, Gil Santamarina, was unavailable for comment. But Mr. Delakas and two of his supporters said that an appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, was a strong possibility.

“It stresses me out,” said Mr. Delakas, 63. “But the people, they support in every way. They give you courage. They lift you up.”

Martin Tessler, who urged Community Board 2 to back Mr. Delakas during a meeting last week, said that a public push for his cause is likely on the way, including the possibility of a rally and fundraising drive.

Maury Schott, the chair of Community Board 2’s sidewalks committee, added that it was likely the board would consider a second resolution in support of Mr. Delakas in the coming months, which would cite the dissenting opinion. The affable Mr. Delakas already has no shortage of advocates. His newsstand is covered in photographs and flyers urging people to help in his fight to stay at Astor Place. News articles, letters from politicians and the Community Board are also taped alongside today’s newspapers. Mr. Delakas said that his predicament comes up in conversation on a near-hourly basis.

Meanwhile, a free screening of a documentary about the whole affair, “The Paper House,” will take place tonight at 9 p.m. at W.i.P on Vandam Street in SoHo. The director of the 25-minute film, Nicole Cimino, said that a chance encounter with Mr. Delakas at his newsstand in August of 2010 inspired her to make the film. Ms. Cimino, who had just arrived from Rome, was moved by his story. “He’s a hard worker — I’m also an immigrant too,” Ms. Cimino, 28, said. “I thought what can I do? What can I create to find a way to be involved in this fight?” The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s subject.

Jerry Delakas appeal