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Boxing day in Slope for newspapers

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The Park Slope Civic Council wants to reduce by half the number of free publications available on some busy street corners, claiming that their boxes are unattractive and a nuisance.

“The sprawl of unfettered newspaper boxes presents an eyesore and, to some degree, a public nuisance,” said Civic Council Second Vice President Ken Freeman.

The epicenter of the controversy is the northeastern corner of Seventh Avenue and Ninth Street, where there are 16 kiosks holding periodicals such as the Village Voice, Hoy, and the Onion, plus advertising circulars, Learning Annex catalogues and other publications.

In July, the Civic Council plans to install a modern module that holds eight titles. About five containers would be removed and the remaining three would be relocated to less-crowded corners.

Talk of consolidating newspaper boxes began at a Civic Council brunch at the Prospect Park YMCA about three months ago, but complaints date further back.

“I’ve been on the Council for five years. From the outset, this was an issue,” Freeman said.

Bruce Pienkny, a Civic Council member who was at that brunch, was commissioned to create the new bin. It didn’t hurt that he works for the street furniture company, City Solve.

“We do a lot of overall quality-of-life work,” Pienkny said.

The Brooklyn Paper withdrew all of its street boxes last year and before that did not have boxes at the corner of Seventh and Ninth because of the unusual clutter there, publisher Ed Weintrob said.

The Paper nonetheless believes that “excessive restrictions on box placement, including allowing government or even a well-intentioned civic group to determine where newspapers may circulate would be a threat to freedom of speech in our community,” Weintrob said.

Freeman denied that the Council had censorship in mind.

“This is not a campaign against free newspapers,” he said. “We’re looking for those publishers to be our partners.”

A working partnership sounds good to the Onion.

“We never have a problem with people who want to consolidate. We just like to have the opportunity to be included in the process,” said Sebastian Mei, the Onion’s city manager.

The Civic Council effort is certainly not the first fight for control of city sidewalks. In Manhattan, several business improvement districts forced newspaper owners to sell or distribute their products in all-in-one boxes similar to those that the Civic Council wants to now use in Park Slope.

Residents said the corner of Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue is occasionally littered with newspapers from the boxes, which sometimes get filled with trash.

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