Jerry Delakas has sat, with a cigarette dangling from his lips, like a sentinel inside the Astor Place newsstand for more than 25 years. He’s watched the square transform around him; seen people come and go. Sculptures too — when the Astor Place cube mysteriously disappeared 2001, sparking a minor panic, Delakas was the one who assured folks he’d seen Parks Department workers, and not thieves, haul it away.
He told the Voice back then, “They took it away. 60 days. They’ll bring it back. People are disappointed. This is what I call a piece of landmark. I’m going into the hospital tomorrow. Don’t call me. I give this information to the people as part of my business. I give newspapers. I give information. It’s business. It will be back. I will be back.”
Delakas was not back on Monday. Instead, pasted to the padlocked metal shutters was a notice, courtesy of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “This establishment has been closed for operating illegally.”
Delakas has spent the last few years at the center of a protracted legal fight to determine whether or not he can stay in the stand that he has operated since 1987. Back then, Delakas struck a deal to rent the newsstand from its owner, Katherine Ashley, for $75 a week.
In her will, Ashley indicated the arrangement should continue as normal with her husband, but in 2010, when he too passed away and, per the Ashleys wishes, executors attempted to transfer the license to Delakas, the Department of Consumer Affairs cried foul insisting ownership can only pass from from one member of a family to another.
All manner of appeals — from a resolution passed by the local community board to a documentary produced by Rome-based filmmaker Nicole Cimino — failed to move the Department of Consumer Affairs, which had granted Delakas permission to stay through the end of Michael Bloomberg’s term.
But, apparently, not even that long.
Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart