The Newsstand Was a New York City Miracle

For eight glorious months, an ordinary bodega was transformed into a zine shop in the New York City subway system. Then MoMA came calling. Now there's a new book paying homage to it all.

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From left: Lele Saveri and Kevin Kearney.
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Having a good idea is easy. Seeing that idea through—especially when it has to do with negotiating a storefront rental with the notoriously opaque New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority—is the hard part.

In 2013, colleagues Kevin Kearney and Jamie Falkowski came up with the good idea to transform an abandoned subterranean bodega into a magazine stand, selling zines, books, and other works by some of the city's most exciting artists. And then they actually did it.

The Newsstand storefront at the Lorimer Street subway station stop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
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Kearney and Falkowski, colleagues at the creative agency Alldayeveryday, tapped their friend Lele Saveri, a photographer, curator, and founder of Brooklyn's 8 Ball Zine Fair to curate the shop. In the style of old-school zine swaps, Saveri elected to make the Newsstand open to all who wanted to contribute, from random dudes who make incense to famous photographers like Peter Sutherland.

A zine sold at the Newsstand.

The Newsstand quickly became a place where artists and curious commuters could come together to enjoy and explore creative work—an experience made more intimate by the dearth of cell phone service underground. "I wasn't super familiar with zine culture until I met Lele in the years before we opened the Newsstand," says Kearney. "But as I became more immersed in it, I became pretty enamored with how people were still making these tactile things that you could actually hold in your hands, during a time of Tumblr and Instagram feeds. I liked the fact that there was this value placed on collecting certain zines that had no real monetary value but instead had something that was much more personal in nature that gave them currency."

The shop in action.

The Newsstand closed up shop in the Lorimer Street subway station in January 2014, but it wasn't out of business. Soon after, for its annual New Photography exhibit, the Museum of Modern Art asked the founders to recreate the newsstand within MoMA, again bringing this wonderful, strange idea into a space where it may have initially seemed like it didn't belong.

The Newsstand book, on sale today, is a record of the shop's trajectory from magazine stand to museum. It features selections from zines sold there, which cover disparate topics, from hyper-stylized nail art to a goofy photo diary from an Alaskan Cruise. Many members of the Newsstand crew contribute, too—including photographer Cheryl Dunn, who writes a mini-essay on "incorrect" art. At its best, the book is also a record of a brief moment in New Yorkers' lives when commuting became a lot more than just a means to an end.

The Newsstand (Rizzoli), $45, rizzolibookstore.com.

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