Volume 22, Number 54 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 21 - 27, 2010
Downtown Express photo by Nikki Dowling
The City Hall Oasis was once an eyesore but is now the crown jewel of concessions.
Once an eyesore, now a bright spot
BY Nikki Dowling
Six weeks ago the one-room newsstand at 249 Broadway on the corner of Murray Street in front of City Hall was a run-down eyesore with dirty windows, holes, peeling paint and a limited selection of candy bars, soft drinks and newspapers.
“It was decrepit, broken-down, smelly and cold,” Hans Dannerhoj, a vendor who works on nearby Reade Street, said. “There were no services and they sold way too many girly magazines for me to take my grandson.”
Today, this same newsstand, now called City Hall Oasis, is clean, bright and well-stocked. There is coffee and tea, healthy snacks like cheese and crackers and granola bars, a large drink cooler and souvenirs like luggage tags and magnets. The floor and ceiling is made of varnished wood and the beige counters are new. The outside is painted black with gold trim, a nod to the old New York.
The transformation is thanks to the hard work of Thomas McGarry, 53, and Kannika Chankajorn, 50. The two became friends while working in the hospitality department at the nearby Ritz Carlton in Battery Park. When the economy started to go south business at the hotel slowed down, and the two began looking for a back-up plan. McGarry, who used to own a concession stand in Central Park, immediately saw potential in the dirty storefront outside of City Hall.
“The lease was up for grabs and I saw the stand and I saw the potential,” McGarry, who works of the stand seven days per week, said. “Being a local to the neighborhood I just wanted to get involved with the Downtown renovation so we decided to take and redo this.”
The procedure for owning a concession stand like the City Hall Oasis, which officially opened April 1, involves a bidding process with the New York City Parks Department. McGarry and Chankajorn, who each own half of the stand, put in the highest bid and got to lease the building for five years.
“We gutted out the whole inside, added a coffee counter, power washed the whole outside, redid the ceiling and added a souvenir section for the tourists,” McGarry said.
The rent is $5,000 per month and the building cost $30,000 to renovate, but McGarry estimated that the store served between 800 and 1,000 customers in its first month since renovation.
Those who live and work in the area are happy the concession stand has been fixed up. City Hall and the surrounding parks were recently renovated as well.
“I’ve been working at Battery Park City for 10 years,” Chankajorn said. “The old [stand] was embarrassing.”
Dannerhoj said he never went to the old concession stand but turns up at City Hall Oasis four to five times each week to buy lottery tickets, coffee and candy for his grandsons.
“A lot of people thanked us for what we did for the neighborhood. We’re very proud about the work we’ve done,” Chankajorn said. “I love this place.”
Currently, City Hall Oasis is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week during the sumer, McGarry and Chankajorn plan to keep the store open an hour later.
The business partners are anxiously waiting for the new World Trade Center site to be completed. They believe it will bring them more business and better the whole Downtown area.
“The whole Downtown is being revitalized,” McGarry said, “we’re very excited about that.”