“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Freedom to hurt others? Freedom to destroy quality of life? I don’t seem to recall learning about these freedoms in school. I don’t believe that James Madison felt that his Bill of Rights should hurt quality of life. Yet, they do exist, buried under freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

But where does one group’s freedom end and another group’s freedom begin? I wonder what side James Madison would be on? Would he feel his Bill of Rights should protect quality of life or protect the rights of outsiders to mar our attractive community with ugliness?

Our community is attractive and livable because it is filled with people who care. They work hard to take care of their homes. In their limited spare time, they join our local civic and community organizations, dedicating this precious free time to the betterment of their community. Anyone who walks through Middle Village, for example, will see well-trimmed lawns, clean houses and beautiful shady trees lining the streets. I often walk around the quiet residential streets and appreciate the well-maintained homes.

Unfortunately, sometimes, certain things gain popularity that are not necessarily in the best interests of a community, and which, apparently, cannot be controlled by the residents. It seems that every time I get to the end of a block near a main street, I see one of those newspaper vending machines on the corner.

You know them well: they come in different colors and hold different newspapers. Without even trying, these boxes have the ability to mar the beauty and purity of those tree-lined streets. On some corners, you may even see three or four, shackled with chains, to the light poles. They sit there, rarely used, silently destroying our quality of life.

I don’t understand the need to have these boxes on every street corner. For the most part, the papers they ~’sell~’ are free and available in banks all along the commercial strips of the residential neighborhoods. The papers that aren’t free can be purchased in any one of the candy and convenience stores.

It’s difficult sometimes, to maneuver around objects placed on sidewalks. Store owners tend to place their wares on the sidewalks in front of their stores, hoping to entice customers in to buy. (As a matter of fact, the Department of Sanitation file for “Sidewalk Obstruction” ranges from $50.00 -$250.00. (Violation of Administrative Code Sections 16-118(2) and/or 19-136(4)) Bicyclist ride on the sidewalk because of the dangers of riding the streets, I see many elderly people pushing shopping carts down the sidewalk to do their daily shopping. The last thing pedestrians need are newspapers boxes on every corner. They obstruct free and safe passage along the sidewalks; they can obstruct the vision of a child and render that child unable to see a car coming too close to the curb, or a car parking. Needless to say, this could be tragic.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that the publishers of these papers don’t have the right to distribute their product. But, since these publications can be placed in stores, banks and other establishments, where just about everyone will have access to them, why must they be placed on the street to hinder pedestrian traffic? In my opinion, I don’t see the need for having these albatrosses on our street corners. Let newspapers be sold at newsstands.