Turco's Last Stand on 3rd Avenue and Pike Street survived nearly the entire 20th century, a fire in 2006, several burglaries, and the ongoing demise of print journalism, but it may not survive the profit motive of the guy who partly owns the old Woolworth's building next door, which currently houses a Ross Dress for Less. 

On Sunday the City removed the kiosk, risking the deletion of over a century of labor and journalism history, plus a slew of harm-reduction services that the current operator, Ben Gant, provides for people who live and hang around the block. 

"They removed the stand without giving me an exact date beforehand, and they impounded it. They must have taken all my things in there, too," said Gant, who has operated the newsstand on the sidewalk for the last 22 years.

In a November 2021, Art Wahl, who partly owns the corner lot, wrote a letter to Gant saying he wanted the stand removed and would pay $7,500 for the courtesy. If the two parties couldn't reach an agreement, then he and his partners would "do everything we can to have it removed without compensation to you," Wahl wrote.

After hearing no response from Gant, in the spring of 2022 Wahl asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to revoke Gant's permit, claiming that Gant had “never lived up to lease provisions with regards to being open, nor what is being sold." The permit requires its holder to keep regular hours and only to vend publications.

In March of 2023, SDOT sent Gant a notice revoking the permit and ordering him to remove the stand by April 17 of that year. The notice gave no explanation for the revocation, apart from describing the temporary nature of permits.

Gant quickly filed an appeal, arguing that earlier permits procured from King County by former newsstand owners still apply today.

After a review of its decision, SDOT decided it had made the correct one and “determined [the permit for the newsstand] is not an appropriate use to continue at that location” and informed him that they’d be removing the structure. After some more bureaucratic back and forth, on Friday Gant filed a preliminary injunction to stop the City from dismantling the stand. He plans to represent himself in the matter but said he “could use a paralegal.”

But that filing apparently did not bother the City, who removed the kiosk Sunday. 

In a 2022 phone interview, Wahl reiterated his complaints about Gant not using the newsstand for its intended purpose and then quit dancing around the issue. "It's an absolute eyesore," he said of the stand. An "eyesore" sitting on the sidewalk outside gives the building's current tenant, Ross, the ability to credibly bargain for less rent or else to leave the spot entirely, and that’s a problem for Wahl.

Wahl acknowledged the block's long and troubled history, but he argued that the stand was an "eyesore" before the pandemic and would continue to be one.

Gant acknowledged that Turco’s Last Stand, named after a storied union activist, hasn’t sold periodicals since the pandemic. But as the block has changed, the newsstand has changed to try to serve the block.

Leaner times for the newsstand during COVID. RS

In a letter to the Seattle City Council, Gant said he’s “given away over 1,200 copies of the Emerald City Resource Guides provided by the Real Change Newspaper,” which helps connect people in need with City resources.

In December of 2022, Gant and Piroshky Piroshky owner Olga Sagan teamed up to hand out leftover pastries to the people who try to live and make a living down on 3rd Ave. Around this time last year, the City’s We Deliver Care Team took over that duty, he and Sagan said.

That year, Gant said he started working with King County to provide naloxone to help save people from overdosing. “I have distributed more than 2,800 of those doses to people in need, and we have resuscitated 33 people on the sidewalk,” he said.

Gant also said he picks up King County’s condom cubes and distributes them in the area. By his count, he’s handed out “over 10,000 free condoms to people.”

Finally, he’s been working with the Affordable Connectivity Program and Lifeline to hand out more than 1,000 “federally funded cell phones to low-income and homeless people” to help them navigate the byzantine systems entrapping them. Gant said the City's removal of the stand means some people won't get their phones as scheduled on Monday. 

To Wahl’s point about the “eyesore,” Gant admits that people tag and bust up the shop a lot, but he said repeated burglaries slow repairs, and services keep falling through on graffiti clean-up, but he works on it tirelessly. “I've spent thousands of dollars and given my blood sweat and tears repairing and cleaning the newsstand,” he wrote in an email to the City that lays out his case for keeping his permit active.

He’s also risked his own mental health. Back in 2019, a “mosquito” device installed outside of the Kress IGA tormented him for months. And since December of last year, he’s dealt with loud music blaring from Ross.

Despite all the hassle, the history of the newsstand keeps Gant in the fight.

Frank Turco opened the newsstand back in 1919. (Check out the photo here.) The one-legged labor activist founded the Newsboys Union and sold papers out of the place for nearly half a century. He unsuccessfully ran for City Council in the 1940s, and helped organize the Seattle General Strike. 

If Gant finds a way to get the kiosk out of storage, he wants to wrap the it in old photos, showcasing the under-sung labor history of the place "in hopes of educating the public and encouraging people from all walks of life to get civically involved." 

Gant established a GoFundMe to pay for legal costs and to help save the place.