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Abandoned Newspaper Boxes in Ballston

by ARLnow.com January 20, 2011 at 9:33 am 5,969 57 Comments

A reader emailed us with the following question about two abandoned newspaper boxes on the 4000 block of Wilson Boulevard, near Ballston Common Mall.

Any suggestions on how to get abandoned newsracks removed?  The county says they cannot remove them, that the owners have to do so, but the owners do not respond to calls or emails about this. This has been an eyesore for a year now.

Do you have any ideas? Or do you know of anywhere else where this is a problem?

Photo courtesy Marshall L.

  • Kevin

    If the county won’t take them and the owner won’t take them, you can either forget about it or take them yourself. What else were you expecting to happen?

    Get a truck, wait until the middle of the night and take them. Problem solved.

    • Knock em over and drag them into the sidewalk. Someone will come haul them away.

    • mehoo

      My thought too. “Disappear” them.

    • Lou

      Drop them in front of 1100 Wilson.

      • No, 2100 Clarendon would be better

  • Rick

    You don’t need to wait til the middle of the night if you have a pickup and have some way of looking official. Reflective vest, helmet, even a clipboard… you’re set.


    Paintballs. M80’s. 9 Irons. It will look worse but it will be fun

    • +1 for M80’s.

      Those will fix any problem.

  • bennynojets

    The county will snatch nice sandwich board signs but not decrepit, abandoned newspaper boxes. I think some changes need to be made.

    • mehoo


    • jan

      You’re right

    • JimPB

      RIGHT ON bennynojets:
      January 20, 2011 at 9:47 am
      The county will snatch nice sandwich board signs but not decrepit, abandoned newspaper boxes. I think some changes need to be made.

  • Probably could recycle them, but those things aren’t cheap so I’m surprised both companies have abandoned them, unless they are out of business? I lived in Columbus for a bit, and some of the companies donated metal ones to the university’s campus paper. They repainted them and reused…

  • SoCo Resident

    The law on this has never been clear to me. Can anyone just plop these things down on public property? In some case, near the Metro, long unsightly lines of them? Do they pay ground rent or a fee, and if not, why not?
    If the items inside are free, you can take them all over and over again! It is not theft to steal free things. Can you take the box itself? Is this covered under the signage regulations? If you make your illegal sandwich board look like a newspaper box, then its untouchable from the signage police?

    What clever uses could you make of these abandoned boxes in your apt, home or garden?

    • bennynojets

      These publishers are some how able to argue that they have the right to be there under 1st Amendment protection.

      Some places are able to get the publishers to sign a voluntary agreement to meet certain standards for their boxes. If they don’t adhere to the standards, then the boxes can be removed after notice has been given.

      • SoCo Resident

        If this is a first amendment right, then a restaurant’s sandwichboard should be protected too.

        • mehoo

          “Commercial speech” has a lower level of protection.

          • bennynojets

            That is what I can’t understand about the apartment guides or auto traders being protected

          • MC

            For better or worse, the Supreme Court believes that companies are the same as people, and have the same rights.

  • The Noze Bros
  • OX4

    Well, the red one says “Free” on it, so I guess you can take that one wherever you want.

    • Clarendon neighbor

      hilarious. If the county won’t take them and the advertisers don’t want them, you can probably junk them during the daylight as a legit community beautification project.

  • mehoo

    Just don’t put one in front of a Monday Properties building or their lawyers will be on the case.

    • Jackie

      hahahahaha no PUT them in front of there because you know they’ll get rid of them

  • Jason S

    The restaurant signs and these boxes make the Arlington County Board appear capricious and inconsistent. Would one be permitted to put one of these boxes outside of their restaurant with fliers advertising their specials?

  • DaveinSA

    Put a restaurant menu on them. The sign polic will launch into action.

    • Sunny617


  • There was a busted up Washington City Paper box outside of the Shirligton Bus Station for a few weeks. I was getting ready to call Washington City Paper myself last week, but the busted up box disappeared by then. I don’t know who removed it, but I thank him or her.

  • V Dizzle

    Perfect as a public terrarium. Just add iguana and some lettuce.

    • Josh S


  • Arlingtonian

    Convert them into mini-food trucks and put them you-know-where.

  • mehoo

    Mini-food truck AND terrarium! = barbecued iguana

  • GeorgeOrwell

    as disgusting as these are, they apparently are protected by the First Amendment of Freedom of the Press.
    Hard to swallow.

  • CrystalMikey

    Slightly off-topic but does anyone know what happened to The Onion? All of the boxes are gone (at least here in Crystal City). Did they stop publishing?

    • Josh S

      Still publishing and distributing to the EFC box. I’ve also noticed abandoned Onion boxes in downtown DC. Probably their revenue is down and they can’t afford to fill all their boxes.
      In general, these things should be regulated so that they must be used regularly or else removed at owner’s expense.

  • Marshall L

    Response from the Arlington Board about vendor boxes regulations

    From: [email protected]
    Subject: Responding to your message (Intranet Quorum IMA00230056)
    Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2010 17:48:08 -0400

    August 3, 2010

    Dear Mr. L:

    On behalf of the County Board, thank you for your message earlier this year regarding vendor box ordinances. We appreciate you taking the time to bring this issue to the Board’s attention. Chairman Fisette asked the County Manager’s Office to investigate and report back on this matter and recently received the following information.

    Over the past 5 years or so, Department of Environmental Services staff has intermittently been collecting information about best practices for newspaper rack regulation from around the country. Their research has found that there are many different kinds of newspaper rack regulations. (For instance, some involve ordinances, while others empower BIDs and other public-private authorities. Some others combine aspects of both.) If budget and staffing were not an issue, Arlington might begin the process of deciding the most appropriate course of action by directing staff to produce a white paper cataloging the various options before us and summarizing their benefits and liabilities. This white paper could then become the basis for a discussion with the various commissions and committees that all have a stake in the uses and physical form of our public sidewalks. Staff could then develop a plan based on their feedback, which could eventually be presented to the County Board for their approval.

    At this point, however, this project is not a priority, and there is no plan at this time to assign staff to this project or to pursue the issue.

    I am sorry this is not the response you were hoping for, and do apologize for the long delay in getting you an answer. If we can help in the future, please do not hesitate to contact the County Board office.


    Liza Hodskins
    Aide to Jay Fisette

    • bennynojets

      From what I understand a Ballston BID is being created. Perhaps they can take it up.

    • JimPB

      YIKES. That response from ARLCo County Board constitutes a prime case for a board membership cleansing and a revolutionary overhaul of how the county government operates.

      • Josh S

        Should government be expected to hop to every time someone raises a concern?
        Organize, get money involved, make a public stink.
        Then they’ll respond.
        Representative democracy. It’s the worst form of government, except in comparison to every other form of government.

    • Sam

      The government always responds that way. I wish I can respond to the government in that way too. They send me a PPT bill and I should be allowed to respond “I’m sorry but paying personal property taxes is not a priority right now.”

      I do not understand how EMPTY newspaper boxes are protected speech. If they were regularly stocked, I can see their point about freedom of the press, rah rah. But there’s no press or speech involved. Just litter.

  • notahoo

    I’m thinking back to my childhood. Perhaps this calls for a couple of innings of mailbox / newsbox base ball.

  • notahoo

    or – perhaps these foxes of Lyon Park could go get them and use as cold weather housing. They came out during the warm weather yesterday and I wonder where they came from and where they are going.

    • Elitist Doosh

      If they’re committing any crimes, they must have come from South Arlington.

    • Clarendome

      Two red foxes often frolic in my backyard until my dog chases them.

    • Truthiness

      They came from a van down by the river.

  • anon2

    can we also come up with a way to remove the pandhandlers down the road at Lee and Glebe?

    • mehoo

      Hire them to remove old newspaper boxes.

      • Elizabeth

        El oh el!

  • Shmarlington

    They are awfully convenient receptacles for dog poo bags.

  • JimPB

    What’s the law about abandoned property? when there’s no identifiable owner?

  • Marshall L

    UPDATE: Representatives from Greater Washington Publishing Inc. and For Rent Media Solutions have contacted me and will have the boxes removed.

    • bennynojets

      Thank you.

    • Rover

      Damn. I was going to snag the metal one later and claim the $1.50 in scrap cost…

  • SoCo Resident

    “Street Furniture” is what these things are called and the Supreme Court dealt with it in two cases: 1988 Lakewood v. Plain Dealer, and 1993 Cincinnati v. Discovery. Upholding the First Amendment right of the papers/advertisers. Lower courts have been up and down on this, but basically almost every effort to regulate these things has been defeated including Altanta’s to have city-owned boxes with Coca Cola ads on them. Boca Raton too could not make them uniform and “nice” looking. Pesky little things aren’t they, these street furnitures.
    Free speech in very public areas seems awfully protected, which is why I wonder about the County seizing sandwich boards.
    In the meantime, if they are loaded with free materials, you are welcome to help yourself to them all and hopefully toss them into a recycling bin. I once witnessed highly enraged anti-abortion youth on a Jan 22nd, chanting anti-gay remarks and raiding the Capitol South Washington Blade newspaper box, leaving the torn remanants all over the sidewalk as the police looked on!

    • Josh S

      I wonder how a sandwich board is commercial speech and so regulated and Apartment Showcase is not commercial speech and so not able to be regulated?

  • Tom Lang

    These boxes want to live in dumpsters. Please help.

  • Matt B.

    I would like to buy them. [email protected]

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