Welcoming Two Way Street

Albuquerque launches the world’s newest street paper.

By Sarah Ford

  The front page of the fourth issue of  Two Way Street,  released in October 2017.

The front page of the fourth issue of Two Way Street, released in October 2017.

Albuquerque, New Mexico is the latest city to join the international street paper movement. Two Way Street is already making an impact after launching and distributing four issues in 2017 under the guideship of Albuquerque city councilman Jeff Hertz. 

Hertz came up with the idea while studying city planning at the University of New Mexico, where he performed a feasibility study on bringing a street paper to Albuquerque, interviewing everyone from potential vendors to service providers and local policymakers. 

“The results were that there was definitely a lot of great interest in starting something like this,” said Hertz. 

He didn’t have to completely reinvent the wheel; Albuquerque had hosted Two Way Street from 1990 until it went out of circulation in 1999, in part because of its aggressive stance towards the city. Hertz re-imagined the paper as an outlet for more discourse on homelessness and poverty.

“I definitely identified opportunities behind broadening the editorial focus to be about more than just homelessness,” he said. “I think our editorial focus is tied to the street.” That includes local policies and legislation, community policing, and events. 

While support for the paper’s rebirth was there, some members of city council were concerned about the impact it would have on local brick and mortar businesses. Hertz says he is hoping to eliminate that concern as vendors and those working with Two Way Street build relationships with the community and business owners. 

“There’s public perception, and then there’s what actually happens,” said Hertz. “We can have a thriving street life and have our vendors stimulate the community  as well.”

Two Way Street is still looking for a permanent home, hosting monthly meetings to go over updates and distribute papers. The transience has made it challenging to keep a consistent group of vendors, limiting current numbers at a small handful, but Hertz believes that as the paper spreads and becomes more well-known more vendors will join. 

“Our team is going to start talking to existing providers and doing a lot of street outreach to bolster our vendor base,” said Hertz. “If we can do that, I think we’ve got enough of a presence out there.” 

The paper is still selling well, distributing over 5,000 copies of the third edition. Much of that success is due to the group of volunteers who help run the paper, many of whom work as service providers in the city. Hertz hopes to one day pass off management of the paper to a small staff, allowing him to focus on his full-time position as a city councilman. 

“My goal was just to do my research to help get it started. I just wanted to make this because I think there’s a need for it,” said Hertz. “The beauty behind [vending] is I’ve always seen it as a market-based strategy to address a socially embedded issue. The face-to-face interaction piece is really at the core of it. You’re creating an economic opportunity for these folks, but you’re also addressing public perception.” ■