New York

A Plea to Protect the Strand

The Strand Bookstore has just issued a plea against the landmarking of its building. I spoke to Leigh Altshuler, Communications Director for the Strand, who explained the unusual situation.

“They’re building these big, new tech hubs,” she said, describing the tech building boom south of Union Square that is threatening the historic neighborhood, driving up speculation and demolition. “And in a trade-off, the Strand and a few other buildings along Broadway are now being calendared for landmarking.” But the bookstore and building owner Nancy Bass has not been part of that decision. She didn’t receive the LPC’s draft designation report until after Thanksgiving, giving the Strand little time to prepare for the public hearing on December 4.

Leigh explains that the building is already protected–by the Bass family. “The building is already overbuilt,” she says, meaning it has no air rights to sell and it cannot be expanded upon. “There is no danger of it being torn down. Nancy has no intent to sell the building. She just wants to keep running the store without added cost or pressure.”

Below is the full text of the Strand’s press release, with information about the public hearing and a request for help.

Friends of the Strand,

I’m writing today to ask for your support.

The Strand’s building is currently calendared for landmarking by the city. The Strand currently runs on thin margins as a bookseller and retailer in New York City, fighting to survive in the era of Amazon. We have over 230 employees — most whom are unionized — and unlike large online retailers (like Amazon), have never asked or received tax breaks or other economic assistance to insure business profitability.

All this designation will do is cost us with bureaucracy in time, frustration, money and uncertainty. We will be forced to wait for approvals and debate what is the right thing to do– both inside and outside of the store for changes like putting in a coffee shop, repairs from a flood or fire, etc. We need to have the flexibility to change with the needs of our customers and community.

Nancy’s family worked for six decades to be able to buy this building and is dedicated to continuing the Bass’s 91 year legacy forward. The building is already overbuilt — with no air rights — and at no risk for becoming a high rise, glass office building, hotel or luxury apartment. Nancy just wants to insure the security of the Strand, giving her children the opportunity to become 4th generation owners.

There is a public hearing on:

Tuesday, December 4th at 9:30am

at LPC’s office in the Municipal Building

located at 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor

This gives the Strand the opportunity to make a case against the landmark status. Nancy will be speaking, joined by authors Gary Shteyngart and Hank O’Neal, and long time Strand employees. Will you please join us on December 4th to show your support? Strand tote in hand, your attendance is what will make this a success. To share this information with your friends, please use this link:

While well-intended, landmarking the building will undermine the Strand, a place that is already considered a landmark by the community, and ultimately put in peril.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you there.
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