The Strand’s building could become an official landmark despite owner’s opposition

Increased costs could put bookstore out of business, owner claims

Dec.December 08, 2018 02:00 PM

Nancy Bass Wyden (Credit: David Shankbone, Beyond my Ken)

Landmarking is often seen as way of honoring important buildings, and a defense against excessive development. But what if preserving a building comes at the expense of the famous store it houses inside? That is the conundrum facing the Landmarks Preservation Commission as the agency decides whether or not to officially landmark The Strand bookstore’s building.

Owner Nancy Bass Wyden testified to the LPC on Tuesday that the increased operational costs associated with landmark designation could put the bookstore in danger, according to the New York Times.

“By landmarking the Strand, you can also destroy a piece of New York history,” Wyden told the Times before the hearing. “We’re operating on very thin margins here, and this would just cost us a lot more, with this landmarking, and be a lot more hassle.” She also noted that the holiday rush in the store left her with little time to prepare a defense.

The Strand’s building at 826 Broadway is one of seven in the area being considered for landmarking. All seven stand along a two-block stretch of Broadway between East 12th and 14th Streets. Preservation groups had originally proposed a list of 193 buildings for landmarking south of Union Square, which the LPC eventually whittled down to just seven.

Why such a massive push for new landmarks? Last year, City Council approved plans to build a 21-story tech center at the site of the P.C. Richard & Son store near Union Square, stoking fear of a broader wave of development in the area. The Union Square Tech Center plan received final approval in August.

Wyden’s grandfather Benjamin Bass opened the Strand in 1927 at a location on Fourth Avenue. The bookstore moved to its current address in 1957, where the family rented for decades before buying the building for $8.2 million in 1996.

The Strand’s bookstore and offices currently occupy five floors within the building, while other businesses rent the remaining floors. Latest city assessments value the building at $31 million. The LPC agreed to hold a second public hearing for the building. [NYT]–Kevin Sun

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