By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Advocates for the Strand bookstore are protesting its proposed landmarking ahead of the last public hearing on the topic next Tuesday.
Nancy Bass Wyden, the owner of the Strand, came out against the proposed landmarking of her business at the end of last year, arguing at a previous public hearing before the Landmarks Preservation Commission that doing so would destroy the business.
Bass Wyden’s family, which has been operating the bookstore at 826-828 Broadway at 12th Street since 1927, has owned the building for the last 20 years. The store was originally opened by Benjamin Bass and the family has been operating the business for the last 90 years. The business relocated to its current spot on Broadway just south of Union Square Park in 1956 and Benjamin’s son, Fred, bought the building in 1996.
“We operate on thin margins,” Bass Wyden argued in a petition against the landmarking. “For every repair and every upgrade, the Strand would have to go through the slow bureaucracy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which adds to the expenses to keep Strand alive.”
The Strand argued that landmarking the building would limit flexibility to do future upgrades, such as fixing the awning, changing the outside lighting, conducting repairs from a fire or flood, change the configuration of the store or add a coffee shop.
The Commission, however, is arguing that the landmarking is necessary due to the upcoming development in the area, specifically the new tech training center planned for East 14th Street nearby. Preservationists are worried that the new tech center will encourage more development in the neighborhood and have argued for landmarking about 200 buildings in the area south of Union Square Park.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has been particularly involved in this push and executive director Andrew Berman was disappointed when the Commission only picked seven buildings for protections.
The hearing next Tuesday will be held at 1 Centre Street on the ninth floor at 9:30 a.m. following a press conference in front of the building’s north entrance at 8:45 a.m. The bookstore has also started a petition protesting the landmarking at strandbooks.com/protect-strand.