Strand Book Store building landmarked over owner’s objection

BY GABE HERMAN | The Strand Book Store building was landmarked by New York City on June 11, despite ongoing objections from the legendary store’s owner, who also owns the building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 826 Broadway, at E. 12th St., home of the Strand since 1956. Six other buildings were also landmarked in that area of Broadway between E. 12 and E. 14 Sts.

The Strand Book Store at Broadway and E. 12 St. (Photo by Google Maps)

All of the buildings were constructed between 1876 and 1902, and have “strong architectural and historical significance,” according to Sarah Carroll, the L.P.C. chairperson.

“Together they reflect the history and importance of Broadway’s development south of Union Square,” Carroll said. “They tell the history of the area, from its industrial past with the garment industry and labor rights movement to its cultural significance with the film industry and the internationally beloved Strand Book Store.”

Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden has opposed the landmark designation, saying it would put increased stresses on the business.

An Instagram post by the store after the June 11 designation, said, “For every repair and every upgrade, Strand will have to go through the slow bureaucracy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which adds to the expenses to keep Strand alive.”

After the commission had weighed in, Bass Wyden held a press conference at the store decrying the vote.

“This was unfair from the start,” she said. “We are fighting this at the grassroots level. We need your support.”

Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden, at podium, held a press conference slamming the city’s decision to landmark 826 Broadway. (From Twitter/Strand Book Store)

The Strand also posted on Instagram, “Although this is not the outcome we hoped for, we will continue to serve our customers as we have done robustly for 92 years. Thank you for your support along the way.”

Last year, an L.P.C. spokesperson responded to Bass Wyden’s concerns about bureaucratic issues with landmarked buildings, saying that free technical expertise was given to building owners, and that the commission could process 95 percent of permits within 10 days.

“The Landmarks Preservation Commission will continue to work with the owner of 826 Broadway, home to the Strand Book Store, to address her concerns and ensure that this cultural institution endures,” the commission said in a statement at that time.

The landmarking of the seven buildings was strongly criticized by Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, who said it did not go far enough to protect the neighborhood from development. Last year, the City Council approved zoning changes to allow construction of a new “Tech Hub” on E. 14th St. between Third and Fourth Sts. Fearing the Tech Hub would only spark further development in the area — especially of more buildings geared toward tech companies — Berman and his group had pushed for zoning changes to safeguard the surrounding area. But no rezoning was forthcoming. And the preservationist has said for sometime now that significantly more landmarking was needed to offset the Tech Hub’s potential impact.

Berman accused Councilmember Carlina Rivera and Mayor Bill de Blasio of not fully acting on what he called their commitment to more landmarking and zoning protections for Greenwich Village and the East Village.

“Normally a preservation group like ours would cheer the landmark designation of seven buildings in our area,” Berman said after the June 11 landmarkings. “But this token gesture that does not even begin to provide the protections this neighborhood needs or was promised by our councilmember when she ran for office is a huge disappointment, and another indication of the lack of interest in protecting this neighborhood by leaders at all levels of city government.

“While the mayor and Councilmember Rivera cherry-picked seven buildings to landmark which are in no danger of going anywhere, they refused to consider dozens of other buildings of equal or greater historic significance all around them, which are endangered or have been demolished since this unseemly deal was cut.”

The Strand. (Courtesy Village Preservation)

After last summer’s Council vote, Rivera sent a letter to the Department of City Planning that asked for “immediate action to protect the area south of Union Square.”

Rivera said, at the time, that the Tech Hub, planned for 114 E. 14 St., at Irving Place, would be a boon for the community. She added that the city’s considering the seven buildings for landmarking, along with requiring special permits for creating new hotels in the area, were good first steps toward increasing zoning and landmarking protections for the area and its small businesses.

After the June 11 landmark designations, Rivera thanked the L.P.C.

“These buildings represent the pinnacle of Industrial Age architecture south of Union Square,” she said, “and together they will further preserve and acknowledge lower Broadway’s legacy as a center of New York City’s manufacturing might. I look forward to collaborating with the Commission and local stakeholders on additional opportunities to recognize the architectural and cultural treasures in our neighborhoods.”

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