Strand Bookstore begins new chapter as reluctant addition to city landmarks

People browse books outside Strand Bookstore in lower Manhattan. The iconic building was given landmark status despite the pleas of its owner. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The bookstore's owner says that future repairs and changes will put her through a time consuming and costly bureaucratic wringer.

People browse books outside Strand Bookstore in lower Manhattan. The iconic building was given landmark status despite the pleas of its owner.
People browse books outside Strand Bookstore in lower Manhattan. The iconic building was given landmark status despite the pleas of its owner. Photo Credit: David Handschuh/David Handschuh

The city added another structure to its list of more than 36,000 landmark properties today: but the owner doesn’t want the building on it.

Any work done at the 92-year-old Strand Bookstore at 826 Broadway in Manhattan will now be subject to a more stringent permitting process under the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) rules. The famous store, which touts 18 miles of books on its shelves, is one of seven buildings designated as historical landmarks on Broadway Tuesday.

The Landmark Preservation Commission cited the architectural and cultural significance of the building in making their decision.  

The Strand’s owner points to restorations done after a 2017 manhole explosion outside the bookstore as an example of her good stewardship of the building, and says that future repairs and changes will put her through a time consuming and costly bureaucratic wringer.

Andrew Berman, executive director at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said that his group pushed the Commission to look at the bigger neighborhood picture.

“Rather than cherry-picking this one building and the six other buildings the commission chose to designate today, we had pushed them to take a much broader, more holistic look at the neighborhood, which is under a lot of development pressure,” he said.

But Berman didn’t think the decision would mark the final chapter for the storied Strand.

“The Strand was not in any way threatened with being torn down. But we certainly think that this building is worthy of landmark designation, and that the Strand will be able to prosper under designation,” he added.

One nearby building owner in the neighborhood, developer Gregg Singer, unsuccessfully tried to dodge a 2006 landmark designation by stripping away parts of a former school building and community center at 605 E. Ninth St.

Nancy Bass Wyden, the Strand’s owner, vowed to continue the fight.

“Tonight, I am going to try and figure how to keep the Strand going when the city’s tied me up in a bureaucratic straightjacket,” she said in a statement.

Wyden held a news conference outside her store following the designation, during which she said, "This was unfair from the start. We are fighting this at the grassroots level. We need your support." 

A tweet from the Strand Twitter account continued: "The fight isn’t over." 

Liam Quigley