Congratulations to St. Mark's Books and to Cooper Union for reaching an agreement that will help keep this bookstore in place in our neighborhood, hopefully for a long time to come.
This morning the New York Times reported that a deal has been reached: "the college agreed to reduce the store’s rent to about $17,500 a month from about $20,000 for one year, and to forgive $7,000 in debt. The school will also provide student help with revising the store’s business plan."
It's been a tough row to hoe. So how did we get here? We first got an inkling of the shop's financial troubles in June when these signs went up all over the store:
The bookstore confirmed they were having a tough time and throughout the summer many of us supported the shop by buying books.
By September, everyone knew the shop was in big trouble with their landlord, Cooper Union. We heard from the owners, and via news sources, that Cooper was not being sympathetic to their request for a rent reduction. The Cooper Square Committee started a petition that eventually garnered 44,000 signatures. I published an Open Letter to Cooper Union. We spent a weekend in a book-buying frenzy that boosted the shop's sales by 30%, creating a Christmas in September. The neighborhood, and New Yorkers all over the country, had truly rallied behind the shop.
The story was all over the news. Many well-known authors signed the petition, Salman Rushdie wrote a scathing letter to Cooper Union, and Michael Moore showed up at the store to sign books and lend his support.
We heard then that Cooper's final decision would be put off until the end of October. We waited. One week ago, Cooper Union said no, turning down the bookstore's request. They told the bookstore owners that they were broke, would rather have a tenant paying twice the rent--$40,000 a month--and that the shop would not be able to afford a lease renewal. I launched a petition to boycott the inevitable bank or Starbucks that would move in should the bookstore move out--hundreds of you signed it, letting Cooper know you would not support another bank or chain store in that space.
Some word from Cooper Union said the decision was not final, although the bookstore owners confirmed to me that they'd been told it was definitely the end of the line. A done deal.
Finally, in a Hail Mary pass yesterday at Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office, the two sides at last came to an agreement.
Congratulations and thank you to everyone who supported this cause. To everyone who signed the petitions. To everyone who tweeted, linked, and commented on the story. To all the bloggers who passionately posted about it. To all the authors, politicians, and academics who lent their weight to the issue. Thank you to Scott Stringer for mediating the deal and to President Jamshed Bharucha for doing the right thing. Thanks to everyone who bought books during this time--and will keep buying books at St. Mark's. I am heartened to know there are still so many people who give a shit about real books and real bookstores, and so grateful that you all fought hard to keep this one alive.
Now we have to make a pledge to keep it thriving. Buy your books from St. Mark's. Buy them in person or buy them online. Attend their literary events. Encourage them. Support them. Let's never have to fight this battle again.
P.S. If you're around today at 11:00, Grieve has news of a formal announcement at the bookstore.