Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Penn Books

Craig Newman, the third-generation owner of Penn Books inside Penn Station, wrote in to the #SaveNYC Facebook group yesterday with a plea.

"I am trying to survive," he wrote, "but it gets harder every day. My rent is now a staggering $45,000 a month, not including property taxes, and another $20,000 a year in commercial rent tax. If anybody can do anything or cares about saving my bookstore, please HELP."

He added, "I thought Mayor de Blasio was supposed to help small business."

Business is going well for Penn Books. They are not being pushed out. But, like too many small businesses in the city, they are struggling under an enormous rent strain.

photo via Capital New York

Craig's grandfather, Arthur Newman, started the bookshop in the original Penn Station in 1962. Remarkably, the shop survived the wrecking ball and reopened in the new Penn Station. Craig started working there in 1978, taking the A-train to work through the gritty city as a 12-year-old kid. He opened the current shop's incarnation in 1992 after his grandfather passed away.

Penn Books survived the destruction of Penn Station. They survived citywide fiscal crises. They even outlasted Borders. Business is still bustling. But the rent? That's another story.

Today, weighed down with an insane rent burden for a mere 1,300 square feet of space, Craig is concerned for the longevity of his family business. We already lost Posman's from Grand Central, we can't lose another train-station bookshop, especially not one that's been going strong for 53 years.

Stay tuned and click here to take action to save small businesses like Penn Books. Enough is enough. #SaveNYC!

UPDATE: Cash mob for Penn Books and #Save NYC has been cancelled.


John K said...

It seems clearer every day that the goal of the real estate industry, perhaps with the collaboration of most of New York State's and New York City's elected officials, is to drive out smaller businesses, especially lower rent-paying Mom-and-Pop stores, in favor of local and national chains. Asking for $45,000/year rent AND $20,000 in taxes for a tiny space in a dump like Penn Station is ridiculous, and who else could afford that but a chain?

Is there any way to get through to the people in charge that not everyone wants everything to be a chain store, or that chains often are not as good for the local economy, or people, as smaller businesses? Is de Blasio totally beholden to these interests or is it possible to remind him of what he said he stood for and promised the people of New York?

Caleo said...

This is getting unbelievably old. $45,000 a month?
Plus another $20,000 a year in commercial rent?
I'm shocked that he can pay that. He can't possibly be turning a profit.
I used to work by Penn in the early 00's and used to have lunch down in the station and browse through the aisles here after eating. It's a great little shop and it's definitely earned it's spot with such a great history and multi generational ownership.
I don't know how he does it with that kind of rent, but I'll go out of my way to pay another visit and buy some books.
One of the few actual bookstores left on this depleted town.

Anonymous said...

I love how Jeremiah ignores the tax part of all this. The property tax issue just gets ignored. I guess you just dont want to acknowledge the city getting 20 billion a year -25% of the annual revenue- from these taxes. Will you just acknowledge that the city cant have an 80 billion dollar budget without that revenue? And that the Mayor wants every dollar for his programs? Reduce these taxes. Resuce city spending. Get the rent arbitration. But the city wants to increase spending. Cant cut a penny from the budget? So what is the solution? You tell us .

Anonymous said...

Is the MTA the Penn Station landlord?
Or is it Madison Square Garden/James Dolan?
Or some other entity?

Jeremiah Moss said...

The landlord is Vornado.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a regular commuter through Penn Station, but I have been there several times a year for the last 15 years, usually to board an Amtrak train or a trip to EWR on NJ Transit. I don't remember seeing Penn Books at all! Where is it, exactly?

Anonymous said...

Even though it seems like it won't last much longer it makes me think I should start selling books if he's able to cover the 45 thousand dollars a month now.

Anonymous said...

The bookstore is on the lower level near KMart.

Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous:
Penn Books is on the long, straight concourse on the lower level, closer to the LIRR and 1/2/3 end.

Anonymous said...

The store is on what is called the CONNECTING CONCOURSE - under what would be 33rd Street. Primarily a LIRR concourse, which connects all of the LIRR concourses and the main ticketing area.

JAZ said...

I went up there yesterday to buy a couple of books and show my support.

And while I was there I planned on devouring a couple of Papaya Dogs....until discovering that the Penn Station Papaya Dog is indeed gone. Fucking Unreal.

Aside from the rent increase, which is absolutely ridiculous, from being in the bookstore for about 15 minutes yesterday, you can spot another pattern that is a major problem: people come in, flip through books and open their phones. they type something or other into it, and walk out. And what I think is happening is that they use the bookstore to 'preview', and if they find the book interesting enough, they type a note to themselves to go find it on Amazon in the hopes that they can save a buck or two. Why would you not want to just buy it right there, and then have something interesting to read on the train?

Jeremiah Moss said...

JAZ, that's exactly what those assholes are doing. I was in St. Mark's Books once and a young woman and her friend did it, and said OUT LOUD, "I'll get this later on Amazon." I tried to engage her in a conversation about it. She didn't care.

Anonymous said...

This "showrooming" is killing all types of brick and mortar stores. People browse, try, etc, then buy online. Especially bad at bookstores. Unfortunately places like Penn St. are only going to be left with food establishments and newsstands.

Rodney de la Cruz said...

Save New York? Well save it from what? Limited Space, Obsolete books,progress.

Loosing cause. New York is for the Rich and poor and has no room for the middle class.

That's the way it is. That's the way its going to be. that's the way the powers that be(Rich) wan't it. Move to long island, New Jersey and get on with it.

9:51 a.m. said...

"I'll go to Borders to find a book, and then I'll to go to Amazon to buy it, generally"

Anonymous said...

"loosing cause"

And this is why people need to read more, esp. print.

11:00 a.m. said...

Also happening in London


Anonymous said...

Is the 3/28 Cash Mob still happening? I see the facebook event was cancelled. Please update?

Jeremiah Moss said...

Sorry, it's been cancelled. Thanks for the reminder. I forgot it was listed here.

Anonymous said...

I cant support this. Penn Station is a disaster. With the harsh winter came a giant increase in the crazy disgusting homeless. The final straw was the homeless guy washing his undies in the mens room sink - while dressed in his undies. Move to a better location. Please. They need to clean this place up or demolish it. No one should pay that kind of rent to be in a giant homeless shelter. Penn Station is an embarassment to NYC. Visitors get off Amtrak and this is what they see? Crazy homeless passed out or digging through the trash? Some things need to vanish. Penn Station is number one on that list.

Jolar70 said...

I've always tried to do the opposite with Amazon; I use them to window shop and then I try and buy through the places I love in town. Particularly St. Mark's Books, which also lost their lease and had to move further East onto a less commercial, less foot-traffic street. Good luck to them!

Penn Books is special to me because I have a friend who regularly takes the LIRR and always buys her books there and I always really loved that she did!

In the time I've lived in New York, many of the things I came here for have closed. The chorus of cynics calling this "change as usual" are as boring as the landscape of Rite Aids left in the wake of their lazy philosophy.

Gentrification may well be associated with white skin, but I associate it with realtor shingles and greedy landlords of ALL ethnicities.

J said...

Can you say why the cash mob was cancelled?

lesquick said...

I'll miss my friend Roger who worked at Penn books ( wish I knew his last name)