Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Posman Books


As you've likely heard by now, the Posman's bookstore in Grand Central Terminal has been denied a lease renewal by their landlord, the MTA. With no negotiations or help, December 31 remains their final day.

I sent our petition, with its nearly 2,500 signatures, to the MTA representative, but have not heard back. So go to Posman's before the new year and say your goodbyes to yet another small shop in the city.

On a recent evening, business was booming. You can barely get inside the door. But that doesn't matter. Our small shops can be successful, and still they get the boot in today's New York. 

A customer approached the register with her books and said to the cashier, "I'm so glad you're still in business. I never buy from Amazon."

The cashier broke the news, "Actually, we're going out of business," and she explained the situation, how the MTA is denying them a new lease to make room for a new luxury skyscraper.

The customer began to wail, "No, no, no, no!" I've witnessed this scene so many times. The shock, the denial, the clutching at the heart. Living in this city today, if you love it, is one big funeral.

I asked employee, long-time bookstore guy, and poet Ron Kolm how customers have reacted to the closure of Posman's. He told me:

"The response has been amazing. The general feeling in the store has surprised me. I always liked our customers, and we definitely have a number of regulars, but I figured that most of the people who shopped there were just passing through; we get tons of tourists. But in the past weeks it's become clear that Posman Books is part of a community.

Almost every other customer tells us how much we mean to them, how they stop in before getting their train home from work, or to keep up with what's being published, or just to relax. They are so serious in their commiserating, if that's the right word. They're solicitous about our futures, and wonder what they can do to reverse something they see as being awful.

When I'm at the register, it's almost one long, constant conversation, and I end up empathizing with them. Which has sort of stunned me. I worked the register for five or six hours on 'Black Friday,' which is traditionally a dead day for us, everyone leaving the city for Thanksgiving. But not this one; it was one of our busiest days in quite awhile, and the conversations were so intense, and so deeply felt, that I went home with a splitting headache. I truly thought that this is what a shrink must feel like after a day of listening to other people's problems -- I had to jolt myself back into focus and remember that it was me who was going to lose a work situation I love, and a staff I admire and enjoy working with."

Meanwhile, the Rite-Aid next door--which was empty, by the way--is allowed to live on.


Anonymous said...

How can you not have a bookstore in a train station?
The idiocy is spiraling out of control in this town...

Scarlet The Film Magazine said...

A train station without a book store is unthinkable ,especially one as busy as this.And yet......

Gojira said...

Welcome to the New New York, where all that matters is the tourist dollar, the rights of developers to raze the city, the ability of wolf packs drunken students to wreak havoc on residential neighborhoods, and the determination of politicians to sell us out to whoever stuffs the most money into their re-election campaign chests.

Despite all of that, Jeremiah, I want to wish you and yours a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and a steely resolve to continue cataloguing the diminution of the city in 2015.

Unknown said...

is there any way to reverse these trends maybe someone could set up a site to augment this one where at risk business' could be highlighted and action plans could be formulated. I am not optimistic and am looking hard at living this city which has left me. Only yesterday walking to Lee's Art shop on 57th looked around the area where I worked in the 90's and saw nothing redeeming. Just in that small area remembered Coliseum Books 57th & Broadway, Cosmic Coffee shop same building, a small coffee shops Coffee Arts owned by single man from Serbia who worked long hours and was kicked out by the landlord his shop still remains empty almost 20years later, the great movie theater that was on 57th of 8th underground it was think it was called Roundabout, huge pizzeria next store called Mariella which was forced out moved to much smaller spot around the corner then was forced out of there now a Starbucks and it was forced to the back of a bakery up the block.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

I was there last week, after shopping at Central Watch (great place) and the bookstore was packed. Bookstores and travel (should) go hand-in-hand - part of the romance of journeys. Reading, thinking, dreaming ... of little account in today's grand schemes.

Anonymous said...

Used to love going in there. They had a lot of local NY books, including stuff not carried at B&N. Always great to browse, too. Sadly, it will probably become a Starbucks or another eatery.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I was near Grand Central Terminal, I would go out of my way and stop into Posman. Upon entering the store I would spend about 20 minutes gathering some of the best greeting cards in NYC.
Their travel section as well as their art/graphic section was great. I loved checking out all the new fiction/non-fiction tables.

Thanks to the greedy MTA, another wonderful store has bit the dust. I will be heading down to the Chelsea Market now to gladly visit the Posman store there.

Anonymous said...

Beeing a tourist in NY myself several times, i think this trend is also bad for the foreign visitors to the town. Tourists like me want to see as much "real NY" as possible, not another anonymous Starbucks. Even i bought a book at Posmans Books (beeing from Germany) and smiled every time i walked by the shop, because i seen many people visited the shop. MTA should also consider such points of view.

Anonymous said...

Everyone, it's YOUR money that's keeping this mess going. Like when your favorite coffee shop gets forced out and a Starbucks opens in it's place, how many of you complained about it only to start getting your coffee from Starbucks a couple of weeks later ? If you really want to send a message, boycott the entire business (not just that location, but ALL locations). Are there enough tourists running around New York to keep all of these new shops open or do they also need the residents' patronage to stay in business ?

Don't just complain about it and then continue doing business with the same entities that are part of the problem. Same goes with your own landlords. How many of you are paying HALF of your take-home pay to your landlord ? Why ? For the sake of "being there" ... in a city that is sucking you dry and gnawing the meat from your bones until there's nothing left ? Years ago, people didn't put up with forking over 50% (or more) of their paycheck to pay for an apartment or a house ... that's part of the reason why they had a higher quality of life back then. Of course today, we have realty agents pimping "the american dream" with a 40-year mortgage. Really ? Try adjusting your budget so that NO MORE THAN 30% to 35% of your net pay goes to housing ... and then try to find a location that fits that criteria. You wanna buy a home ? Consider nothing longer than a 10-year mortgage and apply that same percentage on your home payments (mortgage PLUS monthly condo maintenance fees). As I said in the first sentence, it's YOUR money that's keeping this mess going.

Then look at the commute time ... if it takes more than an hour to commute each way, then you're again spending too much (too much time in this case). Yes I know that you make more money in NYC ... BUT you SPEND even more money living here as well. And if you need to take MTA public transportation, yeah take some points off for that one. All that stress, filth, and incompetance on the part of the MTA is costing you in other ways too. Start with these basic rules of thumb and many of you will see that this city is unlivable by most people.

New York is riding on the coattails of it's former self. Many of you are still going gaga over having "the New York experience" but you're just not seeing that that "experience" is based off an echo of a time long since past. The same is true for you tourists that are reading this. You are welcome to come here but don't expect to see the real NYC because it doesn't exist anymore. The tour guide will likely spend a lot of time telling you how things "used" to be .. and how such and such location "used to house the famous ".

It's gone people.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add to my boyfriend's previous post about the under 35 percent rule. in most cases you should share an apartment because you want to do it and not because you have to do it. we live in a 860 sq-ft apartment in astoria. We both can afford the rent on our own without the other as it falls under 30% of our individual paychecks but since we share the rent, it only comes to about 15 percent for each of us. There are only a few reasons why you would actually "need" to share for example if you are a college student and/or you are working part time. Or maybe you are here on a short-term basis. So if you are living with someone on the long term whether that be your spouse or just a roommate, you should have money coming out of your ears and you should not be struggling at all. The numbers dont lie so when you apply this math to your "living the new york experience" you will realize just exactly how poor you really are. If former mayor bloomborg wants to make this into a "luxury product" ok then let him have his dream. would be interesting to see what this city turns into when all of the waiters, bartenders, baristas, doormen, etc leave the city because they are fed up with living with 5 other roomies in a 2-bedroom 1-bathroom apartment and commuting 3 hours each way because they cant afford anything closer or more reasonable. The landlords keep remodeling and keep making the living spaces smaller and smaller. I once saw an 85 (eighty five) square foot apartment that the realtor touted was a "total steal" for $1800 a month in manhattan. I suppose the next step is for them to shrink it down to the size of a filing cabinet like the ones you see at the morgue. if you think i am exaggerating look into those stories in hong kong where they have these "bunk" apartments kinda like what you would see in a submarine. Hong kong is one of the most richest places in the world just like nyc and yet they have that $hit. Its just a hole in the wall the size of a twin bed and there are 2 or 3 stacked on top of another with a ladder. twenty or so sharing the same living space with one bathroom. You think it would never come to that? just take a look at those "micro apartments" that bloomburg touted a few years back sure seems we are getting there.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Anonymous 8:05, you sound like you're in a great situation, but that's not the case for many citizens who have low-paying jobs. I'm lucky enough to have been here a long time, but would never be able to afford to live by myself in Astoria at today's rents. Try finding somewhere if you make a salary in the forty thousands. And I'm well off by the standards of many New Yorkers. People are struggling. I get it about leaving for somewhere more affordable, and I think it's more and more unavoidable for many, but it's a hard choice, especially for people who've been here for many years, and particularly those born here.

Anonymous said...

To onemorefoldedsunset - we understand and totally agree that for those in low-paying jobs, it's extremely difficult to leave your hometown for a better and more affordable living situation. Most people would rather just "grin and bear it" for years and decades on end rather than go through the nightmare of relocating ... which goes back to my initial comment that "it's YOUR money that is keeping this mess going". You have been pushed into a corner whereby escaping will be very painful and yet somewhere deep inside, you know that that's what you need to do for a better life in the long run. You are convincing yourself that it's ok to be in a situation where you need to live with roommates just to have a roof over your head. Frankly, it's NOT acceptable to me or my partner that this is happening to the people of this once-great city. For the past 6 months or so, we've been looking into leaving sometime around spring when our lease expires. Yes we are in a great situation, but we're not going to continue to use our money to contribute to this mess. Most of our friends have already left this place. The remaining few are making the same plans of leaving just like us.

Many of these idiot CEOs and so-called "company leaders" need to understand that you simply cannot have a sustainable society without balance. They want low-wage workers to work in Manhattan but they don't want them living there ... in that "luxury product" as our former mayor calls it. It's like they are being given the message "thanks for keeping this city up and running - now shoo - go away - go back to your filing cabinet". Really ? Take a city like New York and remove all the low-wage workers and what you're left with is a joke ... a place where just about everything is self-serve and boring as heck. No more waiters or busboys ? Ok then go pickup your own plates from the kitchen counter and cleanup after yourselves (including diswashing your own plates after you're done with your dinner date). No more maids ? Ok - clean your own hotel room, make your own bed, and launder your own bedsheets when you checkout. Same applies for the janitors and cleaning crew that keep all those office buildings nice & tidy. No more bartenders or club DJs ? Ok - install alchohol vending machines instead and let everyone pick their own songs from the jukebox.

These are just a few examples of the people that played a big role in making New York a great place ... and now they are the ones that are being foresaken the most by what's going on. Oh don't get me wrong, making money is great. It really is! However, I would rather make good profits where everything is balanced and fair rather than make astronomical profits where someone is going to get shafted. Unfortunately, the people running this show would rather make a quick buck rather than put some thought into engineering a balanced, honorable, and sustainable society.

The only way those idiots are going to get it is for them to experience such a labor shortage mentioned above and let everything come to a standstill. Most likely this won't happen as there will always be a large amount of people that will just continue to accept an ever-decreasing quality of life in the hopes that "someday it will turn around and get better ... someday". At the very least, I hope that those of you that are struggling would just look around at other possibilities. This city has turned into a DISGRACE and is no longer worth your time and labor.

I'm not a robot said...

No one reads anymore. They just consume.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Yes, I understand the logic of leaving. The lack of affordable housing is intolerable (what about those latest housing lotteries? - ha). And the prevalent culture of greed and destruction is sickening.
I'm lucky to have been here long enough to not have to pay thousands for an apartment the size of a closet.
And despite the changes in the city, my heart is still here.
Good luck with your plans.