Sunday, October 14, 2018

McNally Jackson Bookstore

As we heard from Bowery Boogie earlier this week, the successful and beloved McNally Jackson bookstore on Prince Street in Soho is being forced to move. Why? The landlord wants “an enormous amount of rent,” Sarah McNally told AMNY.

McNally added that she has "a contract on one space and has also identified another as a backup. She’s not announcing the final destination yet but it will be in Manhattan close to the original store."

This is good news--but for how long?

For over a decade of talking to countless small businesspeople pushed out by landlords who hiked the rent or denied lease renewals, I have found that many fail to relocate. Of those that do, many end up closing soon after. What's missing? Long leases. It was once customary for a small business to get a ten-year lease. Today, you're lucky if you get two years. And then it can happen all over again.

In addition, the bookstore-killing Amazon has opened a brick-and-mortar location in Soho--right around the corner from McNally Jackson, at 72 Spring St., just one block away. That's probably not a coincidence. McNally Jackson is successful and big retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot are known to open close to successful smaller competitors to suck their customers away.

So while we're breathing a sigh of relief to hear that McNally's not going far right now, we still need to take action to protect it--and other small businesses--in the future. That's why we need to convince the City Council to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. It would guarantee a 10-year lease and a fair rent increase to McNally Jackson and countless others.

There's a public hearing on October 22. Go and speak your mind. If that's not possible, here are more easy, quick ways you can make a difference today. The future of this city depends on you.

P.S. The building that houses McNally Jackson used to have a grocery store, Little Italy’s only supermarket and a neighborhood staple for 25 years. It was forced to close in 2016 -- the Voice reported that rent was $90,000 and the landlord was likely looking for $150,000 to open “a more upscale operation.” That space is still sitting empty, another example of high-rent blight.


RLewis said...

It's such a upscale bookstore that I remember when it opened thinking, "there goes the neighborhood," but then again, I thought the same thing when a GAP store opened on St. Mark's Place. Outlived them both, ha!

glennrwordman said...

Hello, Jeremiah,

We've handled book sales for "Vanishing New York" a couple of times, and are so grateful for your continued activism on our communities.

I just wrote to Speaker Johnson:

Dear Speaker Johnson,

I hope this finds you well.

I live at 400 W 43rd St, in Manhattan Plaza. My wife and my small business is also located in the midtown/Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. Andrea has lived here for 30 years. I moved in to Manhattan Plaza with her in 2006.

I write to ask that you bring the Small Business Jobs Survival Act to a vote in the City Council, with your support and endorsement, and, if you cannot bring it to a vote, to please explain why.

In Hell's Kitchen, and in other parts of our city, small businesses, many in locations where they've been and served their neighborhoods and all New Yorkers for years, are being forced out by exorbitant rent increases, in unbalanced negotiations where landlords, backed by politicians and developers, hold all the power. The SBJSA would re-balance the equation, and at least give small businesses--in many ways the very life blood of neighborhoods, of communities--a fair chance to stay and continue to serve and thrive.

My wife and I run New York's only exclusively off-site bookseller, Books On Call NYC, handling book sales at author events all over the city. We do not have a "bricks and mortar" store. I host the long-running Half King Reading Series at the bar on 23rd/10th. I was moved to write by the apparent fate of McNally Jackson down on Prince Street. In some ways, they are our competitors--they host author events in their basement room, and periodically we want to handle book sales somewhere, or host an author at The Half King, and find that they are hosting the author in-store.

But the city is so much richer for them being there. An independent, family-owned business, selling books in the literary capital of the world, in a wonderful, welcoming, personal environment. There is more than enough room for even more independent book stores in our city, and they are, and have been, one of the best. They hope to move to a new, currently undisclosed location. I hope they do. But even if they do, in a year or two they will be faced with the same terrible math that has imperiled other business who get granted the reprieve of relocation...only to close shortly thereafter.

The SBJSA would help. It restores fairness, and may result in redressing at least the perception that our city is becoming the plaything for the wealthy and the landowners, a quasi-feudal environment that strips New York of its essential character.

Please bring SBJSA to a vote. Please support it. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Be well,


Jeremiah Moss said...

Thank you Glenn. And thanks for your support behind the scenes!

glennrwordman said...


Response from Speaker Johnson's office:

Thank you for contacting Speaker Johnson regarding Intro. 737, more commonly referred to as the “Small Business Jobs Survival Act”.

Our office is responsible for processing the mail that the Speaker receives as the head of the New York City Council.

Next Monday, October 22, 2018, beginning at 1 pm in the Council Chambers of City Hall, the Council’s Committee on Small Business will be holding a public hearing on Intro. 737.

Like all Council hearings, this hearing is open to the public and we invite you to attend and to weigh in further on this topic.

Public testimony will begin immediately following the testimony of any invited experts and will be limited to two to three minutes per person to allow as many people as possible to present their views. Please be sure to register with the sergeant-at-arms at City Hall prior to the start of the hearing if you plan on testifying in person.

You can also submit written testimony to the Council via email at and/or watch the hearing live online at If submitting testimony by email, please write SMALL BUSINESS JOBS SURVIVAL ACT in the subject line. Written testimony will be accepted until the close of business (6 pm) on Wednesday, October 24th.

Thanks again for contacting the Speaker regarding Intro. 737. We appreciate your input.


Correspondence Unit
Community Engagement Division
Office of New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
NYC Council
They did NOT say Johnson will support the bill.