Friday, November 30, 2018

A Plea to Protect the Strand

The Strand Bookstore has just issued a plea against the landmarking of its building. I spoke to Leigh Altshuler, Communications Director for the Strand, who explained the unusual situation.

"They're building these big, new tech hubs," she said, describing the tech building boom south of Union Square that is threatening the historic neighborhood, driving up speculation and demolition. "And in a trade-off, the Strand and a few other buildings along Broadway are now being calendared for landmarking." But the bookstore and building owner Nancy Bass has not been part of that decision. She didn't receive the LPC's draft designation report until after Thanksgiving, giving the Strand little time to prepare for the public hearing on December 4.

Leigh explains that the building is already protected--by the Bass family. "The building is already overbuilt," she says, meaning it has no air rights to sell and it cannot be expanded upon. "There is no danger of it being torn down. Nancy has no intent to sell the building. She just wants to keep running the store without added cost or pressure."

Below is the full text of the Strand's press release, with information about the public hearing and a request for help.

Friends of the Strand,

I'm writing today to ask for your support.

The Strand's building is currently calendared for landmarking by the city. The Strand currently runs on thin margins as a bookseller and retailer in New York City, fighting to survive in the era of Amazon. We have over 230 employees -- most whom are unionized -- and unlike large online retailers (like Amazon), have never asked or received tax breaks or other economic assistance to insure business profitability.

All this designation will do is cost us with bureaucracy in time, frustration, money and uncertainty. We will be forced to wait for approvals and debate what is the right thing to do-- both inside and outside of the store for changes like putting in a coffee shop, repairs from a flood or fire, etc. We need to have the flexibility to change with the needs of our customers and community.

Nancy's family worked for six decades to be able to buy this building and is dedicated to continuing the Bass's 91 year legacy forward. The building is already overbuilt -- with no air rights -- and at no risk for becoming a high rise, glass office building, hotel or luxury apartment. Nancy just wants to insure the security of the Strand, giving her children the opportunity to become 4th generation owners.

There is a public hearing on:

Tuesday, December 4th at 9:30am

at LPC's office in the Municipal Building

located at 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor

This gives the Strand the opportunity to make a case against the landmark status. Nancy will be speaking, joined by authors Gary Shteyngart and Hank O’Neal, and long time Strand employees. Will you please join us on December 4th to show your support? Strand tote in hand, your attendance is what will make this a success. To share this information with your friends, please use this link:

While well-intended, landmarking the building will undermine the Strand, a place that is already considered a landmark by the community, and ultimately put in peril.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you there.


Ian said...

Unfortunately, she does not seem well-informed, and I'm sorry to hear her repeating false-anti-preservation propaganda of the sort peddled by REBNY.

Cynthia Crane said...

I’m a big fan of the GVSHP, but, in this case, I feel unsure how to proceed. 7 buildings is far from enough protection for the area. On the other hand, STRAND BOOKS has a point: Not sure howto go about helping both causes.

Unknown said...

I think you are wrong about landmarking that building. All businesses fuss about it, but there is no data to suggest that landmarking threatens existing businesses who are occupying the retail space.

My feeling is that the Strand management has swallowed REBNY Kool-Aid about the so-called "dangers of landmarking.

I love the Strand and shop their often, but cannot think of any evidence-based reason to think they would be endangered by landmarking the building.

Grundy said...

How about we just bookmark it?

P said...

While the Bass family states they have no intentions of selling the Strand building, landmarking it would mean that a developer could NEVER demolish it and build some monstrosity. The area surrounding and including Strand is currently designated as a C6-1 building zone.

"C6 districts permit a wide range of high-bulk commercial uses requiring a central ­location. C6-1, C6-2 and most C6-3 districts, typically mapped in areas outside central business cores, such as the Lower East Side and Chelsea, have a commercial floor area ratio (FAR) of 6.0"

The Strand Building's lot area id 10057 feet and has a gross floor area of 132,000 feet. What this means is that, by acquiring adjoing lots/buildings and doing a zoning lot merger, a developer could potentially build a huge, lucrative building on the new merged lot especially if the zoning was modified for mixed commercial / residential use.

If landmarked, the Strand Building will have limited value to a developer even if the developer acquires the surrounding lots and buildings. The Bass family, should they one day decide to sell the building in the future, would greatly limit the price realized. Probably getting tens of millions of dollars less than if it was not landmarked.

NYC Insider said...

On the surface having your building landmarked sounds like an honor. However, in reality few landlords welcome the landmarking of their building and here's why. Once landmarked their building will need to go through a review process dictated by an independent board whenever modifying or modernizing their facade. Any changes deemed necessary by the owner will require vetting and appproval from an independent board that has the power to delay, deny restrict or approve the alteration. Now the decision making power is outside the landlord's control. The Bass family is obviously concerned and which landlord in their right mind wouldn't be.
At heart I am a preservationists and see preservation generally as a good and necessary balance to over development but to use one criteria to blanket all situations is flawed thinking. The Strand building will not be demolished with or without landmark status so what is really being accomplished by landmarking this asset.
Note: any restriction to a building can affect it's value.

Unknown said...

I am someone who lives in a landmarked building. I can tell you that spaces in Landmarked buildings, and the buildings themselves, can't be changed without a lot of approvals, all of which take time and cost money. Any alterations that happen both inside or to the outside the building become the domain of the Landmarks commission. Permission is necessary for any changes, and architects and other specialists (contractors) must be hired if one wishes to make any changes to the existing structure, usage, or cosmetic look of the landmarked building/space. The owner is correct when she says it will cost the Strand time and money. While landmarking is a good thing, it does come with some burdens.

Unknown said...

It actually subjects them to restrictions on things like signage and will require them to seek approval of changes like that. It is not insignificant. It also won't prevent the building from being sold if they go out of business. See here from just some of the regulations:

T.E. Rinaldi said...

Wow, I'm so disappointed, even a bit heartbroken, to hear this nonsense coming from the Strand.

Andrew Porter said...

My entire neighborhood is landmarked, and it hasn't prevented any business from doing maintenance on their building, or, after receiving permission, making cosmetic changes.

Now, if they want to sell the structure itself to be torn down, that's something else entirely. As others have said, REBNY—Real Estate Board of New York—has never seen a Landmarked structure or building that they thought should be preserved.

Amy Charles said...

The day Ian and Unknown can keep a brick-and-mortar bookstore alive anywhere in the country is the day they get to start thinking about telling the owner that she doesn't know her own business. WELL ACTUALLY MADAM...

thatseaofflashingsapphires said...

I definitely worked here backk in the 90s.

Can't we just destroy the "big tech hubs"? They are ruining the country.