For many New York buildings, obtaining a landmark status is a prestigious honor. However, for the Strand Bookstore on the corner of 12th and Broadway, its newly appointed landmark status could prove detrimental to the business’ future viability.
Strand owner Nancy Bass-Wyden informed the business’ patrons at a press conference on June 11 that their iconic location was unanimously declared a New York City landmark by the New York landmarks commission. “Although this is not the outcome we hoped for, we’ll continue to serve our customers as we have done robustly for 92 years,” said the Strand on Twitter. “This was unfair from the start. We are fighting this at the grassroots level. We need your support.”
The landmark status comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s project, “Union Square Tech Training Center,” was announced last year. The project looks to build a 22-story tech facility on 14th street to help provide tech and job training to underserved communities. The $250 million project has been criticized by some activists for its modernizing effect on the Union Square area.
To combat the modernization of Union Square, many local activists requested that some buildings in the area be landmarked in order to protect the history of the area. After the announcement that the Strand bookstore was on the short-list for landmarking, Bass-Wyden spoke out that landmarking the Strand would “destroy” the business.
This began a year-long battle by the Strand to “protect the Strand” from becoming a New York City landmark. If the building was to become a landmark, Bass-Wyden said that much of the bureaucracy and costs associated with the landmark status would cripple the business, which already operates on “very small margins.” In their efforts, the Strand accumulated an 11,000 signature petition. The petition was pushed through by the Landmark’s Preservation Commission and was declared in an 8–0 vote that the bookstore was a landmark.
“The Landmarks Preservation Commission recognizes that the Strand Bookstore is internationally beloved and it contributes to the building’s significance,” the LPC said in a statement. “LPC is confident that its flexible and efficient regulatory process will enable the Strand to remain nimble and adapt to a changing retail climate, and thereby continue its important place in New York City.”
In addition to the Strand, seven other buildings on Broadway, south of Union Square, were declared landmarks. The Strand says it will continue to serve its dedicated customers as it is navigating its new status. For more information about the Strand Bookstore and its history at 12th and Broadway, please visit their website.