Strand Bookstore, six other Broadway buildings are now NYC landmarks

The Strand building’s proposed protection faced fierce
opposition by its owner and community members

The building that houses the Strand Bookstore at 826 Broadway
was designated as a New York City landmark on Tuesday morning,
following a
contested process
and fierce opposition from community members
and the bookstore’s owner.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark
the Strand’s building, along with six other nearby buildings:
817, 830, 832, 836, 840, and 841 Broadway.

The building’s designation comes
after two public hearings
—one in December 2018 and another
one in February this year—and several written submissions to the
LPC, as well as a petition filed by those opposing the
designation.

The LPC’s interest in landmarking the building, which was
designed by William H. Birkmore and first opened in 1902, from its
architectural significance as a Renaissance Revival structure. The
building is associated with the garment industry in the early 20th
century, and has housed the Strand since 1956 (the bookstore is the
building’s longest occupant, per the LPC). The Strand bought the
11-story building in 1996.

“It’s a historic institution that reflects the era of book
row, the center of book-selling—I’m confident that the
commission’s review of the masterplan and any future applications
will provide [the] flexibility the Strand needs to remain nimble
and innovative and to continue its important place in New York
City, and adapt to a changing retail climate,” Sarah Carroll, LPC
chairwoman, said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Prior to the vote, the lawyer representing the bookstore’s
owner, Alexander Urbelis, asked to address the commission. He said
that there were more than 11,000 signatures in the petition and not
6,600 as LPC staff members pointed out in a presentation during the
meeting.

“May your conscience guide you to consider the real world
consequences of landmarking a beloved bookstore like the Strand,”
Urbelis said. “May your conscience dissuade you from taking part
in the downfall of New York’s greatest and most beloved
bookstore.”

Following Urbelis’s statement, commissioners expressed
disappointment about the bookstore’s opposition campaign.

“In this case—and especially the testimony of people who are
otherwise advocates of our process and of this entire
enterprise—I think that their opposition is actually an
expression of an intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy,” LPC
commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said.

Commissioner John Gustaffson addressed concerns that the
designation would place a burden on the 92-year-old bookstore’s
owner.

“We can’t control things like rental value, but we can be
reasonable in our demands on any building that we designate,”
Gustaffson said. “There are two ways to lose a building: One is
for us to fail to designate, and see a building disappear, but
another way to do that is to designate and act unreasonably in our
demands, we have lost very few buildings to the second
cause.”

“What they [the LPC commissioners] fail to acknowledge is that
there are real-world costs associated with landmarking: those costs
can affect jobs, those costs can affect union jobs, and those costs
can affect businesses like the Strand,” Urbelis told Curbed
following the vote. “We need a life raft, we don’t need
somebody to throw us a lead weight with a landmarking.”

Nancy Bass Wyden, the owner of the bookstore, slammed the
LPC’s decision to landmark the building, calling it a
“bureaucratic straight jacket”; she also questioned the case of

St. Denis Hotel
, a block away from the bookstore, which
wasn’t landmarked and is now being demolished to be replaced with
a 12-story office building.

“Landmarks has made it clear that they will take over all
decision-making for this building,” Bass Wyden said at a press
conference in front of the store following the vote. “Tonight,
I’m going to try to figure out how to keep the Strand.”

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
Strand Bookstore, six other Broadway buildings are now NYC landmarks