Historical Status Up in Air for Strand

The owner of the well-known bookstore is against a historical status that may impede future renovations.

The exterior of the Strand Book Store. (Staff photo by Lauren Kim)

The Strand Book Store on 828 Broadway is fighting for its rights — not against those who want to tear it down, but those who want to make it a historical landmark.

Last fall, the Landmarks Preservation Commission began the process to make the building behind the Strand Book Store, along with seven other buildings in the area, historical landmarks. Third-generation Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden has spoken out against this process, claiming it could hinder the store’s survival. If the historical landmark designation were to proceed, it would specifically prohibit the owner from making alterations to the outside of the building.

Wyden, whose family opened the Strand Book Store 91 years ago, has fought the landmark status since last fall.

Making a building into a historical landmark could create a lot of red tape when it comes to making changes and renovations, according to the Strand’s Director of Marketing and Communication Leigh Altshuler. However, the New York Times has reported that landmark status does not usually negatively affected businesses, stating that “surveys show lower commercial vacancy rates in landmark areas of the Village despite the extra bureaucracy.”

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In the midst of their disagreement, Wyden made an effort for a compromise with the LPC at the final public hearing on Feb. 19. She called for a preservation easement.

According to the Gothamist, a preservation easement would protect the Strand’s facade by voluntarily working with a non-profit organization instead of the city. But LPC officials suggested this might not be the best approach. Preservation easements sometimes prove more rigid, allowing for very little change to the building’s exterior.

The Strand, home to “18 Miles of Books,” has been a cultural landmark of New York City since it opened in 1927. Inside the store, NYU students and tourists alike stream through the aisles.

Steinhardt alumna Betty Laboz and New York City local Noa Fisatr expressed to WSN that they believe whether or not the store gains historical status should be up to the owner.

“My family has loved the Strand. My sister is a huge reader and my dad is a philosopher, and it is a historical landmark to New Yorkers,” Fisatr said. “If it is someone’s establishment, is it their choice or is it the people’s choice to do what they want with it?”

Tisch junior James Perry disagrees.

“I think it’s already considered a cultural landmark,” Perry said. “It makes sense. New York is such a constantly developing city. I am just a fan of protecting precious sites in general.”

Altshuler said she and Wyden ultimately have little say on the building’s landmark status at this point in time.

“It is up to the Landmark Preservation Commission,” Altshuler said. “Mostly, what I know from the short time that we’ve been working with them on this issue is that a lot of what they do is behind closed doors. I think that either way, we will do the best that we can to sell books and to be a place where book lovers and readers can come.”

Email Remie Arena at [email protected]

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