“Although this is not the outcome we hoped for,” the Strand said in a tweet, “we’ll continue to serve our customers as we have done robustly for 92 years.”
The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to landmark the Strand — along with six other buildings in the Union Square area — comes on the heels of public hearings held in December and February, during which the Strand’s owner, Nancy Bass Wyden, argued that the landmark status would introduce “red tape” that would interfere with the store’s ability to remain competitive and independent — though the city refutes this claim.
“They, not us, will decide the type of metal used in our doors,” Wyden opined at a press conference outside of the Strand on Tuesday. “They, not us, will decide the type of glass in these windows. They, not us, will decide the color and size of the Strand awning above us and every sign outside. What this amounts to is eminent domain. [The commission] itself now has complete power and dominion over our building and our future plans.“
The Strand’s home at 826 Broadway was selected for landmark consideration in response to the approval of a $250 million, 21-story tech hub to be built in Union Square on E. 14th Street and Irving Place. Proponents of designation maintained that the Strand’s 1902 building, designed by William H. Birkmire, and the six other buildings identified as landmarks are historically significant.
“Built between 1876 and 1902, these seven buildings were designed by notable New York City architects as the area south of Union Square was experiencing rapid commercial development,” the Landmarks Preservation Commission stated in an announcement. “They include prominent corner buildings that anchor this section of Broadway between NoHo and Union Square, and an intact and handsome block-front that reflects the late-19th century development of the avenue and broader area. They are architecturally significant examples of their style and type.”
Meanwhile, others opposed to the verdict argue that the commission’s landmark designation plan doesn’t go far enough in protecting the Union Square area from overdevelopment. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, blasted the commission’s decision to landmark the Strand, arguing that the commission selected buildings included in the city’s proposal as a “token gesture.”
“While the Mayor and Councilmember Rivera cherry-picked seven buildings to landmark which are in no danger of going anywhere,” Berman said in a statement, “they refused to consider dozens of other buildings of equal or greater historic significance all around them, which are endangered or have been demolished since this unseemly deal was cut.”
At the Strand’s press conference, Wyden urged community members to reject what she described as the commission’s decision to “to prioritize the building over the bookstore within it,” later adding that the Strand will be following up with a grassroots response to the landmark designation. “Together,” Wyden stated, “we can ensure that the future generations will be able to enjoy the Strand as well.”
In a statement following the announcement, the Landmarks and Preservation Commission said that it “recognizes that the Strand Bookstore is internationally beloved” and that it is “confident” that the commission’s “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.”