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The Strand’s building could be landmarked, despite owner’s objections

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The Strand in Greenwich Village is one of seven buildings being considered for landmark status immediately south of Union Square

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Some New Yorkers think of landmarking as a special distinction honoring a building and its history, others think of it as a burden. Case in point: On Tuesday Nancy Bass Wyden, the third-generation owner of The Strand bookstore in Greenwich Village, appeared before the Landmarks Preservation Commission to plead her case against bestowing the distinction on the 1902 building The Strand calls home.

“By landmarking the Strand, you can also destroy a piece of New York history,” Wyden told the Times. “We’re operating on very thin margins here, and this would just cost us a lot more, with this landmarking, and be a lot more hassle.” Landmarking is a means of celebrating important buildings and architecture, but it also places major restrictions on how buildings can be maintained—and with those restrictions come associated costs.

The Strand is one of seven buildings in the area just south of Union Square that the Landmarks Preservation Commission listened to public testimony for today. Among the factions supporting landmarking the Renaissance Revival building, designed by architect William H. Birkmire, are the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Historic Districts Council, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the Society for the Architecture of NYC. On the opposition was Wyden, several of Strand’s 230 employees, and a hearty dose of public adorers of the institution.

The hearing comes after the City Council approved plans to replace the P.C. Richard & Son store near Union Square with a 21-story tech training center. The development has stoked fear in area locals and preservationists that a development wave in the area is on the horizon, and that the neighborhood’s character will change as a result.

The preservation effort, spearheaded by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, initially sought to include 193 buildings south of Union Square, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission found only seven worthy of designation—the Strand among them.

The family behind the Strand moved the bookstore to its current location in 1957, where they rented the 11-story building for 40 years before purchasing it in 1997 for $8.2 million. These days, the Strand uses five floors for its store and offices and the family rents the remaining floors to other business tenants.

The building, valued at over $31 million by the city in January, is in no danger, Wyden says. Although Wyden told the Times she could make more money by renting out the space occupied by the Strand than by operating the bookstore within it, she simply loves the store too much to let it go. For Wyden, it’s not about the money. But if the property is landmarked, she implies, it might have to be.

The Landmarks Preservation has agreed to have a second public hearing for 826 Broadway in response to Wyden’s request for more time. The commission issued the following statement regarding the Strand’s opposition to its landmarking hearings:

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will continue to work with the owner of 826 Broadway, home to the Strand bookstore, to address her concerns and ensure that this cultural institution endures. LPC successfully regulates thousands of commercial buildings across the city and we are sympathetic and responsive to their needs.

Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, Manhattan, NY 10003 Visit Website

Union Square

, Manhattan, NY 10003