Rent Reduction Keeps St. Mark’s Bookshop Open (for now)

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11/03/2011 11:26 AM |

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This morning, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the owners of the St. Mark’s Bookshop, and their landlords, Cooper Union, announced a deal, brokered by the BP, for a rent reduction for the struggling institution, whose efforts to get a sorely needed rent reduction were recently the subject of a much-circulated internet petition and occasional sympathy book purchases.

The deal will cut the monthly rent from $20,000 to $17,500 for the next year, along with debt forgiveness, and, most intriguingly, “student help with revising the store’s business plan” going forward.

Cooper Union Students! We have written extensively, hear at the L, about how independent bookstores have been able to thrive by making themselves integral parts of neighborhood cultural life, through read-a-thons and events—what the manager of Greenlight has called “community space we offer for human-scale connection over literature.”

Granted, that’s here in Brooklyn, not in the East Village, and in locations where the landlords are not tuition-free universities who are able to provide free higher educations thanks in large part to their investments as commercial landlords. (The Bookshop signed a new ten-year-lease in 2009.)

But still, if market rents price an independently run bookstore out of a Manhattan neighborhood with a fair level of cultural engagement and two colleges nearby, that probably says something rather unpleasant about the logic by which city life often operates. St. Mark’s has a nicely curated selection of, especially, nonfiction and periodicals—it’s very much a rigorous bohemian-intellectual selection of the old school, which is heartening. It’s also just around the corner from the former location of Mondo Kim’s, which is now, like, another place to get sake bombs or something.