Volume 81, Number 23 | November 10 - 16, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

B.P. helps engineer deal between Cooper and store

By Lincoln Anderson

Borough President Scott Stringer helped author an agreement between The Cooper Union and its tenant St. Mark’s Bookshop in which the school will cut the cash-strapped store’s rent by $2,500 per month for a year and also forgive a $7,500 prior loan it gave it.

The deal was announced last Thursday at a press conference with Stringer; Jamshed Bharucha, Cooper Union’s new president; store co-owners Bob Contant and Terry McCoy; and Cooper Square Committee members.

Saying they needed a rent break to weather a changing book business and brutal economy, Contant and McCoy had requested a $5,000 monthly reduction from their current $20,000 rent.

Cooper — announcing it was facing its own financial struggles — recently offered to defer one month’s rent and let the store pay it off over time. But the pact brokered by Stringer went farther.

“I am pleased that I helped engineer an agreement between Cooper Union and St. Mark’s Bookshop that will allow this treasured community resource to remain open,” Stringer said. “I congratulate both sides for agreeing to new terms — and I also want to salute the small businesses, independent bookstores, artists and activists that have traditionally made the East Village so special.”

Bharucha said, “Both The Cooper Union and St. Mark’s Bookshop reflect the independent and tenacious spirit of the East Village. Despite our constraints, we felt it was important to help them because of what their presence means to our community.”

He added, “The best way to ensure the longevity of St. Mark’s Bookshop is for the thousands of people who signed petitions to buy more of its books.”

Contant and McCoy said, “We are sincerely appreciative of the rent concessions Cooper Union has granted us. Our bookstore and Cooper Union are both vital to the intellectual life of our community and we look forward to working together in ways that will benefit us both.”

Added state Senator Dan Squadron, “This rent reduction doesn’t just save a bookshop — it saves an East Village institution. The outpouring of support for St. Mark’s is a testament to its place in our community.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick remarked, “I am extremely pleased that the coordinated efforts of passionate local residents, elected officials and Cooper Union have enabled St. Mark’s Bookshop to keep its doors open. The overwhelming support that St. Mark’s Bookshop has received from the community is a testament to the importance of local businesses and we are thrilled that this one could be saved.”

East Village Councilmember Rosie Mendez said, “Our voices were heard and St. Mark’s Bookshop was saved. I want to thank Cooper Union for coming to the table and negotiating a deal that allows our community to keep one of our unique neighborhood institutions open for business.”

Joyce Ravitz, chairperson of the Cooper Square Committee, also read a statement. The committee has fought for East Village and Lower East Side tenants and small businesses for 52 years. It was the idea of Frances Goldin, a founder of the committee who runs a literary agency, to start a petition for the bookstore.

Said Ravitz, “We want to thank our 44,068 petition signers, without whom we would not be here today. The Cooper Square Committee doesn’t want to see the Lower East Side become a bland, corporate mall stuffed with chain stores, where only the rich can live. We will continue to work to preserve the Lower East Side as an area where the 99 percent can work and live full lives in a neighborhood that continues to have its own character.”

According to the committee, Cooper Union has also agreed to forgive back rent the store owes, so the total relief is $40,000.
The committee will throw a victory celebration at St. Mark’s Bookshop — also marking the store’s 34th anniversary of serving the community — at the store, at the southeast corner of Third Ave. and Ninth St., on Tues., Nov. 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Goldin said she has an idea that could ensure the bookstore’s survival, though at a new spot. She’s looking into the possibility of having it move, after a year, into an East Village space owned by the Cooper Square Committee.

 

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