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Despite Owner’s Objections, NYC Building Designated Historical Landmark


By Greg Zimmerman Facilities Management
the strand bookstore

A recent case regarding an iconic building housing an iconic New York City business may hold warnings for facility managers.

The Strand Bookstore is a 92-year-old family-owned business, and a must-visit for any book-lover visiting New York. The store’s tagline — “18 miles of books” — reflects the store’s variety and volume.

The store is located at 828 N. Broadway near Union Square Park. It moved into its current location in 1956, and the owners bought the building in 1996. The New York Landmarks Preservation Commission recently voted to designate the building as a historical landmark, against the staunch opposition of the Strand’s owners.

This may seem curious at first brush: Why would the owners of an iconic NYC landmark be opposed to landmark status? The answer is facility-related. The owner, Nancy Bass Wyden, is worried that landmark status will require much more red tape when performing maintenance and renovations to the building. According the Strand’s website, the building needs flexibility in “changing the outside lighting, signage, and awning” and making “repairs from a fire or flood.” These changes would have to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission now, “limit(ing) our opportunities to survive as a tourist destination, host of author discussions, put good books in the hands of readers…”

Bass Wyden says the Strand operates on thin margins, and now, “for every repair and upgrade, The Strand would have to go through the slow bureaucracy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission which adds to the expenses to keep Strand alive.”

“There is a maddening irony here. The only reason our building is historically noteworthy is because it is home to the Strand, but the Strand might not survive the burden that comes with landmark designation,” wrote Bass Wyden in a recent editorial.

After the decision was announced, Bass Wyden tweeted “Although this is not the outcome we hoped for, we'll continue to serve our customers as we have done robustly for 92 years.”

The Strand plans to continue the fight, hoping to try to reverse the decision in the courts.

Greg Zimmerman is executive editor of Building Operating Management. Read his cover story on how buildings are tackling climate change.

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