St. Mark's Bookshop in Stalemate with Cooper Union, Owner Says

By Patrick Hedlund on October 25, 2011 7:51pm 

The St. Mark's Bookshop on Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street is facing closure
The St. Mark's Bookshop on Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street is facing closure
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Flickr/Sarmale / O.

EAST VILLAGE — The St. Mark’s Bookshop isn’t any closer to having its rent reduced by landlord Cooper Union after a meeting with school officials Tuesday, the store’s owner said.

The beleaguered bookseller is requesting a $5,000 monthly reduction from its current $20,000 rent. But Cooper Union only offered a deferral of one month’s rent as a way to help the struggling shop, co-owner Bob Contant told DNAinfo.

He met with school officials Tuesday and also got a visit from new president Jamshed Bharucha at the Third Avenue shop, but the two sides could not reach a decision that fully satisfied the longtime store’s owners.

“They claim they’re broke and they can’t afford it financially,” said Contant, noting that the school offered the shop a chance to postpone paying a month’s rent to another time over the course of the next seven years left on the lease.

“They’d be willing to help us, just not financially. Our need is financial,” he said. “We don’t have the money, and they’re not putting up the money.”

A Cooper Union spokesperson did not immediately have details regarding the negotiations, saying only that a decision was expected by the end of the month.

Contant, who said he’s having lunch with Bharucha on Thursday to further discuss the situation, added that the school did speak about pursuing a partnership with the bookstore so that it could sell more course texts to Cooper Union students.

But Contant noted that the shop wouldn’t “see a return on that immediately,” stressing the urgency of his store’s financial predicament.

He also said that deferring a month’s rent wouldn’t necessarily ease the shop’s hardship in the longer term, as the rent escalates annually.

“They made their offer, so I don’t know that they’re going to rescind that,” he said.

Contant acknowledged that business has been brisk since news of the bookstore’s shortfall became a cause celebre for the community, drawing tens of thousands of supporters, including author Salman Rushdie and filmmaker Michael Moore.

However, the boost offered no guarantees.

“We can’t predict the future,” Contant said.

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