St. Mark's Bookshop Says Cooper Union Refuses to Reduce Rent

By Patrick Hedlund on October 27, 2011 5:10pm 

The St. Mark's Bookshop, on Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street, requested a $5,000 monthly rent reduction from landlord Cooper Union.
The St. Mark's Bookshop, on Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street, requested a $5,000 monthly rent reduction from landlord Cooper Union.
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Flickr/Sarmale / O.

EAST VILLAGE — Owners of the struggling St. Mark’s Bookshop believe the chapter has been closed on their attempt to negotiate a rent reduction with landlord Cooper Union.

Bob Contant, co-owner of the nearly 35-year-old bookstore, had planned to meet with school head Jamshed Bharucha for lunch Thursday to further discuss the issue after meeting with Cooper Union officials Tuesday. But the newly inaugurated president ended up canceling, Contant said.

Now, the longtime storeowner thinks his Tuesday meeting — in which the university only offered the shop the chance to defer one month’s rent rather than a monthly reduction — was the end of the story.

“There was no ambiguity. They told us the Cooper Union had no money and they couldn’t afford to make any rent adjustment for us,” Contant said, while at the Third Avenue store on Thursday afternoon. “I am looking at it as a final answer. I have no reason not to,” he added.

A Cooper Union spokeswoman maintained the college would make a final decision by the end of the month, despite the date approaching quickly.

“Conversations are ongoing,” said school spokeswoman Jolene Travis. “A resolution has not been met.”

But Contant feels otherwise.

“I think they’re trying to hope it goes away,” he said. “If they don’t make a comment on it, what can people say?”

The bookstore has been asking for a $5,000 rent decrease from its current $20,000 monthly rate in order to stay afloat. Supporters — including author Salman Rushdie and filmmaker Michael Moore — have advocated saving the store via an online petition, with tens of thousands of signatures to date.

But with no solution in sight, Contant has been forced to take a longer view at the future of his shop, which has admittedly been bolstered by an increase in business stemming from the store’s plea for help.

“We don’t intend on folding our tent,” he said, adding that they may consider fundraising efforts in the near future. “Eventually we may have to move, that’s pretty clear. Those options we’ll have to explore. We’re not in a position to do that right now.”

St. Mark's Bookshop co-owner Bob Contant inside his store.
St. Mark's Bookshop co-owner Bob Contant inside his store.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

In the meantime, a new petition started by the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is asking people to boycott any business that would replace St. Mark’s Bookshop. It had received 233 signatures in less than nine hours online.

Contant added that he is considering other options to save the store, but that it’s too soon to make a decision.

“Right now were still in a state of shock about this,” he said. “It will take some time to clear our heads.” 

Author Salman Rushdie wrote a letter to the Cooper Union asking the school to reduce the St. Mark's Bookshop's rent.
Author Salman Rushdie wrote a letter to the Cooper Union asking the school to reduce the St. Mark's Bookshop's rent.
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Jerod Harris/Getty Images

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