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Fate of St. Mark's Bookshop in East Village Still in Doubt

By Patrick Hedlund | September 15, 2011 5:58pm
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 — Owners of the St. Mark’s Bookshop met with representatives from landlord Cooper Union Wednesday to discuss the fate of the longtime bookstore that's struggling to pay its rent — but no decision was reached on what may be done to save the local landmark.  

The independent bookseller — which originally opened on St. Mark’s Place in 1977 but relocated to Cooper Union property on Third Avenue in 1993 — previously asked for a $5,000 rent reduction in order to remain at the address.

After the school turned down the request, neighborhood support for the shop and an online petition drive forced university brass to meet with the store’s founders this week.

“The meeting was a cordial meeting, nothing really was accomplished,” said St. Mark’s Bookshop co-owner Bob Contant, who met with staff from the school’s business and finance department Wednesday.

Contant explained that he and co-owner Terry McCoy were asked to provide a detailed financial proposal to the Cooper Union that will be presented to the school’s president and board.

“I’m sure there are people at Cooper saying, ‘Hey, let’s resolve this,’” he said of the issue being taken up by the college’s top officials. “Basically, it doesn’t make them look good.”

The threat of closure galvanized many in the community to stand in support of the shop, with an online petition gaining more than 27,000 signatures in more than a week.

Even Borough President Scott Stringer weighed in on the issue, penning a letter to Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha urging the school to renegotiate its lease with the shop.

“The East Village cannot afford to lose the St. Mark’s Bookstore,” he wrote. “Longtime neighborhood institutions such as this independent bookstore, as well as other cultural institutions and small businesses, are what make the East Village a dynamic, unique neighborhood that we so cherish."

While the possibility of St. Mark’s Bookshop relocating to another Cooper Union property has been raised, Contant said he hasn't discussed that option with the school.

“We’re certainly open to discussion about anything, really. It all depends on what the situation really is,” he said. “We don’t really know. Right now it’s not our intention to move anywhere.”

Regardless, some have already reached out to the owners offering up a new space.

Contant explained that one building owner called offering a storefront on Bond Street between the Bowery and Lafayette Street where a tenant was set to depart.

However, he said the cost associated with moving may not even make it an option.

“Unless someone is helping us, we couldn’t afford to move,” Contant said. “It’s a very expensive proposition.”

A spokeswoman for the Cooper Union declined to elaborate on the meeting.