MANHATTAN — The struggling St. Mark’s Bookshop has ended weeks of negotiations with landlord Cooper Union by striking a deal to reduce the longtime store’s rent.
The shop, which had pressed for a $5,000 monthly reduction from its current $20,000 rent, and Cooper Union reached a deal that will drop the bookseller’s rent to $17,500 for one year and pardon $7,500 in debt, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Stringer arranged a meeting this week with the two sides to hammer out a deal, announcing an end to the stalemate Thursday with storeowners Bob Contant and Terry McCoy, and Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha.
"This is a tremendous collaboration between the bookstore and the school," Stringer said at press conference in front of the shop Thursday. "Keeping this bookstore as a part of the Lower East Side is not only important to the community, but the entire city."
A community campaign to save the store led by Cooper Square Committee president Joyce Ravitz — including an online petition that got more than 44,000 signatures supporting the rent reduction — appeared to be unsuccessful as recently as last week, when the store’s owners and Cooper Union officials could not reach a deal.
The movement to save the store saw such powerhouse literary figures as Salman Rushdie write letters to Bharucha urging the decrease. Filmmaker Michael Moore even visited the Third Avenue shop to lend his support.
"We're looking forward to some good years in the future," McCoy said at the press conference, which was also attended by the elected officials who got behind the shop during negotiations, including Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick.
"It was an easy cause to support," noted Squadron, adding that he took his now-wife to the store on their first date.
Nonetheless, the St. Mark's Bookshop still needs community support to stay afloat, in the form of shoppers, they said.
"Now, really, the next step is on us," Mendez said. "We have to buy books, and we have to buy often."
Stringer lauded the Cooper Union for agreeing to the deal, despite the school's own high-profile financial difficulties, including a recent proposal to consider charging students at the free college for the first time in its 152-year history.
While the storeowners had been pushing for a larger rent reduction, Contant said they are satisified with the final outcome.
"Two weeks ago there was little hope that this could be worked out," he said, referencing the stalled negotiations and the Cooper Union's own fiscal troubles.
"Once [the school's financial issues] happened, we figured nothing would be done on our behalf."
The college will also work with the store to come up with a more viable business plan moving forward, including the help of Cooper Union students in developing a more sound model.