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Word Up Bookstore Signs Lease to Rent Broadway Space Through May

By Carla Zanoni | January 23, 2012 7:41pm

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Read on, uptown.

Washington Heights' pop-up bookstore has signed a lease for its Broadway location through May.  

After months of operating rent-free, community bookstore Word Up entered into a contract with landlord Vantage Properties Monday for its space at 4157 Broadway, according to organizer Veronica Liu.

Volunteer and uptown artist Emmanuel Abreu, who goes by the performer name DJ Boy, said he was thrilled by the news. 

"Even though some people were skeptical about a bookstore making it past a month, the community's force was stronger than any negative thoughts towards the beautiful place," he wrote in an email. "We are here for the long run."

Officials declined to specify the bookstore's rent, but they said it was less than $3,000 a month. If so, that's significantly less than the going rate of approximately $9,000 a month for retail space in the immediate area. 

A spokesman for Vantage Properties said, "We are pleased to support Word Up bookstore, which has had tremendous success and a positive impact on the Washington Heights community."

Store volunteers worked with the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA) to hash out a long-term agreement with Vantage, which had initially offered the space for one month last year as part of NoMAA’s annual Art Stroll in June. 

NoMAA partnered with the real estate company in the past when Vantage hosted art shows from empty storefronts in 2010. 

“[Vantage] didn’t disappear,” said NoMAA executive director and CEO Sandra A. García-Betancourt. “They loved it and they love to collaborate with artists.” 

The popularity of the bookstore pushed organizers to continue the venture, which has grown in popularity as the pop-up store has hosted countless parties, book readings, poetry slams, dance and musical performances put together by local volunteers. 

García-Betancourt said she is excited to see the Word Up organizers recognized for their hard work running the store and figuring out new ways to raise funds for rent. 

In addition to traditional book sales, the store will run in part through a "Community Supported Bookshop" (CSB) program — modeled after the popular “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) programs, where members buy a seasonal share of a farm and receive weekly shipments of fresh fruit and vegetables from a local farmer. For Word Up, members can buy a share for $20 and get six gently used books in return.

All these volunteers made this happen. They raised the funds to pay the rent. They’re very committed,” García-Betancourt said, adding that the shop is part of a larger shift and growth in the uptown arts community. 

“There is a movement here, you can feel it,” she said. “It’s not only the artists, it’s the uptown institutions too. They all have a feeling that the arts are important for them too. It’s a very interesting time for our neighborhood.”