While Cooper Union's negative decision is a disappointment, the Cooper Square Committee remain committed and vows to increase its efforts to ensure that the St. Marks Bookshop will not become another casualty of the economy. Cooper Union is the landlord for the St Mark's Bookshop.
On Tuesday, October 25, 2011, three separate meetings took place regarding the St. Mark's Bookshop. The bookshop is one of the few remaining independent bookstores in NYC and it is in severe financial crisis. It has requested a rent reduction of $5,000 from the monthly rent of $20,000, which would allow it to continue operating and serving the community.
The first meeting was an impromptu meeting of three representatives of the Cooper Square Committee and Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha, initiated when the Committee delivered 43,630 signed petitions to his office in support of St. Mark's Bookshop.
The second meeting took place later in the day between the owners of St. Mark's Bookshop and T.C. Wescott, a Cooper Union Vice President. During this meeting, it was confirmed that Cooper Union would not agree to a reduction in rent.
The third meeting took place at the bookshop with Jamshed Bharucha and T.C. Wescott shortly after the bookstore owners returned to the bookshop. At this follow-up meeting they reiterated that they could not reduce the $20,000 monthly rent.
Joyce Ravitz, chair of the Cooper Square Committee, a Lower East Side neighborhood preservation organization, notes that Cooper Union originally offered the St. Mark's Bookshop favorable terms on its lease in 1993 as a good will gesture at a time when the Cooper Union's expansion of its dormitories had angered the neighborhood. The rent has since gone to $20,000 with built-in yearly raises.
Property values have skyrocketed in this neighborhood partly because of institutions like theaters and bookshops. We had hoped Cooper Union would play a role in stabilizing and preserving the character of the Lower East Side, and are saddened that it seems to be choosing to help destroy it.
It's ironic that Cooper Union touts its proximity to neighborhood bookstores as one of its attractions.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah Moss has started a petition to boycott any business that moves into the space at 31 Third Avenue should St. Mark's Books be forced to close. You can find the petition here.
As he writes:
Sign the petition if you love St. Mark's Books. Sign it if you just love books. Sign it if you're sick and tired of watching New York City's cultural touchstones go down the toilet day after day. Sign it if you miss the East Village before it became a frat house. Sign it if you don't like the way Cooper Union contributes to real estate overdevelopment in the neighborhood. Sign it if you hate having a bank on every corner and a chain store on every other.