St. Mark’s Bookshop Back From the Brink

Bookshop presserJamie Larson Owner of St. Mark’s Bookshop Terrence McCoy, along with Borough President Scott Stringer, Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha and others.

Cooper Union has eased the St. Mark’s Bookshop financial burden — somewhat.

A day after students from the school protested the possibility that they would have to pay tuition for the first time in more than a century (we’ve now added video of that demonstration to our initial post), politicians, community activists, school officials and the bookshop’s owners officially brought the two-month rent dispute to an end at a press conference this morning.

Under the agreement for the next year, Cooper Union will, as reported by The Times last night, cut the bookshop’s rent by $2,500 from its current rate, $20,000 a month.

Cooper Union will also forgive $7,500 of the shop’s debt and send a team of students to work with the owners on creating a new business plan. The agreement, which only last week seemed dead in the water, should save the store $40,000 over the next year, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who took credit for bringing an end to the standoff.

“I’m pleased that I helped engineer an agreement between Cooper Union and the St. Mark’s Bookshop that will allow this treasured community resource to remain open,” Mr. Stringer said. “The best way to ensure the longevity of the St. Mark’s Bookshop is for the thousands of people who signed petitions to buy more of its books.”

The media scrum outside of St. Mark's BookshopJamie Larson The media scrum.

The bookshop’s owners went public with their dire financial situation in September, saying that without a $5,000 rent reduction they would soon have to close. The Cooper Square Committee rallied around the shop, and started an online petition that garnered more than 44,000 signatures from around the world and the attention of celebrities like Michael Moore.

“It’s great. I’m happy for the bookstore and I’m happy for Scott [Stringer] and I’m happy for Cooper Union,” said Joyce Ravitz, the chairwoman of the Cooper Square Committee, adding that much work must be done to keep the shop in the black. “It’s only a year but a lot can happen in a year.”

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha acknowledged the outpouring of support for the shop, but stressed that the store needs customers to stay open. Mr. Bharucha even held aloft a book that he had bought in the shop just moments before the conference.

“Both the Cooper Union and St. Mark’s Bookshop reflect the independent and tenacious spirit of the East Village,” said Mr. Bharucha. “Despite our constraints, we felt it was important to help them because of what their presence means to our community.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron joined in on the love-fest, and recalled going to the bookshop on his first date with his wife. Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick and City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez also praised the agreement.

Terence McCoy, who owns the shop with Bob Contant, spoke positively about the deal after the event. But he added that new hurdles were ahead. “The story keeps going. The challenge continues,” Mr. McCoy said. “This bookstore is a reflection of the East Village. It’s not a reflection of me and Bob.”

While politicians mingled in front of the store, Mr. McCoy quickly slipped away at the end of the press conference. The spectacle over, he went back into his shop, and back to work.