McNally Jackson bookstore on Spring Street. Image by Carl Mikoy via Flickr.
As one of New York City’s finest all-around independent bookstores, McNally Jackson booksellers on Prince Street is a literary standby for the latest bestsellers as well as thought-provoking political non-fiction, art books, cards, magazines, readings and more. Though the shop occupies a spot on one of the city’s most highly-trafficked “High Streets,” it has endured for 15 years, long enough to be taken for granted. But that would, of course, be a mistake in the city’s current environment of empty storefronts in high rent neighborhoods because only Amazon can afford the rent. And right about the time Amazon has opened a storefront in Soho, the beloved bookseller is moving out after the rent was raised to $850,000–a 136% increase. Fear not, the owner is opening again in a new location, but unlike other, less gutsy mom-and-pop proprietors, she has no fear of being very vocal about the issue, Fox5 NY reports.
Mom and pop is a particularly apt description in the case of Sarah McNally, who opened the store in 2004: Her parents own the Canadian McNally Robinson bookstore chain. She proved to be a savvy entrepreneur whose business has become a destination as well a perfectly positioned magnet for the foot traffic stream of tourists and locals that flows by on the bustling Soho street. “I got a call from my landlord saying brokers told him he could get $850,000 for the space and I currently pay $350,000,” she said. Even though she told him she couldn’t swing a $500,000 rent hike, he insisted. “I knew the rent should go up—it’s fair for rent to go up,” McNally said. “But I was surprised it would more than double.”
The store will move to a new location next year, but McNally is a vocal supporter of the proposed Small Business Jobs Survival Act. She’s one of a group of small business owners who point to the mix of landlord greed and vacant shop-fronts causing urban blight and helping no-one–including landlords whose neighborhoods lose value and customers as they hold out for Chase Bank, Apple and Amazon.
The aforementioned bill, first introduced in 1988, would enable tenants to obtain a 10-year lease with renewal rights and provide the right to arbitration in the event of a rent hike they deem unfair. It may not seem like much, but it’s a start. The bill’s primary sponsor, Council Member Ydannis Rodriguez, said at a recent rally, “This bill is about fairness, it’s about rights, it’s about stopping extortion.”
The bill is scheduled to have a hearing today, October 22, at 1 P.M. at City Hall. The bill’s sponsors urge small business owners testify. Opponents of the bill include the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Board of New York.
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