She suggested I speak with Rachel Karr, her neighbor, to hear a different view. So the other day I stopped into the oldest of the seven buildings, the L-shaped, cast-iron 836 Broadway, with its pair of Second Empire facades, on Broadway and 13th Street. Ms. Karr, its owner, also inherited the family business, Hyde Park Antiques Limited, on the ground floor.
She told me she welcomes landmark designation. “What upsets me is that, with overdevelopment throughout the city, New York is losing its personality,” she said, “and that applies not just to physical buildings but also to the small, independent businesses in them, which are having to move out, the sort of shops that make New York special.”
“I understand Nancy’s concerns,” she added, “but for me the larger issue, which is to say the city we are losing, is more important than the paperwork that might hit me with designation.”
New York officials recently anted up billions of dollars in tax incentives to entice Amazon to open a headquarters in Long Island City — one of the last companies in the world to need the money, not to mention the Strand’s biggest competitor. Coming in the midst of the designation fight, the Amazon giveaway suggested to Ms. Wyden a city traitorously kowtowing to a predatory monopolist posing an existential threat to neighborhood retailers, while burdening local underdogs and mainstays like the Strand.
She’s not alone in seeing the city that way, with so many mom-and-pop shops disappearing, online retail and luxury development dismantling neighborhood ecologies, and commercial landlords leaving countless storefronts empty rather than renting them to small, legacy businesses that can’t afford what banks and drugstore chains pay.
Founded half a century ago in response to the loss of the old Pennsylvania Station, the Landmarks Preservation Commission exists to safeguard “the buildings and places that represent New York City’s cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history.”