A Strand Connecting Four Communities
My childhood and teenage years consisted of multiple yearly trips to New York City. These trips were often used to explore restaurants, stores, China Town, Little Italy, Greenwich Village and Broadway shows. Regretfully, I had missed a hidden gem in the area that ironically stands out like a sore thumb (as seen to the right): Strand Bookstore. This independent bookstore is currently located at 828 Broadway, at the corner of East 12th Street, Manhattan. Located on the borders of the Flatiron District, West Village, NoHo and East Village, the Strand reflects the identities of these surrounding neighborhoods.
Once a heavily bohemian area, East Village has been affected by gentrification in recent decades. Still, the neighborhood has not lost its boho aura; it is filled with bars and restaurants, like Mercury Lounge and Sidewalk Cafe, music and poetry venues, like Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and avant-garde art galleries, like The Stone (Not For Tourists). Forbidden Planet, an independent comic book store, is located less than a block from Strand Bookstore. According to Point2 Homes, the total population in East Village in 2014 was 116,462 people with an average yearly income of $110,714. 61% of community members never married with a median age of 34. According to the chart to the right, the majority of the population has a college degree. This neighborhood is home to actors, musicians and writers, like Kathryn Stockett, David Schwimmer, Chloey Sevigny and Cher, which suggests it is an accepting, comfortable place for anyone to reside (Address Report).
West Village, a bohemian neighborhood, is notable for its streets that are angled differently than the rest of Manhattan, which gives it an “off the grid” feel (Not For Tourists). West Village is a highly residential area, home to 160,404 people with an average household income of $149,474. Similar to East village, 62% of community members never married, and roughly 84% have some kind of college degree (Point2 Homes). New York University is located in Greenwich Village, also bohemian, which sits between West Village and NoHo. There are many ethic cafes and restaurants, as seen in green on the map below. Calvin Klein, Daniel Radcliffe and Sofia Coppola call West Village home (Address Report).
Pictured below is Strand Bookstore and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Full of loft apartments, NoHo is one of the most expensive neighborhoods, with a population of 79,241. The average income is $134,561 and roughly 61% of the community has never married. 85% have a college degree (Point2 Homes). The neighborhood’s small size and central location make it highly sought after (Not For Tourists).
The Flatiron District is a commercial neighborhood that is home to major businesses, like Met Life, Credit Suisse and the Flatiron building (Not For Tourists). It is home to Barnard M. Baruch College, which offers the largest business school in the nation (Barnard College). One Madison Park Condominiums is located in this district, which houses a 50-story luxury residential tower (Related.com). The total population of this district is 136,697, with 61% of the community never married. The average income is $156,183, and 92% of residents have a college degree (Point2 Homes).
Strand Bookstore reflects each neighborhood’s characteristics. Located in a highly cultured, academic area, the store appeals to a large audience with rare, new and used books. Outside the store, the “bargain bins” are filled with books from 48 cents to $5, while its rare book collection ranges up to $45,000 (Strand). While the majority of the community never married, individuals are able to find other intimate connections through the bookstore. The Strand acts as a “strand” to the sea of communities that surround it; offering a physical place where the four neighborhoods connect, creating the identity of a melting pot. The bookstore is able to root itself in its place, even though it lies on the outskirts of each neighborhood. This suggests that the Strand is a business that welcomes those who may not belong or fit in themselves.
Below is a street view of the Strand.
Tim Cresswell writes, “When we look at the world as a world of places we see different things. We see attachments and connections between people and place” (11). When I look at Strand Bookstore, I see a place where members of different communities can come together and explore similar interests. Edward Relph expands on this relationship, where “a communal identity is strongly connected to a particular landscape” (Miller 110). The Strand’s identity is greatly shaped by its location on the border, as well as by the people and neighborhoods that surround it. Strand Bookstore caters to these communities, and the “strand” will always lead them to a place of culture and diversity.
Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Print.
Miller, Laura J. “Designing the Bookstore for the Standardized Consumer.” Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2006. 110. Print.