The future looks dark for one of the city’s last outposts of radical retailing. Blackout Books, a 7-year-old anarchist bookstore collective, will likely be forced out of its Avenue B storefront at the end of August. File it under “collapse of the lower East Side sensibility–final act.”
Economics rather than politics are to blame, say collective members. This street, recently dubbed “Avenue Bistro,” is now strewn with tiny frock shops and Mediterranean-style cafes.
“The landlord has raised the rent to a level we can’t really pay,” said collective member Okra Dingle, 35. According to Dingle, there is no connection between their sales of revolutionary literature and the rent hike: “I think they found out this is the last space in the Lower East Side that’s not a French restaurant yet.”
Blackout Books began when a group of like-minded radicals began selling publications on the street, eventually moving to the small storefront on the corner of 4th Street and garnering a volunteer staff of about 40. Recent bestsellers include “A People’s History of the United States,” a gloomily revisionist historical reader by Howard Zinn, and “The Temporary Autonomous Zone: Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism,” Hakim Bey’s rallying cry for the anarchist lifestyle.
The collective, which planned to meet yesterday to discuss their options, is considering moving out of retail entirely, though the group still has a strong interest in maintaining some kind of local presence. “We’ll hear anyone who has a proposal,” said Dingle, who has been in the collective since 1996.
Author Ricky Ricardo, 34, has vowed to support Blackout whatever happens. His independently published book Boricua is currently for sale in the store’s window display. “It’s hard to find stores like this that support writers, who aren’t controlled by publishers,” he said. “It’s very un-American.”