Steven Hann, Bookseller and Poet of Morningside Heights, Dies


Photo courtesy of Veronica Liu.

Steven Hann was a fixture at his book stand on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets for years. A few weeks ago, he died, according to a note placed near the site of his old book stand and one of our readers. The sign says he died of cancer, but Veronica Liu, founder of Word Up Community Bookstore, tells us he had contracted Covid-19 and was at Montefiore Hospital when he died.

William Porto, who took the photo of Hann above in 2017, wrote that he just learned of Hann’s death.

“Walking in front of Milano Market (112th Broadway), I saw a note that Steve Hann had passed away. I went inside Milano and was told that it occurred three weeks ago. The last time I saw him, I commented to my wife that he had lost a lot of weight, and sadly the gentleman behind the counter at Milano informed me that Steve had cancer. He had been a fixture there for years and was a true part of the neighborhood.”

Hann, who wrote poetry, was interviewed by the Columbia Spectator a few years ago. He was an opinionated guy who would even make fun of Columbia students, saying that college students downtown were “a little more open.” Here’s a snippet:

What inspires your poetry?

Life. Even though I once gave someone my poetry and the person goes, we got to get you a girlfriend. I write about everything, I’m fond of telling these kids out there who talk about reality shows, “Open your eyes, the real reality show is walking around.” You know, I don’t watch television, I can’t figure out what the whole thing is about reality television.

What are 3 adjectives you’d use to describe yourself? Self-assured, self-assured, self-assured. But really, self-assured, cynical, and…I think there’s two of me. There’s one out here and the one not out here. When I’m out here, I’m selling myself. When I’m writing, let’s say, I tend to be a little more introspective, or with friends of mine. Remember out here it’s a personality thing. I have people coming back because they like me. I mean, I wonder what other problems they got, but they like me!

NEWS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. Will says:

      I used to buy a lot of books off of him, he was a fixture on Broadway for years. So sad, rest in peace.

    2. Steevie says:

      For a long time he worked in the little used bookstore that was down a few steps on 118th and Amsterdam. There is a copy store there now. Hann was an exceptionally nasty individual. The owners were a moronic couple.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        You have to take into consideration why some people are nasty. People of very low income (which I have no doubt Hann was), are angry at where they ended up in life, and are bitter. Don’t be so quick to judge.

        • pamela says:

          ..and you don’t believe there is a judgment in your comment ? ” People of very low income are angry at where they ended up and are embittered” That presumptuous attitude of snobbery is probably one of the reasons Steve could be a bit acerbic; that is dealing with such attitudes. It is entirely inappropriate when someone dies to ” slander” him/her particularly when they cant defend him/herself . Steve was well liked by many people and many people supported him and he enjoyed what he did . Personality flaws and emotional issues are not exclusive to the poor.

        • No professor says:

          UWSHebrew, your comment smacks of know-it-all judgment and the usual disdain you hold for those unlike yourself. Is it all possible that you aren’t the authority on the low-income experience? Take a moment to think.

          • UWSHebrew says:

            I grew up in a lower middle class home, two parents working terrible jobs that barely made ends meet and I remember the panic when we were behind in the mortgage payment and the scary letters from the bank started arriving. So, unfortunately I know it all too well. I did not mean for my comment to come off as anything but sympathetic. Thanks for the attack.

            • Pamela says:

              Fair enough. I knew Steve . He was not embittered. He was poor, but he also had been battling with a great deal of health issues and he had some psychological issues. I will repeat; this is not an economic issue. Being on the UWS, I have encountered many people well off who are embittered and cantankerous – actually down right rude – so please don’t make assumptions about people you do not know. Whether good intentioned or not, you were not correct.

    3. Stu says:

      Sorry to hear, but I only had the worst interactions with him. We sold him an old station wagon to help him store and move his books, for next to nothing and way less than it was worth. He refused to pay us. Even though he agreed to the price (only a few hundred dollars), he said that we “didnt deserve anything for it”. Ultimately, we let it go because the hassle of suing him or taking back the car and upkeep wasn’t worth it.

      • Betsy says:

        It’s just unnecessary to share negative stories publicly on a news article mourning someone’s passing. Think, people who care about him deeply may read and remember your words. I know it’s a hard time, and your reaction may have come from stress, but please keep being kind. 🙂

    4. Jim says:

      My encounters with him over the past few years were never anything but pleasant. I would occasionally drop off a book–i.e., donate it to him in the hope that he could sell it and make a few bucks. He almost invariably expressed delight and appreciation, and it often seemed that he just happened to be a big fan of that particular author. I’m sorry to read that he was rude or inconsiderate or worse to some people. He was a neighborhood fixture, and I’ll miss seeing him day in and day out.

    5. Heidi S says:

      I loved him. We saw him every day after school pickup and on weekends. RIP Steve! The neighborhood will miss you.

    6. CityGirl57 says:

      Sad news. I noticed the sign and wondered if it was him. Thanks for telling us. So much that is in our day to day is threatened these days. No matter the grumpy, the downtrodden its very sad when they go and many changes are abrupt and final.
      Stay well neighbors

    7. Sara Giller says:

      So sorry to hear this. I was saving some books to give him when he came back. Quite a character.

    8. Neal Hurwitz says:

      Look Morris and Izzy of the Mill Luncheonette have gone and died, and Benny, who made the best egg creams???
      Mondel chocolates is still here, since 1945!
      Tak-ome is gone but we have 24/7 Morton Williams. TY Columbia! And Bob Fendell still runs University Housewares.
      I will miss Steve Hann. Hahn? I bought stuff from him and chatted for manyyyy years…

      TY, Neal H. Hurwitz
      Editor, WISDOM CHILD, 1970s

    9. Ronke says:

      May the ancestors continue to find him in their favor…an African proverb. I always lean on the thought “find the good and praise it.”

    10. You will be missed says:

      Rest In Peace to this lovely individual. My dearest condolences to his family, and I am keeping you in my thoughts during this time. It is sad to see someone so full of love and delightful eccentricity pass before his time and before he could spread more of his joy to other people. He was such a character and such a fixture to our lovely city. My love goes out the ones closest to him and I wish I could do more to ease your pain.

    11. D. Mara Lowenstein says:

      Sad news. I used to peruse his books … once he asked me to have coffee with him… I declined… but damn, he was a cheeky mischievous little sprite.

    12. Steve Friedman says:

      OH MY! He was around the neighborhood as long as I’ve been in the neighborhood, 44 years. Was an eccentric with the Larry Fine hair-do. Used to work with Ziggy who had owned what is now Book Culture on the corner of 114th Street. Would have the best selections of CD especially jazz. Out-of-print books too. Always would find something I didn’t know I wanted till I saw it. And always pleasant with me EXCEPTING the last time I saw him which was probably was right before he died. Sad. Whlle I was picking up another CD I hadn’t realized I wanted, I asked him what was wrong. “No sales today. Nobody’s buying anymore.” I said, “Yeah, it’s a tough you have now. CDs & books are kinda outa favor. Not with me though.” He kinda snapped, first time to in 40 years, “I’m having a bad mood, okay?!” I said, “Here’s the last cash I have now.” $10 or something like that. So I bought a couple of more CD’s. “Here…Have a little better day, okay.” I will miss him. Added to the texture of Morningside. Rest in Peace, Amazing Mister Hahn, and God’s Speed.

    13. George Singley says:

      i bought CDs and books from Steve for over
      ten years . sometimes he would recommend artists unknown to me based on my purchases.
      i usually liked these . a few years ago
      he told me that he had been in a rock band in
      the late Seventies and early Eighties . the
      guitarist Chris Spedding had been a member
      at one point . he told me a story about the
      drummer getting in a fight with Wayne County
      at CBGB’s in 1979 .this resulted in the Poppees being banned from the club ; a big
      problem for a band trying to break through
      in NYC at that time . in 2009 i visited the
      Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame and saw a cartoon
      in a frame which recounted the story ! Steve
      was very happy to hear this . we will miss you .