Andrew Boryga writes for the New Yorker about the closure of the Bronx’s only general interest bookstore. The Bronx Barnes and Noble was originally lobbied for by a Bronx assemblyman, but the store has shuttered as it hadn’t received a lease renewal offer, as a competing business could offer more. Read Boryga in partial below, in full via the New Yorker.
The Bronx is home to 1.5 million people, two hundred thousand public-school students, eleven colleges and universities, and a single general-interest bookstore—a Barnes & Noble, located in the Bay Plaza shopping center, in Co-op City, in the northeast section of the borough. The chain arrived there in 1999, after Stephen B. Kaufman, then an assemblyman living in Throgs Neck, grew tired of driving to the Barnes & Noble in Yonkers to purchase books he couldn’t find in one of the borough’s two small independent bookshops, both of which have since closed down. He began to lobby for a store in the Bronx. He made phone calls to the chain that went unanswered; he sent letters containing a petition signed by ten thousand residents. When that didn’t work, he accused the company of cultural redlining. (“Barnes & Ignoble is depriving the Bronx of a bookstore,” he said.) His campaign eventually prevailed, and the Co-op City store was built—nowhere near a train, and thus difficult for residents to reach without a car. But for the city’s poorest borough, whose population was accustomed to neglect, it was a triumph nonetheless. Kaufman has said that he considers the store’s erection “one of the highlights of my legislative career.”
Last week, after failing to receive a lease-renewal offer from the owner of the property on which the store sits, Barnes & Noble announced that its Bronx location will shut down by the end of 2016. Two years ago, when the store threatened to close after its lease expired and discussions for a renewal turned sour, an outpouring of anger from community members, and a petition by local graduate students, persuaded the borough president, Ruben Diaz, Jr., to help the chain and the landlord reach a compromise. This time around, such a rescue mission seems unlikely. “The property owner has decided to lease the space to another retailer who was willing to pay more,” David Deason, Barnes & Noble’s vice-president of development, wrote in a statement last week. The store, which is being replaced by a Saks Fifth Avenue outlet, will join the eighty locations that the struggling chain has closed since 2010. (David Sax recently wrote for this site about the company’s rocky attempts to retool its business model in the past several years.)
*PHOTOGRAPH BY DYLAN MACDONALD VIA NEW YORKER