October 20, 2016
Today in “well… shit”: Say goodbye (again) to the Bronx’s only Barnes & Noble
by Liam O’Brien
Two years ago, the only new bookstore in the Bronx was in danger of shutting down. The Barnes & Noble at Bay Plaza was set to close for the expected reason — rent increases outpacing the store’s ability to pay. However, a last-ditch petition to stave off this fate succeeded, and the store was able to renegotiate its lease, allowing it to remain in operation and continue serving as the literary and community hub it had become.
However, those were the halcyon days of October 2014. Meghan Trainor was storming the Billboard charts, the year’s finest film, John Wick, had just hit theaters, and the greatest threat to our union was a laughably run Secret Service. And now that it’s late 2016 and we as a people can’t have nice things anymore, we’re back to this sad tale — the Bay Plaza B&N is closing, again.
News 12 reports, though most of the article is behind a paywall:
Barnes & Noble is closing its last bookstore in the Bronx.
The Bay Plaza store will close by the end of the year.
The store almost shut down two years ago but was saved due to a large community effort.
A Barnes & Noble spokesperson told News 12 that “though we were paying substantial rents at this location, the property owner has decided to lease the space to another retailer.”
This, in a verb and an expletive, fucking sucks. The Bronx is the home of a who’s-who of literary heavyweights and it’s a crying shame to be left without a general-interest bookstore — especially one that provides much-needed after-school and otherwise solitary reading time for locals.
This is obviously part of a larger, slow-motion spasm, as the national bookstore chain struggles to pivot enough to survive. Just up the parkway in Eastchester, B&N is opening an especially fancy store that serves beer. Which, awesome, wow, but that still leaves a whole damn borough of New York City without a bookstore. And B&N’s already fleeing Queens, so unless the shadowy cabal of real estate developers that I assume runs shit in this city decide to ramp up their plans to gentrify the Bronx, I doubt we’ll be seeing a stable return of the chain anytime soon.
But, as I always try to make the case, it’s not all bad. As chains depart, indies gain fresh ground in the outer boroughs. The Lit. Bar, a bookstore/wine bar in the South Bronx, is moving slowly but surely towards an opening date. Queens features the essential Astoria Bookshop, which may soon be joined by a second indie.
But perhaps most importantly: you can do something about this. Sign the petition to keep the Bronx’s last Barnes & Noble open, and hopefully lightning (in the form of meticulous negotiation between multiple parties prompted by a community response) will strike twice.
Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.