Six years after closing its doors, the story of a possible reopening of Bay Plaza Mall Barnes & Noble is a mystery to Bronx bookworms.
Buoyed by the earlier passionate community support calling for the bookstore to reopen, organizers behind the reopening said Barnes & Noble officials had promised a reopening 36 months after it closed in 2016. But the building remains empty, and residents are concerned that without another general interest bookstore in the Bronx, a borough with declining literacy rates and inaccessibility to libraries, there could be more systemic challenges.
A change.org petition to reopen the former bookstore at 290 Baychester Ave., started by Bronx residents Jaeydon McBayne and Hadiyah Braithwaite, garnered more than 600 signatures in its first week.
“The Bronx has the lowest literacy rate of the five boroughs, with nearly 70 percent of third-grade students in the South Bronx reading below their grade level. Many talented and legendary writers have lived and found inspiration in the Bronx: Edgar Allan Poe, James Baldwin and Stan Lee to name a few,” Braithwaite wrote in the petition. “The lack of an accessible place for Bronx residents to purchase a wide variety of novels, textbooks, test prep guides and children’s books can make it more difficult for the community to uplift and inspire the next generation of children, to reach such heights.”
Barnes & Noble officials told the Bronx Times they closed the bookstore for “a period of decline,” which led to its acquisition by hedge fund Elliott Advisors for $638 million. But surging book sales had prompted a revamped Barnes & Noble to consider opening 20 stores – 10 new stores opened last year and 10 are under construction – and said there was strong motivation to open a bookstore in the future in the future to open the Bronx.
Sam Shalem, chairman and chief executive officer of Prestige Properties — owner of Bay Plaza Shopping Center — told the Times that Barnes & Noble has still leased the building but has not held talks about reopening a bookstore. The bookstore was the county’s only general bookstore when it opened in 1999.
Saks OFF 5th, a premium outlet and subsidiary of Saks Fifth Avenue, took over the lease in 2017 but closed its doors after just two years.
Every borough except the Bronx has at least one Barnes & Noble location, and four are currently open in Manhattan. Barnes & Noble has several locations in Westchester County that residents of the Bronx have a hassle to commute to.
“The love the Bronx has for our Barnes & Noble has never waned, and now is the time to use that passion to make real change,” says Braithwaite.
Barnes & Noble officials said they are promoting a Bronx-based bookstore after suggestions of potential locations and are asking that suggestions be sent to [email protected] with the words “The Bronx.”
Reach out to Robbie Sequeira below [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.