Books were my ticket out of my neighborhood, the key to a different world. So I understand exactly what these neighbors mean:
Every day after school, 4-year-old Nicholai Rose demands that his mother take him first to the park then to the Barnes & Noble in the Baychester neighborhood of the Bronx. There, they snuggle in a corner in the children’s section and, each time, read “I Need My Monster,” his favorite picture book.
In a few months their ritual will end — permanently — when the store closes for good, leaving the Bronx, a borough with nearly 1.5 million people, without one general-interest bookstore. For residents, the closing carries a painful sting the borough knows too well, of being long underserved and overlooked, which persists even as the Bronx is experiencing a renaissance.
“How am I going to tell him that the bookstore is going?” said Nicholai’s mother, Shauna Rose, 29, as she sat in the store on Wednesday, the monster book on her lap. “And there’s nothing else.”
With 50,000 titles in its inventory, the Barnes & Noble opened in the Bronx in 1999. Two years ago, it nearly closed after the landlord sought to raise the rent. But it remained open after a public outcry, and after elected officials stepped in to assist in the rent negotiations. It has withstood the economic crunch that shut down smaller bookshops in the borough over the years. While there are a few bookstores in the Bronx attached to various universities and some stores that sell religious texts, the Barnes & Noble remains the last of its kind, until it closes in January, because of a rent increase. It will replaced by a Saks Off 5th store.
The decision has provoked another round of outrage, laced with deep resentment and a sense of loss.
Christina Tipiani, 23, a student who lives in the Soundview section of the Bronx, bemoaned the closing as she browsed books with her daughter Gabriella Padilla, 3. “We have enough clothing stores,” she said. “What do you want to teach your children? I want to teach my child actual values.”