Vol. 11, No. 25 Dec. 31, 1998 - January 13, 1999


Book-Starved Pol Brings Superstore to Borough


For Bronx book lovers, a new Barnes & Noble bookstore in Bay Plaza, announced last week, is like a downpour in the desert.

For Assemblyman Stephen Kaufman, an east Bronx lawmaker, it's the sweet culmination of a campaign to get Barnes & Noble to take the Bronx seriously.

Kaufman, a history buff who tired of suffering the indignities of being forced to book browse outside his beloved borough, began nudging the book giant four years ago. "I collected signatures, spoke to [Barnes & Noble officials] and drove them crazy," Kaufman said.

To Kaufman and other veteran lamenters of the Bronx's bookstore shortage, Barnes & Noble's decision means that big business is finally taking the Bronx seriously.

"It's a statement that Barnes & Noble believes that the borough has arrived," Kaufman said.

"People need Home Depot," Kaufman added. 'They need a supermarket. But a bookstore is an extra special thing because it shows that people have excess money and the intellectual ability to seek out books."

And there will be a lot of books to seek. At 25,000 square feet, the Bay Plaza store, due to open next fall, will be bigger than many of Barnes & Noble's 16 Manhattan branches. The store will feature a cafe, a music department, and a children's department and will host a busy schedule of book signings, reading groups and performances by local musicians, said Patricia Hurley, the company's director of community relations.

Barnes & Noble works closely with local schools, Hurley said, and is "very active in terms of helping raise funds to stock classrooms and school libraries."
The Bronx now joins two of its outerborough cousins in the Barnes & Noble family. Queens and Brooklyn are home to branches in Forest Hills and Park Slope respectively.

Despite frequent complaints from bookish northwest Bronx residents, there are only two small bookstores in this area: the Bronx Bookplace on the Grand Concourse just below Fordham Road; and Paperbacks Plus on Riverdale Avenue in Riverdale.

Proprietors at each of those establishments said they're not worried about being boxed out by the new superstore.

Fern Jaffe, owner of Paperbacks Plus, welcomed Barnes & Noble, saying the new store is "good for the Bronx and it's good for books."

However, she added, "I don't think that a 25,000-square-foot bookstore changes the fact that the Bronx is underbooked."

Jaffe said she would like to "act as a mentor to anybody who wanted to open a bookstore in the Bronx so that we could really represent the very diverse needs of people who live in this borough."

Hermine Lieberman, the manager of the Bronx's only other general-interest bookstore (there are also religious and university-associated stores in the borough), the Bronx Bookplace on the Concourse, was also unfazed by the announcement.

"I really don't think that I have anything to be concerned about," Lieberman said, citing her heavily trafficked location and the long distance to Bay Plaza. 'To get over to where they want to open, you have to take two buses or a car."

Lieberman says her small store offers personalized service, where many customers are known by their first names and knowledgeable staff members offer suggestions.

As for Barnes & Noble, Kaufman predicts the new store "will be a great success beyond their wildest expectations."

"I live in Barnes & Noble," Kaufman said. 'They'll be able to stay open just on my purchases alone."

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