By now you may have heard that the immense Barnes & Noble at Broadway and 66th Street will be closing in January when its lease runs out. Just like so many retailers of all sizes in the city, the store was unable to continue profitably under the rent hike it faces if it remains open. The New York Times's examination of the situation reveals that a lot of people found in the store are not actually buying anything more than a cup of coffee, but it fails to mention one of Barnes & Noble's most important roles in New York City: A source of (hopefully, sometimes) clean public restrooms (as a recent SNL sketch pointed out).
While it appears that the city is no longer appears to be pursuing any plans for the public bathroom program that it used to talk about, it is left to department stores and big box retailers like Barnes & Noble to provide relief for folks who are out and about. Who among us hasn't suddenly felt an urge at an inopportune moment and found ourselves heading toward the nearest Barnes & Noble? Is there any New Yorker who doesn't have a mental map of suitable potties around the city should the need arise when far from home or work? Well, you can cross one spot off that list.
Barnes & Noble's spokespeople insist that the chain will be looking for a replacement site in the neighborhood, but knowing the area, we can't immediately think where it might be, or what could possibly fill the four floors that will soon be available, aside from the usual names on shoppers' wish lists (Topshop, Uniqlo, a small SoHo-style Bloomingdale's? etc.).
Ironically, as Barnes & Noble shrinks, Border's is expected to open a store in the next phase of the Columbus Square complex between 97th and 100th streets on Columbus Avenue, so it may turn out to be a story about trading one big bookstore for another.At Bookstore, Even Non-Buyers Regret Its End (NYTimes)