A pair of Bay Ridge pols want to save Century 21’s flagship location on 86th Street after the 60-year-old retailer announced the impending closure of all 13 of its sprawling storefronts.
“We are ready to do everything in our power to help the business to keep at least the original Bay Ridge store open,” wrote City Councilman Justin Brannan and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes in a letter to the Gindi family, the founders of the longtime discount fashion retailer.
The pair sent the letter pledging their support on Monday — days after the company said it would file for bankruptcy, faulting the lack of payout from their longtime insurance company.
“As you know, we shared in our community’s dismay when we heard the news that all of Century 21’s thirteen department stores would be closing,” Brannan and Gounardes wrote. “It is unconscionable that due to your insurance company’s greed and refusal to pay your interruption claim during the COVID-19 pandemic that this New York City landmark will be forced to close its doors.”
Century 21 on Sept. 10 announced its plans to close all 13 of its stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, including its original location on 86th Street in Bay Ridge — a loss neighborhood officials fear will devastate the burgeoning business district.
“Our district has proudly been home to Century 21’s original location on 86th Street in Bay Ridge for over 60 years,” the pols’ letter continued. “Your flagship store has been of vital importance to our local economy by providing an excellent customer experience and value while acting as one of our largest employers.”
As news spread of the coming closure, Gounardes and Park Slope Assemblyman Robert Carroll renewed calls to pass legislation they introduced in April that would require insurers to pay out business interruption claims filed for pandemic-related losses — a matter of fine print insurance companies have been unwilling to budge on.
“If a pandemic does not constitute a legitimate business interruption, what does? It’s time for insurance companies to stop turning their backs on businesses in their moment of need,” Gounardes said. “This corporate greed will have a direct negative impact on our communities and our small businesses, and we need to hold insurance companies accountable to their promises.”
The 19,800-square-foot location in Bay Ridge is zoned for commercial use, which includes office space and retail — but is also permitted to be used for residential development, or for a mixed-use development that combines the two.
However, new structures in the lot’s zoning district are required to comply with the existing low-rise character of the neighborhood — and therefore any building not located on an avenue, such as the soon-to-be-empty store, cannot rise above three stories.
Many residents have said they hope to see another big-box retailer replace Century 21, which has multi-floor frontages on both 86th and 87th Street, if the staple department store cannot be saved.
“I spoke to many residents today hoping that large anchor stores will be attracted to 86t Street as it is an intermodal hub,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, name-dropping companies like Apple, Target and Trader Joes.
In the meantime, Brannan and Gounardes are holding onto hope.
“We appreciate all that Century 21 has done for our community over many decades, and we would love to continue this relationship,” the letter concluded.
In a statement to Brooklyn Paper, the Gindi family said they are grateful for the support — but did not address the fate of the storied 86th Street location.
“We are gratified by the outpouring of support Century 21 has received from the community,” said Raymond Gindi, co-CEO of Century 21.