Major Manhattan-based fashion retailer Century 21 will shutter its large department store on Bay Ridge’s 86th Street shopping strip as the 60-year-old retailer prepares to file for bankruptcy.
“Since 1961, when Al and Sonny Gindi opened what was then a small store in Downtown Manhattan, we have been proud to provide shoppers with unmatched access to designer brands at amazing prices,” said Century 21 co-CEO IG Gindi in a statement. “While we wish that Century 21 could continue to be a must-see shopping destination for so many, we are proud of the pioneering role it has played in off-price retail and the iconic brand it has become.”
Gindi blamed the chain’s bankruptcy on their longtime insurance company — who refused to pay out nearly $175 million to the company under their business interruption policy, he claimed.
“While insurance money helped us to rebuild after suffering the devastating impact of 9/11, we now have no viable alternative but to begin the closure of our beloved family business because our insurers, to whom we have paid significant premiums every year for protection against unforeseen circumstances like we are experiencing today, have turned their backs on us at this most critical time,” said Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi.
All 13 Century 21 stores — including one in Downtown Brooklyn, and others in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida — will close, and immediately begin hosting going-out-of-business sales in-store and online.
In Bay Ridge, the closure will mean the vacancy of Century 21’s large commercial space, with frontages on both 86th and 87th streets between Fourth and Fifth Avenues — after decades spent forging close ties with the community and serving as an anchor to the flourishing business district.
“Century 21 was central to Bay Ridge’s 86th Street shopping area. It started as a small mom and pop [shop] and the Gindi family has been part of the Bay Ridge family,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10. “Many of the managers and employees are known to community organizations as Century 21 has been very generous supporting local fundraising efforts over the years. They will be very missed and will leave a big void.”
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 would like to see the space continue on as a department store or large anchor store that will drive more shoppers to 86th Street businesses.
“I spoke to many residents today hoping that large anchor stores will be attracted to 86t Street as it is an intermodal hub,” Beckmann said. “I have spoken to residents hoping to see large stores like Apple, Target, Trader Joes, Macy’s or Kohls [come] to 86th Street.”
In wake of the news Century 21’s closure was insurance-related, Bay Ridge Senator Andrew Gounardes is renewing his call to pass legislation he introduced with Park Slope Assemblyman Robert Carroll in April that, if implemented, would require insurance companies to pay out claims for revenue losses as a result of the pandemic — something many insurers are not recognizing as business interruption.
“If a pandemic does not constitute a legitimate business interruption, what does?” the senator said. “It’s time for insurance companies to stop turning their backs on our businesses in their moment of need. It’s time to hold insurance companies accountable for their actions.”