As retail and real estate development in the Bronx continue to rise, the borough struggles to obtain or simply maintain various commercial interests that other boroughs have in multiplicity.
October saw borough leaders advocate in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook for an Apple store to open in the Bronx, the only borough currently without one. All four other boroughs have Apple stores — 7 in Manhattan alone.
“The continued growth and success of The Bronx requires strong partners in both the public and private sector that help to not only create new jobs and provide new retail opportunities, but also contribute to the rebranding of our borough,” said the letter, signed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and 25 other elected officials.
Tim Cook has not responded to the letter.
This is the second time in six months that Diaz has advocated that the borough, which is home to the nation’s poorest congressional district, should receive the same commercial services as its neighboring New York City boroughs. In April, he penned a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding same-day delivery be extended to the Bronx, calling his failure to extend the service to the area “either an unfortunate coincidence or an act of digital redlining.”
A week later, the e-commerce company announced same day delivery would be extended to the Bronx.
Despite Diaz’s success, the Bronx is losing its access to books. Last week Barnes & Noble announced it will close its Co-Op City location — the only general interest bookstore in the Bronx. The borough had previously avoided the bookstore’s closing in 2008 as residents petitioned the Barnes & Noble.
The lack of bookstores in the borough has Bronxites heading to the library in droves. Bronx libraries experienced a 225 percent increase in attendance between 2002 and 2014, according to the New York City Public Library. This increase eclipses Manhattan’s, the borough with the second highest increase in attendance of 172 percent.
Evan Cramb, FCRH ’18, a member of Fordham Students United, said that the closing of the Bronx Barnes & Noble is indicative of the larger movement towards online shopping over retail, but also shows how large companies continually cater more towards wealthy communities. “This will hurt literacy in the Bronx and increase the education divide,” Cramb said. “Then, with corporations developing the Bronx for white and middle-to-upper class residents, the current Bronx residents will be expelled like we’ve already seen in Brooklyn and Harlem. These processes just further inequality and call it progress.”
The tradeoff of the loss of Barnes & Noble is the retail outlet planned to be built in its place — a trend for the expanding borough. Investors and developers invested more than $1 billion into South Bronx real estate alone in 2015, an 84 percent increase from 2014. More than 3,000 new homes were built, according to a second quarter 2016 report from GFI Capital Resources Group, a Manhattan-based real estate developer.
“The South Bronx has not seen this aggressive style of investment in the past and now prominent developers are coming in and scooping up land at record prices,” the report read.
The GFI Capital Resources Group said that the South Bronx commercial market has not yet seen the same augmentation as the residential market in the area, but that the two are “closely related.” As the real estate market changes, it is likely the commercial market will as well. Whether this will bring a surplus of books and Apple products to the borough, and who will receive them if it does, remains to be seen.