By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Popular chain store Target caused controversy at the opening of the new East Village store at the end of last month because of their homage to former dive bar and music club CBGB and ultimately apologized for the marketing stunt, the New York Times reported at the end of last week.
The new store opened on East 14th Street between Avenues A and B with grand opening festivities on the weekend of July 21 with a vinyl facade depicting tenements and old storefronts, including CBGB, with “TRGT” in the bar’s classic font on the temporary overhang.
Jeremiah Moss, whose blog Vanishing New York and book of the same name document gentrification in the city, called the display a “deplorable commodification of local neighborhood culture” and expressed disgust over the fake storefronts.
“The façade is draped in vinyl sheets printed with images of tenements, the same sort of buildings that get demolished to make room for such developments,” Moss wrote. “Here they sit, hollow movie-set shells, below the shiny windows of the high-end rentals. They are the dead risen from the grave, zombies enlisted to work for the corporation.”
The company responded to the backlash at the end of last week, apologizing for tone-deaf display.
“When Target opens a new store, we often host a one-day celebration that shows the neighborhood how excited we are to be part of their community. Our goal is to connect with our newest guests and, in this case, celebrate the heritage of the East Village,” Target said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize if some event-goers felt it was not the best way to capture the spirit of the neighborhood. We always appreciate guest feedback and will take it into consideration as we plan for future opening events.”
Stuy Town residents that Town & Village spoke with at the end of last week were aware that the new Target had opened and hadn’t heard about the CBGB “tribute” but like Moss were similarly disheartened by the rapid closure of small businesses in the neighborhood.
One longtime Stuyvesant Town resident who didn’t want to be named admitted that a Target could be helpful for seniors in the neighborhood because the store sells both food and a variety of personal items, but she said she was disappointed that the building wasn’t used for affordable housing and the retail space wasn’t occupied by a business like a fish or meat market.
“We don’t have a fish or meat market in this neighborhood anymore,” she said. “You have to go all the way to Chinatown for fresh fish. Who can afford fish from Chelsea Market?”
Stuyvesant Town residents Peter Yurasits and John “Butch” Purcell, known to some in the neighborhood as the mayor of Stuy Town, were sitting near the Oval Fountain last Friday and weren’t particularly enthused about Target coming to East 14th Street.
“I try to support local businesses but mom and pops are closing all the time,” Purcell said.
“Change is the only constant now,” Yurasits added. “Ten years ago (Target) was good but now it’s lost its glamour. I try to shop at local businesses and help out the smaller places but brick and mortar is dead.”