Manhattan's First Target Closes, Impacting the Local Community

Manhattan has long been a hub of businesses and commerce, so when a major player like Target, which was the first of its kind to open in this bustling borough, announces its closure, it raises eyebrows and questions

by Faruk Imamovic
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Manhattan's First Target Closes, Impacting the Local Community
© Getty Images News/Justin Sullivan

Manhattan has long been a hub of businesses and commerce, so when a major player like Target, which was the first of its kind to open in this bustling borough, announces its closure, it raises eyebrows and questions. Lou Martins, a local resident and business owner, expresses the sentiment that echoes throughout his East Harlem neighborhood: frustration, disappointment, and a touch of resignation.

Safety Concerns Spell Closure

Target revealed earlier this week that it would be shuttering nine stores across various cities including New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. The company pointed to massive theft and the subsequent safety concerns for employees and shoppers as the driving force behind these decisions.

Martins, a stone's throw away from the East River Plaza shopping center where Target has been a significant presence since 2010, has been a witness to the escalating theft issues. "I've seen shoplifting happening in that mall, in Target.

I’ve seen cops chasing people carrying bags of products out of the mall,” he disclosed. This shopping center, which sprawls over 174,000 square feet, also houses other retail giants like Costco, Aldi, and Burlington.

Ripple Effects on the Neighborhood

For Martins and his wife Maria Gonzalez Arrieta, proprietors of Bistro Casa Azul located nearby, the closure of Target isn't merely about the loss of a shopping option. It's about the potential decline of a community they've seen flourish.

"Having Target here helped revitalize East Harlem with hundreds of new jobs, customers and more services to our area," Martins said. The elderly, who relied on the retail giant for essentials, face the daunting task of traveling farther for their needs.

The loss of Target means more than just a void in the shopping center — it represents a void in the community. Mark Cohen, a veteran in retail studies at Columbia University’s business school, also foresees the broader consequences.

"Other stores in the mall could look to renegotiate their lease terms citing diminished foot traffic," he said, hinting at the domino effect that might ensue. While the theft was cited as the primary reason, questions remain.

Was the store under-performing? Was it meeting its revenue goals? Target remained tight-lipped about these concerns, only stating that it anticipated losses of $500 million this year due to theft. Cohen leaves us with food for thought: "The East Harlem store could have been doing very high volume in sales but still losing money because of theft." As the doors close on this iconic store, it remains to be seen how East Harlem and other affected neighborhoods navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

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