Macy's Says It's Not Coming to Harlem

By Jeff Mays on November 8, 2013 9:23am 

Slideshow
 here'll be no miracle on 125th Street this year. The giant retailer Macy's says it's not coming to Harlem—yet. The store, which is facing criticism and a lawsuit for accusations that they racially profile shoppers, was drawn into a dispute between local merchants on 125th Street who say they will be put out of business by a National Urban League plan to build its headquarters, a civil rights museum and retail on the site of what is now a garage.
Macy's not coming to 125th Street
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HARLEM—There'll be no miracle on 125th Street this year.

The giant retailer Macy's says it's not coming to Harlem— yet.

Elina Kazan, vice president of marketing for Macy's, said her company has "looked at opportunities in the neighborhood in the past but we are not opening a store in Harlem."

The store, which is facing criticism and a lawsuit over accusations that they racially profile shoppers, was drawn into a dispute between local merchants on 125th Street who say they will be put out of business by a National Urban League plan to build its headquarters, a civil rights museum and retail on the site of what is now a city and state-owned garage.

State Sen. Bill Perkins said Macy's was going to be an anchor tenant and investor in the project located between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue. He criticized the nation's largest civil rights organization saying they were placing corporate interests above the little guys they are supposed to be protecting.

"Macy's is a major proponent of shop and frisk," Perkins said.

Charles J. Hamilton Jr., outside counsel for the National Urban League, said his group had conversations with Macy's about being an anchor tenant on the site but couldn't come to terms with the retailer to make the deal financially feasible.

National Urban League president Marc Morial acknowledged negotiations, but said Macy's is not a partner in the project.

"It's not going to happen," said Morial at a hearing on the project in Harlem Thursday night that was attended by hundreds of angry residents.

"I don't know where that information came from," he added. "It is absolutely not true."

Kazan declined to comment about business negotiations but said the store is "always interested in looking at opportunities by developers to grow our business and serve the community."

Harlem business leaders say that Macy's has looked at locations here for a possible store for the last several years.

Macy's passed on the site of what is now a Pathmark at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue because it wasn't centrally located and also could not strike a deal for a site on Lenox Avenue and 125th Street where Whole Foods is now slated to rise.

The idea of the store coming to Harlem is not far fetched as several national retailers have taken to 125th Street in recent years.

In addition to existing stores such as Old Navy, Gap and Marshalls, Whole Foods and Burlington Coat Factory are scheduled for the corner of Lenox Avenue and 125th Street.

Further west, a Red Lobster will soon open between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and a retail complex on Frederick Douglass Boulevard has a Joe's Crab Shack and DSW among other stores.

There is $1 billion in new development scheduled for 125th Street that will bring 1 million square feet of new space, according to the 125th Street Business Improvement District.

That development is increasingly pushing out the mom and pop stores that dominated 125th Street before it became a destination for national retailers.

"Fifteen years ago there was unoccupied space on both sides of the building. Night and day I was out there chasing the rats," said Ron Waltin, a Golden Krust franchisee.

Angry Harlem residents at Thursday night's meeting said they weren't against the National Urban League redeveloping the site but that they wanted to make sure the merchants who came to Harlem in less opportune times were also allowed to benefit.

Gary Johnson of the NAACP said the remaining merchants at the site should be brought out of there leases and be helped to return to the new site.

"We want to make sure this is done in a way that is respectful to this community," said Brian Benjamin, 2nd vice-chair of Community Board 10 where the project is located.

Morial said no deal has been cut with any retailers but he believes whoever is chosen will please the community.

"What we want to do at the site is something exciting," said Morial.

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