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Downtown Toy Store Fights Eviction from World Financial Center

BATTERY PARK CITY — Karen Barwick isn't giving up on Boomerang Toys without a fight.

Barwick started a petition this week to save her beloved toy shop's World Financial Center location, which is facing eviction this fall.  

"We really want to stay here," said Barwick, 39, a Battery Park City resident. "So many customers stop me on the street and say they can't believe we're leaving."

Brookfield Properties, which owns the World Financial Center, is booting Boomerang and several other businesses south of the Winter Garden as part of a $250 million redevelopment that aims to attract 40 high-end fashion retailers and create a 25,000-square-foot fresh food marketplace.

Brookfield recently notified Boomerang Toys, along with Urban Athletics, SouthWest NY, Ciao Bella and others, that they have to leave their current spaces by the end of September.

Barwick asked if Brookfield would give her a temporary space during the construction and make room for her in one of the new retail spaces once they are complete, but so far she hasn't received a positive response.

Within a day of posting her petition online, Barwick already had about 100 signatures from Downtown residents and workers who say they would miss the store.

"Please help us keep this neighborhood gem!" wrote Abbey Gardner, a Battery Park City mother. "We are there weekly for gifts and toys and can't imagine having to live without it."

A Brookfield spokeswoman declined to address Boomerang's future directly but said the renovation plan as a whole has been "very well received by [the] retail and brokerage community, as well as by people in the neighborhood."

Brookfield is currently evaluating proposals from both new and current tenants, the spokeswoman said.

Barwick, who has two sons, opened the first Boomerang Toys in TriBeCa in 2002, after she was laid off from her job with a record company following 9/11.

"I wanted to spend more time with my kids and not go back to an office job," she said.

The idea for a toy store came to her after she spoke to other Battery Park City moms about the inconvenient trek up to the Toys "R" Us in Union Square and their desire to shop locally.

The business quickly took off, and Barwick added the World Financial Center location in 2006 and one on Staten Island in 2009.

The 1,000-square-foot Battery Park City shop, packed from floor to ceiling with ballerina puzzles, Harry Potter Legos and Big Bird stuffed animals, draws a steady stream of residents and workers, along with many parents on business trips who are looking for gifts to bring home to their children.

In a small-town touch, Barwick offers a "birthday registry" for local kids who want to pick their presents themselves, and even for kids who don't register, she keeps track of who buys what so children don't end up with duplicate gifts.

Kristie Viggiano, 32, a Brooklyn resident who works in the World Financial Center, said she likes to buy presents for her 4-year-old daughter at Boomerang to make up for working long hours. She recently stopped in for a book and some stickers.

"I'd be very upset if they closed it down," Viggiano said. "It's nice to have the convenience to come down and pick up gifts [during lunch]."

Barwick plans to continue gathering signatures for the next couple of weeks and present her petition to Brookfield by the end of July.