UPPER WEST SIDE — The new Century 21 store makes the Upper West Side "a shopper's paradise," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a Wednesday morning ribbon-cutting for the fashion discounter.
Century 21's new location on Broadway and West 66th Street joins a growing list of discount clothing stores on the Upper West Side — including Loehmann's, Filene's Basement, Syms and T.J. Maxx — that Bloomberg said spur econonomic development and lure bargain-hungry tourists.
"The more they shop here, the more they stimulate our local economy," Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg praised Century 21 for helping lead the city out of the dark days following 9/11 by re-opening its Cortlandt Street location just months after the terrorist attacks, and lauded the new store for creating 376 jobs.
"For 50 years, this business has helped New Yorkers to look great at any time. ...We look forward to another 50 years," Bloomberg said. "We want you to make a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes."
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said Century 21 had set a high bar for other businesses to follow by striving to work with the neighborhood before it even opened. Brewer said Century 21 officials checked in with her office on how the store could limit noise and asked how locals would prefer the store to load and unload merchandise.
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal said Century 21's downtown store was one of the few attractions that could make Upper West Siders venture south of 42nd Street, so residents would be pleased to have the discount shopping hub a little closer to home.
"We're so happy that our suffering is alleviated, because now we can just walk down the block," Rosenthal said.
But not everyone had such kind words for the department store, which took over the space once occupied by financially-troubled bookseller Barnes & Noble.
"It's really very schlocky and awful," said 65-year-old Geula Levi-Freeman, a longtime Upper West Sider, as she looked at the balloon-covered entrance.
Levi-Freeman said she signed up for a VIP loyalty card earlier this week so she could check out the new store, where she was hoping to find new clothes for the upcoming Jewish holidays. She wasn't happy with what she saw, she said. "It's really substandard," she lamented.
Levi-Freeman said she missed Barnes & Noble, where she used to browse magazines and books and listen to music. "It was very high-class, and it's being replaced by something so inelegant," she said.
Neighborhood resident David Tereshchuk noted that Upper West Siders considered Barnes & Noble "a step down" when it opened, because locals worried that the national chain would harm small independent bookstores.
"We've lost our small independent bookstores and it's ironic that we lost one of the big corporate ones too," Tereshchuk said. "But now we miss even the big giant. Being able to buy discounted designer clothes isn't much of a compensation."