Why Twitter Is Up in Arms Over This New Target Store

Update: Statement from Target (July 23, 2018 at 3:45 p.m. ET)

A Target spokesperson has provided the following statement: “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. 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.”

What We Reported Earlier

Target isn’t getting the warm welcome it hoped for from its new East Village neighbors.

The retailer opened its latest urban small-format store on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A in New York over the weekend, marking the occasion with an elaborate tribute to the neighborhood’s cultural history. Among the bullseye-branded features? Mock signage paying homage to the legendary defunct punk rock venue CBGB, red newspaper boxes carrying “The Target Times” (à la the beleaguered Village Voice) and faux tenement building façades, complete with colorful fire escapes, hung from the new condominium that sits on top of the store.

As many critics were quick to point out, however, the local character the retailer seemed eager to channel is the same one that has been largely scrubbed away in recent decades by the forces of gentrification — in particular by the condos and corporations that have sent rents skyrocketing. A studio apartment upstairs from Target, for instance, rents for $3,681 per month, while a three-bedroom will set you back $12,458 per month (the building’s name, EVGB, is an acronym for “East Village’s Greatest Building”). The original CBGB space on Bowery, meanwhile, is now home to a John Varvatos store.

Writer Jeremiah Moss, who has chronicled the city’s transformation for more than a decade, called the opening “the most deplorable commodification of local neighborhood culture I’ve ever witnessed,” while several commenters on Twitter compared it to the trendy Brooklyn eatery that touted a “bullet hole-ridden wall” as a novelty décor feature, inciting local protests last year.

This weekend’s pretend storefronts were a temporary addition, but the 27,000-square-foot, two-story location does have one site-specific feature: Behind the cash registers, a graffiti-style mural depicts signs for stalwarts of the local arts community, including the Nuyorican Poets Café and Theatre 80 St. Marks, the latter of which is fundraising $70,000 on Kickstarter to keep up with “ever-escalating costs in a gentrifying neighborhood.”

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