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Back to the Store of the Future
Renowned Discounter Announces Return to Storied Temple of Commerce
Above: The East River Savings Bank building at Church and Cortland Streets in the 1950s. Below: The facade of the same building, shown in modern times, converted to use as Century 21’s flagship location.
The family behind the iconic shopping brand, Century 21, has announced that the Platonic ideal of off-priced luxury retail will return to its longtime sanctuary at 25 Church Street (between Cortland and Dey Streets) in the spring of next year.
“Century 21 is, and always will be, a New York City brand,” reflects Raymond Gindi, the company’s co-chief executive officer. “Our flagship store has been a long-time symbol of this City’s resilience and unwavering spirit. In our 60-year history, we have only closed our doors twice—once after the devastation of September 11, and then again during the COVID-19 pandemic. But like the true New Yorkers we are, we have persevered. We could not be more excited to bring Century 21 back home.”
For the relaunch of Century 21, the Gindi family are partnering with Legends Hospitality, a food, beverage, merchandise, and destination retail management firm that has a growing footprint in Lower Manhattan, where it operates One World Observatory, at the top of One World Trade Center. The firm is also part of a plan to launch a new food hall and music venue at 28 Liberty Street, which will surround “Sunken Garden”—a 60-foot-wide, circular enclosure created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, that frames a bed of polished stones and a fountain, beneath the landmarked two-acre public deck at the base of the archetypal Modernist skyscraper once known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Legends was additionally a partner in the now-abandoned plan to create an 80,000-square-foot concert and performance venue on the former trading floor of the American Stock Exchange building, in the Financial District.
The re-opened Century 21 will span the four main floors of the original Downtown space and will offer men’s, women’s and children’s designer apparel, footwear, outerwear, handbags, accessories, and fragrances. Legends will help the Gindis devise an enhanced shopping experience in-store and online, according to a statement from the partnership.
Century 21 was founded in 1961, by Al Gindi and his cousin, Samuel (“Sonny”) Gindi, who set up shop in the palatial former home of the East River Savings Bank at the corner and Church and Cortland Streets, and took their new venture’s name from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, which styled itself the “Century 21 Exposition.” That event focused on the theme of how Americans would live come the millennium, but its predictions did not include an epochal pandemic, or the retail-pocalypse spurred by the rise of online shopping.
In the years that followed, the Gindi’s (who called their emporium “the store of the future” and eventually adopted the slogan, “New York’s Best Kept Secret”) used their newfound wealth to acquire a vast portfolio of Lower Manhattan property. The second and third generation of the family began liquidating these Downtown holdings a decade ago. In 2012, they sold a portfolio of more than a dozen buildings scattered throughout Lower Manhattan (including 20 John Street, Eight & Ten Liberty Street, 20 Beaver Street, 53 Nassau Street and 122 Nassau Street) for $164 million, and in 2013 they sold 287 Broadway for $8 million. The following year, the family unloaded three more buildings on Nassau Street for an additional $46 million. Much of the proceeds from these sales went to building a portfolio of 2.5 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space throughout the New York tri-state area, along with purchasing and development properties around the United States (in California, Texas, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania).
In 2017, Raymond Gindi sold a pair of adjoining lots at 140 and 142 Nassau Street, after buying 173 Broadway (in 2017) for $38.6 million, adding this parcel to properties he already owned at 175-177 Broadway. In 2016, the Gindi family purchased a retail condominium at One Coenties Slip for $19 million.
But the center of the local Gindi empire always remained the former East River Savings Bank building, at 25 Church Street—a 43,000-square-foot structure, that once connected to five other adjacent buildings, forming a 250,000-square-feet complex of retail space and offices.
When Century 21 ceased operations and entered bankruptcy in the fall of 2020, the adjoining annexes (which were rented) were separated from the 25 Church Street space, which the Gindi family owns. The first step toward reopening came when the family repurchased the Century 21 brand name and logo (along with related intellectual property) during bankruptcy proceedings, for a reported $9 million.
The Aliment of Surprise
Trinity Church Responds to Rising Local Hunger with Compassion Meals Program
Trinity Church has resurrected its Compassion Meals program, which provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner to those in need, on a rotating schedule, six days per week. The Church has always provided food help, reflects Lorelei Atalie Vargas, Trinity’s Chief Community Impact Officer. “But during the pandemic, when rates of food insecurity started to rise, we took a data-driven look at communities where food was a problem, particularly those where pantries had closed.” This translated into a huge jump in Trinity’s food assistance program, which distributed 15,000 meals through the Church’s Brown Bag Lunch program in 2019—a figure that jumped to 162,000 meals in 2020, and more than 230,000 last year.
Nadler Sponsors Legislation to Clip Wings of Whirlybirds
Congressman Jerry Nadler has introduced federal legislation to address safety and noise pollution concerns caused by non-essential helicopter flights over New York, which have emerged as chronic source of irritation for Lower Manhattan residents in recent years. At a Sunday press conference held alongside the East River’s 34th Street Heliport, Mr. Nadler (flanked by fellow Congress members Carolyn B. Maloney and Nydia Velazquez, who are co-sponsoring his proposed law), said, “for decades, New Yorkers have been plagued by excess helicopter noise and have had their lives put in danger by non-essential flights. Despite numerous requests by my colleagues and I, the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] has refused to sufficiently act to keep our skies and our City safe.”
Survey Data Shows Ferry Ridership Became More Moneyed and Monochrome During Pandemic
Ridership polls compiled by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) indicate that during 2021, the median income for riders of the NYC Ferry service jumped to between $100,000 and $149,000. At the same time, the percentage of riders who self-identify as races other than white (or categorize themselves as mixed race) dipped to less than one-third.
What Did Rudy Know and When Did He Know It?
Nadler Presses City Hall to Release Documents from 2001 about City Hall’s Awareness of Ground Zero Health Risks
United States Congressman Jerry Nadler is calling upon the administration of Mayor Eric Adams to make public previously unreleased City documents, which may shed light on what Rudolph Giuliani, who was Mayor at the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, knew about environmental health risks in weeks and months following of the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Federal Report Foresees Rising Water in Lower Manhattan
A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal scientific agency responsible for study of oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere, predicts that Lower Manhattan will face increasingly frequent flooding in the decades to come.
Thursday, May 19
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Historic Battery Park
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Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Museum’s exhibition, Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try centers around the “War Series” of the artist and Holocaust survivor Boris Lurie. However, Lurie is not the only artist who has chronicled war and tragedy. Others such as Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Francisco Goya, Otto Dix, and Käthe Kollwitz also used art to illustrate their feelings about war, famine, and other tragedies. Join the Museum for a program about these artists and their work to celebrate the launch of the catalogue of Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try. The exhibition’s curator Sara Softness will be in conversation with artist Molly Crabapple about these different artists and where Lurie’s work fits into this long tradition. Free; suggested $10 donation.
- 107 South Street, application exterior changes adding a fire escape at the rear and window modifications – Resolution
- Funding for the DOT Streets Master Plan Questions & Answers – Discussion
- Remote Member Allowances for Hybrid Meetings Per the New Open Meeting Law Provisions – Discussion & Resolution
- Review of Future and Pending New York State Legislation – Discussion & Resolutions
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Fraunces Tavern Museum
In this lecture, Mary Sarah Bilder looks to the 1780s, the Age of the Constitution, to investigate the rise of a radical new idea in the English-speaking world: female genius. Bilder will discuss Eliza Harriot Barons O’Connor, a path-breaking female educator who delivered a University of Pennsylvania lecture that was attended by George Washington as he and other members of the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia. Free.
McNally Jackson, 4 Fulton Street
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of Summer and a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 at The Millions, LitHub, and The Rumpus. Sharp, heartfelt, and cathartic, The Year of the Horses captures a woman’s journey out of depression and the horses that guide her, physically and emotionally, on a new path forward.
A few days ago, W.O. Decker paid a quick visit to North Cove. See the mighty little tug most days at South Street Seaport.
Friday, May 20
11am – 5pm
South Street Seaport Museum
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, visit the exhibitions and the ships of the South Street Seaport Museum for free. At 12 Fulton Street, see “South Street and the Rise of New York” and “Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900-1914,” and at Pier 16, explore the tall ship Wavertree and lightship Ambrose.
Singer/songwriter Terre Roche leads this weekly singing program with the beautiful backdrop of the setting sun in NY Harbor. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned crooner, the singing circle is perfect for mellow melodies and healthy harmonizing. Free
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Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-3pm (compost program: Saturdays, 8am-1pm)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
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Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8am-5pm (compost program: 8am-11am)
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
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Indoor market: Monday through Saturday,11:30am-5pm
CSA pick-up: Thursday, 4pm-6pm; Friday, 11:30-5pm
Outdoor market: Saturday 11:30am-5pm, May through Thanksgiving
Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.
by Ogden Nash
Aug. 19, 1902–May 19, 1971
1279 – A Mongolian victory in the Battle of Yamen ends the Song Dynasty in China.
1524 – Sailing for France, Giovanni da Verrazzano sights land at what is now the U.S. East Coast around North Carolina. Only 20 years earlier Columbus, a Genoan sailing for Spain, had discovered the “New World.” When France jumped into the game, King Francis 1 of France commissioned Verrazano to explore this new land, seeking new trading routes to the Far East. Verrazano was given four ships, but after a series of weather and mechanical setbacks, only one, the Dauphine, reached present-day North Carolina. Verrazano sailed north, stopping in New York Harbor, which he described as a lake, and mentioned the Lenapae Indians living there. When the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was in the planning stages, there was a big push to name the bridge after Verrazano. Robert Moses was against the idea for two reasons: “It’s too long a name and I never heard of the guy.”
1687 – Explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle, searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, is murdered by his own men.
1748 – Naturalization Act grants Jews right to colonize north American colonies
1775 – Four people in Italy are buried by avalanche for 37 days; three survive
1822 – Boston, Massachusetts, is incorporated as a city
1863 – The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is destroyed on her maiden voyage with a cargo of munitions, medicines
and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000. The wreck was discovered on the same day and month, exactly 102 years later.
1917 – US Supreme Court upholds 8-hour work day for railroad employees
1918 – Congress authorizes time zones and approves daylight saving time
1931 – Nevada legalizes gambling
1942 – FDR orders men between 45 and 64 to register for non military duty
1963 – Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail is published.
1965 – The wreck of the SS Georgiana, valued at over $50,000,000, is discovered by teenage diver and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence.
1969 – Chicago 8 indicted in aftermath of Chicago Democratic convention
1973 – Dean tells Nixon, “There is a cancer growing on the Presidency.”
1978 – 50,000 demonstrate in Amsterdam against neutron bomb
1994 – Largest omelet (1,383 sq ft) is made with 160,000 eggs in Yokohama, Japan
2013 – NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity discovers further evidence of water-bearing minerals
1589 – William Bradford, governor of Plymouth colony for 30 years
1813 – David Livingstone, explorer (found by Henry Morton Stanley in Africa after having been lost for four years)
1888 – Josef Albers, graphic artist/painter/writer
1904 – John J. Sirica, US federal judge at the Watergate hearings
1930 – Lorraine Hansberry, playwright and writer (d. 1965)
1945 – Peter Townshend, musician
1947 – Glenn Close, actress
1948 – Grace Jones, singer and actress
1955 – Bruce Willis, actor
1644 – Chongzhen, last Ming Emperor of China, commits suicide
1971 – Ogden Nash, poet
1994 – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. first lady married to President John F. Kennedy, known for her style and elegance, at age 64.
2005 – John De Lorean, American automobile engineer (b. 1925)
2008 – Sir Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and inventor (b. 1917)
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