East Village Target store evokes CBGB, sparking backlash

The East Village—home of punk rock, famed poets, and grit—is now home to a Target store. And while a visit on Monday night suggested plenty of folks couldn't wait to go shopping for bargains, others miss the days when the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A housed a pizza place and barbershop.

"It's sort of garish," longtime resident Erwin Nied said. "I prefer all the family businesses."

"The very reason I moved here over 25 years ago was there were mom-and-pop stores," lamented Karla Murray. "It was quirky, there were unique places that had character."

Many longtime residents see the opening of the big box store as just another sign of how much this neighborhood has gentrified in the last decade.

So when Target decided to celebrate its grand opening with a play on the iconic CBGB club by putting up an awning with "TRGT" letters in the same style as the club's logo, the backlash was swift.

"They have committed what might be the most deplorable commodification of local neighborhood culture I've ever witnessed," Jeremiah Moss, the author of Vanishing New York, tweeted.

"It was really pretty tasteless," said Laura Sewell, the executive director of the East Village Community Coalition. Sewell said the retailer's attempt to fit in was a fail.

"People that we know personally were pushed out [of the neighborhood] and to find a Disney fake version of whatever it was they thought we were, it's off," she said. "Feature one of our local merchants in their window once a month, that would be great!"

Other East Villagers said they understood why the opening display upset people.

"You miss other parts of the neighborhood that made it what it was," said Kirah Caminos, who grew up a block away from the new store. But at the store with her kids on Monday night, she said New Yorkers should embrace change.

"I have mixed feelings, but just like all of New York City, it's changing, and we have to change with it," she said.

Target said it didn't mean to offend its new neighbors.

"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," Target said in a statement. "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."