Local preservationist Michael Perlman started a petition to save the bookstore on Change.org on May 15, the same day the news broke that the Barnes & Noble may not renew its lease at 70-00 Austin St., which expires in January.
The petition has already attracted more than 2,850 signatures as of the writing of this article. It hopes to attract 5,000 signatures, which will be sent to elected officials, Barnes & Noble and Muss Development, the landlord of the building.
The troubled bookstore has already closed its Fresh Meadows branch near St. John’s University, and if the Forest Hills location is shuttered, the only Barnes & Noble in Queens will be the one in Bayside. Perlman emphasized the need to keep the Forest Hills branch open to the community in the petition.
“At the request of the community, [Barnes & Noble’s] lease needs to be renewed to the benefit of current and future generations,” Perlman said in the petition description. “This is a store where multi-generational patrons have the opportunity to explore various genres under one roof, feel as if they are traveling around the world and through time, and interact with the physical nature of books in a welcoming and friendly environment.”
Currently Muss Development and Barnes & Noble are still negotiating the lease renewal for the 22,000-square-foot space, where the bookstore has been for more than 20 years.
The problem began after the bookseller declined to extend its lease five more years. Barnes & Noble wants to remain at the location but “at rates very close to what we are currently paying,” said David Deason, vice president of development at the bookseller.
Muss Development agrees that they are hoping to find a solution, but COO Jeff Kay said he has not heard an alternate pitch from the bookstore after they declined the five-year extension, and they have been collecting interest for the space.
“We would like to retain Barnes & Noble as a long-term tenant. If they are interested, we will work with them to come up with a reasonable solution,” Kay said. “Every major national retailer in the U.S. is attending the ICSC meeting in Las Vegas right now. We are there, meeting with several of them who are interested in leasing the space.”
To sign the petition, click here.