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Forest Hills community fights to save Barnes & Noble

By Eric Jankiewicz

Thousands of people have signed a petition to keep Forest Hills’ Barnes & Noble open.

“Its closure would signify the loss of Forest Hills’ only book store and a community cornerstone which also attracts patrons from beyond the immediate neighborhood,” wrote Michael Perlman, the author of the petition and a community activist.

According to a spokesman for Barnes & Noble, the bookstore’s Forest Hills location has a lease that is about to expire and there is a chance that it will not be renewed.

The petition, which is on change.org and was created May 15, has more than 4,000 signatures. It is addressed to Muss Development, the holders of the retail space. It is also addressed to Barnes & Noble and New York City elected officials.

“Barnes & Noble on Austin Street first drew me to Forest Hills and was one of the reasons I decided to move here,” one of the petitioners wrote in the letter. “It is a valuable resource for all Forest Hills residents, as well as for those who shop there from neighboring [areas] such as Kew Gardens and Jackson Heights. Its existence here enhances the quality of life for all of us in the area. The lease for the Barnes & Noble store must be renewed.”

The bookstore has been in the area since 1995 and occupies a 22,000-square-foot space on two floors, according to the petition, and the store could close in January 2016 when the lease ends. But residents are hoping to convince all parties involved to keep the store in the area.

Last year a Barnes & Noble branch in Fresh Meadows closed. According to a spokesman, that location, too, was threatened by a lease expiration. The property holders and Barnes & Noble were unable to come to an agreement. Now it seems, the Forest Hills location will suffer a similar fate.

Community members from Fresh Meadows also created a petition at the time to try and keep the store opened.

If the Forest Hills location closes, there will be only one Barnes & Noble left in Queens, the chain’s store at Bay Terrace.

“The community needs this educational, cultural, social and recreational establishment on Austin Street, as opposed to only reading a book independently on a Nook or computer, or by resorting to an online retailer,” Perlman wrote.

Reach reporter Eric Jankiewicz by e-mail at ejankiewicz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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