Tough road for J&R’s latest idea

Located on Park Row between Ann and Beekman Sts., J&R Music & Computer World is hoping to have part of the street renamed after the store. Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

BY ALINE REYNOLDS | J&R Music & Computer World is vying for an ambitious reward for the company’s neighborhood-friendly efforts during its 40-year existence Downtown. The electronics store, situated along Park Row between Ann and Beekman Sts., is requesting that part of the thoroughfare be named “J&R row” to pay tribute to its 40th anniversary in Lower Manhattan.

“It’s very important. This will help create J&R as a name well-known not only for New Yorkers, but people all over the world,” said store spokesperson Abe Brown, who presented the plan to Community Board 1’s Seaport Civic Center Committee on June 21.

The street co-naming, Brown said, would help solidify J&R as a Downtown icon and strengthen the company’s revenue.

At its June 28 full-board meeting, C.B. 1 decided to table a vote on the proposal per Brown’s request to discuss the plan once more with the Seaport Civic Center committee on July 19, once it has a stronger backing.

“It wasn’t presented well enough,” said Brown. “We want to be able to reach everybody, and present our case intelligently so everybody is comfortable and happy with it.” In the meantime, Brown is collecting signatures from Park Row residents and business owners to garner support for the plan, which will require City Council approval to be enacted.

Many C.B. 1 members, however, have already pledged to vote against a future resolution supporting the idea.

“Our streets are named for very historic reasons. To help a business, to me, is not a valid request,” said executive C.B. 1 member Roger Byrom.

The board, Byrom noted, has never approved the co-titling of a street or other city amenity after a commercial enterprise.

“I think it sets a bad precedent. Next thing you know, Century 21 will want to name a street after them, and it goes on and on and on,” said committee member Una Perkins, who is vehemently against the proposal.

Seaport committee co-chair Paul Viggiano agreed that the street’s co-naming would set a poor example for other neighborhood storeowners. “I just think it’s not a viable avenue to go to, because then you have [businesses] popping up all over the place that do good business and provide the city with tax revenue, that would want their street co-named,” he said.

The company, Viggiano said, has no need for additional publicity. “They’re not going anywhere — as a matter of fact, they’re expanding,” he said.

Perkins is especially disgruntled by J&R’s proposal because, according to her, the store hasn’t earned the honor. In the months following 9/11, she said, her company, located at 299 Broadway, purchased dozens of air purifiers from J&R and never once received a discount.

“You’d think a business like that would be jumping in and doing something like Capsouto Freres [bistro], which fed the people who worked at Ground Zero,” Perkins said. “[J&R is] making a fortune over there, and they haven’t given a damn thing back to the community. They’ve done nothing but rake in money up the wazoo.”

Brown, however, contends that the company has made notable contributions to its customers and local residents. “We’re constantly giving back and thinking of ways to give added benefits,” said Brown, citing the store’s free live music concerts in City Hall Park and the various promotional offerings the store frequently gives its customers and café patrons.

The company, Brown said, is on the verge of launching another promotion that will provide youths with special discounts on certain products in the store.

Seaport Committee co-chair John Fratta is one of the few C.B. 1 members that is siding with Brown.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said Fratta. “J&R is a major business in our district, [it’s been] in business for quite a while now, and it’s been very good to our community.”

While board member Michael Connolly is not in favor of the co-naming, he thinks Brown deserves a fair chance to present his case to the board the way he sees fit. “I think we should hear what they have to say,” said Connolly.

The board previously voted in opposition to the company’s 2001 proposal to permanently co-name Park Row between Ann and Beekman Sts., saying at the time that it had “concerns over the ramifications of co-naming any street, much less quite a historic street as Park Row, after a commercial enterprise.” The area had been temporarily renamed after the store to commemorate the opening of J&R’s new retail shop at One Park Row.

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