Black Friday Shopping in Harlem Has Just Gotten A Lot Easier

Thanksgiving Features

By Michael Smith

On 116th Street and the FDR Drive, the two-year-old East River Plaza Multiplex, which includes such big-box retailers as Target, Best Buy and Costco, was packed at midnight on Thanksgiving. Cars jammed the multi-level parking garage. And the line of pedestrians heading for the mall’s ramps and escalators stretched down the block.

Traditionally, Harlemites would have to travel downtown to 86th Street, Time Square or Herald Square, just to name a few infamous Black Friday war zones. In years past, the need to travel has limited the amount of shopping a New Yorker who has to rely on public transportation can do. For some, the long distances to major retail shops, and the inconvenience of coming back uptown with arms laden with heavy packages, has kept many shoppers at home.

“Black Friday shopping for me has been more trouble than it should be in the past,” said a mother of two who would give her name only as Sharon. “This mall being here is a blessing. I love that I can make a huge dent tonight.” Sharon said she was looking forward to shopping at Best Buy for some video games for her son and some house wares at Target. Since she doesn’t own a car, she also feels much safer making the two-block walk back to her apartment than she did in earlier years lugging packages on the subway. “It wasn’t safe,” Sharon added.

During the early morning hours of Black Friday, the Best Buy, which is located on the third level, was definitely the most popular destination for shoppers, with many hoping to take advantage of well-advertised deals on electronics.

“I’m here for a new TV and some video games … that’s it,” said Manny, 22, a shopper who would give only his first name. Manny, who lives nearby at 112th Street and Lenox Avenue and works at Macy’s downtown, said he was determined to purchase only deeply discounted items. In particular, he was eager to snag a television on sale at Best Buy for $118.

“Yeah, this is an easy trip for me,” he added. “It’s going to be a madhouse at my job later. I told my boss that if he insisted on scheduling me to work on Black Friday, then it would have to be a night shift. I have to be here right now.”

After he finishes his Black Friday shopping, Manny will head down to Herald Square in time for his 4 p.m. shift to help other Black Friday shoppers.

Meanwhile, many Harlem residents are enjoying the first holiday shopping season when they don’t have to stray far from home. And for those too laden with packages to walk home, they can always grab a ride from the El Barrio Taxi Service, which operates out of the mall and was also doing a brisk business on Black Friday morning.