H’ Depot opens at Gateway

Mayor Michael Bloomberg presided over the grand opening of a Home Depot on Friday, April 24.

Gimme an H! Gimme an O-M-E! Gimme a D-E-P-O-T! On Thursday, April 23, Home Depot employees welcomed an enthusiastic crowd to the borough’s newest big-box store. Between now and September, Best Buy, BJ’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshall’s and Toys “R” Us will join Home Depot to form the Gateway Center, a million-square foot mall at the Bronx Terminal Market.

Home Depot is the largest home-improvement retailer in the United States. Its Gateway Center store offers more than 40,000 appliance, bath, hardware, lighting and storage products, and boasts a garden department. According to Home Depot spokeswoman Jennifer King, the store employs 200 people, more than 150 Bronxites. Some are veteran Home Depot employees transferred to the Gateway Center. The Atlanta-based retailer already operates stores on Bruckner Boulevard in Schuylerville and on Kingsland Avenue in Pelham Gardens.

Anne Jenkins of Concourse Village stopped by for the grand opening. In the past, Jenkins patronized Home Depot’s store in Midtown Manhattan. From her, it was three buses away.

“We needed this,” Jenkins, who stocked up on light bulbs on April 23, said. “I can walk here with my shopping cart.”

The new Home Depot features an expanded cleaning products department and a tool rental center. Bronxites polled by the retailer asked for both, store manager Stanley Pierre said. Previously, Pierre ran a Home Depot in Jamaica Queens.

“We’re so proud to be in the Bronx,” he said. “We’re excited to help the neighborhood’s do-it-yourselfers, and there’s going to be a lot of those in this economy.”

Bronx Chamber of Commerce president Lenny Caro praised the Gateway Center community benefits agreement negotiated with developer Related Companies in 2006.

“We at the Chamber want to create jobs,” Caro said. “Thanks to the agreement and Home Depot, we’ve accomplished that.”

The benefits agreement, the first of its kind in NYC, stipulated that Related secure 25 percent of Home Depot’s retail positions for unemployed or underemployed residents of Community District 4. According to Caro, it has satisfied that proviso.

Two years ago, some community leaders criticized the agreement as weak. According to lawyer Angel Cruz – who until recently supervised the agreement – it lacks teeth. Cruz couldn’t force Home Depot to hire locally.

“I walked tall but carried a short stick,” he said.

At a recent community meeting, Cruz informed south Bronx leaders that Home Depot would count “redeployed” CD 4 residents as local hires.

“Redeployment is not the same as employment,” Mid-Bronx chair Dennis Terry said.

Terry and others have called for a more transparent assessment of the benefits agreement. Mid-Bronx opted not to sign the document in 2006. According to King, most of the store’s Bronx employees are new hires. Von Jacobs, 22, is one of them. She rides the Bx19 bus from Southern Boulevard to work. Jacobs, a Clinton High grad, found her job on Craigslist.

“My Home Depot co-workers are friendly,” Jacobs said.

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