After nearly six years of controversy, construction, worry and anticipation, the first Ikea in New York City opened in Red Hook, Brooklyn this morning. By the time the doors opened at 9:00 a.m., hundreds of shoppers had gathered on line outside the popular Swedish retailer. A festive atmosphere prevailed without any of the community dissent that had threatened to stymie the project from the beginning.
Instead of demonstrations from neighbors worried about the incoming wave of traffic, the assembled crowd was largely enthusiastic, although one woman on line was heard repeatedly yelling, "Where's my job?" (Ikea gained support from some residents in Red Hook -- a neighborhood with one of the highest poverty rates in New York City -- with the promise of jobs, but has not released details about its some 500 new employees.)
Father-daughter duo Sanchez and Brandice Jay were the first two shoppers to pass over Ikea's threshold, following a morning of music and short speeches from city officials, culminating in a ceremonial "wood sawing" instead of the typical ribbon cutting.
Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz was, of course, on hand to welcome Ikea, declaring, "From this day forward, Red Hook will be one of the best known neighborhoods in New York City and New York State... Hundreds of local residents now have the opportunity to move up the economic ladder... Germany is currently the leading country in terms of Ikea sales and the United States is #2. Well, that's about to change. Here in Brooklyn we don't like being #2 to anyone and I have no doubt that in a very short time the Brooklyn Ikea will be the most prosperous of the 281 worldwide locations!"