By Dennis Holt
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The following three statements appeared in a lead story in a recent issue of The New York Observer, and they were all about the Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn.
Alfred Laboz: “I am so damned excited. Even if a fraction of those tenants come in, it’s gonna change everything. It’s gonna be a game changer.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz: “There is still plenty of room for mom and pops, but we can find space for other people too. This is not changing Fulton Street, this is bringing it back to what it was.”
Isaac Cherra: “Do we really need 10 sneaker stores and a dozen cellphone outlets?”
Laboz and Cherra are major property owners on the Fulton Mall and are major players in the current evolution underway on Brooklyn’s main retail street and the third busiest in the city.
As longtime observers know, Fulton Street was once a premier shopping street with high-end stores for the middle classes. There was even a Schrafft’s on the street.
Then, after World War II, many middle-class whites left the city (although not all, by any means). They were replaced by people, mainly people of color, who did not have the money their predecessors had. The type of shopping outlets on Fulton Street changed because the needs of the shoppers changed. The Fulton Mall changed to what most people think of it as today — a strip of bargain outlets.
But now that is all changing because of new, wealthier people who are moving into Downtown to live. New hotels have sprung up, and a new army of retailers is setting up shop.
The issues posed by the three men quoted in The Observer are: How far will this change go? Will it be as dramatic as the first change? Or will it be a mix of the new and the old? Also, can the needs of both populations coexist?
Many people are speculating that the answer will depend on whether Downtown Brooklyn can get a new office building of significance. If it does, there will be new workers to go along with new residents. That could be the “game changer.”