Fulton Mall Mallification’ Inevitable?

Yesterday the Times had a loving portrait of the Fulton Mall, a chaotic throwback to the era before the sanitization and, yes, mallification of New York City’s retail districts. The article examines how the thoroughfare stays successful (it sees more than 100,000 shoppers each day) by catering to working-class minorities. Despite the fact that retail rents at the Fulton Mall are extremely high, the commercial strip still boasts plenty of mom-and-pop shops and a dearth of big national retailers. That may not be case for much longer, according to Downtown Brooklyn Partnership prez Joseph Chan. With all the housing stock that we have now and the demographics in the communities that surround Downtown Brooklyn, the fact that there’s not a Bed Bath & Beyond, a Pottery Barn, a Pier 1 in the downtown of a city of 2.5 million people is odd, says Chan. He argues that more chain stores won’t necessarily mean the end of the Fulton Mall as we know it: Having greater retail diversity means having more choices. It doesn’t mean eliminating what’s there today. The reality is it’s never going to be all or nothing.
Step Right Up! Brooklyn Mall Is Oasis and Anomaly [NY Times]
Photo by johnkay1.

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  • I read this yesterday. I think I’m the rare white guy (married, co-op owner, good salary, suit job) who LOVES the Fulton Mall. Seriously, I do shop there.

    I am not against progress, but I do hope that most of the mom & pops (or Fatima’s and Ahmed’s) stay.

    I go there for Sneakers. You can get a good deal and find lots of limited edition kicks there. That is what I get there. And my baseball caps.

    I do like that if I’m in the market for fronts, I can go there.

    I do greatly miss Beat Street. I loved going there for my music.

  • Uh oh, here comes the onslaught of “save the ghetto mall” posts from a bunch whiny white folks. Seriously Mister B, have you ever shopped there? Let’s face it, your progeny it not tooling around CH with kicks from Cookie’s.

  • Whitey dosnt like Bed-Sty – racist

    Whitey likes Fulton St Mall – phoney

    Give Whitey a chance

  • I was unaware that there were adults afflicted with sneaker fetishism. I thought it was just adolescents.

  • 11:07 AM
    You are obviously a very old adult.

    They also like comic books, video games and hip hop. A lot

  • Leave Macy’s and gut the entire place. Thats it.

  • i am white
    i own a house
    i buy clothes for my kids at cookies – and goodwill right off the mall.
    i like the mall- it reminds me of europe

  • agreed, 11.49. The mall is a headache and needs upgrading. It’s old, outdated and always dirty – garbage is constantly blowing everywhere and the entire street is an eye-sore.

  • The “ghetto mall” is making money, and serving the needs of people who have shopped there for generations. While I would love a Pot, BB&B and Pier 1, I hope those can be incorporated within suitable spaces as they become available, and no one is shoved out unless they choose to leave. There is room for everyone.

    The Fulton Mall didn’t become what it now is overnight, or by itself. It was always a working and middleclass shopping area. The “complexion” changed as white people fled to the burbs, and neighborhing Bklyn Hts, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, etc, etc residents stopped going there. The stores changed, reflecting the economic situation and tastes of their customers. Why wouldn’t they, it’s in an excellent commuting and commercial hub.

    I personally thing they overdo most of the merchandise there, with too much repetition and not enough imagination as to what they think will sell, and have dumbed down to teenage hip hop dominated merchandise. There are still a couple of stores I frequent for bargain goodies. If I need better, I know where to get it in Manhattan or elsewhere, so it’s never bothered me that they don’t have what I want. I don’t expect the world to cater to me, but I am also not a huge shopper.

    I have to say, I do miss McCrory’s, Woolworth’s and A&S, especially their restaurant. They had the best lunch in downtown Brooklyn.


  • I am white, middle class and I used to buy my children clothing at the stores at the mall. It was when A&S was still there before Macy’s – which is not very nice.

  • “i like the mall- it reminds me of europe”

    How? Seriously, what part of Fulton Mall reminds you of what part of Europe?

  • “‘With all the housing stock that we have now and the demographics in the communities that surround Downtown Brooklyn, the fact that there’s not a Bed Bath & Beyond, a Pottery Barn, a Pier 1 in the downtown of a city of 2.5 million people is odd,’ says Chan.”

    I think this is a pretty unfortunate thing to say and is teeming with not-so-implicit racism and classism. The three chain stores he mentions are actually pretty shitty, and anything that they sell can be purchased online via their websites. Why these three stores are considered progress, I can’t understand.

  • 12:07, have you been to Europe recently?


    12:14, I agre. What the hell is Joe Chan’s problem? The mom-and-pop stores are making money and people like them. For years people have been lamenting the homogenization of the country with Bed Bath and Beyond. Yes it’s odd that there isn’t one already on Fulton Street, but it’s GOOD odd, not bad odd.

    Chan is the same one who wants to build large unnecessary parking garages on Duffield Street and next to BAM, inviting thousands of people to drive the streets of Downtown Brooklyn. That should tell you all you need to know about his priorities.

  • So glad to see the parking garage come down. It’s all great news for DB. Can’t wait.

  • To the ghetto drivers: I hope this will curb your cruising instincts driving a crowded Fulton Mall in your crackie SUVs. Wait, stop violating the ‘No U-turn” sign please on Flatbush/Willoughby nr the garage where the cops turn a blind eye on.

  • Bring back the Albee Square Mall! I want downtown Brooklyn to be a squalid mess that no one wants to visit!

  • Fulton Mall, althought not everones cup of tea, is very successful. I think Fulton Mall should remain the way it is and those new not so authentic New York type stores can make a home on Livingston street – it would be a win win… Macy’s fronts both streets and Livingston street is ripe for the pickings.

    To hell with the homogenization of things that are unique to New York.

  • A fond portrait of Fulton Mall–didn’t see that one coming.

    I especially liked the part about the hawker guys with rap sheets and multiple teardrop tattoos under their eyes (which, as the story notes, can symbolize a number of things on the street–none of them good.)

    One of those things is having whacked somebody. Nice!

    Thanks for shopping…

  • What “Tear-em Down” Chan doesn’t say is that all of those chain stores can (and to some extent do) exist in Atlantic Terrminal to serve the same population he is trying to attract to Fulton Mall. C’mon Joe! AT (sucky as it is) is three blocks away!

  • Yeah, but Atlantic Terminal is such a soul-crushing miasma of misery, I do anything possible to avoid it. The worst-designed, worst-maintained, worst-staffed, and butt-ugliest retail environment I have ever seen–and THIS is the guy who gets Atlantic Yards?

  • AY = D-O-N-E-D-E-A-L!!!

  • Atlantic Ctr and Fulton Mall development are the mallization of Brookyln. Can’t you design a less suburban looking mecca? The plan is nothing but a poor conceptualization by developers and architects who care only about the dollar return. We can have a better Fulton Mall that is useful positive for every customer in and around the city.

  • Put me down as someone in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp. Those big box stores are nothing special or in any way unique, just big traffic magnets. They can’t duplicate the volume on Fulton as it is. They are generally a poor use of commercial space and have only symbolic “suburb in the city” value.

    Fortunately, the transition from ghetto bazaar to suburban mall in the city is tough to project. How do you throw out high rent paying tenants in favor of future gentrified mall strategies? So you put in a Bed Bath in part of the Fulton Mall, how do the new shoppers mix with the old? Its a tough transition which maybe explains why it hasn’t been made.

    I’m thinking this will remain ghetto fabulous long after Ratner and Magic Johnson have moved in. Fulton may stay black longer than Harlem does. Ghetto is profitable.

  • fresh mozzarella balls, anyone?

  • Dont worry about Fulton Mall – if it is replaced just go to Fordham Road in the Bronx- West of Webster Ave – EXACT same thing

  • Don’t forget Jamaica Center. It’s even bigger.

    Fulton Street caters to some non-black ethnic minorities that are afraid to actually open up shops in the heart of the ghetto. Downtown Brooklyn should be the crown jewel of the borough, not a dilapidated shopping district for the residents of East New York who scared all the shopkeepers off of Pitkin Avenue.

    Quite frankly, I’ve witnessed a great deal of unruly behavior near Fulton Street. It really does attract a certain kind of ghetto person who subscribes to the media-created hip-hop lifestyles. I’m not quite sure how to stop it, but I’m sure there is a way.

  • “i like the mall- it reminds me of europe”

    My parents are from Europe and they love the Fulton Mall, just like the dollar stores on 5th Avenue in the South Slope and Brighton Beach. Me too for that matter. We go to Cookies to buy crazy fun clothes for my white yuppie niece in Holland and my mom loves the Goodwill store.

    It’s where the ‘real’ people shop, sorry working-class minorities. I don’t understand how you can dismiss African-American Brooklyn as a minority. Brownstoner’s words or the papers’?

  • “I like the mall…it reminds me of Europe”

    Yep, the northern suburbs of Paris, South London, parts of Rotterdam, Palermo…I could go on.

  • Been shopping there since I was a kid (A&S days), and I hope Fulton doesn’t change at all. People who are complaining about dirty streets – um… shouldn’t the city be doing a better job of cleaning them then?

    Just because you don’t like the clothes or the feel of the place, the fact is that for many Brooklyn residents, Fulton is where you go to clothes shop. It is packed, merchants make a lot of money. It’s clearly successful, and clearly fills a niche for many people. Why change it? Because a handful of people want boring chain stores that you can find in any-mall USA?

    A strip of Pottery Barns, BBBYs, Banana Republics… .

  • From ghetto to suburban mall. Which is better?

  • cell phone stores and black people does not make a place “ghetto”.

    the mall they shut down on fulton street was a shithole however and needed some work.

  • Chalk me up as another white guy that shops at Fulton Mall. It’s the next best thing to Manhattan Avenue junk stores for cheap clothes.

  • Only in America. Love the ABC stores and mix of Macys and Conway. Great deals at the mall just don’t think of cheap child labor practices in countries where these merchandise are made in. Evryone shops here so I hope it stays more or less the same.

  • I STILL need a place for gold teefs and hair extensions. If they cracker-up Fulton, where am I gonna go?

  • 12:25 It’s ghetto own up to it. Guys who hawk cellphone plans on the sidewalk and holler at women, they’re ghetto. Peeps who drop potato chip wrappers on the streets after leaving McDs or White castle, that’s ghetto. Gimps who go to IHOP with cow look on their faces after leaving McD’s are morbidly ghetto. Sad that’s all it is.

  • @ 11:27 pm

    What you’re describing also reminds me of 34th street in Manhattan; own up to it.

  • No matter how much people don’t like it, Bklyn will change considerably and not recognizable with the next 10 years. This is called progress, change is always inevitable and there is nothing you can do about it. Like the past article said. Brooklyn will be the new manhattan. Besides I like Pier 1 and BB B we need them close by, although ones opening just N of Battery Park. Bklyn would be the 4th largest city in the country if it was not part of NYC. So we need lots of things. Ever notice that when things change, crime goes way down. Thats a good thing.

  • Getting back to the Times piece: It was a classic exemplar of their “Biff and Muffy Take the Subway, and Look What They Find!” genre of local coverage. Biff and Muffy find thrillingly tattoo’d ex-cons handing out flyers! They find inexplicably lettered signs and rough-and-ready masses! They mourn the ‘sanitized’ likes of Times Square and relish the “vibrant” strip with its “edge”! And then…they skibble back to Manhattan to file their story.
    (Although, come to think of it, there is something more nauseating than Biff and Muffy relishing a shopping excursion with “diversity,” and that has to be the white homeboy-wanna-be who copes with being “married” and having a “suit job” by wearing baseball caps, and calls his “collectible” sneakers his “kicks.” His poor wife; she probably dreams of stepping out with George Clooney while this nitwit is creakily bopping around to Jay-Z on his Ipod…)

  • All this might be true, but people will reach a limit to what they’ll spend to buy in Brooklyn if the amenities don’t change as quickly as the demographics are changing.

    Besides, if you’re talking about what is more authentic to Brooklyn, that should mean big nice department stores coming back to Brooklyn. Up until the 70’s, Brooklyn had all those stores. Nice ones, not crappy versions of them. If the big stores return, and these shopping areas improve, THAT is what’s more authentic to Brooklyn historically.

  • I used to go there all the time when I lived in Brooklyn Heights – I’d trudge over there for Modells and Macy’s (and A and S before that). There’s a good hotdog place there. Anybody that is sentimental about that place though needs a life.

  • My only problem with the FM is that all of those gorgeous buildings are boarded or dark from the second floor up. Is it the zoning or do the businesses make so much money property owners can afford to leave so much space shuttered–or is there just a lack of imagination? For example, I’d prefer a loft overlooking FM to any of the new construction on Livingston. I don’t shop FM, but I think it’s charming and needs a decent restaurant–one of which I understand is opening soon–rather than BB&B or PB. The chains can take their places between Applebee’s and McD’s on Flatbush.

    And since the convention here seems to be some self-aggrandizing pretense toward disclosure, I’ll qualify my comments by saying that I make a pretty good salary. I wear a sport jacket, jeans and Rod Lavers to work. I’m black (not latino or immigrant), and do not own a car. And I live in Bed Stuy with my wife and kids. Beeatch.

  • 8:14 I googled Rod Lavers shoes and it cost $45.95 so no need to disclose that. Am not surprised you don’t shop at FM coz Dr Jays and Footlocker charges 2X. What’s the western fries like at applebees?

  • i want a crack house on the strip. It would fit in nicely with the pimps and ho’s that shop there

  • Well, my friend (8:14), I was trying to make several points with that comment. First, I was challenging the idea that the disclosure of whiteness, however well-intentioned, somehow validates one’s opinion of the economic culture of FM. Second, I hoped to complicate your idea of what “black people”–often (and oddly) presumed to be a “them” on this blog–like to spend “their” money on. And finally, no, one can’t buy Rod Lavers at FM. That’s why I don’t shop there; it’s not because, as apparently you would assume, I’m not black.

    Did you really have to google Rod Lavers? Am I that much of an enigma to you? Is Brooklyn really that confusing?? They’re made by Adidas for goodness sake…

  • Some people have less than zero interest in sneakers, or the names of the companies making sneakers. Thats why they’d have to google it. To me “rod lavers” sounds like some kind of soap you hang from the shower curtain rod.

    Theres a whole bunch of people who wouldn’t be seen dead wearing something thats identifiable by a name or a logo. Vive la difference.

  • First guy is fake. There is no way he is gonna convince me that a married white guy who owns a coop is EVER gonna be in the market for fronts. That said, the Macy’s is a sad, sad place and obviously corporate headquarters doesn’t think their Brooklyn shoppers deserve better than crappy dropped ceiling, ugly florescent lights, and indifferent service. I like the Goodwill, though.