Richard Perry for the New York Times.
I am going to lay it out there: Sure it is dodgy and a circus, but I really love Brooklyn’s Futon Street Mall. Sure half the spaces above the ground floor are empty, but it is so integrated into the neighborhood fabric, that its presence is alive, but low-key. Andy Newman’s pre-Christmas article in Sunday’s New York Times, which focused a bit over-sweetly on the gold-toothed Santas, dubious cell phones, and urban patois (checkitoutcheckoutcheckiout), touched on the mall’s redevelopment. Plans are in the works:
The old Albee Square Mall, an enclosed shopping center within this stretch of Fulton Street, closed this year to make way for City Point, a high-rise tower that will house people, businesses and, on the ground floor, major retail tenants along the lines of Target.
“With all the housing stock that we have now and the demographics in the communities that surround Downtown Brooklyn,” said Joseph Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, an economic development group, “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.”
Albert Laboz, one of the street’s biggest property owners and chairman of the Fulton Mall Improvement Association, said that deals were in the works with several leading retailers. “I think you’re going to see a nice transition in the next few years,” he said.
A Bath & Beyond, a Pottery Barn, and a Pier 1 are not really what I am looking for in Downtown Brooklyn. Why should that part of the city look like the Upper West Side, or suburban California for that matter? I like the diversity, not just the jumble of small and large stores, or the racial mix, but the range of bodies that such a range represents. The root of my affection lies not in subcultural tourism or nostalgia, but in my own vested interests: retail spaces for women blessed with curves. The Fulton Street Mall has the plus-size chains Lane Bryant and Ashley Stewart as well as multiple independent stores celebrating those girls who have back, and front.
What I’ve learned from my time in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now New York City, the more urban the neighborhood, the more racial diverse, the greater the likelihood that there is a store where I can by a pair of queen-size tights. Bring in the homogenizing Banana Republic or Forever 21 and I can pick up a t-shirt or a pair of earrings, but no tights.