Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Stroll Up Fulton Street In Downtown BK

Six months ago, before I started working for the U.S. Census Bureau, I hesitated to cross the invisible border between Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn, marked by Court Street. It seemed seedy, unstable and potentially perilous. Fast forward six months, and that 1-mile stretch has not only become as familiar and comfortable as my most intimate geographic haunts, but I have come to treasure the shabby maturity of the stretch known as Fulton Mall between Court and Flatbush Avenue.

Its gentrification is an ongoing work in progress (with $9 billion in pubic and private funding committed over the next five years), but for now it is still inundated with electronics vendors, 99-cent stores, wig & weave stores, bargain emporiums and pawn shops. It is truly a snapshot of what Manhattan resembled in the 1970s—which I look back upon with fondness. The opportunity to surround myself with a strip of retail—reportedly New York City's third-largest commercial center—that has not be overrun by chain stores and Mayor Bloomberg's clean sweep of the middle class is a daily fascination. I simply cannot pass by without camera in hand."Fulton Street, the heart of Brooklyn's shopping district," 1940s.Here's the entrance to Fulton Mall in 2008 (photo courtesy of Laughing Squid/flickr)...In July 2010...
And August 2010, repaved, with the sidewalk widened by 10 feet on each side and vehicle access sliced to two lanes for buses only.
And now let's take a stroll through history together...Vintage? Ah, but no. Below are the original images of the above, which I recolored and aged to look '70s'-era.Some 60 years ago, the Fulton Street El was a raised subway line that passed through the area, which connected to the underground IRT, built in 1908. After it was torn down, Fulton Mall was born in the late 1970s.The historic Gage and Tollner restaurant was located on Fulton Street from 1892 until it closed in 2004, when it opened as a TGI Friday's for about a minute. The building, constructed in 1875, was landmarked, so when Arby's moved in last year, they were mandated to maintain its turn-of-the-century charm. Below are two images of Gage and Tollner in its heyday.And below, today as Arby's—nearly identical.The stately Offerman Building at 505 Fulton (above) is being completely gutted (supposedly for residential?!!), pushing out low-end retailer Conway, which has moved down the street, replacing the old lower-end retailer ABC (below), which shuttered early this year. Word is that H&M is coming in 2012.Coming soon, beside the historic former Dime Savings Bank (above), built in 1908, is City Point Mall, a 4-story high-end shopping center (below). Plans call for the eventual construction of a 65-tower residential tower, which would become Brooklyn's tallest building.A look upward reveals a number of stunning architectural feats along Fulton...The Liebmann Brothers building on Fulton and Hoyt was constructed in 1888 by W. H. Beers. It's crowned by a cupola and six terra cotta urns (minus one today).Children leashed... just the way they should be!The towers are coming: A number of high-end residential buildings are beginning to dot the downtown skyline. Do not confuse that, however, with them actually being sold or occupied. Bad timing for new construction.A stroll... compacted & collaged.Chain stores, like the rest of NYC, are taking over, including fast food joints and every imaginable cellular carrier.(Phew, feels good to get this posted. It took five days—with three adendums—to research, write, crop & assemble!)