A Sentimental Stroll Through Downtown Brooklyn

It wasn’t until I worked for the U.S. Census Bureau between February and August 2010 that I truly discovered Brooklyn. While I had lived in Brooklyn Heights for a decade, my compass always seemed to point toward Manhattan, where I worked and played. [See Photo gallery below the jump]

But with the Census gig, I had the opportunity to discover on a block-by-block (if not door-to-door) basis more than I ever realized was just east of the Heights: Sunset Park, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and—my favorite—Downtown Brooklyn.

Strolling through Fulton Mall every day on the way to the Census office on Flatbush Avenue as it was just beginning mass renewal, the sidewalks were widened, new bus stands and street lights installed, streets were repaved and repositioned for bus traffic only. The age-old Fulton Mall sign came down… Something big was happening here.

Of course, there are two sides to gentrification. In 2012, Shake Shack opened, while Gap launched a massive Factory Store there, with H&M and TJ Maxx on the way in the historic Offerman Building. While it’s nice to see the once-decaying area return to life, it’s also bittersweet to witness the typical fallout that comes in every neighborhood on the rise: the shuttering of local businesses, which can no longer afford escalating rents.

So before I bid a fond farewell to the fabulous array of wig stores, pawn shops, bodegas and discount vendors, I took another trip with camera in hand to capture what I suspect is going to look very different a year from now. With love to downtown BK.

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  • Livingston

    I am so looking forward to the change that is coming. There are some great buildings down there, architectural reminders of the days when Fulton was the premier shopping street for Brooklyn. I love how NYC is always re-inventing itself, esp. when an area is on an upswing.

  • x

    I doubt Modell’s is moving..

  • David on Middagh

    I already miss the red brick sidewalks. Ripped out for what? Your pictures are beautiful, but the new concrete is dismal, and (as is visible in many), really shows the gum pox.

  • WillowtownCop

    No need to mourn the demise of … un-gentrified shopping in Brooklyn. Venture out to Church Ave, Flatbush on the other side of the park, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, Pitkin Ave.

  • EHinBH

    What a horrible crime-filled hole.

  • philica

    Take it easy, EHinBH… a lot of families are losing their means of living by having to close down. I agree that it was never the safest place to be- AFTER DARK, but I grew up walking through there every day on my way to Brooklyn Tech HS and I managed to escape unscathed.

  • Gerry

    Back in the early 1980s when MetroTech was going up I was told that the Fulton Mall was going to be upscale with retailers like Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Potteyr Barn and that never happened.

    Most of One MetroTech Center is empty National Grid has vacated most of the tower and moved its employees with their paychecks to Hicksville, NY.

  • Andrew Porter

    You’re celebrating this bunch of down-scale stores, but I remember the tail end of when Fulton Street was full of excellent stores catering to middle-class Brooklyn. These were replaced by sneaker, wig, cell-phone and crap retail, which says a lot about how landlords treated Brooklyn and the retail environment—they catered to one class of buyers while abandoning others. Good riddance to the shlock stores.

  • Jorale-man

    I think it’s too early to write the obituary for the old Fulton Mall environment. From what I’ve read in the Times and elsewhere the current stores are still thriving and have a dedicated clientele. Change is inevitable, but it will probably come slowly.

    That said, it is striking looking at these excellent photos how different that area is compared to BK Heights. I almost never go over there but it’s a whole other world.

  • http://furyotyen.fl Yuette Correy

    Business, that’s easily defined – it’s other people’s money.
    Meetings are indispensable if you shouldn’t do just about anything.

  • BKNYNative

    I think there is a place for a mix of shops at Fulton Mall. Sure it will be nice to have a Gap but sometimes you want a Rainbow too. Great photos Chuck!