There have been a couple of well meaning articles on The Fulton Mall lately, with the stiff-as-morning-wood Wall Street Journal and the less dreamy New York Observer putting for their respective thoughts on how the strip will come about in the next few years. WSJ says, well big chains and big money are signalling a "rebirth" happening next to the religious squawking by Hoyt and the NYO says, well if you look at your facts, the Other Kings Plaza is already cream of the crop in terms of sales and general foot traffic (although the Arby's shutting down in a matter of months is kind of a shame).
What bothers me is that everything is seen from a perspective of upscale is better. Big developers are better. Gentrification is better. Shifting the overall "populace" in the area is better. "Catering" to the new residents literally a block or two away is a better, brighter future. Who comes up with that bullshit? I'm not saying an H&M is a bad thing; functionally they provide affordable clothing with a little style to boot. Although Aeropostale is totally lame. As the NYO points out though, there's nothing actually wrong with the Fulton Mall, and what's more frustrating, it's actually comparable to the best shopping the city has to offer. Living a block from the mall actually reminds me of Fulton Street in the city where I lived around the corner from 3 million dollar bonuses in suits as well as low end clothing/fast food with a heavy immigrant population.
Brownstoner's reader comments on the article are spot on and probably articulate what I want to say better. What the WSJ is missing (and what I was hoping the NYO was more fiercely vocal about, although hey, this isn't blogging right, it's journalism?) is a sense that The Fulton Mall serves a much greater purpose that they failed to realize. They also treat the strip as if it needs a total overhaul because well, it's not gentrified enough. As the NYO pointed out, whatever dirtbag wrote the WSJ piece is not writing it from the perspective that the mall is a viable, competitive, and highly sustainable economy for working class and middle class folks (with a decidedly disheveled and quite awesome Macy's) equal to strips in the city, it's from the perspective that it needs to be cleaned up and upscaled, using the new "type" of resident as part of the reasoning. It's just so dismissive and it bugs me; that's how powerful words can be, one way or the other. I guess causing me to blog isn't exactly mindblowing but hey I could be shopping for Halloween candy so the kids in the building don't think we're trolls.
As a person who is part of a new community settling into the neighborhood, I wholeheartedly, except for welcoming an H&M and stores that would fit well into the current state, reject this way of thinking about the Fulton Mall. I stand behind the fact that I can get a much better selection of what I want at the Fulton Mall than the Atlantic Center (although I do love me some Pathmark). I stand behind the fact that I can foster a newfound interest in snazzy kicks at Foot Action, Foot Locker, AND Finish Line. I stand behind the fact that there are stores that sell DVDs, jewelry, shoes, and cell phones AT THE SAME TIME. I stand behind the fact that you have the easiest selection of fast food joints ever for those who eat fast. It's like, when did the idea of good shopping (read: affluent) get in the way of the naturally existing economy of the past several decades?
Does the article add to the long list of excitable press surrounding the area? Sure. Is it an interesting outlook? Certainly, considering the development of the area. Yet, does it take into account anything beyond appearances of white it could be? No. The half-assedness of it is the most blatant diss.
Am I the exception rather than the rule when it comes to new residents wanting a gentrified mall? I hope not, but if I am, I'm at least urging people to really not shop at Aeropostale. Seriously.