Jun 262013
 

This article appeared just hours ago in the New York Daily News, announcing a new night market that will be installed along Grove Pl. in Downtown Brooklyn. The writer describes the alleyway as “dingy,” “forlorn,” and “neglected,” which are perhaps reasonable descriptors if you take Grove Pl. as an isolated alley disembodied from any surroundings. But Grove Pl. sits in the context of the Fulton Mall area, a historically thriving African-American and Caribbean space that has long been maligned by journalists and city officials using similar descriptors. This article thus relates to a wider American discourse associating black spaces with failure, decline, and social pathology. Such seemingly benign media tidbits contain a subtler and more insidious message, though. They suggest that spaces that are suddenly desired by wealthy, privileged people were previously of no value to anyone. While some spaces are definitely abandoned, often times they are simply (and incorrectly) perceived as abandoned, or forgotten, or “forlorn,” because they are unappealing to outsiders. “I wouldn’t go there, so it must not be in use, or of importance to anyone,” is how the logic generally goes. It may well be that Grove Pl. as an isolated stretch of street is indeed empty and forlorn, but its immediate surrounding context is anything but. By itself, this article is harmless enough. But in the context of the carefully constructed public discourse that for decades has been pushing an image of Downtown Brooklyn as a failure, it does just a little bit more to distort the reality–and trumpet the gentrification–of one of New York City’s most interesting and celebrated urban spaces.

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