It’s not every day that the Wall Street Journal covers the Fulton Mall, so this recent article, re-posted thanks to Brownstoner, was a bit of a surprise, even if its racist undertones weren’t. The basic narrative replicated here is familiar enough: the once-great Fulton Street of the (white) department store heyday was “replaced” by an unfortunate “grungy” (read: black, lower-income) strip selling “cheap goods” and “knickknacks.” But there’s now hope of finally cleaning it all up, thanks to all the new (half-empty) luxury condos everywhere and the potential for attracting “Manhattan-type residents.” Notably, the piece fails to mention a major reason for much of the current blight: the displacement caused by the 2004 rezoning which, combined with the economic crisis, has kept many storefronts empty and construction sites stalled for years now.
Over the summer, our friends Rosten Woo and Damon Rich and their colleague Meredith TenHoor published their awesome book, Street Value: Shopping, Planning, and Politics at Fulton Mall. The book resonates with themes in Lasting Scars, especially in its documentation of how multiple generations of urban planners, city officials, and journalists have failed to see the value of the Fulton Street commercial district. Damon founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy in Brooklyn, of which Rosten was previously executive director.