“Do we really need 10 sneaker stores and a dozen cellphone outlets?” asked Isaac Chera in a phone interview. His family owns half-a-dozen properties on the stretch and has been a fixture there for four decades. They now own retail properties citywide, but he still credits the Fulton Mall with teaching him how to do business.
“Brooklyn’s a big, big, big, big place,” Mr. Chera said. “It’s the fourth biggest city in America. Everything can’t be everything to everybody. There are segments, and that’s who we’re looking to serve.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz remembers the days when his mother used to drag him to the mall. “We used to shop at May’s while the nicer folks went to Abraham & Strauss,” he recalled from his office on Monday, overlooking Fulton Street—he boasts of being able to shout his order down to the new Shake Shack. “I never liked shopping,” Mr. Markowitz continued, “I still don’t, but at least I always knew it meant a trip to Chock Full o’Nuts or Nedick’s. They served hot dogs in little white doilies.”
The borough president has been a huge champion of the strip’s transformation, disputing charges of its Manhattanification. “Nobody wants that less than me, I campaigned against that when I ran for office,” Mr. Markowitz said. “Brooklyn is still Brooklyn, there is still plenty of room for mom and pops, but we can find space for other people, too. This is not changing Fulton Street, this is bringing it back to what it was.” But are people really traveling to Manhattan from Brooklyn to shop at the new JCPenney?
Mr. Markowitz said he would like to see some kind of commercial rent control to protect tenants rents, though he was also wary of even mentioning the topic, knowing how it is despised by the real estate industry. “Maybe some kind of mediation, so if your rent triples, you can go to someone about it,” he said. He also said that if he could have any store on the strip, it would be a Nordstrom’s, though he would also settle for a Nordstrom’s Rack.