“People said we were crazy to build in Brooklyn, no one would ever come to Brooklyn,” Doug Steiner said from the rooftop terrace of his biggest development in the borough. The Jersey-born builder was wearing his usual polo shirt and jeans, comfortable in the unseasonably warm weather in late February, the sun glinting off his clean-shaven head. “In those days, there were wild dogs running in the streets,” Mr. Steiner added for effect.
“But look at these views,” he continued, pointing out across Wallabout Bay and the span of the East River beyond. “You’ve got the gritty industrial underbelly of the city in the foreground, the financial capital of the world in the background.” One World Trade Center and the Empire State Building bookended the panorama.
It was 1999 when Doug Steiner brought the family development business to Brooklyn. As he and so many other fortune seekers have since proved, the decision was anything but crazy. But it was not condos or artists lofts that Mr. Steiner was selling. He was in pictures.
Two weeks ago, with the mayor standing just in front of him at the podium, Mr. Steiner opened five new sound stages at his eponymous Steiner Studios inside the sprawling Brooklyn Navy Yards, bringing the total to 15. That is halfway to the ultimate goal of 32 and, at 50 acres, the largest American film production facilities outside of Hollywood—behind Warner Brothers and Paramount, and rivaling the Walt Disney and CBS backlots.
Presented without comment: Two gentlemen of great stature spotted in the wilds of Brooklyn Borough Hall yesterday, for the announcement of a new rooftop farm in Sunset Park, to be the borough’s biggest. Can you guess who?
Tales of Retail
Joseph, a slender 19-year-old from Fort Greene, stood inside Downtown Pawn Shop Sunday afternoon turning an almost-new Nokia flip phone over in his hands. On either side of him were glass display cases, chipped and fluorescent.
Those before him held more new and used phones, neatly arrayed. Beside that were purses in an array of colors and material. Across the way was perfume—Lilac for Women, Yacht Man Chocolate—and more jewelry than the Zales across the street, in maybe one-fifth the space. Bomber jackets hung on the wall, besides po sters of President Obama, still smiling, celebrating his inauguration. Bills from every Caribbean nation were taped up next to that. In the back was a tattoo parlor and an optometrist. “Designer Frames Start at $59.99.”
Like generations of Brooklynites before him, Joseph had come to the Fulton Mall to do some shopping. Some historians credit the centuries old strip with pioneering urban department store shopping, with the opening of Abraham & Weschler in 1865 and the many stores that followed, all now long gone but for the Neo-Grec and Beaux Arts temples to retail they erected.
When he arrived on the mall this day, Joseph had passed by the T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and MetroPCS outlets and come here for his new-enough phone. “They don’t want so much here,” Joseph said, a Dodgers cap—L.A., not Brooklyn—resting on his head. “It’s a good deal.”
But for how much longer? It is getting to be that they want more and more on the Fulton Mall. Just like the rest of Brooklyn before it.
Just 20 minutes before opening Tuesday, there was no line outside the Brooklyn Shake Shack. Lines are as much a part of the burgeoning brand as grass-fed patties and seasonal custards. It is even part of the company motto, “Stand for Something Good.” Both sidewalks of the Fulton Mall were clogged with shoppers, students and suits, but none of them had yet queued up outside the boutique burger shop, which was about to have its grand opening.
Marty Markowitz was there, though. He had even come the night before and helped himself to a double cheese burger, Shack-cago Dog, fries and one of the signature concretes (what Danny Meyer likes to call his Blizzards.) that had been named after him, the Fudge-gadabout. (The other was the Borough Precedent, with vanilla custard and granola, not exactly Mr. Markowitz’s cup of custard.)
Mayor Bloomberg was on his way, not only to feast but also to boast—a city program had helped speed the opening, done in just under a year, and facilitated the hiring of 52 Brooklynites.
But where was the crowd? This was the great white hope on the Fulton Mall, the game changer that would gentrify this last unruly stretch in the heart of the once boisterous borough. The opening had been blasted across blogs citywide since it was revealed on Friday.
Had Danny Meyer’s great Brooklyn adventure backfired?
Last week, Occupy Wall Street finally made its foray into the boroughs by way of a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The night before the march, we happened to run into Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz last week and he had some choice words for the group. “I think that they have made their point, Read More
Best Laid Plans
When the city rezoned Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn in 2005, it tried to nudge retail development onto Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, via the natural selection. Developers built huge residential towers, but the street wall remained blank, empty of retail, a blight for pedestrians. The Department of City Planning is revising its plans for the strip, hoping to ensure any future development will be better, but Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, as is his wont, wants more.
The Mysteries of Brooklyn
Having liberated Sirt, the Libyan National Transitional Council has now stormed Brooklyn.
The riots in London seem finally to have subsided, but strange things are afoot stateside this week, so much so that we’re starting to wonder if Mercury, which went retrograde Aug. 3, is currently doing to the entire planet what it once did so publicly to Jeremy Piven. (Also, when does the statute of limitations Read More
Love it or hate it, Brooklyn is what it is. That’s probably why it does not have an Apple Store yet.
Coney Island’s reputation for iconic shtick as big business just received a highbrow boost, as Coney Island Brewing Company celebrated the beginning of their second year of business and the operation of a fully-licensed in-house brewing system, with the cutting of the world’s smallest brewery opening ribbon (a piece of Red Vine licorice, naturally).
The event had the air Read More