Race, Class Pervade Mall Talk

To the Editor:

Thanks so much for that terrific article on the Fulton Street Mall [“Beloved Fulton Mall Fights for Existence vs. Boerum-geoisie,” Matthew Schuerman, Feb. 20]. Mr. Schuerman laid out the issues really well.

I like things the way they are. When I was a kid in the 1960’s, I worked on Fulton Street, and the shoppers were mostly African-American even then. In the 1970’s, I taught at Long Island University across the Flatbush Avenue Extension and it was even more African-American. It has been that way for decades.

I live out of state now, but I spent the summer in Williamsburg and I would take the G train and walk to Fulton Street to shop. It has a vibrancy and a vibe like nowhere else in the city’s shopping districts, even for this old white guy. And I did talk to people who’d come there from all over the country, like the families that take their pictures outside Junior’s Restaurant.

Anyway, thanks for your story.

Richard Grayson


To the Editor:

In “Beloved Fulton Mall Fights for Existence vs. Boerum-geoisie,” the main point seems to be that urban planning will be the demise of a mall that serves primarily African-Americans. Yet the Pratt report cited in the article lays out recommendations to accomplish precisely the opposite. It’s intended to fill in the blanks of a “value-free” city-administered rezoning plan for downtown Brooklyn that never mentions race, or class, mitigates only for direct physical displacement, and relies solely on the free market to determine use as the area expands.

Ideally, the Pratt study would have preceded a zoning analysis, and the plan would have been rolled out simultaneously with the rezoning. The uncomfortable but necessary conversations alluded to in the article would have taken place within a consensus-driven process, with everyone at the table, to stake out a vision for the mall. More and more cities—like Seattle, and Baltimore, and Rochester, and Los Angeles—are adopting a community-based approach to planning. The real story here is why New York City isn’t.

Eve Baron

Acting Director

Municipal Art Society Planning Center


To the Editor:

Hats off to Mr. Schuerman for calling out the fact that the debate over the future of downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Street Mall is undeniably—and uncomfortably—about race and class. But what is the takeaway? Mr. Schuerman seems to invite his readers to join him in one or more of the following activities: decrying the destructiveness of market-led gentrification; pointing to urban planners as culprits in the process; and chuckling archly at the merchants whose penis-engraved tooth caps and self-published novels are the stuff of the mall’s existing culture.

Which of these options is The Observer’s readership most likely to jump at? I’d bet on the last one.

Laura Wolf-Powers

Assistant Professor and Chairperson Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

Pratt Institute


Stop Blaming Bush, Start Making Sense

To the Editor:

Re “Government Secrecy Inspires Conspiracy, Paranoia and Rumors” [Nicholas von Hoffman, The National Observer, Feb. 20]: All the criticism of the U.S. is focused on the Bush group, but what kind of a public votes for or accepts such a government? Sometime we have to stop making George W. Bush the bogeyman and realize that the U.S. population has failed. Democracy doesn’t work on autopilot. Too many dimwits in the U.S.

Larry Rosenband

Goettingen, Germany

Brooklyn’s Playwright, Too

To the Editor:

Thank you for your lovely editorial on Wendy Wasserstein [“Wendy Wasserstein,” Feb. 6]. Wendy was a pupil in my dance classes at the Brooklyn Ethical Culture School in the 1960’s. Sometimes I took the class across Prospect Park West and led them in “dancing to colors.”

In the early 1980’s, I was delighted to discover that Wendy had fondly written about that experience in Bachelor Girl, a collection of essays. She described how “Mrs. Janovsky would beat a tambourine, as she rhythmically called out ‘Red, Yellow, Purple,’ and we students would in turn express our most visceral connection to each color.”

I wrote to Wendy, thanking her for her wonderful reminiscence, and she answered with a very gracious letter, noting with “gratitude and great fondness” how much she was influenced by her memories of me and our classes. We became occasional correspondents over the next years.

You are absolutely right that Wendy was “the best kind of New Yorker.” I just thought she’d like you to know that her New York certainly included (and had its roots in) Brooklyn.

Adele Janovsky

Valhalla, N.Y.

The Other M.L.S.

To the Editor:

In reference to Michael Calderone’s Feb. 13 article on Zillow.com [“Manhattan Swept Up in Zillow’s Midnight Ride”], I am very surprised that both Prudential and Corcoran denied the existence of a Multiple Listings Service in Manhattan. There is a Manhattan M.L.S. through the Manhattan Association of Realtors (MANAR), which is part of the National Association of Realtors.

All members of the association put their listings in the M.L.S., and they are immediately distributed to Realtor.com (the largest Web site for real estate in the country). Both Douglas Elliman and Corcoran are members of N.A.R., although for some reason they have not chosen to join in Manhattan, which would give them access to the Manhattan M.L.S. and Realtor.com.

Instead of reinventing the wheel in the form of additional Web sites, how about a story on the realtors in Manhattan (at this point 25 percent of the real-estate professionals) who are trying to have an open relationship with the consumers and each other, as there is in the rest of the country.

Klara Madlin

Manhattan Letters