MICHAEL WEISS IS A MAN who loves to talk about the history of retail in Downtown Brooklyn. In its heyday, Fulton Street was the fourth largest retail center in the United States, boasting such huge department stores as Abraham & Straus, Martin’s and Mays. Clerks wore white gloves at Martin’s and customers were given fancy wooden ‘tickets’ to indicate their place in a waiting line. Today, Fulton Mall (running from Boerum Place to Flatbush Avenue) still boasts huge retail dollar transactions but it’s a different crowd and a faster pace. It has fallen under the aegis of the MetroTech BID, which is now integral to the overall planning of Downtown Brooklyn. Tuesday morning, the FMIA (Fulton Mall Improvement Association) held its annual meeting.
Business and community leaders gathered in Borough Hall’s stately renovated courtroom to review the groups’ accomplishments of the last 12 months. Following a summary of civil court activity from Chief Admin. Judge Abraham Gerges, and a typically heartfelt loveletter of a speech to Brooklyn from Borough Prez Marty Markowitz, the key info — the annual progress report — was delivered by Weiss, executive director of both organizations.
Weiss opened his presentation by reminding the assembly that the concept of BIDs originated in this borough; Fulton was one of the early ones. Now there are roughly 60 BIDs in New York City and 600 nationwide. Today, in Downtown Brooklyn, the initial issues of safety and sanitation have largely been alleviated allowing BIDs to shift focus to overall renewal.
This year, in addition to on-going security and clean up efforts, a façade-improvement program minimized cluttered storefronts, Weiss and friends repainted and updated graffitied street map stands and TKTS “finally” set up shop. Space for a dog run is being negotiated on Tillary for the exploding pet population and some big brands will soon move onto Fulton Street. (H&M’s planned downtown store will soon be officially announced). FMIA stepped up its “aggressive” retail retention program to help smaller businesses, produced a podcast walking tour for the neighborhood and gave $25,000 in scholarships to Brooklyn students.
Plans for the not-too-far future, says Weiss, include a 10 to 15 million-dollar overhaul of the streetscape to install new bus shelters, benches, streetlights, medians and refurbish Albee Square. Bike lanes can be expected, too. We may see more bike shelters like the experimental one outside Applebees, which is currently one of two in the city.
Also present at the meeting were Victoria Aviles, president of MetroTech BID and owner of Bridge Cleaners, Albert Laboz, chairman of FMIA, Seth Taylor of the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID and Joe Chan, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
IN OTHER NEWS:
AS PRESIDENT OF DUMBO’S BROOKLYN ARTS COUNCIL, ELLA WEISS, wife of Michael Weiss, is credited with raising the intitution to its prominent slot in the culture scene. BAC is a primary sponsor of Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, which currently has an expansive exhibition of 1,500 works by 350 artists in a waterfront Civil War-era warehouse at 499 Van Brunt St. Nearly every conceivable style of art is represented, but it may be worth the trip just to catch that harbor breeze.
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STARTING NEXT SPRING, double dutch, that competitive dodging, jumping rope game of the street will be an officially sanctioned sport in certain NYC high schools, according to the AP.
“We’re always thinking, what do we need to do to get more kids playing?” says ERIC GOLDSTEIN, chief exec of the Public School Athletic League.
School sports officials hope to start with 10 to 15 double dutch teams spread among the five boroughs. One early adopter is Bedford Academy High School, where Shani Newsome, a teacher’s aide, is excited to be a coach. She said that as a girl in Bed-Stuy, “jumping double dutch was one of the requirements of being outside.” When she asked for a show of hands at Bedford Academy, “90 percent of the young ladies” indicated that they would try out for a team.
Double dutch is not an official sport in any other U.S. school district, says Goldstein. “We’re the first, and we like being first.”
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YET ANOTHER BROOKLYNITE has joined the ranks of lottery winners. Fifty-three-year-old SHARON MILTZ of Flatbush says she only spent $20 on the Lottery this year, but $5 was enough. Miltz purchased her Win $2,000 a Week for Life scratch ticket on July 10 at the A K Newsstand on Avenue M, which guarantees her a minimum prize payout of $2,000,000 in just over $16,000 installments every three months.
Miltz and her husband, Steven, who works at a Brooklyn lumberyard, aren’t sure what to do with their windfall. “We’re still in shock,” she said. “I just want to see my grandkids grow up. That’s my only plan for the time being.”
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CORRECTION: Opera singer Don Yule has been with New York City Opera for 48 seasons, not New York Grand Opera, as stated yesterday.