Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Eight-foot tall man in a perfect Malcolm X suit selling whole leopard skins and persimmons oil and cobra venom incense and a table of books by some conspiracy wrangler named Napoleon Fung gets hungry for a Jamaican meat patty wrapped in coco bread. Wrap that in a slice of pizza and cough out a chicken bone you didn’t even know was in there. Drumstick bones in an accumulating heap teeter down the subway portal. The city bus skids off Butt Flash onto Full-Time, doomed pedestrians swept up by its Soylent Green people-catcher depositing them in a jumble on the Albeit Squalor Mall escalators — going up!

— Jonathan Lethem, “Ruckus Flatbush” from Brooklyn Was Mine

The Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn is a jumble of every hope and dream ever projected on the borough. Implicated in every era and every development, from the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1880s to the boosterism of the postwar years, from the urban renewal and brownstone gentrification of the ’60s and ’70s to the Bloomberg-era building bubble, the eight-block-long shopping street routinely fails to live up to expectations. The gulf between the reality of the mall — today a thriving mix of retail tenants paying high rents and selling cheap goods to a diverse crowd of low- to middle-income shoppers — and the ever-frustrated vision dreamed over and over by civic leaders, businessmen and planners — that it would become a visually unified, sanitized and safe environment attractive to both high-end national chains and an equally well-heeled clientele — is the subject of Street Value: Shopping, Planning and Politics at Fulton Mall [Princeton Architectural Press, 2010]. Read More …