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Small Businesses/Retailers Rapidly Vanishing

By Alyssa Juris and Olivia Dennis- Staff Writers

Once envisioned, as early as the 1960s, as a thriving sector for small businesses and a “pedestrian paradise,” Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn continues to undergo major changes as skyscrapers go up and big businesses arrive.

For Mohamed Ali Moustfa, 32, who has a modest food truck on the cornerof Duffield Street and Fulton, the latestdevelopments have been hard to keep up with. “It’s not cheap anymore. Everything is expensive. But the area has changed a lot and it’s going to change more,” he said. “It’s going to be like Times Square.”

For many decades, the centerpiece of Downtown Brooklyn was Fulton Mall, where small retailers were given ample space to sell their products. Those businesses were operating onthe same playing field as longtimemajor retailers like Macy’s. Other small establishments, including record shops, clothing outlets, jewelry stores and local food establishments, alsofilled those blocks along Fulton Street.

But it was in 2012 when the mostsignificant developments in the historyof Downtown Brooklyn happened: the arrival of the Barclays Center. Big-brand stores, major retailers and the construction of massive towers have followed in the years since. This includes City Point, a mixed-use $1 billon complex that includes residential housing and a commercial mall that has everything from a Trader Joe’s grocery and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to a massive food court.

Several large skyscrapers, including at 540 Fulton Street, have now completely changed the skyline of Downtown Brooklyn. There are still more towers that will be arriving. Just steps away from LIU, a 942-story tower has been approved for what will become the second largest building in Brooklyn at 625 Fulton Street. The mixed tower, which is expected to be completed by 2023 will include residential units, corporateoffice space and an elementary school.

In Downtown Brooklyn, there are still small businesses that exist. This includes W.C. Art & Drafting, an art supply store that is located just off Jay and Fulton Streets. There is also Jide’s Dandy, a clothing store on the corner of Jay and Willoughby Street, which has been in business for more than 25 years. But many small shop owners and independent retailers have been having a tough time in the face of closed construction zones and rising rents.

At many longtime stores, signs on showcase windows declaring: “Everything Must Go” or “Going out of Business” have been hard to miss on Fulton Street. In a new video that was produced during our reporting, we spoke to a number of Downtown Brooklyn regulars and small businesses owners who shared their concerns about the changes that have been happening in the area.

“Only God knows what’s going to be. Who knows what will be,” one frustrated retailer said. “I wish the rent was lower, but what can we do?”

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