I totally agree with your suggestion to think out of the box. We have tried that and still willing to do so. I must give the boro-president Marty Markowitz credit for his effort in trying to guide us in that aspect when he was our state senator. Part of our collective effort involved trying to attract a Red Lobster to occupy the space at the South corner of Winthrop and Flatbush that now comprises a Deli and a Laundromat. That space was once occupied by an up-scale Italian restaurant suited for such a franchise. We also tried to get a bank to occupy the Deng building that is now Fat Albert and a Connecticut muffin franchise to come to the community. All efforts failed because at the time the area was considered too low income. We had entertained the idea of an Anchor store on our side of the strip. Well, we all know how that debate went down—“the killing of Mom’s and Pops stores”. I supported having selected Anchor stores then and still feel strongly about them now, thus my reason for considering the value of establishments like beauty supply stores and salons, and barber-shops.
The overall idea is to attract customers to the strip from outside a three block radius and these type entities by their very nature are able to do so, which ultimately benefiting other stores by spill over business. Case in point: A trip to a beauty salon can take hours or a shopping trip to a West Indian food supply establishment from out of towners
Now to address the expansion of the BID from South Flatbush to our side. That may not be possible or well advised, since in the past there was some conflict involving both sides. FEPMA was once reprimanded by the South Flatbush BID and asked to mind its own business when we played a key role in facilitating the formation of the Vendor's market on Flatbush and Caton Avenue. This stemmed from the "peddlers' issue that became over-bearing and we were forced to make a decision to protect legitimate merchant business and improve the commercial landscape. At the same time we felt that we could assist the peddlers by finding them new space to conduct business. This came at a time, during the Guliani administration, when there was no tolerance for peddlers and the squeegee type menace. The climate was conducive to penalizing violators and then former Councilwoman Una Clarke, being sympathetic to Caribbean and African vendors, with FEPMA's assistance initiated what is now the Flatbush Market.
As to the advisement, FEPMA has always maintained that both sides of the strip are separate and distinct in their make-up and we wish to maintain that distinction. The side that currently comprises the BID is strictly commercial and our side has a mostly residential setting. Yet while we want a more vibrant commercial setting, we recognize the need to maintain that close-knit community that is uniquely ours.
For example, during the crack era, when crime rose and commerce fell, the merchants became the day time caretakers and the residents, the night time (the police could not do it by themselves). This level of dependency still exists today and speaks volumes of the uniqueness of the community.
Yes, I want to see the merchant strip take on a more resilient appearance—Mark Dicus and I tried to address this. However, revitalization involves a true partnership between the parties of interest—concerned residents and progressive merchants. Some merchants lacked vision and failed to dream of a new clientele base and prepare for it. Some residents, on the other hand were too ready to discard or dissolve the make up of the merchants body as it existed then. Both of these parties are heavily invested in the community and they hold strong to the philosophy of their investment bearing fruit—whether its family or profit.
So to address the myriad of issues the community faces, we have to be willing to enter into a comprehensive and objective discussion. We need to drown out the demagogues so as to make room for those willing to have an open discussion. The changing demographics demand conversations of change among old and new residents.. What was not feasible then may now be more feasible and may just require an open-minded approach.
To Ceeledee, thanks for your support, it’s greatly appreciated.
Flatbush Empire Parkside Merchants Association (FEPMA)