Wal-Mart targets Albee Square … again
By Ariella Cohen
The Brooklyn Papers
Fulton Mall may be custom made for Wal-Mart.
The city is now considering a plan to tear down the aging Gallery shopping center to make way for a soaring mixed-use tower that could accommodate a Wal-Mart, the New York Sun reported last week.
If the deal were completed, Albee Square, as the site is known, would be rebuilt into Fulton Mall’s most ambitious project yet — a glistening tower that would include 800 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space and a 500,00-square-foot ground-floor perfect for the behemoth of Bentonville, Arkansas.
Wal-Mart has been eyeing a Downtown site for at least two years, including the Albee Square location. The discount chain has been trying to open a store in New York City, but has met strong opposition from organized labor and (less-organized) environmentalists.
Wal-Mart spokesman Philip Serghini declined to comment on the Albee location, but reiterated that the retailer was “actively reviewing potential sites in all five boroughs.”
Albee Square, nestled between busy DeKalb and Flatbush avenues, is attractive to retailers like Wal-Mart thanks to the 100,000 pedestrians who pass by it daily. Right now, the Gallery’s biggest-name tenants are Toys “R” Us and a Forever 21 clothing store.
On a recent Saturday, the low-rise mall hosted far fewer shoppers than Fulton Street’s pedestrian corridor, but sold many of the same discount shoes and heavily marked-down leather goods.
“Buy one leather jacket and get two for free,” barked a hawker at the mall’s entrance. “Sell them on the street and get your money back!”
The Gallery was previously owned by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, who sold to to Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities after it failed to attract enough high-dollar tenants. Because it sits on land that is owned by the city, the Economic Development Corporation will help decide what will be built.
Sitt is reportedly trying to flip the site, take his profit, and move on, leaving the city to find a new developer to carry out its big-box, big-tower vision.
At least one Fulton Mall businessman said Wal-Mart would be out of place in Downtown Brooklyn.
“People come here on tour buses when they want to see what real New York is like,” said Leo Gulfam, a former graffiti artist who rents a storefront where he customizes clothing, jewelry and Air Jordan sneakers with everything from Pakistani flags to picture of Tweedy Bird.
“Our people are crazy about bling,” he said. “They aren’t crazy about Wal-Mart.”