Skip to main content

"What's Brooklyn about?" The Flea, in a way, as it feeds "this bottomless, infinite need for stories about Brooklyn"

There's a fascinating interview in NonaBrooklyn with Brooklyn Flea co-founder Eric Demby, a former communications director for Borough President Marty Markowitz who joined forces with Jonathan Butler, founder of Brownstoner.

A few excerpts... and comments.

Brooklyn's identity

Q. It’s interesting to think that Brooklyn’s identity as a place was so different just a few years ago. It hadn’t really been defined in the way it has been since. There was no sort of obvious way for people to get their heads around what exactly Brooklyn was, and why it was so great. A lot of people point to the Flea as something that really catalyzed that, or captured it. Was there an intent on your part to do that?

A. There was definitely some intent, although I don’t think either of us would have used those words at that time.


Working for Marty…one of his major initiatives was always putting Brooklyn on the map. Brooklyn was the only borough with its own tourism center, and as a communications director for the borough president, I was kind of an ad hoc clearinghouse for press. We’d get emails from journalists all the time, saying things like, “I want to do a story about Brooklyn for a Japanese magazine. Where should I go?”


And there was a list of places to go, but it was kind of weird. We’d always ask ourselves, “What’s Brooklyn about?” You could go eat at Diner. You could go to Coney Island and ride the Cyclone, or walk across the bridge and go to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There are icons, but none that really capture what Brooklyn is all about. What I’d always try to convey to those journalists was that what you really want to do is just wander around a place like Fort Greene on a Saturday and think, “Wow, this is a really cool vibe.” Ha ha.


I think one of the things that has made the Flea what it is, is that it captured that in some way. It emerged as a sort of partial cross-section of people and things that make Brooklyn great. It’s got all these people trafficking in everything from vintage furniture to eyeglass frames to t-shirts, taxidermy and salt water taffy.... You can go to the Flea and you can have an authentic experience that’s actually not manufactured. 


Yet, I'd add, there's another iconic "Brooklyn" out there: Brooklyn We Go Hard and Brooklyn's Finest. And there are even more Brooklyn's, too.

The early days: a boom

Q. Tell me a little bit about those early days?

A. ...Twenty thousand people came to the first Flea, so we really knew right away that it could be big. The weather was terrible, with this cold, sprinkly rain, but we had gotten some great early press and the turnout was huge. A DJ friend of mine called Small Change had agreed to sell records at the Flea, and the Times ran a full-page story on that in the Style section a few months before the market debuted. The Red Hook Ballfield food vendors joined, and that had gotten all the food bloggers going. New York Magazine ran a full three-page guide to the market the week before we launched. The New York Times came to opening day and set up a photo shoot in the softball backstop. They took pictures of people all day, and ran it on the front page of the Style section the following week…


It was unbelievable. This all happened within a period of two weeks, and right in the middle of it was the first Flea, and twenty thousand people showed up.


Then the Times and everybody started running stories about the food. We started getting national and even international press by the summer. So that all happened right away and that was when we realized there was this bottomless, infinite need for stories about Brooklyn.


A bottomless, infinite need for certain kinds of stories about Brooklyn. Not necessarily ones that dig into the power structure or follow boring process-y things like environmental review and blight.

Comments

  1. The Brooklyn flea is very expensive. I wish they had a sliding scale for organizations that do not need much room or products that do not bring in a great deal of profit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The full interview does touch on this issue.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …