This past Saturday I went pedaling around the neighborhood with my digital camera. I’ve been wanting to do a series of articles about the neighborhood so I needed to stock up on bad pictures. I’m from the Grateful Dead jam school of photography: just keep snapping crap and sooner or later you’ll stumble on something almost interesting.
I live just south of one of NYC’s oldest and most dilapidated industrial sprawls, on the western edge of an area called Sunset Park. I know, the name sounds like sipping Mai Tais on the veranda while watching the ocean swallow up the last fading rays of daylight. Well, in a way, the metaphor fits. The sun set on this place about 75 years ago. I’ll get more into that later.
This spring the neighborhood was surprised by some news. NYC wants to build its very first monster mall and it wants to build it here. It’s called Sunset Marketplace. It’s (ahem…) a “1.8 million square foot mixed-use lifestyle retail center located on the Brooklyn waterfront.” A mega mall.
One-point-eight million square feet of mall rat warren?? I had to go look this up. That would qualify Sunset Marketplace among the Top 30 largest malls in the country. Where do you find that much acreage in Brooklyn? Well, you start by evicting what are currently the largest rats living in Brooklyn:
And this is the place. It’s a line of huge, block-sized, turn-of-the-century industrial buildings which are so decrepit that nobody’s even wanted to give them a trendy name, just a funky acronym: DUBQE (Down Under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway)
I’ve heard grand plans for this area since I moved here. It incorporates not just these buildings but the old Cross Harbor Railroad freight yard across the street and Bush Terminal, another large parcel of old industrial buildings. In 1999, just before the internet bubble popped, the city was trying to shill this area as the Sunset Park Technology Center. Nine years later, you can see how effective that was. With what appears to be a retail bubble on the eve of destruction a fair case could be made that Sunset Marketplace will ultimately turn out to be an urban planning pipe dream as well.
That is except for the fact that one of North America’s largest retail developers, Time Equities, is all over it. The recent successful opening of NYC’s first Ikea about a mile away only added to the Big Retail momentum of the neighborhood.
In terms of total square footage, this could easily make Sunset Marketplace the largest mall in NY state, a distinction currently held by Roosevelt Field on Long Island (currently the #8 largest mall in the United States).