Mickey D’s & Mickey Don’ts

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Whew! It turns out that Ronald McDonald — the red nose, the yellow suit, the silly white face, the horrific diet — will not (yet) be infiltrating the mom-and-pop landscape of Carroll Gardens. All those breathless “Big Macs Set to Attack” blog posts about a McLease for a vacant Court Street storefront between Baltic and Degraw streets turned out to be nothing more than unfounded rumors.

But that still leaves one supersize question: Why was the neighborhood so scared to go up against a cartoon character with a deep fryer anyway?

The truth is, I think that we know the enemy and she is us.

McDonald’s sells over a billion burgers each year and it’s not only junk-loving children, or harried single mothers filling Mayor McCheese’s campaign war chest. Even the most certifiably pinko vegetable lover sometimes falls to hunger’s fickle growls, right?

Hell, I did last month.

Yes, you read that right. Look, there are excuses I can give: I was starving; there was nothing else around (corner of Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street); I was in a rush. Whatever. The truth is that I needed that fruit ’n yogurt parfait about as much as McDonald’s needs a Carroll Gardens location, which is to say not at all. (I suppose it would be less humiliating, somehow, if I had eaten nine nuggets of frybatter-swaddled chicken gristle. Then at least I would know I had gone all the way.)

The point is, if we do not want the golden arches in our neighborhood, we must assert the power that mass capitalism has given us — the power of the purse. The Hamburglar will stop preying on our defenseless children if he stops having willing customers.

There is also another battle tactic to be taken, and this one doesn’t depend on our collective ability to ignore irrational desires for all that is awful (and oh so crispy) in the world.

It is no coincidence that the golden arches were rumored to be coming to the former Blockbuster video store. Chains favor such large, boxy spaces, so one corporation’s failure is another corporation’s big opportunity to break into the neighborhood. In Brownstone Brooklyn, relatively small, 19th-century storefronts are one built-in defense against full-out corporate siege, but there are others.

If we don’t want to see chains in our neighborhood, we can step up and force our local elected leaders to do to chain stores what Mayor Bloomberg did to trans-fats. He didn’t just urge us to “Just Say No.” He said “no” for us (like any good parent would do).

In San Francisco, for example, neighborhoods guard against big box chains with zoning laws banning stores larger than 20,000 square feet, which is smaller than the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Court Street in nearby Brooklyn Heights.

Other zoning codes in San Fran and other West Coast cities ban businesses like Mickey D’s in certain districts. These laws demand that if a corporation wants to set up shop, it must build a store that looks and operates like existing businesses in the neighborhood.

This time, we won’t have to grimace at Grimace. But next time, the happy meal dice may roll differently. Prepare now.

Ariella Cohen is a Brooklyn Paper staff writer.

The Kitchen Sink

We ran into our pal, architect Robert Scarano, at the York Street F station the other day. Scarano, the brain behind the controversial 360 Smith St. condo, said the building’s owner, Billy Stein, originally wanted to put a 20-story tower at the site, but he told his boss to cut 13 stories and avoid incurring the wrath of height-sensitive neighbors. Little did he know that even seven stories would make him enemies! …

Pub crawl alert: The Atlantic Antic will be boozier than ever this year, says our favorite Red Hook brewmaster Shane Welch of Six Point Craft Ale. Welch is already readying his barrels for 60 kegs of Six Point’s special one-day-a-year Atlantic Antic Amber. The all-day fest — a real street fair, not just some traveling tube sock and curly fries bazaar — will be on Sunday, Sept. 30. …

Life in a Blender songster Don Rauf told The Sink how upset he was to learn that the new owner of the St. Clair Restaurant on the corner of Smith Street and Atlantic Avenue would be taking down the fish net on the wall. Perhaps Rauf will add a new verse to his toe-tapping gentrification anthem, “What Happened to Smith.” …

Urban Outfitters, the irony-loving trendster chain that sold The Sink — and all its little friends — ringer-neck T-shirts in seventh grade, is moving to 164 Atlantic Ave., on the corner of Clinton Street. Word is that all the “funky” lamps and bean-bag chairs will in a below-grade basement level.

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Reader Feedback

Michael says:
McDonalds does not just sell terrible and unhealthy food, but their stores are hideous, incongruous with other store fronts (thereby destroying the neighborhood feeling), and smell terrible. I am glad that this was just a rumour.

I agree whoeheartedly with your proposal. Chain stores are a burden on our neighborhoods in many ways, and there ought to therefore be policies in action which keep them from harming local communities.
Sept. 25, 2007, 9:34 am

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