Take a peek at the not-so-distant past!
A Brooklyn photographer has turned his camera on the rapidly changing Downtown neighborhood, documenting the many new residents and construction cranes that have arrived over the last five years. An exhibit of his work, “Meet Me Downtown,” will open on Oct. 16 as part of the Culture Forward Festival, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s celebration of neighborhood arts institutions. The artist says that construction has been booming ever since the gigantic sports arena opened nearby in 2012, and he wanted to capture the evolving area before people forget what came before, he said.
“It really started changing once Barclays Center finished,” said Joel Barhamand, who lives in nearby Boerum Hill. “I think everyone knew it was coming, but to be a witness to it — I thought it was important to make sure it was documented.”
Downtown was rezoned by the city in 2004 with the intention of bringing in more office space, but developers saw the area as ripe for residential towers and have been breaking ground on swanky digs ever since.
Barhamand’s photos show the streets going from quiet to bustling as construction became commonplace and more people moved into the neighborhood. He is not trying to demonize the new development, he said, but rather shine a light on the nabe before it becomes a shadow-filled metropolis of high-rise after high-rise.
“I’m not trying to say anything is good or bad,” he said. “New York City has a way of moving forward and I really just want to capture it now to make sure there’s a time capsule of what this place looks like before there’s high rises.”
The exhibition features images from across the neighborhood, but focuses on Fulton Mall, a popular hangout spot whose sidewalks are lined with vendors selling their wares. Barhamand said those sidewalk sellers are a prime example of how the flavor of the neighborhood still lives on, despite the arrival of chain stores and fancy apartments.
“Fulton Mall provides a counterbalance of culture and life that plays beautifully against what’s at stake,” he said. “There’s these construction scenes and then you have this vibrant street life and culture and colorful fashion sensibilities.”
To give attendees a taste of life on the Downtown streets, Barhamand has set up his exhibit like a neighborhood thoroughfare, with the photographs wheatpasted like concert posters onto surfaces that mimic the wooden walls surrounding construction sites.
“We’re trying to evoke the feeling of what it’s like because so much of the imagery has construction and advertising elements in it,” he said.
“Meet Me Downtown” at 80 Arts (80 Hanson Pl. at S. Portland Avenue Downtown, www.downt
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