A year ago, 425 Mother Gaston Boulevard was just another empty lot in Brownsville overwhelmed by patches of weeds and scattered piles of debris. With historically little commercial investment coming into this low-income Brooklyn neighborhood, passersby were out of the habit of imagining what could be productively done with this bleak space.
Since then, things have decidedly changed at the lot. Now, drivers and pedestrians passing by can see local construction workers, local vendors and Community Solutions employees from our Brownsville Partnership and Inspiring Places teams at work. They’ve all come together in preparation for the second season opening of MGB POPS, the neighborhood’s freshest outdoor marketplace.
MGB POPS debuted last winter in direct response to residents’ requests for high-quality community spaces and a diversity of retail options. With this need in mind, Community Solutions, in partnership with the Ocean-Hill Brownsville Neighborhood Improvement Association and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, injected new life into the once vacant 2,500 square-foot city-owned lot on the highly frequented Mother Gaston Blvd. Working with local artists, craftsmen and chefs, MGB POPS made use of eight freestanding vendor kiosks and two repurposed shipping containers to create a pop-up market for Brownsville shoppers to enjoy.
This year, Community Solutions revisited programming design with the goal of transforming life on the the lot once more for the marketplace’s second season. Strengthening the MGB POPS concept meant looking to strategies that spark community member interaction and further demonstrate the power of collective action to tangibly better a block and positively impact a neighborhood.
Last year, we successfully set up a system to host diverse vendors to help fill gaps in Brownsville’s commercial market. This year, we're expanding on that step by bringing in entertainment acts from Brownsville and the larger Brooklyn area. MGB POPS’ patrons can expect jazz performances, gospel music, rap, spoken word as well as special events from the Brooklyn Arts Council that will engage shoppers and entice passersby to participate. DJ Hard Hittin Harry (Apollo Theater), DJ CEO (FuseTV/Tap+Cork) and DJ KING will also be part of the entertainment mix. All this has been planned to make MGB POPS a full showcase of the best of Brownsville. It is also meant to solidify the lot as a natural gathering place for those interested in shopping and those just looking for fun and casual engagement with their neighbors.
This year’s participating vendors include Made In Brownsville, ItsyBitsy Swimwear and Ancient Blend Naturals. The space will also feature special presentations by progressive brands such as B Walker Shoes, Jean Alerte (Brooklyn Swirl) and K1X. The marketplace's new entertainment-filled approach spells more traffic and for these vendors that means more feedback on their products from their local customer base. It’s a strategy that builds upon the marketplace’s existing neighbor-to-neighbor commerce model, sparking real economic opportunity and incubator-like support for these area-bred entrepreneurs.
The new MGB POPS season kicked off Friday, May 29th during the first of many music filled weekends on this Brownsville street. During the 2015 season (May-November), MGB POPS will be open on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm.