Keyword being "used to be". Whenever someone says South Brooklyn to me, I think Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Coney Island, etc. It was an interesting article, didn't agree with all of them, but interesting nevertheless.
Smith St is not really South Brooklyn...I would consider it North or Northwest. And there are plenty strip malls - Neptune and West 5th, Nostrand and Ave Z, and plenty more.
Unfortunately, small businesses are still suffering at the expense of large / corporate businesses; but this is still good news.
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