The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

O No! SoCro Goes So NoCro on Fra So of EPW.

Translation: The rebirth of Franklin Avenue north of Eastern Parkway West (EPW - nice, right?) has meant sky-high rents in both residential and commercial spaces. So, naturally, the trend moves south of EP to the less yuppified SoCro. Now, I know all these terms are absurd. They ALL are. I guess since shorthand is no  longer a requirement for today's secretarial pool, I think we're all looking for more modern time-savers, in this oh so hectic world. Such busy lives! Answering email! Getting coffee! Taking care of THE KIDS! (um, you always had to take care of the kids. that one is not new y'all). Working!! (yep, always had to do that too). Church! (wait, most of us took that one out). Doing chores! (now you're just whining).

I'm ready for Carroll Gardens to become CarGa, Boerum Hill BoHi and Bedford-Stuyvesant Bed-Stuy. Actually, it's already called that, so let's shorten it a bit more to just BeSt. I've already predicted that East New York become ENY (pronouced eenie) and Mill Basin MilBa. Sheepshead Bay? SheBa of course. Brighton Beach? BriBe. It's my blog. I can do this all night...

First up in the new biz department, a place sure to keep waistlines bulging and the species procreating called Butter and Scotch. Basically you can get shitfaced and then shove your pie hole full of pie. And therefore, my prediction? Huge hit. The gals already have a big following and they seem to have that quirky Brooklyn sense of humor thing down. They're calling it Brooklyn's First Artisanal Dessert and Craft Cocktail Bar.

Founded by Keavy of Kumquat Cupcakery and Allison of First Prize Pies, Butter & Scotch will have an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and the interplay between the bar and pastry kitchen, Butter & Scotch will be exciting, welcoming, and most of all, fun! They plan to open in October or so, but in the meantime you can find them at Smorgasburg market every weekend.

Names that didn't make the cut: Bourbon 'n' Buns; Plastered Pastries; Liquor the Batter

But then SoCro already has the delightful bakery down, in Lady Charles. Karen Charles has been eliciting oohs and ahhs and mmmmm it's positively sinfuls for a year now. Up 241 Rogers at Carroll, the joint is spiffy and colorful, next to an attractive wedding apparel joint called Pantora (below the below), run by a (gasp) 24 year old entrepreneur named Andrea Pitter.

Andrea Pitter of Pantora (pic by CC Woodby)
And longtime fave from above the Parkway and one of the early gentry entries along now-fully bourgie Franklin Avenue OWL AND THISTLE has moved to SoCro (no really, I promise I'll stop). Rents meant you can't run a store like this, with it's curated knick-knacks under the subtitle "General Store" and expect to make a profit on six or eight grand a month in rent.

Oh, and there's a bar opening on 225 Rogers by a dude named Chris Buckley. This joint anticipates the large apartment. building going up where the church used to was.

So much commerce. So many calories. So much alcohol. So many marriages. So little time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Great New Restaurant Opens On OUR Franklin Avenue


All this talk about Empire Blvd lately has me once again lamenting how that pesky six-lane junk heap of a rue manages to keep Leffertsonians from considering Southern Crown Heights as part of their 'hood. Tivolians and Ebbetsinians have no trouble bouncing down to Flatbush for vittles and fixin's, but the reverse? Not so much. Now you have a reason to venture northward. A new restaurant and healing center called Mountain just opened at 903 Franklin Ave next to the Associated and across from Tivoli Towers.

co-owner and acupuncturist Justine Lynch 'n' kids

Organic and local fresh ingredients? Check. Veteran creative chef? Check, in Tom McCauley from the pre-trendy Miracle Grill. State of the art acupuncture and new-agey health herbs and goodies? Check, with acclaimed healer Justine Lynch as your guide. Tasty gluten free options? Check. Specially pressed healing juices? Check. There's even a relaxing meditation and yoga space in the back. This place screams 2014 louder than Time Square on New Year's Eve. Of 2013. At midnight. You get the idea.

But here's the thing. It's GOOD. Good food, good medicine. Actually, good food IS good medicine, so there's nothing odd about the pairing. Unless you're worried you'll get needles in your soup instead of noodles. Which ain't gonna happen. These people are professionals after all.

I'm looking at the menu right now and saliva is running onto my keyboard. Lavender and Maldon Salt Crusted Pork Loin? Verdure Curry w Local Grains? Tonifying Chicken Soup w local greens and grains, Chinese herbs and pastured chicken? Morning frittata or spelt quinoa muffins  and Mountain's own granola? Coffee, espresso and fresh herbed teas? It's like Sun in Bloom but with meat, y'all. And ancient Chinese healing.

Do yourself a favor. Do like Mohammed and go to (the) Mountain and see and eat for yourself. Do it before the whole world finds out what an awesome joint it is, and how delicious are the freshly made cold pressed healing juices. I dare you. Go.

It might be the oddest location for a state of the art statement of nowness, but then, nothing around here is anything less than odd. And thank G*d for that.

Bluebird Cafe - Open Tonight

So says a commenter. Seems worthy of a post however. "Bluebird cooking from 5 tonight...take these wilted greens and make them fly. All my life. I was only waiting for a cafe on the 'Bush"

Not In My Black Yard

The Q counted 140 people at one point
The Q's hat's off to MTOPP's Alicia Boyd for really knowing how to rile up a crowd. She was on fire tonight at a community forum on capital D Displacement. She actually managed to upstage everyone on the bill, heavy hitters like Charles Barron and neighborhood activists like Tom Angotti and recently elected district leader Geoffry Davis and a nabe activist named Rob Roberinson on the original invitation email, but that's not right. Geoffrey's name was misspelled too. And she neglected in the email or on the flyer to mention the name of the church at 267 Fenimore, only the address. Small things, little insensitivities, started to add up in my mind. And that's what got me thinking...

It's not that Alicia isn't right on a number of points. She is, and she articulates them passionately. She does sometimes put words in people's mouths and insists on pounding home certain incorrect facts, but almost anyone trying to make a point does that. (Just look at politicians - that's how they get and stay elected.) Her analysis of the how and why of the white takeover of Brooklyn is persuasive. MTOPP's alternative community plan for low-rise ma & pa commercial businesses along a beautifully re-landscaped Empire Blvd sounds positively idyllic. A long single story row of ethnic cafes. That was one phrase I particularly liked.

Then I started to put it all together.

It's not just that she's sitting on a gold mine in her nearly two million dollar town home complaining about potential high rises in her (actual) back yard. It's not that the "alternative" community plan seems highly supportive of her own quality of life and those who own. It's not that she quite often sounds like she's using the poor (I'm sorry, did I misspeak? using the plight of the poor) in the neighborhood to suggest that building LESS apartments is somehow going to save their rentals (which I'm sorry but it ain't). It's not that one detects a hint of guilt that she, like many of us, have personally profited off the racism that undervalued the neighborhood for years and is finally blossoming into outsized equity gains.

It's that she seems to believe that EVERYone is in on it. She thinks the borough president is a liar and cheat. The developers are all greedy and racist. The Community Board is a bunch of "lawyers and architects" and other professionals (no, say it isn't so!) and therefore not to be trusted, because they were appointed by the liars in the first place (there are tons of clergy on the board by the way, who might bristle at the idea they're in bed with Adams and Developers). City Planners are a bunch of sycophantic nitwits following marching orders. The Mayor is a fraud and his plan for affordable housing is a lie whipped up to please developers. Mathieu Eugene, Laurie Cumbo and every elected official who WASN'T there gets verbally pistol whipped. And she saves special relish for her new sworn enemy Pearl Miles, district manager at CB9. Clearly, as a City employee who DOESN'T EVEN LIVE IN THE DISTRICT!!! she deserves a special place in her Hall of Shame for having the audacity to suggest that Empire Boulevard get some apartment buildings to help the City solve its housing shortage. Based on (guess what?) members of the community saying they wanted more apartment buildings and affordable apartments in particular (yeah I was there, she wasn't). Basically it appears that everyone who has been working on issues in the neighborhood heretofore was and is in the pockets of the big greedy developers. (I know I am. How about you? I signed my pact with them in blood, and I've been lavished with gifts and vacations ever since. David Kramer helped get my kid into nursery school!)

I'm beginning to think that Alicia doesn't like anybody who isn't poor and oppressed. And I'm beginning to wonder if she even likes them. Because there's absolutely no love in her message. There's no compassion. There's not even a betrayal of concern that she might be damaging the reputations of people who actually care about the neighborhood and want to make a difference. People, mind you, who have been working on these issues a hell of a lot longer than she has.

Not everyone was wowed by her performance, by the way. A few snarked privately that the pep rally was woefully short on facts about how limiting housing supply in the face of rampant abuses by landlords was going to help those very people being displaced. She was best, and I'd love to see more of it, when she tries to educate and organize those who need to know their rights and stand up loud and strong for them. Including those of us with knowledge and contacts who have sat by and observed for way to long. Kudos to that.

If you go to an Alicia Boyd sponsored event, be warned. You will hear a lot of talk and it might even sound or even BE convincing. That is, she does manage to be right on a number of points. But regardless of where you stand on any of these issues, think about whether this a discussion or whether you, as someone with a brain and a question, are being asked to leave both at the door and surrender to the preacher. I saw a lot of people nodding their heads as if hearing the Gospel. But as I left I realized that there was no room in that hall tonight for anything but The Truth. Everyone's a liar.  Except her.

Oh, and thanks to Pastor Maxine Nixon and the United Methodist Church for their donation of community space. See that's not so hard.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Who Knew? Did You?

How is it that the Q, of all people, is last to know that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is opening a new restaurant? Yellow Magnolia. A proper sit-down-and-talk-about-nothing-of-consequence restaurant! I love, love, love the current cafe; will it still be there? I would be heartbroken, because I've been consuming its Chunky Chicken Salad since I moved to the borough 26 years ago. (Wait, is that why I'm a FWF? Hidden calories!) And those sub-continental guys! They've been there forever, and working their butts off. I'll hold off the tears til I hear for certain...I wrote to their press office today.

Okay, I just got the official word. Longtime cafe operators Charles Sally Charles are out. Time for a last visit before the end of an era? I'm astounded about how melancholy I just got.

But this is like big big news to those of us within spitting distance. Er, walking distance. Spitting is prohibited in the Botanics.

From le website de BBG:

Coming in Fall 2014!

Named for the remarkable flower developed by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Yellow Magnolia Café is a project of Brooklyn chef Rob Newton (owner of Nightingale 9, Wilma Jean, and Smith Canteen), who will oversee the seasonal menus and overall creative vision of the Garden’s food service starting in fall 2014. Newton’s focus on regional foods from small farms and purveyors is in keeping with BBG’s longstanding interest in sustainable practices. The new, vegetable-focused restaurant is committed to offering the freshest local and organic ingredients possible, with a changing menu sourced from local farmers' markets and the Garden itself.

Visitors will have the option of dining in a brand-new interior space (Yellow Magnolia Café) or ordering from a convenient outdoor kiosk (Yellow Magnolia Canteen). The family-friendly restaurant will be open Tuesday to Sunday, offering such treats as Brooklyn-grown lettuces and greenmarket vegetables, barley risotto, and fried-chicken sandwiches. 

Yellow Magnolia Café is slated to open in late October—watch this page for updates!

Let's Put a Lie To That One Right Now

If someone tells you that Empire Boulevard, or Lefferts Gardens, is the densest part of Brooklyn, does your BS alarm go off? Mine too. It's plain to me that if you want dense, you'd be hard pressed to find a better sardine packing than over in Caledonia and along Ocean Ave south of the Park. And in fact, that's what the map shows:

The census tract of Caledonia, my goofy term for the area boxed by Ocean, Caton, Parade Ground and the Park, has over 6,000 people in it. That's quite remarkable actually, given that none of the buildings top six stories, and it's like 16 short blocks in all. You'll see from the map that density does, in most cases, follow the train lines. Ocean Ave roughly tracks the B and Q, and gets its share of passengers along Prospect Park and down past me (Clarkson/Woodruff) and then heading down south, all the way to dense areas in Brighton Beach. While Ebbets Field and Tivoli Towers may seem high - and they are - they're on fairly large tracts of land and surrounded by low-rise. Remember this map next time you hear that this or that is the densest part of Brooklyn. The numbers are the numbers, and unless you're calling all of Central Brooklyn a neighborhood, you gotta imagine that increased density will, or should, be carried equally along public transportation routes. And Central Brooklyn, for better or worse, has lots of trains.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Bit of Perspective

Finally, some reasonable description of what's happening in the neighborhood over zoning. Zoning. Just the zoning part. The zoning.  From Crain's reporter Andrew J. Hawkins:

On the day after Labor Day in the historically Caribbean neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in central Brooklyn, the thumping bass and steel drums of the annual West Indian Day Parade gave way to a different urban soundtrack: jackhammers and nail guns.

At 626 Flatbush Ave., yellow-vested construction workers scrambled around the five-story frame of what will eventually become a 23-story luxury residential tower. Less than two blocks away, at 33 Lincoln Road, work continued on a nine-story apartment building. And farther east, at 651 New York Ave., builders were laying the foundation for a 40-unit condo development that will feature private elevators and large, open terraces.

All told, at least 10 new luxury towers are going up in the residential section of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Meanwhile, the city is mulling the rezoning of Empire Boulevard, a one-mile stretch of low-rise warehouses and storage units, to foster construction of affordable housing.

The neighborhood has a population density that is among the highest in the borough. No wonder some residents are crying "Enough already!" in a clash that could make the rezoning an important test case for the mayor's push for more housing, as well as one likely to deepen divisions within the community.
When it comes to private development, more seems inevitable. Back in May, The New York Times declared Prospect-Lefferts Gardens to have arrived "on the map." Some real estate brokers compare the area to the Park Slope of 20 years ago.

"It's the real thing," said Evan Duby, a broker at Douglas Elliman.
Meanwhile, with a new mayor in office—one determined to build 80,000 units of affordable housing during the next decade—attention is shifting northward to Empire Boulevard, where Prospect-Lefferts Gardens meets Crown Heights. Zoned for commercial use, the boulevard is home to giant storage and warehouse businesses, auto shops and a handful of fast-food joints. In April, the local community board asked the City Planning Department for a zoning study of the neighborhood, with a particular focus on Empire Boulevard. Since then, the department has held a half-dozen meetings with residents.

No doubt at all

"Empire needs to be developed; there's no doubt about that," said F. Richard Hurley, a local lawyer and president of the Crown Heights Community Council.
What many community members hope to see built is not luxury housing but the apartments that they can afford to live in. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan, developers wanting to take advantage of new zoning must set aside between 20% and 50% of the apartments they build as affordable, but local leaders like Mr. Hurley warn that City Hall needs to tread cautiously. He notes that skepticism about the city's definition of "affordable" runs deep in the community.

"They always throw 'affordable housing' in there, but it's not affordable to anyone who lives here, only to those coming from Manhattan," he said. "De Blasio is shoving it down our throats, whether we like it or not."

Some residents are already starting to push back. A town-hall meeting in early August hosted by Borough President Eric Adams saw a barrage of criticism from opponents of a possible rezoning. A spokesman for the City Planning Department said the agency is still studying the matter.

One group, calling itself the Movement to Protect the People, claims that Mr. Adams and his supporters want to rezone Empire Boulevard to turn it "into a tourist attraction and make tons of money off the community." Among other things, critics note that Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is already one of Brooklyn's most densely packed neighborhoods, with as many as 61,000 people per square mile—nearly twice the boroughwide average—according to recent Census data.

On the upside

Some business owners take a different view. The say they'd welcome taller buildings and more people in the area, reckoning it would help bring more customers through their doors.

"I don't think it would hurt," said Carlos Rivera, who manages Advantage Wholesale Supply. "Not at all."

Bob Lucas of Firestone Complete Auto Care agrees. "Not one iota," he said when asked how a crop of residential towers springing up around his business might affect life along Empire Boulevard. Even some residents who unsuccessfully sued to block residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood are OK with rezoning Empire Boulevard for added density—just as long as it doesn't take the form of the type of steel-and-glass towers they've come to loathe.

"Nobody wants buildings out of context with the neighborhood," said Leah Margulies, who as a member of the group Prospect Park East Network has tried to block the 23-story tower at 626 Flatbush Ave. "But I don't personally have a problem with greater density."

Sound Familiar?

Last week the Q wrote about the aptly named SHAMCO, owner of many of the large apartment buildings in the neighborhood. A number of you reached out to me with horror stories. To give you a better sense of what it looks like to be used as a Middle-Renter (my term) in the process of raising rents on stabilized apartments to the point of making them market rate, read on:

I live in a Shamco building -1 St Paul's Court.

They are AWFUL.
I worked with the very shady Allotta apartments on flatbush who misrepresented the price of the apartment (originally told me it would be $1600 and then lowered it to $1400 but kept the cash difference of the deposit, first months rent and fee and told me I was still getting a deal so shut up).
I've gotten harassing phone calls from Shamco management; they've held my checks to charge me late fees; I've had water leaks and mold since day 1. They just keep doing superficial repairs. There's mice that run across my floor and I kill one 2-inch cockroach every day. They allow for open drug dealing and our stairways are filled with urine they leave the sidewalk filthy. The trash overflows and it's never cleaned. The hallways are covered in gang graffiti and cigarette burns. I wanted to be one of those new tenants who stays for more than 2 years but i can't be here any longer. They successfully ran me out of here to raise the rent - I'm leaving in November.

Blow the Shofar!

Just over week before the High Holidays, and a local rabbi is making a pitch for you to celebrate with him at the Maple Street School. The disappointed hard-of-hearing chauffeur might not partake, but perhaps you and your family could be interested in free services and a horn blast in the Park? September 25 at 5:30 by the Lincoln Road Playground, then 6:30 for services right there at 21 Lincoln Road. Contact Mordechai (Mordy) for more info.

Midwood Flats - Softly Opening

On September 25. Stay tuned..

And Bluebird to open either by Thursday (per below comment) or in two weeks (per LPT employee).

It occurs to the Q that over the years he's heard the phrase "in about two weeks" used over and over again in terms of new places opening up. I'm beginning to think it's a bit like when the car service dispatcher says "5 minutes." It's not meant literally, rather more like "in a while - breath holding not recommended."