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.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Burger Mexicano No Mas

Related to Trump pulling out of NAFTA?
New menu; new chef; new era. 545 Flatbush, where Burger Mexicano once was.

Empire Boulevard Gets A Wee Bit Of Residential



'Member the laundromat at the NE corner of Empire and Rogers? Gonna be "mixed use," which means they're going to get as many rental units as they can out of the outdated zoning. The housing advocate in me has to remind Q readers that this could have been a larger building with 30% or more apartments renting below market (i.e. "affordable"), but NIMBY Attacktivist Alicia Boyd led the call to make sure that wouldn't happen. So...look for some unaffordable units marketed as "luxury." Could be that this leads the way to a slew of development, or...the big money will simply wait til it can build what it wants. Needless to say in the meantime those fast food places are paying the tax bills...

More from your probably-not-so-good-friends at YIMBY.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PLeGNA Pluggin' Away - Come on Down Oct 16

There's actually no "e" in PLGNA - just giving you a hint as to how to pronounce it. Still not quite as good a name as PHLeGNA (Prospect Heights Library Gardens Neighborhood Association) or SMEGNA (Southern Midwood Gardens Neighborhood Association) or MAGMA (Montessori Anthrax Groupon and Metamucil Advocates).

I love the good people of PLGNA and have watched them weather many an outburst from local "attacktivist" Alicia Boyd, including a lawsuit of zero merit meant to intimidate and fluster and destroy. But like Elton John, PLGNA's still standing, and needs your help and expertise to lead the neighborhood at its time of widespread change and unease.

All politics is local, except when it isn't of course. See you Monday!






Saturday, October 7, 2017

Risbo - Unique, Charming, Delicious

The Q's no gourmand. Fact is the Q once tried to outsource all my restaurant posts, since I honestly prefer takeout on a park bench to white linen, white wine and white white white. But being a middle-class middle-aged man who doesn't go to bars, socializing is often focused on food, and so one does find oneself from time to time bellying up to a tightly spaced table in order to spend what would have in my youth seemed an OBSCENE amount of money on nicely arranged platefuls of things that taste pretty good but not OBSCENELY good enough to match the outlay. That's why I often order the burger. At least that way I can compare it to all the burgers I've had over the course of my life. And frankly, if you can't do a good burger, why are you even in the restaurant business?

Enter RISBO. No burgers. Great vibe. Terrific layout, outstanding food. A place you want to hang for more than just a meal - maybe stick around and head out to the garden for an after-drink. Just five days into what is sure to be a very successful run, the place is oozing with cool. Not hipster cool a la Billyburg, but real honest-to-goodness-I-can't-place-it-so-it-must-be-foreign cool. European cool. South American cool. French cool, with some Caribbean cool, and a Cosmo-Euro playlist with the music just a tad too loud and yet just right to ensure your conversation doesn't travel. Sorry. I don't want to hear about your love life or problems at work. I really don't. Not that I can't sympathize of course.

Address? 701 Flatbush btw Parkside and Winthrop. I know, right?

The emphasis of cuisine is on carne of various types, but the vegetarian sides and salads are delicious as well. As in really, really good. Garlic good. If you're allergic to garlic you may struggle here. And let's talk about the super sweet ordering style that seems to have caught on Stateside. Order here, pickup there, sit wherever. Not that it feels like a cafeteria. But the kitchen is so central to the proceedings you feel like at any moment chef Boris might ask you to toss him an onion. And you would. It feels communal that way.

The deep menu of yore is replaced by a few items done well. Yesterday I got the sliced lamb and it came with (get this) FIVE sides. Perfectly spiced and complementing one another. And the complementing didn't end there. My entire group of five parents-of-a-certain-age couldn't stop complimenting the owners/staff. A complement of compliments.


Cash only is a bummer, but I'm sure they'll take cards soon. The system is still being worked out. I liked the non-alcoholic offerings, and the winos seemed satisfied with the list. For now you pay and order from the host, then you bring your slip to the bartender. I got some sort of sorrel drink called bissap that was super righteous. I feel very cool having ordered and enjoyed bissap. Bissap.

But what impressed me most was the vibe. Great mixing of cultures and people. Didn't feel too pretentious, even though every detail has been considered. Thumbs up, y'all. Thumbs up.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Are We Little Haiti or Little Caribbean?

Well, like most contentious issues, depends on who you ask. For a summary of arguments, here's a well-drawn opinion of the pro "Little Caribbean argument."

For the Q's part, I only heard a couple weeks ago that founder of CaribBeing - Shelly Worrell - had effectively worked her way through the Labyrinth of Bureaucracy to actually come away with a near unanimously embraced win for the 'hood in terms of increased recognition and maybe even a commercial windfall. Tourism tends to follow such designations, don't you know.

Ah, but then...local NY State Assemblyperson Rodneyse Bichotte smelled something rotten in Kingston, as she claims that plans have been in the works for years to get a Little Haiti designation for the same area - roughly Empire Blvd down to the Junction along Flatbush Avenue. Why not both, say some? Say what, say others? And what's with lumping Haitians and Caribbeans together in the first place? (hint: it's not just about geography, or puerto rico would be in the mix)

The Q first caught wind of this while dying his hair green last weekend, not to be left out of the fun his girls were having going pink and blue. As I waddled off to the Susie Farm cum Flatbush Market, leaving them with shower caps on to speed the bleaching, I ran into gentle bear Duane Joseph and got the whole skinny from him. Upon further examination, it would seem that the issue of whether Haiti is part of or distinct from the culture identified as Caribbean goes back a spell. To be honest, I've often wondered whether the French and English speaking countries might bear some animosity, just from things I've observed and heard through the years, but this seems to confirm that there are lingering resentments that can come into play over seemingly harmless distinctions of neighborhood identity.

Bichotte huffed a letter to the Mayor; a local activist followed with one to Bichotte. The details here.

If your lineage is comes from North of Miami, I highly suggest you do your best to stay out of the kitchen while the frying pot is still scalding hot. And don't even dream of calling the neighborhood Little Hipster.

Update: And just after I suggested that it would be wise for non-Caribbean folks to stay out of the fray, along comes this from KCP's Stephen Witt. It's comedy, for sure, but I'm guessing it'll come back to haunt him. Just a hunch.

There Are Good Reasons To Be A NIMBY

Check out this article from the Guardian.


But don't pretend it's progressive.

That's the conclusion the Q has reached after my years of community upheaval, conversation and activism. (yeah I'm an activist - wanna try me?) The people who shout loudest against the creation of new apartments buildings, even those with affordable set-asides, are the people who claim their Quality of Life will be violated. And they're not necessarily wrong about that. If you moved to a neighborhood with a certain density, a certain cultural or architectural flavor, a certain je ne sais crois, you'd like to think it's gonna stay that way. This despite the fact that no NY neighborhood stays the same for long, unless it's heavily landmarked, and even then the prices of houses just go through the roof, then the stratosphere, then into the record books. Think West Village and Brooklyn Heights and parts of the Upper East Side among a hundred others.

Finally, some folks are starting to realize that you cannot freeze the creation of new buildings and units and at the same time prevent massive displacement. The fact is, displacement has more to do with market forces AND perverse incentives for landlords to be classist and racist AND the inherent unfairness of rent stabilization (you got it or you don't). If, as in San Francisco, you add half a million new jobs but only 50,000 units of housing - yeah, you're gonna have a problem. A big, ugly problem that leads to more homelessness, no place for low-income workers to even aspire to living, and a skewing towards the creation of "luxury" units. Whatever. Either you believe in economics or you don't. That's your choice I suppose. But I'll bet 9 out of 10 of you already own, or have a decent income from which to search for a new place if necessary.

Ten years ago (and counting) I looked at the expanses around Empire Blvd and said to myself, harmlessly enough, "wouldn't this be a great place to build affordable housing for working people?" Now granted, I was pretty naive at the time. I figured progressives like Eric Adams and Tish James would be all over this idea. In fact, as Eric Adams came into office saying "Build Baby Build" I thought he was going to take the idea and run with it. But I saw 626 Flatbush rising and thought "whoa, new housing is great and all, but does it need to be so dang tall?" Then out came the anti-housing activists, as I've now come to see them. They don't want new buildings. "The City is already too dense. Our infrastructure can't handle it. You're stealing my light and air." How about phrase that differently - you, homeowner, are HOGGING the light and air?

None of those problems are insignificant, but with compromise and sufficient funding, they can all be addressed. That's why I so supported a neighborhood planning and zoning study that looked for new places to build affordable housing. It's why I supported Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. It's why I keep championing projects that are all or include large set-asides for means-tested housing. And yeah, we needs lots more PUBLIC HOUSING too. That's what I believe belongs at the Union-Armory project, but no one so far has ponied up the dough. It's there - the will is not.

Ah well. Maybe the City will simply exert its authority over us and do as it so pleases. After all, we gave up what little bargaining power we had when NIMBYists organized to the point of bullying. And as I've always said, there are very good reason to be NIMBY. There are never good reasons to bully, name-call and shut down respectful conversations.

True progressives understand that social progress doesn't happen without one group giving up something to help satisfy the needs of another. It's about levelling the playing field. What have you done lately to help someone find an apartment they can afford? Not just the "poor." But anyone who wants to live in our wonderful neighborhood but just can't quite make the rent?

Lastly, a word about developers. Some are assholes; some are tolerable; some are even forward-thinking. But you could say that about any capitalist industry. What's different is that you equate them with change, the kind you don't like. But guess what - that apartment or house you're living in? The result of a developer, plus the real estate industry and market through the years. My cute little house was consider the ruin of the neighborhood back in the early 20th century - the tract houses of the day.

But I'm no apologist for the development industry. Fact is, though, they're the ones that build stuff, and saying you want them to go away is to say you want the city to stop being a city. You need to work with them, speak their language, cajole with the right kind of incentives and zoning and partnerships. Or, you better just get out of their way. Ultimately they, like YOU, are out to make a buck. If you hate all Developers, then I suspect you also buy no goods from China, have no investments or retirement earnings in the stock market, don't rely on "free" offerings on internet or TV, never shop Amazon, own no cheap clothes etc. Because it's all part of the same web of supply and demand and frankly human suffering. You like McDonalds; I like Shake Shack. You like Sun in Bloom; I like falafel trucks. But thank your lucky stars that (as Tom Petty would say) "you don't have to live like a refugee." Unless of course you're broke without a home, in which case, you pretty much do live like a refugee.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

DIY Recording of Ta-Nehesi Coates Talk

Is it a bootleg if it was just a conversation?

Regardless, the venerable Bard of Brooklyn Blogs - Liena Zagare - was at last night's fully packed Kings Theater conversation between boss and star writer at The Atlantic magazine. If you want to know more about why yours truly had the great pleasure of getting personally scolded by Mr. Coates, go back into the Q archives. I'm not going to do you the favor of a link!

Here's the link to Liena's piece and recording from BKLNR.

Thx Liena!

picture by Dina Rabiner for BKLYNR


Let's Help Brian Cunningham Skewer the Lame Duck

October 21! Come on out to this, organized by a neighbor, with this David vs Goliath storyline. Let's get rid of the worst Councilman in NYC and replace him with a capable challenger, who managed to get his name on the Reform Party line for just this opportunity. Ironically, if elected, he'll be more of a Democrat than a certain State Senator around here who likes to tie his pony to the Republican hitch up in Albany! So get on out there and vote for a true Democrat! (er, but on the Reform line).


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Yo Whitey - Donald Trump Is YOUR Problem

So many rationalizations of the Trump problem being bandied about. It was misogyny! Blue collars didn't come out for the Dem! Russia stole it! Blacks didn't turn out! (Really now. You expected that black voters would rally round a Clinton the way they did Obama? How much more for granted could you take their vote?) It was Sanders! It was Stein! It was Facebook and Google! It was Fox News and Breitbart!! It was...us. Not each of us, but it was us. The very folks who've benefited most from white supremacy.

Rarely do I hear anyone taking full responsibility. particularly among "whites." And I ask you, if it makes you uncomfortable to be lumped in with such a large, unruly group, imagine how it must feel to be lumped into equally unruly and wildly diverse groups like "blacks," "Hispanics," Jews, Muslims, Soccer Moms, White Collar Older Men, Red State Middle Class Professionals and others. For better or worse, you, dear Whitey (sorry to segregate this post) are a demographic, a voting bloc, and a big-ass problem in America's present and future. Nearly 60% of you (that's a fact, Monterey Jack) voted for Donald Trump. So don't go blaming anyone but yourselves for a Wicked White House.

The fact is, Trump is but a manifestation of the ugly underbelly of White America, or overbelly really. His politics - so supposedly foreign to we liberal-arts educated elites - are in reality wildly familiar. Donald Trump a/k/a Archie Bunker as Rich Snake Oil Salesman, is a particular sort of relative or family friend. You know him, but you pretend you don't. "How dare he" you say, "sully the Presidency thusly." "He has no decency" we bemoan. "He's patently racist, uncivilized, misogynistic and egad, an unbridled egomaniac!"

Yeah he's all those. But he's merely a bigger-than-life stereotypical version of the American White Male. Entitled, chauvinistic, dismissive, combative, obscenely cocksure. And other Americanisms abound. He's obsessed with image. Prone to fantasy. Ratings driven. Consumerist. Hypocritical. Surrounded by television and echo-chamber politics. He fires at whimsy with fuck-you money to boot. Even THAT he lies about - he's not nearly as rich as pretends, nor as handsome as he feels. He eats greasy junk food - he's fat and thinks he's healthy. Loves his hair and takes meds to grow it. I'm sure he downs Viagara, though he'll never cop to it. Thinks he's an ideal dad. Trusts his "instincts." Is more white supremacist than even white supremacists, because he doesn't have to hide behind radical dogma to believe it, to KNOW it, deep in his being. America reinforces his white supremacy, not so much in its laws but in its judicial nuance and police preference and tax policy.

This man, this PROBLEM, is yours white America. No influx of Puerto Ricans to the mainland, no redistricting or un-gerrymandering or motor-voter laws or "education" or party-switching or gross missteps or political intrigue is going to change that fact. Four in ten Americans, nearly all white, will continue to fight for the right to Trump, either he or another. They will bully and nag and create fake news cycles full of hatred and distrust of liberal whites (they already KNOW the people of color and immigrants will be against them) and they will twist themselves into pretzels proving themselves right, as you prove yourself right on Facebook and the Daily Outrage (sorry, Huffington Post). They're NOT going to change, anymore than your Uncle Frank or Aunt Pat. The only hope is that YOU will help them change, that YOU will marry a black man and bear black children, that YOU will foster a Syrian orphan, that YOU will live like their politics didn't exist all the while respecting their very existence to the point of forgiveness. You won't forgive the hate, but you will forgive them for falling prey to the fear, the fear of the "other," and the fear of failure and irrelevance. And you will convince every last person you can to stand up against the negativity, and vote, but you will never again try to sweep them under the rug or cast them from your awareness.

America, the political state, is gun-crazy and money-obsessed, craven and greedy, fame-fucking and at the same time, somehow, to-date, indestructible. You gotta hand it to the Founders. They wrote a prenup so tight you can't break it, not even by slavery and civil war or foreign wars or culture wars or gender wars. They wrote that document because, I think, whether conscious or not, they knew they couldn't trust you, White America, to do the right thing.

I love you, Whitey, but you've a problem and no, Donald Trump is not it. You're the problem, and Trump has woke you. The question should be what are you going to do about it? Are you really ready to fight for values, or more likely to dismiss Uncle Jack and Aunt Sarah as you always have as painfully old-fashioned and well-meaning but ignorant and misguided? You've been blessed with the benefits of Donald Bunker and Archie Trump's America, but are you willing to change, maybe get a little uncomfortable and a lot more amped? Are you willing to take to the streets with your kids in tow, and show up and pony up for candidates in other states that need your help more than New York City? And instead of simply praising diversity, are you willing to embrace it, truly embrace it, and the people all around you who are more than props in your liberal fantasy?

And perhaps most importantly, will you talk with firm compassion with your Trump-loving brethren, and tell them why you feel the way you do, and how you respect their conscience but disagree with their conclusions. It's easy to condemn, and probably right to do so. But they're your relatives and your legacy and they desperately need attention and convincing, because as the polls and blogs and Fox News keep proving, they ain't going nowhere.

But they, and Trump and his ilk are yours, and without him and his forebears, your world doesn't exist. Think about that - you are living white supremacy even as you denounce it. Ironic isn't it?

Dark Humor Is Best Political Commentary. Sometimes.
















Oh, and Risbo, the French inflected community seating groovy chicken place opened Flatbush btw Parkside and Winthrop.