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, May 28, 2015

This Saturday - More Beautification!

This stuff just warms the Q's cold, cold heart. Amphibian actually. Some say reptile. But flowers, and song, soothe the savage beast in me. Grrrrrrrrrrr. Pretty flower! Ahhhh. 1pm. Bring the kiddies. Saturday. Do it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Smile! You're Now a Brochure

NYC is, in many respects, the capital of the world. So it should probably not shock us, even WAY out here in Central Brooklyn, to become a focus of investment in a bizarre, even unprecedented, boom in real estate. But it's still jarring to see something like the below, a marketing piece in The Real Deal designed to spur even more interest in the area. A couple things jumped out at me. Wonder if they will for you too:

First, that picture of the new building on Hawthorne. I forgot how Fedders-esque it was to be. Given its modest nature, can you believe they to rename the neighborhood Heights Park?).

Second, the broker talking about commercial sounds almost activist in his description of how mom and pops are being priced out and displaced. But...wait. He's a broker. Isn't this GOOD news for his business?

Third, what's with the "white collar" "blue collar" figures? They account for 100% of residents in this strange demographics section, which oddly includes no race at all - seems to be hinting at it though. Is this an income thing? Because I can assure you many plumbers and electricians are bringing home more bacon than non-profit office workers. And what do you call the artists, entrepreneurs and the (hello!) unemployed? Well, the artists might be "rainbow collar." Freelancers might be "No Ties, Ever, And We Don't Even Have To Wear Pants To Work" The entrepreneurs might be "bluetooth collar." And the unemployed might be..."no collars?"

Fourth, the neighborhood is depicted as having been wealthy. I would argue that it was never wealthy so much as, maybe, upper middle in places but middle for sure. Professional class. If you take race out of the equation, yes, you could argue that it is returning to its previous class base.

But then it notes that Hispanics, Asians and Carribeans moved in and made it more diverse. How is it that they name Hispanics and Asians, but not African-Americans? No offense, but there's not a lot of Spanish and Chinese spoken around here. It's as if they purposely avoided mentioning black Americans NOT of Caribbean descent. Hmm.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Year and Two Months Later - The Letter Is Reinstated

Despite yet another last minute effort by CB9 member Fred Baptiste to table the motion, we actually after long, long last got to vote on whether to send the letter to the Department of City Planning asking them (mind you they still have to say yes!) to begin (just begin!) a study of our neighborhood in the wake of unprecedented change and an influx of big, big $ and buildings sprouting like grass over a septic tank.

Fred, you may recall, has been at the heart of the effort to derail this process ever since his motion to send the issue back to committee failed in March of 2014. With a little help from the Sultan of Sterling, he managed to blindsided the board with a motion to rescind the previous year's decision to start the process, caving to MTOPP at their first over-the-top showing in September. He also shut me down when I tried to get a vote back in December. I've also seen him getting chummy with Alicia, so despite the appearance of him being a "process oriented dude," his insistence that we follow HIS idea of process actually meant that developers have had more than a year to plan their takeover the neighborhood. Which, let's get honest, was going to happen anyway. I'm just pointing out that any good that comes from a study is now going to happen much later than we'd hoped. And I'm not going to hold any of this against Mr. Baptiste. He seems very much the Dudley Do-right character, and I appreciate that he has principles. Can't say that about some other folks in the room.

So how did "we the people" vote? It wasn't even close. I recall the tally being 24 yays, 6 nays and a handful of abstentions. Not too far off from the original vote over a year ago. Blah blah blah. The Q ain't taking any victory laps. This whole thing has been a massive drain on what should have been a community coming together to work with the City to strengthen its future. And there was Boyd, muttering "Uncle Tom" under her breath as the meeting came to a close, presumably referencing temporary chair Demetrius Lawrence. Who won the election to be the official chair for one month, even though we have to vote AGAIN in June for the official official chair for 2015-16. Process, people! Process!!

Which brings me to the REAL story that unfolded tonight. I've always liked Demetrius, his calm and his reason, but I had no idea how he'd fare in the heat of the spotlight. You know what? I think we just witnessed a real leader being born. He had the presence and the humility to become (dare I say it?) a really great CB9 chairman. And what was particularly poetic was that this was the night that the Board honored longtime chair and 38-year military man Jake Goldstein for his exemplary service to country. As an orthodox Jew he was one of the first to get to keep his beard in the army those many years ago. And as chaplain, he's been all over the world counseling our men and women in uniform. Thanks Jake!

And with that, the baton passes. Here's to a steady leadership under Demetrius Lawrence, whose name has never been, nor will it ever be, Tom. You will do well to remember to listen, but also to remember that she who speak loudeth is not always the righteth.

And with thateth, I bideth you goodeth nighteth.

Come On Down!

Used to be the dullest show in town. Then we added a new cast of characters and ratings soared! Copy of draft below. The letter passed the ULURP committee with a vote of 10 for, 1 against, 1 abstention. In business session the Board will finally vote. And yes, there has been public comment. A whole year and a half actually.

One item not to miss in the shuffle: Erv's, the cocktail bar on Beekman, wants to put a few tables out on the sidewalk. Longterm it would seem they want to move into the laundry space as well, lite fare, bigger joint. Could be good for biz, could be tough on neighbors. What think?

See you tonight!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day

Just spoke with a neighbor who lives at 60 Clarkson Avenue, you know, THE 60 Clarkson. She has six kids, she's juggling nursing school. The oldest ones are now in middle school and handle themselves nicely. Lots of help they are, really. Grown up real fast. They're doing okay. Living in a de facto homeless shelter. Doing okay, for now.

But she just told me a new family moved in Friday night. Mom, two kids, 4 and 6. She's a domestic abuse case, so she's not in the "system" yet to get her W.I.C. card. She came from intake in the Bronx with nothing. Nothing. As in nothing. Other homeless families in the building are sharing with her what they can. No sheets. No towels. No food.

Nothing. It might as well be a refugee camp somewhere on the other side of the world.

We're going to the grocery to pick up a few basics and drop them off. The system will kick in a couple days, one hopes. This story gets played out a thousand times a week in this, the richest City on the planet. And on this, a block with houses north of $1.5 million, the difference between haves vs have-nots could not be more stark.

Note to the fallen heroes who fought for the nation:

We're still working on it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Special Edition Echo Is Here W/Tribute to Carole

For the pdf just click. Read on, those who are house-curious.

ULURP Committee Meeting Minutes

UPDATE: Yes, a quorum was reached. Since Mike Cetera was not reappointed, and four other ULURP members resigned (Diana Richardson, Dwayne Nicholson and Rosemarie Perry, Laura Imperiale) that leaves just 19 members. 12 were present.

As I'm sure you were dying to know how the melee was officially described by the Board, below are the minutes submitted by Ben Edwards. Behind the scenes there is a call to protect Board members and in particular Pearl Miles with some sort of order of protection. We'll see where that leads. Needless to say, it is now officially impossible to conduct Board business with MTOPP present. They didn't even let us open the meeting. As noted by board member Kenya Sollas who lives at the building Crown Gardens where the community room was reserved, the crowd assembled had taken all the seats and refused to move to let the meeting begin. She did a terrific job of appealing to reason, but to no avail. The only way the committee was even able to vote was to create a scrum and shout to one another. Poor Evelyn Williams, longtime Board member and Hawthorne Street building president, suffered a cut lip.

Alicia spent the night in the pokey, as she most clearly resisted arrest and made dangerous flailings in an attempt, I guess, to keep from being handcuffed. She's been charged with various crimes, though short of felony assault, which the cops probably could have done. They showed considerable restraint if you ask me. Those are our Community Affairs guys by the way, hardly the "bad guys." It's all so horribly wrong. Her followers, many from outside the community, believe they are fighting to keep the neighborhood black and inexpensive. A few even expressed it as such, meaning that the very real illegalities perpetrated by landlords are not even their primary focus, but rather government officials and agencies. So here, under Boyd's guidance, they are targeting a bunch of appointed volunteers trying to reign in scattershot development.

In case you were wondering what other criminal charges were or weren't filed, there's this line from Alicia's follow up email upon her release:

You can see right there in the film.
One of the white board members grinning and smiling
who has been pushing to up zone our community.
This man has called people names at meeting
and even has an harassment complaint filed against him
because of his behavior and yet he has been empowered

to make decisions for us.

FYI that white man accused of smiling is Warren Berke. I don't think I broke into a smile the entire meeting. Felony "Smile 2" charges against Berke are likely to be knocked down to "Smirk 1" after plea bargaining.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

96 Parkside Avenue - The Peristyle

Things to share that the Q did not know. First, the Parthenon across from the Parade Ground is called The Peristyle. Second, it has an address - 96 Parkside Avenue. Third, it is likely part of the ghost situation at 123 on the Park, at least in the sense that ghosts go there to play croquet, since this is also apparently known as the Croquet Shelter. The wickets are likely ghosts as well, for I see no way to append them to the floor.

Then this wonderful postcard via Montrose Morris in her piece on said Colonnade:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Committee Nearly Unanimous In Wanting Planning Study

They hurled insults. They told lies. They riled the crowd up to a frenzy so intense that some of us questioned our decision not to stand closer to a door for ease of exit. This is what happens when dialogue gets trashed for demagoguery. For all the talk of wanting to be heard, they've done no listening. And tonight the committee said what it had said 14 months ago. Let's get on with a study, and push for our agenda at every turn. Yes, let's work with the City and plan our future.

The vote was 9 in favor, 1 against, 1 abstention. The letter requesting a Planning Study goes to the full Board next week. Expect more nonsense, and a likely yay vote.

Who knows where it will go from here. Nowhere good, probably. Just more neighbor against neighbor shouting and name calling. Unless, by some miracle, Alicia decides to take the high road and talk rather than pretend she's fighting the battle for the right to vote. Actually, she could have taken some notes on civil disobedience from the King, because her tactics are definitely not civil and the way she behaves when arrested could damn well turn into a riot one day. Here's some footage, not for the weak of heart:

Thanks Mike F for the embed (click thru for his coverage). By the way, yes, that is a child that one protester brought to the proceedings and encouraged to watch the whole thing. A member of the Board asked her if she wouldn't rather take her outside for the arrest scuffle, but she adamantly refused. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but was that necessary? The little girl couldn't have been a month past three if that. She also gets to watch the below, where about ten seconds in a woman rushes at Ben Edwards and looks like she takes a swipe at him.


 So what happened? Amidst the chaos, the Committee huddled to (barely) hear one another open the meeting, take the vote and adjourn. All that for that.

As I noted before, MTOPP's propaganda really paid off. She brought out significantly higher numbers than usual - maybe 30. But to highlight just how much horseshit she's been feeding people, I spoke with two woman who wanted to know why I was working for the greedy Developers. When I told them I was a 12 year resident who loved my neighborhood and my neighbors, they seemed aghast. But why was I fighting to put huge luxury high rises in the neighborhood? I said that was the very thing I was hoping to prevent, and to see that any new buildings had affordable set-asides. But why was I for buildings like 626 Flatbush? At which point, I just shook my head. It's all going to be okay I muttered, half of me not believing, and half just plain shell-shocked I guess.

There wasn't anything funny about tonight, or any of it. And I'm not the least bit happy that the right decision was made. I really think the anger on display tonight, of neighbor against neighbor, does not bode well for the next chapter, whatever that may be. And now, I fear, Alicia will claim the Board is responsible for the massive changes taking place in the neighborhood. If she's able to convince people of that, look out. Nobody's safe.

Shakespearean Caledonian Apparitions

Every once in awhile, on the internet, you just have to write a phrase that if googled in quotes will be the only result. I am quite certain that the above blog post title will stand the test of time. I'm thinking Macbeth of course.

The Q joked here about the possibility that ghosts might inhabit the old Caledonian Hospital, now known as 123 on the Park, which has been pointed out it is a bit of a stretch, since the entrance is actually around the corner. Now comes word that...folks, the ghosts are real. Too many people died in this building (probably tens of thousands over the years, don't you think? and it had a morgue in the basement! "Room for One More, Honey!") Think we're joking? The NY Post has the spook scoop.

photo: william farrington