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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cock-a-doodle-doo, Caledonia

photo: Elizabeth C.
It's made of glass, apparently. Quite striking, don't you think? Corner of Woodruff and St. Pauls at the entrance to 123 on the Park.

Holy Smokes...Really?

The Q, it's been said, is obsessed with race and how it plays out in our neighborhood. Just so you don't think I'm too localized in my fascination and indignation, every once in awhile I like to zoom out a bit.

I'm sure you've heard how black Americans make seriously less than white Americans, Asians, and also Hispanics. I'm sure you've even heard that black families are less likely to own their own homes than whites (73% to 44%). But the way that a combination of lesser income and less home ownership combine to create less household wealth (total assets minus liabilities) is nothing short of staggering. Since right now, in Brooklyn, it's never been more apparent how different is the financial stability of owners vs. renters, I'm sharing with you a graph that makes me dizzy with disbelief.

Median Household Wealth (median, as you recall, is half above and half below, not average)
The relative lack of integrative success for blacks is often noted, but rarely understood by layfolk like in me, in my estimation. Issues of "personal responsibility" are often used to deflect the criticism that racism is as much a problem as it's been any time since the Civil Rights era, the following question shouts out from the data.

How the hell are you supposed to get a leg up in this country if you haven't any help from the generation before you? I mean, where would so many of Brooklyn's new residents be if their folks hadn't afforded good schools or neighborhoods where great schools are, or paid for great colleges or contributed to buying first houses or cars, or come to the aid when the shit hit the fan?

That's not to say that many members of today's middle to upper classes didn't work hard to get there. But if you look at the broader picture - and don't get too defensive about your personal case - it's not hard to see that the transference of wealth is a huge part of how the haves continue to have. And I'm not just talking about the super-rich. Just affording a downpayment on a house is becoming an act of razzle dazzle. It's becoming trickier and trickier to remain part of the middle class without more than mere income. A house, an heirloom, an inheritance, a hand, they've become precious commodities in the struggle to remain part of the bourgeoisie.

In a country where wealth breeds wealth, it's astonishing that the myth of Horatio Alger continues to dominate mainstream discourse. Work hard. Play by the rules. You too can snag a piece of the American Dream. The anecdotes abound. But the big picture is above, and it's not pretty.

The change of neighborhoods from black to white is often described as a mere transfer of real estate. It is, in my estimation,  a very deep reflection of lingering racism. I think it's worth asking why race is such a big part of gentrification at all. I know you're not dumb, and you probably wonder the same thing. The above graph says it all to me.

Our denial as a country knows no bounds. Like the looming environmental catastrophe, racial and class inequalities lie in wait, with perhaps as many implications for the country, hell the SPECIES, as anything we can conjure up in science fiction. Perhaps never before has a country on earth had the strength and resources to get this equality thing right and stay strong and resource-rich. We're failing miserably, and downing craft beer and kale as the opportunity to the right the ship passes by on the rising sea.

That’s one reason why black families have, on average, only about 6 percent as much wealth as white households, why only 44 percent of black families own a home compared with 73 percent for white households.

It's a Tugboat Kinda Night - This Friday

From your friends at

Please join us for the opening reception for a show of paintings by REPRE: A LONDON ART COLLECTIVE (that includes PLG Painter Noel Hefele) the newest show for PLG Arts Tugboat Local Artists series. It will be at the Tugboat Tea Company, 546 Flatbush Avenue, between Lincoln Road and Beekman Place. Please share with your networks.
Please join us, if you can. If you can't make the reception, or just want a great cup of tea or coffee, Tugboat's hours are Mon–Fri, 7 am–7 pm and Sat–Sun. 8 am–6 pm.

RSVP for the Reception on Facebook
RSVP for the Reception on Google

PLG Arts is a volunteer-run 501c3 organization dedicated to cultivating creativity in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. 

Here is Repre's press release: 

November 11 – December 8 2014 

We are delighted to announce Repre Art Collective’s first international show, which will take place from the November 11 – December 8 2014 at the Tugboat Tea Company in Brooklyn, New York. Repre is an art collective of 10 artists who share the common theme of representation. Their work ranges from the body to the landscape and each artist is concerned with not only depicting the real, but also exploring and pushing the boundaries of realism within their practice. 

The Repre LDN - - -> NYC show will display new works from each artist. With the challenge of transporting work from London to New York, there is predominant theme of light work, including paintings on paper, photography and prints. This exhibition focuses on the shifts in the artist’s practices as each artist seeks to find refreshing ways to break down, reconstruct and represent the concept of the real. Through the use of fragmentation, found images, transformation and abstraction the artists begin a dialogue around the ideas of what representation means today. Repre Art Collective has seen topics covered such as perception, temporality, celebrity, atmosphere, the body and the augmentation of images. The New York exhibition will provide an insight into these lines of enquiry. 


Repre was founded in 2011 by Rebecca Molloy and in this time the artists have hosted a variety of events. This has included their debut exhibition at The Crypt Gallery, Trafalgar Square (2012), an experimental warehouse exhibition in Silwex Studios, Shoreditch (2013) as well as their most recent residency at the DegreeArt Gallery (2013). The artists are driven by the activity of peer support and have also put on critiques, panel discussions, life drawing classes, pecha kucha events and collaborations.

The Repre LDN - - -> NYC is curated by Noel Hefele and
 Bob Marvin 

Exhibiting Artists

Julie Bennett
Natalia Davis
Nathaniel Fowles
Jemma Grundon
Noel Hefele
Amelia Humber
Rebecca Molloy
Louise Morgan
Andrew Newton
Patrick Simkins. 

Part of the PLG Arts Local Artist Series @ Tugboat Tea

Speculation, Much?

So how did we go from armed robbers going after Ditmas Park businesses and residents to targeting gentrifiers?

According to a Gothamist piece, folks are speculating that the spate of armed robberies - presumably by the same folks, given the pattern - is somehow targeted against middle-class (and up) newbies? That's absurd, and totally misses the point.

Unless these hooligans have a very strange idea of social justice, they are...let me be super clear...ARMED ROBBERS. They steal things, then sell them, and use the cash to finance whatever it is they finance. That's it. Even if they WERE upset about gentrifiers, it's hardly the reason they snatched your laptop. Hey I'll be the first to apologize for my little diatribe if I'm proven wrong. But, c'mon y'all, defensive much?

Let me give a 1000% more plausible reason Lark, for instance, was targeted. Cash. Cash and a lot of easily pawnable luxury brand computers - Apples I'll bet - easy to steal and easy to sell.

Sheesh. Dollars to doughnuts these guys have robbed plenty of non-gentriers too in their lifetime. Hey, maybe even as part of this crime spree. Though it wouldn't make the news as such.

Shooting On Dollar Van and Assorted Crime News

Some folks alerted me to a shooting at Flatbush and Lincoln yesterday afternoon. I just happened to be a few feet from Inspector Fitzgiboon of the 71st when I got word on my reasonably-smart phone. I asked him what happened. It wasn't an MTA bus. It happened in a dollar van. A bunch of guys got on one. An argument ensued. All but one guy got off. And he shot the driver. He didn't die, and is being questioned, since the assumption is that he knew the assailant. Depending on how cooperative he is, the cops are fairly certain the gun-toting meanie will be caught.

There was also a shooting near Rogers and Clarkson, but I don't have details and that might have been in the 67th precinct, where I know basically no one. Any info from y'all would be appreciated - I'm way too busy today to even google.

BUT...yes there've been a spate of armed robberies down at Church and Cortelyou (and notably other parts of the borough, but the ones at the upscale joints near us are getting the attention). In a terrifying brazen hold-up, the masked and armed men busted in on a writer's meeting at coffee house Lark and made off with sundry electronic devices. Which were not, apparently, transistor radios, but rather costly (presumably Apple) tech devices. The victims have since set up a fund to replace their items, though the effort has set off a backlash or snarky coments on the internets meant to belittle their losses, and I will not add to the mean-spiritedness. I feel for anyone who has to withstand a life-threatening experience with a loaded gun pointed at them. Thank god no one was hurt. The only jokey thing I will say is...who will be the first writer to publish a short story about the incident? Gentlemen and Ladies...start your laptops!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yes, We Still Build Regular Old Affordable Housing

But it should be a hell of a lot more.

Today from Rachel, our gem of a resource on all things Crown Heights/Lefferts (they really are twin cities, like Minneapolis/St. Paul or Buda/Pest - CH/L being separated by the great Empire River), comes an update on the nearly 500 units of actual affordable housing being built just to our East next to Kings County Hospital. Here's the full story. Excerpts below after I ruminate here for a second.

I've seen the plans for these come to fruition over the past few years. It's really right down the street from me, and we've been able to see the cranes for months as the nicely designed buildings are being built. Who's it for? Lower income folks, basically, and people from special populations requiring social services. You can't make more than 60% of AMI as a family, which means around $50K is the max. Most people will be making much less. They'll pay 30% of their income in rent, the rest is subsidized by the government. CAMBA provides the social services, and was also the developer in this case. They've become a behemoth in the world of building affordable housing. And yes, you may apply for the next round, and you'll get a leg-up in the lottery for living here. But remember a lot of the apartments are set aside for folks leaving the homeless system, and people with special medical needs and developmental or physical handicaps. I know, I know, it's like trying to find a parking spot when the only spaces open are blue with the symbol for wheelchair (that's called dark humor, just so you know before you send me more hate mail).

I asked CAMBA's chief and founder Joanne Oplustil at a Community Board meeting how CAMBA plans on avoiding some of the pitfalls of maintaining subsidized housing over the longterm. In other words, how do prevent these places from becoming the Pruitt-Igoe or Cabrini-Greens of the future? In those cases, when the cities of St. Louis and Chicago lost their tax bases, they turned their backs on proper financing of the "projects." We did the same here, and as a result of that and other social factors, the pj's became synonymous with urban decay, crime and family dysfunction. (See the great documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth for more on what happened to these bold experiments, and how social policy helped lead to their downfall. A lot of your assumptions about public housing might be smashed as a result - I know mine were. Disappearance of manufacturing jobs and even the Vietnam War for instance) Oplustil feels they're putting plenty of money into the maintenance fund so they can operate these things effectively for the next 30 years. Let's hope so.

I think this is great stuff, and very promising in terms of caring for the City's lower income and special needs folks. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with someone who asked me "why do we bother trying to retain all these poor folks, anyway? Isn't this City just too expensive and sought-after to bother trying to keep the costly poor here?" I'll leave that question hanging, in case maybe you want to think about what that question ultimately means. And I hope you can take into account the vast span of history and 20th Century nations and even older societies through the ages when contemplating it. I find it to be fascinating (at best) that such an attitude has gained prominence in this new Gilded Age. I hear echoes of it all the time in the real estate media in this current crazy run-up we're living through right now - which once again I must remind you is bound to end, and probably with significant consequences.

Rachel Holliday Smith for DNA Info:

EAST FLATBUSH — A large complex of affordable and supportive housing on the campus of Kings County Hospital is nearly halfway built, with more than 200 units completed and work on another 300 underway on the border of Crown Heights and East Flatbush. Leaders from the city, state and the non-profit CAMBA  which is leading the development of the project  broke ground Monday on CAMBA Gardens Phase II, a 293-unit building to be constructed on the site of KCH’s former psychiatric hospital.

Once completed in the fall of 2016, the building will house families earning less than 60 percent of the area median income and people exiting the city shelter system, CAMBA said, with case management, counseling and health care assistance offered to all tenants. By combining supportive services together in one location, officials hope to reduce overall costs of care.

“The two buildings together will save us over $3 million a year in emergency taxpayer costs including shelter, hospital emergency rooms and jail,” said Jessica Katz, assistant commissioner at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“We recognize that affordable housing, access to supportive services and quality health care need to work concurrently to ensure a quality life,” said Joanne Oplustil, president and CEO of CAMBA, of the new project.
Next door to the new construction site, more than 209 residences are ready for tenants at CAMBA Gardens Phase I, a 193,000-square-foot housing complex built in a formerly underutilized KCH building, which officially opened Monday as construction at the second building began.
Many residents of the first building have already moved in, including Elizabeth Melendez, the mother of a 21-year-old son and 16-year-old twin daughters born with developmental disabilities.

After losing their three-bedroom apartment in The Bronx following Melendez’s divorce from her ex-husband two years ago, the family moved to a one-bedroom apartment provided by the city. While caring for her daughters and dealing with health issues of her own including asthma and arthritis, Melendez said she looked for work and a better home, but “no one was biting.” “I couldn’t fight as much as I wanted to. I fought as much as I could,” she said.

But she found luck last summer when CAMBA accepted her application to CAMBA Gardens I at 738 Albany Ave. at Clarkson Avenue. Last March, she and her family moved into a brand-new three-bedroom apartment.

"We opened the doors and I looked at my children and I said, ‘Can you believe this?’ … I was like 'We are the luckiest people in the world,'" Melendez said through tears at Monday’s ribbon-cutting. “We went through a lot, but never once did I expect to be housed in a place as wonderful as this.”

Tenants at CAMBA Gardens pay 30 percent of their annual income toward rent, a CAMBA spokeswoman said, and the rest is subsidized by the nonprofit and the state. The building project will cost $165 million, $100 million of which is funded by New York State. Phase I includes a rooftop solar panel array designed to reduce energy consumption by 45 percent, several multi-purpose rooms, gardens and a rooftop terrace.
Phase II will include community rooms for health services, adult education and a computer lab in addition to 60,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space, open to the public.

More than 7,000 people applied to live at the first phase of CAMBA Gardens, the CAMBA spokeswoman said. Tenants of the second phase of the project will be determined by a lottery conducted by HPD when the building is more fully constructed, she said, which will be publicized on both CAMBA and HPD's websites.

That's Our Gal!

I would've liked to go the Brooklyn Public Library "conversation" about gentrification, if only to hear what Alicia Boyd sounds like when she's a panelist (BPL, whose idea was THAT? Did you want to be certain the dialogue would get ugly?) Turns out only my love for conflict would've been satisfied. Here's what a Q reader emailed to me:

Good evening,
I went to a lecture this evening at the Brooklyn Central Library focusing on gentrification, Alicia Boyd was a panelist along with Morgan Munsey, an architect and preservationist. Morgan, btw, is a frequent contributor to Brownstoner using the moniker Amzi Hill. His discussions on that blog about architectural history in Bedford Stuyvesant are quite interesting and informative. However, Morgan is also a RE agent with Halstead and apparently didn’t disclose that information to the BPL since it was not mentioned in the panelists’ brief bios that the library published. When he was introduced he mumbled, stumbled and coyishly smiled that he’s a RE agent and forgot to mention it. That was the beginning of the end for me.
Alicia Boyd then spoke and fired up her audience. It was essentially a race bashing, profanity  infused debacle. I was saddened and then maddened that the BPL would choose a panel of this caliber. My dismay and disappointment led me to do a little research about Ms. Boyd and I came across her healing site. How convenient that you can donate to it in the name of a donation to MTOPP. I then read your blog posting about her tactics, AirBnB hypocrisy and the comments that followed. Needless to say,  I am incensed  that anyone takes her seriously, INCLUDING the BPL!!! My next email will be to the BPL.
I’m a native Brooklynite and have wanted to live in PLG ever since my dad would take me for walks through the neighborhood in the 1960s (!).  I have a very sweet spot in my heart for PLG and I’m hoping to eventually settle there. But not on Sterling Place.

Thanks for listening.

(name withheld by the Q)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Don't Forget the Daffodils

It's like my old Grandpappy FlatBed used to say: "You don't get the flowers if you don't put in the hours." See you Sunday!

Lefferts Food Coop - Grand Opening This Weekend

Tired of poking fun at the Park Slope Food Coop? Now there's a new target for your righteous indignation! Congrats to the whole team for bringing a slight bit of culinary communism to the better side of the Park. Yes you have to work. But you don't have to circle Grand Army Plaza to get there. Stockers of the world, unite!.

Lefferts Community Food Co-op

We're Opening!

it's finally happening. On Sunday, November 23, 2014, we will be open for business!

Even though we are a member-worker food coop—everyone who shops here must be a member and contribute work hours as we have no paid staff—we are opening our doors on Sunday to ALL so that you can see what we will sell and buy what you need.

Please come by!
Come shop for your holiday needs and see what
a community-run grocery store can do for our community!

To become a working member of the food co-op, download the application here.

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