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.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Schools and the Racism Discount

To the read the rest of my award winning essay (the Q at Parkside Award for Dynamic Bloggering) be sure to go to Romper.

We wanted to live in the big city. We wanted to stay in the City. Then we wanted a house or big apartment in which to raise kids. Seemed straightforward. But that's when the struggle for our very souls began in earnest. The next big question facing us is existential: which school will we send our children to?

Who's we? We are the mostly white, mostly middle- and upper-middle class, schooled in liberal arts, culturally attuned to NPR and the New York Times, The Atlantic and the New Yorker, with a smattering of Mother Jones or The Nation issues in our lobby mail slots. We can go to parties and talk about racism and bemoan white supremacy in a gorgeously renovated living room with a Black Lives Matter placard in the window. We want to fix X and Y problems, and yet when it comes down to it, we support charter schools, “forest schooling,” and testing our children into the “gifted” school.

Living in Hipville, USA, is exhilarating and challenging in equal measures. Smart, funny, fascinating, and quirky people are everywhere. Jobs come in every style, size, and income. Culture and cultures surround us, making us feel like a citizens of the world. We're never more than a subway or bus ride from intellectual stimulation. We become hooked on the daily high of intense, tightly-packed living, full of surprises and adventure. We're often car-less, and take pride that we're leaving less of a carbon footprint than our rural and suburban brethren. We try hard to hide our smugness.

Having developed a pair-bond with a like-minded mate, we decide to mate and spawn offspring. But having a child upended our carefully calibrated sense of moral balance. This was the first time we looked up from our navels and took full stock of where and how we lived. Is the neighborhood safe? Is it clean? Is it too noisy or hectic? Are there other new families to bond with, playgrounds nearby, nurturing day-cares and good schools?

Most of our specific "settling down" decisions were informed by how much money we had or could poach from relatives. (In the minds of every city-dweller you'll find a collectively determined running list of best and worst neighborhoods to live in if you have kids. The personalized version of the list fluctuates with one's own financial condition, the vagaries of hipness, trends, age, and various insecurities and prejudices.) A round of musical chairs ensued, and we all sat down in our various neighborhoods, though some couldn't find an affordable "chair" and had to leave the game. A bonus: we were finally able to confirm our suspicions about who was actually wealthy; you can't hide a four-bedroom townhouse in the middle of a real estate boom.

The rich friends moved to their first-choice neighborhoods, and bragged of the good schools therein. The middle-classes began to re-assess previously undesirable neighborhoods or assail the pricier zip codes as "over" and dull. We started talking about real estate — obsessively. We started to become our parents even before we became parents ourselves. But we're NOT our parents, we'd say. We're more progressive, more open-minded, more attuned to the needs of others and the world's ills. So we convinced ourselves it's desirable to live around other races and cultures and economic classes. We liked to chastise others for living in nearly all-white enclaves.

The RD was greatest for the first to arrive — the Early Bird Special. My wife and I weren't even married when we purchased our house in the Lefferts Gardens area of Flatbush back in 2003. There were just two other white folks on the block, as far we could tell, a block with somewhere close to 1,500 residents living in 30 old town-houses and nearly 500 pre-war apartments. We were a serious minority, and we took great pride in our ability to look past race and poverty. The whites didn't show up in numbers ‘til years later. In all honesty, those early years were awesome, and the least soul-crushing. We were welcomed, and we felt alive.

The black and brown residents of our block were as varied as the world itself. A great number were African-Americans whose families arrived during the Great Migration, some sending their kids down South in the summers to be with relatives, some making plans to move back down permanently once retired. Like immigrants from within their own country. There were hundreds of Caribbeans from every nation, lots of Yemenis, some Puerto Ricans, Africans, mostly citizens but plenty were just residents. No one cared about such things. And not everyone was poor.

Still living four doors down is the two-home-owning gay, black judge, and the Vietnam War veteran who was the first black electrician in the union, the black female sanitation worker who won a multi-million dollar lawsuit, lots of nurses, salespeople, social workers, business owners. There were also lots of Section 8 families, folks with little or no income but who possessed the prized housing vouchers. (Back 15 years ago, landlords would still accept them readily, as the vouchers were a steady and certain source of rental income.)

Some of the single-family homes had become boarding houses. Our three-floor 20-foot-wide row house had eight separate one-room apartments when we bought it — "SROs" in the lingo. It was mostly immigrant men living there, looking only for a place to lay their heads at night while working three, maybe four jobs.

We didn't think about the schools. We thought about how lucky we were to live near the subway, the Park, the Botanic Garden, the Museum. The other side of the park cost three times as much. The racism discount was steep then; the price differential is closer to double now, as more and more white folks have moved east. It's incredible how one can quantify people's discomfort with minorities, but there it is, right on the Zillow listings.

The schools? Education was being delivered, for sure. But our zoned school and the others nearby were nearly all black and all poor. Even the wealthier black and mixed-race couples we'd met sent their kids out of the neighborhood, many to private or parochial schools. Solid, progressive liberal arts grads would say, with straight faces, that their conscience told them to go local, but they didn't want their own kids to be guinea pigs for a school's diversification. It should be noted that most of these parents have still never set foot in any of these schools, let alone taken the time to meet the principal or take a tour. Many used test scores to decide whether a school met the acceptable threshold, even though, as Leonie Haimsen wrote in the New York Times, they are vulnerable to cheating and tend to respond directly to injections of money. On top of which, “the National Academy of Sciences has not once but twice spoken out against imposing this sort of high stakes accountability scheme on our schools.”

A few white parents went as far as to create a charter school to address the lack of good options in the area. Initially, a fair number of white families proudly attended the newly minted Charter School, which had been gracelessly co-located into a beautiful old school building housing longtime neighborhood school PSXY, which was suffering a steep drop-off in attendance. Which, by the way, was a direct result of the accelerating gentrification in the neighborhood that was bringing more school-aged families - plenty to fill the seats at the two under-enrolled zoned schools. But not one (quite literally, not one) of the newcomers felt comfortable sending their kids to the local-zoned schools. The excuses were always a variation on the guinea-pig defense.

I tried to convince playground friends to give it a shot — together if necessary — to just go to the zoned school. A few meetings were held, but one by one our preschool friends chose other options. A couple Montessories here, a couple fancy private schools there, a few homeschoolers and lots of out-of-neighborhood schoolers. The well-regarded local private pre-school actively encouraged parents to go out of zone, even out of district. That well-regarded school leader coached parents on how to "work the system" legally, and how to find schools that were still accepting out-of-zone students to fill their seats. The unstated irony? Her own children were bi-racial.

As in any massive clandestine effort, code words were used to hide the issue facing parents. The Racism Discount had provided for cheaper housing. But it didn't mean the local public schools would also gradually add new wealthier residents at the rate of home equity increase, and the longtime local proud experienced principals weren't going to beg parents to come "save" their schools from lack of cultural and fiscal capital. For many well-bred whites, this was the first time their privilege met a dead-end. Local elected officials weren't much help either. They, too, were black and proud, or white and smarter than to play race games, and they weren't interested in hearing solutions that didn't involve parents simply crossing out of their comfort zones and going local...

To the read the rest of my award winning essay (the Q at Parkside Spot On Award For Accuracy In Bloggiphying) be sure to go to Romper.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Step Up For YOUR Co-Op, Lefferts!

If you're ready to help, just head on over to the Indie-Go-Go page.

Or read on, then give! This story is one of grit and determination, of your neighbors working against all odds to create something communal and healthy. You should definitely become a member! And a donation will allow you that warm feeling inside, that you helped your community keep the kale koming.

Help Us Survive & Thrive!

You help is vital to our co-op's survival!  But where, you ask, is this $25,000 going? 
  • $10,000 to shore up financials so we can move forward without concerns about overhead and losses.
  • $13,000 to double our inventory with more great products, expand our bulk section, and purchase new refrigeration. 
  • $2,000 for store improvements like signage, shelving, and beautification.
The store improvements and inventory expansion are essential to the co-op's long-term survival and will put us in a position of stability so we can continue to grow.
Our future looks bright! Since word of the co-op's potential closing has spread, a huge number of members have stepped up. We believe the LCFC is important to the neighborhood and this resurgence of energy and commitment is proof that we have a dedicated core to carry it forward. 

Why the Lefferts Food Co-op Matters

We feel that our community lacks adequate access to healthy, affordable food that we have control over. But it's about more than food! We are a group of dedicated people pulling together to nourish and sustain strong community ties through collective ownership and control in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
There is exciting potential: the bonds we build and skills we learn by running a grocery store for ourselves and each other in our neighborhood make us better able to connect with other community groups, speak to our political representatives with one voice, be resilient in the face of peril––anything from natural disasters to predatory landlords and beyond. We're coming together around food but we're ideally learning interdependence, too.

Our Story

The Lefferts Community Food Co-op started eight years ago as a buyer's club out of the house of a founding member. By 2014, the dream of a cooperative grocery store became a reality with our current home at 324 Empire Ave in the Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood. We are currently 120 members strong and eager to keep growing. (Read more about our early days here.)
A designated Cooperative Corporation under NY State law, we are a member-owned and -operated food store open to all. Our mission is to sell sustainable, nutritious food at a good value, to encourage healthy food practices and to foster environmentally responsible activities through democratic cooperation. LCFC finds strength in the diversity of the community around us and commits to a selection of healthy foods and promotion of healthy eating that respects this.
Read more on our website:
We are committed to our co-op! This urgent fiscal need has injected a surge of energy into our membership, who voted overwhelmingly to raise funds and keep the coop open. We've been busy learning, reorganizing, and strategizing for the future ... we've restructured committees, held weekly meetings, painted our gate, made improvements inside, revamped our newsletter, and started work on a backyard garden.
The past year we've also been working tirelessly on a loan from the Park Slope Food Coop. If we raise this $25,000, we will be sending a powerful message to their loan committee that we have an active and engaged membership and are in a position to pay the loan back.  
By ensuring our financial stability and having the extra funds to grow, we feel confident that this resurgence will continue, and an even stronger co-op will emerge as a vibrant neighborhood hub. 

Other Ways You Can Help

PROMOTE our fundraiser to friends and family through social media, emails, and conversation. Indiegogo has some very easy ways to share our campaign directly to FB, Twitter, or direct emails to friends with pre-composed templates. Just click on those icons next to the “BACK IT” pink button on the campaign page.
COMMUNICATE our vision:  supporters are the co-op’s greatest resource! Go out into the world and let people know why you choose to shop at the co-op.
OFFER A PERK: have a service or item you’d like to donate to our campaign? We’d love it! Click on "Ask A Question" at the top of the page and let us know what you can offer.
BECOME A MEMBER! Learn how here: 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Jesse Hamilton Takes the Low Road

The Q has seen some shifty shenanigans in just his decade of paying close attention to Central Brooklyn politics. In races where a few hundred votes in a primary can win you a job for life, well, they do say politics is dirty. But then there's just plain shitty.

Maybe you got an email yesterday from "WokeBrooklyn" talking smack about the one "real" elected official round here - Diana Richardson. Now anyone who knows Diana knows she's wide awake, and anyway knocking a strong black elected for not caring about black history in the schools? After being an early co-sponsor before realizing it was largely for show? Because she dared smell a rat and call it a rat? What a weird attack, sent to thousands.

Okay. That's politics, not the shitty part. The crazy part is that the anonymous email came from none other than the "Honorable" Jesse Hamilton. Did he want us to figure that out? Cuz he didn't cover his tracks very well:

All that poorly cloaked dagger for petty name-calling, with no signature or address other than the laughable, faked as well, like it was some actual organization. If Jesse's poorly timed choice to caucus with Republicans the year Trump won the election isn't enough to move you to the Zell column, this should do it. Really, Jesse. Bringing Tupac in to diss Diana? At least have the balls to sign your own name. And all this because Diana dared buck the machine and throw some support behind Zell. Disgraceful.

Assembly Member Diana Richardson is selling out the Black community for crumbs! Richardson appears to support Black and Caribbean Americans, however, she has consistently put politics and political parties above her beloved black community. In the last two years the Black History Education Bill has failed to become legislation because of Assembly Member Diana Richardson. The bill passed in the New York State Senate, but has not been put before the Assembly for a vote because Richardson, with the help of the Working Families Party, has continuously blocked the bill.

The Black History Education bill would allow for the establishment of a commission to develop and recommend a curriculum that incorporates the contributions of African-Americans, including the Woman’s Abolitionist Movement and the Harlem Renaissance, to name a few.  Richardson has denied all of our children Black History Education because she is controlled by the the white led Working Families Party. Her alleged support of the black and Caribbean community is nothing more than a fraud to keep her in office and in good standing with the Working Families Party. A more important question to be asked, is if she cares about the community and the children of the community, why deny them the opportunity to learn about a history that is inclusive of all the contributions of blacks, women and culture that make our beloved country great. If she cares, she should help push and pass this bill.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Flabenue Has Ears - Shhh - Sneaker Store

Play Kids is no more. Shelley and Carl are probably happier having shed the weekly, monthly and annual struggle to stay in the black. We have the memories, of the little toy store that did.

Guess what's going in that spot? Kids shoe store. No lie.

Cue creepy kids in heels shot:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Up and Adem. That's Right - The Vote Is TODAY

pic: Damon Winter, NYT
A neighbor culled the following quote from this Politico piece on challengers to the status quo in the NY Democratic Party. It speaks to the problem with letting Yvette Clarke electric slide back into the House of Representatives as YOUR voice. Just how important is Congress during the reign of Trump? If you don't know by now, by god, take a civics lesson. I'm not joshing - you can do it in your PJs. Get your voting pants on and go vote. Vote. Vote! If you're a registered Democrat this is your day. Vote Adem and tell them the Old Gray Lady sent you. The Times chose the challenger, and that speaks volumes.

"Four of Clarke’s former staffers, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, described Clarke as a congresswoman who is deeply charismatic, but also checked out. She was “always late,” and rarely visited her district office in Brooklyn during recesses, the former staffers said, noting that in August 2017 she canceled all of the events she’d planned in her home district, leaving groups in the lurch.

The former staffers said she avoided public transit whenever possible, and had to be pushed by her mother, former City Council Member Una Clarke, to attend various events.

“There are people who’ve wondered if she really even wants to do this. Her lateness exacerbates that perception,” one former staffer said.

“None of it is true,” Clarke campaign spokesperson Michael Oliva said. “She actually maintains a very vigorous schedule. From early morning until late at night, she’s either traveling in her district or meeting with people in her district.”

Clarke was sufficiently concerned about how she would perform in the primary’s only debate, on local news channel NY1, that she hired Democratic political consultant Donna Brazile for her debate prep. She’s spent tens of thousands of dollars on polling and political consultants and petition signature gathering." 
The former staffers said she avoided public transit whenever possible, and had to be pushed by her mother, former City Council Member Una Clarke, to attend various events.
“There are people who’ve wondered if she really even wants to do this. Her lateness exacerbates that perception,” one former staffer said.
“None of it is true,” Clarke campaign spokesperson Michael Oliva said. “She actually maintains a very vigorous schedule. From early morning until late at night, she’s either traveling in her district or meeting with people in her district.”
Clarke was sufficiently concerned about how she would perform in the primary’s only debate, on local news channel NY1, that she hired Democratic political consultant Donna Brazile for her debate prep. She’s spent tens of thousands of dollars on polling and political consultants and petition signature gathering." 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Chameleon BK Hits All the Right Notes Where Tugboat Used To Was

Neighbors Susanne and Leslie and new cafe Chameleon BK

Coffee, tea or me? Most wise readers would choose coffee or tea. That's just fine...I ain't got time for play anyway. But coffee and a Good Morning Jerk Pulled Pork Biscuit sandwich with pal, musician, piano teacher and tireless entrepreneur Leslie Ward? Always time for that. So off to 546 Flatbush goeth le Q.

You recall Tugboat of course, one of the new breed of coffee shops to dot the Flabenue that opened 5 yrs ago. Chad and Co. recently threw in the towel (he's also part owner of the thriving Midwood Flats brau/chow joint), and that left an opening for Leslie and longtime partner Susanne to realize their dream of cafe ownership. Popping in this Sunday for a bit of brunch it's clear they've reinvigorated the spot through grit, charm, smarts and great music. The first thing the Q noticed was the terrific selection of old and rare grooves, giving the new decor a distinctly pan-Lefferts vibe that seemed reflected in the uber-hip diversified crew that steadily flowed in from 9am on. S&L greeted each customer and many customers were there.

The Chameleon BK. A great name for a terrific addition to the flowering Flabenue.

Chef Ro served up a delicious Jamaican-inspired concoction and an eclectic brunch menu is available along with classic coffee and tea shoppe fare. The Kenyan coffee hit the spot and most of all, Leslie and Suzanne's warmth and pride (it was Pride Day after all) seemed to suggest many happy returns from customers of every stripe.

I'd be inclined to give the place raves based on the owners charisma alone. But with faux objectivity let me say the place has a magic vibe and I expect super success all around.

The Chameleon BK crew

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Important Things - BBG & House Race

So tonight, if you can handle the heat (and I know you can), head up to the School of the Deaf. That's right, up on Eastern Parkway just east of the Brooklyn Museum. And if you've been blessed with good hearing, bring earplugs, because Alicia Boyd and MTOPP and her other acronym FLAC (Seriously, Flower Lovers Against Change or somesuch) are hosting a meeting on the upcoming rezoning requests at the border of the Botanic Garden. Make no mistake. These are massive projects that will lead to a serious change for the recently purchased parcels at the Spice Factory and up by Tivoli Tower. Since CB9 (and yours truly) were squashed by MTOPP (with indirect help from the Borough President and his henchwoman Ingrid) regarding a residential redevelopment compromise plan, developers are doing exactly what you'd expect. Purchasing potentially lucrative lots and applying for rezoning - project by project. We're seeing a number of plans crop up north of Empire, and soon enough you'll certainly see plans for redevelopment from the Wendy's to Utica Avenue. It's merely a matter of timing.

If you haven't been following, I realize that's a lot to take in. It's all documented in the archives here on the ol' tyme blogge, so if you have any doubts, it's all there for the perusing (search Cornell Realty for instance). Here's Boyd's poster that blatantly misrepresents the projects, but, I for one am glad the public is being warned of the impending new micro-neighborhood being planned in SoCro (no, I didn't just write that, and I never would). The project won't look as ominous as this, but yeah it'll change the view from the garden considerably, though you can pretty much ignore the nonsense about shadows. It really won't make much of a difference - not even noticeable except in early mornings when the garden isn't even open, and only at certain times of the year. (If you'd like to see the entire rezoning application and environmental study, just shoot me an email.)

And if you haven't met the charming man running against Yvette Clarke in our district, by all means come out to see and hear Adem Bunkeddeko at my dear namesake Q at Parkside from 7:30 to around 8:30 tomorrow (Thursday) morning. These rush-hour train handshakes 'n' flyerings are a big part of Adem's strategy - to hook every un-beholden-to-Clarke voter and convince them that a) Adem's not a creepy serial killer type and b) he might actually DO something with his gig in D.C. And c) he's young, and it's time to give the next generation their chance, cuz god knows MY generation fucked things up royally in just about every category. But what can you expect, when we started out jaded and listening to Grunge? Or more damning, dancing to Public Enemy and NWA and not doing a damn thing to improve racial justice. Terrible track record. And don't give me that 9/11 changed everything line. If anything, it should've galvanized, not hypnotized.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Old Gray Lady Comes Out For Adem

Well, well, well. Now THIS is interesting. The NY Times likes Adem Bunkeddeko against incumbent Yvette Clarke. Big news y'all. Big news indeed.
pic: Damon Winter for NY Times
The Q met Adem last week - the guy is cool as a cucumber in the crisper. Smart, young and boasting an immigrant-from-Uganda story that boggles the brain of this Entitled White Man from the Midwest (EWMM - pronounced Yewm).

In other words...he will undoubtedly do better than our current ho-hum Congresswoman, whom I must say in nearly 10 years of dicking around in politics here in the 'Bush, I've seen but twice. Pleasant enough...but it's time to move away from the Clarke Dynasty and give the kids a chance to shine. And if Adem takes his cues from another community organizer who used his easy-going manner to breeze to the stratosphere...

Look, he's going to vote the way you want him to, and that's really all you're getting from Yvette at this point. The Q's All In For Adem (AIFA).

Parkside-a-Palooza - This Saturday

Be part of the magic. It used to was a big slab of nothing, til your neighbors the Parkside Committee got together and turned it into an urban oasis, or urbanasis.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Don't Miss This NY Times Piece - Dollar Vans Up Close & Personal

My corner, from the Woodruff chess playing side
Neighbor Edu Bayer took the pictures. Ironically I'd JUST met him, then this came out, the most human and touching look at the City's Dollar Van culture I've ever seen (here in the NY Times). The Q is a huge fan of DV's, even if they cost $2 now (they were a buck when I moved to the 'hood). Yes, a few "cowbody" drivers are terrible aggressive drivers - I make sure I get in vans from one of the main DV companies, and always make sure the van has TLC plates and the driver has the proper registration. If you're in a hurry, or it's late or early or holidays and weekends, the B41 just doesn't cut it. And the DV is always a trip, as well as a cheap, fast trip. I've discovered so much great music by riding them and keeping my ears open.

Congrats to Edu an his wife on the birth of their son. I'm super impressed by Bayer's work, global, political and deep. You can sample on his website. So much talent around here it boggles the mind! Another reason NYC is the most exciting place in the country to live.