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, October 13, 2019

Living on Top of One Another in Flatbush

Thursday night, a neighbor was shot dead, this time inside the old-skool KHF bodega on Flatbush near the remarkable Risbo and not-so-remarkable Parkside pizza bistro. I mention the restaurants because by the time the sun went down on Friday, the block from Parkside to Winthrop was shoulder to shoulder with people, and the busy restaurants provided a stark backdrop for a scene of overwhelming sorrow, anger and contemplation, mixed with shots from plastic cups. "First Class" liquors was doing a mighty business. Actually, First Class liquors is always doing a mighty business, but this night the line was especially long.

Dwayne Smith. If you lived here awhile you'd probably recognize him, unless you're the sort that chooses not to look men in the eyes. It's a weird thing, right? You want to be friendly, a good neighbor, but you also don't want to start nothing. Like the code that says "don't engage the schizophrenic when they're in the middle of a meltdown," these self-protective behaviors become perpetuating, and still when I actively engage, say, black men walking alone on my block it's if I've broken some Flatbush commandment. I do it anyway, hoping I'll break through to the other side, like the Jim Morrison I once wished I were. These are dances we long-timers do without thinking, but sometimes we do think, and this is what I've been thinking.

Dwayne lived on Lenox, the first block off Flatbush. The newspapers quoted family and friends saying he was a good father to his seven kids. He was an aspiring filmmaker, having made the video you can watch below for his friend the rapper Marz Money, another Lenoxonian. The shooting happened Thursday night, and by Friday the candles came out, dozens of them, each a remembrance of a relationship deep or distant, but the sheer number of candles and mourners suggested Dwayne was a longtimer too. Someone with deep roots, friends from school and life. And clearly at least one person, the murderer, was not a friend at all, or maybe had been once. He hated Dwayne, or his crew did at least, enough to shoot him in cold blood, assassin-style. These are the sorts of killings that used to be so much more common, even around here, even just 5 to 10 years ago. And certainly through the late '80s and '90s, this area saw more than its share of the bloodshed that overwhelmed the City. It was brutal back then, and apparently for some, it still is.

Rather than pretend to know Dwayne well, perhaps it's worth sharing some of his artistry as video maker, since I really do think the track and video say a lot, and besides this is an excellent portrait of the neighborhood you and I share, and if your demographic matches mine, it's not OUR neighborhood anymore than the one you see here, which, if you weren't told was right on top of you, you probably wouldn't even recognize. Amiright?

For better or worse, the Q's set down roots here too. I have friends (and not a few enemies), some deep some shallower. I walk down the street and share hellos along the way. I smile as often as I can, recognizing that even those I don't know may know me, or may THINK they know me, and I give them no reason to reinforce their worst suspicions. I've been here 16 years and more than ever I'm aware that my presence is both threatening and annoying to many people of color, though in all fairness the vast majority of people couldn't care less. Like all of us, Dwayne had his enemies, exes, resentments, fears. He wasn't so much younger than me that we could have been friendly, had the stars aligned. Maybe I'd have seen him in one of those "church basements" I go to, trudging the happy road of destiny.

Walking through the makeshift wake on the Flatbush sidewalk outside the crime scene - a Brooklyn ritual that would blow the friggin' minds of those in the suburbs or on the backroads. I heard laughter and tears. I recognized a few faces too...from my block, some whom I haven't seen in quite some time. Either priced out, grown out, or merely moved out, these were folks that clearly knew Dwayne from his earliest days. Stories were told. Liquor flowed. A parked police car kept its lights on, and the cops told me they were keeping an "eye on things."  They weren't there to stop the open containers or force people to move along. They recognized the scene, one of way too many, of a low-rent ceremony, and seemingly even the NYPD realize how cruel it would be to stop the DIY wake. Cruel, and foolish.

At one point I heard someone say "Dwayne would've wanted it this way." Indeed.

So what to make of it? We live in a phenomenally diverse neighborhood, but we often live on top of or beside each other. Dwayne would not have described his neighborhood the same way I do. The physical markers might be the same, but the hangouts, the people, the culture would read very different. Looking at the video that he made with his friend (I'm making assumptions, since the video is mentioned in the Daily News piece and it's clearly Marz Money's "big" video, those quotes used in the News piece to transmit a certain smugness that's hard to miss) I'm struck by the artistry (it's really quite good) of the lyrics, delivery and content. In the narrative, a young man, perhaps Marz himself, has spent time locked up, and he's returned to Lenox Road to friends and family, with big plans to remake his life. This part of the American experience - the return from prison - reflects some deep shit.

Confession time. When I moved here after making the gypsy rounds of gentrifying Brooklyn, I thought that I was the ideal person to move to a mostly black neighborhood. Why? Because I don't spend a minute of my brain thinking black folks are less than, or to be feared, nor do I think my mere presence needs to signify anything other than a willingness to hop into the present day Flatbsh olio. I was going to be, and continue to try to be, though it's getting harder, myself. Treating people of color with dignity and respect, to me, meant treating them no different. It meant calling out jerks for jerks, and elevating small-town heroes and hanging out on stoops and shooting the shit. It meant neither patronizing nor ass-kissing. It meant recognizing that no two people are alike (we're all the same? what bullshit!) and that until I'd heard someone's story I had no business making assumptions.

I've always believed, and never as much as now, that it's those assumptions that are killing us. As a country, for sure. Assumptions about immigrants, blacks, whites, asians, republicans, fly-over folks, celebrities,'s a recipe for disaster. Like Sarajevo before us, the world-class city on the verge of greatness, we too can descend into hatred, chaos and who knows maybe ethnic cleansing. There is no rule that we will survive the current moment, that our nation will somehow continue some inexorable path towards a more perfect union.

And now I pose the hypothetical Emotional Experiment. Had the person killed been white, a parent you know from the playground, someone you know from the occasional party or through gossip at school...would it feel more close, scary, tragic and perhaps even "too close to home?" as I've sometimes heard these violences described?

Dwayne's death made me think this stuff. It all makes a sad sense in my mind, and I offer no solutions. The old yarn about treat your neighbor as you would yourself? Makes sense if we're all the same. But the differences are what make us Flatbush.

How do you do this, y'all?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Add the Last Y for Yummy

Ever been to AmThai on Church Ave? No need to hike ALL THAT WAY. Now you gotcher own AmThai, and the truth comes out. The Am isn't for American. It's for Amy!

Amy Thai Bistro. Same lovely family, same good home cooking, if your home were Taipei. Don't miss it. 545 Flatbush. And if you want it delivered, call the shop directly so they don't get gouged by the Seamlesses of the world? It's actually QUICKER. Ever noticed that? It's quicker to call, plus you get to chat and ask questions. Just call. (718) 462-1555

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Flatbush Zombie House - Not as Safe as the Name Would Imply?

Oy. One assault is ten too many. But is it possible the bar hasn't taken safety seriously? Obviously any booze joint can be a breeding ground for creeps. But it takes vigilance and skill to make sure things don't get out of hand.

Following this story...if there's nothing to be ashamed of, why close down when the media shows up? Answer the questions. Show you're a good neighbor and that you refer any and everything to the police.

It's really not rocket science.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Sunday You Must Taste Flatbush

There is little need these days to leave the neighborhood. Go local whenever possible. Drink local. Get your hair did local. Go to school local. And of course eat. Eat local. Taste the Flabenue.

So without further a-chew, here's what you need to know to support local bizzes and kid-centric non-profit Seeds in the Middle. Sunday. BUY TICKETS HERE or at Awesome gifts. My understanding is you can buy either 4 or 11 taste bunches of tickets then walk around to any of the businesses and get your taste, hang, get a feel for the joint then be able to honestly write a google review which, if positive, will help draw even more people to the place. So I hear. Apparently Google is really taking off. You heard it here first.

Tickets are on sale at Awesome Brooklyn, 617 Flatbush Avenue near Fenimore Street, or online.
The restaurants participating:
Allan’s Bakery – 1109 Nostrand Avenue
Awesome Brooklyn-Breukelen Rub – 617 Flatbush Avenue
Bishop Wells Sandwich Shop – 1206 Nostrand Avenue
Bonafini – 663 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn Perk Coffee – 605 Flatbush Avenue
Camille’s – 711 Flatbush Avenue
Camillo – 1146 Nostrand Avenue
The Chameleon BK – 546 Flatbush Avenue
Daleview Biscuits and Beer – 1170 Nostrand Avenue
DRINK PLG Wine & Spirits – 492 Flatbush Avenue
Edie Jo’s – 630 Flatbush Avenue
Erv’s – 2122 Beekman Place
Gold Room BK – 429 Rogers Avenue
Ix Restaurant Food Coffee & Cacao – 43 Lincoln Road
J & J Delicious Cakes – 664 Flatbush Avenue
Jamerican Produce (Hip2B Healthy Market) – 720 Flatbush Avenue
Midwood Flats – 577 Flatbush Avenue
Mo’s Original – 453 Rogers Avenue
Pels Pie Co. – 446 Rogers Avenue
Peppa’s – 738 Flatbush Avenue
Salem’s Hour – 1110 Nostrand Avenue
Taqueria El Patron Mexican Grill – 51 Lincoln Road
Toast – 1130 Nostrand Avenue
The Zombie House – 734 Flatbush Avenue
Learn more at and purchase tickets here.
Additional Tastes of Brooklyn Fall 2019 events include: Tastes of Franklin Avenue on Oct. 19 and the Smith Street Soup Fest on Oct. 26.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Boss Is Hiring

doesn't El Jefe mean "the boss?" did i make my first spanglish joke with the headline?

The other location gets some pretty serious rave reviews for its Mexican-Panamanian fusion. Read about owner Onishka Camarena here. Look you can get your computer fixed with my man Abdo next door than saddle over to El Jeffe for some killer nachos.

Speaking of which...were you aware that nachos were invented in 1943? By someone named Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya?

Look it up. S'all true.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Alicia Boyd Takes Neighborhood Hostage: Judge Orders Closed-Door Negotiations

The takeover is complete.

Despite the fact that private citizen Alicia Boyd is neither elected nor appointed to any public office or position, she will now be negotiating with the Department of City Planning, developers and (potentially, if she shows up) Councilperson Laurie Cumbo, on the fate of the neighborhood just east of the beloved Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

To the Q, this is such a stunning and undemocratic turn of events that I fail to understand how any sitting judge would see fit to offer Boyd and her cronies such enormous bargaining power ON OUR BEHALF and without scrutiny. (Story in Brooklyn Eagle)

Check this insanity out. For a crew who spends most of their time decrying a lack of transparency in civic matters, this "private session" crap takes the crumbcake:
Boyd agreed to participate in the settlement talks, which will take place in a private session in the judge’s chambers, and will include lawyers for the entities they are suing. Boyd, Ellis and Hollingsworth are suing City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, the Department of City Planning and its Director Marisa Lago, plus Winston Von Engel, who is the department’s Brooklyn director. The City Planning Commission and the city Buildings Department are also targeted in the suit.

Think about it...the Community Board by law has a role to play in the ULURP (zoning changes) process. Those 50 members of the community represent many walks of life and mindsets. Their job is to deliberate and make recommendations. The elected Borough President weighs in. The duly elected Councilperson decides, follows by a full-Council vote, again consisting of elected officials. Also in the mix are the landowners and developers and the Department of City Planning, beholden to the (elected) Mayor and his housing and job and economic growth initiatives.

And then, there's un-elected, un-expert and un-civil Ms. Alicia Boyd (with Janine Nichols and Nichola Cox and LaShaun Ellis among others). The scorched-earth Boyd continues to pummel all things deliberative and decent, sitting in a room with the powers that be, deciding your fate through supposed "good faith" negotiations. She's entitle to sue, though god knows it's gotten her (and us) nothing. But negotiating on our behalf?

Don't get me wrong. The Q argued for height limits long before Boyd became Queen of Empire Boulevard. Had we negotiated the zoning changes years ago we would not be here today, vainly attacking one building projects at a time. She'll tell you she's a hero, but it's crucial to remember she got us into this mess to begin with.

At bottom, the movement to protect you (the people) had things to say in their latest missive to supporters. Hey, they're entitled to their opinion. And apparently, they're entitled to YOURS too, in a private session in judge's chambers.

 Here's your heroes, and the actual renderings, rather than the hyperbole put forward by Boyd and co. And remember, this isn't even the REALLY big buildings being proposed, the ones that even the garden is pissed about. Though, after Boyd's mistreatment, the BBG wants nothing to do with what otherwise would be a natural ally. I'm betting the Garden will come out okay, albeit with more buildings in the horizon. Democracy and civility however, will continue to take hits on the regular.
photo by Lore Croghan of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Judge Requests Councilwoman’s Laurie Cumbo
Presence at Negotiations

On September 17, 2019 at the oral arguments hearing, Judge Boddie, stated that a win/win could happen if settlement talks were considered and requested Councilwoman majority leader for the City Council, Laurie Cumbo, to attend these talks.  The reason she might be involved is not only was she the deciding vote on this rezoning, but she made public statements on the record that her vote was based upon a “miracle” community benefit agreement, that the City conceded does not exist. 

Negotiations Talks have been scheduled in private in the Judges chambers on
Monday, September 23, 2019 at 2:30 pm.

Motion to Dismiss on this case is still scheduled for
October 7, 2019, at 9:30 am, if the negotiations fall through.
Image above: Janine and Nichola, members of FLAC at Court House hearing.

Oral arguments for the case went on for about an hour and a half and a few things became crystal clear to the community; the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) hearing contained lying testimony both by Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and the developers under oath.

The most stunning point in the case was when Ms. Boyd who was acting as a prose litigant in this case produced the transcript of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) hearing, where again Cornell’s attorney stated on the record that Cornell owned property and described in detail the work that Cornell was conducting on the land, including environmental clean ups, working with the government entities to get permits and their fear of not getting financing for the project if a TRO was signed.

However, once the lawsuit itself was served on Cornell all of a sudden Cornell  does not own anything! Never had in fact!  When it was pointed out that Cornell's lawyers and representatives stated otherwise at ULURP public hearings and at court hearings, Cornell current attorney, the fifth in this case, stated that the lawyers were not under oath. She was Implying that attorneys, who are officers of the court, are not obligated or don’t have to tell the truth at public hearings!  Of course that answer got a response, not only from the Judge, but from the overflowing crowd of residents who had attended the hearing and were privy first hand to the amount of corruption and lies this rezoning has endured, so far.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Q's Life Hack #1: Nachos in the Bath. Plus, too little childcare

We've noticed the girls' favorite Youtube indie-stars like the phrase "life hack," and we've decided the Q needs to take a stab. In this case, things that we adults can do that bring an element of excitement, style or freedom to the otherwise dreary reality of middle-age. A recurring segment begins.

Q's Life Hack #1: Do you like homemade nachos? Do you enjoy a leisurely hot bath? Why not combine them? After the kids were in bed, and as the Mrs. was reading, I made a plate of delicious nachos, brought it up to the bathroom and enjoyed two of life's simple pleasures, simultaneously.

Life Hack Score: 8 1/2
Nachos in the Bath

Oh, and it appears Lefferts and Crown Heights are "daycare" deserts, according to this report from Scott Stringer, who I just emailed to suggest Life Hack #1. The guy always seemed a bit overworked and could use a little "me" time.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Q Station Makeover

Did Queer-Eye get a-hold of our local subway entrance? Cuz dang it's lookin' good! (it's not much more than a paint job and new light bulbs, but we'll take it!) For 15 years I've fantasized about heading out there at 3am with a buck of paint. You know how it is...every day you see the same dilapidated crapola and you start to feel like crapola. A lesson there perhaps for the power of upkeep and appearances when dealing with city strife.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Marketing the Corner

You've all seen it. You've wondered WTF is that tumor on the head of 715 Flatbush? Two more-incongruous surfaces one cannot imagine. And yet, here we are. What was once Nelson's barbershop and a combination driving school/money order/real estate//fax/email and legal beagle has become 242 Flatbush (the upscale market rate apartment building) and 715 Flatbush the soon-to-be something that nearly everyone has opined will be either a Starbucks or Hungry Ghost or Ramen Place or Red Lobster, depending on your outlook and/or hubris at rumor-mongering.
This rendering makes it look almost passable. You, dear reader, know the ugly truth.
Like many other buildings nearby, including the gorge mansions along Parkside Avenue, 715 Flatbush was designed by the prolific architect Louis Gold. More on his story by Susan De Vries from B-stoner. Given the current zoning, this sort of thing may become much more common along Flatbush Avenue, where some beautiful old buildings could get taller without necessarily coming down altogether. I expect a canyon of 5-7 story new construction, particularly in all the tax-payer and boarded up buildings south of Empire, of which there are still many.

I think it's worth noting that the asking price for the commercial space is not really affordable by many mom-and-pops. The $70/sq/ft/yr means you'll need nearly $100,000 a year to sign a lease. High-end retail, chain stores, maybe restaurants and bars etc. tend to fall into this category. With the location being a commuter goldmine, it's hard to see how this sort of stall could become anything-like the funky hodge-podge currently renting along the Flabenue.

And the apartments? Well, about what you'd expect. At a price considerably higher than my mortgage you could get a rare 3-bedroom that actually looks kinda nice. It'll set you back $3,300 a month, but it does have newness and size, 2 bathrooms and 7 rooms. I can't really tell whether this is a "deal" or not, because there's not a lot that's comparable. If you're in the hunt you could always start here. It's hard to imagine it doesn't shoot up past $4K a month soon, but what the hell do I know. I couldn't afford it even if I wanted it.

l will say that any place with a staircase gets a bump up in my view, even if it goes nowhere. The place is actually quite cheap if this is a Stairway to Heaven, though I suspect it's more of a Stairway to Futon.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

They're Just Bowling Now...

A row of townhouses? Yep. Just swoop in, buy 'em all and put up 7 stories of market-rate bullshit. Hey, people gotta live somewhere. And this side of Flatbush is starting to become as dense as Caledonia, the Q's name for the area south of Parkside between Ocean and, I dunno, East 17th or so. Or as a friend once called it "the canyons." Dense. Not unlike the local community board.

This new one - 160 Clarkson - is just a block from me. Back in the day, like, I dunno, last year, this would've pissed me off. But really, what are we to expect? We have a dumb-as-dirt councilman and near-zero political clout. Plus wackos suing everyone and their mothers if they don't tow the right activist line. Nothing affordable this time, by the way. Not even for middle-incomes.

If it weren't true, I surely couldn't make it up. They say gentrification is about white wealth pouring into a poor neighborhood. And we've all learned how true that is. But in the case of this neck of Flatbush, it's almost an inside job.

Here's what's coming down, for 75 feet and nearly 120 units.

Oh and if that weren't enough, you know the beautiful but neglected two story on the southeast corner of Clarkson and Rogers? Just bought for $20 million. This is one of the first properties I looked at a few years ago when a buddy and I were looking to find a location for a community center. Pretty sure that was the same year that John McCain was the bad guy. How little we knew how much worse it could get.