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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Taste Just Like Cherry Cola

What are the chances? Just days after I posted about Salon Lola on Nostrand, a very different sort of hair place with the name Lola's opened just around the corner from me on Flatbush at Clarkson, next to the Subway (the sandwich shop, not the mass transportation system). At night, this Lola's seems out of a sci-fi movie, with silver and gold shiny mannequins with nothing on but hair. Long, mostly curly, wigs. Obviously a place designed to make an impression. Unlike other hair sellers, this place is spare and space-age. Gotta love it. Which reminds me of a tip for you...

For that hard to shop for white person in your family, I suggest a copy of Chris Rock's "Good Hair," particularly if he or she is confused why so many hair places in a predominantly black neighborhood. This is must-know stuff, and I'm being straight up here, what with my straight hair and all. Which until I met Desmond at Dr. Cuts I thought was curly. Straight hair, I learned, is what a black barber might call your hair Mr. White Pants even if wasn't what you'd call straight. You know, Caucasian hair? Not kinky? Dear Lord, if you're just coming off the bus from Nebraska, you got a LOT to learn. Take your time. Life just keeps getting richer.

Now you want to know the craziest part of this post? When Chris Rock's daughter asked him one day why she didn't have "good hair" he was hit hard, and decided to make a documentary. And what's the name of Chris Rock's daughter?

You guessed it. Lola.

No Mas Fooling Around

Toomey's parking lot turns into a Mas Camp. What's that, ask the uninitiated? Mas is short for masquerade. The beautiful costumes for Carnival (this coming Monday) are made, traded, bought, tried on. Each group marching has its own place to prepare. Steel bands practice. Community. Food, drink. Good times.

Or at least, that's what I'm told by the folks in this picture. The mural adds a nice touch to the scene:

Toomey's parking lot. Here's a good story about steel pan bands looking for space to rehearse.
Look for mas camps all over the neighborhood. Some have been doing the "pop up" thing for years in unleased storefronts or commercial properties. I remember a couple years ago when Lili's Millenium on Flatbush became a costume showroom. Some of the friendliest people in the world are from Trinidad and Tobago. Stop in and say hi or listen to the music. The history of Carnival and J'Ouvert? Dang interesting. Read on, unless you're annoyed that I'm even writing about such an obvious thing:

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is celebrated before the commencement of the Lenten season. From 1783 for half a century, the French developed their Carnival , which was noted to be a season of gay and elegant festivities extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. These festivities consisted of dinners, balls, concerts and hunting parties.
The Africans started to participate in the festivities from 1833 after the Emancipation Bill was passed. The Africans brought Canboulay to its festivities. Canboulay was first played on August 1st, Emancipation Day , but subsequently took place after midnight on Dimanche Gras, the Sunday before Carnival. In early celebration of the festival by the masses activities were held over the three days preceding Ash Wednesday. However in the face of over 60 years of criticism from the upper class about the low standard of Carnival and strong feelings expressed about the desecration of the Sabbath, in 1943 Carnival on the street was restricted to the Monday & Tuesday.
Okay, that's a pretty sterile description. J'ouvert is inseparable from Carnival, and starts late at night on Sunday and goes til dawn. A crowd of revelers marches, and they come down Clarkson outside my window. For the first couple of times I thought I was dreaming. It's craaaaaazzzyyy y'all! You've got to see it and hear it. Smearing paint and oil on the bodies was originally to avoid being recognized. What I didn't get for a long time was that since slaves were forbidden from participating in the celebrations, they started their own WAY more exciting parties.

If you're new the neighborhood, keep your eyes and ears open as the week becomes weekend becomes full on out of control mayhem. Try to be patient with the noise if that's a problem for you. This is the biggest Carnival celebration in America outside of New Orleans Mardis Gras. Why, you might ask, is it done all over again at the end of summer? Dang, if you were into parties like this wouldn't you do them, like, ALL THE TIME? If it's good enough for the young American Electric Daisy Carnival set...

I mean, had you noted that the word Carnival seems perfectly matched in these two cultural phenomena?

More likely to hear deadmau5

More likely to hear Machel Montano

How To Buy Kings

Ambassador bought the Kings. The theater that was to reinvent Flatbush, the Kings Theater, opened this year to much fanfare and a few key first-year shows. I saw Bjork. Diana Ross. It was outstanding, says Q. I saw Disney Princesses live. It sucked, just as I figured. Canned music. Even the actors voices were canned with actors miming. For a multi-gazillion dollar company that's all about pizzazz you'd think they could do spectacle right. In practice, they could've strung it out a couple weeks and called it The Barf Festival. The barf probably would have been canned as well. Canned barf.

Anyhow, the Q caught a lot of flack for suggesting that a 3,000 seat theater in the middle of Brooklyn was not a financially feasible proposition. That's alright, I know people like to be positive, and I do too. Still it's really, really hard to fill that many seats on a regular basis in a town chock full of exciting venues. Predictably, the shows at Kings are few and far between. It's just a weird size and place for a venue. Yes, occasionally something happens there that creates buzz, like when local heroes The National or Sufjan Stevens perform to rapt indie crowds. But nothing that would support full-time workers beyond bare bones staffs. I spoke to one ticket taker who said just that - it's hard to cobble together part-time work like that in order to make a living wage.

So it comes as no surprise that the theater has been sold. To another pie-in-the-sky producer. Ambassador. And they already OWN a theater in Manhattan. On Broadway, another low-margin business that's actually world famous for first-run theater. What can we expect at the Kings? Probably more of the same. And maybe (here's the great irony) more touring companies of Broadway plays. As in touring all the way over the bridge.

I still think that regular showing of classic, family films is the way to go. And cult films. Doesn't cost much to purchase, and if it's curated right, I think big groups of people would love to go and sing along to Sound of Music. Or The Wiz. Rocky Horror Picture Show. And the occasional world premiere of a movie, with movie stars in tow. Open only on weekends.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Clarkson Hood Love

Angel and Carlito outdid themselves. Over six hours of our block party, they transformed a dismal untended plywood barricade on a wildly overgrown vacant lot into a mural dedicated to the people of our block. Clarkson Hood Love indeed.


More Clarkson Hood Love below:
DJ Milk Money shows a young helper how to scratch, digital style

Melvina always leads the kids of 60 Clarkson in old-school games
Hanging out and playing on a traffic-less street

Strong showing from the karate klub

Janice Thomas (no relation), a force on the block for 30 years
Thanks to her and a collection plate, no one goes hungry
We think we finally figured out who's lived the longest on the block. Til recently it was "that Jewish lady," but now it appears that Irene Gonzales, who moved to 49 Clarkson in 1972 is leading the pack. Her twin sons Randy & Sandy are perhaps the hardest working handymen I've ever seen. They put their heart into every kind of job you can imagine, and always seem to be rushing from one gig to another. Like a few other folks on the block they look tough walking down the street, but turn out to be sweet as pie and always willing to lend a hand or chew the fat.

I may not be a religious guy, but today I'm feeling blessed to be living the Sesame Street of my dreams. I swear I came to NYC for days like these, and I know for a fact my young girls will never forget these fun-filled summer afternoons, surprises aplenty. All the better, my oldest (6) rode her bike by herself today for the very first time. On the street, the closed down street. It took my breath away to see her riding off in front, and away, from me. Now I know why parents bring that moment up when talking about their kids, even long after they're grown. It was the day I knew for sure that one day she would be leaving me.

And that, my friends, is my number one job. To prepare her for that day.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Shooting at Ali's Roti

D. Iudici for Daily News

A passer-by just noted a murder at Ali's, the Hookah bar and roti shoppe. Any word? Glass shattered, tons of cops and dudes in suits.

Here's the Daily News on it. Four wounded, one dead. Ugh.

From Vinnie at the 71st:

Today at approximately 3AM shots were fired inside of 589 Flatbush Ave. Three victims were shot. One male was shot numerous times in his head and body and was pronounced DOA at the scene. A second male was grazed. The other victim was female and was shot in her stomach. Both these victims are in stable condition. Anyone with information please call the 71 Precinct Detective Unit at 718-735-0501.

And further from the Daily News:

A dispute turned deadly when a man opened fire at a Brooklyn bar early Friday, killing his adversary and wounding three partygoers with stray bullets, officials said. The shooter was sitting calmly inside the Buda Hookah Lounge, a bar on Flatbush Ave. in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, before getting into an argument with his 27-year-old victim, cops said.

The killer whipped out a gun and shot the victim, whose name was not immediately released, in the head and midsection about 2:55 a.m., cops said.
The gunman fell to the ground as he fired, leaped back to his feet and fired wildly as he scrambled out of the lounge, packed with some 70 people for “Ladies Thursday.”

“I was standing outside letting people in and I heard one of the shots fly by my head,” said bar security guard James Cruz. “Everyone just started running. They were trying to get out any way they could, running out the front, back, side — however they could get out.” As customers fled, the victim lay dying. “I saw a guy lying between two tables,” said worker Sean Johnson. “His friend was standing over him saying, ‘Please don't die. Hang on. Don't die. Don't die!’”
The victim was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where he died 35 minutes later. He was a regular at the bar, employees said.

"I saw him when they wheeled him out,” Cruz said. “He was wearing all white, a white shirt and pants, but he was covered in blood. His eyes were open and rolled back into his beard. You could hear some breathing, like those very last gasps of air coming out his body.” Three other people hit by stray bullets were taken to Kings County Hospital, police said.

The Old Gray Lady Speaks - 60 Clarkson

pic by Sam Hodgson

The Q is feeling good to day, that the Paper of Record's Vivian Yee has done a big piece on the implications and injustices of 60 Clarkson, my troubled neighbor. On the eve of our annual block party, when dozens of homeless children will hopefully be frolicking up and down the block and eating well for once, maybe grabbing some of the donated books or dancing to DJ Milk Money or a live band, we can only hope that the City can get this issue sorted out. In fact, just last night, I learned from CB9 District Manager Pearl Miles about a new housing subsidy program that can keep folks who have fallen behind on rent from becoming homeless in the first place. It used to be called Advantage, but it disappeared in a flash of legislative ineptitude. Here's to a brighter future, rather than the dog eat tail story inherent in the 60 Clarkson battle.

But if you live in the neighborhood, or anywhere in the fast-changing City, this one is a must-read:


And lest you doubt that Barry Hers is a class A scumbag, his assertion that he could get three times the rent he gets from the City, his chunk of which is $2300 a month? This is what he said when the City tried to cut it from $2300 to $2000 God save his soul:

 “I said, my rent, I’m not getting high rent,” Mr. Hers recalled in the interview. “People in this area are paying two and a half or three times that. If I took a cut, how would I be able to live?”

Shut up. Just shut up, Barry.  Just shut the f$%@ up already.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Soulful Dining On Nostrand

Nicole Thomas, Tyrell Turner and Dina Anderson - at your service

The Q might as well change his name to Nostrandamus. As in, I'm predicting more and more fabulous choices for dining and shopping along The Nose, as I like to call it, starting today.

Tonight I joined some cohorts on the Community Board for dinner at Soulful Bistro, a 4-month old eatery just north of Empire a couple blocks. Like it's name implies, soul food is definitely in the house, but the menus definitely more than you'd expect from a Southern restauranteur, who happens to be a dazzling lady from Tennessee named Dina Anderson. She's added her own family recipes, even thrown in some West Indian fare. The Q sampled catfish, ribs, macaroni and cheese, yams and chicken (it was a buffet for this special occasion, though normally you'd be doing bistro style, so no I didn't go all Orson Welles on the place). Killer iced tea. Nice small dining room, a bar that'll be open soon (byob for now) and the kind of sweet unassuming charm that would make this place the talk of the town if your town was a wee bit smaller than, say, NYC.

Along with the outstanding Food Sermon (5 stars on Yelp after 32 reviews!) just down the block on Rogers, there's some serious good eats happening north of Empire. Will East Lefferts keep up? Well, Taste of Brooklyn, also on Rogers but below the Mason Dixon seems to be packin' 'em in. Stick to the Q and he'll do the gorging so you don't have to. Or feel free to alert us to your own favorites that I've yet to mention.

Striking Fear Into the Deathstar

Did you read this? Streetsblog reports that DOT is afraid of Brooklyn Community Boards reactions and tailors bike lane proposals to suit each's temperature. From the below, you'll read my favorite line "have you read any coverage of CB9? They are literally disintegrating over gentrification." 

Look, I'm the incoming CB9 Transportation chair. If you don't like common sense proposals to keep traffic moving AND keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe...well, let's just say that you and I will have to agree to disagree? Come voice your thoughts, third Wednesday of every month at CB9 headquarters. But I don't want to hear any of this crap about how the city's being taken over by the "terrorists at Transportation Alternatives," as was recently shouted in a CB9 meeting. Terrorists? Wow. Hate to think what you're feeling is on ISIS.

Oh, and for a larf, check this out. I got the inside scoop today from an inside source on what happens each time Alicia Boyd gets hauled into the precinct. Smiles and hugs. That's right. She gets all quiet and sweet and tells 'em it's all an act, not to take it personally. Funny, she was never so backpedally with me or any of the other folks she hurled insults at! Not that you and I didn't suspect, but it was nice to get confirmation that her fits are full of merde. Problem is, now that she's started to get violent in order to get some good video, the cops aren't so warm to her tactics. The hugs aren't being returned anymore. 

Back to the article from Streetsblog on DOT:
Community Board 9 has a mixed record on bike lanes — its members pushed DOT to add them to an Empire Boulevard road diet in 2009, yet weren’t able to muster enough votes last year to support a road diet with bike lanes on Franklin Avenue.
On both Kingston and Brooklyn, DOT proposed keeping two motor vehicle lanes on the southernmost blocks near Kings County Hospital and going down to one lane north of Lefferts Avenue. Though there is plenty of room for bike lanes in CB 9, the plan doesn’t include them. Instead, parking lanes on both sides of the street would be enlarged to up to 13 feet wide [PDF].
Why didn’t DOT propose extending the bike lanes south into CB 9? I asked DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo after a press conference this morning. “There’s differences in widths and traffic flow, and those sorts of things,” he said.
Later, he cited rapid neighborhood change as a factor. “Have you read any coverage of CB 9? They are literally disintegrating because of gentrification. Literally disintegrating,” Russo said, referring to rancor over a rezoning study for Empire Boulevard.
Trouble is, ditching the bike lanes didn’t help DOT get CB 9’s support. Although its transportation committee backed the proposal in June [PDF], the full board voted it down later that month, DOT says.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gamechangers on Nostrand

What, huh? Daily goods from farmers plus coffee and curated edibles? On Nostrand at Hawthorne? For the fresh eggs and chicken alone I'd sell my soul. I love egg salad. I love chicken salad. I wonder which came first?

You've GOT to have heard about it by now, and maybe you're pinching yourself. Killer coffee and tea, Balthazaar pastries, fresh sandwiches, a light and airy cafe, curated specialty thangs, and this is the part that kills me - freshly delivered farm stuff from the owner's family farm Upstate. Say what? This must be Cobble Gardens Greene, no?

Actually, it's the corner of Hawthorne and Nostrand. It's called the Starliner Cafe & Market and I'll be damned, it's even open now for lotsa said stuff and more coming. So what I'm saying is...hustle over and share your thoughts here. Or hustle over and forget the thoughts. Just enjoy. Because this place is going to get found out, and once the world finds out about it, well, you won't be among the first to know anymore now will you? Btw, that's Isaac and Gail Peachin from the left, proud mom and formerly .com son, who apparently survived Jeff Bezos to tell the tale and...start a cool business near YOU dear reader. Right on.

And as if that weren't enough, any day now Desserts by Michael Allen is gonna open up on Nostrand as well, just north of Rutland. From what the Q hears, this guy is some sort of Chairman of Chocolate, and I for one can't wait to sample his stash. IM Pastry too a few doors up? I mean dang, Nostrand. What the HELL is going on?

and of course Tiffany & Jo-Laine at IM:

Landmark or Pockmark? Meeting September 16

Takes lots and lots of work. But if you're in it for the long haul, there's always landmarking. Since South Crown Heights is just north of "the border," words to the wise: