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, September 29, 2010

Flatbush Gardens - When Projects Go Private

If this post weren't so odd I'd say I was going for an easy laugh. While technically not in Caledonian Parkside, the Flatbush Gardens apartment complex has fascinated me ever since they started touting it on the subways a couple years ago. I'm guessing you haven't visited it personally, since it's a 20 minute walks south and east of our beloved Q at Parkside. Turns out (and this is definitely NOT news to longtime Flatbushians) it used to be the Vanderveer Projects, and still basically is, save the name change. The Housing Authority sold it, and it's now owned by the same folks who bought Starrett City, another formerly public housing complex gone private. All these Projects look a bit like their famous semi-private cousin Stuy-Town, and in this amazing ad the folks at Clipper Equity actually try to compare Flatbush Gardens favorably to it:


You're probably laughing right now, because as a savvy New Yorker you know damn well that if you want to live cheaper you gotta move farther out and away from the Town and Country subscribers. But what if you were moving to NYC and needed an affordable place to rent, and you saw Flatbush Gardens' fancy website. And you heard Brooklyn was THE place to be. That's the story behind the couple in this incredible video ad. It really has to be seen to be believed. Roll Tape.

The truth about FG is probably a little closer to the abysmal reviews posted here: Apt Ratings. So caveat emptor I guess.

Geeky epilogue:

Y'all know that Stuy-Town was bought for like a trillion dollars by Tishman Speyer. And after a couple years they had to give it up in bankruptcy court. Now, for some reason people have always proudly told how Stuy-Town and other big complexes were NEVER public housing, and that MetLife built them, and don't get them confused with them there P.J's. And technically I suppose it's true. But Robert Moses was behind the whole thing, even putting pressure on MetLife to do it, and there was rent control and tons of City and state regulations protecting the tenants, and when the City's that involved in a public-private partnership, and calling the shots, it's public housing, no matter who's name is on the title. Those days are over. Now, when people talk affordable housing, we're lucky to get a few units of Fedders houses with curbcut parking spaces.

Well, at least they have air conditioning!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best Meats My Ass

Look y'all. Let's just say it like it is. BEST MEATS on Flatbush stinks, and like I said in my post about Michael's on Nostrand, a butcher should NOT offend the nostrils. I suspect fowl play, or at least poor hygiene, and I don't trust a meat market with the initials B.M. as far as I can smell 'em.

For extra credit, quick...how many oxtails in a case? Can I get a quart of legs to wash that down?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cincinnati-Brooklyn Axis - Sometimes It All Just Fits Together

I was in Cincinnati for 36 hours on Friday and Saturday. Back in the day, my band used to play there a lot, and we were asked to play a festival. A lesser blogger might use this space to shill for his artsy fartsy rock-n-roll enterprise, but I would never cheapen the Q in that way. For sake of argument, let's just say the group's name rhymes with Gabe the True Lox.

I had a chance to walk all around the downtown area, and bear witness to the much-trumpeted renaissance of the historically significant Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The story of OTR is painfully familiar...city expands; needs immigrant labor to expand (in this case German); immigrants assimilate and become middle-class; fearing integration whites flee for the suburbs; urban poor community suffers social breakdown; neighborhood becomes drug-laden, crime-ridden and run-down; after many years the children and grandchildren of some of those first immigrants move back to town; gentrification takes hold in earnest...this is true of countless cities and neighborhoods across the country. In fact, two weeks ago I spent the weekend in Philadelphia, and a very Harlem/Bed-Stuy kinda gentrification thing has happened in West Philly...hell, Brownstoner has a whole section devoted to West Philly, an odd thing if you haven't been there to see it in action.

But you know the deal. I ain't saying nothing new. I've seen the G.D. (gentrification dance) many, many times in NYC...and I've only been here 20 years!

But I did have an epiphany of sorts. Awhile back I posted about Reuven Lifkind, the guy in Senator Eric Adams office. He and I were talking about how just a few bad apples spoil a whole block - drug dealers, gang members, junkies, Lutherans etc... He said that what you have to do is make life difficult for troublemakers and they move somewhere else. I concurred...let 'em go where they're tolerated. Hmmm.

But that's the problem isn't it? By making my problem someone else's problem I really haven't "solved" anything. Drug dealers are here on my street partly because they're not tolerated someplace else!

After my trip to OTR Cincinnati, some THINGS felt important for me to ponder, as I internalize what I've learned. Like:

Thing One: After living on Clarkson Ave for more than 7 years, I feel very attached to my neighborhood AND its problems. And I don't like people from other places making uninformed statements about this here "Other Side of the Park." But I should have some compassion...those people were me once. I was notorious for my strong opinions about things I had only heard rumors about. (Like the City school system. As if I'd ever been to a NYC public school, met a teacher OR a kid who went to one. As a matter of fact, despite all the belly aching by politicians, there's some damn good education being delivered here, though you gotta be an edumacated consumer.)

Thing Two: During the 1990s, OTR saw a grass-roots rebirth take place. It was happening slowly, and there was a sense that it was also happening organically. One landlord sold, a brave outsider bought. People started to take notice, and that G.D. started to happen. Yes, the poorest residents started to get displaced, but it was building by building, and for the law-abiding, section 8 housing was available elsewhere. Actually quite a bit of it was available, and some of those neighborhoods, while less conveniently located, were safer and more amenable to families. Not perfect, but the G.D. was somewhat sane.

Thing Three: Just a few months before 9/11, a scared Cinci cop shot a kid - and his name just happened to be mine - Timothy Thomas. This was the last straw for OTR residents, who responded first with loud protests, and then the worst urban riots (or uprising if you prefer) since L.A. in '92. The G.D. was over, and even longtime black residents got the hell out of Dodge, leaving half the neighborhood abandoned.

Thing Four: The city of Cincinnati reacted to this "opportunity" by creating 3CDC, a non-profit funded by the City's elite. Its Board is a who's who in Porkopolis (they actually used to call it that, referring to its hog industry). I'll spare you the details and cut to the chase - 3CDC acts like a government (though it's not accountable to voters), buying up land, deciding who can develop, and most importantly, making sure that gentrification takes hold to stay - and in the "right" way. And guess what? When you put that kind of muscle behind the G.D., you get results - fast and furious. That's what I saw on display this weekend. Even an old drinkin' buddy got a bunch of tax breaks to open up a snazzy, um, Brooklyn style bar.

Thing Five: This here photo isn't of OTR. It's that building at the intersection of Rutland and Flatbush.



Care to dance?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perfect Opportunity for All Three Little Pigs



Our crystal ball is on the fritz, so we anxiously await the fate of the three "Dutch Colonial" houses halfway down the southside of the block. Not long ago, they were up for sale as a threesome, and the intention was obviously to find a developer to raze them and build apartment houses. That could be fine...just as long as they aren't more of the godawful "Fedders" style curb cut monstrosities being built all over town (most notably at the corner of Bedford and Parkside. Mrs. Clarkson FlatBed still becomes noticeably upset when we walk anywhere near that corner.)

But the houses are really quite lovely as is. The current renters have taken wonderful care of the gardens, and while I'm sure the interiors need some updating, you really can't beat the price (mid 700s) to be so close to our beloved side of Prospect Park. However, I gotta call out Audrey and Bette (the agents) for these two lines from their ad:

"The viable and trendy neighborhood is now a destination for so many people in search of excellent apartment house living...also within close proximity to shopping and all the new cool spots" from the NY Times ad.

I'm not above a little healthy hyperbole. And I love my block! But trendy it ain't. And if by "all the cool new spots" you mean the Dunkin' Donuts and Wigs R Us, well then I guess you've got a point. They might be referring to Lincoln Road, or Cortelyou, neither of which do much for this ex-hipster, which, by the way, I don't think they called us in the day. "Arts-fartsy types" was the more frequent epithet.

Then again, what IS trendy? If trendy means affordable, then Parkside Caledonia might be well be the trendiest, most "viable" neighborhood around.

And which of these definitions of "viable" are they using anyway?

1. Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions.
2. Capable of living outside the uterus. Used of a fetus or newborn.
3. Capable of success or continuing effectiveness; practicable:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

311 and 205

Hey gang. 205 Parkside has been a blight on Parkside Lefferts Gardens Caledonia Southeast Prospect Park for more than two decades. Don't you think it's time we said enough is enough? This flyer was posted on the building this morning:



If you'll recall, a clever neighbor advertised the rathole for free and inconvenienced poor Moses Fried for a whole week. Free 205 Parkside.

Now Fried and Tepper have scaffolding up to answer a violation, and if the past is any gauge, it will be up for a long, long time. Already it's attracting trouble -- riff-raff using it as a makeshift shelter and cocktail lounge. Add that to Pioneer's malodorous bottle deposit station, the area around the Q at Parkside is starting to feel like like an homage to the City's glory years.

The squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Let's start squeaking.

Call 311 and complain to the dept of buildings. Call Pearl Miles et al at Community Board 9 718-778-9279 (they respond better to phone calls than emails) or call Reuven Lipkind at State Senator Eric Adams office 718-284-4700. You can email eadams@senate.state.ny.us.

And if you see Moses, tell him the Q sends his love.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What I Saw in the Morn on Hawthorne

I think it's fair to say that the Hawthorne Street Block Party was the bomb. Free sno-cones and cotton candy provided by some very sweet and fashionable post-grads,a puppet show with more imagination than the average Shari and Lambchop, a killer DJ with well-chosen loud but not tinnitus-inducing music, kids dancing, lemonade stand, Book Mobile...only bummer was that Yom Kippur meant it was Jew-less. Next year in Lefferts!

Here's a video that captures the spirit:

video

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tubleweeds Next for Flatbush Avenue?

Is our major commercial hub turning into a ghost town before our eyes? There's always been lots of turnover on the FECMA corridor (that's Flatbush from Empire to Clarkson Merchants Association and no, I didn't make it up.) In the past couple weeks, stores are going vacant by the truckload, particularly South of Flatbush Supermarket Associated (SoFlatSuperAss). Witness:





Thursday, September 16, 2010

VD Gang comes to Parkside





I gotta say, I'm no expert Gang Cryptologist. But I have a guess as to what's going on with some of this new graffiti showing up around Lefferts Parkside. Witness:

When a letter gets a strike through like the V here, it means "kill." Sometimes literally, but usually its just talk. Er, chalk. Paint. Whatever.

So it looks like someone's threatening the VD Gang - which was hardly the Latin Kings. It was a recurring Sesame Street parody sketch on the Dave Chappelle show. So I'm thinking, or maybe hoping is a better word, that this is what we'd call a Gang Graffiti Guffaw - a Triple G to the Crips. Either that or there's gonna be a rumble. And I'm hoping Crips don't read goofy blogs...I mean no disrespect fellas.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Double Rainbow? Try Double POST!!

Most days in Caledonian Parkside Gardens are bipolar. A little dab of agony, and a little dollop of ecstasy. Case in point, two pictures that pretty much say it all. Up first, agony at the community garden next to the Q at Umma Park:



After a good cry, Little Q and I lit up when we saw this sign festooned upon a post:


To C&C et al I say Zol zion mit Mazel!! (I think that means good luck -- I was born Midwestern Lutheran, so my Yiddish is a tad weak)

Monday, September 13, 2010

color me imPRESSED


When we first moved to "Parkside," we tried the French Cleaners on Parkside - aptly named Parkside Cleaners, whose owners, I might add, are only posing as French. But I gotta say PC came up wanting, and not simply because of their insistence on sticking with that poorly maintained handpainted sign (shouldn't cleaners be paying more attention to detail?). It wasn't long before Mrs. Clarkson FlatBed, always the more fashionable, kempt and comely of the pair, discovered a strong alternative to P.C. on Flatbush near Fennimore. The folks at ACE are super swell, though they too are decidedly un-French. They are, in fact, Korean. By the by, "french" cleaning and "dry" cleaning are exactly the same thing, and anyone who says differently is a braying baudet.

Tim, pictured here, is the amiable shopkeep. His folks are very sweet and industrious first generation immigrants, and they work side-by-side their second-born son. They own another shop in Staten Island, manned by Tim's brother. So the second generation is in on the act. Ace gets a thumbs up from us, for style and substance. Though I urge you to post your own recommendations anytime.

But wait...here's what the Q asks that you ponder today...the meaning of "first generation" immigrant. To some, it refers to the immigrants themselves. But to others, it means their kids. My grandparents came from the "old country." But my pops was referred to as either first or second generation, depending on whom you asked.

So which is it? Turns out there is no consensus, and that strange bit of trivia is anxiety-reducing for me. The reason I never knew which to use is that the whole English language is bipartisan on the issue. Maybe republicans say one and democrats the other? Oh and tea-partiers would rather the whole lot of 'em pack for home.

Though I ask these neo-patriots - "who's going to do your cleaning, landscaping, building, farming, nannying and cab driving if you kick out the immigrants? Maybe instead of protesting taxes all the time you'll have to do a bit of honest work." Snap!

Hey baby...give me your digits.

I find this poster of nail designs mesmerizing. And all those fingers in one place...a little nauseating.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Peter and Willie


I used to poke fun at our side of the park's so-called Imagination Playground. I'd peak in and think "man, you're darn right. With a playground that boring you better bring all the imagination you got."

How wrong I was. With most of NYC's playgrounds looking suspiciously similar, the I.P. is refreshing, and with this summer's heat, it's full shade environment made it the place to be for those of us with excitable toddlers.

So I just gotta share this tidbit about the sculpture of the kid and his dog, and the little throne that every self-respecting child under the age of 3 wants to perch upon.

This piece, featuring bronze figures of a boy reading a book with his dog on a contoured basalt boulder, sits in Prospect Park’s Imagination Playground near the Lincoln Road Entrance. The play sculpture, funded by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and inspired by Keats’ book Peter’s Chair, was created by African American artist and Brooklyn resident Otto Neals.

Born on December 11, 1930 in Lake City, South Carolina, Neals developed an early interest in art with the guidance of an older cousin. Though he attended both the Brooklyn Museum Art School and Bob Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop in Manhattan, Neals was largely self-taught and honed his skills while dedicating 36 years to the United States Postal Service. His “Spirit of ‘76” wood carving, a piece crafted from a discarded mahogany and oak postal table, is permanently displayed at the main entrance of the Brooklyn General Post Office.

Neals has also exhibited in nationwide galleries, museums, libraries, and universities, and he is a co-director and founding member of the Association of Caribbean American Artists-ACAA Art Gallery. This non-profit, Brooklyn-based organization promotes the work of African, Caribbean, and African American artists and supports Pan-American and African partnerships.


Here's more on the remarkably versatile Otto Neals. Thanks man. Nice piece. Clearly you know something about children that escaped me entirely.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Duane Reade Marketing Department Loses Mind

Lately I've been pleasantly surprised by the changing of the guard at Duane Reade. The relatively new pharmacists have been super-friendly and helpful. They've cleaned up their act back there and I actually think I'm getting the right medicine more than half of the time. And how about that Serge? The funny kid who's literally grown up working there? He's now a pharmacist assistant. It really makes me happy to see him pursuing a career path...he's whip smart, even though he's a wicked wise-cracker.

But what is UP with this DELISH business? It's getting outa hand. The geniuses at D.R.H.Q. have identified the bourgeois must-have items and given them a sassy Duane Reade twist. Noticed the names on the "premium" coffees? Five Points, Morning Rush, Firefighter's Joe and Polo Grounds. Get it? Polo Grounds! Like the famous uptown stadium of yore! So NY. So savvy.


I think they were smokin' some DELISH doobies though when they came up with this one: I mean, we get that these are knock-off Oreos. But Studio Dunkers? Like "Studio Apartment" dunkers? What the bejesus does that mean? It gets worse when you read the description:
We think New Yorkers of all ages will love our DR DelishTM Studio DunkersTM Vanilla Crème Chocolate cookies. Will you twist the top off to enjoy the deep cocoa flavor of our crispy wafer cookie? Or will you dive into the luscious vanilla creme filling to savor that oh-so-smooth sweetness? Either way, our Studio Dunkers provide the perfect combination that's sure to impress. Sure, you could play checkers with them in the park, but they're even better for dunking! Copywriters everywhere, take note.

A little bit of digging reveals that right here in America we're experiencing a "marketing revolution" known as the "private brand movement." For more sickening dogma just read this newspeak claptrap about selling the same crap at higher markup with distinctly upscale sounding brand names: Senseless Nonsense

On a related note, did you know that CVS used to stand for Consumer Value Stores? That was before CEO Tom Ryan descended from heaven with this catch phrase - Convenience, Value and Service. For that he was paid $30 million dollars in 2009.

Fellow brainwashed citizens: when is enough enough? or should we just dunk a few Delish checkers and call it a day?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sleep tight! Don't let the...

Let's get one thing straight. The Q ain't squeamish. I'm a grown man, and a big one to boot. I don't squeal, and I don't run from no critter lessen it got a few pounds on me, or poison fangs or a fin on its back. But y'all, these bedbugs have GOT TO BE STOPPED! Who's it gonna be, us or them? I say bring our boys home from Afghanistan and send 'em out to fight these babies:

Look what they're doing our fellow citizens of NYC! This is an actual face of an actual person riddled with bedbug bites:



I haven't seen any at our house, but every time I get an itch I think to myself "they don't care if you've been naughty or nice. they don't care if you bathe regularly or not. they don't even care if you're rich or poor. they just want your flesh!!! ALL OF IT!!"

I stumbled on the bedbug registry, and guess what? There have been plenty of reports in SW Lefferts Caledonian Parkside. Check this crazy site out, and remember this is just a tiny fraction of the actual cases in the area: BBR


So watch your back, WASH your back, don't take furniture from the street, don't hug people in fur coats, and sweet jesus please don't spread 'em if you get 'em! The Q is absolutely BUGGIN OUT!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

DeGucc De-Coded

Perhaps you've seen this sign posted on neighborhood poles and such:


I'm pretty sure this isn't a "Barney's Coop" style boutique moving into PLG. In fact, I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that a local rapper has a record coming out, probably on his own label. But he's got moxie, I like the cut of his gib! Growing up in Kings County, they called him Pretty Ricky, and apparently, according to his self-authored Myspace page, he had an irresistably powerful effect on the ladies: More here...DeGucc


Friday, September 3, 2010

Joseph Chetrit: The Absentee Lord of Caledonian Flatbush

Today, lil Q and I took a stroll into the belly of Caledonia, the mystical micro-hood just south of Parkside, north of Caton, west of Ocean and East of the Parade Grounds. Q-Jr loves the playground near the Parade Grounds named for fallen police officer Detective Dillon Stewart. He was killed in the line of duty in 2005 in a nabe described as East Flatbush, though they cite the corner of Flatbush and Church. Where does this mysterious East Flatbush begin anyway? Golly, now I'm thinking maybe I live in East Flatbush. That would change EVERYTHING.

I call Caledonia "Caledonia" because of the small town hospital that used to birth the babies and mend the broken bones and change the bedpans for all who called the Q at Parkside their hometrain. Except, of course, it used to be the D at Parkside, but that's another long boring story not worth repeating here. Though if long boring stories don't belong on blogs, I don't know where they belong.

Just a few years ago, the shady "Chetrit Group" picked up the whole Caledonian Campus for a cool $15 million. Location, location, location folks. This slice of property is right on the park, and in the right hands, could become the most notorious or celebrated address to pop out of nowhere since that seemingly universally maligned Richard Meier building up by G.A.P.

Just don't expect Joseph Chetrit and his four brothers to do anything about the sad and decaying structure anytime soon. They have a history of absentee landlordism. You can read the sordid details of their strategies for buildings right here: Chetrit Group

Here's to you, Joseph Chetrit. A photo album for your scrapbook:



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy Anniversary Pioneer!


The Q is curious like a cat. So when I noticed the sign above the Pioneer saying Anniversary Sale, I had to ask Sammy...congrats and what's the bargain? He looked at me kinda funny then laughed. "The anniversary was in March!" My heart sank. I thought maybe those coconut waters would be, like, 10 for a dollar. Or two-for-one Thomas' English Muffins, extra nooks and crannies (less is more!). A giant tub of generic mayonnaise for TWO BITS?!! The possibilities are endless...

Turns out the anniversary was number three for the "new" owners. And guess what they paid for the place? According to the below historical posting, they were asking $1.6 million cash, plus the $250,000 or so in inventory. Ever wonder what the inventory at a supermarket was worth? Try a quarter of a million samolians, and that's a pretty small joint compared the 'burbs. That's a lot of pop tarts, my friends.

Anyhow, check this out if you're curious like the Q.


Pioneer For Sale Listing

Oh, by the way, if you haven't heard, there's going to be a little get together this weekend for, oh, maybe two million people and twenty million tiny little flags! Let the painfully loud but wildly joyous music begin!