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, August 31, 2011

Last Night At the Clubhouse

About 35 people turned out last night for a Crime Forum meeting at "the Clubhouse," as I like to call Senator Adams' office on Flatbush. He really does put himself out there...I'm impressed by the cut of his jib, and he held court admirably. The Police Captain (not Inspector Simonetti...who was that guy? a little help? handsome, with a deep Morgan Freeman lilt and a bit of Caribbean accent?) was impressively well-informed about the minutiae of the 'hood, and despite some testy questions from the gatherers, it was largely an informative and fruitful meeting.

That's the good news. The simple truth is there's not much being done to address longstanding issues folks have with the "hot spots" in the neighborhood. The answers - not enough manpower, no money for cameras, can't do nothing about low-level dealing, insufficient 911 and 311 calls to warrant more resources, not enough people talking to the cops - we've definitely been here before. Every one of us living in North Flatbush, has stories to tell of drug deals, violence and shifty characters at suspicious locations. So is this best we can expect, living in the Big City? Of course not. There's much to be done, without inflaming tensions or appearing shrill and entitled. In fact, I think we're all entitled to a safe, clean "main street," and I doubt the law-abiding among us would disagree.

And I'm also convinced that the core of the problem (not the one about poverty and lack of opportunity for young black men - I couldn't begin to address that in a blog post, though I guess I just did) is the indifference of landlords to the Quality of Life in and around their buildings and businesses. Heck, that infamous corner of Maple and Flatbush? An actual person owns the building - Abe Green - and he needs a swift kick in the groin, because he and countless other building owners seem to give a rat's ass about their properties. One would think, though one would be wrong in our case, that rising house prices and incomes would motivate them to spruce up their properties and hold their leasees accountable for the crime and loitering in front of those properties. Such is, and perhaps has been for decades, the great irony of PLG/Flatbush.

Gino from Gino's (what are the chances?) has been here 26 years, and while he's seen VAST improvements through the years, he said if there were more NYPD security cameras in the neighborhood "we wouldn't be sitting here tonight." Cameras seemed to be a favorite topic of many, though the cost (according to the cops in attendance) is exorbitant. Many wondered how this could be so. After all, the cameras aren't there so much to prevent crime, since there isn't the manpower to watch them live; they're intended to scare people off by their mere presence AND to be viewed AFTER a crime has taken place as evidence. Apparently they keep the tapes for 30 days (though in the digital age, I'd think six months or a year would be cool). When I was a younger man, such Big Brother tactics would have gotten my ire up. Now, I just kinda shrug at the thought of cameras watching my every boring move. The quoted $43k price-tag sounds like it needs a fact-checker to me. Perhaps that's a total investment over a few years, because I'm pretty sure that B&H can run circles around that price for the equipment itself.

Besides discussing the PERCEPTION that crime is up in Sector Charlie, we learned that there is, in fact, something called Sector Charlie, and apparently we live in it. The cops gave us a primer on how they allocate resources, and the southwestern part of the 71st is one of five (or 10 according to Adams) sectors. Charlie is military-speak for letter "c" I guess. Anyhoo, here we are in Charlie, a supposedly lower-crime area of the precinct compared to near Kings County or deep in the Heights of Crown (or Wingate anyone? What the hell is Wingate? Do people actually claim to live there? And when are they going to go back to the livelier name Pigtown? Don't tell me that name would drive away buyers and renters - just look at prices over in Hell's Kitchen.)

Other semi-interesting developments at the meeting:

Josh Greenberg of the nascent PLGNA Safety Task Force reported on said TFs activities. If you want to get more involved, just email More can be found at

A neighbor-woman, whom I'll call Madame since I didn't catch her name, pointed out that the men in blue are viewed with suspicion by many, including, it would seem, Madame herself, who had a crappy run in with the police after she scuttled a stabbing attempt by scaring off the would-be killer by grabbing her hair, which came off into her hands, leaving Madame in the possession of the hirsute wad and the weapon itself, only to be told by the detectives that there was no need for such evidence, as the victim was not talking or willing to press the proverbial charges. We all sat breathless after the telling of her story, though in my case it might have been the Jamaican Beef Patty I'd scarfed down just before entering the "Clubhouse." By the way, the owner of Golden Crust was there, and I meant to say hello, but missed the chance.

Ben Edwards, president of the Lefferts Manor Association, encouraged us to join a Civilian Patrol. He and others have mentioned to me that after nearly a dozen people "signed up" after the July crime meeting, not a single one has followed-through. I'll admit I'm pretty excited to drive around in a cop-car myself, but I can see that some might not want the attention. But you know what? It's the best dang idea out there I've heard, so if we're serious, we need to put our bodies where our mouths are. Most people won't recognize you through the car's glass, if they even notice the civilian cop car at all,and even if they did, is it so bad to have the rep of being part of the cops? The Orthodox have their Shomrim, and as my Aunt Patty O'Donnell used to say, if it's good enough for the Jews...

Or we could try a hair-brained idea I came up with just now: we could secede from the 71st and join a less-criminal precinct, so that WE'D be the sector with all the attention. Look out 78th! The East gonna rise again!

Last, but certainly not least, came Eric Adams' call to arms, which involved no less than the creation of a Q of L WAR ROOM, complete with pictures of problem areas, a map (hopefully with push-pins) and a rotating cast of committed community members to engage in all-out battle with the forces of trash, drugs, gangs, graffiti, and poor spelling. I'm with the Senator on this one, but it certainly sounded daunting last night.

Maybe we could just buy the thugs a nice Gino's three-course dinner (w/wine) in exchange for their cross-their-heart-hope-to-die promise to behave?


PLOG said...

Great post, Tim.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in 10 Maple at the corner of Maple and Flatbush. I'm not sure if that's the building you refer to in your post, but for the record, the management company that was brought in to manage that building really was making a concerted effort to "clean up". They were highly effective and motivated at addressing noise issues and trash problems in the building and had adopted a zero tolerance policy for violators where if the building's house rules were violated more than once, moves would be made to evict the tenant. I lived there for a year and did see it improve gradually thanks to their efforts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recap for those who could not attend. I believe the handsome captain's name was Captain Telfer.

babs said...

Thanks for this great post! Sorry I missed the meeting. 10 Maple, BTW, is the other side of the street from the infamous Ray's corner. My concern at the present (among others) is the fabled "Quality of Life" patrol mentioned in your earlier post. If the police doesn't have enough manpower to actually fight real crime, how is it that we have this QofL goon squad out shaking down and harassing honest local merchants? Does anyone know who this Officer Parkinson is? And why isn't Ray's grocery store on their list of spots to visit (or maybe it is and the requisite consideration is always forthcoming)? Did this come up at all during the meeting? I would certainly like to raise this issue (and meet Officer Parkinson) at the next community council meeting. Secondly, perhaps there was some miscommunication with Mr. Edwards regarding the COP; it was my understanding that we were to give him our contact info and he or someone from the 71st Precinct would be in touch with us. If this was incorrect, I would like to know to whom I should address myself if I am interested in signing up and why I gave out my contact info in the first place if no-one was going to contact me. Otherwise, I am all set to help the Senator move push-pins around, as long as I get to wear a bulletproof vest while doing so! And one final quibble - while the mental image of "hair-brained" is as uncomfortable as intended, the actual expression is "hare-brained" as in bunny rabbits, as they are not supposed to be the brightest creatures on earth (Bugs aside). I'll put that down to an overly-aggressive spell check program.

babs said...

Finally - does anyone know what happened last night? I am utterly exhausted today from being awakened at 4 AM by a police chopper seemingly in my backyard, and also freaked out by what I've heard was the cause (a shootout involving at least one homicide). We had a similar incident a few months ago, with choppers, cops crawling all through peoples' backyards (including my own; I watched the whole thing from my bedroom window), and the object of their search was reportedly eventually found in a neighbor's backyard and escorted out through her house. Haven't heard anything further on this one either. Perhaps the reality is that maybe we should be re-classified Sector Alfa or Sector Bravo (if those are the more crime-ridden names).

babs said...

One more thing - check out this article from today's NY Times on cheap-o home security systems:, particularly this paragraph: The system isn’t cheap: To get the Alert, you need to buy a master system, which includes one camera and the central command unit. The system is about $300 for a kit with an indoor camera, and about $350 for one that has a weatherproof, outdoor camera (which also has a stunning night-vision feature). Each additional indoor camera sells for about $230, and each added outdoor camera for about $280.

Granted, these are intended for residential use, and I don't know what the legal implications would be for a commercial business using them (plus there's an $80/month subscription fee), but the cost is a far cry from the $43K a pop the cops are talking about.

Anonymous said...

here's an idea...

the city has been HIGHLY interested in restaurant inspections, catching code violatioss, and sometimes shutting places down. could the same apply to delis? could ray's be shuttered (at least temporarily) for having inadequate refrigeration and vermin?