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, February 28, 2012

Food, Glorious Food

Who knew there was so much pent up demand for high-end groceries? The Q has heard his share of grousing about the scant organic and free-range options in the neighborhood, but we had no idea how passionate were the yearnings.

According to the New York Times, the wrangling is over, and Brooklyn will soon have its own Whole Foods over at the former industrial site at 3rd and 3rd (between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens - otherwise known as Gowanus). Add this to the Trader Joe's in Cobble Hill and the Fairway in Red Hook - plus myriad small specialty grocers like Larder, Union Market, Provisions and countless others - Brooklyn has become chock full o' nuts and cheeses, fresh bread and choice ingredients for gourmet living.

When the Q reported recently that 65 Fen would soon open a specialty grocer, tentatively called PLG Outpost, the response was tremendous. 23 comments and counting...clearly, people have foodstuffs on the brain! I'm particularly gratified to see that Michael has been following the blog so he's seen your requests. I'm sure he'll be taking more requests at the store itself. So I guess we could look at it as a cooperative venture, though I do suspect there will be some profit in it for the storekeep! (For those of you wonky enough to wonder, typical markups at specialty stores can range from 50% to 100% on most items, save the "loss-leaders" priced to keep you coming back for more. The Park Slope Food Coop is able, with the sweat equity of its members, to cap mark-ups at 20%. If you've seen other, lower figures listed for commercial grocers, that's because they typically define markup as AFTER store expenses like labor. So if you see, say, 5% or 10% listed for a store, that means "net profit," not just price above wholesale. I learned this all from a PSFC general meeting, so take the info with a grain of free range black sea salt.)

The Q has noticed too that The Associated on Flatbush has significantly increased its upscale and healthy options. This is due, in part, to customers asking for specific items. The lesson here, from both stores, is: if you don't see something, say something. Most business people are only too happy to accommodate you, especially if an item becomes popular. I noticed just the other day that The Associated has a few healthy chicken options - I don't recognize the brand, so I don't know if they're any good. Perhaps y'all know something about them...anyone want to cluck up?

Finally, folks around here have been chain-e-mailing a petition of sorts to contact Fairway about opening a location here (on Empire perhaps?). The text of the note making the rounds, and the link to make a request, are quoted below:

Hi Everyone:
Apologies for the mass email, but I'd like to ask for your help. A man approached me while I was checking out at Fairway, and he was from the corporate offices. He asked me what I thought about Fairway and what they could improve on, and I basically told him they could improve by opening a place in our nabe. We spoke for almost 20 minutes and he took notes about a few locations I suggested. He seemed pretty interested and said Fairway wanted to expand a lot more in the next few years. So, I wanted to ask each of you (even if your partner or roommate has already filled one out) to fill out the form on the link below. It only takes a few minutes, and if you could write a few lines
about opening a store in our neighborhood, I suggested Empire because of the amount/size of lots available, they will need to offer parking at this new location, I also wrote about how close we are to so many other neighborhoods that would benefit from having a Fairway nearby. With Whole Foods slated to open in Gowanus on 3rd Ave and 3rd St, the Fairway in Red Hook is going to lose a lot of its business, so if they positioned themselves to capture the business on this side of Brooklyn, they could be in a great spot and pull a lot of people into their store. And can you send this to any and every person you can think of who would fill it out?? I know it's a long shot, but if we got Fairway, that would kinda be huge.

 Crazier things have happened. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Arts & Culture Fest To Grace the Q's Plaza Each Saturday Thru October

Normally the Q wouldn't just drop a press release on you all naked. But two things conspired to convince me that unadorned cut-and-paste was the way to go. First, I'm tired as an 18-wheeler from all this late-life parenting. Second, it's a pretty darn well written press release and contains all the nuggets of knowledge you need to know about the curated crafts carnival coming to Q plaza. Up and at 'em, Atim!

Brooklyn, NY, February 21, 2012Arts and Culture Fest, a production of The Creative Side, will launch on Saturday, April 21, 2012 as a one-of-kind artisan market for artists, craft makers and designers to sell their handmade goods to the Flatbush and surrounding communities. An innovative project supported by Community Board 9 and fiscally sponsored by the Brooklyn Arts Council, the Fest will be located at Parkside Plaza, an outdoor plaza in front of the Parkside Avenue Train Station (B and Q Trains) and at the intersection of Ocean and Parkside Avenues in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Arts and Culture Fest provides a creative space for artists, craft makers, and designers. It will feature ongoing monthly events – from musicians performing, poet and writer readings, hands-on children’s workshops and activities. For shoppers, the Fest will provide unique products and objects, and will add to the process of revitalizing an under-used and vacant plaza, and most importantly, it will provide sales and income for artists and designers in Brooklyn

“We are planning a unique blend of artisans and designers whose work will show the creative talents of the city and provide new ways of exhibiting in the public sphere and selling art and design objects outdoors says Atim Annette Oton, co-founder of The Creative Side. Oton previously lived in the community on East 21st Street in Flatbush, about 3 blocks from the Fest site while she went to college to study architecture; thus, she is very familiar with the proposed location. “I rode the train from Parkside station daily for about 7 years and I always imagined the multiplicity of possibilities of making this space much more interesting. This became one of the first places I visualized when conceiving the idea.” She continues, “as the co-chair of the Economic Development Committee in Community Board 8, I am expanding my interest in economic development and revitalization of communities through art, design and commerce in a new venue and neighborhood that I have ties to.  My mother and brother still live in the area, and I spend some Sunday dinners in the neighborhood.”
The concept for the outdoor plaza involves 30 vendors showcasing and selling a wide range of functional, collectible art, crafts and design items. These vendors will sell handmade jewelry, t-shirts and fashion items, and home décor; and other vendors will sell handmade soaps, incense and body products.  According to Javaka Steptoe, award-winning illustrator, artist and author, who initiated the idea with Oton, “the Arts and Culture Fest is coming to my neighborhood and it will showcase some of the culture heritage and work of artists and designers to local consumers. It will offer an alternate venue of commerce, creative arts marketing and a showcase for art and design goods right here in Flatbush, Brooklyn.”
The market will operate on Saturdays from April 21st till October 20th, 2012. It was initially presented to Brooklyn’s Community Board 9 in June 2011. The Creative Side was established in 2011 as collaboration between Atim Annette Oton and Javaka Steptoe to launch and maintain an Arts Venue and Business Opportunity for artists to sell their work in Brooklyn. For additional information, please visit our website at

Atim Annette Oton

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The Q's suspiciously French restaurant reviewer, M. Rue des de la Sonne, once again sent us a well-researched missive from the field. Bay Leaf is the third Indian restaurant to open in PLG in the past couple years, and according to de la Sonne, it's a keeper. Here's Rue...

The decor is more Kiev than Kalkutta, but our table, on a chilly February night, came with its own space-heater, so you know the place is legitimately subcontinental.  And although the menu offers a surprising number of pricing alternatives ("50% off Executive Lunch" "Catering to Private party, wedding and Corporate are welcome" "Lunch Box to Go $8.50" "Prix Fixe Menu $14.95"), set your mind at ease, and set yourself in the good hands of Rohman, the waiter.  He refuses to smile for the camera, but he is the sweetest man you're likely to encounter any day of the week.

And the food.  Oh, the food. 

The samosas are ideally crisp; the eggplant in the bhartha is thick and smokey and irresistible on the naan; the chicken in the chicken tikka masala is perfectly roasted, and the sauce is tangy and complex; the mango lassis are everything you need; except for the rice pudding, with cardamon, which you also need, it turns out.

To judge by the frequency with which their telephone rings, and the frequency with which their delivery dude is on and off his motor bike, the word is out about Bay Leaf.  And no wonder.  This was the best meal we've ever eaten in the neighborhood.

* pun courtesy of the reviewer...proprietor of blog takes no responsibility for it, though he wishes he could.

Friday, February 24, 2012

ConstructionKids - Moving To Ft. Greene

Many a local parent has raved about ContructionKids, the hands-on learning environment based in the gorgeous but dilapidated Phat Albert's Warehouse building near Flatbush and Empire. Well...they're heading for greener pastures apparently, and by greener, we mean Ft. Greener, as in down by the Navy Yard to a tricked-out building as part of a larger re-development scene down there.

Capturing the frustration of many PLGers sorry to see it go, a local mom had this to say:

I just saw this sad news on the ConstructionKids website. Well, very cool news for Deb and for expanding ConstructionKids programs but really sad news for us in PLG. They're moving to the Navy Yards. This is a place that got attention from the NY Times, brought kids and families from all over Brooklyn here to our hood, and anytime I mentioned we had this place here in PLG people were really impressed.
It was becoming a very cool kids amenity to have identified with our neighborhood. Their having to leave the Phat Albert building may be yet another example of  slumlord commercial landlords not investing enough in their holdings in PLG. Not that I'd turn down the gorgeous space they're getting at the Navy Yards either and I'm sure they were lured there with good incentives by the developers; developers who know what they're doing vs. have no clue...

Bring the Kids! Giant Afternoon Shindig For Families Benefiting Maple Street School

You gotta go. It's on a Saturday. It's at the Masonic Temple in stylish Ft. Greene. It features everybody who's anybody in the grunge-era-seattle-style Brooklyn kids music scene. Your kids will HATE you if you don't go.* Click here for tix to this awesome annual event in support of the local charmer Maple Street School (you know, the little nursery school next, er, actually a part of, the Q/B at Prospect Park).

*I'm trademarking the the new "your kids will hate you if..." line. Children's advertising is already pretty cutthroat - why not go straight for the jugular? Full disclosure - the Q's little miss clarkson flatbed jr. goes to the beneficiary school.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parkside Avenue, 2.0 - The Winners Announced!

The Parkside Prize started as a gleam in Rudy Delson's eyes a mere year ago. The Q recalls humoring the endlessly enthusiastic Delson as he regaled him with the idea of creating a prize for a re-design of the Avenue.  Then Eric Adams pitched in some dough, and pretty soon the cake was baking. The Q dug the super-upbeat idea and has been uber-impressed that Delson's stayed to his mission, with the help of a few fearless friends from the 'hood.

And now, it's my distinct pleasure, to both invite you to the Parkside Prize Prize Exhibition on March 4 at Play Kids (on the Flabenue at Westbury Court - near Hawthorne) from 4 - 6PM AND to show you some teaser pics of the grand prize winner, In Cho, and their highly do-able design:

I love how leisurely everyone looks in the pictures...sort of a Sunday afternoon vibe. And the designers even kept the Internet Cafe in the renderings, albeit with a different sign. Look at what a HUGE difference it makes for Duane Reade to spruce up the side of its building! The dude with the pram, carrying a tot in his arms is a nice touch...

A crackerjack panel of locals and experts agreed that In Cho's design hit all the right marks. There were LOTS of strong ideas, so please check out the other designs and more info on the winner at website. Kudos to all the entrants, for caring to share your vision for change near our beloved Q. Next up...getting the damn thing done!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Clarkson and Rogers - How Bout A Community Center?

What if you could turn lead into gold? Or rather, what if you could take two unneeded discount stores and turn them into a real community center for the youth of the neighborhood?

The Q is just dreaming again. And yet, after tonight's Town Hall style meeting at our Councilman's office on Linden Blvd, I think the energy COULD be there to take something like this:

picture by babs

and turn it into something like this: The Door NYC.

To my mind, The Door is EXACTLY the model for a youth community center that we need right here in the 'Bush. Health services for teens. Arts. Music. Supportive counseling. Computer learning and jobs training. GED. And given the Councilman's past in martial about some martial arts thrown in to keep things martial? A drop in child care facility for youthful single moms needing a break before losing their minds, to talk with someone about the stresses of raising kids young and alone. How about...somebody doing SOMETHING for a change, and not just talking about their heartfelt commitment to the young at-risk folks of Flatbush, the kids most likely to need help at a super-critical juncture in their lives?

Or the landlord could rent to another 99 cent store and a check cashing place. What's so convenient about that combination is you can cash your check and walk next door to spend it on inexpensive crap.

To prove the Q actually went to the meeting, here's a horribly out of focus picture showing some guy talking about some stuff he's really into. All in all, it was a good time, and the member was more engaged than usual, though things did start unforgivably late. And yes, the near miss in that last sentence made me giggle too. The Q has yet to fully grow up, though he's now over half his way towards typical expiration date.

HSB C You Later

As if to underscore the recent comments to this here blog about a lack of banks in the neighborhood, the Q's home-bank HSBC on Flatbush at Caton is closing come June 1. I just got the notice in the mail, and much to my surprise, I'm feeling kinda verklempt about it. I don't think I'd realized how much I liked banking here...the building and the cavernous space have always felt reassuring to me, as if my paltry savings were somehow being well-tended.

Banks were once the backbones of neighborhoods. They lent money to local businesses and homeowners. They built things and gave money to things and played a central role in civil society. Obviously HSBC - a worldwide behemoth based in London - was a far cry from the local S&L's of lore. But it was MY multi-national corporate bank, and I'll miss it. And no, I won't be trekking out to Avenue D to do my banking, as the letter suggests.

The bigger question, though, is...who's going to rent this massive space now? There's precedent for pharmacies and gyms of course. Or maybe another bank will move in. Or...any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Letter to the Commish

Many people have asked the Q whatever became of the effort to address rising violent crime (felony assaults, rape) in the 71st. Things seemed to reach a boiling point, as they often do, mid-to-late summer of last year. Meetings were held, task forces created, thoughts were shared, fears were laid bare. Elected officials held forums (fora, I know, but just try using the latin plural without sounding like a total twerp). As the mercury dropped, as happens every year, the "action" moved indoors and pretty soon you could be forgiven if you thought you'd imagined the whole thing.

As a matter of fact, various individuals and groups were busily preparing the following community-wide response to Commissioner Kelly, via a concerned adviser of his, Detective Martin Brown. There were various small intrigues on the way to this letter's delivery, but in the end it pretty well sums up many people's thoughts and hopes regarding police involvement in drug and gang activity not just on Flatbush but throughout the precinct.

The Q is happy to refrain from specific commentary and I'll let the contents of the letter speak for themselves. To my mind, even more than the ideas expressed therein, the potentially lasting story here is the way diverse groups worked together to craft a response that addressed common ground. My fear after the first couple meetings of the PLGNA Safety Task Force was that a small minority of voices would dominate the proceedings. In fact, similar thinking emerged from people that, on the surface, might seem to have little in common. At the very least, people are talking to each other. Feel free to comment on the contents...I think it's worth a read by every single resident and merchant in our district.

January 2012

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly
New York City Police Department
One Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

The organizations that have signed this letter and the residents who have supported it represent 1,300 households in the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, an area served by the 71st Precinct with which you are familiar, having served as its Captain. We are writing to call your attention to some incidents that occurred last year and to appeal for your help. From the beginning of 2011, there was a notable increase in violent crime in our community. For example, early in the summer, the token booth at the Prospect Park subway station on Lincoln Road was doused in a flammable liquid and set on fire in an attempt to rob the MTA employee stationed there. As the summer progressed week after week our neighborhood was faced with a rash of shootings within the area bordered by Nostrand Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Lincoln Road and Clarkson Avenue. One shooting in late October on Nostrand Avenue and Rutland Road was caught on surveillance video and broadcast through most local media. As the year progressed the sound of gunfire became a frequent occurrence in our neighborhood. We are reaching out to you to assist us in dealing with this problem with hopes that this trend doesn’t continue or get worse as spring approaches.

The relationship between the staff of the 71st Precinct and our community is excellent. Members of the precinct routinely attend community meetings and events. They are responsive when a crime occurs and accessible at other times. From a community-relations perspective, we commend the precinct. At the same time, we are concerned that the precinct’s efforts may require more resources allocated to preventing and investigating crime, particularly gun-related violence, and apprehending violent criminals. We request that your office review the precinct’s crime prevention, investigation and apprehension strategies and determine if new or different resources are required to address the safety of our neighborhood. Specifically, we ask that you focus on activity that our elected officials inform us is the result of gang activity in the community. In addition, the spike in violent crime we have noted seems related to the absence of beat cops, especially on Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue between Lincoln Road and Clarkson Avenue. Within this area, there are several problematic spots, notably the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street, and Nostrand Avenue and Fenimore Street where brazen illegal activity occurs day and night.

As of October the 71st Precinct’s crime statistics indicate a year-over-year reduction in overall crime of 3%, an achievement for which we congratulate the unit’s hard-working men and women. However, a closer reading of the data shows that this achievement masks a more chilling conclusion: while overall crime is down, violent crime has spiked dramatically. Comparing year-to-date statistics from 2011 to 2010, murders in the precinct have increased by 16%, rapes by 55%, and felonious assaults by 30% (NYPD CompStat: reporting 10/10 through 10/16/2011). We are sure you agree with us that this rise in violent crime is unacceptable.We acknowledge that we are one small community in a larger scope that includes neighborhoods more victimized by violent crime than ours. However, a bullet is a bullet wherever it lands. Our neighborhood has made enormous progress in reducing crime and improving the quality of life for all its residents in recent years. Please do not allow it to deteriorate because of violent crime. As mentioned here is an outline of our requests:

1. Conduct a review, from your office, of the crime prevention, investigation and apprehension strategies of the 71st Precinct to determine if improvements can be made.
2. Determine if the number of personnel budgeted for this precinct is sufficient to stem this spike in violent crime. Is it possible to increase the police presence in core zones that have seen the greatest increase in violence? Is it possible to target locations that are known problems, like the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Fenimore Street and Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street?
3. Consider this community for the high-impact policing strategies that you have pioneered.
4. Assign a special task force to address the gang problem. Implement the evidence-based anti-gang strategies that have proved effective in other communities.

We thank you in advance for your attention to our concerns and look forward to receiving a plan from you describing how the NYPD will address this disturbing problem in our community.

Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association
300 Midwood Block Association
300 Rutland Block Association
Flatbush Empire Parkside Merchants Association 
Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA)
St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church
Supportive Residents

cc: Inspector Peter Simonetti (71st Precinct)
cc: Detective Martin Brown

Monday, February 20, 2012

PLG Outpost to Open As Early As Next Weekend

Michael Campbell's budding empire along Fenimore (wine shop 65 Fen, panini 'n' vino joint Delroy's) is about to open a little shop of extras. Much like other Brooklyn "everything else" stores like Larder and Provisions, PLG Outpost hopes to carry the sorts of things that folks go outside the neigbhorhood for - specialty items like oils and vinegars and cheeses and the sorts of gourmet extras that send modern eaters all the way to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and (for budget-conscious mascochists like the Q) the Food Coop.

Now, here's the deal. Michael and Co. are looking for your input. He's a small businessman trying to cater to a neighborhood that doesn't exactly scream "gourmand!" So stop in to 65 Fen or to the Outpost (open as soon as next weekend) and let him know what you'd like him to carry. Think of this as the Wild Wild West, where you had to get to know the proprietor of the local Trading Post in order to get your spurs, lassos and chewin' tobacky special ordered via newfangled steam-powered Iron Horses. Only 'stead of spurs, lassos and chaw, think fromage, oils and specialty condiments.

Good luck Michael! Feel free to chime in your hopes for the PLG Outpost here, since I think Michael might be one of the Q's regular readers. Shopping lists?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eugene Wants YOU. Town Hall Meeting This Wednesday

Your Councilman and mine, Mathieu Eugene, has called an unusual (for him) Town Hall Meeting for the entire community. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know the man who represents you on so many issues affecting everything from cops to schools to many of the very laws that govern our everyday lives. The City of NY is a massive undertaking, and its labyrinthian mechanisms are known to relatively few. Some would say that even members of the Council are but pawns in a complex chess game largely run by bureaucrats, unions and a powerful Mayor's office full of loyalists and patronage commissioners. Perhaps. And yet, strong-willed and clever council members can wield enormous influence, if they're knowledgeable about how the gamed is played and capable of articulating their vision. Is Eugene one of those rare political birds? Come find out for yourself, and if you're nursing a pet peeve or resentment about the current state of the City, come express yourself. If you hadn't noticed, the Q is a big fan of participatory democracy, and it don't get much more participatory than an open dialogue with your elected official. At the very least, you'll get to know better the guy who'll be fighting for your vote again next year. Starts at 6 on Wednesday, in the gorgeous old Old Age Home on Linden (rogers/bedford) where his office is located.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lincoln Road Update: The Landlord Speaks

The Q just got off the phone with Rong Ge, the landlord referenced in the previous post. We spoke for nearly an hour, and it was a very informative and sometimes frothy conversation. I must admit to being very torn about all the things I've heard on both sides of the issues that are bubbling up through the cracked pavement on Lincoln Road. For her part, Rong is whip-smart and not about to concede any ground regarding the "vision" that she has for the strip. She's aware of the insults that have been hurled at her, and she's none too happy about it. She feels she's been cast as a villain, when in fact she feels she found a diamond in the rough and has been trying to bring the neighborhood some much needed amenities. "I just want a place to get a decent coffee, get a decent meal, and go get drunk if I want to," she half-joked. This post is intended as an opportunity to hear from the woman whom many have maligned, but few have actually heard her side of things. The Q is not interested in picking sides, just hearing all of them. I called Enduro and look forward to printing their thoughts in a future post.

Regardless of one's leanings, it's hard to fault a property owner for wanting what she wants. In some ways, we're talking about the total opposite of "absentee landlord-ism." She's very much involved in the development of her property, and more to the point, the development of the neighborhood into a more genteel place for the coffee-bistro-organic-provisions set that has become more and more conspicuous in the 'hood of late. But more to the point, the story began because Rong herself wanted a place where she and her husband could buy a decent cup of coffee in the neighborhood. Really.

Rong Ge grew up in China. Her dad's a well-known and well-off doctor, and she started her adult life as a well-educated fine artist. Moving to NYC in the '80s, she tried to make a go as an artist, but various realities conspired to send her professional life towards real estate.  After moving to a nice block in PLG in the late '90s, she found herself enamored of the beautiful but underutilized building at the corner of Lincoln and Flatbush, and she was able to convince its then-owner to sell it to her. She got a good deal, and she remains grateful to that prior owner, and through the early '00s leased a space back to him for next to nothing, so he could continue his beauty-supply store. But her headstrong vision for the block was never far from her mind, and when Gaby-and-family of K-Dog came calling, she was super happy to welcome them, providing what Ge calls generous terms towards their much-heralded opening.

But from the beginning, the relationship was strained. Rong feels, wrongly or rightly, that she was never treated with respect. Is it because she's Asian and female? She's had her suspicions. She told the Q to put on an Asian mask for a day and see how the world treats you. Sadly my Asian mask is still at the cleaners - Korean cleaners, mind you - but her point is well taken. In particular, it appears that Ge and Gaby's mom never hit it off. Even a year after K-Dog opened, Rong stopped going to K-Dog entirely, feeling dissed every time she walked in. Ironically, Rong's husband (who is apparently a big morning cup-a-joe kinda guy) stopped going too, but, more prosaically, because he was so annoyed by the frustratingly long and slow lines. In the end, there was little that Gaby could do to extract the terms she wanted from Ge, and vice-versa, and as you now deduce, Ge was not feeling particularly warm and fuzzy towards the process. Throw in some personal stuff and general exhaustion, and it's safe to say that the 'Dog was more than ready to throw it in. Was it just about money, as some have said? From Ge's perspective, it was not, and she's the one telling the story in this post. And it wasn't the only time that she said "money is not the issue" during our conversation. Take that as you will.

The landlord also wants to set the record straight on the spaces up for lease: Blue Roost is safe, and has Ge's full support. Papa & Sons, whose lease is up, is out unless a Hail Mary scores a last minute game-winner (seems Papa's been nailed a time or two by the cops for running an illegal "numbers" a/k/a lottery operation, and Ge wants no part of that). While Enduro and it's sister Lincoln Park Tavern are not yet at the end of their lease, they're also clearly not at the end of their leash yet either, because Ge is not happy with

a) the dispiriting Department of Health citations - (just type in Cafe Enduro for the details to draw your own conclusion)

b) the seeming lack of concern or love shown to the businesses on the part of the owners

c) the constant badmouthing she receives from the neighborhood, which she suspects comes from the contempt with which she held by owners, workers and patrons

d) the fact that she cut them major slack on their rent after the economic downturn started, and she feels this fact is both unappreciated and unacknowledged

So, yes, Rong Ge is not particularly happy about the state of affairs in her kingdom, but she seems genuinely in love with her building and with the idea of changing the neighborhood for the better. Her broker was speaking with the owners of Union Market (you know that little can-do upscale grocer that had the gumption to open up just down from the Park Slope Food Coop, selling much of the same inventory at a 50% premium, albeit without lines or work requirements?) but apparently they don't think Papa's is big enough. (your speculation inserted here.)

Bottom line is this. While the Massey Knakal listing seems relatively clear and straightforward, it ain't over til the Phat Albert sings. This humble blogger walked away from today's conversation with our neighbor Rong Ge even less sure of whom or what to believe than ever before. Do I really care? Kinda, I guess. I wish I could get more riled up about it all, like I've seen others of my neighbors get. But in the long run, I don't know whether it's all that worth taking sides. I don't drink at Lincoln Park Tavern. I don't particularly care for the food at Enduro. I think Francisco at Papa & Sons seems like a nice guy and I'd like him to be able to make a living, but I don't have any skin in the game, nor do I patronize him regularly. I'm quite glad that Blue Roost took K-Dog's place, because it seems to mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people that we have a sit-down cafe coffee 'n' things joint. But in the end, I suppose, as that manager from the movie formerly known as Purple Rain said...bidness is bidness...and sometimes bidness is downright messy.

But I will tell you this...Rong does not strike me as a liar, or crazy, or even particularly greedy (all accusations that have been leveled at her.) She is, however, very sure of herself, very sure of her vision, very (overly?) personally invested in the businesses in her building, quite a bit quirky, and most definitely a force to be reckoned with. To which I say what I always say...THANK GOD I'M A COUNTRY BOY! Or rather, good luck to all involved.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lincoln Road Going Once, Going Twice...

update: the owner of Papa & Sons says he's meeting with the landlord at 2PM today in a fourth quarter attempt to keep his space.

It would appear that the much maligned (or misunderstood if you prefer) landlord of 534 Flatbush (a/k/a Papa & Sons-Enduro-Lincoln Park Tavern-Blue Roost-beguiling 2ndfloorloft) wants to start anew. She's put the whole building's retail space up for lease. Here's the website that proves it: Massey. Poke around on there and you'll come across the following pics, graphs and blueprints:

Such a wholesale change to Lincoln Road would be a major shock to the PLG eco-system. So I put in a few calls to people "in the know" and I'm finding that there are many passionate opinions about this most peculiar little confluence of Dominican grocery, burrito joint/dive bar, homey coffee shop. The facts are just beginning to emerge and I'd hate to get them wrong, but it would appear that trouble's a-brewin' faster than an espresso.

For those of you who remember K-Dog's saga, Gaby Rowe felt unfairly pressured and nickel-and-dimed by building owner Rong Ge to the point that she threw in the towel. Ge maintained that she had a right to negotiate terms with Gaby, and that Gaby simply wouldn't meet her requirements and balked at paying her fair share of taxes. Most neighborhood caffeine-addicts naturally sided with the affable shopkeep. It was a sad story, but certainly not unusual in the rough and tumble world of NY retail real estate. Sunrise, sunset...

But the listing above shows that stakes have risen considerably for the remaining tenants. Unless this is some kind of bargaining tactic by Ms. Ge, it would certainly appear that she intends to kick out all the current businesses, save perhaps newcomer Blue Roost with whom she only recently entered an arrangement. Though I gotta say it's pretty darn super clear from the blueprint above (dated as it is) that even the new kid on the block is on the chopping block. Note the word "immediate" next to "occupancy." Seems like a smooth talker with a decent bankroll could come in and kick 'em all out tomorrow if he wanted. So...leases must be up, or terms broken, or this would be a pretty cruel trick to play.

What gives? Were the Q an actual journalist, he'd have asked for comments from all the key players before going to bed. But he's tired, and this story seems way more complex than he bargained for. Suffice to say, something's fishy in Lefferts, and perhaps when the Q regains his wits he'll get closer to the bottom of things...stay tuned. Or as we say in Blogland, keep refreshing that browser.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Holy Cow! Big Plan for the Q's Plaza, So Says Craigslist

It takes a lot to surprise the Q. But I gotta admit I did a triple-take when I saw this listing on Craigslist:

The Arts and Culture Fest will take place on Saturdays starting April 21st until October 20, 2012. It will occurs on the outdoor plaza of the Parkside Avenue Train Station (B and Q Trains) in Flatbush Brooklyn with market hours will run from 10 AM to 6 PM. As an Artisan market,if will feature Artists, Crafters, Designers and Vendors whose work includes fashion items, jewelry, paintings, prints, sculpture, home decor, photography, and crafts. We are seeking interns in the following area:

Social Media - must be able to actively use and promote the fest on twitter and facebook Marketing - must have innovative ideas to market and promote fest to vendors and the public Web Designer - must be to redesign Wordpress and drive traffic to site  Street Team - seeking individuals to distribute flyers and postcards in Flatbush area Sponsorship Person - must be able to seek funds from small businesses

Can offer credits for college, must be able at least 10 hours a week. Respond today and begin Monday. Please send resume, references and picture.

I'll admit that I'm not TOTALLY unaware that an effort was being mounted to get an artisan market happening at our beloved Q plaza. But they've already got this very mysterious website up and running:

Arts and Culture Fest

I say mysterious because it lists, like, zero sponsors or people responsible for the purportedly weekly Saturday market that will likely transform the way the neighborhood thinks about this space. I did see that the Brooklyn Arts Council coughed up some dough, though.

Digging a little deeper I see that the project is being run by a collective called The Creative Side, which was established in 2011 as a collaboration of Atim Annette Oton and Javaka Steptoe to launch and maintain an Arts Venue and Business Opportunity for artists to sell their work in Brooklyn.

I recall Michael Cetera of Community Board 9 mentioning that Atim had approached him about doing something. I even went so far as to reach out to Atim and ask about the proposed market, though she never responded.

It may very well be that this is just the sort of thing we've needed to draw attention to the underutilized space in front of the Q. But I gotta admit, I'm a little thrown off guard. I'll try not to feel dissed...good luck y'all. And hey...give us a shout sometime! We'd love to be involved, and at the very least, lend a hand in promotion.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More Fascinating Insights and Comments from Delroy Wright of FEPMA

The below is more direct response from Delroy that I feel warrants its own post, so that you may comment directly to his points. I have to say that after months of "speculation" it is so nice to have an actual expert on the avenue in our midst, someone with a bit of institutional memory for a long-beleaguered strip. For instance, who knew that a bank was once envisioned for Phat Alberts? - the Q

To Gary:

I totally agree with your suggestion to think out of the box. We have tried that and still willing to do so. I must give the boro-president Marty Markowitz credit for his effort in trying to guide us in that aspect when he was our state senator. Part of our collective effort involved trying to attract a Red Lobster to occupy the space at the South corner of Winthrop and Flatbush that now comprises a Deli and a Laundromat. That space was once occupied by an up-scale Italian restaurant suited for such a franchise. We also tried to get a bank to occupy the Deng building that is now Fat Albert and a Connecticut muffin franchise to come to the community. All efforts failed because at the time the area was considered too low income. We had entertained the idea of an Anchor store on our side of the strip. Well, we all know how that debate went down—“the killing of Mom’s and Pops stores”. I supported having selected Anchor stores then and still feel strongly about them now, thus my reason for considering the value of establishments like beauty supply stores and salons, and barber-shops.

The overall idea is to attract customers to the strip from outside a three block radius and these type entities by their very nature are able to do so, which ultimately benefiting other stores by spill over business. Case in point: A trip to a beauty salon can take hours or a shopping trip to a West Indian food supply establishment from out of towners (as far as Boston or Connecticut) generates income for our neighborhood restaurants. This being said, I am quite cognitive of the benefits that can be derived from a change in the present make up of the merchant strip as I keep in mind the unique cultural make up of the area.

Now to address the expansion of the BID from South Flatbush to our side. That may not be possible or well advised, since in the past there was some conflict involving both sides. FEPMA was once reprimanded by the South Flatbush BID and asked to mind its own business when we played a key role in facilitating the formation of the Vendor's market on Flatbush and Caton Avenue. This stemmed from the "peddlers' issue that became over-bearing and we were forced to make a decision to protect legitimate merchant business and improve the commercial landscape. At the same time we felt that we could assist the peddlers by finding them new space to conduct business. This came at a time, during the Guliani administration, when there was no tolerance for peddlers and the squeegee type menace. The climate was conducive to penalizing violators and then former Councilwoman Una Clarke, being sympathetic to Caribbean and African vendors, with FEPMA's assistance initiated what is now the Flatbush Market.

As to the advisement, FEPMA has always maintained that both sides of the strip are separate and distinct in their make-up and we wish to maintain that distinction. The side that currently comprises the BID is strictly commercial and our side has a mostly residential setting. Yet while we want a more vibrant commercial setting, we recognize the need to maintain that close-knit community that is uniquely ours.

For example, during the crack era, when crime rose and commerce fell, the merchants became the day time caretakers and the residents, the night time (the police could not do it by themselves). This level of dependency still exists today and speaks volumes of the uniqueness of the community.

Yes, I want to see the merchant strip take on a more resilient appearance—Mark Dicus and I tried to address this. However, revitalization involves a true partnership between the parties of interest—concerned residents and progressive merchants. Some merchants lacked vision  and  failed to dream of a new clientele base and prepare for it.  Some residents, on the other hand were too ready to discard or dissolve the make up of the merchants body as it existed then. Both of these  parties  are heavily invested in the community and they hold strong to the philosophy of their investment bearing fruit—whether its family or profit.

So to address the myriad of issues the community faces, we have to be willing to enter into a comprehensive and objective discussion. We need to drown out the demagogues so as to make room for those willing to have an open discussion. The changing demographics demand conversations of change among old and new residents.. What was not feasible then may now be more feasible and may just require an open-minded approach.

To Ceeledee, thanks for your support, it’s greatly appreciated.

Delroy Wright
Executive Director
Flatbush Empire Parkside Merchants Association (FEPMA)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Delroy Wright Responds

Here's a response from DelroyWright, executive director of FEPMA that I thought deserved it's own post, in reference to my recent piece on his and Wilfrid Compere's re-emerging Flatbush Avenue merchants group...
Hi Tim, thanks for the interview and the exposure it grants the Avenue. I see you have stimulated some potent discussions pertaining the shopping corridor. I felt the energy and it’s all good. It’s much different from when we got involved to re-organize the merchants’ association. We were seen then as rabble rousers—talking about organizing community. I must say things have changed dramatically since then. For one, when we started out the community was overwhelmingly labeled “the hood”. It was a task trying to convince outsiders as well as local residents to give it its appendage: neighbor. Today, the appendage is very much attached. Very rarely do I now hear the community referred to as “the hood”. It’s either referred to as the neighborhood or the community. And that I believe is a great accomplishment.
Flatbush Ave. Street fair, not unlike street fairs in business districts across the city, possesses and intrinsic value to merchants and the community at large. Idealistically, this exposition of vendors and patrons, provides an opportunity for merchants to showcase their businesses to thousands of spectators in a relaxed and enjoyable setting. The objective of a street fair is deeply entrenched in FEPMA’s mission of promoting a commercial involvement that is profitable to merchants and responsive to the community. As business owner, community building plays a pivotal role in our success and as an organization FEPMA is committed to this engagement.
On a personal note, as an organizer of this event for many years, I have seen progress in the community coming together around this event. Positive interactions has not only been limited to merchants organizing, but it has given me personal joy to see youths of Westbury Court engaging in conversations with police and proudly rallying around taking ownership of this event. I must note that Flatbush Ave. Street Fair, in its 17 years of existence can boast of a crime free record.
In addition, successful street fairs possess the potential to become and economic engine for merchants currently facing economic challenges. The Board of Directors of FEPMA, unlike BIDS, do not have salaried staff. From its inception, board members have worked on a strictly volunteer basis, (a different feat of struggling business owners). With members becoming difficult to acquire in this present economy, sustainability as an organization is key. It is my belief that as an organization, FEPMA must utilize all tools available to become economically viable. All these factors remain assets to the promotion of our ultimate goal: formation of a Business Improved District (BID).
I just want to say at this point that the comments I read in the Q are encouraging, if it is only for the fact that people are showing great interest in what’s happening in the community. It is much advance from when we started out; and Mr. Compere, Ms Sandra Marshall-Haye and I are looking forward to entertaining more dialogue and effort towards the well being of the entire community.
Thanks Tim and give yourself a pat on the back; I hope at some point in time I can lend my take on why the abundance of beauty salons and barbershops could be an asset more so than a liability.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lefferts Gardens Charter School Loses Leader

A number of folks asked the Q to substantiate the rumor that Marc Magnus-Sharpe has resigned as head of the Lefferts Gardens Charter School.  Yes, in the most general sense, it is indeed true. Other than that the Q's learned little else for certain, and in deference to what I'm sure was a very difficult decision, it's probably best not to speculate. I'll be sure to pass along info as I hear it. Feel free to comment here, with civility as a watchword of course.

From FECMA to FEPMA - More Views From the Flabenue

Meet Wilfrid Compere and Delroy Wright, president and executive director of FEPMA (Flatbush Empire to Parkside Merchant's Association):

These guys know our neck of the Flabenue like few others. Since the early 1980s, these two have been part of a sometimes waxing sometimes waning effort to turn the Phat Albert's to Popeye's stretch of the 'Bush into a retail corridor worry of the mighty Flatbush name. You may know the business Compere and Compere Tax, currently near Hawthorne. Yes, Wilfrid's an accountant, and while he's actually had several different addresses, he's been a stalwart in the neighborhood through thick and thin. He currently holds the title of President of the merchant's group, though he's quick to add that it's a volunteer force and titles mean little - there's much work to be done and too few hands on deck - so sign on up, says the Prez!

For his part, Delroy Wright also has strong ties to the neighborhood and to its unique brand of politics. He was the owner of a popular bar (Handyman) for many years, one that used to stand where Rhythm Splash (previously Lime) currently resides. He moved his joint further south on Bedford near the Sears, but Compere and others convinced him he was much needed up our way to help organize the recently too-dormant commerce collective.

A little history: the once mighty PLGNA had money and a storefront on Flatbush, and they started FECMA (when Clarkson was the southern edge) in the '70s. FECMA signs can still be seen on lampposts along the rue.

What does it all mean, beyond organizing FEPMA's revived annual street fair? Potentially, it could mean a whole lot, because there are myriad problems and opportunities to address. The landlords of Flatbush are notoriously absent and lack vision, a fact that Wright confirms. So barring a concerted effort on the part of these owners to make the area more amenable to business, the merchant's are the best bet to turn around a street that is a mere shadow of what it could be. Wright calls it the Illusionary Avenue, the way it  SEEMS to hold promise and the makings of a strong commercial district, and yet there's something not quite coherent about its character, leaving one to wonder why so many shops open and shut in short order.

Mr. Compere believes he knows why there's so little permanence. He says the amount of street and pedestrian traffic, coupled with the storied Flatbush name, give the blocks an outsized allure to new businesses. Landlords are quick to take high rents from the often un-savvy prospects who are lured by visions of easy money. They see "gold" on Flatbush, but Compere knows better. By day there are precious few real "shoppers," and folks mostly pass by the storefronts to and from work, often spending their walk-around money elsewhere. Add to that the fact that many of the newcomers to the neighborhood aren't familiar with or comfortable with the current offerings, and you're talking serious disconnect. That's not to say there aren't plenty of transactions happening (legal and not so)...just not the level you'd expect from such a busy neighborhood.

Delroy says of the 120-140 businesses open at any given time along the stretch, you've got nearly 20 grocers, 35ish beauty spots, and 20 or so restaurants, mostly super-casual and take-out. Add to that my own rough count of 10 tax places and 12 cell phone stores, and that's nearly 100 joints right there. There are a few truly unique boutique type places (the awesome Tafari Tribe's Sandra Marshall-Haye is also a committed FEPMA volunteer), but many of the businesses are not of the sort that typically forms the backbone of merchant's groups. There are no banks. There are no sit-down destination restaurants. There are no wine stores (on the avenue) or comfy internet coffee houses (on the avenue). Few new stores cater to the ever-yuppifying demographics around here. It's all quite baffling, and not just to me, but to the men who've been doing this for a long long time. (A note about the beauty places: neither Delroy nor the Q see this is a negative in the slightest...the neighborhood is known worldwide for its great stylists. Some shops are clearly the labor of love of a single proprietor, but many merely rent chairs by the day or week, making it difficult to organize avenue-wide efforts around such transience.)

So what does any of it matter, anyhow? I was reminded again of just how much it matters to have leadership when I saw a piece today in a local rag about tens-of-thousands of grant and tax dollars pouring into the revitalization efforts of Church Avenue (Ocean to Coney Island). Here's the piece. They have a BID (Business Improvement District) over there with paid staff, and they won grants to redo storefronts and are in the midst of a serious upswing.

I don't doubt for a second that the reason money, ideas, vision and traffic calming are coming first to Church Avenue is leadership - it has a powerful ally in CAMBA and the BID, which by the way used to be helmed by one Marc Dicus who tried to make similar improvements up here before being unceremoniously rejected by his own Board. Church Avenue was glad to have him though. You can read that sad story here...

We wish Mr. Wright and Mr. Compere well in their endeavors. I think they need all of our support. We could all be better served by a stronger, safer and cleaner commercial Main Street. Email Delroy here if you're a business person or prospect or interested resident who wants to get more involved. The Q will be checking in with FEPMA regularly to keep you in the loop and update you on their progress.

NEXT MEETING: MARCH 8th AGENDA: Security, Spring Cleanup, Street Fair, Membership Drive, Restaurant Week on Flatbush (I think this meeting is at Tafari Tribe - email Delroy if you're interestested)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Super Bowl Sunday, Gearing Up For Football Season

Caledonia boasts perhaps the most widely used sports fields in the country, our very own Parade Ground. I think of the word "parade" and I think Macy's and marching bands, but in the 1800s they were thinking military parade, which is hard for me to picture, though visions of Russian May Day celebrations come to mind. By the end of the 19th century, however, this giant rectangle was all about sports, sports, sports, and the archives of NY newspapers are full of stories about games played here, and apparently many a baseball star got his start here. Still does, I imagine.

But these days, soccer - née football, rules the roost. If you've got a kid who's shown interest in the game or just loves to run around and not use their hands, you probably already know about this upcoming deadline already. Or maybe you don't, and I came across notice of registration in four different places, so I thought I'd pass it along. I'm keeping it in the back of my mind too, for when my kids get older. Soccer always seemed like a pretty wholesome sport to me, though where/when I grew up (Iowa, '70s) it was played ONLY when you couldn't find the (american) football or when the gym teacher forced us to play co-ed, which was definitely NOT preferable. (btw, I don't know if they did this to you where YOU lived, but we had a solid week of "square dancing" classes, mandated by the State, during gym). No one CHOSE soccer over the other sports - in fact, Americans had to create their own beloved "kickball" to emulate our more favored sport, baseball. And I do love me some kickball, though the hipster retro trend left me feeling cold...and old.

The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) has opened registration for the Spring for kids interested in playing soccer in an organized league. It appears from their website that your child must be 5 as of January 31 to qualify for the youngest age bracket. Kids are separated into groups of two years each (5-6, 7-8, 9-10 etc). From what I've heard, the league is well run and well respected. Share your experiences below!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Eric Adams, Borough President

According to the endlessly gabby Rock Hackshaw (who ran against Mathieu Eugene for City Council last time out), our current State Senator Eric Adams will run to take Marty Markowitz's seat as Borough President in 2013.

That's right. Brooklyn might get its first African-American borough president, and in my opinion, he would be an excellent man to represent an incredibly diverse and getting diverser "city." Adams works well with all sorts of constituencies, and he's an approachable and principled dude. I cannot speak for his personal life (he and I don't take vacations together), but I do like what I've seen so far. His brilliant "Stop the Sag" video explaining why young men need to hike up their pants, has 167,000 views and counting. As a former police officer, he sets a great tone on crime and relations w the NYPD. And he's a civil rights liberal in a borough that, in my opinion, needs to wake from its artisanal-cheese political complacency. There's so much talent and brains in Brooklyn...we could be leading the country on so many progressive fronts, and I'm hopeful we can influence the next mayoral race and national issues in a positive direction. I know that sounds very vague, but I do think a strong borough president leading the charge and representing the "entire" borough is important!

Markowitz will leave an impressive legacy of successes and controversies. Sure, the borough president has limited powers, but they're extremely important powers when it comes to getting things done - appointing board members and setting budget priorities is a lot more leverage than most people probably think. He can't really take on City Hall, but he can line up forces against it. And yes, that arena is as much his as Ratner's.

Anyway, thought you'd like to know that the guy who until very recently kept an office on Flatbush near Patio Gardens might soon be keeping house in Borough Hall.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Six Tre Outlaw Gangsta Disciples Folk Nation

If you didn't see this piece about the gangs of Ebbets Field houses, it's well worth the read. Killer name for a bunch of killerz. NYTIMES GANGS OF EBBETS.

Open Letter to Tish James Re: Medgar Evers Closing Crown Street

Today some quirky dude dashed off a letter to Tish James regarding the rancor surrounding the proposed (then withdrawn for revision) plan to create a "campus" by closing Crown Street just north of PLG in Crown Heights. For those wonky enough to read it, I salute you!

the Q

January 31, 2012

Councilmember Letitia James
67 Hanson Place
Ground Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Dear Councilmember James:

I’m writing regarding recent conversations that have become quite heated concerning the on-again off-again proposal by Medgar Evers College to create green-space along Crown Street. From my seat at Community Board 9 meetings, I’ve been struck by the rancor surrounding the issue, and I thought I’d bring to your attention the fact that not all constituents in the district are so vehemently opposed to the closing of Crown streets towards an ambitious project to create a “campus” where none existed before. I don’t believe you’ve done enough to elicit opinions on both sides of the coin, and many of us are only now coming up to speed on the issue. Those who live near the school, however, have had time to gather forces and draw lines in the sand. For the betterment of our entire community, including the hundreds of students and teachers who study and work at the College daily, I hope that level heads will prevail.
I noticed that you and other elected officials were quick to pick sides on this issue, even before the final plans have been submitted by the College. You yourself noted that the heated opposition of locals led Medgar Evers to withdraw its proposal for another look. So in essence, even as you complained “we should not even be here tonight” at the November CB9 meeting, you were publicly denouncing the plan, and calling it dead on arrival.

This does not strike me as the Tish James that many of us have come to respect and cheer! Perhaps the passions that were on display at a non-official meeting held at a local church last summer, the meeting where supposedly 100% of the attendees were against the plan, blinded you to your responsibility to learn all the facts before committing to a council vote. I too can pull together an angry mob on any number of issues, and were you to attend such a meeting you might think that sentiment was unambiguous and unanimous. But this is supposedly a democracy, and the loudest side of an argument is not always the majority side, or the reasonable side.

I for one would welcome a project to bring a campus to a college that has shown an enormous potential to educate folks who might not have dreamed of going to college in an earlier generation. The fact that Medgar Evers even exists in a neighborhood that has suffered much through the years is a testament to the optimism and strength of visionary public planning. Yes, there would be inconveniences if the block closes.  But listening to the arguments against closure of Crown Street, I was struck by the lack of solid “community minded” arguments  - NIMBY was on display, but not much else. A slightly longer commute is a drag, but hardly the reason to keep a College from pursuing its longterm vision. I’ve biked and walked Crown Street many times at various hours, and I’ve never seen any serious congestion that would lead me to believe that drivers will do anything other than do what drivers always do – make choices about their route based on what roads are quick and available. They will adjust. One local resident, in explaining his opposition to closing this single block, went so far as to exaggerate that his commute to drop off his kids at school would go from 5 minutes to 25. I'm not buying it. As for the potential loss of onstreet parking, I am constantly struck by the fact that car-owners seem to think that it is the City’s responsibility to provide them with parking! Free parking is not even a remote possibility in large swaths of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, for instance, where parking is available to NO ONE. I for one, as a car-less citizen, have never demanded that the City provide me with public space for my private use. And really, parking could be added to the planned closure, for Crown Street residents even, if that were really the issue. I also heard people state that “the Botanic Garden is RIGHT THERE!” It’s close, yes, but it is not free, and its hours are limited. The park? Actually not that close – about a 10 minute walk, hardly convenient for students between classes. But I don’t think parking, or green-space, or commuting, or traffic is really the biggest problem here. So what REALLY is the issue?

In talking to many of the vehemently opposed residents of Crown and Montgomery Street, I see that they have felt shut out and neglected by Medgar Evers for years. The current administration has alienated many of its neighbors – how and why I cannot say. So the unwarranted anger that is currently on display represents, in my view, a deeper underlying distrust between locals and colleges officials. Given that backdrop, it is even more unwise for elected officials to choose sides without giving both parties more time to get at the heart of their dispute and for a partnership to be repaired, if it ever existed before.

Community Board 9 is not perfect; you are right to wonder why so much confusion surrounded the discussion of the project. We certainly got off to a rocky start on this issue! But I do hope you will keep an open mind to the extraordinary benefits that might ultimately be reaped in the long term. By closing just one street, thousands of potential graduates would visibly see that a quality education is not only within their's right in their own backyard. The greenspace is meant for all, and I hope that opponents to the idea will remember that this cannot be said of parking spaces, which benefit just a few.

Thanks for giving me the courtesy of your time. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Very best,

Tim Thomas
31 Clarkson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11226

P.S. I am Chair of Environmental Protection Committee of CB9, but this letter is from me personally and reflects my personal views alone. I’ve copied members of the Board, as I would even if I had no governmental role to play. And I've posted it to my blog. You may respond to me personally at any time, either copying others or not.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bistro Opens On Rogers

A while back I wondered a-blog what might be in store at the conspicuously upscale looking Ramagi brick oven pizza place on Rogers near Hawthorne. I stopped by tonight and was pleasantly surprised by the geniality of owner Martin Ramagi and clan, and by the tasty Margarita slice I sampled. I didn't stay in, but I'll attest that the seating is small but cozy and candlelit, there's exposed brick to go with the "brick" theme, and most significantly they have a wine and beer license for the billyjoel-esque bottle of red bottle of white crowd.

Surprises on the menu include pumpkin squash ravioli in white wine butter sauce, a couple nifty salads and a curry sauce over fettuccini concoction called "the indies." And yes, free delivery.

So for you lingerers, this might be a swell date spot and for all of us of you a bit east of Eden (a/k/a prospect park) a bit, buon appetito!

below, a daguerreotype of the menu...