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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Neighbors for a Sh#t Free Sidewalk

This picture, sent by a reader, pretty much says it all:

It may not be a perfect pronunciation of the potential acronym, but how about calling the group Nassafrass? Regardless, hats off to the geniuses over Nassafrass way...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Monumental Good News for the Q at Parkside

Every once in a while the Q's civic tears get jerked, in a good way. How else to respond, after repeated entreaties to local officials about the sorry state of our subway stations, all the while expecting a protracted fight to get anyone's attention -- to then get this response from Councilman Eugene's office today:

Dear residents:

My office has been in conversation with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) regarding much-needed renovations at subway stations throughout the district. As you know, several subway stations along the B/Q line have already undergone renovations these past few years, including the Newkirk Avenue and Avenue H stations. I am pleased to inform you that the MTA will be completing additional renovations and repairs at the Parkside Avenue, Beverley Road and Cortelyou Road stations which are scheduled to begin next year. In the following months, I will make arrangements to have the MTA come to the community to present their proposal for the projects and participate in a public discussion. -  Mathieu Eugene
Really? Wow. I'm not naive enough to think this is the direct result of some of us a-squeakin' and squawkin' but about nice timing! Local resident Dynishal and I met with Eugene in December and presented him with a bunch of photographs of the decrepit conditions and implored him to make this a priority. Rudy of the Parkside Prize has been featuring the sorry state of the Q station heavily in his presentations - to anyone who will listen, including most recently CB's 9 and 14. And the Q was about to put the following letter on and ask y'all to sign it as a petition. A terrific writer whose name rhymes with Moody Selson spruced  up the petition quite a bit, so I can't take full credit, but I think it captures the problem pretty well. Now we just need to get MTA to add Prospect Park's station to the list, and maybe the bland headhouse of the Church stop at Caton? And by the way, we'll need y'all to show up when MTA comes out to talk, because we need to stress that more than just the structural issues should be addressed. We need to gussy 'em up and get 'em to look purty! Here's the petition that might not need to be a petition, at least not yet...


A Call to the MTA from the People of Flatbush/PLG
to rehabilitate the subway stations at

Every weekday last year, fifteen thousand people came and went from our neighborhood by way of the Prospect Park and Parkside Avenue subway stations. Each weekend, twenty thousand visitors used these two stations to reach Prospect Park, the Zoo and Botanic Gardens, and the thriving business district along Flatbush Avenue.

The generation that built the old Brighton line understood how important these two subway stations would be to the borough, and they built them as tributes to the people of Brooklyn.

The subway stations at Prospect Park and Parkside Avenue are elegant examples of old BMT “headhouses”—more than mere caverns carved under the street, they are buildings central to the streetscape above. They were meant to be the pride of our neighborhood: like Brooklyn's armories, libraries and schools, these old BMT headhouses were a symbol of the city's honor for its citizens and for its public life.

But they’ve sadly fallen into decay. Even as other stations along the same line receive glorious makeovers and major renovations, residents and visitors to the east side of Prospect Park suffer the discomfort of an ugly welcome, and the indignity of a shabby departure.

In the fall of 2012, the first phases of Prospect Park Alliance's $73 million Lakeside Project will open to visitors. A new recreation center with an year-round skating rink, acres of new green spaces and pathways, and a newly restored Music Island will together attract thousands of new visitors to east side of Prospect Park every week. The time is now to build a better Brighton Line to welcome this influx!


We—the regular riders of the Q and the B—together with our local elected officials, community groups, and merchants have come together to ask our MTA to rehabilitate our two stations - in the name of safety and aesthetics. We seek:

  • A complete renovation of the historic headhouses, one that honors the century-old details of these fine buildings.
  • A thorough engineering review, to prevent further damage to the platforms and embankments from ground water and weeds.
  • Appropriate restoration of the ceilings and roofs, the walls, stairs and columns, the lighting and signage in both stations.
  • A decent paint job.

Furthermore, we call on our MTA to better maintain the public structures we have entrusted to it by:

  • Committing to keep these subway stations free of litter and graffiti.
  • Committing to regular maintenance to ensure that broken doors and windows get fixed quickly and properly.
  • Designating a point-person to serve as MTA's ombudsperson for the neighborhood, to create better communication between our neighborhood and the public transit agency that serves it.

Finally, we ask for:

  • A review of MTA's use of public land adjacent to both stations.
  • Long-term commitments to turn the triangle of concrete south of Parkside Station and the parking lot north of Prospect Park Station into public parks (as envisioned by the land use plan of Community Board 9).

We know that these are goals that the NYCTA-MTA shares—because we count so many MTA employees among our neighbors, and because we have seen the tremendous commitment of the MTA to restoring and refurbishing other subway stations along the Brighton Line. In the name of safety and the very dignity of our community, we ask that you consider our requests seriously, and help us to identify ways we can partner with you to keep the stations clean, vibrant and inviting in the future.

After decades of neglect, now is our time!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dog Found in Parade Ground Needs Home

A reader brings us news of a dog she found in the Parade Ground, an abandoned but friendly female pit-mix now named "Bear." It's all too common, this dumping of animals, and I'll bet someone reading the Q will look at this picture and their heart will melt. Who doesn't need a friend that looks like this?

A cutie pie!

Click here to find out more:  Dog Needs You.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Little Bit About A Lot Of Things - March 2012

The streets of NE Flatbush are abuzz with news that poor Dept of Health grades at local restaurants Castillo de las Rosas (Castle of Roses) and Mike & Tony's (Mike & Tony's) have led to their shuttering. According to DoH, M&T's got a nasty grade and are appealing (that's what DoH means by Grade Pending by the way). Lotsa folks are bummed, the Q included, as the pies were delicious, though they had trouble with quality control, and deliveries could take forever. Castillo, on the other hand, is listed on DoH as full-on closed, so the fight might be over for Castle. Melany at Lenox and Flatbush was always a much better bet in my book anyway. All the Dominican classics are done there right, and you can always count on plenty of the soccer and the baseball on the flatscreens. And the occasional drunk guy with a cowboy hat.

The Community Board met last night and we were served a heaping helping of power point presentations. Rudy Delson was there pitching the continuing story of the Parkside Prize. He's become a master at telling the Parkside Avenue saga - what it's like now and what it could be. It's downright riveting the way he tells it. The winning architects In Cho and Tim Shields were front and center. Now the question on everyone's mind - who has the money, the will and the expertise to turn fantasy into reality? See below for a possible answer...

Also on the agenda: The Brooklyn Public Library is taking a walk on the swank side with plans for a swell new "research center," which upon closer inspection looks like a groovy new hangout or pickup joint. Feast your eyes on this:

 Actually, on further inspection it doesn't really look all that cool, does it? I thought renderings were supposed to wow you. I mean there's about 12 shades of tan involved there; not exactly what I'd call scintillating. BUT it's a ginormous improvement over the crappy "Popular Library" room that they just closed for the renovation, that big space just off the so-called "Cafe Mambo." You know the place -  the room straight back from the entrance where until very, very recently there was a collection of about 10,000 VHS tapes? Perhaps the best thing about the new "Research Center" is that there will be presumably fewer VHS tapes, AND a number of meeting rooms that can be reserved for community purposes, from a two-person conference room (domestic squabbles?) to a space big enough for an NA meeting. They plan to do computer training and EST sessions (just making sure you're paying attention). The Leon Levy Foundation came up with a ton of dough for this (see above?), the SAME pot of money that's making Lakeside happen in Prospect Park. It's all because of Shelby White, Leon's widow, who grew up on Crooke Avenue. Yes, THAT Crooke Avenue. (the official P.R. memo on the Leon Levy Information Commons is below...check out that last paragraph for the claim that it will "fundamentally change the way librarians interact with their customers" - hmm. Like if they walked around taking orders, a la cocktail waitresses?)

The NE corner of Parkside and Flatbush is a-scaffolded after the building changed hands recently. The folks at the deli - once Mansoob now E&M - tell me they're going to be able to stay put while the floors above get a gut-rehab. Maybe the developer will go for luxury condos? That seems to be all anyone wants to build anymore, and in this case, rather than a pool or sauna or wet bar or game room you could promote the building as having your VERY OWN BODEGA just downstairs. And WHAT a bodega! Love that decorating...

Speaking of bombed-out would appear that there's been a change of owner at 604 Flatbush, the embarrassment next to the Patio Gardens apartments. There's a phone number to call for more info: Altisource at 866-952-6514, option 2. Alls I knows about Altisource is that it's one of those companies that made its fortune on derelict buildings. Like when the foreclosure crisis peaked there were hundreds of thousands of homes across the country that had no one living in them, you could pay Altisource to watch it for you or at least be semi-responsible while you were crying over your money-bleeding ill-timed investments.

And finally, the NYRR (New York Road Runners) brought a presentation on the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, set this year for Saturday, May 19 at 7 AM. They're trying a new course that begins at the Brooklyn Museum parking lot, shoots down Washington, right on Empire, UP Flatbush, around Grand Army Plaza, back down the other side of Flatbush, right on Ocean, right on Parkside, in and around the Park, to the straight-away of Ocean Parkway all the way to Coney. So you'll be able to see the runners pass by right near our beloved at...around 7:30 am.

As advertised, here's more on the new Library thang:

  The Leon Levy Information Commons will feature the following amenities:
  • A 30-seat wireless training center where library staff will conduct information literacy workshops as well as training on the library's extensive suite of online databases, a number of which are only available onsite.
  • Seven private meeting rooms equipped with electronic whiteboards and other technologies to facilitate group and one-on-one research consultation sessions.
  • Bar-style seating for laptop computer users to accommodate the thousands of laptop and other mobile device users who use Central Library's wireless network each month.
  • Twenty-five PCs equipped with traditional software packages, as well as higher-end, memory-intensive graphic design and video editing programs.
  • A centrally-located help desk to provide reference and information services in addition to innovative on-demand training.

Popularized in new and renovated academic libraries during the last decade, the information commons concept allows libraries to take advantage of contemporary information-seeking habits by providing comfortable and exciting spaces in which library users can access, interpret and share information. Additionally, the Commons at Brooklyn Public Library will fundamentally change the way librarians interact with their customers. It will encourage active participation on the part of reference librarians who will work with schools and other organizations to anticipate customer needs, provide training and facilitate research.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

CSA Snooze-Lose Alert

Right off the wire comes the latest from one of the local CSA's. (There are two - the Flatbush CSA and the PLG CSA, and the Q is situated directly between the two, a veritable embarrassment of organic riches.) From the PLG CSA, which has pickups on Lincoln Road near the Prospect Park station, comes this new member registration info and form:  PLG CSA Info and Form.  Deadline April 13.

Or maybe you live closer to the old Flatbush Dutch Reformed church on... Church. If so, you might want to sign up for their dealio: Flatbush Farm Share. Deadline April 15.

Both have hooked up with the Farm at Miller's Crossing, so it's not like you're gonna get better beets, leeks, and lettuce at one over the other. I'm assuming there's no hard feelings over the two sharing the same Old MacDonald. Seems quite convenient for the farmer, in fact. (Seems like a great setup for a movie actually - rival CSA's, a murder, lots of fresh broken eggs...would hate things to end up like the film version of Miller's Crossing, which as I recall had some pretty gruesome twists and turns and even a couple double crossings. Stream it, if you haven't already.)

I don't have any good CSA pictures to post, but here's one smug little mug from that guy at CSI that somehow passed muster at every link in the p.r. chain at CBS. I'll bet either CSA's greens are a heap more appetizing than this:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Know Thy Neighbor: Leslie Ward - Music Teacher

The Q studied piano for more than 9 years as a young 'un. Got pretty good, if I do say so myself. But the siren song of folk, then rock, then funk, then punk, then new wave then noisy indie-blah-blah suggested that the guitar was way cooler; the drums too. And writing your own songs meant not having to learn ALL the notes. So I left my classical roots behind and set out on a musical career that lasted until it didn't, then resurfaced as a glorified hobby. My band is still together after 20 years (!) and not a day goes by that I don't play songs for my kids or tinkle along on the ivories to a favorite tune. It's a lifelong thing, this music playing, and I'm so grateful now for those long anxious drives out to the country where Mrs. Larsen would shake her head at my lack of practicing. Had someone asked "Little Q, do you want to take piano lessons?" I don't think I would've said yes. Nor would I have stuck it out all those years of painful practice. But I'm so grateful that my folks noticed my interest and proclivity and nurtured it, to the point of making all kinds of rules about practicing. Of course, music is but one of these spiritually fulfilling pursuits. Not every kid is gonna want to play music over the course of a lifetime - maybe it's foreign languages or basketball or swimming or bicycle maintenance or ballet - but for me it was the ol' sharps and flats and I'm thrilled I got in buying Apple when John Scully was CEO.

So I was feeling wistful while talking to a super-swell neighborhood music teacher named Leslie Ward. Leslie teaches privately out of her home on Lincoln Road, and focuses on both piano and steelpan (the national instrument of her childhood home, Trinidad). [When I think about it, they're a wonderful combination to learn if you decided to become ambi-dinstrumentrous - both are technically percussion instruments with things hitting other things - but if you play both you get to transpose the notes from one to another, learning even better how the math of music is all in the frequencies and their relationship to one another.]

If you want to check out Leslie in action, you need only head over to local powerhouse Play Kids on Wednesdays from 4-6PM. Anyone from 4-Adult can take a lesson on the fly for $15! Her one on one instruction is super-reasonable as well, and I think it's a major plus that she has her teaching studio right there on Lincoln Road. More on her website: ydotnot

If you're looking for pedigree, Leslie's got it. After an early education in Trinidad she came up here to attend one of the most prestigious conservatories in the country at Indiana University. The midwest was a bit of a shock to this island girl, but she got the hang of it and made a life for herself here that balanced making and teaching the many kinds of music that she loves. Heck, she was even in a avant gothy punkish outfit in the  early 90's called Maria Excommunikata, which I remember from back in the day. I'm pretty sure her band and mine shared a bill at least once, though I don't think she remembers me - my hair was down to my ass back then anyway and my jewelry was too shiny for most folks to see my face for the bling (hyperbole alert). She's also known for her work with Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, a very cool 120 year old org that provides subsidized pre-K to kids all over the borough. And I have it on good authority that she's EXCELLENT with kids, and tailors her lessons to their needs, speeds, and interests.

There's Leslie, looking pretty serene, making those pans speak and revelling in a beautiful day and her lifelong love of music. Little known facts: geese prefer steelpan playing to everything but food. They also prefer wheat bread to rye, though neither is considered healthy for them by park officials. Geese are also delicious themselves, though park officials also advise against eating "park geese." Park officials themselves are also quite tasty, or so I have read.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Gotta Check This Out - Lakeside

It's pretty lame to posta link and not comment. But I'll let y'all do the talking. Check out this video animation of the Lakeside Project. Assuming they don't pipe in the cheesy electronica soundtrack, this is going to be a massive game-changer for the Park and for our neighborhood. Wow. Lakeside Animation

But then, it ain't gonna open when they thought (big surprise). So don't bother sharpening your skates til the fall of 2013.

Til then, we'll have that lovely cartoon to keep our appetites whetted. It ain't Avatar, but James Cameron was unavailable at the bottom of the Ocean.

above: the upcoming view onto the new "music island."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Parkside Medical Reclaims Dignity

One of the Q's pet peeves for some time has been the blatant inaccuracy of the names on an awning that I pass on my daily commute to the Q at Parkside. There's a western entrance to 225 Parkside that's home to a small medical suite. Recently we noticed the awning had gotten a makeover, and presumably reflects the actual doctors in residence:

The Q stopped in awhile back in a panic looking for a dentist. My then-current DDS was a total quack over in Park Slope, and I was experiencing a bit of, shall we say in polite company, discomfort. I inquired within about a dentist who was listed on the sign by the name of Carole Germain, and was told that she hadn't practiced there in years. Turns out she'd moved to Nostrand near Clarkson, and because I liked her name and figured "how bad can a lady dentist be anyway?" the rest is dental history. I like Carole Germain a lot, and now the whole family goes, since she takes our lame-o dental plan. (yes, yes, I'm grateful for coverage at all, trust me.) As for the ol' sign, it wasn't accurate about other names as well, leading me to make some inferences about the practice there-in. Let me elaborate thusly...

Note to doctors: we entrust you with a great deal more than our insurance cards, cash or medical secrets. Please do your best to keep your offices clean, fairly well painted, bathrooms tidy, your awnings true, and those lab test specimen mail boxes working properly and not rusted-through with locks a-plundered hanging open creaking in the wind. Those small things really don't inspire confidence in your abilities, though perhaps we're naive to expect much from doctors at all these days. Marcus Welby, MD was cancelled back in 1976.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Do We Have Here?

A hawkeyed neighbor* snapped this photo of the Car Wash next to Phat Albert's, not but a couple hours ago:

Care to guess?

*(picture by babs)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Intense Firefighter Scene on Lincoln

The Q was dashing to work when he saw this scene on Lincoln, right across from the train station:

Anybody know what happened? The Q's ancient blackberry doesn't provide a lot of detail, but the scene included two rescue ladders that were used to enter two separate apartments. I didn't see any smoke, and the slow pace of action and lack of EMT's gave me the impression it wasn't lethal. Does anyone know anything more?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Work Begins...sort of.

 Maddie Fix-Hansen noticed some work last night at Parkside/Ocean and snapped this pic:

So the Q checked with DOT to see what's up, and got this response:

While the main part of the implementation isn't for a few months, the project requires realigning the north and west crosswalks which are currently a brick material (having to remove an unusual crosswalk material is fairly unusual among our projects and requires advance work). So the workers you'll see this week at night are removing that material and will replace the crosswalks with asphalt and temporary markings in their existing configuration. I believe the main implementation (meaning intersection redesign) will start in June.

Translation: Don't be too disappointed if you see the old unsafe scenario reappear after this phase is completed. The bulk of the project is happening down the road (so to speak).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Survey Says...

Prospect Park. You love it. Does it love you?

Perhaps you've only a passing understanding of the relationship between the park's non-profit administrator (the Prospect Park Alliance) and its mack daddy (the Parks Department). If you want to learn more and/or have your thoughts registered, take the survey that the Alliance is circulating. It takes about 10 minutes, and you'll have an opportunity to express, for once and for all, what a terrible tagline is "Gotta Have Park." Hey, if you don't speak up, we could be living with that for years to come. "Brooklyn's Backyard" is much less cringe-inducing. If it were up to me, I'd go with "Geese Is the Word" or "Come Run In A Big Circle" or "Don't Walk Through the Super Dark Middle of the Park At Night Unless You're Prepared to Talk to Yourself in a Crazy Monologue Hoping That the Bad Guys Think You're Too Crazy to Mug" but then they never got around to asking the Q for suggestions.

Take the Survey: Prospect Park.

The Alliance has been kickin' it in high gear for almost exactly as long as the Q has lived in Brooklyn. The difference is nothing short of astounding. I'm sure old-timers will back me up on that. So I say...take the survey, and drop the Alliance a buck or two if you've got it.  At the very least, they deserve our thanks for keeping their eyes on the prize while the City's busy spazzing out every couple of years.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Best Worsted Fabrics In Town

Surely you've seen these fantastic wrap-around signs of the newly opened Elegant fabric shoppe on Flatbush at Winthrop. Perhaps you've peaked inside and imagined what sort of magic resides therein. Fabric, my friends. Reams and reams and yards and yards of beautiful fabric from all over the world. And its tagline? "Fine Worsted Suiting Fabric," bringing both a new word to the Q's vocabulary and a great title for the post.

The old-world shop-keep is Sammy, and he just moved his store here from 174 Orchard, Orchard Street once being the king of kommerce on the lower east side. (perhaps you've been lately? i think it's more about bistros and bars now, though last time I peaked there was still some low hanging luggage to be snagged). Sammy was born in Egypt, his family forced to flee to Israel during the early days of the Nasser regime. He emigrated to the United States in 1975 and after a few years of apprenticeship on Orchard, opened his own shop.

Does it seem strange that he's landed in our neck of the 'Bush? Not at all. Many of his best clients are from the islands, including many tailors who work right here in the neighborhood. Sure he's had to keep his stock fresh to go with his clientele's predilections, but since Orchard Street is no longer what it once was, he's happy to call Flatbush home. Sammy notes "we have fabric from all over the world - England, India, Italy, Africa." The one notable exception? There is no fabric worthy of his store that's made in the U.S.A. Interesting.

When the Q first noticed his sign a couple months back, something about it made me think olde time. And more specifically, it made me think Barnum & Bailey Circus. So I looked up old images from them, and it still seems reminiscent somehow. As I look at the font I'm not sure they're even a little bit related. Can someone with a background in graphic design tell me if I'm completely crazy to see a connection?

Maybe they just both seem "old" and hand painted. And how both them Siamese Sisters playing violin and piano? You just don't see that as much these days...

New Shoppe Alert

Ever since the demise of "Teleflowers and French Perfume" (the official name of the florist next to the Subway Shop at 560 Flatbush near Beekman), folks have wondered what was to become of this prime retail location. The guessing is over...the shop has officially listed itself with the City and (perhaps even more officially) on It's called PurpleBerry Smoothie, and you can get a hint of what they're about here: PBS FB page.

PBS (as I've been known to call it) seems to have a fascination with weight - there's a couple of photos on the FB page that suggest they'll be serving up healthy options, or at least food that doesn't add flab to your blubber quotient.

While the name PurpleBerry conjures images of Pinkberry, the popular frogurt joint, it's also the "name brand" of a potent strain of marijuana joint. The Q learned this tidbit from a brief, legal googling, his preferred method of "research" these days.

The Q doesn't know what to make of the "Smoothie Revolution"...I expected the fad to last no longer than those of, say, falafel or frogurt itself...which, now entering their 4th and 5th decade respectively, show no signs of abating. I guess the "barrier to entry" in the category pretty much starts and ends with "blender," so perhaps there's a "simplicity" here that beggars analysis. Me, I prefer to "chew" food myself, but I'm "old-fashioned" that way. Don't get me "wrong;" a good smoothie is de-friggin-licious, and the Q 110% wishes them well in their new location next to Subway Sandwich Shop #874,522.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Enduro to Change Name & Shorten Menu

The name Enduro endureth no more. Owner Jim Mamary plans to end the distinction between the popular Tex-Mex joint and the bar next door. The two will be known as Lincoln Park Tavern, so moving from one to the other will no longer feel like a cross over the Rio Grande. Delivery will be an option (of the food, not the PBRs), and the menu will shorten to just the faves.

This is one of many exciting tidbits to learn courtesy of the wonderful new edition of The Echo. While you may have been quick to dismiss this "newsletter" from Leffert Manor, the Q is here to tell you that this is one fantastic little newspaper - well-written, balanced, booster-y without being sycophantic. The writers are uniformly excellent. My hats off to the small but dedicated staff at The Echo, who keep the thrill of the printed word alive with their attractive hard-copy endeavor. Despite that wistful's the link to the pdf that you REALLY wanted, you digital little blog-reader you!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Play Kids Wins Best NY Toy Store

Not best in Flatbush. Not best in Brooklyn. NYC. And folks, New York City is a BIG city. Check out New York Magazine's rave here.

Congrats Shelley and Carl. Play Kids has become a neighborhood fixture, hangout, classroom and now, legend. What will you do for an encore, during your second four months in existence?

FEPMA Meeting Tonight

These are the folks working to improve the commercial main street we all know and love as Flatbush Avenue, from Empire to Parkside. They could use your support, so show up, businesses and residents alike, at Mr. Compere's business at 653 Flatbush.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Second Charter School Option Moves In to PLG

Somewhat lost in the parental chatter about neighborhood schools is the fact that a well-regarded charter school - Explore - moved into its new digs on Parkside Avenue near Nostrand. As the Q noted last September, there were the usual unhappy rumblings from the school already calling that building home - a purportedly rigorous middle-school called Parkside Preparatory - and the teacher's union trotted out the usual rabble-rousers with signs and shouts to make it appear that the current school was actively hostile to the charter moving in. Fact is, the relatively youthful facility was only 40% of capacity, so someone was probably gonna use the space. Explore had outgrown its old digs down on Snyder. Thus, Prospect Lefferts Gardens now has two, count 'em two, charter elementary schools within a block of each other. Neighborhood gadfly Babs noted that the sign below says "taking kindergarten applications," so if you're a parent of soon-to-be school-agers, it might be worth a gander.

Explore is the flagship school of what founder Morty Ballen hopes will be a powerhouse franchise of the charter movement - the Explore Network. The master plan calls for opening a school a year, and so far the growing non-profit group has put sister schools Excel, Exceed, and Empower schools into the NYC Public School System (he's gonna run out of "e" words soon, but it's a great run so far). Having sat on the Board of an unsuccessful charter application, the Q will tell you this -- these guys have their proverbial sh*t together. Check out their financials, the impressive list of Board members credentials, the strong fundraising, even the website itself glows. If in fact Morty and crew have the right stuff, they could go very far in the current public-school & union-bashing environment. (Off-topic, I was particularly moved to see that in his bio he mentioned that he lives with his husband in Brooklyn. We're living at a time when, soon, such a statement will seem unremarkable.)

Listen, the Q doesn't know if this school is right for your kid, and the bitch about it is, it's still a lottery to get this or any other charter. While I applaud the "fairness" angle of lotto, I think it misses a real need that parents have. Parents want desperately to have a walkable local school that they can help invigorate and feel proud about. It's hard to gather the courage to go local in a struggling district when you don't know if you or your neighbors kids will get in or not. I'm serious, it's demoralizing to have to entrust such an enormous decision to toss of the dice.

Truth is, there are now many local non-charter neighborhood-zoned schools all over the City that are "improving," or more accurately "gaining in reputation," as a result of parents being brave, banding together and That's right, they go. To their local zoned school. The one that HAS to let them in. Sounds easy, right? Well, a few stars have to align before such a transition happens, whether it's in Greenwich Village, Tribeca, Clinton Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Prospect Heights,Windsor Terrace (all host to real public school "success" stories by the way). First, the principal has to see it as a priority to engage with all parents in the neighborhood. Two, at least a few parents have to consider the local option seriously, and develop the nerve to take the plunge. And three, the perception of the school must change. Oh yeah, teachers are important too. But great and lousy teachers are scattered throughout the City's schools, in pretty much equal numbers, so suggests the recent avalanche of data from teacher evaluations just made public. Translation: the big differences might just come down to the strength of the principal, his/her philosophy, and the parents (and by extension the kids and their overall readiness to learn). Of course the you and the Q probably understand the underlying reality here: whether a school ACTUALLY gets better overnight when gentrifiers start going is seriously open for debate. We're talking about perception here, though I doubt you could argue that creating a more diverse student body does a school harm.

Recently some parents in the neighborhood have expressed excitement about a school not far from here - the New American Academy, a school with a somewhat radical organizational model and a headstrong principal with a Harvard pedigree - Shimon Waronker. You can read about it in the NY Times, or you could check it out yourself, as one local mom did who said: "The basic thing that makes this school different is that the classrooms have 60 kids(!) but there are 4 teachers. I was very skeptical, but honestly I cannot say enough good things about what I witnessed there." It's not a charter school, just a district school given special license to try out a new method and reward good teaching. It's way the heck east of here though on East New York Avenue (past Utica), so it certainly won't qualify as a walk-to-schooler. Nice to see people saying nice things about a District 17 public elementary school though.

As is often the case in Brooklyn, the pink (black and white?) elephant in the room is race. Or rather, race and class, since it's fair to say that when people look at a school's demographics, they're observing the relative income AND racial characteristics of the students and perhaps, I say just perhaps, making inferences about a school's suitability for their child on this basis, rather than on the principal and teachers alone.

Going to school in a neighborhood is very different than just living there. Going to school means FULLY integrating into the local environment, both learning from and sharing with one's neighbors. That's what real integration is...and it's what school desegregation, the much-maligned experiment of the 1970s, was really all about - full social and cultural  integration - so that kids really could learn without inherent advantages or disadvantages. That was the utopian goal, of course. The biggest problem for most white or wealthier families (and probably some black and poorer families too) was that it was coerced and often meant long nonsensical commutes to school. What's happening in NYC is quite different - practically the opposite. As gentrification picked up steam, the new "gentry" has been attempting integration voluntarily, using the once-troubled P.S. 321 in Park Slope as inspiration. It's not nirvana, god knows. But this new reality is changing the very fabric of the City. Whether you see it as a good thing or bad thing, it is. Will that energy come to NE Flatbush/SW Crown Heights as well?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Momentum Mounting; Small Victories Leading Somewhere Big?

Tonight at the lovely gathering for the Parkside Prize winners at Play Kids, the Q was moved by the congenial familiarity with which local community-minded folk are working together to create positive change. Elected leaders had to share the spotlight with by-the-bootstraps types like Rudy Delson, Maddie Fix-Hansen, Delroy Wright, Atim Oton, Lindiwe Kamau, Quest Fanning and the winning architects, Parkside residents In Cho and Tim Shields (pictured) plus many others. If you don't know those names yet, you will. They're among the Q's local heroes for sticking their noses into everyone's business. That is, OUR business. The business of neighborhood. And business is good!

Delson as you must know by now led the charge for a prize to redesign the much maligned Parkside Avenue lead-up block to Prospect Park. He took a humble victory lap tonight. The Q watched as he masterfully led Councilman Mathieu Eugene through the winning proposal, a proposal that he noted, salesmanlike, could be accomplished for less than a million smackers. That's a lot of bang for the buck. Let's keep the pressure on to make it happen. I particularly like the action shot at left of Delson, with another Parkside Prize hero Duane Joseph beaming from behind.

Alls I'm saying is this...there's a great bunch of people committed to making this neighborhood shine, and the Q applauds you all.

AND, the latest from the traffic calming plan from DOT for Parkside/Ocean? It passed the relevant committees and full Community Boards numbers 14 and 9. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor at last Tuesday's CB9 meeting. The presentation by Jesse Mintz-Roth was superb and thorough. Guess what? This project's a GO folks. From Carrie McLaren's early wake-up call to Maddie Fix-Hansen not taking no for an answer, we hope to soon see a park entrance closed to cars and a safer walk-ride-drive for all.

Who says you can't fight City Hall?

(And without rushing the story, there's more good news a-coming about our long neglected subway stations along the park - Parkside and Prospect Park. That's a teaser...more info soon, and a plan to help get it done right.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sector C: Crime Blotter

It's once again time for the latest installment of the PLG crime blotter, as brought to you by neighborhood watcher and Meals-for-Moms founder Nicole Fabri. The below is reprinted by permission from her entry on the "Lefferts Watch" Yahoo listserve. Anyone care to comment? A few things jump out at shootings (really? none?), the (understandably)  matter-of-fact language used to describe violent acts, and maybe I'm being picky here, but isn't Grand Larceny in NY over $1,000? What cell phone costs that much? I'll leave the rest of the nitpicking to y'all!

 Hi folks,

Please find the latest crime report below. As a separate note, over the years of doing this report, I've heard from numerous people in the community about  particular crimes that are missing from the report. I always talk to Vinnie  afterwards and ask him why those crimes were omitted from the information he provides me. In virtually every circumstance, the crime was omitted because  family members were involved, it was a family dispute, or it was family-on-family criminal activity. Vinnie routinely omits these kinds of crimes because they are of a sensitive and personal nature, and also because they tend
  to not indicate danger for the rest of the community (i.e. the crimes are  personal in nature). So in case you've wondered about a crime that I haven't  reported in the past, it may be that the crime was between family members. If  you ever have a question, however, please do bring it up to me and I will check  out why it was omitted. I'm always looking for ways to improve the crime report.

Another note: a few weeks ago I spoke with a neighbor who complained about one  of the police cameras on Flatbush near Parkside pointing towards a tree. It had  been in that position for many years and many people were very annoyed that had  not been moved to a better location after repeated requests to the precinct. I  asked Vinnie about this today, and he gave me some interesting information. He said that police cameras require a very high voltage, and so they're not that  easy to place. Of the light poles on the street, only a few carry high enough  voltage in them to host a police camera. So that camera is not so easy to move  because there aren't other poles around it that can supply the power it needs.  Vinnie also said that that camera swings around and takes a 180 view of the  street, so it doesn't point at the tree all the time (this would be a good thing  for someone to verify. Stand out on Parkside and Flatbush for 30 minutes and see  if the thing swings around!). It gets images from up and down the street, regardless of the tree being in the way. If you have information contrary to this, please tell me! If you stand there and the camera doesn't move for 30
  minutes, tell me and I'll pass it on.

So that's it for now. Please stay safe!


Crime Report

January 19 - February 29, 2012


January 28th, 6:00PM. 253 Parkside Avenue. In lobby of building, victim was  robbed at gunpoint. Perp took cash.

February 19th, 2:00AM. Corner Flatbush and Lefferts. Victim was punched in the  face. $60 cash was taken.

Felony Assaults

January 18th, 7:45AM. Midwood & Flatbush. Perp hit the victim with an aluminum  bat, causing pain and swelling. Unknown perp, unknown reason.

February 16th, 10:00PM. 65 Ocean Avenue. Victim was struck with sharp object in the head, causing lacerations. Two individuals arrested.  Unknown reason.


January 25th, 2:00PM. 204 Fenimore Street (church). Came in through side window and took money.

February 3rd, 10:30PM. 554 Flatbush Avenue (a bodega). Rear entry, $2500 cash taken.

February 21st, 11:00AM. 342 Rutland Rd. Perp broke into garage and took bicycle.

Grand Larceny

January 24th, 3:00AM. Nostrand and Sterling train station. Cell phone snatched.

January 28th, 7:00PM. 373 Lincoln Rd. Pocketbook snatched.

January 31st, 9:00AM. 495 Flatbush Avenue. A debit card was taken from victim's
  hand. Unknown perp.

February 2nd, 5:30PM. Train station at Flatbush and Ocean. Cell phone snatched
  from hand.

February 2nd, 9:15PM. Nostrand and Sterling train station. Pocketbook snatched.

February 2nd, 10:30PM. Train station at Flatbush and Ocean. Cell phone snatched.

February 6th, 5:30PM. 569 Parkside Avenue. Cell phone snatched.

February 24th, 2:00PM. Flatbush and Winthrop. Cell phone snatched.

Grand Larceny Auto

(Vinnie mentioned that older model Nissans have a key hole that is really easy to turn and therefore those cars are particularly easy to steal. So if you're in  the market for a used car... maybe not a Nissan...)
February 4th, 5:00PM. 354 Rutland Rd. 1997 Tan Nissan Maxima stolen.

February 15th, 8:00PM. 145 Lincoln Rd. 1996 Gray Nissan Maxima  stolen.

Feburary 16th, 1:30AM. 1071 Nostrand Avenue. 1992 White Nissan  Maxima stolen.

February 17th 7:30PM. 345 Rutland Rd. 1996 Black Nissan Maxima  stolen.






There was a rape in our immediate area. It was a date rape. The victim and perp  were known to each other. No force was used. The police have made an arrest.