The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

As If There Weren't Enough Talk On Gentrification...

Just in case you haven't had your fill of economic change in BK, here's some more, courtesy of Huffinstuff. (thx Carrie!)
Fun, fun, fun! I don't know why, but it really makes me wince when the filmmakers defend their own gentrifying, particularly when one of them defines themselves as the "first wave" or "artists." The deep resentment of the laptop set towards the "investment bankers" has always seemed hair-splitting, since most artists I know would kill for the kind of F.U. money of the I.B's, while basically making the neighborhoods safe for them. Plus, I.B.'s are a minority of the g-fiers anyway. There's a lot of upscaling from sold apartments and family money in there too. As far as I can tell there is no political will to help current renters stay in their homes beyond those grandfathered into Section 8 (now defunct) or rent stabilization (which landlords now actively thwart). So...what can you do? Make a documentary!

As I've said before, the most fascinating part of the history here to me is the claim by current "pioneers" that they stumbled upon decimated neighborhoods. True, some parts of Brooklyn sank pretty far, but you have to give credit to the generations in the 60s - 90s who kept the neighborhoods going despite enormous obstacles. Who were these people? They're living all around us. Some are white, but many, many many are people of color, the gentry one generation previous. And man, do they have stories to tell.

It's with deference to those who came before that the Q hopes there is a renaissance not just of house prices, but of mutual respect and admiration, remembering that almost no one likes the crime, the trash or the malignant decay. Anywhere. Ever. And who exactly are you thanking when that fixer-upper is actually in pretty damn good shape after 100 years, all things considered?

It's easy to see all that's wrong with a neighborhood. It's more fun to see all that's right, and meet the people who've made it so.

16 comments:

babs said...

Section 8 is not defunct (although other programs, like Workforce, are). It was replaced some years ago with a voucher system, making the benefits theoretically transportable, and thereby theoretically providing increased mobility to recipients.

I say theoretically because you'd need to actually convince the landlord to accept the vouchers, which many were reluctant to do, considering the huge bureaucratic nightmare that is the system, whereby benefit payments are often cut off seemingly at whim, or upon the most trumped-up of excuses ("The social worker called twice and got no answer so we stopped the benefits.").

So the City Council introduced a bill which the Mayor approved to make a law, making it illegal to refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers. What is not illegal, however, is to require a certain level of annual income (generally 40x one month's rent) and good credit to get an apartment. As a result, it's very hard to find a landlord willing to accept Section 8 vouchers, but they are out there and the program does still exist.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Section 8 is, in reality, no more. You cannot get new vouchers, which is why I said "grandfathered".

From NYC.gov:

The Section 8 waiting list is closed except to emergency applicants in the following categories:

1, Victim of Domestic Violence
2. Intimidated Witness referred by the District Attorney’s Office
3. Applicants referred by the Administration for Children’s Services under the Independent Living or Family Reunification Programs

I have a lengthy post to offer in regards to this, with particular emphasis on a single building on my block 60 Clarkson which has effectively been turned into a homeless families shelter due to the neglect of the City to deal with a housing crisis that has been decades in the making. It's supposed to be transitional housing, but tenants have lived there for years now without a lease or a prayer of finding housing that they can afford while rebuilding their lives.

babs said...

Additionally, "thwart," is not really the word I'd use when describing landlords vs. rent stabilization. A landlord cannot thwart stabilization; he/she can oppose it (which many, if not most, do) or try to eliminate it by getting apartment prices up to that magic $2500/mo number (increased from $2000 last year), but there's really not much that can be done to thwart it.

Please understand - no buildings, of any size, constructed after 1976 are subject to rent stabilization, unless the owner voluntarily enrolls in the program, in exchange for some nice tax breaks (which many have done). Even then, the starting rents on these stabilized apartments are at market, making them often beyond the normal stabilization ceiling of $2500, but subject to all other provisions, including capped increase amounts and the obligation to renew the lease of any tenant not in default.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Babs: I swear, god bless you, you'd argue with a tree! (not a street tree I hope).

Thwart is the word I chose specifically because landlords all over town are trying to get their stabilized tenants out by any means possible - usually by making life miserable for their renters. Many are steadfastly against the policy and are using the means at their disposal to "thwart" the best intentions of the law.

babs said...

From my contacts in the City I have heard that it is actually not hard to qualify for the waiting list under categories 1 and 3 (especially 3), but it is, indeed, no longer the free-for-all situation of the 1980s and 1990s, when several artist friends of mine entered (and still are on) Section 8. I have one friend, a sculptor, who pays $300/ mo for a large studio in Murray Hill, with Section 8 picking up the balance today. She's always afraid her benefits will be cut, and living in that kind of precarity is not something I would recommend to anyone, but she is still able to live in Manhattan and create art. Whether this is a good thing or not (perhaps if not for the benefits she would have been forced to move elsewhere and/or change careers, in which case who knows what her life would be like now) no-one can say. I'm glad she's here, but sometimes she's not.

babs said...

Seriously, not all landlords are actively opposing their stabilized tenants. Some (even in PLG) take great care of their building and their tenants, don't ram through spurious MCI increases, and even have been known to rent out apartments for LOWER than the legal rent. They feel that they are making an adequate return on their investment and are happy to do so.

I don't like to see all of any group of people painted with the same brush and that includes landlords, as well as people seeking more "amenities" in this neighborhood, and "long-term" residents. I really believe that most people of all stripes are deep-down good at heart, law-abiding, and only want what's best for them and those around them.

And the only time I ever argue with trees is when they jump out in front of me when I'm headed home after a beer or three at LPT!

Anonymous said...

'A renaissance of mutual respect'? There wasn't mutual respect when white people largely (not entirely) fled the inner city, including this neighborhood and it's not 'mutual respect' that is bringing them back. It's an amoral land-grab by people too poor to buy in tonier neighborhoods and too wealthy and snotty to move to Queens.

As for who you can thank that the houses are in restorable condition, no thanks needed. Black people worked for free for hundreds of years for white people and are en masse still doing it for precious little compensation, in many ways. So yall fled the city now yall are coming back. Happy to keep your seats warm while yalls was gone. We'll just go to Brownsville until you want that too.

Anonymous said...

Just in case the point about black people still doing the work of a white nation for little doesn't quite make sense to you, sip on this:
http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/

$113k vs $5.6k in household wealth

Black people generally work all of their lives and go to the grave with just enough to get buried. Whites, on the other hand, just push their wealth from one generation to the next, helping their offspring buy homes and investments which compounds their wealth. Then they look for poor blacks to be their servant class and clean their property, nanny their babies. Not entirely unlike the antebellum good old days. Of course whites don't own blacks but they do have a 400 year head start in the economic rat race.

So what does that mean? It means get over yourselves, white gentry. You're exploiters of your privilege.Stop trying to feel good about yourselves for doing it.

You are a negative force in the lives of people trapped in the black underclass in a way that middle class blacks are not. You don't look black and don't deal with the baggage that entails. You don't understand black culture (and yeah, the entire diaspora shares a culture). You don't love black people for the specialness of their blackness. You have not lived black struggle and you don't even parse it well as a casual observers. Middle class blacks, on the other hand, are generally one or two generations from urban poverty in the North or rural poverty in the diaspora or the South. They tend to get it, even if they are not trapped by it. Does this suck for you? That you can't be both a winner morally and economically? I'm so sorry. So, so sorry. Maybe $113K will soothe some of that pain.

The joy of a water birth in your very own cheaply-bought brownstone and some real estate to hand down to your own precious snowflakes is going to have to be reward enough because morally, there's not going to be any reward for something as empty as white gentrification. To the winner go the spoils...no one said they weren't spoilt though.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous- are you the same anonymous who posted a bitter diatribe about homebirth a few weeks ago? If so, you need to go and do your homework. You're misinformed about your neighbors as well as homebirth. The fact is, you sound like a real ass.

Anonymous said...

As a brother who grew up in the neighborhood I can tell you that black and white have mixed pretty freely in the houses around here. But that's a small minority of the folk living here. The majority live in apartment buildings owned by whites, mostly hassidic jews and a few caribbeans. Precious few afro-americans have owned anything around here. except middle class blacks who you seem to despise as much as the whites.

All I'm saying is that this talk of real estate speculation is old, old, old news. Blacks, whites, jews asians have all owned the land around here over the years, mostly middle and upper classes. The poor great great grandchildren of slavery that you talk about have been tossing around NYC since the migration, from hood to hood. Nothing special happening in Flatbush. The only place poor people ever sortof legitimately called home was the projects and they aint making anymore. So what i'm sayin is you could call this a black neighborhood, but you really couldnt call it a black owned neighborhood. theres a few in the suburbs but not around here.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see some lively debate in the comments. I agree the gentrifiers are not not doing it for some grand moral purpose. They are doing it because they were priced out of other nabes and want to ride the same real estate bubble that they always hear their friends talk about. I am certainly one of those people. I could afford to live in a better hood but hope that I can help make this one a bit more desirable and in the end I will be happy to make a profit on my home. That being said, anon goes way too far. I am not white. I did not have parents pass down any wealth. My parents grew up in the projects. My father was a cop in NYC. He worked hard so I could go to school and make it. I know plenty of folks who have made it out of the projects or tough nabes. It is not easy. In fact, it is extremely difficult but the first step in making it is to take responsibility for yourself and stop blaming others. Certainly stop blaming slavery. Some whites may have had a head start but all that means is the rest of us have to work harder to get what we want.

ElizabethC said...

So yes, it's not impossibly hard for victims of domestic violence or families who are being reunified (after having had children placed in the foster care system then returned) to find housing through Section 8.
Just everyone else. (Um, that's a lot of everyone else's).

I can tell you in my building half the tenants are section 8 and when one of them decided to relocate south to live with family, you could practically see my landlord doing the Snoopy dance all the way down the street. That's how positive he feels about Section 8.

Anonymous said...

People really need to not rewrite history. Especially for those of us who remember it! Like don't ignore the other factor in all this -- flight of black people AWAY from large cities and out of the North entirely. The first time I read an article on this was in 1990 when I was living in Georgia in the AJH newspaper. The piece quoted several black people from NYC who hated being in NYC and wanted more space, more peace and quiet and safer communities. They chose to leave. The big dream became to own a big house and yard, not an apartment or an old wreck of an attached brownstone. The people who wanted to buy those things initially were artists, gays, bohemian families who loved being in the inner city warts and all and who ironically at the time could not afford the nice suburban house in Atlanta. They fixed up houses, they worked hard on economic development bringing in new businesses, they worked to improve schools. It was after those people revived Brooklyn that everybody else, from the people who had moved away willingly, to white bankers who normally would have chosen CT over Brooklyn, wanted to be in Brooklyn again.

Bob Marvin said...

In response to Anon. 6/15, 12:13 AM; to write that white people had "not entirely fled" our neighborhood is quite an understatement. The unique characteristic of Lefferts Manor and the surrounding PLG blocks is that blockbusting failed here and fairly large numbers of white homeowners remained, despite deliberate attempts by unscrupulous real estate interest$ (aka "blockbusters" to artificially panic them into selling their homes and leaving. Thus PLG was one of the few (or maybe the only) NYC neighborhood to become integrated that did NOT go through the cycle described by Saul Alinsky where integration was just a brief period between a neighborhoods being all white and becoming all black.

When I bought my house in 1974 there were many white residents who had lived here since before WW II and, of course, many black homeowners who had moved here long before me. In addition homes were clearly being purchased by newcomer of ALL races, something that has continued over the nearly 38 years that I've lived here.

Prospect Lefferts Gardens has remained integrated for 60+ years and has never "needed" gentrification (an imported term which I hate and don't think applies to NYC, but that's an argument for another occasion).

Bob Marvin said...

BTW "interest$" was a typo for"interests" although it just might be appropriate :-)

Anonymous said...

How about: It's a free country so live where you want.
Or: If I have money to buy a building, and the seller wants to sell it to me, I can buy it.
This is called freedom, and America.

Very sorry that there are still those who want to "regulate" what I can buy, sell, how much I have to buy or sell it for, or where I can live.

NYC land of "regulated" housing is a bubble compared to the rest of the country.

If you notice, poor people in most of the rest of the country, outside of the housing-reguated areas of the larger cities, manage to do OK.
Not great, but being poor never has and never will be a pleasure-filled life.

The important thing is to preserve the freedom and opportunity for those who want to improve their lives and raise law abiding families to do so.

We do in fact have a social safety net, and no one is going to be kicked into the streets (unless drug addicted or mentally ill, or totally unable to avail themselves of the vast social services that are in fact available).

The real horror of living in a poor, urban neighborhood is not the poverty,or "lack of affordable housing." Its living among the criminality of so much of the urban poor.
And that horror is not the result of "not enough affordable housing."
That is more the result of too much well intended, but fundamentally destructive policy attempting to "help" the poor through dependency, that destroys the urban family, and self-reliance, and ultimately creates neighborhoods in which unsupervised children and disrespect for the rights of others is the norm.

Want to really help the poor find affordable housing?
Help the poor live in law abiding neighborhoods, encourage business growth and economic opportunity, and stop pushing people to use ever more social services that destroy the family.