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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

201 Linden Boulevard - Landlords Without Shame

For those of us who have lived in big old apartment buildings in Brooklyn, far afield from the "pre-war" splendor of choice digs in say Brooklyn Heights, the story will likely sound familiar. Longtime tenants, often of a certain age, get reamed by greedy landlords who favor higher-paying newcomers. This Daily News story on 201 Linden between Rogers and Nostrand, while riddled with embarrassing (for a professional newspaper, not squeeze it in before bedtime blogger) typos, gets it about right. Though it goes a bit far in stating that the "yuppies" get palaces out of the deal. The reno-job might look passable at lease-signing, but rest assured the workmanship is crap and those hoodlums in the lobby aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

The culprit? Well, the landlords of course. But it's also the perverse incentives and disincentives of the rent stabilization laws. Two identical apartments in the same building can fetch wildly different rents, creating a two or three or four tiered hierarchy of desirability from the landlords perspective. And, incidentally, what better way to ensure your longtime profits than to rent to whites, or at least newscaster-English speakers?

The Q brings the story to your attention only to highlight one of the many (in my view) uncomfortable issues plaguing our neighborhood during its current in-fluxness. Fast, very-very fast, prices have come up. In the houses, yes, but that's not where the vast majority of NE Flatbushers live. Landlords are routinely grabbing north of $1,500 for two bedrooms, $2,000 is not unusual even on less-desirable blocks, and a little math will tell you that annual household income must be, say, pre-tax, at least $50,000 to hit the rent sweet spot of spending just half one's take-home pay for housing. H.I. of $50K is way higher than the mean income around here, meaning that most current residents can't afford to stay here if they're forced to move apartments. Duh, right?

I know you can file all this in the drawer of common knowledge. And yet, how exactly does a neighborhood stay "wonderfully diverse" as someone recently beamed, when only middle income people can afford to rent here? And trust me, if the rest of Brooklyn is any harbinger, it won't be "middle" income for long. No need for the newcomer renter who recently found a "bargain" to feel too smug - the next great-leap-forward might be sooner than you think.

The insult to injury part is that there are some absurd rules on the books that actually make it advantageous for some landlords to pack their buildings with homeless or transient recipients of social-services over locals desperate to stay put. See my post on 60 Clarkson, and trust me, there are plenty of 60 Clarksons in the neighborhood. In fact, it was recently revealed to me that the same adorable scumbag who owns 60 also owns other buildings around here that also have big contracts with CAMBA, the not-always-how-shall-we-say-thorough government contractor, or the Haliburton for the Homeless as I prefer to call them.

PLGNA, the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association, was once known as an agent for keeping the redliners and blockbusters at bay. Just 40 years ago folks were working to prevent the outflow of's quite unlikely that a similar outrage will erupt over abrupt inflows. If the building on Parkside - 123 on the Park - is a hit, and if trends continue in the bigger rental and condo buildings near the Park's "Lakeside" corner, we may begin to wonder where some of our neighbors have gone. Granted, the few trouble-making knuckleheads won't be missed. But here's a dark thought - maybe some of those very same displaced neighbors will come back as homeless residents as part of a CAMBA program. Think it's far-fetched? That's the exact story I was told by one current resident of 60 Clarkson - she used to live on Ocean nearby, one thing led to another, and...

As if there weren't enough poetry in her tale, here's some ACTUAL poetry written about 201 Linden Boulevard in 1955.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone knows the scuttlebutt on the Patio Gardens apartment complex (580 and 590 Flatbush). At 17 stories tall, it feels like half the neighborhood lives in one of those two buildings. And I've heard vastly varying accounts of rents there. Anyone know if the landlord is using a similar system?

Anonymous said...

In regards to your comment about about Camba. Camba is a large non profit with 120 programs. And each program opperates in its own satilite in many offices around Broiklyn..Just sharing 1720 CHURCH as human resources. The program that sends the social service staff to 60 clarkson and all its other buildings is under paid, over worked and does a pretty thourough job considering its resources. By no means a Haliburton! If you want to blame someone blame the departrt of Uhomeless system that contracts dozens of other non profits around the five bouroughs, that sends out city inspectors to the buildings every four months, and even though many dont pass time and time again the landlord is not held accountable..

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Thanks Anon for your perspective. I wonder who you think we should blame for the fact that the staff is underpaid and overworked? Hint: They are not directly on the City's payroll...

What I took away from my meeting with CAMBA was that they were defensive and ineffectual in dealing with unscrupulous landlords. If there is anyone who has the power to fight the City's criminal negligence with regards to its homeless policy, it is CAMBA and the other major contractors in the war on homelessness (Haliburton for Homeless is meant as black humor, but it's a fitting metaphor). I find it telling that after I documented the abuses at 60 Clarkson by owner Barry Hers, they neglected to tell me that they work with him in countless other buildings. They absolutely have the power to do something about it, even going to the press if they need to...but I suspect they are tied to the government contracts that they signed and the money it brings in and for seem reason are uninterested in shaking things up. Shame on them for not being ADVOCATES as well as service providers.

I stand by my comments, but I would never, ever fault the many Samaritans working in CAMBA's employ.

ElizabethC said...

I'm going to take a wild guess that if they stopped dealing with unscrupulous landlords, they'd have even less to offer the homeless of NYC.

My other thought while reading that article is how a landlord can make a profit if a two bedroom is $886 a month? I mean, I in *no way* mean to advocate for someone who sounds seriously derelict in their duties, but a rent that low doesn't sound as if it would be possible to be profitable. Again, no excuse for leaving it in such awful condition, but ....that stuck out to me.

As well as the continued poor reporting that leads me *NOT* to read the Daily News.

ElizabethC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean said...

I've rented a one-bedroom in Patio Gardens for the past two years. It was renovated right before I moved in and cost $1390. Having just completed an apartment search this month, I can tell you that some renovated one-bedrooms in the neighborhood are now going for as high as $1900. This one looks nice, but the building itself is still pretty sketchy, according to friends who live there:

Anonymous said...


Would you mind telling me what building this is? Im surprised by the renovations. Super glad for my modest apartment, reasonable rent, and decent neighbors.


babs said...

Like other rent-stabilized buildings, rents in Patio Gardens vary widely, due to turnover in tenants; any time a rent stabilized apartment becomes vacant, there is an automatic vacancy increase (I think it's currently 13%) and any renovations the landlord does can be added into the new rent as major capital improvements (I believe it's $40 per $1000 of work - and no-one checks to see if the work really cost what is claimed), so obviously those apartments that turn over more often will have higher rents.

This is another reason for landlords to prefer younger, more mobile tenants - they aren't likely to stay more than two years or so, meaning another vacancy increase and MCI opportunity soon.

What really gets me about Patio Gardens are the stories I've heard from various people about being quoted different income requirements depending on the applicant's appearance. A single black woman who applied told me she was informed that she needed 80 times one month's rent in income to move in, double the standard amount, while a white couple told me the agent didn't even ask their income or check their credit. Additionally, it's a good idea to dress conservatively (frum) if you're a woman when you meet with the agent; if you're with your husband/boyfriend let him do all the talking.

Anonymous said...


Oh that's disgusting behavior. I hear that even if you get a "nice" apartment, that it's nice particularly great building. You have the trains and there are some noisy neighbors. However, with a landlord like that it's not going to change or improve for anyone. He'll just take your money and create negative tensions with his racism and sexism. barf.

ElizabethC said...

Yeah, sorry--I'm not going to buy into anyones stereotype of the "woman's role" -- not for any apartment in the world. Our building super tries that BS all the time, and we just force him to deal with us women as, you know, regular people. In fact, one of my neighbors is a married couple and they intentionally make him deal with the wife for everything.

I'm sorry, but "wear a skirt and let your BF/Husband do the talking"? That is some pretty appalling advice. I mean, if someone is black, do you suggest they bring a white friend to negotiate on their behalf?

Jean said...

While I certainly have my complaints about Patio Gardens (our noisy, obnoxious neighbors are the #1 reason we're moving out), I will say that in my experience, the "act like a traditional woman" thing was not true. After moving to NYC for grad school and crashing on a stranger's floor for three weeks, Patio called to say that the renovations would be completed 3 weeks late. I went to the office, talked to them very assertively, and got pretty much what I wanted. My husband hadn't moved out yet and wasn't there to negotiate (although I did talk to a woman).

@Jen: I'm not sure of the name of the building, but (based on my friends' view of the interior pictures) it's on Lefferts at Washington.