In what will hopefully signal a turning point in the long and silly life of the very-Brady '70s green metal Flatbush Avenue trees at Empire/Ocean/Flatbush, the Community Board voted unanimously last month to send a letter of support to DOT to address the trees' shoddy condition, and to do so in a larger more holistic context for the betterment of the neighborhood's Flatbush Ave "entrance."
That sounds highfalutin, but it's really the only way that the Q's been able to gain traction on the issue. Some of you may recall my call to gather a posse of Banksies and just paint the damn things. I was prepared to just call it a "neighborhood improvement thing" and not bother with formalities. But more sane folks convinced me this was pure folly. If you're going to do something, do it right, right? While plenty of folk would love to see the trees go the way of the Dodgers, an equal number feel quite attached to the ol' eyesores, so it seems the least disagreeable route would be to spruce them up rather than fell them completely with a one swoop of Paul Bunyan's axe.
Others have nobly tried to do something with the trees, and the plaza that surrounds them, over the years. Skei S. and I met with a local do-gooder in Lefferts Manor who came up with cool drawings and even found some money from the Borough President's office. But the couple hundred grand had the typical bureaucratic strings attached, so the project never took flight. (One main issue was the need for a 501c3 to undertake the work BEFORE being reimbursed by the City, and no one in their right mind would have been willing to "loan" the project that kind of money pending payback).
So I contacted DOT (which has jurisdiction over the land under the trees) in the Spring to see what could be done, and lo and behold the borough commissioner said "get CB9 and NYPD approval, and we'll work with you." Thanks to the Parks and Transportation committee chairs Mike Cetera and Ed Fanning, we got the CB approval through and now we'll twiddle some knobs with NYPD. And, we need someone with a lot of experience in this realm, and it just so happens Cetera has it, having worked as one of the City's lead architects for many, many years.
Here's how it has to roll - a City agency has to petition the Design Commission to hear a proposal. We'll put together a slick presentation to ask the Commission to let us, under the auspices of CB9: a) accept bids to fix up the trees and raise the dough to do it and b) ask for designes to create a public plaza out of the current fugly parking lot. Frankly that seems far-fetched, but I accepted the broader "vision thing" as long as we broke it into two parts. That way part "a" could happen while "b" gets stuck in the transitions at City and Borough Hall. If that idea sounds amenable or anathema to you, then please weigh in here. If a consensus for another plan emerges, I'll be happy to be a good team neighbor. I'm just sick of the status quo, frankly. Why should a neighborhood full of pride be visually represented by a sign that says "we don't give a crap, so come and park and dump all over us if you like!"
It took the Q the better part of a year to figure out the history of those dang trees, and with the help of many interested neighbors, Seth Kaplan and Mike Cetera foremostly, we finally figured out what was the dealio.
Seems that the trees themselves received preliminary approval from the Design Commission (then called the Art Commission) back in the late 70s BUT never got final approval. What that means is that the trees don't actually exist in the bureaucratic sense, and were they to be removed or seriously damaged in the dead of night no one could compel the City to replace or repair. (So if one of you dear readers has a secret longstanding hatred of the trees, just don't get caught and there's nothing any of us can do about it. Teehee.)
Am I going to make this project my raison d'existence for the next couple of years? Not on your life. But I'm certainly on board to help promote the idea, and I'm trying to give it the necessary shoves, and this could be a great community-building project for everyone to rally behind. I've encountered many eager participants along the way, people with great ideas, great personal and professional help to offer. The bottom line is that, save the few greedy sods who park there now, who would argue that a more attractive plaza and even (god help us) a re-imagined subway entrance and exit wouldn't be a huge improvement to this "gateway to the 'Bush?"
Or I'd settle for filling that damn hole in the sidewalk over by the Wendy's. I'm telling you right now if Dave Thomas, may he rest in peace, was still around that danger pit would've been filled months ago. I mean, how'd it even get like that, anyway?
The Q at Parkside
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.