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, December 31, 2013

Don't Say You Weren't Warned

A civic-minded neighbor has posted a sign on Parkside that needs to be read by all the fine ladies of Lefferts. Warning: language not appropriate for minors or the prudish. I suggest you enlarge the photo with your favorite software in order to peruse the prose:

Picture by Jason Wishnow

I was having a hard time distinguishingg the Lothario in question, but then I took the picture to my Man Cave and ran it through some fancy equipment much too technical in nature to describe to a layperson. What I found shocked me. Here's the extreme close-up, digitally re-rendered:

For recent readers of the Q, you'll recognize him as Frank the Espresso Guy Who You Accidentally Slept With Last Night. His full presentation below:

You've been forewarned. However if the above picture and xeroxed flier description appeal rather than repel, email me here for Frank's number. He's at Blink Fitness right now doing squats, but he'll run right over if you're quote "in the mood for some java juice" endquote.

This Saturday - Parkside Needs You

From the venerable Parkside Committee comes this missive:

Lend Your Muscle to Parkside!

Saturday, January 4 at 12pm.

By now you've probably seen the new oaks on Parkside Avenue, and you've probably wondered how these five saplings can survive into grand old age.  Sure, Pioneer has promised to water them.  But who will fend off the errant cars, the distracted pedestrians, the incontinent dogs? 


This Saturday, at noon, the Parkside Committee is hosting a tree-guard installation party.  The lumber has been donated.  The carpentry has been done.  But they need your help putting them in the ground. 

When?  Noon.  Where?  Parkside Avenue.  Dress warmly.  Bring gloves, if you have them, and bring a gardening spade, if you have that, and bring your kids, if they want to plant daffodils.  One hour of volunteering from you, one century of life for five oak trees.  Come on out!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Workspace Available With Plenty of Beer Downstairs

Project Minka. Hmm. Sounds...intriguing, no? Is it a codename? Does it mean anything to you? Do tell. Here's what the Q has learned during minutes upon rigorous minutes of painstaking and ruthlessly detailed research and analysis using just a single window of Firefox, the Google and (not) a hell of a lot of elbow grease. Apparently Minka means "house of the people" in Japanese, and the term refers to various modest house styles of the artisan class. So, what does this have to do with the price of latte in Latvia?

A group called "Project Minka" is renting out a bunch of space in the building that houses the beverage retailer on Lefferts 0, actually 507 Flatbush, or Lefferts between Flatbush and Washington, or better yet the building under the giant Apple billboard, wherein a yoga studio is moving as well and perhaps the excellent Ifetayo dance and music education powerhouse. Here's the dang link already, or for the click-averse, the text from the ad below:

Come work with us! Buildout is underway for Project Minka's - Compound CoWork. This innovative concept in co-working will offer private offices available for 1-4 workers, semi-private spaces with locked cabinets, and open office options, at low prices with flexible arrangements. Space will offer fast internet, comfortable conference rooms equipped with presentation and screening technology. The space will integrate state of the art co-work and conference space with an environment structured toward healthy working, personal growth, health and wellness. With a lovely new yoga studio next door, the building promises to be an inviting vibrant hub. Individuals and small businesses looking for office or cowork space, our opening is scheduled for early 2014. Come work with us! Contact us to discuss our build out plans! Opening in Feb/Mar 2014.

P. S. As far as I know, they are not a cult, though these "co" spaces always make me a little suspicious. Project Minka sounds very L. Ron Hubbardian. I'm reading "Going Clear" right now about Scientology, AND "The New Jim Crow" AND the mind-blowing book "Crack in America" all at once, so everything makes me suspicious right now. And after watching the "Central Park Five" recently. Heck, tonight I just watched the excellent doc "The House I Live In" about the War on Drugs. I wish I had a copy of "My Brooklyn" just to go off the deep end into paranoia and outrage. I haven't felt this amped up since "Gasland." And while we're on the subject of cults, did you ever read the Q's exposAY (sorry I'm too lazy to figure out how to do the accent aigu) on the actual cult on Woodruff near Flatbush, you missed a doozy a couple years back. Here 'tis, and be sure to read the comments that former cult members tacked on. You'll never look at that damn building at 162 Woodruff OR that damn truck parked on Parkside near the Parade Ground - Olde Good Things - the same again. 

Which begs the it bad form to plug one of your own posts on your own blog? It would be quite a stretch to say that the CoBU post relates to the current post in the slightest. And yet, I really do want you to read that one. Is that so wrong? Am I thinking this or typing it? Damn it. I was trying to keep that thought to myself. Like the fact that I didn't eat that Shake Shack burger today that I really wanted, and felt like I was some kind of Edwardian Hero for passing it by. Actually I ate a hero instead, which wasn't exactly the healthy alternative I had in mind when I "Just Said No" to special sauce. Am I doing it again? I didn't just type that did I? I can't tell what's blog and what's real anymore. It's happening again. Doctor? Reverend? Rabbi? Little help please?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pssst...Sipping Shop Snatches Sassy Scissors Spot, Starts Soon

Sassy Scissors is becoming a coffee place, so says a reliable source who's spoken to the new lease-owner. The entrepreneur, so we're told, is an emigre from Italy by way of Williamsburg, so something tells the Q this won't be HoJo's bottomless pot.

Italians are EXTREMELY picky and proud of their coffee, espresso in particular. Italians also like to dress well. Italians also do not like to form or stand in lines, while Germans are known to create them or stand in them when there is no compelling reason to do so. Italians are more likely to arrive late for your meeting than is a German. Italians are sloppier kissers though. These are facts, noted by many a European traveler. The Italians made possible a pair of men's shoes that costs nearly $2,000. They are made by A. Testoni and they look like this:

I don't think it's a coinkydink that men would be drawn to a name like Testoni in order to fly their ped-plumage picking up paramours (of either sex mind you). If, however, you like your testosterone more homegrown, you may want to wait for the new coffee shop to open. Be careful however not to overdo it, since once the extra-strong Italian espresso hits your brain you may find yourself making poor choices, and you may end up wandering into your kitchen bleary-eyed one morning to find this fellow awaiting you after a night of impulsive decision-making:

Remember, however, that it was a stone-cold sober you that chose the distinctive cabinetry. And Frank's not so bad after you get to know him. Not for nothing, he really knows his way around a tool shed!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day Bonanza! Trees Come to Parkside!

Lest you stopped believing in miracles...a bit of god's rays shone down on this holy plot of land. Thanks wisefolk Duane and Sonya for witnessing the "birth" and capturing it digitally. Hope you brought the myrrh! Lord knows there'll be mirth aplenty to go with that myrrh! Oh joyous day!

Flatbush BID Names New E.D.

I've heard all manner of complaints through the years about Flatbush from Empire down to Parkside. Trash. Crime. Loitering. Lack of this or that amenity. It all boils down to a lack of cooperation in my view. No organization. No strategic thinking. No working merchants association. No Business Improvement District (which is significant step up that involves pooling extra property tax money to provide actual administrative support). But from Parkside on down, Jack Katz and the labor of love of his life, the Flatbush BID, had managed to keep things running fairly smoothly for decades, even the worst decades in the City's history. Jack died earlier this year. And now they've named a new Executive Director, Lauren Elvers Collins.

And here's the genius step. Lauren also heads the active Church Avenue Business Improvement District. The two will share resources and overhead. At this crucial time in the history of Flatbush, the Q is thrilled to see that, at least south of Parkside, serious effort will be taken to look at the big picture.

The Q will take this opportunity to report, too, that new blood is attempting to bring new life to organizing the merchants of the Flatbush Empire (nice ring to it, no?) More info as it becomes printable, er, postable.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Year in Review

A single year is a long or short time. When you're older, a year is but one among many in your log of memories. It's therefore shorter compared to your whole life, and I think that's why it seems shorter than for a younger person. When you actually take inventory of the changes in a neighborhood (or your own meth-head acting children), a lot can happen in 12 months. And in the Q's estimation, this year was the biggest for change in decades, and is likely the beginning of many years of rapid change - some would call it upheaval - to the point that even middle-timers like myself will hardly notice the neighborhood in five years time.

It was just over a year ago that Tugboat Coffee opened on Flatbush near Lincoln, signalling a new era of comfort for java lovers. Kola and Chad are just the kind of entrepreneurs who really "get" the neighborhood, and it's been a pleasure having true small business owners invest in the neighborhood. Commerce-wise, it's been quite an uptick. "Feel" Beauty moved into the old and long vacant Mike's International. Tip of the Tongue (the Q calls it TOTT) added panache and freshly baked pastries to the morning commute. Wholesome Gourmet lit up the corner where Papa and Sons once thrived. A new restaurant is coming to Flatbush north of Lincoln; a new bar is coming to Flatbush and Midwood. New boutiques opened near the venerable Play Kids, notably the beautifully designed Marcia Diva's Boutique. PLG Outpost finally opened near 65 Fen for coffee and pastries and sundry culinary items. A new coffee house is opening on Rogers. New fitness joints Planet and Blink have opened or are opening. And with new housing cropping up all over, you can count on an ever-quickening pace of new biz commencements.

Speaking of housing...whoa. Prices? Oy Vey. Renters are squeezed, owners are chocking record equity gains, buildings are going condo or coop, and development and construction has picked up significantly. But prices. Man-o-Manischewist. The Q continues to try to document the very real misery out there, but feels like he has too little time to do a proper job of providing voice for the hundreds, maybe thousands, of terrified longtime residents unable to envision a future in their long-loved neighborhood. The Q also gets disillusioned at times at how insensitive are the comments frequently posted on his own blog, but tries to remember he started this thing to make sense of the world not to convert the world to his own way of thinking. And the Q remains committed as ever to providing an open marketplace of thoughts and ideas, even if three lurkers continue to comment with outsize influence, though I now have their IP addresses marked in my stats with special nicknames I've created for them (no, I'm not sharing publicly, just once again requesting that they make a New Year's Resolution to create a screen name) so I'll know exactly who they are each time they comment and from where. So you might as well choose a screen name since I've already chosen my own for you, and I'm sure you'll prefer yours. (You know who you are).

On the communal action front - we got DOT to approve and give a small startup grant to create art on the Flatbush Trees, and now we have all the permits, and only need some funding to get it going. (I'm starting to think I'll need to shoot a Kickstarter video myself and set it up. Perhaps those of you who are regular readers will consider a contribution of editing or cash). We met with the DOT, the D.A., the precinct (many times) to address crime and safety and traffic. We got approval for a plaza at the Q station, and started to address the useless and fugly parking lot that could be a beautiful plaza for all at the corner of Empire/Flatbush/Ocean. We stepped up enforcement of trash pileups along the Flabenue. A relative unknown garnered 40% of the vote in the City Council primary, giving our incumbent a run for his money. We stayed on top of the Flatbush traffic changes and continue to lobby for solutions to trouble spots. We're bringing a farmer's market to the Q at Parkside. Trees are being planted on Boxing Day all around the Q at Parkside. Neighborhood leaders sued a giant building planned for Flatbush. Nature lovers created a beautiful community garden on Maple. And so much more.

I randomly picked some fun stories you may have missed, including the Q's ongoing essays on all things Lefferts/Flatbush. Just trying to make sense. Trying to help us get to know one another. And as always, more than happy to answer your questions or share your stories. Just send an email here. And happy holidays one and all. To a safer saner 2014.

A Look Back at 2013 and a bit of December 2012, to bring the year full circle:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rogers Community Coffee House - 20% Funded And Climbing

Many of you have already answered neighbors Richard and Annalisa's call for cash flow support on their upcoming neighborhood brew and hang spot  Brooklyn Clean Bean. If you haven't, give the vid a spin and remember, you're only offering a pledge and you won't be charged if they don't reach the $20K goal. And if the DO reach the goal and you ARE charged, you get bragging rights for as long as they're in business. "Ever been to Clean Bean? Yep. I helped finance that joint." Here's the Kickstarter page to give a pledge.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Skate To Tell You This - IT'S OPEN!

Mary at Park Slope Stoop and Ditmas Park Corner and...well where ISN'T she most days...wrote an absolutely stellar piece on the opening of Lakeside and its skating rink. Here 'tis. Mary is the best. She doesn't just cut and paste. She really gets out there, and as far as I can tell this is by far the best piece about this historic opening out there ANYWHERE. Kudos Mary! So I'll let her pictures do the talking here. You should read her piece for the details, but better yet, go on over, even if you've never skated before, and lace 'em up.

Below you'll see kids from our own PS161 (where the Community Board and Precinct Council meet, on Empire at NY Ave) and Jackie Robinson School (in the shadow of Ebbets Houses) checking it out as the invited early birds, many trying the blades for the first time.

Folks, this is BIG news. If this doesn't make your eyes tear up a little, you may need to bring them in for a fill up. Maybe a future Olympian will be born from these first few days. But this inexpenxive hobby is for everyone who's mobile, and it's for a lifetime. Thank you Prospect Park Alliance for seeing this through. This is truly your greatest hour since I've lived in the fair borough. Only the resurrection of the bandshell as a home to free concerts can compare. So what's next? Vale of Kashmir!! (enter Led Zeppelin tune).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Phat Albert to Get Phit

It's really happening. Planet Phitness, as reported to you on the Q, is coming to the Phat Albert's second floor. Now I'll have an opportunity to turn my abs from pony keg to six-pack.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Squeaky Wheel Gets the Sign

DOT continues to blow me away. So responsive! Check out the new signs they're planning to put up for Lincoln/Flatbush/Washington:

Even I can read that one. Thanks to everyone who's kept up the pressure, especially Alex E. who's become an absolute guardian angel for that area.

A Sign of My Age?

Riding my bike after dropping of my kid at school, I passed a young attractive indie-dude (I don't like the term hipster - too mean), looked a little like Viggo Morgensen from Lord of the Rings, so you know he feels invincible. He's riding a skateboard, no helmet, fast, darting in and out. We come to a light at Bergen, and over the previous block I had rehearsed this statement, and gather the huevos. Thus spake the old dude:

As a human being I have assessed that you are most likely a son, brother, nephew, and/or grandson. Trust me when I say they don't want to get that call. Don't do it for you. Do it for them. Just think what it would feel like to get that call.
Then I tapped my helmet. He looked at me funny. But then he got it. Don't know if it will make a difference. Young Viggo may never get hit or suffer a catastrophic fall. But some Viggo, somewhere, will. I'm no Viggo, but damned if I didn't nearly shuffle off this mortal coil last spring.

If you're reading this, you are also most likely a human being, or a resident of planet X4F3non, in which case your brain is encased in a two foot layer of blubber that protects you from even the blow of a piano falling on your head. (Ever wonder where Looney Tunes got the idea? X4F3non'ers visited us in the early '30s and gave a demonstration out at Area 51.)

Wear the stupid helmet. After awhile, you forget that it's there.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New "low-rise" Bar to Open On Flatbush at Midwood - Completely Contextual

A little chicken just peep-peeped in my ear and it'll spell good news to neighborhood quaffers. A nifty new bar is planned for the corner of Midwood and Flatbush, just the sort of place to provide a watch and tie sidekick to the more lovable ragamuffin indie feel of Lincoln Park Tavern and the sophisticated island sipper of Rhythm Splash (soon Avenue D). The owners have signed a lease and will start renovating soon. The main dude is known to the Q, and I think the neighborhood will be pleasantly surprised by decor, booze and foodstuffs. Keep you posted.

FYI, it's the place that never opened as Cafe Pomidor, and used to be Phoenix Gift Shop.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Santa's Got a Brand New Suit

Psssst. Want to know what locals can do when a developer wants to swoop in and build a 23-story luxury tower in their midst, kinda sneaky like? Not much you say, especially if the building is being built "as of right?"

Well hold your horses and put your guns back in their holsters, cowboy. PPEN, the Prospect Park East Network, PLGNA, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, lots of individuals, backed by attorneys from Goliath law firm WilmerHale and the David law firm South Brooklyn Legal Services are going to announce on Thursday that they are filing suit against both Hudson Properties (the developer) and the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the unit that approved $72 million in public backed funds be used, which brought with it tax breaks and incentives involved in 80/20 buildings that agree to set aside 20% of their units for affordable housing. The suit contends that the neighborhood was blindsided by the project, and that by law the State was required to conduct an environmental review, which included studies to determine all sorts of impacts on everything from transportation and infrastructure to (yes) the environment and affordable housing generally and rents and commerce etc. etc. etc. Due process. Respect. Self-determination. Contextual Development. The beauty and future of Prospect Park. Overheight. Did I mention respect?

The press conference is happening on beautiful Tudorian Chester Court this Thursday December 19, at 11am. 

Though I've been following the story closely, I must emphasize that I am not a party in this suit, nor have I been involved in its planning or the movement to halt the project. My feelings continue to evolve as I learn more about how 626 came about, it's potential impact on the neighborhood, and the deep feelings that people have about how this speaks to Flatbush, Brooklyn and Lefferts's future.

Stay tuned for more developments

Holiday Party - Toys for Tots

The Precinct is holding its annual Holiday Party at 5:30 this Thursday. Bring the kids! Lotsa fun. And here's an added bonus. At 7pm it's the Community Council meeting, where you can come out and discuss any issues you may have with, um, I dunnon, traffic enforcement for example. Listen, if you don't tell 'em how you feel you can't expect them to know.

Here's the poster:

Monday, December 16, 2013

With Your Help, Farmers Market Coming to Q At Parkside

The Petish
Lil' Help? After many conversations with the indefatigable Nancie Katz of Seeds in the Middle (check out their holistic approach to health and wellness for kids in central Brooklyn here), I'm happy to report that we're within page inches of getting a small but sweet Farmers Market (or is that Farmer's Market?) on the burgeoning Q plaza at Parkside come this spring on Friday afternoons (one whole day before Grand Army Plaza how bout THEM apples?)

We've filed the permit application but now need a host of signatures saying that the public wants the market. That's where you come in. If you print out the below form and gather ten signatures, then drop it by Play Kids or scan it and email me here, we can get the signatures into the Street Activity Permit Office by the deadline of December 31 and get ourselves a permit for every Friday from March through November 2014.

Y'all know one person can't do all that themselves, not me nor R. Delson nor any one member of the Parkside Committee. We need help, and if a few of you each take it upon themselves to gather a page worth of signatures I know we can blow 'em away, like that scene with all the letters for Santa Claus from Miracle on the 34th Street. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.

Say, Santa coulda used a farmer's market. Few too many reindeer burgers, big guy?

Hope y'all are having a merry run up to the end of the year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wreaths On To Believe

When you see a couple of roaches in your kitchen you best believe there are at least dozens of them, because the ones you see are just the ones you see. So it is with creative people. The Q has met dozens of wildly creative people in the 'hood, so you best believe we got scores. But when NYC does creative we take it the extra mile.

Take a father and son team who live on Lefferts Avenue whose specialty happens to be holiday wreaths. Year in and year out the Q has witnessed their annual ritual of topping last year's unbelievable creation. And this year, once again, they've broken the mold, even gracing the NY Times on Friday with both dad and son's creations:

The top creation by 11 year old Hollis Fox was even purchased, making him a professional artist at that tender age. It's made of duct tape and wire. The bottom piece by his father Eddie Gormley is made of rat traps. Mr. Gormley is also an accomplished architect, drummer and pinata maker among other things. He noted that Deborah Zingale, another Lefferts resident, has long been an organizer of the wreath show in its earlier incarnation at the old K-Dog and Dunebuggy coffee shop (now TotT or Tip of the Tongue to newcomers). You can see the show at the Central Park Arsenal Gallery through January 9. Congrats gentlemen! Til next year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Clarkson/Parkside - New Building Development Meeting

Thar She Blows
From a nearby neighbor about a building coming down (the old Haunted House of Clarkson at 111) and the new market rate buildings going up in their place:



The house at 111 Clarkson is coming down this winter.
Apartment buildings are going up next spring.
Then what??


119 Clarkson Avenue
Wednesday, December 18
7:30 PM

Sarah Blackwood, 119 Clarkson;
Betsy Andrews, 121 Clarkson, 646-416-2207,

Here's what's known so far:

Developer is Seth Brown of Aspen Equities, known for green and sensible development. A best-case scenario would meet those criteria.He isn't going to save the house (too much water damage), so that is coming down in next few weeks. Then ground breaking will be in Spring 2014. It will be two buildings. The one on Parkside will probably be a bit larger. He might set back the one on Clarkson a bit. Neither is currently planned to exceed current as of right zoning. All market rate rentals. Maybe some landscaping. Parking. He says he'll meet with neighbors. The above meeting would be to see what neighbors would like to discuss.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Support the Coffee House on Rogers!

Check out the Kickstarter campaign. Give a little money and invest in your neighborhood. Very sweet. Good luck Rich and Annalisa!

Conflicting Views On Nabe Change

An interesting and perhaps a bit heated exchange broke out in the last few posts on the planned residential tower at 626 Flatbush, and I thought I'd elevate a germane exchange to a post, since I think a commenter got a bit of a misread, and their feelings were ones I've heard echoed a lot recently, though not so much on this blog. The exchange went thusly (I'm leaving out the less relevant comments):

Lifetime on Lefferts said...
The fact is that many people have been not so secretly wanting this to happen for years. This is the payoff for their investment. They don't care if there's some collateral damage. They can rationalize all they want but this building is a victory for everyone who wishes they could have afforded to live somewhere else. But it's a loss for everyone who needed this neighborhood to stay the affordable side of the park. You can claim your victory but you don't have to be smug about it.
December 9, 2013 at 11:46 PM
Anonymousdiak said...
I'd like to respectfully ask "Lifetime on Lefferts" what evidence you have for your comments (11:46PM above). Not grudges or resentments. Not assumptions or stereotypes about people who you probably don't actually know. Evidence.
December 10, 2013 at 4:10 PM
Lifetime said...Delete
Many people I know first hand have told me they attempted to buy in other neighborhoods and were priced out. You must be blind or deaf not to know that. They settled on PLG. It was not there first choice. And now they are thrilled to see that there neighborhood is becoming more like the ones they couldn't afford. You ask for evidence. Why not ask around.
December 10, 2013 at 4:47 PM
BloggerClarkson FlatBed said...(after claims he/she was referring to ALL newcomers and buyers)
Sticking up for Lifetime here I'd say that he/she may have put it inelegantly but I don't think they were claiming to be talking about everyone. Actually I know that - s/he said "many." This is what I'm talking about that everyone is so defensive on these issues. SOME people obviously feel they want the neighborhood to be more like others. SOME people fear that were it to become so, they'd be priced out. SOME people have lived here a long time and have always loved it. SOME people are probably brand new and couldn't be happier. That's not a dichotomy, that's a quadchotomy, and there are many more "sides" I'm sure.

But the defensiveness is troubling to me, my own included if I'm honest, because I think what's at play is a very imperfect study of what's been, what is and what is to come. The change happens so fast and it's scary. I'm frankly floored by what's happened in Brooklyn in the last dozen years since 9/11. Whole neighborhoods are completely unrecognizable. After 9/11 we thought the City might just disappear as we knew it. It did. Just not like we thought it might!

And c'mon guys, let's be honest here. The racial change of neighborhoods is absolutely astounding. There is no precedent for it, accept perhaps the Great Migration northward. If the PPEN movement skews black, it is likely the result of this. I think Lifetime was pointing out that the forces of demographic change are extraordinarily powerful, both race and class (I'm putting words in mouth here) and that some seem to be winning and others losing. How can you argue the point? I can't see it otherwise, frankly. We don't have to take it so personally, really. If he/she had said the word ALL you'd have a beef, but that's not what they said. Diak in particular said that Lifetime was condemning all, and I think that's unfair. I suspect your nuanced view of the neighborhood is beyond that person's criticism, so loosen up.

And to those who do wish this neighborhood get a little more Prospect Heights, your wish will soon be at hand. I'm a betting man. I give it five years tops, barring a major terrorist attack or financial implosion.
December 10, 2013 at 10:48 PM

AnonymousAnonymous said...
I bought here this summer not because we could not afford to live on the other side of the park, but because we could buy an entire house that was the nicest we had seen in over 9 months of looking and for the same price as the single floors or duplexes of brownstones in PS or the classic 6s and 7s on PPW we were originally going to buy.

I bought here specifically because I expect it to change significantly over the next 5-10 years and sure hope it does both for our investment and for our daily quality of life. I'd rather it look a lot more like prospect heights on Flatbush avenue than the hot mess it is right now.

I've lived in quite a few of the Brooklyn neighborhoods that went through similar changes throughout the years and it certainly seems as though it's about to happen here as well and the sooner the better. Not so I can cash out, but so I can raise my family here and not worry about people getting shot in broad daylight on Flatbush avenue like we saw the first week we moved in this summer.

Hopefully the development gets done with some sort of compromise to make it more contextual and still has the impact of bringing more amenities and a cleaner , safer Flatbush avenue.
December 10, 2013 at 11:55 PM

Okay Anon 11:55. I appreciate your honesty, though as always I'd appreciate a screen name so we know who you are throughout the conversation. However, I must point out that you are EXACTLY who Lifetime On Lefferts was talking about. You would have bought that big house had you been able to afford it in other more gentrified neigborhoods. And now you hope that development like the new building will move the nabe towards a more like Prospect Heights-like scene. (I don't think I need to note that PH has become much wealthier and whiter in the last 10 years, so we can infer that's what you want for Lefferts.)

You call Flatbush Ave a hot mess. You point to shootings and I suspect lack of stores catering to your interests and perhaps trash and/or graffiti.  Perhaps you've noticed tough guys on corners hanging out, and wondered which of them are dealing drugs or members of violent gangs (most of them are not by the way). And so now you want Big D developers to come in and solve your problems.

The Q would argue, as he has repeatedly, that these problems can be solved by current residents working together, and does not have to involve wholesale demographic turnover, which ultimately is what you're suggesting, because I guarantee you the newcomers at 626 will not resemble the guys on Flatbush that you want gone. The babies will most definitely be tossed with the bathwater.

You can clean up trash and invite economic development with a strong merchants association come B.I.D. (this is happening). You can organize and work with various law enforcement and create watchgroups and clean up drugs and gangs (believe it or not, this is happening). You can encourage local business owners to carry more of the items you're going cross town to buy.

There is a lot of great stuff on Flatbush Avenue, much of it deserving of support, and some of it already thriving. Your "hot mess" depiction is indicative of the attitude I find most problematic. You'd rather replace than improve.

That's why there's resistance.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Express Yourself Ceramically

If you have youngsters and are looking for a crafts activity for them, or if you yourself are feeling craftsy, or if you've been looking for new ways to express yourself and you've yet to try to "say it with ceramics," y'all gotta hurry on down to Lindiwe Kamau's wonderful corner store on Nostrand at Rutland called "Expressions in Ceramics."

We just signed up our 4 year old for 10 sessions (up to 2 hrs each) for $80 (you read that right) to come in and make all kinds of fun stuff. Today she started making homemade ornaments out of clay. You cut 'em out and form them, then they get fired, then you paint them and voila...gramma cries when she opens the present! (That's how it's supposed to work; I'll keep you posted.) Then you're on to the next holiday...Valentine's Day I suppose.

Lindiwe is someone I've championed here before for her role as leader of the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association. She's a real civic go-getter, organizer, and all around Trinidadian-American powerhouse. Her shop was something of a de facto campaign headquarters last fall, so I have a sweet spot for that too.

Seriously stop by, tell her the Q sent you, and sign on up. Note that she doesn't do the wheel - it's all hand stuff and painting. But you can get pre-made forms like plates and bowls and paint those if you're dying to get something utilitarian. It's really something anyone can do from the git-go. You can sign up in small groups if you want to turn it into a playdate so mommy/daddy can get a little time to themselves. You can even leave your kid there, as there's always teacher running things. You just call ahead to make sure the time is available. Pretty neat, right?

Monday, December 9, 2013

PPEN Meets at Jan Hus Church - Report and Thoughts

1,000 signatures. My goodness. I had no idea that many people had put their name to the Prospect Park East Network's petition against the 23-story residential tower going up at 626 Flatbush. That was one of many tidbits I learned tonight at the PPEN-sponsored organizational meeting at Jan Hus Church on Ocean Avenue. 300 or so online. 700 or so off-line. (That off-line advantage suggests something of a digital divide in tactics as well as membership). Yours truly was added late in the game to a diverse panel of locals with various beefs against the tower. As any reader of Q comments knows, my position on the tower has gone from neutral to opposed, for various reasons, though the adamantly smug pro-tower comments helped push me there, so ultimately I felt comfortable sitting up there. As the representative of the "South Lefferts Mid-timer White Parent of Young Children Homeowner Blogger Gentrifier" set, I batted cleanup, though the line was set arbitrarily. The venerable and accomplished Celeste Lacy Davis M.C.'d, making it clear from the outset that the meeting was about organizing and planning for PPEN's opposition, and that it was not an attempt to provide an objective forum. In a frank exchange with another attendee who has been critical of the group's objectives (a super guy by the way, no numbskull), she copped to having written the flyer for the meeting. The flyer itself is something of a manifesto, with words carefully chosen to incite passion, and since Lacy Davis has a long history of identifying social ills and organizing to address them, she's certainly done just that. During the meeting she singled out Suki Cheong as "the spark" of the movement, and it's evident that Suki has done a great deal of work behind the scenes to turn a few isolated chunks of beef into a flavorful beef stew over pasta, some might even call it a political stroganoff.

Nancy Hoch led a history of developer Hudson's plans for the tower, and no new ground was covered, but it was covered in an articulate and thorough, even objective, manner. If you're familiar with the project, you know that that in order to build 23 stories, the company needed only purchase enough land to do so, and that no further review was needed, as zoning permitted such height. Many of the same crew who are leading the PPEN group fought another tall tower slated for construction at 33 Lincoln Road in 2007, a site now being built by Tom Anderson at 9 stories. (Incidentally rumors that 33 Lincoln has switched to all market rate are not true...yet. Tom nixed HDC funding for taking too long and has gone to private money, but still aims to go 20% affordable anyway, affordable being up to 60% of the average local income.)

Also on the panel was Quest Fanning of PLGNA, who has lived within a stone's throw of 626 since conception. He noted that he welcomed new building in the area but objected to an insensitve sentiment echoed by some newcomers and planners, who suggest there isn't a lively, robust and functioning community already here, one that needs to be respected and consulted when major changes are introduced. Then awesome successful small businessman Dr. Cuts, a/k/a Desmond Romeo, said he needed more information to fully assess the situation, but was concerned what the tower might mean to his successful 13-year shop and others who have relied on the current scene to survive. And by-the-by, he noted that he and Shelly Kramer (Playkids) and Joyce David (newly arrived lawyer on the Flabenue) have started to resurrect the Merchants Association, a move that the Q heartily cheers!

Longtime Chester Court resident Brenda Edwards, whom I've really come to respect and recognize as someone who truly knows and understands the young people in the neighborhood as an educator and active community presence, noted the obvious that yes, Patio Gardens is annoyingly tall and fugly too, but she's gotten use to it like "dull headache." She's not eager to embrace a new splitting headache on the other side of her (hopefully) soon-to-be-landmarked cul-de-sac, which I just yesterday learned was originally slated to be landmarked with the rest of the Lefferts Historic District but was left out since it wasn't contiguous. And you know Carol Schaefer who runs the Lefferts Manor Association's House Tours? She was there to explain the Manor's long history of support for "contextual" development and issues effecting the larger neighborhood. Rachel Hannaford from South Brooklyn Legal Services was there to lend support and to lend credence to what she called the "very real" fact of secondary displacement that is taking place all over the borough due to massive luxury projects heavily marketed to a demographic much more moneyed than current residents. Chester Court resident Derek Edwards is a teacher and NYC tour leader who dropped this nugget: of all the neighborhoods he shows to tourists, he often gets a thank you from them when he shows off Lefferts for finally getting to see a "real New York neighborhood." Nice.

It's worth emphasizing that Celeste adamantly maintains that this is NOT an anti-gentrification protest. In another time, say 25 years ago, SHE was the gentry, buying her beautiful house on Ocean, moving from Harlem, and raising a family. And she IS part of the old gentry now (sorry Celeste, I mean "remarkably young old gentry"). People will move, they will sell, prices will rise, folks will "discover" neighborhoods, all of that is perfectly natural. What is not natural, so says PPEN, is a massively out of context building that should have gone through a review process, and that the City should have downzoned the Ocean/Flatbush groove in the first place had they listened to the community. The fact of government-backed financing and tax breaks demands transparency and neighborhood buy-in, they say. I'm inclined to agree. Responsible development. That's what they want. Their flyer lays out their platform.

The Q? I related a lot to what was said by the panel, and to the folks in the crowd. There's a lot of fear out there, and a lot of it has become manifest in an absurdly large tower that will (c'mon now be honest) house mostly whites on a mostly low-rise block of businesses in a mostly black neighborhood that gets put-down by newcomers as not classy or tidy enough for them (I'm with you on the tidy part - we're working on it. Safety too). Word's gotten around, and people are in fact feeling the squeeze. Patio Gardens itself is pushing folks out, folks who have lived their for years and years. A resident tells me of their shady practice of listing one price on the lease that's over the rent stabilization limit then giving a rebate, just to keep the apartment off the r.s. rolls. You can bet that many longtime businesses and renters along Flatbush will be gone in a couple years due to this building and others, and of course, housing prices in general will rise big time, not because there will suddenly be more inventory (that would suggest a downward trajectory) but because the neighborhood will be more attractive to college educated professionals, many of them heretofore uncomfortable with the...the..."urban" vibe. I will gladly take a bet on that...say, a dinner at the one of the new bistros to open in the next three years?

But the icing on the bitter cake, to me, is the audacity of a company to slip in behind everyone's back (I know, I know, we were all sleeping, including our do-nothing councilperson) and build the biggest tower anywhere along the park, when it was fully well-known we wanted rezoning.  To me, it's a basic matter of fairness, of self-determination, of the beloved park. Did you know that former park president Tupper Thomas wrote a letter against it? That the current Prospect Park Alliance is against it? And incoming Borough President Eric Adams? And Assemblyman Karim Camara? And Senator Kevin Parker? And Councilman Eugene? Plus Public Advocate Tish James will surely jump on this one. And see the below from the good Rabbi, chair of CB9. PPEN is no joke folks, and whether there's a prayer of getting de Blasio on board, who represents the only chance of actually negotiating with an "as of right" building developer, who knows. Because, as I noted at the meeting, the Mayor can in fact step in and change the rules, or make it clear that if the developer wants smooth sailing in the future, he's got plenty of room on his big lot to build as many units at a lower height. To be continued...