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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spyro Gyro

After many months of carnivorous salivation, the NY Gyro Place finally opened at 188 Parkside. Feel awful? Why not try their falafel? Starting to sob? Grab a kebab. Just back from Cairo? Why not eat a...

Look, it's not going to win culinary medals, but it's a pretty decent new option. I've given them a hard time on the Q for "appropriating" the NY Giants logo. I mean, people pay good money for proprietary fonts. (Ask Toby Frere-Jones, whom I met when he was still in high school, and I peeked in to his bedroom one day to see him meticulously copying typefaces and thought to myself, that poor geeky child, he doesn't stand a chance.) Past posts here have come down hard on their old sign, then their abrupt change of scale, still leaving the blatant "come and sue me" graphics. Below is what it USED to was:

Still, I'll take a gyro over a crummy burger any day. It would appear from my prior post re: March Pattyness that Lincoln Park Tavern is the only burger anyone can recommend around here. And yet, it was that very same order that turned me off to the place. Ask any friend of this corn-fed Iowan, I'll eat pretty much anything that doesn't slither. And yet, LPT made me the single WORST burger I've ever eaten, and I've been around the burger block a time or two. It was way overcooked, puny, with crappy bread and those pure pink tomatoes they sell at the bodega. Even the pickle sucked. Was I there on an off night? Tell me it is so, and I'll try again. Once bitten, never shy, that's my motto, when it comes to the Burger of Ham.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

The Q gets asked questions through the course of the day. Unfortunately, I don't know all the answers, and as has been proven many times before, even when someone gives me a tip it doesn't always turn out be so. That's why I rely on you all to set me straight if you know better! And it's why I never moderate the comments...though I keep on eye on them for patently offensive or personal nastiness, which frankly rarely happens. Some things that have been dominating the airwaves:

  • Yes, Purpleberry closed. And yes, it reopened with a new look. Check 'em out and share your thoughts here! (Pic below)
  • When the Q surveyed the neighborhood for dead trees a while back, the list went to Pearl Miles who speedily sent them with instructions to parks and their "million trees" initiative. Some were actually planted this winter (Winthrop, in front of PS92), which seems like a strange time to plant, but they will definitely need TLC from the community through the spring, when many other trees are slated for planting. It's all of our jobs to see that they survive.
  • The beat cops are indeed coming, and precinct commander Lewis wants to set up a meeting to introduce them to the community to talk about how it will work. I have plans to meet with him next week, so look here for more info.
  • Those granite blocks at the BP are not really working according to plan. There needs to be more of them, and better located. There's a meeting of the Transportation committee next Monday at CB9 where DOT will be, and we'll share our thoughts about their ineffectiveness.
  • According to a commenter, the speedily constructed strip mall at Bedford and Empire will include a liquor store and 7-11 convenience store. So pick up a pint of Popov and drop it in your Slurpeetm for an inexpensive winter vacation! (no drivin'...)
  • The DOT is also planning a meeting for community input on plans to make Flatbush safer, though nothing is on the books yet.
  • CB9's transportation committee is talking about moving the B41 limited stop to a newly designed spot at the BP at Lincoln. Think about it; fewer pedestrians dodging traffic to get to the subway?
  • There are spaces open on the Community Board, as a few members have been tossed for non-attendance.  I hope a few of you put your hat in the ring; the deadline comes up at the end of February. It's a great way to get to know the workings of government as they relate to our nabe. Applications through your councilperson or borough pres office at
  • Sneaker Store near the north PLG Subway Sandwich shop is closed. A resident notes that after talking to workers, it's merely a renovation.
  • The community service workers helping to clean trash on Flatbush are amazing, and the street looks a million times better when they're out there. Gotta make that permanent!
  • A committee met to determine next steps for the Q at Parkside plaza. DOT has made a tentative commitment to improvements. More info here as it becomes available.
  • This Monday at 7PM, David Eppley will present to the CB9 Transporation/Parks Committees his brilliant idea for the green Flatbush Trees at Flabush/Empire/Ocean. Come by and chime in!
  • Babs noted that the new grocery store at the old Papa & Sons (Lincoln/Flatbush) is NOT owned by Koreans. I was merely speculating, given the proliferation of upscaling happening at greengrocers throughout NYC. No offense intended.
  • I met with the outreach person for new charter school Citizens of the World this morning. It's opening in District 17 this fall, and offers yet another alternative for local parents. I'll post on that soon.
Pictures, pictures, pictures.:

Lincoln Road Vacant Lot In All Its Wintry Glory

The New "Gourmet" Deli In the Making

Purple Berry rotates 90 degrees counterclockwise


Monday, January 28, 2013

Blogger's Band Babe the blue Ox Releases New Record Today

The Q didn't start this blog because he has a band. In fact, I rarely write about music. But music is, was, will be, such a huge part of my life, I can't help but share my excitement with y'all that after 15 years of fits and starts, my band Babe the blue OX has a new record to share. All of our albums, dating back to our Homestead and RCA days in the '90s, have been named for Barbra Streisand records. There was Je M'Appelle Babe, and Color Me Babe, and People and The Way We Were. (all available on the iTunes etc. by the way). I can assure you they sound nothing like Babs, but we're quite certain she would approve, even if her lawyers might not. But now, there's:

Just go to the and you can listen for free or download if you so choose.  Remember that each song sounds quite different, so if the first one scares you (and it should) just move to track 2 and so on.

My best pals Hanna, Eddie and Rose are my dear connection to my past and companions in my present. We all had kids. We've got jobs. We don't tour and I don't wear my hair long or paint my fingernails or wear women's clothing (much). H&E live in the neighborhood. Rose lives in Clinton Hill. We've been in Brooklyn so long we remember when the word Williamsburg was more likely to conjure images of role-playing ye olde-tyme blacksmiths on a pre-industrial Virginia themepark. Of course, the irony there is that ye olde-tyme blackmiths have made a comeback in "dream of the 1890's" Brooklyn, to the point that you could call that 'hood in north Brooklyn "Colonial Williamsburg." I hear you can slaughter your own pigs and jam your own jellies there. To which my grandfather, who retired from farming at the age of 60 or so after years of backbreaking work would probably say, "why on earth would you want to do that when you can afford to have someone do it for you?" Well said grampa. Well said. (In honesty, even after he and my gramma moved to town they kept an extensive garden and canned stuff. In tiny Mt. Carroll Illinois. Their house was next to the only bowling alley in a 30 mile radius. My gramma's mom, my great-gramma, lived upstairs in an area that was set up like an apartment. We called her gramma Upstairs. They were really into sustainable farming, organic foods, and reflexology - a sort of acupressure. It seems to me that would have been right at home in today's Brooklyn!)

But we did it OURselves, with help from our dear pal Dan Littleton as producer. Chris Edwards mixed and engineered. Dan and wife Elizabeth Mitchell are the band IDA and also make unbelievably necessary albums as Elizabeth Mitchell with daughter Storey. (And they just got nominated for a Grammy!) We made the record up at their house in Saugerstock, NY, a non-existent town that resides between Woodstock and Saugerties. I suspect that this record will NOT be winning any Grammies (plural of Grammy?) but that doesn't prevent us from saying it's pretty darn good just the same.

Hamburger Madness Comes to Empire

This coming March, look for both college hoops' March Madness AND another running of the Fast Food Wars. Checkers, a chain originally out of Mobile, Alabama, will open a new branch near the McDonalds and Wendy's across from the Popeye's and Dunkin' Donuts and Western Beef and a block from the Burger King. The Checkers is nearly done:

Having determined that this corner, near the Park and Botanic Garden, is the perfect spot for needless calories and delicious fries, R&D departments at other major chains are now considering opening as well, perhaps even a drive-thru built under the Phat Alberts.

Given the head-to-head matches that confront hungry residents, it's once again time to place your bets on this year's match-ups for Hamburger Madness. Checkers is not currently rated in the Sweet Relish 16, but maybe next year after red-shirting dynamo sophomore Johnny Ketchup?

"Do Fries Go With That Shake?" - George Clinton.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Renaissance Comes to Caledonia - Tomorrow 2-4 PM

The Q feels horribly remiss in focusing too much of his energy on PLG and not enough on points south and west. I get a lot more "tips" from the CB9/71st precinct area, and since my tot goes to school up north by the PPP stop, I don't get to Caledonia proper as much as I used to. The construction is still moving forward on 123 on the Park, the unimaginative name for the apartments being carved from the old Caledonian Hospital. Me and Little Miss Q occasionally stop in at Umma Park, the cute oddly shaped snippet carved from the strange angle of Brighton Line to local grid. Was a time the Umma Group, led by now-district leader and 70th Precinct Community Council head Ed Powell, fought the good fight to rid the area of gangs, winning naming rights to the area they claimed from drug dealers. The Woodruff Block Association (sadly quiet as as a dropped pin lately) and the East 21st Block Association were also involved in that effort. I'd name names but I'd probably get it all wrong, and I'd rather thank everyone for their work making the once gritty neighborhood into the only somewhat gritty neighborhood that it is today. Thank you, everyone. (Now that the Q is "deep in it," I can see how hard it is to bring folks together for a common cause. I know it took determination and community and I applaud you for it.)'s a dandy of a family friendly option tomorrow. Medieval music from Barbara Rosen and the Renaissance Singers! Truth be told, the Q's mom, or Mama Q, was a professional Renaissance singer herself back in Iowa. I grew up around this type of song, and the instruments that backed it up, like the crumhorn and sackbut. I loved the mellow sonic hue of the sackbut so much that I took up its modern equivalent - the trombone. I can still blow a bit to this day. Tomorrow I'll be merely listening to the dulcet a cappella sounds in the lobby of 25 Parade Place from 2-4 PM, a building situated along the Parade Ground's Dillon Stewart playground. Please come one and all. They'll sing polyphonic motets, hymns, magnificats, Psalms, mass sections and other sacred music by Guillaume du Fay, Jean de Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez, Ludwig Senfl, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, William Byrd, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Manuel Cardoso, and their contemporaries. Never know, Lil' Wayne might stop by to do some freestylin'...

Will the diversity of Flatbush never cease? It might look something like this:

 Rock on!

Friday, January 25, 2013

When we work together, things get done...

Thanks to CB9, PLGNA and the ever-dogged efforts of one Alex E., there are now granite blocks (hopefully) deterring the ever flagrant chaotic driving in and out of the BP station. What think?

On a Chilly Day, Good News for Lincoln Road

Today the Q got confirmation that the "Wholesome Foods Market" on the corner of Lincoln and Flatbush could open in the next three weeks. Expect upscale goods and tasty prepared foods...and higher prices to boot! (sorry, couldn't resist...)

And the coffee-and-more place at the old K-Dog? Within a month. The gas is on, and they're cookin' with gas. Looking forward to sharing their menu with you as soon as I get it from the owners.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Old Flatbush Loew's Theater - Perorming Arts? Why?

So it's official, and everyone and their step-uncle is talking about it. Flatbush's glory days are coming back, the proof being the renovation of a grand old movie palace, and to a lesser extent, renovations to the old original Erasmus Hall. But as usual, the Q has a bone to pick.

On what planet does it make sense to build the Loew's Kings Theater into a 3,200 seat performing arts venue? This from their press release:

When it reopens in early 2015 the Kings will host more than 200 concerts, dance performances, musicals and comedy shows per year — including programs geared to appeal to a wide range of Brooklyn’s diverse ethnic communities.

First, there's already a venue at Brooklyn College with the exact same mission, just a few blocks away. Second, Brooklyn and NYC generally are teeming with venues, all vying for top-notch entertainment. Filling 3,200 seats is going to be massive task, especially this far into Brooklyn. BAM struggles to fill the opera house. Why would people of a certain means trek miles further into Flatbush to watch "musicals" and "comedy shows?" Has no one heard of a thing called "Broadway?"

Third, what we really need is a movie theater. Have any of you tried to go to a blockbuster film in NY and been shut out by the overwhelming demand and long lines? A first run movie house could do great business, and how fun would it be to go to the movies in a Versailles inspired gem, as if you were going to the opera? With 3K of your neighbors laughing and crying along? Well-planned and promoted revivals of classics could draw too. "Electric Boogaloo" anyone?

A movie theater of such grandeur would be a truly unique reason to come out the borough of Kings and spend an afternoon shopping or dining, if that indeed is the economic purpose behind $100 million dollars in outlays. Plus it wouldn't cost nearly as much in "artist fees," and union stage hands, the very costs that makes running a performance theater prohibitive. Trust me, I'm in the biz. I know!

That's my piece. Here's the before and after pictures, and here's hoping that consider SHOWING pictures:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crime Time

Local crime reporting duo Vinnie & Nicole are back on the case. The Q can't thank them enough for together compiling and disseminating a blotter worthy of the Daily News, but pinpointed to the PLG area of the 71st. Below, the compendium of anti-socialism for the latter part of December (once known as the 10th month (thus d-e-c), due to the fact that Julian Roman calendar started in March) and some of January, so we're talking about deviant behavior essentially encompassing the zodiac sign of Capricorn, the star sign who's bearers are often known for patience and perseverance, perhaps good traits to emulate for those pining for a proper sit down bistro in the neighborhood. Only just this moment did I fondly recall the lesson where we learned that July was named for Julius Caesar, and August for Augustus Caesar, and I always assume January was for Juno, but it was for Janus the god of doorways or transitions. It was also the name of that foreign movie distribution company Janus Films - when you see that logo before a movie you know you're in for a head-scratchin' good time. Oh Ingmar, Ingmar, why the long face? Or rather, Max, Max von Sydow, why the long face? How'd I get here? Oh yes, le blotter:

December 19, 2012 - January 21, 2013


December 29th, 12:30AM. Nostrand and Sterling. Physical force taking wallet.
December 31st, 3PM. Lefferts and Bedford Avenues. At gunpoint took cash and cell phone.
January 12, 1:00AM. 251 Ocean Ave. Physical removed cell phone from victim.
January 14th, 10:30PM. 317 Lefferts. Wallet taken at gunpoint.
January 14th, 6PM. 380 Hawthorne Street. Physical force used to take wallet.
January 14th, 9PM. Clarkson and Nostrand Avenues. Cell snatched using physical force.
January 16th, midnight. 1278 Nostrand Ave. Commercial store, cash taken at gunpoint.
January 20th, 9:30PM. 156 Rutland Rd. Chinese food delivery was robbed of cash using physical force.


Felony Assaults

January 2nd, 4:30PM. 492 Flatbush Ave. Victim was assaulted with lacerations to the right cheek. Perp arrested.

January 4th, 4:30PM. 265 Hawthorne Street. Stabbing. Person suffered puncture wounds to the chest, stable condition in the hospital. Arrest was made.


December 19th, 9AM. 90 Maple Street, private house. Force front door open and took electronics.

December 30th, 6:30PM. 18 Winthrop Ave. Came in through window and took $100 cash and electronics.
January 11th, 7PM. 2100 Westbury. Perp came in from side window, took $500 in cash.
January 11th, 4PM. 2016 Bedford Ave. Rear door of apartment pried open. Unknown what was taken.
January 12th, 1PM. 100 Winthrop Street. Perp entered through front door and took electronics.
January 16th, 3AM. 155 Clarkson Ave. Private house. Victim fell asleep and perp entered through front door that had been left open and took credit cards and checks from victim's purse.

Grand Larceny
(No physical force between victim and perp)

December 19th, 4PM. 177 Fennimore Street. Victim hired movers to move her things, noticed that electronics were missing as she was packing.

December 31st, 8:30AM. Parkside and Ocean transit station. Cell phone snatch.
January 12th , 8PM. 720 New York Avenue. Cell phone snatch.
January 13th, 3PM. Bedford and Fennimore Street. Electronics taken from car.
January 15th, 9PM. 590 Flatbush in parking garage. Perp took property from vehicle that was left open.
January 15th, 3:45PM. Cell phone snatch.
January 16th, 10PM. Flatbush and Winthrop. Took electronics from vehicle that was left open.
January 16th, 9PM. 246 Fennimore Street. Took food from delivery person without paying.

January 19th, 2AM. Winthrop and Nostrand Avenues. Cell phone snatch.

Grand Larceny Auto

December 16th, 1PM. 370 Hawthorne Street. 1995 brown Audi A6 stolen.
December 31st, 4:30AM. 65 Ocean Ave. 1995 gray Toyota Corolla stolen. Arrest was made.

January 11, 6AM. 256 Midwood Street. 1997 green Toyota RAV4 stolen.
January 18th, 320 Maple Street. 2000 gray Accura stolen.
January 20th, 7AM. 99 Ocean Ave. 2002 black Cadillac Escalade stolen.


There was a rape reported in the Ocean and Lincoln subway station at 3AM,
January 6th. The victim reports that she had been drinking in a bar in Manhattan
and decided to go to the home of the suspect that she had met in the bar. When
the two left the subway station, they entered an unknown building. At this time
the victim decided against going home with the suspect and the suspect raped the
victim. Victim was severely intoxicated.*

*Bloggers note. Is the fact that she was intoxicated really related to the fact that she was raped? I mean, if I were severely intoxicated and someone stole my cell phone, would that fact end up in the blotter? Just asking.

Schools post #3 (it's that time of year I guess)

A ridiculously helpful post appeared on the upbeat blog Ditmas Park Corner that concerns schools in our district and southern Flatbush. If you're a parent checking out schools, please read. And thanks Mary and Liena et al at DPC

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meet Leaders of New "Compass" Charter School

Shelley just commented, and I'm re-posting here:

Tonight at 6:30pm Play Kids (676 Flatbush Ave)will be hosting the founders from The Odyssey Initiative/Compass Charter School. They'll explaining their project, take your questions, concerns, etc. All are welcome to attend. {For the record, Play Kids has no affiliation with Compass Charter School. We are purely giving them a space open to the public.}

Also, if tonight's no good for you, Maple Street School is holding another meeting by the same folks tomorrow night the 23rd at 7pm. Sounds like these Odyssey folks are really making the rounds to drum up support. Come armed with questions. Who knows, maybe Homer will make an appearance, or his communications manager the Cyclops!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Q's Schools Tool: Intro: Spools and Spools of Schools

A few months back the Q visited a local charter school, Explore, and interviewed the CEO of its fledgling network of schools - Morty Ballen. The school's well-run, has swell teachers (hi Marie!), engaged students. Yes, it's a nice, small, decent grammar school, just down the road (Parkside/Nostrand). Few parents I've met even have it on their radar. The NY Times decided to write about it, not because it's a nice school in a mediocre district (ours, District 17), but because its writer Sonny Kleinfield wanted to make a point about de facto segregation in City schools. I promised myself that as I, a decidedly white parent, started the search for a school for my oldest daughter, also pretty darn white, while living in a predominantly black district (that number 17 again), would share my thoughts throughout in a painful public display of parental angst, because in my heart I feel there's a lack of honesty or dialogue on the whole notion of "choosing" a school. Actually, to be honest, I have no doubts that Lil' Miss Q will matriculate at an awesome school, wherever that may be, and if not, I'll pull her out and put her somewhere else. I don't share some other parents' fears that they won't find a good school and that their children will be forever damned to bus tables at a Chuck E Cheese for the rest of their lives as a result. It's kindergarten. They're probably gonna have a ball anywhere they go. This process is about parents, pure and simple. I know some will disagree, but really, there's a fairly prevalent herd mentality to the proceedings, like the way everyone was suddenly into exotic salts (all of which my Neanderthal tongue would call...salty). Another reason I'm not fretting is that to date I haven't met even one parent (and remember I'm on the old side so a lot of my friends have already been through this) who didn't find a school they like...even love. Public school. That's right, public school. I'm not planning on applying to private school, not out of some great patriotic love of country or because I hate rich people, but public school was good to me (albeit in Iowa), and public schools in NYC can be great, no matter what conventional wisdom says, and full of the diversity and energy that is NYC, and most or least importantly depending on which day of the month you ask, on pay day or say the day after, I can't afford it. (Most crucially though, I really want people to stop calling private schools "independent schools." Right now. It's annoying. They're private. Like Harvard's private, UMASS is public. McCarren Park Pool is public; the Y is private. The Harvard Club is private. Popeye's is public. Private, public. Public, private. No independent. And yes I know it's the opposite in England. I don't think they use the word independent there either, though.)

So far I've met with the principal at PS92 on Parkside near Rogers. I've talked intensively to parents at the Lefferts Gardens Charter School (I'll save that post for another day after I talk with the new leader there). I went to the year-end extravaganza at PS249, known as the Caton School near the Parade Ground. I took a tour at PS9 in Prospect Heights. I took a tour at PS295 in south, south Park Slope near the cemetery. On Thursday I went with another dad to PS770, the New American Academy, a district school that's making waves with its unique super-size classroom approach via a Harvard (there's that word again) PhDer, the charismatic and kosher headmaster Shimon Waronker. I've got tours coming up to PS's 139, 39, 133, 10, 11, 375, 705 and charter schools from here to Yonkers. My girl's not even four. And do you think I've become exasperated at the very sight of a metal book locker? (do they have those air holes in them in case a kid gets locked in one?) Not at all. I'm having a ball. Schools are fun; grade-schoolers are adorable; it's awesome to watch teachers in action; it's a gas to look at all the artwork hanging everywhere; it's fascinating to see how principals and parents "sell" their schools; it's wild to see how much schools actually have in common, even when they have vastly different reputations. And it's heartbreaking to watch a few parents clearly suffering from crippling anxiety. It's as if every terrible school experience is being relived by the middle-aged parent of a kindergartener-to-be, with even the site of a manic lunch room enough to send shivers up the spine of a once-taunted over-achiever. Sometimes it feels like a competition, this school scouting, but of course most decisions are made by zone, by lottery, by district, or by an indecipherable last-minute shifting of seats, in which principals fill their schools in August or even September to make sure they maximize the amount of dollars, figured per pupil, coming into the coffers. And yes, they divvy out seats to parents who really, really want it, and maybe to friends and friends of friends. Wouldn't you? And yes, you can lie about where you live, and plenty of people do that, but frankly I prefer the non-liars who are just really persistent and have the stomach to wait til they hear they're in, maybe on the third day of school. Yes, it's stressful, but so is taking the L train. NYC is not for wusses.

And why is it like this, exactly? All this Strang und Durm. I thought "choice" was supposed to be a good thing. But like the ridiculous number of choices in chewing gums, we now spend all our time stressing and envying and lying about our addresses rather than simply going to our zoned school and making it the best it can be. (Actually that's a ridiculous metaphor, because I usually just choose some variant on spearmint). And then once we connive our way into a "better" school, I guess we have to trumpet its virtues so we can make ourselves feel good about our diligence and parental decision-making. It's all perfectly understandable, and incredibly sad. Again, we could just go to our local school and try to make it the best it can be. Parents really are that crucial, so says everyone I've spoken to.

I keep hearing the same refrain in my head, something someone said a while back and I can't even remember who. "Education is being delivered." Yes, quite right. Everywhere I've been, and I suspect everywhere I'll go, education is indeed being delivered. Much more important than any reputation or method or testing regimen or homework scheme is going to be the teacher my kid has for kindergarten (and the amount of fun my baby says she had each day when she comes home from school and how much she loves her friends.) And it's with this notion of how crucial it is that little Q has good, loving, supportive teachers that, I gotta say, New American Academy, PS770, seems the best of the lot so far. And here's why.

Waronker's much ballyhooed method of 60 kids per classroom is really about a simple ratio - 15:1. The kids don't have one kindergarten teacher - they have four. One is a master teacher paid in excess of $100K. The other three are vetted as rigorously as the master. I met one of these jedi-teachers - Mr. G - and he was awesome. He says the teachers really dig it, this new system. Waronker's school is within the DoE, meaning it's union, unlike most charters, and generally speaking the union is more beneficial to a teacher's security and retirement. We can argue the relative merits of union vs. non-union, but suffice to say we'd probably all like the basic rights and benefits offered by a good contract. But at NAA, thanks to a special exemption from DoE, they don't have a lot of bureaucracy over their heads to boot, or boots over their heads, and only Waronker is their direct boss, and he seems pretty fair and supportive. The four classroom teachers meet daily for an hour and half, discussing lessons, learning new stuff, talking about YOUR kid. During that time, your kid is exercising and eating breakfast, presumably not simultaneously. Parents can come anytime, and are encouraged to have "breakfast" with staff on Fridays. Your kid doesn't have to ask to go to the bathroom, she can just go when she needs to, and that fits with Waronker's war on the Prussian authoritarian system of schools which he loves to debate. Is the food good? Waronker guesses so, but he keeps kosher and has never tried it personally. Hey, you can bring a lunch if you're worried. The classrooms seem giant, and probably seem even gianter when you're three feet tall, but the spaces are easily arranged into separate spaces for different teachers to do their specific strong suit teaching. Art is part of everything. Inquiry is part of everything. Everything is part of everything. Oh, and NO homework. Ever. Even til grade 8 if they end up expanding that far. (The backlash against homework and testing is in full swing, though a number of parents I've met don't mind using those test scores to judge schools. Funny thing, that.)

So what's the catch? Simple! It's east of here. Way east. It's in our district, but it's on the other side, in "Rugby," which is what they call it on the map, but it's about as close as you can get to the beginning of Brownsville without being in Brownsville. They emphasized that a free bus picks you up, anywhere in the district farther than a half-mile. A dad and I walked there from Tugboat in about 25 minutes...nice walk on a good day. There really IS a swell kosher grocery store over there by the by, that some parents have raved about on the listserve. BUT it's near Brownsville. And Brownsville, in all of our imaginations, means murder and violence. People say the same things about Brownsville that they used to say about Crown Heights. Or parts of Flatbush. Or Ocean Avenue near the park. Or, god forgive me, Franklin Avenue. As a parent pointed out to me, however, it's not like 4th Avenue in Park Slope is any great shakes. No offense, but it's really bleak over there, ESPECIALLY with all the new luxury buildings. And yet, it's west, it's affluent, very few murders, and the parent bodies at most schools over in District 15 have more college-saturated folks than any in the deep 'hood. Notice I said parent bodies, cuz I'm still convinced the kids themselves probably don't care whether their peers are rich/poor, white/black, working-class/upper-class. We're the ones who care about that stuff, and you can almost feel the tension in the air when we talk, we parents: yes we have strong ideals about equality and furthering Dr. King's ideals (happy MLK day!), but when push comes to shove "it's MY kid we're talking about, you know, not some fictional ideal child." There's an eerie resonance of decades past hanging over the proceedings, and it's an uncomfortable fit with the progressive mindset of most folks I know. After all, we CHOSE to live here. Most of us could've lived in any American city and afforded 90% of the neighborhoods. And of course, as we all know, not everyone gets to choose. It's all very twisted and vexing but it can even be a bit exhilarating when care and compassion are the watchwords. Fear often rules the day, though. And I'm not exempt of course. I want what's best for my kid, really I do. I just don't trust my instincts, and I'm afraid of the herd. Or making decisions based on the westerly gust of wind.

So despite the fact that there's already an exciting alternative in the district, parents are clamoring for more options. Close to home options. Or maybe, close to culture options. Even though 770/NMA is really quite accessible. Even though those options have yet to be tried. Even though those options are purely theoretical, or anecdotal, at this point. Before you pass on 770 though, I encourage you to take a look (if you're a parent of course. It'd be kinda creepy if you aren't, at least if you're a dude, and not say a student or journalist or something). There's a bunch of open houses coming up.

Given all the blah-blah-blah I noted, it came as no surprise that when word got out that a new school might get a charter, and they might locate in our district, parents have showed up at meetings and signed petitions to get said proposed school to come to PLG or environs. (Though I'd be quick to point out that even if it ends up in District 17, it could end up co-locating as far east as PS770. Just saying.) The school certainly has a lot of promise, headed by three experienced and ambitious teachers who've embarked on a trip across America to visit "best practices" from here to Tacoma. It's called the Odyssey Project, and on the surface it sounds great, though in my opinion a bit gimmicky. (Check out the video and Kickstarter here, that raised more thank $80K.) One of the three, Todd Sutler (read his posts here), has worked at popular charter Community Roots in Ft. Greene. A number of friends have kids at that school, and it gets raves, though some have told me privately it's a good school, not earth-shattering, as in it still comes down to who is your teacher. Of course I'd trust a good teacher to know a good teacher when he/she interviews one, so it makes sense that someone like Todd would make a good head of operations. And yet, his project isn't even approved yet, and there's no knowing where it will be placed. So why all the excitement?

I've definitely noticed that "new" seems to equal "better" in many people's mind, and a school that hasn't even gotten its charter certainly qualifies as new, or even pre-new, thus, perhaps, the excitement level. Oddly, there's ANOTHER charter school opening in the district, just this fall, on Empire Boulevard (again east, of course, since the district is mostly east of us). It's called "Citizens of the World," which is not a great name, but neither is "The Beatles" when you think about it, but the band was pretty good. Citizens of the World has garnered some negative attention due to the proximity of its founding board chair to Eva Moskowitz (he's her husband, Eric Grannis), and Eva's a "controversial" figure in the new school movement probably not so much because of what she does (her schools are pretty much education deliverers, don't you know) but because she's outspoken against unions and convinced that charters should benefit ALL kids, not just underserved poor minority ones. Those are fighting words to some, and in fact an organization (or is it just a few disgruntled individuals?) has grown up to fight her planned CoW school in Williamsburg. (angry response to CoW here.) The group is called Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents for Our Public Schools, or WAGPOPS, I'm not kidding they call it that.) Frankly, if you're into public school charters then you probably line up with most of Moskowitz's thinking, from what I can tell she's hardly radical within the movement, maybe just louder, so if you're someone who's considering going to a charter I wouldn't worry about her too much, unless of course you go to one of her schools - the Success Academies. She just seems to get a lot of press, and has a habit of putting schools in places like, um, Williamsburg, where a fight is inevitably going to erupt about who her schools are actually for. I mean those buyers of million dollar condos gotta send their kids somewhere, right? You can see where that dialogue goes really fast...right into the class and race discussion that dogs so much of this stuff.

The flyer for the new CoW school (they don't call it CoW, but they should) says about what every new school seems to be saying. Strong leadership. Diversity. High Achievement. Experiential. Hands-on. Parental Involvement. Great teachers. Accountability. Are these words important to you? Then just about every other school in a 10-mile radius will be for you. It will be interesting to see how the school does though. I'm cynical I guess, but not so cynical I wouldn't love to see the school succeed and turn its kids into model Citizens of the World. I look forward to finding out more, and I began a dialogue with a rep from the school, and will be happy to write more about what I find out.

I'd have thought all the double-speak and triple-speak would make me depressed. But actually, I'm finding that most schools look pretty damn good compared to the demoralizing litany of negativity aimed at them by politicians and media pundits. These are real people teaching our kids, and it would appear that most of them are committed to their craft and interested in their kids' well-being. Of course there are rotten teachers, probably in both "good" schools and well as "bad." I recently heard a tale recounted of a miserably drug-adled and incompetent teacher in a highly prestigious Manhattan prep school, tenured to boot. I also recently heard tale of a long-past-her-prime public school teacher barely staying awake through classes and counting days til retirement. But come to think of it, I had those teachers in Ames, Iowa too. Don't you remember a few from your youth? And then there's the simple fact that by the time you're old enough to really know what's going on, the prevailing attitude, as Louis C.K. likes to remind us..."school sucks, right?" Have you never uttered those words? Some really DID suck. Some teachers were awesome. Some were total duds who should have been put out to pasture years ago. Seems some things never change. And there will always be a certain degree of suckage.

For me, the most absurd argument I've heard yet was one that seemed so obvious it HAD to be true. This is from an actual smart person, who I really respect, who I dare say probably doesn't believe in black magic. But I swear to god I almost bought it. "When you walk into a school, you'll just know." Know what? That the color scheme is off? That the bathrooms don't have doors on them? That the clock is five minutes fast? That the security guard would rather be anywhere than right here right now? I don't know about you, but I've been notably wrong on my first impressions at least half the time throughout my life. Okay, I was right about my wife, but I was dead wrong about R.E.M.'s "Murmur" and cabbage. I even thought that "Mad Men" was a boring gimmick show, going nowhere interesting after the first episode. Actually, I still think that, but I'm pretty sure everyone with a television disagrees with me. Suum Cuique, as the Latins used to say, though probably not in reference to a cable TV show. Maybe in reference to Greek tragedies or pastas?

I've written way too much for tonight, and the president is swearing so I should go now. Or rather he's swearing in, or the chief justice is swearing, and maybe this time they won't fumble the text and they'll swear legally. I think if I were to sum up my feelings thus far, it would be: there are a lot of fine schools, there are a lot of fine teachers. In the end, we parents are all trying to quantify something quite unquantifiable. Even all the test scores and teacher evaluations miss the keyest point of all. How about the teachers? How do THEY feel about their school? Seriously, has anyone ever asked that question and created a metric on it? Because I would probably trust that number more than any other currently floating in the ether. I want my kid to be in a nurturing, safe, healthy environment where the teachers feel happy and free to do what they love to do. If a principal promises that in his or her spiel, I might actually be attracted to that school. That's why Shimon impressed me - he made teacher satisfaction a big priority, and my ears pricked up and a smile started to form on my lips. Now THAT's revolutionary. (In fairness, Morty Ballen said that too, and I hope I hear more of it.) It just seems wrong, wrong, wrong to me to keep bashing teachers and threatening them and grading them like meat. Don't get me wrong, the rotten meat should be fed to the dogs (or rather asked to retire...sorry, didn't mean to sound so cruel). But most teachers are good, getting better, and need encouragement and mentorship and support and professional development and a hug now and then. And $100K with benefits.

I'm left with the simplest, most confusing gut feeling of all - confronting my own fear of heading east. It's complicated though, because the band HEAD EAST made one of my favorite records of my 8th grade - "Never Been Any Reason" from its AOR triumph FLAT AS A PANCAKE.  That was one of the years that "school sucked," and no teacher, method, charter, philosophy or progressive model would have preventing it from sucking. It just sucked. And looking at those guys in the band, I'll bet they had a pretty sucky year or two too. They probably brought it on themselves, but still...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

what's going on here part II

sw corner of bedford/empire
I mean, seriously? This is perhaps the most uninspired use of space I've seen in some, some time. Or at least since the explosion of "Fedders" buildings in the area. I'd expect it in suburban Dallas, but Brooklyn deserves better (no offense Texans...I've got nothing against your country.) It's a shame to see the once mighty Empire Blvd become such a dumping ground. But when the economic vitality of the street is tied to fast food w drive-thrus, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence. You end up with lowest-common-denominator stuff. It's all made bearable by the beautiful yellow self-storage building though. I'm a big fan of oversized buildings; thus my love for Fudgie the Whale over by Atlantic Center.

And what's to become of the above mini-strip-mall? Rumors of a 7/11 are circulating 24/7. Anyone got the real skinny on this one? And has anyone else struggled with the concept of 24-hour 7/11s? Anyone else had trouble with the concept of 24-hour-old rotisserie hot dog?

Perhaps most mind-bending all is that the 7/11 corporation would see a need for a "convenience store" in a town with literally hundreds if not thousands of "convenience bodegas." It's a bit like that Papa Johns on Rogers. Are there really too few actual pizza places around here? I guess the difference is that with Papa Johns they DRIVE their pizza to you, rather than walking or biking. I recently biked past the PJ's delivery vehicle and it had been hammered - probably by an SUV, a vehicle originally built for off-roading and notoriously difficult to parallel park on NYC streets. Nope. Still not making sense to me. I'll have to sleep on it.

what's going on here?

from 2011
You've seen it a million times. You may have given up wondering what the H is going on there. Some of the ugly construction barriers have come down, and it would appear the end may be in sight for the ongoing "restoration" of the landmarked building on Empire Boulevard at the southeastern tip of the Botanic Garden. Over the years I've heard many creative guesses about the building's origins, but of course resident Brooklyn historian Montrose Morris got to the bottom of it (here). The building was commissioned by the City as a fire house, quickly became a dispatch center, and the rest is a story of typical City indifference to the state of an important neighborhood landmark. Except...that's not the whole story, and Montrose missed a key part of the REAL reason behind its renovation. No extraterrestrials or faked moon landings here, but a little men-in-black hanky-panky might be at play.

In "curious like a cat" mode, a friend and I poked our heads in here a few years back, before the renovation began. Sure enough, it was some sort of call center, and when someone finally noticed that we had gained entry without signing in, we were escorted out, firmly but not all angry-like. Since, I've learned of the build-out of that giant communications tower on Washington as an emergency communications device. And more recently, I've noticed that a mysteriously named URS Corporation is listed as having 35 Empire Blvd as an address. Now, all of this may very well be on the up-and-up and easily determined by professional sleuths. But I do most of my research the way y'all do...with a cup of coffee and a sue me if I'm wrong. (Actually don't, I have no liability policy. Please, I beg of you, don't sue me.)

Take a look at those HAZMAT suits in the picture on the URS website. Sure enough, one of this sinister corp's "products" is consulting with governments to think about the unthinkable, and plan for the un-plannable. This was all the confirmation I needed to a rumor I'd heard over at the Community Board that the new and improved center will actually be a command center in case of a terrorist or natural disaster situation, particularly if communications are attacked or disabled. I've actually met a guy who consults with the City over what it would do if NYC was attacked by chemical or biological weapons, for instance. Cyber attacks can  be as minor as a downed bank website, but a sophisticated cyber-terrorist could knock out whole networks of power and communication, so a center like the one at 35 Empire could be crucial to coordinating defense or relief efforts.

Or so they say. Perhaps, even THAT explanation is a cover for something deeply, deeply, secret.

(read on at your own risk. THEY're watching, if they're not too busy texting.)

I'm not saying I know for sure, but I believe the City may be involved in a plot to "frack" all along Empire Boulevard, polluting our water with deadly toxins as part of an internationally clandestine plan with BP to finance a massive mercenary cyborg operation capable of preventing another Oprah-like domination of daytime TV. It's well-known among "truthers" and similarly knowledgeable underground heroes that the government has long feared a radical Oprah operative, possibly of Arab descent, with ties to the Elders of Zion (who would have ever guessed THAT unholy alliance!), with the power to make everyone in America read the same book. Think about it; what if that book was a masked call to sharia-law-inspired revolution, rather than, say, "A Million Little Pieces" by the Lance-esque liar James Frey? THAT's what's going on at 35 Empire, and it's also the reason so much fast food has been placed in its midst, as Wendy's, McDonalds and Checkers are all part of the plot, and have provided secret cloaking devices in all their hamburgers (not the cheeseburgers, which have a tendency to goo up the high-tech ether-powered-circuits).

Go ahead; quote me. I dare you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


So the Q wrote up a petition a few weeks back. Hundreds of you signed it. I brought it to commander Jack Lewis's office at the 71st. He said he'd see what he could do. Did I really think it would happen? Even the ever-optimistic Q had his doubts.

Ten minutes ago I get a text from Jack:


I have some good news. They beefed us up with personnel. I am assigning beat cops to Flatbush and Nostrand. We are having the community council meeting tonight. We need to set up a meeting so we can introduce the beat officers to the neighborhood. - Jack

We all made this happen together. Now we need to welcome these guys and make sure we get off on the right foot. More soon...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Delay With Lincoln Road Building

While developer Thomas Anderson may have all the permits and okays he needs to build the L-shaped 80-20 building on Lincoln Road, he's still waiting for financing to come through. Here's the latest from Tom:

Hi Tim;

Thanks for the interest you’ve shown in the project. We are very happy to have received the support of CB-9 for the project and we will use it in the furtherance of our project.  HDC does its bond financing twice a year and, having wrapped up December, they are now planning their project list for this June. Together with my partner Alex Goldin and the support of the Chase Community Development Bank, we intend to make our presentation to them later this month. HDC has deferred our project twice previously, so we’re hopeful that the third time is a charm.

All the best,


I'm with Tom. I hope this thing goes through and we can start welcoming new neighbors with plates of cookies real soon. Not that the vacant lot and murals don't have their charm of course.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Restaurant at Oriental Pavilion - Still Closed After 63 Years

Leave it to resident historian Bob Marvin to call attention to PLG's greatest restaurant - the Concert Grove House, or Maison Fong on Yelp. While this culinary destination inside Prospect Park has been closed since 1949, and despite the fact that the neighborhood name Prospect Lefferts Gardens was not coined til the 1960's, the restaurant remains the best upscale option in the area for fine dining.

(cut and paste alert!) The Oriental Pavilion -- originally called the Concert Grove Pavilion -- was built by Calvert Vaux in 1874. Situated in the Concert Grove, the Oriental Pavilion is an open shelter that consists of eight cast-iron columns supporting a decorative wooden roof with a beautiful stained-glass skylight. Typical of the day, its design borrowed motifs from Hindu, Chinese, Moorish, and Egyptian architecture. The Oriental Pavilion served as a gathering place for the adjacent restaurant called the Concert Grove House (removed in 1949 by Robert Moses.) In 1974 the Oriental Pavilion was devastated by fire, leaving nothing but the cast-iron columns. It was restored in the 1980s. The Q and Mrs. Q exchanged vows there in 2007 marking the 58th continuous year that north Flatbush restaurant goers have lived without a proper pissaldiere. In fact, it's fair to say we don't even have a pot to pissaldiere in. Or rather, we don't have a pot to put the pissaldiere in. Actually we do and it's made by Le Creuset, but I burned it making grits, thus sullying my one true link to French culture, but I do occasionally enjoy a good French dry cleaning, though the modern process was actually perfected in Atlanta, Georgia. Ladies and germs, the proof is in the postcard:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

How Stuff Works: Why Neighborhoods Change

The Q feels like he learned more in the last week than his head can contain. Curiosity and impatience seem to be my guiding principles these days.

Monday's joint meeting at CB9 yielded promises of solutions to the Flatbush Trees, Clove Road and the traffic insanity around the triangular BP station plot. The dream of a Frencher Parkside Ave is moving forward. Sanitation is going to start ticketing non-compliance on private store pickup. Delroy got his community service guys back on Flatbush (did you notice how nice it looked out there this week? save, of course, a couple problem spots, like the NE corner of Flatbush/Parkside - I talked to the owner of ParksideZ and he's frustrated too, but I told him "dude, you gotta deal with it or no one else will, and yes you're going to be the one getting all the tickets.")

And then I learned the real story of how Cortelyou Road changed so much in the past few years, from the movers and shakers themselves. I met with Rebekah of Brooklyn Hearth Realty on Thursday, and she outlined her and her partner Jan Rosenberg's role in retooling Cortelyou as a destination for start-up businesses, restaurants and bars, and attracting younger families and singles to the neighborhood. While there are many associated cons with pushing a neighborhood facelift agenda, the story itself is so remarkable, and can say so much to those who decry PLG's lack of amenities, you really must read the story for yourself from (in my view) the prime mover: Jan Rosenberg, who started Friends of Cortelyou and then Brooklyn Hearth Realty. In short, well-respect urban sociologist is tired of the way her neighborhood as stagnated, tries to invigorate her main street, meets indifference, takes matters into her own hands, starts selling coops, encourages startups and farmers markets, works with existing groups, coaxes new amenities to try out the strip, sells more and more houses and rents to more and more folks looking for what her newly discovered nabe has to offer. She gets a ton of support in the effort from many smart and dedicated people. A local blog becomes a must-read that helps the nabe feel like a nabe on the rebound. It's really quite riveting, and a testament to what I've said here many times before - that new energy doesn't just happen. It's made.

The Cortelyou Story.

Later that evening, I went over to trendy wine bar Castello Plan on said Corty Lou (as I like to mispronounce it), and met with the formidable challenger to our current representative at City Hall. Said individual has not yet announced, and it would be incredibly uncool of me to tell you his/her name. Suffice to say, with the rumors about my own candidacy swirling around, I feel the need to say publicly that I am incredibly confident that this person is a strong candidate and while not FROM NORTHERN Flatbush, at least he/she lives in the goddam district, unlike certain other nameless individuals, who (by the way), I have a certain fondness for personally, but can't feel super positive about as a solution broker. I'll speak more to that later when his challenger is announced and relevant issues brought to the fore, but for now I'm very content to work with our guy on the many projects we have going on around here. I didn't use his name in case he's got a google alert set up in his gmail. But word is getting around anyway, so there it is, sans name of said challenger.

After that experience, I stopped off for a nightcap at the lovely home of Ditmas Park Corner founder and editor Liena Zagare and Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith. What a blast. These guys are fun, whip smart and committed to their community. (btw, the story of how Liena's Ditmas Park Blog became Ditmas Park Corner is a great one in itself. I wrote about it at the time it was unfolding, but I'm too lazy now to search and link back. I should really do better in that regard. I could have done it, actually, in the time it took to write those last sentences. But then again, my fingers were itchy to keep rolling). The Q was fortunate enough to also meet super-swell political reporter Ruby Cramer, also of the 'Feed as I'm calling it just for this paragraph. I left with a smile on my face and a helmet on my head. The helmet, unlike the smile, was not there as a result of my time at the Smith/Zagares, but rather because I ride a bicycle, and I've been shamed into wearing one, despite thinking that it makes me look like a major doofus. When you have children, you simply must embrace your inner doofus, or you will never leave the house.

Last week a reporter from Brooklyn Paper was asking whether the new coffee place was doomed like earlier joints. Not in the least. But in talking to co-owner Kola a bit mid-week, it became clear that he would love to open a sit-down place somewhere down the road. As would many, many others I'm sure. But is there anyone reaching out to him, or the many others, or to other successful business owners in Brooklyn, or to landlords, to help make that happen? Certainly not like it happened on Cortelyou, or Franklin, or Smith, or Vanderbilt or Myrtle, or Dekalb, or Fulton, get the picture. Think about it; if you were an entrepreneur, probably a bit nervous about dipping your toes into a new neighborhood...wouldn't you want to go where the water was warm?

Meeting with DOT re: Parkside Plaza

Great news everyone. Some very cool folks at DOT met yesterday with Rudy Delson (founder of the Parkside Project and Parkside Prize), Martin Ruiz (president of PLGNA) and me (repping CB9) and they presented an idea for a true Plaza at the Q at Parkside. They will give us planning support, a bunch of toys (movable tables and chairs, permanent seating), landscaping (planters, a few tree pits along Ocean), and best of all, freedom to do whatever kind of programming we want. A farmer's market is the obvious choice. Atim Oton's Arts fairs can of course continue on Saturdays (DOT helped open the door to make that happen). Things like this have been done in places like Fowler Square (near the Smoke Joint in Ft. Greene) and in Clinton Hill. Respective images of those projects below, though ours would be first to happen right in front of the headhouse of a subway station.

The tough part of the equation is creating the right infrastructure to program and maintain the Plaza.  I'll help. PLGNA will help. Rudy's group will help. Will you?

We'll set up a neighborhood meeting soon. I hope you'll attend and get involved. We're being given an amazing opportunity, but it will take work and commitment. With the opening of Lakeside, this could be the perfect opportunity for our neighborhood to shine. The Q is super-pumped. I hope y'all are too!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lincoln Road Playground to Reopen Tomorrow

Hurricane Sandy did a number on the jewel of a playground at Lincoln Road. It's been closed ever since due to necessary repairs. Want proof? We've got a before and after photos!

Calling all parents! See you there tomorrow morning when the lock comes off...

A Brilliant Outreach to Teens - Babysitting Classes

Amy Alberts and Shelley Kramer, who head up the Youth Committee of Community Board 9, have teamed to offer a really cool opportunity for local early-teens - babysitting training. As anyone with little kids knows, rates for a good babysitter are usually considerably higher than what McDonalds is paying (fancy new dining room or not). Babysitting is good, solid work. Interacting with a child's parents, learning important life skills, essentially running your business and managing clients and schedules. It's a big deal for a young girl (or boy!), and many parents desperately seek local support on short notice.

But it's a very serious responsibility, and that's where the FREE training part comes in. Learning about how to keep children occupied and engaged, learning safety and emergency skills, and connecting with local parents - these are all topics covered in the class. And then of course, it's all about hooking up parents and babysitters - and Shelley's PLAY KIDS toy store is a perfect place for that to happen.

If you know someone who might be interested, or if you live in a building with lots of 12-16 year old kids, please print out the below flier and post it and encourage them to consider the classes, scheduled for:

Sunday, January 20, 2-5
Saturday, February 2, 2-5
Sunday, February 24, 2-5

And tell them to drop the form by Play Kids or the community Board office, addresses below.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's In the Air (and it ain't just Peppa's)

Rumors, feeding frenzies, jokes that break much static on the wires that the Q is getting dizzy from the noise.

First, a dose of a good old fashioned truth. I neglected to mention that at the "joint meeting" (false advertising by the way) at CB9 on Monday an elegant solution was proposed by DOT to the absurd and dangerous traffic darting in and out of the BP station on, on, on, on Washington. Have you noticed how vehicles simply create their own entrance and egress? In order to take advantage of advantageous traffic lights, I've even seen people roll down the crosswalks right over curbs. A bunch of us, Alex E. and the fabulous Fanning Brothers in particular, have been making noise about it and DOT finally heard us. They're placing granite blocks at all the phantom exits and entrances to keep cars from creating their own driveways. They showed a picture but I didn't get a digital copy. Here's a picture of some granite blocks though:

They're granite, and in the shape of blocks. And I think it's safe to infer from the above picture that they grow on granite farms like the one pictured, probably in New Hampshire somewhere, which as we all know from grammar school as "The Granite State." Remember how they used to drill us on the nickname, the capital, and the "primary industry" and export of each state? How quaint. Industry. Exports.

For those of us who are parents of wee ones, nothing gets us more excited than talk of a new school cropping up in our mostly dismal District 17. New "progressive" school, that is, which basically means anything that's not the current local offerings of PS375 (Jackie Robinson) just north of Empire, PS92 on Parkside near Rogers, and PS249 (The Caton School) on Caton on the Parade Ground. Oddly, the two charter schools nearby often get neglected in playgroup and playground conversations - both Explore and Lefferts Gardens Charter School. There are reasons, I suppose, but I haven't the time or inclination to go into that right now. Anyhoo, some teachers from popular Ft. Greene charter school Community Roots are investigating starting a new school SOMEWHERE in one of three districts, maybe our own, and despite the fact that they are only in the exploration stage I've been hearing a nearly manic pounding of drums about it. Seems early to get too hot and bothered, but if they're looking for a place to put it I have the perfect solution:

ERASMUS. Yes, that most famous of high schools where Babs took geometry (Barbara Streisand, not our own beloved Babs. Hey Babs!)

Marty Markowitz and everyone with a memory talks about the glory days of this beautiful old building, but it currently houses some ho-hum specialty schools. But as long as they're fixing up the gorgeous original wooden school inside the courtyard, why not turn it, or some other part of the building, into the next generation awesome grammar school? A school that can grow into the building, year by year, while letting the less successful high schools phase out? Dang I missed my true calling - Schools Chancellor. Oh, if it were up to the Q, there'd be some changes around here!!!

And then there's the new coffee place - Tugboat. You'd think someone parked a truck on the Flabenue and started handing out hundred dollar bills, the way people have responded! It's pretty great, but it's a modest place suited to its location, and I hope the flack over porcelain was short lived. If that reference doesn't ring a bell, take a peek through the comments from a few posts back.

But taking the cake for most out-of-the-park hysterical/sad is the fake Yelp review about a particularly distinguished restaurant called Maison Fong at Lincoln and Ocean, which anyone will tell you is home to an apartment building and a sweet but undistinguished deli that Lil' Miss Q calls The Chips Store, since that's about all we ever buy there. I'm not proud, but chips are a food group in Paraguay, or someplace, and besides...they taste really really good. Especially le Doodles de Dipsy, which I'm pretty sure are locally sourced and organical French concoctions made by hand and rolled in fresh pressed extra virgin from Corsica.

I know we all want a nice little place to seat our tuchisses  and kvetch and nosh. But oy vey, the mishegas of it all! So much kibbitzing over such bissel.

We all probably need a good night's sleep and some deep breaths.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Newest News You Need To Knew

The Q attended the CB9 joint committee meeting tonight - Transportation and Parks. First up was the Clove Road Project. DOT sent us back a proposal saying they would make certain changes to that historic piece of real estate, and we sent back a counter offer that's more about making it safe for the many nearby kids to play there. What is Clove Road, you might ask? It was home to a battle - the Battle for Brooklyn, to be exact - during the revolutionary war. It's a very strange run down cobbled road near the 71st Precinct just north of Empire between Nostrand and New York. Check it out sometime. It really does feel like it predates modern NYC. It's rare to come across a street untouched by the imposition of "the grid." Here's the full story starring architect Mike Cetera. Or rather, starchitecting Mike Cetera.

The long and short is that DOT seems cool with making Clove Road a "play street," which is essentially a safe place for kids to run around that still has SOME traffic at limited hours. That's what differentiates a Play Street from a Plaza or a demapped street. There were a couple of gentlemen at the mtg. making an adamant plea that they must continue to be able to come in to get to their parking spaces behind their building. They were accommodated, but their insistence was a bit over-the-top. Okay, okay, you've got your parking place already! What I've come to understand about NYC over all these years is this...don't mess with people's parking, unless you come prepared to defend yourself with iron nunchucks. (I always thought there was an "m" in that word, but apparently not.)

THEN yours truly got to present the Flatbush Green Sheet Metal Trees project to DOT and special guest Councilman Mathieu Eugene, who made his surprise appearance just for this very item. AND he pledged to pay for the artist's materials. Holy crap. Did he get wind that I was planning to run for his seat or something? (ha-ha...joke, that's ridiculous, ha-ha.) I've never seen him there before! And money? Wow, things are really getting twisted, and it's only Monday. DOT digs it, and will provide us with the letter we need to present to the Design Commission. That's where the Q hits the big time, and gets to stand before the tribunal. This is getting good, y'all. Trusty Bob Marvin was there, and he said maybe PLG Arts should help coordinate the project. Heck yes. The more the merrier. And they could use a new project after losing their longtime leadership.

And as if things couldn't get any rosier AND peachier, there was Mathieu Eugene letting it fly that he'd found $300,000 for security cameras along Nostrand. Now, if you read this blog with any frequency you know how much I'd love to see such TLC devoted to the Flabenue. But I gotta give it up to the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association for keeping the pressure up. Lindiwe Kamou et al, you rock. Now if we could just get that kind of reaction from the petition for more beat cops. WHICH HAS 316 SIGNATURES SO FAR! And while yes, I printed it out and brought it to the precinct commander personally, I'd like to suggest that a whole gaggle of us go to the January 71st Precinct Community Council Meeting and present in person and very, very publicly. Who's game? It's the third Thursday of this month.

Finally, a little bird tells me the B48 is back up and running properly from Lincoln Road at the PPP train straight to trendy Williamsburg. Maybe some of you non-driving newcomers didn't know there was a direct line to ground zero for indie-inspired entertainment. It's so easy it hurts, though it's a tad on the slow side, but hey you get to see everything and tickle your smartphone the whole way. So just drop it in the slot, and you'll be banging and scratching your head at the same time in no time. And I have no idea what that means, so I'm going to bed. Nighty Night!  

Prospect Park News You Need To Know

The Parks Department has managed to commingle two silly catchphrases - MULCHFEST and TREECYCLE - into two glorious post-holiday shindigs next weekend. On the weekend from 10 to 2 both days, 12 &13, bring your tree to Park Circle (where PPSW meets Parkside) and watch it get chipped before your very eyes, and grab some freshly minted mulch to boot. You can also put your tree at curbside and DSNY will pick it up and bring it to the mulch pit. It's almost too mulch fun!

Folks have been asking after the Lincoln Road Playground, and according to a local jogger-father-parkguy, the twisty slide has been fixed and all they need to do is replace the effed up playground rubber so that kids will only fracture, not break, their arms when they fall off the equipment. Weather has impeded progress, but the p-ground should be open soon, though it might be just in time to get iced over. The Q will announce the date of opening as soon as I hear.

Lastly, and most troubling, it's true that the gorgeous Boathouse will not be open regularly on the weekends anymore. Me and Mrs. Q got married there. To my mind, it's a great beauty (the boathouse AND my wife), and if they could ever get that damned concession right, you know like a real little cafe, it would be absolutely perfect. But here's the thing. It was only really open to the public at all because it was home to the Audubon Society. The building is primarily used as a rental to make earned revenue for the park. It costs dough to keep it open, and the park is struggling. It was an obvious choice for closure and savings, and allows them to rent it on weekdays as well as nights. And while it may seem ludicrous that a park in the middle of a $75 million project wouldn't have enough cash to keep open the Boathouse, they're entirely different pots of money and you can't use capital project money for expenditures. Makes sense...the donors gave for Lakeside, not for the Boathouse. They'd be pissed; I'd be too.

What needs to happen is a campaign specifically to keep the Boathouse open and Audubon there. Right now, the plan is for "pop-up" Audubon programs around the park. That sounds like a fine idea - except that it means the Boathouse stays closed.

How do y'all see rectifying this bummer?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Q's Movie Recommendation: Good Hair

 So glad to hear Tugboat's off to a speedboat start. I was struck though by how many people wanted to discuss both Feel Beauty Supply and Tugboat as if they were somehow part of contrasting visions of the neighborhood. Personally, I think this is a bit shortsighted. "Feel" is a great looking store, and is miles better than the giant vacant spot left behind by Mike's departure. And while I too have commented on the extraordinary concentration of beauty supply places and hairdressers, the two go hand in hand, and there should be no surprise why business owners keep looking to Flatbush to expand their businesses. We are a destination neighborhood for countless folks of African descent. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but black hair is black hair! Black women (and men) have long sought to mitigate the kinkiness of the natural 'fro with products and weaves and braids that most white folks find difficult to comprehend. So a couple years back when I saw that the genius comic Chris Rock had made a documentary about African hair, I jumped at the opportunity. You can't stream it free on Netflix, but you can download on iTunes.

Flatbush deserves a diversity of businesses, and as I've noted here great things are happening. When everyone was dogging the neighborhood after K-Dog and Blue Roost's closings, I tried to stay upbeat, and I think folks have to realize that change takes time and the dedication of dedicated residents. People are beginning to mobilize in the neighborhood for all kinds of consensus-built change, and I'm overwhelmingly bullish on the area's ability to change smart and sensitively.There are new bizzes in the works on Lincoln Road. Change coming to plaza and train station at my beloved Q at Parkside. The cops are starting to pay attention, sanitation is being addressed, a building is finally coming to the huge vacant lot on Lincoln, new trees are being planted, the trees and plaza at Empire/Flatbush is being addressed, arts initiatives, youth initiatives...keep your eyes on prize folks! We're making progress...

Oh, and check out that movie and once you have please comment, respectfully of course. I'd love to hear what people think about the very industry that is so central to our neighborhood's economic vitality. A past post on local Cameroon-born hairdresser Laura Puemo here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tugboat Coffee Is Open For Business

Stop in, y'all. Tugboat's owners Kola and Chad would love to see you. If you're serious about supporting a local coffee shoppe, and by the responses on this blog you are, come out to day and buy them out of everything in stock. And hey, if you need something they don't have, let 'em know. Good luck guys! 546 Flatbush, next to Gino's Ristorantay.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Not Your Momma's McDonalds

Still scratchin' my noggin' over the new Mickey D's across from  the Q at Parkside. It looks great, in a kinda 1990s Tokyo kinda way. In fact, I hear they're developing McSushi as I write this. I'm particularly proud of the first pic of the interior, with the school bus out the window. Eerie, right? Is it true they're making school bus seats bigger to handle the obesity epidemic? Or did I just start that rumor? Anyhow, deeply serious interviews were happening and the guys from "corporate" were down to check things out. JUST to be absolutely certain it was a McDonalds, I felt the need, journalistically speaking, to order a small fries (small fry?) I believe they call it due diligence. They were just as McSalty and McTasty as I remember from my youth. Actually, they seemed better somehow, like absence really does make the taste buds grow fonder. Maybe they're using, I dunno, potatoes now? I'm sure the place'll get trashed, but in the meantime, I really like what they've done with the place. And I'm thru hating on McDonalds. It's too easy. The truth be told, the world is so much more ruthless than one multi-national Hamburgler. Just don't expect me to feed that stuff to my kids. They'll have to make do with Wendy's, great protector of the rain forest that she is.

A Meeting With DOT Over Flatbush Trees - Monday - Be There!

Okay, many of you know I'm obsessed with those damn green Flatbush Trees. And I KNOW I'm not the first. But now the rubber is starting to meet the road, and I'm proud to say we're meeting publicly and officially with DOT to DOT our T's and cross our eyes on the way towards presenting the NYC Design Commission with short and longterm solutions. PLEASE JOIN ME AND FELLOW NEIGHBORS AS WE TALK TURKEY WITH THE DOT, MONDAY NIGHT JAN. 7 at CB9 HEADQUARTERS, 890 NOSTRAND. If you can't make it and have something to say, now's the time to say it! 7PM - 8PM.

As I noted here recently, the Parks and Land Use committees gave the thumbs up for a local artist to reimagine the trees for a limited run art piece, using helpers from local high schools. Here's the potential before and after:

Brenda from Flatbush made an impassioned plea for the trees destruction, and frankly when all is said and done that just might happen. The trees never received final approval, way back in the late '70s, and if they don't fit into a new plan for the plaza they may go the way of Pet Rocks. And yet, some folks are very attached to these sheet metal creatures, so who knows? The art project idea seems like a good compromise for now. I feel certain the artist, who lives around the corner from the trees, won't let them fall into too terrible disrepair.

See you Monday. Agenda below (that Clove Road project is really interesting too):


1. Presentation/discussion of proposal and process for the refurbishing of the "Flatbush Trees" with representatives from the Department of Transportation

2. Review draft resolution for alternative proposal for Clove Road