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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Return of the Great Google Moogle

You'll be hearing a lot about the Great GoogaMooga  in the coming weeks, how it's returning after last year's mixed-received debut, and how you should do this, skip that, protest this or eat that. What you'll get from the Q is an honest assessment of what the Gritty Giggle Miggle means for the Alliance, the organization that actually makes your park possible, and why opportunities like this should be experimented with, tweaked, and ultimately embraced or jettisoned on a more reasoned analysis than a smattering of Facebook posts and Twitter rants. The Q did his best to be fair last year, in fact so fair as to compare the Grade Kooky Mooky to the State Fairs of his youth, though we did scoop the competition with a real zinger on the "artisanal" sloppy joe's, story here.

This year, a real rock festival is taking shape, with the opening Friday night being given over to reigning indie darlings of the '90s and '00s respectively, at the decidedly post baccalaureate price of $54.50, lineup here:

If that bill appeals, then you probably attended, played, or dated someone who attended or played at South by Southwest at some point in your life, and have actually at least once uttered the phrase "Texas sucks, but Austin is cool." If you refer to the festival as "South By" I'm wondering what you thought of the Dessner, Muhly, Sufjan thing at BAM? Too proggy? And if you refer to SXSW simply as "Sou," then you are definitely too cool for this blog and should probably just click this link now before you get old germs all over you.

The Saturday and Sunday lineups are more inspired in my view, in particular, the actual Great Depression (the one from the 1930s) price point:

The catch of course to the "free" aspect to the Late Cushy Tushy is that you must register and and win your tickets through lottery, a system that won much consternation from digital-ease-obsessed modern humans last time around. Here's the explanation. The event has a capacity; the event is popular; therefore, the event must limit the number of tickets issued; free is a very attractive price point; demand outstrips supply; therefore a lottery is employed. Registration happens April 1 - April 3. Tickets are assigned randomly, though I suppose you could probably register more than once using your many online aliases. It's not first come first serve so it's not a take-time-off-work to pump your reload button kinda thing, nor does it favor the unemployed or those "toiling" in the "creative classes."

Other major improvements over last year include the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the ridiculous barrier between Googa and Mooga that created utter confusion and a sense of first and second class citizenry. Plus, one had to trek WAY out of the way to enter from "our" side of the park. This year you'll be able to get your Goog On from Lincoln Road. The Boathouse will be the only true upscale private clubhouse part of the event, and rightly so says the Q. The promoters should have their chance to make a buck, as shows of this magnitude have to pay their bills somehow, but it's a public park and you shouldn't have to hire a camel to get to the entrance. I've crossed over into the "for" camp, because I think big public hang-out concerts are part of the public park mandate envisioned by the creators, provided they not happen every day and provided they not happen in the same place every time AND provided the Alliance be properly compensated and provided the wear and tear on the Nethermead be weighed against the benefit of such once-in-a-while extravaganzas

Now those are some big provideds of course. Given the financial realities of running the park as a partnership between the City and its citizenry, I think it's worth experimenting with how the Alliance comes up with more than $10 million annually in income. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and yet I hope that skinning cats is not one of the new ways the Alliance seeks to raise funds for operations. I may have to draw the line there. In the meantime, there park may need to find a few new ways to goog a moog.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Art Show Opening at Tugboat - Reception April 4

Photographer, local treasurer, and resident historian Bob Marvin sent over the following info on yet another brilliant group project of PLG Arts. Don't miss it at the equally brilliant and perfectly understated Tugboat. Def C U There.

PLG Arts presents its first group show at Tugboat Tea Company, 546 Flatbush Avenue, between Lincoln Road and Maple Street. The show will be hung on the evening of April 1st and will run from April 2—30 and will feature the work of twenty-two local artists in many media, including paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings, and prints.

There will be a reception on Thursday, April 4th, from 6 to 9 PM which will be an opportunity to meet many of the artists.This show is the beginning of a collaboration between PLG Arts and Tugboat. PLG Arts will curate monthly solo and group shows at this venue featuring neighborhood artists.

The artists participating in this group show are: Efrat Baler Moses, Barbara Caban, Augusto Carlos, Daniel Freeman, David Fry, Wesley Gunn, Brian Fernandes Halloran, Noel Hefele, Frances Horne, Jay Horne, Lou Howart, Daphne Knause, Diane Lent, Marcia Lloyd, Jamie Lubetkin, Robert Marvin, Karl McIntosh, Otto Neals, Val Ocampo, Raul Pacheco, Sally Mara Sturman, Brianne Walasek.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Q's Schools Tool: Part 2 - Lefferts Gardens Charter School

Please note: If your child turns 5 in 2013 and you're considering LGCS, be sure your application is in by THIS Monday. In fact, all charter apps are due that day. The common app for all charters is here. Selection for seats, at least the official first round, happens by lottery not long after. A charter school IS a public school, operated with City funds, with its own Board of Directors ultimately responsible, though it must comply with all City and State regulations when it comes to educating its students. Most charters are non-union, though a few are coming on line now with union teachers.For a relatively unbiased history and description of charter schools, I'd go to the good ol' Wikipedia page, where you get slightly less propaganda for or against. LGCS is somewhat unique among local charter school options, in that it was started by a small group of local parents and is not part of a local, regional or national network of schools. It is essentially a mom-and-pop start-up school, and as far as I can tell has no plans to expand beyond its flagship.

Now nearing the end of its third year of operation, the Lefferts Gardens Charter School (LGCS) is in many ways poised to hit a major new level of maturity this coming fall. After speaking with founding board member Renata Gomes last week, taking a tour of the classrooms in action, and attending an Open House led by LGCS Finance Director Marc Dicus, I can honestly say that this little engine that could really can, and is really starting to show signs of a new vigor and confidence as it shakes off a rough year of leadership turnover. If you haven't checked in with LGCS in awhile, I suggest getting to know them better in the coming months as they perhaps integrate more fully into the broader community. That's what the Q's crystal ball is telling him anyway. But first, a little history.

Imagine this scene if you will. A few years ago, Renata sat with friend and fellow mom Allison Jack, and together, worrying (maybe like you) about their own newborn's school possibilities said to themselves "wouldn't it be nice to have a strong school with a rich hands-on scientific method based "green" curriculum right here in the neighborhood?" Sure a lot of people say things like that. But then they drew in friends to form a charter committee, one being neighbor Renee Ciccone who took over lead applicant duties to apply for the charter (no small feat that - I sat on an unsuccessful charter committee myself and know it's no walk in the park), were awarded a charter, moved into the top floor of PS92 on Parkside near Rogers (the DoE calls it co-location), and have essentially created, with lots of help from teachers-parents-DOE-administrators-etc a model for learning, practically from scratch. With lots of successes and bumps along the way, and plenty of lessons to learn from, I think it's safe to say that school is poised to hit its stride this fall. Why am I so confident? Well, let's start with the basics.

First off, the school itself is gorgeous. Huge windows, lots of light, cheery atmosphere, nice gym, decent auditorium. It's a real SCHOOL school, and you feel it the minute you enter. They really used to know how to "school it up" back during the Great Depression. The stock market tanked, but it was a good time to be a brick mason! It's a keeper, and in just a few weeks, LGCS will find out whether it receives permanent permission to stay in the building. Soon it will be K-5, three grades per class. Folks, LGCS is no longer an idea or a start-up. It's a real school and will quite possibly outlive us all.

Second, the curriculum really is awesome. The kids go on field trips once a week (crazy, right?) to the zoo, garden, park, you name it, all with a mission and as part of the week's lesson plan. The recently hired curriculum coordinator Katrina Raben gets raves from staff and parents alike for stepping things up a notch all around.

Third, there are some solid teachers at the school. This I've heard first hand from the parents of attendees, but I also got to watch a couple teachers in action, and I was very impressed. The kids too were warm, inquisitive and engaged, whether in group settings or in break-out "choice" time. Here's a pic of a teach in one classroom where the vibe was pitch perfect:

Allison Greene in her cozy 2nd grad classrom

Now I ask you, is that not the most teachiest teacher and classroomiest classroom you've seen in awhile? Check out all the pets. Hey it's a science oriented curriculum, so you've got to have some Madagascar Cockroaches, courtesy of Miss Carmen, of course. Classrooms are team-taught, with a main teacher and a special education specialist, and from what this layman can ascertain, it works great, and the student/teacher ratio was super low. The kids came right up to me (at the appropriate choice time of course) and asked questions and wanted to show me their compost. Another couple kids acted out a conflict resolution play. Very cute.

But the main reason the Q is bullish on LGCS has to do with some of its stumbles in the first couple years, and I think the school has learned some hard lessons the hard way, perhaps to its longterm advantage. It lost its first principal after just two years, due some parents have said (off the record) to inexperience on all sides. That is to say, as with any new venture, it's tough to hit the ground firing on all cylinders (I don't really know whether that's an appropriate metaphor, but I like that word cylinder!) For the parents and kids that stayed through the growing pains of start-up mode, things got rough again when principal two turned out to be terrible fit, and was fired abruptly. They've been under a temporary leader ever since, and despite some turmoil for the adults, the kids are doing just fine. THIS time, the board has outsourced the hiring process to an expert firm using a national search, and the results could be a whole new kettle of fish, or maybe just one really nice fish wearing a well-fitted kettle. Or something to that effect. Because ultimately it is the school leader, her relationship with teachers/students/board/community that will make the single biggest difference. The Parent Association is already kickin' it (hi Siobhan; hi Sandra; hi Kathryn). The operations are happening, pro and responsive. The curriculum is ringing. The building is rocking. The kids are adorable. What's missing? A super strong leader and maybe, just maybe, a larger more diversified board with broader strengths. Too much of the weight has fallen on too few shoulders, in my professional opinion (as development director, not blogger. they don't pay me to write the Q, and as of yet no one has asked me to "consult" on blogging, Nate Silver I'm talking to you).

Visit the school. The application's coming right up so I chose it first for the series. But LGCS is well worth your consideration, and there's a pretty swell playground adjacent to boot. And it's close. Look, I know you might be looking at schools in Park Slope, Ft. Greene, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carrol Gardens. But do you really want your kid on a bus a couple hours a day, or drive or MTA-it every day? For kindergarten? It's a question worth asking, and one I ask myself frequently.

And those Smart Boards everyone's talking about? How come every school I've been too there's just a bunch of stuff taped to them or hanging off them? Never fails to crack me up...

Note: Plenty of vitriol gets thrown around in the anti-charter movement. And lots of wild claims get made by charter advocates. I'm going to try to stay clear of that discussion here, because I'm trying to present a "pro schools" and "pro children" and "pro parents" attitude in my posts. There are significant issues to be raised, some of which I've raised on the Q, about fairness, segregation, unions...most of these, at least to many families, will have little bearing on the actual experience of attending the school, and are much more about the infrastructure behind the schools. And so for now, I'm sticking to the school "experience" as much as possible.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Q's School Tool: Part I of a Series

In which the Q alienates 90% of his audience by talking about something most people couldn't care less about.

Part One of a Six Part Series: Introduction to the Letter K: To Be Followed By In-Depth Unscientific Poorly Planned "Discovery" Tours of Various District 17 Schools

I'll admit that blog post title is aimed to inflame, since I know darn well that no one person could write such a thing, especially not some doofus dad whose oldest kid hasn't even turned 4. I haven't any real qualifications to write such a guide, nor am I going to tell you anything you couldn't and probably shouldn't find out for yourself. I'm just going to use my blog for what I think my blog is for, which is allowing me to air some thoughts publicly, elicit some feedback, and work through some ideas that have been kickin' around in me noggin'

The first being that I have no interest whatsoever in private schools. It's not really a chip on my shoulder thing, or a political thing. Well maybe a little bit. But not really. My vibe from private school admissions so far is that it seems way too caught up in the same stressful groove as competitive colleges, and I just don't see kindergarten as the place for that yet for me and Mrs. Q or our kids. I'm just not ready for that part of life. I like my life now. It's really nice, pretty relaxed considering the constant activity of raising two kids with jobs and blogs and bands, and I certainly don't want to be spending all my time wondering how I'm going to pay for it or resenting my kids for making me change my life in order to pay for it. I currently make too little money for The Blue Schools and Packers and St. Anns of the world, even if I could get in. And of course there's my upbringing. I grew up in the midwest, where school choice was no choice. You went, you got what you got. There were good teachers, o.k. teachers. mediocre teachers. And by the way, the schools in Ames IA were considered very very good. My point is that even good schools have lousy teachers and lousy schools good teachers, so even relying on reputation doesn't mean you GET the reputation personally, know what I mean? Anyhoo, by the time I could read and think I was off and running, learning and dreaming on my own. I was playing guitar and piano and drums a couple hours a day, doing a lot of between the ears dreaming, writing songs and poems. I got into other extra curriculars, no need to elaborate on all of them since they weren't all, uh, productive. If I have a point it's that it wasn't til I came East that I got a sense that schools, and where you went to school, were incredibly important to some people. Like REALLY important. In the past few months I've noticed it again. Even KINDERGARTEN is really important to some people. Even PRESCHOOL. Some people seem to be feel it really intensely. Others not so much. It might be something that's passed down from generation to generation. I'm not feeling it so much, though I can see now after a few school tours that some schools give off better vibes than others. I have yet to get a creepy vibe though. Or a "we hate children at this school" vibe. Maybe those schools are on Staten Island somewhere, over by the ruins of that old psychiatric hospital. I hope I don't have to visit it soon. The school, not Staten Island.

I've heard it said many times through the years that public schools in NYC generally suck. I will go out on a limb and say that they don't generally suck. That person who started that rumor generally sucks. He is not very nice and wants to make parents feel bad about themselves. And he probably hasn't visited any schools, or talked to parents who actually have children at public schools that don't suck, with principals that don't suck, or teachers that don't suck, or students that don't suck. What I've seen, if I may generalize, are adorable children laughing and raising their hands and playing and lining up, teachers who seem both professional and kind, clean and bright and colorful classrooms, loud but happy lunchrooms, joyful playgrounds - in short, I have seen schools. I've gone as parent and blogger, for interviews, open houses, tours, sometimes I've even just gone, like my family did to PS249,  to the holiday talent show (hi Felix!) and I gotta say it's always a good time.

I think it's quite possible that along with all the other big "red hot Brooklyn" stories happening and being told and retold in the media, public school is actually flourishing right along with the music scene, food culture and brownstone values. Lots of new ideas are being tried, from Charters to just plain new modes of thinking in DOE schools (check out the new Common Core curriculum stuff that's headed down the pike, new union rules, union schools that are allowed to directly challenge charters for innovation). I just think about all the schools I've heard of since Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed Jr. came onto the scene that people have told me they're gaga about. Again, it's just hearsay, but partial list includes:

A. PS 321 duh, overcrowded and SO 1990s (joke!)
B. Explore Charter School, right down Parkside at Nostrand
C. PS 107 over in the John Jay by Barnes and Noble
D. PS 133
E. PS 9 (in Prospect Heights - I toured it, adorable)
F. PS 295 (in south Park Slope - toured it, adorable)
G. The Children's School (I know people who go; I know a teacher there; known for 50/50 split of special needs/general population)
H. The Brooklyn New School (BNS) - nothing but raves.
I. Community Roots (lots of folks from Lefferts go there; it's a Charter School, no longer as easy for District 17 kids to get into though)
J.  PS 770 New American Academy (district 17, toured it, progressive, principal's a rock star, wrote about it here)
K. PS 705 (toured it, separate post to come, interviewing principal next week)
L. Lefferts Garden Charter School (LGCS) lovely - getting better - new leader coming - toured it - has giant Madagascar cockroaches as pets
M. PS 130 The Parkside School - Beautiful school, great programming, exceptional, toured it
N. PS 261 in Boerum Hill
O. PS 154 Windsor Terrace
P. PS 11 Ft. Greene
Q. The Arbor School (Williamsburg)
R. Other Billyburg Schools
S. PS 282 in Park Slope, 6th Ave 'n' Lincoln or so
T, There's a bunch in Flatbush, but I'm getting lazy now so here's some from our friends at Ditmas Park Corner.
U. I'm leaving tons out. Please comment your favorites and I'll add them to the list. This is all from memory folks, and my memory ain't so good anymore. 

Plus ya gotcher homeschoolers, idiosyncratic and happy micro-sized private schools, coop schools etc, and right here in the nabe the tiny but charming Brooklyn Apple Academy that I profiled here.  Three new charter schools are opening in District 17, two this fall (Citizens of the World on Empire at Troy and one by my favorite education conversation partner, the New American Academy guru Shimon Waronker), another coming from a former Community Roots teacher probably a year from now. I mean it's a crazy good time for school choice and just keeps getting better every year. If anything, I'd say the options are TOO numerous, and while your zoned school may not appeal to you, it's never been more possible to send your kid elsewhere, provided you're okay with entering waiting lists with priority systems (sibling at school? live in district?), waiting through the summer for openings, calling schools and letting them know how great an addition you'd make and how much you want it. (Principals have a great deal of discretion when filling those last few seats).

And so...

One could easily make the analogy that the run-up to enrolling one's precious Kings County offspring in public kindergarten feels like a terrible game of know-it-all musical chairs, wherein the slightest misstep or miscue or missed deadline or missed networking opportunity might cost you and your child the opportunity to sit snugly and smugly when the summer's sultry song is over, thereby forever damning your child to, say, an enormous disadvantage, like having to spell without the use of three of the alphabet's most useful letters. I can, even without the fanciest of education degrees, assure you that this is not the case. Your child will eventually be allowed the full use of the English vocabulary, access to the same internet, be allowed weekends off like other children, and never be forced to play the tuba against his or her will. Plus, there's always FIRST GRADE! Or even MID-YEAR! Sometimes parents switch schools, and there's often enough churnover (my word, thank you) to find a place somewhere that makes you comfortable. You're not signing a contract to stay put for 6 whole years after all.

Am I making you feel more at ease? I sure hope so. Because I know no one who's ever wanted to go to public who didn't eventually find a public that worked for them. Never. And I'm OLD! So I have lots of friends and acquaintances who've been through this all before.

That is to say it's kindergarten, and my limited intel-gathering experience so far, even over here in the much maligned District 17, has been remarkably sweet, so much so that I want to assure every parent out there that the very worst scenario is so much better than you've probably imagined that perhaps the very best outcome is also not as great as you imagined, meaning maybe school is going to be just fine, which is probably the way it was for you, though you probably don't remember it very well, as I don't, though I remember various awkwardnesses along the way. Generally speaking this is what I know happened in my first three or four years, and it has been corroborated by my parents so I know it to be true:

1. Some kids were nice to me; some were not
2. Some teachers were awesome; some were o.k.
3. I learned to read and I learned that I liked to read some things better than others
4. I learned basic math
5. I made friends
6. I learned how to write (sort of)
7. I learned some basic things about the country and the world
8. I learned some pretty cool science stuff that still blows my mind today
9. I learned how to play team sports like kickball and bounce a basketball and lie to principal
10. I learned how to listen to a teacher and to other students and to be proud when I got questions right
11. I learned how to take tests*
12. I learned how to be one among many - how to be part of a community

So when I started looking at local grammar schools I was thinking of those things, not Oxford or Yale. I was thinking of whether Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed Jr. would experience those things too, and whether she would come home from school and we would be able to talk about the things that happened to her at school and whether I would be able to enjoy experiencing them all over again, this time from the parent's point of view. And you know what? Every single school I've visited so far met the litmus test. But i did like some better than others. Which brings us to the question of "getting in," which as every parent will tell you is the real question, though I'm not so sure it should be the PRIMARY question. So maybe I should dig right into that "getting in" thang.

NYC's about zones, which means you're zoned for your neighborhood school. I'm zoned for Jackie Robinson PS 375 just north of Empire at the Ebbets Houses, which is absurd, since I'm closer to three other schools. The closest, PS92 Adrian Hegeman is basically around the corner. It's the school on Parkside between Bedford and Rogers, the same school that houses the Lefferts Gardens Charter School. It's a gorgeous building, and the renovated Parkside Playground that I've written so much about here is adjacent. More on PS92 later, maybe its own post since I got to go and talk to the principal with two other local parents. Then there's the lovely Explore Charter School, which I profiled a few moons back, and we
Explore (via NY Times)
have a friend who teaches there and also speaks well of the staff and leadership. Morty Ballen's network also runs another charter in Prospect Heights. Charters involve lotteries, which has this perverse effect of denying kids from right down the street. BUT there's a lot of churnover right near the beginning of the school year, so if you've got your heart set on a charter there's no reason not to stay on the wait list. Then there's PS249, The Caton, at Marlborough and Caton, next to the Parade Ground, also closer than my "zoned" school. It gets an A on the progress reports, does dual-language classrooms, has a beloved principal and scores high on parent satisfaction, more info here. One thing I've learned is that if I were to make enough of an impression (of the positive variety) with these principals, we would likely be able to attend, after all is said and done. The demand is not so great at these schools that a friendly plea and honest desire couldn't find an open seat or two by the start of school in the fall. This "fact" is not published anywhere, of course. Rules are rules after all. But with that in mind, I've continued to consider these close-enough-to-walk schools to be real possibilities, to greater or lesser degrees, and I guess I'll get into that in individual posts. I will say this; none of these schools have reached out much to the community, not so much in terms of what one might call "recruitment," but even basic marketing like listing Open Houses on the listserve or reaching out to the local blogger (ahem!), but hey I guess they're busy, and the general consensus seems to be "if you want to come here, come here, we don't to beg you, you should just come." I think it's safe to say, and I've had this conversation with plenty of parents, were a principal to say "hey we've got something really cool and unique going on over at our school you should really come check it out," being the good parental lemmings that we are we'd be there in a heartbeat! And if donuts are served? I'm all over it like white on rice. (bad metaphor?)

Why is that, you ask? Because a lot of parents I talk to, of the middle class variety, many of them white, are basically uncomfortable about integrating a very poor almost all brown-skinned demographic. As you can see, I'm not one to sugar-coat. That's the God honest truth, and I'd be lying if I said it hasn't occurred to me a time or two. Though on some tours when the principal says "come along for the ride" and the school is mostly black, I think to myself "damn straight, now THAT's what I'm talking about and I want to practice what I preach here about community and King's Dream and just dive in and meet some people from backgrounds different than me for a change! Does that sound like I'm asking the black world to beg me to come join them? That is I'm not sufficiently asked I won't send my kid to the school? That's a tough question, and I grapple with it sometimes. Someone actually said that to me once - "you people think we should bend over backward for you."

Argh. Such an entitled attitude you have Q. But in fact, like most people, I get nervous acting alone, and I imagine going to a nearby school with at least a few other parents that I already know, so that yeah, I don't feel like some weirdo. I mean, I'm fine being that weirdo guy when it's just myself, and I think I've kinda shown it right here on the blog. I sort of feel the very reason neighborhoods in Brooklyn get so twisted up is because we don't integrate effectively, due mostly to fear and ignorance on all sides, and I've often felt that the schools and marketplace are the key to the kind of change that could really revolutionize the way we think about each other and ultimately about how we live as a people, a City, a nation. Is it really that big? Hell yeah, I think so. We're the adults now. The values we teach our kids really DO matter that much. I mean, I ask myself sometimes, privately of course...

Clarkson FlatBed, what ARE you doing? I mean really, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Not what job are you doing, what song are you writing, what friend are you meeting for dinner, what book are you reading, what sarcastic joke are you making. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, Tim? Do you have any reason to be? Is it just one day after another, one awkward encounter with another stranger after another, one envious sideways glance at another person just like you who's enviously looking back at YOU wondering whether YOU know something THEY don't know? Are you going to leave the world, the neighborhood, Brooklyn, worse than you found it? And why, no matter how cynical you are, do you still get weepy when you hear the phrase "think globally, act locally?"

I mean, if at least one or two schools down the street or relatively near is perfectly nice. If a District 17 school is trying something innovative. If the people in my neighborhood are hurting, if the kids on the street are confused, if the color of people's skin is making such a big difference after all these years of supposed improved relations, if the President is black BUT...okay, here I go now. If the President is black but the color of the guy who got shot on Lincoln Road still matters as much as it does. I mean, I really didn't want to go there, but do you think for a second that if the poor soul who got shot for no reason a couple weeks ago had been a white man or woman, that the neighborhood wouldn't be marching down Flatbush Avenue stopping traffic with the NY Times leading the coverage? And where WAS the NY Times on that story anyway? Not even a MENTION!!! Is it not a story anymore when someone gets shot in the head FOR NO REASON AT ALL? In front of our subway station we all walk by every day? Holy shit, and a lot of us knew those guys, the young men in the videos, judging by the response the cops got. They're from our neighborhood, both the perps and the victim. Wow.

Oh, wait, this is about kindergartens. And it's about everything else too. For instance, I don't think I could live with myself and lie about where I live just to get into a school in a mostly white neighborhood to get a slightly better slightly more comfortable experience at the PTA meetings. I'm just not going to lead my life like that. Fear, fear, fear. Not so much lemming. Not so much bullshit. My kid will be fine. And one day, maybe she'll even thank me for it.

Next up, a lot of way less heavy looks at schools I've seen, from the Lefferts Gardens Charter School to PS770 and even a few out of the district. And I hope you'll chime in, correct me, shake it up. Yeah, shake it up just enough, and offer something, get something too. Shake it up. Shaken, not stirred. I promise not to lay it on so heavy. Cause kindergarten is supposed to be fun, remember?

*By the way, that last one? Turned out to be incredibly important. So important, that I find it continues to pay dividends - being able to calm myself, and quiet my brain and concentrate, knowing that it's not so much WHAT I know but that I need to be able to access it in a timely manner. Ironically, they called them the "Iowa" tests out here, I think. I grew up in Iowa. (I know you know what I'm getting at here, that I'm not being very sneaky, but yeah, I don't think teachers should be teaching to the test all the time, but I do think there's a time for tests, and I don't think it's a terrible thing to start learning relatively young. And I don't think that means I'm not progressive in my philosophy about education. I want kids rolling around on the ground and being inquisitive and playful too!)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Science Saturdays

Leave it to Carmen. I hope it goes without saying how much I LOVE this idea. Science Saturdays. I mean, this is the lady trying to sell Madagascar Cockroaches on the listserve. And I know for a fact that she did, because I saw one when I toured the Lefferts Gardens Charter School, and I doubt very much they bought it at Petco.

Babysitters - Vetted And Ready to Roll

As I mentioned awhile back, the reinvigorated youth and education committees at Community Board 9 have been dreaming up new outreach efforts. The power trio of Hillary-Amy-Shelley held workshops at Play Kids to train neighborhood teenagers the skills they needed to be responsible babysitters, and last week handed out certificates to those who completed the training. It was very sweet moment - many of the kids were there with families. Babysitting jobs were a great source of income for me as a kid, and for many of us (c'mon, raise your hand out there if you paid for something you really wanted with babysitting money!) So I applaud each and every one of the kids listed below. You've already shown great initiative, and I think that's a sign that you'll make a great watcher-over of a little ones.

The conversation about how much to pay a babysitter is always a bit awkward, especially for someone as young as some of these guys and gals. Keep that in mind, and of course the fact that minimum wage goes up to $9 an hour on April 1. We usually pay $15, for one, sometimes more for two. I have a friends who pay $10. I have friends who pay $30 and health insurance. So as you can see, it can be a bit strange to ask a kid what they charge, cuz they don't necessarily know what their skill set is worth in the marketplace. Just saying it might be worth coming at them with an offer rather than leaving it up to them.

I've included addresses so you know if they're close to your house but not apt numbers for obvious reasons. I also left off last names. I consider this blog to be essentially a bulletin board, so feel free to call directly. But you could also email Amy Albert with questions about individuals, though I highly recommend meeting these young people and giving them a trial, maybe a short assignment first if you're feeling squeamish about younger babysitters?

You know me I'm big into bringing groups of people living in our neighborhood together, and this is one of the coolest ways I can think of to do it. I know people who hire babysitters for twice as much as they probably need to from twice as far away as they need to and it's probably cause they don't know anyone nearby. It's like me and my dang haircuts. Til I started going to Nelson's I was going way out of my way. Now the money stays in the 'hood. Plus I get leads on stories!!! (I'm not always sure I get the best haircut, but I do have a better time and he stays open late).

Here's the list. For more info, contact Amy, the program chair. She may be able to hook up families with the right babysitter.

1316 St Johns Place (347)-985-3966
 99 Wilson Street (347) 382-4156
175 Hawthorne Street (718) 282-8442 

4512 Flatbush Avenue (718) 282 63486
552 Van Sicklen Ave (631) 383-0144
170 Fenimore Street (917) 754-9654
2121Westbury Court (718) 773-2358
191 Hawthorne Street, 718-938-6896
1188 President Street, (917) 402-5106 

2101 Westbury Court (347) 533-7974
78 Fenimore Street (347) 405-9448
159 Hawthorne Street (718) 462-7722
106 Clarkson Avenue (347) 984-9597
78 Fenimore Street (347) 520-0743
216 East 29th Street (917) 856-9457

1236 Dean Street, (718) 564-5164

The Latest from Le Artiste

David Eppley sent me another view for my application to DOT. Thought I'd pass it along. Remember, this is for the temporary project involving kids making the individual pieces that are placed on the trees as industrial tape. I'm submitting the apps this week. Remember, it will really be something quite different when the trees all around are full of green!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Post It And They Will Come

Oh My Sweet Goodness. When I opened an email today from Mr. Michael Cetera, he of the Community Board 9, he who many years ago as a young man helped get Eastern Parkway landmarked, he who keeps digging over on Clove Road hoping to find, I don't know, Revolutionary War muskets or something, he who agrees with me anyone in their right mind that the parking lot at Ocean/Flatbush/Empire is a disgrace and an affront to the people of Lefferts, nay the people of the City of New York...yeah, that Mike Cetera. Where was I? Oh yeah...he sent me an email this morning. With a picture for the redesign of the plaza that plaza. It's rid-ic-u-lous. Across from the Botanic Garden, the Prospect Park, the glorious Phat Albert building and the third greatest Wendy's in North America no less!

But's such a wasted opportunity and we all know it. Now, folks are finally starting to agitate about it.

I'm all pumped about the David Eppley art project that I've been pushing here to gorgeously psychedelically cover the green sheet metal Flatbush trees and will be going to an already enthusiastic DOT with the formal proposal and various elected officials (Adams and Eugene) in the coming weeks for funding (read about it here) not as an end but because we (meaning the board and lots of you who I've talked to and who've written in) see it as a great way to bring everybody's attention to the other attraction. And the other attraction, simply put, is getting the MTA to stop using that land as a parking lot, which as far as any one can tell is not legal, moral, kosher, or even nice. As soon as we get the right design in place, with the right people (meaning the design commission) involved, and the right owner (we're not sure yet) and the right power brokers involved (the mayor, the king), that land should be returned to us (since it really belongs to we the people anyway) and we should get something useful and purty out of it. And Cetera, who's no stranger to this kinda long term bureaucracy stuff (he worked for years as the City's architect) knows how to get this stuff done. So his first move, besides being kind enough to humor me with the tree business, was to enlist an old friend, Johannes Knesl, RA, an urban designer who served for many years as DOT's director of urban design and knows how to design open spaces that will meet the strict requirements for public plazas and streetscapes. He's retired now, moved down to North Carolina for a bit, but I do believe he's got a bit of the bug to move back up to the City. And if we ask real nice-like he may just offer this one for the love and not the money. No promises. But guess what? He is offering a sneak peak.

So ladies and gentlemen. For those who'd like a glimpse at what the future might bring. For those who'd like to be in on the ground floor. For those who like to think big, who like to imagine their neighborhood not as it is but as it could be. Who don't think just in terms of new restaurants or boutiques and condos and private real estate development, but of public spaces and shared goals and tax dollars wisely spent, I bring you an old fashioned drawing via new fashioned jpeg:

Phew! Best Local Pharmacy Just Moving Across the Street!

Saw the "Store for Rent" sign and nearly had a heart attack, which would have meant staggering into Lincoln Brown's Lincoln's Neighborhood Pharmacy for some nitroglycerin and a 911 call. Turns out he's merely relocating across the street to the old Glenn's Hardware Store which tragically closed at the top of the year. Don, or Peter, depending on which of his two names you called him, just couldn't make a go of it anymore and closed his dusty but friendly little-bit-of-everything hardware shop without so much as a going-out-of-business sale. I'd been going to that hardware store since moving here in '03 and called him Dan the ENTIRE time until last year when I heard someone call him Peter and asked what gives and someone said you can call him Peter or Don but not Dan and I threw up my hands. The lady laughed and said "it's Jamaica and everyone has two or three names so what's one more?"

So the block in question is still my vote for most chaotic in the 'hood - in a good way (my wife might beg to differ) - Flatbush between Woodruff and Parkside. On the west is kinda of a sort of Hip-Hop row with the two gansta fashion boutiques blaring music, the gloriously delirious Closeout Heaven, the thugs-hang-out-with-the-funny-awning-a-friend-calls-pancakes-in-hell, the world's most insane cell phone store where I learned everything I needed to write my post on the cell phone industry,  Peppa's notorious jerk chicken, the Macy's of Lefferts GEM, the Don Reade as my daughter likes to call it. On the east, the "notary public driver's school dunkin donuts soon to be balloon and party store dunkin donuts soon to be lincoln pharmacy sneaker king jamaica pride envy nails subway etc etc" I mean c'mon folks we ain't in Kansas and thank the good lord.

Here's a pic of Lincoln again. And congrats on negotiating cheaper rent for more space! (give him a try and say good-bye to corporate drugstore chains and long lines):

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


They got the guy who pulled the trigger from the senseless shooting around 3am last Friday am. The victim is clinging to life. Thanks to the many neighbors who called in tips. Detectives had to be careful not to tip off the shooter by picking up his buddies to soon; that's why they didn't rush out to grab that one dude in the vid.  By the way, if there's one thing I've learned in my brief introduction to the inner workings of law enforcement, most the bad guys are very, very well known to the cops. This is not a reason to stop calling. Far from it. One of the guys from the video had been picked up the night of the shooting, and unfortunately released due to lack of whatever, only to go out and drinking and hang out with the dude who shot the guy. The cops need the calls in order to pick up the bad guys within the limits of the law and a silly little document known as the constitution. They need our help in identifying when laws have been broken, when guns have been fired, when people have been robbed and when narcotics are being dealt. And occasionally, they also need help identifying people or as witnesses. So much fear and distress. On all sides.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rooster Killer Needed ASAP

This is not a joke. Repeat, this is not a joke. There is a neighbor, lives round here. Had five boy chicks. Grew into roosters. Four have since been taken to farms. One is about to become coq au vin, as neighbor is a superb cook. But, this neighbor needs to kill the rooster first, since humans haven't eaten meat live since a long long time ago. I don't even think our teeth are "cut" out for the job, as currently configured. So she's asking if anyone out there has any experience killing, er, preparing, birds, roosters in particular I guess. Please email me if you have. If you've forgotten what a rooster looks like, here's a picture, not of this particular bird, but of the Platonic ideal. Magnificent, right?

Don't Miss This Opportunity To Put Your Street Tree In Jail

I'm not going to mince words. That street tree in front of your house has been very, very bad. It should be placed behind bar. An iron bar. And for a limited time, VERY limited time, you can put him and his whole no-good green-wearing gang, you know those "shady" characters hanging out on the block, every few meters from each other, you can put them all in solitary, for free, just by signing a petition against 'em. But you must act right now.

A representative from your block must attend a workshop either tomorrow night from 6-8 pm or Thursday from 1-3 pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall in order to get the application. Only one person needs to go to the workshop to the get the piece of paper, but the app can't be submitted by one person for one tree. It is intended as a full block initiative, and you will need to get signatures from enough people on your block, both sides, in order to process the application.

Folks, it doesn't get any easier than this. We don't want to hear any complaints when the tree pit guards go in! (okay, okay probably a year or two from now, but still...)

Here's the flyer.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Details Emerging - Video Shows Thugs Faces

The bizarre random senseless facts are emerging, and they just get weirder. I've heard a lot of random details from various insiders to date, but the Daily News seems to have put together most of the relevant narrative here. And this chilling security cam vid that the NYPD has released of some of the alleged thugs suggests the cops don't have them apprehended yet. Any info, please, 800-577-TIPS or 311 will get you there. The man, indeed a neighbor, may survive. He lives on Flatbush and was on his way home from work. The detail that really gets me, and I had to read it three times to be sure I read it right, was that they shot up the deli, went outside for a bit, mugged around, then shot the guy. So that footage is AFTER they shot the first two rounds and in any reasonable situation they should have been running, since gunfire should have had 911 calls streaming in sending cops there immediately. Right? Right? Right? Tell me I'm right?

It would appear to me, that these drunk guys are looking down the street to see if anyone noticed whether they just shot at the poor cowering convenience store worker, who is most likley praying for his life in the back of his store off to the left of the camera while they're laughing nervously. It's a very, very dark human moment that alcohol surely had a heavy hand in. That it's caught on tape...I can only hope it helps the case, because it's just too too strange for words.

Gympossible, You Say?

This is some really, really good news for those of you longing to run a long, long time and go absolutely nowhere, get really really hot doing it, pay very little money doing so, have a safe place to stash your stuff during the whole ordeal, be able to lift incredibly heavy things that you would never dream of lifting in real life, roll around on giant rubber balls the size of Smart Cars, and wear tight fitting plastic pants that remind you which gender you are every step that you take.

That's right. A real, honest to goodness, NYC style gym is coming to the neighborhood. And it's owned by the ueber-chic Equinox Fitness company, but priced for central Brooklyn. Blink Fitness has been around a few years and doing quite well apparently. Their first gym was in NoHo, which in my personal view is not an actual neighborhood but I'll forgive those who might think it is since I hear people use it more and more these days. OUR Blink Fitness opening in (probs) mid-June, will be at 843 Flatbush below Linden. It's a big space on the second floor, and will look thusly:

You might ask why I so blatantly gave them free advertising of their $15 a month price (for the 1 location only - I think it's $20 a month for all locations, even the "NoHo" location). Or why I'm giving you this phone number 718-704-1700, or the email or telling you that if you go down there now and join before they open you can pay just $1 membership fee. It's a good questions, I guess. Um. Because they asked?

The Q is not in this for the money. I'm just telling you what's going on. I stopped in and the woman Monet was lovely and the gym sounds like the sort of well run no frills place that a lot of folks have been telling me they'd like to see around here. And if a few of us get fit as a by-product, what's the harm in that?

Internet Saves Day

In this one case at least, the internet made one person's and one cat's life better. The orange tabby with the long snout that I wrote about a couple post back? A match has been made and the two partners have begun the rest of their lives together thanks to the kindness of various rescuers and this here digital medium. May they have many snuggly, purry, yawny moments together.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shooting In Front of Lincoln Park Tavern

Update: According to the precinct commander, it does not appear the man will make it. The shooters were apparently extremely intoxicated, had stopped into LPT for a "nightcap" and had just robbed the bodega of next-to-nothing and were attempting to rob the man they shot. (Do I need to say that a cop stationed in the area might have prevented this murder?) So they did intend to shoot him, not each other, though they were so drunk it's hard to say. The cops think they'll be able to apprehend them fairly easily. Talk about hangovers. This is just a horrible, horrible, horrible mess. The family of the man must be devastated. By the way, the helicopters overhead earlier in the evening were not related. That was about the ongoing fracas over the shooting of Kimani Gray.

In the wee wee hours, several shots rang out in front of Lincoln Park Tavern, according to a reliable witness whom cops interviewed this morning. Commuters were treated to still coagulating pools and streams of blood on the sidewalk as they made their way to the Prospect Park Q/B/S trains this Friday am. Apparently, an off-duty MTA employee was caught in the cross-fire of a thug dispute. The man, around 60, was rushed to Kings County Hospital. We pray he lives.

The Q came by the above information by a reliable source and I feel confident it is accurate. I'm not going to use another tragedy to hammer home all the points I'm always making on the subject of crime, and thugs and drugs and lighting and police. It's just a crying shame. The story tells itself.

By the way, in the course of the conversation about the incident, the subject of that damn candy store came up again. And the subject of the dismal lighting in front of the train station and along Lincoln Road. Let's use this as a rallying cry folks.

Wanted - Please Keep Your Eyes Out

If you see this guy, please call immediately. The crime took place within our precinct. In cases of involving sex crimes, details are not released. Please be vigilant. The cops need your help. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Every Block In Lefferts Should Do This! FREE TREE PIT GUARDS!!!

Leave it to Beep Marty to leave with a parting gift. We'd all be fools not to graciously and enthusiastically take him up on it. If you want to see what these things looks like, go take a peek at the tree pit guards on Winthrop Street between Flatbush and Bedford. They look sweet, and trust me you do not want to have to try to raise the money to do this yourself!

All you have to do is to find one or two people on your block to attend one of the two mandatory sessions coming up NEXT WEEK. You'll only be able to get the applications there. Then you'll undoubtedly need to go around and collect a bunch of signatures. But folks, that's not only easy, it's fun. You're not asking for money, just John and Jane Hancocks, and you get to meet a bunch of cool people. Go in a team and it's even more fun. If you have a block association, you're already good to go. And if you don't have a block association, this a perfect excuse to start one.

Man oh Manischewitz!!! This is EFFING AWESOME!!!!!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cat Needs You; You Need Her

A reader reports that a confident kitty connived her way in her house the other day and worked her way into her heart. And so I am asking that you consider bringing "Overhead Cam," as I'm tentatively calling her, into your life, because you love cats, and because O.C. sounds like a real winner, the sort of cat that you'll love with all your heart, like a little baby, until you have an actual baby, maybe, in which case Overhead Cam will go back to being just a cat again, like our cats did. Below are the details on Overhead Cam. Please do consider sending an email to If you change your mind after a few months it's fine to post on craigslist and give her to someone else; no one will give you a hard time about it the way they would if you tried to pass along a human baby after a few months of sleepless nights. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. From the rescuer:

We’ve learned that she was actually found by others during the Nemo snow storm (mid February) and has been living in their basement since then (they have 2 other cats and they didn’t get along). She ran out of their house and into ours a few days ago. The chances that we find the original owners after so much time are very slim. She has been taken to the ASPCA by the previous rescuers and has been spayed, tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV virus and vaccinated. They were told she is 2 years old or so – though to me she seems younger. She would best fit a house as a single cat and with older kids. Is a great companion, likes to give and get attention.Her endearing characteristics:
·         Follows you like a dog, everywhere you go she goes…
·         Inquisitive, playful and amusing to interact with
·         Likes to sit on your lap and cuddle
·         Learns fast (litter trained, sleeps in a cat bed, uses a scratching poll – all after showing her only once)
·         Has a very long elongated nose. Looks like she has an overbite – really cute…

Please consider adopting this sweet and interesting cat! The non-kill shelters are full and I am hoping she finds a deserving home. We can’t keep her for much longer since we have a cat and they don’t get along. Please share this email with other email lists or friends to increase her chances of finding a home. Come for a house visit to meet her! If someone wants to adopt her we can help transport the cat if need be (we have a cat carrier). If you are a newbie with cats we have an extra litter box if they need, a cat bed she likes to sleep in and some food to get started. Call 718-541 9531

Friday, March 8, 2013

In the Duh, Doy and Der Department

Here it is, if you didn't catch it. Another scoop from the Old Gray Lady. I promise not to give away the big story...oh, I can't help it, this one is so fresh and outrageous. Apparently...white people are moving to once predominantly black neighborhoods. Not just moving there for a little while either. They seem to be moving and staying. Even raising families and opening businesses.

(I did get a kick out of the line in the piece about the girl who moved to Bushwick in 2001 to an apartment for $950 a month, heard gunshots and got hit by a car, moved a couple stops back on the L to Williamsburg swearing never to go back to Bushwick, but then moved back to Bushwick 10 years later and bought a $370,000 apartment four blocks from the original flat. I mean, is that the story of NYC real estate in a run-on sentence or what?)

There was a bit or two of actual "Q at Parkside" interest in there, about the coming building at  626 Flatbush, a proposed complex that took some heat from commenters last time I posted about it here. You can read this excerpt from Michelle Higgins' piece if you're feeling link-a-phobic:
Developers have taken note. Hudson Companies, which invested early in places like the meatpacking district and Gowanus, plans to begin construction in late summer on a 23-story, 254-unit rental building at 626 Flatbush. “We sort of gravitate toward neighborhoods where the land is more affordable than prime neighborhoods,” said David Kramer, a Hudson principal, “but that still have so much going for them — where it’s easy access to the subway, retail that’s good and getting better, and a safe environment.”
Mr. Kramer’s interest in the neighborhood was piqued after a college roommate bought a house in Lefferts Manor and told him what homes there were going for. “It occurred to me,” he said, “if you have a homeowner who is willing to pay that much in a landmarked district, it would be a compelling spot for a rental product that doesn’t exist in these transitional neighborhoods, with a doorman, concierge, views.” He says 626 will have all three, plus a fitness center, a screening room and roof-top garden plots. 
Fair enough. Perhaps more than anything I've read about the neighborhood to date, that's pure unadulterated Brownstonerization. Don't try to deny it; I will claim you supplied it. Can't imagine that 123 on the Park, the old Caledonian Hospital, will be much different. That's why I have to laugh when I read some of the comments bemoaning lack of amenities around here. It's only a matter of time. There will come a day, barring major economic or terrorist tragedies, when we might wax nostalgic for the goode olde days of balde koins, closeout heavens and internet coffee houses. The Q is a realist, but I'm not always thrilled to be. And dang if I didn't get old too. [Not to go all off-topic, but I remember when yesterday's bands sounded like today's bands. It's annoying. It's not like today's bands sound bad. They don't. They still sound good. I'm not saying they sound bad, honest. I'm just saying they sound like a band that I used to like when I was your age called something else, which makes you think that I'm old, which I am. Which is why guys my age usually end up getting into jazz. Problem is, I don't really like jazz. That's why I work where I work I guess. A place where it doesn't matter how old you get, they don't make fun of you for liking the music you like. And you can talk to someone a third your age about what you like about it and not feel creepy. Is THAT the difference between art and pop? Not feeling creepy?]

Let me also dissect that word "prime" used in the excerpt as well. Apparently, Mr. Kramer does not consider this neighborhood yet prime, a word which can be defined many ways, but let's assume he's not referring to the mathematical term meaning a number that can only be divided by itself and one. Mr. Kramer means that while the area has some of the potential to be every bit as great as a Park Slope, a Cobble Hill, a Murray Hill or a Turtle Bay, it just needs a few doormen and roof-top garden plots to get it there. Thankfully, Mr. Kramer and other like-minded philanthropists are considering pooling their resources to take us to the promised land.

But now let me get serious for a second. Ms. Higgins is clearly an excellent writer and a well-researched one at that. But there's a moment in this article when I nearly dropped my, er, phone. Because I was reading it on Which is a weird things to say, when you're, old. Anyways, I do have to say I take issue with a paragraph about Crown Heights that I find pretty lazy, or maybe just insensitive or indicative of the way real estate becomes a shallow stand-in for history and race-relations. When I moved to Brooklyn in 1988, I moved to a place that was both deeply segregated and yet, paradoxically, fiercely liberal, union, staunchly Catholic, way Jewish, Muslim, and every other faith, angry, ueber gesticulating, anti-Manhattan, suspicious of outsiders, suspicious of money, suspicious of developers...I mean it was so not what New Williamsburg is today. So this article that is basically about how the high price of housing and how it's sent some residents seeking new central Brooklyn neighborhood options, sets up this paragraph about Crown Heights:

Buyers will find an area still very much in transition away from a turbulent past. In August 1991, to take a notable example, a Hasidic man in Crown Heights lost control of his car and killed a black child, sparking three days of riots that saddled the neighborhood with a reputation not easily shaken off. Community relations have vastly improved since then, thanks in part to residents’ efforts. 
 I mean, "in part?" How about "thanks to the extraordinary power of the human desire to put aside ancient tribal resentments, fears and hatreds in order to love, live and learn from each other to build a better community and world so that their children might one day be brother and sister or even husband and wife and move the species towards a greater humanity, one where inalienable rights to faith, health and dignity might blah, blah, blah and blah blah, with blah blah and blah blah to blah????"

G'night everyone. May we never riot again, unless it's for a really, really good cause.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stuff The Q Likes To See

From Vinny, One of the Good Ones. If you think you might need some high school labor this summer or beyond, please consider contacting him. This could be a really big opportunity for a local kid.

            On Saturday May 18, 2013 at St Gabriel's located at 331 Hawthorne Street between 1000 AM AND 2PM the 71 Precinct, St Gabriel's and The Rugby Alliance will be hosting a job fair specifically targeting High School students. If anyone has  information or can lobby for companies wanting to set up a job/info table please contact me at 718-735-0527 or email me at We are also hoping for people looking to hire HS kids for internships. If anyone is interested in interns please contact me. We are in the early planning stages of this event. Any help is appreciated. Please forward this email to anyone that may be interested. 
Thank You
Detective Vincent Martinos
71st Precinct - Community Affairs
New York City Police Department 
421 Empire Blvd 
Brooklyn, New York 11225
Phone: (718) 735-0527
Fax: (718) 735-0518 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Makeover Time For The Q Plaza

If you missed last Sunday's meeting at PlayKids regarding the attempt to remake Parkside Avenue, have no fear. Pictures are here! The indefatigable In Cho volunteered her skills and time to make a rendering that has now been presented to the DOT as an ideal use of their Plaza Program. If you recall, Rudy and company over at The Parkside Prize applied to DOT's plaza program last summer, only to be told they don't do major greening projects so close to the park. BUT, in the case of the Parkside Q, they'd help out by providing elements, from street trees and planters to benches and granite blocks, to improve the triangle and give it a major facelift. The catch? We as a community must help support it, financially, programmatically and maintenance-wise. And so, given the elements at our disposal, this is what In came up with. Drum roll....

Perhaps you recall her winning design from the Parkside Prize? It kicked butt, but who knew we'd have a chance to realize at least parts of the plan? Here was her utopian vision:

 I'm not entirely sure I don't like the new design better. Especially cuz you can't plant street trees over the train itself, which runs diagonally out of the station. And IT'S the one that actually stands a chance of happening. Now, there's a long way to go. Not least we need Pioneer Supermarket's buy-in, cuz they're gonna need to change to their chaotic delivery and canning situation. And we'll need them to help water the street trees, especially in their first years. There are lots of other things to discuss, but most important now is to get elected officials on board, some commitments of resources from them, and perhaps run a campaign to raise funds for the actual plants in the DOT's planters. A leadership group has been formed to project mange this, and if you want to be more involved please, please email me and I'll forward your info. Very cool. And here's another view of the proposed elements in context. (FYI, the tree size represents the canopy, not the tree pit itself.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Peppa's Places...Second

While the smoky drums jerking birds behind Peppa's may approximate the Kingston vibe, they were no match for the exquisite chicken of Exquisite Express on Church near Nostrand, so says a piece in a certain weekly of a certain age. Never been myself. The People's Choice on Parkside was an offshoot of Exquisite for a hot minute, and I did sample their signature delicacy and was somewhat impressed. The fact is though, Peppa's does a beautiful bird - charred skin and moist meat (ew...did I really just write that phrase?) So why would I hoof over to the very reaches of the hood just for a slightly better mound of meaty morsels?

All this must sound utterly revolting to vegetarians. Actually, these chickens and the ones at my other fave joint "Melany," a Dominican treasure on the corner of Lenox and Flatbush, are probably the LEAST organic farm fresh cage free birds on the planet. They seem to be made almost entirely of breast, which suggests they didn't have a lot of room to frolic. I know for myself that when I don't get exercise I too seem to turn entirely to breast. I'm already white meat, so it's the breasty part that troubles me. Somehow, I've twisted it in my head that it's okay, since it's "ethnic" food. Ever LOOKED at the pork in chinese food? What is that exactly? The burger at a Greek greasy spoon? The chunks of lamb in Indian take-out? They almost all scream "Forgive me Jonathan Safran Foer, for I have sinned, and I know you're Jewish and this confession must seem a bit strange coming from a complete stranger, but for the love of Jehovah take away my carnivorous shame!"

Back in the real world, the one where the Village Voice has lost nearly every ounce of cultural currency it once had, but still chugs along as sort of a Triple A farm team for the majors (actually, if the VV is Triple A, what is the Q? Tee-ball? Hmm...maybe bloggers in glasses shouldn't throw other people's glasses, or whatever Billy Joel implied*), a piece comes at us judging the relative merits of the Jerks in the area. Give it a read and see if you agree!

Village Voice Jerk

* Ever notice how hits ABOUT Rock 'n' Roll are often the worst sorts of rock 'n' roll? Forget the Velvet Underground song...that was most definitely not a hit in its day. But Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" from the above-mentioned Glass Houses album; Huey Lewis and the News with "The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll," Boob Seeger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll." Kiss's overrated "Rock 'n' Roll All Night" hardly rock 'n' rolls at all...more of a Grand Funk Boogie. "We Built This City (On Rock 'n' Roll) is closer to Broadway than Little Richard. I'll even go out on a limb and say Led Zep's "Rock 'n' Roll" is WAY not rock 'n' roll. I don't even think it's that good, frankly. It barely grooves at all. Only the "lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time" has any pizazz. The rest is all fuzz and muscle. I love John Fogerty, like LOVE John Fogerty, but "Rock 'n' Roll Girls" is completely sexless. Check out Peter, Paul and Mary's outstanding "I Dig Rock 'n' Roll," and as great as it is you can't accuse it of making you want to jitter bug. Even Joan Jett's version of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" is lifeless if you listen close. Slow, lumbering, the beat plods along and only the guitar sound and her voice have any life at all. Ever try to dance to that song? It's near impossible. Embarrassing even, cuz you get up going "yeah, dude, Joan Jett!" and then you start dancing and pretty soon you look like a slow-mo caveman stuck in La Brea Tar Pits long before there was a museum there. I mean LONG before there was a museum there.

Songs with rock 'n' roll in the title that actually rock include: Rock 'n' Roll High School by the effin' brilliant Ramones, Any others? Please share. (Without dropping names, I had lunch with a certain rock "n" roll critic the other day with whom I was once em-banded, and told him despite my past I NEVER blog about music, but then, in classic my-generational fashion said to myself "rules are for schools" and did the exact opposite. So there, Mr. Critic! Now, sir, I challenge you to write about Community Board Committee Meetings and then see how many twitter followers you attract. Not so easy, is it?

Food Coop In Lefferts/Crown Heights Gets Off the Ground

Well shiver me timbers and call me Ishmael! Those crafty folks at the proposed Lefferts Food Coop have taken their show off the page onto the stage. Coming up on Saturday March 16 they're asking for you, the reader/eater, to come to their poppe-up shoppe at 324 Empire near Nostrand and help cleanup the space being GIVEN to the group to get the store off the ground. Wow. I mean, I'm really impressed. This is no slight undertaking, and you guys are proving a little elbow grease can lead to organic bulk elbow macaroni. The group has apparently been purchasing wholesale items and getting the hang of inventory etc.

Here's the flyer. I highly encourage you all to check it out and help create a viable alternative to the Key Foods of the world.

UPDATE: Parkside Ave Tragedies

Two serious car vs. person crashes last night. One on Parkside near the Parkside Q, the other on Parkside and Nostrand. Each late afternoon. Each very, very serious if not fatal. Information I gathered from bystanders was inconclusive. Anyone see either of these accidents and care to comment? I don't see them in "the News" yet. Hard to believe they both happened on the same street blocks apart around the same time. But eyewitness twitter accounts corroborate.

UPDATE: From a very reliable sounding account in the comments section:
I was walking to the Q and heard the crash, saw a sneaker go flying about twenty feet in the air. I was the first person there. A teenage girl was unconscious on the ground with a pretty severe head injury. She'd been knocked down by a woman driving a toyota camry who stopped immediately. The girl was jaywalking. I called 911, checked her pulse. She was breathing and had a steady pulse. Big crowd gathered around, including some of her friends/family members. She started waking up/trying to move and a couple of us held her to keep her in place. She may have had a broken arm/shoulder as well, but I was most concerned about the head/neck. It appeared that she had hit her head very hard on the pavement. Police came within about 5 minutes and took over the scene. The girl was conscious but clearly very badly injured when I left. No idea her name. I really hope she can pull through. It was horrifying. Please, please be careful crossing around that intersection.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lefferts CSA Open For Registrants

Below find the cut and pasted info from the Lefferts CSA (d/b/a as the PLG CSA). Go their website and get all the details. You can brows the crucial stuff here, like the March 24 registration deadline.

In other socialist news, local drug dealers are taking a page from the local food movement and starting their very own CSN's, or Community Supported Narcoticulture organizations. By jointly purchasing shares you can cut your drug bills in half with the assurance that your heroin, crack and crystal are made with love, by hand, by nearby meth-labs, or carried by grass-fed, humanely treated camels from organic poppy fields of Afghanistan. Your shares may be picked up at Ray's, in front of Shifty Fifty Lincoln Road, anywhere along Woodruff between Flatbush and Ocean, in front of 35 or 60 Clarkson, next to JJ's on Flatbush near ParksideZ, at various buildings along Hawthorne and Fenimore, or for those preferring the cover of dead-end streets, try Beekman Place.

The info on the FOOD CSA below:

Yes! It’s finally here! Registration for the Summer 2013 season is now open! Our 2013 Season will once again offer vegetable, fruit, eggs and pasta shares. The season will run for 22 weeks on Saturdays from June 22 to October 26 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Maple Street School.

VEGETABLE SINGLE SHARE: $340 ($15.45/week)
VEGETABLE DOUBLE Share: $600 ($27.27/week)
FRUIT SINGLE SHARE: $135 ($6.14/week)
FRUIT DOUBLE SHARE: $265 ($12.05/week)
ONE DOZEN EGGS: $105 ($4.77/dozen)
HALF DOZEN EGGS: $53 ($2.40/half dozen)
PASTA SHARE: $110.00 ($5.00/12 oz. box)

Initial deposit and registration is due by Sunday, March 24, 2013. Final deadline with FULL payment is due Sunday, April 21.A limited number of income-based shares are available. Please contact us at or 347-823-1076 for more information. If you have any questions or for more information, please visit the website at (Karen, Pavani, Diana, Barbara, Ashley, Gen, Justine, Sheila, Alecia)

Good Morning, Lefferts!

This arrived for the "Timothy" family. I'm thrilled to be on their mailing list! Did y'all get this too?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Trash Violations

Over at the Community Board and its Environmental Protection Committee we've spent the better part of a year warning local businesses that trash on the Flabenue must be reined in or we'll ask Sanitation to step up enforcement. Gradually, we've seen more summonses issued, as DoS has been directed by District Manager Pearl Miles to clamp down. We've repeatedly warned the merchants, who along with landlords are ultimately responsible by City ordinance to maintain the cleanliness of their buildings to six inches into the street, that they must step it up. Now the next phase begins...ensuring that each business has an updated arrangement with a private carting company contract, a City-wide requirement meant to ensure that business trash is picked up daily and that merchants don't simply dump their trash at corner bins. To be clear, most businesses comply, and are disturbed to see their neighbors trying to freeload. It ain't good for unity, that's for sure. And it ain't good for business neither.

If it sounds like we're being harsh, consider this. The rules are the same throughout the City, and apply to private homeowners as well. We're not singling out Flatbush - we're trying to drag it into the modern era. The thinking behind the laws is simple: the City can't be everywhere at all times cleaning up after selfish litterers and thoughtless supers, landlords and merchants. So it sets certain requirements and twice daily (between the hours of 9-10am and 4-5pm) issues summons for dirty sidewalks. That's to create incentives for everyone to do their part. IF an avenue wants to organize into a strong merchant's association or, more rigorously, a City-sponsored Business Improvement District, it can and is encouraged to do so. In so doing, they then have resources to hire someone to clean the streets and bag trash for them (like the Flatbush BID does south of Parkside Avenue). I don't think this is the job of local residents - everywhere else in the City merchants take the pride and their longterm interests into account and do the legwork. We residents are asked to place litter in receptacles, make sure our garbage is set out at the right times in the right places, and owners and landlords must take care of their own. For we residents to pick up the tab is essentially an acknowledgment that we haven't everyone on board. And getting everyone on board is much more important than ponying up dough or organizing cleanup days, in my opinion.

I've been over all this before, I know. I must seem like a man obsessed. I'm really not. If nothing came of the effort I wouldn't die from heartbreak. I do find it unacceptable that an open business would look outside and see mounds of filth and do nothing. Sure it's probably not YOUR trash, but have you no pride in your business, or feeling for others who have to walk through and past the mounds? Even the biggest businesses aren't responsible for more than a few square feet! I've met with Delroy at that FEPMA merchant's group and with various interested local folks. We've done a couple community-wide cleanup days to bring awareness to the issue - props to all who made those happen (congrats Skei on the baby girl!) My wife and I routinely walk into places and remind them of their responsibility to do their part. Many people have stepped it up. Delroy arranged a program with the D.A.'s office to get community-service-mandated folks out here to bag trash, and we hope that will continue. We've done everything we can do to let people know what they need to know, and to warn of impending enforcement of the private carter requirements. It's do or die time - either you're part of the community, or you're a drag on the community. The City will aggressively fine you for the latter.

People ask why I'm so dogged about dumping, tenacious about trash, livid about litter. Simple. A relatively few buildings make most of the trouble, and I want to make sure we let them know how we feel, and compel them to change their behavior. Because, as I noted when I brought it up at the CB9 meeting a few months ago, it's a "consensus issue." Very, very few people are opposed to cleaning up the trash. So it's something everyone can get on board for, to make all of our qualities of life better.

And so, let the more rigorous ticketing begin. Below is an example of a sanitation summons, levied last week on our un-neighborly neighbors BOOST Mobile, or rather the landlord, at 701 Flatbush. That block in particular is a real dump, particularly in the middle. They, and Original Struggs, simply don't seem to give a hoot (don't pollute.) They can no longer claim ignorance, however.