The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Little Bit About a Lot Of Things w/ UPDATE

I'm not going to apologize. I'm just not gonna. In the Q's book, a good April Fool's joke is one that's believable. That's why I wasn't so crazy about last year's post. I preferred the one two year's ago, though a friend wouldn't speak to me for a week after. Look, it costs nothing to mark your Google calendar year's ahead if you're really so against the informal holiday (I'm talking to you J.Z.)

Now it's the 2nd of April, and I guarantee I ain't foolin' ya on this tip. This morning I called David Kramer, master of Hudson Companies, the folks who are planning the 23-story tower for 626 Flatbush Avenue, on a tip (thanks Matt!) that movement was happening. I've gotten to this point where someone puts a phone number in front of me I just call it and see what happens. I was pleasantly surprised to get a call back swiftly from a friendly Alison Novak, a VP at Hudson and the lead on the project, and we spoke at some length about how things were moving forward. And move they most certainly are.

Some folks have asked me whether a company like Hudson has a right to build such a big building. The term is "as of right," and the answer is yes. As in there's no need for any rezoning or community review process. Seems there's a lot of misinformation out there about how these things work. I even recently got an email from someone who was darn certain that the 20 story glass tower planned for Lincoln Road had been stopped due to community protest. By the way, that is not so. First off, that project was perfectly legal and did not need our blessing. What stopped it was the financial meltdown and gun jumping. Would seem to the Q that Hudson is much more in step with the realities of the market than that thing was back then (pictured). By the way, since that tower was three stories shorter than the proposed Hudson building, it should at least give you a sense of scale of what 626 would look like next to the park. So yeah, and I said this to Alison, there will be some people who have a problem with it - mostly folks who don't want to see a building that big from inside the park. Wanna know something else I noticed? 23-stories is exactly the same height as the Ebbets houses. Wanna know something else? Alison and I are both from Iowa. Wanna know something else? She blogged for Brownstoner about a Hudson building Hudson was creating in 2009  at 3rd Street and Bond near trendy "Gowanus." In the mid 1990's, I lived on 3rd near Bond in a derelict old warehouse in area that we JOKINGLY called "The Gowanus Basin." Can't make it up. The times they are a-changin' and stayin the a-same at the same a-time.

So now that I've made a connection over there maybe I'll be able to keep y'all updated as things unfold. Seems there's going to be a two-story commercial building along Flatbush (much as the current "medical center: is now) with the baby skyscraper behind it where the parking lot is now.  People have also been asking the Q about the other apartment buildings going up at 100 Parkside and on Lincoln Road and a) whether and b) when they're going to be finished to which I say a) yes and b) heck if I know. It's all happening folks, but if you're waiting on them to open for one reason or another, like say to open your haberdashery, then I would say maybe you should open your first iteration somewhere else, like maybe London, because everything seems to be taking longer than you'd think.

Take the "upscale" grocery opening "soon" at the corner of Lincoln and Flatbush. I walked plum in there today without so much as getting frisked, and they've got the refrigeration cases and everything, and a nice man said it will be probably another month til you can buy any lacinato kale there. He was the third person (landlord Rong Ge included) to use the highly descriptive but incredibly dull name "Wholesome Gourmet Market." Frankly, I find the word "wholesome" a bit grotesque, but I'll withhold judgement til the door's open. I mean, really, nless there are topless dancers or salty sailors telling ribald jokes in their dirty underwear I'm assuming the place will be wholesome enough for me to bring my wee ones with me, and I'm also assuming a general level of cleanliness will be the norm. There was a grocer on 4th Avenue near where Mrs. Q and I used to live called "Grade Fair" and I used to always appreciate their honesty, though it never exactly made me want to go out of my way to shop there.

Midnight already? Arghh...

UPDATE

On balance, I think this company and this project are excellent uses of the space. We need new rentals in the area, and by all accounts this is going to be a nicely made, nicely appointed building. My understanding is that it's all rental, with some set aside as affordable, whatever that means in this day and age. All well and good.

What I find truly remarkable is that after nearly a century of the Flatbush (this is the heart of what was once known as Flatbush after all) remaining virtually intact, this is a major, major change, as were Patio Gardens and the Ebbets Houses before it. Generally, the very buildings, and certainly the height of the neighborhood, have remained unchanged, as have other neighborhoods adjacent to the crown jewel Prospect Park. In fact, Park Slope went as far as to designate nearly all the area on the Park as Landmarked, meaning there will be no 23 story buildings along that side. I understand that it is legal and as-of-right to build big over here, but one would think that if the company wanted to get off on the right foot it might want to ask for a meeting with neighbors just to establish its credentials as someone who is capable of listening to concerns. Sometimes it's not just a matter of rights, but a matter of what is "right." You might even learn to love some of our crankiest residents in the process!

To date, I have every indication that Hudson is a responsible developer and one that is a willing participant in the neighborhoods in which it works. I watched a whole half hour interview with Head Hudson David Kramer, and I was struck by his candor and his bona fides as an advocate for housing subsidies. Folks, before digging in too deep I highly encourage you to view that interview, as odd as the interviewer Michael Stoler is (he's F-A-S-C-I-N-A-T-I-N-G and I want to watch them all now), to get a sense of the person in question before making too many assumptions about what sort of person he is. I'm sure there are many opinions on the project already forming, and I'm not even clear exactly what it'll look like (renderings are a-coming), but the YouTube is a fascinating way see the personal side of the characters that shape the very world we live in.

I look forward to meeting with the guy, and having a substantive conversation about the very real situations that plague and sustain Brooklyn neighborhoods like ours, and to welcoming him and Alison and whomever else to a lunch at Da Hot Pot over Doubles and some form of eye-watering curry.

This is big stuff guys. I hope we can get it right.














20 comments:

Clarkson FlatBed said...

i just updated the post cuz i got tired last night.

Anonymous said...

Q, do you happen to have any updates on the new cafe supposedly moving into the old K Dog spot on Lincoln Road? It seems that Tugboat has taken all the steam out of this new cafe and they me be second guessing opening up. Tugboat is really doing amazing things for the neighborhood. It filled a hole that was badly needed. I'm worried the new cafe may be too late to the game.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

The update is that the fellas are still working on it and will open soon. I'm not going to put a date on it til they give me one. There's plenty of room for more than one joint, particularly if this new place has a wider variety of offerings and more space to sit. I wouldn't worry. Competition is usually good, and if anything, if both places are good, it will be good for both. If you look at other neighborhoods, do you see two cafes being a bad thing? I don't! In fact, I expect the employees of one will take their breaks at the other. Mark the Q's words!

Never fear...

Anonymous said...

You are right Q, the limited seating space at Tugboat is disruptive especially when its so frigid outside like today. Having a new cafe with more seating may help me switch allegiances. Although usually i can grab my coffee and bagel from Tugboat and enjoy it in the park. Also more food items like sandwiches and anything made on a hot stove would surely have me spending my hard earned money each weekend. Thanks for the updates.

Jeremy Zilar said...

Any update on the renaming of Ocean Ave to Prospect Park East?

JDB said...

Glad you got to speak with Alison. She is great and very open about their plans and process. The nabe is lucky that she will be so heavily involved.

As far as the height of the building - there is this little park in Manhattan that people seem to like and you can see tall buildings all around it. I don't think seeing a building on Flatbush is going to ruin anyone's ultimate frisbee game in Prospect Park.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

JDB: There are many differences between the parks, and between the boroughs. I wouldn't suggest that the longterm plan for areas along Prospect Park shouldn't include highrises. But once you break a psychological barrier, look out. Witness all the highrises going up in Downtown Brooklyn. Good thing? My opinion is yes. Yours might differ.

And witness the wild building boom of Williamsburg, which I've dubbed "Delirious Williamsburg" for its zaniness, high prices and attempts to use every available space in unusual and kooky ways.

The great visionaries of Prospect Park could never have imagined skyscrapers and cell towers breaking the horizon. That was absolutely on the minds of landmarkers in Park Slope when they set their neighborhood in "stone" for all times. Obviously our neighborhood can go a different direction, and I'm not sure I don't agree that we could benefit from a different mindset. However, I don't agree at all that it's a minor issue.

We're talking about a major development in the visual experience of the greatest City in the world (well, top 5 at least). I'm just surprised that there is no review process required, and that not even a non-binding one is being suggested.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for dense development along transit lines, and this, the Lincoln Rd. development and 123 Parkside are all perfect candidates for that kind of building. And nobody's being kicked out to do it. Yes, this development will change the economics and demographics of the neighborhood, but it won't do it overnight by any mean, and if it creates a cleaner and less socially dysfunctional flatbush then it's a huge positive. What I'd like even better is if Empire could be upzoned like 4th avenue was, and we could replace fast-food row with high rise development and ground-floor commercial. I would happily drive a bulldozer right through that Wendy's.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

agreed on all points. The difference? The park. That's what I'm talking about. Agreed on Empire, though I don't think one needs to go from fast food to high rise. I think a mix of affordable and market low rise is the way to go. I think some folks may be forgetting that a major crisis of housing exists, and not just low income. Middle income Brooklynites are being squeezed, and the development along 4th Avenue is NOT affordable to most, say, teachers or non-profit workers. What if we were to become THE middle class neighborhood, one that retains its current flavor, mix of cultures, low income residents, and doesn't just go out of its way to court upscale development? It's a question...I'm honestly not looking to argue.

theoldspeakjournal said...

I think it's a shame Flatbush residents didn't have the foresight to do what Park Slope Residents did. There's been a good deal of new construction in the hood, and none of the new buildings are as vastly out of proportion as this to their surrounding neighborhood. The difference, for me in the development booms in Williamsburg and downtown brooklyn, is those areas for the most part are commercial/business/formerly industrial areas. They're not adjacent to a big gorgeous park in those neighborhoods. This park is Olmstead & Vaux's crowning achievement (widely considered superior to Central Park). The patio gardens were a major change, sure, but they were built within, rather than dominant to the landscape. Same thing goes for the Ebbets Houses, they're not dramatically taller than the neighborhood as this sterile unimaginative glass display case looks to be. It looks soooo out of place in that rendering. Pbbbtttht to this.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

FYI, the rendering is not of the proposed building at 626 Flatbush. It's a long discarded idea for Lincoln Road that I used to illustrate the HEIGHT of the project only. Just want to be clear, lest a rumor start that the Hudson building looks like that...

WinFlatBed said...

I like the building as a building but, if the building does end up as a glass facade, as a birdwatcher I am appalled. During migration birds strike glass buildings at an alarming rate. Though this building isn't directly bordering the park it may still reflect the green foliage and attract birds who mistake the reflection for real foliage.

http://www.nycaudubon.org/project-safe-flight

So Q in your discussions with parties to the project could you ask how they may address this issue?

The buildings around Central Park may not affect ultimate frisbee enthusiasts but the buildings do affect the natural enviornment cutting off early morning and late afternoon light.

Bob Marvin said...

"if the building does end up as a glass facade...I am appalled"

I was at a meeting with Alison Novak who told us that the building would be brick. She seemed quite proud that there;s be none of that awful synthetic stucco used on so many new buildings.

JDB said...

I am not saying that the height issue shouldn't be discussed. I was joking a bit with my comment about ultimate frisbee. Personally I have no problem with high rises along Flatbush or Empire. Very few of the buildings there are so unique or historic that I would be up in arms if they were torn down for modern housing that is very needed in the hood.

I agree with you Q that there is a great need for middle income housing. I would much rather have middle income housing created rather than go the way of Park Slope and so restrict development that it causes prices to skyrocket and become an area where only the rich can live.

Also the buildings along Prospect Park West going toward Grand Army Plaza are not exactly small and can easily be seen from many areas of the Park.

I don't understand the comments about the Ebbets Field Houses and Patio Gardens. Those two complexes are so massive they completely dominate there surroundings. There is no retail at the ground floor of Patio Gardens and it is cut off from the rest of the nabe and the street. It is a suburban apartment complex thrown in the middle of a vibrant urban street. To me that building is a disaster.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Ebbets and Patio are excellent reasons TO take a longer view of what's going on here. When you put up a single building, without considering what it means in the big picture, you forget that you're forever changing the future with the present. That's why City's plan. That's why they zone. That's why visionaries get the label, and autocrats get forever derided through history.

I don't have a degree in any of this stuff. I don't even think I have particularly good taste. All I'm saying is that's it's not a small deal to let somebody, anybody, change the skyline forever.

Anonymous said...

@JDB you obviously haven't been into Patio Gardens. Nothing about it is "suburban" unless you want to argue the gang signs in the stairwell are part of your normal "suburban" experience.

Ooops said...

Up until recently, I thought Ebbets and Patio Gardens were projects.

Anonymous said...

yeah, it's kinda depressing to those of us who live in Patio Gardens that that's what people think. but really, now. they don't look THAT bad!

Bob Marvin said...

Patio Gardens looks MUCH better since ownership changed from the charitable foundation that used to run it. FWIW I photographed a beautiful apartment there recently that will be on the Jund 2nd house tour.

Anonymous said...

Re: Up until recently, I thought Ebbets and Patio Gardens were projects.

This is exactly what I had pointed out in the comments section for the rumored TD Bank. The complex name is Ebbets Field Apartments, not Ebbets Houses, and the complex are not under NYCHA. (NB: You can tell what is a NYCHA complex because there will be a sign that states that.) Neither is Patio Gardens. I will keep posting that whenever I see it until people get it straight. :)

Re: Height of buildings - I'm very surprised that no one pointed out the height of Tivoli Towers on Franklin Avenue (http://ilovefranklinave.blogspot.com/2010/11/makeover-on-way-for-crown-heights.html). The complex that is Tivoli Towers is even higher than both Patio Gardens and Ebbets Field and it is much higher than its immediate surroundings.