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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Notes on Last Night's Meeting

I'd like to thank the Q at Parkside's highly paid intern for taking notes at last night's Candidate Forum. To the haters who say I'm biased against the incumbent (guilty as charged), I bear no responsibility for the below comments, though I do trust the writer to stick to the facts. By the way, don't blame me if mine is the only blog or media outlet covering this election. It's a sad state of affairs when you Google this election and come up with zip, save some dorky blog.

The four candidates for City Council in the 40th District met Thursday night for a "Candidates Forum" that was notable for the broad agreement expressed, and for one pointed and baffling exchange between the incumbent and his best-funded challenger.


Two candidates arrived on time: John Grant, an engineer with the New York Transit Authority, and Sylvia Kinard, an attorney who formerly worked for the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The forum began only with the arrival, a few minutes late, of Saundra Thomas, the former President of Community Affairs with WABC and the only candidate in the 40th District to qualify for New York City matching funds.


Mr. Grant, Ms. Kinard and Ms. Thomas were in broad agreement about the needs of the district, but disagreed on the correct approach.


All three agreed on the need for a City Councilperson who would encourage small business in the district. Ms. Kinard emphasized the need for a greater presence in the district by the New York City Department of Small Business Services; Ms. Thomas emphasized the need for new BIDS, or business improvement districts, on local avenues; Mr. Grant emphasized the need for more credit to be made available to local small business owners.


Likewise, all three agreed on the need for affordable housing in the district. Ms. Kinard emphasized the need for tax incentives for working and middle income developments; Ms. Thomas emphasized that plenty of affordable housing stock exists, but that residents are being illegally displaced, and that better advocacy was needed to make sure that existing laws are enforced; Mr. Grant again emphasized the need for more credit, this time to potential home buyers.


Likewise, all three agreed that something needed to be done to improve access to healthcare in the district, and all three believed that this was largely an issue outside of City Council's control.


And then, an hour after the starting time, the incumbent, Dr. Mathieu Eugene, arrived.


The theme of the night for Dr. Eugene was, "You name it, I am doing it." Small business? "We just held a small business forum," which was why he was late to the debate. Affordable housing? Dr. Eugene said, "I created hundreds and hundreds of affordable housing units." Hospitals? Dr. Eugene said he gave $10 million to Downstate and Kings County Hospitals. The candidates were asked about the need for zoning changes to preserve the nature of residential blocks in the neighborhood. Ms. Kinard and Ms. Thomas both spoke of the need for a City Councilmember who would work better with the Planning Commission. Dr. Eugene replied that he just "sent a letter to the Commissioner right now."


"I am doing it, I know how to do it, every time there is an issue, I am there at the forefront," Dr. Eugene said.


The challengers seemed reluctant to challenge Dr. Eugene. An anonymous question from the audience pointed out a statistic, recently reported by the Gotham Gazette, that between fiscal years 2009 and 2014 only three City Councilmembers had brought less discretionary spending to their districts than had Dr. Eugene. Dr. Eugene called the report false; none of his challengers spoke up. Asked about what could be done to improve conditions at Wingate Park, Dr. Eugene spoke of the money he had directed to the Parks Department, and "also to the Prospect Park Alliance, I gave them millions of dollars." It was unclear what monies Dr. Eugene was referring to; none of his challengers spoke up.


Dr. Eugene's brother was in the audience, as were two women whom Dr. Eugene identified alternately as "on my staff," and as youth who had benefited from his work with neighborhood youth. Each time he finished speaking, the three applauded passionately and volubly.


The evening's most pointed and most baffling exchange occurred when the moderater, Pia Raymond, offered the candidates the chance to ask one another questions.


Saundra Thomas asked Dr. Eugene about term limits as they applied to his own potential candidacy in 2017—but she flubbed her own question. She may have meant to ask why, if Eugene voted against the possibility of a third term for Michael Bloomberg, Eugene wanted a third term for himself? But what she actually asked was, "Is it true that you voted for a third term for Bloomberg, and do you plan to seek a third term in 2017?"


Dr. Eugene saw his chance, and he pounced. He had voted against a third term for Bloomberg, he declared. He chided Ms. Thomas for not doing her homework. As for a third term for himself? Grinning broadly, he said that was in God's hands. And the voters' hands.


John Grant provided the evening's scant moments of humor. When asked what he would do to stop gang activity in the neighborhood, Mr. Grant, who has lived in the neighborhood for fifty-three years, recounted how when he was a boy, the two gangs in the neighborhood were the Jollystoppers and the Tomahawks. "And I was a member of the Jollystoppers," he said, quickly adding that what the neighborhood needed to do was call in the gang members, and "bring them to the table." When asked what he would do to make Wingate Park safer, he said the park was already safer than it was when he was a kid, this time making no mention of the Jollystoppers.


John Grant also provided some of the most specific answers of the evening. What is the neighborhood's greatest need? Security cameras and speed bumps. How should discretionary funds be spent in our district? Solar panels. Does he support contextual zoning? Yes, because "I have a ham radio" and permitting tall buildings to come in "screws up my signal."


The forum was organized by the Nostrand Avenue Merchants' Association, the Visionary Political Action Committee, and the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association, and took place in the basement hall of St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church on Hawthorne Street. The Rev. Eddie Alleyne graciously concluded the evening with a reminder that there were refreshments, at the back.


18 comments:

Malte said...

Thank you for your notes. Couldn't get away from work in time, so this is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Oh good god!! All of these candidates are useless. Here's to another 4 years of gang warfare and garbage strewn streets. This neighborhood is so pathetic.

MadMommaCarmen said...

I'm disappointed that again, no one is challenging Eugene on his BS. This is why he gets re-elected!! We are all well aware of his half-assed politics, but when it counts, no one talks about it out loud. This speaks volumes about the other candidates and makes me question their ability to be the thorn that we need. We NEED someone to be outspoken and make waves when needed. We don't need more quiet acceptance of Eugene's half-truths and loophole politics.

Without even Googling anything, I can come up with a few topics that would make a great public discussion on how Eugene's projects fall through the cracks, how he shows up to take credit for not doing anything, how photo opportunities take precedence over actual discussions and actions.

He threw money at King's County Hospital? Then what?? What follow-through is there to make actual measurable improvements to the care offered at this hospital? Answer: none.

He gave "millions" to the Prospect Park Alliance?? Then why is there a deficit? Why does the park need to depend on private events at the expense of the public that can't afford to be part of these events? Why is the Boathouse only available to those who can afford it?

Also, what's up with Parkside Playground? Eugene took great care at making sure his name was all over it but has never once followed up to make sure his proud investment in the community was taken care of. He has never returned a call regarding the concern of gang activity, drug dealing, and general cleanliness of what he has called his "pet project".

Point blank, Eugene's vision for this community is short-sighted. He acts like we're all toddlers who are easily appeased by immediate, yet short-term, gratification. Its amazing no one has ever called him out on that.

Anonymous said...

God that is depressing....

Anonymous said...

I do not like to make anonymous comments but I do not want to get burned by the third rail. Voting in this area is based on ethnic affinity. As long as Dr. Eugene can deliver the West Indian vote to the MACHINE, Una and Yvette will put him forward. What Una and Yvette want-- Una & Yvette get, because THEY can deliver THEIR vote to the MACHINE.

Anonymous said...

Wow, with all that talk about giving millions here and millions there, was Eugene channeling Bill Gates?

If the community wants rid itself of this scheming party hack, the only way is to settle on ONE of the three challengers to vote for.

As long as all the opposing votes go to ONE candidate, Eugene can lose.

Despite the extreme shortcomings of every candidate, the fact that Saundra Thomas has approval for matching funding makes her the most reasonable choice.

Otherwise, the decidedly crooked Eugene will keep his beak dipped in the public trough through another election cycle.

Celeste Morris said...

Part I
My name is Celeste Morris and I am the political advisor/consultant for Saundra Thomas. I am both a participant and a student of politics. It’s a fascinating business. No two days are the same. I can see the worst of people and events and I get to see the good people who really do want to serve. Some serve better than others, some are in it for good, yet their ego gets in the way, and some are in it because they love power and being deferred to. I’ve worked with many. Some have been a disappointment and some have done much good. If you feel motivated to do so, please check my website at www.morrisallsop.com. The comments I submit here are not from the perspective of a paid consultant, but from one whose work is dedicated to advocacy and community participation.
I read with interest the many comments made here. It is heartening to see the passion. It’s less heartening to note the pessimism. I can truly say that Saundra Thomas, is one of the most sincere and down to earth candidates that I have worked with in my 30+ years in the business.
You might want to consider the amount of guts and commitment it took to leave the comfortable corporate life that she enjoyed for 25 years to run for office against an incumbent. She gets up most mornings to be at the subway at 7 and stays up late to participant in forums and knock on doors. With that she must still take the punches given out by the opposition, by critics and by friends. So tell me why you worry that she doesn’t bash the opponent? Her energy is better spent pointing out her strengths, talking to you about issues and how she would approach solving the problems. Time and again she lets you know that she’s in it with you as a leader. In the big picture, is it really the worst thing that a first time candidate flubs a question here and there?
You want her to pick a fight in a forum. Challenge the opponent. Consider this – a forum is not a debate. A forum requires candidates to answer the questions put to them. The best answers are the ones where the candidates give you their ideas and then you choose which ones you like. A debate is a different animal. I also offer this: research has shown time and again that negative campaigning turns off voters. Chaos and confusion just causes more voters to throw up their hands in frustration and they stay home.
There is likely to be 10,000 people voting in this race. So I think it time to examine a bigger picture. You already know you have a city councilmember who has little or no clue as to what his job is about. On the other hand, you have an insurgent candidate who has raised close to $50,000 so far and has received the maximum in matching funds – which none of her opponents have done. She submitted 3000 signatures to get on the ballot…no small matter when you are running against the establishment. She even had the guts to sue the opponent for the hundreds of fraudulent signatures contained in his petition. Courts and judges appointed by the establishment seldom decide these cases in favor of the insurgent. But she made the challenge and believe me…they know she’s here! (See Part II – in my second post)

Celeste Morris said...

Part II
Have you considered the number the number of doors she’s knocked on, the number of phone calls she’s made, the forums and interviews she has participated in? Wouldn’t you want someone that gutsy to represent you? Someone that committed to service? Someone as accessible as she? Does it boil down to a question she may have flubbed at a forum or a fight she didn’t pick? Or are you looking at big picture issues?

As we make phone calls and knock on doors, there is a lot of positive response to her and there are a lot of votes she will get. And if you don’t want to see the incumbent back in, then do what you want her to do – fight! Use your energy to come help make phone calls, knock on doors, distribute posters, go with her to the subway, put a poster in your window or take off the day on election day to make sure we don’t lose at the polls because we didn’t have enough supporters.
Why does Matthieu Eugene have so many endorsements from outside forces? Because he has been doing their work. If you want to send a message to him and others, if you want to have your community for yourself, complaining won’t get you there. Getting in and rolling up your sleeves will.
Visit www.saundrathomas2013.com and leave you input on the issues. While you are there, donate because it takes money to do mailings and pay a field team. You can volunteer there too. That’s how we can make a change. So go ahead and do it! Otherwise, it’s just complaining and pessimism and we all know that’s the ugly road to nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this Celeste but I am resident of Lefferts Manor and have had zero doorbell rings at my house. I also do not answer my land line as I only use my cell phone. So the only reason I heard about Saundra Thomas was through this blog. And sorry to say this but the notes taken at the forum and posted on this blog have turned me completely off.

It was only when Biden and Obama attacked Romney about his statements and background was when the tide turned in the last presidential election. Because Saundra said absolutely nothing and did not FIGHT I see no passion in her representing this community. This is why I am out and will not vote in the election because it makes no difference at this point for me. There will always be gun shootings, muggings, rapes, garbage, motor vehicle accidents, and dirty playgrounds here no matter who I vote for. Saundra lost my vote by sitting quiet like a scared rat!! Good luck.

Sylvia Kinard said...

As a point of correction, Ms. Thomas was a Vice President of Community Affairs at ABC-TV and not a unit President.

There are two additional forums that will give the Lefferts Gardens Community another "look" at all the candidates for the 40th District.

Tuesday - 8/27 @ Church of the Evangelical(Bedford/Hawthorne)
7pm; and

Wednesday - 8/28 - Street Hype Newspaper will host a forum at St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church @ 331 Hawthorne St. 6-8:30pm.

You can also visit my website at Sylviakinard@nationbuilder.com.

I am running to be the next representative for the 40th District because we need to vote for an individual who is actually prepared to do the job they are elected to do. I am that person. I will be ready to serve District 40 from day one.

I worked in the private sector, but I also have a record of public service and accomplishment as a former Attorney for the City Council and in developing affordable housing as an Assistant Commissioner for the state. I was elected to Community School Board #13.

These experiences have prepared me with a skill set and level of expertise that my opponents simply do not have.

I have deep roots in this community and am passionate about preserving its history and future. My grandmother owned a home on Rutland Road and I graduated from Erasmus Hall High School. I taught in the School of Business of Medgar Evers College. I am running because this District is personal to me.

The City Council is a legislative body that has suffered because it has too many members who may have passion, but lack the knowledge to translate ideas into real legislation.

As you look around this city, you will see plenty of people running for office because they have friends with deep pockets, or they are heirs to real estate fortunes or they simply have the money to bankroll their latest adventure.

District 40 has too many great neighborhoods; is facing too many challenges and has too many needs to choose a representative who is less than 100% prepared to give the most effective and impactful representation in this city.

I am that person and I will work 100% everyday to ensure that our District is better for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to vote for Saundra Thomas, but she really needs to get a better consultant.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment. Challenging Eugene in court was nowhere in the media. They could have made a big deal out of it regardless of the judge's decision. But no we have to hear about how Saundra wakes up early in am, which is necessary but can not be all you do. She goes days without posting or tweeting. To beat a consultant it must be an all out assult. And fumbled or not the 3rd term vote is the one area that Eugene is strong. Pathetic work by the Thomas campaign.

Saundra's consultant talks about the work that needs to be done in terms of fighting, well part of the way to fight against morons like Eugene is to call them on theis BS. meanwhile Eugene skates by and keeps his job.....

babs said...

I met Saundra Thomas on Lincoln Rd between Flatbush and Bedford as she was collecting signatures to be put on the ballot. I told her at the time that she needed to come to our block (Lefferts between Rogers and Nostrand) because my neighbors (who are of many, many different races and ethnicities, BTW, including many of Caribbean origin) are fed up with Mathieu Eugene, but they really need to hear from her directly.

She said that she planned to visit as the primary drew closer (clearly she was concentrating on the higher-density blocks with an eye towards getting the maximum number of signatures as quickly as possible), as that's when she could have the most impact.

So far she hasn't been by that I'm aware - but please, please come - there are votes here for the taking. No-one here likes Mathieu Eugene, but they need to be shown a clear alternative.

We've also been deluged with mail from mayoral and DA candidates but nothing from anyone for City Council (except Mathieu Eugene's regular crap about what a great job he's doing).

Direct mail still works - I throw mine in the recycling immediately, but I know that my neighbors, many of whom are older and do not regularly use the internet, do read these flyers and consider their votes based in part on the information presented.

Please do not let Mathieu Eugene steal another election with his nauseatingly empty platitudes and bald-faced lies. If people don't know when they're being lied to it is the opposition's duty to point it out!

Anonymous said...

I am home all day and I also have not had anybody at the door talking about Saundra Thomas. Nor have I received any mailers. It's only through this blog I learned anything about her. But I may not vote for her if I don't see a more impressive and impassioned campaign. Not that I'd vote for Eugene. Ever.

LilHomerFlanders said...

Last night I was walking down Flatbush with my 1.5 year old daughter when we passed 5 young women handing out flyers for Eugene Mathieu. As they attempted to hand me one I politely said no thank you I'm not really a fan. The women than respectfully asked me what I didn't like about him and we engaged in a very constructive and peaceful conversation. As we continued chatting, mr Mathieu and his entourage of approx 10 people approached me. I shook mr Mathieu's hand and we began to chat. After a few respectful questions, Eugene angrily stated you must be part of PLGA and said my opinion doesn't matter anyway because he's going to win this election and many more in the future. That's not the troubling part. The troubling part is they began unjustly and irresponsibly calling me a racist loudly and repeatedly causing quite a stir. One person in his crew even said I don't belong in Flatbush. It was obviously inappropriate, disrespectful, and extremely hurtful. Not to mention potentially dangerous for my daughter and I.

This behavior should never be tolerated let alone from a guy who is currently representing our district. Please consider this story when going to the polling station this upcoming election.

Anonymous said...

JEEZ. That is terrible, LilHomerFlanders. Please phone Yvette Clarke and tell her this story. Seriously. We need to demand from all those who endorsed this numbskull that they actually care about whether he's a good candidate who will truly benefit this district. Because so far they clearly haven't put one minute's thought into it.

lilhomerflanders said...

I've already spoken to Marty and I'm waiting to hear back from Yvette. I'll send a note to Eric Adams as well. How this guy has gotten so many endorsements is a head scratcher.

Anonymous said...

The troubling part is they began unjustly and irresponsibly calling me a racist loudly and repeatedly causing quite a stir. One person in his crew even said I don't belong in Flatbush.

I'm shocked, shocked that blacks who support Matthieu Eugene would call some lone white person in Flatbush a racist.

All things considered, the encounter pretty much adds up to an assault. No battery. But assault would probably stick. Or maybe a charge of "menacing".

If Charles Barron had been there, things would have gotten out of hand for sure.