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.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Questions for the Candidates

Do you need to vote absentee for the all important Sept 10 primary? Go to this page ASAP to find out how. One option I hadn't considered before was voting absentee IN PERSON. You can still get it by mail if you request now.

I've noted recently that at least 3/4 of the NYC 40th Council District candidates have become readers of the Q at Parkside - and are commenting to boot! I'm honored. I've also heard that a community forum is being hastily assembled for Thursday at 7PM at St. Gabriel's on Hawthorne between Nostrand and NY Ave. Will let you know when it's confirmed.

But while I'm on the subject, I've compiled a list of questions that I hope get asked on Thursday. OR, candidates may chime in at any time!

Ms. Kinard, Ms. Thomas, Mr. Grant and Mr. Eugene - please consider the following questions.

First off, Who do you support for mayor? and...
  • Would you join the Council's Progressive Caucus? Any caucus? Do you support increasing the number of charter schools allowed in NYC?
  • What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg's climate change plans (sea walls, etc)?
  • When change happens to Brooklyn neighborhoods, it often comes in the blink of an eye. How does a councilperson both cheer a neighborhood's development while being respectful to those who've lived there for decades?
  • Is affordable housing really possible? Where else (in NYC and nationwide) is public policy actually working in this regard? Is 80/20 enough?
  • With so many apartments leaving rent regulation, is it really fair to focus so much attention on this decades old law than to create something more meaningful for today that doesn't create perverse incentives and disincentives for landlords?
  • How will you support our invaluable Prospect Park? And how will you help keep the Parkside Playground safe, maintained and well groomed?
  • Do you support the council's recently-passed legislation concerning the NYPD? (Intro 1079, which establishes an Inspector General for the NYPD and Intro 1080, which opens the door to racial profiling lawsuits against the NYPD)
  • Since Christine Quinn will no longer be speaker, is there anyone on the Council that you think is up to the task?
  • What is your plan to address the increase in violent crime in the 71st Precinct?
  • What do you think of the emphasis on testing in the City's schools? Do you support the job Dennis Wolcott is doing as Schools Superintendent?
  • Quality of Life stuff: How will you use your office to help lessen trash, get people to scoop their poop, lessen mosquitoes, help new businesses move to the neighborhood? Can a councilperson help a neighborhood become more livable?
  • Hudson Companies is building a huge new rental building at 626 Flatbush. It will be clearly visible from the park. Do you support this idea? Do you support reopening existing zoning in the area? Would your office take a lead in doing so?
  • Empire Blvd, moving out from the park, seems like a HUGE missed opportunity. Do you imagine something better for this grand sounding wide street leading to the park?
  • Do you support a strong merchant's organization or BID from Parkside to Empire on Flatbush?
  • Would you consider championing a Museum of Flatbush?
  • Would you support the art project currently taking shape around the green sheet metal Flatbush trees at Empire/Ocean/Flatbush?
  • Are you supportive of (and will help see that money is found for maintenance for) the Parkside Plaza project?
  • Do you have particular thoughts on bicycles and bike safety and bike lanes and bike, bike, bikes?
  • What can be done with the gorgeous but dilapidated Phat Albert's building, once a proud bakery in the neighborhood, now with a clock that doesn't keep time? The Flatbush Museum, maybe? A Wendy's annex? Trader Joe's?
  • How will you help us make Flatbush Avenue safer? It's INSANE! And Rogers is a speedway.
  • Flatbush Revitalization. EDC’s Fiscal 2013 January Capital Commitment Plan includes $52 million in Fiscal 2013-2016 for the restoration of Loew’s Kings Theatre in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The goal of the renovation project is to restore the historic structure and create a state-of-the-art performance facility. Located at 1025-1035 Flatbush Avenue, the space will be the largest indoor theater in Brooklyn and will be the centerpiece of a revitalized Flatbush. The expected
    opening is in the fall of 2014.

    So, it'll open in the fall of 2014? Who's watching this project, er, minding the store? Has it really been thought through? What do YOU think, honestly?


Rudy on Winthrop said...

"Dr. Eugene, you have served in office for one partial term (beginning in 2007) and one full term (beginning in 2009). This puts you in an interesting position, vis-a-vis the grandfathering provisions in the 2008 and 2010 changes to the NYC term limit law. Do you believe that, if you are elected to a second full term in 2013, that you may also run for a third full term in 2017?"

Anonymous said...

Regarding 626 Flatbush, please word the question in a way that doesn't suggest most the neighborhood and/or all your readers oppose the project because it's tall and visible from the park. We nor any of our friends in the neighborhood oppose the project. We ourselves believe there must be zones for building upward in large cities because it's completely appropriate. Sprawl is much worse for the environment. And logically you can't want affordable housing and to restrict development at the same time. The fewer the apartments being added, any kind of apartments, condos or housing added, to brownstone Brooklyn the more and more expensive the existing ones will become.

Bob Marvin said...

Well, we can pretty acurately anticipate the good doctor's answers to ALL those questions, IF he were to attempt answering them. I'd bet it would be something like "I will work very hard to...but I cannot do it without your help." :-)

Anonymous said...

Q, I know you think the Loew's Kings restoration is a boondoggle, but it's really happening, and it seems it would be better to support it than assume it's a failure from the outset. Check out the latest on the renovation:

rose said...

I Couldn't said it any better Bob. He is off the chain!

rose said...

Bob I totally agree with you and couldn't have said it any better. The good doctor is a joke!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

To Anon 9:25: I don't think I could have worded it any more neutrally. 626 is a done deal. It's not worth asking whether the candidate supports that project in particular. The question is whether the neighborhood wants to revisit the zoning and height requirements going forward. No one I've met disagrees that new housing must be built. The question is about the look and development of the neighborhood. All voices should have a chance for input. Btw, I've taken no stand personally. I'd like to hear from the community before making up my mind about any zoning restrictions. Most neighborhoods that have let development run its course without restriction wish they could revisit the issue in hindsight. That's why it's good to see how the candidates compare on the issue.

Don't worry. You're going to get your tall mostly market-rate building, barring natural or unnatural disasters. It will be a game-changer, no question.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Anon 11:04: I'm in full support of the restoration. It's the plan for what happens AFTER that I feel is half-baked. What good is it to spend a small fortune fixing up the place without a solid sense of how you operate it in the black? Do we want it to open to fanfare only to struggle to find audiences? As of now, there are very few voices beyond Marty who seem to want to lead. And where will he be after he leaves office? Will Jummane or Mathieu or Saundra or SOMEONE with influence take up the cause? I'm sorry if I sound negative, but it's not like Flatbush has TONS of donors and strong leaders to make it their mission to see that it succeeds.

I'm all for sound business investment in the neighborhood. We need it. I hope the right people are brought on board to make the Kings something special that does not have to compete too head-to-head with the dozens of other great venues in the City that will be vying for the same acts.

diak said...

The company that is restoring the Loew's Kings, ACE Theatrical of Houston, will also be operating it. This is their business model and it seems to have been successful elsewhere:

I seriously doubt they would have undertaken the project if they didn't think there would be a market for it long-term.

Anonymous said...

Q, being fair to myself, it isn't just about wanting this game-changing condo building in PLG. Whether it's about PLG or not we truly are opposed to sprawl (in fact I hate sprawl - the only way to keep some rural areas in this region around NYC is to build upwards inside the city; beautiful farmlands in NJ are constantly becoming ugly gated communities and it's tragic) thus opposed to too much NIMBYism from those who choose to live in large cities. There are many alternatives to big cities if you don't like tall buildings. Tall buildings don't belong everywhere of course but they can't be opposed everywhere.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Diak: I hope you're right. I'll jump off the pessimist bus right now - in a few sentences! Ace Theatrical has had success in other (southern) cities where the competition is not so fierce. For instance, were the Loewe's in a town that didn't have much theater, it could do well with touring Broadway shows. (They only have three theaters up and running by the way).
Their theaters host local orchestras and groups that NY has in spades already. All I'm saying is that I have a pretty good familiarity with the NYC performing arts venues and their business models. It will be very tough for Kings to be "self-sustaining," as is their goal. That's why the majority of the performing arts venues are non-profits - they need significant giving from the community to sustain themselves. Were they to run the old Loew's as a 501c3, I just don't see where the deep pockets would come from. That's my view from the bench, and I'll hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

I'm not Diak, just jumping in here, I think the Loews accesses into a completely totally different community than those served by the other big performing arts venues in NYC. Plus we have many millions more people and more square mileage in NYC than any of those Southern cities. If the programming is done well the Loews should expect to sell the same numbers of tickets the venues in those Southern cities sell. Lastly, how does any kind of pessimism help at all here? I don't see the point of it at all. Are they going to cancel the renovation and walk away because a few outsiders and laypeople don't think it's going to work out? Done deal. Best thing to do now is support it and wish them the best. At the least, a fine and very rare remaining historic movie palace gets restored. I see nothing but something to celebrate in all this.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 9:25 - here is the the way zoning really works - allowing buildings that are three times too tall compared with surrounding houses is NOT the only way to prevent urban sprawl or increase the housing stock. Under contextual zoning building height is limited while density may be equal to what it would be under height factor zoning which does not imposed a fixed limit on height.

So on the same large building lot, you could build 200,000 square feet of housing at 20 stories with 10,000 square feet per floor, or 200,000 square feet of housing at 10 stories with 20,000 square feet per floor. The developers of 626 Flatbush and the original developers of 33 Lincoln Road were getting up to 23 stories by covering only a small percentage of their very large building lots (wasting space some might call it). The primary reason why these developers have refused to negotiate a more reasonable height that more closely matches existing precedent in this neighborhood, is that they will receive premium rents for the upper floors with views. It has nothing to do with wanting to provide affordable housing or being environmentally friendly. (Incidentally, I'm told anything above the 8th floor has a view over the park, so even a 10,12 or 16 story building offers ample opportunities for views at likely a lower market price than the 23rd story)

Contextual zoning requires developers to elect the option of building lower and covering more of the lot. This is known as Quality Housing Regulations. Most residential Brooklyn neighborhoods outside the "downtown" area where our municipal and office buildings are concentrated have elected contextual zoning to preserve the residential character of their neighborhoods for generations to come (and I am talking about the human as well as physical character of the neighborhood).

My junior high school principal used to say there is a time and a place for everything. Flatbush Avenue and Lincoln Road, consisting primarily of 3-6 story apartment buildings, and bounded by two very low rise historic districts (Lefferts Manor and Ocean on the Park) as well as the 20 or so historic 3 story Chester Court homes, is not the place for 23 story buildings. Unlike Eastern Parkway and Fourth Avenue, our section of Flatbush is officially known as a narrow street (less than 75 feet wide). The impact of tall buildings and added density (regardless of height) is greater.

And it is not the time for luxury pie in the sky when housing prices are rising much faster than wages.
New construction, especially high rise construction, is much more expensive than restoring existing older housing. Thus, even with significant public subsidies, the track record of new 80/20 development in Brooklyn shows that it does not provide enough affordable units to replace those being lost from rent stabilization.

And yes, it is inevitable that our neighborhood will increase in density over time even without super tall buildings. There are many one story commercial buildings along Nostrand Avenue and Empire Boulevard as well as Flatbush Avenue.

However, we need to make sure our transportation and school infrastructure can handle increased density before we thoughtlessly pile it on. With the Caledonian, the Lincoln Road Building and 626 Flatbush coming online regardless of height, we are looking at something like 500 new units of housing, or probably at least 1000 new residents on Flatbush Avenue (a narrow street with narrow sidewalks as previously mentioned)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, 1:26, context or no context if a developer can't make enough money they won't bother to build anything at all. For a smaller footprint they need to build higher to have enough # of units to make it worth it to them. And again, no new housing of any kind means existing housing becomes more and more expensive. Reality.

Anonymous said...

Regarding wide streets vs narrow, Empire Blvd between Rogers and Flatbush would have been ideal for highrises. Of course SOME committed NIMBYs would still protest how it ruins their views or whatever, but it's a busy commercial road, it's very wide, it's so perfectly located near the park, garden and mass transportation with enough space to build sufficient parking. Imagine the views from the higher floors such buildings would have, over the park and gardens. Unfortunately because there's never been any vision or effort or foresight in developing Empire Blvd to its full potential all we have there now and will ever have are storage units and fast food restaurants. All taking up really large parcels of land that could have been residential. Huge wasted opportunity. Huge. Don't let that happen to Flatbush too. Please. I welcome any decent residential development to Flatbush. A nice building that replaces an ugly stucco medical building/public pay parking lot, wonderful, love it.

babs said...

I would love to see Empire Blvd. developed with new housing replacing those crappy storage places, vacant buildings, and that brand new and mostly vacant strip mall! I was so disappointed when I saw that go there - would have been ideal for an apartment building (sales or rentals). And the one that replaced the roller rink is expanding - will knock down the two empty low rise building next to it to do so,