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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

10 Reasons to Shop Local - on the Flabenue

1. Small Business Saturday is here to remind you that bigger is not always better when it comes to shopping for gifts for the loved ones in your life. Finding something special for someone special may, in fact, require special shopping. You can do that by treading places others don't tread.

2. Play Kids at 676 Flatbush will be giving out free tote bags. Oh, and selling some of the swellest and educationalest toys for your tots anywhere. Voted best toy store in the City by New York Magazine!

3. The Q guarantees you will find a gift at Tafari Tribe (593 Flatbush) that NO big box retailers are carrying. It's a one-of-a-kind treasure trove of items from around the world, and hands-down the most colorful store on the Flabenue. Meet Sandra and co in the accompanying video:

4.  Marcia Diva Boutique easily wins the Q's "Most Exciting New Shoppe on the Flabenue for 2013" (though the tiny intimate apparel shop near it may be a more accurate use of the word) and the inventory is wildly eclectic.
Stop in for a browse today at 670 Flatbush.

5. Save-a-Thon-Fabrics at 824 Flatbush is quite simply a neighborhood treasure, not just for its reams of fabrics but for its aisles upon aisles of knicks knacks and paddy wacks, the basic essentials for all kinds of hands-on projects, little things to inspire you to make your own's like one of those suburban craft stores but packed into a decades-old mom-and-pop operation.

6. Smile for Every Sistah in You is run by "sistah" Enuku, and she has a dedicated clientele for a reason - she's friendly as all get-out and curates a completely unique line of bags, clothes and accessories. Definitely worth a stop, again, because you don't want to bore your cousins and aunts with the same ol' same ol' do you? 581 Flatbush. Best named store on the Flabenue, hands down.

7. Gem. Okay, not technically a "boutique" or anything, but dang if they don't have a fantastic selection of really dope and bling Christmas ornaments. My kids love the seasonal section in the front, and this place is my go-to for everything from t.p. to tape to shaving cream. Most items are 25% less than at the Duane Reade next door, which doesn't make my list because I can't think of a single reason to shop there now that I've switched my prescriptions to the delightful and FAST Lincoln Pharmacy across the street. Oh, right. Eco-diapers. But Little Miss FlatBed Jr. III will be out of those soon...I hope.

8. Nykki's Boutique is run by dressmaker Cheryl Carty, and she's a real artist, more than worthy of your patronage. Her bread and butter is custom outfits, but check out the small but choice inventory she keeps for a one-of-a-kind gift for the special lady in your life.

9. Trixie's Pet Food and Supplies gets a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars on 24 reviews on Yelp. That's really rare high praise. Now that the Q's cats have moved on, I don't have as much need, but gifts for friends' pets are a great way to show you care AND that you understand their attachment to their little snuggle-wuggle.

10. Technically they're not right on the Rue de Bush, but 65 Fen and PLG Outpost have wines and foodie thangs a-plenty. Wine-ought pick up a bottle today? 65 Fenimore will get you close enough to smell the corks.

There are more of course, but I gotta go make breakfast now. See you out there on the avenue.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More on Traffic - from our man Vinnie at the 71

The 71 Precinct has received numerous calls about heavy traffic delays on Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard in both directions. The 71 Community Affairs office has visited the locations on Monday and Tuesday and has witnessed first hand the delays. The 71 Precinct has reached out to the DOT who has informed us the project will be complete in less then two weeks and traffic should improve. The 71 Precinct and Community Board 9 realize it can be a long two weeks. Both the 71 Precinct and CB9 have reached out to Department of Traffic and are requesting numerous traffic agents to help at the intersections until the traffic project is complete and traffic is back to normal. The 71 Precinct will also step up enforcement in the area as necessary. We understand the frustration in the community, it also has been affecting numerous Police Officers trying to get to work and go home. We hope to have the traffic agents in place soon. Sorry for any inconvenience this is causing the community.

Week in Review - Traffic Report

So I'm cruising along on my cruiser today and noticing for the first time since moving to the neighborhood all those years ago something really quite remarkable. Traffic on Flatbush, the Flabenue, was moving...calmly. That's right. No darting in and out. No slamming on brakes then flooring it. I didn't feel like I was taking my life into my hands, and the street looked like any of a hundred other busy thoroughfares in NYC. Busy, but not insane.

Granted the volume is down compared to a normal weekday. BUT drivers were clearly getting more used to the pattern. The horrorshow at Lincoln/Flatbush/Washington continues, and there's still no sign of traffic agents (supposedly coming Monday). But that's part of the point. Flatbush volume has been too high for ages, what with buses, cabs, trucks, dollar vans, car services and...commuters.

A lot of rumors and misconceptions are kicking around out there. Like that median that's being removed at Empire next to the demolished Botanic Garden entrance. That job has nothing to do with the new DOT traffic calming measures. Nor is it related to complaints from drivers about backups. That median, with the sweet little tree on it (sob) made it impossible for trucks of a certain size to turn. It was a big flaw in design and had to be corrected. As will other design flaws be corrected, if they prove to be untenable in the longrun.

But get this straight. DOT is not going back to six lanes on Flatbush. It's too narrow and therefore very unsafe, and in fact is not considered safe at that width anywhere else in the City or any other City for that matter. DOT could probably be convinced to eliminate parking on the outbound side during rush hours (4-7pm), though the reason they didn't was because of concerns about the merchants who are open at those times. However, such concerns did not stop DOT from eliminating parking on Flatbush from the Manhattan Bridge to Grand Army Plaza, so I don't see why we should get special treatment. Traffic is clearly flowing better at rush hour in the morning because of the extra space, so afternoons could work better too. We'll see whether that's politically possible.

Some wonder about the wisdom of the right turn only as you come down Flatbush from GAP and hit Empire. Well, this makes perfect sense, so drivers have time to get it together to form a single lane. You see it work all of the place; we're just not used to it yet. They should add either a right turn signal or an allowed right turn on red to make it even clearer. HONK your butts off drivers! Let 'em know you care!

If in fact the traffic agents turn out, credit goes to Pearl Miles of CB9, who on her vacation, called the powers-that-be to get it going. She also put in tough words to get the 71st out there. Credit should go where it's due...if. I was on a lot of the email back and forth and I feel confident that the responses from Greg and Claudette at DOT and the police came AFTER we complained and complained some more. But I'm glad they're listening. I got a call from Inspector Fitzgibbon on Wednesday guaranteeing an upgraded response. Again, we'll see.

I learned also that for all the complaints about Dollar Vans I've heard through the years, precious few have reached anyone with any power to do anything about it. Have you or anyone you know ever called an elected official? Or the Community Board? Or the TLC? Thought not. It's time for us to create an official task force on the issue. I'm hoping Ed Fanning will lead the effort, as chair of the Transportation committee and/or Rosemarie Perry of Public Safety.

Dollar Vans shouldn't be eliminated. They are part of the solution. At rush hour, they carry as many as 12 people, and cost less than the buses, which are also packed at rush hour. Car services and cabs, well, they're what they are and aren't going away. Trucks are not to be on Flatbush if they're not delivering locally, so we need enforcement there. Double parking needs to be enforced as strongly as north of GAP. And drivers, most just one to a car, need to know that Flatbush is not a freeway and shouldn't expect a quick ride at rush hours. I don't drive through the Holland Tunnel at rush hour expecting a speedy ride; the Flabenue is no different. Tough enforcement all around is needed. I'm with Alex - we may need some sort of hearing to demand it.

If we can deal with some of the behavior, and convince a few commuters to take a different non-bus route from work, perhaps I'll be eating a gratis steak dinner courtesy of neighbor Josh G., who bet me that Flatbush will still be a big mess come the new year. I'm looking forward to my big juicy steak, courtesy of Gino's. Make sure you don't max out credit cards Josh!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Note on Dollar Vans

Pearl Miles just wrote me that she has not had complaints on Dollar Vans in a few years. As District Manager at the Community Board, she's the single person to whom such complaints might be properly addressed. Complaints are not reaching their intended targets. Bottom line, if you have not engaged the Community Board on this issue, you have not filed your grievance. It is, as the saying goes, just pissing in the wind.

I encourage everyone to write a note to:

If you want even MORE impact, call the office:  718-778-9279. Phone calls are so rare these days, especially from a certain demographic, that they register in a different, I would say more potent, manner.

Please note that if you don't do so, your complaint is not being heard. Listservs and blogs, even 311, will not result in a change.

If you see a Dollar Van blatantly break the law, and can get its license plate, that would be a HUGE help too. There seem to be 1000s of the things, but in fact it's the same 100 or so running back and forth. Get rid of the worst 25% and you'd likely see a huge change.

Traffic Update

I texted Vinnie this morning and told him the nabe was in an uproar. He just texted me back and said that they've called for traffic agents.

Monday, November 25, 2013

626 Height-Opponents Hit the Airwaves

The cold stings, but things are heating around here in Mayberry PLG, from stalled traffic to tall buildings. Starting around 8pm, a piece started running on NY1 highlighting community opposition to the height of 626 Flatbush. View the piece here: NY1 on 626. The text is below, for the click-o-phobic. Regardless of your feelings on the building, I'm particularly gratified to see longtime local gentry coming out to voice their feelings. Too often, the internets are clogged with younger, newer voices. It hasn't escaped the Q's attention that Lefferts' proud Boomers can be quite effective at organizing and getting stuff done. To that, hats off from the Q, he of Generation X. PPEN's online petition may soon top 300 names, with many more in the bag on something called "paper," which some people have apparently signed with something called a "pen."

A towering new residential and retail building will dramatically change the landscape in Central Brooklyn, but it is not without opposition. There are big plans for a vacant parking facility on Flatbush Avenue: a 23-story high rise that will dwarf Prospect Lefferts Gardens and tower over nearby Prospect Park. 

A community group called Prospect Park East Network says that the development is out of scale for the neighborhood and will ruin the park experience. 

"We don't want a tower shadowing it and feeling like we're in the middle of Manhattan," said resident Brenda Edwards.

"It's a very intimate community. It's low rise. People are very neighborly," said resident Suki Cheong. "This tower is going to really be visible from many of these scenic views by the lake."

The group put together its own rendering to dramatize the impact to the park and is asking residents to sign a petition to stop the project, but the developer says that the building was designed to fit into the community. It'll have a brick facade instead of glass and metal. It'll be ground-floor retail with 254 rental apartments, with 20 percent for low- and middle-income tenants. It also follows city zoning rules for the area.

"We haven't asked for any special variances, so what we're doing is as-of-right zoning," said Alison Novak, vice president of Hudson Companies. "And I think that when City Planning put together the zoning code, they were very careful about light and air and shadows. So I don't think that that will be actually a major issue."

However, the Prospect Park Alliance, which helps oversee the park, says "We feel a 23-story building on the edge of the park will compromise the original Olmstead and Vaux vision for the park as an urban refuge where the public can enjoy unspoiled natural views."

Both the Alliance and community opponents are calling for zoning changes.
"We are the only section next to the park that does not have what we call contextual zoning," said resident Carole Schaffer. "All of the other areas - Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, everything around the perimeter - has it."
The city says that it's received requests about rezoning and will look into the possibilities. In the meantime, the developer says that he has all the permits and money to move ahead, and plans on starting demolition by the end of the year.

Response from DOT

All I can say carefully! Below is the response from Greg at DOT. Note the part where he says "if you have any other questions, comments or observations..."

Hi Tim, 

Thanks for writing. The signs for the small section of Lincoln Road from Washington Avenue to Flatbush Avenue to become one-way westbound will be put up tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. There will be “DO NOT ENTER” signs facing eastbound Lincoln Road traffic at the far side of Flatbush Avenue, “ONE WAY” signs pointing west on the east side of Flatbush Avenue at Lincoln Road, and signs with left and right arrows and the “ONLY” message for traffic on eastbound Lincoln Road approaching Flatbush Avenue to tell drivers they must turn left or right, they cannot go through.

We understand your concern. We try to get the signs and the markings up at exactly the same time, but sometimes there is a time lag.
Please advise if you have any other questions, comments or observations.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Note to DOT's Flatbush Designer

 sent an email (below) to the gentleman Greg Haas who spearheaded the flatbush ave reconfiguration. let the record state that they can't say the didn't know.
As a resident, blogger and member of CB9 I've been a big proponent of your changes to the Flatbush corridor. Drivers are struggling to figure it all out, and Dollar Vans are vexing efforts, but with help from some enforcement I'm sure it will all work out.

There is a MAJOR problem at Lincoln/Flatbush/Washington. The lines seem to suggest that drivers can't turn left from Lincoln onto Washington, but they're doing it anyway, at full speed as they always have, and there's no DO NOT ENTER sign, just a big bulb drawn on the pavement. The effect is that drivers and bicyclists are being guided straight into each other HEAD ON. It's only a matter of time before the's total chaos at that interesection.

Thanks for forwarding this to the attention of whomever can take immediate remedial efforts.

 A commenter asked about complaining about Dollar Vans. These "commuter vans" are regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. A call to 311 will register your issue, though it would take many of them to get TLC to take notice.

My suggested route is through the Community Board, where a direct interaction with TLC is possible. If this is a big enough issue to the community, this is the way to proceed. I'll send Ed Fanning and Rosemarie Perry a note asking they put scofflaw dollar vans on the Transportation and Public Safety agendas (respectively), hopefully for a joint meeting in December or January.

Friday, November 22, 2013

33 Lincoln Posts Renderings

While riding up and down the Flabenue for kicks, watching the slow-mo figuring out of traffic by befuddled motorists, I noticed that Tom Anderson has put up renderings of his new building that will straddle the Q/B/S stop at Prospect Park.

Sorry for the night vision pics, but this is pretty clear:

Help Wanted: Person to Run Friday Farmer's Market at Q Plaza

I'll be honest, we need a superstar. Someone who can bring Pizazz and Pizza to the Piazza at Parkside. Maybe not pizza, but certainly fresh items that could potentially be placed ON a pizza. What is it? I'll give you a hint:

The actress pictured is Frances FARMER
Think that's silly? Think a little harder. Still silly? Yes, quite. But how 'bout NOW? Yes, still very silly. And yet...

A Farmers Market, or Farmer's Market, or Farmers' Market (I've seen it all three ways) is being negotiated with venerable do-gooders Seeds In the Middle, an organization dedicated to bringing healthy food and healthy living through learning and soccer to Central Brooklyn and beyond. But...we need someone who will be dedicated to the project at least for the coming year while we get it off the ground. Experience in shopping and eating a plus. Must be a good organizer and be able to work with a diverse cast of characters. The famer's market will need to take food stamps, now EBT, so we'll need some sophistication on that end, but it's fairly easy to learn. An interest in the needs of young people a double-plus. And a desire to work hard for little compensation a triple-plus. Remember, we're just trying to get things off the ground here!

So...who has a flexible schedule and a desire to make a huge difference in our community? We will do our best to raise money and work with the business side to find modest compensation eventually.

(Would a CSA like to talk about partnering? Would the fledgling food coop want to sell wares and build membership? Hmmm. The possibilities are endless...)

Email me here!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Pinch of Sanity on the Flabenue

In a long, long overdue move, DOT finally painted the lines and connected the dots. A tiny bit of sanity has come to the most painfully confused, dangerous and absurd stretches of commercial real estate that this blogger has ever seen - Flatbush Empire to the Junction.

Finally admitting that there is not room for parking on both sides and four lanes of traffic. the lanes have been repainted to allow for a single thru lane each way, and turning bays wherever needed. Yes, I'll admit that there was a bit of backup today...but it won't last, and here's why. Drivers were beginning to adjust, and as they did, they realized that they could no longer abide double-parkers. The few that tried it were either ticketed by police (a first...I've never seen a car ticketed for double-parking while the driver was in it before - a warning it looked like) or honked into compliance. The concerns about double-parking are genuine...but it is now impossible to double-park and not cause big disruptions. For instance, in front of Peppa's the usual doubles moved along after realizing there was no place for them.

But traffic DID move. I've seen much worse jams due to double-parkers in the past. And this was just the first day.

With any hope, the cops will strictly enforce the new laws, at least until behavior changes. The real test will be seeing whether the Dollar Vans stick to the thru lane and pull over only when and where there's room. Dollar Van riders (myself included) need to be skooled to hail only where there's a space for the Van. So as much as the drivers themselves are crazy, stepping out into traffic to grab a DV is just as zany, or insisting that they pull over in a crowded area with zooming traffic. Nuts has become the accepted normal around here.

A little less insanity would be good for everyone. (Except the very insane of course, for whom a LOT less insanity would be called for - or not I suppose, as long as you're not hurting anyone.)

Owner Grants Toomey's Development Rights

The Q understands that the above headline is a major stretch in the pun department, but he's on a deadline at work.

The much-beloved often misunderstood diner at the corner of Rogers and Empire is now history, and Massey Knakal is peddling the site for development. One can only hope that, despite the commercial zoning, someone will put up some semi-affordable housing here, in the spirit of the Q's hopes for an Empire housing boom. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And Taco Bell.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PLG Arts Membership Launch

Not much more to say than my name is Clarkson FlatBed, the Q, and I heartily endorse this message. Give early, give often. Go to the party!

Dear Neighbor,
Please join us at the PLG Arts Membership Launch
Cocktail Party!

Help us support the arts, the neighborhood, and your quality of life in one fell swoop!

Come to our special cocktail party to meet current and new members, and learn more about our goals, activities, and history.

Where: The Inkwell Cafe, 408 Rogers Ave (betw Sterling & Lefferts), Brooklyn, NY 11221

WhenFriday November 22, 7-9 PM

Over the last 6 years, PLG Arts has focused on the vibrant creativity of the residents of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. Our successes to date, though impressive, have been accomplished with a fairly small number of dedicated volunteers. You probably already know PLG Arts through some of our activities:

·   Art exhibitions at the Tugboat Tea Company coffee shop
·   Jazz at the Inkwell (twice-a-month music series)
·   Theater program kickoff event August 17
·   Mural near the Q train and on Flatbush Ave (beautification of  construction site by local artists, including children)
·   Mural on Fenimore Street off Flatbush, etc. (filling in the blank spots with creativity!)
·   Neighborhood Group Art Show 2011 (over 3,000 attended in just 2 weeks)

By joining PLG Arts, you will help us create and sponsor more visual arts, dance programs, theater events, and music for the children and adults of our community. Here are just a few of the benefits you will receive as a member:
·   Be among the first to know about PLG Arts events
·   Enjoy “Dinner with the Artist” events
·   Receive discounts from local merchants who also support PLG Arts
·   Platinum Membership provides free access to PLG Arts events for a year
·   Artist Memberships and Institutional/Corporate Memberships also available

Come share a cocktail and join your neighbors in local arts!
We look forward to seeing you there.

(Please RSVP to so we can cater for numbers)


Grahame Conibear (, Rina Kleege ( and Brian Fernandes-Halloran ( )

Monday, November 18, 2013

As Easy as 123 (On the Park)

Just rode by the ol' Caledonian Hospital tonight and noticed a bunch of lights on. You could see right in. Looked like many of the apartments in the main building are doggone finished.

Walk up close, and you see this sign (please excuse the was nighttime and I couldn't find the scaffold's light switch)

The most useful piece of info on the poster is that it will open in Summer 2014.

I know nothing about architecture, except to say...ewww. That is to say I'm sure they'll make lovely homes, but...ewwww. College library much? Dorms? Office Park?

Like I said I look forward to welcoming new neighbors some time next year.

* To those who do renderings for a living, I ask a simple question. Does it cross one's mind what sort of person to put in the foreground of the picture, crossing the street in front of the building? Probably just a random choice, yes? Or perhaps in honor of the Caledonian's Scottish heritage, she hails from Edinburgh? A Scottish attorney perhaps? Once again, always thin. So very thin, the people in these new buildings are to be. I wonder whether the doorways are especially narrow as well. And the elevators have artificially low maximum weights! Bodymassist Developers!

Phantom Toll Booth

Ever wondered what's up with that olde tyme carnival money booth near the Lefferts House and Carousel? Does this look familiar?

This is Flatbush near Hawthorne. I have never seen a picture that so beautifully captures how Flatbush looked in the late 19th Century. And what an odd idea, to charge for use of a boardwalk on top of the dirty/muddy road, to make it easy for horse-drawn buggies to travel. Wow. This is a real mind-blower.

From the Historical Society website:

This photograph features a toll booth that stood on Flatbush Avenue between Fenimore Street and Winthrop Street in what is now Lefferts Built in the 1850s by the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Jamaica Plank Road Company, the booth was used to collect tolls on Old Flatbush Turnpike, one of the main thoroughfares connecting the town of Flatbush to the city of Brooklyn. The road’s plank surface made it easier for wagons and carriages to travel on the dirt road. When the road company went out of business in 1893, the booth was gifted to John Moore, the last Flatbush Road Commissioner, who placed it in his backyard in East Flatbush. Today, the booth stands in Prospect Park, near the Lefferts Historic House and the carousel.

Among the major investors in the Plank Road were members of the Lefferts family. You can learn more about them and their role in developing the town of Flatbush from An American Family Grows in Brooklyn, BHS’s new digital exhibit.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Care to Share?

From neighbor Alan Berger comes a novel plan to begin a true Lefferts Barter network, though something called I just signed myself up and realized I have so many things to potentially lend to people I wouldn't know where to begin. My wit? My charm? My ego? My messiah complex? My push lawnmower?

Seriously, this sounds like a great idea if it reaches critical mass.

Here's Alan:

 Hi Everyone, I'm getting back to you all on the next step in setting up the PLG sharing goods program! I've written to the Lefferts list serve a couple of times on this recently and want to make sure we are reaching as many people as possible in the PLG neighborhood, so apologies if you're getting this more than once if you happen to be on multiple services. For those not familiar with this concept, it's an outgrowth of the sharing economy ( Examples are Zipcar, Airbnb, Citibikes-- ride sharing, couch surfing, and many others. It's about sharing and making more accessible all the stuff we own. But instead of sharing cars, homes, rooms, bikes, or couches, (mostly to make money), the effort in PLG is about sharing the household goods that we all own, but don't use very much, (or use but are happy to share with neighbors), without trying to make money. The goals are to buy less stuff to reduce consumption and help the environment, save money, have access to a wider variety of goods, and build community. We can also share services with each other too.

To get this off the ground we've chosen NeighborGoods ( as the online site where we can connect and list our goods and services to share and do so privately at no cost to individuals or to the group or neighborhood. We've already created a private group called PLGshare, so the people you share your things with will be people who live, or maybe work, in this neighborhood. The only way this is really going to work well is if we get a critical mass of people from the PLG neighborhood to join and offer goods and services to establish a real marketplace in our area. So, it's important to sign up, list the goods and services you want to share, and get the word out to as many people as possible that live in this neighborhood or in close proximity to it.

Below is a step-by-step guide to joining the service and listing or requesting goods and services. Please let me, Alan, know if you have questions or concerns about any of this. We can also help you join and list your goods on the site, so let me know if you'd like us to do that for you. To help publicize this program, we're putting a call out for people to create a flyer and post it up around the neighborhood. If you know of online sites, community meetings, block parties, or other ways to get the word out, please let me know.

Thanks and hope to be meeting you and sharing goods with you soon! Alan, Susan, Bill, and Caroline

Step-by-step guide to joining the PLG sharing goods program:
  • 1. Go to site -, and register. You'll receive an email asking you to confirm and enter in a code to the neighborgoods site to complete registration. 
  • 2. Once that is done register for the PLGshare group-you can do that two different ways: one is to go to the Groups section on the left side of the screen and click on PLGshare, then click on "apply to join," and send any message and I'll sign you up. Or, you could ask me for an invite and I'll send you one to enable you to join.
  • 3. To add things to share or to put out a request for something that you want, go to the left side of your home page under Your Stuff, under the Groups section click on PLGshare 
  • 4. On the right side of your home page under Group Tools, you can click on "Add an Item" or "Add to Wishlist" depending on what you want to do. 
  • 5. To add an item - click on "Add an Item" - enter the name of your item in the "Share your" box - enter the approximate cost of your item in the "I paid about" box (this info is used to help the service figure out the total value of goods and services being shared to get an idea of the social value of this service) - enter the type of item you are sharing from the "Category" box, if it's a service, select "Other." - in the "Who can borrow this" box, select the "share privately with group" option. - Finally, click on "Add to inventory." 
  • 6. To request an item, click on the "Add to Wishlist" box on the right side under "Group Tools" and follow the steps, which are similar to adding an item. 
  • 7. If you'd like to invite other people in the neighborhood, hit on the "Send Invites" button under "Group Tools," and follow the steps. The more people and goods we get onto this group, the more likely we are to make this work for everyone! 

Help Parkside Trees, Just Not THIS Sunday

 A small snafu, nothing big. (Only this year did I learn that S.N.A.F.U. is an acronym. Go ahead if you didn't know that, look it up, I won't tell anyone).

From Rudy;:

Dear Friends of Parkside,

The Parks Department tells us that they've had to delay the planting of our new trees on Parkside Avenue by a few weeks.  Our trees are on the way ... but will not be in the ground before this Sunday.

So, we are delaying the tree celebration & daffodil planting that we had planned for this Sunday, November 17.  Please accept our apologies, and please accept our promise that in short order we'll be announcing a new date!

More soon,

Rudy, for the Parkside Committee

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Qatarification Quandary

In the fall of 2044, the temperature once again confounded expectations of public and professionals alike, and the water continued spouting from the dragon at Imagination Playground well into the middle of November. But as the weather finally began to shift from a tapered summer into a once-Floridian winter, a much less subtle shift took hold of the Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, one that had left many longtime residents worrying about their futures and their very homes and, as some whispered, culture.

Many traced the trouble to the Great Fracking Disasters of the late '20s, when dead fish started washing ashore at three of NYC's primary reservoirs, forcing a state of emergency that led many to assume the Big Apple's best days were behind it, the damage already having been done to a generation or so of future drinking water. At first just a few nervous longtime residents along the eastern side of Prospect Park sold their homes, cashing in on the past couple decades of double-digit annual growth, most moving to northern Canada for its temperate climate and discernible seasons. But soon a flood of frenzied selling led prices to fall sharply all over the neighborhood, and borough. A good many homeowners stood their ground, and quite a few were therefore relieved when the first wave of foreign buyers arrived, bringing their hard-earned overseas cold-fusion currency and tantalizing exotic cuisine to the neighborhood. The blood having ceased pouring from the wound, despite the massive drop in pressure i.e. prices, most Leffertsians felt that the neighborhood and its mixture of 20 and 30 story buildings along Flatbush, its landmarked tree-lined streets, and its last remaining quaint-seeming locavore sit-down restaurants, coffee bars, yoga centers, and shoppes specializing in various forms of self-expression - these ensured a relatively stable and homey quality of life for those of Generation X, Y and Z and their children, many of whom belonged to a generation yet unnamed. Most of the new "unnamed" were somewhat disaffected in the way of youth and spent their days roving the streets in gangs on Stateboards, so-named for the cold-fusion engines built in their wheels and trucks that allowed a skateboarder to float two or three inches above the ground if desired, and speed off quickly when the cops came around. "State" became the world's primary source of non-polluting energy for vehicles sometime during the energy gold-rush of the mid-30s. It was invented by the Chinese and trademarked by the neo-Maoist regime led by the ridiculously tall infamously seductive Ted-talker Yao Ming Jr., and now nearly every vehicle in the world paid the State-controlled government in Beijing royalties on every tankfull, having made China and its Arab nation allies rich beyond historical precedent. Yao Ming Jr. himself, at nearly 8 feet and 1/4 inch, was now the world's richest man by a power of 10, having recently bought half of the Fortune 500, renaming it the Yao Ming 250, shares of which could only be bought and sold on third Thursdays between 2 and 5 pm CST (Chinese Standard Time).

As a direct result of the world's tilt in economic and political power, Manhattan had seen huge shifts in demographics. Professional class "whites" steadily left for greener pastures in Detroit, but NYC remained the entertainment capital of the world. In fact, Andrew Rooney III once quipped that NYC had become something of a vaudeville for the world, with New Yorkers playing the roles but the international community footing the bill. Most notably, folks from the hottest and richest parts of the globe were moving to New York for its mild winters and relatively low real estate prices and 24-hour theater, dance, music and art - and truth be told its wholesome sex industry. Whole social structures in NYC were shifting and businesses were catering more and more to the incoming wealth. A few families from the recently dethroned monarchy of Qatar purchased the grandest homes of Lefferts Gardens at fire-sale prices, one of them, whose post-Qatar inter-name was Walter Whitman (by the '30s people had frequently assumed "international names" to reflect their new status as world players; thus Nada Zeiden became Whitman when outside his native Doha), wrote eloquently of the way he was welcomed into the friendly, diverse neighborhood of Lefferts on his Zlog سؤال في بركسد

Many of the Qatarian diaspora were entranced by his words and, not so coincidentally, the phenomenal bargains available so near the still gorgeous Prospect Park, whose entire "native" flora had been remade to resemble that of prehistoric North Carolina. Remarked one son of former Qatari King Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani "I cannot believe my good fortune to have found a genuine four-story brownstone with good bones and original detailing at less than $5 million dollars, which wouldn't buy you a studio apartment in Saudi Arabia! And did I mention it's near the Park?"

Pretty soon Qataris were purchasing any home that came up for sale. A few enterprising apartment owners, sensing pent up demand, began easing out longtime highly educated once solidly middle and upper-middle class residents. This came as quite a shock to renters who had been paying their landlords faithfully, some of them, for 20 years or more. While it would be easy to call the whole old-timer/new-timer divide "racial," the fact of the matter was that many of the Qataris hailed from various ethnic groups and times being what they were many of these new families were mixed marriages anyway, with at least one spouse being Jewish-African or African-American or Indian-Scandinavian or Japanese-Haitian or Chinese-African as so many were...even calling them strictly Qatari was a bit misleading given the hodge and the podge, but generally the term stuck and thus "Qatarification" become a word tossed around with a great deal of froth.

And to say that the longtime residents were "white" was just as misleading, in that a great number of the longtime residents were not strictly "caucasian," though truth be told Lefferts had been referred to as a predominantly white neighborhood since at least 2020, and the phrase was rarely heard by locals as anything other than a statement of fact, an often jaundiced fact but there it was, and even black residents had grown accustomed to it, if not completely happy about it.

Rent stabilization had disappeared after the Great Fracking Disasters due to their obvious obsolescence, and zoning rules had been abandoned in a flurry of "please come and build whatever you like, ANYTHING, pretty please" prospectuses sent to any number of international developers with promises of tax incentives and tickets to Broadway shows for life in exchange for 10% of the apartments left to current neighborhood residents at 1/3 the market rates. Seizing the opportunity, Qatari developers started by tearing down 626 Flatbush, a particular eyesore to many, and replacing it with a 50-story gleaming tower shaped like a set of interlocking cantilevered hex-wrenches (rendering below).
Perhaps for the first time in a generation, longtime residents began to feel that this was no longer "their" neighborhood, and as they watched the Multi-Hex building rise, some got a sinking feeling that the world they'd known was disappearing forever. At first it was a rumour here or rumour there, but soon it became increasingly clear that landlords were favoring the new Qatari residents over longtimers and their children and even white kids just out of college. Landlords were quick to point to Qatari's high employment rates and flush bank accounts and called the whole thing a simple matter of business, nothing personal. When the first new restaurants arrived, longtimers were excited as anyone, though the prices were outlandish and the service peculiar. Some didn't even feel completely comfortable or welcome.

It's not that the Qatari's weren't friendly and civic-minded. Quite the contrary, they had all kinds of big ideas of how to make the neighborhood better, more attractive, more economically vibrant. They joined committees. They formed committees. They started all sorts of projects and rabble-roused at the precincts to rein in the Stateboarders, whom they viewed with great suspicion, even when they were just being teenagers. The fact was, a lot Qataris had little experience with middle-class whites in Brooklyn, and couldn't really tell the trouble-makers (and there WERE a good many trouble-makers) from the merely rough-around-the-edges. The fact that a lot of the "unnamed" teenagers had taken to chewing the stimulant Qat lent an ironic twist to the Qatari invasion. The illegal substance was everywhere, and the spitting offended the Qatari's to such a degree that City officials created a Qat task force. Lots of young white kids were being shaken down by undercovers in an effort to rid the area of negative influences. The seeds of unrest were being sown in every policeman's reach into the coat pockets of relatively innocent youngsters.

Which brings us to the present. On the night of a balmy December 7th, six young white men were chewing qat outside their rent stabilized apartments, those eyesore edifices as most Qatari newcomers called them, at 33 Lincoln Road. Undercovers pulled up. Insults were hurled. Someone threw something, though accounts differ as to what it was exactly. Many corroborated that one of the kids threw his farm-fresh organic donut at a rookie, and as the rich fair-trade cacao frosting dripped off his glasses, he reached into his holster. What happened next has been told differently by everyone present. There's no reason for me to re-tell the end result, the carnage, the sadness, the anger, and the riots that erupted in the following days.

As a proud, educated, diversity-loving person-without-much-color myself, I still can't fully process how I feel about it all. No one should resort to violence, not cops, not residents, not kids, not grammas. But there it is. There's been a lot of good taking place, but as the events of the past few days illustrate, things are not always as they seem on the surface. We all have a lot of soul-searching to do, and as we head into the New Year, 2045, I only hope some way forward is presented by the emerging leaders who express such desire to grow and prosper - TOGETHER.

Caton Market - Reality Finally Sinking In

A few too many years later, folks have started realizing the obvious: the brilliant idea that was Caton Market has failed. By bringing the outdoor vendors indoors, the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce, who championed the project with former councilperson Una Clarke, they actually killed the excitement of an Constantinople-style marketplace. Not that outdoor markets are particularly easy on merchants, given the weather and such, but customers trump no customers any day. And hey, on rainy days or freezing days you get to sleep in.

Great article and pictures in The Daily News.

Todd Maisel, Daily News

SBS - Not Just For Manhattan No More

I don't know about y'all, but I'm tickled pink that the new Select Buses are coming to, or rather through, Lefferts. Rogers and Nostrand ride like ice these days, thanks to the new B44 SBS thang happening and concurrent repairs to the streets. If you haven't gotten on an SBS bus before you're in for a treat. You just hop on. No fare reader. You pay before you play. It's like, it's's like EUROPE! There are even KGB-like spies that ride the buses just to catch fare evaders. The whole wacky production looks like this:

Here's a key to the numbers:
1. Pay on the street More than a third of all bus delays can be attributed to the time it takes passengers to board. Here they will swipe their MetroCards at street kiosks before the bus arrives.
2. Enter at the back A new fleet of buses improve boarding time by being lower to the ground—and allowing rear-door entrance.
3. Hold the light green Soon after Select Bus Service launches, buses will be equipped with “signal prioritization” technology that tells upcoming traffic lights to delay turning red.
4. Own the lane A painted lane will be reserved for buses, and cameras will photograph stray cars and trucks. But some activists—and politicians—criticize the program for not including physically separated lanes.

If you've ridden an SBS in Manhattan then you know why I'm hyped. These buses are faster by quite a bit, and the experience of boarding a bus at any orifice without swiping a card is practically luxurious.

But here's the question you may be asking, which I reached around and grabbed right out of the back of your head: WHY SHOULD I GIVE A DAMN ABOUT A BUS I NEVER TAKE AND HAVE NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IN MY LIFE? Well I'll tell you why. This thing runs the length of the borough, from Cheepshead Bay (as a Chilean friend calls it) to the Williamsburg Bridge. Folks, there are times when you will WANT to go somewhere in the borough that falls along that line, or intersects with a bus or train on that line, and now you have a way to get there quickly. And check out the lines it crosses with at these always EXPRESS express stops. The A at Fulton? Hello Rockaways and JFK. The G at Lafayette? Hello Greenpoint. Hello north Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy and...drum roll. Hello Williamsburg! South Williamburg, sure, but hey there's a bunch of hip happenin' hot spots now within a slick bus ride of your home. You can go and find out just how old you are AND drop a cool Benjamin on artisanal sliders and designer brews for two. Just hop on at Clarkson or Empire on Rogers and you're golden and poorer. And they run pretty often too. Just look at the map:

Check out the bus "bulbs." Check out the service and speed. Because the SBS 44 starts this Sunday, November 17th, and a seat is waiting with YOUR name on it.

Oh, and yes, those were street painters out today, getting ready to rewrite the book on Flatbush Avenue driving lanes. Not a moment too soon...

Wow. The Boom Is Moving South Quickly

The first person to say SoCro gets a shillelagh to the ol' noggin!

On the Q's  6 minute bike trip up to Community Board 9's office I often ride by the grounds of once-grand St. Ignatius Catholic Church on Rogers. Brownstoner points out that much of this open land will soon be apartments. I was just wondering the other day what a Church might do with land like much grassy knoll. Well, I guess I have my answer.

Here's the pic and story from Brownstoner:

Some may seek comment from the forever opining Q, but there's not much to say really. Developers are looking for anything they can find, and this was ripe for the picking. Zoning must be put on the fast track. I'll keep you apprised, as this area is part of our Community District, and to my mind, it's very much part of our neighborhood.

In 2011 came "The Plex" at Nostrand and Sullivan.
People were calling those developers crazy for assuming that the neighborhood was "ready." Now they're looking prescient. I rented a Zipcar from there last summer, and while the whole nabe hasn't gone upscale, there were plenty of bourgies happily residing there. And how would a Zipcar renting guy like the Q know one when he sees one? Hmmm. That reminds me I need some Seventh Generation window cleaner for my mirrors.

Rogers, or SoRo, has always been a bit depressing, and Franklin, or SoFra downright rough. But with new businesses planned, or NeBuPla, the North Franklin boom will undoubtedly take hold south - it's all about the express IRT y'all, and heavy marketing by the powers that rent. The only thing that might stem the tide is the relative poverty of the Ebbets Houses, though proximity to low-income housing did little to stop booms in Boerum Hill and Red Hook and Clinton Hill.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Signs of the Times

I was always a fan of '70s and '80s graffiti (aesthetically only of course. I would never dreeeeam of tagging something myself), so I was pleasantly surprised to see that fleabag hotel magnate Moses Fried had his gate at 205 Parkside thusly:

It actually brings some much needed color to the block. For those who don't know the whole sordid history of 205 Parkside, here's a primer. And this. And this. And this. And...there's a bunch more. People have asked me why I don't tag my posts so it's easier to go back on various topics, to which I say I dunno, you can just search for stuff in that little box on the upper left if you want to see if I shot my mouth off about's amazing that there's so much to write about in a 10 block square radius. (Er, diameter. Should it be radius or diameter? If I mean 10 blocks in any one direction from the Q at Parkside, give or take, the radius is actually on an angle isn't it? The radius of a square would be from the center to one of the corners, I think. So maybe what I mean is 10 blocks by 10 blocks, or 100 square blocks, with the Q at Parkside at the center? Or maybe I should do a circle? But that would be hard to define. How about up to E.P., down to Church, west to the tennis bubbles, east to anything interesting.)

So then there's the whole Bedbug Dilemma. My mom used to always say "G'night, don't let the bedbugs bite" to me as a child. I thought it was some sort of reference to a fairy tale about mythical creatures. Who knew blood-sucking mini-monsters actually do come out at night to munch on people, leaving excrement and blood in their wake? Well, some fella or gal down the street from me has apparently HAD IT UP TO HERE with the situation, and decided to advertise said nightmare thusly:

Finally, and again on Clarkson, avenue of dreams, they're taking down the three houses bought by a developer in tandem. And they're doing it piece by piece. It's quite an astonishing process really. Here's the latest.

One night, from just the right angle, I could see the moon clear through the front third floor window from all the ways across the street. Were I a proper photographer, it would have made for a pretty pitcher.

To those who continue to have a hard time conceptualizing that people get displaced due to rising rents and the forces of neighborhood desirability, I recall placing flyers advertising our block association meetings on these houses. I recall counting 17 mailboxes between these three big Victorian houses. That, I can conceptualize, particularly as those people's former homes get taken apart piece by piece.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bob Marvin's Photos At Tugboat

As long as Bob's the one shooting, the Q's got no reason to duck. In fact, I'm durn well tickled to tell you 'bout his pitchers hangin' at the Tugboat, with a shindig happening this coming Thursday the 14th from 6-9 pm. They're already on display, through to two nights before Pearl Harbor Day. In a manner analogous to a writer blogging in calligraphy, he spends hours meticulously developing his creations.

A description:

All of the 16 X 20 prints in this show are being exhibited for the first time and are images Bob has made in the past year in Brooklyn and southern Vermont. They emphasize form and texture in details of the landscape that might otherwise be overlooked. Bob uses traditional analog techniques for his landscape photography: mechanical cameras, mainly a Rolleiflex that has been his companion since his college days, medium format black and white film, and fiber-base silver gelatin photographic paper. He’s printed them all in his own darkroom.

You've read his wonderful comments. Now go see, and perhaps purchase, his wonderful pictures.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where Patio Gardens Got Its Name

Old-timers will laugh that the Q never knew, but I always assumed "Patio Gardens" was a reference to little outdoor patios on each unit. Yes I thought the word "patio" was odd, since they seem to be primarily outdoor mud rooms and storage spaces, but in fact there was a Patio Theater there before it was torn down to make room for the current building. People are quick to knock it for its sub-par architecture, but I've always found it quite easy on the eyes, which shows you why I.M. Pei hasn't called me for advice for some time. It's odd all right, at least in that location, but I know folks that live there and dig it. I have it on good authority that the management company is playing fast and loose with the rules on rent stabilization, but that's par for the course these days. It's an old trick - one rent on the lease ($2,500 perhaps?) and another in reality, say $1,500 (a little rebate let's call it).

But never mind that for now. Take a look at this gem of a photo from the late '40s early '50s of the Patio Theater, then the Q's Google screen shot of the same scene 60 years later. And I did all that without even having to get out of bed!

The same eagle-eyed reader sent the below picture from 1922 of 590 and 582 Flatbush, across from Midwood, John J. Vanderbilt's house (on the left) and another of the Vanderbilt clan on the right. And where might 590 and 582 Flatbush sit? You guessed it. On the site of the Patio Theater and Patio Gardens. My how time flies...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ocean and Flatbush 100 Year Ago

Yes ma'am. That's where the Flatbush Trees now stand. That's the corner of Flatbush and Ocean and Empire (originally Malbone Street).

Montrose Morris, you are my heroine. I don't know how you do it, but you write one brilliant entry after another. This from Montrose on the above.

What's crazy is that so many of the brownstones around here are older than this picture, taken in 1915. It's amazing to think if I hopped on my bicycle out of the house I'm in now as I write this (not a lot has changed about it, except the laptop on my lap) I would take a right on Flatbush and end up here. I'm having the goosepimples thinking 'bout it. Everyone who lived at the time of this now DEAD!!!!!!!

Psssst...this one's big

Mr. Jim Mamary, he of the Lincoln Park Tavern, has placed for review a liquor license request for 504 Flatbush, the space right next to Elite Salon and the Coop Design Studio, just north of Lincoln Road.

The working name? DJ Oyster. Not kidding folks. Restaurant. With seats. And bar. I suspect, though I'm not 100% certain, that they will serve oysters among other things.

State Turns Over Our Armory To the City

In a move that brings us one step closer to having a giant indoor space all our own (and by "our" I mean Community District 9). The Daily News reports that the big ol' building on Bedford near Eastern Parkway is now open for bids from developers. If it is in fact turned to a community center, a lot of City and State dollars will be needed. Since CB9 does not have paid lobbyists, we'll have to make sure as a community that we lobby for the right sort of building with the right sort of amenities. The idea of basketball courts is strong of course, but the Q would like to see holistic services for young people and young adults, in a manner consistent with what, say, The Door does. In fact, I would love to find out what The Door is up to these days, seeing as Crown Heights could be a great location for the SoHo based center. I encourage you to see the kind of organization that the Door is, and imagine the possibilities. And home for a senior center. And an arts group, with theater and computer labs and recording studios. Because it's not just the one big space; there are cool rooms all over the complex. Whooopeeee!

Kevin P Coughlin

And yes, Lefferts, it's super close to you! Just walk or ride up Bedford past the Ebbets houses and you'll see for yourself. What an enormous opportunity.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rendering Us Speechless -- and a Bonus

Now from Mike Cetera's Pro Bono Design comes this:

What child wouldn't love to play with THOSE blocks? I love how the houses between Fenimore and Hawthorne look like pocket lighters stacked side to side. I think I see the old Monk's Trunk in there! And Charles, is that you sunbathing?

Then the irreverent Paul G. comes back, adding some Patio Gardens:

 and the recently permitted plans for a Japanese folk art exhibit:

I think Paul's point is well-taken. If you're going to create a drawing to show the lopsided scale of 626, you need to include Patio Gardens for reference. Though it's clear to me as I rode around the park grounds yesterday that PG is nicely placed to avoid too much sky snarl. It's not nearly as upsetting to the rurality as, say, Tivoli Gardens. Ebbets? The whole lot of them were misguided if you ask me, but they're people's homes and they exist. 626, as I like to remind people, is still to be built.

Have they created invisible building cloaking materials yet? Seems like about time...NASA's budget has been slashed to the point NONE of us will be getting jet packs in this lifetime.

More Must-to-Read on the Kings Loews Down the Flabenue

Times on Loews

Bryan Thomas

Be a Tree Guardian Angel - Sunday November 17

It's true folks. The Parkside Committee has been given word that the promised Trees of Parkside will be here in time for a Thanksgiving miracle. And the committee has been busy preparing for the big day, even securing a commitment from Pioneer grocery to water the trees as they take root. Thank you Hector and his uncle!

A note from the Parkside Flora Ministree:

Lend Your Muscle to Parkside! Sunday, Nov. 17 at Noon So. Does anyone think that Parkside Avenue is an ideal avenue, or that the Parkside subway station is an ideal introduction to our neighborhood? No and no. But is there any plan to make them better, and can you help? Yes and yes! Let's recap: In the spring of 2012 there was a design contest, to re-imagine the block.

Winners Announced in Parkside Prize

In the spring of 2013, CB9 approved a final plan.

Makeover time for Q plaza.

And now, in fall 2013, we are breaking ground. Sometime in the next few days, the Department of Parks and Rec is telling us, the first five trees will arrive on Parkside, right where they are most sorely needed, in front of Pioneer. The folks on the Parkside Committee are working to make sure that these five trees do better than the two poor ones in front of Popeyes. They've secured a commitment from Pioneer to water the trees. They've secured 250 daffodil bulbs to plant around the trees. They've even bought the timber to build the guards that will protect these trees. But they need your help putting the daffodils in the ground, and putting the tree guards in! So come on out. Bring your muscles and your gloves. Bring your enthusiasm. Bring your kids. When: Sunday, Nov. 17 at Noon Where: Parkside @ Pioneer Supermarket Who: You, your kids, your neighbors. What: Daffodil planting, tree guard construction, general merriment.

Must to Read

The guys with big smiles and dapper suits have certainly taken notice. The "trades" write about us all the time. Here's a general interest piece on recent apartment developments in Lefferts, and I can think of at least a half dozen more lots that are heading that way...of course, your definition of what is YOUR neighborhood might differ, but as we know nabes grow and contract with their desirability.

Brooklyn Eagle Piece on Lefferts Developments

I've Been Jerkin' On the Flab'nue, All My Live Long Day

The Q's been digging the Peppa's, (nee Danny and Peppa's) jerk chicken and provision since the day he moved to the area. My only beef on the chicken has been their smoking out the neighborhood every few days with big bad barbecues out back (they deny even doing it, which suggests they know their chickens are choking the throng). Watching the above video, you'd have no idea they do it. It's actually quite remarkable on still days when the smoke hangs over the corner of Woodruff and Parkside like a cloud. Glad I don't have the asthma. All that said, it's nice to see Gavin get some airtime. Some know how to jerk, and then there's Peppa Hussey.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

First Shots of Photoshop War For 626

Paul G. comes through big with his own self-described "crappy" re-rendering of a "crappy" rendering of 626 Flatbush, this time with Patio Gardens left in for good measure.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Need Help Voting? Poll Workers There to Help

Word reached the Q that a poll worker at the Jackie Robinson school, when asked how to do the paper ballot, told our neighbor to just fill in all the circles on "the left." That would be for the Democrats, folks.

And I thought I had to "choose" my candidates. Silly me.

And guess what? Same thing happened to me! I doubt that many people heard that the way it sounds -- vote for the people on the left, who happen to be the Dems. One of the strange things about voting with the paper ballots is how small everything is. And I really do feel we're trained to favor things that are on the top, or to the left, when choosing. I don't know if any solid evidence exists that placement leads to higher numbers.

Safety First, Kids!

A local daycare center is showing kids how to cross the street the Brooklyn Way! Kids in Kings County are so precocious! Adorable!

Elizabeth C.

Wow - Polling Place Not Open Til Two Hours After Voting To Start

The Q just got word that the polling place at the Flatbush Library (22 Linden) was not only not ready for business at 7am, but it wasn't ready for a two full hours after. Seems someone didn't bother to open the building.

The incompetence is astounding. The address of the person who alerted me was from 373 Ocean.

Outrageous. This isn't a sport or a "meetup." This is the foundation of the whole dang country, state, city and judicial system we're talking. Disenfranchising citizens should be one of the highest crimes imaginable.

Voting is Sexy

Let's go to the polls, shall we? While NYC tends to suffer a bit of a letdown in November on non-presidential election years, since our largely Democratic city chooses most of its winners in the primaries. However, there's enough intrigue on the ballot to make a trip to the local school worth your while. Like...

A) You can choose NOT to vote for your Democratic nominee in any election you like. Yes, you DO have free will!

B) Vote Sylvia Kinard for Council on the "Rent Is Too Damn High" Party Line and send Councilman Eugene the scare of his life. The Q is done with trying to unseat him with zeal, but I'm still not giving him my vote. Though I do look forward to working with whomever the voters choose. That's how it works, right? You can't be fighting a battle for four years. Six months is plenty.

C) Choose Bill de Blah Blah Blahsio and remember you're choosing the first full-on liberal Democrat for Mayor in 20 years. And if you don't like him after four years, you could always find another billionaire to run in 2017. God knows we got enough of 'em.

D) Vote for Tish James for Public Advocate. Tish will kick ass, no question about it. She was born for the job.

E) Vote for Eric Adams for Borough President. How cool is it that your State Senator will now be in  Borough Hall? Eric is awesome and accessible. I trust him to listen when we have issues we need dealt with. A lot of us know him personally. This is a great and historic vote for the borough.
F) Ballot Measures!!

The Q loves ballot measures! Today, you get to vote NO to Casino Gambling. YES to letting geezer judges serve as long as they're able. NO to mining in the Adirondacks. YES to letting towns slide on their debt for the purpose of sewage (hey, you gotta get rid of the sewage NOW and pay later). And YES to giving veterans a civil service credit.

I can't tell you what to do with that 2nd District Supreme Court line because I don't know any of the candidates and it's fair to say neither do you. So why are we voting for them? This seems real weird, and an opportunity for the political parties to wield undue influence in picking the candidates.

Question: How DO you choose when you have five to pick from seven? By name? Gender? Political Party? I'm not a fan of voting for anyone with a common name who uses their middle initial. Signifies pomposity if you ask me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Opposition Grows to Height of 626

The Q has written extensively about the new building going up at 626 Flatbush. It's certainly been the talk of the neighborhood lately, and a packed committee meeting at CB9 last week on the topic showed that there were still plenty of folks willing to put up a fight over the building's proposed height. The name of the group that has organized around the issue is Prospect Park East Network (PPEN). They have created an online petition you can access from their site.

Opponents suggest a shorter building with a bigger footprint could house as many people, and that the building received State backed financing and therefore should have involved community review, despite the as-of-right zoning.

The Q has yet to hear from proponents of the height, though the Developer makes a strong case for the need for the upper views bringing in the cash to pay for the project. However, and this is an important point I think, I've heard very few folks who don't want the project to happen at all. I'd love to entertain thoughts on both sides below. At this point, it would probably take the involvement of the new Mayor and new Borough President (de Blasio and Adams) to stop a project that is already permitted and ready to roll.

What do you think? Official rendering and an artist's vision of what the project would look like from the park below:

quite clearly, this is just an estimation. perhaps the developer can come up with a response?

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Nabes, Names and Nuance

So the Q has a confession to make. He's been cheating on Lefferts, almost daily, as each morning he mounts 4-year-old Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed Jr. onto his fixed gear cruiser bike (what else?) and glides up the Bedford bike lane towards Crown Heights and the school she got in for Universal Pre-K called PS705, also known as the Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School, or BASES, which is odd because we ride by a High School on Washington at Eastern Parkway called BASE, but 705 is a public elementary school that's actually in our district (17) and in its second year, not a charter, but the deal is it does this Dual Language thing, Tuesdays and Thursdays being all in Spanish, and we heard great things and enjoyed our tour and the principal and it's right on my way to work, so that now that I drop her off by 8:10 (are you serious?) I can get into work by 8:30 and plow through some labor before my youthful colleagues even get out of bed.

So no, for Pre-K anyway we did not find a school within walking distance. Pre-K is all about the system-wide online lottery anyway, so a lot of it comes down to luck. I'm still hopeful for the future of the Lefferts Gardens Charter School (new principal) and even PS92 which will finally get a new principal next year and hopefully a new lease on life. (I've written about the area schools under the banner "Schools Tool" if you want to hear my whole song and dance on the topic.) This PS705 really isn't that far away, especially on the bike. The MTA version is to waddle 1/4 block to Flatbush and take the B41 up to Empire and jump on the S train. The S wasn't really part of my life until this whole school thing, and now it is and I gotta say it's a real eye-opener. Suddenly Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy feel like a part of my 'hood in a way they never did before. All the crazy shenanigans going on north of Eastern Parkway seem really dang close, and if you ride a bike it's, like, right here. At the same time, being on the Community Board has made me much more aware of the neighborhood going east even passed Kings County Hospital and Dodgertown and Wingate park and the Wingate high school with the amazing farm happening out front. And of the areas north of Empire. Streets with identities, like the absurdly fast-developing Franklin, have totally different feels south of the ridge, as I think of Eastern Parkway. It might not feel like a ridge, or plateau, if you're driving, but I assure you the bike will eagerly alert you to fact.

Let me just break in here for a second and tell you a little pet peeve. Prospect Heights? It ends at Washington. That's it. There's a giant school called Prospect Heights High School on the SOUTH side of Eastern Parkway, which no one would dare call anything but Crown Heights. It's a Red Herring pure and simple. So don't give me that line about the High School being east of Washington and therefore P-Heights goes to Franklin or Classon or the other day someone tried to tell me Bedford. No sir. Not buying it. When I lived in Prospect Heights in the early '90s (Lincoln Place for two years and Vanderbilt for two years) there were a couple things that were perfectly clear. Crime got worse the father east you went (not that I cared that much - my place on Lincoln was next to a massive crack den and I hardly gave it a second thought, given my age, means and attitude). The other thing that I knew for certain was that everything north of Flatbush, from Grand Army Plaza to the Manhattan Bridges was a "black neighborhood." I'm not saying that because I decided it. EVERYONE told me. Including both of my landlords, who were quite surprised to have me for a tenant. People who'd lived in Brooklyn for decades told me. People would tell me of the high crime in Prospect Heights, and they weren't lying. Crack vials and screams and was all happening, but not quite so much south of good ol' Flatbush, the veritable train tracks at the time. (Seeing the movie "The Landlord" brought home the fact that now lily-white North Park Slope was pretty full-on funky back in the late '60s, full of street life, black-power, urban hippies, and cheap cheap cheap brownstones to BUY, which seemed like a strange bet at the time given the winds of razing whole blocks for Urban Renewal. But who wanted a whole house when you get a whole floor of a house for $100 a month and drop acid every other day? An old house didn't necessarily fit with the revolutionary life-style. I've often wondered if home sales took a nosedive when the counter-culture got into full swing in places where the counter-culture took hold. For a little while, at least, home ownership didn't seem quite so much the American Dream, though beneath the veneer of radicalism and socialism there were probably quite a few Yippies who secretly longed to mow a lawn. For the most part, they'd get their wish eventually.

Fast forward a couple decades, say to 1989. Yes, there was the occasional budget-conscious whitey then, trying to look cool walking down Vanderbilt, probably smoking a cigarette to show how nonchalant he was. Not often though. Back then the fast-track gentrification was happening on the Upper West and Lower East sides (interesting how gentrification involving Latinos plays differently in the media). But by the mid to late '90s, once the barn door of Flatbush busted down, the blocks became pricier and tonier and less black in Prospect Heights. They HAD to I suppose, given the desirability that was creeping back into Brooklyn by the middle class, which lets face it in America is still largely white and uptight about race. Thankfully in Brooklyn we can face these things a little more head on, since we have to live on top of each other. But as I watched back then with an anthropologist's distance, I NEVER could have seen the Franklin Avenue bourgeois renaissance. For fun one day not long after I moved to NYC, I took the S train just to see what it was and where it went. A graffiti covered train pulls up at Prospect Park station and I take it to the end - Fulton and Franklin. I get off, trying to get my bearings by looking at my fold-up Brooklyn map. An older lady comes up to me and asks where I'm going. I say I'm just looking around and she tells me I'd better get back on that train. This is a true story. Same thing happened to me just off the G at Clinton-Washington, though the person telling me was younger and male-er and used a more menacing phrasing. I remember exactly where it was because there's a playground there that I pass by when taking a cab home from LGA, and I remember I was taunted by the teenagers on the playground. "You're in the wrong neighborhood" was the nicest thing I heard when I walked by. Of course I'm sure I looked like I just got off the boat from Crackerland, and my outfits and hair practically screamed for comment. (I always expected those instances would repeat again and again. But they rarely happen at all. Most people have more important things to do than racial catcall, though when it happens, it is quite a shock. It's usually a matter of mental illness, cheap wine, or a combination. Most folks have the good sense to keep their comments to themselves or to hushed tones. Ever seen one of those racial outbursts on a diversely packed bus or train? Especially when it's a white lunatic it's always reassuring to look and see the smiles of understanding when you lock eyes for a moment with strangers. Yes, uncomfortable as it may be, there's something oddly poetic and powerful in those moments, when some of the reserve melts away and you see that we're all a bit nervous and all ultimately dealing with these things just below the surface.

So the long and short of it is that these days I don't really think on the race of a Brooklyn neighborhood so much, not like I used to. I go for days without thinking much on race at all, at least the surface kind. I really DO notice when I'm in a place that's all white. Vermont. Very, very, very white. Windsor Terrace. Very, very, very white. Upper East Side? Not so much, not during the day. The nannies are almost ALL black or Latino, lots are Caribbean, many many hailing from Flatbush. ("The Rich They Are Raised on the Laps of the Poor") Hope they're getting benefits and enough cash to bring home and spend in the 'hood.

But the other thing I really, really notice now is the speed of neighborhood change, sometimes referred to as gentrification, that oft-used word with willy different interpretations, like "hipster." It's impossible not to view it through your own lenses of a) class b) education c) race d) birthplace e) occupation f) political leanings g) renter or owner h) accent i) style and j) attitude.

Which brings me back to my mistress, nabe-wise, this Crown Heights North, which recently went through a big rezoning effort as a direct result of indigestion from neighborhood churning. They had good reason to look at zoning, as they were being tossed about willy-nilly by the swash of capitalism. As you walk and ride around the blocks in the box bounded by Bedford, Washington, Atlantic and Eastern Parkway, you can't help but notice the wild hodge-podge of newly constructed four to six story buildings, often alongside old frame houses and light industrial warehouses. Many of the blocks pre-re-zoning look positively insane. When it comes to architecture, I don't know from pretty, but I know ugly when I see it. On some blocks it's like a bizarre building bazaar, take your pick folks, we've got something for everyone! Closer to Eastern Parkway you still find lots of the grand brownstone mansions of yore...some blocks outshine the Manor by a fair bit (the neighborhood had its fair share of rich, not just middle class, back in the day). Many of these big houses became home to multiple families by the '70s/'80s; many have been since renovated to single family abodes, or single family with, say, a first-floor rental. Those are blocks are now being or have been landmarked, which of course does tons for the neighborhood's character but not a lot for affordable housing. The new zoning looks at the housing issues a bit more holistically, and its plan is certainly a blueprint for what might work south of Eastern Parkway and (gasp) Empire Boulevard as well. Sort of.

The whole scenario is strikingly different from the Lefferts/Caton Park/Caledonian Flatbush area. With fewer huge apartment buildings, Northern Crown Heights has already and is still experiencing a major expansion in higher-income rentals and condos (the new construction) AND the typical Brownstonering wealth influx. Comparisons of Franklin Ave and Flatbush commerce are not particularly appropriate either. Franklin was on life-support just a few years ago, and the new money and energy lit it up like a light-bulb. So fast in fact that some of the first wave of new merchants are now being priced-out...just a few short years into their run.

While the influx of "amenities" has been cheered by recently arrived Crown Heights locals aching to stay local for shopping, dining and nightlife, Lefferts has seen a much slower rate of change on the commercial strips. Density plays a part, as do demographics. For instance, a huge Caribbean middle-class continues to shop on the Flabenue. The hair suppliers and beauty salons continue to pack 'em in. Even cell phone stores and discount stores seem to stay in business despite high rents. You may not be able to find kale salads, but danged if you can't find all manner of fare from the West Indies. All in all, the Flabenue never fell off as far as Franklin. It continues to pay the rent, much to the consternation of some retail watchers.

Speaking of which, the Q's attitude has always been contrary-wise, which is to say I continue to subconsciously, and sometimes consciously, make choices I believe to be in opposition to the mainstream. It's rooted in a jaunty pubescence and Devil's Advocate DNA. But the problem is that Brooklynites and the American zeitgeist are all doing it at the SAME time, making it very hard to make choices that run counter to the mainstream. In fact, try choosing an opposing idea, and I'll bet someone has already pickled it and is selling it at a charming shoppe along Manhattan or Myrtle or Fulton or Franklin.

As the Q ages he laughs more at the silliness of it all, this need to choose an attitude or worldview w/condescension towards all others and stick with it. Who cares, I asks? Well, some people do, and if you're not looking closely you may miss their humanity and mistake their choices for the wrong choices and dismiss them entirely, or not even notice. Case in point...displacement. It's easy to assume that the displacement of long-residing folks in an "up-and-coming" neighborhoods is a result of simple market forces - supply and demand, stemming from the expression of a million Americans making the same contrary-wise choice at the same time - to buy real estate of the same ilk in the same places that were once shunned by the dominant culture and are now relatively cheap for those coming back. The Brownstoner movement, and the desire for new and rehabilitated housing in once-impoverished neighborhoods, has created a perverse incentive to speed the rate of change. After all, what person of considerable means with a quality baccalaureate education wants to live in "the ghetto?" Sure diversity is nice...but c'mon now, a feller needs a few goldarn amenities!

Here the discussion breaks down into finger-pointing. Developers get called out. Whites and middle-class Blacks and Browns become usurpers. Ruffians get lumped in with honest folk. Privilege begets privilege and entitlement breeds contempt. Old resents young, young bemoans old, and new businesses take hold where others founder. The die gets cast, the cast dies, and the whole theatrical production becomes mired in labor redundancy, cancelling the final run and assuring a sequel with a new set of actors.

And who gets off with nary a nick? Landlords of course. The single-most powerful link in the chain is the landlord who, seeing green, cheats-coerces-tricks-cons-or generally skirts the law to turn apartments protected by rent stabilization into cash cows and those folks on housing subsidies into pariah.

Why does the Q harp on it so much? He's pissed and feels helpless to help, and keeps searching for answers. The growing organization of 626 Flatbush opponents makes me wonder if there's appetite out there to take on the real problem, not so much the developer with incentive to build, but with the landlord with the incentive to destroy.

I'm not out to scapegoat anyone. But there are some real goats out there, and if I could I would help identify them, alert folks to their methods and bring the worst of the lot to justice. Anything less is a failure of those with power and access to wield that power with compassion. When it's too late, it's too late.

Is Northern Crown Heights heading towards its NoCro moment? CroHiNo? NoCroHi? Or like Ft. Greene is it now getting bigger - Prospect Heights with a splash of Crown? And when does Brownsville get its day? Don't be smirking...the next stop on the IRT express is calling out to become tomorrow's BroVee or ENY, pronounced Eenie, for East New York.

"Yeah man, got priced out of BroVee and just found a loft in Eenie. Trevor just got married and moved into the "hot" school zone. He's gone totally mainstream and living over in bourgie E-Flab. Can you believe he was a rich kid, growing up in NoCro? I always thought he was more Oz Park. But even Oz Park is getting too trendy for me."