The Q at Parkside

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

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"A Better Brooklyn For Everyone" or "Together...For A Better Tomorrow"

Hey, choose your favorite upbeat catchphrase, cause things are DEFINITELY heating up around here politically. Sylvia Kinard, she of last year's attempt to dethrone our rep in Congress Yvette Clarke, has announced she's running for Mathieu Eugene's seat. She's a semi-seasoned vet of politics and former wife of mayoral candidate Bill Thompson who clearly wants to be elected something. But she ain't the only horse in the race to unseat the so-called "Haitian Sensation."

Saundra Thomas, a longtime community affairs VP at WABC-TV, is also running for the Council seat. This means we have at least two strong candidates to upset the incumbent, and it'll be fierce I bet before it's over. Oh...Kinard's tag is "A Better Brooklyn For Everyone" while Thomas is going with "Together...For A Better Tomorrow." Already I prefer anyone with the guts to use ellipses in her catchphrase. If she had added a hyphen she'd already have my vote.

Here are a couple of snapshots of the Flatbushians running for your favor, first Saundra then Sylvia:

Much more to come on these two women and the man they hope to fire. I've gotten to know Eugene pretty darn well, and Saundra pretty well too. I have no canards to share about Kinard, and no reason to be doubting Thomas, so let's just sing along with Glen Frey now - "The Heat is On!"

Need Googa? Support the Park and Get Your Mooga.

The Q happens to know that a LOT of you didn't get tix to the Grape Google Moogle coming up May 17-19th. You entered the lottery; you got shut down. But here's the secret "back door" way to get your tickets to the music and food and drink fest that everyone loves or hates but probably wants to go anyway.

Just donate some money to the Prospect Park Alliance (starting at $35) and two Googy Moogy tickets are yours, plus a cute water bottle or some such. That's right. Don't delay. Word is these Goggle Moggle tix are selling for upwards of $50 a piece out on the open market. Why not share some love for Park you love and get your tickets the old fashioned way? Uhhhhhrrrrrn them.

As a fundraiser and Park lover, I urge you to take this offer and run with it. Tell your friends. Let's send the Park a mountain of cash to keep up the good work of making the park betterer. See you on the Nethermead for "homemade" sloppy joes at the Gripe Giggy Miggy!

Monday, April 29, 2013

CB9 Says "Yes" to Plaza Projects

Last Tuesday was a particularly gratifying night for the forces of positive change in the physical appearance of the neighborhood (the following day, the physical appearance of your humble reporter took a serious nosedive, er, eyedive, referenced in a previous post, perhaps as some sort of karmic balancing act).

The Community Board met and heard presentations on our local neglected public plazas that abut Prospect Park. First up, from In Cho and Rudy Delson, came a power point presentation on plans for the Q at Parkside Plaza to get a facelift to coincide with the renovations to the station itself slated to begin this summer. The crowd peppered the two with questions about the nature of the changes and how the plaza would be used after its up-sprucing and who would be in charge of its use. The short answer is that despite the open-to-anyone Parkside Project committee's involvement, the plan is for the community to continue to devise its own plan in an open and free exchange of ideas. However, the DOT wants SOME group to take responsibility for the plaza's upkeep and maintenance of any plants, so there will need to be some organization charged with the job. The Parkside Project committee is currently trying to find the right balance in that regard. There will need to be startup money and an annual maintenance budget - that's why elected officials are being brought up to speed and asked to contribute commitments of support. It's all very much a work in progress, but now that CB9 has given the go-ahead, and DOT has pledged the initial landscaping toys of planters-benches-graniteblocks-trees, and we have a professional pro-bono designer on board, and the committee has continued to grow and flourish through outreach and a general sense of excitement...hey, the sky's the limit. There's still plenty of ways to get involved, and I encourage you to email me so I can add you to the growing list of supporters interested in volunteering, in order to bring this slab of concrete back into the hands of the people who traverse it every day. That's us!

Following the Parkside Project came a presentation by local artist David Eppley on his proposed project to bring a much needed medium-length temporary art piece to the dilapidated green sheet metal Flatbush Trees. Eppley's idea was previously endorsed by CB9's Parks and Land Use committees, found a partner in local spread-the-wealth community arts group PLG Arts, and the proposal went to DOT's Arterventions program. We'll soon know the answer from DOT whether their panel digs the plan enough to give its official go-ahead.
The idea for the project includes Eppley involving local kids in making the hexagonal brightly-colored industrial tape shapes that will give the trees their psychedelic-spring-like visage, as rendered above.

I'm happy to report that both projects received near unanimous approval from the Board itself during its executive session. But there was a caveat to the feel-goodiness, one worthy of note. A few concerns were raised about the relative cultural inclusiveness of the project by City Council candidate Laurie Cumbo (whom I've happily endorsed, though she's actually in the 35th district which starts at Empire on-north) and local artist Javaka Steptoe. I can honestly say, from my vantage point, that at every step of the way I've noted an intense effort towards the goal of community inclusion and outreach. Both projects will involve significant input and involvement by locals from diverse backgrounds, old-timers and new. But despite all that, I managed to receive a bit of an earful on the importance of appearance as well as substance, particularly in the makeup of the speakers and leadership of such projects, not to mention the artists or designers themselves.

Okay, enough euphemisms. Laurie said the leadership at CB9 and and on these projects is overtly white. No, she didn't say too white exactly. She said there aren't enough folks championing the cause or making the art who are people of color. She stood up and noted that the neighborhood is predominantly Caribbean and African American (true, though census-wise less so now than any time in 30 or 40 years) and that public projects of these sorts should make every effort to feel inclusive of these communities. True, true and true again.

Did this make me feel a little uncomfortable? Yeah, but just a tiny bit. I mean Laurie's running for Council and inclusion is her theme - "We're All In This Together" says her poster. And while that sounds nice and sweet and lovey-dovey peacey weacey, the fact is that gentrification has swept the neighborhoods she hopes to represent at a pace that I haven't seen in...well, ever. And not everyone is cheering. Ft. Greene, you could pretty much see that one coming. But Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights? My God you can barely recognize parts of them for all the Browstonerism and palefaces. And while there's plenty of good that's come from the economic revitalization of once-blighted neighborhoods, the rents all around have sky-rocketed and the very "sense of place" has been uprooted for many old-timers. Even middle-timers are being priced out, or if they are lucky enough to own their homes they'd likely be unable to afford one there now. Schools are being rethought or integrated, infrastructure is being refurbished, amenities are catering to a new clientele. It's truly shocking to even yours truly, a pretty longtime Brooklynite who grew somewhat immune to reality of a constant rollicking reinvention that is NYC. BUT, when that change comes in poorer black communities, and quickly, and sometimes with insensitivity, there's bound to be backlash, or at the very least hurt feelings and damaged pride. I'm actually shocked when I meet people who don't recognize this fact, but that's the very nature of the beast I suppose. If all you're thinking about is housing stock and restaurants, you're likely to miss the real story going on underneath our noses. Even the word "pioneer," applied to housing and businesses alike, is incredibly loaded, and I've heard it used more often than I'd like to admit.

I may be naive, but that's the VERY REASON I've gotten so excited about public plazas and community art and renovated train stations and smart public safety measures that doesn't just involve random stop and search tactics that don't work and create hostility. The point here, to me, has been to create opportunities to do stuff that we can all do together, without controversy and with near universal acceptance. Things that don't favor one group over another. BUT...when a dude comes up with an idea, like Rudy Delson or David Eppley, and it's a good one, and they show the passion and drive to make it happen, using as many people from the community as they can...should they be penalized for the color of their skin? Isn't there an English language word for that kind of thing, judging people on the basis or race rather than on the content of their character or worthiness of their deeds? I'm searching for it...can't quite pull it from

In a certain way, this whole gentrification thing, it's so colonial, you know? Despite the fact that it doesn't involve sovereignty, there is historical precedent for this sort of thing, even if the metaphor doesn't fit exactly. And yet, it really doesn't have to be so traumatic. There's a way to cut through the bull, but it definitely means meeting, talking, learning to trust, and most of all realizing that the steady march of rents and prices upward affects everyone, not always negatively. For instance, ask the person who bought a house in the 1970's and sold it recently whether the churn of money favored him/her or not.

I'm also aware of what Laurie wisely identified as people's tendency to gather within their "racial comfort zones." You don't see such sort of mixes of people in the same room often enough, but when you do it's certainly enlightening. The playground is one place to note it in full bloom. People are drawn to people they think they know or understand culturally. It's the human tribal thing, and you have to try hard to resist the urge to congregate and socialize conservatively.

I continue to draw inspiration from every interaction I have when I stretch outside the "comfort zone," and I honestly believe that we could all make a better effort to reach our hands out to people who come from different backgrounds. It's made a world of difference in my life when I manage to do it, and community is about developing trust so much more than giving lip service to the feckless concept of "diversity." In fact, when I hear that word these days, I hear a certain laziness or fear. It's not descriptive anymore, and a stand-in for other words that people are afraid to use. "Call it what it is," I want to scream. Please just go ahead and use the words black or white or Asian or Latino or gay or rich or poor or educated or ignorant or whatever, and use it in a sentence the way you mean it. I guess I'm still naive enough to think there's an honest conversation to be had.

Oh yeah, and those blog comments about that post on Buffie the School Slayer. Oy vey!

too rich to miss

psssst: y'all have got to check out the brawl happening in the comments over on a recent post. seriously, i don't even have the words to describe it. i'll take down most of it soon, but i'm so mesmerized i can hardly wait for the next comment. the screen names, the bizarre volleys...reminds me a lot of high school frankly. which is appropriate i guess. oh blogosphere! have you no shame?

not that it had any impact on the question at hand. the lefferts gardens charter school has been given permanent co-location within ps92's building on parkside.

i'm not using capital letters as a means of being digitally hush-hush, since this buffie character is clearly on a rampage plus has many enemies and i fear i may be lashed once more over the right eye, this time by a nasty district superintendent who is, in her own words, busy "counting the money." juicy, y'all. very juicy.

Wear Your &$%*#&$ Helmet!!

Last week, the Q took a spill on his bicycle over by the House That Ratner Built, on the 6th Ave side across from the willy optimistic 500 bike racks (hey, man, let's bike over to the Nets/Islanders/Rolling Stones/Barbara Streisand etc. show!) 25 stitches and 5 days later, it still looks like this:

Is there a moral? Yeah, don't graze a curb in a swerve. A full day at Brooklyn Hospital on Dekalb ended in a big negativo for brain damage (perhaps it even corrected some of my previous brain damage due to a reckless youth). But the fact is, and my E.R. doc confirmed, that I'm incredibly lucky.  He sees bike accidents SANS HELMETS all the time, and there's often no opportunity to be grateful after those sometimes fatal and nearly always seriously concussive events.

Wear your helmet. Please. It's crazy out there sometimes, and while I drive incredibly carefully with the child on the back, I can be admittedly a bit risky when riding on my own. Given that we grown adolescents are going to continue sing along to Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' With Disaster," just wear your helmet, no matter how dorky you think you look. I'm living proof that even WITH one you can sustain some pretty serious wounds.

Ride safe.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Crime Blotter - 71st Precinct

Thx again to Nicole Fabri and Vinnie Martinos for their time putting this together...71st precinct SW quadrant. They compile this by hand, so there are sometimes crimes missing by mistake. Gives you an idea of what sorts of things have been happening though.

Crime ReportMarch 14 - April 22, 2013


March 17th, 6PM. Rutland Rd and New York Avenue. At gunpoint, jewelry and cash robbed from victim. Arrest was made.

March 18th, 4:30. 142 Winthrop. At gunpoint wallet stolen involving three perps.

March 20th, 6PM. 122 Nostrand Ave. Cell phone strong armed from victim.

March 21st, 5PM. 250 Hawthorne Street. Inside apartment lobby, at gunpoint jewelry and purse stolen. Two arrests were made.

March 22, 7:30PM. 110 Empire Blvd. At gunpoint, in lobby of apartment building victim was robbed, took cell phone and cash.

March 25th, 8PM. 17 Ocean Ave. Robbed Chinese delivery man of food and cash.

March 27th, 8PM. 161 Clarkson. At gunpoint, inside apartment, took $90, jewelry and electronics. Apartment appeared to be not used as living quarters and this apartment appears to have been targeted for this crime.

March 28th, 7PM. Rutland and Rogers. Cell phone strong armed from victim.

March 30th, 9:30PM. Rutland & Bedford. At gunpoint, cell phone taken from victim. Three arrests were made.

April 2nd, 11:30PM. Rogers and Parkside. Cell phone strong armed from victim.

Felony Assaults

April 2nd, midnight. 51 Lincoln Rd. Person was being ejected from the premise (this is a bar), and the person assaulted the bouncer.

April 9th, 8PM. 1176 Nostrand Ave. A fist fight occurred on the street and an arrest was made.


March 18th, 7PM. 35 Maple. Apartment, came through front door, stole jewelry and electronics.

March 20th, 3:30PM. 260 Hawthorne. Apartment building, came in through side window and took jewelry.

March 21st, 1PM. 225 Parkside Avenue. Pried front door open, took electronics and cash.

March 29th, 7PM. 25 Lefferts, commercial location. Came in through side door and took tools.

April 11th, 10AM. 245 Hawthorne. Tried to enter through rear window but resident woke up and perps ran.

April 12th 2AM. 40 Lincoln Rd. Forced open the basement door and took tools.

Grand Larceny (No physical force between victim and perp)

In the time period of this crime report, there were fourteen victims living in PLG who's debit or credit cards were used without authorization. The cards' information could have been stolen anywhere (in this state or another, online, over the phone, in a restaurant). The victims live in PLG.

March 20th, 7PM. 93 Midwood. Cell phone snatched.

March 21st, 12:30AM. 40 Lincoln Rd. victim was sleeping in apartment, claimed that after he woke, $3000 from his pocket was missing. At the same time, the woman that was living with him disappeared and changed her cell number.

April 3rd, 10PM. 1095 Nostrand. Commercial hair salon. Victim put her purse down and it was stolen.

April 8th, 5:30PM. Flatbush and Midwood. Victim was pickpocketed of cash and credit cards.

April 10th, 4AM. Nostrand & Midwood. Cell phone snatched.

April 13th, 7PM. Flatbush and Ocean. In transit station, cell phone snatched.

April 15th, noon. 632 Flatbush. Victim was in apartment, went into shower, when they returned their laptop was missing. The victim's boyfriend was gone also.

April 15th, 6PM. 535 Parkside Avenue. Cell phone snatched.

April 17th, 11:00AM. Flatbush & Ocean. Cell phone snatched.

Grand Larceny Auto

April 8th, 12:30PM. In front of 251 Lefferts Avenue. 2009 Black Nissan Maxima stolen. Victim left his keys in the car and went inside. When he came back out, he saw two people entering his car and driving away.

April 9th, 12:30PM. 285 Hawthorne. A man was shot inside his vehicle several times. He attempted to drive away from the location and crashed the van and died. Male 42 years. The victim of the shooting had a past criminal history. The victim and the perps all knew each other. Witnesses, DNA, and other evidence yielded four arrests within two hours of the crime.

There were no rapes this month.

A picture was put out a few days ago for a rapist on the southeast side of the precinct. The perp was wanted for three known rapes in the area. The perp has been positively ID'd by at least one victim and they're waiting for DNA results from the other two victims.

Mary Pinkett - A Street In Her Name - Tuesday April 30 11am

For many moons, Mary Pinkett cast a big shadow over the neighborhood. As the councilwoman for Lefferts and environs north and east of us in a different configuration of council lines, she was a tireless crusader for the people of her district. She served for 28 years (pre term limits!) from '74 to '01. She was the first black NYC councilwoman. From everything I've heard, she was a model leader, and someone who was able to bring people together no matter their background or outlook. Such leadership is always welcome, particularly as neighborhoods go through big changes in short order.

And what better road to get your name on than Washington between Lincoln, Lefferts? Something like that...

Come out and see a tiny portion of DOT real estate get named in her honor:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Past Rears Its Ugly Headhouses

Some great photos came my way via local resident Kendall Christiansen, who led the effort to make Maple Street School happen at the Prospect Park Q/B/S more than 15 years ago. Check these out. I trust you all know the two stations in question, shot mid-1990s. And yes, for those of you to new to remember, the Q was the D back then, and bizarrely, today's B was the Q, which I used to always associate with "Quick" for express. The brilliance that is NYCTA! And yes (too perfect for words), the name of that presumably Korean owned deli is "Seoul."

TONIGHT! Come See the Presentation On the "Plazas" of Lefferts Gardens!! CB9 Mtg & Vote

It's finally time to vote. The Community Board has placed the two items the Q cherishes most onto the agenda for next Tuesday night's meeting. It's public, and your thoughts and attendance are most welcome. I'm extremely proud of everyone involved, since it's a mammoth task to get the attention of City agencies and to move forward with BIG ideas. And these are very big indeed.

Tuesday, April 23, 7PM
Middle School 61 Auditorium
400 Empire Blvd at New York Avenue

We decided to present the two at the same time on the same night to allow the most people possible to see and hear the presentations and to share on them. Come out and share folks. Let's see your faces!

Up first is the fabulous Flatbush Trees project, as conceived by local artist David Eppley and coordinated and partnered with PLG Arts. The proposal itself won committee support from CB9, and has led to a whole discussion of the use of the plaza generally. And so now, sketches and design ideas have been generated beyond Eppley's excellent long-term temporary public art project to retake the entire parking lot from the "squatters" parking there and build something permanent for the whole community, perhaps even changing the entrance to the train station to make better use of the plaza. Below are both Eppley's junior-high-school student aided art piece, then Johannes Knesl's initial designs for the whole plaza:

Then after David shows his design, look for the Parkside Project crew to tell you all about the plans, hatched 100% in conjunction with DOT's Plaza Program, to deal with the plaza in front of the Q at Parkside. In Cho's latest design below, and a new website is up:

Both projects will require sustained community support and some initial funding from all of us, along with City money from elected officials like the Councilman Eugene and (the next) borough president Eric Adams.

See you there...

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Q's School Tool: Part 4: The Brooklyn Apple Academy

I hear it said by parents all the time -- I want a progressive education for my kid. Well, if progressive means super small class size, hands-on learning, an arts-heavy curriculum and lots of quirk, you should really check out the organized homeschooling model that's sprouting up like sprouts all over, Brooklyn, USA. And while my image of homeschooling is a Polaroid of mom in the basement with a chalkboard and little desks, the actual ways in which homeskool kids are being larned at la casa vary greatly. One model is taking shape right here in Prospect Lefferts Flatbush (PLF), and while it's been primarily a pre-school to date, next year it starts logging paperwork to be an official alternative to "state indoctrination." The Brooklyn Apple Academy, founded by the creative and super-sweet homeschooled adult Noah Apple, combines the socialization element that comes with growing intellectually alongside a group of friends - with the playful freedom of a funky and quirky well-structured educational playdate. (I know I said I was sticking to looking at "public" schools, and generally that's true, but the BAA is the exception since it's right here in the 'hood and has enough individual intrigue to make it worthy of a visit).

While homeschooling is most often associated with a conservative Christian upbringing, there are many valid reasons why a "liberal" parent might choose to educate his/her kids outside of the rigors and propaganda of the industrial "Prussian" model of education. (I learned about the whole Prussian thing from Shimon Waronker on my tour of PS770 The New American Academy; it's basically the thing that you and I think of when we think of "school" - one teacher per grade at the head of class, pupils staring forward, requiring permission to go to the bathroom, teachers working in isolation etc. Though I must say the way it's described by detractors makes it sound like pure 1984 brainwashing, while my experience with public school felt very inquisitive and fun, lots of breakout groups and experimentation. But it IS interesting to think of the modern system as all about delivering a fundamentally obedient adherence to structure, society and State.)

So last week on my way to work I stopped off at the Brooklyn Apple Academy on a gorgeous early Spring day and stepped into a private house on one of Lefferts Manor's most gorgeous tree-lined blocks. The school is being hosted by a local couple whose kid attends, and a financial arrangement is worked out to use their home as school. As I stepped inside I was greeted by the sound of gleeful playing, as the actual "structured" school day doesn't start til "tea" is served around 9:30. The first thing I noted was the colorful chalkboard that had all sorts of useful and organizational info on it, looking thusly:

A cursory look shows that the days are actually quite structured, despite their artiness, and that "work time" includes actual lesson plans, often involving visits to actual local spots of interest and people doing interesting things. An upcoming visit, for instance, is to the Sacred Vibes Apothecary, a sort of New Age healing center that mixes up all manner of herbal remedies and tinctures. So yeah, there are school options out there that will introduce your kid to things other than the "state-sponsored" Zoo, Museum and Aquarium. (Dominant Culture getting you down? Head on over to Sacred Vibes for an elixir called "Think Different, But Still Do It On An iPad.")

But all joking aside, this is very real education. If inquisition and discovery are the main methods by which we learn, there's no reason to assume knowledge comes only or even mainly from "school." Plus, learning in a super-small group in a non-traditional school building might appeal to parents uncomfortable with the usual trappings of elementary school. Noah and his partner Lizzi Mazal are clearly skilled and loving educators, and the vibe is chill but with enough thoughtfulness to assuage any fears of a hippy-commune free-for-all. (Though, a little hippy-commune-free-for-all now and then ain't so bad, at least if everyone bathes regularly.)

This coming Fall, the school starts teaching 5-days a week to a small group of 4 or 5 and it won't be just preschool anymore. (Fascist!) forms needs to be filed and strict guidelines followed. But organized "homeschooling" has plenty of precedent, and given the skill and sweetness of the teachers, I'm sure these kids will turn out great and free-thinking. One catch of course - it ain't free. The parents pool money to come up with supplies and various trip costs and the salaries of the teachers. I don't know a precise figure, but it's gotta be north of $10K, maybe quite a bit north. BUT, even good quality private schools can't match the teacher:student ratio.

All in all, it's worth checking out. For the DoE-phobic, this sort of school could be the perfect alternative.

Mail Thief on Maple

The Postman Only Rings Once, and soon not on Saturdays, but the Postal-Thief Rings Not At All. He slinks through nights, rifling through your belongings and identify. From a reader comes this warning:

I live on Maple St near Rogers Ave. Please warn your readers that people are stealing mail that is placed into blue mailboxes.

I have collected dozens of pieces of mail that were strewn on the street - tax returns, bill payments, birthday cards, school transcripts, you name it.

When I first noticed this in January, I would return the mail to the senders. That soon became overwhelming as the volume increased. I now send the mail back to the USPO Consumer Affairs Division.

It started up again last (week) and I talked to a Federal enforcement agent who explained this is becoming rampant. These idiots are looking for "anything" - cash, Netflix CDs, identity theft, etc.

I know this is happening with the blue mailbox on the corner of Rogers and Maple, as well as mailboxes on Clarkson and probably others in the neighborhood.

Please warn people to only send mail inside the local post office building or hand it to a letter carrier.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rumors and Sighs, Rongs and Rights

Update from the 71st: Big fight broke out on Saturday night at LPT. Two people brought to the hospital. Fight started inside, seemed to be under control, but the instigators came back and fought with the bouncer. Two arrests, plus someone got cut at some point (laceration was the word used by the cops). Also, gunman was drinking there the night of the tragic shooting on Lincoln. 

So yeah, it's a sweet, diverse Cheers-like hangout. But I don't recall Norm going ballistic and pulling sh*t like that. Maybe I missed the series ender?

Emails and phone calls are flooding in about Lincoln Park Tavern, and while I'd love to just turn the page and let the sleeping dogs lie, I see no reason not to share what the Q knows and doesn't know. I'm not shocked to find out, for instance, that no one but landlady Rong Ge could possibly convince a licensed broker to post the $12K a month listing for LPT. I wasn't surprised a few months ago either, when in a rambling monologue she told me Jim Mamary wanted out and was looking for someone to take over the recently renewed lease, and was looking for "too much money in key fee," in her words, money that the person taking over the lease would have to pay Mamary for the privilege, since the place was basically ready to roll. A poster on the Yahoo Listserv said it was $20,000, and noted that she found out herself when she spoke to the realtor. The only thing I regret so far was having posted on the listserv, rather than keeping my comments to the blog. A listserv is not the place for such stuff, and as if to tell me this, the God's placed the listserv's founder/moderator in my path today. Freaky.

Now, the Q wasn't born yesterday, and he knows the landlady is nutty. And I'm pretty certain she's under some sort of financial strain, given the bizarre and unproductively greedy manner with which she treats her tenants (previous and now) and the $7K a month she's charging for her house on Maple.  The Q also knows that LPT's owner has lots of businesses, and that he's opened and closed restaurants all over town, often quite abruptly. And I'm told, albeit by someone close to the management, that LPT is one of the few business he has that reliably makes money. Which may mean he wants to keep it, or, just as easily, may mean it's an attractive property to sell, particularly if he's in need of cash. Mrs. Q reminded me that back in the day, when while performing as a modern dancer she made her money in trendy understated NYC restaurants for many years, that it was not at all atypical for owners to keep their plans from their employees, and sometimes workers would show up to work and find the joint closed or under new management. Cash businesses too, particularly those with bars, are often rife with other problems specific to the industry. No need to detail them, nor perpetuate rumors about any in particular. My point is that it's a notoriously fickle industry, and only the best restaurants under the best management survive for long. LPT may live to outlive us all. But it would certainly be no reflection on the neighborhood if it did not.

However, in the case of this sub-block of businesses, I've noted more than a slight defensiveness on the part of everyone and everything involved. It's as if the hopes and desires of the PLG neighborhood were and are riding on what happens in one small row of shops. I hope I'm not the only person who finds this to be utterly absurd. Why these particular businesses? At that exact locale? I mean really, what's all the fuss about?

Well, apparently it's struck a nerve, AGAIN, as it has everytime ANYTHING at all happens on that block, and the number of readers of the Q double, and this time some folks along with the perceived "bad news" they want to blame the messenger. That's cool, I can take it. But something's going on, and ain't just the rent. In fact, one thing I'm told is going on is that the service and food have gotten better since the main chef got back in the kitchen. And so, I'm glad to take a friend up on an offer to go check out the vittles again and offer up as pretty a picture of the "newly renovated" dining room and newly reinvigorated menu. As I've said before, I'm no gourmand, and generally easy to please.

To recap: The owner of the building placed an ad; it pissed off and scared a lot of people, and now the tenant on the lease, LPT, claims it's not true that he's getting out and that the ad was bogus. A poster on the listserv asked the community if it knew who placed the bogus ad. Frankly, there's only one person who could have, and she's working with that same agent renting her house. The community shouldn't have to chime in on that one - it's painfully obvious.

I just hope our friends and neighbors who work at LPT aren't being dicked around by Mamary. I asked his compatriots to tell him to give me a call, or text or email, so I can tell you his side of the story. I hope he does, so we can just chalk it up to "weird" and go have some dinner and drinks at his joint, without this zaniness hanging over the place. The Q hopes all's well that ends well, and wishes no one anything but the best possible outcome.

However, if the food still sucks, I reserve the right to say so.

G'night y'all!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Public Plazas For Lefferts: Come Out Tuesday to Support!

It's finally time to vote. The Community Board has placed the two items the Q cherishes most onto the agenda for next Tuesday night's meeting. It's public, and your thoughts and attendance are most welcome. I'm extremely proud of everyone involved, since it's a mammoth task to get the attention of City agencies and to move forward with BIG ideas. And these are very big indeed.

Tuesday, April 23, 7PM
Middle School 61 Auditorium
400 Empire Blvd at New York Avenue

We decided to present the two at the same time on the same night to allow the most people possible to see and hear the presentations and to share on them. Come out and share folks. Let's see your faces!

Up first is the fabulous Flatbush Trees project, as conceived by local artist David Eppley and coordinated and partnered with PLG Arts. The proposal itself won committee support from CB9, and has led to a whole discussion of the use of the plaza generally. And so now, sketches and design ideas have been generated beyond Eppley's excellent long-term temporary public art project to retake the entire parking lot from the "squatters" parking there and build something permanent for the whole community, perhaps even changing the entrance to the train station to make better use of the plaza. Below are both Eppley's junior-high-school student aided art piece, then Johannes Knesl's initial designs for the whole plaza:

Then after David shows his design, look for the Parkside Project crew to tell you all about the plans, hatched 100% in conjunction with DOT's Plaza Program, to deal with the plaza in front of the Q at Parkside. In Cho's latest design below, and a new website is up:

Both projects will require sustained community support and some initial funding from all of us, along with City money from elected officials like the Councilman Eugene and (the next) borough president Eric Adams.

See you there...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lincoln Park Tavern Officially For Rent - UPDATE - SHENANIGANS A-POPPIN'

Update: believe it or not, the link to the Lincoln Park Tavern City-Habitats rental listing, brokered by Steve Halpern, has mysteriously disappeared. No idea why, except a person on the listserve mentioned it, then the Q posted on it, then at some point . Perhaps someone can get to the bottom of it, or knows the backstory? Email me if you'd prefer not to comment publicly below...

Then about 4PM today, a neighborhood resident, speaking for LPT, claims that the ad was faked. Though how it was possible to "fake" a legitimate real estate broker's listing is beyond me. So the plot thickens further. If in fact there's some sort of hanky panky going on behind the scenes and/or the employees are being jerked around, my sympathies to the workers. If it was Mamary's plan to divest,  he should have told them a long time ago. How does it help anyone to hide in plain sight? It's not like word wasn't out. And if, small chance, he has no intention of letting go of the place, why wouldn't he be the one issuing any statement? 

More to the point, if LPT owners want to find out who places the "fake" ad, why not go directly to the building owner, or at the very least the broker? Looking to the community seems silly to me - as if anyone out there is trying desperately to deceive them all. I suspect Mamary's been found out, and is covering his tracks. The only other explanation would be that the landlady placed the ad without consulting Mamary, or used it as some sort of punitive thing, which is even MORE bizarre. And what sort of agent lists before getting the whole story? It all smells Jus Fishy to me.

Some folks seem surprised that Jim Mamary wants out and that this ad showed up on Citi-habitats, but they shouldn't be. The restaurant/bar is pretty much good to go to the right entrepreneur, and frankly it doesn't appear Mr. M has his heart in the game anyway. A bit of intrigue for those who like intrigue: the broker Steve Halpern listed in the ad? Same guy who starred in this video from a couple posts ago renting 125 Maple Street for $7K a month. The connection being that Rong Ge owns both properties, and yes, she would be the one retaining the small apartment in the bottom of the house and the garage were you to plop down that hefty monthly rent.

I'm sure there are those who will care deeply about it all, but I'm not one of them. The restaurant is sub-par; the bar is passable; the house is overpriced. Mamary said he'd give me an interview a few months back, then totally blew me off. I even offered a "puff piece." I told him I'd given Rong a chance to share and he could have one too, and if he had nice things to say to the neighborhood I'd be happy to act as his megaphone. About a week after saying yes, then refusing to return my texts and calls, I learned he was looking for someone to take over the joint. I was told by Rong to keep my trap shut so it wouldn't harm the business or scare the employees. And I chose to respect that.

Well, guess what? Now it's a public listing, so there's no more scaring to be done, by the Q anyway. And frankly, restaurants change hands all the time all over. Seriously, could we do much worse? LPT is barely better than an Applebees at this point. If you really think that LPT's food is to die for and think no other owner could do a better job, then by all means comment away, I expect LPT needs your support right about now. I expect the place to stay open til a buyer is found though, and it would be foolhardy not to keep the place a bar/restaurant. Who knows though. Foolish seems to be a popular enough pastime these days.

By the way, there are clearly people who like the place. Yelp is a fine place to start if you're seeking other opinions. Mine is mine alone, and I don't recall having one being a necessarily "hostile" act, as is suggested in a comment below. I'm actively encouraging your comments here, so prove me wrong. I frequently am. In fact, I'll take your challenge and give it yet another chance.

As to the "key fee" nature of the deal, whether true (Ge says it is) or not, all I can say is everything's negotiable, right? Even Rong's $84,000/yr house rental. But yeah, the "rent is too damn high," but whatevers. Welcome to NY.

FYI, a little secret. There are other storefronts and landlords in NW Flatbush and even right around LPT. The whole saga of that one strip housed in one building grows a bit tiresome, don't you think?

If anyone asked the Q, and they most certainly won't, Jim should keep open the bar (which seems popular enough) and let the restaurant slip into the hands of someone who really wants the business. The fact that he didn't want a little free advertising on a locally read blog speaks volumes to me. From the guy who practically started the neighborhood restaurant movement in Brooklyn (with the brilliant Patois on Smith Street), I really would expect more. And yes, Jim, if you want that puff piece I'm here; the offer stands.

Moses "Mike" Fried Frees Up Nearly $5 Million In Cash

It occurs to me that there are some of you too new the neighborhood to recall the sorry state of 205 Parkside just a couple years ago. It's still no great shakes, but a lot of lipstick's been thrown on that pig in order to open it someday as a "long-stay" hotel. It was retrofitted to that purpose, not unlike other Fried buildings in the area (on Woodruff) and elsewhere in Brooklyn whose ultimate purpose became either SRO or (in the case of the Lefferts Hotel and others) hourly fleabag hooker hostel. Those of us who have met, or know anything about, notorious scumbag Moses Fried, will tell you that he is not to be trusted any farther than you can toss him. Given his slight frame, and my large but still relatively strong though rusting middle-aged physique, I suspect I could heave him about three feet. Which means, I don't trust him more than three feet. Just trying to be as literal as I can about the matter. More background here. And here. And here. And here's what it looked like, not so very long ago:

So he owns other properties like the notorious "Lefferts Hotel," which is actually in Bed-Stuy, which by the way much of which actually started getting called Clinton Hill by clever people trying not to live or sell property in Bed-Stuy, and if you don't believe me just ask people who used to live in the area way back, and IF the word Clinton Hill was or wasn't used to described a tiny portion of what is now called that, which of course now has cache all its own, though I can guarantee if crime is your main concern you'll be moving sideways to move to parts of Clinton Hill and much of Bed-Stuy, though Ft. Greene has gotten remarkably quiet in the time since I've lived in NYC, now ranking among the lowest-crime nabes in Brooklyn, now where was I? 

Oh yes. According to reports, Moses Mike is about to clear $5 million for the above troubled hotel property on Schermerhorn, a dumpy dump so sordid it even had its own incredible story of being robbed floor to roof at one point in what seemed likely some sort of insurance scam. So the guy named after the sea-parting man has a little more cash flow, perhaps to finish his joint at 205 Parkside and get it open? Just taking a peek inside the "lobby" shows he has little interest in running anything more than he's done in the past. His big mistake this time is that we're not going to let him even get going with his "business model," are we? With 20,000 or more neighbors walking past every day, there will be plenty of eyes on the property. And you can count on the Q not to let go. I'll now happily take credit for the below mock-letters placed on the building a couple years ago, so yeah, the guy and his building really bug me and I'll personally stay on the story til he either sells of gets right with the law. Btw, David Tepper, it turns out, is his grandson. So when the octogenarian eventually heads to the land of eternal rest for slumlords (I hope wherever that is they have lots of cockroaches and infrequent running hot water), Tepper will be the man in charge.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Murder on Linden Near Flatbush

From the Daily News.

to comments from below:

Anon 10:14. I posted the story because it's very much in my neighborhood. I don't know where you live, and I don't know what your definition of neighborhood is, but I know my definition is about walking distance, and a sense of place, not what the map or some historic guidebook says. My post office is on Church at Bedford. I have friends who I like to visit on Bedford at Lenox. Linden is the street we turn down to go the airport. I like strolling down Flatbush because there are so many great, crazy shops down that way. The original "church" is down there, and Erasmus Hall, and some beautiful "terrace" blocks behind it. The name of this blog is The Q at Parkside, and were it to be solely about Lefferts I would have called it that I suppose. Really anything within a mile or so of the train is fair game. This incident was about a half mile from the train, in the 70th Precinct, but then the 70th is also the south side of Clarkson, and if I had two heads and two 24-hours a day I would spend more time getting to know them too.

To the question of safety, I can't answer. None of these most recent shootings, nor most shootings here or anywhere, involve thugs randomly going after honest Joes and Janes or god forbid children. The targets, if the multiple close-range shots are any indication, are clearly intended to kill specific people. This is more like a gang war. I'll be speaking with everyone I can in the next few days to find out more. Given what I've heard in the past, this is likely people who know each other killing each other, over "respect" and "turf" or "retribution." It's gruesome; it must be stopped. It's dangerous for all involved. But as I've said before, I don't think I or anyone reading this blog is an actual target, nor do I think anyone should hesitate to call the cops with anything they know about anything, even minor details.

I suspect there will be an attempt to formalize what has been pretty piecemeal to date: an Impact Zone, perhaps inter-precinct using the larger Brooklyn South Task Force (which is already VERY MUCH on the scene - check the BSTF on a lot of the cars around here), to identify who's got a beef with whom and why folks are resorting to violence to settle their disputes.

Finally, and I'm being honest about my own experience now, there are many options to create the illusion of safety, but (and I understand you may disagree) I don't believe there is such a thing as a "safe" place, or a "safe" way to live or eat or be. Accidents happen all the time. I don't own a car for instance; statistically, this makes me safer. I ride a bike; statistically, this makes me less safe. I could go on with my sick little safety calculations that I make it my head, but again, I think this is entirely personal. If you don't want to think about crime, don't think about it. I for one wouldn't blame you. But I won't stop talking about it, because I still think it's better to have information and organize than to lock ourselves in or just move.

But one should still be safe and aware at all times. One suggestion? Don't get lost in your headphones or cellphones. At the very least, you're less likely to get them stolen! Here's hoping they get to the bottom of this madness, and soon...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

125 Maple - A Video Tour

It's been called House Porn, and for good reason. 125 Maple is available to rent for $7,000 a month. If you haven't had a chance to see the inside of this local mansion, here's your chance!

125 Maple Street from Steven Halpern on Vimeo.


Monday, April 15, 2013

UPDATE: HE'S BEEN ARRESTED: Wanted Poster - Rapist Still On the Loose

UPDATE: 4/20/13: From Vinnie at the 71st: 

There has been an arrest made in regards to the rape pattern on the photo that was released to the public. Perp was arrested and positively identified.

It's never fun to post these pictures. But I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't. This guy is likely responsible for at least two other rapes within the area of the 71st and 69th Precincts, Call 911 or 718-230-4421 for Detective Jonathan Cruz:

And from the NY Times comes word that he's still at it. Scary stuff. Please note that he's been "luring" people - don't know what that means, but please don't let anyone talk you into going anywhere!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Know Thy Neighbor: Saul Bolton

Chester Court remains one of the odd treasures of the neighborhood. A series of Tudor-style townhouses on a cul-de-sac just off the "Low-Line" of the rumbling Q train, Chester is one of those blocks you WANT to walk down on a sunny afternoon, but you'd feel a bit odd doing it. Like Beekman and Westbury and Parkside Courts, Chester is a bit of a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a roti. And of the number of interesting families living down yonder, one of those cute houses belongs to the Bolton family. Never heard of the Boltons of Chester Court? (sounds pretty regal, doesn't it?) Well, the patriarch is heralded worldwide as one of the greatest American chefs - Saul Bolton.

Saul does not look the part of a chef known as one of the pioneering folk who put Brooklyn on the culinary map. When I met him last week for a coffee and chat in the park, he looked more the part of Soundgarden Fan circa 1993 than One-Star Michelin restaurenteur. (Not that I had been expecting Mario Batali,
whose rosy mug I shan't miss if I never saw again, his foppish self depicted to the right for reference. While his signature "crocs" are out frame, I imagine that "sausage muffler" extending all the way to his toes. ewww. Toe Sausage. Ewwww! Though I suspect neighbor Saul could manage to make it quite tasty, even a serving of Mario Batali's toes.)

It seems that after a stint at #7 most hippy school Reed College in Oregon, Bolton saw David Bouley's picture on the cover of a magazine and realized he could not only practice his craft and love for cooking, he could make a nice name for himself doing so. So off to NYC he trekked, to apprentice for the master himself. And after a time, Bolton set up shop in the just-awakening Smith Street in 1999. Mrs. Q and I ate there not long after it opened, and were so impressed we've recommended the place to countless others, never really going back due to restricted funds and pure laziness I suppose. The Michelin Man gave him a star, which unlike record reviews means you've pretty much surpassed every colleague around you for superior food, service and presentation. There's only one other "new" restaurant in all of Brooklyn to earn the coveted "Michelin Star" - Colin Devlin's Dressler out in Billyburg. That's how intense is the competition! (Luger and River get one, but they've been listed for ages apparently).

But I'm not a foodie, and have no desire to watch celebrity chefs prancing about on the TV, cable or otherwise, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Saul's the kind of smart local dad that you can talk to about just about anything, including Wendy's hamburgers and my own specialty, toasted Monterey Jack quesadillas. I started to realize while talking to Saul that there's a lot in common between the food and music bizzes, and so it's not surprising that "FOOD" has been called the new "ROCK N ROLL," though I can guarantee I've never boogied down to anything made of quinoa or back bacon.  (I'm trying to picture Grand Funk Railroad singing "We're an American Bistro," and the picture's kinda fuzzy, even with my Radio Shack rabbit ear antenna).

But yeah, lately music rags have been really, really into top ten lists, and top 100 lists and complicated rating systems ( a la Zagat's. And I'll take it a step further and say that cheffing seems very much akin to songwriting, a craft that I'm still trying to perfect after 35 years at least two hundred completed attempts at "the perfect dish." Clearly Saul Bolton has one of those rare gifts that come along only so often, and he love-love-loves the feeling of putting it all together and getting it just right. The Q's idea of a perfect song? Check out "Daughter" by Loudon Wanwright, III, though of course I'm a little biased given my four-year study in hands-on parenting. "Penny Lane's" not too shabby. "Tangled Up In Blue?" "Everyday" by Buddy Holly?" Just about anything by the young John Prine? "Waiting for the Silent Boatman" or "Can You Get to That?" by Parliament/Funkadelic? "Bye Bye Pride" by the Go-Betweens? "Beep" by Pylon? "Have You Forgotten" by Red House Painters? "Edelweiss?" "Maybe" from the musical Annie? Or beyond Edelweiss, ust about anything by Rodgers and Hammerstein? (Wow, I'm really showing my background now!) Hey, I was in "Oklahoma" twice growing up, playing Jud AND Will, then Emil in "South Pacific." That stuff really stays in your ears like wax!

Bottom line, I think it's pretty darn cool that one of NYC's greatest chefs lives right here among us. He loves taking Dollar Vans, especially after a long night at the restaurant he started, Saul. He's also opened The Vanderbilt (on Vanderbilt!) and Red Gravy (neither on Red Gravy street, nor named after someone named Red Gravy, though I am considering changing my name). If you want to explore Brooklyn's culinary revolution, you'd be well served to try all three. the all-important question that I was so inclined to ask that I forgot during our actual conversation and had to email him later for an answer.

Q's Q: What food could you recommend right here in the neighborhood, if you could choose but one joint?

SB's A: Anything from Scoops- he rocks - ital.

Folks, I don't need to state the obvious. One of the most trusted chefs in town just gave you a rock solid recommendation for a local take-out hole-in-the-wall on Flatbush that also serves fantastic vegan ice cream. If you haven't tried Scoops ital (pronounced eye-tahl, also known as Rastafarian) food, get thee over there and don't be shy. If you need further evidence of Scoops' reputation, there's always this NY Times review.

And to Saul, all I can say is, see you at one of your joints right soon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reflections On a Day of Comments

It must be painfully obvious to anyone who reads the Q regularly that I have a great interest in the quality of life issues affecting us all. Public safety I've discovered, from the various fora and meetings I've attended, to the Community Board committees and hearings, to the Envisioning CB9 shindig we held recently at the BBG (the second coming soon at the Jewish Museum), is absolutely the #1 priority across the neighborhood. Whether you're new to the neighborhood or have lived here more than half-a-century - maybe even from birth - the question of whether you feel safe in and outside your home and on the streets of your neighborhood, this is of paramount concern. Not surprisingly, I find that this is the case throughout the City. I bet you could find that it is similarly true throughout the country, or certainly in areas of high density.

And despite all the talk, per capita this is STILL a safe neighborhood. We in Brooklyn are constantly looking over our shoulders at other 'hoods or boroughs, but if you filter out the noise you're still less likely to be the victim of a violent crime here than in most cities of the country. The cops are reacting right now in a big way, but Son of Sam isn't out there and there's no reason for us to stop living life normally. It's a rise in crime, not a foreign invasion.

Each morning (I've become in middle age one of those early even-before the kids risers), I look out my front first floor window and watch dozens of people walk by. Most are going to work; a few are walking their dogs. And yes, a tiny few are stumbling home from a late, late night out. By 7am, the parade is pretty constant. Without exception, they seem like nice people going about their business. I wouldn't hesitate to smile or chat with any of them, though they often look very busy and lost in their own thoughts or plans for the day. Soon, lots of kids are in tow, being taken to day cares or schools, parents (and I relate to this) often struggling to keep the kids on target for their drop-off times. Some parents seem to possess a preternatural patience of Job; others lose their cool quickly. I've been both parents, sometimes in the same day, so I have to chuckle at the epic battles for control.

Point? These are my neighbors. They are the ones I think about when I write this blog, when I think about raising a family here, and staying and fighting for the good things, through the best and bad. They're why I love Brooklyn, THIS part of Brooklyn, this version of America. It's very inspiring actually, to live among every flavor of person, all trying valiantly to live a good life and provide for their families and maybe even give something back to the culture and people that helped them grow. I believe that one of my jobs now that I'm one of the adults (eek!) is to lead by example, to live the ethical and moral equivalent of a good life and to try to guide the next generation a little bit, without coming across too pedantic. I know, I know, I fail on that last point regularly. Remember, I'm writing a blog here! It's kinda what they're for, not the pedantry, but definitely the opinionating.

And so when an issue comes up about crime, I'm often saddened to see how quickly we go from talking about the relative few bad guys to big questions of race, class and gentrification. It's not that I don't see how they play a role - I do. But imagine with me, for a moment, that we were living in, say, Nebraska, that was experiencing a rise in crime and gang-like behavior. Would we have to start talking about skin color in order to discuss the issue of lawlessness? Would it be possible to focus just on the bad apples, the bad houses and buildings, the bad landlords, even the bad extended families, the police and police tactics, the relationship between the police and the law-abiders, the coming together to form block watches and block associations, keeping our eyes out for illegal activity, creating drug-free zones, working with cops and families on crisis intervention, finding jobs for young kids at risk, developing community centers, looking for money for smart after-school programs...the list is long. But none those solutions has anything to do with race. Even all-white suburbs deal with this stuff. We're just not that special.

My buddy Celeste likes to remind me that race is at the heart of many of our conversations and lurks under the surface and can't be denied, and I don't disagree. But that doesn't mean we can't parse this stuff out a bit. Actually, one thing I've learned in life that's been EXTREMELY important is how essential it is to parse stuff out, lest you run around willy nilly reacting without reason. You can't look at our neighborhood of (depending on how you draw the boundaries) 20K - 50K people and say assuredly what it IS and ISN'T. And yeah, it's in flux, bigtime. But even that flux is only gonna take into account a swing of 10 or 20% in the next few years, because most people tend to stay in their homes for a long time. Ownership and rent stabilization laws encourage this, and it's why (in principle anyway) I support the idea of rent price controls. (Yes, I'm aware of the arguments for and against). I know things are going to change, but I don't want them to change so fast that we have the reverse happen of what happened in the '50s and '60s, when the earlier generation, often through deceitful blockbusting, left so fast they took much of the bedrock social infrastructures of neighborhoods with them, all throughout NYC, leaving a bankrupt and corrupt city behind them. Suddenly so many instrumental people were gone, and house prices fell so fast and furious, and vacancies shot up, that good folk had to struggle to retain some hold on civil society. But here's the thing - they DID. Look around. The reason this neighborhood is still so livable and great? It's not because of people who moved in when I did ten years ago, that's for sure, though I do hope I haven't hurt. Nor is it the movers from five years ago, or last week. It's because of the generation before us, like Celeste and Bob and Elaine Marvin and Bob Thomason and Lindiwe Kamou and the dozens of African and Caribbean-American board members that I've had the pleasure of getting to know. And on my block, there's my friend and block association mate Janice, and Pat across the street, and Vietnam vet Mr. Mathews, and Mr. Sam who just loves to garden, and countless others that I've had the pleasure to get to know. Please remember them when you're talking about the neighborhood - they may not be commenting on this blog or even reading it, but they're here, very much invested in what's happening now and next.

I love the way Eric Adams, our State Senator and soon to be Borough President (go get 'em Eric) took on, for instance, the low-riding pants of young black men. Talk about parsing it out! He took the time to recognize "the Sag" as part of a historical narrative, and then just needed to say "we're better than that." If you haven't seen it, you kinda got to. It's pretty amazing: STOP THE SAG.

That to me is successful parsing. When you don't do it, you end up making statements that you regret, or that get "taken the wrong way," because you start to globalize things that are actually very specific and often very local.

O.K. That's enough from me for today.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

PLG - Policing Lefferts Gardens

So you can't have missed it. Cops on nearly every corner of the neighborhood, from Clarkson/Flatbush to New York and Eastern Parkway. It would be easy to mistake this as a response to the shooting on Hawthorne, but point of fact the mobilization plan was being set a week earlier - the timeline just got pushed up. Jack Lewis, our Commanding Officer at the 71st had been "called downtown" just about the time I'd written him a note about the striking rise in crime in the precinct this year over last. He told me I wasn't the only one who'd noticed. I asked if he might finally get the reinforcement he'd been asking for. I'd say we have our answer. In a message to the community from a couple hours ago, he wrote:

We will have big presence out there for the next few weeks. we are going to rtry and set the tone for the summer. When we loose the extra help, we will need your help in identifying Soproblem spots before they manifest themselves as acts of violence.
So I suppose that's all for the best, for now. It's a shame it took the last few major events to get the fuzz to wake up. Two years ago, members of the community started noticing an increase in gang activity. And I'm not talking about middle-aged guys hanging on street corners drinking beers or playing chess. I'm talking about drug dealers and gang bangers. To anyone with eyes it was clear, especially to longtime African-American and Caribbean-American residents I've gotten to know, who'd lived through tough times in the '80 and '90s. (Newcomers have their suspicions too, but sometimes they're not as quick to judge the good guys and the bad guys). We as a larger PLG community started meeting in churches in the neighborhood and talking to one another, and at State Senator Eric Adams Office. Adams even produced an ambitious (overly if you ask me) plan to  A forum was hatched by the Councilman, then the D.A. then...then I got annoyed and posted this. If you go back on this blog you'll see one meeting after another, trying to develop a response and bring people together. They were all fascinating in their own way, but clearly nothing was happening. Really, nothing was happening but talk.

So I got sick of it and started a petition. Please sign it...when I presented it to Jack he was very impressed by the number of folks (325 so far) right here in this part of the Precinct who'd taken the time to sign in and vote their concern. He got a couple more cops, but frankly they've mostly been driving around - not exactly the Officer Friendly with a billy club we were hoping for. Still, a start.

But the response I got from him at that meeting still rings in my ears. I think it was middle of December, and he said "Tim, I know that folks have a feeling about that part of the precinct, but I just don't see the numbers yet to justify a wholesale change in tactics. We're getting killed on Utica, so we're focusing on that right now. But yes, we'll do our best to get more beat cops."

Well, now you've got the numbers, at least overall in the precinct, to backup wholesale change. Here they are: 35% rise in robberies. 55% rise in felony assaults. Grand Larceny up 32%. Overall crime up 22%. If the Lincoln Road victim dies, plus the Hawthorne shooting, that'll be 5 murders to 0. That's an...infinity rise in murders. All this is year to date year over year. THAT's why you're seeing all those officers.

You know the craziest part? When you talk to cops in the know, they'll tell you that a huge amount of crime can be traced back to two extended families. You heard right. One of them I'm very familiar with, all with the same last name, and they've menaced my block and others around it for years. Let's call them the Hatfields since I've no reason to get into details here. The McCoys are apparently no pussycats either, and are located a little north and east of me.

There are a couple other avenues of response that have worked elsewhere - the D.A.'s office and the Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, a broader group led by Asst. Chief Chan that doesn't adhere to strict precinct boundaries. I just wrote to Chan today, on the suggestion of Detective Martin Brown. The narc squad is already deeply involved. Don't know what it was about, but a kid got collared right in front of my house today.

One last thing. Pearl Miles, cantankerous but almost always truthful District Manager said tonight at a committee meeting: "It used to be every block had its watch. Every block association took care of its own and phoned in the trouble directly to the precinct. Now, all people ever do is plan block parties. There's none of that old working together to solve problems on the block." Food for thought.