The Q at Parkside
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.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Watch "My Brooklyn" Online
If you've been wanting to learn more about how public policy led to the quickest and most sweeping changes in Brooklyn's history since the bridge, you have a month to view the film "My Brooklyn" onlin. It's okay as documentary - I'm not a fan of the personal memoir style - but fantastic as a primer for what's been happening.
I was at meetings with Joe Chan back in 2004 when he started running the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Click here to see their website. (It's ironic, in my view, that one of the things they're promoting right now is a show on Brooklyn's Abolitionists. As if being politically correct in your promotions means you've cared even two whits about the present and future of African-Americans in the borough.) I work in a building - 80 Arts on Hanson Place - that was one of the first shots in the war against old Brooklyn. The idea was to convert an old building on a sorry street next to run down apartments and the Salvation Army, and bring a bunch of college educated artsy folks in through subsidized office space for BAM-approved non-profits. We would make it "safe" for coffee shops and upscale eateries to move to Fulton. The BAM Development Corporation was on the top floor, and the famed Harvey Lichtenstein had offices there. BAM was instrumental in seeing that Ft. Greene and downtown Brooklyn changed for the arty and upscale. BAM used to joke that if it could move BAM to Manhattan they would have been much better off, this from someone who used to work there. No surprise of course - we all knew that was true. But if you can't move the building over the bridge, why not bring Manhattan to Brooklyn? Eventually, BAM was taken over by the Downtown Partnership, when the plan became not only feasible, but likely.
When I saw Joe's plan, and even questioned him about it, I thought...wow, these guys have a massive vision. It'll never happen, I thought. Not in downtown Brooklyn. It's too popular and profitable. Maybe you could get some arty types to live in the lofts above the stores on Fulton. But a big mall - Albee Sqare - had already failed, and Metrotech was an eyesore. And a pro sports franchise with a big arena next to that hideous Atlantic Center? Keep dreaming!
How naive I was. They did it. Including the part where they try to "bridge" the neighborhoods of upscaling Ft. Greene with upscaled Brooklyn Heights. I saw the renderings - a space safe for white folks to walk from one nabe to the other (they put white folks in the rendering in case you weren't able to make the imaginative leap). And BAM, in many ways, is at the heart of it all. Without it, I doubt they ever could have been so successful with all the residential buildings, and so quickly. Every brochure or website touts the location as "at the heart of the BAM Cultural District). They originally thought it would be mostly commercial towers like Metrotech. But sometimes, success has a way of snowballing.
80Arts has a fabulous museum on the bottom floor, that provided perfect cover for the most far-reaching aspects of the plan. Called MoCADA, founded by now City Councilperson Laurie Cumbo, the gallery-sized museum celebrates the wide-ranging arts heritage of the African Diaspora. If you're not familiar with that term I find it incredibly handy. How else to describe the amazing cultures that developed when slaves blended with their owners' cultures, then developed through good and bad times to the present day? I feel the location of MoCADA is incredibly cynical, given the plan that it helped launch. But then, the Partnership and the Mayor were never racists per se. They supported development and increases of tax base and business to compete in a global economy. No one said that buppies couldn't be part of that plan. Assimilated Blacks and Latinos and Asians were more than welcome.However, if you don't have the means to live or shop here, well, that's just the natural evolution of things.
Am I being glib? Watch the movie, let me know what you think.