The Q at Parkside

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Bit of Perspective

Finally, some reasonable description of what's happening in the neighborhood over zoning. Zoning. Just the zoning part. The zoning.  From Crain's reporter Andrew J. Hawkins:

On the day after Labor Day in the historically Caribbean neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in central Brooklyn, the thumping bass and steel drums of the annual West Indian Day Parade gave way to a different urban soundtrack: jackhammers and nail guns.

At 626 Flatbush Ave., yellow-vested construction workers scrambled around the five-story frame of what will eventually become a 23-story luxury residential tower. Less than two blocks away, at 33 Lincoln Road, work continued on a nine-story apartment building. And farther east, at 651 New York Ave., builders were laying the foundation for a 40-unit condo development that will feature private elevators and large, open terraces.

All told, at least 10 new luxury towers are going up in the residential section of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Meanwhile, the city is mulling the rezoning of Empire Boulevard, a one-mile stretch of low-rise warehouses and storage units, to foster construction of affordable housing.

The neighborhood has a population density that is among the highest in the borough. No wonder some residents are crying "Enough already!" in a clash that could make the rezoning an important test case for the mayor's push for more housing, as well as one likely to deepen divisions within the community.
When it comes to private development, more seems inevitable. Back in May, The New York Times declared Prospect-Lefferts Gardens to have arrived "on the map." Some real estate brokers compare the area to the Park Slope of 20 years ago.

"It's the real thing," said Evan Duby, a broker at Douglas Elliman.
Meanwhile, with a new mayor in office—one determined to build 80,000 units of affordable housing during the next decade—attention is shifting northward to Empire Boulevard, where Prospect-Lefferts Gardens meets Crown Heights. Zoned for commercial use, the boulevard is home to giant storage and warehouse businesses, auto shops and a handful of fast-food joints. In April, the local community board asked the City Planning Department for a zoning study of the neighborhood, with a particular focus on Empire Boulevard. Since then, the department has held a half-dozen meetings with residents.

No doubt at all

"Empire needs to be developed; there's no doubt about that," said F. Richard Hurley, a local lawyer and president of the Crown Heights Community Council.
What many community members hope to see built is not luxury housing but the apartments that they can afford to live in. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan, developers wanting to take advantage of new zoning must set aside between 20% and 50% of the apartments they build as affordable, but local leaders like Mr. Hurley warn that City Hall needs to tread cautiously. He notes that skepticism about the city's definition of "affordable" runs deep in the community.

"They always throw 'affordable housing' in there, but it's not affordable to anyone who lives here, only to those coming from Manhattan," he said. "De Blasio is shoving it down our throats, whether we like it or not."

Some residents are already starting to push back. A town-hall meeting in early August hosted by Borough President Eric Adams saw a barrage of criticism from opponents of a possible rezoning. A spokesman for the City Planning Department said the agency is still studying the matter.

One group, calling itself the Movement to Protect the People, claims that Mr. Adams and his supporters want to rezone Empire Boulevard to turn it "into a tourist attraction and make tons of money off the community." Among other things, critics note that Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is already one of Brooklyn's most densely packed neighborhoods, with as many as 61,000 people per square mile—nearly twice the boroughwide average—according to recent Census data.

On the upside

Some business owners take a different view. The say they'd welcome taller buildings and more people in the area, reckoning it would help bring more customers through their doors.

"I don't think it would hurt," said Carlos Rivera, who manages Advantage Wholesale Supply. "Not at all."

Bob Lucas of Firestone Complete Auto Care agrees. "Not one iota," he said when asked how a crop of residential towers springing up around his business might affect life along Empire Boulevard. Even some residents who unsuccessfully sued to block residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood are OK with rezoning Empire Boulevard for added density—just as long as it doesn't take the form of the type of steel-and-glass towers they've come to loathe.

"Nobody wants buildings out of context with the neighborhood," said Leah Margulies, who as a member of the group Prospect Park East Network has tried to block the 23-story tower at 626 Flatbush Ave. "But I don't personally have a problem with greater density."


no_slappz said...

The New York Times declared Prospect-Lefferts Gardens to have arrived "on the map." Some real estate brokers compare the area to the Park Slope of 20 years ago.

Obviously those brokers were unfamiliar with both neighborhoods. Twenty years ago Park Slope was very close to what it is today. Certainly not edgy. More like Lake Wobegone, where all the kids are above average.

babs said...

Twenty years ago I was living in Fort Greene. I had wonderful neighbors and I loved the area, although certain friends told me I was living in "the ghetto." At this same time, 20 years ago exactly, one of my friends was renting an entire house in Park Slope, on 1st St between 4th and 5th Avenues with a group of her friends. I went to visit her there once, and I have to say when I got off the R train at Union St and 4th Ave. I was pretty shaken up. I thought to myself, "And they say I'm living in the ghetto?" Twenty years ago Fifth Avenue was far different from its current incarnation. Perhaps Sixth Ave and points east haven't changed, but the west of there sure has!

babs said...

BTW, the rent they paid for that entire house was approximately the same as I paid for the lower duplex of a house in the Fort Greene historic district.

no_slappz said...

babs, for anyone whose experience with Park Slope goes back to at least 1980, you'll find that in their minds the neighborhood extended down the slope only as far as 6th Avenue. Beyond that was no-man's land, at least that's how the area was seen from up above.

Above 6th Avenue things were pretty good. You can read what Pete Hamill has to say about his growing up years in the neighborhood.

jessica said...

When I lived on 5th Avenue 20 years ago, it was definitely not Park Slope. My friends (who lived in the "real" Park Slope) were afraid to come to my building after dark. My super introduced me to the dealers on the block so they'd leave me alone. Only things down there was Body Reserve.

Now my old building has a bistro and a vintage clothing store and it's prime Slope. Funny how that happens.

Bob Marvin said...

That's funny; when I moved to Park Slope in 1970 I knew that it extended to 4th Avenue. Of course you didn't generally go below 7th Avenue in the north or center Slope, although 5th Avenue in the S. Slope was a perfectly viable shopping street.

Unknown said...

Does anyone here know the story of the land the BP station lives on? I've been told that this used to be a NYC park, but was converted into a gas station in the 1960's when Parks Commissioner Robert Moses was taking the wreaking ball to NYC.

I'm partly curious just because it seems this couldn't have happened without some protest and I wonder why it wasn't effective. And partly I'm curious because the BP station owners are plain evil and if there is say a lease coming up for renewal then we might want to organize and tell the parks department we'd like to be rid of those bastards.

no_slappz said...

For a long time Park Slope has been a state of mind. Its imaginary boundaries didn't coincide with its actual boundaries until recently. For many years the residents thought the Slope ended after you went past 7th Avenue. Or when you went beyond 9th St.

Then, for a while the imaginary boundaries merged with the actual boundaries and 4th Avenue was given its due. These days, the imaginary boundaries extend beyond the actual. Now the Slope is believed to run all the way to the Prospect Expressway and up into Windsor Terrace.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I thought I moved to Park Slope when I rented a place on Prospect and 8th Avenue. That's what they told me, so I believed 'em. That was 1988.

A great musician friend told me he grew up in Park Slope. That was the '70s. He lived on 14th Street between 4th Ave and 5th Ave. His neighbors thought that was nuts, and called it South Brooklyn. So the names have been around a long time, and the boundaries in flux. But you rarely hear South Brooklyn anymore.

And that's also why I've been so suspicious of this Prospect Lefferts Gardens stuff. I'm not a fan of pretension, and it sort of reeked of false pride and exceptionalism. I figured I had more in common (the Q train) with the old Caledonian Hospital (now 123 on the Park) than (shudder) Sterling btw Wash and Bedford, so I took umbrage at being lumped into PLG at the expense of my closest neighbors. Viva La Caledonia!

I stick by my analysis. The train matters more than the neighborhood boundary. Used to was the Parish mattered too, but then the Catholics mucked it up by not changing with the times.

How about we now organize around the Duane Reade/Walgreens? Like everyone with six blocks of a single DR/W shares an identity as well as a pharmacist? Come to think of it, the Pharmacy is kinda like the old can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant (excepting Quaaludes)

babs said...

A thoughtful article about the genesis of the PLG name, by someone who actually seems to have done his homework:

Anonymous said...

re: "How about we now organize around the Duane Reade/Walgreens? "

Duane Reade lost most of its unique identity (as a unique NYC institution) after Walgreens bought it. Now that DR is fully co-branded with Walgreens? Forget it. No longer impressed. :)

Kimplicated said...

Thanks for the article share, Babs. I love the original logo for PLGNA. If I had a mailbox, I'd want that on a sticker for it!