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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Taking a Step Back, To Take Two Forward

From 123 on the Park's Website; Nothing Says Brooklyn Like Trendy Hardware!

What's up Lefferts? How you feeling? And Caledonia - hitting your stride? So many shiny new apartments at 123 on the Park, with even ANOTHER new building going up next to that fully renovated erstwhile Caledonian Hospital. (A lot of people DIED there you know. Poltergeists abound - beware!) More than a dozen new residential projects coming up. New stores opening all the time, lots more to follow. Neighborhood groups have started to seriously organize, even becoming ferocious at times, flexing muscles too-long atrophied, around the changes that threaten to alter the neighborhood for decades. IMHO, it's a heady time.

Also IMHO, IHOP has deeelectable griddle cakes, FWIW

City Planning finally answered our phone calls and took up the task of rezoning. The Community Board has its first new leader in decades, Dwayne Nicholson, and tons of new members. The Haunted House of Clarkson is gone (some say its Poltergeist moved to Amityville out on the Island). Just minutes ago, I passed two wood-frame houses knocked down to make way for lux rentals. Just a few weeks ago I had looked at them thinking "I'll bet those aren't long for this world." The neighborhood is full of wood houses serving as multi-family apartments, and they'll go in ones and twos and threes, probably by the end of this year. The Brooklyn Frenzy is such now that we're all spectator speculators, and it seems IMPOSSIBLE to imagine anything but up, up, up. Or down, down, down, depending on your perspective. People are flipping again, big time, and flippers are flipping-out over their quick-fire returns. MTA fixed the worst failings of the Q at Parkside station, though they didn't put in the chandeliers I'd requested. The long moribund merchant's association on Flatbush has risen like a Phoenix. Lefferts Manor indie-film director Jeremy Saulnier's recently released movie "Blue Ruin" is critical smash and a delightful hoot - rent it and see. Our longtime State Senator now calls Borough Hall home. The Lakeside Project opened and continues to shout "well ain't I the Jewel of the Park" as you stroll about its manicured glory. There's hope for the Jackie Robinson school for the first time in ages. More epresso places than you can shake a cold brewed iced coffee at. Cocktail bars? Egads, where ARE we living? Flatbush, or Paris?

Sounds like it's time for a bit of Q-nalysis®.

Q-nalysis® in action. Picture of Clarkson FlatBed in his younger more Amish days

The fact of the matter is, as much as I like to myopically muse about the macro and micro of it all, it's just capitalism doing its thang, gobbling up stuff and turning it green, creating and extending wealth, ownership being the mother of capital, and capital breeding more capital, and so on and so forth. We're not that unique; there's nothing all that special about what's happening here, other than this time it's our turn, and central Brooklyn plays it loud and proud, and we experience it in real time through frenzied media, mostly ivory-tower educated media, media who are often tone deaf to the ever-present twin specters of race and class, because they (we, I) are from that class and have never been particularly adept at identifying and relating, or frankly even bothering to ask those most affected, beyond reading the right books and watching the right movies. To which you say "get over it Q, why not switch topics in your long-winded essays?" and I wouldn't even if I could because this journal is about trying to find understanding, and besides I know you're all talking about it privately anyway. So can't we all admit that not that much else matters quite so much? Equality, justice? Peace, love and understanding? Heady stuff.

Making money, spending money, making love, making babies, making art, making science, making war, making peace...we humans are remarkably predictable. What else IS there really to put at the top of the agenda, besides the pursuit of decency and fairness? It's WAY more important than where we're going to "summer" this year, our kitchen renovations and the remarkable acceptance of pork belly on the American dinner plate. Family. Family is important. That I'll give you. Health. Our primary relationships with spousal types. Preserving the right to protest the things you believe are wrong. The right to vote. Even if we're wrong when we protest, and even if we're right. To speak out, to gather together, to decry and to cry. Openly.

Enough jibber-jabber. Let me lay it out plain. It bugs me when folks keep their cards too close or obfuscate with bad poetry. So I'll tell you where my thinking is at, and you can weigh in accordingly. (Btw, a super good read here from Tom Angotti, the guy who spoke at last week's forum at Tafari Cafe.)

Build wisely on Empire Boulevard, say I, since in all likelihood you're going to do it anyway. Let's be real about that. Not too tall please - that kind of density can severely strain the neighborhood and Manhattanize what could continue to be a highly livable stretch of Kings County. The proximity to public transportation makes it ideal for density, since many people won't need cars to live there, putting less strain on pollution, carbon emissions, traffic and parking than otherwise would-be. And with plenty of subsidized units for affordable and middle-class folks, it could be done in a way to benefit the whole City, meanwhile allowing more people to enjoy the fantastic amenities of the nabe, namely Park, Botanic Garden, Lakeside, Carousel, Zoo, Museum etc. You've benefited, right? No reason to hog it all. This is where the City is heading in every community district, so let's not pretend we'll be immune, or even should be. We have terrific assets, and have already landmarked tons of our nicest streets - maybe more can get a move on. And anyway, right now, a developer could come in, pay for their own zoning study, and likely go ahead with whatever they want to build, since the powers-that-be are simply not going to see Empire as worth preserving. What, you want a historic district for the Western Beef? Get serious. But I'm prepared to be swayed. That's kinda where my thinking is at, because I don't believe that alienating every possible partner, from the BP on up and down, can possibly benefit us pragmatically, though I'm super psyched to see motivated people showing their dismay with smarts, tact and volume. I have ideas of where energy can be poured if you're not among those interested in protesting buildings or zoning, and I'll get to that in a post real soon. (As in, we could spend our energy organizing and informing tenants of their rights.)

Lest you think my position on Empire runs contra my stance on 626 Flatbush, you're wrong. I never said I didn't want a building there...I just think it's a big mistake and perilous precedent to start building tall along the park. Right now, 16 feels tall. 23 will feel monstrous. I'm not kidding; it will. Til we get used to the new normal, and that's the problem. Once you create a new normal, you're stuck with it. Generations to come are stuck with it. That project was snuck right by us. On the perpendicular, up at Empire, we're having the Empire conversation now, not later, and will likely see zoning changes (or none) before any building takes place.

BUT...and this is a mighty big butt...

Those are issues of City Planning, density, design, aesthetics. And were new buildings designed for ALL, and all had equal access, we wouldn't have to question who's building them and where the money comes from. Money didn't exactly rush into this neighborhood until market makers saw the "whites" of our eyes. Capital resides with the powerful, and the powerful are white, and they build white. No one goes around designing neighborhoods to be black. Neighborhoods BECOME black. They "succumb" to blackness, ever since the Great Migration. In fact, nostalgists talk of Flatbush's glory days, and they're not talking the 1970's. Flatbush was a dreamland, they say, Ebbets field a sanctuary, stick ball on friendly streets, elegant movie palaces, great delicatessens, the world's greatest High School. Brother loved brother. An ethnic Shangri-La. It was all so grand, and then...and then...

The "then" in that story is bullshit, almost as much hyperbole as the dreamscape part. The neighborhood has always been wonderful, full of families raising brilliant and loving children, right on through to today. I keep meeting them, these old-timers, and they blow my mind. Yes crime was higher. Yes there were problems. But Flatbush has always been a great place to raise a family, even when, or maybe especially when, it became a haven for blackness, black consciousness, black ownership. You don't get that part of the Brooklyn story in New York magazine. You get shit. Shit story after shit story full of shitty people saying shitty things. (I'm leaving out the NY Times here cuz that's my paper, but you read a lot of shit in there too.)

As to "affordable housing," I wish someone could wish that phrase away. You simply cannot build your way out of 40 years of NYC's economic resurgence. EVERYBODY is being priced out, save a few lucky souls. We are huge, and getting bigger and richer. Was a time you could build housing projects or create a program or two and people would be housed, if not for life, then damn close. And their kids too, by succession. But we Americans just don't think that way anymore. No one stays in their job for but a few years, no one but maybe the City offers a pension, and no one designs ANYthing with a lifetime in mind. Not even the low-income units in the new 80/20 projects will be affordable forever. 20 years? That's like, a single generation. It flies by. By the time you're ready to retire, or send your kids to college, your rent's gonna shoot up. And let's face it, not even today's nicest new houses are built for longevity. They fit today's owner, but will likely come down when the trends shift. Or become tomorrow's version of tenements. World events could make that happen sooner than later. WWIII? Think we're immune?

What else have we learned? Here's one. The renter is not a full citizen; the landlord is. Sound familiar? Plantations and share cropping, anyone? Maybe that's too severe, but the dynamic is the same as it ever was. The folks on the hill, the peasants. Is that more palatable? Thing is, now the peasants are being joined by the merchant class as the castoffs, though the merchant class is predominantly now in the business of "services," handling and talking about stuff related to things but not actually making or selling the things, then buying lots of things made by child labor with money made from handling and talking about stuff that they can use and talk about when they're not working at not-making things. The renter is a statistic in a game of give and take between government and industry, and has no real power save rent stabilization (til it's taken from him), except maybe to write on the walls or leave the apartment a wreck, only further incentivizing the landlord to renovate and raise rents.

By the way, we made it like this. This is OUR doing. So is the racism that passes for not-racism. We did it. We made the Michael Browns of the world a problem because we ignored and dehumanized the Michael Browns, like we ignore the de facto segregation of our society by championing the achievements of a few assimilated blacks at the expense of the many. ("If we must endure a black president, then surely we must be allowed to knock off a few smart talking black punks, right? Just to keep things real?" Who needs the KKK when you got the nightly news and the DEA? There's some solid scholarship behind that statement by the way."The New Jim Crowe" is not hyperbole. But neither does it take into account ALL the ways the 1% screw the 99%, black and white and red and yellow and well-tanned. Only with the Crown Heights Tenants Union am I seeing a coalition that can really change the game - the white middle-class and the black underclass. NOW you could make some noise. But the powers-that-be keep us at each others throats, or at least at a distance. Course, we do plenty of the dividing ourselves.

Just revving up now...

While we're on the subject of blacks in 21st century American society, how about that rap music, and that language? So nasty! So vulgar! Well, I ask you, what kind of music would YOU make if you had zero power in the most powerful country on earth? Polkas? Smooth Jazz? No, you'd make the most muscular, nasty, powerful and scary music you could produce, the bass right up your ass. And you would DEFINITELY not smile. You'd scowl and emulate prison gangs, and ignore or denigrate the squares, and sag in tune with the gravity that is no jobs and no prospects. Except trying to become a rapper, which is...well, masculine and strong and silver-tongued or gold-muscled. The suburban white kids LOOOOVE this stuff. It flies into iPhones like Aderall into the bloodstreams of finals-takers. But for the richer, suburban younguns, it's all a fantasy, like Grand Theft Auto V, or X or whatever it's up to now. Hey, I'm not crazy about the mean spirited language either, but Tupac was a poet, and those in the know will tell you so. He's even got his own musical now, so you KNOW he's got the goods. You don't make it to the Great White Way when you're black unless you've been martyred and sainted. Last week I saw two Asian kids calling each other nigga. Now I know for sure, that is NOT the same word I thought brothers were saying when that trend started, though it can still send chills if you let it linger on the brain.

Ah hell, now I'm off the rails again. Look, they're going to acquit a scared cop out in St. Louis, and the reaction is gonna be big, not because he did anything that 1,000 other cops wouldn't have done, and not because of anything particular to the story. But it may just be big (it is already) because it's one too many for the camel to carry. Face facts: if one white teenager got killed that way, it'd be a tragedy. If TWO white kids got killed that way, they'd call it sinister. If THREE white kids got killed that way, they'd call it an epidemic, and a national panel would be convened and millions or billions spent to correct the problem. For years though, we've merely scolded the cops, and told them to be more careful. "What are you gonna do?" That's it. Be more careful. And we let it go. Not everyone is gonna let it go this time. Or the next.

Postlogue, as the blood rushes to the Q's face.

Did Michael Brown go for the officer's gun? Did he physically assault the officer? Are you NUTS? That's suicide. He didn't want to commit suicide. He was going to go to college, had big plans, had friends and family. He had a bunch of Swisher Sweets and some weed to smoke. Like almost ANY other 18 year old. Wait for the investigation? What investigation? There's no real "investigation" when the investigators are the ones trying to save their ass! And the jurors think like the officer. Think about it...does any of the "defense" ring even remotely true? Did the initial story the cops told even make SENSE? Damn we live in some craaaazy times if anyone buys for a minute that this isn't a clear case of the State using its ultimate authority to shoot a man in cold blood. Not that you can't feel for Darren Wilson. He grew up in this backward culture. It's like hating the early presidents for owning slaves. It was just like that. And now, it's like this. It's just like this. The wheels of human progress suggest it can't be sustained. Like this.

If your nephew can marry his boyfriend, we can figure out how to stop the war on young black men. But a little compassion will have to come first. And that seems absent sometimes, when its whites, thinking about blacks, who are only ever shooting each other in our thoughts, not raising families and working hard to get ahead. When we don't even go to school with each other. If, when you think of young black men, the first things you think of are drugs and violence, then you know exactly what I mean. We can do better. We have to. We could start by remembering that dignity for most men is signified by a job, earning money, supporting a family. That may sound old-fashioned, but we really can help make that happen, and the effect could just be astounding. A new WPA. Even just acknowledging that those last to be hired and first to be fired will languish and suffer, and we will all pay the price.

Instead of punishing welfare moms, how about dignifying the whole human race with a Works Progress Administration for 2014? Try it for a bit. If the effects aren't noticeable, I'll be a monkey's uncle, and you can always go back to barely good enough.


Paul Galloway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Galloway said...

Old story.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

And you better believe that the two of each animal picked by Noah for the boat ride were in the 1% for their species. Rich llamas indeed.

kingscounty said...


no_slappz said...

Sisyphus and the Gracchi brothers...that pretty well sums up the futility of fighting for what will never be.

If this were Texas... O give me land, lots of land under starry skies above...don't fence me could ride to the ridge where the west commences, gaze at the moon till they lose their senses...

But it's not. There are fences, and the only direction to build is up. And Eric Adams is going to cash in.

no_slappz said...

An amusing complaint about gentrification to which readers responded, mostly to tell the naive child she was tragically mistaken about what it means when a neighborhood improves.

Anonymous said...

Gee, slappz, was that you posting under "hoax_buster"? ;)

Clarkson FlatBed said...

An amusing complaint about gentrification? What kind of sick sense of humor do you have? The post sounded exactly like an email I just got from someone who is ready to leave because she's been hounded out by her landlord.

That this should be amusing, whether you agree or disagree with the forces at play, is why you are not worthy of being given a forum for your nonsense. It's a particularly galling condition to glorify the forces of markets over the lives of people. I'm not saying that sometimes a greater good isn't served...but it's a sick prick who laughs at others misfortunes.

Anonymous said...

re:"An amusing complaint about gentrification to which readers responded, mostly to tell the naive child she was tragically mistaken about what it means when a neighborhood improves."

Please tell me where the writer says directly or implies that the appearance of "cafes, boutiques, and now a Starbucks" represents an improvement in the neighborhood.

re:"In NY City, the buildings are made with permanence in mind. It's the people who are transient. The builders have a lot on the line, and I'm sure they wish they could predict the paths to be taken by all the residents of this transient city. But they can't, and neither can you. "
The management company of the writer's building is probably betting on what paths the residents will take by playing games with the heat and hot water which they are obligated by law to provide-and that's probably a path through which people are "being pushed out of the neighborhood".

Maureen said...

Q, I've never commented before but I just have to tell you I love this blog. I'm a recent transplant to the neighbourhood, and feel plenty conflicted about the effect of that, though I love it. Brought here by my partner who is a long-time resident and doesn't want to leave his people despite the changes that are going on.
I can't believe the lack of compassion in some of your regulars/trolls.
I took a photo of the advertising hoarding on the new building going up beside 123 but it didn't come out well enough to send. There are seven people in the picture- guess what colour all of them are?!!!! On Parkside! smdh as the kids say.
Anyway, keep it up Q!