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, December 28, 2015

The No Muss No Fuss Guide To Responsible Segregation

It may mean nothing, or everything. Think about it with me for a second, how the below George Bush mug from which I'm ironically drinking coffee in GOP country, down here in a nearly 100 year-old once legally segregated golf course engineered subdivision in North Carolina, how the meaning of the joke on the mug has changed just a bit.

Even Cheney Seems Centrist These Days
Created after the rise of the Tea Party in 2009-10, the cup was meant to remind disenchanted swing Obama sympathizers how star-crossed was their "Hope" vote. And now, as wingnuts like Trump and Cruz threaten to disrupt what's left of the semi-reasonable chunk of the Republican party, the message resonates like a reminder of just how unhinged has the GOP become.

What does the golf course have to do with it? Popsy, Mrs. CFB's late father, was an old-school Southern man. He was a good man to his family, certainly deserving of respects paid at his death at the hands of the very crop that made so many down here rich, and at the same time, kept so many dirt poor. King Tobacco perfectly personifies the Carolina fight between good and evil, rich and poor, black and white (and Indian, I might add). Particularly because its real benefit to humans is less than zero, it's an odd crop to have grown so lucrative. It provides neither sustenance nor actual satisfaction, since the relaxing and calming effects are nothing more than killing the jones of a nic-fit. If you, like me, have played Russian Roulette with cigarettes, you-we all know perfectly well that there is no true pleasure to be derived from those first few puffs from a cigarette - you must learn to like them, or rather NEED them. From the beginning, the lungs scream WTF and the buzz is anything but calming, the taste severe, and the smoky smell impossible to hide. And worst of all, you don't even get drunk. You just get...smelly and anxious. The anxiety can be treated only by another, and another. Duke, duke, duke it out. You'll lose nearly every time, like the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters (r.i.p. Meadowlark Lemon).

Tobacco. Golf. Subdivisions. Grocery stores. That's what's been on my mind. This non-gated gated-seeming community of Hope Valley was one of America's first planned suburbs, with a nifty twist. The golf course was designed first, and you had to join the country club to purchase a plot of land. It's not like segregation needed any clever help back then; it was, after all, the law of the land. But the unique requirement of club ownership prior to buying a home was an extra-level of exclusivity, and allowed not only a chance to keep out blacks but pretty much ANY undesirable. Blacks might eventually get to buy houses in once-white neighborhoods, but they most certainly couldn't gain entry to golf. Surely Armageddon would come first. Or a Tiger named Woods. Still, it's not like the floodgates have opened. Tiger was no Jackie Robinson, or rather, golf had no colored league full of world-class players ready and willing to integrate. (Golf - what a trip. Folks actually want to golf right up to the gates of death, and probably beyond. Rumor is a yearly struggle for supremacy between hell and heaven's 18-hole courses ends in a Ryder's Cup match between Good and Evil. The teams are fairly evenly matched, with Chi-Chi leading one team and Johnny Miller leading the other. Evil wins every time; Good suspects cheating, but has yet to prove it.)

The first families to buy in were true local gentry, their sons and son-in-laws, and doctors and men of high esteem from the local universities of Duke and Chapel Hill. At the time there were far fancier houses to be found, but the very fact that a car was required meant that Hope Valley possessed a certain hi-tech up-to-date upper-middle-class cache that even the Dukes themselves could only envy. Why? Because THIS Shangri-La came with built-in like-minded community - you know, friends. What with the newly built Methodist and Episcopal churches on-site, the Club pool-golf-tennis-bar-restaurant for-members and families only, a second-tier aristocracy was created that was soon the envy and the prototype for countless communities to follow. Interestingly it was about this time that President Coolidge codified much of what we now know as suburbanization through subdivision, creating a how-to manual for state and city planners. Developing a building was one thing; even a block. Now you could develop 100s of homes at once, and the White House provided you with the blueprints of how to do it.

This area is comprised of nearly 100% white folk. There are a couple of black hi-paid professionals. Interestingly, and unlike their white counterparts, their profession is almost always noted along with their complexion. It's as if it were necessary to note that they're the "right kind" of blacks. Two black sisters live together in a house here in Hope Valley; they moved from Brooklyn many years ago, and don't keep their landscaping quite as tidy as neighbors would like. At first, there was a rumor they might be lesbians. There's some "Triangle People" here, referring to the Tech Industrial Park that lures white-collar engineers, plus the highly prestigious Duke Medical folks. By NYC standards, the houses aren't even THAT expensive. $600k, $700K for a typical 3-4 bedroom house built anywhere from the '30s to the '80s in any of many styles. The closer to the golf course the greater your status, with houses ON the course costing two or three times as much. That should give you an idea of just how crazy house prices have gotten in Brooklyn. For half the price of a modest brownstone you could live in one of the toniest sections of Durham. Twice. But there's a catch. You'd have to live in...um, one of the toniest subdivisions of Durham, NC. And you might just shoot yourself from alienation. You could take out some fellow citizens at the same time, with one of those cheap AK-47s that are so damn easy to come by. How easy? Just see how many automatic weapons you could nab off this website out of Greensboro - hook up with one of these guys, bring a six-pack and rat-a-tat-tat to your heart's content. Seriously though, don't fret. You have to click "I Agree" to go on to the site, stating you'll adhere to all applicable laws. Phew! Thought for a minute any Tom, Dick or Lunatic could get themselves an automatic weapon!

Like so many cities, Durham is near-thoroughly segregated, and it's done with such ingenuity that it's remarkable achievement probably escapes most longtime residents. By allowing in a few upscale blacks and introducing them to the benefits of privilege (at arms length mind you), whites can keep the miscegenation to a minimum while privately surmising it's never been about race anyway - decorum and civility need know no other virtues. Play by the rules, and you will be tolerated. Buy-in, live right, and you might just fit the bill and serve as a credit to your race, a mere 150 years since emancipation. (My, has it really taken THIS long to achieve such an unimpressive victory? MLK likely crying in heaven. Or pissed and ready for Plan B.)

Best of all, the fact of middle-class black neighborhoods add another level of smugness for the gentry. See, one can hear them say. Segregation is by choice, on both sides. Like really does prefer like. Churches prove it too. Sunday mornings remain shockingly segregated. Even while modeling Christ, we'd rather skip the diversity sort-of implied in the Sermon on the Mount. Is what's happening some sort of Catch-22, where we don't want to mix til the playing field equals, but we can't equal the playing field til we spend quality time together? Then again maybe there's something about whiteness that prefers boring church.

It's really quite phenomenal that we manage to look ourselves in the mirror and mutter nonsense like post-racial, integrated, liberal, non-racist, modern. All the while we're living in a country that's nearly as segregated as pre Brown v Board in our living rooms and in our schools and most tragically by our jails and morgues. Mean household wealth remains 20/1 white-black. Wealth passes molasses-slow for blacks generation over generation, while whites stand to transfer the largest pot of money from Boomers to X-ers in the history of mankind. It's staggering really, because as I've heard in story after story after story upon anecdote it's that intergenerational money that really makes the difference economically - inheritance, frequently inheritance of housing alone. And taking it a step further, just see how a single successful billionaire can sire dozens of future generations of shiftless and alienated wealth. It's shocking how few true self-made Americans there are. That is, Americans whose whiteness and American-ness goes back more than a few generations and who managed to not need a leg-up to stay up. Down here a couple Dukes spawned generations of unfathomable wealth. It didn't turn out so well for many of them, psychologically anyway.

Beyond the tumult of the '60s, the most radical and controversial court-mandated enemy of Order was the massive social experiment of forced school integration, a/k/a busing. Mrs. CFB was bused, and she fared well, even as H Valley residents generally opted out by sending their kids to private school rather than be forced to attend lesser, poorer, blacker schools. The stated complaint then, as it is now, was on not on race but "performance" and "behavior." The black schools were considered less disciplined and poorer performing. At the elementary school level at least, the behavior piece was simply not true. Young kids being what they are, scuffles happened, but Southern society is generally polite and true truancy and delinquency were non-existent at the younger grades The schools were, it must be said, poorer performing. But that was part of the point. Not just racial and economic integration, but integration of expectations, parental involvement and even friendship and teamwork. Social progressives had big hopes, and though many whites left the City or school system as a result, poor schools DID in fact improve. The wealthier schools fared just fine. Many are now reassessing the effects of this massive and massively unpopular experiement. Busing, it turns out, was working as promised. But the damage to the social compact of segregation led to revolt at the polls. Jesse Helms and his organizational prowess helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan. Busing essentially ended just as it was starting to show real results. Whites had shown their true color. They hadn't the stomach for addressing the base of racial inequality, and frankly, as Mrs. CFB's mom recounts, black folks weren't exactly overwhelmingly welcoming. She felt horribly UNwelcome in the once all-black school that now was educating her own lily-white southern belles. But as I asked more questions, the story softened. As time went on, she confessed, it became easier and easier and eventually everyone bonded the way parents do. Not lifelong friendships perhaps; that was best left to the churches and clubs. But meaningful, constructive interaction was happening daily, and you know what? The kids turned out just fine. And considerably more culturally aware and empathetic.

To my black friends and readers who might wonder how bad it gets when people of color are not in the room. In my many visits to Durham, NC, I've rarely heard blacks ridiculed, discredited, or insulted. While I know it gets uttered, I've never heard the word nigger uttered in my presence. In fact, I dare say African-Americans and black issues simply don't resonate much to wealthy white Southerners. Least not in polite company. The protests and anger and political agitation is not simply misunderstood; it's hardly a blip on the radar. It's "their problem" now. It just...doesn't come up, unless you force the conversation, and then comes the "don't stir the pot" under-the-table-pokes and shuffles and don't-go-there stare-stabs. There are so many convenient ways around the topic, subtle cues and innuendo, linguistic tricks and changes of subject. It's a vast conspiracy that doesn't need a leader or a written handbook. The meaning is clear, the goal obvious enough not to ever utter. At this point I'm not even sure it's about blacks being lesser than. Our president is proof of SOMEthing. But what really drives segregation is fear of losing wealth and privilege. Because on this side of privilege things are actually pretty fucked up. Lots of the children of privilege are lost, unproductive, depressed, unsure of themselves in a world that was handed to them. To in the outsiders would mean exposing the rusty and crumbling apparatus and the very human people who control it. Money is passed quietly between family members and generations and spouses and misfits and junkies. Oh there are plenty of Captains of Industry of course. But not nearly as many as there are big houses and luxury cars. Entitlement in this country is not so much earned as received, and many of us don't feel worthy of the honor. But still we're unable to give it up. The great American lie lies somewhere in the difference between worth and self-worth, miserly fear and a never-sated hunger for more than our share.

Ask a four-year old. They'll tell you to your face that 10 Christmas presents aren't enough in view of her sister's 11. True story.

East Durham

Hope Valley


Parkside Plaza Needs Your Support


Parkside Fundraiser 2015 from Thorsten Thielow on Vimeo.

The Q just gave. Please give.

Only a year ago the Parkside Plaza was a gleam in our eyes. Now it's here, and man ever has it changed our little corner of the park. Just last weekend the Farmer's Market came to end for this year, but it was a smash success and we hope to return next year and every year after.

The Parkside Committee is busy scrounging up donations from officials and foundations, but we're not there yet. We still need $20,000 for the coming year. Granted that seems like a ton. But remember the Plaza needs maintenance, every day. Trust me when I say we hope to have the Plaza self-sufficient in the next couple years, through electeds and businesses. But in the meantime, consider giving to the Plaza that keeps on giving.

From the whole Committee a hearty thanks.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Phat Albert Rethink

The Phat Albert building. Who hasn't dreamt of another use for the once bread-factory come five-and-dime? It's a terrific store, sure, but such a grand and historic building. Anyone with a penchant for bargains will tell you that Phat's gots the goods. It's frankly not much less a store than Target, though somehow Target has managed to project the image of high-end low-end retail. Someone should have an outsized bust in the marketing hall of fame for that one. When I was a kid in the midwest, Target and K-mart were both consider inferior to the century-old Sears. Holy Turn-a-rounds, Adman!

Albert Srour owns the building, and over the years many have pondered better uses - Trader Joe's, Beer Hall, even residential conversion. But now that Albert has turned over operations to son Jack (Phat Jax?) new uses are surely on the horizon. In the case of the second floor, that horizon is...in about a week. Because as general manager for the ready-to-roll BKLYN Commons Alex Guerra says "come and get 'em while they last." Cowork office spaces, with windows on 'em to create community and light and stuff, are available from not much to $2K or more per month. Or you can sit at one of the community tables for around $20 a day. Granted you could do that at a coffee shop, but c'mon, how much work do you REALLY get done there? Plus you have to buy coffee and lunch there anyway to make it seem like you care about the proprietor's cost of doing business. Here, you ARE the income, so pack your own lunch. Here's a couple pics from inside the newly decked out space:



It's got the tech hookups and all those doodads plus a conference room and pretty decent bathrooms. In other words, it's not a whole hell of a lot different than the Compound Cowork in the building next door; the facilities are different and may be better suited to certain needs. If you're interested here tis the Commons. But you know the Q is about more than shill and shillings.

So here's the dirt. It would appear that Jack is interested in "what's next" for his signature space - the Phat Alberts. Got an idea that ISN'T Trader Joe's? Hop on the comment bus down below, and take a look at these swell pics of the clocktower (from inside) and from the roof.








Friday, December 18, 2015

Hell Yeah, Bedford Armory

Sounds like our Bedford Armory is getting the sort of public-private development favored these days by public officials. Looks pretty sweet to me. The community center desired by the, community, seems to be alive and well in this plan. Interestingly, office space is included. My understanding is that office (i.e. WORKplace) space is in desperately low inventory. Could be that more jobs are moving to the neighborhood as well? This could be good for surrounding businesses. Cheers, Eric-Diana-Laurie-Jesse et al.


The Q: Boy Who Cried Wolf? Nostrand-amus? How About - Map Reader?


Thanks Jacob for keeping the pushpins rolling. Here's more details on the shocking (see above) tracking of new residential developments in the neighborhood.

Nice to see that the Historic District works so well to keep out new buildings - seriously it's a testament to the far-sightedness of old-timers. Wish my block had some protections. The kind that were in the works with a Planning Study, that could have downzoned inner blocks even down to rows of houses in favor of new developments where they dang well belong - along avenues of transit and sites that currently have taxpayer lowrises or fastfood and storage marts and parking lots. Imagine, favoring storage marts over housing for actual people. Bitter, Q? Hell yes.

But at this point I'm prepared to reflect and calm the fuck down. It ain't gonna happen. We have people bitching about density and complaining about light and air to the point that no one wants to be part of the City's efforts to deal with a housing crisis on the one hand and destruction of neighborhoods on the other. Folks, you can't "not build" your way out of near-zero vacancy-rates that're raising rents beyond reason. Can't be done. Not historically, not now.

Brooklyn is a victim of  success. There are thousands of new jobs, new amenities, new opportunities. People want to live here, and we can't stop that. We SHOULDN'T stop that. It's what this borough was begging for for decades. Now that it's here, we can't handle change? Smart development? Sure there's ridiculous luxury high-rise happening. And the City should stop it. That damn tower at One 57th St and 432 Park and the Time-Warner Center. But that is NOT part of the lower and middle class housing being proposed by City Planning for our neighborhood. And yes, making up to $100K a year is middle class in this town. Even $150K with a family of four. If you don't think so, you don't get out much. This City has changed dramatically and people with those incomes are desperate to find (gulp) AFFORDABLE housing. THAT'S why rents are so damn high around here. It's a great neighborhood, and it's been affordable to professionals and newly minted arrivers. Less so every day, though. Rents are topping $3K already in some buildings.

Anti-density folks will tell you they champion the working poor. It's bullshit. You can't favor downzoning everywhere and claim to care for the lowest income-earners. You should be organizing tenants and providing legal help to keep them in their homes if you really care. Join the CHTU of Flatbush Coalition. Get busy. But don't stop the building of apartments, of all income needs.

The actual poor? The much-hated City is doing everything it can to build supportive housing, but it will never be able to keep up. And when they DO propose building "public housing," which is what you should call it when you provide nearly all the income by taxes, folks come out of the woodwork to complain about all the poor and ill people moving in. I shit you not, you should hear the discriminatory nonsense that comes out of people's mouth when they announced putting some supportive housing on Maple east of here, built by a terrific non-profit called The Bridge. The "crazies" are going to abduct our children the neighbors yelled, with only the pitchforks missing from their flailing hands. Hell, the "crazies" are already living there and spewing hate if you ask me. And to think a mere 50 years ago the whites were screaming the same about blacks moving into their neighborhoods. I said it before and I'll say it again. In so many ways, we've made zero progress as a society.

Mayor, council, ignore the noise, please. Do what's right. It would appear that they're finally waking up to the reality that the current gentry (i.e. Community Boards) care about themselves, their cars, their parking, over the needs of the community they supposedly care so deeply about. And in a City where MOST people don't own cars or houses, and MOST people barely make rent, and MOST people would be better off with more density, we continue to play out this longstanding game, the one where we think we can keep the City as it is. Jane Jacobs was wrong in that regard. Her beloved Greenwich Village is a museum. A lovely museum, no doubt, but all her favorite parts have long since departed. That is, if she REALLY cared about social and economic diversity as much as she claimed. Think about it. Perhaps the single best thing protecting Manhattan's diversity are the giant housing projects built by Jane's arch-nemesis.

Roll over them if you must Mayor. The future of the City depends on you taking the long view, while landmarking and preserving where you can. That's why they call it City "Planning," not City "Preserving." Until we go socialist, it's the best you can do.

Sounds like the Mayor is finally beginning to fight back.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Race Tightens

No, not that race. For City Council in the 40th, against incumbent Mathieu Eugene.

Okay, so he's not running for reelection til 2017. But Mathieu should already be running scared. A likable, politically savvy newcomer has announced plans to run. Brian Cunningham lives in Flatbush and has all the trappings of a potential contender for political office. He's experienced in politics and government, he's cute, dresses nicely. I've met him a few times and I have no idea what sort of councilperson he'd be (yet) but I'm sure we'll all have plenty of time to get to know him before Primary Day a year and a half from now. Declaring early is a good idea though. This way when you see him around you can know you're talking to a candidate and ask all those questions you're dying to ask now. And I expect to see him around a hell of a lot more than the guy with the gig and the nearly $150K salary who actually lives in Canarsie and can't be bothered to show up or send a rep at CB9 meetings. Unless he's touting something like his new trash cans that were payed for by some of his discretionary money. Btw I shook his hand and thanked him for them.

So when I say the race has tightened, I mean the odds are already good that Brian can beat Mathieu and nobody knows Brian yet. As I see it, Brian needs support from a few key places and he's a gimme. If he can nail down support from 4 of 6 of Yvette Clarke, Diana Richardson, Kevin Parker, Jesse Hamilton and Eric Adams and Jumaane Williams that would pull him even at least. A couple unions go his way and you're golden. Unless other people run, then it's gonna be tougher. Another reason to announce early and try to raise money and dissuade others.

Here's his page with all the upbeat tidbits. What's he look like?


Why, you might ask, am I posting the picture with his wife Stephanie? Couple reasons. First, in order for a dude to get married he has to impress his to-be wife, right? She's attractive, smart, works at the Brooklyn Museum. She picked him, so maybe he's not all bad. I like married guys, at least until they end up as front page news for being not-such-great married guys. But let's assume for the moment that Brian's one of the good ones. She chose him, that's a plus. Sexist of me? Nah. Just practical.

Second, of all the places in the world to run into Brian, I ran into him and Stephanie last summer in Manchester, VT at the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln, called Hildene. They were also visiting the bizarre Pullman Car museumy situation they have there, where you find out that Robert Todd Lincoln really didn't do much with his life other than cash in on his daddy's name and become head of Pullman, a position that was handed to him for his political connections. The story of Pullman Porters, however, is a great window onto the world of post-emancipation racial economics, or put another way, how to turn slaves into indentured servants and make it look like you're a racial progressive, all the while only further stereotyping and belittling an entire group of people and calling every last one of them "George" or "Boy." Also the idea that train travel on Pullman sleepers could give you an opportunity to live like the upper crust, if only for a couple thousand miles, is bizarre in itself. Pullman Porters gave you a manservant for a few days, and quite possibly the closest thing to haute cuisine you could expect on wheels.

As bad as Pullman Porters had it, they were considered the top of the pops for black men. A small but steady wage, a decent uniform, seeing the country. Truth be told MOST Americans had shitty jobs at little pay during the dawn of the Industrial Age. Check out the coal miners and migrant farmers for starters. It was a time of great income discrepancy and fast-moving technological achievement and racial and political upheaval. How very very different from today. Must have been craaaaaazzzzy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The last person born in 1899

And she lives real nearby in East New York. Susannah Mushatt Jones. She eats four links of bacon every day. And her hair stopped being gray and has started growing brown again. No joke. The latest on her from NY Mag.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Barry Hersko Sinks Even Lower

60 Clarkson's homeless shelter families are set to have a nice holiday party tonight, with pot-luck and presents and a lot of neighbors chipping in. One problem...the landlord doesn't want them to. He's gone to court to shut it down.

Why? Beats me. Why does this asshole get up in the morning? To make money and screw his fellow human beings. Doing both at once provides him with double the pleasure, apparently.

More unnecessary drama as it unfolds...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Q and His Block Shafted By CB9

For months, now years, the Q has sounded the alarm. Do a Planning Study, or lose even the inner blocks that aren't in the Historic District, to absurd development. And who's led the loudest opposition to such a clear-headed strategy? Why would a few people in the Historic District, homeowners with nothing to lose by slowing down the process, a process meant to create thoughtful trade-offs and look for soft spots in current zoning, places that could yield unwanted buildings - want to stop that process in the middle of a real estate explosion, when we're actually being offered the opportunity to do it by DCP?. Look at the 20 story tower happening over on Linden in CB17, and countless ugly tear-downs and build-ups all around us. Some could have been prevented if a Zoning Study had sought to keep neighborhood height in check, and some downzoning and contextualizing where appropriate. Not every block is worthy of landmarking, so...have a heart.

The Q's block has been a hot mess for some time, and I have enough good humor to weather any insanity. But the irony is not lost. Plans were filed with DOB to tear down a limestone townhouse in the middle of a row of 10 to make room for a six-story building covering most of the lot. Don't worry, I'm not asking for sympathy. I know I'm a lucky D.O.B. S.O.B. to have a house at all, one purchased at the beginning of the century even.

Thx due to Barnabas for noticing the filing. There will be, of course, no means-tested units. The developer is clearly a scumbag. Here's a story on him, detailing his forcing a female subordinate to come with him while he urinates.

I feel terrible for the homeowners on either side, as these have been their pride and joys for decades. It's gotta be a done delicately, you know, this tearing down of brownstones. We share walls, don't you know, and these are old buildings. The size of the footprint means their gardens and backyards will be permanently screwed.

Maybe, just maybe, these guys have overreached. It's been suggested that their FAR goes to far.

So this Post is for you, all you helpful CB9 Board members who have done absolutely nothing to this point to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. And for what? Saving Empire Blvd for Wendy's and Self-storage? Keeping Nostrand from seeing some affordable housing? What a waste. 11 units in the middle of a row of houses, instead of affordable units on Empire. I guess I deserve it.

Here's the house in question, 19 Clarkson, rest in pieces:



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Friday, December 11, 2015

Is This Info Even Useful? And Why or Why Not?

Need confirmation that guns are a big problem in the Borough of Kings? Check out the interactive map that's provoking lots of droopy-dog head-shaking all over the country. The Q took three screen shots at three different zoom levels to give you a sense of how we shape up in the gun violence department. I'll start with the tightest shot and move out. Note that red tags are gun deaths and orange "just" shootings. The greens mean there are more than one (usually 2) within a tight enough range that you couldn't distinguish them as two.








What do we learn? Well, even taking into account the lower density, I think it's fair to say that you have almost ZERO chance of getting shot in Park Slope. Shocking isn't it? This is just one year mind you, but in my 30 years of living in Brooklyn I don't recall a shooting epidemic in the Slope, even during Crack. I recall a groper or two, and a lot of iPhone muggings.

The second thing you notice is that there's nothing particularly special about YOUR area, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy. We all seem to be equally adrift in the same melange of the three G's. Guns, Gentrification and Gouging. (It's a stretch I know, but the gouging happens in all manner of ways from housing to staples and even expectations, and most importantly, it starts with the letter G).

The third thing, and I really didn't expect to see this connection...shootings most often happen on the major avenues and at intersections. Admit it, you hadn't thought of that before either! As always, mass shootings are barely a dent in the overall shooting statistics here and nationwide. It's the day in day out resorting to guns to deal with conflict - domestic, gang, adolescent - that really takes a toll.

Many folks are finally realizing that while the flamboyant killings garner the attention, the real epidemic facing young men, mostly black young men, involves something that our culture is unwilling or unable to do. A health emergency needs the right kind of experts, doctors and care. And what sort of care? Jobs. Dignity. Mentorship. Respect. Hope. Love. Community. And yeah, discipline where and when appropriate. We have, as they say, either a long way to go or not far at all. The choice belongs to the adults. For now, we're not showing a whole hell of a lot of courage. Or wisdom. Or even, I would argue, concern.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Parkside Memories

Roxie V. nails a clutch ID, a vintage pic of Parkside, Ocean to Flatbush, from the POV of, say, the Mickey D's. 



I'm guessing from the info on the Eugene L. Armbruster's collection that this shot of 205 and 225 Parkside dates from the 1930's. Definitely pre-WWII, no? Dyer's Cleaners sure had location, location, location. Oh and Armbruster, for whom the nickname Ol' Armbuster never fit (he was rail thin and 4'11"' tall), hailed from the German spa town Baden-Baden, a favorite destination of Mrs. Flatbed's. The Bath so nice they named it twice.

And hey, Parkside Committee...how 'bout that tree?


The Kitties Need You


Give to the Kitties! 

When feral cats get trapped and fixed, they can live out their lives fairly peacefully. Since doing TNR to a gang of cats behind our house in 2005, we've nurtured dozens of cats through the years. Without the sex parts, they're sweet and docile and don't scream or spray. They mostly manage to live through the winter. Baby Bootsy, one of the original cats we neutered, is now TEN YEARS OLD! Senior Gato and Spazzy Penguin are new. The three of them are good friends. Sure I miss Scrabbles and Corn Dog and Nichols and May. But they lived good lives. And that's what it's all about, even for we of the human persuasion. To pretend it's about more is hubris. (But whatever we're sure you're very, very important and your contributions to the culture and the DNA of Homo Sapiens immeasurable. Why should I kill your buzz? Now, back to those adorable kitties...)

FAT Cats has emerged as a local powerhouse in the movement, and they operate right here in the 'hood. I can't recommend them highly enough. Committed, caring and effective. Consider a gift today!


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Did James Brown Really Happen, Or Was It All Some Wonderful Dream?

The Q's stuffing envelopes at work - gotta go out tomorrow, there's no getting around it. He's listening to the James Brown singles from the mid-60's thru early '70s. The Q sometimes can't believe that JB ever really existed, because the tension, the politics, the monstrous polyrhythmic genius, the impossible ambition and confident execution - it's forever exploding my puny musical brain. I've spent my whole adult life trying to comprehend the enormity of his accomplishment, and they'll still be trying to pull it apart 300 years from now, the way scholars do with now with J.S. Bach. JB Bach. Toccata & Funk in D minor.

So you already know this. His "Popcorn" series is perhaps the moment at which he literally and figuratively blows the top off the whole kettle. In this remarkable filmed moment, his band sits while he dances and squeals. If you watch nothing else, check out what happens when he calls Maceo up at 2:30. From that moment to the end you will witness perhaps the most astounding duet in the history of sound:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ocean Ave Event - December 12

Amy Musick's at it again. Not even a little bit defatigable that one! She and Ocean by the Park Tree Club are not only advocating and beautifying they're doing something that only true urban gardeners fully appreciate...they're prePARing, thinking ahead, getting ready, being thorough, crossing their t's and minding their q's. They're winterizing. And you're invited:




Is that Bambi or Rudolph on the bottom left? Rudolph the Red Nosed Delson perhaps? No, he moved to Cleveland. Regardless, come on out on the 12th of December for a wintery mix jingle mingle.

Friday, November 27, 2015

160 Stores Nearby And You're Still Shopping On Amazon?

Not one, not six, but one hundred and sixty stores are offering discounts during Shop Local CB9's campaign to convince you that pretty much everything you need for the holidays can be found right here. You can get yer toys, yer clothes, yer knick-knacks and yer paddywacks. More info:

Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Association Facebook Page

Tomorrow is the big kick-off at CB9 headquarters on Nostrand. No reason to put off exercising your purchasing power. Stores are open and they need our support. We love our neighborhood, and this is the American way to show love. With $$$! The Flatbush Avenue Merchants are flying their freak flags high as well. Make sure to stop in a local joint for discounts and goodies.

Exposing the apparatus in po-mo style, here's the press release rather than dropping the quotes into my own post making it look like I actually went out and did an interview. Pia and Warren from CB9 and Nostrand Ave Merchants are awesome though, and I can personally vouch for their commitment to the project.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MTOPP Suit Against CB9 Dismissed

After many months of trumpeting its lawsuit against lowly Community Board 9, MTOPP lost today in Supreme Court. Not THAT Supreme Court, mind you. The decision completely denies MTOPP (Alicia)'s claims that CB9, under district manager Pearl Miles, was underhandedly trying to dismantle the wheels of democracy. If you're into this sort of thing, the details are kinda fun to read. Otherwise, here's the short version. Nobody is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, Alicia. Some people, believe it or not, simply disagree with you. At the same time, in a separate decision, the disorderly conduct charges against Ms. Boyd were dropped. Meaning, basically, that she can continue to scream, shout and holler, then get hauled out of the meeting, but can't be sentenced for it. That seems about right to me. No one should be denied the opportunity - say in the Senate - to jump up and yell "you racist fascist pigs." However, that same person shouldn't be allowed to do that indefinitely. At some point, you gotta move on with the business at hand. Senators are allowed to filibuster in certain circumstances. Individual citizens, however, are granted no such powers.

And so another meeting went by, this one with not much to report. The Citywide text amendments to promote the building of affordable housing failed, predictably, after being hammered with all manner of blunt tools, ranging from misinformation to lies to specious economic arguments. Never you mind, says the Mayor. I'm the decider, says he, not to be swayed by a tide of public opinion. We'll see - if he wants another term he may need to rethink. Oh, and the Empire Blvd Reconstruction Project was tabled. Had the vote happened last night, I fear it would have failed for being lumped in with all the other anti-City votes. DOT is coming back to the table to better make its case. Here's hoping they succeed, because god knows I was losing the arguments.

Both Laurie Cumbo and Diana Richardson gave lengthy but powerful speeches trumpeting their good deeds. So did Mathieu Eugene. The Q happily shook M.E.'s hand and thanked him for all the new trash baskets. You know, the ones that say Mathieu Eugene all over them? Diana ripped Alicia a new one in a pulpit-pounding diatribe that reminded us why we voted for her in the first place. Man, that gal can speak! She's got such a terrific cadence and she rarely trips over her well-chosen words. Plus, she went into some detail about her plans for an ex-felon job fair. NOW we're talking! Too many young people get saddled with the wrong kind of degree - one from Superior Court, that dogs them for life. Second chances, that's why we let people out of jail in the first place. Regain your footing, grow up, take responsibility. But just TRY to get hired with a Felony on your record. You go Dee!







Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Born At The Junction

Too awesome not to share. Perhaps now Target will finally open a Neonatal Nursing department. Here's a picture of our heroes from the NYPDOBGYN:

Doris Cordero & Kelly Brown - Cops/Doulas




Monday, November 23, 2015

Your Signature Needed - Tonight's Vote Canceled

It's all weird, man. No vote tonight. Gonna be tabled. Not a bad thing. More later...

PLEASE SIGN KIM'S COMMON SENSE PETITION

I'm posting this again in case you missed it. The petition will be presented tomorrow night at the CB9 meeting. I've chosen not to belabor the vote by bringing it back to committee - we were to vote on it last mtg but ran out of time. At an all-board policy mtg last week it became clear that many of the Board members plan on voting no to supporting this project because they drive and a) don't want the hassle of the construction work b) don't think there are safety issues and/or c) think this but another example of the bicycle lobby trying to slow down drivers and create traffic snarls. We weren't even talking about it, but four separate individuals said that pedestrians are the real problem. Oh, and there are plenty of trees at Prospect Park why do you need them at these intersections? If you agree with any of those arguments then I suppose the petition is not for you. I was told at the meeting to start listening more closely to what the community wants. Perhaps I'll be censured. Now THAT would be a resume builder!

I'm not going to go into it again, but if you're dying to read why a once unanimously supported project to fix two deadly intersections on Empire Boulevard is now in peril, read this.

The anti-government frenzy is starting to blow over into once non-controversial transportation planning. With reams of data and a solid plan to keep traffic moving as well or better, DOT found both the way and the means to make it possible to fix the cluster-fudge at Washington/Franklin/Empire. After years of residents asking for responsible changes to this intersection and others, money was finally found a few years back by then U.S. Rep Major Owens. Yvette Clarke pulled the trigger and now the money is ours, only for this to correct long-neglected intersections at both ends of our district. Best of all, there's money for new landscaping and greenspace. The crossing at Washington effects more Q readers, plus hundreds of parents and seniors who take fate in their hands when they negotiate the bizarre dance at this monstrous intersection, so I've been happy to focus on that one. (The other fix is elegant too, but I'm rarely down by Utica and Schenectady. Been enough to know it's a nightmare as a bicyclist though.) These are multi-million dollar projects, and the money disappears if we don't do the project.

Thankfully I'm not alone in seeing the folly of objections from some at the Community Board and others (you know the names) who at this point suspect the reason for the fix has something to do with plans to allow the blvd to develop as 10-12 story "towers" with means-tested apartments, a/k/a affordable housing. A neighbor of ours has put together a petition to allow sheer numbers to way against the loud voices of drivers who have expressed opposition to ANYTHING they perceive could slow them down.

PLEASE SIGN KIM'S PETITION




20 Story Building To Replace Mathieu Eugene's Office

No, it's not April 1. From neighbor Jacob G. comes news that the building that was going to happen at 123 Linden (btw Bedford & Rogers) that was already a bit hefty is now going to tower over the neighborhood at over 200 feet. By taking an R7-1 to the max, this building will include community facility (that's profit-making rentals by the way, not a community "center" as some seem to think). Man-o-Manischewitz this does not bode well for preserving the context of the neighborhood, such as it is. Here's the filing.

I'm really too blown away by this news to spin it as yet another sign of the need for a Planning Study. FYI, Linden is not in CB9, which ends at Clarkson. But still, we have tons of R7-1 to offer. Just look at 626 Flatbush. And don't forget a 23 story whopper is coming to Nostrand below Church Ave. I guess it's time to settle in for a new normal.

384 Units. Market? Probably. I suppose some of you can hip me to the facts?

123 Linden - Your Councilman's Office Will Seem Quaintly Tiny One Day
Oh, and we've already talked about this on Lenox:


For fun, the 23-story coming to Nostrand:


And while we're talking south of CB9, let's keep rolling with Clarkson/Nostrand:


How many more mega-projects in the pipeline? With dozens of new projects having surfaced this calendar year, I think it's safe to say the ship has left the station. All aboard?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kiddie Science Trivia Fun Nov 28

Always happy to promote Kiddie Science, Mad Momma Carmen, Play Kids and Science. That's a killer Gang of Four.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Uses, Or Not, Of Hyperbole

Is it helpful to describe issues of development in Lefferts as class warfare? Probably not. This writer has tried to wake up the neighborhood to the fact that decisions are made in its name that will affect us for a long time. Perhaps his language is a bit over the top. Because, and here's the honest truth, there's not much any of us can do about runaway development. And on his most cynical days, he says...who gives a damn. If people are set in their ways let them be. They'll die, then I'll die, we'll all die, and why bother to point out hypocrisy when we're all equally to blame for destroying the Earth and punting our problems to the next generation? At least political movements like "Black Lives Matter" have identified true lingering sores in the fabric of America, and are trying to address it. I'm thrilled to see movements like that, Occupy Wall Street, the Crown Heights Tenants Union, taking hold. But when entrenched gentry start to defend their turf as if they are Entitled to make decisions for us all, I get on my high horse. I've always had a problem with Entitlement, even as I walk the streets oozing it from my pores. Perhaps we despise most what we see in ourselves. No matter. It's just a blog. It's just an opinion. Don't like it? Start your own blog, and I'll be happy to link to it. Seriously.

Every night I vow to quit CB9, save my sanity, and watch the neighborhood succumb to its own capitalist takeover, while people plan and scheme to demand from the City things it will not give. Even this whole Text Change war is nonsense. The Mayor's committed to it. He has quite a few allies on the Council. It'll pass eventually. Go ahead, count the Community Boards and "Trusts" and alliances for a "human scale" City. They're essentially anti-housing. And their arguments about "secondary displacement" are pretty hard to defend, especially when they're peppered with protectionism and preservationism. The Mayor and Carl Weisbrod are on a mission, and they're not going to let a bunch of "concerned citizens" get in their way.

Don't get me wrong - I love landmarks and landmark neighborhoods. But you can't landmark the whole City. Everytime you downzone or landmark, you have to recognize you've taken potential building away, and that with great demand you must build somewhere else. The "human scale" movement has one thing right - we don't need these damn super tall buildings that no one lives in but money launders and oligarchs. Who, as we've seen, don't actually live in them. Enough with the ultra-luxury market. Build market rate housing. But it ain't all "luxury." Some of it is shit for $5K. Try explaining that to the recent college grad who can't afford it, and decides to buy a whole house in Detroit for less than a year's rent. Granted, it's Detroit. But when you're young you don't care. The Q quite enjoyed his days next to two crack dens. Hardly noticed actually.

We can only try to squeeze this or that out of the whole thang, or cap heights. Repeat the fact: capping density or heights in one place (downzoning or contextual zoning) requires easing them elsewhere. Perhaps, were NYC not in a deep crisis of low inventory that sets rents spiraling upwards, we could imagine lowering potential density. This is not the case. It's not in the projections. High income jobs keep appearing and people keep moving here to nab those gigs, and they want to live here. Is this bad? Some say quite the opposite, it's good for the economy. It keeps people working, even those who live at the lesser income levels. Unemployment is quite low for NYC. That's good!! The problem, as we're told, is that all these working people - all equally deserving of a decent place to live - can't find one. When it's just "the poor," it's easy for the City to call it a social problem and deal with it that way, or more typically, not at all. But it's not just the poor anymore. It's working people all the way up to families $100K in income who are struggling to live here. The data don't lie. Folks can complain about "neighborhood change" all they want. But the change is a direct result of a healthy City in an unhealthy housing environment. Were we dealing with rampant unemployment and spiraling crime, the issues would be different. But the dissatisfaction and unease would be equally intense.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Down South They're Getting Serious About Affordability

Ah, the Caton Market. Once an outdoor flea, it became an indoor mini-mall with stalls. But it's never been very inviting. And while a few small businesses have indeed gotten their start there, most suffer from lack of foot traffic. People just don't go in. Time for phase III?


And guess what? This guy wants to cobble together the financing to make the ENTIRE building means-tested, at various levels. With the current anti-housing fever in CB9, we can only be glad it's happening in the district to the SW, namely CB14. One would hope the project will make its way through ULURP without too much trouble. And who's the guy leading the charge? A hometown kid done good, Meredith Marshall. Read all about the project in the Brooklyn Eagle.

Meredith Marshall photo: Lore Croghan
Question: What if we put political pressure on the case to do more of this, say along (gulp) Empire Boulevard? We'd finally find out how committed certain neighbors are to affordable housing, since this kind of project is for everyone BUT the luxury market. What do you think? Would MTOPP and Concerned Citizens go for it? Granted, it's not City land. But with the right politicians on board, and a community sufficiently dedicated to building low and moderate income housing...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Million Dollar Townhome Owners To Working Stiffs: Our Borders Are Closed: Try Poughkeepsie.

In a remarkable display of hypocrisy without irony or wit, your neighbors voted and expressed themselves in solidarity. And while most own homes appraised at upwards of $2 million, they voted no to Mandatory (that's right MANDATORY) affordable housing. Stunning, but not surprising. Older (and even pretty new) homeowners in this neighborhood seem to think they own the joint. They're pissed, because others might dare want a place near the park, just like them. That they can afford. How dare they!

Not one member of the committee seemed to express any interest in the City's best market-aided efforts to get rid of Fedders & Billyburg style buildings, build more homes for seniors, or require means-tested set-asides. We heard a lot of nonsensical comments about the "right way" to build affordable housing. And maybe, sometime next decade, there'll be the money and political will to do some of it, too little to late. By then, building affordable housing for the poor might be twice as expensive. Actually, by then the poor may have moved on, and the working poor will be commuting from Poughkeepsie. Maybe we can get them a discount on Metronorth tickets? The whole thing is so depressing. I don't know why I sit there and take the abuse, especially the 5 minute tantrum from Boyd who called me a punk, racist and coward for pointing out what a hypocrite she is for claiming her anti-gentrification bonafides all the while playing them up to Airbnb renters. She's a phony, but that doesn't matter. She gets what she wants. Just like my toddler. Lotta similarities actually.

It's enough to make me think that people in this neighborhood really DO want to be Park Slope. That's the way they're voting. They want downzoning ONLY, just like the Slope so successfully did through the years, selling out 4th Avenue because, you know, it really isn't the Slope, not the REAL Slope. See any black or brown folks over there? See any affordable housing? Have you seen that average incomes are over $120K? Did you know the Slope used to have huge black and brown populations? Couldn't happen here, though. Of course.

Am I the last person standing who wants downzoning on inner-blocks, with height-limited upzoning on the Avenues to allow for the building of affordable housing? Probably. Alicia says she wants REAL affordable housing. Something tells me she won't go for it on Empire Boulevard though. Why? Hypocrite. Light and garden and Euro-sensibility and parking loving hypocrite. What's sad is that the true righteous crusaders, like Crown Height Tenants Union often align themselves with her. If they only knew.

That's where we're heading folks. Park Slope. And tonight, we sealed the deal. What was hilarious was that many people on the Board and in the community actually made the arguments tonight FOR a Planning Study, though you best bet they won't be for it when the rubber meets the road. After years of wanting more affordability, the real cowards are the people who look the future in the eye, and say no to change, positive policy change that might just save not only OUR neighborhood, but the whole damn City.

Here's a fact, Jack. It's a Great Big City.

Sounds obvious, right? And it's getting denser. Community Districts all over the City are watching and feeling helpless as developers gobble up land and build the most profitable buildings for their investments. And right now business is very, very good indeed. Though land and building prices have skyrocketed, so have rents and the costs of owning a piece of America's greatest urban experiment - NYC. In a wild reversal of fortune from both post-9/11 New York and the financial crisis of '08-'09, for better or worse, we have become THE place to be, as an investor or a worker, business or resident. And so we come to the present moment.

I've lived here in BK since 1988. In all that time I've never seen a mobilization of forces that can only be called anti-housing. I make that distinction (anti-housing) because groups like Concerned Citizens or MTOPP have many arguments for their claims. But the one consistent complaint is - don't build denser or higher. Not even a little bit. We've got enough people. City and developers, please move on to the next "it" neighborhood. Why do I call this NIMBYism? Well, because that's what the acronym was coined for. Go ahead and build your damn housing. Just not here.

We have a request in to City Planning to do a study of our neighborhood, and even the Study is vehemently opposed by a few loud and omnipresent citizen activists. But that issue has been set aside for the moment by the City agency charged with such matters because they've created a series of what are called "text changes" that are meant to work throughout the City, not on any one block or neighborhood. They are, in the words of the professional planners, intended to:

a) spur or require the development of affordable "means tested" housing
b) spur the development of seriously discounted housing for low-income seniors
c) incentivize smarter, better architecture with taller first stories - spurring first floor commercial uses and going back to the pre-war model of higher first floors (don't like Fedders buildings? this one's for you!)
d) mandate (as in you HAVE to) build affordable units in any area that's been rezoned
Tonight you heard people speak out against it, and the nays have it. Oddly, what most people WANT - affordability and a diverse neighborhood - are the very things they voted against.

And that, my friends, is what I call lunacy. And really good propaganda.

Neon Groceries

Have y'all noticed how many new shoppes have flashing or neon signs? I wonder if the price point fell. Here's the new grocery on Woodruff at night:

video

Friday, November 13, 2015

Moses Supposes Erroneously

Moses Fried. Haven't though of him in a hot minute. If you're new to the story, he's the slumlord who owns 205 Parkside, the never-finished squatter haven at the corner Parkside and Parksie Court. It's unbelievable that it has sat "uninhabited" for more than a decade. At least its facade was fixed up a few years ago. The Q's written at least a dozen times about 205, but not in awhile. He fixed it up, but now it just sits, a miserable reminder that while there's a housing shortage, some people could give a rat's ass. He and grandson David Tepper clearly have little idea how much money they COULD be making.

The Q walked down Classon, past another of Ol Man Moses' notoriously neglected love shacks, the quasi-bordello he was running called "Lefferts Hotel" in Bed-Stuy. Here's what the condemned building looks like then and now:


People have moved in here. It's gone from hourly no-tell motel to (probably) super expensive rentals. Maybe we'll finally get some sort of action from 205. As anyone can see who walks by at night, there's still squatters living there. So strange at this point in time, but hey, there's a bunch of squatters on my street to. Ever since some houses foreclosed or were bought, folks just moved right in. Don't know if they're paying rent to someone. One woman clearly thought I was too nosy asking. I didn't want her to get kicked out, but something about my look told her not to trust me. No offense taken.

There's a desperation and an anger that if you're new there's no way you could fully appreciate. And yet, for those of us safe in our mortgages and those with reasonable or decent landlords, it's kinda the same as it ever was. All this talk of strife, when most people continue to go on with their lives, with rent often being low on the list of worries. One woman told me she's glad to be out of 85 Clarkson. Couldn't stand the "element" living next door to her. She'd been there 25 years! How long had she lived next to this element? 20! 20 years next to a jerk. Now she's moving to Marine Park. An old Jamaican lady, moving to Bensonhurst? Better believe it. A big spike in the number of Caribbean folks living down there, if the numbers are to be believed.

A sign of the Apocalypse? Hardly. But meaningful just the same. Yet the carnage continues, in buildings where the landlords have green on the mind and hate in their hearts. It was the best of times, the worst of times. A Dickens of a pickle if you ask me.


Nutty Rendering Gives New Perspective

Know that 23-story building (the OTHER 23-story building) coming to Nostrand below Church? There's a new rendering on Curbed today that really lays out what this sort of construction can yield. Here's from the south looking up our arse. I do believe that's Patio Gardens and Ebbets Apartments sticking up near the Park and garden. No need for contextual zoning here! Looks just super...(sarcasm intended).


Little Mo' Wine Open on Nostrand

From Mark Schwartz, owner of Little Mo' Wine store:

Q, I've got cases all over the floor but I'm taking cash and credit cards in exchange for wine an' booze. Little Mo Wine is open! 
The skinny: 75 reds and whites for $12 = $13 with tax, no coins! More at various levels of $. Spend $200 and I give you a $15 buyback. Case discounts available. Delivery coming sometime next week. Hours 12-9 daily. Hard to find spirits, wines of terroir, friendly people. Expert pairings with local takeout. 
Come by Thursday 11/19 before jazz at Michael Allen for a free tasting.
Le Grande Ouverture will be be Friday 11/20
If you got the cash, you can get the buzz. Good luck Mark! From the wall drawings I'd say you're in for a nice long run. Love that you're making the neighborhood integral to your biz model. Sweet as a Riesling.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Garden Deals Blow To Jerks Claims To Garden

The Maple Street Garden continues to amaze, not just with its greenery and communal spirit, but with its legal prowess. In the latest news, the con men trying to lay claim to the land have seen their deed called into question. Given the recent ruckus stirred up by the Old Gray Lady over developers using shady documents to claim ownership of properties, I'd say the wee Garden Folk are taking the right approach. The organization 596 Acres trumpets the first big victory here.

Go get 'em guys.

Over at another local garden named after me (Q Gardens) the Q and Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed III stopped by the big Pumpkin Smash on Sunday and had a merry time being among the first to throw our jack-o-lanterns onto a rocky tarp. If you google jack-o-lantern and "rusty tarp" you will come up with zero results. I'm hoping that changes after Google indexes this page.

One thing you should really know about Q Gardens is that you can bring by your compost on Sunday 2-4. And maybe other times to...check the website. Or better yet this here Facebook page. Haven't been? It's over by the Church stop on the Q/B, just north of Church, along where the train tracks run. It's adorable. A pic from the Smash:


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Get Fit At LGCS - Tomorrow Thursday

Lefferts Gardens Charter School community event, coming your way:






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

PPEN & PLGNA Enter the Planning Study Fray

The Q makes no apologies for his respect for the people behind the Prospect Park East Network and the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association. PPEN was the first to address the issue of outsized development, many of their members having started the fight back in 2007 around the proposed 23 story building on Lincoln Road (which eventually became a different project, the one that's topping out now). PLGNA's been around since the block-busting and red-lining '60s. Under Martin Ruiz and now Quest Fanning it's been laying the groundwork to become a powerhouse community resource, and has been sponsoring all kind of interesting work around neighborhood. So it comes as no surprise that they are now beginning a planning and assessment study of their own, with the support of elected officials even. There's been some bellyaching about PLGNA getting some dough to do this, but that's what happens when you place nice with people. They tend to be more likely to be helpful and respectful right back. Other groups take notice.

Here's what they're saying, per their website at www.ppen.org.




Monday, November 9, 2015

Brooklyn's Tallest Building - Come On Who the Fuck Lives In These Things?

A lot of folks are up in arms about plans to build a 90-story residential tower in Downtown Brooklyn.  Look, this is what happens when you allow Downtown Brooklyn to become the next Midtown. The zoning allows for just about any size, and now that rents have hit a threshold, it's actually possible to make money in Brooklyn building one of these things. Folks, this is not an inexpenisve building. It's skinny, but it's tall and it ain't cheap. Near where Junior's ever-was. Craaaaazy, man, crazy.

But the real question isn't whether this belongs. In Delirious Brooklyn, anything apparently goes. The real question is...who the FUCK wants to live up on the, say, 80th floor anyway? I don't know anyone who would choose this lifestyle. I mean, maybe for a weekend it'd be kinda cool. But seriously that kind of view is meant for a $20 ticket, you go up, say "whoa," look for your actual apartment way down there, make a statement about how the people look like bugs, and then head back down and get a bagel and smear. You don't live there. It's absurd. For a view? You gotta go up and down 80 stories everytime you want to get a pint of ice cream? Sure maybe you have it delivered, because you're too lazy, or more likely because it's ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS to go down 80 stories, even in an elevator, just for a Chubby Hubby or a cold Fanta.

We hear that very few people are living in these vanity towers. The units are purchased by shell companies, by people who may or may never set foot in them. That Marlboro 100 in Midtown comes to mind, and the Time Warner. Shit, somebody should put a stop to this right now. There's a housing crisis, man. Build for people who are actually going to live there, and enjoy it, and become part of the community. Yes, Empire, I'm talking to you. I think Peabody in Peabody and Sherman lives in one of these. But that's a talking genius dog, not an actual person.

And if you meet someone who would put down a few million to live at the top of this rather than live near terra firma in a proper house for the same dough, please tell them to come see me so I can beat some sense into them. What's next? Buildings that go a mile into the earth so you get a better view of the magma? Save on heating.

The Best Kind of Amnesia

Last weekend's big Flatbush cleanup warmed the Q's heart. Four years ago a bunch of neighbors did a Flatbush cleanup day too. It was a bunch of people I knew who organized it - Skei and Carmen and Babs and others. This time around I had no clue who got the ball rolling, though I'm glad they did. Though I did see this picture with longtime buddies Duane Joseph and Elizabeth C., and of course that was NOT a surprise at all:

I guess hats should leave heads for Virginia Bechtold and Jo Ann Brown, two women I've never met but who have a big presence on the PLG Facebook group. At first when I read about their enthusiasm I felt a deep cynicism coming on, since we'd gone through the same thing twice, once three and once four years ago. But then I realized just how fantastic it was that new folks were tackling the same problems. Then I got melancholy. Where was my zeal for cleaning that I had four years ago? I was so gung-ho. I headed up CB9's Environmental Protection committee, getting neighborhood associations together to talk about lasting solutions. As I learned, it's tricky. We got the City to start writing more tickets, but not everyone who gets the ticket was responsible for the trash. (Myself included to the tune of $100) I sent around hundreds of Sanitation flyers to businesses, telling them their responsibilities. But if just a couple storefronts per block ignore the rules, they can help make the whole block a mess. Then we tried to get the smarter trash bins that are harder to "dump" in. Actually some of those ARE starting to come our way! And remember when Carmen tracked down that nasty guy who was dumping construction garbage right onto Rogers? Those were the days my friend...

What was hilarious was when Shelly of Play Kids and the Flatbush merchants association were talking and we both agreed Flatbush has been looking much better than it did even just four years ago. This made me think about how annoyed I'd get when I'd complain about a rash of crime and old-timers would say "yeah but it's WAY better than it used to be." Maybe I'm becoming that guy? Only about trash. Actually, I think crime is a bit less overwhelming too, but I wouldn't say it to a newcomer. Especially someone who's just been mugged. You want sympathy, not "you shoulda seen it back during the crack years."

When the First Annual PLG Cleanup Day happened on April 30, 2011 it was brilliant. So many people came out, and volunteers from Community Groups. Skei had T-Shirts made, the posters were gorgeous. And after all that work I went out on May 1 and wrote this post. Of course we all knew the Flabenue would all go right back to its miserably filthy self, but so soon? At least on this Sunday I did notice a cleaner neighborhood, a hint at what could be.

But the fact is, nothing's going to change big time til we get regular street service, with Doe Fund guys or other BID hires. We have one from Parkside on down (the Flatbush BID), and except for the early hours of the day, it looks pretty damn good for all the traffic we get. The main culprits are the dumping of household trash and the overfilling of bins that's usually the result of the dumping. There's littering, I won't deny it. I pick up a handful every morning on my third of a block towards Flatbush. But a piece here and there isn't the same as a whole basketsworth. That's the kind of thing that makes me feel like no one gives a damn, when of course the reality is that almost everyone gives a damn, but we're held hostage by the few who don't. Give a damn, that is. Give a "damn?" Strange phrase. "Damns for the poor!" "Won't you please give a damn to man without a damn?" "Give a man a damn, he'll care for day. TEACH a man to damn, he'll care for a lifetime."

Damn. I'm outa time. Here's to the dreamers!






Friday, November 6, 2015

A Desperate State of Emergency at 60 Clarkson

If the City won't pay him $3,000 a month per apartment to run a roach-infested flophouse, then Barry Hers would rather turn the remaining tenants into refugees. He's cut power and gas. It's a friggin' mess. Nathan Tempey has the story.

From it:
Wednesday afternoon, four days after the Department of Homeless Services officially washed their hands of the 27 residents who stayed—making them squatters until a judge says otherwise—something happened to the power. "I was in my apartment and the lights just went out," Ravan Huddleston said.
Huddleston is one of 20-odd shelter residents and long-term tenants who have signed onto the lawsuit since it was filed, rolling the dice on the opportunity to inhabit one of the apartments and hoping enough legal pressure can force Hersko to fix the place up. So far that prospect is not looking good. Residents we spoke to on Thursday morning say at least five apartments have lost power, all of them home to former shelter residents who are plaintiffs on the lawsuit.
Workers were in the building's basement on Wednesday afternoon, along with two men who seemed to be supervising, residents say, and when people complained that they'd lost electricity, they say the men told them Con Edison had shut it off but it would be restored momentarily. It didn't come back. By 7:30 p.m., the workers were gone and lawyers, activists, and police from the neighborhood's 70th Precinct were on site trying to get to the basement, where the circuit breakers are. The elevator that goes to the basement was strangely inoperable, Tenants and Neighbors organizer Jennifer Berkley said, and an employee of Hersko's, who refused to identify himself to her, adamantly refused a cop's request for entry over the phone.
"It was nuts; the guy from Hers's office was screaming at the cop," she recalled. "They have some nerve. They're literally screaming at the cop."
Berkley and others who were present recall the man on the phone saying that he didn't care if he was arrested—he wasn't restoring power. The activists left around 9 p.m. without any luck getting Con Edison to come or getting access to the basement.
On Thursday morning, shelter residents, many of them mothers of small children, kept their kids home from school in hopes of a resolution. Nadina Brown, a plaintiff, said that she's all for standing their ground, but Hersko's alleged sabotage makes it hard.
"The baby's crying," she said. "How we gonna stick it out with no lights?"

Empire Boulevard Project Needs Your Rescue

The other night at the CB9 meeting I realized a couple things. New things. One, I had no idea that the pro-car sentiment was so strong that it would try to kill a common sense fix to two of the most dangerous intersections in the neighborhood. Two, that one of the ways to "stick it" to people like me is to tell them how "we're going to shove your project in your face." In other words, forget about the public good. This is about personal retribution for some people. Which made me wonder whether I just need to stop being so public about my feelings.

First off, this is not MY project that I invited to present at the meeting. This is a DOT initiative funded with Federal dollars that were placed into the budget years ago by then Congressman Major Owens. To put it in perspective - this project was but dream years ago, when one could only imagine a day when you could fix messed up intersections that needed a full redesign. The money became available, good people have been working on it for months, and now a few bike-hating zealots want to shut it down? I don't think so. Not if you can help it. I'll probably need to duck out the back door and let you convince your CB9 board member neighbors that saving lives and creating green public spaces is being civic-minded and forward-thinking.

The only big problem with the way DOT has tried to sell the project is that while it's called the Empire Boulevard Reconstruction Project, it really involves just two multi-angle intersections that are more than a mile apart. You probably know Franklin/Empire/Washington really well, if you're reading this here blog. It's a hot mess, all times of the day. The other intersection is also beyond ridiculous, in construction and right-of-ways and dead spaces, but it's a lot harder for me to gauge the need because I don't see it very often. Go check it out though - Empire at Utica and East New York, Remsen and then Schenectady. Dreadful. Bizarre. But I'll leave it to someone else to make the case in detail. I like what DOT is proposing there, but it's not the part of the project that I'm willing to draw blood (my own!) for.

Exhibit A below shows OUR problem location. If you have a small child, you know precisely how dangerous is this intersection. Cars come from all angles, jostling for position to make the beginnings or ends of light cycles. The tiny chunk of Franklin that veers off to the right as you head up Washington only adds to the sense of, shall we say, adventure. Often a bicyclist or pedestrian becomes stranded somewhere. If you're not paying attention, you can get injured or killed. In fact hundreds of accidents have taken place at this and the other project intersection in the last five years, with 29 people maimed or killed.



So DOT, after months of analysis and data crunching, has offered a solution, and has the money to pay for it. You need only look at the traffic flow to see how crazy it all is:



The proposed design will not hinder drivers in the slightest. Yes, you won't be able to sneak up the tube at Franklin, but that's one of the major confusion factors. DOT wants to send you up to Empire on Washington to turn right. Like just about every other intersection in the Western world. Western BEEF notwithstanding.

Best part of closing that bit of Franklin is that it gives you some space to put trees and benches. Add some neckdowns - you've seen them on Flatbush past Grand Army Plaza, between Park Slope and Prospect Heights. For elderly and children in particularly, these shorter intersections are a godsend. AND you don't have lengthen the traffic signals to provide safety. Cars move, people move, (okay here it comes) bicycles move. Everybody moves. No one gets hurt. As much. Hurray!


Let me share my favorite complaint, after DOT presented the landscaping, seen below. And it's not the first time I've heard it. "What do you need trees for? You've got Prospect Park just a block away!" Look, if you hate trees so much, maybe I finally can understand the bizarre attachment to the Western Beef parking lot. Which is nearly never full!!! It's like I'm living in a world so topsy turvy that people wear pizza and eat shoes. And hate trees. Actually, I guess that part is already true.


If you care about such things, I urge you to come to the next Board meeting and voice your support. Or start a petition. Or come to the Committee meeting where we'll resurrect this and revote. That's Wednesday, Nov 18 at the CB9 clubhouse, 890 Nostrand near Carroll. Questions just email me.