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, March 5, 2015

Sound Neighbors

A friend passed along a picture that brought up a host of questions about how best to deal with problems that arise from living basically on top of each other. This was the poster - you'll need to read it fairly carefully to follow the rest of this post:

I've used 311 many times myself. We did a couple 311 pigpile like this and they seem to help. But that's usually when you're dealing with a City Agency that isn't doing their job.

What I'd like to ask the maker of the flyer is this: did you ever consider going down there and talking to the guys themselves? Maybe they don't realize how loud it is to their neighbors, or are under the impression that since it's a commercial corridor it doesn't matter? Turns out that yes, it does matter, and we've been down this road before with other joints and parties. Too loud, too late, is a big-ass bummer.

Do I believe it when Orlando and Johnny, partners in the new Buda Lounge version of Ali's, say that no one came to talk to them before the police came? Yeah. I mean, I get it. You're pissed and you don't want a confrontation. Maybe you're in your jammies and your first impulse is to fire up the laptop. Still the hands on approach can sometimes work where quality of life cops just make the situation worse. Maybe just call them? If they tell you sod off, then maybe it's time to go strategic.

Through the '90s this problem came up a lot around rock clubs, especially as the East Village gentrified. I tend to think it's not so much cultural insensitivity as something far more psychologically entrenched. Meaning, yes anyone wanting a good night sleep would want the music turned down. But certain kinds of folks, I've found, are more likely to DO SOMETHING about it, feel a bit more entitled to the quiet, and often that leads to involving law enforcement. Others are less likely to go that route, or perhaps endure any aural nuisance in the spirit of "we're living on top of one another, and I may be doing something that annoys you too." From my many years of practicing with bands I have some fairly clear data to point to, and I won't beat around the bush. The whiter the neighborhood, the less likely folks are to be tolerant of loud music, even before the oft-cited curfew of 11pm. When I moved to Clarkson, I was worried that playing rocky rolly music in the basement would make me a pariah. Quite the opposite! People would frequently stop me in the street or even knock on the window and say how good it sounded, or how much fun it sounded, or how glad they were to hear music being made. That included my NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS! Was THAT a cultural difference? I think so. But, to be clear, I'm not calling anybody out here. Just observing. Oh, and yes my own occasional flights of volume have made me more tolerant of the occasional raucous dancehall dance party. If it happened every night, well, that's a different story. I guess you could say I've been on both sides of the V.U. meter.

I do object, however, to the unnecessary part of the poster where angry person says that Orlando and Johnny are jerks and bullies. Is that really how this went down? I mean, the place has barely been open a month, so it's not like there's been time to establish that these guys don't and won't work with their neighbors. Like most business owners, they want to stay in business, and that means limiting problems with neighbors and police. Since word of the poster got back to them, oh and I believe they've been visited by the cops more than once, I would expect them to get better soundproofing or keep the volume down after a certain hour. Though it might be nice to work on that in collaboration with the most angry neighbors. Am I expecting too much?

I also think that now that we have an active Merchant's Association that it wouldn't be a bad idea to contact THEM, since that could help set a tone and precedent for the whole nabe. Just a thought. Whether you think this is about "Cultural Insensitivity" or not, I did learn one story while (mildly) investigating this that I found a bit more troubling. And so I'll relate:

Remember how there was always a basketball hoop on Westbury Court? Kids, elementary and middle-schoolers mostly, maybe a bit older, would play hoops in the cul de sac. Sometimes, maybe too late. Sometimes, beers could be identified as such when older kids took over. A little weed smoking from time to time? Probably. One newcomer (yeah, okay, white) neighbor took the "fight" to the cops. And the police removed the basketball hoop and told people not to loiter at the end of the dead-end street like that.

Does that scenario sound the same, or different to you than the Hookah Lounge conflict?


Anonymous said...

I agree that there could have been little to no contact with the owners of the business before the flyer was created. Although I understand it is necessary to sleep it is almost as important that we get along with our neighbors as well. Also, the basketball hoop on Westbury Court was used primarily by little kids ie: 7-15 years old - one of those kids was my son and it really is sad that I would have rather him play on Westbury than in PS 92 Park. How about some extracurricular activities for the kids? Aren't these the same kids that we always complain about having nothing to do in the city? I hope they put it back up this year. There is definately bigger fish to fry than taking away basketball hoops from little kids.

Anonymous said...

Maybe ask the creators of the flyer if they talked to the Roti shop before assuming they didn't. That's profiling.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Anon 10:38: Okay, smartguy. How am I supposed to contact a person who writes an anonymous flier calling people jerks and bullies?

I noted in my post that the Ali's guys said no one had contacted them. I leave it to the maker of the flier to comment here and tell me otherwise.

Now...I never said the guy who wrote the poster was anything other than angry. Are you saying I profiled him because he was angry? OR, are YOU the one making assumptions about the demography of the flier-maker?

Anonymous said...

Maybe them calling them jerks and bullies is based on their interactions with them in asking them to be more quiet past a certain hour. We have lived with chronic loud music noise in the past and it's life-destroying. Try to have some sympathy for the note writer too. The law is the law. I for one am so tired of people using city living as an excuse to treat other people like crap. It's the opposite - if you want unlimited freedom to blast music anytime you want then go live in the countryside. Not in close proximity to people. I just have the same sympathy for these folks as I did for you, Q, when you had the problem with the toxic smoke from the illegal smoker entering your home. You were really unfairly jumped all over by people in that. And the idea that only gentrifiers complain about things, also ridiculous. I've heard even stronger complaints about quality of life factors here from our elderly, very long time resident neighbors, the difference is they gave up hope at some point. And I've only had pure gratitude from them when newcomers tackle the various issues whether garbage or loitering or noise.

babs said...

A representative of Ali's came out to the last Parkside-Empire meeting (and brought some doubles and rotis!) and mentioned that they had heard people were complaining. She said the only time noise ever escaped from the store was when people opened the door and that they would be surveying this extra-carefully from now on and she asked anyone who had any issues with them to please come and talk to them. Apparently no-one every had. They've been there for years and want to be good neighbors.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Okay Anon, relax. Clearly you don't know the person who wrote the flier OR the guys who run the business. Your anger is about other stuff. Parse it out. Take a deep one. Smoke a hookah. It's gonna be fine.

I thought about the Peppa's problem a great deal when composing this post. I've changed my mind, though not my annoyance. While I didn't appreciate being lied to about whether they're cooking out back and smoking up the neighborhood, I DO appreciate the presence of true Jamaican food in the neighborhood. It's a question of balance; in the case of Peppa's I decided it was annoying but within the reasonable expectations of living in the world's coolest City. Hey, you win some you lose some. Oh, and I love their food, that didn't hurt. You may have come to a different conclusion. Touché.

You also say "the law is the law." It has not been established that any law has been broken. I think Babs points out that there may be a simple remedy, even IF no law has been broken.

You say "Maybe them calling them jerks and bullies is based on their interactions with them."

Yeah, maybe. But probably not. Do your due diligence - prove me wrong. Go and find out who this person is and their experience with Orlando and Johnny before siding with someone you know nothing about.

There is almost always a solution that doesn't involved law enforcement, but when people DO act like bullies and jerks, a good working relationship with the 71st is crucial. And Neighborhood Associations, block associations, merchant's associations, should stand by the complainers when that's the case.

It doesn't have to be a war. Not like ULURP!

Anonymous said...

We sought help from the 71st and from our block association and LMA when we had a severe noise problem with a neighbor and all declined to help. We were totally on our own. The cops laughed at me in fact. The city has a noise code that was updated a few years ago for the first time in decades, there IS an hour past which a business like Ali's Roti is supposed to turn off the music, and there is a limit in decibels that are allowed. That's what I am referencing in saying the law is the law.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Right on, right on. So what's the time and decibel level? You can't stop people from playing music, but you can limit the volume after a certain hour. Police come and judge the volume from the street. One problem with that method is that some music is bothersome because of the quality of sound, not just the volume.

I'm feeling you now, Anon. Describe further the situation you encountered if you would.

Carmen said...

I think a good discussion goes a long way. And by discussion I mean actual TALK, not yelling or name calling. I've had plenty of issues while living here and time and time again I've been able to address said issues by talking with people.

With few exceptions, most people in our community aren't assholes (admittedly some are) and what I've noticed for some time now is that a lot of complaining happens behind closed doors (or on the internet) and the person being complained about is left with simply being talked about behind their back. Want to know what that solves? Nothing.

I will say this, Anon 1:05 is spot on with the police response to legitimate noise and other complaints. We've had some rather ridiculous situations on my block, with dozens of people calling in noise complaints over and over and nothing happens because....wait for it...the police don't even show up.

Anonymous said...

We had a problem with a neighbor not a business, and that is much harder to deal with. But we did, we just stayed civil throughout and he got used to us and started listening.

Anonymous said...

So folks know, if you have a bad problem with noise, the process is this because 311 is useless: you hire someone to measure the noise so you have proof of the noise level then you present that to the city or in a court. There is such a widespread issue with noise in NYC that there are some who, yes, make a living measuring it.

Anonymous said...

Carmen, yep, the only thing the cops did was say, well that's what you get for living here.

Anonymous said...

The city has a noise ordinance that you can find with a two second google search. There are specific decibel levels and times at which one can create noise at those decibel levels.. I would suggest looking up the definition of "unreasonable noise" in the city's noise code. The problem with enforcement is exactly like some posters have said -- the police don't walk around with decibel meters to enforce noise violations, and anyway they have more pressing problems than noise complaints most of the time. The Dept of Environmental Protection will supposedly investigate businesses if they are a source of noise complaints, but I am sure that takes months to happen if it actually ever happens at all. So unfortunately that means if you live by a persistent noisemaker, calling 311 is not going to solve the problem.. you really need to be talking to a lawyer.. or better yet, move.

Anonymous said...

We had some problems with people playing loud music from their cars and drinking outside on our dead end last summer (Beekman PL) and heavily utilized 311. On several occasions, the cops came but often it was hours later and either the sound had subsided (it was 3 am after all) or the offenders turned the music down when they saw the police. We were new to the neighborhood and were totally caught off guard by this issue (as I'm guessing most people who recently moved here are) - we thought we were moving to a quiet little street! Admittedly, we could have come downstairs and asked them to turn down the music but it was late, they were drunk, and we were in our pajamas. Can you blame us? Also there was no way to have a calm conversation given that the partying often didn't start until late. I will say that our regular complaints did get the attention of a local sergeant who sent us a personal email and gave us a direct number to text if we observed people drinking/getting high so that was reassuring.

With a business, I'm not sure what strategy I would take. Talking to the owners first is of course the friendly thing to do, but I wonder if the letter writer was worried about awkward encounters later if the problem did not resolved itself and they had to take it to the police. Now they are "that neighbor"...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

The neighborhood is many things...quiet is not one that comes to mind. Unless, of course, you live on one of the quiet streets of the Manor, where the "single family covenant" limits density to practically suburban levels. Also, most of the Manor streets don't really run "through." You hit dead ends, so they don't make good east west streets for cars or ambulances and trucks. Parkside, Clarkson, Lefferts, and oddly enough Winthrop get a lot more of that traffic. Drivers coming down Winthrop are often coming from the hospital during rush hours. But I digress...

It's not just newcomers who deal with living on top of each other. This is a problem city-wide. Fancy coops in the City are known to break into fisticuffs over all manner of quality of living disagreements.

So... my advice is don't be discouraged and stick up for your rights. But sometimes there ARE solutions that don't involve 311 campaigns. Which, like I said, can often be easily avoided by calling the Community Board District Manager, who has a direct line to the precinct and even Environmental Protection, which WILL come out if you have a habitual offender and you can pinpoint a time that they will be making the noise. Again, work with the DM, not the agency itself. They get too many cranks to take every complaints seriously I think.

If you think a crime is being committed, then by all means call 911 not 311. We have the blessing of the 71st to do that. Even if it's just a matter of calling in a party that's out of hand. They may or may not arrive, but you can inquire the next day about your 911 call and see if the precinct has a reason they didn't respond. Call Vinnie Martinos at the 71st, or one of the longtime community affairs officers at the 70th if you live there. I don't know much about the 67th, except the complaints I've heard recently about a lack of response in a building on Lenox.

But what's "out of hand?" That's relative. And what would not be tolerated in, say, Park Slope, might be routine in a denser, more diverse neighborhood. Okay, I'll translate the double-speak - a blacker or more Latino neighborhood. When summer comes (if summer comes!) things get more lively, hanging and partying in front of buildings becomes more prevalent. And THAT, I would argue, IS culture. If it's not menacing, let it be. But...and here's where race plays a huge role...what's menacing to you may not in fact be menacing at all, if you can read the subtler cues. If you see something that looks like it's going to become violent, call 911! Say a fight's breaking out, or someone's already being pounded, or you hear a gunshot, whatever is within the realm of the truth. But if it's just hanging, talking, listening to music (not too too loud), maybe it's okay to just say hello and get to know people, if they're receptive. Most people I've met are - a little outreach goes a long way. Then, when things ARE too late and too loud, maybe you have a little more say so. And not to sound patronizing (I'm sure oldtimers will roll their eyes at this one), but those handshakes that I hear people say are drug deals usually aren't. Pay attention and you'll see that guys are just saying hello in the ever-evolving creative way that black men do. You'll get to know a REAL drug dealer after awhile, the kind that's scarily out in the open. There aren't as many as some people think. But there ARE bad guys out there. Keep your eyes open and you'll be fine.

Density is a fact of life in and near Manhattan. And it will continue to get denser as the City grows. Heck, the country is growing. The WORLD is growing. Sometimes it's easy to forget that population is going in just one direction. We need to figure out how to live with each other...share the great things of the City with each other, without driving each other crazy. It can be ugly sometimes, but it's part of this great experiment called NYC.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh, and get some earplugs or my favorite, a white noise machine. They've made our life on a crazy street SO much more bearable. And I wake up less grumpy too.

Anonymous#11 said...

Uninteresting and unimportant comment:

I've seen this play out before with some roommates and a troublesome neighbor. It's all too easy to do things like bang on the wall/ceiling/floor and call 311 to try to get your problems solved for you, rather than trying to tactfully confront it yourself.

But, you can probably guess what has had the highest success rate out of all the interventions I've tried and seen tried: person-to-person contact. A quick chat goes a long way. You may even make a new friend. Is it a result of the digital age where you can do things like order your food online and have it delivered to your house without having to say a word to anyone in the process? Are we burnt out from living in a packed city where there is little opportunity to find solitude, peace, and quiet in the midst of a stressful day?

I find that born-and-raised NYers tend to be more open to talking with strangers than people who moved here in their 20s, however curiously I find that people in other cities tend to be more open to talking with strangers than most NYers. Does NY attract the most socially-avoidant from these other towns, or is there something else at at play?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to purloin this post, but

I moved to the neighborhood 3 months ago (hawthorne bet flatbush + bedford). Love it here after 25 years nearby in Brooklyn.

One big thing though: is something deeply, systemically wrong with the mail in 11225? It seems that nearly every item is postmarked 2 weeks earlier, and some stuff never comes at all. Mail from Manhattan is taking 10 days or so. I imagine giant rooms full of mail being delivered incrementally.

Anyone else notice this huge problem? Can anything be done?


Anonymous said...

We've had problems with packages but not delayed mail. You might have a carrier who isn't taking everything with him/her each day or worse. You need to report it. It's not typical.

Curious27 said...

We had an awful problem with a neighbor living downstairs who would play her music far too loud and too late, then had her boyfriend move in who also enjoyed his music loud and late, and then they started smoking in the apartment while he (often) spoke in a booming voice we could hear almost clearly from our apartment above. We tried on several occasions to let them know it was loud and intrusive, and even threatened to involve the necessary powers that be, but then we found out this person had to move because she wasn't paying rent and was in the process of being evicted, and suddenly it made sense. She just didn't GAF.

Anonymous said...

I've had issues with the mail and packages as well, and never had any luck with reporting to the USPS powers that be. Have you ever been to the post office on Empire? You wait in an obscenely long line just to get up to the window (no matter what time or day you're there), and eventually get to show your package slip to employees who are miffed at you for making them go check the stack of packages behind them, who tell you it's not there (when it's obviously there somewhere), and who refuse to do any real follow-up. I've used the automated phone system to "reschedule" package delivery multiple times, only to have the local Empire post office ignore it completely every time, and force me to go collect the packages using the disaster of a process outlined above--which ends up taking at least a week. The USPS clearly could not care less whether this neighborhood has good mail service. The lack of recourse is scary...It makes the 311 process look efficient and helpful in comparison.

diak said...

Dear Newcomers to Zip Code 11225,
Complaints about the PO on Empire Blvd. go back years and years. Nothing ever changes. I suspect the complaints are filed somewhere back there with the missing packages never to be found.
On the other hand, I've always found the regular mail carriers to be helpful and friendly. I think their punishment for competence and a good attitude is to have to do the manual labor outdoors. If you want an indoor job with a chair apparently you have to be curt, apathetic, inept and slow.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Curious27, people don't innocently blast music late at night because they have no idea it bothers anybody. They don't GAF.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

So I suppose the soundproofing entrance to Ali's was constructed because they don't GAF? Clearly they gaffed, and now they clearly GAF. Go talk to 'em, I say.

There are all kinds of reasons that people want to create noise, smells and conduct business, and there's no reason to assume they're doing it AT YOU. That's my whole point.

Had my neighbors not alerted my band in the '90s that we were bothered them, we would have assumed we WEREN'T. Did we GAF? Yeah. Did we push the limit? Yeah. But we weren't assholes. Just a bunch of kids trying to have a rock band.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the basketball hoop on Westbury Court, how do you know it was a white person who called the cops and got it removed?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I wouldn't have known the story at all if it hadn't come from someone with direct involvement and knew all the players. I try not to print straight up rumor; not good for the reputation, you know?

You're reaching anon. What I said is what I said, you don't have to believe it if you don't want to.

Only somewhat related, I must say that most people these days are living with blinders on, but I guess we're all too busy living our own lives to give a damn about anyone else's. I was just over at Brownstoner and I can't believe the lack of sympathy in some jackass commenters. Unreal. Gotta stay outa the fray or I'm gonna go gray. Well, all the way gray.

babs said...

Seriously, Q, I haven't commented on Brownstoner for about five years - it's the same old Republicans spewing hate there for years.

Anonymous said...

Apologies, I wasn't intending to reach. But I realize now that my question sounds like it. I live on the block. And here's what I know. The basketball hoop, as you and another commenter noted, was a net good for this street -- which does have problems (out of control garbage, dogshit, etc.) but the hoop was not one of them. I questioned the "white neighbor" statement for this reason: last summer we went out of town and my brother-in-law came to apartment-sit for us. He's pretty white. He's also on the autistic spectrum. He enjoyed watching the basketball players and the general street life on our block. He's from the midwest, it's a novelty.

One night, though, the cops showed up and cleared everyone out, and shortly after that the hoop was taken down. The next day, some of our neighbors began harassing my brother-in-law, calling him unkind names, asking him why he'd called the cops on them. I'm sure they picked on him in part because he's different. He most certainly did not call the cops -- why would he? He knows he's almost as likely to be mistreated as they are. Our neighbors' treatment of my brother-in-law was shameful.

One last thing: a super on the block said he'd removed the hoop on orders from the landlord. I'm not sure if that's actually true, though, as I didn't see it myself.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

No worries! Thanks for fleshing out the story from another perspective.

Look, let's get the hoop back. If you want to be part of doing that, please. I have a couple others who can help out. And let's actually make a show of it...the kids need to see that we can work together to solve problems, even with cops. Send me an email offline and we'll talk to the cops, maybe over at PlayKids.

Anonymous said...

There was a hoop on Beekman Place a couple summers ago, and it was a disaster. Most of the "kids" hanging out there seemed to be in their 20s, the music and open pot smoking were out of control late into the night, and there was food garbage everywhere. It got to be like that every night, not occasional. I have no idea whether people were reporting it or what led to the hoop being removed later that year, but I was quite relieved to see it go.

How would you guys ensure that a restored hoop on Westbury would avoid the same fate? Not being snarky, am genuinely curious...It seems like such a delicate balance between the good (somewhere for kids to hang out and play) and the bad (boundaries ignored by young people being young people, chronic disturbances for those who live on the street). The idea of managing expectations all around is a good one, but how does that actually happen in a case like this?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Okay. So there's no more hanging out late at night when it gets warm? I find that hard to believe. Seems in summer there's always a lot of hanging out, but maybe taking the hoop stopped that?

I'm told a lot of younger people were affected negatively when it was taken away. Would you dispute that?

In other words, there are no guarantees that giving the hoop another try would work. But perhaps it IS worth having a conversation, not just calling the cops. We'll have them come to the mtg if we can set it up. Hope you'll be there too. The key is to get some of the "kids" to come, and a landlord or super or two.

By the way, to me early 20s is kids, but I can see how some would disagree. And it's not like all the yuppies in their early 20s are well-behaved, btw!

Anonymous said...

There's still been hanging out in nicer weather, but it's not a huge party all the time without the central hangout spot. The music issues are more sporadic, for one thing. Personally, I'm more willing to ignore quality-of-life issues like noise and hard partying (especially in summer) if I know it's not going to be right outside my front door all the time.

I agree with you that the conversation needs to happen. I'm not disputing that some kids were affected negatively by the decision to take down the hoop full stop. And I would love to see more neighborhood opportunities for children to have safe spaces to play outside. I'm just saying that replacing the basketball hoop, and potentially letting things get back to a point where neighbors are affected on a regular basis, that's a complicated matter. At this point it's hard to see what boundaries can be negotiated for kids, cops, and neighbors alike, so I'm curious to see how this process goes.

And totally agree that 20something obnoxiousness crosses all social groups. I wouldn't want to deal with constant outdoor hipster parties going on either. Basically, I want everyone off my lawn. By midnight, taking their garbage with them. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, anon of 10:16AM here. I would be happy to meet and figure out a way to get the hoop back on Westbury. Someone else on the block can correct me if I'm wrong, but we didn't have the same problems that Beekman Place apparently had. During the day, the late elementary to middle school set used it, at night a slightly older crowd moved in but it was fine. And it was eerily quiet and sad when the hoop went away. What was also strange is it didn't happen until August, when the hoop wasn't being used as much -- I guess hoop fatigue had set in. Anyways, I will email you offline, Mr. Q, and thank you for posting about this and getting a conversation going.