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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Promoted Comment About Park Car Closing

I didn't want to let this get lost, cause I'd actually like to hear what y'all think, so I promoted it from comment to post. The Q has some thoughts on the West Side car traffic closures, because I think some folks are thinking we've been shafted for being poor.

Anon 4:24. That's not what I said. In terms of this particular issue, I think it would be wrong to make the claim that richer nabes get what they want, and we get the short end. Let me tell you what they have over in Park Slope, and increasingly in Windsor Terrace. They have strong, consistent, well-run organizations. They have political connections. They have a powerful and productive Community Board (CB6). Most importantly, they have respected City leaders. We have none of those. And you can GET all of those things without piles of cash (though it never hurts, I'll admit!)

The City does not generally "bestow" services and changes upon neighborhoods. I've learned it's much more reactive than proactive. It's a big City and there are limited resources and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you present a strong, coherent proposal - like, say, the narrowing of intersections parallel to Flatbush north of GAP, DOT will do it. If you have a strong Merchant's or Civic Association or BID and you want to do an attractive median and bike lanes and smarter traffic (like Vandervilt). And if you want a protected bike lane and two rather than three lanes of traffic along a major travel route - like PPW, you can get it, despite an intense car lobby. Individuals are often behind this stuff. Passionate, committee people who stick it out and put the pieces together.

So far, in regards to closing traffic on the east side of the park I've seen an online petition. Which (we should all get used to knowing this) is an extremely ineffective way to get things done. Who even saw it? I mean, I can get 500 signatures to build a giant Wicker Man and burn it in the Nethermead, but that doesn't mean it gets done. Hey, ask Seth Kaplan how easy it is to get what you want for PPW when you don't have the organization behind you, the political will. It's a bitch and a half. And you can come off sounding like some crazy guy if you don't rally people around you in a coherent and thoughtful manner.

PLGNA and CB9, and CB14, must make this a priority. Better yet, Diana Richardson and Jessie Hamilton, because you know damn well Mr. Cheap Suit Eugene ain't gonna take the lead, call meetings, get involved, talk to the Mayor. Hell, he drives from Canarsie to work every day. Because he Canarsie. And loves his car. And doesn't know shit from Shinola.

Guys, this is about leadership and organization. Sure, the Mayor will eventually close our side of the park. But it will be DESPITE the lack of commitment on our part, not because of it. It'll happen because it's insane not to. And still the drivers from Flatbush and Flatlands and Midwout and even the Island of Staten will blow a gasket. And if THEY have strong leaders and organizations behind them they might get there way too.

So yeah, rich neighborhoods get more attention. But it's because they DEMAND it. We may have pent up demand, but until people start really getting involved, nothing's gonna happen. Look at Delson and his crew and the plaza at Parkside. You think that was going to happen in a vacuum? And he EVEN got Eugene to kick in dough. That's right, he kissed enough ass and made it clear this was a photo-op. Because Rudy Delson is a go-getter. Like Amy Musick. Or Quest Fanning. Or Cheryl Sealey and Brenda Edwards and Celeste Lacy-Davis and Alex Ely and Skei Saulnier and Richard Green and Carrie McLaren and Warren Berke and Diana Richardson and Renata Gomes and Renee Ciconne and Siobhan and Marvin and Eppley and Esteban and Kaplan yes, yes, yes Alicia Boyd. Gotta give it up there for gumption, fortitude and attention to detail. Tons of others. But on this issue, I just don't see the effort. It'll come. I double-dare ya!

Sorry if I sound preachy. It's just that I've spent the last few years learning how this stuff works, and you can whine all you want about being the poor and black side of the park that gets shafted. Or you can do something about it. What kills me is that it's so often white people complaining about how the poor, black side of the park gets the raw deal. Like, what the hell are you doing about it?

Go on. Bring the love or hate in the comments! Someone's gonna step up. Or just disagree with my analysis, watch how little positive, progressive change takes place.


Anonymous said...

Some of us are opposed to closing the East Drive to motor vehicles during the AM commute because DOT studies show that Coney Island Ave traffic diverted onto Parkside Ave would cause a lot more idling cars to back up at the Ocean-Parkside intersection. Not safe or healthy for local families. A complicated issue.

Anonymous said...

If Laurie Cumbo or Mathieu Eugene had said the word all of Prospect Park would be car free. Calling their offices is the thing to do for a car free park. I think those of us contacting them may have had some impact as Mathieu was there at the photo-op.

But Michael Ring's petition didn't come out of nothing. He had met with Brad Lander and the councilman told him he'd come out in support of the issue if Michael got 1000 signatures on the petition before the bill in the council came up for a vote. Brad Lander stepping forward is why the West drive is going to be car free starting next month. Only the Central Park Drives were on the agenda previously.

I do question the DOT's numbers for car traffic on the East drive. I wonder if they are accidentally counting the bicycles as cars. They are using some old pneumatic tube tech for the counts. But that can be tested with a manual count. And besides, it isn't really the reason our side of the park wasn't included. As you say, the city rarely gives unless you ask.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% that it isn't merely an issue of the authorities providing more services to richer areas just because they're rich, but more residents in those areas speak up, advocate for themselves, put up a fight, and have the connections. Local councils also have a lot of discretionary money to spend so when it comes to improvements that cost money, you just have to ask. The public school I work at received a lot of money from our local councilman's office. The principal literary just walked over himself, told them what we needed, and we got the money. Now, we have been asking them for financial support for various issues and they have been very helpful. It makes it easier on them to check off some boxes and get the money used, and we benefit by being proactive.

I'm certain that park slope moms are constantly calling complaining about building violations, requesting trees, complaining about uneven, dangerous sidewalks that need to be fixed, trash not being picked up, etc.

If a group of residents put together a list of the main complaints and requests for neighborhood improvements and set up a campaign to have residents make calls and visits to the relevant offices and authorities, I think we'll see some success.

Seth said...

"Hey, ask Seth Kaplan how easy it is to get what you want for PPW when you don't have the organization behind you, the political will. It's a bitch and a half. "

Hi Tim,

You cite my name with an idea or thought that I disagree with both for my personal efforts on behalf of the neighborhood and the large number of very active and successful organizations in our community.

Regarding myself, I started a group called Parks4Us which has had a considerable amount of political capital and success in addressing a number of issues from park goers who utilize the east side of the park. The personal and political support of the Borough President brought the head of the Alliance and number of other key staff to Borough Hall on more than one occasion for working meetings which bore genuine and immediate results for our community.

Further, I simply do not support the belief that we have less drive on the whole as a neighborhood and this somehow is responsible or related to the decision regarding the closing of the West side loop but not the East.

My group will be making an announcement soon regarding this recent decision by the city. Stay tuned!

Seth Kaplan

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Seth: If you feel you have all the support you need, political and manpower-wise, then I take it back. But if it isn't a bitch-and-a-half to get stuff done, isn't at least a bitch and 1/4? A bitch? Half a bitch?

*note: this use of the word is as a unit of measure.

roxv said...

i think it's a little silly to suggest being a more active voice in your community has NOTHING to do with income level/"class." park slope is an area far more likely to have stay-at-home-moms/dads, or generally households where at least one adult has a more flexible schedule (like, say, that of a freelancer, because their spouse is the one with the high-paying job). that's not nearly as common in a lower-income neighborhood. it's a struggle for me to make it out to any community meeting since they all take place well before my 10 hour work day ends, i don't have a spouse, and there's only so much one can do from their computer.

JDB said...

Tim, I agree that it is not only about money or race but it seems apparent to me that those who are wealthy in areas like Park Slope have both the time and connections to get things done. It would be great if many of us did not have to work and could advocate for these issues or if we could provide more funding to groups so that they could better organize but that is just not the case. I get the position that one should not complain if you are not doing anything to make change happen but what really annoys me is the fake concern from politicians about "underrepresented communities who have no voice" who then ignore those communities because their voice is not loud enough and the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

By the way, I was wondering if the "white and complaining" referred to me? Its funny because I often get referred to as white when I comment on a post here. Not that there is anything wrong with being white but I am a proud Puerto Rican and have never been considered nor considered myself white. In fact, some of my best friends are white. (this last paragraph of my comment is said with a bit of sarcasm in case it gets lost in translation)

Clarkson FlatBed said...

JDB: I would never assume anyone's race whom I've not met. Hell I don't always know someone's race even after I've met them! Pretty confident I know white when I see it and hear it though. I'm not referring to you, but rather conversations I've had in private. I'm glad people complain in private. It seldom leads to action though, and I'm sure you'd agree?

The online petition is great. The fact that it isn't going to OUR councilman speaks volumes. Ridunkulous.

My point is that not everyone agrees the road should be closed! I'm fine talking about race and money and politics, and we probably agree on most points. I'm just saying that THIS issue doesn't fit people's conceptions so neatly. The most pro-car people I've met on CB9 have been black (Caribbean AND African-American) and Orthdox Jews. How can people say this about race at all? Have a vote, then tell me that the majority favor a road closure. Don't say it's about race though. And if you want stuff done, you gotta organize. A petition is great, but like I said I've done petitions and delivered them and where are they now? Long ago trashed I suspect.

I'm trying to have this be a call to action, not a dump on anyone. And Seth? I think he's doing a GREAT job getting people together. I'll try to be clearer when writing.

Frankly I think we should all go over to the Facebook page, even though I detest Facebook. Posts get equal weight over there. This is not an objective website and never will be.


Seth said...

Thanks Tim!

JDB said...

Q - I love that this is not an objective website! Your views are what keep bringing me back (even when I don't fully agree).

Seth - Looking forward to what your group will announce.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to my comment above (June 21. 2:34). While I think being "louder" in ones demand play a huge role in being heard, I do agree that having a stronger and more persistent voice is in multiple ways related to income, class and race (having more confidence that the system will support you, feeling more entitled, having the luxury of not worrying about paying the bills, housing, getting your kids off the streets and using that energy to deal with planting flowers, perhaps being more knowledgeable about which entities are responsible for which services, etc). That said, we can't change the root causes of these issues as immediately as we can change the symptoms. Setting up a "call/visit your local official campaign" will probably yield more immediate results than discussing the gross inequities of our society.

For example, if residents like you-know-who channelled all that energy protesting the evil white man and instead worked on smaller improvements in the community and neighborhood, I think she would be very successful, given her passion, drive and persistence. Neighborhood beautifying campaigns, youth and safety campaigns, sanitation improvements, business and building violations, new benches, landscaping, etc...

And my impression is that the community board is consumed by discussing issues related to big development, based on everyone's posts about the meetings. Please correct me if I'm wrong. If true, why not spend some time discussing quality of life issues that the residents have to deal with now?

Noel Hefele said...

There is also a reddit page -

MUCH better in terms of sorting and seeing what's important etc... except for one fatal flaw. Nobody really uses it right now...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You couldn't be more spot on, Anon 6:44. That's most of my point right there. CB9 could, should and will be the place to take these issues if people would step up, both joining the board and its committees and bringing the issues to them and holding them accountable.

This year we turn the corner. That's gonna be my new white whale. Monthly meetings, same day every month, of every committee. Consistent accountability and record keeping. Keeping Pearl Miles so busy working with the City she hasn't time to answer another frivolous FOIL from AB.

Anonymous said...

I hope so. Does CB9 have an email that goes out before meetings detailing what will be discussed, asking people about issues they want to be addressed, polls, updates? If not, that would be helpful.