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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The PTA, the CB & the SLA

Been a strange 48 hours. First, the Q got to witness up-close-and-personal the machinations of a diverse school's contested PTA elections. Things got a bit ugly, regulations weren't followed precisely, and the turnout was like 10 times what you'd see for a normal PTA meeting. The lines were drawn and the gloves were off. Luckily, a rep from the district was there to run the meeting, or all hell would have broken loose. It can't be stressed enough how important it is to have a Chairperson who knows how to run a meeting. Until the last year I never really got that. Controlling the mic, controlling the tenor of the room, showing fairness but being firm. It's a lot like the performative part of teaching.

And while I kept saying to myself "It's just the PTA, y'all, no reason to bust a gut" it was, in fact, democracy in action, one of the few places that the feelings under-the-surface have a chance to rise and be counted. Actually physically counted. In the case of the PTA, about 2/3 of the school wanted to stay the course, and 1/3 favored the incoming slate of reformers. Insults, accusations, hurt feelings, the whole nine. It's interesting to me that in a place where our children are being taught and encouraged to be good citizens, we sometimes have a hard time leading by example. It's still the sandbox, even in middle age. Sand kicked, toys stolen, some sharing, some bossing, some just playing off by themselves. The mature, or the wizened, rise to the occasion. I want to be that guy. I'm getting better, but I've got a long, long way to go. And I'm pushing 50. Gotta get a Zen Master to guide my primal urges to tell everyone to shut the hell up, grow a pair, or go back to finishing school.

Last night, at the CB9 annual election, things were SO much calmer than they've been in months. Why, you ask? Well, a certain agitator is on vacation. That's right, Alicia Boyd is off somewhere, probably AirBnB'ing and enjoying upscale amenities somewhere. So the meeting, while more than 4 hours long, was the most productive and civil in recent memory.

Who's your new Executive Committee that will get to have insults hurled at it?

President: Demetrius Lawrence
Secretary: Stuart Balberg
Treasurer: Simone Bennett
1st Vice Chair: Patrica Moses (somebody who I've never met and seems to have come out of nowhere to beat longtime chair Jake Goldstein)
2nd Vice Chair: Denise Mann
Members at Large: (once again) Jacqueline Welch and Evelyn Williams

Just because I happen to know most of who voted for Jake and me (I ran for Treasurer), and because our votes were nearly identical (21-13 against), I can honestly say that voting happened largely along racial lines. I have no hard feelings about that, but it does sadden me. It's what it is. In our district, I find myself voting for black candidates all the time, but if you're black, I think it's very hard to cross the racial divide. And this is not at all surprising or worrisome to me, just means we have a long way to go. In a country that's dominated by whites and white culture, it's reassuring that there are still places where minority candidates and minority owned businesses have a chance to thrive. Though I tell you straight up because I don't know how to do it any other way - my opponent Simone Bennett ran this year's Transportation Committee and did nothing. I'm not sure why she gets rewarded for that, except for all the noise I make at meetings and here I guess I'm not held in too high esteem. But yeah, Simone held one meeting, then attacked DOT publicly about something she had no knowledge of, then didn't even show up for the final committee meeting which was basically chaired by Ed Fanning since he knew what he was doing, despite having been kicked off the Board by the BP for no reason other than, I don't know actually. A really bad move if you ask me. I even wrote the BP a letter about it. Dumb. You don't kick off your most committed and highly prepared and qualified chairs! Crazy, but there you are. And they didn't reappoint Mike Cetera, who along with Pearl and Jake basically held down the fort for years. This is how you're repayed. And Mike was still working on very cool project. Yuch, yuck and youghk.

(So no, the Q ain't mad, he's actually relieved not to have to go to any more meetings than he already does. Still I was looking forward to having my own piggy bank to spend on pencils and bonbons. Did I write or think that? I wish the new Exec well, and hope to chair something that I feel strongly about.)

Now to the good stuff. Liquor. Beer. Wine. And prohibitionists. As in there were many liquor license requests, either new or renewal. That Mexican joint Oaxaca on Rogers and Sterling. A local bar for Union & Franklin. A renewal on Utica (VChris) that the cops said shouldn't happen, since there's too much ugliness, you know, assaults and the like. A couple ma and pa's want renewals. A joint wants to add beer & wine to a diverse set of offerings. The applicants were absurdly diverse in business plan and ethnicity. All good, right?

Turns out that the bar at Franklin and Union is in a notorious building, whose attitude is Gentrify or Bust. The bar works for its "business strategy." It causes fear and loathing among many longtime residents. The bar OWNERS just want to make some dough with their fourth bar in Brooklyn. They seem earnest and intent on being a good neighbor. After much lively back and forth, the Board (rightly) chose to grant the liquor license by a 2-1 margin, even as a dozen or so voted against it, citing everything from a "glut of bars" to "the community doesn't want it." I guess the market itself will determine the second one. And frankly, I wouldn't be surprised at all if we don't see a bunch of joints along that stretch. As long as they follow the SLA rules though, it's gonna be hard to imagine that even with CB disapproval they're gonna get turned down. There's just no justifiable reason to stop a decent business from

Oh hell I'm already thinking about the crime meeting that happened tonight. Basically, Rebecca's brilliant organizing meant that a lot of people pissed at the cops were given a bevy of cops to sound off to. Even when I was sitting there saying nothing, I was getting the hairy "I'll mess you up, m.f." from some joker in the second row. That's what you get for calling a meeting. Gruff and Bluff.

But honestly, most of what was said needed to be said, though it would've been nice if the "Cops Watch" folks, with Imani Henry - chapeaued and pacing back and forth in the lead, would've dropped the tone down a notch so the police might actually be persuaded to work with them. Imani's group will meet July 18 at the Flatbush branch library, in the afternoon. They're called Equality for Flatbush, and the dude seriously hates me so I see no reason to write anymore about it. Can't even look me in the eye. It's sad really, Mr. Social Worker who loves to call people racist/sexist/fascist. I do wish him well though. Most of what he says is spot on. He could stand to buy a new hat though. That one's none too flattering. You just need someone honest enough to say it. Consider yourself served.

I'm bailing on this post...g'night.


Bob Marvin said...

Really odd (but VERY welcome) that A.B. wasn't there after sending out her email blast the day before saying:"Your presence needed at this month's meeting.She's At It Again: Agendas crafted privately. Proposals hatched in secret.Tomorrow evening, show Pearl Miles that you're watching!" This was accompanied by a lovely green-tinted photo of Pearl Miles, making her look a bit like Frankenstein's monster. I guess her greenshirts didn't show either.

brklyn718 said...

Hey Mr. Q. Thx for your blog post. I was disappointed to hear the recap of last night's community meeting. I understand, truly, how upset people are at the treatment of the police. My concern is, we had all those precincts there, yet from what I heard, there was no constructive talk about how to reduce violence. People kept saying we want less police presence, yet we are upset about the violence in our neighborhood, it seems like an oxymoron. Please help us, yet go away. It's frustrating. I wish we could have more proactive conversations -- trying to find solutions helping the police to understand how to effectively monitor troubled situations and buildings without threatening innocent people. Instead, it sounds like the meeting was mostly an airing of grievances. I understand why that happens, its awful to be profiled and harassed. I hope we can find a way to work with the police to try and lesson the violence in our 'hood. Otherwise I fear we are in for a shooty summer.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

There were lots of great solutions buried in the tension. Community policing, restorative justice, more activities for young people, less profiling and more talking - and most of all mediation and using former felons as facilitators out in the field. Like - hire a ton of ex-cons who can't find legitimate work because of their criminal history, and put them on the street, encouraging and discouraging certain behaviors and seeking out hot-spots to cool 'em down. When they prove themselves in the field, give 'em gigs in the police department. Why the hell not?

It's all there, right in front of us. We just need to reach for it. But we also have to be respectful and encouraging of the "good" cops, of which there are many. They don't need to be berated for the effed up actions of the few. We need mechanisms to effectively weed out the bad cops, just like bad teachers and bad investment bankers. It's a lot, but it's do-able, with political and popular will.

elbell said...

Would love to hear more details about the PTA and SLT politics...

Paz said...

This was posted on gothamist today.

Anonymous said...

Some of these grievances are valid. IMO, go after speeding cabbies and gang bangers. They pose a much greater threat to our community than anything else. Leave the law abiding men and women alone. IMO, all police officers should use resolve all public ordinances complaints, disputes, and what have you diplomatically before issuing a summons. If the offender doesn't comply, whip out the book. And if an officer tickets you and doesn't specify why he/she is ticketing out, that police officer should be disciplined. Not fired, not suspended, but disciplined and if that officer has had a history of doing so, suspend the officer and place that officer on desk duty because the that officer clearly doesn't know what he/she is doing.

The courts are fed up with these ridiculous cases that are often thrown out of court.

Anonymous said...

Weeding out bad cops is the easiest thing to do it. The problem is those in power who lack the will to do it. They always wait until something bad happens. By then, it's too late. I think it is in the best interest for the Nypd to fix it before we see shades of unrest here as was the case in Ferguson and Baltimore.