The Q at Parkside
News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Can't See the City For the Neighborhoods
What a golden age of information! The Q can easily post and link micro-nabe info on crime, house prices, density, transportation, schools, sanitation and more. But lately I've noticed that there's a treacherous downside to the competition and comparisons, the one-upmanship and the calling-out others for their opulence and entitlement. We forget to be a City, which is the most challenging and invigorating and impossibly diverse family of all.
We live near a train, on a block, in a micro and macro neighborhood. We live in election districts, and precincts and community board boundaries. We live in a borough. We live in a City. We live in a metropolitan area. And lately, I feel we're being encouraged to think TOO locally. Buy local, vote local, plan local, rah rah rah local local local. Look after your own, protect your turf.
I've been in many, many community meetings over the last five or six years, and I've come to the conclusion that the word "community" can now describe everything, and often, therefore, nothing. Who is YOUR community? Is it big, is it small? Is it prescribed by race, religion, income, owner/renter, car/ped/bike/vegan/fat pt shorts/old/young/hipster or craft/coffee/tea/hair/gender or cat/dog/single/couple/family?
One of my favorite expressions, that I've used time and again, is "the grand experiment we call NYC." I live in NYC. It has a mayor. It has tall buildings and cute townhouses, commercial centers and parks, business districts, corporate headquarters and cultural meccas. The extraordinary health of this ecosystem means that Manhattan swells to more than 4 million people during the day, with 3 million on weekdays and just over 2 million at night. Its "outer" boroughs are dense giants themselves.
Real estate is about the vacant lot or new apartments down the block, of course. But it's also about the 100 story tower in downtown Brooklyn, the huge supportive affordable housing complex near Kings County Hospital, the shady lease maniputations at Ebbets Field apartments, and yeah, the new luxury residential towers on the Upper West Side, and around Barclays, and along the waterfront in Queens. Jobs have become more plentiful in Brooklyn, subsistence to overpaid. Some apartments are frightfully small, some have tall ceilings and strain to call themselves lofts. Some people have to travel 2 hours to work; some fall out of bed and serve coffee at the shoppe down the block. It takes, as they say, all kinds.
When I hear folks complain about THEIR block, THEIR businesses, THEIR parking, THEIR quality of life - sometimes I ask myself "where did the THEIR come from anyway?" I have friends who've lived in Tribeca for nearly 30 years. They've been lucky, and bought in when the old building went coop. Last year, the wrecking balls came and knocked down their longtime view - a new hotel is going up, and that'll be what they see for as long as they live there. Bummer? You bet. Goes with the territory. But they're still making it, in the thick of it all, in the Big Apple, city that never parks for long.
Unless, of course, you're fortunate enough to have your block or micro-hood designated a landmark. Now it's frozen in time. Charming! Gas lamps. Period windows, pure facades. But guess what? The City still grows. It yearns for more space but it doesn't have any. It pushes here and it pulls there. The landmark districts ensure that certain eras of New York continue to be represented, and that's cool, if expensive to live in. But - does it really benefit EVERYone? Only a flunker of economics would say so. Someone, somewhere, will have to bear the cost of every major land use decision in not just Lefferts, or Brooklyn, but in the whole metro region. Dare I say, the whole country, then continent and world? Like Will Rogers said...they ain't making any more of it.
There was a time when humans could think tribally AND globally at the same time. In the modern world, in a world being torn asunder by man-made activities and overcrowding of cities and concentration of wealth and housing shortages...we must still encourage GDP growth, or suffer the consequences of recession and depression. Perhaps we've collectively forgotten how dire it seemed just 8 years ago. Or the 1970s and runaway inflation. S&L crisis. The Great Depression. The Middle Ages for chrisakes. Yes, we have to grow, and we have to provide for our progeny.
But we can't be foolish. We have to plan for even larger cities and even greater needs. We have to sacrifice sometimes, our own comforts or habits, for the benefit of others. These others may not be our idea of terrific dinner guests. But there's an obligation, moral and for simple selfish fact of survival.
The questions of political justice remain. But it's worth asking, as the Republic makes a fateful decision on its future:
How big is your tribe? What is your neighborhood? Are you a citizen of New York City? Or of your house, block and back yard?