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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Vision of the Future of the Flabenue

Down the Q's way, the Flabenue becomes way cleaner. The streets are regularly swept and bagged by employees of the Flatbush Avenue BID. There are also a ton of "taxpayers," those low-rise buildings that are commercial only, paying the bills for landlords but not much more. There are also a stunning number of three-story apartment buildings, over stores, that are vacant, some gutted some filled with storage. Painted fake windows adorn one - a nod to the bombed out looking buildings of northern Manhattan and the Bronx of yesteryear. When the Q first moved to NYC, you'd see those buildings out the windows of the trains as you headed north. Folks forget. You could buy those buildings for a song. An album cut, not even a chart-topper.

It's also easy to assume that the move "back" to the cities by the middle and upper-middle classes (the super rich always had townhouses or pied a terres in the Big Apple) was the result of trends alone, and the growing-up of a fly-over crowd that grew up on Free To Be You and Me and Sesame Street. But that accounts for a mere fraction of the truth. Wealthier (and mostly whiter) folks have moved to the City(s) because jobs are once-again plentiful and the salaries decent or high. The urban "pioneers" from the '60s and '70s and '80s made it feel less uncomfortable for liberal young people to rent or buy, those still worried about crime and the appearance of downward mobility. The truth is, very few non-black-non-poor Americans want to live in poor-black neighborhoods. In my experience, not a lot of well-educated black folks want to live in poor-black neighborhoods either, but enough remained in Bed-Stuy and elsewhere that parts of Central Brooklyn never fell into utter ghetto-ness. When the Q used to drive the borough for kicks in his Mazda GLC in the late '80s, I often marveled at the beautiful homes and house-pride and neighborhood vibe of places the media would have told me not to visit. The Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue types moved in when they felt they had the okay from their peers, and when they could find a cool restaurant and bar and coffee shop nearby. It's not rocket science. A nice-paying or soul-fulfilling job doesn't hurt. Those, and a zillion creative gigs, are plentiful in the post-crash decade. A waiter or bartender can make decent cash money in this economy. Don't worry; it won't last forever. Perhaps we'd be advised to enjoy it while we can? I recall three distinct periods of downturn that made even the white-professionals shiver. Of course, the downturns hit the lower earners the hardest. Especially those without successful boomer parents to fall back on. But stress is stress, and we've seen our share of financial stress hit every stratum but the top. Actually, the one-percent are capable of money stress too. Think Bernie Madoff and the near utter financial collapse. We were really, really close.

Back here. Owners of Flabenue taxpayers and under-performing buildings have a choice to make. Will this be the time to sell to developers? Lots of current landlords haven't the background to develop sites themselves. But everyone has their price. The prices now are undeniably attractive. And so you can start to imagine these:

That's 850 Flatbush. It will soon be an 8 story mixed use building, and 8 stories will seem pretty high compared to current. All along Flatbush one can imagine 8-10 stories - more if you can cobble together the land. As you look north on Flatbush you can go higher with the R7-1 that comes with a "commercial overlay," which allows retail along the sidewalks. It's not the worst thing in the world of course. More apartments, newer buildings, perhaps even better facilities for businesses. But Flatbush will undoubtedly change in major ways that will make it unrecognizable a decade or two from now.

And no, there is no reason to expect that any new housing will be affordable. Except of course the all-affordable-stabilized building going up over the current Caton Market. A building, it must be noted, that some have already scoffed at. Just why folks aren't jumping for joy, given the housing shortage on the low end, I will never fully understand. The public's will to build new affordable housing has hit a will-wall. When people realize it might somehow affect them personally, they recoil. And we are.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

I wonder if Flatbush might be the best candidate in the neighborhood for an R8 upzoning trade-off, like what happened in Park Slope with 4th avenue. I would hate to see all of the turn of the century 3 story mixed use buildings disappear, because some of them are very lovely. But it seems a bit unfair that our busiest street has some of the lowest-rise buildings in the neighborhood. There are still quite a few that are only 1 story!
Our neighborhood is a little inside-out in this way - not much density going on on busy streets like Flatbush, Bedford, Nostrand, or Rogers, but lots of stuff built up even on little-trafficked streets like E21 or Clarkson. Opposite of many Brooklyn neighborhoods.