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, November 22, 2017

Bedford-Union Armory Complex Is Now Officially the Done Deal the Q's Been Telling You It Is For Months

This Is Now Part Of Your Future

Round Halloween, from the sorely missed DNA Info, word came that the NYC Planning Commission approved the plan for the Armory to become housing and rec center - in City-time this whole five year process has been relatively straight-ahead (the bumps, it turns out, were mere bumps - the Q being a bit player I can attest that a whole lot of noise turned out to be just that). And then just yesterday, councilwoman Laurie Cumbo declared victory for the neighborhood, Pyrrhic though it may be, saying she'd extracted the best possible scenario from the proposal by adding more affordable units and nixing the "luxury" condos. (The Q insists on using the quotation marks, because frankly anything new these days gets the "luxury" tag, to the point where buyers roll eyes and haters use the term as a gentrificational pejorative.)

For those not in the groove on this one, the story is remarkable, though hardly unique in the annals of NYC land-use history. I'm gonna try for the layman's version and you can let me know whether I nail or flub it. The short version: the neighborhood gets a big new rec center, an inexpensive one at that, replete with swimming pool, basketball courts and space for community groups. Developer BHC gets to build a big, new signature project in the middle of Brooklyn, one that will surely be its urban calling card, if not its most profitable deal ever. 250 or so below-market rent-stabilized apartments get built; as many more market rate get built. So maybe 1500 new people move to the neighborhood, a great many of them white and professional, and the juggernaut of gentrification continues unabated. Housing activists feel they got nothing. Developers feel they lost millions. The elected officials are grateful the election happened beFORE the final decision (coincidence? I think not).

And while the site rests on City property, no new public housing will be built. And the Q would add that if the City can't find its way to build any truly affordable housing for those struggling below the poverty line RIGHT HERE, it clearly has little will to build it anywhere. One might say without hyperbole - the days of NYC being affordable to the working, senior or disabled poor are officially winding down. To say otherwise, in the midst of a humanitarian housing crisis of obscene proportions in this City of Trump, would be to tell a bald faced lie. Or bold faced lie. Maybe both.

This is America folks, in 2017. It is the land of entitled greed. The land of populism. The land of anti-immigrant fervor. The land of anti-anti-immigrant bark but no bite. The land of guns, drugs, overindulgent consumerism, vulgar and violent entertainment, voting-in sexual predators, and to top it all off - liberals apparently unable to do anything about any of it. Because, among many many other things, and let's get real here, nobody REALLY wanted poor people moving into newly built housing along the 2 and 5 lines. It's just and La Guardian and icky.

For a moment in the Empire Blvd Farce and Bedford Union Armory battles we were witnessing a strange mixing of true lefty activism and NIMBYist anti-development tantrum-ing. To the Crown Heights Tenants Union, homeless advocates, NY Communities for Change (nee ACORN), Flatbush Tenants Union, Equality for Flatbush and more I'll re-up my advice: you have no true allies in the halls of power and the tree-lined streets of Brooklyn. Ripping through Community Board meetings and carrying signs and marching does little more than prove, in the eyes of the deciders, that YOU are the ones out of touch, and thereby, out of luck. Good riddance, you can almost here them saying.

Were there ever a moment for Great Cities to explode into chaos, here in 21st Century USA, I'd have to guess this is it. Something must be holding back the rioting, looting and burning...low unemployment perhaps? Trump shock? Tough policing? Or is this just the calm before the hurricane that finally convinces us that income inequality is just as dangerous as climate change?

And make no mistake. It's ALL about the gap between rich and poor. They will write our story, the Obama-Trump-?? story, and they will wonder how we didn't see it coming. We were focused on the reckless and rude snake-oil salesman, missing the real problems behind the Brash Baby Man. It's dangerous stuff, but maybe not in the ways that we and the Media Elite keep telling us.

Either that or this year's The Bachelor will merge with Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and American Idol to create a truly un-missable season of mind-numbing suspense and can't-look-away repulsive sexual tension. Oh, and check out the new X Box, iPig and self-driving social media convertibles from Amazon Prime Whole Foods Venture Capital Silicon Home Delivery Gluten-Free Yoga Uber anyway "Where's the Fuck Is My Charger????"


MikeF said...

Building new public housing seems silly when the city does not have the funding (and/or the management skills) to maintain the public housing that already exists.

Anonymous said...

By Alfred Levitt
Nov. 27, 2017 6:37 p.m.

My boss, Joe Ricketts, announced earlier this month that he was shutting down DNAinfo and Gothamist, two popular neighborhood news sites. The timing of the decision—it came a week after the sites’ New York editorial teams voted to be represented by the Writers Guild of America East—invited splashy headlines and oversimplified commentary. This wave of attacks obscured a more complicated reality.

The closure offered an irresistible narrative: A spiteful right-wing billionaire shuttered his business because hardworking reporters wanted to unionize. Newsweek offered this headline: “Gothamist and DNAinfo Are the Latest Victims of the Billionaire War on Journalism.” Hundreds of people gathered in Manhattan to rally against Mr. Ricketts, and unions seized on the outrage to argue that billionaires should never own media companies. Even New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, no friend to local media, called Mr. Ricketts “a coward.”

Such class-warfare rhetoric ignores Mr. Ricketts’s history of supporting journalism. Eight years ago, he thought up the idea for DNAinfo and invested a substantial amount of his own money in neighborhood news reporting, likely investing more than anyone had in decades. He hired more than 160 journalists—and not to push his agenda. To the contrary, Mr. Ricketts insisted that reporters and editors agree in writing that they would stick to the facts and avoid opinion.

Shortly after the shutdown was announced, Janon Fisher, a longtime DNAinfo editor, told me, “It’s ironic that Mr. Ricketts is painted as the villain of local news when he was the champion of it for so long.” But it’s easier to write someone off as a villain than to grapple with the economic realities of producing quality local journalism.

DNAinfo and Gothamist earned the trust and love of their readers because they employed real reporters who told stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told. That reflected Mr. Ricketts’s vision from the company’s inception. But producing quality journalism isn’t cheap, and finding a revenue model for local reporting is particularly difficult. Facebook and Google have made it incredibly easy for businesses to reach very specific audiences, undermining the viability of small-scale publishers with high-cost structures like DNAinfo and Gothamist. And no one is willing to pay for content except from the largest, most well-established brands.

Mr. Ricketts probably stayed in the business too long. But he’s stubborn, and he believed passionately that he could crack the code of a business model to support an essential product. Did the unionization push contribute to his decision to close the business? While the union vote affected the manner and timing of the shutdown, the decision ultimately turned on profitability. DNAinfo wasn’t turning a profit, and it couldn’t keep going as it was, union or not.

Here’s the real question: What is a sustainable model to produce quality neighborhood journalism? Joe Ricketts didn’t figure it out, but at least he tried. Maybe his experience can offer lessons for the next person who steps up. Let’s hope the attacks on him don’t dissuade others from trying.

Mr. Levitt is president and general counsel of Hugo Enterprises LLC, the holding company for the companies and investments of Joe Ricketts.

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