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, March 24, 2017

Get Your Nerd On - April 3

The family that adds together, stays together.
Geeks make better daughters.
The World Needs Nerds.
If You Love Math Their Are An Infinite Number Of Possibilities.
Not Knowing Numbers Is Amathema To Me
Pels Pi Are Square

These are some of the mottos that popped out my head when I saw this terrific event is happening at our own PLG Coffee House, formally known as Gratitude (but then some ungrateful douchebags made them change their name may they go out of business.)

Be there or be squared

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ghetto Whites and Redneck Blacks

I'll get to that provocative title in a minute. First...The neighborhood report.

Tonight CB9 and various community members expressed their near-unanimous dismay that Cornell Realty hopes to build 17 stories on Franklin near the Botanic Garden with well over 500 units, 25% of which will be "affordable," or rather means-tested. They'll be $1000 or less, even for two-bedrooms, so when someone asks "affordable to whom" just say they are a shit-ton cheaper than what you'd see on Craigslist and leave it at that. As I've said in these meetings they are NOT for the poor. That would be public housing, and hey I'm all for buiilding that too, unlike many of the so-called champions of the little gal who when it comes down to it really just want no new people, and particularly not people that aren't to their liking, which it doesn't take a leap to say is middle to upper-middle class whites - the neo-colonialists. The developer noted that The Q was wrong (yes, unlike the prez, I can admit it)...the Spice Factory is NOT a part of the upzoning request. Oh, and the Garden, remarkably, had little to no comment - it's rep said BBG has no opinion on matters that don't affect it. Hmm. The environmental review showed that there are virtually no shadows cast on the Garden throughout the day and year by a 17 story building on Franklin, so apparently the BBG doesn't care that it's views from within get sullied, even though that was the whole reason the area was downzoned 25 years ago. Go figure. Oh yes, and confirmation received that rents on the Flabenue are nearly double what they were even five years ago. And yes indeedy they're letting things stay vacant til they get the big bucks, oh and a well respected Cake dude is opening a bakery near 626. Generally though it would appear only gentrifier-friendly joints need apply. Double the rent; wow. Like the apartments on my block, which are now officially TRIPLE what they were when I moved here 14 years ago. The only kind of doubles we need around here are those delicious little curried chickpea snacks from De Hot Pot. And the only kind of triples? Dunno...the only culture I know that makes triples is America. The Big Mac. Three layers of bun. Ray Kroch was a genius. Three buns!

And in other, broader news:
  It occurs to the Q that much of what we as a nation do is gossip. The Q is guilty as charged. It seems a particular keen, maybe even crucial, way to differentiate ourselves from others, helping to define our tribes. Sometimes it's harmless (she's got a serious pants problem) or viciously hurtful (he's a big fat loser). Lately I've been noticing, once again, that Americans of all sorts have a real problem with the poor, and seem less and less afraid to express their displeasure, even in polite company. I came across a 2016 table (left) that worked its way into my brain and set up shop. It's a simple set of numbers and should come as no surprise to anyone. But with the current state of affairs I can't help being jolted by the fact though black Americans are 2.5 times more likely as whites to be poor, there are still almost twice as many whites as blacks who are poor nationwide, and that's a lot of votes, potential or realized. I tend, and the liberal-ish media tends, to focus on the first fact, and it is of course a continuing national disgrace. But so is 17.8 million white poor people, in a country that boasts dozens of restaurants with tasting menus topping $500 before wine, tax and tip. And country clubs with $250K initial membership dues. And, well, the absurd wealth of the entire cabinet of the new administration.

And if such obscene disparities of means weren't quite enough, doesn't it seem almost conspiratorial that poor whites and "minorities" should be so manipulated by pollsters and pols and religion and universities that they are corralled into neat political boxes of left and right by media and moneyed elites on both sides of the aisle? It would seem that people of limited means would have enough in common to break out of the bonds of Elephant and Donkey. And yet, somehow, we're still in a golden age of blame, whether for Trump Racists or Welfare Queens, White Trash or Hoodied Hoodlums. I've been party to many a white-trash trashing conversation and til recently I barely raised an eyebrow. And hell I was raised among 'em, though truth be told I heard nary an anti-immigrant or anti-black sentiment in my youth. Maybe some ignorant jokes here and there, misconceptions, even stereotyping. But rarely downright mean and offensive. The real white national types were out there, but you stayed clear of those folks. They were the minority then, and Representative Steve Kings accounted for, they're still the minority. It's true. Most people I knew grew up with love in their hearts, and a certain reverence for the civil rights era, and sure they don't always vote the way you'd want them to. But plenty do, and still do, and the ones that don't well, sometimes they're as susceptible to bullshit as the rest of us. Mostly though, Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats, no matter who's running, and whoever fires up even a fraction of the country to get out there will take home the mantle. It's true. NO REALLY. Barack Obama won Iowa in the first delegate race in Iowa in 2008, and went for him twice in the general. Oh, and my year's homecoming king was black in a town with, I dunno, maybe a couple dozen African-Americans all told. That's not to say folks didn't harbor their ignorant feelings. But they weren't threatening to eradicate anyone. You read that shit now; it's been given a legitimacy I couldn't have dreamed possible. All because of one loudmouth asshole who proved that, yes, ANYone can grow up to be President.

It's amazing to me how the center holds even as all hell breaks loose around the fringes. Now with the Antifa and Neo-Nazis on the rise, the media cling to a narrow reading of political bickering, much of which is so familiar it reeks of smokescreen. Is the healthcare debate really as good as it gets? A compromise on the left or compromise on the right, that seems destined to fail and will need fixing again in four years? Maybe it's time for a real discussion. In this country, or hell, in ANY country, people want to make a decent living. By and large they WANT to work. Hanging out on The Corner or at the Kum 'n' Go gets old real quick. A guaranteed income for work, whatever the work, starts to make a lot of sense. And with the robots on the rise, will there be much work to do at all? And weren't the robots supposed to SET US FREE? For more leisure and/or hanging out on the corner or at the Kum 'n' Go? Or at the $250,000 golf club?

Let Papa Q tell you exactly what we need. $15 minimum wage. Guaranteed living standards. Free universal healthcare. Childcare, maternity leave. A job for everyone, even in public service. Wait. Sound like Scandinavia? Here's the latest "happiness index" list, top and bottom five:

It's not that hard, really. And yet, it is. Advanced capitalism. And in my house with hot and cold running drinkable water, curb-side garbage and recycling, organic honey and frozen Edy's popsicles, and healthy children and a decent-paying job - I've got a lot of damn gall calling out poor folks for being poor, ignorant or gullible - even if they voted for Trumpy. And yet...I'm pretty sure that's what we've been doing, politicians, media, home-owners, police, TV, and the tone-deaf social-media echo-chamber of which I participate, on the left or on the right, not recognizing the three-dimentional nature of contemporary America. A bunch of babies we are, stewing in our own diapers.

Oh and if you're looking for a rent-stabilized home under $1,000 a month near the Park and Garden, well, we're more concerned about a few shadows, secondary displacement and increased traffic than your sorry ass. Go be poor somewhere else. We've got density to worry about.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Island To Island Brewing - A Bit Of the Sauce In Your Juice?

Whoa. I hardly know what to make of this. Is "seed to spirit" a thing now? I suppose it is. House of Juice continues to defy expectations with clever marketing and cool programming, from themed events to comedy. It's a great space, and soon enough the back garden will be warm enough for lounging. This event sounds downright outrageous. Oh, 643 Rogers, just below Parkside. Southern portion of PLG? Nah. Right in the center of the universe, from this old man's perspective. I'm also keen on House of Juice's clear motto of clean living, so even if you do partake of the alcoholic side of things, do so in moderation. What a crazy concept! Moderation! Gotta try that some time...

Read all about it. 

Island to Island Brewery is Juicery-Brewery focused on a “Seed to Spirit” experience. From the Caribbean Islands of Trinidad & Tobago to these New York Islands, the brewery is taking traditional back home Caribbean processes of fermentation and interpreting them with the available produce of New York. “The world began merging in the Caribbean then migrated to New York City for more opportunity to share with the world at large.” Danii Oliver

“Now we are bringing the vibrant culture of color and excotic flavors to society in liquid format both for those who wish to be healthy and sober and for those who enjoy a rich drink that soothes muscles and relaxes the mind.”

In 2014 House of Juice soft launched a silent opening, no noise, no press blast. The local communities House of Juice served remained largely in dark about the brand. Once in a brick mortar location local wondered greatly about what was going on at 642 Rogers Avenue as hey watched the space build and change over time. Now the Juice-Brewmasters are ready to share what they have been brewing up and finally fully open Island to Island Brewery to the public, tourist and wholesaling to local bars and restaurants.

House of Juice is a cold pressed raw juice brand which is the seed and juice portion of the overall experience. 2017 the remaining aspects of the business, the brewing and fermentation of the same New York State produced craft drinks with an adult ABV% rating, are set to grace the menu and taps. During the opening fete ( Trinidadian for party ) guests will have flights of the seed to spirit experience. Much like a beer flight but only one beer on the paddle. Instead the flights will be made of seeds (smoothies), fresh produce (juices), ferments of herbs (kombucha), brews from matured produce (beer & cider) and finally spirits (distilled brooklyn crafted alcohol). Not a get drunk experience, but a culinary journey.

642 Rogers Ave, Brooklyn NY, 11226
Grand Opening Fete - public
Date: March 25th
Time: 6PM - 12AM

Friday, March 17, 2017

Race & Our Local Schools

Perhaps no decision you make as a parent will be as fraught as where to enroll the little buggers in Kindergarten. Speaking now from the OTHER side of K for both my girls, I will admit that the whole Private/Public/Charter/Home school debate will likely leave you with a head AND heartache, plus an industrial-sized case of self-righteous anger. Eventually the chip on your shoulder might give way to acceptance, and then the "middle-school-cold-sweats" but you'll never quite get over the nagging suspicion that maybe you could have done better. This, I am told, is the tragic condition of parenthood. There is no judge to declare you a winner, no medal to be earned, no pantheon to join. But a certain question will become oh so important. Are my kids happy and learning? Yep! And as I understand it, private schools do not teach a secret 27th letter. The child will tell YOU what she needs. This is such good advice I can't believe I just gave it to myself!

In Central Brooklyn, particularly in the Crown Heights/Lefferts/EastFlatbush District 17, you can add another frothy layer of fraught. The schools for which you are likely zoned - say PS92 or PS375 - are not regularly cited as tops in the borough, nor do they garner lots of positive reviews from the meager online resources. For decades, middle-classers have found ways into other public schools, out of district, or opted for private school if they could afford it, leaving the local schools poorer and even under-enrolled. A few years ago parents banded together to start a science oriented Lefferts Gardens Charter School - to address the apparent need for a more progressive and higher quality alternative. (It has since lost its charter, ironically for poor performance). But was it really an issue of too few options that led to LGCS in the first place? Or were local parents simply too put off by the overwhelming blackness and poorness of the local choices? (Please excuse the inexact word poor. But DOE does mark the number of free lunch qualifiers, and 92 and 375 are over 90% free lunch, also known as Title I schools). Were the demographics and/or principals the reasons so many (honestly hundreds if not thousands) of mostly white and mostly wealthier children went to schools outside the neighborhood through the many many years?

Answers vary to why exactly so many parents chose not to enroll locally. Other neighborhoods have seen schools become reverse-integrated as the neighborhoods became whiter/wealthier. Perhaps that time is upon us, right here in Lefferts. Questions abound:

  • Why have parents been so resistant to attending and helping local schools succeed?
  • What do those parents mean by "succeed?"
  • At what ratio of whiteness (10%? 20%?) do white parents feel comfortable enrolling?
  • Is this more about class than race? Like, would these whites go to an all-black school of (forgive me) Sashas and Malias?
  • What role does, or should, a principal play in a school's integration?
  • Are programs like Dual Language and Gifted and Talented primarily about attracting whites to go local and public?
  • How important is it that mostly black schools add more white students in the first place, since we've supposedly all agreed that it's important for mostly-white schools to add students of color?
  • Why do progressive whites still have such sticks up their asses? 

And so on.

You do have other options in D17 by the way. I don't mean to dwell on Jackie Robinson and PS92. They - and the Caton School and Parkside School and PS770 and LGCS and Explore - just happened to be the ones I spent some time looking into. And I went to PS9 and PS11 and others, plus had discussions with charter schools and homeschoolers and Montessori etc. Whew I learned a lot. And went to another D17 school, the delightful PS705, for pre-K. Then opted for a g&t spot at PS38 at Pacific St between 3rd Ave and Nevins. Always happy to talk about any of them, but really it's the parents who actually go to the schools that you should reach out to. Oh, and PS241! Happy to introduce you to folks at these schools. PS241 especially, since that school has just recently come on my radar thanks to local parent I know.


From that very parent comes this:

Hi friends and neighbors.
A few of us have been talking about how to get organized in support of our local (District 17) schools.
We have roughly 33 elementary and middle schools full of talented educators, bright students and involved families—but, for the most part, the schools remain segregated, under-enrolled, and under-resourced.
And as you know, the ability of PTAs to raise money for schools also perpetuates inequity across the city. Rich schools attract more kids from wealthier families, who in turn raise more money to supplement the school’s budget. For schools that predominantly serve kids from less wealthy families, those forces work in reverse – they’re less able to raise outside money, and they often have populations with higher needs.
To address this systemic inequity, we would like to create an auxiliary, district-wide fundraising, advocacy and support group for District 17 schools. If community residents and local businesses go to work on behalf of the local schools, the schools will get stronger and kids and families across the community will benefit.
We have some ideas about how this could work. We need yours, too. On Sunday, March 26, we're going to start planning in earnest. After introductions, neighbor and InsideSchools researcher Nicole Mader will do a brief overview of the district to get everyone on the same page. Then we'll get to work.
Anyone interested in and committed to quality public education is welcome — including people who don't have kids and people who send their kids to schools in other parts of the city. We’re interested in coming together to make sure our neighborhood schools -- and the kids they serve -- have the resources they need.
RSVP so we know how many snacks to buy. And feel free to spread the word.

Sunday, March 26 2:30 to 4:30pm 808 Nostrand Ave (Repair the World)

Participate in the Budget - Cumbo Style

If you live north of Empire, the ducks are pretty much in a row to vote on various participatory budget items. They want to double the number of votes to more than 3,000 this year. Do-able sure, especially if you have a favorite item you would love to see happen. Your vote goes a heck of a lot farther than your 1/2 a vote (in NY) for President. Preview the projects here. Of course, no word yet on Mathieu Eugene's plans for my (our?) 40th District, south of Empire. Heck he was resistant to the whole notion of you, the voters, deciding how to spend a portion of his discretionary budget in the first place.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the (Youth) Forum

Tell every young person you know. They needn't go to just one of these - go to both! CB9's in a week (see above), but CB14's is TODAY (see below). These things are great, so say actual teens.

Jobs. Internships. Opportunities.
10th Annual CB14 Youth Conference

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Flatbush YMCA

1401 Flatbush A

Brooklyn, New York
For ages 12 – 21
FREE & OPEN TO ALLGotta encourage all the kids to go!

CB14 Youth Conference

Thursday, March 9, 2017

$1.4 Billion For Central Brooklyn

Holy smokes that's a lot of mackerels. Did you know this was coming? $1.4 billion to create a healthier and more positive environment specifically for Central Brooklyn. While the media has focused never-ending attention on gentrification in the nabes of Crown Heights, Flatbush, Bed-Stuy and even East NY and Brownsville, here comes the moolah. Such a strange time in Central BK history, but welcome nonetheless. I say strange because crime and unemployment have been going down for the last several years, business is picking back up, and land prices are skyrocketing. If this is in fact a "holistic" plan, I hope the right people will be doing the planning.

NY Times On Cuomo's Plan

There will undoubtedly be more analysis to follow. $700 million for direct health care - where does it go precisely? What sorts of jobs will be created and trained for? What local groups benefit, and what politicians will reap the rewards?

Ironically I asked my daughters today to look out the bus window on the way to school and venture guesses as to what was in all those bags piled high on the back of a long flatbed truck. "Money?" my youngest asked, imagining stacks upon stacks of $100 bills. The truck was heading towards GAP. Metaphorically, anyway, it appears she was right on "the money."

Again, I don't want to be cynical when so much money is being promised to such a relatively small chunk of the state, albeit populous and deserving. But I also get a bit itchy looking at how the Chamber of Commerce took center stage, and those real estate companies and banks make the whole thing seem a bit...oh maybe I should just be glad someone's paying attention. Right? The full announcement is here. The bullet points first:

Social and economic indicators show that Central Brooklyn is one of the most disadvantaged areas in all of New York State, with measurably higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, limited access to healthy foods or opportunities for physical activity, high rates of violence and crime, wide economic disparities from unemployment to poverty levels, and inadequate access to high quality healthcare and mental health services.  

Vital Brooklyn will break down barriers of health and wellbeing through eight integrated areas of investment:
  • Open Space and Recreation
  • Healthy Food
  • Community-Based Healthcare
  • Comprehensive Education and Youth Development
  • Economic Empowerment and Job Creation
  • Community-Based Violence Prevention
  • Affordable Housing; and
  • Resiliency

And then the more biz focused Chamber's announcement:

Brooklyn Chamber Encouraged by Governor Cuomo's Vital Brooklyn Initiative

"We want to commend Governor Cuomo for his Vital Brooklyn Initiative which will pump $1.4 billion into Brooklyn's most underserved areas," said Brooklyn Chamber President and CEO Andrew Hoan.

"As Brooklyn continues to grow jobs in the private sector, there's no reason why residents of Central Brooklyn shouldn't get the proper training and access to these jobs.

"The Governor's eight-pronged strategy will also work to transform community health and wellness in Central and Eastern Brooklyn. We thank him for recognizing that it is necessary for every Brooklynite to have access to primary care doctors and mental health facilities.

"In targeting communities like East New York, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, the Governor is offering inclusive resources that will assist people in every neighborhood, and business sector, in meeting a range of needs for thriving, growing and expanding in Brooklyn and beyond.

"We look forward to working with our state legislators to help advance this series of initiatives, outlined here."

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo with Brooklyn Chamber Board Members Eladia Causil Rodriguez, of Eladia's Kids, and Trish Martin, of Halstead Property. The Governor's announcement was hosted at Medgar Evers College, a Chamber member.

Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finally, Some Kick From the "Other" Side

So few folks seem to want to believe that fighting new housing is also fighting affordable housing. That's fine, they have their reasons. But economics, history and actual renter's needs should not be primary among them. Planning experts don't buy that homeowner NIMBYism and downzoning are good for prices and rents. Restricting supply is not a viable alternative to rapid gentrification. The Mayor's much-demonized MIH plan REQUIRES that below-market permanent housing be added to new buildings. But that's when you start to realize how selfish it is to fight ALL upzonings. Should be smart changes, for sure. Combined with contextual downzonings. But that ain't the way the winds been blowing. Here's a much-needed alternative perspective from Neighbors for More Neighbors, and a hilarious PSA to boot (thx MikeF)

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Armory Meets the Machine II - You're Being Played The Fool

I'll start with the conclusion then repeat it after the background info. I'd hate for you to miss the crux!

Ex-felon Clarence Norman, Jr. started showing up at CB9 meetings exactly the time that the Armory housing and community center opportunity was coming online. His dad's Local Crown Heights Development Corp (LCHDC) even made a play to be the lead developer, but lost to Slate, which due to its crookedness lost it in turn to BFC. Around the same time, longtime Norman pal BP Eric Adams shook up our Community Board with 18 new members in a single year, more the following year, losing all the people they knew would interfere. NO OTHER CB SAW ANYWHERE NEAR THIS KIND OF TURNOVER. Then the new board ousted its longtime Chair and District Manager, and guess who came out of the fray on top? Longtime Norman followers Carmen Martinez (as DM, out of dozens of qualified applicants) and Musa Moore (as Chair, and Demetrius Lawrence before him and Dwayne Nicholson). The wrench in this audacious plan? One Sterling resident Alicia Boyd, who has continued to thwart the common sense of unaligned locals (um, me, and maybe you) and politicians (every last one). The problem is...even she still doesn't get WHY all this is happening.  She's just worried about her precious Empire Blvd. Wanna know the mastermind behind the plan? Check out Ingrid Gordon, the BP's longtime political strategist. The bold names above are longtime friends and neighbors. Once in a position to do so, Gordon saw to it that a singular vision for the nabe was set in motion, and that only loyalists were in place. After a stint in jail for shaking down judges, Stormin' Norman fires back, unseating the man who put him in jail (DA Charles Hynes) and wedging his recently passed dad's baby (LCHDC) into the middle of the neighborhood's renaissance.

Folks, wake up. Your neighborhood is being hijacked - actually it's always been hijacked - by a small group of cronies who don't always have your back. Now to the tune of $500,000 for LCHDC to sway locals to the BFC deal, but rest assured, this is just the beginning. You've even got a State Senator in Jesse Hamilton who thinks he can just opt-out of the Democratic Party days before the election without bothering to explain himself (lame answers here). He has the huevos to call those who disagree with his decision "disingenuous," and bizarre accusations have been leveled that racism is causing the backlash (because white Democrats don't like being played the fool? I dunno, you tell me. I thought shifty politics was shifty politics, regardless of the hue). And don't count on your Council person to come riding to the rescue! It's high time for all of us to engage. We can only blame ourselves for the results if we don't.

The Backdrop:

Okay. Lots of intrigue going on in Washington. I know that what happens in our little parcel of the world is hardly big potatoes. But let me lay out there as clear as I can so there's no mistaking what's happening in local politics. Because this is a pretty big year, and if we're to reform and improve the levers of power, it's always good to start locally. That's where our individual voices are heard loudest.

This year we've got the Mayor's reelection campaign, and our City Councilperson - Mathieu Eugene - is running for a ridiculous 3rd full term, which would be 14 total years since he was "placed" in the job by finishing out Yvette Clarke's term when she was promoted to Congress. If you're new around here, or weren't paying attention, Yvette and her mother before her - Una Clarke - were the Council people before Eugene and continue to be among the most powerful players on the Central Brooklyn scene. You can decide for yourself what you think of these ladies, but you should not underestimate their influence. The "machine" is alive and well, though around these parts. But in a very real sense, the Central Brooklyn machine is broken two. Let's just call it the Clarkes and Normans shall we? Our very own Hatfield and McCoys.

Google around and you'll see the degree to which Clarence Norman Jr./Sr. and the Yvette/Una Clarkes have spread their influence. It's not inconsequential that the Clarkes hail from the Islands; Norman and his influential pastor father Clarence Norman Senior are African-American. If you're not from around here you might say "so what?" Lordy, you got a lot to learn. There is no simple storyline here, but suffice to say it's not all holding hands and singing Kumbaya when the sun goes down. And this is coming from a white guy who has a deep-seated respect for black culture, not just here but around the world. To much of white America, blacks come in a single package. And it's this monovision that leads to the ignorant garbage we hear from so many well-meaning people, and not just the Trumpies. Anyone who claims they have a policy solution for black Americans is guilty as charged. Which black Americans, exactly? Are Sasha and Malia to be recipients of your policy prescription? (Muslims and Hispanics and Asians too of course get just as much stereotyping. So much easier to make sense of the world when everyone fits their mold. To me this a HUGE problem when it comes to progressing past race as THE definer, the one demographic signifier that's ALWAYS requested on the form. Recognizing the differences withIN groups goes a long way to understanding our own prejudices, and recognizing the humanity common to us all. Frankly if I didn't believe this to the fiber of my being I probably wouldn't be writing this blog at all. If you hadn't noticed, it's kinda at the root of everything I opine about.)

So the Norman/Clarke divide is very much in play at the Bedford/Union Armory and in everything else around here. Need a scorecard? BP Eric Adams, State Senator Jesse Hamilton and his Council-running protege Pia Raymond, CB9 chair Musa Moore , new CB9 District Manager Carmen Martinez - these are clearly in the Norman lineage, The Clarkes will likely (in my opinion) switch allegiance from Mathieu Eugene (their poorly chosen anointed successor) to Council-runner Brian Cunningham. Diana Richardson is a bit of a maverick, but she's got Island roots and sure enough, there were the Clarkes at her victory celebration a couple years back. The dynamic Jumaane Williams is also part of the Clarke world. I don't know where Walter T. Mosley and Laurie Cumbo come down in all this, but I know Laurie and Walter were (somewhat) handpicked by Hakeem Jeffries, a guy who is alarmingly handsome in person by the way. I think that Hakeem/Laurie/Walter thing might be more of a VelmanetteMontgomery/Ed Towns/Major Owens lineage but don't quote me. There's only so much one white boy from Iowa can keep track of, and I've only lived in Brooklyn for 30 years for crying out loud. BOTTOM LINE: the Machine decides your leaders. Your vote is not really respected, as long as the Machine can turn out victories on not election day - primary day.

And let me tell you they're all pretty nice people, the aforementioned, hard-working, smart, well-suited to politics. All except...Mathieu Eugene, a true Boob among Boobs. If he wins another term I will...I will...oh I don't know but it's gonna be gross and unpleasant and you're going to wish you'd never seen me do it.

Yep. There's more. But I felt the need to offer the above backgrounder before launching into my main beef. Which in a nutshell is this. Why on earth is it okay for BFC Partners to cough up $500,000 to a local development group (LCCHD) with deep and direct ties to the Clarence Normans all in a ploy to quiet neighborhood resistance to the deal? You can read more, again, here.

To repeat:

Ex-felon Clarence Norman, Jr. started showing up at CB9 meetings exactly the time that the Armory housing and community center opportunity was coming online. His dad's Local Crown Heights Development Corp (LCHDC) even made a play to be the lead developer, but lost to Slate, which due to its crookedness lost it in turn to BFC. Around the same time, longtime Norman pal BP Eric Adams shook up our Community Board with 18 new members in a single year, more the following year, losing all the people they knew would interfere. NO OTHER CB SAW ANYWHERE NEAR THIS KIND OF TURNOVER. Then the new board ousted its longtime Chair and District Manager, and guess who came out of the fray on top? Longtime Norman followers Carmen Martinez (as DM, out of dozens of qualified applicants) and Musa Moore (as Chair, and Demetrius Lawrence before him and Dwayne Nicholson). The wrench in this audacious plan? One Sterling resident Alicia Boyd, who has continued to thwart the common sense of unaligned locals (um, me, and maybe you) and politicians (every last one). The problem is...even she still doesn't get WHY all this is happening.  She's just worried about her precious Empire Blvd. Wanna know the mastermind behind the plan? Check out Ingrid Gordon, the BP's longtime political strategist. Longtime friends and neighbors many of the above. Once in a position to do so, Gordon saw to it that a singular vision for the nabe was set in motion, and that only loyalists were in place.

Folks, wake up. Your neighborhood is being hijacked - actually it's always been hijacked - by a small group of cronies who don't always have your back. Now to the tune of $500,000 for LCHDC to sway locals to the BFC deal, but rest assured, this is just the beginning. You've even got a State Senator in Jesse Hamilton who thinks he can just opt-out of the Democratic Party days before the election without bothering to explain himself (lame answers here). He has the huevos to call those who disagree with his decision "disingenuous," and bizarre accusations have been leveled that racism is causing the backlash (because Democrats don't like being played the fool?) And don't count on your Council person to come riding to the rescue! It's high time for all of us to engage. We can only blame ourselves for the results if we don't.

Safety For Franklin - Be There Wednesday!

Hmm. Is this what's become of the languishing proposal to rejigger Franklin Ave near Empire? One can only hope. Please come out in record numbers for this one. Transportation issues have been shoved aside in the neighborhood ever since yours truly got canned from CB9. You can talk about what's on your mind, and throw a bit of alternative energy at the proceedings. In other words - you're sane counsel is needed.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Armory Meets "The Machine" Part I

For all its pro-biz posture, Crains NY has done a fairly decent job framing the ongoing debate over the future of the Bedford-Union Armory project. In its January editorial, it defined the struggle as one of conventional development strategy for community amenities and affordable housing VS. calls for truly affordable housing - 100% affordable housing. Let the record state that the Q has always felt that 100% truly affordable is the appropriate response to a low-income housing shortage in this historic and desirable neighborhood. The Armory is city-owned land now for chrisakes! If you can't build all-affordable on City land, you're not gonna build it anywhere.

Sure it'll be costly. The market-rate part of the equation (via RFP winners BFC partners) was supposed to pay for the creation of rec center and affordable units. But that's happening all over town, wherever City Planning can convince locals to allow upzoning (which is not as often as they'd like, given unsurprising NIMBYism).

What are we really talking about when we say 100% affordable? There is no reason to mince words or hide behind euphemism. We are talking about PUBLIC HOUSING. That's right. Housing where the rent is based on the family's income. And what do people typically call such reasonably priced housing? They call it "the Projects." No fair really, but there it is. Truly affordable housing in NYC is called The Projects. And there is nothing, let me repeat NOTHING wrong with that.

Imagine if you will an opportunity created specifically for current residents of Crown Heights to move into newly created apartments along beautiful Eastern Parkway. If we are truly committed to keeping Crown Heights diverse, we would jump at the chance. It's expensive yes, but in the form of subsidies, not out-and-out freebie. You still get rent at the Projects. Some people forget that people actually pay out of pocket for these places, though for some it comes primarily in the form of Section 8 vouchers. Which, it must be added, they are ENTITLED TO by law. Folks like to call S8 recipients all kinds of names - "ghetto," "moochers," "welfare moms." Hey if that's your attitude then maybe NYC is not the place for you, read me? We try, albeit imperfectly, to take care of our own.

So elected officials with a conscience took a stand. This is our chance to build (and again, I'm using the correct term here) "Public Housing."

And now comes word that a local nonprofit - The Local Crown Heights Development Corporation - will provide the developer with some cover, or as LCHDC would prefer you call it, some legitimacy, in the neighborhood. And who exactly is LCHDC? If you're a follower of Central Brooklyn machine politics, the answer is obvious. And it all leads back to Clarence Norman, Jr., the disgraced once former king-maker who has roared back to life in a remarkable behind-the-scenes series of power moves. This time, the move involves money.

And as Deep Throat once said (no the other Deep Throat), follow the money.

more to follow.

Errol's Gains New Lease

The article in Amsterdam News claims the organizing work of Equality for Flatbush led to the reconsideration of the lease of Errol's Bakery, the 15-year old institution at the corner of Hawthorne and Flatbush.  Well done. Rothstein Management wanted them out; for now, they're here after a battle to renew back in December.

To those involved in the struggle to keep Dorothy and Errol Miller in their place of business, the Q salutes you.
Don't let the word "bakery" throw you off. Breakfast, lunch and dinner's on the menu too!