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, April 18, 2018

Ooh Uber Baby, It's A Wild World!

Teaser: Guess whose Community Board just lost its FOURTH chairperson in as many years? See below...

Who knew Uber did brick 'n' mortar? Sure they have schmuckie-yuppie offices in places like Manhattan and Silicon Valley for the middle managers who are so busy playing ping pong and drinking wine off the company tap to realize they' know - corporate middle managers. Seriously if you've recently binged and need a purge just take a gawk at this. This is what you get if you're a network-card-carrying member of Generation Disrupter.

According to the folks polishing the floors, this building on Franklin off the back of the Empire Blvd Checkers will become an Uber office. Given that Uber hires tens of thousands of drivers in the city, one would think you'd need more than a wee weigh station, but there it is (A Wee Weigh is one of my favorite artists, btw). Opening soon. I have no idea what you do at an Uber office, but I bet it costs more when it gets busy.

And now to the juicy bits. The Q sits on the ULURP committee, which last week met to hear about the Central Library's renovation plans, only to have Alicia Boyd and company send out the de rigeur corruption-alert on the info-only session, then shout down an intended conversation about zoning in the community. (Conversation is apparently no longer allowed at meetings - too wordy, not screamy enough.)

Remember how Carmen Martinez was the District Manager for a minute, but then dis-hired because the Demetrius Lawrence-led process didn't meet Boyd's standards? The Board hobbled along for awhile on volunteer work and assistants, and then new chair Musa Moore started the process anew. You'll recall Carmen was long rumored to be party boss Clarence Norman's paramour? Turns out that at last month's meeting as the candidates were being trotted out, Moore tried to place HIS girlfriend into the position - Board vice-chair Pat Baker. Say huh? The Q has nothing against boys and girls gettin' some, but could we please not mix business with pleasure? Actually there's no pleasure to be found on the board. And there's certainly no business getting done. So scratch that.

The whole affair didn't sit well with the Board. At all. And so, yesterday, Chair Musa wrote the following to the Board, and the Q believes you have a right to read it. God willing, another sucker will emerge, only to be swallowed whole by MTOPP, while the neighborhood continues to prepare itself for its final whitewash.

Good evening, I hope everyone is well and enjoying a successful day.  As per the bylaws that govern Brooklyn Community Board 9every April the Chair appoints a nominating committee to identify potential candidates to run for various executive committee positions. 
This month I will appoint members to the committee; however, please be advised that I will not seek re-election as Chair.  Together we have had some great victories and I am proud of what we have accomplished.  Unfortunately we have also had a few unnecessary disagreements most recently the issue surrounding the search committee, who I continue to support.
Working together we were able to stand against the Bedford Union Armory, the Spice Factory, as well as shine the spotlight on the Crown Street shelter.   During the Town Hall organized by CB 9 we were able to bring elected officials, city agencies, and community residents together to discuss quality of life issues.  We were also able to hire staff for the office which had been operating with volunteers from the board.
Together we were also able to bring various informational forums to the community including Public Safety, Youth Job and Career Expo, Health & Social Services, and others.  Many residents expressed their appreciation that for the first time these forums were conducted by this community board.   We were able to solidify our strong relationship with Medgar Evers College, First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, Kings County Hospital, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Museum, and other great institutions that work closely with CB 9. 
This is what can be done with the right board intact, this community could indeed stand together and rise above the many issues that plague us.  In order to achieve that the board must continue to operate from a "we" mentality and focus on making decisions that will benefit and improve the community not just individuals.
It has been a pleasure serving as Chair but once again I will not seek re-election.  I thank everyone for your  support as well as asking me to reconsider.  My term will officially expire on June 26, 2018.  - Musa Moore, chair, CB9 

Friday, April 13, 2018

On A Slow Week Of News, This'll Rev You Up - LM Echo!

Let's see. President announces we'll bomb a middle eastern country - unilaterally and illegally! Most powerful man in congress to step down! President's "fixer" under investigation has office raided by FBI. Fired head of FBI publishes book calling President a lying, self-obsessed mob boss. President pushes back with the classy rejoinder "slime ball."

And then there's...the Lefferts Manor Echo. Coming at you Trump-free and FREE-free!

Monday, April 9, 2018

IDC Gone? What's A Girl To Do?

Update: Today's Crain's says "former" IDC member Jesse Hamilton's been breaking the law with his campaign headquarters. As a lawyer, he should know bettter.

The Independent Democratic Caucus was sh-sh-shaking in its boots. It decided to rejoin the mainline Dems, rather than have to continue to defend itself against accusations of being turncoats and, worse, Republicans! (the beast whose name should never be uttered, except in reference to Honest Abe).

Anyone who's taken the time to get to know the IDC will know they were never Republicans. (Though they were founded by a Class A jerk). They didn't support Trump. And they did not hand the Republicans the majority. That honor belongs to a series of events that started with the coup of 2008, then the Republicans retaking the Senate in the 2010 Republican wave, and in 2012 more bribes, resignations, defections and utter insanity. I had to read this Wikipedia article three times before it all started to make sense. If you want to place the blame at someone's feet, choose either Bronxian Jeff Klein, the dorky head of the IDC, or maybe the very bizarre State Senator from Borough Park, Simcha Felder, whose continued animosity to consensus and decency, even LITERACY, suggests that if anyone deserves to go down in the upcoming NY Senate election, it's Sneaky Sim Felder, for G#D's sake.

So then I go to see Jesse Hamilton III, our much maligned representative, and it's clear he's been annoyed by all the hubbub, going as far as to call the anti-IDC crowd racist for calling him out. A campaign tactic? Maybe. Given Hamilton's years of dedication to the community, and his fairly reasonable explanation of why he compromised with Republicans to get some real benefits for his constituents, I'm torn. Sure he got a few thousand more bucks and ready access to the gavel as perks. But...well, anyway, don't buy the simplistic versions of the story. It's truly a multi-layered yarn that hopefully has now been resolved. Albany is anything but boring...

And in the meantime, take a look at the challenger to Hamilton. A young, savvy, smart man who grew up right here at Maple and Flatbush. Friends call him Zell, and I suspect he'd be happy to have you call him that, provided you give his candidacy the hard look it deserves.

Zellnor's the Real Deal, A Savvy Up-and-Comer
With Zell across the table, the Q ordered pancakes at Blessings the other day, and while waiting for them to arrive, the Q blabbered away in order to set the stage for Zellnor Myrie's stump speech, which I hoped would be lengthy enough to finish the flapjacks. But he never really launched into campaign mode. Instead, I was treated to funny stories, genuineness and the company of someone eager to leave corporate law scene behind for a stint or career of civil service.

Zell knows his neighborhood. He's comfortable in Flatbush (call it PLG or Lefferts if you like), but he knows the pain people are feeling and espouses common sense solutions. Regain "home rule" for rent laws. Build truly affordable housing. Resist unnecessary development. Provide real opportunities for young people. You know, he's a true and blue progressive Democrat, and these days, that means something.

And while the anti-IDC will come with knuckles bared against Jesse, look for the likes of the machine-oiled Kings County Politics to fight back with petty nonsense like this about Zell, tying him to a guy he worked for 2010-2012 - Fernando Cabrera - and implying that his work there meant he shared Cabrera's more conservative views. I'm sure Zell would have worked for a more progressive guy if he'd gotten the gig. But Zell wasn't Cabrera. Hamilton, on the other hand, IS Hamilton. He's not just working for him. His views, and his choices with the IDC, are all his, for better or worse.

In encourage you to get to know Zell, reach out to his campaign, give him a few bucks, and let the real race begin. Cuz it's all about the primary in this one-party town, where to even drink out of the same water fountain as the Republicans can lose you your job.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Ten Commandments of Moses Fried

  1. Thou Shalt Not Rush To Create Apartment Hotel On Parkside Avenue
  2. Thou Shalt Wait, in fact, About 10 Years From Your First Application Before Getting Permit (see below)
  3. Thou Shalt Illegally Rent To Squatters For Years
  4. Thou Shalt Thumb Thy Nose At Community Opposition
  5. Thou Shalt Claim That As A Religious Man and Holocaust Survivor You Clearly Care About People 
  6. Thou Shalt Involve Your Grandson David Tepper In All Your Business Plans
  7. Thou Shalt Build An Apartment Hotel When What Is Really Needed Is More Of What It Used To Be - Rent Stabilized Housing
  8. Thou Shalt Not Allow Your Apartment Hotel To Become a Brothel As You Have Done Elsewhere, Lest You Risk the Wrath Of Neighbors - Got It?
  9. Thou Shalt Create Tiny Studio Apartments For Your Apartment Hotel
  10. Thou Shalt Rake In As Much As You Can Before Shuffling Off This Mortal Coil

Moses Fried Finally Has His Permit Folks. What was once this a decade ago:

Will now, maybe, sometime, become:

Monday, April 2, 2018

Ah My Beloved Clarkson

The war is over before it began. There will be no new affordable housing on my forlorn rough and tumble block. Just more middle-of-the-road market rate housing. The poorest have been booted, legally or illegally. It's become clear to black and brown families of limited means that their money and leases are no longer good enough. No government agency has snapped into action, no developer has refused the opportunity to make real money off the neighborhood's changing fortunes.

As of today, two vacant lots are seeing signs of life. Clarkson tween Flat and Bed was always wildly eclectic. Beautiful well-kept and gardened Victorians on the south side played sentinel.

Now that the legally wrangling is through
Hooray! Anti-black racism explained through Anti-Semitism. Hooray! Plus poor use or apostrophes! Hooray!
 Across the street things certainly weren't gorgeous. I often called it "the little Appalachia," with fondness of course. But there was nice group of "special" folks living on the right, mostly hanging on the porch like country living, and the house on the left was the rectory for the cinder block pentecostal church even lefter. Mount of Olives, or with sign erosion, Mount of Lives. Hell, they made out like Jesus Bandits when they sold their souls, but still the off-key singing into the wee hours lent a special charm. I hear they moved to Jersey.

It's now becoming the below.

Regarding the south side sitch:

"Marc Jacobowitz’s Bluejay Management picked up a development site in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens from Bushburg Properties for $13.5 million. In 2014, Bushberg, led by Joseph Hoffman, bought three single-family homes at 50-54 Clarkson Avenue for a total of $1.75 million and razed them to make way for a nine-story rental building. The land is currently vacant and Bluejay intends to keep the original plans, which will bring 93 residential across 65,365 square feet, as per the initial DOB plans. In 2012, Bluejay bought another stalled project in Crown Heights, a 63-unit project at 341 Eastern Parkway that was completed in 2014."

Regarding the northern incursion:
Last year, Brookland filed plans to build an eight-story building at 75-77 Clarkson Ave. The proposed tower will be two and a half blocks from Prospect Park between Flatbush and Bedford Avenues. The building will contain 46 apartments and 31,750 s/f of residential space. New York YIMBY speculated that the development will be mostly studios and one-bedrooms since the average size for apartments is 690 s/f. 

As in, not family-sized units. Unless you're a family from Poodlestan.

The deal was announced by Titan Capital, which was the lender in the transaction. The firm said that the sellout for the building is expected to be around $25 million.

Brick by brick, apartment by apartment, family by family, lease by lease, tree by tree, updates intercom by updated intercom, the block becomes something new entirely. Only Irene and her twin sons Randy and Sandy will be able to claim to have witnessed the switch from mostly Jewish to black to mostly white. According R&S, neither the blacks NOR the Jews were particular happy to see THEIR Puerto Rican asses arrive.

Oh, and 60 Clarkson? Check out the no loitering sign and the brand new lobby fixtures! Trust me, that's about as much upscale as you're gonna get out of our favorite slumlord cum credit-check-lord, Barry Hers.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Grateful Historic Districts To Begin Building "Affordable Townhomes" In Greater Lefferts Area

Coming soon, all over. A new proposal is for a couple hundred on and near the old Spice Factory site, instead of market and affordable high-rise.
Imagine you're someone with family take-home pay between $150-$250K. Can you afford to pay $2.5 million for a home near the Park, Garden and public transportation? Probably not without help from a healthy inheritance or selling valuable heirlooms. And for many young professionals, that just doesn't seem fair. Enter SHATON.

The Q recently attended a meeting at the Montauk Club of a coalition of homeowners in Historic Districts, some from our own Lefferts Manor and the PLG HD. The group is called Single-family Home-owners for Affordable Townhomes for Overbuilt Neighborhoods, or SHATON. Their goal is to see that the City ensures that not only high-rise apartment buildings get built. They want to see more attractively appointed two or three story single-family homes too, and they've found innovative ways to make sure that happens.

Bo Mervin, longtime resident of Lefferts Manor, put it this way. "While many of us have seen enormous gains in the price of our homes, and don't get me wrong we're very grateful for NYC's economic health and growth, we feel uncomfortable knowing that the next generation of solidly middle-class professionals won't be able to enjoy the benefits of multi-floor living, massive equity gains, with room for gramma in the basement and a plot of land for gardening. It's the sort of life that lawyers and non-profit executives should be able to afford! It's ghastly how much my house is worth in 2018. And I'm no One Percenter, believe me! Well....maybe now!"

Mervin, along with some of his compatriots in leafy nabes of Park Slope, Ft. Greene and Crown Heights, have identified a number of major investment banks who also see the advantage of creating "affordable" townhomes. Through clever use of 601b(e) NY State funding streams, it is now possible to profitably build modest brownstone replicas and sophisticated townhomes with all the mod-cons and marble countertops that can retail for considerably less than $2 million - and in some lower income neighborhoods, even under a million dollars.

You might have noticed that some of the most vocal opponents of allowing for taller buildings in exchange for rent-stabilized below-market units come from single family home owners. Rather than sit back and watch Victorian after Edwardian home be razed for unsightly apartment buildings, SHAT-ON believes in building more single family homes in popular neighborhoods.

The $950,000 price tag seems a steal. There's one catch though. You need to win the lottery. SHATON estimates between 5 and 10,000 potential homeowners will qualify for loans that will allow them to bid for these spacious gems.

And it all comes at tax-payer expense, leading some housing activists to rethink their alliance with NIMBY groups.

What do you think?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Going For Woke

A recent charity baseball game between Liberals and Ultra-Liberals ended in an alarming brawl earlier this week, portending greater fights to come. In the age of Trump, those of us on the left of the political fulcrum have become a bit bat-shit crazy.

In my own life, I've witnessed scores of recently "woke" liberal whites blast other whites for not being woke enough to the reality of ongoing institutional and historic white supremacy. Say what? Who in their right mind after going to liberal arts school doesn't know from the 400-year+ story of oppression, slavery, racial and religious warfare and colonialism? That's crazy talk. What's not crazy is the sudden realization by most liberals that they haven't done jack-shit about it, except complain, go all-organic and subscribe to The Nation.

And so, now that #45 has unlocked the inner activists in us all, it's should not surprise us that tried and true black-and-brown activists who've been fighting on the front lines for years and decades feel a bit miffed by the sudden show of resolve and courage. I'd love to tell you how all this is playing on the hyper-local level in  my school's PTA and the school district's Community Education Council, but that's for another post. (Actually the blackface controversy at a "progressive" Park Slope elementary school is rich enough to chomp on.)

The Q has noted how the Independent Democratic Conference has been quite the bone of contention lately around these parts. The Anti-IDC contingent have great points, viewable in condensed form here, or in this other dumbed down thing from the New Kings Democrats. The eight state senators who make up the IDC, of course, have quite a different take on the utility of their unconventional approach to dealmaking. Instead of linking to their propaganda though, (which somewhat unfairly I just did for the anti-IDC), I'd encourage you to follow this much more thorough explanation of how we got here. If you stick around to the end, you might see that it's not as simple as egomaniacs bashing each other. There have been some solid results from the give and take:

So. YOUR State Senator Jesse Hamilton joined the IDC as a Jesse-come-lately. BUT he had his reasons, and he will elucidate them if you ask. However, to my mind, he hasn't done a very good job of explaining to the full electorate what he's been up to and why it's been the right move for this district - for the black and brown residents he represents. So for a moment, I ask that you consider that maybe, just maybe, his heart and even his mind have been in a progressive place even if you see it otherwise.

Where this becomes super thorny is when people start calling Jesse a turncoat or traitor or (worse yet) a Trump Enabler. He could, and probably should, just calmly explain his motivations and tactics. Instead, because the loudest voices calling him out are largely white, he and his surrogates have made a good deal of noise about how these attacks are in fact racist in nature and origin. It must be pointed out that anti-IDC-ers tend to yell loudest about THEIR representatives, most of whom are solidly whitey-white, so if Jesse feels like he's being singled out, well, yeah, in HIS district he is. Cuz he's the man. But there is plenty of venom flying around for the original IDC gangsta Jeff Klein and his galpal Diane Scavino too.

Before you dismiss the racism call out of hand, though, I encourage you to read the below from a Jesse supporter who has a refreshingly honest take on what it feels like to be called a Trumper when your whole life you've been about justice and civil rights. And it begs the question - isn't it better at this point for Democrats to figure out how to discuss the issues without being shrill and combative all the time? It's true that Hamilton has to beat back a primary challenger in Zellnor Myrie. But that's how democracy is SUPPOSED TO WORK! You don't get your gig for life. And if you make intense changes just after winning your last primary and join a different caucus (I'm looking at you Jesse!) it's YOUR responsibility to explain it to us, not ours to simply get where you're coming from. It was either a dumb or gutsy move, but that's what politics is all about sometimes. And btw, there's still time for you to come back Jesse.

Anyway, here's Rev. Karl McCall's take, and it's well worth your time.

 Reverend Karl McCall wrote in Amsterdam News...

As a proud Black man who grew up in Brownsville, I know all too well the racial divide in New York City. I’ve been “woke” since I been born. I understand that division gets in the way of our common humanity and is grossly politicized. As a longtime community activist fighting for social justice and racial equality, today I see that the anti-Independent Democratic Conference movement has thrown the Black and Brown elected representatives in our community into the spotlight and under criticism.
Senator Marisol Alcántara served as the national chapter coordinator for the National Action Network. She did not start fighting against Trump in 2016, she has been battling Trump with the Rev. Al Sharpton long before popular hashtags. As an immigrant, her resistance started when she was born. She is a fighter for our community—a strong, vibrant Afro-Latina organizer who knows the meaning of being woke. She has experienced her own share of racist and sexist attacks.
Today we put Alcántara dissenters on notice. We will not tolerate the petty attacks. We, as men, have an obligation to stand by Alcántara and the women in our community who fight for our families.
To our mothers, sisters, daughters and granddaughters, we say in the words of the great Tupac Shakur: “Time to heal our women, be real to our women.”
In my lifelong efforts as a community activist, I have learned to always put people over politics, while fighting tirelessly to end racial inequality for low-income New Yorkers from East Flatbush to Mott Haven.
Over the years, I’ve watched issues such as low-income housing, education and immigrant rights move from being considered unrealistic, hard left policies to becoming mainstream Democratic policy positions. These changes are the result of Black and Brown voters organizing and advocating for their own interests. I’ve been glad to see our progressive allies join the National Action Network in advocating for these reforms, but I keep hearing criticisms about the same three Black and Brown IDC members.
The IDC has eight members, but only three receive the brunt of the abuse.
No matter what the IDC’s legislative achievements are—$15 minimum wage, paid family leave and Raise the Age, and what they mean for communities of color, somehow Marisol Alcántara, Jesse Hamilton and José Peralta are being disloyal for making a choice to deliver for their constituents. They are woke because they are challenging the political structure that has not been getting any results for people of color.
People of color understand that even when we stand up for political parties, the party doesn’t always stand up for us. The school-to-prison pipeline has existed in New York City for more than 40 years, no matter which party controlled City Hall. Being woke teaches you that it’s the system not political parties that is the problem. I am done with agendas, I am about action and thinking outside the box.
I’ve seen far too many newly woke white progressives say some version of “Now that Trump is in office, I’ve decided to become politically active.”  When your body and your freedom aren’t on the line, you have the luxury of suddenly deciding to become politically active. For activists like me, politics are life or death, freedom or captivity, survival or failure. When a woman like Marisol Alcántara, who has spent her life fighting for communities of color all around the city, makes the political decisions she was elected to make, I know beyond any doubt that she is doing it for the good of her community.
I’ve seen anti-IDC protests, and what I want to know is where were these activists when Eric Garner was killed and the National Action Network was out in the streets? Where were they during the protests after Ferguson? I want to ask these activist groups to do one thing: Listen. Listen to the people of color who have been in this fight before Trump’s election and who will be in this fight after Trump leaves office. Their constituents are lucky to have representatives who are willing to take a risk for them, even when it isn’t politically convenient. So criticize all you want, but leave the thinly disguised racism and the self-righteous attitude at home.
I am woke enough to know it will take all Democrats and advocates working as one to defeat Trump and the political system that brought him to power.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Caton Flats < Cate Bush

Ugh. Since when does adding "flats" to your name sound like a good idea? Flats. Flat tires. Flat empty spaces. Flat walls. Flat paint. Minnesota Flats. Flatulence. Flatty, flatyy, flat, flat. I guess because it's at Caton and Flatbush. Why not Flat Cate? Cate Bush? Kate Bush! That's it! Who do I send an email to? Here it is folks. Another odd rendering of Cate Bush:

The Q's been a fan of this project since inception (the plan's inception, not the Q's inception some 8 years ago, or my personal inception some 51 years ago). Affordable housing for lower income working people. Who would have thunk? The talk about incubator/tech/kitchen space for the longtime Caton Market vendors seems pretty hi-falutin and even incongruous given the sorts of ma/pa merchants who've been there since the colorful hangar-like structure went up, replacing what was then an outdoor Caribbean flavored flea-market situation. And while the idea two decades ago was to give the vendors access to customers all year round by building an indoor mall, it rather had the effect of keeping customers OUT. Not many folks got used to entering the mall on the regular to check out wares. And in fact, the food and merch vendors OUTside on the plaza did much better than the indoor businesses. Coconut milk or cut sugar cane anyone? Y'all can't get that kind of sidewalk food in Foodieville, now can you. Slowly but surely, much of what made this neighborhood unique is being erased. Progress they'll call it. Inevitable even. But no less sad.

And what's with this picture of the Caton Market from that Our Town piece? Never been there, don't recognize it. Before my time? Out in East Flatbush somewhere?

Tomorrow - Civic Minded - Local Politics Without the Bullshit

The Q makes no bones about his support of local firebrand Diana Richardson, most likely YOUR State Assemblyperson. If you're looking to get more involved in the community, I'd like to direct your attention to her monthly Civic-Minded meetings over on Empire and NY (MS 161). I hope to get there this week myself. And do introduce yourself to Diana directly. She's super approachable, and it doesn't hurt to get to know your electeds personally.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Abdo To the Rescue Again and Again

When we first met Abdo Zandani many years ago, he was struggling to find his niche on Parkside Avenue. It's hard to remember so far back, but there was a real need for internet access back a decade ago, and the the idea of the "Internet Coffee Shop" was a real thing - half a dozen places along the Flabenue gave it a go in the late '00s, even a hair salon near me own abode went wired for $6 an hour! But Abdo's most enduring skill was his facility with computers themselves, and eventually he figured out that fixing Macs, iPads, iPhones (which were still but a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye a dozen years ago) was his true calling.

I've purchased computers from Abdo, had them fixed, and sent many satisfied customers through the years. It's been particularly gratifying to stop in and see his 80-year old father spending time there. And get this - the old man spent more than 40 years with the USPS after immigrating here and now has a full pension and owns property. Back in the day, such a job could really take you somewhere. Who has a pension anymore? We're all effing doomed.

Here was post back in 2013, and every word rings even truer today.

Tired of trekking to Tekserve every time your Apple product busts? Just to feel patronized and goaded into buying a replacement? Want to be able to walk down the street and talk to the guy doing the repair work and see how it's going? Parkside Avenue's Abdo Zandanni (pronounce his name Ab-Dew) is really quite the tech magician, and tells and shows you exactly what he's doing to your machine. His prices are reasonable, and I've now had not one but five friends tell me his work and speed are terrific. He fixes iPhones and laptops and Macbooks and iPads and desktops and such. He and his lovely assistant are pictured here at their "Wired" store on Parkside:

Walk Briskly, Don't Slither, to 166 Parkside and fix before rebuying

From 2013: I was initially bummed that I went out on a limb and tried to beat the drum for people to give his brilliantly named Internet Coffee House (ICH) another look after it failed to catch fire. But hey, he's now concentrating on what he does best. As an example - I brought in my crap laptop (Toshiba! Toshiba!) that had finally busted six ways from Sunday. He gave me options, but the one I chose was to say the hell with it I'll just get a new $400 machine, since I have little kids and they're likely to bust it again anyway. So he took my old hard drive out, put it in a cute little wallet size box with a cord on it to plug in as a USB storage device. Nice! Cost me next to nothing.

Try him once. I bet you never go back to Manhattan. For ANYTHING.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

And the beat goes on...

Me used to shout from the treetops, droogs. Now my type gets hilariously made fun of on blogs like F-bushed, which has quickly emerged as a must-read around here. In his latest, he pulls no punches at whitey, and they pretty much all land. Though he didn't bother to mention that ONCE AGAIN none of the rendering models are fat. So size-ist! Like chubby folks don't need homes.

You know what? I don't care anymore. I have a place to live, and as long as you let me blast my Steely Dan at 7 am, y'all can build 20 story cubic zirconias on your chimneys. You want peace and dignity get yourself a place in the Manor.

Whatevs, Kev. The future, she has arrived.

Linden, East of Nostrand. Coming soon to YOUR block?
And as predicted, plans have been filed for the Brooklyn Union Armory.

I trust the Q doesn't have to tell you which he's happier about. 250 units of housing for folks making less than $50,000. And the "Kill the Deal" crowd is called the progressives? As my gramma used to say "Criminy." Yes, public housing would have been the right move. But so would universal health care. Know mean?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Rubbin' Spoonful

Rub Is All You Need?

No, actually. You need a good hunk of meat too, but like the Spice Girls once put it "Be a little bit wiser baby, put it on, put it on." because the "two become one." (see below video for their full love makin' recipe).

And if that's not enough to get you whet (sic), local entrepreneurs wife/hubby duo Isalia Lebron and Jamaal Dunlap have something they'd like you to try. And you can try it by picking some up some of their Breukelen Rub at local boutique Awesome right here on the Flabenue at 617 Flatbush. Article from BK Reader here. And while the name Breukelen was originally a town in Holland, there is nothing Dutch in this flavoring. It's hot, baby. Brooklyn hot.

With the specially mixed East NY Blend and Brownsville Blend and now even Flatbush Blend, you're bound to dig it all the more. Full disclosure: I've eaten Jamaal's meat, more than once. And before your juvenile humor floweth over, I'll add that both times were at J&I's Memorial Day feast, with the most incredible hunks of flesh melting off the bone (vegetarians, my apologies, even I know when I'm overdoing it). Jamaal's a chef at the venerable Manhattan joint Butter, so you know he knows his shit.

Butter chef Jamaal Dunlap

And if you want to learn more about how to make the perfect barbecue, sign up for Jamaal's cooking class and tasting at Awesome on March 30 at 8pm.

Now turn those lights low, and rub the spices all over...

Friday, March 9, 2018

Jesse Hamilton, III wants to know...what's the big deal?

As I write this, New York's "progressives" are busy tearing each other apart. Sure, it's entertaining to read how the Independent Democrats are a bunch of lying, thieving turncoats who favor the Trump agenda. And it's invigorating to hear your elected officials' full-throated cries of racism amid clamour for better black education, which let's face it, we all agree on. much of the rancor is based in fact? It's worth asking, in an era of claims of fake news and hyper criticism, whether one must really use such invective when discussing the candidates vying for office in this make-or-break year.

pic by Rachel Holliday Smith (sniff...

Stopped by your State Senator's office on Bedford and Montgomery yesterday. It's a telling location for his office, actually. While his heavily gerrymandered district includes parts of Park Slope, Gowanus, Prospect Heights and even Brooklyn Chinatown, his base is right across from two crucial neighborhood assets - Medgar Evers College and the Ebbets Field apartments. Each time I'm in that area I'm struck by just how important this "South Crown Heights" enclave is right now to the still mostly black residents of Central Brooklyn. MEC was created 50 years ago to address education inequity, and provide a backbone for a neighborhood blighted by neglect and poverty from the late '60s thru today. It's a proud symbol of perseverance and a reminder of the importance of college itself to less-advantaged youth.

And those apartments! After the devastating loss of the Dodgers, and the neighborhood became predominantly African American, decent working class housing was in short supply. Ebbets (apartments, not projects!) became a needed alternative to the slummy buildings that have since been re-habbed and rediscovered, with one-bedrooms fetching $2500 a month.

I write all this to set the stage. I know you know it, but Jesse isn't just YOUR representative; to some he's a godsend. He's in many ways a product of this neighborhood, living through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the weddings and funerals and school closings. Sure he's ambitious and an astute and persuasive lawyer, a politician through and through. But he is proud of his community, its schools, the progress on guns and crime, a longtime crusader for criminal justice reform. He went to Albany having inherited Eric Adams old seat (I say inherited because despite a strong challenger to the seat in Rubain Dorancy, it was Eric's machine that really helped put him over the top). I find it important to start any conversations of Hamilton's hits and strikes from there. I've seen him in action since long before he took this particular position, and he's put in his time and he holds close to his heart the strength of his convictions and confidence in his abilities to provide services and move progressive causes towards the finish line. He's no one's idea of a conservative.

But. Yes, but. He made an "interesting," bold, and some would say reckless choice a couple years ago that has inflamed passions and set him on a course towards what will surely be a bitter primary fight against a relative unknown named Zellnor Myrie - or "Z" to his friends. Z has raised a bunch of money already, due in part to that choice that Hamilton made, during, it must be noted, a more optimistic political climate in the shadow of the great Barack Obama. And what odd and terrible thing did Jesse do that's preordained this epic clash of wills?

He joined the Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC. And you'll be hearing LOTS and LOTS about the IDC in the coming months. Depending on whom you ask, overnight, Hamilton became either:

1) A pro-Trump turncoat enabling the state and country's regressive policies
2) A pragmatic realist who recognizes the only way to get bills passed and money allocated in a polarized world is to figure out how to work with the enemy

And before I dig into more of the criticisms of Jesse's decision to go IDC, and whether a few racist emails really amount to an unfair racist attack on Hamilton by whole groups like the Working Families Party, or whether his cries of racism are actually a political tactic to deflect the anti-IDC crowd, you gotta know the real answer to a central question. And that is...

Did Jesse joining the IDC, on balance, keep the Democrats from long-championed legislation and state leadership? The Q can find no evidence of that. The math just wasn't there for the Democrats to gain control, and so each bill and issue gets hammered out the same way as by vote, regardless of party.

So I asked Jesse - why not just go back to the Democrats, say it was a worthy experiment, and be done with it? I tell you truthfully that the IDC is feeling the heat, and should Democrats win a clear majority this fall, they're likely to go back to the fold and elect Democratic leadership, probably the first female African-American leader of the Senate. But the Repubs were going to control the chamber anyway up til now, especially since Brooklynite Simcha Felder has basically become a Republican. Never met Simcha. But I imagine his politics drifted right, and many conservative Jews fall on that side of the spectrum. In fact, his electorate might demand it of him.

So is Jesse a total turncoat? No. Are the WFP and Indivisible and the majority of education advocates racist just for attacking his methods? No. And in fact, Jesse's latest tirade against "fringe" groups like WFP is NOT helping. WFP is hardly fringe, and Jesse unwisely tried to stage a counter-rally last weekend instead of merely letting the anti-IDC do their thing. Sometimes you gotta sit one out, and maybe it's cuz he's relatively new, but I don't think his political instincts are too keen here. Were I working for him, I'd have told him that now is not the time to inflame passions further. Stay calm. Remain sure of yourself. Explain your positions. Take the heat like someone who can take the heat.

Instead, it's going to get butt-ugly folks. The Q only hopes that you look at these candidates closely for what they believe and how they interact with EVERYone. This fight over the true meaning of Democrat?

It's for the birds, y'all. But sometimes birds tear each other to shreds.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Another Bites the Dust...

Recognize this corner? Not for long.
From the article in NYREJ: It never gets easy to read the phrase "take full advantage of the emerging neighborhood." oy.
Zoned R7A, 100 Lenox Rd. allows for residential development, with the property boasting frontage spanning 44’ on Lenox Rd. and 125’ on Bedford Ave. The 100 Lenox Rd. site was delivered with building plans of a seven-story, thirty one-unit apartment building with condominium finishes and amenity space. 
“We implemented a competitive marketing strategy, creating extreme competition for this asset, which benefits from a lucrative tax incentive and the fact that it was one of the largest remaining development opportunities in close proximity to Prospect Park,” said Alexander McGee, Director at Ariel Property Advisors
The buildings are located on the Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Garden border, a location that positions the new buyer to take full advantage of the emerging neighborhood. 
I think it's very interesting to note that this is a resale from a previous developer, and that the price of the site is nearly THREE times as much in a year. Say what?

Oh, and the saddest line of all is below, which suggests what downzoning could be doing to help us right now up here in CB9 north of Clarkson, had we entered talks with the City to determine where such down and upzoning should occur. The "A" at the end of the 2009 zoning means there are height limits. But since the community activists fighting for housing justice don't seem to care about building low and middle income housing, I've pretty much stopped caring too. My block, for instance, is already undergoing its big change, and there ain't nothing can be done to stop it, or force the hand of developers to build rent-stabilized housing. From my perspective, the war for the neighborhood is ostensibly over, the developers are laughing at our ineptitude, and it's been decided to focus on short term building-prevention at the expense of longterm income equity.

At this point, only an elected official with vision and leadership could prevent the wholesale dismantling of the non-Manor Lefferts area.Speaking of which, that kinda leads into my next post. And oh, the quote:

B.H. Tal Real Estate acquired the 5,500-square-foot property for $2,600,000 in October 2015, paying $118 for each square foot of 100 Lenox Road. This sizable lot would probably be even more valuable if it hadn’t been downzoned back in 2009. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Boo! Haunted House Becomes Pricey Apartments

To be honest, I'm not sure what I think anymore. Neighborhood stakeholders have thumbed their noses at creating affordable housing - you know below market rent stabilized? And along with the mad dash to develop the hyper desired Lefferts Flatbush (LF) area, what happens? Best use of current zoning. "Luxury" units. Topping out. Density. Blah, blah, blah. Here's Clarkson, looking east past Bedford. Seen Bedford lately? Oy.

Not so long ago it was the Haunted House of Clarkson. No one will ever know, except on blogs and in nightmares. For some, they're the same thing.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Actually, them apples look damn fine. Clean, bright, fully loaded.  Could be a game changer for folks of North Lefferts. Located as close to the Prospect Park station as Pioneer is to the Q at Parkside.
I give Western Beef a year at best. Saw many a local wandering with starry eyes. It's hard to express just how unlikely this joint would have seemed even five years ago.

The Rise of Saigon - The Fall of Brooklyn

Saigon fell in 1975. Long live Vietnam. Brooklyn, you worry me.

Just back from a family vacation in one of the most friendly, vibrant and eye-opening places the Q's ever been. It was a good thing we left visiting the War Remnants museum to the end. The brutal story of U.S. war crimes against French Indochina would have weighed heavily my whole time, and I might have missed the majesty and mystery of a country and people embracing the future with an optimism I haven't seen in the Western world.

It's not really a communist country at all. It's a one-party crony-capitalist state that really doesn't like to be criticized (sound familiar?) And most people are too busy hustling to argue. For now. When you make more money every year, it's easier to forgive the couple hundred jailed dissidents who merely had the gall to question the Politburo.

Been following things back home though! In our "advanced" society, the Q's once-maligned prediction of a Korean joint at the old Flatbush near Beekman sneaker store came true (read more on Flatbushed). Once Q-bashed now-resolutely-part-of-the-neighborhood 626 Flatbush will be getting an informal sit-down place next to Greenlight Bookstore (read more on Flatbushed.) Bergen Bagels finally opened where lively Ray's deli used to was. (read more on Flatbushed.) That Ice Cream and Coffee joint opened where Shelly's Linen cum Shelley's Toy Store was at the corner of Flatbush and Westbury Ct. (they make the confection in the basement, the same where a few of us met to talk about kindergarten just a couple years ago when it was a "community space.) Oh, and if it weren't painfully clear -  Flatbushed is back with a vengeance! #LovingIt.

While in Saigon, I composed a note to the ULURP committee at CB9. We had received from Chair Michael Liburd a link to a Village Voice article at which Brooklyn City Planning head Winston von Engel was reported to have told a Bushwick audience that (and this is NOT a direct quote) - the city is interested in preserving architectural character not preventing displacement. Read all about it if you like.

So on the painful flight home from Hong Kong, I penned the below and sent to ULURP. It pretty much sums up my thinking right now, so why have a blog and keep it to myself?


Been thinking a lot about this one. I'm sure Winston has remorse about getting quoted that way, but the fact is, his perspective is refreshingly honest. Let's suppose for a minute that City Planning is NOT a force for anti-displacement. This would hardly be a shocker if expressed more artfully. Planning is about planning for the future. It's only in a hyperventilating housing market that the mere mention of "planning" would be met with venom.

The ULURP committee has become, to my mind, less about Land Use planning and more about Keeping Out Rapacious Developers committee (KORD). I get that, and I'm no fan of big developers. One of my main reasons for remaining on this committee has been to fight for rational development - not too tall, and with plenty of new rent-stabilized below-market housing. My block is a disaster area. The committee is currently fighting for the areas on and above Empire - my family and neighborhood association lost everything a couple of years ago. You won't recognize Clarkson Avenue in 2020. It will have gone from my wife and I being the only white people on the block to us being the old-guard - part of the vast majority of middle and upper middle mostly white neighbors. That will have happened in less than 20 years. Let me repeat - a switch from all black to mostly all white in less than two decades. It's astonishing, disheartening, and I don't deny that I haven't done enough. My only defense is - I needed a place to live too.

The ULURP committee has also become a housing activism committee. It's hard not to conflate the two, and I don't know that we can separate out these issues (though I'm still not convinced that resisting rezoning can do ANYTHING to slow gentrification). Landlord rules need to change - the City needs to control its own housing laws. But is this even ULURP related?

What the ULURP committee DOESN'T do is - imagine a future neighborhood 10, 20 or 50 years hence. By insisting that all new development be market rate, we ensure that we will become merely the next neighborhood out on the subway line to become wealthier and whiter.

I don't say this to argue with anyone. I just want us to remind all that there are immediate issues and there are planning issues, and they will not always overlap. Sometimes they do - and sometimes, we're merely engaging in speculation and fear.

Maybe Winston's admission that City Planning isn't about displacement is a needed reminder that they - and ULURP - aren't going to fix the most immediate concerns, and if we are to design a coherent Community Board policy, it may need to happen as a broad, multi-committee, feet on the ground protest response. Merely saying no, using the City's process, may be too little too late.

with respect,

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What's Cooking At the Spice Factory

So, what to do at 960 Franklin Avenue, a/k/a the Spice Factory? Well, here's the latest proposed plan by the new owners, who bought from longtime owners Morris Golombeck.
A rendering of the new project, handed out at last night's meeting to show proposed heights
in exchange for hundreds of new affordable housing units (dark coloring are the potential rezoned additions)

We all knew it was just a matter of time. Large site, near the Park and Garden, right next to the Q, B and Shuttle trains. Into town in 20 minutes, easy.

The Q advocated, hard, for a neighborhood planning study and rezoning that would have likely allowed for higher buildings along transit hubs in exchange for protections and downzonings for historic inner blocks. That effort failed, in large part (gotta hand it to her; she won) Alicia Boyd and MTOPP, which is basically her and a couple acolytes. Since then, her efforts to prevent any and ALL rezonings in southern Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens have brought about the firing of the old district manager, preventing the hiring of the new district manager, the resignations of many Board members, and the resignations of not one, not two, but three Board chairs. Incidentally, that's a position that's often held for years if not decades. Turmoil is Boyd's middle name, and even as she loses her lawsuits, the drag on the process takes its toll. Again, hats off. A worthy foe indeed.

Since then, the Crown Heights Tenants Union and now even the East Harlem's anti-rezoning activists have joined the fight, as the City's activist networks take on the developers and City Planners to stop building high in order to subsidize "affordable housing," which, as they argue, is not really affordable to the actually poor and homeless. I suppose they're right in this regard. Even $1000, or $1500, or $2000, despite the fact that they're being built to stay stabilized, is too much money for a lot of people. Though I must say that any tenant still paying less than $1,000 for an apartment is under extreme pressure, both legal and illegal, to leave their homes, as landlords recognize the potential profits from these older stabilized apartments. That fact remains, regardless of any new buildings.

In a certain sense, this is a battle of the Left vs. the Super Left, in that many of the Mayor's "Mandatory Inclusionary Housing" plans have been lauded as a step in the right direction towards creating more long-term, stabilized below-market-rate housing. You can't fight a housing crisis without building, and in NYC, that means building tall, so goes the argument.

What's a good liberal to do?

Last night, one thing became perfectly clear. The Community, as represented by the subset of that community who are on the ULURP Committee and Community Board, want nothing to do with rezonings, no matter the trade-off offered by developers or City. They don't trust that folks in the neighborhood will benefit. They believe that any and all tall buildings will lead to greater displacement than is offset by the new units of affordable housing. (And frankly, I would argue that's not even the point. The point of all this new building is for the future of the City, not just for those currently facing eviction.)

Professor Tom Angotti of Hunter College has become the intellectual of choice for the anti crowd. His book Zoned Out is their bible. CHTU leads the reasonable wing of the movement, in that they represent real tenants, real rent battles, and are co-led by the endlessly impressive and intelligent Esteban Giron, who often holds court at meetings because, frankly, he's the most knowledgeable and coherent anti-displacement advocate you'll find. He lives on Franklin near Carroll, and he and husband are under pressure to move out too. He'll tell you heartbreaking stories and win you over with reasoned arguments and a warmth that I find lacking from most of the hard-left activists. I have the utmost respect for Esteban, and in many ways, my own views have been shaped by my following his analysis.

Tom Angotti, on the other hand, seems to me a bit too smug and sure of himself as an ex-City Planner for me to drink his Kool-Aid. When his book is mentioned he smiles like a gloating David having slingshot his rock at Goliath. Like last night, he often tells tales that are patently false - like how Windsor Terrace fought back gentrification by fighting rezoning, and that Park Slope has therefore gentrified much faster as a result of their own rezonings on 4th Avenue. Say what, now? That doesn't jibe with my own experiences and even with the facts of rental and home increases. The neighborhood is, and long has been, all white, and has become terribly unaffordable to longtime residents there, many of them of Italian and Irish heritage (ever been to Farrell's?) One of my best pals is being forced out of his $2200 one-bedroom right now in WT. Angotti claimed prices have jumped 10 times in Park Slope while just 2 1/2 in the Terrace. Say what? Clearly he doesn't read the Zillow much.

The final analysis of the Committee might be a head-scratcher to those not familiar with the lines of argument. NO, says CB9. No rezoning. Make the developer stick with what he gets under current rules - supposedly up to 7 stories, ALL market rate, which around there is probably closing in on $3,000 if not more. Bring it on, says the ULURP committee. But you don't get an inch of extra height, and you can take your supposedly affordable units and shove 'em, we don't need 'em, because your longterm goal Mr. D (developer, devil?) is to get all the poor and POC's out to make way for your dream of a less colorful (in more ways than one) neighborhood.

Where do you stand?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jaw Dropping New Brooklyn

Even the cynical ol' Q wasn't ready for the below rendering. Most of these buildings are already in place, but this puts the new 70+ story 80 Flatbush project in perspective (currently it's the soon-to-be-demolished building with all that amazing chalkboard-looking mural on it.)

For those of you who've lived in Brooklyn a long time (and yes, the Q is one of them - 30 years now), this picture will blow your effin' mind. That's the tiny little Williamsburg Bank clocktower (twas my bank many moons ago, and home to my dentist!), once the borough's tallest building.

Tonight, your local Community Board 9 meets its ULURP committee, and if the flying emails are any indication, it's going to be a doozy. Come on down and check out hyper-local quasi government in action.

On the agenda? The future of the mysterious yet beloved Spice Factory on Franklin.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Most Crucial Piece of Recovery - People

Hi, my name is Clarkson FlatBed, and I'm an alcoholic.

12-step programs by design don't "fight back" against inaccurate attacks. It's written into the AA code of "attraction, not promotion," and never engaging in controversy. That's part of the official "traditions" that are roughly adhered to by the few million people who avail themselves of AA meetings, literature, online groups, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Al Anon, the Debtors, Sugar, Gambling and Sex programs and many others. There are no membership dues. Anyone can go to a meeting anytime they like, and can call themselves a member whenever they like, go or not go, get seriously into it or hang on the edges. No one is forced to do anything, or believe anything, though most meetings and sober AAs express some form of spirituality as part of their journey back to physical and mental health. At some meetings there are as many belief systems represented as there are people. I love meetings; I'd go to more if I could. I really can't imagine having gone so long without a drink without the help of literally hundreds of people, people from all walks of life - races, creeds, orientations and economic circumstance. It's been not just a tool for sobriety; it's been a remarkable eye-opening life affirming experience. And no, I don't believe in god, but I do believe in the power of community and service.

Clearly, people are getting something out of it. If you are truly an alcoholic, and I'll discuss that word "truly" in a minute, and you stop drinking, life will undoubtedly get better, or at the very least "easier." That's because no one goes to AA when life is bliss. It's generally the last house on the block. Most AAs tried myriad ways to get sober, from shrinks to drugs to yoga to switching jobs or locales, or switched from wine to beer or whiskey to vodka, tried counting drinks, tried hanging out with different people, tried drinking only on weekends, meditation, moderation, medicines, drying out, the list goes on. Granted some people get mandated to AA, but that rarely works. It's the seriously desperate alcoholic that's AAs best customer. And there are many satisfied customers indeed, who haven't paid a dime beyond the cost of a bad cup of coffee and an oreo cookie or hundred.

Why dump on AA then? Gabrielle Glaser likes to, and she makes tons of good points, though none of them seem to understand AA in the least. I just heard her on this week's On the Media podcast. Her "Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous" is one of the most read articles in the history of that magazine. Hmmm. I wonder why? Could it be that people desperate to mitigate the negative effects of drinking are looking for anything, ANYthing other than sitting in a church basement with a bunch of (god forbid) OTHER people one or more times a week? I sit in a circle and gab with strangers and friends a couple times a week, listening to the most outrageous and heartbreaking stories of depravity, abuse and redemption - better than any you'd read in books (actually a lot of them ARE in books - recovery lit is quite the popular genre). People cry, they laugh (a lot) and after a meeting I tend to feel lighter, more ready to face a world that seems cold, closed and spiteful.

If you struggle with addiction, by all means, avail yourself to the medical and scientific treatments available. If they don't work, there's still a way out, and that's the promise of AA, not some sort of guarantee or probability of outcome. Words like willingness and honesty and hope and identification don't grace the bottle of any prescription medication I know of. But AA also doesn't forbid the use of science and medicing as part of recovery. Where does this nonsense come from? Often from alcoholics themselves who have good reason not to want to get sober, or for whom the deadly malady hasn't fully overtaken them.

Alcoholism is a lonely disease. Not all full-blown alcoholics are physically isolated. But the booze, and one's unnatural relationship to it, can make one feel utterly alone, even among others, others who may in fact love the drunk dearly. Such isolation is deadly for the problem drinker, since it feeds the narrative of worthlessness and shame that leads to ever-more drinking, even suicide. I'm not making this shit up, by the way. I've been to a few thousand meetings myself, and to a number, ex-drunkards speak to this isolation as the most debilitating and deadly aspect of the disease . The booze or drugs, which are often personified as friend or foe by the addict, WANTS you alone. And no worry if you don't want to call it disease if that terms bugs you. I use the term broadly - it's a condition if you will, or a physical and mental problem if you must. It's a killer, that's for sure, and maybe (probably) you know someone who succumbed to this "not-a-disease," if not via alcohol then through opiates or some other addiction, or suicide resulting from the hopelessness of the depression and isolation the sickness causes. The current opioid crisis kills far fewer than alcohol, by the way, though it's a better media story I guess, and certainly has grown too fast to ignore. To me it's all the same - seeking relief, one becomes dependent. Same for binge eating, gambling, unhealthy sex, overwork, under-employment, over-spending, even smoking, porn and gaming.

What Glaser gets so wrong by pointing to the myriad other ways to get sober or manage one's drinking is that drunks KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF ALREADY. What self-diagnosed problem drinker hasn't tried one or dozens of the other available treatments? I would agree with her that State sponsored treatment facilities should not rely on AA, nor should judges and jailors. I recently went to Rikers Island to bring a meeting, and of the three dozen inmates in one ward who were there for drug and booze-related offences, only three showed up for our informal twelve-step meeting. And I can guarantee you, there weren't a lot of other options for entertainment that hour! Even just for shits and giggles you'd think a few more would join the circle, but hey, they're mostly young, and haven't been beaten down enough yet. AA is definitely for those who've reached the very end of their rope.

So three final points. One, Glaser and others say that abstinence is not the only result worth shooting for, and abstinence lays out unrealistic expectations of the drunk. Yes!! Couldn't agree more. In fact, AA agrees too. And yet (here's the kicker) the true drunk doesn't WANT a two beer buzz! That's not the point, neither is the taste. It's the effect we're after, so moderation is like Drinker Blue Balls (sorry for the vulgar analogy). It's actually easier not to drink at all than to become one of the "glass of wine at dinner" folks, the ones who often least understand why the drunk keeps refilling that glass beyond the point of reason.

Two, Glaser cherry-picked her problems with the not-perfect AA literature. She looks for the mistakes and contradictions. But what about the part in the book that practically BEGS the unconvinced alcoholic to try some controlled drinking, or drink like a gentlemen, and if you succeed AA says "our hats are off to you!" Such a person who can still learn to moderate is not the hopeless alcoholic then, or hasn't become one yet. Even though the Big Book of AA was written 80 years ago, today's alcoholic or drug addict is suredly aware of other options for treatment. In fact, the way I learn about them is from AA meetings! No better place to hear the honest stories of people struggling. AA has never been the treatment of choice for the not-yet alcoholic. If we could drink normally, we would! In fact, if I could drink normally, I'd drink normally every hour of the day 24-7!!

I guess Glaser is on a crusade, and I admire that. She wants more people to find a solution not fewer, and AA wants the same thing. She's trying to provoke AA to respond here, which of course, it won't do, as a matter of rule and tactic. Why fight with the haters when even AA itself doesn't run "studies" or compile useful statistics? For good reason, AA will remain (mostly) under the radar thank you very much. Except for the occasional pseudonymous blogger who's hoping he's not running too far afoul of the tradition of anonymity. Clarkson. That's my name. Clarkson.

But the big, big problem with the Glaser perspective is that it misses the single most important aspect of 12-step groups, more important than talk of higher powers and one-day-at-a-time, the twelve helpful steps, and all that jazz.

Community. Friendship with others who live and work nearby and help with problems small and big. Pulling for one another. Stories and listening. Camaraderie. Traveling to far off lands and meeting fellow "travellers" on the sober train. In short, it's the very opposite of isolation, which as I said is the major defining fact of the alcoholic's existence, beyond the drunkenness and hangovers of course. Are we really so scientific-minded that we can't acknowledge one of humans' most basic forms of therapy - companionship and encouragement?

So. If you've tried every one of those other methods that Glaser suggests are better than 12-step recovery (she claims that 37 forms of treatment work better!) then I will tell you what Craig Ferguson once said in this most astounding of monologues. Go to a meeting. See if it's for you. If you're feeling desperate, stick around for a bit. Then decide to move on to other 37 MORE effective treatments, many of which you will likely have tried already. And then come back if they don't work. All misery gladly refunded if you leave.

FYI, there's a great meeting right here in the neighborhood on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm at the Jan Hus Church on Ocean btw Parkside and Lincoln right near that traffic light. Which is a great metaphor for green - keep drinking; yellow - moderate your drinking or; red - stop drinking. For the true drunk, red is often WAY easier than yellow. Only you can judge for yourself. Good luck, friend. Or feel free to forward this post to a friend in need of the one thing hardest to come by in the depths of addiction. Hope.