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.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

When Scaffolding Is Welcome

If you've ever wandered past the imposing Erasmus Hall campus and peeked through the gates, you've probably been shocked and awed by the old original Erasmus Academy building, a relic of another age that seems to plead "please, come and fix me, fix me before I'm lost to history." Well, that's what the Q heard it say by gum.

Word comes via the reliable BKLYNER that work has begun to restore it to its former glory. After many false starts through the years, we may actually see this Alexander Hamilton linked building used for teaching and learning. Thanks to Geoff Cobb for the amusing anecdote about ancient rifles being found recently, a couple hundred years after their "usefulness" expired - an early example of the NRA's answer to school shootings?

to
2018 pic by Geoff Cobb

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Waking Up To the New Rental Caluclus

So often when you see articles about rents in Brooklyn, they focus on hot neighborhoods and scare you with numbers so crazy you'd think surely they're writing to someone else, not you, since you are a seasoned New Yorker who understands how to find a bargain, and you already know which neighborhoods are outside your range and therefore snobby and yuppy. Well...are there bargains anymore? And are there even neighborhoods that are "undiscovered," as they used to say before such words were deemed colonialistic? (Remember when they'd speak of "pioneers?" Wow, man. That's heavy, and not long ago.)

Finally, there's a simple way to plug in your income, credit and expenses to figure out where you could, in fact, live without a trust fund. Remember, these are averages, but they're pretty darn close. Markets have a way of flattening the outliers, and the fact is, few landlords are really going much lower than average anyway.

So what does it take to live around here? If you've been looking, you already know. But it's gonna shock a lot of you just the same.

TYPE: HOUSEHOLD INCOME

Studio: $79,000
1 Bedroom: $90,000
2 Bedrooms: $103,000
3 Bedrooms: $131,000
4 Bedrooms+: $137,000

Don't believe me? Try the calculator from Property Nest. If your household income is below $70K, you'll be looking at neighborhoods like Canarsie, East Flatbush, East NY, Mill Basin, Bensonhurst, as truly "affordable" and just barely. 

Here's the full article on the cheapest (ha!) and most un-cheapest in the borough. 

Next time when you're talking about "affordable housing" and someone scoffs, saying "affordable to who?" Remind them that the teacher-preferred word is "whom," and that basically anyone making normal starting wages of non-tech, non-finance jobs is going to be under water before they even dip their toes in. Or rather, dip in their toes. Gotta hate those dangling prepositions. They're something up with which I will not put.

Brutal.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Tax Payers Start Paying Off

You've heard of tax payer properties, yes? Typically squat low-cost structures that allow land owners to charge enough rent to stay just ahead of the taxman. Our neighborhood is still full of them, but they're disappearing at a faster clip as local rents hit the sweet spot that turns buy-and-hold investors into sell-and-profit investors, and developers swoop in to do what they can within current zoning rules. You need only step out along the Flabenue to see the enormous potential for builders, and we're now seeing the first projects come to fruition. The new six-story market rate rentals are opening, and trust me these places are NOT going to be affordable to longtime residents accustomed to rent stabilized leases. The Q isn't talking about the poorest now; but even working professionals, like City workers and workaday salary folk - particular those with families - will simply not be able to keep up.

What exactly do I mean?

Those of us who call The Q at Parkside our hometrain know the Flabenue as our Main Street, and a lively thoroughfare it is. The hustle and bustle may blind you to the reality though - a large number of the buildings are merely awaiting their next chapter. Look up and you'll see many boarded up windows on the upper floors, meaning that tons of potential residences lie fallow. In my many years there has always been a great deal of churn; but lately signs point to major changes.

Surely these buildings will be razed rather than rebuilt -
currently they're zoned for roughly six-seven stories,
 depending on lot size.

Cinder block buildings like this are the easiest to remove. This whole stretch is vulnerable.

It boggles the mind; perhaps these upper floors are being used for storage? Mummies?

As mentioned previously on the Q, the Caton Market is soon to rise
12 stories of all-affordable apartments.
The recently erected plywood walls suggest demo starts soon.


123 Linden dwarfs surrounding buildings; Here on Caton looking east,
it's really quite shocking, and coming down Flatbush from GAP at night, wow.

Much as I'd hate to see the wonderful Save-a-Thon go, I can't imagine owners holding out much longer.
Buying up multiple properties could mean taller buildings.
The recently complete 7-story structures stand in contrast to the more typical
 three story buildings from Flatbush's heyday.

I would imagine this is the new normal for height along all of the Flabenue,
except on large lots like 626 Flatbush, where considerably taller buildings
will allow developers to take advantage of incredible
views of the Park all the way to the harbor on clear days.

Ocean is not immune, though there are fewer straight-up tax payers.

Despite the fact I'm down on Church fairly often,
this residential at the corner of Ocean caught me by surprise.
Recently finished and ready to rent, it's anchor retail is a Bank of America.
Lots of ink gets spilled on the changes coming to South Crown Heights and the further upscaling of the Lefferts area. But down here in Flatbush proper, you can't help but see the signs of severe makeover. Community Boards 14 and 17 have been witnessing a massive uptick in permit applications. Hopefully local stakeholders will take a more balanced approach than we have, since what the neighborhood really needs is lots more of permanent rent-stabilized below-market housing, and perhaps protections for the many beautiful treelined blocks between avenues.

We will see, maybe sooner than expected.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Shades of Racist?

Of all the nutty things about 2018, for the Q the nuttiest will be the threats and protests that came my way via my good friends Alicia Boyd and Imani Henry. I was prepared for their ire - well, Boyd's for sure. I've made no bones of my disdain for her race-baiting strong-arm tactics around neighborhood development. But I always saw ours as a frothy policy debate, not a death match, even if she did spit on me while screaming "fuck you tim thomas" a time or two. Trust me, there were plenty of other f.u.'s spraying out of her blowhole; I hardly felt special. Spirited. That's the word I'm looking for. Twas a spirited repartee.

But then I learned that for all Boyd's remarkable chutzpah when the cameras are rolling, she's remarkably thin-skinned when it comes to bad press and questions about her tactics and the legality of her own cottage industry. These outsized reactions had some of us wondering what's under the hood. Similarly thin-skinned was her sometimes strategic partner, late-of-state Senator Jesse Hamilton. Clearly, in this Trump-age, throwing oneself into controversy opens oneself to all manner of insult. And one in particular has become the insult of choice as regards a white person shoving his nose into business involving people of color. And I'll admit, the term is most often apt, if in varying shades. But perhaps not always.

There are precious few insults that can dent most white liberals' wimpy armor like "racist." Of course, there are racists for whom the descriptor is a badge of honor - true race warriors bent on the destruction, both physical and legal, of those they deem inferior. Clearly they deserve the full bold and capitalized rendition of the word. But what of those intellectually curious whites who mostly vote and speak with deference to civil rights but rarely do much to combat or restrain "supremacy?" Isn't there a different shade for them, or are they (so I've read) worse than the aforementioned variety, by virtue of their silence? And what of those who dare speak and act as if their black brothers and sisters WERE actually equals? Perhaps even showing deference to their intelligence and diversity, while (of course) still sometimes saying or thinking the wrong thing, only to admit their error and learn from it? Or sometimes dig in deeper only to learn that their arguments hold little sway? I'm sure it's clear which category I aspire to. If not, I've got Imani's email if you need it.

Reading online black sites like The Grio and The Root and Blavity and essays by terrific young black bloggers will likely jolt liberal consciousnesses and provoke surprising resentments that college grads didn't even know they were harboring. Which is, you know. good. Know thyself. Knowledge is power. Fight the Power! (Just not where inherited wealth is concerned! Can I get a witness? And a downpayment? Can't fight the power on a low-thread-count-night's-rest!

When I moved to Flatbush in the early 'aughts, I thought I would be on this race-consciousness path alone, along with a few neighbors and my own limited experience. I should've known the internets would provide ample company. And they certainly have. Down to the last internet.

But when post came to shove, and a group of Imani/Alicia forces threatened, then followed through on, a public smear campaign, culminating in a crowd of angry strangers yelling slogans AT MY HOUSE and posting my image on wanted signs all over the neighborhood, guess who stood up for me and offered words of assurance and concern? Not my white friends by and large. In fact, you could almost hear the wind sucking out of the mouths of Q-readers. Most whites (and yes, I do think of you as whites - that's how the neighborhood has changed me) became conspicuously silent, fearing (I imagine) that any connection to me might tarnish their own bonafides. I got a few hush-hush "sorry this is happening to you" emails, and I did appreciate them. But given the hundreds of online readers, I was surprised by the timid support.

In truth, a few dedicated white nabe activists and community-minded folks did reach out to me and offer more than just moral backing. A delightful and talented lawyer offered her pro bono services. Others met to discuss suitable responses to the nonsense. That certainly helped me keep level-headed about the whole ordeal, which could still be going on for all I know - this might just be an interim report after all. And a wonderful well-known local blogger - a hero, really - wrote a public piece in my defense. And yeah, she's white. But guess what? She was born in a country where her countrymen were an enslaved and oppressed people at the hands of mother Russia. Not unrelated methinks.

No, it was people of color who offered the warmest embraces while the egg still streamed down my face. Let's think this through, Q. It was almost as if years of personal struggle with racism gave these kind souls special insight into the experience of being labelled something you know in your heart that you are not. That is...the experience of racism seems to give some people an enormous well of empathy from which to draw. Should I be surprised? Probably not. One evening though, I sat and cried when I thought about what that really meant.

One day as I was tearing down some of the posters - the ones with my mug lumped in with white-power Proud Boy Gavin McInness and the mentally unhinged Cornerstore Caroline (ask me sometime what I know about her beyond the headlines), I ran into my neighbor John, a Vietnam war veteran with a grumpy demeanor and a heart of gold. He looked straight into my eyes and asked if I was doing okay, what with all the craziness. I told him, a bit sheepishly, who was responsible. You see I'd brought John to a CB9 meeting one time to argue for inner-block protections, and he witnessed AB in all her fury. His brow furled and he hurled some well-timed descriptors and told me to pay her no mind.

I said I'm cool, and hell I'm sure it's nothing compared to what you've been through. He said "damn straight! but that doesn't mean it's ever okay to tear people down like that."

So the man who was the first black electrician in NY"s union. The man who came from the Deep South, then Michigan, who fought in a filthy war for a country that didn't love him, who bought and sold a house in Park Slope in the '80s with his very-hard-earned union money, who helped hold the block together through the worst of '90s Clarkson war zone madness, who loves his wife dearly and has a massive collection of old Westerns on VHS...the guy who's probably heard the "N" word more than a young MC, and not in the "N" word's good-neighborly hip-hop definition. This guy who responds on a dime whenever anyone asks for help...

If John can handle the insults, humiliations, bullshit, I sure as hell can handle a teeny-weeny bit of heat.

Here's to you John, and all my Brooklyn friends who make this life of mine so rich. Not always easy, but full-on billionaire rich.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What Goes Up Might Not Come Down

Elevators. Where would a modern metropolis be without them? For that matter, where would our neighbors to the north be without them?

Just ask. They've been dealing with shitty service for years.

The NY Post skewers long-loathed landlords Fieldbridge for leaving tenants at the Ebbets Apartments hanging in mid-air.

The only good news in the whole piece was...this photograph from 1962.


It took me a second to get oriented...but I believe we're facing northeast, right? Jackie Robinson school would be in the bottom left of the picture with Sullivan heading off into the distance. And Eastern Parkway is the higher elevation stuff on the left side of the picture?

And don't get me started about the new buildings going up all around here, many with less than the optimum number of affordable units. And what have we gotten in return for all these tall but squat buildings? Squat. If nothing more, we should have been negotiating for the betterment of Tivoli and Ebbets. Such reasonable requests might have at least gotten the attention of the relevant agencies, with timelines. But the City isn't listening to us anymore, and until CB9 cleans house and becomes a reliable partner, we'll have to rely on our electeds to lead the charge.

Go get 'em Diana, Walter, Zell...