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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Cowboy Hit and Run

Such a wild story you'd think the Daily News would've bothered to get the details right. When a dollar van hit a B41, then sped off, it left part of its chassis wrapped around the back of the MTA bus.

Makes for an interesting moment in the lives of all involved. But the article? Get your facts straight y'all. Dollar Vans are licensed, the drivers insured, unLESS (and it's a big distinction) they're so-called "cowboys" who drive without registration or parent company. These have become few and far between since the DV companies upgraded to the much-larger 20-40 person mini-busses. It's much harder to ride bareback with a $100K vehicle. Bottom line, the dollar vans are a treasured facet of Flatbush life, and even though there's a rogue now and again, it's not worth bashing the whole lot.

Amazing picture though, no?



Friday, November 15, 2019

The Massive Tower at 123 Linden Will Include - A Charter School

When the nursing home at 123 Linden, and its beautiful front-facing former home to Council-Dud Mathieu Eugene's offices, sold property and aerial rights for the giant 23-story tower now nearing completion, the question on the minds of some (like me for instance) was...what's going to go into the huge "community space?"

Now we know.

It'll be an Ascend Charter School. Whatever your opinion of charter schools, it's a fact that Ascend serves a predominantly black population across its 15 schools in Brooklyn. Families give it high marks, and students achieve at well above the district standards. And so, in the spirit of civil open dialogue, the Q welcomes your thoughts on Ascend, on charter schools generally, and on the inclusion of one into an all market-rate building on Linden Boulevard. I know the zeitgeist scuttlebutt around integration, G&T, charter...but when you include the families of those attending charters like Ascend, sometimes the conversation becomes less one-sided. That's been my experience. How about you?



Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Dismantling and Mantling of Flatbush Continues Unabated

Did you know that mantling means to spread over a surface? That's actually kind of what's happening to our neighborhood. Dismantling is happening everywhere, of woodframes and townhouses and old "taxpayer" cinder-block commercial buildings. But a new surface arises, a vastly different veneer of new construction, much of it ugly, some it less so, all of it remarkably efficient to the task of gentrification. There is no plan - just outdated zoning laws and the whims of the marketplace.

Case in point. One by one, parcels that the Q identified years ago as "soft spots," properties perfectly suited for developers, have been snapped up. Sometimes it's for the better. Take the enormous building rising where the old Caton Market was. That building will bring hundreds of truly affordable units to the area, with priorities to current residents. Since the large parcel was City owned, it was possible to create an all-affordable building with relatively little pushback.

However, catty-corner/kitty-korner to that, the once dignified bank building (I opened an account when it was an HSBC back in 2003) will come down, along with the furniture store that was a Blockbuster Video when I first moved in. I spent oh-so-many hours wandering up and down the aisles, trying desperately to find something worthy of a watch-see. This was a time before Netflix, before Hulu, before Prime Video or anything on-demand. It's hard to remember what a big part of our lives these video stores became, once we all had VCR's or DVD players. My how the world changes and the wee ones grow. To those who wonder what we did before smartphones, I'd say "a lot looking for stuff to watch," because the modern world has become mostly about finding things, anythings, to deny the realities of the modern world.

Now, 815 Flatbush has gotten even bigger. So imagine this rendering but with considerably more apartments. Read all about it in the NY Yimby, of course. The corner in question, as currently mantled, below said smaller-than-it-will-be rendering.




Monday, November 4, 2019

Q-tips. Flyers, Flyers & More Flyers

Honestly, now, is this something you want to see on the regular? Cause I get these things, you know, and I'm happy to share but I just don't know, you know, whether anyone thinks this sort of bulletin board stuff is useful. I love it for the kooky designs and occasionally the actual info. But it's up to you, Q-sters. Q-tips, or no Q-tips?




















Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Amen, Mr. "Elected Without Cheating" President

Tired of watching people tear each other apart for not saying things the right way or being aggressive enough about criticising others for their less-than-woke views? Damn that shit's annoying, and yes it happens right here in Flatbush.

Maybe it's just cause I'm (basically) of his generation, but forever-MY-president said this and I hope it takes off. Maybe he has the authority to get the message through the muck:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Get the Shirt! The Perfect Gift

What, it's like 60 shopping days to Christmas? Or forget Christmas (actually that's hard to do but whatevs.) Get one for yourself, like I did.

I get it. Maybe you don't look good in t's. Maybe no matter how hard you try with the bench press you can't get rid of those man-boobs. Why not replace that jiggling with neighborhood jingoism?

And anyway, everyone, he-she-they, looks sexier when wearing a bit of their own life on their chest. You live where? Why not WEAR where you live? Wear here, hear?

AND HERE'S THE KICKER. PROCEEDS FROM THESE SETH KAPLAN DESIGNED SHIRTS SUPPORT YOUR VERY OWN NEIGHBOR-CREATED-AND-RUN Parkside Plaza!!

How do you get one? Send an email request to: 

shirtsplg@gmail.com

Sizes S-XXL for Men and Women ($20) and XS-XL for children ($20).

Of course, my personal favorite is the Q.  But there's a Prospect Q/B/S, a Catbush shirt and now for a limited time only, street artist Shmotchsky is in on the fun. Those shirts are going for $35. Read about "famous" Shmotchsky here. I'm thinking I know who it is, and you do too, but shhhhhhh, don't tell anyone but Banksy.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Boyd Sues Your Neighbors, Loses, Demoralizes, Sues Again, Loses

As Sia might say, she's "got stamina."

Long after many of us gave up on the Quixotic attempt to work with the City to plan the neighborhood's future, she keeps harassing, lying, manipulating, disrupting and most of all, suing.

The Q chose to keep this one closer to the chest as he really didn't want undue publicity to cause more attention to the issue than it was worth. But now that the lawsuit has been decided, I think it's worth sharing some of the gory details. The story, as short as I can, goes like this.

A couple years ago, a group of homeowners on Fenimore btw Bedford and Rogers (just the sort of side street the Q has been clamoring to protect) became alarmed that their block might be on the chopping block, and that soon homeowners would be tempted to sell to developers who would then cut up the lots, like so many other blocks in Central Brooklyn. BUT, they had a plan and some leverage. Deep in the deeds of these south-side of the street homes was the same covenant that led to the creation of the Lefferts Gardens Historic district, a distinction that led to a lowest density R2 zoning that in effect prevents any other uses than single homes. 50 years ago, their side of the street was inexplicably left off the Historic District application.

To achieve R2 for themselves, today, they would have to apply to the Dept of City Planning. With help from a capable consultant - Paul Graziano - they put together a proposal and went to the Community Board for help. CB9 was and is besieged by protests from Alicia Boyd and MTOPP, but the committee managed to offer its support of the Fenimore Block Association's request to co-sponsor the application, despite shout-downs and tantrums. By having a CB co-apply, the FBA was allowed to waive onerous fees in applying. All CB9 had to do, essentially, was sign off on the IDEA of downzoning that one block. Simple. Elegant. Everybody's happy, right?

Wrong. AB and co. concocted a twisted conspiracy theory that somehow your neighbors on Fenimore were in cahoots with DCP to turn this simple request into a district-wide planning study that they believe would lead to massive towers along Empire Blvd. I won't go into how ridiculous that is...if you haven't been paying attention til now, let me simplify. A zoning study would have LIMITED building size and downzoned inner blocks to prevent teardowns in exchange for reasonable sized buildings that are made with mandatory set-asides for affordable units. But it has NOTHING to do with this modest request, and DCP made clear that it is impossible to turn a straighforward spot downzoning request into a neighborhood-wide rezoning.

So what does she do? What she always does. Protest and sue. Sue, sue, sue. Sue me, sue you. (Lionel Richie?) Sue CB9, sue your neighbors, sue the CB9 chairperson and the head of Brooklyn DCP. Sue the way the board runs its meetings, or keeps records, or follows or doesn't follow rules. Why does she do this? To wear you down. To demoralize you. To make you question why you got civically involved in the first place. She sues for power, for supremacy, and to make up for the fact that no one in their right mind would appoint her to anything, ask her official advice on anything, elect her to anything.  I've wasted plenty of time trying to figure her out. But like #45 she's simply too mysteriously deranged to be lumped into a category. The issues are deep, and while she frequently raises good points, she drowns the good with the bad every time out. It's fascinating, unless you're in her cross-hairs, then look out! It's hunting season!

If you want the whole 12-page decision it's fascinating and incredibly well-researched - just email me. One finding in particular of note - Community Boards are not required to provide Open Discussion time. That's not what Open Meetings mean. You're allowed to BE there when public business is being discussed to be decided, and to CB meetings generally, but you're not entitled to a soap box. And Open Meeting laws don't apply when it's just informational for members or when internal information is being shared. If de Blasio calls a bunch of his advisors into his office the public is not entitled to show up. But if a vote is being held or discussed, and it doesn't involve private personnel issues, then yes the press and public are entitled to reasonable access.

So CB9. Cut her off at the mic. No more speeches and disruptions. And if she gets up to make a scene, have her thrown out. The courts have made clear that you have legal standing to take her out of the room when she keeps you from your business. For me, I prefer to save my sanity. I wish you well, new chair Fred Baptiste and company. Enjoy your last Tuesdays of the month!

My favorite bits from the decision below:





Monday, October 21, 2019

Halloween, New Asian Food, Stodios & You

If you want to be safe while you walk, be sure to keep your center of gravity low and make certain your forward foot is firmly planted before lifting up your back foot. A cane helps, but shouldn't be used to lean on, but rather to add balance and to provide support in an emergency. If you find yourself needing to lean on something, a walker is a better alternative. Nearly 90% of elderly people who fall do so as the direct result of a fall. Don't be foolish. Falling is serious business. In fact, my aunt in Tucson fell and is now in hospice. Here's a billion dollar idea for you - airbags for seniors. They open up as you teeter providing a cushion, perhaps even righting your loved one after impact.

However, if you're looking for a great place to Trick or Treat, look no further. Right here in Lefferts, Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York up in the Historic District. Just strap on an outfit and join the throngs for a SAFEPATHWALK, brought to you by the 71st Precinct once again. The route is below on this, the exact same flyer that's been used for the past dozen or so years, updated with the correct year of course.

as you can see, policeman, cat and pirate are already taken.
And if you're bemoaning the loss of Flatbush Ave's longtime Chinese not-so-Great takeout place Great Wall, cheer up. A new pan-Asian food place is opening up soon in its place at 719 Flatbush tween Clarkson and Parkside. As you can see the food will be both Delicious AND Ready. Plus you can get Bubble Tea.



Finally if you're looking for an $800 STODIO you're in luck. Stodios are perfect for rodeo clowns and bronco busters.








Sunday, October 13, 2019

Living on Top of One Another in Flatbush

Thursday night, a neighbor was shot dead, this time inside the old-skool KHF bodega on Flatbush near the remarkable Risbo and not-so-remarkable Parkside pizza bistro. I mention the restaurants because by the time the sun went down on Friday, the block from Parkside to Winthrop was shoulder to shoulder with people, and the busy restaurants provided a stark backdrop for a scene of overwhelming sorrow, anger and contemplation, mixed with shots from plastic cups. "First Class" liquors was doing a mighty business. Actually, First Class liquors is always doing a mighty business, but this night the line was especially long.

Dwayne Smith. If you lived here awhile you'd probably recognize him, unless you're the sort that chooses not to look men in the eyes. It's a weird thing, right? You want to be friendly, a good neighbor, but you also don't want to start nothing. Like the code that says "don't engage the schizophrenic when they're in the middle of a meltdown," these self-protective behaviors become perpetuating, and still when I actively engage, say, black men walking alone on my block it's if I've broken some Flatbush commandment. I do it anyway, hoping I'll break through to the other side, like the Jim Morrison I once wished I were. These are dances we long-timers do without thinking, but sometimes we do think, and this is what I've been thinking.

Dwayne lived on Lenox, the first block off Flatbush. The newspapers quoted family and friends saying he was a good father to his seven kids. He was an aspiring filmmaker, having made the video you can watch below for his friend the rapper Marz Money, another Lenoxonian. The shooting happened Thursday night, and by Friday the candles came out, dozens of them, each a remembrance of a relationship deep or distant, but the sheer number of candles and mourners suggested Dwayne was a longtimer too. Someone with deep roots, friends from school and life. And clearly at least one person, the murderer, was not a friend at all, or maybe had been once. He hated Dwayne, or his crew did at least, enough to shoot him in cold blood, assassin-style. These are the sorts of killings that used to be so much more common, even around here, even just 5 to 10 years ago. And certainly through the late '80s and '90s, this area saw more than its share of the bloodshed that overwhelmed the City. It was brutal back then, and apparently for some, it still is.

Rather than pretend to know Dwayne well, perhaps it's worth sharing some of his artistry as video maker, since I really do think the track and video say a lot, and besides this is an excellent portrait of the neighborhood you and I share, and if your demographic matches mine, it's not OUR neighborhood anymore than the one you see here, which, if you weren't told was right on top of you, you probably wouldn't even recognize. Amiright?


For better or worse, the Q's set down roots here too. I have friends (and not a few enemies), some deep some shallower. I walk down the street and share hellos along the way. I smile as often as I can, recognizing that even those I don't know may know me, or may THINK they know me, and I give them no reason to reinforce their worst suspicions. I've been here 16 years and more than ever I'm aware that my presence is both threatening and annoying to many people of color, though in all fairness the vast majority of people couldn't care less. Like all of us, Dwayne had his enemies, exes, resentments, fears. He wasn't so much younger than me that we could have been friendly, had the stars aligned. Maybe I'd have seen him in one of those "church basements" I go to, trudging the happy road of destiny.

Walking through the makeshift wake on the Flatbush sidewalk outside the crime scene - a Brooklyn ritual that would blow the friggin' minds of those in the suburbs or on the backroads. I heard laughter and tears. I recognized a few faces too...from my block, some whom I haven't seen in quite some time. Either priced out, grown out, or merely moved out, these were folks that clearly knew Dwayne from his earliest days. Stories were told. Liquor flowed. A parked police car kept its lights on, and the cops told me they were keeping an "eye on things."  They weren't there to stop the open containers or force people to move along. They recognized the scene, one of way too many, of a low-rent ceremony, and seemingly even the NYPD realize how cruel it would be to stop the DIY wake. Cruel, and foolish.

At one point I heard someone say "Dwayne would've wanted it this way." Indeed.

So what to make of it? We live in a phenomenally diverse neighborhood, but we often live on top of or beside each other. Dwayne would not have described his neighborhood the same way I do. The physical markers might be the same, but the hangouts, the people, the culture would read very different. Looking at the video that he made with his friend (I'm making assumptions, since the video is mentioned in the Daily News piece and it's clearly Marz Money's "big" video, those quotes used in the News piece to transmit a certain smugness that's hard to miss) I'm struck by the artistry (it's really quite good) of the lyrics, delivery and content. In the narrative, a young man, perhaps Marz himself, has spent time locked up, and he's returned to Lenox Road to friends and family, with big plans to remake his life. This part of the American experience - the return from prison - reflects some deep shit.

Confession time. When I moved here after making the gypsy rounds of gentrifying Brooklyn, I thought that I was the ideal person to move to a mostly black neighborhood. Why? Because I don't spend a minute of my brain thinking black folks are less than, or to be feared, nor do I think my mere presence needs to signify anything other than a willingness to hop into the present day Flatbsh olio. I was going to be, and continue to try to be, though it's getting harder, myself. Treating people of color with dignity and respect, to me, meant treating them no different. It meant calling out jerks for jerks, and elevating small-town heroes and hanging out on stoops and shooting the shit. It meant neither patronizing nor ass-kissing. It meant recognizing that no two people are alike (we're all the same? what bullshit!) and that until I'd heard someone's story I had no business making assumptions.

I've always believed, and never as much as now, that it's those assumptions that are killing us. As a country, for sure. Assumptions about immigrants, blacks, whites, asians, republicans, fly-over folks, celebrities, elites...it's a recipe for disaster. Like Sarajevo before us, the world-class city on the verge of greatness, we too can descend into hatred, chaos and who knows maybe ethnic cleansing. There is no rule that we will survive the current moment, that our nation will somehow continue some inexorable path towards a more perfect union.

And now I pose the hypothetical Emotional Experiment. Had the person killed been white, a parent you know from the playground, someone you know from the occasional party or through gossip at school...would it feel more close, scary, tragic and perhaps even "too close to home?" as I've sometimes heard these violences described?

Dwayne's death made me think this stuff. It all makes a sad sense in my mind, and I offer no solutions. The old yarn about treat your neighbor as you would yourself? Makes sense if we're all the same. But the differences are what make us Flatbush.

How do you do this, y'all?