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, July 8, 2021

Affordable to WHOM

 Geez Louise. The copy on this ad below is kinda bonkers. So you wonder why the Q threw such a fit about people complaining about affordability? The typical rates for housing lotteries currently taking place (and there are dozens) have prices significantly below these prices ($2500 to start for 1 bed). And this, following the pandemic that was going to crush NYC?

So to all the NIMBY-ists and "progressives" who decry developer built mandatory affordable housing in all their projects I say...what did you get for your tantrums? Shit. You didn't get shit. And the towers and the luxury unaffordable un-stabilized housing will continue to turn Flatbush and Crown Heights into dreamscapes for the young tech-employed and trust funders.

Believe it or not, I like all kinds of people. Even those techies, though their bars irk me. And I like that all kinds of people live in our neighborhood, at least for the moment they do. But for the life of me I can't understand why lefties seem to think if they hold out for the revolution "the man" is going to come around to your way of thinking. Meanwhile, working people get shafted, in the name of your worker's revolution. And you, young Lefty in the 'hood, will have moved on to the more nuanced phase of your life. Most likely somewhere else. Maybe even the "cool" suburbs, like Montclair, NJ? It's "diverse!" It's "arty!" "Good schools!"

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Rezoning Done Right

Some have asked the Q - "where did you go?" Been making music! Three records. Having a ball. Raising kids, avoiding COVID, delivering groceries. If you need proof of activity A, it's all on the online at or just search Timothy James Thomas on Spotify or whatevs. Ask your smartspeaker. Lots of poppy music with quirks. That's m'thing, and apparently, at 50+ that's been m'thing for 40 years and you can't teach an old cat to bark.

So about rezonings. That was the Q's obsession pre-Trump, and then all hell broke loose regarding a south Crown Heights Empire Boulevard zoning proposal, initiated by the Community Board to ward off the excesses of individual developers. Back then, some of us on CB9 were naive enough to believe there was energy to rezone smartly - limiting the height of buildings while improving the stock of below-market rent stabilized housing. Believe it or not, that's STILL the progressive vision for cities. But it's become tough to enact, because NIMBY is strong, both in affluent and poorer neighborhoods. And while we're using capital letters, there's always the gaslighting MTOPP (Movement to Protect Alicia Boyd's Perspective), convincing many-a-would-be lefty that NOT BUILDING is the best way to make the City affordable. Whatevs. I lost, gave up, moved on. Hell I don't really think of shitty Empire Blvd as my neighborhood anyway. And my own block has built a shit-ton of new apartments, ALL market rate by the way. 

Over in Gowanus a truly progressive, inclusive and reasonable approach passed the CB6 ULURP committee. By engaging with the City, the neighborhood gets many improvements and 6,000 new units of "affordable" housing. Now, that word "affordable" is often attacked, but let's say that at this point ANY new housing that serves up leases at below market and adheres to rent stabilization is much needed - for teachers, for professionals at non-profits, for two-income lower wage families. (True affordable housing should be matched to income, but not many private developers can make a profit on that. That's called public housing, and we need a ton more of that too!)

You can read all about the Gowanus rezoning, and what the community expects in return. It remains to be seen if all of it comes to pass - but it's City Planning at its best. Kudos to the department for seeing the process through and being willing to see it from all sides.

Oh, and a homemade videos from my new record "The Year of Living Safely."

The Echo (Echo Echo) Is Here

 Just in time f. or you to jump in your time machine and go back to Tuesday, the Echo is here with a rundown of City Council candidates. I'm impressed they got an issue out at all frankly. God bless the Echo.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Bus Tragedy at Bedford and Lincoln

 Good lord. Just now, this is truly insane. Thx Eddie for the picture. Hope no one was in the living room at that moment...

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Caton Market to Return Thanks God

In case you don't subscribe to the Haitian Times, the Q thought you might like to know what's up with the vendors who were displaced by the building of the huge affordable housing complex at Caton and Flatbush, once home to the brightly colored airplane hangar full of emerging businesses, like the barber I used many a time before it occurred to me that shaving ones own head was both economical and oddly soothing to the soul.

Read all about the new Caton Market here.

A great pic of Minnie Stapleton of Minnie's Collection from the article, taking by Sam Bojarski.

The "Caton Flats" building is almost done. How does it stack up to the rendering? Will the vendors really get such nifty looking nooks? Here's hoping.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

14 Years Is a Long Time To Have a Shitty Councilperson

Tonight. Forum. Sign up for the Zoom meeting. Like, now.

OMG it's City elections season already. And a bevy of potential council people to choose from in the 40th. Please, please don't elect current deadbeat Mathieu Eugene's brother, who oddly didn't make this Forum, but will likely earn a ton of votes on name alone. Time to get busy Flatbush. Nine batters on deck tonight...

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

In with the old, in with the new

 I feel like I've known Bob Marvin for a long time, but I've never been inside his digs, so this is a real treat. Plus the story of old PLG Lefferts that he and Elaine tell. Look, the Q is super busy these days with kids, live-streaming music at the Bang on a Can and trying to keep up with grocery deliveries to vulnerable elders and families. It's not that I don't love blogging - I do. It just fell down the priority list a bit, including writing a bunch of new songs which ain't half bad.

So here's a pic from the Brownstoner article about Bob and Elaine's house, and a link to the story, which a lot of you house-porn lovers will appreciate. I mean, c'mon they went ALL OUT y'all. Is that a friggin' Victrola?

photo: Lesley Unruh - lots more here

But if NEW is more your thing, my block has been under construction for years thanks to lax zoning laws and the proximity to the park that led so many of us to the neighborhood, which now boasts something like 83 coffee joints.

The amenities read like a "Gentrifier Magazine" joke, but what they hey, and I'll go out on a limb and say the one-bed price is not all that out of the local market price. So what if they did structural damage to the building next door? All in the name of progress, right? Hurrrummmphph.

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Friday, January 8, 2021

(I smell) Smoke 'n' Candy Here

Always nice to pick up a hookah, tobacco and candy on the way home from school. Conveniently located across from the Q at Parkside! Note - BIGMOE parked out front.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Flatbush 2020: What's Going On. REALLY.

Live in a place long enough, you can spot the long trends. The coming and goings of businesses, the changing of the faces, the physical and emotional architecture. As Mrs. Q and I round the corner towards the end of two decades, what once felt like a fast-changing neighborhood has started to seem less so. It's easy to spot the shifts, yes, but so much is the same since (say) 9/11 that I sometimes wonder why all the sturm and drang. Though it has become increasingly unaffordable to rent an apartment here, or buy a house, many of the same shops and demographics remain. That's largely because it's primarily a renter's neighborhood, but also because even as people move in and out, a large percentage remain. Brooklyn neighborhood change can be both slow and fast at the same time; it takes a local's eyes to see the slow.

The racial dimensions of so-called gentrifcation throughout Brooklyn have been dissected and (I would argue) exploited better elsewhere. The Q has always tried to remind readers that he knows he's not the center of the story, but rather a white male observer and cog in a greater Capitalist Machine, a machine that grinds away even as he vainly pushes against it. Grinds downs. Grinds away. Grinds with both precision and haphazard randomness. Misery and comfort coexist in Flatbush Lefferts, and have since its "founding" as a planned community for workers in the early 20th century, built on top of old farmsteads that before that were native lands. The Q's house was but one of ten in a row of faux brownstones considered ugly tract housing of its time and sold for roughly $5,000 in 1912. Built as a single family home, it and many of its sisters were instantly sold to speculators and landlords who chopped them up into apartments and sometimes even SROs. Lefferts Manor, the enclave within the north Flatbush borders of the magically designated Prospect-Lefferts-Garden (I'm going with TWO hyphens, and one S on garden, which makes more sense really, since it stands for Prospect Park, Lefferts Manor and the Botanic Garden) legislated its desire to avoid such a fate with deed covenants and eventually zoning changes. (It is my understanding that it would be hard to enforce the single family code during a housing crisis, but generally the folks of the Manor stick to the code. It is, after all, good for home values.)

The neighborhood was initially white, but not WHITE white, as the working class people of the neighborhood were mostly immigrants who hadn't fully "assimilated," a word that essentially implies capitulation to the racial and ethnic pecking order with the hope that somewhere down the road one's family might be given access to the best of the spoils of colonialism. Italians, Jews, Irish, my own Nordic ethnic immigrant ancestors, needed just a couple generations to achieve near-full access. Those related to enslaved Africans have not been so quickly absorbed, as we know all too well. That fight continues to be valiantly waged, and our neighborhood was host to many a powerful protest even during this year of COVID. I, like so many of my neighbors, participated, though I'll admit there were times I wondered whether my presence was welcome or merely tolerated. My heart was in it; my head reeled from questions of whether I've been complicit, ignorant or too much of both in racism's insufferable persistence. 

While some neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy trace the beginning of their shift to nearly all-black from the 1930s, along the A train, then accelerating during the block-busting 60's, Flatbush saw an enormous cultural shift not just white to black also to West Indian as scores of immigrants came from the Islands to either escape or capitalize. The cultural oleo that we now associate with our homenabe is one of a particular mix of young and old, Black, white, Asian, Caribbean, LatinX, families to singles - a real mix, though strictly speaking not as "integrated" as one might be tempted to boast. People clearly tend to keep to their own, and try as we might to make new friends, a lot of us (Q included) have found that mixing tends to end at the stoop. It's hard to break through to intimate friendships - often those reflect deeper cultural ties, schools and churches. This is a lament that I hear echoes by others in my still mostly-white network of intimate associates. 

But in all honesty, NEW intimate relationships aren't something one pursues in earnest while raising kids. Amiright? Warm acquaintances is all I can manage. Deep friendships are hard to come by. Maybe a lot of integration has ALWAYS been superficial, and not just racial integration. Maybe the whole thing is ephemeral, and maybe we never become as close to one another as we imagine. Maybe...well, at the very least, we need legal and economic equity so that justice has a fighting chance. Equal footing. As if that's every been a reality, anywhere. Has it?

One fascinating curve ball is, of course, inter-racial marriages, which provide one of the most promising and fascinating arrangements in cultural reconciliation and understanding. And endless hilarious familial anecdotes. (Cue musical with catchy title like "You Got Jerk In My Gefilte!" or some such.) Note to self: For another rabbit-hole research trip I might want to look at how suburbia - and racist block-busting - helped usher new ethnicities into whitedom. So many early suburbs attracted once-shunned groups like Italians-Irish-Jews that I wonder if part of the appeal of leaving behind the mixed race City was the promise of Whiteness. Ah hell, somebody probably already got their PhD on that one. Note to self: forget it. You don't read enough to even know if an idea is new or not.

So what about that supposed wholesale change from black to white businesses? So far, I don't see it. Most of my favorite West Indian food places are still around - De Hot Pot, De Bamboo Express, Jamaican Pride, Errols. The predominant shop type along and just off Flatbush is still the hair salon, beauty supply store or nails place, all catering to those of African descent. The whites seemed to usher in a few more sit-down restaurants - but not a ton, and many of those that DO exist are owned or co-owned by people of color. There's even a bar now (Flatbush Zombie House) that could have existed on the Lower East Side in the 90s. There are about 10 coffee houses where a decade ago there were none. But take a peek inside - they tend to be among the most diverse businesses anywhere around the 'Bush. Grocery stores have mixed offerings and mixed clientele. The new buildings have definitely brought higher-earners, but a surprising number of these residents are non-white (not a ton, but more than were foretold). The bad landlords are still plotting to get rid of lower-earning tenants, often black and brown, though I wonder sometimes whether it's more about the money than the race. Rent stabilization has perversely incentivized building owners to make life miserable for stabilized tenants to allow for vacancy increases and the promise of moving out of price controls altogether. I first started wondering just how racist was the practice when I started seeing and hearing of white renters being targeted for misery and gaslighting too. Local good-guys the Crown Heights Tenants Union tried to draw on the strength of this commonality. And with the pandemic, prices have actually come down. Who knows where it's leading. I recall many Q-posts (not Q-drops, mind you) where I wrote "all seems X now but wait til the next 9/11 or Great Recession sized calamity and..." I wasn't foreseeing pandemic, but hey, that's what makes them surprise economic reversals, right?

But here's the thing. At first, the Covid shuttered everything. We wondered whether we'd ever be the same again, whether society itself would break down, whether we'd ever eat Peppa's again. But by the end of the summer, nearly every business was back up and some were thriving. Anyplace that can do takeout saw a surge in volume, though restaurants that count on sitting customer/imbibers was and is screwed. For now. Hold out folks. It's nearly Christmas, and the Flabenue is as lively and festive as ever. The masks are near universal. There's even been a slight uptick in violent crime! (back to 2012 vibe, not 1992). The infection rate is almost bearable. Is it possible to feel upbeat about the neighborhood's chances for survival? A vaccine even! Because that's the vibe I'm soaking up - a turning corner, and hope. Then again, maybe it's the antibodies talking. Apparently the family Q got the C-19 in April and thankfully got through without major illness. And now for a few poorly shot pictures of life in the 'hood.

Last count we're up to 10 coffee places, including this odd entry on Bedford tween Clarkson and Parkside - Cups and Books.

Bonafini and Errols keeping the faith

The nabe's bookstore, Greenlight, popular as ever.
And that restaurant? I dunno. Never been. Seems adequately bourgie and sometimes busy.

Brand spanking new - not the only biz to open in the pandemic

Great cup of coffee. Buff black man owned (BBMO). Great vibe.

Warm raw fish and rice in a cup never felt so right

Not the best bagels. OUR bagels.

How bout more coffee?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

So Long Bob Thomason

This guy was the quintessential Brooklyn kook, in the best sort of way. Endlessly optimistic about the potential for greater relations between races and religions, Bob was a neighborhood leader, avid cyclist and occasional gadfly who cared deeply for your (our) neighborhood. He will be missed. Godspeed.

My most recent post about Bob was on his 90th