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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Parkside "Canners" - Right or Nuisance?

Have you noticed the increase in "canners" at the bottle redemption center at the Pioneer grocery store? If so, changes in the NYS Bottle Bill are probably the reason.

Last fall, the nickel deposit was extended to bottled water, which accounts for a huge portion of the recyclable market. Compliance is fairly good, meaning that most stores continue to accept returns, according to NYPIRG study. There are now a LOT more bottles to collect and return - by some estimates almost twice as many as before the new expansion of the law. More bottles, more "redeemers" as I like to call them.

I pose this question to you: As a resident of "Parkside," do you think the unruly scene should be tolerated, or does the "canner" crowd - sometimes unruly, even violent - generally drag the neighborhood down? I'm on the fence, personally. It's hard not to root for the underdog, and making a living off other people's lazy recycling habits qualifies as underdog labor in my book. And after all, it's the law - right? Retailers have to refund deposits, no matter how you look or smell, regardless of whether you have a receipt, and despite the fact that you might be taking your deposit money and buying a wee bit of crack to go with that bottle of bordeaux. It's all there in black and white, posted in every supermarket: The Bottle Bill of Rights.

But here's the thing. The second half of the first "right" reads:

It is illegal to return containers for refund that you did not pay a deposit on in New York State.

That seems awfully clear to me. Despite the general consensus that "canning" (as it is often called by the "redeemers") is a necessary part of the economic food chain, it's absolutely 100% full-on illegal. Though I'll bet it's rarely (and arbitrarily!) enforced.

What do you all think? I actually really want to know!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Barber Tree

There are few things more iconic than the barber pole. When done old-school, the shimmery red and white cylindrical sculpture evokes a bygone era of moonpies, ice cream sodas and peppermint candies.

Right here in Parkside, Nelson and the good folks at Nelson's barbershop {248 Parkside)have added a new twist to an old classic! Ladies and gentlemen, the barber tree!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dollar Dreams

Living in Parkside you're never more than a free-throw away from a dollar store. Maybe you call it a 99 cent store, a bargain closeout store, a low-end general merchandise establishment or worthless plastic crap store. Whatever you call it, you gotta admit they're pretty ubiquitous around these parts. Ever wonder why?

I'll tell you why! It's a 15 billion dollar sector of the American economy, and anyone with a few "dollars" can create a store of their own. When I travel outside of NYC, particularly in rural or less affluent areas, the Dollar General or Family Dollar logo is a familiar site. Each store has more than 8,000 locations, and between the two of them they dominate the biz.

But here in NYC, recent immigrants from many countries choose the Dollar Store model for their entrepreneurial effort. It's really hard, from the outside, to see how so many of these stores can survive. But when you look under the hood, you find that a) it's easy to get up and running b) literal boatloads of merchandise hit our ports every day and c) there are tons of "middle men" companies only too happy to sell you this stuff by the crates. Add to that the fact that, if you're like me, it's REALLY REALLY hard to pass up some of these ridiculous bargains on things you really don't need. And it's fun! The Gem, 7 Brothers, Bargainland...sometimes I get dizzy in there, all the fake this and faux that. The colors! The smells! The prices!

Kole Imports is an example of the kind of company that help you stock your store with stuff. You gotta see the video on their site: KOLE VID.

Maybe that's not as fascinating to you as it is to me. Still, it's pretty amazing how many New Yorkers choose to pursue Dollar Dreams, which by the way, is still my favorite name for one of these stores. Every time I'd pass it on Fulton Avenue I'd think "yeah, forget about shooting for the stars. If all your dreams are dollar dreams, you got a pretty fair shot at living your fantasy life." Take that Gaga!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spay to Play!

When Mrs. FlatBed and I moved to Parkside, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a stray cat. There was a mess of felines out back, and if you're like us, cat people, it's impossible not to take pity and feed them. And frankly, if we didn't, someone else would. Cats find the suckers, and there's a sucker born every minute.

We knew we had to do something. Bootsy begat baby bootsy and baby bootsy begat grandbaby bootsy and pretty soon we were knee deep in pussy cats. We called the ASPCA and they told us about TNR - trap neuter return. So we took the simple course, borrowed a bunch of their traps, and embarked on an adventure that's been extremely rewarding and we can't recommend it enough. If you dig cats and care about their quality of life, this is the only way to go. (To join the TNR Nation go here: TNR)

We trapped 13 cats, two squirrels and a raccoon in just 24 hours! Since we had more than 10 kitties, the ASPCA brought their mobile van right in front of our house. One by one the cats got snipped or spayed and a couple days later we released them back to the wild, save a couple that were clearly not wild. They needed homes and we saw that they got them.

Since then the ferals have become beloved residents of our garden and environs. They don't make babies, they don't howl, and they're generally just cute and goofy, though they still don't really want to be touched. Every so often another feral shows up and we have to deal with it. But cat's are colonic creatures, er, rather they like to live in colonies and ours are living out their lives in relative peace. The winter is tough on them, but the "dogloo" helps, and when they snuggle up with each other they seem to do just fine.

We won't lie. It was a lot of work and takes commitment. But if this is the kind of project you could really get behind, shoot us an email and we'll be glad to walk you through it. Or just contact TNR and soon you'll be a Trap Star. Tootles!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eat Healthy/Eat Local Fair - Just North of the Border!

Dearest Qsters:

Carol H. alerted me to the below event coming up this Saturday. The poster gives all the info. Full Disclosure: I've pretty much bought into the whole "good food - good nation" propaganda, so I'm partial to this way of thinking. Go Carol!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Neighborhood Names Matter

To my fellow SW Lefferts North Flatbush Parkside Caledonians:

I was recently strolling down Woodruff, then Caton (past "The Diplomat" don't you know!), past the Parade Grounds and across Coney Island Avenue. A little jag here and there and I came across Kermit Place. To those who've never happened upon this adorable street, check it out sometime. But this isn't Brownstoner, and I'm not interested in their housing stock, sturdy and swell as it may be.

The area around Kermit Place is what I guess you could call an enclave. I did a little research and I found that it's much, much more than that! This is the little five-block neighborhood that could. They didn't like the direction that developers were taking and they did something about it. They formed a group - the Stable Brooklyn Community Group - and they got their area REZONED and RENAMED! In just the past couple years, "Stable Brooklyn" has become a distinct Brooklyn neighborhood on some maps. Check this out at STABLE BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOOD

To read more about how the locals pulled this off you can read their saga on their website SBCG. And here's the city's statement on the rezoning: NYC THINGY

I know what you're thinking - this is the MOST boring blog post EVER. And that's saying something - it's a blog post after all, and even though blogging is now RETRO COOL (that's right, you heard it here, so consider your source), rezoning and community groups are boring it's not even worth spelling boring.

But you and I and others, on Parkside west of Flatbush, East of the Parade Grounds but north of Caton, West of East Flatbush and North of "Victorian Flatbush" but East of Caton Park and north of the Flatbush branch of the library...who call the Q at Parkside our HOMETRAIN...if we don't band together like the supergroup Asia we'll never score a hit like "Heat of the Moment." And we'll never have control over our own destiny.

So whaddya say? Can we all just get along?

And what's with the name Umma Park? Who's Umma? Is it like a mumbled "I am a Park?" Does it have anything to do with the Black Eyed Peas song Imma Be?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I've Died and Gone to (Closeout) Heaven!

If you've been afraid to pop your head in this joint:

don't be ashamed! I was too for the first couple years of living in "Parkside/Caledonia." With half their wares blocking the sidewalk next to Pepa's Jerk Chicken on Flatbush near Woodruff, it's easy to think they're up to something no good.

But never fear. The friendly family-owned business known as Clcoseout Heaven is truly a cosmic cornucopia of cacophonous consumerism. Or to put it another way without the use of the hard consonant "c" - this place is outa sight, mad beyond measure, and downright daffy.

Nearly every day the inventory changes. Need a full-size electronic piano? a dehumidifier? potting soil? linens? gefilte fish? Yes, you heard right. Two months ago the place was crammed full of giant 5 lb cans of gefilte fish. Today, there's not even a single sardine. Somebody had a hankering for gefilte!

If you need something, talk to the owners. They will do their best to find you one or more, whatever it is, and don't be shy. These guys have sold it all, from garden gnomes to nordic tracks to seltzer water by the case. Just don't ask where they got it from and how come it's so cheap. That would spoil all the fun!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ye Olde Balde Koin Shoppe

I'm no expert on hair care, but I do know that "Bald" and "Beauty" are rarely used together in the marketing world. So imagine my surprise when I looked closely at the name of this joint on Parkside between Ocean and Flatbush:

This is clearly either a fashion-forward gender-unspecific pro-hairless establishment, or an example of an unfortunate translation issue. The internet provided little guidance on this one...I found no "Balde Koin" references to guide me.

As an Iowa native, I'm reminded of a similarly curious establishment popular with the females in my native neck-of-the-woods. DRESS BARN seemed to do a mighty business, even though I can't imagine any self-respecting woman wanting to purchase clothing at a building whose name typically means "house of farm animals."

As with each of us, it's what's inside that matters. Go Balde Koin!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

TB, or not TB?

25 Winthrop Street. You've probably passed it without giving it much thought. It's one of the many buildings belonging to CAMBA, Brooklyn's largest social services non-profit. But it wasn't til just the other day that I noticed the engraving above its front door:
Yes, 100 years ago, right here in our midst, the MIDWOOD Sanitorium did its best to rid its residents of the "White Plague." Many years after it stopped being a TB rest home it would appear it continued to be used as a "last address" for many residents of Prospect Lefferts Gardens Flatbush Parkside Caledonia. I suspect that once 25 Winthrop became listed in the phone book next to your name, it was time to work out the details of your memorial service.

During my extensive research into the origins of American sanitoria (read: a quick peek at Wikipedia), I found myself absorbed in the story of the haunted Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Kentucky. Look it up...what a great story about the "body chute," that doctors thought would keep patients from having to "see" death. The mere existence of the "body chute" would have been enough to scare me straight into the grave.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Globe Electronics: This guy is the real deal

Your stereo breaks. A charming old radio stops tuning in the NPR. Your niece's band just put out its first record - on vinyl - and you need to get that old turntable humming again. What do you do? Where do you go? Do you have to buy everything new?

Not at all, my fellow Caledonian. Just head to Globe Electronics, where proud proprietor Voltan Bagot will hook you up. Yes, that's his real name. And I think of him more as a professor than proprietor (especially when he's wearing that neat & clean white smock). The guy has chops; he can fix anything. He learned his trade back in Guyana, and his shop has stood on Flatbush between Parkside and Clarkson for 30 years. A family man, he also serves as Secretary for the Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District. And his window display is truly a work of art.

Early on when I moved to "the Q at Parkside," I started having trouble with the hi-fi. My Marantz receiver from the 70's was on the fritz, but going to J&R is such a bummer I couldn't bear the thought. The new equipment may be shiny and black with computerized settings and slick styling, but it's all plastic, and it can't hold a sonic candle to the old gear. I'm not being cute or hipster here (though I've been accused of being both). A/B 'em sometime and you'll be amazed at how right ol' Clarkson FlatBed can be.

When you live in a quirky neighborhood like ours, it's easy to dismiss stores as outdated, superfluous or clueless. I know, because I fall into that trap all the time. But GLOBE ELECTRONICS stands out, both because it provides a needed function and does it with class. And where else are you going to buy a used TV from 1987?

Monday, June 7, 2010

If your hometrain is the Q at Parkside, you know this joint

When Mrs. Clarkson FlatBed and I first moved to "Parkside" (aka Caledonia, SW Lefferts, North Flatbush or Fred) neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2003, the Pioneer was not yet the Pioneer, and the well-lit Parkside Deli was still under construction. When it finally opened, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was pretty clean, the sandwiches were fresh, there was a sense of pride and a sunny disposition glowing from the owners and workers. One guy in particular, who went by "John," was super friendly and would talk at length about anything, and he very clearly missed his family in Yemen. Actually, they're pretty much all from Yemen, and most are related. It's best not to pry too much, like I did recently for this blog post. There are probably issues of legality that are best left undisturbed, though I wish I could tell you the name of the family that runs the place.

Back then, the country Yemen was nothing but a blip on my geographic memory. As you probably know, the country has come into a bit of notoriety lately in the American press. But if you're looking to find out more about the ACTUAL people in the ACTUAL country of Yemen, you've got a great resource just two doors down from the Q at Parkside. I have nothing but fond feelings for these gentlemen, and the one young lady who works there sometimes.

Turns out that this is actually the 2nd Parkside Deli. The first burned down about 10 years ago. It used to be essentially attached to the Q at Parkside station, on the other side of the grocery. The whole block apparently burned, perhaps taking with it the businesses that have been vacant for years in the eyesore squatter slum next to the PD's current location. If you want to know more about that disgraceful building, 205 Parkside, check out this post from the fantabulous Hawthorne Street blog: HawthorneStreet. The genius who put up signs offering it up for free needs to be knighted, and I'll be happy to play the Queen.

Last thing I'll say before beddy-bye is this: if you have a question about our neighborhood feel free to send me an email. If I don't know (which i probably won't) I'll post it as an open question and maybe we'll get more of our neighbors out of their laptop shells and onto the blog. It's much more fun when y'all say stuff.

cheerios, CFB (tim)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Clarkson, you rock

Thanks to our neighbors new and old, the first ever Clarkson Avenue Beautification Day was a surprise success. Who knew so many other FlatBedHeads (as the people on our block prefer to be called) really want to make a difference. A big shout out to MJMcBee who took the above picture. These kids were amazing, and so many people came out to help plant, mulch and pick up trash. We met some great new people, and the mood was way cool. Special thanks to Johnny, a professional landscapeman, for leading the tree pit effort. It's like they say, you can lead a horticulturalist to water, but you can't let him drink!

It's amazing to think how many people live on one block in Brooklyn. With it's mix of single family, multi-family and large apartment buildings, clarkson flatbed has probably 1,500 residents. (I'm no statistician, but with 80 or so units in each of those big bldgs, it really adds up). Add to that a dozen stray cats and a raccoon, that's a lot of mammals living on top of each other. (Think I'm kidding 'bout the raccoon? Take a gander at this photo I took out of my back door window.)

One thing you can say for certain: it's never dull when you live near the Q at Parkside. Thanks y'all!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Clarkson Beautification Day - THIS SUNDAY!

You might be asking yourself "what is this beautification day thing all about anyway?" And the fact is, we're not really sure what it's all about, because we've never done one before.

But...there will be mulch, there will be lemonade, there will be flowers, there will be brooms, there will be garbage bags, there will be planters, there will be potting soil, there will be music blasting out of 31 Clarkson Avenue, there will be neighbors to say hi to. If you don't start someplace, you never get no place.

Mulch ado about nothing? Yay, I doth think not.

Come sign the petition for a closed-street block party in August. And at the very least, think about how you'd like to make your street a nicer place to call home.

See you there.
Clarkson FlatBed, Mrs. Clarkson FlatBed, Little Miss Clarkson FlatBed Jr.