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.

Friday, January 28, 2011

All Hail the Livery

Car Service. Livery cab. Black car. TLC. Whatever you call 'em, they're ubiquitous around these parts. I'm often amazed how within a two blocks of my house I can not only hop on buses and trains galore, I've got Dollar Vans, hail-able liveries and yellow cabs...we may live in the outer boroughs, but I don't feel isolated in the slightest.

Perhaps you too read, with interest,the Mayor's proposal to let those Lincoln Town Cars pick up street "hails." It might seem unnecessary to propose something that already happens all the time (the Q hails them on occasion - though take my advice and don't ever get in without first negotiating the price). I mean, who's out there enforcing this stuff? Certainly not the beat cops or patrol car officers...the hails happen right in front of their faces. Maybe the TLC has undercover types of its own? Not likely. I have seen a few flipped birds over the issue, but hey, if there were no middle finger how would most New Yorkers uncork their anger without resorting to actual violence? Though come to think of it, that "bird" seems to pop up just before an awful lot of actual violence.

You may be asking why they're called livery cars (cabs) in the first place. Unless your ancestors were bootblacks, arkwrights or lum swoopers the term "livery stable" might not be familiar to you. Apparently you can hire a carriage, or even just the horse, at one. And that's kind of what you do when you call Evelyn or 5-Star (my personal favorite - I love how you never know what kind of vehicle it will be...minivan, SUV, hatchback...).

There was a fairly coherent retort to the Mayor's proposal in the Times by a Lady Cabdriver named Melissa Plaut. Here's Plaut's Pout Uncharacteristically, I find myself without an opinion on the matter. This troubles me, but it might just be gas.

Which gets me to what I really wanted to tell you about. There's actually a website with nothing but stories about how people got into terrible accidents, like the lady almost lost one of her young twins during a livery cab accident. NY Injury News

That's right. It's called NY Injury News. Ambulance Chasers of the World, Unite!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Geeksta Rap Star - Know Thy Celebrity Neighbor

Pretty much every nerdy dude in America dreams of putting down the protractor and grabbing the mic. But neighborhood resident Damian Hess (alias MC Frontalot) is livin' the dream.
Me, I'm not a fronter, so I'll be straight up with you. Sometimes the internet takes pity on a part-time wanna be journalist like the Q. And frankly, the snowstorm is making me sleepy, so I think I'll let Gothamist's Jaya Saxena (who as far as I can tell gets paid to do just this sort of thing) do the heavy lifting. MC Frontalot in Gothamist.

You may be saying to yourself, yeah, but does he have the goods? Actually, he does, and his tunes are free for the taking. MCF's MP3s. I suggest you check out the first tune, and if you don't hurl, you might end up thanking me for the tip. And let your geek flag fly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pharmore Than You Bargained For

There is perhaps no punnier industry in America than that of hair care. I'll let our neighborhood's wonderful assortment of salons speak for themselves. But I'm reminded as a write this of punny places I've seen over the years. You've probably seen popular favorites like Shear Delight or Hair Today Gone Tomorrow, but I still recall with a smile Styley Dan, Sonny and Shears, Volt Hair, Hairy Berry, Coiffing Fit and an integrated barbershop down South called Whiteheads and Blackheads. Other businesses sometimes hit the mark - I recall seeing a plumber named Drain Surgeons and a window joint called A Pane in the Glass. All in good fun, though there are some businesses that should probably NOT get too goofy with their monikers - I always found the medical chain Stand Up MRI too double-entendrey for the task at hand. Hospitals, hospices and funeral homes seem like bad choices too. I'm only reminded of any of this because over on Ocean at Church, there's a drugstore with this lighthearted name:

(Is it my imagination or am I starting to sound like a poor man's Andy Rooney?)

I don't know about y'all, but I'm endlessly fascinated by how many drug stores exist within spitting distance of the Q at Parkside. But I suppose you don't need THAT many regular customers with ongoing prescriptions to make your monthly rent payments, right? The average retiree, i.e. Medicare recipient, has between three and five thousand dollars worth of drugs to buy every year. Imagine spending that kind of dough at any other single business, save maybe the grocery...not bloody likely. So if you build up a nice steady clientele of older folks, you're in like Flynn. By the by, "In Like Flint" was a movie that was a play on words after the "in like Flynn" phrase had long entered the lexicon. Thus the confusion.

And it's champing at the bit. Not chomping.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Henry Met Stuart

On Woodruff, tween Flatbush and Ocean, lies very likely the least understood of Caledonian byways. In fact, East 21st Street begins at Woodruff, and blasts a mean trail all the way to Sheepsead Bay's world renowned Randazzo's Clam Bar along the water. That's right, you could walk the distance of the street and be feasting on their world famous mollusks with secret sauce (a family secret) in, oh, probably an hour and a half walk. But it would be a straight line, always the shortest distance between two points of interest. Here's E21 looking north from Caton:

Okay, I'll admit there's no reason to alert the media just yet. Still, tens of thousands of people call East 21st Street home. There's even a notorious drug gang who named themselves after the street - the East 21st Street Crew. If you've got the time, check out the link to the crazy story of how they've managed to sue the City for mistreatment and win EVEN while being targetted by the drug squad. Now THAT'S Cojones!

But the thing that really caught my eye was building number 141. It's a massive structure, (and the one-time home to the not-terribly famous Murderer of 141. Just get a load of this massive stone entrance:

My obsession with the term "Caledonian" for our neighborhood refers to the once thriving neighborhood hospital that provided a sense of place for many long-time residents. But the word takes on new meaning when you consider the following historical curiosity. Check out the coat of arms on the joint:
That's right, it says "TUDOR STUART." I'm sure Montrose Morris of Brownstoner could help here, but at the moment she's busy clogging up a storm in a vintage prairie dress over at the Brooklyn Flea.*

So I'll fill in the details based on a highly caffeinated hunch: there must have been lots of Scots in this part of Brooklyn at one point - why else the "Caledonian Club" that built the hospital? While the House of Tudor and its famous Henries get a lot of play, it was the House of Stuart that brought Scotland literally out of the dark ages. The Stuarts were Scots, and they managed to hold an England/Ireland/Scotland throne for a short time starting with James, the son of Mary Queen of Scots.

Anyhoo, the building is incredibly bizarre and schizophrenic, and is worth a trip down the ol' 21 just to get a gander.

*this is an absurd statement that bears no resemblence to reality.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Miracle on Church Avenue

Some folks in PLG Manor and environs have long longed for an upscale market, the kind of place to get organic, artisanal, or just plain pricey vittles. Those of us who do the Park Slope Food Coop know those types of items well, though thankfully they cost a wee less wampum. Healthier produce and foodstuffs make their way into your cupboards and it's hard to turn back. Go back to a genetically mortified granny smith when you could be munchin' on a minimally-treated honey crisp? No way, Jose. (And I certainly hope if Jose picked the apples that it was for a "fair trade" operation).

There's just such a joint called The Green Grape "Provisions" over in Ft. Greene. There's Union Market. There's Larder on (north) Flatbush at Sixth. Williamsburg is lousy with them. I've half expected one to pop up 'round here any day. There have been rumours and false starts. But alas, no hand-made sausages.

Then came an email from Michelle across the way, alerting me to a possible bourgie deli sighting on, of all places, Church Avenue. Now, those of you in K-Dog Nation might find this appallingly off your radar. But we of Southwestern PLG/Northern Flatbush think of the Church Avenue Q/B as a sister station. And just spittin' distance from the Church Ave Q/B entrance is...drum roll...a joint called Downtown Natural Market, and I'll be damned if it doesn't meet pretty much all the criteria for Bourgeois-est joint in the whole darn neighborhood.

Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed, Jr. and I took a trip down to there just yesterday. What we found was a roomy, pleasantly lit grocery with aisles wide enough for twin-strollers and some friendly folks willing to entertain my suggestions for items. I wanted to be droll and suggest "gallon jugs of Sunny D" but instead I heard these words come out of my mouth: "Do you think you can get some fresh mozzarella, baguettes and uncured organic hot dogs?" at which point I nearly choked on the transformation that had taken place over the last twenty years. Since when did this corn-fed Iowa boy start needing fresh mozzarella and baguettes and when did he start to demand anything of his hot dogs other than lots of ketchup?

Turned out they had the mozzarella AND the hot dogs, and would soon have the baguettes. They're still building out the produce aisles, and by the time of their GRAND OPENING they'll have it all, including the already open juice bar and vitamins/supplements/tinctures/homeopathic-snakeoil counter.

There were only a few customers in there, attractively discerning shoppers all, sort of walking in dazed disbelief. (If I had had base intentions, they were really quite vulnerable in that state.) You can't imagine what a shock it is to walk off THAT street into THAT shoppe. So walk down East 21st, or St. Paul's Place to Ocean and hang a ricky on Church. You won't believe it neither.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Know Thy Neighbor - Eddy "E-Props" Petit, Jr.

If you walk Ocean between Parkside and Lincoln, you might very well pass a handsome young man with a five o'clock shadow goatee wearing a Polo Sport winter jacket. In fact, he may look suspiciously like this:
I was lucky enough to be properly introduced to Eddy Petit Jr., a/k/a E Props, and we had a chance to rap (talk, not freestyle - my rhymes are weak these days) just oustide his building, near the drunken Grinch. I really didn't know what to expect, but as chance would have it he dropped some serious knowledge on me about "Q" culture from his unique vantage point.

Where to begin? Well, let's start with the fact that E is a
charismatic dude with a lot on his mind. He's a rapper, holds a Masters degree in Poli-Sci, grew up right here, has Haitian-born parents, and writes a mean blog entry on anything from music to Haitian politics. Check it out - he's got a refreshing perspective on lots of stuff. I think it bears emphasizing that meeting Eddy is proof positive that you never really know your neighbors 'til you talk to them awhile. Full disclosure: there's a lot of young black guys on my block I would love to talk to...but I've made the prudent (or fearful?) calculation that they really don't want to be talked at, especially by a middle-aged white guy in Target attire.

Eddy's got big ambitions, particularly for his entertainment company. He's calling it "Bushel," which I think is pretty awesome since I grew up in Iowa and I like the notion of a hip-hop company named after a large unit of, say, soybeans. And E can rap, as evident in this radio freestyle session with his talented friends Kris Kasanova and "Top & Razz." Locals Rapping There's some great lines here worth ingesting. I like the vibe these guys are stressing, and I like that they're pushing Flatbush as a viable "style."

Two things stuck with me after our too-brief conversation. One was Eddy talking about the schism between Jamaicans and Haitians, particularly when he was growing up. He definitely felt the hate, and told me a story about a Haitian kid getting set on fire by some Jamaican adversaries. Sounds like things have settle down a lot, but I'd love to know more about how different cultures from the Caribbean interact, especially that all-important second generation. Two was his reaction when I asked about gangs. Clearly this question annoyed him, and he said "Everyone's in a gang." And I instantly knew what a silly question it is. I mean, I'M IN A GANG. I've got my friends, my posse, my attitude and my values. The question people really want to know is about crime, and not so much gang on gang, but criminal on law-abiding-citizen. There have been gangs in New York since, well at least since "Gangs of New York." What we all want to know is this: when I'm walking home late at night, is someone going to slit my throat or steal my broach? The violence, for the most part, is territorial and the same stuff that young men argue about worldwide: respect, girls, and money. It's the guns we could do without. As we were talking, a friend of Eddy's walks by who had been shot during that nasty incident at the Parkside Donut shop a couple years back. Really, now, it's the guns, isn't it? If there hadn't been a gun involved, who knows, maybe the worst the slain Brian Scott would have suffered would have been some slingshot wounds to the neck.

I'll update you on E-Props' musical and spiritual quests as I become apprised. He's good people.

Solipsistic Postscript

I'm obviously no expert, but since talking to Eddy the other day I've thought a lot about my own history with hip-hop. As a rock musician and songwriter growing up in the '70s in an all-white college town, it was a real shock the first time I heard REAL funk, a la Ohio Players, James Brown, George Clinton...I got my first taste of it borrowing LPs from the public library. Perhaps that's why I'm still such a fan of the whole library concept - free knowledge and culture for all, don't you know. Rap was magical, first time I heard the real thing. By the time I got a hold of a Grandmaster Flash record as a junior in High School, I was sold. There were two revolutions going on that I knew I didn't want to miss - DIY punk and rap. And the odd places where they intersected seemed perfectly natural to me. (Though I'm still embarrased about how much I loved the Chili Peppers back in the day). In college I had a band called Dolores that hit a nice cross between punk, prog, arty and funk. Two bass players! One of them, a wanna-be from Brooklyn, and he knew the WHOLE STORY, and that made him the envy of us non-New Yorkers. He knew all about DJ culture and freestylin' and MCs and scratchin' and he even knew the Beastie Boys cuz they went to the same (private) school as him in Brooklyn Heights. By then I even had some black friends, so I no longer felt like a total whitebread hick who stumbled on this music like it was from outerspace. On some level, it turns out we were all helping set the stage for the crazy hip-hop world domination phase, witnessed in suburban American high schools parking lots everywhere.

This is probably sounding like a major overshare, but what the hell it's my blog and this was my life.

What was my point,anyway? Oh, it was that the afore-linked clip of E Props and pals freestyling reminded me of what it was I liked so much about the early days of Strong Island rap, like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and LL and De La Soul. Even if those 2nd generation MC's were cooler than school, there was a real warmth there. If you want a laugh, check out my cameo in the Jungle Brothers video "What U Waitin For." My big moment is around 2'23" was all downhill from there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Haitian Earthquake's Victims All Around Us

Every so often I run across an article that makes me think differently about the Q at Parkside and its sister stations at Prospect Park and Church Avenue. Like the following from the BBC about Haitians living as refugees right here, many of whom we pass on the streets on our way to the Dunkin' Donuts or buying paper towels at the GEM. Here's the short article: BBC article

To me there is something remarkable about the fact that of the 105,000 Haitians who came here legally on tourist visas after the quake, less than half have any meaningful options to stay here without becoming "criminals" in the eyes of the state. And even those who are on the path to emergency green cards, they're only being allowed to apply as part of what's called "humanitarian aid." Indeed. Lest we forget that humanitarian means HUMANS, pictured here is fellow human and neighbor Judith Polidor, here to try to make a sane life for herself and her two kids.

Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of Haitians have moved to Flatbush to live with relatives or friends. Worth thinking about, the next time you hear some Creole while standing in line at Jamaican Pride.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Know Thy Neighbor: Lee Duch - the Maverick Man

If you're a curious cat like Q, you've undoubtedly noticed that one business stands out among the chaos of Parkside Avenue's seedy South Side. Actually, come to think of it, they all sort of stand out for one reason or another. The brand new pharmacy trying to make a go of it against a half dozen others. The handmade sign of the French Cleaners. Balde Koin. The unfortunately acronymed Internet Coffee House. The mysteriously renamed "People's Choice." The three half-ass bodegas. And of course, the world's sexiest McDonalds.

No, the real standout of the bunch in my opinion is Maverick Comics, the always bustling business run by Lee Duch, pictured here at the helm of his starship.
A lover of comics and comic book collecting since he first laid eyes on Spider Man, Lee first built Maverick down on Church Avenue but moved up to the Q at Parkside about five years ago. When you walk into the joint it can be a bit intimidating if you're not accustomed to wide-eyed and boisterous enthusiasm of male teen fantasia. While Lee admits there's not much business left in the old collectibles racket, he's paying his bills selling video games and other less literary amusements. He feels the 'hood and business are improving a bit, but it's pretty clear this was not his first choice of retail corridor. Also, it's pretty clear that a busy shop does not always entail a busy cash register.

Still, if you're in the mood for a graphic "novel" or some mindless but visually stimulating interactive hardcore violence, stop in. Actually, if you've got a straight teenage boy relative, this might be a great place to go for a gift. And seriously, take a look at some of the amazing collectible stuff Master Duch has in stock.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The driver of this horseless buggy didn't just park in the intersection of Parkside and Parkside Court to pick up some lozenges at the deli - he/she/it considered it his/her/its right to park in crosswalk for the better part of the day, presumably because of the inconvenient snow drifts.
At the time this photo was taken, the lady in the wheelchair and the old guy with a "Brooklyn Cart" of laundry were not amused. Nor was I for that matter; and that's when I confirmed my longheld belief that license plate numbers, cell phones and moral indignation make the most excellent of bedfellows.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Grinch Passes Out on Parkside; Painfully Thin Reindeer Left Unattended

Thanks Maddie for the scoop and pic. FYI, EMTs from Kings County on their way, as well as reps from ASPCA, ASAP.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Need a Specimen? Take a Specimen. Got a Specimen? Leave a Specimen.

Much like the beloved penny jars at area establishments, feel free to utilize the LabCorps specimen drop boxes at your local doctor's office.

Drs. Uthman Adeola and Bandele Omokuku may be perfectly fine physicians, but I can only hope they take more care with their patients than they do with their patients' urine.

On the awning of this doctor's office at 255 Parkside is the dentist Carole Germain. I've always wondered about her, and since she opened her own "Care Dental" on Nostrand near Clarkson I figured what the hell, my guy is a Russian "Dr. Nick" wannabe over in the Slope, so I couldn't do any worse. So I made an appointment and trudged through the early morning snow yesterday to pay her a visit. Guess what? She was great! Love her. Office was clean and the help pleasant. Haitian lady with a gentle chair-side manner who's clearly knowledgeable and capable. I'll let you know more after my next two visits, during which I'll get a filling and one of those absurdly thorough tartar cleanings that make you wish your head was detachable.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Local Gentry Passes

Your neighbor Carmen posted this note on the Happy to pass it on...

Dear neighbors,

I'm saddened to share with you that Mr. Delroy (also known as Boo or Mr. D), owner of the Unique MiniMart right next to 65 Fen, passed away this weekend. Mr. D has been a part of this community for almost 20 years and, during the warm months, was best seen grilling some tongue-tingling chicken right outside his store. If you've attended any wine tastings at 65 Fen, you have probably tasted Mr. D's amazing food.

Information on the wake/funeral will likely be posted in front of the store.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How NOT to List an Apartment Rental

Listen, I'm no Barbara Corcoran, but I know a poorly constructed rental listing when I see it. There's a 2-bedroom apt open right down the street from me on Clarkson Ave listed by Brown Harris Stevens - the free parking is apparently a selling point, because at $1,600 a month it's no bargain, though not unreasonable.

I know the house in question. It's one of three well-maintained free standing colonial-esque woodframe houses. I've met a couple people living there who are real sweet and into maintaining the garden areas. But of all the pics to use to sell the joint:

What exactly am I supposed to ooh and ahh about here? Check out those radiators! What fabulous bars on the window! The view of the apartment building across the street is to DIE for!

Maybe they're pumped about that fantastic shine to the wood floors. I mean you can actually see the reflections of those GORGEOUS radiators in the sheen!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Doing Doghnuts Outside the Q

Garbage is everywhere. The 6-foot wall of contractor bag installation outside Patio Gardens is worth viewing before its taken down. It's great to be back near the Q, and I've got a feeling this is going to be the year...the year we finally get that extended stay hotel we've all been hankering for.

I'm a bit disappointed that nobody came forward wanting to design the new public art outside our train station. I guess there aren't many artists in NYC, so I shouldn't be surprised. Still, nobody wants to show some love for the Q? The proposal with renderings is due in a couple days, so I'm losing faith. Here's the original post ARTIST NEEDED, just in case you or someone you know likes to pull all-night drafting jams.

However, I did see that some enterprising creative type DID take a stab at some public art just today. This fabulous neo-pastry edible sculpture was erected overnight:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What's up with this creepy Blockshopper?

I know that real estate transactions are public information. I also know that it's legal to write about such public information. I also know that it's legal to link from one thing to another on the world wide webs. I also know it's legal for the website Blockshopper to create hokey fake "news" stories with headlines like:

"Burger Flipper Tries Hand at Flipping Houses: Buys Foreclosed Farragut Tudor From Disgraced Crib Designer Elmo T. Higgins for 500,000 Clams"

I also know creepy when I see it. And is pretty doggone creepy folks.

If you haven't checked it out then you're in for a real treat. But be forewarned. It's really, really lame at things like, facts. A classic example is this line about our neighborhood, good ol' PLG/W: "100.00% (3,491) of the homes in Brooklyn-Prospect-Lefferts Garden/Wingate are located in Brooklyn County, New York."

Brooklyn county? Never heard of it. And they use Wingate and PLG interchangeably, like in this one:


Rebecca Breckel bought a four-bedroom, three-bath home at 185 Fenimore St. in Brooklyn-Prospect-Lefferts Garden/Wingate from Wessell L. Anderson, Doris E. Anderson, and Frederick A. Anderson for $595,000 on June 23.

The 2,619 square-foot-house was built in 1910 in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Historic District.

Breckel is a New York-based filmmaker and producer. Her work has been seen in around 200 commercials, which include Wendy's, Verizon, Viagra, Nescafe, McDonald's and Olay to name a few. She is also responsible for numerous feature films that have made it to Sundance including "Pretty Bird", "Adrift in Manhattan" and "Dedication."

Rebecca, welcome to Wingate. Sorry to re-post this intrusion of privacy. I take some comfort from the fact that your career is clearly very public, and maybe it's true that all publicity is good publicity. But sheesh, some of the people blown up into headlines on Blockshopper are folks whose business is, well, pretty much their own damn business.

It's a bit "pot calling kettle black" for me to be bitching about other people's google-happy fingers. Still, a creep's a creep.

What think y'all?.