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, March 3, 2011

Where's Flatbush?

I love it. Love it! Just when you get comfortable knowing what to call the terra firma beneath your boots, someone bursts your bubble with an authoritative take on Brooklyn neighborhood boundaries. (if you're a longtime reader, you might want to skip this one. I'm rehashing some old terrain. Then again...who remembers their trigonometry? Come along for the ride!)

We all know that neighborhoods grow and contract with the times, and real estate folk demarcate with increasing creativity. As has been discussed ad nauseum, we have a particular set of problems in our 'hood. Let's start with what we know.

Lefferts Manor has defined boudaries due to the covenant laid out by its developer, Master Lefferts. Prospect Lefferts-Gardens Historic District is the moniker used by the Landmarks regime for pretty much the same thing, with a few houses thrown in to spice things up a bit. So they're basically the same chunk, give or take. Those names are legal in nature, referring to one set of rules or the other. And those rules are set in stone. You can't "apply to get in." or get invited, and real estate agent can't suddenly decide to expand its reach. Here's a map of PLGHD.
, a/k/a "the Manor." It's gorgeous, it's exclusive, and it's generally pricier. The people are lovely, though, so don't think I'm calling them (you?) snobs! If you want a good well-rounded portrait of snobbery, just check out the disgustingly overprivileged windbags profiled in today's Times - the so-called Native Society of the Haughty East Side.
Apparently, douchebags never go out of style.

So for quite some time the Manor/PLG-HD has been a small enclave in the greater Flatbush neighborhood, the word being born of the old Dutch town of the same name, sister town to places like Bedford and Midwout. And boy does Flatbush got game. Heck, The Brooklyn Dodgers were Brooklyn's team, but they belonged to no 'hood more than Flatbush. Heck, Duke Snider was the "King of Flatbush," not the King of Flatlands or the Sultan of Sunset Park. Before the Fonz was the Fonz, he was a Lord of Flatbush. The list of Erasmus alums is staggering. And let the record show that Flatbush's borders are pretty distinct - south of Empire, nee Malbone; most folks agree that New York Avenue is the eastern border, with folks calling anything past that East Flatbush. To the west one exits Flatbush at Coney Island Avenue, and nearly no one disputes the LIRR tracks as the southern boundary. All good!!

Within Flatbush we have juicy micronabes like Caton Park, Ditmas Park, DP West, Prospect Park South, Pigtown or Wingate (depending I guess on whether you keep Kosher). They all have histories and reason for their names, often dating back to their current housing stocks' creation. We really did have "subdivision" type growth here, just not the type that happened later in the suburbs. Generally, new developments went up over razed houses, shacks and farms, and a lot of it happened more than 100 years ago - ancient history for most Americans. My house celebrates its 100th next year. What does one do when one's home hits a century? Do you throw it a party? It's quite likely that people of the 19teens derided our house and its brethren as gaudy cheap intruders or worse. And the people that bought them? Heathens! Apparently some of the tradesmen of the time actually worked on the houses they eventually moved into. That must have been an enormous joy for immigrants accustomed to renting from slumlords. Sounds familiar! (can one be an immigrant if he comes from the Midwest?)

Prospect Lefferts Gardens Maximus, or "Lefferts" as I like to call it, has evolved over the years, mostly stemming from the creation of the PL(e)GNA neighborhood empowerment group way back in the soulful Sixties. People were fighting the good fight back then, and we owe a lot of our neighborhood's sense of cohesion to the brave soldiers of those housing wars. If you haven't heard, PLeGNA is staging a comeback of sorts. Reach out to them at PLGNA.

Somehow, in the '70s and '80s, and without unanimity, Lefferts became the catch-all for everything south of Empire, east of the Park, North of Clarkson and West of New York. Part of it might be the Police Precinct boundaries (map here). Partly it's the Community Board
boundaries (right). And partly it's...well, it just is. So the SW pivot point is somewhere around McDonald's or Duane Reade. Or Closeout Heaven. Or Umma Park. Or...then, just when your head is spinning, you go to the neighboring Community Board's website (CB14) and you get this:


As much as I, the Q, on the north side of Clarkson, want to believe Bob Marvin et al when they say I'm part of PLG, this map just makes more sense to me. You know, the park, and the aptly named Parkside Avenue, just seem like natural dividers to me.

Just sayin'

Next up, a profile of some REAL Caledonians!


Anonymous said...

I don't know, CF, you've been pushing this secessionist line for a while now and I still ain't biting! No matter how you come at it, Clarkson Ave between Flatbush and Bedford belongs to PLG and we're not letting you out of it! Case closed. lol

BTW, efforts to rename your section of the hood as "Caledonia" don't get it either. The name Caledonia is of Scottish origin.* The last time the Scots were a population of sizeable influence here, in the PLG part of Flatbush, was back at the turn of the last century. Caledonian Hospital, for example, was opened by a Scottish medical-charitable society in 1910. By the time it closed in 2003, though, I'm thinking the Scots had long been replaced with folk from the West Indies and elsewhere.

Just sayin' :-)

*According to Wikipedia: "Caledonia is the Latin name given by the Romans to the land in today's Scotland north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire. Modern use is as a romantic or poetic name for Scotland as a whole."

Anonymous said...

One bedroom apt for rent in FLATBUSH....wOODruff
between E. 21st and Ocean Ave. Or is it Prospect Park South...or is it PLG....

Bob Marvin said...

Who are you gonna believe Mr. Clarkson Flatbed; me, or those outlanders at CB 14? If Lefferts Manor and the rest of northern and central PLG aren't Flatbush old Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt, who wrote the "Social History of Flatbush" in the 1880s, would be whirling in her grave.

Bob Marvin said...

AND, don't forget about that Flatbush/Brooklyn boundary line in on a brass strip in the pavement of the Botanic Garden.

Timmy De Flatbed said...

I just love that SOME ACTUAL PERSON had to draw those lines. How insensitive not to think that actual living breathing beings live there!

This much I know. The deepest part of my backyard is DEFINITELY in PLG! That's probably why whenever I'm mulching back there I got a hankering for a K-Dog sammich.

Anonymous said...

"Caledonia is a State of Mind." - Chaucer

Patrick said...

this neighborhood needs a taco bell

babs said...

The original borders of the town of Flatbush (that's the name the English gave it, BTW, based on the village of Vlacke Bos, part of the Dutch town of Midwout) were much larger than this, going all the way to Queens: PLG as it was being converted from farmland to suburban development was simply called Flatbush; James Lefferts started the whole Lefferts thing when he sold his farm for what became the Manor (old ads refer to Lefferts' Estates).

Bob Marvin said...

Lefferts Estate or Prospect Park East Babs. The Lefferts Manor name was made up by residents c.1918 when the lefferts family sold their last lot and stopped defending the covenants. The Lefferts Manor Association was founded the next year, as a homeowners' association, to take on that job.

Anonymous said...

i agree with the taco bell guy

tim said...

I smell a chihuahua. Someone out there is posting from corporate headquarters. For shame!

Bob Marvin said...

So you don't think we need an Olive Garden to give Gino's a run for the money? :-)