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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday in the 'Bush with George

A Sunday afternoon stroll down the Avenue produced more than the usual "hmmm"s and "oh my"s and "what have we here"s. First stop, the new shop "Play Kids" at the corner of Westbury, which is opening on Tuesday. We spent some time putzing around and kibbitzing with Shelley and Carl and their adorable wee ones Elle and Will.
They seem remarkably at ease about their big retail close-up, and lil' Mrs. Clarkson Flatbed Jr. and I wished them well. Seems that this Friday will be the first sing-along session in the morning. so come on by ready to tra-la-la.

Just a couple doors up my new fave shoppe Dork Klub opened its doors yesterday, but due to the storm today was the Grand Opening. I'll admit I have absolutely no idea how you make a buck as a boutique, but I love mom and daughter team Artyste and Laura's world view. They wear the same dork glasses, are eloquent preachers for the Gospel of Dork, and the bags and clothes are handpicked to create a seriously offbeat aesthetic. What started as the name for a group of off-beat teens at Artyste's high school (remember Breakfast Club?) has become a reality store, and we wished them luck as well, then headed up to the old Mike's International for some neighborhood art love.

The scene was hoppin', the music was an intriguing blend of guitar and steel pans, the art was all over the place from landscapes and still-lifes to comic-booky to photos to kids paintings from the Caton School (PS 139). The place was full of just the sorts of people you've come to love in the North Eastern Flatbush region, and a poorly directed video of the scene looked like this:

There is something in the air here, can't quite describe it, since it's not just about any one person or a grand movement. There's an elemental Flatbushian essence to our neighborhood that defies description and bucks the usual Brooklyn trend towards bourgie blandness. So many smiles on faces today...perhaps a sign of relief that winter had not in fact invited itself over before the agreed to three month sublet from mid-December to mid-March, during which time darkness and cold become grudgingly tolerated, and we all linger indoors a bit longer and cry more often, but usually for the joy of close proximity to the ones we love.

And besides, snow is always an excuse to blow off schedules and lists.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pranic Breathing: The Wacky Doctor's Game?

On a bizarre weather day like today, it's time to reflect on something of a more spiritual and timeless nature...

While leafing through a colleagues book on Yoga - "Yoga Mind & Body" credited to Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, I came across this picture:

To those of you of a certain age, born perhaps in the '60s...does that Chakra chart not remind you of something? As I recall, it was the funny bone that was most difficult to remove...or the rubber band one.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dork Klub Grand Opening Tomorrow (Saturday)

The Long Wait is over! The enigmatic intrigue becomes full-blown retail reality tomorrow, Saturday, October 29th, when 664 Flatbush goes from dark to Dork. Check it out. I know there'll be designer t-shirts, but that's about all I know. Come show the love for a local girl's boutique.

Picture above courtesy of a local eagle-eye I call Mr. M.S.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prince of Plumbers, Sultan of Sewers

Mark. That's his name. Here's his number: 917-662-8794 cel, 718-251-7425.

I've been using him for years now, and he's never done me wrong. He's unlike anyone you know, real Brooklyn guy, plus funny, honest, a bit tough on his sidekicks, and always willing to tell you the real poop. (sic). As with most plumbers, he does boilers too, so call him if you're worried about turning on your heat for the winter.

Recently I lost his number. And he's a lone wolf, no website or nothin', so I was thrilled when a neighbor had some "Mark the Plumber" contact info, and I assumed it was the same guy. But Mark #2 had more of a laid back demeanor, which doesn't mean he can't plumb of course, but...we were in for an unpleasant surprise. This fella's full given name is Mark Sherman, and the guy was a real bummer, nearly scared Mrs. FlatBed to death by freaking her out about how much work would be involved getting our pipes in order. Enter Mark the REAL Plumber, who set us up for a couple hundred bucks. This other dude was asking us to rip up the cement in our basement to find a leak. Turns out we just needed to snake the line, and cap an old pipe that was spilling raw sewage (ewww) that couldn't make it to the street Bcuz of the clog. End of story.

Here's the man himself, shot from below to give him an added aura. Godspeed, Mark the Plumber. Mark the REAL Plumber. You may not have the "license," but you've definitely got the goods.

Halloween In the Hood - Why Go Anywhere Else?

Just got this from the 71st, and other informed citizens - everyone's getting pumped for pumpkin day. This is a really good place to celebrate Halloween - not chaotic and overrun like other neighborhoods. Just good, clean fun.

Please try to get the word out on the street, too. Not everyone has a computer, and we want all the kids in the neighborhood to know that they're welcome to participate. So if you think of it, say hi to folks you haven't before, and tell them about the Safe Walk. See you there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stock Up on Halloween Candy If You Live on the Safewalk!

The 71st Precinct will be doing it's safe-walk again for trick or treating this coming Monday night. This year, Halloween falls on the 31st of October, as it did last year and the year before. We'll let you know what night it falls on next year as soon as we get our 2012 calendar from Peppa's.

This is the route:

Start at Rutland & Flatbush.
Walk Rutland Rd. to Rogers Ave.
Left on Rogers, Walk to Midwood St.
Left on Midwood, Walk to Bedford Ave.
Right on Bedford, Walk to Maple St.
Right on Maple, Walk to New York Ave.
Left on New York, Walk to Empire Blvd.
End at New York & Empire @ the 71st Precinct.

 Here's an awesome picture of the Pres and Mrs. Pres doing trick-or-treating at the White House. She's dressed as Cat Woman, and I'm not sure what Barack is doing...maybe dressing as a high school teacher? I wonder what Michelle's passing out for candy, given her anti-obesity campaign. Rice cakes, maybe?

Finally, for those planning on hitting Clarkson, you can rest assured that the whole FlatBed family will be waiting for you with our special homemade grape leaves. Grape Leaves are healthy and delicious, kids love 'em, and when placed in your halloween buckets, help to keep your candy fresh and moist:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

mi csa es su csa

CSA. Community Supported Agriculture. Getting a box of goodies once a week direct from the farm. Trying to figure out what to do with all those cukes and leeks. Taking bus rides out to the farm with your fellow CSA-ers, sleeping well at night knowing you're helping family farmers make a go of it in a cold, industrial food universe.

If that all sounds like a ball and a half, then you really must join one of our two local CSA's. PLG has one, but for those south of the Q at Parkside, you might want to consider the nearly 200 cooperaters at the Flatbush Farm Share. They do both a summer and winter program, and distribution is on the grounds of the old Flatbush Church at Flatbush and, er, Church.

Here's what you coulda got at one of the summer pickups:

- 1 lbs. beefsteak tomatoes
- 1 bunch arugula
- .5 lb. salad mix
- 1 bunch beets
- 1 lb. zucchini/squash
- 1 bunch leeks
- .5 lb. beans
-. 5 lb. kirby cukes
- 2 peppers

In the cold months, you get a hefty assortment of frozen and wintry foods, and can augment it with shares of yogurt, tempeh, cheese. It all sounds quite yummy to this Park Slope Coop member, who's unlikely to join (the coop is enough of a commitment thank you) but happy to spread the word. You'll need to sign up ASAP for the winter season - Nov. 2nd's the cutoff.

Winter Share

Feeling Lucky? Your Odds for This Raffle Are Pretty Darn Good

The Q is selling raffle tickets. And I WANT YOU, neighbor, to win. It's to benefit Little Miss Flatbed's school - Maple Street - so they can keep down tuition and provide scholarships. The prizes are spectacular, and your chances are in the 1 in 100 range that you'll win something for every ticket you buy. $5 each, 5 for $20.

The prizes:
1 Week international resort stay (lotsa choices)
Birthday party at BounceU
Amazon Kindle Fire tablet
4 tix to late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Gift bag from

To sweeten the deal, I will personally come to you wherever and deliver your tickets (Brooklyn residents only please!). Email me at Tim Thomas, tell me how many you want, and I'll set up a time to make the dropoff.

Do it for the kids. Do it for the booty. Do it because you know, deep down in your heart, that this is your lucky post. The ticket itself looks remarkably like the below:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peppa's Fiery Fowls Run Afoul Of Neighborhood Noses

Ever wondered why most weekend nights the air around Woodruff and Flatbush is thicker with smoke than the Oscar-nominated action scenes from "Backdraft?" Folks within a couple blocks have complained loudly and wheezingly that the foul air is making it hard to sleep. Even the Q has been waking up with sore throats that he assumes must be from smoke inhalation. I'm generally not a complainer - but it's gotten really bad, my friends. Time to take a closer look at what's going on.

It's not hard to find the culprit. Just behind local legend Peppa's Jerk Chicken is a concrete alleyway backyard that becomes a massive outdoor barbecue during peak hours - mostly weekend afternoons and evenings, often well into the night and early morning.

I snapped the below picture through a half-opened gate leading to the alley. The barbecuers often enter and exit at this entrance on Woodruff, often looking around as if knowing they're doing something sneaky.

Were it one day a month, or just during J'ouvert, I'd turn the other nostril. But it's become so commonplace, that you'll often walk down Flatbush through a haze as thick as 1970's L.A. So I'm actively seeking your help in calling 311 to get the madness to stop. I'm not against any local business trying to make a buck, maybe even bending the rules a bit to do so. And I love Peppa's chicken and curry goat w/rice and peas (could do without the Ackee fish though) and want them to continue to thrive. But what they're doing is massively illegal, against DEP and NYFD regs, and just plain assaultive to those with any sensitivity to the stuff at all, from asthma to COPDs, to basically anyone who doesn't want to breathe in toxic air all night long and wake up with a burning throat.

Please comment here if you've also found the air unbreathable, or conversely if you want to come to Peppa's defense. Unless I hear a good case to the contrary, I'm planning on making a big stink about this big stink, first with DEP then further up if need be.

New Kidz Store Opening at Top of November -- Celebrate with Courvoisier On Bedford

The Q stopped by the soon-to-be-opened children's and baby's stuff store at the NW corner of Flatbush and Westbury Court. Local couple Carl and Shelley are shooting for a November 1st or so grand opening, and by the looks of things they're just about there. Carl's done a fine job on the interior, learning as he goes about design, and by the look of things he's got the knack. I still haven't spoken to Shelley in person, but since she's originally from out in God's Country (Iowa) like yours truly, I can only bet she's good people, a Midwestern phrase that always struck me as odd even as I learned to know exactly what was meant went Mr. Homer next door used to say it.

A peak inside revealed plenty of space for inventory - sing alongs and classes are in the biz plan as well, and Carl says it'll be heavy on toys and gear but light on clothes, and all the inventory will all be new, which makes it an ideal companion to neighborhood consignment powerhouse Monk's Trunk. In fact, if you ask this bargaineer, Carrie McLaren's shop on Hawthorne'll keep 'em honest. Was just there today and man her prices are smokin'! Plus, she's got great taste, and keeps her small store-within-her-house stocked mouldings to hardwood with killer stuff.

Of course, if you haven't a wee one, you're probably rolling your eyes and bemoaning how even PLG Flatbush has become a stroller rink, and so right now you're heading out to one of the local liquor stores for some hooch to drown your sorrows over the sad state of retail on our major thoroughfares. But guess what...if you live on or east of Bedford, you'll soon have a brand new rotgut-hut to patronize. The weeks of speculation are over, and concerns that yet another hair concern was in the offing turned out to be unfounded. It's a package store, or packy, as they like to say back East.

Friday, October 21, 2011

That THING Near The Lake

Most of you have undoubtedly looked longingly at the construction site known as the Lakeside project, the massive re-do of the skating rink, which is ultimately a visionary reclaiming of park space from that big bummer of a parking lot that used to was, yet another misstep we can easily blame on Robert Moses et al. Lakeside is an ambitious project worth watching closely, and it will undoubtedly transform the experience of living on our side of the pentagonal Park. If you've been over to the lake recently, you've undoubtedly seen the tall plywood fence that's been put up in front of the chain link. It's being "wrapped" with clever colorful advertisements, telling us what to expect of the coming attraction. "Lakeside is for hockey," or "Lakeside is for rollerskating" or "Lakeside is for lovers" or "Lakeside is for all-night domino games" or "Lakeside is for sleeping off a drunk in the gazebo" or "Lakeside is for not feeding the ducks because it's now incredibly un-p.c. to feed the ducks anything but oats or halved grapes which the ducks don't really care for and the oats fly everywhere and the grapes sink so it's no fun at all and one of the great pastimes of yore is now off-limits and nosy people will come right up to you and say don't feed the ducks even though it's clearly giving you great pleasure and it's really just between you and the ducks now isn't it?"

And then there's this:
Many people have guessed what this structure is, and I'm happy to report they're all wrong except for the ones who guessed that this is actually something that is intended to be taken down. That's right. It's not part of the project at all, but rather "practice" at building the final product. Apparently, according to officials at the Prospect Park Alliance, this is quite common with big construction projects. The various tradespeople involved in the project get together and build a bit of the structure to practice working together and get a chance to work out kinks in the process and materials. Crazy, right? If you knew that fact already I suspect you're in the biz somehow, so stop feeling so smug. Wipe that smug off your mug right now.

These are the sorts of things you learn when you go the Prospect Park Alliance Community Committee meeting, as yours truly did on Wednesday night. Anyone can go, provided they represent a local "group" of some kind. So the Fabulous Fanning Brothers were there (actually they're father and son, but they've got a brotherly vibe about them) representing CB9 and PLGNA respectively. A dude from Park Slope Partners was there, a rep from Lefferts Manor Association, and a smattering of others, but something like 80 different groups have shown their face from time to time. The meeting happens at the ancient Litchfield Villa mansion along Prospect Park West, and if you haven't been inside DO come and check it can almost see the grandeur of yesteryear, though between you and me they've pretty much trashed the place. For a group that's spending tens of millions on Lakeside, you'd think they could take better care of their headquarters. Am I being harsh? Go look for yourself...

One last thing I learned at the meeting. Did you know that the Park can pull the plug out of the lake at will? On some level it's just common sense, since it's a man-made lake and all, but the Park looks at the forecast, and if they see a ton of rain in the making, they let the water out of lake, or add during drought, so that the water level stays fairly constant. Sometimes they get it wrong, as they did during one of those interminable weeklong blub-blubs from this past summer, when the water flooded through the marshes. It's basically a giant bathtub, with real rather than rubber duckies.

Remarkable the things you can learn just by showing up somewheres. And 15 minutes late, too!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Returned Sign Hopes For Refund

At 9PM, this was the scene in front of Parkside Cleaners - both this sign and the one for Parkside Donut were lying on their sides, blocking the sidewalk, while a flatbed with a cherry picker parked perpendicular to the storefronts. It made for one Krazy Tableau.

No doubt, Parkside Avenue has some of the fugliest signs and awnings in town. But perhaps the most egregious is (was?) the giant Jackson Hewitt tax preparation awning. Awnings are tough things to get right, and some people assume that the bigger the sign the bigger the profits. AS to Jackson Hewitt, once the 2nd place rival to H&R Block, well...I hate these companies with a passion. Masquerading as expert accountants, they're basically glorified loan sharks, offering pennies on the dollar to give you your refund up front. Oh, sure, they probably help the occasional old lady who just needs someone to fill out the forms. But 90% of the people going to these places are best off filing the 1040A or even the EZ - hardly tougher than applying for a driver's license. Folks low on income certainly don't need to be paying for crappy, often crooked, advice anyway. And Jackson Hewitt was one of the worst of the biggies - it's recent bankruptcy coming on the heels of a massive Federal crackdown on its nationwide practices.

More to the point, however, I love Parkside Donut, home to the best Pupusa's this side of Ocean Parkway. Maybe now's the time for a facelift for their sad awning? We can only hope. The font is terrible with a capital comic sans T.

Oh, and if you didn't read the Wall Street Journal today (I only read it when it's sitting on top of the garbage in a trash can), here's a chance to read their take on the pop up store at Mike's International! Scrappy PLG Arts - got give 'em a massive ovation for daring to think big and ornery. Love it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maple Street School Benefit -w/ Cap'n Kirk of The Roots

Since I know most o' y'all are going to the Kiddie Disco benefit for the Lefferts Gardens Montessori school this weekend, it stands to reason you'd want to put another nursery school benefit show in your calendar. This one's for Maple Street School, the adorable little larnin' joint just next to the Q/B at Prospect Park. And it's a doozy, featuring music from Maple Street parent Cap'n'Kirk of The Roots. Here's the sexy promo poster:
If you're a Roots fan you're all over this like white on rice. You should also note that none other than ?uestlove, the thump of the band, will be spinning records after the Cap'n' lays down his groovy noodles. Mr. ?uestlove was voted 8th best drummer OF ALL TIME by Rolling Stone. Which is really remarkable when you think about it. Not that Questlove is a great drummer - he is, but that Rolling Stone actually still exists. (Neal Peart is on the list too, and Buddy Rich. Is Bonham number 1? But of course! But Buddy Rich over Max Roach or Elvin Jones or Tito Puente?) DJ Spinna opens, and the whole show is over by 11, so don't tell me it's too late for your creaky self. Me and the Mrs. will be there, provided Little Miss Clarkson Jr., II doesn't arrive early.

This show is happening in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by the way. Not Colonial Williamsburg, as was initially reported.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Haunted Hawthorne Halloween

Need a pumpkin tout de suite? Head on down to Kings County Nurseries, where I found this mountain of kitsch:

If you haven't been to KCN, they're just down the road a piece, on New York Avenue at Rutland.

And when the heck are we gonna hear about the Halloween Trick-or-Treat safe walk? Anybody know anything? We got the adorable peacock outfit and everything! I'm going as a middle-aged blogger dad...

One word of advice if you have a wee one...don't ever, ever, EVER go to Park Slope on Halloween eve. It's a nightmare, literally.

Change A-brewin' at Chaotic Corner

It's been a long summer since Maddie's May meeting. At that time, folks from DOT assured a restive audience of locals that a plan was in the works to create calm amongst the chaos of the Ocean/Parkside interesection. This is the latest word from Councilman Eugene:

Dear Resident,
I want to inform you that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has concluded its study pertaining to the implementation of traffic calming measures at the intersection of Parkside and Ocean Avenues.  I am eager to have a follow-up meeting to the traffic calming forum that was held at the Calvary Pentecostal Church on 151 Woodruff Avenue last May.  I have asked both Community Boards 9 and 14 to review DOT’s plan in preparation for the long anticipated follow-up meeting with the community, which I intend to have take place within the next three weeks.
It is critical that the community boards, residents in the area and my office all be in agreement concerning the traffic calming plan before DOT goes forward with plans to implement it.   We all need to be assured that the community will be safer once the traffic calming measures have been fully implemented.
Thank you again for your interest and concern regarding this very important matter.  My office will be reaching out to you again as soon as we have a date, time and location in place for the traffic calming forum.  I wish everyone a very healthy and productive week.

Yours truly,

Council Member Mathieu Eugene
Thanks Maddie (Fix-Hansen) for keeping the pressure on. I look forward to the next meeting re: proposed changes. Stay tuned for more info...if you're unfamiliar with the story, here's a post from May or this one with the absurd video of Mathieu nearly getting run over. Priceless.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Latest Dump a Doozy

At least it was put out on the proper trash collection day...

New Pavement In Front of Q/B at Caton

In Caledonia, we take the time to thank the Lord for small miracles. Take the plaza in front of the Q/B at the Caton entrance. Is this a bizarre Southwestern map motif I see? Or just a plain vanilla patch? Either way, you're that much less likely to trip and sue. Thanks MTA, for even the slight gestures of support. And speaking of Pavement, yes, one-fifth of the indie-legend is now your neighbor. So, no, that wasn't a mid-90s CMJ hallucination you had whilst scarfing a slice at Gino's.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Unqualified Success for Pop-up Show at on Flatbush - Don't Miss It

The artist, and the ragtag group known as PLG Arts, are clearly ecstatic at the full-throated support they've received for the pop-up gallery at the old Mike's International. After nearly 250 neighbors and more showed up for the opening on Thursday, a steady stream has continued through the weekend. Brian Fernandes-Halloran, the artist, and Dynishal Gross of PLGNA are shown here decompressing after another long day:

The show, which runs for another week, includes paintings and interactive pieces designed to create dialogue between neighbors, and with the pieces themselves. In one crafty piece, a map of the neighborhood elicits written stories from neighbors, who are asked to place their stories in envelopes and  mount them in the appropriate spot on the map. Better yet, we're asked to read these missives at leisure, placing them back like ornaments on an xmas tree. Another map highlights the reality of stop and frisk profiling. A commercial security gate becomes a canvas for visitors to paint whatever the heck they like. And a looping video plays edited pieces of visitors sitting and talking about anything they're moved to share. It's all very meta, but not at all pretentious or haughty, and it works great as a way to bring every kind of PLG-Flatbush-Pigtown resident together. Fernandes-Halloran seemed particularly pleased with the warmth and openness of the folks who have taken the time to get to know his work, and their neighborhood, a little better. The whole show had an air of antidote for the usual growing pains of gentrification, and for that and the overall quality of the effort, I'm happy to give the show a solid T for terrific. (this being my first ever art show critique, i've decided to use the following system: T for terrific, B for banal, S for sycophantic, D for Desperate, C for College and/or Collage, and G for Give It Up Now and Give Your Supportive Parents a Financial Break They're Retiring In a Few Years).

Lots of people were involved, so a big shout out to anyone who made it all happen over at PLG Arts and PLGNA and Eric Adams' team. Dynishal was quick to give credit to Reuven Lipkind in Senator Adams' office for hammering at the landlord for the use of the space. It's a nice chunk of real estate y'all; entrepreneurs, take notice.

Friday, October 14, 2011

C.O.P. docs

Many people have asked me what is required to become part of the soon-to-be-formed 71st Precinct C.O.P. (Civilian Observation Patrol) program. The below four pages need to be filled out. It's really not such a big deal, and the photo and fingerprints happen at the station house. Basically, they want to know you're not a convicted felon. Some of us laughed about whether to "cop" to illicit drug use at any point in the past, but the way I figure it, a little deviousness from your salad daze only makes you a better noticer of stuff. No need to lie, though if you stuffed someone in your trunk once or twice maybe it's best you sit this one out.

I've also been asked what kind of a commitment is involved, and whether it's dangerous. I think that's up to you...there haven't been problems with this program elsewhere in the City, and of course you can only do what you can do timewise. You will not be carrying weapons, and you'll be strictly observing - no intervening. But I'll tell you this much...if all people do is complain about loitering, drugs and gang-related activity but don't do anything about it, we all might as well just leave it up to the 71st and the borough patrol and keep our mouths shut. Which is a viable option, of course. If keeping tabs on neighborhood hot spots isn't your cup of tea, you could always join efforts to get better lighting, talk to landlords and owners, shame businesses that allow thugs to take over their stores, lobby for cameras, aid efforts to beautify blocks and clean up trash. Me, I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm in it for the jacket, and by gum I'm gonna get my jacket.

Shelley Linen becomes...

The secret is nearly out, so I'm going to tell you half of what I know. A new sign is about to go up on the west side of Flatbush at Westbury Ct. Four things:

1) The couple that's opening it lives on Parkside
2) It's gonna be baby stuff.. toys etc
3) The inside is lookin' pretty sharp
4) The woman of the dynamic duo is named...Shelley. What are the chances? Must be a sign from God, or perhaps more appropriate to Flatbush, Gran Bwa,

Keep an eye out. The Mrs and wee one spoke with them this morning, and they seem gung-ho to make a go of it on the "Bush. Good luck!

Abraham Lincoln Rolling Over in Grave Over Namesake Block

In front of the Q/B at Prospect Park lies a mouldering pile of rubbish left there for nearly a week, complete with rotting flesh on bone (okay, okay, cooked chicken. but still). Who's responsibility is this? MTA? If I had my trusty gloves and construction bags, I would have bagged it and presented it to the station agent, fait accomplit, with a note to his superiors.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Woman Killed On Flatbush by Drunk Driver

Police Blotter is not my usual cup of joe, but there was a lot of static on the listserves about an incident that happened this morning. A van (apparently NOT a Dollar Van) hit a woman as she was walking across Flatbush at Lincoln Road. No name released, but she was apparently walking with a shopping cart, so one could assume she was a local. She was alive but unconscious when paramedics arrived, but died later in the day.

The 71st Precinct confirmed that the driver of the van was arrested for DWI. It's a mad, mad world out there on Flatbush, and this is clearly another sign that traffic reform needs to be part of the neighborhood's strategic vision. R.I.P., neighbor.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Go East Young Foodie!

As the kibitzing about getting a Farmer's Market at the Q at Parkside remains but chatty static, a non-profit called Seeds in the Middle did the dirty deed due east of here in Crown Heights...Lefferts Ave at Albany to be exact. The Market's open every Thursday afternoon, and the wee one and I caught it a couple weeks back. It's happening TODAY from 1:30 if you feel like some fresh corn and apples. I think I also noticed some garlic scapes, but I actually don't know what those are, so you should probably just ignore this entire sentence.

Maybe Albany Ave seems too far away, but it's waaay not...if you're a bicyclist it's a super swift ride down the Maple/Lincoln bike lines down and back. Or jump on that B12 bus you're always wondering about. It heads down Clarkson, but then conveniently hooks a left at Albany and takes you RIGHT THERE.

Here's a TV news story about it from NY1. The market's small but good and it's exhilarating to get to know this part of Pigtown better. It's right next to a popular playground too, where young black and Lubavitcher kids make a mighty joyful racket together. This is so powerful to see, given that when I first was living in Brooklyn there was talk of an all out race war not far from this corner, which was sparked by the accidental death of young Gavin Cato. If you're too new or young to remember the Crown Heights Riots, do yourself a favor and read at least the wikipedia entry. Even though it's been a tough summer for shootings, it's a far cry from the events of the late '80s early '90s. I lived on Lincoln Place just above Eastern Parkway for a couple years back then. So naturally I just assumed crack smoking was legal, as long as you kept it to the stairwells.

There's also one called Urban Oasis ON Clarkson at Troy on Wednesdays...haven't been yet. Anyone?

Blue Roost Replaces K-Dog

Translation: Blue Roost announces, on the reflective window of the old K-Dog, that they will be moving from Flatbush to Lincoln Road. They mention that they will be serving Catskill Mountain Bagels, a fixture on Cortelyou Road. I've had them many times - they totally stack up. So for those Lamenting about the Loss of Latte on Lincoln...good news and a brand new day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Montessori Disco

Did you know that Lefferts Gardens has Montessori school for the wee ones? Then I'm larnin' you. It's one of the super options for toddler to pre-K in the neighborhood. Little Miss Clarkson FlatBed goes to the Maple Street School, but the way parents talk about both LGM and Almond Tree (a daycare on Ocean along the park) makes me think we would have been just fine had the Q Jr. not gotten into popular MSS (over by the "other" train station). And while it may seem a little bit "Penny Saver" for me to do this, I'd like to formally urge you to support LGM by taking your family to what's sure to be a great time - Kiddie Disco, Flatbush style.

To my mind, the best part about it will be checking out Crystal's Bar and Lounge, which looks from pictures to have a lock on the Electric Slide TM (choreographed by Ric Silver). If you've got little ones in your charge that day, why not support the school and celebrate the true diversity of the 'Bush?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Feed the Birds - Tuppence a Bag - Or Just Dumpence Your Bag Any Old Place

Not too many days ago, two of the neighborhoods more confounding problems - illegal dumping and the homeliness of Parkside Avenue - converged. In front of the Q at Parkside station, a van drives up (pictured) and dumps an enormous bag of edible refuse. Perhaps it is in the eyes of the beholder, but that looks like dumping to my peepers.

Thanks to Rudy on Winthrop for the pics taken, ironically, while handing out flyers WITH Senator Eric Adams asking neighbors to help beautify the block.

The Mrs. and I noticed numerous corners today with bags upon bags full of construction trash, obviously dumped, because hey...we don't mind! NE Flatbush is like the Statue of Liberty for dumpers - “Give us your tires, your poured cement, your bundled masses yearning to get picked up for free.”

FYI, if you don't get the reference in this post's catastrophically ill-conceived headline, go see Mary Poppins for the first time in years. It's as supercalifradge as you remember it.

Mister Softee Song Has Lyrics - Proof Herein

This is likely the last weekend Mr. Softee and its many knock-offs makes the rounds...only a few are still hanging in at this point. The recent trend towards organic grassfed artisanal cultured gelatos etc has not lessened the simple pleasures of this ridiculously catchy jingle and the alarmingly soft cool, but not cold, confection plopping from the sugary spigot. There is nothing pretty about a Mr. Softee, and yet there is nothing more beautiful. See you next summer.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mike's Arternational

When time's get tough, the tough make art. The "pop up" store of PLG Arts at the old Mike's International follows up an individual show of Brian Fernandes-Halloran with the group show that has Billyburg shakin' in its Vans. As in the shoes, not as in "if the van is rockin', don't come knockin'" And Conversely (not the shoe), if the van is knockin', it might be time to check the fuel/air ratio. I know, I know, give me a break. Long week.

Here's the purty poster:

The Skei's the Limit When It Comes To Curbing Trash

From the folks who brought you the Spring cleanup comes more good clean trashy fun. PLG Civic is asking "broader" PLG residents to pick up a broom, a bag, and put on some gloves. The FlatBed family did it last time and it was really fun to see so many residents taking part. It's also a chance to drop some flyers on Flatbush area businesses that didn't seem to get the memo that THEY are responsible keeping the sidewalk clean to 18 inches from the curb...regardless of who's doing the littering or dumping.

C.O.P. Program Taking Off In Other Neighborhoods

This from the Daily News about our brothers/sisters to the east and south - the 67th Precinct, otherwise known as East Flatbush: Daily News.

They got 15 volunteers so far. We have five that I know of (not that it's a competition). Give Ben Edwards, Lefferts Manor Association pres, a starts next week. Ben is at, or email me and I'll give you his phone #. I'm not endorsing the program since I haven't seen it in action, but it's certainly worth a look.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Join the Effort to Rehab Those Crazy Metal Flatbush Trees!

The Q lucked on an idea so simple, so elegant, it took even HIS breath away. You know those damn green cement and sheet metal trees that welcome the world to Flatbush? At Empire/Ocean/Flatbush? For years I've been saying, and hearing, SOMETHING should be done. Here's my solution, and I just got approval to do it. But I need your help...

Paint 'em. Knock out the dings (there are a few) and paint 'em. Our lovely district manager Pearl Miles just said "go for it, I took care of it," which means she's got the necessary approval. It don't matter who originally did them or that it's on MTA or City property. All we got to do is go out there and do it. If the original street team that did it wants to surface and say they'll take care of it, then fine. But frankly you're a little late to the task! No one I know has been able to find a record of who originally made the things, so we'll just take a little artistic-conservation license to the task.

Now I'm not going out there all Banksy style in the cover of night and splash some $2 a gallon spritzer on them. It would need to be good paint, a good replacement green, and we'd have to have someone skilled to do the stenciling part. We need someone with some experience in these matters to take the helm - maybe PLG Arts wants to do it? I'd prefer not to get all bureaucratic about it, but if there's a real will out there to do it then I'm happy to help in the background or cede entirely. If you're into it, comment here and/or shoot me an email. We'll have ONE meeting about it (so many meetings these days), we'll set a date (maybe a Sunday in November?) and we'll paint the damn things.

Who's in?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Calling All C.O.P.'s

If you're interested in being part of a Civilian Observation Patrol in the 71st Precinct, Ben Edwards is rounding up a posse to take the training and saddle up. It's hard to find hard facts about what this entails, but I know there's a really sweet jacket that you get, and a walkie-talkie figures prominently. After coming up clean in the NYPD database, and producing a driver's license, and passing the fitness test (able to run from the Dunkin' Donuts on Flatbush to the Dunkin' Donuts on Empire in less than 20 minutes), then it won't be long til you're sitting pretty behind the wheel of a hybrid cop car, maybe hanging with your C.O.P. partner and engaging in delightful antics like Hollywood police buddy movies.

Please email me if you're interested and I'll see that you get the sign-up sheet. We need a few more to "trigger" the program in earnest.

In all seriousness this is not some sort of vigilante justice thang. It's a simple eyes-on-the-street group that helps keep the precinct aware of problems through the perspective of concerned neighbors. It's not Shomrim; it's much more low key and there's no reason to think you'll be in harms way. Typical longterm time commitments for volunteers are like 3 hours a month...same as a Park Slope Food Coop shift. (but remember, I haven't taken the training yet so I'm pretty much relying on stuff I've heard or read). C.O.P. programs are sprouting up (again) all over the City. You owe it to yourself to at least find out what it's all about.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Owe It To Yourself To Watch This Awesome Fluff Piece

That rascal Rudy! He's at it again, and this time he and band of merry men 'n' gals got themselves onto the boob tube! It's so awesome to see the Parkside Prize getting the attention it deserves. And even if you haven't the time or enough crayons to submit an entry, you should feel free to comment here on things you'd like to see happen to and for our neglected corner of the park. I'm particularly smitten with Mike Cetera's idea for rooftop seating atop a remodeled McCafe!

Here's the Channel 12 story. And don't forget to submit your entry by December 1. Big Hugs-not-Drugs to Quest, Duane, Babs, Noel, Jillian and the dozens of people who've helped usher this project along.

Huge Lot at Lincoln Road/Flatbush Officially Sold - Plans Up in the Air?

This from Brownstoner. (Thanks Jeremy!) As always, the mighty Babs is there with clarifying comments.

Plans are up in the's HOW HIGH up in the air that remains a mystery. Know anything?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Q-Catastrophe This Morn

As I suspected, the switch back to Q-only trains at "the Q at Parkside" left a bevy of bewildered travelers on the platform. Remember, only local trains from now on - bye-bye B. And if you're traveling today (and probably through the week), leave a bit more time for your trip. This morning, trains were super-crowded and painfully slow. Thank god for brick-breaker on the blackberry. To all those who rely on the B for your commute, we'll miss you! Thankfully, the Caton entrance to the Church stop ain't too far to walk for Calendonians.

Know Thy Neighbor: Noel Hefele

Artist, poet, uncle and Clarkson II resident Noel Hefele paints a mean picture. While his background covers a wide swath of the contemporary artistic ethos, he's chosen landscape as his primary visual medium. Check out this gorgeous painting, to be shown in the group show at the old Mike's International after Brian Fernandez Halloron's solo show (and yes it could be yours if the price is right):
more pics and info at

I interviewed Monsieur Hefele recently, and his answers were so articulate and considered, and I'm so lazy, I though I'd drop them on you wholesale, with just a couple edits. Look for him on, roughly, November 1 at Mike's International on Flatbush above Lincoln.

What was your training as an artist?

Went to Boston University for 2 years as an Undecided major, where I learned how to paint. I transferred to Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Art in Pittsburgh. The education there was very conceptually based. I also spent 6 years working in a fine arts research facility at Carnegie Mellon, where we worked on the 3 Rivers in Pittsburgh, running water quality, botany, and geology studies. The aim was to intervene in the redevelopment of the river fronts as Pittsburgh transitioned from industrial use to recreational use. Public perception of the rivers lagged behind the actual ecological health of the rivers. We worked to change that on a countywide level, all the while framing the effort as art in the tradition of Social Sculpture, where artists can create change in society.

I got my MA degree in Arts and Ecology in Devon, England last year, studying landscape, movement and perception. Ecology (study of home at it's etymological root) can be expressed as the study of the relationship between things; people, places, non-humans, and objects. It is a fantastically rich and relevant area to focus upon. 

Landscapes! That's an interesting choice in 2011. What led to it?

10 years ago, I never would have believed it myself. I see landscapes as the material manifestation of the relationship between natures and cultures.  Painting landscapes is a way of investigating that form with one of the simplest possible tools (moving colored mud around with a stick; using elements from the land to describe the land.) 

'Climate Change' has entered the public consciousness as an issue of our time. Science is one way of addressing that issue. The arts is another.
I believe in the lure of the local in cultivating a sense of place. I believe sense of place is important if we are ever to go about repairing our relationship to the environment. 

Landscapes resonate with people. It is amazing to me what I can learn about a place when people respond to a painting. That keeps me going back. Everything we do relates to landscape in some fashion. Even this virtual text that I am writing now is rooted to the land somewhere.

Painting itself is an interesting choice—a slow medium in the age of ADHD and the internet. Remember when people used to read books?

How do you juggle making a living with making your art? Do you have a studio?

The short answer would be "poorly" - in both senses of the word. Since coming to NY, I've been tutoring highschool students in Algebra and Geometry. I've also been doing web and graphic design work. I want to move more into teaching, as I find it very rewarding. Combining the two would also be nice. Some years I've done better with my art than with my design work. 

Right now, my sister has allowed me to take over a corner of the apartment to paint in. I also like to go out and paint in the park when I can. Space is at such a premium in the city that it is hard to imagine having a studio at this point in time, although I would hope to have one in the future.

What do you think of Clarkson Avenue and the building in which you live?

Clarkson Avenue is interesting and very different from rural England, where I lived previously. It is busy, dense and loud. I like the wide range of people and cultures that you see. I love how close it is to the Park, where I run and paint frequently. The food is definitely better here!  The history embedded in the landscape is much longer in England. It's amazing how many different styles of buildings are spread out over just a few blocks, yet all of them seem to be only about 100 years old or so. I've developed quite an addiction to Mike's pizza over on the corner of Bedford and Clarkson, my favorite of the pizza joints sampled so far. 

There are these large wallpapered landscapes in the lobby of the building I live. One looks like a tropical destination, and another looks like a golf course. They signify leisure, but are landscapes divorced from our immediate surroundings. Perhaps it signifies a working class mentality when the building was initially decorated. Our apartment looks out over the inner courtyard, a miniature wildlife preserve with a mix of chirping birds, scary squirrels and feral cats, among others.

My neighbors are very friendly. It makes a big difference in to walk out of the building, smile and ask someone how they are doing. It's wonderful to smell the cooking in the warmer months when the windows are open.

Some people have lived in this building for all of their lives. The 'ecology' of the building is tightly woven—family members and neighbors have longstanding relationships and connections to this place. I'm fascinated by the overlap of histories; there are several different populations bringing their unique senses of place to Brooklyn. The histories seem accelerated and condensed; the short history of the US combined with the history of the neighborhood and various immigrant populations creates an interesting mix. Like no other place on earth perhaps, Brooklyn is a tangled knot of multiple cultures and multiple natures that I look forward to exploring.
You seem to really enjoy your role as uncle! Anything to share about that?

I'm so grateful to be a part of my nephew Felix's life as a five year old. He has a special way of melting away the stress of the day and reminding me of what is really important in life. He makes me feel more grown-up, but also activates the inner-kid. Each day is so big for a child. Even the small moments are ripe with the chance to create memories. 

He and I walk around the neighborhood frequently. He introduces me to all sorts of folks I would not otherwise get to talk to: a drunk toothless guy who can be a little too rough with him sometimes, a Senegalese store owner who genuinely seems to be his friend, a dvd merchant who gives him the latest pixar bootleg, a trio of stocky mexican children who respond to his "you can't catch me" with audible glee, the t-mobile sales ladies who turn him suddenly shy and sheepish, and his spanish babysitter who cooks amazing ribs...  the list of overlapping worlds and cultures goes on, all within a few blocks.

My nephew is growing up in an environment so completely different than suburban Connecticut, where I grew up. He teaches me spanish words and even slips into an occasional Patois of his own. I admire his ability to approach kids he doesn't know at the playground to enter into a game of tag. Things that would give me pause or intimidate me do not even register in his emergent persona: this is his world and he embraces it openly. Perhaps that is why I love the neighborhood even though I've been here less than a year. I question the boundary between a person and their environment, so seeing Felix interact with the neighborhood overtime has opened my eyes and heart to a layer I would have a hard time seeing on my own.... which is awesome. He is also fantastic art critic: very supportive, yet not afraid to say "I don't like that one, Uncle." When I stay up late working on a new painting, hearing him approve in the morning over his cereal with a "I love it when you make new paintings Uncle" is profoundly motivating. He recognizes what I am painting early, "Uncle, that's a forest! you should put more green..."
What will your contribution be to the group show?

I will be showing a few paintings of landscapes that are within walking distance of the show. I also hope to perform a spoken word piece or two (see here or here or here for latent musical experiments).  In addition to helping organize and get the word out, I'm designing the poster for the neighborhood show. 

I'm happy to be showing work in the neighborhood and working with neighbors to make it happen. It's a great feeling to get more involved in the community. Hopefully the show goes well and we can have more events like it in the future. I am excited, as this is my first painting show in NYC!