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.

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.


Michelle said...

The smoke from Peppa's is kinda crazy. But honestly, the thought of eating anything prepared back there is pretty gross. There are piles of garbage strewn about and literally dozens of stray cats living off the garbage. I feed them sometimes and plan to do a TNR operation there in early spring if anyone is interested in helping out with that.

Anonymous said...

Peppa's does have a pretty significant reputation as one of the best jerk places in the city. It will probably lose that if they're forced to shut down the smoking operation.

One more thing that made Caribbean Flatbush special will be destroyed by gentrification.

babs said...

It is possible to make good jerk without polluting the air around you - an example is Hammond's on Nostrand and Sterling. However, another local establishment, Burger Boys, on Nostrand between Lefferts and Sterling, has recently taken to smoking chicken on the street, with two grills placed over the subway grate. The other day while I was waiting for the train here the smoke on the subway platform was so thick that the air was hazy and my eyes were tearing.

There are laws in this city that protect our health and environment. What was Peppa's last DOH grade and when was that inspection? Time for new one, I'd say. As Michelle pointed out, never mind the smoke, just those cooking conditions alone should result in an immediate DOH shutdown.

Anonymous said...

For the love of-- if the people who live in the immediate vicinity aren't bothered, I cannot imagine why passersby should be. And I say this as an asthmatic. As for the health inspection; the last grade was an A and if they don't deserve it, I'm sure they will be re-evaluated. If you don't like it, don't eat there. Head home and cook Mark Bittman's recipe for roasted free-range, organic roast chicken with some seasonal roasted vegetables. And have a nice glass of white wine.

In a neighborhood plagued by apartment buildings burning dirty oil that spews black clouds of soot into the air all winter, I think we can find better targets for the DOE than the independent and locally- and minority-owned chicken joint. Funny how some people want to mourn one "neighborhood institution" and harass and destroy another.

Anonymous said...

Oh and if you REALLY want to help the environment --rather than, you know, promote a really shall we say FRAUGHT agenda-- then take a look at which buildings burn dirty heating oil in the area and push to get them burning cleaner oil

Heating systems cause more air pollution in NYC than cars and trucks and 100,000,0000,0000% more pollution than Peppa's. (That number has been rounded.)

Anonymous said...

Anybody read Babs' post? Is it possible to make good jerk without smoking up the neighborhood? Before we start Bittman baiting, maybe we can recognize that people choking on smoke have a right not to have to put up with it, whether it comes from an apartment boiler or a local eatery? As memory serves, at least one sooty boiler DID get shut down a year or so ago, due to 311 calls.

Anonymous said...

It is very likely possible Anonymous to make good jerk without smoke. But Tim isn't talking about approaching the business owner to see if there is a way they can make improvements to the cooking practices. He's not talking about working with the business to secure lending for new equipment. He's talking about siccing a bureaucracy on a business that has meant a lot more to this neighborhood than some others I could name--and well, if the business is shut down, and we lose a bit of award-winning Caribbean food culture and a black-owned business, at least the air is cleaner, right?

I mean, these people--with their unsanitary outdoor cooking--have to be told their place. (I hope those of you who grill in Prospect Park are also aware that there is trash and wild animals in that park too!)

Of course it would be best for everyone if there was less smoke or no smoke. You can't argue that particulates are good for the neighborhood. But in a place where there is so much pollution and there are so few eateries and local unemployment is sky-high, it seems like an odd and unwise choice to pit air quality against a heavily-trafficked and independent business.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I don't want Peppa's to close. You're being an ass for suggesting I do. If I see a business, white-owned, black-owned, goat-owned, with a massive coal-burning fire barbecuing in the middle of the friggin' neighborhood every weekend night til 4AM...yeah, I'm gonna sic (sic) the bureaucracy on them, cause that's what they're there for. So I don't have to go over there personally and get hot coals dropped in my britches.

A less race-baiting example might be this: A French restaurant wants to be exempt from the no smoking indoors policy, because in France, people smoke indoors. You're therefore ruining their business by forcing them to comply with your yankee rules? Bullpuckey, monsieur.

Your opinion, my mean-spirited friend, is crass, poorly conceived, and needlessly racial. I'm not insulting Peppa's, and frankly the place is so packed my guess is they have plenty of cash to outfit the joint with the same smoke dissipation devices that other barbecue places use.

To suggest otherwise is the truly racist argument - that somehow a local, immigrant-owned business can't somehow manage to run their business legally? Why exactly? Because they're not capable?

Anonymous said...

Since you are scared of having your britches ablaze, I'll let the folks at Peppa's know are starting a campaign against them.

Anonymous said...

That way the have at least the courtesy of knowing the Powers That Gentrify's supreme unhappiness I'm not from Iowa but that just seems like the neighborly thing to do.

Mad Momma Carmen said...

I eat at Peppa's a lot and the people are extremely friendly and very committed to being a positive part of our 'hood. Why not just go over there and talk to them about your concerns? I'm sure they would prefer to talk with community members and reach a consensus about this rather than have the city mediate the situation.

I really don't get the need to jump the gun and skip on over to calling 311 without trying to impact the change locally. We all live here, lets chat.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I'm surprised by Carmen's reaction, since she' s so gungho on dumpers, and I don't buy for a second that Peppa's doesn't realize how assaultive it is. But I respect her enough to take her up on her idea. I'll go over there and talk to them before calling 311, which by the way, many others have already done.

I'm guessing that those of you not feeling pissed are not living directly in the massive smoke cloud, but I'll accept that a conversation is the best place to start.

As to the dumbass with the ax to grind: I should've learned when I started blogging not to take the bait from people who can barely see out of the opening between their butt cheeks.

This isn't a "smoking operation" as some have described it. At peak times, they turn the backyard into a secondary kitchen to keep up with demand. They don't need to make a giant 10 hour barbecue to make their goods, so let's put an end to that nonsense right now.

Anonymous said...

The smoke is out of hand. It didn't use to be this bad. They need to get it under control.

Ray said...

The guy says people can't sleep. Isn't that enough? I don't know why we need to protect people who break the law and make life bad for other people.

The chicken is over rated by the way - too burnt, sometime not juicy. Sauce is only ok. They do it better at 6 other places on Nostrand or Church. My grandmother agrees.

Anonymous said...

We have twice endured a problem with chronic noise so we always sympathize greatly with others who are assaulted in their homes by some entitled, selfish person or business. We can debate it all we want but it comes down to this, the law is the law and this business is breaking the law. The original Pies n Thies in Williamsburg got shut down for the exact same thing, a smoker in their alley. Lincoln Park Tavern used to be a BBQ for a spell and when it was, they really struggled to meet code for having a smoker on the premises and had to close a while after first opening to fix some venting issues. Which they did do. But some folk are special and above the law I guess.

Anonymous said...

P.S. If this were some corporate chain restaurant creating the smoke and pollution the same people speaking up in support of Peppas would be up in arms about its noxious fumes and environmental impact. I'm just personally never a fan of people making exceptions for themselves on things they don't forgive in others. Uncool.

Alexis said...

If you are directly bothered by the smoke, then call 311. I can only say that the degree of smokiness seems overblown from my experience and I won't be joining in.

In terms of the effect of a bunch of white, well-off netizens targeting a low-end Caribbean restaurant in a largely Caribbean neighborhood without even approaching the business owner; it seems unnecessarily divisive and provocative and I disappointed that you wouldn't see that, Tim. If you think that makes me a race baiter, that's fine with me.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

No Alexis. Your comments are cool, calm and just what I was soliciting. So sorry I disappointed you.

Perhaps if your wife, 8 months pregnant, was unable to sleep because of the onslaught of smoke, you'd be pissed too.

To call a blogpost "targeting a low-end business" is a bit overblown, but I'll accept it. Remember, I DID ask for your opinion.

I called them earlier today and they don't want to talk about it so I'm leaving it be. And I'm not going to be the instigator on this one. If y'all want to go talk to them, or call 311, that's your own business. Me, I'm disgusted that the conversation devolved where it did. Very pissed, actually. Divisive? I pointed out a problem that many people have told me was a major concern. I'm disappointed too, that we can't have a frank conversation without all the baggage.

It's a health issue folks. If you don't see that, you're just hearing what you want to hear. Back to sleepless nights, and a blatant disregard for the law and the comfort of neighbors. You win!!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Addendum: ironically enough, they said call 311 to complain!

Anonymous said...

yo. don't give up that easy. the smoke is insane and getting worse. so what if you complain? i almost called in a fire the other day.

MJMcBee said...

Oh, Anonymous, anonymous, anonymous. One more A-hole and we'll have ourselves a twelve step group! Well since you are hiding behind so many veils (racism, classism, threats to turn our head blogger into the Peppa Police, as if they ARE a force to be afraid of?...hmmm) I can only address you by your first antagonistic time of comment.
So to 12:33 am, I say, when did wanting to be able to BREATHE become synonymous with gentrification? Does not our own Declaration of Independence state that ALL persons are created EQUAL with certain UNALIENABLE rights? LIFE Liberty and the pursuit of happiness...this is not a gentrification issue--it's a quality of LIFE issue when your home (which my asthmatic husband and I pay HARD EARNED money for, sure, thanks to gentrification) is hazy with smoke WHILE THE WINDOWS ARE CLOSED on a perfectly nice day and you fear your baby's lungs are too. And now I too, am more nauseated by the nasty conversation, and yes racial baiting that you are trying to incite. Who are you and what have YOU done to protect the unalienable rights of your family and your neighbors? Tim is right. The real race/classism is to say that the most recent "indigenous" inhabitants of this neighborhood are incapable of running clean, healthy, LEGAL businesses without harming their employees and neighbors. Honestly, if they get shut down it is their own fault. They have lied to my face. I asked them point blank (on one of my many trips to support their business and feed my family with their food because yes I actually do like it) if they cook outside. And they lied and said no. Call me a crazy gullible white lady (who does not drink white wine by the way) but I trust my neighbors' word and have wondered ever since...WHERE is that dastardly health hazard my family endures on an almost nightly basis coming from? The Duane Reade is often filled with a cloud that the employees complain about, so I thought maybe it's coming from the place on PArkside ave by the train. Thanks Tim for posting the pic, cause therein lies the proof. But you know what? It's not MY JOB or even TIM's job to be a friggin neighborhood air quality crusader. Especially after being lied to by the local business owner in person. But it IS my responsibility to call 311 (which I did so many times I had to start keeping a log on my computer because they would lose track of the complaint number, or tell me it had been "dropped" because there was no evidence of "fowl" play). So I don't know if Peppa's in bed with the DEP or if he's so super slick about evading the law that he knows just how to hide his illegal goings on, because that's the only two ways I can think of that they have a big shiny "A" posted in their window. But I am mostly heated up by this A-hole hiding behind shis anonymity to spew hate at those of us who give a damn about our rights as human beings to be able to breathe.

Mad Momma Carmen said...

Why does my reaction surprise you? Regarding the dumping, I did what I am suggesting you to do...communicate. My comment was moreso addressed to the fact that you expressed worry over going over there and airing your concerns. Talking directly to the source of the problem gets you father than you think, even if the actual communication part doesn't go well. I say this from experience. How do you think the garbage situation ever got taken seriously by Sanitation Police? I've literally gone out and talked to people/businesses directly about their garbage situation and addressed it in a more systematic way than just calling 311. As we all already know, calls to 311 are rather pointless anyway.

Don't get me wrong, if this is a community concern, I'm more thank willing to lend my support. Just know that my support involves at least initial communicating with the owners of Peppa's and go on from there.

Mad Momma Carmen said...

And I have to ask, what kind of a solution are you looking for here?

If you're looking to enact long-term positive change, while still keeping Peppa's open then I highly suggest 'going through the channels' so to speak and ensuring that permanent change happens from a bottom-up approach.

The approach you're proposing is in some aspects short term. So lets say the Health Dept/other organization comes along. Either Peppa's will be in full compliance that day and things will continue as they are, or they'll be just temporarily complaint and a few months later the issue will resurface. Or, they could get shut down which I suppose will address the issue as well.

What exactly are you looking to happen here?

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on trying to curb the pollutants spewing into your home. Bad air increases SID dangers for a newborn. The voices against taking any action on this and other issues might be loud and bullying at times but their numbers don't outweigh those who want improvements. Believe me, all the older ladies I regularly chat with are big complainers! Anybody who says it's only the "gentrifiers" who are unhappy with crime or litter or scofflaw businesses really don't seem to know anybody outside their immediate circle of like-minded friends.

Anonymous said...

You want racism? Try doing this sort of thing in Park Slope and see how long it lasts.

The racism is in law enforcement, not in wanting the law enforced.