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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Cautionary Tale That Bears Rehashing - Part I 1/2 of What's Really Going On

I've met a lot of great folks in my year-and-a-half of blogging. I've gotten to know my hometown a lot better. I've watched and listened to people, old and new, with big ideas and enormous passion for civic issues. There's tons of energy 'round here, and no shortage of brains either. But something happened a few years back that I just got to share, because in researching the "story" I found myself wondering if there is some sort of strange curse pulsing through the sewers of northeastern Flatbush, that ensures that the kind of pollyanna chutzpah affecting other parts of Brooklyn will never happen here. Maybe it SHOULDN'T happen here, and that's what the good Lord's trying to tell us! So relax, and let me tell you the tale of an effort towards economic development some years ago that went horribly awry.

I recently sat down with Mark Dicus, whose name was once almost synonymous with post-millenial "change" in PLG. Half a dozen years ago Mark, w/his budding family in tow, took a look around the 'hood and wondered why it seemed stuck in time - as in the late '80s early '90s time - and so few "amenities" were taking hold like in other parts of the borough. theQ's memory of the time was that NYC was regaining that pre-9/11 swagger, and new businesses were sprouting up, along with a renewed vigor in the real estate market all over town. People were buying and flipping houses again, and banks were lending with quite a bit of, how did Alan Greenspan put it? Froth. (Yes, the stodgy Chairman of the Federal Reserve used the word "froth." Turns out, froth fairly understated the circumstances, but the fall of Lehman was a couple years off, so the nation's expert money guy could be forgiven for missing the meaning of a few leading indicators. Like froth.)

So our neighbor Mark says hey, other neighborhoods are creating environments favorable to business, and its working, so why not here? They're cleaning up their streets, making them safer, strengthening retail corridors, changing the ethos for business and hoping that all boats rise. He founded PLUS (Prospect Lefferts United for Services), a name he almost instantly regretted, but it's so hard changing a name after it sticks, and to my ear PLUS sounds pretty good, even if the phrase behind the acronym is pretty odd. PLUS quickly distinguished itself by cleaning up around Lincoln Road, encouraging places like K-Dog and Enduro to open up, finding some money to help businesses put up new gates and awnings (ever wondered why Papa & Sons and that deli on Lincoln near Ocean look so relatively upscale? Thank PLUS!), helping get the ArtMart thing off the ground w/PLG Arts...PLUS was cooking with gas and seemed headed for greater things. It had a seven-or-so member Board, and in researching this true story, the Q poured over the public listserve of PLUS (it's still up there on the Yahoo), and I must say there is ample evidence of a lively and upbeat and diverse group, meeting regularly, getting pumped and doing some pretty great work, especially for a bunch of volunteers receiving no remuneration. So...what happened?

The downfall started when Dicus found a grant opportunity too good to pass up...and so PLUS wrote what I can only imagine was a great proposal to a City economic development group for money to create a "real" organization, with a "real" budget, and a chance to make a more deliberate and sustained difference in the neighborhood. Given Mark's effective leadership of the group to that point, it made sense to him (and to anyone with an ounce of common sense) that he would be the person to lead the group once the money became available. Given that a "real" organization needs full-time administration and accountability, a salary would be involved. And in fact, the grant in question pretty much necessitated it. Someone would have to be held responsible for administering the money, and accountable to the Board for his/her actions. All of this should have been pretty easy to sort out. At the very least, the Board could have given the guy the gig and re-assessed when the grant money ran out.

I've worked in non-profits for years, in fundraising in fact, and what happened next is really quite shocking. Rather than the Board asking Dicus to step down as board chair to take the Executive Director position, with modest compensation to come from the grant - which they won HURRAY! - the board completely imploded and couldn't even get it together enough to accept the first trickle of money from a six-figure multi-year grant. That's right...after months and years of fantastic well-oiled work, and with some real money now finally after another of the board members quit til there was nothing left.

Back then there was a lively blogging community that predates yours truly, Hawthorne Street, PLOG and the like. Son of PLG and Across the Park both wondered aloud what-the-hell-happened, and the many people counting on PLUS to forge ahead were left confused and angry. I've talked to various people involved in PLUS's demise, but the general consensus is that it's well past time to move on, even if there's still a bit of disappointment and even bitterness lingering. The only pivot point that is incontestable is this: just after the big grant application went in, Dicus wrote a note on the listserve intended for the Board only that went to the general readership. I'm not quite sure what the mechanics of that were, but regardless many people unfamiliar with the board's plans to expand suddenly were given access to that information, and a lot of unsophisticated rumors began to circulate about how the money was going to destroy, rather than help, the cause. Some people wondered in public whether Dicus should even be considered for the gig - this after basically proving himself over two years of unpaid volunteer work. Once Dicus himself left the board in disgust, the great irony is that he was subsequently hired by the Church Avenue B.I.D. to do basically the SAME job, but for the folks immediately to the south of us.

And so ends our cautionary tale. What lessons are learned? First, be very careful about who you put on the board of your budding non-profit. It may all seem like fun and all-for-one and one-for-all until things get serious, and then people's true colors come through. Make sure your agenda is clear to your board AND to the general public at all times. Make sure not to press "send" on the listserve til you're sure you know who you're sending to. Don't assume that everyone sees eye to eye with you on how best to move the neighborhood forward.

Between the resurgent PLGNA,  Parkside Prize, PLG Civic, LinRoFORMA, PLG Arts and more...there's definitely plenty of catalysts to spark change. Let's hope they're more successful in navigating the waters of growth. (waters of growth - is that a lame metaphor or what? I gotta go to work now...)


babs said...

Interesting tale, and one that I've heard several sides of (yes, more than two...). But in looking around at other neighborhoods' development (like it or not) I have to ask myself, What are we missing? Yes, we have committees and civic organizations up the wazoo, and it's heartening to see neighbors coming together to work on making things better for everyone, but where are the businesses we need?

The closest approximation to what (I think) most people would like to see happen here is Cortelyou Road, and I have to say I am SO jealous of all the stuff they've got going over there. As I enjoyed a plate of Fisher's Island oysters (for $1 a piece!) with a glass of a nice sauvignon blanc at The Castello Plan there the other evening, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why here and not in PLG?"

I really think Rogers Avenue has the potential to become the next Smith St. or Cortelyou Rd.; it has broad sidewalks (much wider than on Flatbush or Nostrand), offering the possibility of actually pleasant outdoor seating, and it doesn't have all the vehicular traffic of Flatbush. It also has the possibility to draw from the surrounding rental population in buildings from east of the Manor, and, as a resident of Lefferts Ave between Rogers and Nostrand, I would love not to have to hike over to Flatbush for a cup of coffee or a meal at a sit-down restaurant other than Culpepper's (which is good, but I would like some variety).

I am currently working on compiling data from the last US census with an eye towards approaching some area entrepreneurs with the figures to prove that this would be a good place for their next venture. I'll let you know what I find out. My gut tells me that there is a substantial and growing population of people ready and willing for more to happen in PLG, but I'm looking for the numbers to back me up.

Gary of PLG said...

Here is a link to an interesting essay on Brooklyn's revival that I think dovetails nicely.

babs said...

You beat me to it - I was just going to post that! While it does have some inaccuracies (Vinegar Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard were never the same thing and both still exist, if only in name; and it totally bleeps over the bankers and lawyers who made Brooklyn Heights America's first suburb and the Charles Pratt-led creation of Clinton Hill, home to some of the era's wealthiest oil magnates) it is thought-provoking.

babs said...

This article was also featured on Brownstoner today - loving the comments! But all this brings me back to my original question: What is different here? What are we missing?

Gary of PLG said...

I believe we are missing density. If you want to support a gentrified commercial strip like Cortelyou Rd or Smith St, you need a minimum number of interested clientele.

PLG is a very small area and is beautifully diverse but not deeply. By that I mean that there is a strong majority of Caribbean peoples here and they can and do support a variety of businesses - mostly oriented to their community. No news there, and no reason to expect it to change anytime soon.

I have always seen Rogers Ave as a great place for cafes and strolling consumers enjoying those broad sidewalks. But it won't happen before (if ever) there is a critical density of interested people who will support it. What is happening, with a gentrifying population, on Ocean Avenue and in the Manor would have to spread far wider and deeper for it to have any real effect on the commercial offerings east of Flatbush.

As someone who experienced the Upper West Side of Manhattan gentrify rapidly, brutally, and irreversibly and felt sad to see it and ultimately happy to leave it, I hope to see this neighborhood shift slowly and organically over many years, without a lot of people feeling pressured to leave.

babs said...

I'm thinking the density will come from blocks east of Rogers - there are a lot of apartment buildings between Nostrand and New York. I am already surprised by the number of younger people I see walking east after getting out of the subway at Sterling and Nostrand. The new building on Sullivan Place and Nostrand, while not technically in PLG, will bring in a new group of renters (there was a car wash there before) looking for more retail and dining options. I also think that, given the choice, many long-term residents would choose to patronize many different types of establishments. I saw the beginnings of this when I lived in Fort Greene in the early 1990s and feel sure it can happen here - I am a bit of the "if you build it they will come" school on that. If it doesn't happen on Rogers, I see NY Ave as having possibilities - I am intrigued by the Keg Lounge on Lincoln and NY - it already looks like an ironic hipster dive bar, except I think it's authentic.

babs said...

And in terms of density, Smith St is not it - there aren't that many large apartment buildings nearby, but mostly cut-up townhouses. Smith St. may have started out that way, but it's become more of a destination. Anecdotally, I'm on Foursquare, and I have a great number of non-Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens (and even non-Brooklyn) resident friends who turn up there pretty frequently.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I'm not sold that PLG should go all Smith Street. In fact that would be a tragedy in my view. I guess I'm more interested in the degree to which local civic boosting groups - like the Myrtle Ave BID and Crow Hill Community Association et al - had a hand in shaping the way it all went down. I get Walentas - he basically created DUMBO in his own image! Other neighborhoods had a steering or helping hand in becoming what they became. It's just not true that it usually happens all laissez-faire style.

I personally don't think it has anything to do with density - we have plenty of all kinds of folks living here. When you speak to people who are interested in opening a bourgie joint, the bottom line is that the neighborhood does not appear hospitable to upscale commerce. Add to that the high cost of commercial space, and it just seems like too big a risk for risk-averse retailers. If a couple places open up and thrive, it would open the floodgates. Folks like Mark Dicus understood this, and tried to do their part to "diversify" the offerings. Unfortunately for him, some on his Board were not "on board."

Personally, I don't really care what kind of retail happens here. I want sane traffic, less honking, less trash and an end to drug hot spots. Other than that, stores could be selling plastic noodles and fried rats and I'd be a happier camper. But I think I'm in the minority of the minority on that one.

Either people are going to take an active interest in how their neighborhood changes, or they're going to sit back and let the fickle market do its funky magic. Que sera, sera.

babs said...

Pratt Institute is directly behind the transformation of Myrtle Ave in Clinton Hill - the trustees looked around one day and realized that if they didn't do something to Murder Avenue they would go out of business. So the school invested heavily there in new construction projects, including a bookstore, and in the promotion of new businesses. The Myrtle Ave BID is secondary. As I said, I'd prefer a Cortelyou Rd. to a Smith St., and think that's a much more realistic outcome in any case.

What also helped Myrtle Ave in particular is the fading of the crack era (that helped just about everywhere) and the reduction in gang wars between the Marcy and the Walt Whitman and Ingersoll houses - when it was called Murder Ave. gangs would just drive back and forth between them shooting each other up.

And I think we'd all be happier with less trash, traffic, crime, and drugs, but I am not content to stop there.

Anonymous said...

Rogers Ave has no foot traffic to speak of. There is only one infrequent bus line on it, no subways. The area just beyond Rogers is comprised of modest houses and buildings, not big spenders or hipster singles who are the people who spend the most on going out. You can approach outside businesses about Rogers but they're not just going to listen to the big sales pitch to make their decision they'll look for themselves and these factors are exactly what they will look for. Density of people who actually spend money frequently on eating out and a subway line is key to a street being a successful commercial area and Cortelyou has it. Rogers doesn't. There's a reason the first new businesses here opened on Lincoln and Flatbush near the B/Q. It's not an accident. Either way, cleaning up and improving Flatbush is absolutely crucial, has to be for any plan proposed. No way to dodge that one.

babs said...

I live between Rogers and Nostrand and I can tell you that there is a great deal of foot traffic on Rogers, and it is growing. Parents picking up and dropping off at the Montessori school, pet owners going to the Bow Wow Pet Spa - the more businesses there, the more reason to go there. It is one block from the subway on Nostrand Avenue; there are several apartment buildings on the blocks between Rogers and Nostrand of Sterling St., Lefferts Ave,and Lincoln Rd., as well as plenty more on the other side of Nostrand Avenue, and here you're getting into the "too far to walk to Flatbush" distance, but Rogers is definitely doable, if there were a reason to do so. There are also several apartment buildings at the northern end of Bedford; residents here could go either way. Additionally, unlike the houses in the Manor, the houses on Lefferts Ave and many on Sterling St. are two-family houses, and were built that way, so you already have double the population density.

Finally, Rogers is a much more pleasant strip than Flatbush - wider, with no need to "clean up" anything. And anyone who wants to know anything about the area population need only stand at the Sterling St. subway stop in the evening and see who gets out and where they go to get an idea of what's happening.

babs said...

And to burst your bubble a little bit more about the "must have a subway on the street" assumption, let me cite DeKalb Ave. in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill - from a creepy, desolate strip when I lived there in 1992 it's become a veritable restaurant row, blocks from any subway line (the closest are the G and C, and they're not very close).

Ceelledee said...

Gee CF, you sure know how to bring it, don't you? lol. Looks like this thread of yours has forced me to come out of lurkerdom. So here goes:

I confess that I was not only a member of the PLUS board but also one who was fully appreciative of, and aligned with, Mark's leadership and vision. What happened with PLUS, although tragic, is not all that rare, however. Such things happen all the time, in all kinds of organizations -- most especially when even good-intentioned folk come together under an organizational name but are not aligned as to its leadership, mission and vision. Of course, the process of investing time and patience in working towards group alignment is always easier said than done -- especially at the earliest stages of an organization's development. Nevertheless that kind of groundwork can make all the difference between building a healthy and productive organization or watching it implode as did PLUS. Hopefully all of us who were party to that sad experience have learned something from it and have moved on.

That said, I'm still in favor of seeing an increase in the diversity of business offerings-- and locations of same --here in PLG. (In fact, I've even got some thoughts percolating about starting such a thing of my own.) I agree with Babs when she says that Rogers Ave might be great for such -- especially for a strip with a Cortelyou Road kind of vibe, as opposed to that of a Smith Street. Even though Anonymous 3:56 makes some good points to the contrary, I could see Rogers changing over to a destination commercial venue in much the way that 5th Ave has done in the Slope. (No, I'm not advocating that PLG become Slopelike!) Once on the margins, and far from the subway lines, with more "modest" housing nearby, 5th these days, for some, has become the cheaper and funkier alternative to 7th. Still, and especially in light of the Park entrance and subway station, I'd really like to see something happen with the Parkside corridor first. And, of course, Anon I'm in total agreement with you when you say something needs to happen with Flatbush! Just getting rid of all the garbage and drug spots alone would do wonders.

Eagle-Eye Mr. M.S. said...

I have heard and read of the density theory before. Seems plausible: Then again, could any neighborhood be less dense or less subway accessible than Red Hook? I am convinced that the PLG diversity of business offerings problem is because Flatbush Avenue from Parkside to Lincoln is, more often than not, covered in garbage. Plain and simple: it's ugly and sad. Too bad too. If you squint and imagine there's no litter blowing around and accumulating on the sidewalk, or unscooped dog poop where the trees are planted, or soot covered storefront signs that haven't been cleaned in years; I think that PLG's little stretch of Flatbush is actually quite nice. Nice old buildings. Nice shady trees. And I do believe there's plenty of folks in PLG black, white and red all over, who'd be happy to spend their money here in PLG on all sorts of things -- but those same folks, understandably, go out of their way to avoid Flatbush Ave all together.

Matt said...

I think the most interesting current analogue to what might be possible in PLG is happening right now over on Franklin Ave in Crown Heights. You have Chavella's in its new location, Barboncino, Franklin Park, even a rumored arrival of Al Di La. I went there a few weeks ago and every single place was packed to the gills. It's the most vibrant transformation of a commercial strip since Vanderbilt. Density has played a role there, particularly the conversion of the Jewish Hospital complex into market rate apartments that very quickly filled up with young couples and singles priced out of prospect heights and elsewhere. The strip is bookended by good transit as well. Lefferts Manor, beautiful as it is, is not generally populated by the kind of young recent arrivals that go out and spend money at bars and restaurants (if I had a viking range and a chefs kitchen, I'd stay home too.) LM's greatest asset, its remarkable historic integrity, is also part of what's kept the neighborhood from being able to support and sustain new amenities. Rogers Ave will likely never support that kind of walkable density. Flatbush could, in theory, but suffers from an absolutely abysmal pedestrian experience for all the reasons we all know. I yelled at a guy for littering out of his car window the other day, and realized that it's a hard case to make when so much of Flatbush is absolutely trashed 24/7--this despite the noble cleanup efforts people have undertaken. The problem with the park block of Lincoln is that it's too short. There literally aren't enough spots to get a real diversity of options. I'm curious to see how Parkside Ave changes when this 270-unit condo/rental complex at the Caledonian Hospital goes on line. Could it have the same catalytic effect that the Jewish hospital had on Franklin? Maybe. Traffic calming on that parkside-ocean intersection would be a welcome change, too. Improving quality of life for everyone in PLG is going to be a long process involving a lot of committed participants, and it's not going to happen without serious dissent and argument. Not everyone is going to agree on what positive change would entail. But it's coming whether people like it or not, so it makes sense that QatP is calling for a serious and engaged and honest discussion/participation about what people would like from their neighborhood.

I for one am quite glad that the Associated has gone from zero to seven kinds of hummus. And they still sell salt cod next to the bananas. There's room for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Babs, goodness chill out. My ego isn't attached to my comments here. Nothing will "burst my bubble". If somebody invests tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a venture that's high risk even in the best locations, and does well on Rogers Ave I would be thrilled. But I'm calling it as I see it. Literally. I live two doors down from Rogers, can see it from my front window and I see very little foot traffic.

Anonymous said...

P.S. We as residents of Lefferts Manor do not avoid Flatbush. Not at all. We shop at Associated, happily, though we'd like more offerings. The Duane Reade at Parkside rocks and is eons better than the DR in Park Slope/PH. The new Play Kids store is wonderful. I like some of the womens boutiques on Flatbush. We love Blue Roost and go there. Absolutely would get food at Cafe Pompidour (sp?) if it were truly going to open and not just put a sign up. We shop at the new pet store. Flatbush corner markets are where we grab our cartons of milk. We use the B/Q train a lot, we go to the park with our child a lot. I'm talking every day if not twice a day. The ice rink at the park when it's done will be a huge huge new thing for PLG. Where will visitors go to eat? Flatbush. I directed a visiting family to Enduro the other day I encountered in the park, asking for a place to eat nearby. Investing time and energy and econ development into Flatbush is so completely worth it.

Anonymous said...

How about the small commercial sections on Manor blocks alongside the corner buildings of Flatbush? Where 65 Fen (on Fenimore) has hung its shingle. Those spots meet the cute criteria but have the density.

Gary of PLG said...

This discussion is so civilized, must be because we all seem to agree, I can't imagine that reflects the whole PLG populace, but nice while it lasts.

Another area we all understand is the need to get key stores rented successfully. The long empty Mikes restaurant is one such, as is that crazy abandoned project on Flatbush at Rutland Rd. I fantasize that bldg as a pet hospital and supply center, but it would make a great bank as well. As I recall Plus was working on ideas like these, is there another group hard at it now?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

If folks are looking for action, let me offer a suggestion. Create or join and organize an Economic Development committee of PLGNA. That way you'll already have 501c3 and can raise money from the git-go. Meet informally at first to figure out whether everyone is on the same page. It'll be fun! Ask Mark Dicus and CeeLeeDee and others to join in an advisory capacity - they're probably burnt out from all this stuff, but their wisdom is priceless. Invite people from other neighborhood groups to share their experience. And gradually create a plan.

If this is the sort of thing that floats your boat, you would be doing your community a solid, and you'd get to know your neighbors and neighborhood on a deeper level. Yours truly will be happy to promote your efforts in any way he can. The listserves are also very active and can help galvanize support.

I nominate Gary to lead the effort!!!

Plus, PLGNA is nothing without great committees, and Martin, Quest Dynishal et al could use more strong, smart, and committed people helping to revitalize this once proud and powerful organization.

Two cents dispensed!

anon said...

the little commercial insets off Flatbush (like 65 Fen, mentioned above) have lots of potential, but the real key chess pieces are the corner establishments. The eyesore on the corner of Maple is a prime example of a place that holds a whole block back. Does anyone know what's going into the recently shuttered bodega/deli on the corner of Rutland? And the Mike's place is for rent for $3500/mo now, (which seems like a good deal compared to the $5000+ they wanted when Farmer's Diner was looking for a lease there.)

I'd be interested to know what the commercial landlords on Flatbush think about this, or whether they care about what happens to the neighborhood at all. Has anyone ever spoken to them?

babs said...

$3500/mo for the Mike's space? Seriously? That seems seriously underpriced to me as the space is HUGE - they wanted $10K when Farmer's Diner was looking at it, and negotiated down to $7K. That's the lowest I've ever heard them asking - are you sure you're not just thinking about what they charged PLGNA/PLGArts for the pop-up space month?

Anonymous said...

They charged considerably less than $3500 for the pop-up show, but that was a special one time deal. I've heard that the rent is now either $5 or 6K, depending on which source I listen to. I hope those are figures that would allow a business to actually make a go of it--the space has been vacant far too long.

Bob Marvin said...

Anon. 4:34 was me--sorry

babs said...

I knew they'd charged less than that for the pop-up but thought that the poster had mis-heard it. $5K - $6K for that space is certainly reasonable, given its size. Maybe the landlord has seen the light, after viewing the crowds who turned out for the show! A win-win all around if so!

Alexis said...

I'm interested in whether anyone has studied the evolution of Cortelyou Rd to see how its current businesses and how or if non-profits attracted them.

When I moved there in 2002, the only attraction was the Duane Reade and the Flatbush Food Co-Op. A number of gentry restaurants opened and closed, including an upscale Carib fusion affair. Then Picket Fence opened, 'stuck' as a family place with reasonable prices and mostly reasonable food before descending into fly-infested filth (see the Health Dept records) and a resale. Vox Pop coffee opened, closed, reopened, was cited by Sani, closed, reopened.

Just when the retail situation looked very marginal, The Farm at Adderley opened to critical acclaim and really *seemed* to galvanize the local food scene because the dominoes began to fall shortly thereafter. Cortelyou Rd was improved in terms of street furniture improvements, etc., but that all came afterwards. And there is still an element of danger--I was personally attacked and nearly stabbed coming out of The Farm at Adderley shortly after it opened and a barber was shot and killed in his Cortelyou Road business a month or two ago.

I don't think that the essential problem with PLG getting goods and services that upper middle class / rich people want is dirt, density or crime. All of these can co-exist with boutiques and restaurants, though they don't help. And conversely, anyone who has been to the beautiful parts of Queens, like Kew Gardens, can see that it is possible to have a beautiful and low-crime nabe with upper middle class to rich residents and no vibrancy in retail and restaurants.

I'm not sure what PLG is missing, though I'm skeptical that it is a powerful non-profit; I think it's just going to take more time and more economic displacement before there is traction.

Ditmas Park went from being the most diverse neighborhood in America (by at least one mag's reckoning) with very little on the business landscape to an ever-whiter, ever-richer outpost of the Park Slope-decamped with some great businesses accessible mostly to people with a good deal of disposable income and if PLG gets a similar retail mix, it will probably be for similar reasons.

babs said...

I agree with you Alexis - no non-profit group (and certianly not PLGNA, which seems to have a very different focus)can single-handedly spur commercial development in an area. It has to come organically.

The owners of Farm on Adderley (and Sycamore) are Ditmas Park residents, and therefore were (and are) strongly committed to the neighborhood. Their presence, and that of Picket Fence, seemed to me to be the keys to attracting other businesses. Farm on Adderley, due to the excellence of its cuisine, quickly became a destination restaurant, one that attracted people from all over, and also made it attractive to other, similar, businesses. Now, the choices are more extensive every day.

That is what PLG really needs - a committed AND excellent restaurant to pull people from both in the neighborhood and elsewhere, to create a buzz about the location. There needs to be enough available real estate that businesses can open near each other, creating ease of traffic back and forth. I really see this happening more on Rogers Ave. than I do on Flatbush, due to the (seemingly) entrenched presence of places like Ray's and also due to the unreasonableness of many Flatbush landlords in their rental prices and in their neglect of their buildings.

Rogers is cleaner than Flatbush, with wider sidewalks and less stress for pedestrians in terms of both vehicular and other pedestrian traffic. In appearance, it is more akin to Cortelyou Rd. Flatbush Ave down there is very much like Flatbush Ave up here.

As a sign of revitalization on Rogers Ave, I would point to the recently-opened Lefferts Garden Deli, between Lefferts and Sterling, which replaced the seedy and decidedly unwelcoming Gomez Grocery several months ago. In marked contrast, it is clean and actually exists to sell legitimate merchandise. The owners have clearly made an effort to make the place attractive, from the straw-line woven baskets displaying produce inside to the professionally-done and tasteful exterior signage.

I stopped in on my way home from yoga class this morning for a juice and had a brief chat with the woman behind the counter, who may also be an owner. They will be carrying Naked juices and smoothies and are certainly open to suggestions for other items to stock. They deserve our patronage.

And to anyone who thinks I sound like a stereotypical gentrifier - yoga, smoothies, etc., all I can say is that everyone in the neighborhood deserves a choice in what to consume and where - and all of these things are worth a try by everyone.

So welcome to Lefferts Garden Deli and welcome to more small businesses in our hood!

Anonymous said...

This is the ad for the Mike's space at $3500.

No idea if it's legit, but there it is.

babs said...

There it is indeed - and quite honestly, from what I've heard, nothing about Rapid Realty is legit. But don't take it from me: The PLG office has only 2 reviews, but they're night and day: The agent on the listing, interestingly, is not from the PLG office, but their Park Slope one:

Anonymous said...

Babs, I beg you, just please don't present this as a Flatbush vs Rogers, either/or, proposition. What on earth is the point of that? We NEED to improve Flatbush too. There's no choice in that. If you don't want to deal with Flatbush yourself, okay. If people also want to bring businesses to Rogers, great. But nothing about PLG will change much if we can't improve Flatbush, the street outside visitors actually see when they arrive at the gardens or park. And I for one will not abandon the amazing business owners who did take the risk to open their businesses on Flatbush. They're not being scared off by Ray's or some litter. Kudos to those people, we love you. We're going to support you 100%.

babs said...

I'm in total agreement with you in that Flatbush can and should be a focus of business development and community action and never meant to imply otherwise - I'm really sorry if I gave that impression! I just think that, in all the talk about Flatbush, Rogers has been overlooked, and, in my opinion, has a greater potential for revitalization - Flatbush is already plenty active, both with new and long-term businesses, while Rogers is slumbering. Why can't we have two great destination streets in our midst?