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, February 14, 2012

More Fascinating Insights and Comments from Delroy Wright of FEPMA

The below is more direct response from Delroy that I feel warrants its own post, so that you may comment directly to his points. I have to say that after months of "speculation" it is so nice to have an actual expert on the avenue in our midst, someone with a bit of institutional memory for a long-beleaguered strip. For instance, who knew that a bank was once envisioned for Phat Alberts? - the Q

To Gary:

I totally agree with your suggestion to think out of the box. We have tried that and still willing to do so. I must give the boro-president Marty Markowitz credit for his effort in trying to guide us in that aspect when he was our state senator. Part of our collective effort involved trying to attract a Red Lobster to occupy the space at the South corner of Winthrop and Flatbush that now comprises a Deli and a Laundromat. That space was once occupied by an up-scale Italian restaurant suited for such a franchise. We also tried to get a bank to occupy the Deng building that is now Fat Albert and a Connecticut muffin franchise to come to the community. All efforts failed because at the time the area was considered too low income. We had entertained the idea of an Anchor store on our side of the strip. Well, we all know how that debate went down—“the killing of Mom’s and Pops stores”. I supported having selected Anchor stores then and still feel strongly about them now, thus my reason for considering the value of establishments like beauty supply stores and salons, and barber-shops.

The overall idea is to attract customers to the strip from outside a three block radius and these type entities by their very nature are able to do so, which ultimately benefiting other stores by spill over business. Case in point: A trip to a beauty salon can take hours or a shopping trip to a West Indian food supply establishment from out of towners (as far as Boston or Connecticut) generates income for our neighborhood restaurants. This being said, I am quite cognitive of the benefits that can be derived from a change in the present make up of the merchant strip as I keep in mind the unique cultural make up of the area.

Now to address the expansion of the BID from South Flatbush to our side. That may not be possible or well advised, since in the past there was some conflict involving both sides. FEPMA was once reprimanded by the South Flatbush BID and asked to mind its own business when we played a key role in facilitating the formation of the Vendor's market on Flatbush and Caton Avenue. This stemmed from the "peddlers' issue that became over-bearing and we were forced to make a decision to protect legitimate merchant business and improve the commercial landscape. At the same time we felt that we could assist the peddlers by finding them new space to conduct business. This came at a time, during the Guliani administration, when there was no tolerance for peddlers and the squeegee type menace. The climate was conducive to penalizing violators and then former Councilwoman Una Clarke, being sympathetic to Caribbean and African vendors, with FEPMA's assistance initiated what is now the Flatbush Market.

As to the advisement, FEPMA has always maintained that both sides of the strip are separate and distinct in their make-up and we wish to maintain that distinction. The side that currently comprises the BID is strictly commercial and our side has a mostly residential setting. Yet while we want a more vibrant commercial setting, we recognize the need to maintain that close-knit community that is uniquely ours.

For example, during the crack era, when crime rose and commerce fell, the merchants became the day time caretakers and the residents, the night time (the police could not do it by themselves). This level of dependency still exists today and speaks volumes of the uniqueness of the community.

Yes, I want to see the merchant strip take on a more resilient appearance—Mark Dicus and I tried to address this. However, revitalization involves a true partnership between the parties of interest—concerned residents and progressive merchants. Some merchants lacked vision  and  failed to dream of a new clientele base and prepare for it.  Some residents, on the other hand were too ready to discard or dissolve the make up of the merchants body as it existed then. Both of these  parties  are heavily invested in the community and they hold strong to the philosophy of their investment bearing fruit—whether its family or profit.

So to address the myriad of issues the community faces, we have to be willing to enter into a comprehensive and objective discussion. We need to drown out the demagogues so as to make room for those willing to have an open discussion. The changing demographics demand conversations of change among old and new residents.. What was not feasible then may now be more feasible and may just require an open-minded approach.

To Ceeledee, thanks for your support, it’s greatly appreciated.

Delroy Wright
Executive Director
Flatbush Empire Parkside Merchants Association (FEPMA)


Anonymous said...

Great response, Delroy. Thanks for the concerted effort and thought. The only thing I would add to the effort is to look to Brooklyn franchises (as I already mentioned), like CT muffin, and hope that at this time they are ready to expand here. With the blue roost, ginos and enduro, a sitdown Chinese (Hunan Delight, Mr. Wonton) or Thai restaurant (Song) would be a perfect fit. Also, I had no idea that BID politics could be so destructive.

I REALLY hope that you're willing to try reaching out to Brooklyn franchises again. Jim's success might help bolster the argument.

Thank you again!!

Anonymous said...

It is a great response, Delroy and helpful for everyone to hear a history of your efforts in a nutshell. Even though others in my demographic (the "gentrifier") often oppose big anchor stores and turn their noses up at them, I myself think it's a great idea for the mixed community that we are. A big anchor store like a Target or Costco (which there were rumors about years ago for Empire Blvd) can employ hundreds of people including young males which is a group with a very high unemployment rate. I take a big-picture view and see a big anchor store as having the potential to remove kids from the corners. Empire Blvd is/was so perfect for that kind of store as it offered space and parking. But we're only getting big storage rental buildings there. The Northern border of PLG is now the storage-unit-capital of Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add my gratitude to everyone else's! Thanks Delroy.

The only "red flag" that I see in your response is the idea that the myriad salons on Flatbush could be an asset - I just don't think that's possible. I am not an expert, but there are a lot of central Brooklyn areas with a TON of salons, and it does not make sense to think of PLG as a "destination" for hair and nails. Clearly, the salons should be in business and turn a profit, but bringing diversity to the neighborhood is the way to grow - and, hopefully, new growth would benefit the salon business as well with additional street traffic and new customers.

I agree with the 1st post: local Brooklyn chains would be a great place to start. I'd like to add Zaytoons to the list!!

carrie said...

Just want to add that not all white feel the way that the person above does. (And some of us are embarrassed by the frequent slags white newcomers make on the saloons.)

I love that local saloons do well on Flatbush; they keep the street lively and populated (safer) until the wee hours. Yes, we need a more diverse commercial strip (and I personally would vote a strong thumbs down to Red Lobster) but hair and saloons can and should be part of that mix.

Delroy Wright said...

On the subject of beauty salons, there is a cultural aspect that needs consideration. The wave of Caribbean immigration to the United States in the 70's brought a different dynamic to entrepreneurship in Brooklyn. Caribbean people migrated to the US with the primary purpose of achieving the "American dream' and returning home. This commitment still shapes their self motivation and ambitious drive. Caribbean women, especially, regardless of their educational achievement, were raised in a highly domesticated environment, thus their proficiency in cooking, hairdressing etc. Adjusting to a new society and its many challenges, combined with the desire to be self sufficient, they embraced the opportunity to own a profitable business. The dynamics of Flatbush Ave and to a lesser extent, Nostrand Ave., as it relates to early settlement of Caribbean folks, provided the appropriate comfort zone. As others settled, driven by the success of their neighbors/friends, several beauty salons emerged.

In most cases the passionate desire to become entrepreneurs in a strange land, overshadowed key business practices, namely comprehensive business plans that include marketing strategies and preparation for changing demographics etc.. Sometime ago, before dreadlocks became popular, I saw a sign in a Park Slope window stating "We do dread locks". That spoke volumes in my head because of the connotation-dreadlocks is considered religious (Rastafarian) and a natural growth process. However, excellent marketing skills prevailed in this innovative idea—-look around and see the emergence of the style in all genres. The same mind set needs to be applied to this changing neighborhood. When will we see a sign advertising for white hair stylist or barber in the PLG area—especially on Flatbush Ave.? This question authenticates the comment made by Anonymous: “Flatbush Ave being known as a NY destination”,--as long as that brand can be developed in a unique way. FEPMA and NAMA (Nostrand Ave Merchants Assoc) have planned educational workshops to stimulate and engage business growth among merchants in the months ahead.

pam said...

thanks to all. over the past couple years i have also reached out to several groups- the YMCA, Trader Joe among them- asking them to look at the phat alberts space, and i have asked several thai restaurants in the Slope, as well as the Olive Vine in the Slope, to consider moving to PL. so far no one has bitten. what do we need to do?

babs said...

I would love to get my hair done in this neighborhood, but the several salons I've consulted all told methey didn't do white hair. In terms of attracting new merchants into the area, both the Myrtle Avenue and Fulton St BIDs offer public tours of available spaces, marketed on their websites as well as on posters in store windows - we really need that kind of organization here. Incidentally, from a recent conversation I had with a Connecticut Muffin executive, they're still not convinced on this neighborhood and are looking at opening their next location in Crown Heights.l

Gary of PLG said...

It is clear that you are committed and knowledgeable in this area and we are fortunate that you are trying to make things happen.

I agree with your assessment that PLG is a different area than our southern neighbors and therefore Flatbush Ave from Parkside to Empire might benefit from a separate effort. Thanks for that clarity.

Why is PLG different? one reason is that our demographics are changing faster (in terms of origin as well as wealth) than neighborhoods to our east and southeast. Some might call it gentrification but that is an argument waiting to happen and I'd just as soon not have it.

Many people have said that they don't want our nabe turning into Park Slope. I've said so myself but I can't really say precisely what I or they mean by that. I do see in the comments that many people (me included) would like some of the PS businesses to branch into PLG.

As far as anchor stores go, I like the Associated Supermarket as model anchor store. It has evolved to service many needs and is surprisingly good. It is an anchor for keeping people shopping in our neighborhood as opposed to attracting people from outside the neighborhood. I would like to have a great restaurant that attracted diners from across the city, but more important is having good restaurants that satisfy more of the neighborhood needs. Same with bars and entertainment, and merchants.

As far as hair salons go we should have nothing to say except 'let the free market work - supply and demand'. If they all can make it, more power to them. If they are servicing a lot of people from other areas that will balance out sooner than later. There is room for them and the other merchants we need.

To attract new businesses I think we need to be able to clearly show the landlords and the prospective merchants how our neighborhood differs from the surrounding areas and how it is changed and changing. Perhaps, how it compares with Prospect Heights.

If you are trying to organize people to attract business to PLG, please make that clear and tell us how we can help.

Anonymous said...


First time looker at the blog site.
Our apartment windows overlook McDonalds and the Q subway station, along with others on the same line.

We have had a lot of problems, now put right, regarding loud music/noise coming from speakers outside the Q station, especially during the spring and summer.

Because of how our building is constructed, noise is amplified.

An arts market sounds cool in principal, but we don't want it coming with loud music booming into our living space even with the windows closed!!

The weekends are the only days we can rest from work during the week, and as such we feel entitled to a bit of peace and quiet.

We would be VERY interested in the details as regards the above concern and as long time residents, should be updated but by who?



Anonymous said...

babs, I'm very surprised! I get my hair done at one of the local dominican shops on Flatbush and I have never seen them turn down a single person - black, white, red. Trust me honey, when it comes to money, they don't discriminate.

babs said...

Please tell me (and everyone else) which one - I've asked at three places over the years (two of which are now defunct). Do they do a good job?

chris sunshine said...

Please ni more hair and nail salons north or south there nothing else to offer and why couldn't phat Albert be converted into a sports facility for all of flatbush...

chris sunshine said...