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, April 29, 2012

Walk It Out, PLG

This just in, from your neighbor April Greene of Hawthorne street, who'll be leading a walking tour starting from our beloved but neglected green sheet metal trees at the corner of Ocean/Flatbush/Empire. It's just one of hundred's of "Jane's Walks" happening all over the world this Sunday in commemoration of the original champion of unplanned urban diversity, perhaps the archetypal gentrifier, and a woman of enormous influence on cities around the world, Jane Jacobs, whose book The Life and Death of Great American Cities retains a seductive allure 50 years after its publication, even as contemporary urban planners continue to herald and/or debate her legacy. Or rather, it should be a lovely walk!

**RSVP** Prospect-Lefferts Gardens: Jewel in Brooklyn’s Crown

Date: May 6
Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Walk Host: April Greene; Transportation Alternatives' Brooklyn Volunteer Committee
Accessibility: Fully Accessible
Description: Get to know the friendly, historic neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, situated on the “Lower East Side” of Prospect Park. We’ll peruse some beautiful brownstones, intersections of interest, community art projects and great green spaces that have made little PLG a gem of a district for generations of residents and passers-by. See where a train went off the tracks in 1918, streets that are being re-imagined today and stately 19th century homes that still stand.

Every day, all over the city, Transportation Alternatives is working to revitalize New York City’s neighborhoods and restore a vibrant culture of street life. This walk features one of the many communities where T.A. advocacy brings safe and healthy streets for all.

Meeting Place: SW corner Flatbush and Ocean avenues; under stand of metal trees
Ending Place: Petite Blue Roost, 43 Lincoln Road, between Flatbush and Ocean avenues

The Parkside Prize Gets Its Hands Dirty

Big kudos to all who showed up for the cleanup days this weekend, from FEPMA to NMA and a merry bunch of trashbag stuffers from the Parkside Prize/Project, who braved the seasonable temperatures last Saturday morning to make Parkside less trashy, even if just for a weekend. Thanks y'all!

Ever Wonder What This Looks Like?

Just in case you were wondering what it looks like when they put up a Subway sign on the corner closest to your house:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Church Ave - Up Up and Away

The revitalization of Church Avenue continues this weekend with a humble street fair from East 10th to Argyle. Improvements to the stretch between Ocean and Coney Island Avenue have been slow but steady. It shouldn't be long before people are talking about this stretch in the same breath as Cortelyou or Frankin Avenues. How does this sort of change take place? Well, for one thing, it's almost never an accident.

I know I've posted ad nauseum about business development and how it does or doesn't happen. I'm endlessly fascinated, particularly as I bike around the borough, noticing how each "main street" develops its own character. Each blossoming avenue in Brooklyn has a unique behind-the-scenes story of how it transformed from raw to cookin'. The Q is convinced that Church Avenue is ready to explode, and scuttlebutt is that a new funky destination restaurant etc. for families is opening there soon called Lark. Did the two local momtrepreneurs have to go it alone? Nope. They had big encouragement and help from the Church Avenue BID, local families on their listserve, and a small business loan from CAMBA. Here's the flyer from CAMBA about said loans:

Nothing's stopping YOU from applying! Granted $15K is hardly the total capital you'll need to start up a successful joint on the Flabenue or Parkside or Lincoln Road etc., but if you're on the fence about investing here, it might be a tipping point for you.

Someone commented herein recently that if people want to see new types of businesses they should consider opening a place and joining the hyper-entrepreneurial trend that's sweeping the borough. Actually, NYC has always been hyper-entrepreneurial, so I don't know why I'd bother calling it trendy. But it's reaching a fever-pitch (been to Billyburg lately?) Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the City, (along with the artists, immigrants, banks, subways and a bunch of other lifebloods, so come to think about it, forget that worn metaphor "lifeblood" thing). Hey, maybe you know someone. Maybe you ARE that someone. Since we don't have a BID, let me be the official "welcome to the Flabenue."

INSIDE SCOOP: Did you see the sign being taken down at the recently closed wig store on the NE corner of Flatbush/Clarkson? Turns out it's going to be replaced by a Subway. As in sandwich shop. To which I ask...six-inch or footlong?

'Twould be a fantasy of mine if Jared the previously obese Subway spokesman came to the ribbon cutting with a couple of Sleestaks in tow. It would probably look something like this:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meet the New Boss

His name is Jack Lewis. He's tall. He's disarmingly friendly and clearly interested in what you have to say. He's got a good sense of humor. He grew up in Flatbush (Beverly Road), and has worked all over Crown Heights and East Flatbush, with a short stint in Carrol Gardens/Red Hook over 24 years in his chosen career. And...he's the new top cop around here. (In this context by "around here" I mean the 71st Precinct, which covers the north side of Clarkson north to Eastern Parkway, w/the 70th covering points west of Flatbush and south of Parkside. Go figya. My friends across the street have a whole different crew serving them.)

He's been with the 71st Precinct just two weeks, having replaced Peter Simonetti, so I got me one of his brand spanking new business cards when I stopped by Tuesday evening. He had invited members of the community board to stop by so I took him up on it, along with Rabbi Nachum Gross of the Lubavitcher community. It was a lively chat (what a funny threesome we made!) and I appreciated his intimate knowledge of the streets around here and he even noted a couple of "hot spots" before I even mentioned them. We shared a laugh about the building at 162 Woodruff which the Q recently outed as home to a cult from way back in the early '80s. He said they'd always wondered what was up with that building, such quiet folks keeping to themselves all locked up like that on a super-tough block, eventually selling their Olde Good Things for a living.

Do I have a point here? Not really, except that I've never sat down and chit-chatted with the C.O. of a NYC police precinct before, a good ol' hombre-to-hombre, with "the Man" before. He's down-to-earth, likes to talk about cop-life, and frequently sees the head of the 70th Precinct Eric Rodriguez at the local grocery store and talks shop. That grocery store? It's in Staten Island of course. Which is in NYC, for those of you without a 5-borough map.

Folks in the neighborhood are looking to sit down with him to discuss troubling trends and community policing and he's looking forward to it. He also told me some intense stories about how the bad guys are often aided and abetted by indifference in the parole system, something I'd heard but never confirmed. And he sounded all the right notes to Rabbi Gross about the recent bias beating of a Jewish man not far from the precinct. I know, I know, "alleged" bias beating. I'm new to this "journalistic integrity" bag. And frankly, any savage beating is pretty biased already.

On a related note, today the steady stream of people entering and leaving an apartment at 35 Clarkson continued unabated despite the calls of many on the block. The thugs ride up and down the street AND sidewalk all day on their scooters and (yes) mini-ATV. They've taken the building hostage, the street too I dare say, and I've been following the progress to arrest and evict these low-level hoodlums by staying in contact with the building's managing agent. that cell phone number Captain Lewis gave me came in real handy.

Welcome Jack! We'll be in touch...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Join the Good CLEAN Fun

There are no excuses anymore. Come on out and help make the neighborhood more prettier. This weekend, as the Q reported here, the merchants of Flatbush (FEPMA) and Nostrand (NMA) have set aside Saturday and Sunday for their cleanup, grafitti-removal and gate painting days. The relevant info is on these flyers, and I urge one and all to come out and lend your support:

Then just two weeks on, an extraordinary coalition of the willing comes together in unprecedented fashion to beautify Flatbush from Grand Army Plaza all the way down to Lenox Road. It's called Flowers for Flabush and they're looking to bring everyone and their grandmother out to mulch, bag, plant, clean and generally take part in a massive mobilization in the name of heightened aesthetics. The brainchild of Skei Saulnier and the Mad Mommas at PLG Civic, they brought in Marty Markowitz, the Botanic Garden, Prospect Park and are recruiting any and all. Give Skei a shout at or call 917-309-3569. Of course, you can just show up at any one of the starting locations noted below. It's spring, baby!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Public Service Announcement - Van Stolen

A note came through the wire this morning of a stolen van. Cars get stolen all the time, but this one broke my heart as it belonged to a band and all their gear was inside. The group's called Lucius. The Q did many years with a touring band and our beloved van named Mensy, so if you see the described vehicle or any of the gear, be sure to give them a holler here and I'll pass it along. And let this be cautionary tale to everyone - this is still NYC and the bad guys still live here too. Good luck Lucius.

My band (Lucius) and myself are all Ditmas residents and we are so sad to say that we had our van stolen Thursday morning on E. 17th and Ditmas. It's a champagne/tan color 2009 Ford E350 Econoline 12 passenger van. there is a very minor dent on the rear bumper right side, but otherwise the car is pretty damn clean. the new york plates are FYW-3876 but we JUST got new york plates a week ago so our old plates were still in the car which were Texas plates BL7Y292 so they could have easily swapped them.this is a list of some of the gear that was inside, any posting or help spreading hte word would be extremely helpful and much appreciated. this is our livelihood 

Ludwig vistalite drum kit in tequila sunrise
apple fender strat
traynor amp
cymbal bag with 4 cymbals inside (zyldjians and others) 
Sheraton (with no truss rod cover)
black korg microsampler
red korg SV1 keyboard
tons of drum hardware in a black beaten up suitcase
tons of percussion 
2 keyboard stands
tons of pedals (electro harmonix holy grail plus, digiverb, Dunlop original crybaby wah, Digitech whammy IV, Dunlop Univibe, Boss TU 3 tuner (x2), Boss DD20 giga delay, MXR carbon copy delay (x2), Fulltone OCD, Fulltone Full drive 2, Electro Harmonix Holy grail plus, Electroharminix switchblade, POG (x2), red fulltone boost pedal.) 
60 Lucius tshirts and 200 Lucius EPs  (ha)
12x9" graphic drawing tablet 
Johnston and Murphey shoes 
north face backpack. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Q & A(rts and Culture)

A stroll to the Park this morning yielded this delightful sight at our beloved Q:
Yes the Arts & Culture Fest has arrived and will settle in every Saturday til it gets cold again. As the Q reported in February, Atim Annette Oton and Javaka Steptoe have gone to great lengths to create a nifty bazaar at the plaza in front of the Q at Parkside. I didn't have time to peruse all the offerings, but here's a picture of artist Noel Hefele in front of some of his landscapes.
Word on the street is that at this early juncture you can get a table for as little as $50, though have to fit the theme are subject to curation by the organizers. (FYI, don't just show up with your own table like I always do at public gatherings. You never know when you're going to need a 6' folding table, I always say, but it's considered bad bazaar etiquette.) I'll bet the price will go up when the bazaar gets cooking - figuratively and literally, as there's gonna be some food happening too. A growing list of vendors includes : A&CF Vendors.

And since I'm too pooped from celebrating Little Miss Q's 3rd birthday, I'll combine this post with a question. What's going on with the Parkside Coffee Shop, previously Parkside Donut, the curious combination eatery featuring the mouthwatering combination of Chicken, Donuts AND Pupusas? It appears they've moved into the short-lived pizza joint next door and are making room for...any ideas?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Q In the News

The Old Gray Lady it ain't, but Courier Life's Brooklyn Daily did a little piece quoting some of us fired up gadflies titled Commuters Say Parkside Avenue Is Falling Apart. Hey, it's a start.

There's More Than One Way To Birth a Baby

The Q's little ones entered the world at the same address where they now play, sleep and eat. The experience was intense, particularly where the nearly 11 lb. second one was concerned. (Men: this is not for the squeamish; Women: words cannot begin to express my sympathies). Where a healthy pregancy is concerned, perhaps it's an option you'd like to explore. Among others.

But there's more than one way to squeeze out a puppy, so perhaps you're in the market for ideas that run the gamut? If so, we're big fans of our doula last time around, local mom Sarah Pancake, so we highly recommend the following workshop:


with Sarah Pancake and Shara Frederick

Come find out what the NYC birthing community has to offer.

Tuesday, April 24, 6:00 to 8:00pm @ Play Kids

676 Flatbush Avenue ( Q at Parkside ) PLG

A childbirth educator and a doula (both moms) help you to navigate the overwhelming array of options surrounding labor and delivery. Choosing a provider and a birth location; how to put together a great support team; how to navigate your pain management choices – from using your breath to getting an epidural; and ways to avoid an unnecessary cesarean section. Bring your questions and concerns. Many New York City birth resources will be available.

Sarah Pancake is a DONA International certified labor support doula. She began attending births for friends 15 years ago before becoming a professional doula 6 years ago. Sarah has had the honor of supporting more than 150 women and their partners and loved ones through their labor and births here in NYC. Sarah is a Lamaze trained childbirth educator.

Shara Frederick is a certified Childbirth Educator and Labor Support Doula. She has worked since then to provide labor support and postpartum support to growing families. She serves as a mentor in the NYC Doula Collective and as part of the Education Committee for Choices in Childbirth. She is one of the co-facilitators of their monthly "Healthy Birth Choices "workshops. Since 2010, Shara has been hosting classes for couples planning homebirths as well as for couples delivering in hospitals and birth centers. In 2011 Shara joined Community Midwifery as a birth assistant. She is currently finishing her prerequisites to apply to midwifery school.
Cost: $5 to $15 per person sliding scale

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Views From Inside Singapore Day

Sorry, but this story is just too bizarre to let slide. Seems Singapore Day 2012 left a mighty mess of garbage in its wake, including tons of construction debris used just for the one day event. Too much garbage, y'all! And just a week out from Earth Day! Tssk tssk. They were still cleaning up truckloads of garbage on Monday, meaning the Nethermead was effectively shut down for five days. Not cool. Especially, as I noted before, because the park WASN'T in it for the money. If not for money, was it for the love? You be the judge.

Local dad Jeremy Zilar brought the family to the outing, and after passing through the all-but-the-body-cavity-search checkpoints, they were greeted with an onslaught of trade-show style booths, many which were clearly NOT family-friendly, at least by Brownstone Brooklyn Standards (BBS, whatever that means; it just kinda rolled off the Q's keyboard). Check out these extraordinary photos of Singapore Day 2012, brought to you by Prospect Park:

Singapore Day 2012

Singapore Day 2012

Singapore Day 2012

Singapore Day 2012

Yes, Singapore is a nation morbidly in love with its own sense of (in)security. And while this is all very fascinating from an anthropological perspective, does the public really need to be supporting a police-state trade-show in our beloved Park? End of story, I promise.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Trees Are Thirsty Too

There's been a conspicuous lack of H2O dropping from the heavens lately. And not a lot of rain in the forecast neither. From our friends over at Hawthorne Street comes an important reminder that our beloved street trees are in danger during even short stretches of rainlessness. So...what can a tree-hugger like you do to help?

First off...notice your trees! I say "your" because they ARE yours, and the City is not going to take care of watering them, so it really falls to all of us to adopt, or keep an eye out for, the trees in our vicinity. Some trees DO get love from the supers or owners nearby, but the vast majority fend for themselves. Sure it would be great if you went all gung-ho and built some treepit guards and planted a few hardy plants to adorn your tree and kept the pit free of trash and poop and...but let's be serious, you're probably not going to want to go that far. So here's alls you gots to do:

In a week where there's less than an inch of rain, consider bringing 15 to 20 gallons to your beloved trees. "But I don't have a hose" I hear you saying. Well, three or four trips with a five gallon pail will do the trick! It's heavy, this water stuff, but if you think of it as both mitzvah AND workout, maybe it won't seem so bad. And when people, especially kids, see what you're doing, they might just ask how they can help, and you might just start a movement. Carrie from Hawthorne has this tip:

We find that a tall kitchen garbage can and a hand truck is the easiest way to deliver water down the block. A neighbor and I share, so we can use have two hoses and two cans going at once to make the job go quicker. Best time to water is first thing in the morning or after sun down.
Or if you get really into it, maybe you'll go whole hog and get a Treegator, ensuring a slow even flow to the roots:

Actually I have no idea what that product is or whether it's any good, I just came across it and it looked like someone took a green bag, gave it a name, poked some holes in the bottom and is likely selling them for $29.99 online.

And while we're on the subject of street trees, the Community Board's district manager Pearl Miles seems to have the golden touch when it comes to getting street trees re-planted when they Do die, so by all means give them a call if you see a tree that isn't coming back. (Give it a week or two though; some are late bloomers. Look for the tiny buds that most should have by now).

Contact: Pearl Miles

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Singapore Planning

Well, the Singapore Day event has come and gone with hardly a scratch 'n' sniff from local media. The Q is quite surprised that nobody really picked up on the potential public relations fiasco that the Park could've endured at the hands of some misunderstandings and misinformation.

I got a call from the Park's VP of Communications etc. and he managed to convince me that Prospect Park is not in fact for sale to the highest bidder. It would appear that Singapore Day officials presented their plan as a free event open to all, but mistakenly or by master design reverted to the core purpose of the festival - to fete and bribe Singaporeans to love the Police Banking State of Singapore and potentially return home or at the very least speak well of them. The Prime Minister's office is in charge of the event which started in 2007 right here in NYC at Wollman Rink in Central Park, a venue which is quite different than the Nethermead where it was held on Saturday, since you could easily close it off and rent it, unlike the 'Mead (as I like to call it starting right now) which is basically a beloved open space where dogs and run free and their owners can flirt. (C'mon, tell me you didn't buy the dog knowing you'd meet cute singles!)

I think it's safe to say that the Park regrets that they weren't more on top of the way Singapore Day was selling the event - basically to Singaporeans only -- as in the website stated outright that the event was restricted. In the end, not so many people showed up as they anticipated, meaning that the $4 million event cost about $1,000 per pop, what with flying in vendors and musicians from the motherland. There was something just wrong, all wrong, about the event in general, which SHOULD have been held in, say, the Javits Center, since it really had the heft, scent and feel of a convention rather than a public sharing of culture. And if my sources can be believed, the Park did NOT bank a lot of dough, though CLEARLY it should have, and if they ever get around to hiring me as Director of Development I'll do my best to see that they are VERY WELL compensated by flush regimes like Singapore for even, say, using the toilets. This was a marketing event pure and simple. For a $4 million party, the park should have netted at least a half a mill, instead of just aiming to cover their nut. Sorry to sound harsh, but it's the potential revenue that they botched, not the free or openness angle. Go ahead, shut down the Nethermead now and again, but please rake in the dollars so we can have nicer amenities all year long. Agreed?

And speaking of "partially free and open" events...what's the big deal about this Great Googa Mooga thing? It's embarrassing just to write that phrase, let alone listen to the "buzz" generated by a really dumb sounding pumped up wine and artisanal cheese snoozefest that managed to sell-out all its pre-registration tickets before announcing a single musical act, proving once and for all that food IS the new rock 'n' roll, since it's clearly the headliner, which suggests to me that we live in very, very hedonistic and insensitive time (anyone heard of poverty or famine?) to elevate high-art cooking over political engagement and social activism.  Or for that

The Q is not entirely over the hill however, or unable to savor fine cuisine...he likes the "youth beat music" of today and enjoys a good grass-fed burger now and then like the rest of you. But sheesh!

Mansoob Gut Job

The new owners at the old Mansoob's deli building are going to town on the renovation of their building at the NE corner of Parkside/Flatbush. The deli is staying according to the current, how shall we say it, disengaged proprietors, but no word yet whether the deli might show the neighborhood some love by cleaning up its act. It's one of a few eastside of Flatbush delis that sort of bring the look of the whole area down, not to mention some of them acting as safe-havens to local hoodlums. How, you may ask, do businesses turn to the other side? Intimidation, and sometimes cash. I mean, think about it - I've counted more than a dozen tiny storefront delis in the direct vicinity, not counting grocery stores, and simple math will tell you the area can't support that many joints, and the least successful sometimes get desperate for dollars. If I were a proper investigative journalist I'd dig deeper into the story of how some storefronts become crimefronts, with the shelves being stocked with only the barest of necessities and a few high-volume items that keep the biz from looking completely crack-worn. The Q first learned about the practice over 20 years ago, when even downtown Manhattan was full of shady numbers-running storefronts with little in the way of legitimate sales. And as someone who looked like he was in the market for "non-essential dry goods" I'd get offered a bag or two from time to time, not by the person behind the counter mind you, but by someone suspiciously stationed inside the store, like, ALL the time. I'd pretty much forgotten about that aspect of the crack era, but recent conversations with folks who remember brought it all back to me, clear as a bell. Locals have hipped me to the way it works in our area, though it's difficult to say whether any one particular business is skirting the law or merely incompetent - I know of two that are 100% in collusion with local thugs. Given that I used to look more like a good-for-nothing than I do now, it's hysterical that people tell me that when I walk into one of these places everybody acts cool, but as soon as I'm gone they go back to talking gangsta business (thanks D.J. for the tip). This is one of the reasons I want to speak with the D.A., because it would be nice to know what the law can do to shut down these businesses. And lest anyone think I'm picking on ALL the businesses around here, far from it. I love the restaurants (most), the beauty places (most, and some are downright spectacular looking) and boutiques, and nearly all show respect for their neighbors by keeping their shops tidy and signs and windows cheery and unadorned with outdated garbage. Hey, I'm not looking for a cute town in the Swiss Alps here, just some basic decency and self-respect. And yeah, Original Struggs I'm talking to you too...clean up the filth and dog crap that's constantly in front of your store and tree pit or I swear I'll...I swear I'll...I mean...I'll come over there myself and...and...clean it up myself.

Playground a Big Hit

The Q and some pals decided to spend Saturday afternoon at the new basketball courts on Winthrop tween Bedford and Rogers yesterday, and the scene was jumping (literally and figuratively). There's a bunch of good looking exercise equipment that the kiddies were playing on since the toddler playground is still fenced off (why it's still not clear - looks finished to me). The gravity powered and as yet untarnished exercise equipment carries this label:

Kids have been breaking into the playground lately, not safe methinks, and the porta-potty for workers inside the fence became a makeshift "hideout" during one round of imaginative play the other day that involved hiding from the Q. I think I may have looked a bit like an authority figure and they kept saying "we gotta run and hid from the big man." It's weird to be that guy, but I was happy to play the role.

The nets on the rims have actual nets on them, a rarity for outdoor playgrounds, and I hope the City Parks are committed to keeping them replaced. Because probably 60 people were loving the space yesterday and will be all summer long. It's a pretty minimal investment to bring so much good-natured and healthy facilities to so many local kids (and a few gr'ups, myself included). Calder and I invented a game using a basketball called Grundle using the strange badmitton looking lines on one part of the playground, and if you ever want to play you can learn from the co-inventor of the sport, soon to be an Olympic event I'm sure. Game on!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thoughts From a Mtg

Yeah, I was there. It was a real nice room too. You know that really old and "important" looking building behind the old Dutch Reformed Church on Flatbush at, uh, what's that's street's name...Church? There's a community room there that's just PERFECT for a community meeting. Coincidence? I think not.

It happened last week, the community meeting, so I kinda blew through deadline on this one, but you know I'm both the writer AND the editor around here so I can cut myself some slack. Anyhoo, what went down last week at the combined Woodruff Ave Block Association and East 21st Street Block Association meeting was this: a bunch of cops from the 70th were there, a dozen or so community residents were there, Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs was there with Ed Powell (who works for Rhoda's office AND chairs the 70th Precinct Community Council, and founded Umma and led the effort to build Umma Park, interview w/Ditmas Blog here) and the whole proceedings were led by a real cool character named Walter whose last name I forgot and I wrote it down too but lost the piece of paper (due to poor journalistic practices like writing meeting notes on receipts from the food coop, which when I find them in my pockets I always immediately toss and berate myself for keeping such insignificant pieces of paper in jacket pockets when in 15 years of membership I've yet to return anything to the food coop cause it's too much of a pain). So a bunch of people were there, and when I walked in (late) I was ushered over to a seat at the table where a longtime resident and friend of the Q's was giving a full-throttle description of the gang and drug activity taking place in broad daylight along Woodruff near Flatbush and the cops said they'd take a look, though it seemed pretty clear to me they wouldn't, even though they had basically been given all the information they needed to go out and start cleaning things up. Frankly, I think the scene over there deserves some kind of narcotics operation, but I'm feeling kind of tired of the whole alerting the cops thing and I want someone to just take care of the problem rather than citizens having to get up in people's faces and try to force stuff happen. Know what I mean? Like...there they are! Drug dealers, gang bangers, a couple of delis getting paid off to let the shit go down, numbers running and plenty of public intox and I guess that's all just hunky dory and I should shut my big white trap and mind my own business as one guy said to me in one of the delis last summer after a shooting. Or as the cops from the 70th have have said to me and to others when asked what we can do about this problem or that...and I quote..."move." Honest to God y'all when you ask a cop around here what can be done, they'll tell you it's your fault for moving into the wrong neighborhood. The Q wrote to the 70th community affairs guy and said that's not acceptable and I have yet to hear back.

Walter and Rhoda and Ed are awesome and I love that we have people like them still at it after all these years, but they were quick to offer my least favorite response - you know the one about how "it's so much better than it was." I mean, doctors are much better than they were in the Victorian age too, but that doesn't mean there's not still VAST room for improvement. Someone said to me once "Q, what problem do you have with people hanging out on the street anyway?" to which I say I don't have ANY problem with people hanging out. I have a problem with thugs, drugs and guns...and as even Walter put it at the meeting, and HE'S been around the block a time or's obvious as all hell when people are up to no good, and THAT's the kind of hanging out that nobody should tolerate, but we do, because we're all too scared to do anything about it, except the folks at the meeting who are all pretty much on the same page, and frankly the cops are not leading on the issue, they're following, or causing more problems by randomly shaking people down rather than posting a beat cop or two where the problems are and keeping an eye out for patterns of criminal activity. There's a mini-drug-hotel happening on the south side of Woodruff, with no landlord or super in sight, the building's in receivership (whatever that means) and one would think the cops would want to show up every now and then and let folks know the the drug action is unwanted at the very least. This would actually ENHANCE their relationship with the community, most of whom ask only that the cops do their best to try to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad, but for all the talk of cultural sensitivity training most of these cops are (no offense) more Staten Island than Caribbean Island and they seem to see the community like it's a wild animal park to be tamed and tolerated, not engaged. Isn't that the whole idea behind community policing, to get out there and get to know us? Even the beat cops you DO see are texting all the time and not paying attention. Seriously, how many times have you walked by a cop and he's busy with a cell phone, smiling to himself about something he's just read? There, I'm done ranting and now I can go back to trying to be constructive and polite. But really, the texting cops need a talking to, and it better come from another cop, preferably of higher rank, and not me, because I have a feeling I'll just get arrested myself for noting the issue directly. Maybe I'll just text it to them.

Walter and Evria (she's the new Woodruff Block Ass pres, Walter's E.21) are holding meetings regularly, first Wednesdays of the month, and I'll let you know when they happen. Because these are the sorts of places where the real work of community improvement can get done, or at the very least, the real needs of the immediate area can get communicated to the cops or elected officials. The Q will keep you posted on an upcoming meeting the the D.A. Charlie THAT will be something worth attending, and I hope to see a big crowd!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cleanup Woman (is a great song by Betty Wright)

We're just gettin' started round up, that is. First up, this Saturday is cleanup day for the multi-use Wingate Park, which stands in the shadow of Kings County Hospital, where Rutland Road to the north and Winthrop to the south meets Brooklyn Avenue. Wingate's got something you don't see a lot of in NYC - a full-on track, like in, for running, um, track, and a regulation (euro or american) football field. It's also a swell place to catch a concert, with some of the Q's favorite artists ever having played there in the last few years. (Funkadelic, Ohio Players, Aretha Franklin, Salt 'n' Pepa - yes, the Q does enjoy to shake his booty, literally and figuratively, and has been called Funk Mountain by Mrs. Q, which I think means she tolerates my love for the deep grooves more than fully endorses it.) Here's the deets on the cleanup:

and here's a stolen image of the park:

Yes sir, that's a track all right. So I suppose if you have some shots you want to put, or javelins to throw, this would be the place to do it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Singapore Judgment

From a Caledonian reader comes word that the Singapore Day in Prospect Park this upcoming Saturday is for Singaporeans and their immediate families only. Which would be cool, except that it breaks park policy to hold an event for members of a specific group only - a/k/a discriminate. As in, I guess I'll have to cancel my "Obese People Only" event later this summer in the Lake. Here's Elizabeth C.:

Have you seen the signs for "Singapore Day"? I was all excited to attend--except apparently it's ONLY for Singaporeans! It's a cultural festival only for people of it's culture! NO SHARING ALLOWED!

It was presented to Prospect Park as a day open for just need to register. But when you register, if you AREN'T from get rejected! Prospect Park just realized this today, when it reminded everyone to "register" on FB, and people replied that they tried and got rejected.
It's a juicy story and I'm sure other actual "news" outlets will get the full story. I'm just passin' it on...sounds like a massive misunderstanding, OR someone tried to pull the wool over the Alliance's eyes. Here's their response as of a few moments ago, though the point is moot, cause the event's gonna sell-out the Nethermeade no problem:

Regarding the Singapore Day post below...

We are sorry for the confusion. The information we posted about registering online is incorrect. The event is open to the public when you register for the event at the event.

We are double checking the procedure for the day of the event and will let you know.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Personally I find the "closed" registration incredibly obnoxious, but hey, Singapore's a police state. I wonder if there will be a public flogging display? And don't DARE litter!

It's quite likely the event will reach capacity before you get in. If you're non-Singaporean and happen to swing by and try to attend, shoot me a note and let me know if you get in!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cleanup, Cleanup, Everybody Cleanup

In my catbird seat over at the ol' Community Board, the Q has noted a marked uptick in the number of people actively doing something to combat messy trashy messiness in our neck of the borough. From the Mad Mommas of PLG Civic's Cleanup Days to NAMA's efforts to make Nostrand more appealing to shoppers, now FEPMA's joined the ranks and is organizing a weekend of beautification along Flatbush, from Empire to Parkside. (And the Q hopes that the many businesses just off Flatbush and along Parkside will join in as well!) For its part, the Lefferts Manor Association will be cleaning the side streets and painting flower barrels.

The full letter from FEPMA's  leaders is below. Feel free to shoot an email to executive director Delroy Wright if you'd like to know more or sign up to get some free paint for your gates or storefronts. Or just show up on the morning of April 28th or 29th from 8am at 653 Flatbush.

If you're part of a neighborhood or block association and would like to join the effort, you will be welcomed with open arms. Should be a great day to show some pride for the neighborhood and get to know your local merchants.
April 9th 2012                                                                               

Dear FEPMA Merchants:

On April 28th & 29th 2012, a neighborhood clean-up and graffiti removal will take place. The effort is spear headed by FEPMA and NAMA (Nostrand Avenue Merchant’s Association).  Two other Merchants Associations (Kingston Avenue and Utica Avenue) and the Lefferts Manor Association will also take part in this effort.  Your participation will not be a lost cause on the neighborhood.

What are we asking you to do?
  • To sign up to participate. Consent form is attached.
  • To clean and prepare your shutters for the repainting and graffiti removal.
  •  To sweep, collect trash and wash down your store fronts
  •  To remove clutter and old posters from your windows.
What will we provide you with?
  •  We will provide you with paint and painting supplies such as: Paint Brushes, Rollers, Drop Cloths, Roller Frames and Paint TraysBrooms, Shovels, Rakes  and, Garbage Bags
What will we require of you?
  • To prepare shutters, by cleaning over night for the next morning’s graffiti removal.
  • To  provide at least one person to assist in the morning effort.
  • In addition, FEPMA organizers will provide some neighborhood volunteers to assist in the effort. However, we do expect merchants’ labor in cleaning and removing the graffiti from their locations. We also request that you provide some light refreshments and snacks for the volunteers.
What is the time frame of the main effort?
  • The time frame of the main effort is 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday April 28th  and 9:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m. on Sunday April 29th 2012.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dust-Biters: Pizza joint and Ditmas Park Blog

Neighbors seem divided about the (temporary?) loss of Mike & Tony's Pizza on Flatbush, presumably over poor health grades. But what of this joint on Parkside?
Sure the pizza was dreadful, but the location should have given it a fighting chance. It wasn't open even a year. An insider tells me that the owner of Parkside Donut Chicken Pupusa & Coffee Shop is tricking out the old pizza place so he can move his Donut/Chicken/Pupusa powerhouse into larger digs - though larger by not that much - unless a wall is planning on coming down. As to the Flatbush pizza wars, I'm back to Family Pizza, though M&T's had a miles-better crust going (when they bothered to fully cook it - which was most of the time). Slim pickin's 'round here for top-notch anything but Caribbean fare, though we DO do that better than any City north of Miami. The Q doesn't eat out enough to care that much, but it's still a mystery how Brooklyn can have literally exploded food-wise and our Hood stays blithely unawares of the culinary cacophony mere bike rides away. By the way, have you noticed that the beloved Ditmas Park Blog became the Ditmas Park Patch? Seems the founder Liena Zagare lost control of the old blog to her short-lived gig at AOL/Patch and let her popular neighborhood newser change hands and looks. Thus, she and Mary Bakija, Liena's protege and author of offshoot The Flatbush Blog, started Ditmas Park Corner to continue posting with the folksy charm that led DPB become one of the most read neighborhood webzines around. In fact, it was after reading a few days worth of DPB that the Q decided to try blogging himself. Not that I ever had any desire or business acumen to try to turn a profit, but for awhile there DPB was so successful that AOL's Patch Media hired Liena to help lead its nationwide "local news advertising strategy." How is that working out, now that 1,500 or more people are on Patch's payroll and AOL has sunk more than $150 million into it annually? Not so good - seems advertisers aren't biting, but the CEO holds fast, but most analysts say it's only time before Patch pulls the plug, leaving hundreds out of work and a whole plethora of blogs to fend for themselves. And now Liena is back running a publishing empire in Central Brooklyn. Seems fitting - she's great at it.

Does it matter? Probably not. Weirdos like the Q will probably keep blogging for fun and for reasons of civic curiosity. I just don't believe that readership will ever be large enough for small-town blogs to interest serious advertising or investment. Most of the things that made local newspapers money - ads, classifieds - are better handled by Google and Craigslist. And the news itself comes is free and easy to come by via le internet. The Q will stay non-profit and independent, because frankly I'm too lazy to hustle advertisers, and too proud to fail miserably at anything but home repairs.

That said, you should feel free to write me anytime with ideas for posts, or new businesses, or recommendations for businesses you trust. I'm @ theQ.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Speaking of Loony...

Surely you've noticed the "all night" tattoo parlor that just opened up in the basement of Envy Nails, on Flatbush tween Parkside and Clarkson on the east side? This block is fast becoming one of the zaniest in the 'hood, what with Peppa's all-night smoke-fests, Jamaican Pride's killer food but outrageously loud backyard overnight heavy machinery, Closeout Heaven's awesome but chaotic daily Algerian Bazaar, the wildly popular and vigilante-style cell phone hut (highly recommended by the Q and Mrs. Q), that Flatbush Fashion joint that no one ever shops at and the owner sits out front all day, our wonderful holdout from the pre-digital days Global Electronics, the two urban boutiques each with the name Brooklyn Finest whose owners used to be partners but now rivals, the former Gran Bwa owners sidewalk incense stand, the fabulous teensy weensy balloons 'n' parties shop Kupid's, and now a barely legal though strangely beguiling tattoo parlor that insists on leaving its metal basement gates open all night. Ladies and Gents, I give you Envy Tattoos:

Delirious New York? Try Delirious just can't dream this stuff up!

Kingsboro Psychiatric to Stay Put

If don't have health insurance and were planning a lengthy nervous breakdown, good news came recently in the form of a last second reprieve for local longterm psychiatric care facility Kingsboro. Fans of the B12 know it's on Clarkson just east of the main Kings County buildings. Local lawmakers are being given credit for saving the facility from the chopping block of the current NY State budget. Forgive me if I sound cynical, but I've often wondered if said lawmakers don't allow such closings to show up in the budget, just so they can come in like white knights and save the day, knowing all along the such closure was absurd. I mean, how do you close a place like this and send dozens of seriously ill people into other crowded conditions miles away? You'd think that everyone would know a closing like this wouldn't fly, but like I said, maybe I'm drawing too many jaded conclusions.

Regardless, I've had a chance to see the NY City mental health system up close (your joke about the Q goes here, though let's just say yours truly is not the patient - this time anyway). I've come away impressed by the level of care that can come at the hands of government-financed hospitals. I mean, it's no Club Med, but given the fact that we live in a country without a coherent health care system, the uninsured at least have options, and not all of them stink. Bellevue, for instance, does a pretty good job. Kings County's short-term mental health and substance abuse inpatient building, also on Clarkson, is a major improvement on the old facility, one that regularly made the news for incompetence. Though I suspect there's still plenty of indifference in some quarters, signs point towards a major improvement. So, when shopping for loony bins, don't forget your local options.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Q's School Tool: Part 1.5: Explore Charter School - A Closer Look

In which the Q begins to go tour and meet with as many schools in the nabe as possible within the next year or so. Explore's up first, and here's why...happenstance.

The pesky thing about being a curious blogger who writes about things he's curious about is that every time said blogger learns about something, he wants to know more about it, but given the limited hours in the day he starts to feel like he's only skimming the surface of every issue, and maybe that's just how it is - only PhD's ever get the opportunity to truly understand something, and even then, they end up kickin' up more questions than they answer. And so it is with education, and in particular, the schools situation in the immediate vicinity. Lots to learn. Lots of questions. And a lot of counter-intuitive surprises.

When the Q wrote about the recently relocated Explore Charter School on Parkside Avenue and how it was taking applications for its upcoming lottery after moving from its old digs on Snyder, I got more and more curiouser about the school and its leader Morty Ballen, since he's the sort of rip-up-the-playbooks kinda guy that folks in the reform movement seem to be looking for. Then, out of the blue, Morty shoots me a note and says hi. Guess he saw the post. And we made a date to the school. So I got a tour and a talk with the founder and head of the Explore Network - all for writing a silly blog post. How awesome is that? And I thought I was just keeping a stupid journal...

Morty's great. You'd like him instantly. Informal. Genuine. No B.S. He loves helping kids learn, and he's created a positively quaint little school on the 4th Floor of a building that initially didn't exactly welcome him. You can thank the teacher's union for that. Charters rub the union the wrong way, since most charter schools are non-union, and they often compete with other public schools for space. I'll expound more on unions in a bit, but let's just say that Morty and Explore's current principal Trace Rebe have created a very comfortable medium-sized K-8 school that's teeming with smiles and good vibes. They favor co-teaching with classes of 30 so they can split up by level or have one teacher up front and the other supporting. The "office" is small too; just a couple of stern-but-sweet women who know all the kids names and probably all the parents to boot. I'm betting if you matriculated at the school you'd know everybody's name in a week-and-a-half. There's about 60 kids per grade; there's a music teacher and an art teacher. They share a decent gym and cafeteria with their co-habitater school. Some complain about how much testing kids do these days, but on the day I visited kids were happily taking individualized computer tests that had cool graphics tracked how far they'd gotten and it looked pretty much like standard in-class work to me, with a digital flair. The staff was fairly young, idealistic like the charter network itself, and Ballen stresses things like balance in teacher's lives. Probably not a bad place to work, though work they clearly do.

So what's going on here? Is it a "revolution" in education? Far from it, says Ballen. It was refreshing to hear him say that there aren't a lot of BIG new ideas in teaching. I've heard it said that great ideas get co-opted and used immediately across a spectrum of teachers, schools and leaders - it's hard to keep secrets; when something works, it gets used. Is the population at Explore different than the other public schools around here? No, not really, though you do have to have the wherewithal to sign up for the District 17-favored lottery (which happens next week) so you might end up with a slightly more motivated parent body. Students are predominantly children of children of the islands, much like the neighborhood around it. I didn't see any Asian or white kids, if that's the sort of thing that matters to you. Actually, you know who it DID matter to? There was a writer, Sonny "N.R." Kleinfeld of the NY Times who was doing a piece on the school, and he and I chatted for awhile and all he wanted to talk about was how segregated the school system was, far worse than the South pre-busing. I was shocked that someone from the Old Gray Lady would actually find this to be "news," but he seemed honestly outraged that most schools are all minority when the neighborhoods around them have been fully or partly gentrified. (I guess he's never heard of private schools? Or lying about where you live? Or hypocrisy? Or rather, he must not have kids methinks...nice guy though.)

No, no revolution happening at Explore or its sister charters. Unless by revolution you mean giving smart committed teachers the tools and support they need to succeed. During Morty's teaching days, he saw and resented the apathy and bloat that clogs the system. He was even naive enough to think that if he could start a school un-tethered to the Union's perverse systems he could just hire great teachers and press go. But in fact, a school is like a business, and it needs leadership, incentives, love (tough and soft) and even professional support in order to thrive. That's why all of the back office functions of Explore and its sister schools are handled centrally, outside the school buildings. Teachers therefore have resources - need supplies or new curriculum tools? Call headquarters. Got some cool new ideas you want to try out? Share them with the network. Need money for a new program? Call the fundraisers. Etc. Teamwork. Incentives. Flexibility. A school system WITHIN a school system.

Bottom line...go check it out for yourself. Don't rely on the Q, or, or word of mouth. There's simply too much bad or parroted information out there about schools, and I for one would LOVE to have people write in to the Q with their personal experiences with schools so we can really share honestly, rather than the grab bag of quotes one hears again and again about schools, principals, teachers and the cultures that may or not still apply. Personally, I think competition is great for the massive NYC educational boondoggle. But I will say that using a lottery rather than simple neighborhood zones for the Charters has created a perverse luck element that runs counter to the idea of creating quality schools close to home, especially in troubled nabes. Districts are big! And if you want your kid to go to a school within walking distance, with his/her friends from the neighborhood, you can't count on getting in to this charter or any other, and if you do you may have to take a bus past a number of closer schools to get to your "lucky" charter. My opinion, for what it's worth, is that charters should accept locals first, perhaps from a smaller "zone", no lottery, then open it up. Not like anyone's asking me, but...the luck thing bugs me.

Then of course there are many arguments pro and con about Charter Schools, but the one argument I buy hook line and sinker is that the unions - for all the good they may provide for teachers as workers - have not been particularly good at helping make schools better for the kids. The Q's a good union-loving liberal like the rest of you, but after years of hearing teachers I trust say they too are super-frustrated with the union, you gotta wonder. When rank and file thinks the union protects bad teachers and stifles innovation, I'm thinking the union is actually working at cross-purposes. Where it gets tricky is that teachers unions, unlike, say, the Teamsters, are charged with serving a very intense deeply intimate interpersonal function in the lives of our future citizens. And they're asked to be truly creative and flexible and compassionate at every step of the way. All day every day they're helping mold the next generation, and interacting with families, sometimes in a very intense manner. So while the Teamsters Union has made life easier and more humane for the Teamsters themselves, most people don't care about the stuff of the trade - the trucks, dollies, log sheets and equipment - the way they do their own kids, who are the "stuff" of the union. Am I making any sense? I hope so, because I've been looking at this problem from a lot of angles now for quite a while, even sitting on an unsuccessful charter school board and learning the ins and outs of school budgets, curricula and work rules. I'm no expert, but I'm starting to see things a bit clearer.

What teachers need is SUPPORT, and not just like those back-saving belts that go around a UPS guy's waist. Ballen et al seem to have their focus on all the right things. The school's not too rigid, nor is it too loosey-goosey. It puts a huge emphasis on parental involvement, and it rewards teachers who show great skill and creativity. It's small enough to feel like a community, and it's facilities are reasonably sufficient to the task. Check it out. The Q is curious (as always) to hear what you think. And if you or someone you know attends the school - please share your experiences. Night, night...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Caledonian Block Ass Meeting Tomorrow Nite

All Invited!!!
Woodruff Avenue Block Association
The East 21st Street Block Association
Host a Joint meeting " Working Together for a Safer and Healthier Community"
Wednesday April 4th, @ 7:00pm
Flatbush Dutch Reform Church
Flatbush & Church Avenue
Special Guest
70th Precinct
plus other elected officials

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bring Your Hazardous Waste to the Park Day - May 6

Have some HazMats in your basement or closet? Bring 'em to Prospect Park! Not to dump them in the lake, mind you, but for a special one-day Danger Dump at Park Circle (where Parkside meets PPSW). It's May 6, 10am - 4PM rain or shine.

Old jugs of Sunny D do not technically qualify, but will be accepted just the same.

The Deets on the Dump Day.

The Q's band had a song called Hazmats and a proper nonsensical mid-90s video to go with it. Here 'tis:

Hazmats by Babe the blue OX

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In Bold Move, DOT To Turn Flatbush Into Pedestrian Mall

As the Q mentioned back in February, DOT is in the midst of a major study of the Flatbush corridor many of us call "Main Street" or the Flabenue. After discussing the major issues, including suicidal Dollar Vans, rampant double-parking, lawlessness at intersections and psychotic jaywalking, both DOT and the Mayor's Office on European-Style Civic Improvements (MOESCI) have decided to cut their losses and completely ban automobiles from Empire to Church. Below, the agency's CGI rendering shows what they have in mind:

While palm trees may seem out-of-context now, DOT officials note that within five-ten years time winters and freezes will be a thing of the past, making tropical flora the go-to choice for northeastern urban planners. Spokeperson Cameron Carswell says "Most commercial buildings will opt for adobe construction, and Spanish-style architecture will dominate NYC south of the Bronx and Northern Queens, both of which will likely opt for a more North African, or Moorish, approach."

The Q is uncharacteristically speechless and writeless. I'm all for change...but couldn't we just put a couple of traffic cameras in for starters?