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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

If You Care About Those Dang Green Metal Trees at Flatbush and Ocean, Read On

Ask anyone who lives in Flatbush, and they'll tell you what they think of those DANG green sheet metal 'n' concrete trees at the very entrance to the neighborhood. Much maligned, adored or ignored, the trees are in a sorry state. The Q has spent a year trying to gauge what can and can't be done about the eyesores, even hinting at the most elegant of solutions (an Ole Fashioned Amish Sheet Metal Refabrication and Repainting!).

Well, as my better half is fond of saying if you're going to do something, do it right. A person has been identified who can fix and paint the trees to look good as new, for three grand or so. We could try to find City money or perhaps some discretionary $ from an elected official, or we could raise the money ourselves. It's not a lot of buck for the bang, and the Q contacted the head of Brooklyn DOT and he said he'd work with us to get the necessary approvals. What he needs first is Community Board approval to rehab the trees. Mike Cetera, a longtime City architect and resident red-tape expert, says there's a presentation to be made to the Design Commission as well, but that he can help make that happen.

Now I know that some of you would rather see the trees removed. That ain't gonna happen without a fight, and I for one am in no mood for one. IF the trees are here to stay for next few years, why not "spruce" them up? Right now we're basically telling the world "Welcome to Flatbush...where we don't give a crap!" Longterm, we should be thinking about reclaiming the whole plaza from NYCTA to create a public park space, with real honest to goodness all-natural tree trees. We can talk about that too, though my gut tells me that could take years and we're probably best off knocking them off separately.

If you have feelings about the trees and whether we should fix 'em, come down on Monday night at 7PM to Community Board 9 headquarters at 890 Nostrand right off the President St stop on the 2/5. It's a joint meeting of the Parks and Transportation committees. After the discussion, we will make a recommendation to the full Board for a vote at the June 26 CB meeting. It'll be nice to see each and every one of you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Inside the Lefferts Gardens Charter School

The Lefferts Gardens Charter School is nearing the end of its second year in existence. While there were certainly some rough patches for LGCS on the road from brainchild (first date) to getting its charter (conception) through it's struggle to cohabit peacefully with PS92 (shotgun wedding), it's really quite remarkable how this little "hands-on learning" school has grown to be an important part of the fabric of the neighborhood in so little time. As LGCS continues to add a grade each year on its way towards full-fledged elementary schooldom, it might look back on 2011-2012 as its terrible twos. And yet, after talking with three very-involved parents of the super-important Parents Association, the Q feels incredibly impressed and hopeful that all will be full-steam-ahead for Year 3. Since the school's opening, I've heard rumors and second-hand info from folks from time to time, but for the most part, it's been hard to get a clear sense of what's going on over on Parkside near Rogers. So my lively and lengthy conversation with these actual ueber-moms felt like just the tonic to quench my curiosity.

Earlier this year, LGCS's inaugural principal peacefully resigned, pledging to stay through the year, and the Board and its parent association representative have been vetting candidates and soul-searching ever since. If you were to believe the naysayers and alarmists, the fact that Marc Magnus-Sharpe jumped ship was a certain death knell for the school. Far from it say my interviewees. There are undoubtedly many sides to the story, but one well-articulated viewpoint is that Marc was an incredibly likable and capable leader who perhaps wasn't a perfect fit for an early education start-up. Another side points to discord between the school leader and the board. Regardless of any past politics, this little charter school with a super-specific mission - to use the environmental sciences as a core value - should be able to find another leader who can make it work. Apparently, they're quite close to naming someone. Long story short, there are a lot of talented educators and administrators out there - LGCS will likely find a dedicated person to guide it through its next phase.

So what is the school all about? For a long time there was no website to speak of, so outsiders had little chance of gleaning useful tidbits. The "A Day in the Life" section of their newish site here has lots of great narrative descriptions to help parents gauge whether the school sounds like a possible fit. If you're intrigued, go visit the school. There's no better way to truly get the vibe - I've been, though not in the classroom. It's! The school offers regularly scheduled tours throughout the year, so by all means go and ask questions if you're curious. Class sizes are 25-27 ish, though with two co-teachers in each.

The women I spoke to were as committed as ever after the first two years. They hope to engage the community more, through things like the school's "tree stewards" program wherein the school adopted a dozen street trees around its perimeter. And by all means check out the following events that are open to the public and happening this week:

 Art Show
Wednesday, May 30
5:30-7:00 PM

Second Floor of 601 Parkside
Third art show of the year displaying student work produced with the artists-in-residence.

Mighty Milers Fitness Fun Run

Saturday, June 2
10 AM-noon

Basketball courts on Winthrop between Bedford and Rogers (behind school building)
LGCS students run/jog/walk a mile to raise money for arts programming for the 2012-13 school year.
Other activities include a group warm up, live DJ, healthy snacks and beverages, and award ceremony.

The Q recently landed himself in a bit of controversy by landing a quote in the NY Times about how middle-class white parents are loathe to go to nearly-all black schools. For my lengthy response to being so tersely quoted, click here, and I hope I made it painfully clear that my biggest complaint about that quite obvious "fact" is that it misses the more nuanced issues of culture, income and the remarkable diversity of what gets called "black" on the census and in school data. [And for THAT matter, the diversity of what gets called white. I mean, right here in Brooklyn I could (inadequately and probably over-stereotypically) describe 20 different sub-genres of whiteness, but they'd all show up "white" in the racial stats from the schools.] Suffice to say, what distinguishes District 17 isn't so much it's blackness, and that's not to say it isn't plenty black. It's its poorness. Only the charter schools around here seem capable of attracting a student body where less than 90% get free lunch, the metric by which such things are measured. And if you ever wondered what income level gets free lunch, it's 130% of poverty rate and under...this year a family of four making $30K or less would qualify (charts here). Whether you care deeply or not that a super-majority of a school's population is paying out-of-pocket for its "pink slime," it blows me away how high the poverty statistics are for schools around here. Some are 95% or higher, a couple define reason at 100% (not a single family of four making more than $30K among 200+ families?). The only schools that have less than shocking poverty are those that you have to apply to - like charters and a couple unzoned non-charters. IN CONCLUSION: The numbers don't lie - middle-class parents (white, black and green) are simply not attending locally zoned mostly-poor schools, and will put in the required effort to go elsewhere - some have told me they've applied to 10 or more throughout the City, with some involving long commutes. Honestly, it's nuts, though truth-be-told even in richer districts, most public schools are overwhelmingly poor and minority. Even as the borough gets wealthier and whiter, the numbers don't budge too terribly much year-to-year. And that's because, of course, if you have the money in this town, you stay the eff out of the public schools, even if you give them lip service.

So it was perhaps not surprising that early in my conversation with the P.A. reps we got on the subject of race and culture and poverty. LCGS draws its students by lottery. District residents may apply. District 17, where most NE Flatbush/PLG/Caledonians/South Crown Heights folks reside, is largely West Indian and African-American, with plenty of variety beyond that co-majority. LCGS reflects this, and in many ways mirrors the population in the district much better than the locally zoned schools. That is to say, it's poor but not ALL poor. By district standards, there's a fair number of whites attending. And from our conversation it's clear that a fair number of whip-smart educated folks send their kids there to boot. (I'm not saying that's not true of the other public schools, notably 375, 92 and 249; I have yet to gain any traction to get an interview there, and will probably have to focus on parents there too)

But truth be told, the moms of LGCS admit it ain't always easy crossing barriers of income, education and culture. For example, it can be extremely hard to bridge the digital divide when trying to communicate effectively with parents over the very interwebs that have made communication and gathering info so much quicker and easier. Expectations about everything from discipline to uniforms vary greatly among paretns. There is, also, a proud tradition of highly disciplined education in many of the Caribbean nations - the more rambunctious nature of American students rubs some West Indians the wrong way. An African-American mom with kids at a local school recently said, disparagingly, "the Caribbeans are taking over, and I'm taking my kids out." Wow. So don't think the nonsense doesn't cut all ways! Or to create an utterly awkward metaphor, there's a lot of different cheeses in the school fondue.

Bottom line, if there is such a thing when it comes to education, is this: the KIDS are generally doing fine. They're learning. They're making friendships and they're, for the most, gaining skills and learning from each other. There was an unfortunate incident this year that was the single biggest bummer beyond the unexpected change at the helm. Apparently, a teacher had to take medical leave right at the top of the school year, leaving a classroom in inexperienced hands. The Q has heard first-hand accounts from a couple families who lived through this very frustrating situation, which came as a total shock after a brilliant first year. One dad tells us he got fed up, presumably over the same incident, and has found a spot at another non-charter school for this fall. I pointedly asked the P.A. members whether the school was "bleeding" kids, and they seemed none too worried. The leadership eventually acted on parents concerns, and the new permanent teacher turned out great. It's interesting to note, though, that LGCS's homepage states that applications are still being accepted for this fall's wait-list, weeks after the official lottery, so it may well be that a few families are leaving the school or choosing not to attend after "winning" the lottery. That said, it won't be hard to fill the spots...most charter lotteries, LGCS included, have hundreds more applicants than spots, highlighting how desperate parents are for choices beyond their zoned school. If there are spots open, they will surely be gobbled up.

One last note, something that I had almost forgotten til this conversation. LGCS grows a grade every year, meaning in just two years it will need to find a new home. So just when you get used to the idea of the school residing at PS92, they're most likely gonna have to move. But just as Explore Charter School survived its move to just down Parkside near Nostrand, LGCS will likely have the guts and stamina to withstand a relocation. So if you happen to have a few tens of thousands of square feet with a gym, cafeteria and playground that you just happen to not be using, please let 'em know. They'll be happy to take care of your street trees in return for a long-term lease!

I hope that those of you in the community will share your thoughts in the comments section. I took the time to get to know some of the dedicated parents of LGCS so I could pop the vacuum and let in (out?) some air. The Q wishes the school the very best in its ongoing mission. Godspeed, LGCS.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Friskin' the Night Away

Until a couple years ago, the Q thought Stop and Frisk was what my cats did when they were feeling peckish. It's quite the hot topic in town (as if we needed more heat), and now we have some pretty intense data to back up the assertion that the NYPD uses S&F a bit over-zealously. WNYC posted this cool (though kinda low-tech if you ask me) map that shows where the most stops happen. I don't think I need to tell you that the overwhelming majority of stops happen to men of color. Hey, they even nabbed a black City Councilman, Jumaane Williams last summer during Labor Day's West Indian festivities. Here's a much more informative look at the issue than the Q, as a hobbyist with an eye-patch from elective lens implantation surgery, could ever manage: S&F Story in Times.

One thing that jumps out at me about the map. The 70th Precinct is hammering the NE quadrant of their area pretty hard. Which makes sense, in a way, because if you've wandered south of Woodruff lately you'll see tons and tons of cops, part of the Impact Zone that unleashed dozens of rookies onto the streets for special first-year training. I learned this by asking some pairs of cops, and it follows that if they're going to stand out there they're probably going to try and do some "work." Hey, it takes time and practice to become a good stopandfrisker.

But while I appreciate the large numbers of cops in a fairly hectic neighborhood, I'm hesitant to endorse a policy that makes hundreds and thousands of stops of law-abiders part of its acknowledged collateral damage. And just because there are some uniforms on the street, this is most definitely not the kind of "beat cops" many of us in the community have been asking for. Beat cops get to know their constituents over time, developing relationships, and determining (hopefully) who's really naughty and nice. No offense to the young policemen in the 70th impact experiment, but I can't imagine they have the kind of experience to strike the right balance between aggressive and over-aggressive. That's my two cents. Happy to hear yours. I suspect that the "right" answer is somewhere between the extremes of too much and too little active policing. Where's Officer Goldilocks when you need her?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Don't Even THINK About It

If you think for one minute that as a bicyclist you can ride willy-nilly in Prospect Park, you best be prepared to spend the better part of a morning in an incredibly hard-to-reach courtroom in Red Hook and, truth be told, learn an incredible lesson in civic justice. Let me explain...

Around 10PM one evening in March, the Q needed to get home from the Park Slope Food Coop where he had just purchased sundry items, just enough to fit snugly in the child carrier. To get from point A (Grand Army Plaza) to point B (Parkside at Ocean) he could either travel clockwise on the park drive or counter-clockwise. Clockwise is a little over half as far, and since the drive is closed to traffic and precious few anybodies are out and about at that hour, the Q took the route that made the most sense to him. He rode the WRONG way, clockwise, as he has done countless times before, often noting to himself that he should be careful not to piss off any of the budding Olympians who "train" on the loop and don't like it when other humans or animals get in their way. I usually ride slowly and with care so as not to surprise anyone going "the right way," counter-clockwise, but if a silly-clad speedster does bark at me I usually shout back something crass like "stick it back in your pants, Lance." One time, it nearly came to blows, but I stood my ground, even if I had been walking too slowly across the road. My bad.

On this particular evening, I was surprised to see police lining the roadway near the Boathouse. I confidently rode up to an officer to see what was the matter, and was surprised to be roughly manhandled, thrown in cuffs and shoved up against the police car. Okay, I exaggerate. I was politely asked for my license and written a summons and told to follow the rules. (Had I been African-American, I suspect the previous sentence might not have come as such a shock to you, amiright?) I was also told to show up in court if I wanted the summons reduced to a warning and dismissed. This was indeed the outcome that I was hoping for, so made a note to show up in May for my date with destiny. The venue for said date, looked like this:

The Red Hook Community Justice Center at 88 Visitation Place, so I've since learned, is part of a worldwide movement to create courts specifically for the sorts of criminal immortalized in Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant Massa-cree." In the 20-minute track, Arlo is arrested for dumping some garbage illegally, and he wouldn't have been out of place at Visitation place on May 17th at 9:30 AM on the Group W bench. I arrived precisely on time, had a few items confiscated for safe-keeping til I was out of harms way, and proceeded to a line, which in I waited for half-an-hour, til I was allowed in the court room itself, only to find that that first line was merely a line to get into the court, where the REAL waiting was going to happen as both criminal an enraptured audience for all the zaniness that is small-time criminal court. I got to witness more than 20 people go up to the bench (really low, barely more than an office desk height), speak briefly with a court-appointed defense attorney, get an interpreter in Chinese of Spanish if they needed, and then have the judge ask them one or two questions relevant to the charge against them. For the public urinator: do you understand that it is illegal, not to mention un-hygienic, to pee in a parking lot? For the food vendor not using gloves: does that defendant understand that he must wear gloves at all times? For the criminal trespasser: does the defendant understand that you were specifically forbidden from entering this place of business, even if it was just to play dominoes? For the brawler: do you understand that you must take an anger management course and try not to get drunk and call people names? The most serious offenses cost points on the license or community service. Most people, including the vendors who don't use gloves to prepare food, got $25 fines. Me, I just had to promise to read the signs more closely. Of course, I wanted to explain my whole coop shopping scenario and how silly it was to ALWAYS have to go counter-clockwise and couldn't you make exceptions for nice guys like me, but it didn't seem well-advised to take even more than 20 seconds from name called to dismissal. I answered "yes, your honor" and got my helmet and camera back and never looked back.

And now you know. I see people do it all the time, and I want to tell them this story. Don't ride the wrong way unless you want to find out how sad a 50-year-old man looks when he's been publicly humiliated by a judge for peeing. Actually, that was my favorite part. I'll bet he thinks twice next time, too.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stree Tree Stewards Beware - New Threat

Tree enthusiasts already know about the ferocious emerald ash borer, a bug reeking havoc across the continent. It looks like this when it's young:
 and this when it's all grown up:

I'll be honest and say I don't know an ash from my ass (they're very "tree-looking" trees I'm told), but supposedly these bugs have killed tens of millions of trees already across North America and have now been spotted in NY, prompting an Ash Borer Awareness Week.

Here's a vid showing how to identify the Emerald Ash Borer:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spring Has Sprung on the Flabenue

New shoppes, y'all. The Q and a neighbor were quarreling whether the shop opening in the old State Senator's office space (575 Flatbush) would be a 99 cent store or a cell phone store. Well, guess what? It's BOTH! What a brilliant move, combining two of the area's greatest needs in one convenient package. AND they're buying and selling old video games. Open very soon:

The great smoothie wars of summer are about to heat up (cool down?) now that B'Fruitee has opened across the street from the soon to open Purple Berry. The Q had no idea there was so much pent up smoothie demand, but we love a good fresh icy juicy beverage as much as the next blogger. Let us know how B'Fruitee compares to your favorite Smoothie Operators (apologies to Sade, who for the record, loves carrot/mango/banana, among others).

Local Thespian-Mom Is Latest "Woman of Distinction"

Holy cow, I almost missed this. And I was just talking to Siobhan O'Neill last weekend about her longtime role with PLG Arts and BeFreeGlobal. And here she is getting the Woman of Distinction award from State Senator (soon to be Borough President if you ask me) Eric Adams:

Here's the link to the announcement and Siobhan's bio. You might know her from her years mounting Midsummer Nights Dream at the Imagination Playground. They're taking this year off, but who know, maybe they'll return with MacBeth! Or in honor of the latest weather trend, The Tempest! Congrats! Exclamation Point!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Echo! Echo! Echo!

It's finally here. The Spring Echo from your friends at the Lefferts Manor Association. The Q loves the Echo and becomes visibly thrilled when he sees the freshly printed copies available at local bizzes. Here's the link: spring 2012 Echo.

Despite a glaring mistake in a front page headline on entrepreneurs Carl and Shelly Kramer, I'm always impressed with the high standards, visually and editorially, at the Echo. And how bout that tip that a new Fish n Chips joint is opening up next to Ray's on Flatbush at Maple, perhaps providing competition to the F&C truck on Lincoln Road? Priceless info!

A couple nits to pick though. For an issue so thoroughly devoted to the PLG House Tour - a seriously high-brow praise-of-high-incomes-and-house-prices-and-original-decorative-molding affair - it seemed odd to lead with Milford Prewitt's well-considered piece on the intense rich/poor divide in the neighborhood. His research related to precisely the same streets that the House Tour champions (June 4th...get your tickets now! $20! Proceeds to the LMA! It's serious peeping-Tom-style fun!). Because in fact, the decades-old house tour itself has been the single biggest booster of the single-family LM enclave that has driven house prices into the 7 figures, attracting precisely the demographic that has led to a wholesale reassessment of the desirability of the neighborhood to high earners, or if not always high earners, those with means to purchase homes, from earnings or equity or inheritance or elsewhere.  (I'm not sure why I feel the need to make the distinction, but it's often left out of the discussion, as if having a home that's worth a lot necessarily means you're income-rich. In NYC anyway, it's most definitely not always the case.)

Lengthy descriptions of expensive house renovations included, the whole Spring 2012 Echo issue mirrors the fundamental contradictions of the neighborhood itself. That it's not afraid to be what it is - that's it's strongest quality I think.

Also, my recent readings on Brooklyn history suggest that very few of the trees around here are 100 yrs old +, if any. Street trees were largely planted during spurts all through the century, and many of the borough's sweetest blocks have trees planted after WWII. Some blocks are just starting to look nice after planting campaigns in the 80's and 90's. On my street, Clarkson, all the trees were removed during the crack years, only to be replanted two years ago. 18 of them. Enough to make a serious difference on the block, in, say, 2030. IF, we take care of them, mind you.

And how 'bout that story on the actress who got a plumb part on Downton Abbey and got written out? Get The Onion's editors on the phone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brownstone Buddies - Be Free, Globally!

Many of you may already know the dolls "Brownstone Buddies." Some of you may know local PLG/Flatbush mom/entrepreneurs Janai Nelson and Crystal Granderson-Reid. Some of you may also know the locally-based micro-funding non-profit charity "Be Free Global," which is holding its 2nd annual fundraising gala this Thursday night. And some of you may even know that it all ties together, and that Janai and Crystal have woven a life-business-philanthropy quilt that seamlessly blends their interests, passions and skills. Not an easy thing to knit together if I do say so myself. The Q has for years tried to combine his love of pottery, Canadian football, Welsh proverbs and antique bottle collecting into a coherent whole. So I guess you can say "I get it" and hats off.

Check out those links and consider going on Thursday or donating. They've certainly latched onto a powerful way to make relatively modest donations have a huge impact. And take a look at their kooky BB kharakters below, followed by a sweet headshot of the two. Thumbs up and good luck. Ethan the Artisan's definitely my fave.

Well...hello Ray!

Walked by the corner of Maple and Flatbush lately? It's a bit disorienting, since longtime hooligan bodega Ray's cleaned up its windows. The Q has heard many rumblings through the years about nefarious activities wherein the cloaked Ray's has been implicated. Recently, and maybe still, a ferocious pit bull has been chained up outside by a really mean looking dude who is not much of a people-person. By extension, the dog is apparently not much of a people-canine.

In celebration of the cleanup, the hippies (on Rutland - you know who you are!) might sing..."LET THE SUNSHINE IN! LET THE SUNSHINE IN. THE SUNSHINE...IN!" It's a welcome change, and even the old sign looks quaint as a result. And hey, even drug dealers are prone to rickets. Let the sunshine in, indeed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

P.S. Mooga

From reader Matt Newman came this explosive revelation, best discovered by yourself by looking closely at the pictures. Hint: the secret ingredient was most definitely NOT "artisanal."

 And yes, Hunt's Manwich Sloppy Joe mix comes loaded with high fructose you know what.

State Fair Comes to Prospect Park

The hating on the Bourgeois Brooklyn State Fair (a/k/a Great Googa Mooga) has reached a fever pitch on the interwebs, but the Q isn't about to join the griping about the event itself. Having attended countless state and county fairs in my youth, the event seemed about right to me. Overpriced food; long lines, overwhelmingly pasty-white attendees, mediocre music (though with an "ironic" bourgie twist - for instance Van Halen tributes and the actual Hall &  Oates could have co-headlined the State Fair in Nebraska this year, and probably did). As with other State Fairs across the nation, this one perfectly mirrored its constituency. Where the Iowa fairs of my youth included butter sculptures, 4-H contests and world-class heifers, hep Brooklyn had myriad "artisanal" $6 sliders (read: very very small sandwiches) and wine-tasting tents. The Main Street USA vibe may have blown some relocated hipster fuses, and the many dissatisfied customers probably need to remember that "festival" experiences are usually a mixed-bag and that the keys to a good time are shady grassy knolls, blankets, bringing in your own water, and sunscreen. And zen-like patience. The people watching is really the star attraction. But wow, for Brooklyn this is mighty white people watching:

The Great Googa Mooga - Day 1 - Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NYC

Thanks are due to my Secret Jewish Santa (thanks man!) for the free-but-hard-to-come-by googie-moogie tickies, my family got a gander from the inside. Many weeks ago, when they were dropping the free tix on the masses, I had no idea what a Google-Moogle was, nor did most of the 80,000 lucky squat-on-the-website ticket holders. Brilliant gotta-be-there-or-be-square marketing left Brooklynites drooling for tickets...right up to the day of the gig it seemed to be working perfectly. Then the reality of logistics kicked in, and the rest is whiner history. Snafus and lack of food in the VIP Extra-Mookie part left many huffing and demanding refunds. Blah-blah-blah, ho-hum better-luck-next-time or don't-bother-going-next time. End of story.

No. Not end of story. For there was some intense urban soul-searching and perverse poetry to be gleaned from the event. Really.

Ever since the brilliant "Concert in Central Park" by the reunited NYC favorite sons Simon and Garfunkel drew 500,000 people to a free surprise concert back in 1981, our City parks have been host to big ol' shows from time to time. Wary of potential for violence or even terrorism, the move has been to try to contain the events through fences and security checkpoints. So just to do a concert in a public park you now need to go through One Police Plaza's checklist, gain their approval, and agree to their monster budgets. (Without elaborating, let's just say that Black Eyed Peas are more of a shoo-in than, say, Lil' Wayne. Simon and Garfunkel was probably a pretty easy sell even back in the bad-old-days of Central Park. Their hardest rockin' tune was Mrs. Robinson for gosh sakes.) Estimates for police coverage at events like this range from $300,000 to a million bucks. A negotiation typically takes place. Sanitation needs to get paid, and the Parks Department and Prospect Park Alliance have huge costs that need to be covered. While many have wondered if the Park is making big dough off events like this, it is in fact making SOMETHING, but nowhere near the numbers one would hope for closing down huge important areas to the public. Maybe they'll clear a couple hundred grand if there aren't a lot of unforeseen expenditures. I'm guessing, but it's an educated guess.

Some critics have been particularly vocal about how wrong it is to close a park at all, even for free events. I've enjoyed A.O. Scott, film guy at the Times, and his Twitter rants.  It's a compelling argument - that parks are "sacred ground" and deserve to be left unsullied by ads and commercialism (Celebrate Brooklyn and the bandshell aside, of course, being built for that purpose, sort of). For those of us on this side of the park, the combination of the Lakeside Project construction and the Extra Cookie entrance to the Grape Koogle Woogle meant that the Park was essentially closed for business, save the sliver between Ocean Ave and the roadway. But hey, once a year or so, what's the biggie? So the Nethermead dogrun was shut down. So the Audubon Boathouse was off limits. This was a BIG DEAL, this Kooky Wooky, and in the end, it was probably an experiment worth trying at least once.

But when you actually got there, and realized that nearly 1/3 of the Grated Googoo Mama was completely off-limits even to the free ticket holders...that you needed $250 smackers to even hear James "LCD" Murphy and Anthony Bourdain and Dirty Dozen Brass Band (thankfully they wandered around the plebe section later, probably just as dazed by the VIP thang as anyone)...NOW you're talking big collective cultural bummer. It's one thing to ticket an event, albeit free, for security reasons. It's another to make whole sections of the park off-limits to anyone who can't afford to drop a quarter of a thousand dollars on some haughty fried chicken and celebrity chef mischief.By the by, it's the VIP folk who are most miffed by what they say was shoddy planning and lack of food. (Yes, hunger hurts).

I suppose the whole thing was a marketers dream. Even the free folks were EXACTLY the demographic for countless luxury foods, wines, beers and lifestyle brands. On the VIP side, where Lexus golf carts were available when you became weak from the hunger, folks of the demographic AND the means were corralled in a nifty little pen. I can only hope that at least one lifelong Lexus owner was procured.

Oh that's enough from me. I'm not out to blame anything on anyone. After all, it's ultimately City Hall's call, and we voted 'em in. The City's current administration is eager to please big business and court bourgeois culture. There was probably little reason to suspect anything but a win-win-win-win-win-lose-win-win-win scenario. If the Crate Cooky Wooky were to ask me, I'd say by all means come again. But have it somewhere else not quite so public parky. I'm with our neighbor A.O. on this one (I think he still lives around here, doesn't he?) Let's keep the park the park and leave the festivals to the fairgrounds. Or the desert. Or Tennessee. Or wherever they're having them these days.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crime Blotter

Thanks to Nicole Fabri for making talking with Vinny Martinos of the 71st Precinct and compiling a list of crimes for the PLG sector of the precinct (remember, just a portion of the overall stats). We really need to get one going for the NE 70th precinct as well. Anyone feel like reaching out to them? I know one of the guys is Dominick Scotto over there at 718-851-5556, and he seems quite decent and friendly. They're always telling us that the more the public knows about the types and patterns of crimes the better prepared we all are to help prevent them. Cell phone swipes continue to dominate.

On with the ghoulish facts...

Crime Report
March 1 - May 16, 2012
March 6th, 11:00PM. Lincoln & Bedford. Victim was attacked with beer bottle and
cell phone was taken.
March 9th, 1:40PM. 41 Hawthorne Street. Victim was punched and cell phone was
April 2nd, 6:40PM. 203 Parkside Avenue. Perp tried to remove two cases of
Redbull from bodega and got in fight with storeowner.
April 3rd, 10:00PM. 365 Rutland Rd. Money taken from victim and victim punched
in the face.
April 5th, 4:00PM. Bedford & Parkside. Cell phone snatched.
April 12th, 3:30PM. 1050 Nostrand Ave, commercial Store. Perp threw storeowner
to ground, attempted to remove items from store but then ran away.
April 13th, 4:30PM. 1123 Washington Ave. Chain was snatched from person's neck.
April 16th, 4:30PM. Rutland & New York. Cell phone snatched.
April 20th, 10AM. 640 Rogers (on school grounds). Two males, 15 and 17 yrs old,
arrested for removing $20 from a fellow student.
April 21st, 4PM. 601 Parkside Avenue. Cash was taken from victim in a strong arm
April 22nd, 10:30PM. 373 Sterling Street. Victim was struck in face with unknown
object, money and cell were removed.
May 7th, 2:00AM. 380 Midwood Street. Perp threatened victim verbally and victim
gave perp money: $450.
May 10th, 7PM. Winthrop & New York Ave. Female was punched in the face in the
attempt to take a cell phone. Perp was unsuccessful in taking phone.
May 22nd, 12:15AM. 387 Maple St. Ipad taken from victim.
April 25th, 1:00PM. 320 Empire Blvd. Victim was found in lobby with gunshot
wound to head. Believe that victim knew the perp.

Felony Assaults

March 3rd, 12:30AM. 151 Clarkson Ave. Perp came in through open window and out
the front door. Electronics stolen. Homeowner wasn't there.
March 12, 1:00PM. 150 Lefferts Ave. Perp broke in the door, took money and
March 16, midnight. 567 Flatbush Avenue, commercial location. Cut hole in rear
door, entered and removed electronics.
April 18th, 2:25AM. 303 Fennimore Street. Came in through rear door. Unknown
items were removed. Homeowner wasn't there. Two arrests were made.
April 20th, 6:35AM. 541 Rogers Ave, commercial store. Broke front window and
didn't take anything - perp was arrested. Male, 21 yrs old.
April 20, 6:00AM. 245 Hawthorne Street. Rear window broken, jewelry taken.
April 25th, 12:30AM. 245 Hawthorne Street. Came in through front door and
removed cell phone.
April 30, 2PM. 316 Rutland Rd. Side window kicked in. $200 cash taken.
May 3rd, 7:00AM. 75 Hawthorne Street. Side window of home was open, perp came in
and stole electronics.
May 9th, 8:45PM. 135 Clarkson Ave. Rear window broken. Electronics and cell
phone taken.

Grand Larceny (No physical force between victim and perp)
March 8th, 6:00PM. 1142 Nostrand Ave. Cellphone snatch. No physical force between victim and perp.
March 10, 1:00PM. 345 Lefferts Ave. Fraudulent check in the sum of $2450 deposited from victim's account and money was removed.
May 7th, 2:00PM. 246 Lincoln Rd. Identity theft with credit card.
March 7th, 7:30PM. 1332 Nostrand Ave. Cell phone taken.
March 25th, 10:00AM. Nostrand & Winthrop. Jewelry was taken.
April 5th, 7:40PM. Nostrand &Winthrop. Cell phone taken.
April 6th, 4:00PM, Parkside & Nostrand. Cell phone taken.
April 23, 12:15PM. 346 Rutland Rd. Rear window was broken and some items were taken.
April 12th, 12:00PM. 181 Hawthorne Street. Identity theft.
April 13th, 12:00PM. 392 Fennimore Street. Identity theft.
April 11th, midnight. 191 Hawthorne Street. Craigslist fraudulent bounced check.
March 7th, 8:30PM. Hawthorne & Flatbush. Cell phone snatched.
March 18th, 10:00PM. Flatbush & Empire. Cell phone snatched.
March 18th, 7:30PM. Rutland & Flatbush. Cell phone snatched.
March 22nd, 4:30PM. 25 Lefferts Avenue. Broke into a car, took book bag containing credit cards and electronics.
March 15th, 1:40PM. 72 Midwood Street. Identify theft.
March 29th, 7:00PM. Fennimore & Flatbush. Cell phone snatch.
March 25th, midnight. 2101 Beekman Ave. Identity theft.
March 1st, 9:00PM. 28 Sterling St. Identity theft.
April 15th, 1:30PM. Lincoln Rd & Flatbush. Cell phone snatch.
April 18th 3:00PM. Ocean & Parkside Ave. Cell phone snatch.
April 19th, 10:00PM. 579 Flatbush Ave. Cell phone snatch.
April 10, 7:00AM. 25 Lefferts Ave. Identity theft.
April 27th, 7:30PM. Parkside & Flatbush. Cell phone snatch.
May 2, 4:00PM. 231 Ocean Ave. Victim found credit cards missing from dresser in bedroom.

Grand Larceny Auto
March 2nd, 12:30AM. 399 Fennimore Street. 97 green Nissan stolen.
March 3rd, 3:00PM. 84 Midwood Street. 96 white Dodge stolen.
March 3rd, 6:00PM. 30 Midwood Street. 99 yellow Honda stolen.
March 19th, 2:00PM. 262 Maple Street. 05 silver Infinity stolen.
March 22nd, 6:25PM. 20 Maple Street. 2011 gray Nissan stolen.
March 23rd, 6:00PM. 418 Rogers Ave. 2011 red Honda stolen.
April 2nd, 9:30PM, Midwood & New York Ave, 95 red Nissan stolen.
May 10th, midnight. 1137 Nostrand Ave. 96 tan Nissan stolen.


March 13, 2:45PM. 271 Hawthorne Street. Male was shot in the head by unknown perp, expected to have full recovery.

March 28th,1:30 PM. 1153 Nostrand Ave. Perp came in and attempted to buy something. A dispute broke out between store owner and per. Perp threw bottle at storeowner. Arrest was made.
April 4th, 1:00AM. 1199 Nostrand Ave. Victim was hit by unknown object by unknown perp.
April 6th, 1:30AM. Bedford & Maple. Police was making a DWI arrest, driver  injured one of the officers making the arrest.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Rogers Avenue has some serious potential to surprise. From the Ink Well tavern, to Landmark Antiques & Restoration, to the Montessori School, to Dorsey's gallery, Toomey's Diner to Bow Wow and many, many more...I've decided to lend the Rogers Chamber of Commerce this tip:

Rogers Avenue - where Specialties are our Specialty

Catchy, huh? So let me hip you dog-lover cats and cat-lover dogs to the swankiest and perkiest one-stop-shop for all your grooming and boarding needs: Bow Wow Pet Boutique at 521 Rogers tween Midwood and Rutland. I met Georgia at the door and I will say without hyperbole that she is a-dor-a-ble. Friendly, big smile, loves her business and is clearly grateful to be doing what she's doing. Am I wrong to say that that's a HUGE plus when patronizing a business? Not everyone has to love their shop, but I don't even own a dog and I was DYING to give Georgia my business. I won't name names, but there are some places around here that I frequent and I'm not sure whether they want my money or not. Not part of a strong long-term business plan if you ask me.

Co-owner Georgia hails from Jamaica, though she grew up next to FDR in Hyde Park, NY. (Of course, Franklin Delano's been dead for some time, but his stately home is Hyde Park's claim to fame, Upstate as it is along the Hudson, and mentioning him in a post about Bow Wow is not particularly relevant, except that FDR sings "Tomorrow" with Annie in the musical of the same name and it's one of Little Miss Q's favorite songs, which if it were anyone else's kid would probably annoy the heck outa me, but somehow when it's YOUR little girl singing "the sun'll come out tomorrow" you get all weepy, because gosh darnit the sun WILL come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, and how'd we all get so cynical in the first place, and was it all Ronald Reagan's fault, who replaced the we're-all-in-it-togetherness of FDR with the rugged individualist cowboy nonsense that lives on at tea parties everywhere and threatens to drag us back into the Bushian mire this very fall? Now back to the post...). Georgia's business partner Tay is a pal from way back, and the two hatched a plan, aced their pet care license exams, found a storefront on Rogers and opened the shop about a year ago right here in NE Flatbush PLG. They wanted their place to be super-friendly, light and cheery and clean. They've managed all of the above, and they board the dogs themselves at their homes, so you're sure your dog is getting the boss's special touch. Feel free to chime in with a comment if you're a customer, and be sure to stop by and inquire about services and rates. Here's some pics from my visit; first up Georgia next to the doggie bathtub.

If I were a dog, and I haven't been for many years now, this is the place I'd want hind quarters vacuumed. Just tell them "the Q sent me" and enjoy the awkward paws...

Monday, May 14, 2012

This Just In: ConstructionKids Not Bolting

In riveting news, popular learning center ConstructionKids has hammered out a deal to stay at Phat Albert's as its "second location." Having nailed down an extension to its lease, local parents won't feel screwed out of a favorite local educational enrichment program. Their previously announced move to the Navy Yard threw a wrench into some moms and dads plans for junior this fall. Some told me they had already braced for mindnumbing Saturday playground hangs, but ConstructionKids' Deb Winsor tells the Q:

We had such a great response to our summer camps, so many great Brooklyn families, that we are keeping the Phat Albert space to offer a second ConstructionKids we call it, the Prospect Park camp!  We are delighted to keep the space near the Park, a perfect compliment to the Navy Yard space.Thanks to all the great PLG support, it was with a heavy heart that we took on the wonderful Navy Yard space 3 months ago, and now we can have both!

 You know the drill. Here's a pic ripped from their website:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Feelgood Flowers for Flatbush

A hearty thanks are due to all who came out today, the most gorgeous day of the year so far, to clean, till, plant and mulch the tree pits along and around Flatbush Avenue from the Zoo on down to Lenox. Dozens of young volunteers from around the borough participated. The Q and family were stationed at Lenox and I never ventured north of Winthrop, so I haven't had a chance to see everyone's handiwork. But let me drop an action pic on you, and say that me and little miss Q had an absolute ball, and the people we met were all lovely. Some of the names that I know offhand who provided amazing leadership: Skei, Amy, Seth, Naomi, Sheila, Rudy, Carmen...feel free to chime in with more names!

Naomi and I were treated to a peek at a garden behind the first northside building on Lenox Road I think the number's 15. The super there, appropriately named Flor, saw what we were up to and invited us back for a tour of his garden. He's growing (fully leaded) vegetables galore, and cooks for his family out back from the fresh pickins. What a sweet dude, making great use of a once-abandoned backyard. We were understandably Flor'd.

If you feel like sending a message to the organizers, it's Now we got to take care of those trees. Adopt one! Water it! Love it!

Q In the News

They say that in a humble life your name appears in print three times: at birth, marriage and death. Apparently the Q is not succeeding in his pursuit of humility, because there I was today being quoted in the Old Gray Lady herself. It's an uncomfortable quote with which to be associated, even if I'm merely repeating things I've heard over the past couple years. I believe that the writer's quoting of me quoting others would be considered hearsay in a court of law. In the court of public opinion, I doubt anyone will question the veracity of the remarks that I've heard. When people react to being quoted in the Times they usually say "I was misquoted" or "taken out of context." In my case, neither was true. He got it right, though of course he pulled the most provocative quote, basically suggesting that white folk have a hard time being the first to "integrate" an overwhelmingly non-white public school. Nearly 60 years since Board v Brown, I reckon no one would gasp at that statement.

Sonny (N.R.,) Kleinfield happened to be researching his story the same day I was at the school in question - Explore Charter School on Parkside at Nostrand - writing my bitty little post on the school. We talked, and he was obviously on a totally different trip than me that day. The school was suspicious he might be focused solely on race, and in fact he was. His piece might shock some a few people, but not anyone who's paid the least bit of attention to what's going on in urban elementary schools. The system's way segregated, and not just by race. Frankly Kleinfield's story is not terribly new or interesting to me, but his quotes from students are outa-the-park eyebrow raising. I hope some of the things kids said will resonate in the larger conversation about race and schools. It seems like the students are the last ones to be asked about ANYTHING happening in the schools. Weird, right?

What Sonny left out was the more nuanced parts of the conversation (fancy that) about the things that freak parents out about going to their local zoned school. One is culture - middle-class-college-educated folks feeling uncomfortable in un-middle-class-college-educated environments. Some folks, too, are probably intimidated by majority immigrant populations, be they Mexican, Arab, Asian or Caribbean. Yes, culture plays a role, and you'd miss that point if you looked only at skin color. Even within the "black" environment around here the variety is staggering. A recent Haitian refugee from the 'quake, an African doctor, a Guyanese grandmother, a mixed-race Brooklyn College student, an African-American veteran from Michigan? Check.

Then there's "class." It's a tricky thing in American culture to draw the lines definitively, since it's not always about money. But most people know the difference even if they have trouble assigning particulars...and the fact remains that people have always been more comfortable hanging with their own. Americans also suffer from class and money envy, and it can warp our sense of who we are in the pecking order. If you went to a prestigious college, say, but don't make much money, you might feel "entitled" to an upper-class life, even if your earnings don't measure up. Tons of people end up in serious debt by living outside their means, and it's not just carelessness - it can go deeper than that. They even have 12-step groups for "under-earners." That is, people who feel entitled to a certain lifestyle, but don't earn enough to support it. Intense. And totally common.

A huge factor often overlooked in the discussion is that, particularly in NYC and particularly particularly in Flatbush/PLG, multi-racial families are a big part of the mix too. Are the kids mostly white or mostly black? I know it's an absurd question, but it comes up, and people struggle with identity in a racially dichotomous world. As the races blur, perhaps we're moving towards other "signifiers" when assigning "race." Or maybe sometimes race is a stand-in for other qualities. I'll leave that to the sociologists and anthropologists, cause it gets pretty tangled. Needless to say, it throws a wrench into the black-school white-school schism.

And what does it mean when a school claims "diversity" of race, but the families are more The Obamas (Harvard) than The Jeffersons (nouveau-riche), or Good Times (the projects)? Movin' on up indeed. I know mixed-race couples who have heavy mixed-feelings about the whole school thing...sometimes a black parent feels even MORE obliged to send their kid to a mostly white environment. One African-American friend told me a couple years ago that his parents would be devastated to see their grandkids in a mostly black public school. Devastated.

And then there's money, or rather lack thereof. When a school population is overwhelmingly poor, the middle-class parents in the zone cringe at the thought. They associate abject poverty with crime, pathology, violence, single-parenthood and depravity. Think I'm exaggerating? Though those words apply to a small fraction of the folks living on my hardscrabble block, folks often conjure the worst when they imagine sending their little one to school locally. "See that gang of hoodlums down the block? That's probably the best that school to produce." Okay, no one actually said that, but they sure could have. I'll be honest...on my way to work I see nothing but sweet little kids heading off to grammar school - maybe a bully or two, just like when I was a kid. And frankly, even most of the really bad high school aged kids aren't going to school at all. Least not as far as I can tell.

[Another freakout point for middle-class white families? If they DID manage to scrape together enough dough for a well-appointed high-cost private school, they might end up being one of the poorest families there. Even if in the neighborhood they live, they're among the top-earners. Welcome to NYC.  What's up can be down, and there's simply no escaping the strata.]

But hey now...reality check. When we talk about the local school, what we're talking about is not the's kindergartners. Five-year-olds. These are the beasts we'd be sending our kids to school with. Oh, and a bunch of adult teachers and administrators, most, though not all, with a career's worth of wisdom to impart. With degrees in education. Who might be white, might be black, might be greenish blue and turn into fire-breathing trolls at midnight. Put another way...what if the difference between the good and bad public schools wasn't as stark as all that? Would it even matter, given that so many of us see through race-and-class fogged glasses?

Or maybe it's all just fear and ignorance. Same as it ever was.

(So Q, you have young white kids. What are YOU gonna do, Mr. Smarty Pants? Well, unless I lose my nerve or forget my password, I'll be happy to tell you as it all happens. I mean if you're gonna write non-fiction, you better tell the truth, right? Or then it becomes fiction, like some of those addresses people use when getting into a "good" public school out of zone. I hear some pediatricians are lending out their addresses now to their patients. It's a weird world out there folks. And getting weirder. Noticed the weather much?)