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.

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.


babs said...

Sorry about that, but what a cool-looking building! It almost looks like an old Catholic school...

Michele said...

Q - I get your point. Some of the cyclists are so rude! I grew up in the park with cyclists so I am def. not used to being spoken to with such authority on rules they feel they know. I was WALKING counterclockwise out of the bike lane - where the cars generally ride and as close to the edge as possible to be polite. The only reason I was even walking there was because the sidewalk/open grass gives out at a certain point so what else was an option? Anyway, a biker told me I wasn't supposed to be walking there (pretty rudely!). So all that was to say - I feel your pain. I wish they would make it a two way path - it's weird to have it go one way! Glad it was only a warning and not a ticket. Also they should put up signs letting people know riding etiquette.

Anonymous said...

As a recent member of the neighborhood, I've been sorely disappointed to realize biking in the park is a one-way route only. That makes me, a student bike-commuter constantly in the position of deciding between taking my life in my hands (well, on two wheels) riding along Caton, or risking a ticket for either biking the sidewalk along the park on Parkside or inside the park. Parkside's extra wide parking lane is a little helpful, but it's really scary when a hook n' ladder firetruck, or a huge semi, or a speeding suv come ripping by little ole me. Not to mention the constant risk of dooring. The fancy Park Slope side of the park got a two-way, separated from traffic bike lane: we deserve one too!