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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

NY Giants Open Gyro Place on Parkside

In a bold move to capture more of the Halal foods market, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch and their NY Giants company chose Parkside Avenue as the flagship location for what it hopes will be a worldwide chain of Giant Gyro Joints, as they're colloquially known within the Mara/Tisch families.Tisch is apparently more of a doner kebab man and some reports claim he's tzatziki-intolerant. Still, the two-time Super Bowl ring CEOs believe the future is bright for pita-based sandwiches. We welcome them to the block!

In all seriousness it appears the sign, complete with "borrowed" logo, was made by the same people who brought you "Pancakes in Hell," as the wife calls the bizarre signage attached to the bodega at the NW corner of Flatbush and Woodruff. Personally I love a good gyro, and am endlessly amazed with that oft-displayed hunk of meat on a spit ubiquitous around the world. Did you know (I'm sure you did) that the way you make that hunk is by layering thin layer after thin layer of various boneless meats atop one another, as if you were creating the world's largest submarine sandwich, adding spices and fat between layers, then you smash 'em together in the shape of a big toilet paper roll so that then when you cook it on a spit you can slice it from top to bottom so you're actually getting little bits of each layer in every slice. I was also fascinated to learn that pork is a common ingredient in many countries and was likely an ingredient in the original Greek item known as a "gyro," so the Halal lamb and beef concoction came later from the need to sate the hordes of devout Muslims who, too, needed a heap of spiced meat between pita. The story of tzatziki probably deserves a Ken Burns documentary, so I'll leave it to the "pan-in, pan-out" master to tell the tale.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Smoothie Wars of Summer

Staring each other down across the Flabenue they wait, crouched and ready to pounce on your smoothie thirst, blender at the ready. B'Fruitee and Purpleberry are all about the remarkably durable smoothie creation, a confection that has been popular since the last Ice Age, when Cavemen would typically crush elderberries by placing them between check and gum, much like chewing tobacco, then spit them into frozen holes dug from the ice in the shape of mammoth tusks. 15 minutes later, Thorg would scoop out the slush and serve it to the family - this was one of his three masculine contributions to the preparation of food for the ice-cave family. The others were waffles and home-made fudge, but only weekends or holidays. Some of those cave-holidays exist to this day, though their date and significance remain a secret to all but a few direct descendents.

The Q has tried each spot, and my nod goes to Purpleberry - I liked the raw-sugar ratio, and the other offerings I spied. But B'Fruitee was good too, so feel free to weigh in here. And believe it or not, the Q has a fresh smoothie story to share with you. On one of my many post-surgery trips to the Eye and Ear Infirmary on 14th Street, I took the double-long 14th Street bus to my destination from the subway. This particular day, last Tuesday, there was but a single seat remaining near the very back. I was feeling blind and lazy, so I headed for it. There was just one woman standing, her fists clenched not one but two cold beverages with straws. I smiled, and proceeded to spin and sit, a move I've perfected using the guard rails to swivel into an MTA seat with balletic grace. Halfway down, with gravity in command, I heard someone blurt out "nooooooooooooooo," but my "load" was nearly fully "taken off" and I landed fully and expressly into a giant puddle of Jamba Juice. I knew the name of the offending beverage by the perky logos on the standing-lady's plastic cups, one of which was nearly empty. Not being one to carry a roll of paper towels or even an extra set of dungarees, I decided to blurt out "just one of those days I guess" and, feeling humiliated and angry that the Jamba lady hadn't warned me about her mishap, I stepped off the M14 onto the curb, slunk into the hospital and headed for the bathroom, where I returned again and again to spend a goodly amount of time with my buttocks backed up to the automatic hand-dryer. I believe someone owes the Q a free smoothie?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Bedford Avenue Armory "Report" Released

At the Community Board 9 meeting on Tuesday the room was "abuzz" with info that a report had been released by the Borough President's office about what to do with "our" Armory on Bedford up near Eastern Parkway. The Q is as excited as any about the possibilities, and I visited and wrote about this wide open indoor space in January. The prez released the report on his website.

Community Center for kids and gramps. That's all anyone has ever said that's made any sense to me. Indoor place to play, to create, to hang out w/supervision. Make it attractive, and make available the kinds of services that kids and gramps need, on-site. There are so many kids who need support, and I feel like we're failing them desperately. (And please send the older kids hanging out in front of 35 Clarkson over there as soon as it's built! They're basically using the scaffolding as their private community center AND employment center, as in it's a pretty useful cover for selling drugs, rain or shine. The commander of the precinct has asked us to not engage them while they investigate. Which means, basically let them take over the street and cat-call and menace the block. Very frustrating.)

But the Armory's gotta be done right. And that's going to take money, and the support of the whole community. As we ramp up the involvement from the community board, I hope to see you ALL out there cheering the cause. I know it's not very sexy, this community board stuff. But it really is our best chance to help guide the process, and hold the developers at bay. For once, a project that's not "mixed-use" or "public-private" could emerge? Whatever happened to "public-public?" Like, the Public-Public Library. Or the Public-Public Park? Or Public-Public Health Care? Or Public-Public Housing? Or...more on that last one in a bit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Melany Mural

Perhaps the only local restaurant that Family Q dines at regularly is the fabulously chaotic and tasty Melany's Dominican Restaurant on Flatbush at Lenox. I think of Dominican (or PR) and Chinese as NYC's "comfort foods," and though the City may have moved far beyond these classic cuisines in the past decade, you can still count on your chicken, rice & beans and/or moo shu chunks to satisfy in a hurry. Mmmm...salty.

One of my favorite things that happens at Melany with relative frequency is when there's two games on the TVs, blasting away as if arguing (usually one soccer one baseball), and then suddenly the bachata blasts out of the jukebox like an M80. The three together hardly raise an eyebrow, and you're forced to focus solely on the business at hand...the shoving of Mofungo into your M-hole.

And now...a brilliant new mural! Thanks S. for the pics! The second photo includes a contact number if you're interested in giving the artists a call. The third photo was the work in-progress from a couple days ago. Nice work, and a welcome addition to the streetscape in my view.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flatbush Street Fair - August 5

From FEPMA comes this poster and request for your input and support for the Flatbush Avenue Street Fair on Sunday August 5th. Call 718-282-2291 or send Delroy Wright an email.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Monday!

And yes, Mr. Merchant with the discarded computer garbage that you didn't even bother to bag...we know who you are. Do you really hold the neighborhood, and your potential customers, in such disdain?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dead Street Tree Log

The Q is compiling a list of dead street trees to present to Community Board 9 for replanting. I can't guarantee they will get to them THIS fall, but if we have a list that we can use to hold Brooklyn Forestry's feet to the fire we should be able to gauge progress. I know that I didn't get everything so help me out by commenting with trees I've missed. It'll be like a "wiki" thang, and I'll add your tree to the list before submitting it on July 1. And if you want to tell me about trees in Caledonia (CB14) or above Empire (Crown Heights) please do! I also know there's a bunch of dead trees on Lenox. I'm hoping someone will come forward to present CB14 with the same sort of list. I'm sure Shawn Campbell, district manager, will be glad to have the info all in one place. If you want to be that person, just shoot me an email and I'll make the introduction.

Here's what I got from tooling around on my bike over the past couple weeks:

224 Empire Blvd
229 Empire Blvd (2 trees dead)
408 Sterling Street
Sterling & Washington, NE Corner
456 Brooklyn (Empire/Sterling)
Sterling & Bedford, SE Corner
57 Lefferts Blvd
1783 & 1793 Bedford (Sterling/Lefferts)
Lincoln Road at Ocean (we already got these on the docket)
166 Rutland
45 Hawthorne
56 Winthrop
44 Winthrop
96 Winthrop (across the street!)
105 Winthrop
225 Parkside (one of the two new trees didn't make it)
566 Parkside (across the street!)
601 Parkside (three alongside school near Rogers)
161 Clarkson

And notably, there are no street trees on Rogers (Lincoln/Lefferts) and almost none on Fenimore (Rogers to Nostrand). An enterprising resident might consider requesting a whole street full of trees, as we did here on Clarkson. It can make a big, big difference in lots of ways. me fill in the blanks!

Friday, June 22, 2012

71st Precinct Community Council Meeting - Notes For You!

Nick Balaban, a relatively recent newcomer to our 'hood, attended the 71s Precinct Community Council meeting last night and was kind enough to share his notes. Thanks Nick! Below you'll find his detailed report.

For those of you who don't know, the CC meets every third Thursday at the Middle School 61 on Empire at New York at 7:30. They're a great way to get to know your local law enforcement folk. I've spoken quite a bit with the new commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Jack Lewis, in the past few weeks. In fact, I just got off the phone with him about a recent uptick in drug and gang activity right near my home. He's always responsive, and knows a lot of the hoodlums by name. And let's be clear - it's a tiny number of people relative to the population involved in this stuff, but those few guys are capable of doing massively crazy things. Witness the gang shootout at Bedford/Hawthorne on Wednesday night. It's a small miracle no one was hurt.

Lewis told me of a recent arrest of a really bad dude on Clarkson who was allegedly involved in the Parkside shooting in 2010. I think he was referring to the killing of a young inline skater in front of the Parkside Donut diner. This (alleged) murderer was hanging out for days and selling under the scaffolding in front of 35 Clarkson. That's too close for my comfort, thank you very much! Without further ado, Nick's notes:

The most popular crime in the neighborhood is Grand Larceny. While violence in relation to theft is way down, the most common form of Grand Larceny nowadays is Identity Theft. Thieves steal ATM cards and iPhones and get information from these things to eventually raid bank and credit card accounts. Besides smartphones, gold chains are stolen frequently. Deputy Inspector Jack Lewis advises us to wear jewelry discretely, and, especially for women and children (who are victimized the most by far), to not display your cell phones, particularly when exiting the subway. Violence in the neighborhood is down 70%, apparently due to Detective Pelt, who did really great work, but is now retired. There were 5 shooting incidents in our neighborhood (I think he meant just in PLG) this year (so far). Of these 5, there have been arrests for the first three, and the shooters are in jail for a long time. DI Lewis says of the 4th, he "knows who did it," but doesn't have enough evidence yet to make an arrest that would stick. The 5th was a gang shootout two nights ago at the corner of Bedford and Hawthorne. About 12 shots were fired, no one was hurt or found, as the gangs dispersed before the police could get there. Apparently, there is a lot of gang activity in our neighborhood, mostly from Hawthorne to Parkside. These gangs have been around a long time, Cripps and Bloods, but now there are splinters within, and the violence has been a real problem. DI Lewis urged us to help the police be their eyes and ears, as they are seriously understaffed and funded. When I brought up my concern that people were speeding way too fast down Rogers and Nostrand, Lewis didn't really respond, giving the impression that the police's lack of resources force them to do triage, concentrating on street violence, gangs and drug trafficking. He seemed very sensitive to the idea that people might be concerned, calling in a crime as a witness, about their own anonymity and safety, and that he has done and will do everything to retain the anonymity and well-being of anyone willing to help. DI Lewis stressed that it is important to call in "quality of life" crimes, in order to prevent things from getting worse. That means reporting public marijuana use and suspicious gatherings and/or transactions. Also, there is a $1,000 reward for reporting a gun found. While he is well aware of what is going on at the corner of Fenimore and Nostrand — in fact, he knows "even the brothers and cousins" of all the criminals in the neighborhood — he says it is extremely hard to build cases against these guys, as people are reluctant to testify, and, unless a criminal is on parole, he can't be stopped and frisked based on suspicion alone. (the Q's note: really???!)

Ben Edwards, President of the Lefferts Manor Association, runs a Crime Watch program, and he encouraged any and all of us to get involved. Their website,, is very helpful and good to check often.

Deputy Inspector Jack Lewis said he would be happy to come to any Block Association meeting, probably with another officer, to field questions and address any concerns. He seems eager to get to know the community and its concerns. Here is his info: cell phone: 347-672-5052 email: Other notes from the meeting that may be of interest: There was a shooting at Union and Troy this past week, at which a man got shot in the toe. Downstate Hospital is threatening to close due to lack of funds. The closing would put close to 1,000 local jobs in jeopardy. There is a rally to keep the hospital open on Thurs., 6/28, 11:30-1:30 at Downstate Hospital.

The first annual Brownsville Film Festival took place 2 nights ago.

There will be a workshop on Eviction Prevention 7/24 at the Walter Weaver School 6/26 Vote for your Congress Rep!

The NYS Regional Economic Counsel is having an open meeting to decide where $750 million of State funds should be allocated. They will also talk about who received funds in the last round. 6/28 at Medgar Evers, 9 - 11 (a.m., I think)

Last week, on Church Ave. (67th Precinct), a woman was shot and killed. (the Q's note: this is actually causing a great deal of controversy, as the woman was shot by the cops and was unarmed, though allegedly in the middle of running from a stolen vehicle that had been involved in a chase).

A representative of the Lubovicher religious sect, wanted to make the larger community aware of a celebration this Saturday on Kingston Ave. for the Lubovicher Rebbe Schneerson's moving "from one dimension to another" exactly 19 years ago. The Rebbe asked for a moment of silence in all schools. Science shows us there is "someone up there who cares for us very much, though the schools haven't caught up with that yet."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Go Brooklyn Arts Project - PLG style

Kinda Krazy, but The Brooklyn Museum has joined the crowd-sourcing and X-factor zeitgeist and created a program to identify artists from the borough for a BK show. It's not like Brooklyn isn't already home to scores of well-represented artists of all genres, but they've created a means for you to help attract the curators' attention. It's called GO, and if you create an online portal through this registration thingy, you can get your wares in the game. Leslie Ward is the PLG rep for the project, so you know you'll have a local cheerleader in the volunteer mix.

Very few artists will actually make it the distance and get their work in a Brooklyn oriented show at the Museum. Two, I think. But this is always a good way to reach out and let new people see your work, since it involves a studio visit for a number of the semi-finalists. The Q worked at the Brooklyn Museum from 1989-1994. During that time, Charlotta Kotik was the Contemporary Curator and is a good friend of mine to this day. She and I recently reminisced about how gritty Brooklyn used to be (want to nourish those memories? come on down to clarkson ave!) and how hard it was to get folks to cross the river for arty stuff. Her "Working in Brooklyn" shows in the early 90's were the first mainstream indication that something was seriously happening here...priced out of Manhattan, the enormous industrial neighborhoods of Brooklyn were witnessing a massive influx of working artists, and musicians like myself. Those of us who lived here felt it, of course. It wasn't until a decade on that you really saw the full-scale bourgeois thing happen, with the food and the coffee and the boutiques. Now every town in America uses a focus on arts and artists as a way to draw investment back into forgotten downtown areas. Though NO one can rival Brooklyn, adopted home of the quarter-finalists, for ambition and smarts and neurotic perfectionism. The semi-finalists sometimes even stay or move here now. A couple finalists now proudly call Brooklyn home as well. Not bad for a borough long-used to consolation prizes. All snide asides aside, no one could argue that Brooklyn is under-exposed anymore. And sometimes you gotta wonder when to say "enough already" with all this art, art, art. My day gig is at Bang on a Can, and our Marathon ran this past Sunday. As nearly 2,000 sat totally quiet in the Cathedral of Money that is the World Financial Center's Wintergarden Atrium...listening to the sounds of conch shells played in a cistern and an experimental open mic piece by Alvin Lucier, then surround-sound spectral music by Gerard Grisey performed in 3-D at midnight by brilliant percussionists with moving stages of gear..I thought to myself...bring it on baby. Without the art, we're just consuming and surviving. And loving, of course. GO. Brooklyn.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No Better Place to Be This Saturday - Rutland Road

New Playground Opens June 30!

No more sneaking in, kids. The playground between next to PS92 on Winthrop between Bedford and Rogers is opening at the end of the month. Come join the celebration.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tragic Cycling Death at Empire/Bedford

Yesterday was a sad day for the family of Crown Heights woman killed in a collision on her bicycle with a truck. As the woman was from the orthodox community, I provide here the link to, which provides a bit more detail than other news reports.

Many commenters have lamented the state of bicycle/auto relations. The Q likes his bike and concurs that riding in the City is treacherous, and I hope that all y'all take extra precautions next time you're out on your metal steed. Sad to think, too, how awful the driver must feel. Indications are the impact was an accident, pure and simple. Heartfelt condolences are in order.

As If There Weren't Enough Talk On Gentrification...

Just in case you haven't had your fill of economic change in BK, here's some more, courtesy of Huffinstuff. (thx Carrie!)
Fun, fun, fun! I don't know why, but it really makes me wince when the filmmakers defend their own gentrifying, particularly when one of them defines themselves as the "first wave" or "artists." The deep resentment of the laptop set towards the "investment bankers" has always seemed hair-splitting, since most artists I know would kill for the kind of F.U. money of the I.B's, while basically making the neighborhoods safe for them. Plus, I.B.'s are a minority of the g-fiers anyway. There's a lot of upscaling from sold apartments and family money in there too. As far as I can tell there is no political will to help current renters stay in their homes beyond those grandfathered into Section 8 (now defunct) or rent stabilization (which landlords now actively thwart). So...what can you do? Make a documentary!

As I've said before, the most fascinating part of the history here to me is the claim by current "pioneers" that they stumbled upon decimated neighborhoods. True, some parts of Brooklyn sank pretty far, but you have to give credit to the generations in the 60s - 90s who kept the neighborhoods going despite enormous obstacles. Who were these people? They're living all around us. Some are white, but many, many many are people of color, the gentry one generation previous. And man, do they have stories to tell.

It's with deference to those who came before that the Q hopes there is a renaissance not just of house prices, but of mutual respect and admiration, remembering that almost no one likes the crime, the trash or the malignant decay. Anywhere. Ever. And who exactly are you thanking when that fixer-upper is actually in pretty damn good shape after 100 years, all things considered?

It's easy to see all that's wrong with a neighborhood. It's more fun to see all that's right, and meet the people who've made it so.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Please Come! Environmental Protection Committee Meeting This Thursday

You've read the rants on trash. And maybe f**cking fracking gets your blood boiling too? Then come on down to the next Environmental Protection Committee meeting of Community Board 9, this Thursday at 7PM at 890 Nostrand near Union Street. We're talking further "action plans" on garbage, and how to get more from the DSNY. We'll also be learning about potential hazards from fracking that you may not yet be aware of, from an expert in the field - she's asking that we sign a letter urging City Council hearings on a proposed pipeline to and through the Big Apple. Details below. Come one come all! (Anybody else fed up with honking?)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Power to the People

Nicely said! I particularly like the creative use of asterisks to keep it a family friendly poster and keep us guessing. "Fracking, maybe?" Thanks for the pic, A!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Need Security Cameras? Depends on Who's Asking.

fyi, i wrote this post a couple days ago and saved it in draft form to publish today. sadly, i just got word that 8 to 10 shots were fired at 176 Clarkson, in the very public lobby no less. Man down, seriously wounded. No word yet on motive or whether the assailant is still on the loose. Feel free to share anything you know w/th Police first, but here too if you're so inclined.

Lindiwe Kamau, intrepid leader of the Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Association, is quoted in the Daily News in regards to the lopsided state funding of security cameras for Boro Park over other, higher crime neighborhoods. Please do form and share your own opinion of course, but it seems to me that our electeds sound a bit defensive in the article and that they've been unable to find even enough money for a single security camera despite repeated pleas from Kamau and other local leaders. While everyone would like to see government money spent equitably across neighborhoods, let's be real. Effective pols get the money they need for the projects they believe in. Emphasis on the word "effective."

Last summer I witnessed hundreds of people speak up at town hall meetings for more police presence and security cameras. To my knowledge, not a single camera has been installed, nor has there been an increase in street patrols or crackdowns on known drug hotspots and gang hangouts. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I don't think anyone with power has done a damn thing in the intervening months. The effort to create a central Brooklyn "Take Back Our Community" initiative sounded promising, but it also put a lot of emphasis on big bands of volunteers creating another level of infrastructure. Meanwhile, after the horrific killing of an eight-year old boy in Boro Park, serious change is under-foot, to the tune of 150 new cameras and renewed vigilance from the civilian Shomrim patrols. BP has its priorities in order, I guess.

Remember that C.O.P. program we were going to start in the 71st? Is that a sucking sound I hear coming from a vacuum of leadership? I'm still waiting for my jacket.

I guess we'll just have to pray that when the heat hits, all the mean guys will leave their "heat" at home.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stanchions To The Rescue

From Elizabeth C over in the heart of Caledonia comes this delightful picture:

According to Park employees, someone stole this rental car, tried to make a getaway through the Parade Grounds but got stuck. Finding no way around the stanchions, the thieves left the wheels with keys in the ignition. How they got the keys, and got INTO the Parade Grounds in the first place, remains yet another great Caledonian mystery. Why they panicked and didn't just back up and find another manner of egress...a sudden surprise surge of scruples maybe? Curfew?

When Fudgie met Barclays

As the huge brown mammalian creature takes shape at Flatbush and Atlantic, it's started to take on an truly anthropomorphic vibe. While walking its perimeter, I found myself hungering for a sugary cold chocolatey treat. And then it hit me:

Every great sports stadium needs a nickname. And given Carvel Ice Cream's NY roots, my vote: Fudgie the Whale.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Mardi Gras Theater

If you live nearby and have ever seen this building, much decayed, on Nostrand at Clarkson -  you're in for a treat. The inimitable and indefatigable Montrose Morris of tells the tale of the Mardi Gras silent picture theater.

Unholy Aliance?

Anything I might comment here would only detract from the strangeness of this upcoming neighborhood event and accompanying poster, sent to my inbox not 10 minutes ago. I'll leave it to you, the readership, to enlighten us.


Lest there be any confusion...this is an example of an illegal dump. Repeated 311 pestering eventually led to the dump's removal, but only after days of festering. Imagine what would have been the stench in 100 degree humidity? Science Experiment! Thanks Jeanne for the pic...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Growlers by the Garden

This one kinda snuck up on me, so if you've been hip to it for a while please excuse the lateness of my tip. Seems the beverage distributor that used to command Lefferts I (that's an inside joke for you Manor types - it's Lefferts at Flatbush or Phat Albert's to the plebes) has become Brooklyn Beer & Soda, a recent transplant from P-heights. I used to ride by it regularly (over on Washington near Bergen) and wouldn't have known it was the same business if it weren't for a bitchy Yelp review complaining about the greedy landlord that sent them packing from Portlandia Heights. I jest, really, I think Vanderbilt and Washington and Franklin have shown remarkable vim, vigor and pluck in their recent upscale commercial renaissance, and I congratulate them on their transformation from check cashing meccas to nightlife destinations. And yet somehow, Fred & Carrie let this one slip away.

Full disclosure, I don't drink beer no more, so this is not a joint I can recommend from the first hand. But, the second hand tells me this no-nonsense distributor rules, and they have 16 spigots in the wall that let you take out fresh tap beer via a peculiarly named chalice, an honest to goodness Dark Ages European-style fad known as the (reusable, mind you) Growler. A growler, for those of you who like me have been long-parked on planet Middle-Age, is an olde-tyme bottle that you can fill up like a thermos every time you stop by. (Actually, you could probably get cheeky and bring in your actual thermos and see if they call you on it. Or old Sunny D containers?) It ain't cheap - some of the craft beers cost more than $20 for a half-gallon jug, but apparently the taste AND the buzz of some micro-brews are well worth it, depending of course on the sophistication of your taste buds and/or your zest for artisanal brain-deadening. Frankly, I always preferred the more economical method of starting with the good stuff and working your way towards the rotgut by eve's end. After the fifth or sixth beer, can anyone really tell the difference? Of course, the Growler is NOT NECESSARILY intended as a SINGLE SERVING, though technically neither is a pint container of Haagen Dazs.

Oh. And they sell bulk sodas too.

Anyone care to share their experience with BB&S?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

War on Trash

Trash along the Flabenue seemed to hit a new peak last week in a troubling portent for summer 2012. This first view from inside Play Kids shows the incredible pile up of illegal dumping that happens more regularly than not:

On closer inspection

some of these bags turned out to be full of not household garbage or even typical business garbage, but the blood and guts of chickens. That is not a joke. The carcasses and blood led to an intense rotting stank and swarming flies. Repeated 311 calls eventually got the garbage removed. It was a brilliant and hyperbolic reminder of what we're dealing with around here - a sanitation situation that no one seems prepared to or capable of dealing with. Some of us, and believe me I've talked to quite a few bewildered long and short time neighbors, are flummoxed beyond this really something we have to just throw up our hands and tolerate? Of course not. Still, a simple solution eludes.

In my role as chair of the Environmental Protection Committee at Community Board 9 I've tried to wrap my head around this seemingly intractable problem and I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what we're up against. As always, I'm writing the Q at Parkside not in any official capacity but as a private citizen/geek/blogger and I only mention the community board because I continue to believe, perhaps foolishly, that there is a way to combat the problem using existing levers of governmental influence. I certainly hope so, anyway.

Nearly every block from Wendy's to Duane Reade has a few businesses that ignore the law and dump their trash either at the corner or in tree pits. Until I got schooled I had no idea just how illegal this is. Each business is required to contract private garbage collection; the City provides this service for residential trash only. And each business is required to show proof of this contract so that it is clearly visible to DSNY - usually in a window near the door. Tickets are supposed to be issued for non-compliance, and in other parts of the City they routinely are. For some reason, the penalties around here are not sufficiently levied to stop a significant number of scofflaws (and I emphasize the phrase significant number because plenty of business follow the rules and are just as pissed as the rest of us that fellow merchants choose to flaunt the law - heck it's usually only $30 or $40 a month we're talking here). Sometimes businesses dumpe their illicit garbage blatantly; others do so under cover of night. It's shameful really, since the corner garbage cans are intended for litter from passers-by. When a pedestrian DOES have a piece of trash to dump, the bins are frequently overflowing and unable to accommodate so much as a gum wrapper.

That's not to say that individuals and businesses from off the Avenue don't get in on the act. Bags of residential trash are routinely left on the wrong days at the curb or topping off the corner bins. On many occasions I've noticed construction garbage, bags and bags of it, that illegal dumpers drop on our streets assuming no one will care. Mad Momma Carmen even managed to catch a cheap landlord dropping apartment renovation trash in the 'hood, and the City takes this kind of dumping very seriously, and can impound cars and levy big fines and jail time Though as a practical matter, it's extremely uncommon that people get caught.

To complicate things, many mixed-use buildings don't offer proper guidance and space for tenants to store their garbage properly between residential pick-ups. These often poorly bundled bags often cause a blanket of trash to greet one on most morning's commute. Treading through ankle-deep trash is so common you almost don't notice it after awhile.

To summarize the reason it's worse here than on other heavily trafficked commercial corridor - there is NO merchant's group to speak of that has the ability to change the behavior of existing businesses and landlords from Parkside to Empire. By contrast, from Parkside south, the Flatbush Avenue BID successfully keeps litter and dumping at bay by hiring workers to keep the avenue clean between DSNY pickups. It's a big job; but the Flatbush BID takes cleanliness seriously, and the result is a reasonably clean street. Litter persists of course; the sheer numbers of pedestrians helps ensure a steady stream of wrappers and soda cups and the perennial favorite, dog poo. But since the problem is not generally overwhelming, individual business owners tend to address small messes quickly even before the hired guns come by and sweep it up.

As an aside, I'm not convinced that the Flatbush Merchant's group - FEPMA - has the skill or support to do anything about the problem. And without major outcry from the community, DSNY doesn't seem moved by individual complaints to systematically address the intense lawlessness. So who's gonna step up? I haven't even mentioned the sh#t-show in front of the subway stations, particularly on Flatbush just north of the Prospect Park entrance on the way to Empire.

My next move is to invite Pearl Miles, district manager, out for a walk-through. I'm also going to drop more of those single-page of rules on worst offender businesses. Maybe you agree that the problem is serious enough to warrant some kind of response. Or maybe you think I'm a kook and should find a real issue to complain about it. Who knows...maybe I'm the one who just doesn't "get it." As always, I'm happy to leave you plenty of space below to let your feelings be known to all.