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, September 29, 2012

Know Thy Neighbor: Michael Showalter

Every since writer/comedian/actor Michael Showalter moved onto my block, things have gotten a lot tidier. That's because Michael shares the Q's obsession with trash, or rather the needless gobs of it on neighborhood sidewalks, alleys, corners, tree pits and curbs. Rather than simply complain about it, he regularly and humbly attaches the below pictured prosthetic-robot-garbage- picking-arm and cleans a fair section of our side of the block himself. He doesn't complain, nor does he gloat. He even went so far as to clean mounds of trash from the alley behind us, where folks actively throw their household refuse out their apartment windows. So while I'd love to tell you about the marvelous book he's written, or the TV shows he's penned and starred in, the classic cult summer camp movie he co-made, or the uproariously funny car commercials he recently did, you can read about that stuff on the Google and on his webthingy. To me, he's just neighbor Michael, man with the silver and blue pickerupper gadget depositing Popeye's wrappers into a Whole Foods brown paper bag. Right on, brother.

If you scroll down over these pictures fast enough it looks like he's in the act, sort of like a digital flip-book. Scroll back and forth and you'll get a sense of his "swing," part Tiger Woods part D'Artagnon.

P.S. Mr. S also shares the Q's interest in Trap Neuter Return, the feral cat reduction program that's actually quite involved but SO worth it. Between us we've caught and neutered 20 cats put them back in our yards to live out their kitty lives in peace. There are lots of your neighbors involved in the TNR movement, so if you see someone trapping kitties ask 'em about it. You can feed and enjoy such spayed cats without worrying about adding to the exponential over-population of discarded and wild felines, and they become quite sweet after getting fixed. In fact, I see one at the window (Bootsy) and I'm gonna drop some kibbles on 'er right now.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lincoln Road Landlady Weighs Way In

I spoke with Rong Ge, "legendary" owner of the building that's housed K-Dog, Enduro, Lincoln Park Tavern, Blue Roost and Papa & Sons over on Lincoln Road just west of the Flabenue. There are those who think she's been more nemesis than hero on that block, but she IS the owner and for those who care about the future of that oh-so valuable commercial real estate near the train station, it's pretty clear she knows more than anyone what stores are in store, and so I asked her..."what gives?"

First, the big news. Papa & Sons will not be a bank, so don't withdraw all your money from the Chittybank just yet. Rong's signed a lease with an "upscale" grocer who she wouldn't name, but she's confident after visiting the proprietor's other stores in Manhattan that they will do a tremendous business and that it will be "just what the neighborhood needs" for that spot. We can expect a few months of renovations, and Ge feels the place is in terrible shape even structurally, but needless to say there will be much joy in some quarters. The new Lefferts Manor "Echo" is out, and Milford Prewitt writes a nice eulogy to Papa's owner Francisco and his brother who were the "sons" of the bodega's name. It's a bit heartbreaking, but luckily the brothers still have their other joint across the Flautobahn.

Things are moving forward, too, with the new biz moving into the old Blue Roost/K-Dog space. I was going to keep my bloggy mouth shut but people have already dropped the news on the listserves that a couple local PLG guys are opening a sleek shop to add a retail location to their successful catering business. They too are awaiting reno permits, and I would imagine we'll be seeing doors a flappin' by late fall/early winter. I'm glad to hear the owners are neighbors. More power to mom and pops, or pops and pops as the case may be, or even moms and moms (like lovely but out-of-the-way Lark on Church Avenue. Nice sammiches ladies!)

Which begs the question: why all the turnover? As you can imagine, it depends on whom you ask. Beleaguered suds 'n' grub joint Linkin' Park Tavern, formerly Enduro's and formerly formerly Fly Fish is clearly not enamored of the terms of their lease, so say thirsty barflies with keen hearing. There's some talk that when Ms. Ge doesn't like the way you conduct your business, she gets testy. Perhaps that's why some of the turnover, but hey when everyone's making buckets of cash I'm sure bygones stay bygones. But it also may be true that Rong is a bit of a perfectionist and she doesn't like half-ass businesses, which in this blogger's opinion is what you experience when you drop in for an overcooked burger and mediocre fries from a business owned by the once legendary Jim Mamary. Even in 2009 his star had faded, and he moved to NJ according to this piece, leaving day to day operations of his eateries to surrogates. I used to love Jim's first big hit - Patois - on Smith Street. He was there every night with his chef partner and this being the mid to late 90s he was the only bourgie game in town over in Carrol Gardens. Mrs. Q and I would luxuriate long into the evening over something French to eat and drink and kiss. Patois closed in 2008 only to jump the shark, or river, into Little Italy. It promptly closed there too. In fact many of his joints closed without warning, and if you were good at those SAT tests that say A is to B as C is to D you can probably finish this sentence...Linda of Blue Roost cited problems not of Ge's making. In fact, it sounds like a certain partner (who might that be?) was not forthcoming with his part of the investment. And K-Dog, well, Gaby did have nasty things to say about Ge, and she's still smarting from them, but hopefully that's all water under the bridge for the former coffee shop owner who's moved on to better and happier things.

So who really knows? Alls I can say is maybe it's not such a bad thing to see turnover up there. Maybe everyone learned something from the first round and a new day, along with some sweet pastries, will rise. And there's a cute spot moving in next to Gino's, details when I get them. So who among the Pinot Grigio set can possibly complain? By the by, the Q is sad to see Delroy's shuttered (the Panini place next to wine shop 65 Fen) - it never really found its nosh niche, and the "provisions" shop that was to cap Michael's empire seems to have lost its food footing as well. It's probably time to check in with him and see what up.

Still, for my money, the most exciting strip in Caledonian Flatbush is neither Lincoln Road nor Fennimore, but rather Clarkson to Parkside, which boast the most varied, frenetic and truly New York bunch of shops you can imagine. Even the Dunkin Donuts and Duane Reade and Subway feel uncorporate in this setting. And you know what? My family has patronized all but maybe two of the twenty or so shops on that little stretch (I simply AIN'T gonna get a tattoo at Envy Nails. If I do get one, probably of my favorite band Linkin' Park, dude), I'm heading up the Flabenue a couple blocks). Soon, I gotta write something about Don, who's also known as Peter, who runs the Glen Hardware/bicycle shoppe...

See you tonight at 6?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This Jus In...Jus Fishy Delivers the Goods

The Q ate at Jus Fishy for the first time. You know the joint, up the Flabenue near Maple? 555 to be exact, (yes, the next block down neighbor of the beast). The fish 'n' chips was pretty effin' good, the vibe is Island great, the lady chef is all that, and the sauces are excellent. Despite the fact the fries looked out-of-a-bag, they were seasoned well. Portions were fit for a fatty, and prices are sweet. The steamed fish and all the sides, plus surprises like crab burgers, yeah, this place could satisfy your craving for comfort food. A welcome addition. (my middle name isn't ruthreichl, but I know a swell meal when I consume one. But hey, if you're a Yelper add your thoughts there so the place can build a reputation, be that as it may become).

Two Meetings Tomorrow Night, and Ye Olde Crime Blotter

Tomorrow night, two fora are happening that directly address crime, guns and safety. One is a Brooklyn-wide event at Borough Hall. Marty's holding a Summit and Youth Tribute, with speakers and panel discussion on how to deal with, and hopefully end, the kind of random senseless shootings that are all too common in central BK. Members of the family of recently killed Clarkson Ave resident Fatima Gordon will be in attendance, as will many other families affected by the violence. If you're someone interested in best practices and real solutions, this will be a fascinating event, full of emotion to be sure, but also full of hope and healing.

Closer to home local Assemblyman Karim Camara hosts the latest neighborhood forum on safety. These Town Halls are a good place to gauge local concerns and outrage, though I fear they often serve the elected official's agenda more than the community's. Maybe I'm jaded, but talk is cheap. We need a crackdown on KNOWN drug spots and dealers. They need to be made incredibly unwelcome, in my view.

I've been stunned to realize how much the cops know about the worst offenders, and still they let the activity continue unabated. Not enough evidence to put them away for a long time? Put them away for a short time. Again and again, until they're forced to rethink their business model, or at least their business location. And lest you think I'm some lone nutjob, I can honestly say that my voice is one among many - black, white, young, old, longtimer, newcomer - who are tired of feeling helpless around kids who think they own our blocks. The worst part is that we KNOW these guys, they're the sons of genuinely sweet neighbors who are nonetheless giving them cover and a place to stash the booty. I'm not speculating here. The stories are coming in fast and furious from people with firsthand knowledge. But the parents themselves are too scared to act, and few residents feel safe enough to call in what they know. As a longtime neighbor says "these guys don't even have their own apartments! They're fighting over turf that's not even theirs!" Sad but true. And I know "we" failed them, that their prospects are nil. But so, we all must suffer?

At our own block's "forum" the consensus was clear: we must get these guys off our streets so we can live our lives in relative peace. Btw, these kids aren't just on Clarkson or Lenox or Bedford or Maple or Beekman. They're on nearly every street in the district, and I have that from the mouth of Deputy Inspector Lewis. Little turf wars and cottage industries. With most of them, it's petty stuff. But why the tolerance for "petty stuff?" Harass away officers, but please stick to the known trouble-causers. Get to know your district better! I'm sick of it, we're sick of it, we need your help and it's not getting any better on its own. Every day the aunt of the deceased has to pass by two of these crooks, who of course won't look her in the eye, knowing that they were the intended targets, and that their recklessness co-caused her death. In a recent conversation with Miss J, the anger and grief was enough to make anyone want to "go vigilante." I'm serious y'all, some days I wish I had a gun of my own and the nerve to use it. It's that infuriating. I hear some say it's "getting better." My fat ass it is. Rant over and out...

Despite my ambivalence towards talk-fests, I will attest that any chance to get out and see each other and talk turkey on the kind of stuff that shows up in the below crime blotter is worth it. Incidentally the blotter is hand-crafted by the duo known as Fabri/Martinos, from police reports covering just Sector C, or roughly the PLG area of the 71st Precinct. If someone wants to take this same approach with the northern 70th, I think we would get a much better full picture of crime in the area. Any volunteers? I'll put you in touch with Lt. Ferber and Dominick Scotto of the Seven-Oh.

Here goes:

Crime Report
August 16 - September 21, 2012

August 16, 7:30PM. 712 Flatbush Ave. Perp approached male, threatened him and removed unknown property from person's property.

August 17, 3:30AM. 1037 Nostrand Ave. Perp punched victim in the face and attempted to take cell phone but didn't succeed.

August 22nd, midnight. 346 Rutland Rd. Perp attempted to rob female's bag at knife point, female screamed and perp ran.

August 24th, 6:35PM. 653 Flatbush Ave. Cell phone forcibly removed from victim. Victim punched in body.

August 25th, 2:00PM. Flatbush & Parkside. Pushed victim and took cell phone.

August 31, 10PM. 323 Clarkson. Victim was punched in the face and cell phone taken.

August 31, midnight. 292 Midwood Street. Robbery with simulated gun, took cash.

September 9th 3:45PM. 239 Ocean Ave. Perp forcibly removed backpack and stole bike from 16 year old black youth.

September 9th, midnight. 1270 Nostrand Ave. Victim was robbed at gunpoint of $200 cash.

September 10, noon. 620 Flatbush. Attempted robbery at gunpoint in nail salon. Unable to take any money, perp fled the scene.

September 12th, 1:30AM. Nostrand & Sterling. Robbery with simulated gun, took backpack.

September 15th, 6:50PM. Ocean and Flatbush Ave train station. Perp threatened victim with broken bottle. Perp was arrested.

September 17th, 8PM. 356 Winthrop Street. Victim was pushed to ground and backpack stolen.

September 18th, 9:15AM. 469 Flatbush parking lot next to associated. Forcibly went through victims pocket and took cell phone.

None. The tragic drive-by murder on Clarkson occurred on the south side of Clarkson, which is the 70th Precinct.

Felony Assaults
August 16th, 2PM. 605 Flatbush Ave. Perp assaulted a traffic agent and was arrested.

August 17th, 4:40PM. 1200 Nostrand Ave. Attempted assault - shots fired at the front door of the apartment building. Arrest was made.

August 25th, 2AM. 722 Flatbush Ave. Two males were assaulted with bottle.

August 25th, 2:30AM. 722 Flatbush Ave. Employee at Popeye's was punched in relation to a refund of money for food purchase. Victim had a broken jaw.

August 27th, 11:30PM. Nostrand and Hawthorne. Person found lying face up on sidewalk semi-conscious with lacerations to the face. Victim did not cooperate with police to find out what happened.

August 30th, 2AM. Maple & Flatbush. Victim punched with brass knuckles.

September 3th, 8PM. 40 Lincoln Rd. Fight broke out in lobby of apartment building. Another jaw was broken. Arrest was made.

September 18th, 12:15PM. 2022 Bedford Avenue. Dispute broke out and victim was hit with a wooden chair.

August 16th, 12:40AM. 47 Sterling. Perp came in through front door and stole cell phone.

August 17th, 85 Clarkson. Perp came in through unlocked front door. Took electronics.

August 29th, noon. 612 Flatbush. Front door unlocked, perp came in and stole electronics.

August 30, 8PM. 150 Ocean. Came in through rear window, took electronics.

August 30, 10:45PM. 305 Clarkson Ave. Came in through rear window, took purse and check book.

September 4th, 7:45PM. 1288 Nostrand Ave. Took cash and cell phone.

September 4th, 7AM. 8 Rutland Rd. Came in through side window, took electronics and cell phone.

September 10th, 6:50AM. 301 Sterling Street. Came in through front door and took cash. No sign of forced entry.

September 14th, 10AM. 93 Sterling. Came in through window and took electronics.
September 15th, 253 Parkside Ave. Came in through bedroom window. Used house phone to make a call, then hid in the closet for several hours. Woman discovered him and called 911. Police think that the woman caught the perp unawares when she came home. Perp arrested.

Grand Larceny (No physical force between victim and perp)
August 18th, 1:00AM. 103 Empire Blvd. Perp took money and debit card that was left unattended (the location is a club).

August 18th, 2:30AM. 1176 Ocean Ave. Cell phone snatch.

August 23rd, 11PM. Ocean and Parkside. Cell phone snatch.

August 23rd, 10AM. 560 Flatbush Avenue. $1600 missing from bank drop.

August 23th, 12:15PM. 65 Clarkson. Chain snatch.

August 24th, 12:30AM. 344 Midwood Street. Purse snatch.

August 26th, 11AM. 576 Flatbush Avenue. Cell phone snatch.

August 27th, 6PM. New York & Maple. Cell phone snatch.

August 31st, 1:30. Hawthorn and Nostrand. Cell phone snatch.

September 4th, 9AM. 30 Lefferts Ave. Identify theft, $6200 taken from bank account.

September 4th, 4:30. 2111 Beekman. Identify theft. $662 charged on a credit card.

September 6th, 3:30PM. 8 Rutland Rd. Electronics left unattended taken.

September 6th, 2:20PM. 1274 Nostrand Ave. Cell phone snatch.

September 10th, midnight. 799 Bedford Ave. $800 put on bogus T-Mobile account.

September 11, 4PM. New York & Parkside. Chain snatch.

September 12th, 4PM. Bedford and Rutland. Chain snatch.

September 16th, 4AM. 429 Rogers Ave. In a bar location, purse left on table and purse and cash taken.

Grand Larceny Auto
August 18th. 5PM. Lefferts and New York Ave. 96 Black Nissan Altima.

September 10th, 6:30PM. 98 Winthrop St. 97 tan Nissan Maxima.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It was the best of tree pits, it was the worst of tree pits was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Yes, Dickens nailed it when describing the ambivalence folks have been feeling about the nabe recently, at least in semi-private conversations I've had, and perhaps you've had too. Okay, I'm being dramatic. But one couplet of pics neatly describes the ups and downs of neighborhood life.

The Parks department apparently came by to put up this lovely pit guard. Why just one on a street full of trees? Is it possible private citizens paid for its installation? More info please!

Pic by Rudy on W

And then just down the street, a sign of City negligence and neighbors' indifference:

Pic by Rudy on W

And yet, signs of life and forward-motion persist. One of the Fabulous Fanning Brothers tells me he saw private citizens cleaning up the trash around the Lincoln Road and Gino's Restaurant area, and for a few hours it looked positively Germanic along the Autobahn! (and who were those unmasked men, anyway?)

And not to be too cryptic, but a probably swell new upscaley food/beverage joint will move into the vacant space next to Gino's sit-down-and-order place. Things are moving forward on Lincoln Road, both with impending closures and impending openings. More soon, I promise, but I'm not at liberty to go into details. (okay, LPT's days are numbered. There I said it. But you're probably not surprised.)

The food and smoovies at B'Fruitee are delicious by the way. Owner-operator Sherma and her husband have run other businesses on the Flabenue, including part ownership in Rhythm Splash (they were bought out recently and opened B'F). If you haven't given her a shout, and your money, then scurry on over and you'll be supporting a truly local business (they live down on Hawthorne Flat/Bed). And how 'bout those beet muffins? Why not add to the chorus of thumbs-ups on the Yelp?

Yes, the best, the worst. But as usual, the Q says mostly best, because a day doesn't go by that I don't feel the love for the people I meet and interact with. Most. But the guys playing gangsta next door have GOT to go. See? Best. Worst...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Safety Forum - Next Thursday September 27

Come join Karim & Co. and talk turkey on safety, crime etc. A lot of people are upset, so why not be upset together? The Q expects to hear a lot of the same call and response we heard last week at the Clarkson Ave Block Ass mtg, except this time there will be professional moderators (I did the best I could, I swear, but I'm not cut out for telling people to keep it civil!) This one come from the Lefferts Manor Association, Nostrand Ave Merchants, and FEPMA, and the Assemblyman.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Councilman Addresses Traffic...on Cortelyou

Now that the frenzied traffic on Flatbush has tamed once and for all, Councilman Eugene has rightly turned his attention to a much more serious problem:

In fairness, things have been pretty chaotic on Coney Island Avenue (as frequently noted in the ever informative and peppy ditmas park corner.) But somehow CIA isn't even noted on the flyer.

Let's get one of these pronto, though frankly I'd prefer to have DOT just do that traffic study already, since they've promised!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saltfish 101

Even after years of passing these display tables of large open fillets of dried fish, I still do a double-take every time I see them at local markets. Especially with names like "Gaspe" or "Hake," fishes I know nothing about as opposed to most fish, which I know NEXT to nothing about. I understand the basic process involved - drying meat by salt is an ancient way to preserve it. The freezer makes the point moot for most modern cooking, but still dried saltfish is prized for its unique, um, salty, properties. (Hake is apparently a less expensive cod. I haven't a clue about gaspe...please do fill us in y'all.) Of course you have to soak the fish to regain its moisture (usually overnight), but enough of the salt typically remains to give it a very unique flavor. From the extraordinary human achievement known as the Wikipedia:
Ackee and saltfish is a traditional Jamaican dish, internationally known as Jamaica's national dish. It spread to other countries with the Jamaican diaspora.
The ackee fruit was imported to Jamaica from West Africa (probably on a slave ship) before 1778. It is also known as Blighia sapida. The scientific name honours Captain William Bligh who took the fruit from Jamaica to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England in 1793 and introduced it to science. Because parts of the fruit are toxic, there are shipping restrictions when being imported.

To prepare the dish, salt cod (packet salt fish may need to be boiled down and should be free of 'pink' mould) is sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers (optional), tomatoes, and spices, such as black pepper and pimiento. It can be garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes, and is usually served as breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried plantain, or boiled green bananas.

In the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, "ackee and saltfish" is eaten widely, although canned ackee is more often used than fresh in some foreign countries. However, people from countries where the fruit is indigenous prefer to eat fresh ackee from the pod as opposed to ackee from a tin. Fresh ackee, if prepared improperly, can be dangerous.

This dish is usually eaten on Sundays in Jamaica, but it can be eaten on any day of the week.
The phrase "with provision" used to trip me up (you see it in many shops around here) but don't let it fool you. It's yams, my friend. The provisions of the earth. Sweet, delicious yammy yams. If you live here and don't try Ackee and Saltfish at least once, and you don't have a note from Planet Vegan, we may have to revoke your Caledonian visa. Happy eating, and remember FRESH ackee fruit, when prepared improperly, can be dangerous!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Parksidez Corner Deli - Tack On the Extra Z For Zavings

It's bright, it's clean, it's a helluva better 24/7 presence at the corner of Parkside(z) and Flatbush than the old Mansoobs. Some of you may recognize one of the proprietors from his days working at "Parkside Deli" (no Z) next to the Pioneer. Yet another amiable Yemeni run deli to consider when hunting and gathering your wee hours kibbles, though don't count on being able to order half the stuff pictured on the signs. The garbage at that corner became a huge problem this summer, as a fragrant Fresh Kills buffet greeted commuters each morning for weeks on end. Let's hope this place plays by the rules and helps keep the boisterous Parkside-Winthrop gauntlet a bit less raucous. Though with that shooting gallery just up the block (tell me you haven't seen that stunningly skinny woman nodding off on the steps of 691?) and a liquor store to the stars (surely you know our most notorious Otis Campbell, who likes to drop trou from time to time in front of "First Class Liquors"), it's gonna be tough to make this stretch gramma friendly. Welcome, Parksidez!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flatbush at Caton Has It All

Cops and Residents Share Thoughts & Tactics on Clarkson

Last night about 80 people crowded into the basement community room at 40 Clarkson Avenue to talk turkey on safety. The Q invited folks from the 71st AND 70th Precincts, and though they left me hanging til the last minute, they showed up in large numbers and with the patience to listen to our complaints and questions. The one thing they couldn't promise, except for perhaps the next few weeks, was more regular patrols of the neighborhood. The familiar refrain is tough to hear, no matter how often you hear it: "we're stretched thing," "there's only so much we can do," "we know who they are but we need your help catching them doing the serious crimes." Calls for curfews or better enforcement of loitering laws, we were reminded, run up against a little thing called the Constitution, so even basic crowd control stuff is difficult. Deputy Inspector Lewis reminded us that if even one member of a crowd lives in the building, there is little way to stop folks from hanging out. (The Q wrote about that just recently.)

Residents both newtime and longtime were visibly upset about what went down in front of the very building in which we were sitting. Many of us have been complaining about the exact same group of guys who were the target of the August 30th shooting. I and others have personally called them out as best we could, to anyone who would listen, but I honestly feel like I failed to sound the warning loud enough. Those guys shouldn't have been allowed to hang out in front of 49 or 35 or 40, or in their Escalade drug-mobile, night after night after night, doing their business and scaring off law-abiding folk. It was a tragedy that took place in slow motion over months, and in its final moments it accelerated to the speed of bullets, from a kid on a bicycle of all get-away vehicles, a kid from outside the neighborhood, a kid who couldn't shoot to save his life, and frankly he didn't, because his life is basically over now, like the victim he later called to apologize for killing. You can't make this stuff up.

Among the mourners was the victim's grandmother, who explained her long battle with dealers over in Brownsville and how she believed the only way for a block to kick 'em out was to confront them personally. She was clearly angry and grieving, but she was honest in saying her efforts had made her a target in her own neighborhood. "They put a hit out on me," she said. Going it alone did not seem to the crowd like a good way to combat hoodlums, after hearing her story. But other residents threw out good ideas on ways to work together. Like:

  • Calling 911 EVERY time you see something criminal or suspicious. While one neighbor worried about the block becoming a "police state," the majority seemed to feel that it might take regular visits by cops to make Clarkson and neighboring streets and corners safe. 
  • Lt. Ferber at the 70th said that with residents' help he was prepared to do regular sweeps of buildings and to follow up on leads from the community. (By the way, I have both Ferbers and Lewis' personal cell phone #s, so if you have anything to say that you want them to hear, by all means send me an email. and I'll pass it along, anonymously if you like.)
  • Meeting once a month on Thursdays and sharing our experiences, intel, and encouraging regular attendance from the cops to share updates. 
  • Going to the Community Council meetings of the 70th and 71st precincts.
  • The monthly meeting could be followed by a walk up and down the block in solidarity, letting troublemakers know we are united against trouble.
  • Get the C.O.P. program up and running, and consider Bob Thomason's proven neighborhood watch idea where different citizens take an hour each to walk up and down with an eagle eye.
  • Bring landlords into the mix, and demand better lighting and breaking up of ruckussy parties and gang hangs.
  • Keeping up the pressure on elected officials and precincts to provide every ounce of support they can muster.
  • Putting up official NYPD "buy-back" signs and tips-line signs, not just to get responses but to let people know we mean business. Sometimes the NYPD logo is enough to strike fear.
  • Meet with the D.A. to ask for the maximum pressure from ALL the borough's patrols, including narcotics and gang divisions, to put the bad guys behind bars.
  • While Clarkson is a vibrant and heavily trafficked street, we need to stay engaged and unafraid. Retreating into our homes actually makes us less safe, and gives the toughs more space to do their thing. There's actually evidence on this, but evidence may be tough to swallow if you're feeling scared.
It may be (let's hope) that the problem goes into "remission" on Clarkson, and maybe that's a good thing psychologically. However I can't stress enough that what happened here can happen anywhere. Until this went down, I was always able to keep the reality of shootings and violence at arm's length. Denial? Most definitely. I've spoken to plenty of people who would rather not know what's going down, where and by whom. But truth be told, there are so many things that can happen, no matter how remote the possibility, that frankly,we would live in constant fear if we let it get to us. It's the stuff we CAN control, like vigilance, information flow, better traffic calming, holding leader's feet to the fire, calling landlords out on bad behavior...these things make a difference. You can start by calling 911 whenever you see, as the Lieutenant put it, people hanging out doing things that would make you cringe were your grandmother with you. (Um, that assumes that your grandmother is familiar with urban life and not, say, a full-on racist, but I think we got the point!)

Most people on my block, and I'm sure on many blocks around here, know that things are much better than they were. I myself remember life on Vanderbilt and Lincoln Place at Underhill in Prospect Heights in the 90's as tough to say the least, riddled with drugs and sporadic gunplay, though as a young man I never gave it much thought other than "hey, its NYC, what do you expect?" Things HAVE gotten better, the police have gotten smarter and less corrupt, people ARE better at talking to one another. And yes, there's a mixing of peoples like never before in neighborhoods that many pundits gave up for dead. But what if that was our strength?

Thanks to everyone who turned out. It was gratifying to see Skei, and PLGNA founder Bob Thomason and current president Martin Ruiz and Bob Marvin and many others from nearby blocks. The room was a true rainbow coalition, and even the anger seemed to come from a place of unity. To all of you, your support means a lot, and I look forward to working with you all moving forward. Peace, literally. - tim

NYPD Writes Back to PLG

If you may recall, neighborhood groups joined forces after 2011's spike in shootings and assaults to send a letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. The Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Association, PLGNA, 300 Midwood and 300 Rutland Block Asociations, St Gabriel's Episcopal and many others worked on or approved the draft. In sum, we asked for more "positive" police presence and cameras to combat what we felt was a growing sense that we were ceding ground to the criminal element, in particular gangs and drugs. Felony assaults were up in the 71st Precinct, and longtime residents as well as newcomers felt that police were nowhere to be found.The letter that resulted, which was devised by consensus, looked like this. Months later, the Q hadn't heard a reply, so after fishing around we found a copy of the response. Here it is:

To my mind, it is essentially a form letter saying blah blah blah, with one major exception. The claim is made that in 2011, the 71st absorbed 80 rookies from the Police Academy as part of an Impact Zone. Say what? Where? I haven't seen them. Is this this part of the anti-terrorism thing I hear that happens over in the Lubavitcher-heavy portion of the neighborhood? I'm scratching my head and looking for more than dandruff on that one...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Join Us Tomorrow, Thursday, at 8PM

If you've expressed interest in being part of a fledgling effort to address the issue of violence in our neighborhood, please join your neighbors tomorrow, Thursday 9/13, 8PM, at 40 Clarkson in the basement's community room. We'll try to have a greeter there to show you where we are. CONFIRMED: We're on for 40 Clarkson at 8. Please meet us there.

A more formal plan will likely emerge eventually. Right now there are a lot of people who have expressed a desire to create some sort of multi-block approach that includes some of the ideas expressed by Eric Adams' Take Back Our Community plan, the C.O.P. program, the D.A.'s office, and more coordination with the 70th, 71st and even 67th precincts. Oh heck, I don't actually know what to do exactly. That's why we should meet, and keep meeting. At the very least, known spots of drug-dealing should be shut down by hook or by crook. Or as we say in Caledonian Flatbush, Crooke.

Be safe. - theQ

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Few Sanctions For Reckless Driving

In what I'm sure was a direct response to comments here, a relevant article appeared in the NY Times about the City's anemic response to offensive drivers. In an attempt to blunt finger-pointing comments here, the Q acknowledges that pedestrians and bicyclists are often negligent as well. If we start from that assumption, maybe we can focus on ways to curb reckless driving specifically. As I've noted here, reckless bicycling is being seriously addressed in city parks, so we know it can be done! I've collected at least a half dozen stories of people who've been "pink-ticketed" for riding the wrong way, too fast, or even riding through a crosswalk that "had people in it, though nowhere near my bike," said a workmate.

Would our avenues benefit from a targeted campaign of warnings and tickets for drivers? Perhaps through the Community Board we could request a test-program of a few months of heightened vigilance?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Q is for Quality of Life

Pink tickets. Cute and thin as tissue paper, these "quality of life" summonses can add up to a hefty headache. The Q regaled y'all with the story of my bicycling-clockwise-in-prospect-park story recently, and it's an example of the sort of silly-but-serious tack the NYPD takes on quality of life offenses. It's a pain to have to show up to civil court for these (and you MUST show up for them or you may actually do jail time), but you usually get off or slapped with a negligible fine. It's all about keeping people in line, and some might argue that it works extremely well. [For instance, public urination is WAY, WAY down since it's height in the late '80s, if that's a measure by which you gauge progress. New Yorkers For Peeless Streets (NYPS) folded years ago, it's board unanimously concluding that the practice had "shriveled" to only a "handful" of cases that could best be described as true emergencies. When they laid off its E.D. in 2002, the outgoing leader was rumored to have said "when you gotta go, you gotta go."]

Which leads us to the incredible true story of Lindsey Riddick of East 21st right here in Flatbush. He asserts, and it's apparently caught on tape, that cops told him he can't loiter in front of his own building, and when the 36-year-old Riddick was deemed uncooperative, he was given a wad of pink for his trouble. The full story here: Improbable Cause. 

Riddick's story is a great reminder of just how tricky it is for the police to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Put yourself in Riddick's shoes for a moment - a father of two, he was required to show the cops he had a key to the apartment building and a key to his own apartment, and despite the fact his kids ran to see their daddy when he unlocked the door, the cops slapped him with citations. Of course, a more mature officer would have apologized and moved on, but let's be frank, not all cops have the wisdom of Solomon, and many are inexperienced or stressed or defensive and even accustomed to harassment for being unwanted in certain places. It may very well be that the cop in question had a bad day or was being harassed by people on the street even as he continued to press the loitering and disorderly conduct charge. BUT, and this is a BIG but, if you can manage to relate to the humiliation Riddick must have felt, in front of his very own family, perhaps you can step into a world where stop-and-frisk isn't just a policy about THEM. It's a policy about us, all of us, and how we want to pursue safety in the midst of cultural, racial and economic difference.

That loitering and other quality of life charges are leveled overwhelmingly at minorities will surprise no one. We are all painfully aware, anecdotally and statistically, that cops come down hard on brown-skinned people in particular, and that therefore majority-black neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by quality-of-life policies. And one must point out that those who decide what IS or ISN'T a quality of life crime are themselves typically whiter than than the general population. So while loitering might be considered disruptive and scary one block, another might call see it as run-of-the-mill, even welcome. And noise that one group might find intolerable, another might find festive and soothing. Excessive anything is probably unwelcome, but it's important I think to remember that one man's front hallway is another man's foyer, you know?

I may jest, but this is no joke. The soul of our neighborhood is at stake in the subtle distinction between how things change and how things stay the same. The Q regularly agitates for positive change in a neighborhood that sorely needs to recognize its own failings. But in my view, the best way to raise all boats is via a tide of consensus. If we pit own group against another, we fail the test of community and courage. When terrible things happen, like the senseless shooting of a bystander, or the negligent killing of a pedestrian, do we collectively go after the agreed-to cause, or do we blanket the neighborhood with general policies that throw out the baby with the bathwater? (such a gruesome metaphor, I know). For instance, in the case of the recent shooting on Clarkson it would be easy to decry all manner of kids hanging out in front of buildings when it's the thugs and gangs we're after. And it would be easy to fault Dollar Vans generally over criminally reckless driving as the culprit, when bad driving is in fact near-ubiquitous on the avenues and side-streets of our neighborhood. But there is probably a common-ground and common-sense way to deal with these problems. Time is of the essence, of course, but we need to find consensus wherever possible.

I leave you with this, below: the definition of loitering for most of the last century, as it reads in the NY penal code. Courts have struck parts of it down as unenforceable, including the snicker-inducing sections, and the very nature of "deviant" acts has been amended, but before we conduct a crusade to stop loitering generally, as some have suggested to the Q, it might be worth recognizing that we would in fact have to create a law that doesn't exist. It is "disorderly conduct" which most people have in mind when they seek the dispersal of unruly groups of suspected drug dealers and gangbangers. (yes, it's an ugly term, but it's the acknowledged descriptive word for young folks "acting" like, or being part of, actual street gangs.) In other words, to lawfully disperse small groups of people "hanging out," the folks must be engaging in behavior that suggests laws are being or will be broken. Lawful assembly is just that, and it's protected not only under law but expressly protected in the constitution. There is room for interpretation here, of course, and it may be helpful to get specific about how we intend to use the law to our advantage when trying to rid the blocks of unwanted activity. But we must be certain we're talking about the "bad guys," not the Lindsey Riddick's of the world. It's a tall order, BUT, if we start to trust each other as neighbors, and folks start talking and sharing what they know, we might be able to work with the cops and the D.A. as a community, rather than simply demand something be done. Maybe.

Again, here's the legalese for loitering, and I welcome your constructive comments. Any lawyers out there want to clarify?

 NY PENAL LAW: 240.35
A person is guilty of loitering when he:
 1. Loiters, remains or wanders about in a public place for the purpose of begging;  or
 2. Loiters or remains in a public place for the purpose of gambling with cards, dice or other gambling paraphernalia;  or
 3. Loiters or remains in a public place for the purpose of engaging, or soliciting another person to engage, in oral sexual conduct, anal sexual conduct, or other sexual behavior of a deviate nature;  or
 4. Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place;  except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities;  or
 5. Loiters or remains in or about school grounds, a college or university building or grounds or a children's overnight camp as defined in section one thousand three hundred ninety-two of the public health law or a summer day camp as defined in section one thousand three hundred ninety two of the public health law, or loiters, remains in or enters a school bus as defined in section one hundred forty-two of the vehicle and traffic law, not having any reason or relationship involving custody of or responsibility for a pupil or student, or any other specific, legitimate reason for being there, and not having written permission from anyone authorized to grant the same or loiters or remains in or about such children's overnight camp or summer day camp in violation of conspicuously posted rules or regulations governing entry and use thereof;  or
 6. Loiters or remains in any transportation facility, unless specifically authorized to do so, for the purpose of soliciting or engaging in any business, trade or commercial transactions involving the sale of merchandise or services, or for the purpose of entertaining persons by singing, dancing or playing any musical instrument;  or
 7. Loiters or remains in any transportation facility, or is found sleeping therein, and is unable to give a satisfactory explanation of his presence.
Loitering is a violation.

Friday, September 7, 2012

GO, GO, GO...This Saturday


Each Tour will include visits to more that 5 Studios in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.  In general, all Tours will be Approx. 2 - 3 hrs long and will depart from PLAY KIDS at 676 Flatbush Ave. (Cor. Westbury Ct.) 

ON Saturday 9/8:

Walk Tour 1:  11 am from Play Kids - Hosted by Jennifer
Walk Tour 2:  12 noon from Play Kids - Hosted by Dave
Walk Tour 3:  4 pm from Play Kids - Hosted by Jennifer ON Sunday 9/9:  
Walk Tour 1:  12 noon from Play Kids - Hosted by Laura
BIKE Tour 2:  3:30 pm from Play Kids - Hosted by Susanne

Got Him

According to the Post, which often seems to have the first word from the NYPD, Christopher Johnson, 21, of Bed-Stuy has turned himself in for the horrific slaying of Clarkson Avenue resident Fatima Gordon.

A man suspected of opening fire on a Brooklyn street, killing a 28-year-old mother and wounding three other people, turned himself in to the Brooklyn DA yesterday.

Christopher Johnson, 21, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, was charged with murder and attempted murder in the Aug. 30 shooting in Flatbush.

Law-enforcement sources said that after Johnson turned himself in, he was picked out of a lineup.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Man Killed in Reckless Tragedy on Flatbush

A neighbor alerted the Q late last night of a horrible accident on Flatbush near Winthrop/Hawthorne. While the scene had been cleared by early morning, the major dailies had already picked up the story. This, from the Post.
photo by Danny Iudici

It's too early to say what caused the crash definitively, but vans were involved, speeding was involved, and it was a hit and run. Another example of reckless lawlessness on the Flabenue that simply MUST be addressed. We all know how crazy the street can be; it's time for some real action. Enough bitching on blogs (I stand accused); more full-throated demands of the DOT and NYPD.

It's not like elected leaders and DOT officials haven't heard this from us before. One concerned citizen in particular even took it upon himself to draw up some maps of how traffic could be calmed. By the DOT's own admission, this is a corridor that needs to be examined, and they promised just last spring to look at it this fall. The time is now. The Q will let you know if there's any official response.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Papa & Sons Closes Doors

Some melancholy pictures from Stephen B. as Papa & Sons closes its doors for good. There's been a lot hand wringing over the landlord's temperament and plans for the block, but perhaps a wait-and-see approach is best. Clearly plans are in the works, for better or worse. For whatever reason, the block has become a stand-in for issues of the neighborhood at large. Perhaps it's mine and others' faults for continuing to report on it as if it were anything other than the churning of commercial real estate, which is ultimately all it is. This is hardly the only corner of PLG worth developing, if someone, anyone, saw fit. My take is that it's easy to complain, much harder to go out and start a business yourself. To intrepid entrepreneurs of every type, the Q salutes you for your optimism and fortitude!

And this curiously supine suprise:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Farewell and a Touch of Hope

Tonight, nearly 300 people converged on 80 Clarkson to pay tribute and to say with tears and anger that they're tired of the same ol' John Wayne/Lil' Wayne nonsense. Relatives of the family said emphatically that this must be the beginning of a new era of cooperation, lest a few gang bangers set the tone and create more fear and chaos. To all of you Q readers who showed up and showed you care, I salute you. It meant SO MUCH to the family. The aunt of the victim made it very clear to me that she so appreciated that the scene wasn't just family and friends but people from all over the 'hood, white black new old, and so many that she didn't even know personally. She kept saying "look what we've done," and she was referring to the huge crowd of people who, despite wildly different backgrounds, all care about the safety of the neighborhood and want to do something about it. When we marched to the Pioneer and back, the very route taken by Fatima Gordon on the night of the shooting, we shut down Clarkson and even the Flabenue came to a grinding halt. If only we can harness the vibe and find a way to shut down the turf wars that seem to have erupted in our midst - not just on Clarkson, mind you, but throughout the western 71st and northern 70th. Here's a video of one of Fatima's best friends reading a poem, and the crowd releasing balloons:

At this point it appears the block association will meet next Thursday the 13th at the lobby of 80 Clarkson, where we'll begin to plot a plan of action to rid the neighborhood of the worst and most frequent offenders. We will listen and learn from longtime residents, many of whom know much better who are the players, what they're up to and how to best engage them, and perhaps we can start to work with the precincts from a place of mutual concern rather than distrust. Hey, it's worth a try.

Please Join Us for Tonight's Vigil In Memory of Fatima Gordon

It might rain, but it might not. But to show support for the grieving family, and despite what you might think about the circumstances of the shooting, please join your neighbors for a candlelight vigil at the victim's home - 80 Clarkson - tonight at 7:30pm. People will start gathering at 7pm. Hopefully we'll see elected officials, clergy and NYPD joining us, and enough numbers that there needn't be any reason for you to be fearful. This is an expression of solidarity, not a protest and not a confrontation with the perpetrators. In fact, folks related to the intended targets will likely be in attendance and grieving along with the rest of us.

Lest there be any confusion: there is work to be done, and we can figure out how that should look and who should take the lead. Understandably, many of us are seriously concerned about the next steps and whether there's any real good towards the future that come of this. BUT...there's a family in pain right now, and the least we can do is show that we care. I'm not interested in guilting anyone into participating. Please show up if you can spare the time.

A little bit more that I've learned from the victim's family: at least one of the "other" shooting victims is on life-support. I don't know his name, though I'm told he goes by Jack. If you've been watching the street closely, you'd recognize him as the tall and big man (at least 260 lbs I'd say) that has been described to me by cops as a ring leader. He was definitely an intended target. The shooter has been identified, but he's on the lam and is the target of a serious manhunt.

Monday, September 3, 2012

West Indian Day and J'ouvert - An Amazing Day, Once Again Marred by Violence

Despite the fact that so much of the West Indian Day Parade is about "semis and generators," the Q continues to be a huge supporter of the festivities, ever since my first in 1989. The breathtaking 4am J'Ouvert celebration is perhaps more outlandish and spiritual though, and next year I plan to spend more time at that event, since it doesn't involve ear-squashing volume. J'ouvert, or "daybreak," is imbued with deep myth and meaning, and I'm thrilled to be getting to know more about its history and significance. But I missed it (it actually came down my block a couple times over the years, right down Clarkson, freaking me and the wife out, in a good way).

I rode my three-year old through the park up to Grand Army Plaza. A bizarre crowd-flow barricade allowed you to leave the park at GAP, but for some reason you weren't allowed IN the park at that entrance. So Little Miss Clarkson FlatBed Jr. stayed on the Park side and sat on the little tuft of grass up from that bizarrely European-style modern pay toilet at the bus stop heading back to Flatbush. It was a perfect location to witness the stilt-walkers, the dancing, the gaudy beautiful costumes...

We had a ball, rode back through the Park, and my love for my hometown came crashing back in as I saw every sort of family sharing what should have been a disastrously cloudy day together in the world's second greatest park. (I love saying that, though I have no idea what the first greatest park is or whether there even is a greater park. So please, don't take offense). I noted to myself that after a week of unnerving violence, the Parade seemed to come off without a hitch. But sadly, I just now saw an email from Officer Martinos. It must be very frustrating to all the wholesome revelers to every year have to confront stories like these:

Vinny from the 71st sent out this remarkably detailed account of the violence that came as the parade wound to a close:

This years Labor Day Parade unfortunately ended with violence. The last Labor Day float  T-Vice Ompa Haitian  was delayed due to the fact they had failed to hire a driver that was properly licensed for this event. After a lengthy delay the organizers were able to find someone with the proper NYS license and paperwork needed to drive their float. By the time they started a large gap between floats several blocks had grown. This float moved extremely slow and their music was the loudest of any float on the parade route. The crowd grew to unreasonable size due to the late start and slow moving pace. At approximately 515 PM in front of 650 Eastern several shots were fired from inside the overly large crowd around this float. A female was struck in her left lower back and a male in his left hip.  Both victims are expected to make full recoveries. A short time later at approximately 6PM at the corner of Bedford Ave and Eastern Parkway a male became the victim of a homicide. The victim was stabbed one time in the neck while inside this large group around this float. At this time there are no witnesses or motive to these crimes.
Damn, damn, damn.