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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat a Sweet Feat for Local Streets

Thank you to everyone who made tonight a special evening for the local kiddos. Now we can get on to serious matters, like helping the Park get back on its feet. By the way, local dad Eric Landau of the Alliance said much, much help is needed, dollars and sweat, and you can find out how to help here. He said to be sure to sign up for something he called their November 3 Walk-a-Thong, where all proceeds will go to cleanup efforts. I don't know whether the Q will actually walk the whole route in a thong (November's pretty chilly) but if that's what it takes to help our beloved park, so be it. Anyhoo, go the Alliance's website for the actual deets. I may have misheard...I was loudly chewing a KitKat and admiring their lovely homemade rice krispie treats. The Manor really knows how to throw a party, and I was glad to see such a fabulous turnout.

Many folks are asking how to help folks in need following the Sandy devastation. Gothamist ran a nice rundown of options here.

Here's some pics of something I love about NYC, the trick or treating of bodegas and, could it be, the local Dunkin' Donuts. They just wouldn't understand back in I-O-Way. (Speakin' of which, it might just go "blue" again this year!)

"God bless us, every one" - Tiny Tim, the last of all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Trick or Treating - ON

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response in my in-box, I think it's safe to say that Safewalk or no Safewalk, the neighborhood, er village, wants to come together for a little prudent mischief. If you're in the mood for giving out some treats to the little ones, just be sure to put some sort of sign out on your stoop and you'll have plenty of customers. See you out there; some will be starting at 4 or so, though the stated time of the original walk was 5 so I'd expect most of the traffic from then til sundown. Drive slowly!

I thought I'd post here and see what y'all had to say. But the Lefferts Manor Association had this posted on their website:

The Halloween Safe Path Walk scheduled for November 1st has been cancelled due to the hurricane. We will announce the new date as soon as possible. Be careful out there.

Not to quibble, but I'm pretty sure Halloween is October 31.

I totally get canceling an event that requires police. They're busy with more important matters. Still, WE'RE the adults. If we want to trick-or-treat, by gum we can trick-or-treat. We're pretty good at keeping the little ones out of the roads, and trick-or-treating is always volutary anyway. You just go where it looks like you can get some loot. If you don't want to participate, make it look like you're not participating and we'll leave you alone.

I suggest a narrow window, like 4 or 5-sunset, and a broader route so that those of us who rarely get trick-or-treated can pitch in. Heck, some people probably already bought a bunch of goodies. If you did, drop your address on me and we'll swing by! I know the businesses usually have candy, but that's not the same as going to a house. Also, maybe it'll be fun to have to track down the houses that have candy! Last year on the Safewalk it seemed like fishing in an aquarium.

As I noted on the PLG listserve I don't want to be impolitic or make light of the suffering going on all around us. But Halloween happens on Halloween, and I sincerely doubt that the Safewalk will happen anytime later this year. Once the holiday's gone, it's gone.

Please chime in. I'm prepared to be wrong. I AM putting out a jack-o-lantern though. It's always been the Q's favorite day.


Post Sandy Pics

Feel free to send more. I'll post them here.
Tree Playing At Lincoln Road Playground

The Hunt Is On
Huge Tree Completely Uprooted in Park Near Parkside Q

"Locked" Imagination Playground.

That's Not Your Imagination; That's a Tree

Monday, October 29, 2012

Live Blogging the 'Cane Continued

Crashing down outside my back window just moments ago...this is getting serious y'all. Don't go outside please.

Parkside Coffee House Deserves Another Look

In the past couple years local "upscale" Lincol Road coffee joints K-Dog and Blue Roost have shuttered, succumbing, perhaps, to unmet expectations from customers, investors, owners and landlords. All along, the Dark Horse of Dark Roast has kept a-brewing, and after a recent conversation with the owner, the Q is convinced that the neighborhood may have missed its own diamond in the rough.

Until quite recently, one could have been forgiven for missing the discreet charm of the Internet Coffee House. Owner Abdo Zandanny has tried many aesthetic and business models since opening on Parkside Avenue kitty-korner from the Q train in 2008. Abdo (pronounced Ab-doo) is Yemen-born, but he's lived and worked in the neighborhood for 30 years, and before that graduated from schools 305 and 252 right here in the County of Kings back in the '70s. He's trained as a computer programmer and technician, and used to own a tech-based shop next to the McDonalds on the same block. When the current spot at 216 Parkside became available, he took a risk and opened a business that he felt the neighborhood sorely needed - a full-service coffee joint where one could rent time on a desktop and print out documents. Abdo brought with him his excellent skills in computer repair (both Apple and PC products) and has continued to try to draw attention to his top-notch inexpensive expertise. (Many a mac-loving patron was told by Tekserve to just go buy a new computer; Abdo thinks, or rather KNOWS, that this is usually not the case. Give him a shot before trashing your $2,000 investment).

This blogger noted herein that Abdo sort of "jumped the shark" when he plastered his windows with signs and specials and started serving everything from smoothies to frozen yogurt. But at its heart, the joint always sold a tremendous selection of organic teas, became the only place around to sell decent bagels (Le Bagel Delight, no less) and more recently began selling a surprisingly satisfying cup of joe - an Arabica that beats the hell out of Dunkin' Donuts. (Arabica is native to the mountains of Yemen, by the way, coming originally from the Arabian Peninsula).

But just a couple weeks ago he took the advice of his loyal customers and took down all the signs, replacing the dirty plexiglass with clear windows. It's already made the place more inviting. The FREE wireless is a plus, and while the Portlandia crowd may see the four desktop computers as unsightly dinosaurs, the reality is that many people in this neighborhood NEED an inexpensive workstation from time to time. If you haven't much dough and need to print out a resume or email something or find out information that only resides on the internet, how else you gonna manage? Perhaps the wires could be hidden. The chairs could use an update. And the unused space off to the left seems cluttered and unsure of itself. But the staff is capable, though not of the typical post-college musician/actor variety, and the variety of offerings is charming. It's clean if cluttered, and you really can get a decent cup of coffee and bagel on the go, or sit down in the raised window space and watch the comings-and-goings of your neighbors from your lofty perch.

AND, get this. For a limited time, Abdo is offering a FREE cup of coffee if you mention theQatParkside. That's right. No obligations. Just mention us and get a free small coffee. The milk and half-and-half are in the fridge on the left. The Q has no financial stake here...just the desire to see a hard-working neighborhood-loving shopkeep have a chance to win your business, and maybe your heart as well.

And don't forget that computer repair. His biz is word-of-mouth, so if you've experienced his handiwork personally, please give him a thumbs-up or down right here. And guess what? When he saves up a bit of dough he's going to change his sign and name. To "Wired." Like how you get when you drink too much Arabica Joe. Nice move. And he might replace the news-yelping TV with some music. Things are looking up, and don't be afraid to drop a suggestion here. I'll be happy to relay the message.

Best of luck to you, sir.

Live Blogging the Storm

Don't be silly. This would be the worst possible place to get up-to-date information on Hurricane Sandy. However, in the unlikely event that you get stranded with no phone and only internet and need assitance, feel free to email and we'll do the best to help you get help. Be safe!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

They're Not Just Soaking Up Ray's

That lousy pun is the Q's way of saying he was tickled pink to see workers in safety vests (see below) counting vehicles today as part of the traffic study that's taking place on the Flabenue. We counted more than a dozen such seated enumerators at intersections along the route from Parkside to Empire. Their presence is welcome, though somehow I doubt their hazard colored garments will protect them from a Dollar Van jumping the curb. Just last week, a friend witnessed yet another accident, this time a Dollar Van recklessly side-swiping a car, only to criminally speed off. The pummeled car righted itself and took off after. I hate to think how that encounter ended. Anyhoo, hats off to DOT for moving in the right direction (which is something a department dedicated to transportation should do, after all).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Family Halloween Fun in the 'Hood

Last year's Ghouls and Gourds event was SNOWED OUT(!), and I'm told it's the highlight of the kiddie Halloween season. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden no less, which is looking pretty spectacular in its autumn jacket.
And as mentioned here previously, the best trick-or-treating route in the City happens right here in the PLG section of Flatbush along a "safe walk" laid out by the NYPD. It's positively charming, so tell everyone you know or see, so it doesn't feel too exclusive to blog readers and listservers. This is one of those feel-good opportunities to share the love. See a kid on your block that you don't know personally? Tell the kid and his mom, dad or guardian to join in! The more the merrier, because the Q isn't on the route and doesn't have to buy the candy! Happy Halloween (week) everybody! (Eric and Kimberlee, time to stock up on Kit-Kats!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Networking Tonight

More valuable info for mighty Nostrand Avenue from the indefatigable president of the merchant's group - Lindiwe Kamau - who is also owner of the awesome Expressions in Ceramics.

By the way, that Select Bus Service project is on its way for Nostrand's B44, meaning that lots of construction will be happening over the next year to make it happen (google "bus bulbs" if you want to geek out on the project). Read the SBS plan here. If you haven't ridden an SBS, say on 1st or 2nd Ave in Manhattan, I'm here to tell you they're friggin' fast and awesome. You don't have to wait to swipe your metrocard, you do that at the bus stop and walk on at any door. The bus lanes are swift and the ride is smooth. It's way Euro. I mean they should be blasting Kraftwerk while you ride. But once the B44 goes SBS, you'll be booking North to South in the BK like a corduroyed kid down a greased bannister. Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Southern Q Blotter - Beware Burglars, Biters and Builders

From the Brooklyn Daily come these neighborhood crime reports. Warning: The second blot is particularly bizarre. The final entry points to a robber with a penchant for round, simple math.

A 24-year-old man was arrested for pillaging a man’s Caton Avenue apartment on Oct. 22, taking his laptop. The victim told police that he was returning to his home between E. 21st Street and Flatbush Avenue at 3:30 pm when he saw the suspect leaving his apartment with the computer. When he attempted to stop the suspect, the man drew a knife, threatening the victim before leaving with his property, police reported.

Police arrested a 48-year-old woman who they say beat and bit a man on Westminster Road on Oct. 21. The victim told police that he was between Church and Caton avenues at 2:45 am when the suspect punched him, hit his hands with a glass vase, and then bit his shoulders. The victim was rtaken to a hospital following the attack, where he received five stitches in his hands, cops said.

A 33-year-old man was arrested for pilfering $1,000 worth of building materials from a Caton Avenue apartment building on Sept. 25. Surveillance footage shows the suspect and an accomplice entering the building between Parade and St. Pauls places at 2:30 am, where they grabbed 10 wooden doors, 10 buckets of compound, and 10 buckets of plaster from the lobby and fled.

Dreams Really Can Come True for the Q

At last night's Community Board 9 meeting two extraordinary things were revealed in slightly greater detail, directly from the mouths of officials working at DOT and the NYCTA, looking me straight in the eye without blushing or stammering.

As the Q noted previously, a major Congested Corridor study is underway to determine how to unclog and ensafen (my word, thank you very much) the Flabenue, Empire on down. Well done Mr. Keith Bray and his associates at DOT, who have shown enormous willingness to meet with the community and address priorities of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. They balance some fairly strident complaints from all camps, and generally do their best to accommodate. (Last night I got a sense of just how much some people HATE bike lanes, even finding them class-ist and even racist, but I'll leave that to another more contentious post. Suffice to say, TREK is a four-letter word to some.) No one can argue however that Flatbush needs some work...they'll come to us with their findings in late winter.

BUT MORE IMPORTANT, and here's the really BIG BUTT for today...


They start in the spring. Granted, there will be half-station closures throughout next summer as they redo stairs, tracks, ceilings, columns, the works. No word yet on how extensive will be the cosmetic work on the headhouse, but believe me I got down on my knees and begged Asst Director Andrew Inglesby for light fixtures, matching doors, scraping down to the bone and repainting. Look, if they don't do the job properly and fix more than the infrastructure, what's the point of spending millions of our dollars? They should want it to LOOK as good as it IS.

Holy crap I'm happy about this news, and I hope you share my enthusiasm. Thanks to CB9 for relentless pressure on the issue. Finally our turn has come. Now about those canners...

There's no place like hometrain, there's no place like hometrain...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Planting Workshop This Saturday

At the unlikely location of 121 Clarkson near Bedford comes a Free Fall Planting Workshop with landscape architect Sasha Newman-Ladjen. Prepare your garden for winter AND get 15% off from the ever-reliable Kings County Nursery over on New York Avenue. If you haven't been to KCN you owe yourself a trip. We go three four times a year. Our family bought an Xmas tree from there last year and got it delivered - the owner Joe waived the fee and said merry christmas. (That's not to suggest he shows favoritism to folks who were raised as christians. He's been known to offer discounts to Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrianists, Confucianists, Baha'is, Buddhists and Shintoists. Not so much with the Crystalists, but he's open.) Family owned and operated since 1955. Not the most adventurous garden shop in the City, but damn close-by for those of us without autos.

Oops! This post is about the planting workshop. Here's the flyer:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let Me Rephrase That

As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say...never mind.

After a number of volleys with DOT Deputy Commissioner Keith Bray and the district manager and transportation committee head of CB9, it turns out that DOT is in fact studying Flatbush as promised. This is not the traffic calming initiative of a few years ago that addressed Empire Blvd (surely you've noted the new islands and turn signals) but rather a new in depth look at the problems of sub-Empire Flatbush as part of the Congested Corridors program, which recently addressed problems on Church avenue (did it help?). And I think we could all agree that the Flabenue could easily rename itself Congested Corridor without need of a City Council declaration.

Keith says to look for a community meeting sometime in early Spring where they'll share their findings. My guess is what they'll find is - it's a hot mess.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Flatbush To Get Traffic Calming - the "other" Flatbush

Know what gets my goat? Certainly more than the lack of fine dining around here. What kills me is when something sorely needed, like traffic calming (or even just traffic less-insaning), ends up happening somewhere else where the problem isn't nearly as severe. I know our Community Board isn't all in-your-face like others, and that we don't have a major corporate-named arena happening directly in our midst. But did they really have to create safer intersections on Flatbush between GAP and Atlantic BEFORE dealing with the deadly and congested "other" Flatbush corridor from, say, Church to Empire? I mean, even the DOLLAR VANS drive more sanely up there, and the pedestrians cross in the actual cross-walks, and drivers stop at red lights. It's practically Minneapolis up there compared to our stretch. This is what happens when you're organized and have a powerful merchant org, like the North Flatbush BID:

Yes, planters, shorter crosswalks, the whole nine. I'm not saying that would work here. I don't even think it's all that good an idea in general - looks very suburban. But the fact is, and I've said it before, there simply isn't room for six lanes on our narrow Flatbush corridor. Especially with speeding vans, trucks, buses and shoppers all negotiating the tiny lanes. Add up the crash stats and we definitely qualify as one of the deadliest slices of pavement this side of Calcutta. Plug your address in here if you want to add up the casualties.

And what's with the name of that bakery in the picture here on Dean street? The Cake Ambiance? Is that supposed to be reference to a book or movie I've never heard of? It must be, because that just don't sound right - the cake ambiance. Probably makes great cakes, but that name has got to go.

This whole thing must have put me in a bad mood to be dissing desserts. DOT told me there were going to do a study of Flatbush this year. Time to check if that's still happening. Don't need a study though. Just go out and risk your life yourself and check back with us. (A dollar van's eye view is a GREAT way to put it all into perspective. And I DO love those dollar vans, though I'd never ride it with my kids and probably shouldn't cuz I HAVE kids. But sometimes you gotta live a little. And're late).

StreetsBlog Story

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dork Klub's Classy Exit

The Q was wandering up the Flabenue tonight when he caught site of this Going Out of Business party happening at Dork Klub. How great is that? No tears. Throw a party for a bunch of local kids. I'll admit I never really quite got this mother/daughter team's biz model, a boutique with a sweet goofy theme I guess, but I loved passing by the store and marveling at the pink and general enthusiasm therein. The joy lives on...

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Best Side of the Park

Yes, yes the Q has been hearing the stories this week about how "Music Island" over by the still being constructed Lakeside project is ready for its closeup. After 50+ years the disastrous Moses-era project known as Wollman - the skating rink that killed Olmsted and Vaux's crown jewel - was finally about to sing her sallow death knell. Such lofty language gets used whenever historians and Jane Jacobs-ites get their nostalgia on! (And did you know that Vaux is pronounced Vox, rhyming with box? I didn't, till I heard every Tom, Dick and Bloomberg say it thatly this morn).

And yet, when I attended the "dedication" early today, even in the dreary rain, none of the hoopla seemed to matter. The blah blah blah from the elected officials couldn't stop this grown man from getting verklempt over the vistas. And that rich lady Shelby White who gave all that money to make it happen? She moved me too with stories of her growing up right here in Caledonia, her father a musician who loved the Concert Grove, and the magical memories she had as a child playing along the promenade looking out at music island. The pictures say it all. Really stunning. And look at that second to last pic where, do my eyes deceive me? It looks like a little mountain, could be Upstate someplace. Sweet. Go see it for yourself Saturdays and Sundays from 10-2, when they open the gates for you to take a gander!

Dr. Cuts Lives Up To Its Name

Boy did the Q think he was clever. A couple years ago I started shopping for a barber in the neighborhood, feeling ridiculous for heading over to Park Slope for a trim given the dozen or so places a man can get a haircut right near my house. I shopped around a bit, and since I'd always liked the sign and vibe at Dr. Cuts I wandered in and asked "do you take my insurance?" The gentlemen inside laughed politely, but now I realize it was no joking matter. (And clearly I wasn't the first to make that obvious joke).

Turns out owner Desmond Romeo is in the habit of doling out free health advice to the men who frequent his shop. Much like the popular "Barber Shop" film franchise, the rapport at Dr. Cuts is familiar, jovial and often more honest than the dialogue between men and their physicians. Romeo and other barbers and tattooists have taken part in a brilliant program of the Arthur Ashe Institute designed to train frontline professionals in the art of encouraging men to get screenings and tests at the appropriate times for their age and proclivities. Hats off to innovative thinking like this, and my admiration extends to the way Dr. Cuts cleans in front of its store thoroughly every day. Right on. My daughter's best friend (he's 3) gets his hair cut there sometimes, and now I'm more inclined to go to, though I'm feeling very attached to my new barber Nelson of Nelsons on Parkside near Flatbush. I highly recommend either shop for men of all ages, races and, er, proclivities.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When Redistricting Matters

Every ten years one's voting districts shift to reflect the new census. On a national, state and local level, partisans and defenders of minority representation battle for new demographics for old districts. In the NYC Council, the fight rarely gets much attention. Perhaps this is because the City is so heavily Democratic, and the districts themselves SORT OF make sense. But this year, a new map will essentially break the long-defined neighborhood of PLG into two separate but unequal chunks.

To see how the districts change, go to this swell map here. Type in your address, and you'll see on the left the old district and on the right the proposed map. It's a slight change, to be sure, but suddenly north Lincoln and all of Lefferts and Sterling head into Tish James' 35th district, while the rest of the nabe stays with Mathieu Eugene and the fighting 40th. Most people probably won't care, and frankly Tish's popularity with lefties will undoubtedly mean that some welcome the change. But it seems a bit unfair to split a neighborhood without asking permission first. Hearings have already happened, though it's up to the council to vote aye or nay. What do you think? Is it worth a call to your councilman? 718-287-8762 gets you to Eugene's district office on Linden.

McDonald's Closed for Renovation

The iconic McDonalds at Parkside and Ocean is undergoing a transformation that will keep it boarded up for at least two months. The Q called corporate to see what gives, and we were sent an electronic press kit that lays out their ambitious plans to totally remake the restaurant chain's image. Oblivious to the waning interest in the space program and all things space, McDonalds has plans to modernize its entire image in astronautic terms to make a bid for its place in the 21st Century. A three year $50 million rebranding study by marketing giants Wachs, Wayne & Gibbous determined that the logo and arches should remain untouched, though they've decided to revert back to the original spelling of the brand WITHOUT the apostrophe. As for the interior, expect something that looks more like this in the newly designated first class section:

with the new "coach" area looking more space age arcade:

The food will get a makeover too, though the taste and "mouthfeel" will remain unchanged. Trays of everything from fries to quarter-pounders and apple pies will now look more like an astronaut's buffet:

Perhaps most surprising of all however will be the in-person appearance of the new, sadder, tattooed but infinitely more thespian Ronald McDonald at all franchises.

Plans for a green roof and outdoor cafe seating have been somehow misplaced and are unlikely to make it into the final project. Look for an opening just in time for Xmas stocking stuffers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mike's International Becomes...

Update Update: The last comment here seems to imply that the die is cast. Beauty Supply Store. Zoinks!

Update: A dude closing tonight said it would be a Chinese place. Who to believe? The permits suggest restaurant...

Drum roll...your eyes don't deceive you. Something's doing at Mike's International up the Flabenue. A spy tells the Q that not only are workers in there doing a bit of DoB approved construction, but that one of them says the new joint will be an "American" restaurant. This is good news for Americans, including Jamaican-Americans, Haitian-Americans, African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Midwestern-Americans, Flabby-Americans, Taut-Americans, Hirsute-Americans, and Americans-for-America. No word yet on what actually constitutes American cuisine, though it's safe to say "dog" and "horse" don't count. For Ecuadoran-Americans, however, Guinea Pig is very much on the menu.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A feast for the senses, every morn, noon and night!

Next to everyone's favorite hooch hut you'll find Alotta Apartments, a brand new "boutique" firm specializing in nothing but good old fashioned rentals. Lovin' the cut of their jib. And the owner seems sweet, one Malika Cumbie. Stop in if you're looking for a pad.

Once upon a time it was called Handyman's Special, owned by noneother than FEPMA leader Delroy Wright. It became Lime. Then Rhythm Splash. Next stop...Hooters?
And did you notice that the Internet Coffee House shed some of its shabby signage in favor of classic glass? I still think this place is neither under nor over rated. It's just plain rated, and you can get a decent bagel and okay coffee. Whadya want, a flea-bit couch and some crappy floor lamps? Go to Tea Lounge...

The seven brothers at Seven Brothers updated their sign at the SW corner of Flatbush and Woodruff. I often stop in there for 24-pack cellophaned bags of toilet paper since you don't have to wait on line like at the Gem or Bargain Hunters. The only one of the seven that I ever encounter is super friendly and sees me walking in and grabs the multi-pack before I even say howdy. Definitely worth walking a block out of your way for.

Here's a curiosity. At Flatbush and Caton comes Green Lake Express. The sign on the Flatbush side just says "Best Food," just down from "Best Meats." But the really nifty thing here is that Green Lake Express is actually run by the same folks who bring you Green Lake Chinese Food just around the corner. So if the Chinese take-out place isn't FAST enough for you, you can always bounce two doors down and get it fresh off the steam table. And they serve SUSHI! I knew the Chinese had branched out into Mexican, but now they're taking their full wok press to the Japanese. (I have it on good authority that you might want to pass on the "raw fish from Green Lake", which when you think about it just doesn't sound quite right.)

This inflatable karate boy is my daughter's new fave on the Flabenue. So much passion from a balloon...

You can say ALOTTA things about the neighborhood. But you CAN'T call it dull.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Help Plan the Future of our Neighborhood: Sunday, November 18

It's been a long, long time since the PLG-SoCro-Pigtown-Weeksville-EastFlatbush neighborhood took a systematic look at itself. Is such a thing really necessary? Well, if we want the City to understand our priorities, then the answer is emphatically yes.

When you see big cool things happen around NYC, chances are it started with a plan, and that plan got the necessary approvals from the relevant agencies - Planning, Design, DOT, MTA etc. etc. Lots of times it was the Community Board that got it going. Sometimes a powerful pol coordinated the effort; sometimes he/she merely supported a community-led initiative. I know that all sounds very vague, but in the real world planning at this level changes the Williamsburg and DUMBO waterfronts, builds new developments, razes old dwellings, turns land over to civic groups, turns dead zones into gardens or plazas, installs bike lanes, eases congestion, delivers traffic calming, creates affordable housing, or takes parking lots at the corners of major intersections on big urban parks that have green metal trees on them across from the Wendy's and turns them into a striking plaza that welcomes folks to the neighborhood you live in. Okay, that last one wasn't exactly vague, but I suspect you know what I'm talking about.

Each community board is invited, by City charter, to submit a long-range plan for itself. It's called a 197a plan, because of its place in the charter, quite literally NYC's constitution. Once a neighborhood 197a plan is presented and accepted by the City, a blueprint exists that agencies, the Mayor and Council, the CB and its District Manager can refer to when making decisions and allocating money from the "capital budget" (the part of the budget for stuff, not personnel, that costs more than $35,000 and has a life span of five years or more, if you must know. Wonk.)

The 197a plan is probably the single best way to get the attention of the City's bureaucracy to the needs and dreams of a neighborhood.

So why is CB9's 197a plan, or attempt at a plan, nearly 20 years old? Because there hasn't been a real effort made to update it. Even if creating a new plan were ATTEMPTED, we'd learn a lot about what our neighborhood deems important. And so, the good folks at Community Board 9 bring you a forum designed specifically to address the big picture. Add your voice to the mayhem on November 18th at a specially designed community-wide meeting at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (which is in CB9, as is the Central Library and Brooklyn Museum - yes, we gots lotsa the good stuff, even the Phat Albert's building, drool drool.) Pencil (remember those?) in the date. I'll post the flyer when it's ready.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Trapping Pigeons in PLG

Today a reader wrote in with a story too bizarre to be untrue. Here's what he said:

I just saw something this morning that I thought strange and was wondering if you or anyone in the hood has witnessed something similar:

Saturday 11:15 am, my son and I were walking out of the Western Beef parking lot and see a middle aged Latino man walk from his van and toss a handful of seed down in a pile and a bunch of pigeons descend and start pecking away. As we walk by the feeding frenzy, I'm thinking to myself, 'oh great, someone is helping to feed our flying rat population'! I turn the corner and I'm on my way down Sterling Street and I hear a bit of commotion so I turn around and see the tail end of the guy walking back to his van after casting down a huge giant net over the birds and shaking the net around with the birds in it, stuffs them in the side door of his mini van and hops in with his buddy quickly and takes off.
Together we wondered what on earth could compel a private citizen to take on such a macabre undertaking. Having friends over for Jerk Pigeon? An anti-PETA zealot? Terrorism? Pigeilantes?

Turns out that pigeon trappings like this are old news, and while some pigeons most certainly do end up as food, the likely explanation has more to do with simple economics. What if I told you there was someone who would buy these pigeons for $2 a head? For what purpose, you might ask?

Target practice. That's right, pigeons are regularly rounded up and thrown into vans and trucks to be transported to places like rural Pennsylvania to be used as "live" non-clay pigeons. You learn something new every day. And sometimes, what you learn is just plain despicable.

Wall St Journal Pigeon Article

To see what it might look like to do such a dastardly deed, here's a vid. Not for the squeamish bird lover:

Of course scenes of such cruelty are commonplace in the industrial food business. I can't pretend I haven't been party to such depravity. Still, pretty useful info to know, no?

Trash Improvement Part II

Turns out those guys I saw cleaning up the other day WEREN'T a mirage. According to Delroy Wright of FEPMA, they were provided by the D.A.'s office. Delroy has a bunch of other insights worth sharing, so I reprint his note to me here. Thanks Delroy for responding to the community's concerns. I know we all have our hands full trying to pick up the trash in front of our own buildings, but it really helps to have a broad coordinated effort. You can count on my support and that of hundreds of your neighbors and patrons of local businesses. Three cheers.

Hi Tim, the initiative is FEPMA's . It started August 10th, The people doing the bagging came from the Brooklyn D A's office by way of their outreach program. The liners are supplied to us by Supt. Williams of BK-09. While the garbage situation has definitely improve, the volume of non-pedestrian refuse remain overwhelming. We believe that this problem can be resolve by the acquisition of high ended baskets for the strip. We presently have two on the avenue.  We noticed that these baskets require less servicing compared to the rest. This is due to the casing which house the garbage cans. The housing has a smaller opening and so not conducive to household or large disposables.

I was told our elected officials often allotted fund for these high ended baskets--more so the city council.  It would be nice to bring this to the attention of Ms Miles so as to have her and yourself advocate for these baskets. I certainly look forward to lending whatever little voice I can to this effort.

 The clean up project will be extended to Nostrand Avenue very soon. Also, you may want to make note that our graffiti program is still being pursued. We have secured the assistance of the Borough President's office to remove the more than twenty remaining graffiti on the avenue. A number of merchants have already signed up--most notable Stanley Fishman, owner of Drinker's Beverage, formerly.

Thanks on behalf of FEPMA


Friday, October 12, 2012

DSNY Steps Up Its Game

Is it my imagination or is the Flabenue just a teensy bit cleaner than it was just a few months ago? And how about these new-fashioned trash liners? Despite the trashcastrophes of three-day weekends caused by the likes of Christopher Columbus, it's nice to see sights like this with bagged garbage set to the side once they're full. I'm assuming it's DSNY and not some green urban goblin. Or is there a special program afoot? Must investigate...

Regardless, I would like to thank our district manager for applying some pressure and DSNY for stepping up enforcement. Please keep it up...I know it's just a small step in the right direction, but it really makes a difference. And thanks to any and all business owners who have the difficult job of sweeping the debris in front of their shops, sometimes several times a day. We see you doing it! The Q encourages everyone to say thank-you to those unsung heroes of the Flabenue.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Halloween Trick or Treating Route Announced

If you're into candy, tree-lined streets and spooky costumes (like the Boostman outfit I'm planning to wear that I mentioned in my last post) you'll want to plan to enjoy the precinct-sponsored Safe Path Walk that happens each Pumpkin Day. It's such a great time for the kids, and the fact that the streets are closed to traffic makes it all the better and saferer. And if your house happens to be on the route, better stock up on Kit Kats now! (the Q's all-time favorite).

Give That Flag a Boost

Are you serious, Boost? I don't know if banners like this are legal, but if they are, don't you have to at least hoist them above eye level? If you don't watch where you're going you might end up wearing a cape. Hmmm, and Halloween is coming up...I'm going to wrap that sucker around my neck and go as Boostman!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Little Vegas at ParksideZ

Who could miss the new sign at the old Mansoob's? I guess a deli owner has to invest to stand out from the crowd. The Q suspects that the neighbors of the oddly but memorably named ParksideZ who move in upstairs won't be pleased. Fiesta on Flatbush!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Affordable Housing Anyone?

For those who have expressed interest in the Community Board's approval process for the new building referenced in the Q's last post, the discussion and vote is planned for the November 27th CB9 meeting. Come one come all! I'll admit to being a bit taken aback by all the negative comments about the project. When I heard about the middle-income focus of the building I was cheered, thinking of all the people I know - artists, social workers, free lancers, domestic workers - who could really benefit from a lottery income-capped option so close to the park and public transportation. It's not like they're planning a building for bums, lunatics and crack smokers. There are requirements to be met, and it would be filled with working people. I'm not saying a market rate building wouldn't make more sense or potentially look nicer. But the sentiment expressed by some seems biased towards upward mobility for the nabe, which is well and good for home owners but not particularly helpful to renters, who still make up the vast majority of folks around here.

Ask 10 New Yorkers whether they're "for" affordable housing and I'll bet 9 1/2 will say yes. I guess it's good to take a look at what affordable really means, and I welcome your feedback to the following analysis:

Since moving to New York these many years ago, I've heard a constant refrain from elected officials and community activists that NYC has become the refuge of the poor (through subsidies) and playground for the rich (through subsidies, heh heh), and that for your typical working stiff, finding a truly affordable rental in NYC is like hunting Sasquatch (pictured).

But what IS affordable, really? I have only my own experience to go on. When I first moved here in the fall of 1988, I paid $300 for a room without windows in the back of a converted bodega. By the time I got my first real full time job, with benefits, at the Brooklyn Museum in 1989, I was paying $425 for a decent size room with two roommates above the Royal Video Store at Flatbush and 6th Avenue, where some dorky sports bar is now. (Don't get me wrong, Royal Video was pretty dorky too.) I was a glorified secretary (executive assistant) and I made almost exactly $20,000 a year. In other words, I paid roughly 1/4 of my gross pay in rent. To this day, that's considered the max one should pay in rent (more if you own, wherein you get a tasty deduction). That was just barely affordable then, but beer was cheap and there were no fancy restaurants at which to blow dough. (Even blow was cheaper, so I hear. And crack? More ubiquitous than Coca-Cola) The neighborhood was okay, not great, and there were three or four shootings that first summer within a couple blocks of my house. And the 78th precinct is basically right there. The times they were a-changing.

Flash forward to PLG/Caledonia circa 2012, as it relates to the newcomers who are driving the market rates. A young person looking to make a go of it in this slice of the Big Apple must plunk down at least $800 for a share, and $1,200 or more to live alone. That's in "affordable" NE Flatbush. You need to make roughly $40K to do the share, or $60K to live alone to pay 1/4 of gross in rent. $40K is roughly median income around here. Don't believe me? Check out this handy-dandy gizmo, and what you see will most certainly not shock you. 11225 and 11226 are on the low, though not lowest, end of the Brooklyn spectrum. To get lower you must (surprise, surprise) head east. The North Slope is flush with high-earners - more than $100K is median. Prospect Heights hits the middle ground between the two. And starting salaries for recent college grads in NYC is about $40K. So if you've looked to your right and left at the subway and seen a lot of recent college grads and were wondering why, well, there's your reason. Because the same apartments in Prospect Heights cost you roughly 50% more. And you can forget about affording trendier and tonier nabes without help from ma and/or pa.

In other words, and I'm sure I'll take some slack for saying it...our neighborhood is priced about right for what it is and where it is - this according to my own cockamamie rendering.That's not to say it's not unaffordable to many. In fact, I'd say, it's unaffordable to about half. That's the nature of market rates when they're actually reflecting the market, rather than being speculative or excessive, as they are in many parts of Brooklyn.

By the way, I'm talking purely about rentals. Ownership, particularly in brownstone Brooklyn, has become the privilege of those who have the means to "buy high" expecting that their investment will pay off in the long run. I mean geez louise look what people are paying these days! You need nearly $200,000 down to afford a house, then $150K a year for a mortgage, at least! We've all heard stories of the Park Slope house that went for, I dunno, $100,000 in 1968, only to be worth $3 million now. But dollars to doughnuts I'll bet that $100,000 seemed like a lot of money back then, and the Slope was no great shakes. So maybe million dollar houses around here aren't such a stretch. Still, owning a million dollar house in a census tract where the median household income is $40,000 sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? Personally I think that's where some of the tension derives...the extremes are so...well, extreme.

I'm withholding judgment til I have a chance to see what this guy - Tom Anderson Associates - has done and whether he's known to be good to his word. It would be nice if his architecture added something to the area, and it would be GREAT if his retail spaces could accommodate the needs of the neighborhood.

By the way, to the Maple Street School hater I would say only that I have some knowledge of the potential deal in question, and while MSS would be housed in something called "community space" it's very much a commercial lease that's being discussed, no free lunchbox. MSS, it's true, is a private nursery school, but so are most pre-schools and day-cares. A "public" Universal Pre-K would be an option I suppose, and I don't even think free public day-care exists, really. But free Pre-K most often happens in schools and as an extension of day-cares and community centers. That could be an option of course, but they (some non-profit org, much like MSS) would have to pay the going rate. The fact is, Maple Street has established itself as a bedrock of stability on the block, and were it to expand many more families could have access to the co-op model. It ain't cheap; that's because it pays its employees somewhat fairly and received no subsidies. But it's unfair to say it's not a neighborhood school, in the most generous use of the word neighborhood. (full disclosure, little miss Q jr. attends MSS).

Please comment away. I think this is a very important conversation to have, particularly leading up to CB9 vote.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

31-33 Lincoln Road Rears Its Head Again

Til a year ago, the Q hadn't a clue what the word ULURP meant. It's an acronym for Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, and those words together sound only a tad more interesting than flossing. What it means is basically every time some developer wants to do something, they gotta go through a "uniform" rigmarole so they can't pull something over on us unsuspecting plebeians. Case in point: the latest (and perhaps most likely do-able) plan for the vacant lot on Lincoln Road that, if you were teeing off from 33 would take a dogleg right with the green on Flatbush. Yes, the potential building would have two completely different addresses, and it might one day look something like this:
That's Lincoln on the left, and Flatbush on the right. These drawings are VERY preliminary. In fact I doubt the drawer has even BEEN to the lot, because this really doesn't look anything like the area around the Q's sister station, the Prospect Park Q/B/S.

But here's what we know. The developer Anderson Associates went to a CB9 committee and asked it to recommend the board approve a plan to build a nine story "affordable" building. Why, you might ask, would any quoteunquote developer want to create a less-than-market rate rental building when prices have gone through the green roof throughout the greater Flatbush metropolitan area? Simple. To build a building you need money, and if you don't have enough, you can go to the Housing Development Corporation, NYC's home to cheap mortgages for developers of affordable housing. It's like a bank with a mandate to only lend to people who build what it wants you to build, and they have the power to issue bonds which means they can raise a ton of money to do just that. Of course, if it REALLY worked that well we'd ALL be living in affordable housing. But it does it's best, I guess, though I don't really know enough about it to tell you whether it's corrupt, bloated or both. Anyhoo, on with the story.

Last week Tom Anderson (hence the Anderson Associates name I suppose) came to the ULURP committee of CB9, which the always affable (and lately quite hirsute) Mike Cetera chairs, and so it would appear that the plan is very much moving forward. With the blessing of the community and elected officials, Anderson will likely be able to get financing and put up his building, which would need to conform to the HDC mandate of 20% for low-income and 80% for middle-income families. I don't know what that comes out to in dollars, but suffice to say the whole thing sound VERY VERY different than the 20 story monstrosity (right) that had been planned just a few short years ago.

Thanks to Curb for the background. Now...what do the lot of you think of the plan for the lot?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beware the Jostlers

As iPhone muggings become positively epidemic throughout the City, and anecdotes abound of them in Caledonia, a piece on DNAInfo caught the Q's attention. From the story:

FLATBUSH — Cops nabbed three alleged iPhone bandits on a B train at Newkirk Plaza station on Thursday afternoon, police said. The teenage trio allegedly targeted an undercover transit officer with the MTA's "decoy unit" who was posing as a straphanger with an iPhone tucked into his backpack, police said.The three suspected thieves surrounded the undercover cop about 3:52 p.m., jostled him to create a distraction, and snatched the phone, police said. Other officers in the decoy unit witnessed the theft, and the three were arrested without incident, police said.

Police arrested a 17-year-old and two 16-year-olds, all Brooklyn residents, in connection with the crime. All three were charged with grand larceny and jostling. The 17-year-old was also charged with possession of stolen property.
I'm not familiar with the crime of "jostling," and it doesn't show up in crime statistics. And yet, it's safe to say, that with the spike in phone snatchings there must be a concurrent rise in jostling incidents. Once was a day an innocent jostling got you no more than a nasty stare. But in today's topsy turvy world it can land in you in the can.

Does that mean that a game of Twister is now tantamount to armed robbery?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Have You Seen This Boy?

One of our own is missing. Please keep your eyes out! Take a close look at any 10 year old you see who's not obviously with parents or caretakers. From the APB release:

Cops are asking for the public's help in finding a child last seen leaving his home on Crooke Ave. near St. Paul's Place on Wed., Oct. 3 at 7:45 a.m. Marlo Young is 10 years old, standing 5-foot and weighing 80 pounds. He was last seen wearing his school uniform, which consists of a black Polo sweatshirt, khaki pants, a white Polo shirt and black dress shoes.

Anyone with information in regards is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Angriest Man In Brooklyn

No, not our hotheaded State Senator Kevin Parker (yes the district lines are changing and he might soon be your man in Albany), but the film version of The Angriest Man in Brooklyn starring the delightful Robin Williams, ol' "Patch Adams" himself. Seems certain blocks around here look SO Brooklyn that they almost pass for the real thing. Babs caught a couple of pics of shooting up on Lincoln III, which by the way doesn't correspond to other IIIs since Lincoln goes west of Flatbush for a block, meaning that a III on Lincoln is really like a II on Midwood, say. Must be hard to remember where your house is! Now the pics:

Did anyone nab a gander of Robin? Anyone inconvenienced? Dumb question...anyone REALLY upset about being inconvenienced?

Wine 'n' Art

A new show is going up at 65 Fen by local landscaper, er landscape painter, Noel Hefele. Perhaps I wouldn't have felt so obliged to pass this along, except I ran into Noel as was walking one of his bigger canvasses down Bedford Avenue toward the shop. I wanted to warn him about the hilarity that might ensue if a foot chase led to someone running straight through the painting, only to have his pursuer do EXACTLY the same thing just five seconds later. Guffaw! But you really should go and check out his's quite subtle and timeless stuff, plus you can ask winekeep Michael "what's up with Delroy's?"


LANDSCAPES [near and far] @ 65 Fen

Please join us for an opening reception: Friday, 7pm 65 Fenimore Street Brooklyn, 11225 For the month of October this boutique locally-owned wine shop will display a selection of my Brooklyn and England landscape paintings.