The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nykki's Boutique

Cheryl Carty is Nykki. Or rather Nykki is Cheryl. No wait...Cheryl Carty is the dressmaker behind the shoppe. How'd I know that? I walked in, baby on board, and found out the whole scoop going on next to Scoops. Cheryl wanted to start a fashion store, she had a niece named Nykki, and voila -- Nykki's Boutique. The place has one of the most lovely signs on the Flabenue, a true original with an awesome font:

The combo of the Nykki's and Scoops signs make an awesome duo. Not so much the Jackson Hewitt tax sign, but two outa three ain't bad, as Meat Loaf reminded us.

If you haven't stepped inside, Cheryl's store is absolutely worth a closer look. All the clothes are handmade and designed by her - she can often be seen in the back working on patterns and sewing. She also curates a fascinating collection of handbags. (I'll be honest, I don't know handbags from handkerchiefs, but they sure are purty to look at). Cheryl went to F.I.T., lives on Fennimore, has been in biz more than 20 years, makes prom dresses and Sunday fashions. She's clearly very good, because she's always busy. Perhaps you wondered how she stays open with such slight inventory. Wonder no more - her big business is custom work. Still, there's plenty to look through, and I'm sure that hard-to-shop-for person on your list will appreciate a true original. Need a new dress? Why go to Target, TJ Maxx, Barney's or the Gem, when you can get something handcrafted and one-of-a-kind?

Cheryl of Nykki's. Another reason you live in one of the coolest neighborhoods on earth.

"Lefferts" Hit Hard By Health Hacks?

The Daily News reports that the Lefferts neighborhood has been smacked with more than its fair share of health violations. True? False? Filthy? Eat-off-the-floor clean?

I for one pay attention to the letter grades. Do you? Are they going over-the-top with the mop cops, such that rat stats are keeping coffers fat? Should they go easy on greasy eateries and speakeasies? And what EXACTLY is meant by "Grade Pending?"

Winston from Culpepper's gets a nice photo though:

photo by todd maisel

I'll be very curious to see how the numbers pan out after the Public Advocate's inquiry. Four-and-a-half hours sounds like a lot of time to be looking for vermin to me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

For Parents of Wee Ones - Bring Them This Saturday To the Masonic Temple

Okay, maybe that sounds a little weird. But I promise, the Freemasons aren't actually going to be there indoctrinating your children with all kinds of Masonry Hocus Pocus. If you haven't any children, read no further - there's a very exciting debate happening in two posts ago about rent regulation that has "adult" written all over it. But, if you DO have little kids, and like me you say to yourself "oh my God, another cold weekend day and I'm going to go completely out of my mind if I don't take them somewhere to run around instead of getting into all my stuff and gnawing on my favorite knick-knacks like crazed chipmunks," have I got a plan for you. And trust me, I went to this thing last year and it's actually a blast and the music is tolerable. And the food is allergen free! (Not to complain, but let me complain for a minute. It seems to me if your kids has allergies it's YOUR job to keep them from eating it, right? I mean, suddenly a lot of people have Celiac disease, but they're not needing me to keep my gluten locked behind closed doors. Maybe I'm being harsh, and kids tend to share with each other and stuff, and lick peanuts off each other's faces. I guess I can live with Sunflower Butter and Jelly Sandwiches...just forget I said anything).

Below is the promotional language for the big show. All proceeds go to the scholarship program at Maple Street, the coop nursery school so convenient they put it in the train station at Prospect Park. On Lincoln Road. So why do they call it Maple Street School? Because it used to be run out of someone's house, probably on Maple Street. It seems quite common these days for little schools to be run out of people's houses. Who knows, maybe one day they'll grow too big for their baswements, and they too can move to a public transportation hub like, I dunno, a bus station or airport or something.

And now, the advertisement:

Brooklyn Kids Rock!

LogoGet ready to kick the end-of-winter blues to the curb and get down at the third annual Brooklyn Kids Rock, New York’s most amazing kids music festival!
Join us for a rockin’ day of music, featuring four of the hottest kids music bands. This year we welcome back Jeremy Plays Guitar and Captain Kirk Douglas (of The Roots!). And we’re also thrilled to bring you two new acts: The Anna Banana Band and AudraRox! Together, these four bands will get your little ones moving and grooving (and will hopefully get you an early and easy bedtime!).
Captain Kirk Douglas AudraRox Jeremy Plays Guitar Anna Banana Band
But Brooklyn Kids Rock isn’t just music. When little feet need a break from dancing, there are awesome carnival games, face painting, arts & crafts, pizza and other food and drink.
Plus, an amazing raffle with prizes like tickets to SpiderMan: Turn Off the Dark, a Brooklyn Nets game, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; an ice cream party at Ample Hills Creamery; and a 15-week music class at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music!
It’s a whole day of fun, all in one room!

Details & Directions

Brooklyn Kids Rock!
Saturday, March 2, 2013
11am – 3pm
at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple
317 Clermont Ave @ Lafayette, Fort Greene (map)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Parkside Plaza - One Step Closer To Reality?

It's hard to imagine a bright future for Parkside Avenue without renovating the Q station (on for this summer!) and making the plaza itself more inviting. After meetings with DOT to re-imagine said plaza, after the Parkside Prize folks submitted a proposal, we've seen what the future MIGHT bring. But a lot depends on how much support we'll have from the neighborhood, and to what degree people are willing to step up and help maintain the plaza. Luckily, we have our Parkside Prize winner In Cho on board to make some professional renderings of various scenarios, to whet your appetite. Rest assured we'll be looking for as many street trees as possible. But questions remain about seating options, planters, the cost of maintenance etc. And so we need as many people as possible to show up at the next meeting about the Parkside Plaza, at Play Kids next Sunday. We really want to know what you think, so we don't start sprucing it up without lots of input. If we build a nice plaza, there will be uses for it too. Farmer's market? Talent show? Communist protest? Communist Farmer Talent show? Whatever your thoughts, please join us.
  WHEN:  Sunday March 3 at 5pm
  WHERE:  Play Kids, 676 Flatbush
  WHO: You, most discerning blog reader

After this meeting, Rudy and his team will be going back to the Dept. of Transportation, to try to arrive at a final plan for amenities on Parkside. 

In's coming up with a new picture we can look at by week's end. In the meantime, let me share with you one of my many losing entries. I'm still kinda miffed I didn't take home the gold, but at least you can see what might have been:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What SHOULD Your Apartment Cost?

Let's have a bit of interactive fun, shall we? Over on recent semi-related post a wonderful set of comments evolved documenting what people are paying and for what. I think this could be an incredibly useful tool for us all, and for folks looking to move here. Please add to this list in the comments, and I'll swing them up to the post. Please join! The more the merrier. Each of the below was written by a separate anonymous commenter. (in the comments themselves there's a hot discussion taking place over the role of subsidy in the housing marketplace.)

1. You have actually hit on a nerve which I have been wanting to itch for a while. Can we do a simple poll here where people that rent in our nabe self-report what rent they pay. I for one pay $1800 for two bedrooms. Depending on the day I feel its either fair or outright outrageous. I also know that my building is rent stabilized and that my rent should realistically be around $1200 given that the last tenant paid around $930 a month. I need to pick this up with my landlord obviously. While market rate offerings are desirable to attract a certain demographic we also have to temper this with the ultimate desire that this neighborhood not go the way of those other inflated ones... at least not artificially by landlords who prey on unsuspecting tenants who aren't aware of the rules for rent increases. So there. Not sure if blogger has capabilities for polling but perhaps something like surveymonkey can be used. Happy to volunteer to put it together.

2. To rent or not, $1800 a month is about the going rate for a two bedroom apartment here, and it is very possible that that is the legal stabilized rent for your apartment, regardless of what the previous tenants paid. Every time a rent stabilized unit turns over, the landlord is immediately entitled to a vacancy increase of between 18% - 20%, depending on whether the new lease is a one or a two year lease. Additionally, a further 0.6% per year is added for each year the previous tenant occupied the apartment if it was for more than 8 years, so potentially right there you could be looking at a 25% increase right off the bat, making that apartment now $1162.50.

3. In my experience, floorthroughs in PLG range from $1500-$2000, depending on quality of finishes, yard access, etc. Many people pay less, but I'd say open market a floorthrough in a limestone will be $1800.

4. $1350 for a one bedroom and live in super? That's a good deal.

5.  Maybe because I'm a long-time resident of PLG (2+ decades now!:-D), but I feel like rents are ballooning out of control. One of my concerns is a company like Abba monopolizing most of the listings in the neighborhood and, IMHO, artificially inflating rents. How much of a concern for agents; if at all? Many tenant's just aren't aware that they are being overcharged, so they'd never know to report anything. For example, I moved within my building a few years back and found out that tenant that took over my old apartment is paying almost 60% higher rent than I did. My landlord's excuse was that he completed MCI, but all he did was paint and re-glaze the tub.

6. 1800 for a two-bedroom is insane! Especially so in this neighborhood where a lot of the buildings are barely maintained and many don't have on-site laundry. I guess I see it this way because I pay way less for my very large 2 bedroom apt while my upstairs neighbor who moved in six months after me, pays about 800 dollars more and their apartment was never fixed up after the previous tenant moved out.

7. 1800 for a 3 bedroom in a poorly maintained building.

8. $1260, 1br, decent building, responsive super.
increase over last year's $1149

9. $1750, large 2 bed, decent (not amazing) building with dysfunctional building laundry room. Lenox and Flatbush. Suspect many other tenants pay far less, and our place was certainly not renovated (much less cleaned) before we moved in. We got far more space for our dollar here than anything in the other "edge" nabes, like northern Sunset Park, Kensington, 4th ave "slope" stuff, etc.

10. Ground floor 1br of townhouse on Fenimore Flatbush/bedford, $1500 w/shared backyard and laundry. Parlor apt and top floor apt (2brs) $1800 each. (stove gas/electric/internet extra.) A good deal compared to what else was available.

11. Large 2 bdrm (about 920 sq ft), was gut renovated when we moved in 3 years ago, all new appliances, live-in super, pretty well maintained elevator building, laundry, Winthrop btwn Flatbush + Bedford, $1620. 

12.  Moved to Parkside between Rogers and Bedford in December. 1 br for $1200 in a quiet elevator building with a friendly live-in super. Gut-renovated before moving in, new appliances and new hardwood flooring. No laundry but large laundromat right around the corner. The apartment has an inexplicably long hallway entrance (seriously almost 40 ft) and makes the place feel bizarrely spacious.

13.  i moved into a studio apt, in a well-maintained, rent-stabilized elevator building, in 2009... at that time i paid $1000 for it... in 2011 i got the rent lowered to $950 (just by asking / being a quiet, responsible tentant)... last year the rent went up to $980, as per the 6% allowed increase.

14.  Currently in a 2BR for $1800 at Ocean and Parkside. Newly renovated, great building, live-in super and laundry in building. LL raised the rent to $1890 and we are moving out. After searching high and low (Ditmas, Crown Hts, PLG, Kensington, Bed Stuy, Bay Ridge) I found a large 1 BR around the corner on Woodruff for $1500. More than I wanted to pay, but no fee and laundry in building, so it balances out. Plus I'm still around the corner from the subway and the park.

15. Large 2BR on Fenimore St (between Bedford & Flatbush) $1600. When we moved in almost 6 years ago our rent was $1300 and everything was newly renovated with all new appliances. Elevator building with on-site laundry and super. Can't think of a single complaint about my building.

16.  A rent-stabilized, fully renovated (including new doors and floors) 1 bedroom for $1250 on Lenox and Bedford with a live-in super (who has been really helpful and responsive as we settle in). Unfortunately, it seems the building has a history of bedbugs so we hope caulking the baseboards and vigilance will keep them at bay. We moved because rent increased on our place at East 17th St and Ave H. That was also a 1 bedroom but it had a dishwasher, was slightly larger but not newly renovated by a long shot. The management company was asking for $1500 with another increase coming in July.

Laurie Cumbo for City Council in the 35th District

I'll tell you more about Laurie as we get closer to the election. But of the six candidates announced so far (6!) Laurie would be getting my vote, if I lived in her district, the 35th (the area accurately called "Lefferts" is in the 40th). Not only do I know and dig her personally, but she started MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African-Diaspora Art) and turned it into a little powerhouse over on Hanson Place. She's smart, she's funny, she's savvy, she works hard and takes this town and the concerns of ALL its citizens seriously, and yes, she's got a kick to her, like the lady she's shooting to replace Tish James, who's now gunning for the Public Advocate job. The 35th district starts at Empire and goes North, so most of you won't have a chance to vote for her in September's primary (the only election that matters, since the Dems always take it in November). But if you DO live in her district, or if you have friends who live in Crown Heights and Ft. Greene, please let them know about tomorrow night's party for her birthday and fundraiser for her campaign. Go Laurie!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Planet Fitness Opens on Church at Flatbush

Much like my past attempts to join a gym and stick with it, I'm too lazy to go down to Planet Fitness, the new gym mere blocks from my house, to do an interview and take some pictures. Anyone tell me what's going on down there besides sweating, grunting and mirror-gazing?

Here's the website. Go get fit, y'all! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Report on Last Night's Cops Meeting

Thanks to Angel and Dynishal for a great meeting last night in the lobby of 40 Lincoln Road in the "LEFFERTS" neighborhood. Sgt Falk, who heads the "quality of life" unit, introduced longtime and newly assigned members of the group. These guys (and gal) are responsible for knowing the businesses and buildings in our neighborhood intimately. Much of the discussion centered around efforts at 40 Lincoln to rid the building of nuisances created by residents and non-residents alike, from smoking weed and drinking and carrying-on til all hours in the halls, to (crazy story here) a pervy peeping Tom who used to hang out on the fire-escape and do all manner of unseemly things up there, to domestic violence issues and more. One moment of heated debate came up when the cops were asked to be sure not to  "harass" the tenants, or make needless stops, while doing their in-the-building patrols. The police were visibly upset at this suggestion, trying to describe how it feels on their side when they are called to a building to do nuisance abatement, and then are aggressively confronted or even sued for "doing their job" and trying to assess who are the bad guys. So, basically, we were treated to an impassioned argument by the cops for using stop-and-frisk to do what they're asked to do. Tricky stuff that. I'd prefer not step into the debate, but they did seem to make a good point about how buildings can't really have it both ways. Either you want the cops to harass people and get them out, or you don't, since it's unlikely the folks are committing serious enough offenses to get them locked up for good.

The assumption some had was that the 71st has "tenants lists" for the buildings that have signed up for the F-TAP program (not to be confused with the Park Slope Food Coop's FTOP program) which gives the police the advanced right to enter a building and do "verticals" of the stairways, hallways and elevators. F-TAP does not allow them entry to individual apartments though, of course, meaning that the most they can do is to intimidate criminals and partiers into staying out of sight and off-sight. If you're interested in getting your building into the F-TAP program, you can go here and contact the D.A.'s office.

Here's a brief vid of the scene last night:

So here's the sitch: along with Officers Charlie and Leo (Melee and Ramos) already on the beat in the area, we'll have newly assigned Officers Sky and Rodriguez on morning patrols. Meetings like last night's are awesome, cuz you get to see your neighbors and see what concerns they have and how they express them. The cops too are refreshingly frank and eager to answer questions.

But here's something they keep saying, and I'm starting to believe. They simply don't get that many calls. Even when we claim we do, they say we don't. You can call the precinct directly, or you can call specific people like Sgt. Falk at 718-221-3429 or Sgt. Kelly (mornings) at 646-235 8611. You'll probably have to leave a message, so an emergency or urgent condition should always be a 911. And DON'T think someone else will call! They probably won't, and more calls are better than no calls. Just get used to calling in problems...they promised they don't get mad numbers of calls anyway, and it really is how resources are deployed. So call. Call. Call! And talk to your landlord about better lighting. The cops say it makes a huge difference.

Let's be frank; the police don't always do the right thing. Sometimes they're brusque or dismissive. Sometimes they seem reluctant to take a report when we're clearly upset. These experiences can make us suspicious whether they care at all. But just like how sometimes you go to a restaurant and get a rude waiter, it doesn't necessarily mean the whole place is worthless. Of course, it always COULD be a crappy business run by people who don't care, and that's what Yelp is for. But in the case of the 71st, I've met some pretty decent folks and I think that in general it's worth giving them our business, and the benefit of the doubt.

A rep from D.A. Charles Hynes' office was there, and she added the "law" side to the "order" conversation. Basically, the D.A. is interested in prevention, prosecution, and limiting recidivism. Because ALL the enforcers in attendance agreed that it's basically the same folks who cycle in and out of the system who cause the majority of the problems. When a kid gets out after serving a couple months, where does he go? Right back where he was before. The cops know him; he knows the cops. Falk said sometimes the perps come right up and say hello to him as if they're glad to see him after some time in the pen. Another thing they noted: these guys just don't give a sh*t about authority. They'll fight with the blues, punch 'em, spit in their face. It's a generation of lost souls, and the cops are only so empowered to deal with them. That's where the D.A.'s programs to try to reform repeat offenders become crucial.

D.A. Hynes will also attend "roundtables" of local citizens and precinct bigs to come up with a comprehensive plan to root out the serious gang activity. That's what the Q is working on for his block; the hard drugs have to go. I'm tired of seeing crackheads and junkies on the corner waiting for goods at 8am. And I'm really tired of watching the block be taken hostage by a small group of guys thinking they're Scarface Jr's. Next stop, D.A. Not that the cops haven't been incredibly helpful and started investigating more seriously...but we need more help, and it may be on its way through the "law" side. I don't know; I'm making it up as I go along, but I've had a lot of support and I'm grateful for it.

But really folks. Call. Call. Call. The cops say they're there for you and got your back. So call, and maybe get to know who's on the other end of the line.

Name of Neighborhood "Officially" Changed to LEFFERTS

After much debate and ultimately this completely official proclamation, the awkwardly worded Prospects Lefferts Gardens (and its hyphenated step-sister) nabe name has been shortened to the more useful, accurate and simple to pronounce "Lefferts." Originally the land owned and developed by the prominent Lefferts family, the area was always, and continues to be, part of the Greater Flatbush area. Given the outpouring of neighborhood jingoism gripping parts of the great social experiment known as the Borough of Brooklyn in the world's cultural and financial capital New York City in the Empire State of New York, an essential, largely liberal and trend-setting Eastern power-central member of fifty of the estimable United States of America in the venerable Northern Americas of the Western Hemisphere on the third planet from the sun, the currently habitable rock known as Earth, Universe....

The Q hereby pronounces the name of the neighborhood spanning from Empire Blvd to the North, New York Avenue to the East, Prospect Park AND the Parade Grounds to the West, and Caton Avenue to the South, irrevocably and irreducibly "LEFFERTS," no more no less.

These environs will continue to associate deeply with the larger and highly historic neighborhood of Flatbush, once the Town of Flatbush in the dutch chartered city of Breukelen. Put otherly, a resident of Lefferts IS a resident of Flatbush.

Your eyes are getting heavy...count back from repeat after me..."I live in Lefferts, I live in Lefferts...I live..."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Q Ain't Going Nowheres

The Q has 20 more years on his mortgage, two kids and a tab at ParksideZ. Why would I go anywhere?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

McDonald's Says Git 'n' Go!

From DNAinfo's Sonja Sharp comes this story about older folks being asked to "move along" rather than being allowed to hang out in the newly designed McDonald's "cafe."

Interestingly, Sharp chooses to create a bit more conflict than actually exists by citing Yelp reviews who point to their general dislike of the chain restaurant by newcomers, or "hipsters," which I guess has now extended its meaning to include anyone not liking McDonald's. From the story:

But while hipsters may hate it, longtime residents adore the restaurant, calling it a haven for for (sic) seniors in the absence of a local community center.  "I've been coming here ever since this McDonald's opened, 25 or 30 years ago," said local resident Ralph Belgrove, 70, a retiree who comes most days to visit with friends, nursing one or two cups of coffee during his four-hour stay. "It's wintertime, we can't go to the park, so we come here and buy a cup of coffee. You sit awhile, buy a second cup of coffee — you relax."
What in Sam Hill do those things have to do with one another? I'm beginning to think, after reading an over-the-top story that included the coining of a dreadful new term "hipsturbia" in the NY Times, that the word hipster has become shorthand for "come read my story about class warfare and entitlement that will make you want to throw your latte at a neighboring at MacBook Pro." But hey, sometimes the story is just a story, whether it's seniors not having a place to chat or young families choosing to move out of the City and live nearby. (Other than cattiness, I can't see a single reason to employ the word hipster to anything other than musical or fashion style, oh and of course the new foody foodiness. Otherwise, it's just people living their lives - why not judge people on the content of their character? Among the so-called hipster nation is a hell of a lot diversity. And how is what people wear, what they listen to, what they eat and what they "believe" any of our business anyway? It was funny the first time, amusing the second, and now it's just plain boring to talk about. Ever since the term baby-boomer was coined, we've been barraged with zeitgeist nonsense intended to belittle our fellows. Whatever you're pickling in your basement and selling at the Brooklyn Flea is fine by me, as long as you don't try to pickle a hot dog, because dammit that would be blasphemy. And yes, gentrification involves real and serious issues, but not the cartoon caricatures favored by journalists).

The real story here, in the Q's mind's eye, is that local retirees have nowhere to go. McDonald's is probably being short-sighted by kicking sweet neighborhood seniors out of their booths (they make the place look popular after all, and they DID pay for their coffee - maybe you could make a case if the place is packed, but otherwise let 'em gab for Pete's sake. Hey, I wonder if Pete knows Sam Hill...), what's really sad is that there isn't a halfway decent senior center nearby. According to this list, I don't see any within walking distance for a "hipster," let alone someone suffering from worn "hips."

Note to McDonalds: if you want the endorsement of this blogger, let the old folks sip their coffee. I'll be happy to eat your fries from time to time. I'll savor them, one a minute.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rhythm Splash, Friend or Foe? Depends On Who's Asking!

After hearing a particularly impassioned complaint about big bottomed noise coming from Rhythm Splash, the only real "club" along the Flabenue, the Q decided to put on his other hat as chair of the environmental protection committee of the community board and check it out. Speaking of hats (fedoras), it turns out that Ben Edwards, the prez of the Lefferts Manor Association, knows the owner Richard and offered to set up a meeting for the three of us. Ben came striding down the Flab dressed to the nines as usual, with his trademark chapeau -- I could tell it was him from three blocks away. Anyhoo, twas a bit late for this old man to be out even on a weekend, but technically I was here on business, and I couldn't help thinking what a strange pair we looked as we entered the place.

We were greeted kindly at the door; I scanned the place and found it immediately inviting, not at all like I'd pictured it through the window, where it often appeared exclusive. Exposed brick, a nicely lit bar, the music not too loud but not too soft. If things were always this relaxed and pleasant, I'd find it hard to believe it could draw unwanted attention. If anything, I'd expect the place to be packed most nights, given the dearth of decent bars around here. Much to my surprise (should I have been?) a tableful of four coed young folks of the newcomer variety [were they real young or mid-young? I can't tell anymore. And yes, they were white, so in answer to one reader's query, the place is not "restricted" anymore than by your own mind :) ] were busy chatting, chugging and chuckling. The pretty bartender was all smiles, the few "regulars" were watching a game. For the life of me, I can't imagine why there weren't more than the 10 or so folks there, especially since the place seems destined to attract a diverse and un-thuggy crowd. Well, on regular non-club nights anyway.

So in walks Richard, a sweet Trinidadian who's tried a few tactics to heighten the bar's profile over the past couple years. It became clear within minutes that his heart and head are in the right place...but it's been hard to find the right groove. When he and his partners rely on party promoters to pack the place, things can get out of hand, despite the frisking bouncer. Because it's being run as a DJ party the volume tends to start loud and just get louder as the night wears on, and not all the patrons are known to the owners. A party can run til 4am, and though Richard claims the upstairs neighbors don't complain and have his cell number in case of problems, it's quite clear that all the opening and closing of the front door DOES cause quite a bit of excess urban chaos to sleepers nearby. The irony is that the thick curtains could be shut to contain a lot of the sound, but the cops have asked that they stay drawn so they can easily see inside. Even with the curtain's attenuation, though, smokers are constantly opening the door and spilling onto the sidewalk, and each door opening punches the quiet night like a blaring car alarm. No question it's a quandary, since the volume generally doesn't reach illegal levels when the doors are closed, which would be how the cops would test the decibels. So...what to do? I welcome your really is a question of how to balance the rights of a business vs. the rights of neighbors. Even the decidedly downscale LPT has been struggling to keep its music alive on weekends. (Is karaoke kaput?)

Here's a picture of Richard and Renee standing at the bar. Nice people. Give 'em a try some time. The most you have to lose is the cost of a happy hour drink.

I'm happy to log any complaints through the community board, and they'll go right to the precinct. 311 is a bit less direct, but it works. You can absolutely call 911 if things have become unruly or criminally loud. Or just ask me for Richard's cell phone number, and I suspect he'd rather turn it down than risk a bigger ordeal. He's doing five to six club nights a month, so maybe a schedule would be helpful? I don't know. I'm trying to find a compromise here!

Oh, and yes he IS changing the name of the joint. Probably to The Avenue. I don't think I need to tell you what name the Q would prefer...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Trouble With Doubles

The Q thanks you all for your kind words in my defense after that last lazy post. Not necessary, mind you, but very warmly received. And now, back to the kind of hard-edged deeply-researched muckraking you've come to expect from the world's most local news source. Fox News may be "Fair and Balanced," but at the Q our motto is "Fairly Random."

From the "we got it pretty damn good" department:

Trinidad's favorite snack food, doubles are truly, truly one of the Q's favorite Flatbush secrets, and I say secrets only in the sense that Ausländers simply won't understand. Two taco-sized bara are your yellowy turmeric bread and the filling, channa, is all about the chickpeas, usually curried with some tamarind sauce as condiment. Other stuff gets thrown in their two, varying from place to place. It's a messy eat to be sure, but then so's a taco, and I ain't heard much complaining about them. Can't say I've ever made doubles myself, and why would I, when I can order world class doubles at De Hot Pot for a buck fifty (1127 Washington) or Bamboo Express (772 Flatbush) for a dollar? Try both spots and note the slight difference in the textures and spices.

And why not throw in some bake while you're at it? I know most folk order it with the saltfish, as in bake and saltfish, but our Congolese pal Simba hooked Little Miss Q on the bake by's like a perfect poori-esque doughnut, which is by the way the proper spelling of doughnut no matter what Dunkin' says.

But here's the real question, re: the Trouble with Doubles, and I'm looking for y'all to help me out. The double is usually listed as an appetizer, which make sense given all the wonderful other dishes sitting out there on the steam table. many to order? One is a tease; two seems nice; three maybe piggy? Four is really what I'm thinking when I'm hungry and staring at the chef.

Please, and let us know your other favorite "only here" dishes that hifalutin Ft. Greene only WISHES it could sink its fashionable teeth into.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tragedy on Church Avenue

Word is coming off the wire of a six year old boy being shot on Church Avenue at East 18th Street. If you're one for prayer, now's the time.

As per the commenter below, victim was 59, despite multiple reports to the contrary off scanners and Spotcrime.

Meet the Flatbush/Nostrand Beat Cops - Next Wednesday February 20

The blue coats are coming, the blue coats are coming!

On Monday night at local crime reporter Nicole's house we met Charlie, one of the two cops who's job it is to patrol Flatbush. Joe and Charlie are our guys, and precinct head Jack Lewis will introduce them to the community next Wednesday in the lobby of 40 Lincoln, a building that itself has struggled to keep drugs, gangs and litter at bay. (Or DG&LatB as the Q just coined, for kix.) Please, everyone, make time to come and let them know how much we appreciate their appearance on the avenues.

Here's the groovy flyer:

By the way, the Q hit the streets last night to check out the massive police presence on Westbury Court. It appears that an "emotionally disturbed individual" created an emergency situation...that's all I got from Lewis and I'm sure we'll hear more as they release details. When I saw the Canine Unit packing up to go, they seemed none too concerned. Had their been a major shooting or murder they would have stayed and cordoned off the block. Let's hope it was none too serious.

At the meeting on Monday there were about 12 residents and 8 cops in a comfortable living room, and much was discussed. In particular, as I've noted here, Lewis and company know EXACTLY who the bad guys are. It's not for lack of trying that they haven't been able to keep them behind bars. Most of the worst actors have been jailed or incarcerated many times. The trick is catching them doing something serious enough to put them away for a long time. Unfortunately, this usually only happens after they attempt or succeed at murder, almost always of rivals. With the drug stuff, unless they have massive amounts on them, it's hard to get a long sentence. Parole officers stand in the way, too. Lewis is none too happy with his counterparts in that part of the system - he really has to stay on them and point out the guys we really, really want off the streets.

The D.A. That's who we should engage next. Organized Crime statutes, aggressively enforced by the district attorney's office, have helped rid other areas of gangs, most notably Franklin.

And what can WE the people do? Lighting, lighting, lighting for one. If you're concerned about the area in front of your house, or your walk home, your block association and PLGNA should focus on better lighting. As beautiful as are the street trees, they often block illumination. Bad guys like the dark. It's really quite simple, but few work to enlighten the nabe. Many complaints about crime, but few take an active role in this straight-forward time-honored technique.

More interesting and promising in my view would be a mini-version of Eric Adams TBOC (Take Back Our Community), wherein each block or block association has one captain with whom both the cops AND individuals on the block can communicate. Then these captains could get together regularly to share information, since many bad dudes move around. We'd get to know the ruffians names, their habits, and hopefully be able to lead the cops towards the right houses and apartments, and keep each other informed of goings on. I like it! I like that it involves members of the wider community getting to know each other better. This has worked in other NYC neighborhoods, and though it used to be more commonplace here in NE Flatbush, it's really died out in the last few years.

Gotta get to work...see you next Wednesday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Truly, Twas a Time of Torrential Turnover - Landlords Looking to Levy Larger Lease Prices Putting Parkside Peddlers on Pavement

Once again vacancies are sprouting like whiskers on the scruffy face of the neighborhood. Could there be a better spot for a small store than the one just left open at Diallo Accessories, diagonal from the park and next to the sleek new McBistro?

For the restauranteur on your shopping list, how 'bout a place already set up for cookin'? People's Choice, nee Exquisite, won't set you back too terribly much, and talk about visibility and foot traffic. And that's not all.
There's actually a dozen spots that I counted just tonight, within three blocks of my beloved Q at Parkside. One cool potential development is that the deceased colorful "Flatbush Fashion" might just get my fave balloonists (Kupid's Korner) as new tenants, if the terms are sweet. [Btw, the supremely sketchy bodega at the corner of Winthrop and Flatbush is outa biz, but don't be expecting a boulangerie to sprout in its place. Workers told me it's going to be another bodega, though potentially one with actual goods to sell.]

Word to the Entrepreneurial Wise: From what I've been able to gather from merchants, you should definitely not be put off by initial price quotes from landlords and managing agents. Once negotiations begin in earnest, you can expect to extract more and more lenient terms, and if haggling isn't your strong suit you could always hire a professional haggler. (Actually, they're usually called lawyers, not hagglers, but just try getting someone to pay $50,000 per annum to go to Haggle School.) If you can't talk the owner down to something within the realm of sanity, it frankly wasn't meant to be. But one shopkeep after another that I've spoken to has bragged to me how much they were able to shave off the initial asking price, even gaining a couple months rent-free to get up to speed, for instance.

Despite all my goofiness, I'm not being facetious in the least when I say that I was heartbroken to learn that Don's hardware store is no more (Glenn was the store's actual name, and oddly Peter was Don's OTHER name, which is apparently typical in Jamaica, the having of more than one name). Since moving to Clarkson ten years ago, I've counted on Don to give me advice on a million little home repair problems. I'm just not that handy, see, and he was always quick with a smile and patient lesson in how to screw this and screw that. He was my bike guy, my lock guy, my shovel and salt and winterizer guy, my main man in all things home-sweet-home. Don, er, Peter, I'll miss you, and I only hope you're going to retire and lay on the beach in your native Jamaica. But something tells me you've just moved on to your next gig, working your ass off, whatever and wherever that may be. Godspeed, sir! You were always good to me, and I'll never forget that.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Are Lack of "Amenities" Keeping OUR Outrageous Prices Less Than Those of Our Neighbors?

It's one of the most telling reports around. I hear a lot of talk about this nabe being cheaper than that blah blah blah. But the proof is in the numbers, and numbers look nice in a chart, and the chart looks like this:

I know that home prices don't correlate completely to these rental figures. Differences in housing stock and a characteristic I like to call "leafiness" can't necessarily be quantified. And the cool factor, an elusive target, but you know what they say. If you have to ask...

I prefer to ignore the outliers, DUMBO and Williamsburg. If you ask me the rental prices in those areas reflect...actually I don't know what they reflect. You'll find better deals on the Upper East Side, so it must have to do with that elusive cool factor. But you know what they say, if you have to ask...

But why does MNS leave out whole neighborhoods like Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace and Carrol Gardens? Nice of them to include Bed-Stuy, though, an area that wouldn't have even made the chart a few years back. And whatsabout Flatbush and...well, I guess we should feel lucky to be included. Still, $1200 a month just to have your own bathroom seems like a lot to me.

I get why they don't include Brownsville and East New York and Gravesend and Mill Basin...too far our or too culturally "undesirable" for the powers that be.  It's kinda weird though to see that chauvinism reflected so blatantly here. Frankly, I'd LOVE to see what a studio goes for in East New York. Might be a great reality check.

Can it really continue to climb like this? Brooklyn's great and all...but that toilet is getting awfully expensive.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Meeting This Tuesday Night If You're Upset About Local Quality of Life Issues

The Q has been hearing that things are pretty out of control up at the old Rhythm Splash/Lime/Handyman's bar at 673 Flatbush. Volumes are earth-shattering on weekends, and fights have been breaking out. Someone noted a bullet hole on the sign. Concurrently, there are some pretty serious ruffian doings up on Fenimore. I've seen and heard tell of a hooligan patch on Winthrop, serious shenanigans in front of JJ's and all along the east side of Flatbush Parkside to Winthrop, plus evidence of serious drug trade on Parkside near Flatbush, and the corner of Clarkson/Flatbush has an ongoing war between rival crews, and having spoken with a woman who is super to a number of local buildings there's definitely some bud-nipping to do. All of this seems to be brewing in the southwestern portion of the 71st precinct, even as a brutal murder happened up on Sterling. Local crime reporter Nicole F. has set up a meeting with Deputy Inspector Lewis at a home. If you're concerned about these issues and perhaps have others to introduce, please come to this informal gathering at a private home on Tuesday night on Parkside near Bedford. Email me for the particulars. From Nicole:

The 71st Precinct is interested in working with the community regarding noise
and disorderly conduct outside of the bar on Flatbush, Rhythm Splash. The
precinct is also interested in hearing complaints regarding fights and
disorderly conduct on Fennimore Street. If you have other issues you'd like to
bring up to the police, this is a good time to have their ear.

Captain Lewis of the 71st is going to be meeting with residents regarding these
issues on Tuesday night February 12, at 8PM, at a home in PLG. - Nicole

Again, email me here to RSVP.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Q OWNS the Times

Reader Rina pointed out that the Times ran a piece two days after the Q's post on the overwhelming advantage to going contract-less and prepaid with your cell phone. To those whose link-clicker is broken, here's the meat of the deal:

A Consumer Reports article in January on cellphones compared the two-year cost under various plans of an iPhone 5 with 16 gigabytes. Straight Talk came out the cheapest, even though the upfront cost for the phone, $650, was the highest. With a monthly cost of $45 for unlimited data), the total came to $1,730 after two years.At Verizon, the cost of the same iPhone was $200, but a similar monthly plan — with a data allowance of two gigabytes — was $100 a month, bringing the cost up to $2,600 for two years. AT&T was even more expensive — although it offered a data plan of four gigabytes — at $2,840.And, of course, if you don’t need the newest, hottest phone, cheaper ones are available. Cricket offers a Samsung Android smartphone for $159, with plans that cost $25 to $60 a month.

The Q adds: I've got the android Samsung Reverb, and at $199 upfront has proven to have all the nifty iPhone apps w/out the break-bank price. Actually, it resembles the iPhone to such a degree that I'm surprised Apple hasn't sued Samsung for patent infringement! What, you say? They did? Good for them! I sure as heck like my phone though...
But more crucially, the Times finally ran a piece on something I've been actually begging them to cover (by email, I didn't actually go there in knee pads), an issue I would have titled Scummy Slumlords Running Homeless Shelters. If you didn't catch my bit about the awful situation at the homeless shelter at 60 Clarkson, the Scandal Down the Block, and you have more than a minute to kill, I'd be grateful for as many eyes and thoughts on this issue as possible. The disgraceful policy that enriches slumlords at taxpayer expense while at the same time providing nothing in the way of meaningful, long-term rental assistance, while at the even samer time converting rent-stabilized buildings into homeless shelters overnight without community review or even notification, and at the samest time ostensibly forces out rent-paying tenants who may themselves become homeless as a result and could conceivably end up in the same apartment they were kicked out of but without rights or a It's really mind-blowing. Meanwhile, the dealers on my block have a nearly endless steady stream of vulnerable clients with whom to hawk their wares.

Now THAT'S policy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Murder on Sterling One

Oy. On Spotcrime and Twitter comes word of man shot and killed in his car at 102 Sterling. Anyone have more info? Grisly.

UPDATE FROM VINNY:  Yesterday, Thursday, February 7, 2013 at approximately 7PM a 911 call was placed for a man bleeding in front of 102 Sterling Street. When NYPD arrived they found one male black with a gunshot wound to his head sitting in the driver seat of a 2004 Lexus sedan. The victim was taken to KCH in critical condition and is not expected to recover. Anyone with information please call the 71 Precinct Detectives at 718-735-0501.      

UPDATE FROM LEWIS: Victim lived at 201 Linden, between Rogers and Nostrand. Sterling 1 is not a block associated with crime in the view of the precinct.  Two experienced homicide detectives are on the case, though it may be hard to uncover the evidence needed.

Would appear this was very much an assassination, gangland style. And as we all know, it's hard to get people involved in this world to talk. Folks, we have to do something about these guys, many of whom have rap sheets longer than the dead sea scrolls. Other nabes have chased the gangs away...we can too.

About That Tower to Be

As reported just hours ago here (see below), Hudson Inc. filed plans to build a 23-story tower at 626 Flatbush w/the firm Rogers Marvel doing the design. No reason for histrionics or pulled muscles yet, but needless to say this would be a massive change to the Flabenue and environs. I suspect they're throwing out the number 23 in an effort to arrive at a compromise that still gives them lots of units. 23 stories may one day be the norm along Flatbush (could the farms of 19th Century Breukelen ever have imagined today's 100 unit apartment buildings?), but for now it would be too tall too soon, in this blogger's opinion. It would tower over everything in an uncomfortable manner, like Shaq next to Prince. Something a bit taller than Patio Gardens would be more reasonable. How big is 23 stories? Well, another building by the same developers down in Dumbo looks like this:

That apartment building, J Condominiums, also exists among lower rise structures as along Flatbush. You can see the contrast.

As to the architect, I certainly hope he can come up with something similar to the below, from their portfolio:

New bizzes opening all the time?

Exactly who, might I ask, is fooled by this nonsense promulgated by the ever-deceptive Corcoran?

"This lovely home is close to it all and new establishments are opening daily in hip Lefferts Gardens." 
I love the nabe for being decidedly un-hip thank you. You want hip, Brooklyn's got hip. But not on Caton.

Over here where I work in Ft. Greene, or perhaps DUMBO, or downtown Brooklyn, over on 4th Avenue or Franklin or Vanderbilt or Williamsburg or Bushwick, such hyperbole could be fairly asserted. The only thing true in this ad is that the apartment is in fact for sale and near Prospect Park. But why stop there? Tell the whole story...

It's near the colorful Caton Market, and the now-vacant historic building HSBC. And an early morning hooch shack where you can get a pint and play lotto before 9am. And the delightful Mango Seed or deliciously utilitarian Dominican joint Melany. As to "new," I believe a new bullet proof liquor store opened on Bedford in the last year. Zen Vegetarian Chinese opened in the last 5 years. And "Pancakes in Hell" bodega (check the signage) at Flatbush and Woodruff opened a couple years ago. And Abdo of ICH went from coffee to computers-only in the last couple months. Oh, yes, the Gyro place on Parkside. And the McDonald's remodeled. That must be what they're referring to.

That's the tooth, Mr. Real Estate Agent. Come visit sometime. We'd love to show you around!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Breaking News: 23-story 200+ unit Building Coming to Flatbush?

In what will surely go down as the single greatest day in the life of the Associated Supermarket's owner, plans have been submitted to build a 23 (count 'em) story building on Flatbush near Hawthorne, that sort of orangey stucco medical plaza building that seems to be an edificial lost soul. Here's the story: The Real Deal. The architect's name is Marvel.

Remember, permits haven't yet been granted. There will undoubtedly be some sort of ULURP timeline. But it's safe to say that this would be a monumental change to the neighborhood. And you'd see this building from half of Prospect Park. Heck you'd probably see it from space.

What think? A good idea? It's certainly a tall idea...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Insane Phone Store That Skooled Me

The Q is curious like a cat. When he doesn't understand something, something that actually affects his life, he gets metaphorical hives. For years now, I've been totally flummoxed by the way cell phones operate, and the byzantine world of plans and networks and providers all the way down to the very phones themselves. Has it not struck you as absurd that every time you lose or change a phone you end up signing for an additional two years with a single company? That harkens back to Ma Bell stuff. How is that competitive, or even legal? Why is it that my otherwise genius friends shrug when I ask them why or how they chose their current carrier and plan? I've heard so many things said and repeated through the years that just don't sound right. I just HAD to get a handle on it. And the best way to do that was to become a free agent. Ditch my plan, which I can't even remember why I got in the first place. Oh, something about sharing a plan with my wife. But even though we're a "family plan," our bills are more than twice what other people were paying for individual plans. (It's like the "marriage tax" all over again.)

What I found shocked me. And it all started with a visit to that little shop Wireless R Us on Flatbush between Parkside and Woodruff next to the ridiculously entertaining Closeout Heaven. Here's how it went down. I was in Closeout Heaven one day bargaining with the Algerian brothers about how much to pay for a gargantuan box of wet Swiffer sheets when I happened to pull out my phone and complain out loud that it was busted. "Take it next door, they're amazing, they can do anything." Well by gum that's exactly what I did. The Lebanese guy (the one missing a bunch of fingers, but who is incredibly nimble with the stubs) was able to fix it no problem and didn't charge me. A few weeks later I went in there because his cell store was selling $99 air conditioners. During the course of that sale, he walked me down to the T-Mobile store just north of Popeyes. "Huh?" I said. "You own this place too?" "No, I just manage it." But he had other air conditioners there. This was getting interesting. Over the next year or so, Mrs. Q and I would take our Blackberries in there for routine problems. They even managed to find me an outdated replacement model just like the one I'd had before dropping it in the toilet, all so I wouldn't have to learn any of this new iPhone/Android technology. (I've always been a proud late adapter to new digital stuff, but this particular bit of obstinacy was ridiculous...everyone else was snapping great pictures, listening to music, surfin' le web, and downloading these annoyingly named "killer apps" while I was busy forcing my fat fingers into silly bendy shapes to type on a Lilliputian keyboard.) So my sitch was thitch: I was on the T-Mobile, hating them for not having service up in North Adams, MA where I go each July for work, hating the "Blackberry surcharge" and generally feeling like an idiot for not understanding the first thing about any of it.

But something the guy's bright eyed partner said really stuck with me one day. "Why do you want to pay more money just so they can tease you with a cheaper phone? None of my customers would be stupid enough to sign a contract." Really? You mean all these cats bouncing in and out of his store, some with wads of cash mind you,  had a secret that I just didn't get? I immediately asked for a tutorial in all things cell, and instead of shooing me out the door, to my surprise he explained it to me in much clearer Cellular English than I'd ever heard before. This was about a year ago, and my life has COMPLETELY changed since. Well, at least the cell part of my life, which you must admit in this day and age is a pretty big part of ALL of our lives.

So it turns out that all the while we "contract" phone people have been resignedly paying the big networks half our paychecks to keep up with the Phone Joneses, smart, often poor, urban folks have been squeezing great deals out of the providers by going prepaid. Frankly I didn't understand what prepaid even meant...I assumed it had something to do with all that cash that people were coming into the store with. And yes, that's part of it. I sort of assumed I was supposed to feel sorry for the prepaid crowd. But what was really happening was that the major networks AND a whole host of new Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) were allowing people to pay exactly what they wanted for exactly what they needed WITHOUT a contract and its stiff penalties for early departure. In most cases, they weren't even paying taxes and surcharges and those ridiculous little numbers at the back of your bill. In order to keep growing, the networks started customizing plans to fit the needs and pocketbooks of all manner of folk. (Haven't you ever wondered how EVERYONE in the world has a cell phone, even in countries where average wages are like a buck a day? SOMEone must be subsidizing that, right? Maybe cell service really IS that cheap in reality, and like pharmaceuticals, Americans just get reamed.)

What I discovered (and of course plenty of you are screaming "duh" at your iPlaids) is that there are really only four big cell networks, and that all these other companies (I'm now on Virgin Mobile, my wife on Simple Mobile) buy time on THEIR networks. There are literally dozens of companies doing this now. Check out this list.This is because after building hundreds of thousands of cell towers all across the country, the biggies have extra bandwidth beyond what they use with their own customers. So they wholesale those data nuggets to these virtual operators who can then seriously discount to prepaid customers. This became so popular that even the big boys had to start doing it to compete, though usually at higher rates.

Who are the big boyz? You already know them...Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. There's a couple smaller ones, but the point is that nearly all those companies you see advertised are really EXACTLY the same as V,A,T and S, or VATS as I just coined them. Even more interesting is that everyone I talk to claims that there's is the BEST of VATS, fastest, less droppage, more complete, though studies have been done showing that none of the four is a head and shoulders best. As I've found out traveling through the NE, certain networks don't get where you need them to go. End of story. But all VATS have their adherents, and it's just plain wrong to say that one is the best in all circumstances. They all work pretty okay wherever there are a fair number of people living. With annoying exceptions to each.

My Virgin Wireless? Folks, it's $35 a month. I don't talk anywhere near the 300 minutes I'm allowed. Who talks on the phone except to customer service people? And for $45 a month I could talk a blue streak. That whole unlimited data nonsense? Most people simply don't need it. You'd have to be downloading TONS of music, TV and/or games directly onto your very own phone to need a data plan at all. Web surfing and email and most apps take up next to nada in data. $35. And I'm fine. I'm living to tell the tale. Nothing has changed, and I've more than halved my monthly bill.

The catch? You gotta pay full price for a phone. But think about it. Even if they tease you a FREE brand spanking new iPhone, you'd still save money over two years. I bought a great $200 Samsung Androidy thingy and I've already paid for it in savings. Plus I can cancel anytime, change plans, change phones. Maybe even try the awesomely named Ting mobile. You can get used phones for cheap, or take your great aunt's when she passes. You could swipe someone's RIGHT OUT OF THEIR HAND!! Wait, don't do that...

Love to hear your phone stories. I'm just giddy with freedom. I pass by the Wireless R Us guys now and nod a knowing kind of nod, and they nod back, now that I'm not quite so much of a clueless sucker anymore.

Hey guys! Free advertising for your logos below!