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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The D.A. Makes Us An Offer

The name of the Brooklyn District Attorney is Charles "Joe" Hynes and he's been around for quite some time. In fact, the Flatbush native just turned 78. Happy Birthday, sir. Hope you like scandals, your own reality shows, and close reelection campaigns! If so, this is YOUR year to shine!

The District Attorney finally took a meeting with the Q after weeks of tries, since I'd heard that it could be very helpful to draw in the law side of the Law & Order equation, especially when trying to get a grip on violent crime in your neighborhood. I mean Jerry Orbach was a saint, and he gave the gift of sight to two New Yorkers, but you needed Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy to keep those rascals behind bars, and he played a mean Abe Lincoln in his younger days as well. As I recall, he recited a whole Lincoln speech at Cooper Union a few years back too. And remember when Fred Thompson ran for president, not long after stepping down as district attorney? Wait. That's mixing truth with fiction isn't it. Let me start that again.

Archuke Franz Ferdinand, too,
had a handlebar moustache
The District Attorney finally took a meeting with the Q after weeks of tries, since I'd heard that it could be very helpful to draw in the law side of the law & order equation, especially when trying to get a grip on violent crime in your neighborhood. Even our precinct commander had noted as much to me. 40 Lincoln's Dynishal Gross had been trying to get a meeting too, and it turned out that Saadia Adossa of the D.A.'s office scheduled us both to come in to meet the D.A.'s team at the same time. Dynishal reached out to her crew over on Lincoln, I reached out to the Clarkson crew and Duane Joseph over on Woodruff, Quest from PLGNA came too, and we had a nice little quorum to meet and greet and find out what the McCoy side could do to help bring down the violence and drug quotient in the neighborhood. We went to the downtown D.A. headquarters, which happened to be in the same building as the Marriot (wonder what their room rate is), headed up to one of the top floors (nice views thank you), walked past a long line of former Brooklyn District Attorneys dating back 150 years (it would appear that until relatively recently a requirement for the job was a long handlebar moustache).

We were led to a super-large conference room. Much too big it would have seemed for a group of 8 of us and the D.A. and a couple of assistants, right? Wrong. One by one, the "suits" started showing up. Heads of divisions like "Gangs" and "Narcotics" and "Murder" and things called "Green Zone" started introducing themselves, and pretty soon there must have been a dozen or so middle-aged men with nice ties and war-worn smiles (they're seasoned prosecutors and such after all) and then the D.A. walked in sat down made a few dry jokes and we were off and running. He wanted to hear what each of us had to say about our experiences in the neighborhood with drug-corners and gang activity and guns and the recent murders and since D.A. Hynes had grown up in the neighborhood and lived in Brooklyn and Queens his whole life he knew the area and specific corners and asked good questions and then what he said next surprised us, though me not so much, because a friend of mine who live in Crown Heights North had prepared me.

He said if we wanted to turn around the area and worked with his office and with the the 71st and 70th precincts and the various patrols and met every two months or so that we would see a huge improvement and that he had "never failed." Period. And that's what my friend said too about Crown Heights North; that they had seen a big improvement in the amount of street crime. And Jack Lewis of the 71st was sitting next to me and he smiled and he said Tim, you should take that deal.

Now I have no idea what that was all about, and debriefing with Dynishal and Quest and Duane and the others I don't know what to make of it but here's what I do know and I'm sharing with you because it involves all of us. We were asked to convene as many folks in the community to get together and his office will send down folks to find out where the problem spots are and what are the problem buildings and apartments and corners and at-risk kids and worst landlords and businesses and they'll start running real intelligence operations and get to know the area much better than they already do and get as many users into treatment as possible, let young people know about the programs available as alternatives to street life, provide job opportunities to those who want them, run gang interference etc etc etc.

I'll be honest. I have no history with stuff like this, and I'm frankly a little tired of trying to organize stuff. I have yet to find anyone who really wants to take a leadership role around here and find out what the young people are lacking and needing, why the gangs persist, why the adults are M.I.A., why everyone is so fearful. I mean I see drug deals happen and everybody just looks the other way. No wonder nothing ever changes. If I were a drug dealer around here I'd think this is a GREAT PLACE TO DO BUSINESS. Nobody seems to give a shit. People just walk right by, never call 911, never organize, never do anything. Over the last three years little meetings crop up and people say this has got to stop, or there needs to be more this, or someone should really do this, or the kids need to that, but nothing ever happens. The cops say the 911 calls are just not happening. Then crime spikes, I mean really spikes like recently, and the 911 calls still aren't there. A bunch of newcomers move to the neighborhood, iPhone thefts go through the roof, still no real effort to curb the gangs and drug activity. I get the part about not wanting to go up to a known drug dealer and say "hey, stop dealing drugs on the street in front of my kid you moron." But generally speaking, aren't we all a lot less safe when guys who make their living selling crack cocaine and have access to guns think it's okay to ply their trade with impunity? Right in front of our homes and on our walks to the train? I'm not calling anybody out, I'm just noting that it's been frustrating to take part in one little group after another and still be no farther along than three years ago.

Lewis did say that the Impact Zone is coming to the area, so even with heightened police activity now, it's probably gonna ramp up even higher. This could be good, but it's not necessarily what the the D.A. has in mind. If any of you have lived in an Impact Zone it's a lot a lot a lot of blue. The boundaries he's drawing are, if I recall, Park to Nostrand, Lincoln down to Clarkson. Some have already expressed privately to me that it might make some young people nervous in the way that things got tense in East Flatbush. Let's hope not. Perhaps our block associations can foster dialogue to get the kids talking about and to the cops?

By the way, Delroy Wright of the Flatbush Merchant's Association was also at the D.A.'s office, and he noted as I have that Ray's bodega is clean. That is, besides cleaning the glass of his bodega at the corner of Flatbush and Maple, he also heard us loud and clear and stopped letting all the hoodlums hang out there and in front. If you've a mind to, stop in and thank him for cleaning up his act. He was never actively dealing drugs out of there himself, he just didn't feel he had anyone backing him up to get the bad dudes to move along. Jack Lewis agreed - Ray has been cooperative. If you need a candy bar, buy it from Ray. I think it's helpful to show him you appreciate that he's helping to keep the area free from thuggery.

On the other hand, "Pancakes From Hell" as I like to call the Woodruff Deli at Woodruff and Flatbush was recently host to a LOT of crack dealing. After I sent a note to the 70th Precinct based on a tip, they asked me to come down last week to look at a video they got from the deli's owner. In it, a heavy-set lady could be seen leaning over the ice-cream freezer talking on a cell-phone. The freezer, if you know the deli, faces Flatbush. A man come in and opens the freezer drawer next to her. She reaches into her mouth and pulls something out and places it on the closed drawer in front of her. He reaches down and puts his hand on top of hers, taking whatever is under hers, and places his hand in his mouth, while she takes what he's given her and puts it in her pocket. Thus the transaction is made. He walks out. She walks out a few moments later. It's quite graceful actually.

The cops tell me the runners never have more than one baggie on them, that's why they're moving constantly. The dealers on my block are moving ALL day long. When they're not dealing, they barely move; that's how I know they're working or not. They hold the stuff in their mouth, sometimes in the butt cheeks. They don't worry about the weed of course. That's not really even a crime anymore. If they get caught, they'll swallow the narcotics. Even if they get caught with some on them, they'll plead guilty and usually spend little or no time. The dealers are tough to lock up for long too. The best way to get someone for a long time? They shoot or kill somebody. Or get caught with illegal weapons and a big stash. Those are rare busts. On my street they got a guy for heroin, crack and guns on a warrant. We'd been talking about him for awhile. I posted about a guy they got on Washington Ave recently. These are the successes. When I talk to the guys at the precincts there are lists of guys who could be next. It's really sad. On my block, there are six guys that I now know by name with long rap sheets. None of them are over 25. Most of them say hello. Is Clarkson special? Not at all.

So, what's to be done?

The answer I get back time and time again is NOT a) turn the other way, b) don't look, c) pretend they're not there, d) wait til gentrification happens, e) wait for winter, f) hope the cops do their job etc. It's always "let us know what's going on," "find out who these folks are," "get to know the good kids from the bad kids" "reach out" "communicate" "form block associations "get involved" "find out what the kids are saying" "say hello to neighbors" that kinda groovy stuff. And whenever a crime or funny stuff goes down, call 911. And call 911, not 311. 311 for garbage and noise. But 911 when it's something you want the cops to know about. You can blame the Q for telling you that, because the cops told me that. They need the numbers in order to justify taking action, and 911 gives them the numbers.

Dynishal is organizing a meeting with the D.A.'s folks for the northern part of what she calls PLG on Lincoln Road. For the southern part of "Lefferts," say Woodruff, Parkside, Clarkson, Winthrop, Ocean Ave (south of, um, the townhouses?), Hawthorne, Lenox Ave...etc. or anywhere that feels like the Q train is your hometrain say, feel free to send me an email to help be part of this effort. I'd like to create an email list of people that will be kinda "block captains" for this whole D.A. thing. I really don't think it will take a lot of time, but we do need to try to take advantage of this opportunity. And who knows, maybe the D.A. will lose the election, so maybe the whole thing will be short lived. But we'll create a sort of infrastructure anyway!

The Clarkson Ave Block Association will be hosting the first informational meeting about the effort to rid the area of guns, gangs and drugs on:

June 12, 2013
40 Clarkson Ave
Basement Community Room
7:30 PM

You're all invited to join us and hear what the D.A.'s office is offering in the way of ideas and support. Remember, they claim to have "never failed."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tagged Rags Spell Stoop-endous Savings

Unless you've been hiding under a brownstone for the last forty-three years, you already know about the extraordinary housing stock of Brooklyn, USA. So the PLG House Tour, much like its sisters throughout the borough, is no longer so unique. So, much to its credit, it has started to innovate. This year you'll find a studio apartments and a pre-war coop and gardens and basements and two-family dwellings and artist studios all part of the appeal. Oh, and yes, brownstones on pretty tree-lined buildings in Lefferts Manor, of course. The studio that's featured is in the Patio Gardens building on Flatbush Avenue, so the truly curious among you should really consider this year's tour for sheer breadth of offerings. Check out the menu here. And the special edition of the Echo here.

AND for the hoarder bargain hunter in you, June 2nd is like Super Bowl Sunday because check this out, from a reliable source:

The following blocks are holding stoop and tag sales 12:00 – 5:00, Sunday, June 2nd  during the Prospect Lefferts Gardens House & Garden Tour Day. The Maple II Block Association is helping to organize stoop and tag sales that day all over the neighborhood. So far we know of a few Streets that will hold sales.

·         Maple Street between Bedford & Rogers
·         Rutland Road between Flatbush & Bedford
·         Midwood Street between Bedford & Rogers
·         Sterling Street between Rogers and Nostrand
So come on out and buy some of other people's garbage so that you too one day can hold a stoop or tag sale of your own. I jest of course. It's all priceless. Everything and everyone is god's children.

I need a shower.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Family Parade and Party This Weekend And You're Invited

Once a year, the 71st Precinct and the Community Council of that very same 71st Precinct, throw a Family Day Picnic meant to galvanize the relationship between the neighborhood and the cops that serve the community. To the cynics, I say hold your snickers. Many people on both sides of the uniform work very hard to improve relations and build trust so that we can all be safer. Events like this, when attended by as many people as possible, help foster such attitudes. I hope if any of you are looking for some good clean fun on Sunday, you'll consider heading out to the precinct at 11:30, or Hamilton Metz park sometime thereafter.

And who knows, maybe they'll be playing Family Team Taser Tag!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Councilman Eugene Scores Killer Crash Pad

Kudos to Ditmas Park Corner and newcomer Sebastien Malo for his piece on Mathieu Eugene's remarkable good fortune in finding affordable apartment rentals. Some of you may not have lived in the area long enough to know that back in '07 when Eugene first ran for office in a weird 10 candidate special election in a brisk February, he forgot to move into the district on election day, meaning that we all had to vote all over again costing the City tens of thousands of dollars. No matter, we just trotted out the machines all over again and a very few thousand people voted him in a second time. I was one of the many Flatbushians to get to vote for the Haitian Sensation a second time in what was one truly bizarre election, doubling my joy at sending the good doctor to City Hall to represent the fightin' 40th. I then voted for him again in 2009 when he ran against two unseasoned politicians, even though in all honestly Mr. Eugene had done little at that point to distinguish himself. It was early on in his tenure though, and the guy is charming.

It's been a full six years and a few months however since that cold February, and the people of Flatbush should now know their councilperson very, very well indeed. If you've lived here most of your life, I'm sure you know him and have met him and can even compare him favorably or unfavorably to his predecessors the Clarkes, Yvette and her mother Una. Perhaps you've gotten to know other council people too, like Tish James or former councilman Bill de Blasio or Jumaane Williams or Brad Lander. Or maybe you've gotten to know some of the people running against Eugene, or running for Tish's seat, people like Saundra Thomas or Sylvia Kinard or Ede Fox or Laurie Cumbo or Jessie Hamilton or...

Yes. It's election season. And because NYC is Democratic, it's all gonna be decided on September 10. That means, get registered, or move your registration if you've moved, because you gotta be in it to win it. And these local elections really do get won by a matter of a few votes.

And read that piece by Sebastien Melo. It's a hoot. The gist, as far as I can tell, is that our councilman never really wanted to be on the council so much as he really, really, really wanted that great deal on an apartment. And in NYC, people will go to ANY lengths to get a cheap apartment.

From Vacant Lot To Verdant Garden?

Come Get In On the Ground Floor Ground. Helping hands, young and old, needed this Saturday June 1st, to turn Maple street vacant lot into a community garden!!

Lincoln Road Shooting Now Officially A Murder

The shooting in March of Flatbush Avenue resident Samuel Waterman has now become a murder. Condolences to the family.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's Tongue's Time To Shine

Hey, I googled it, I can honestly say that the phrase in the above title has never been used before on the internet! But it is SO apropos! On Tuesday at 9:30 am, if you're unemployed, a swingshifter, retired, out of school, a member of the "creative-class," a caregiver, a homemaker, on break, taking the day off, ill, or all of the above, head on over to Tip of the Tongue a/k/a TotT for some opening day goodies. The shoppe will be open starting May 28 with abbreviated soft-launch hours from 9:30 - 3:30 through Saturday the 1st. Regular hours will be: M-F 7-7 and S-S 8-7. Some folks have asked so's I'll tells you. This is primarily a coffee and pastry kinda place not a take-away lunch/dinner sort of thing so don't be disappointed thinking you can come in and get say a tongue sandwich. I made that joke and someone's face lit up and then I felt really bad. And also in terms of the way people used to be so down on the neighborhood and there being no good coffee places? Like, seriously, like in two days we'll have two awesome places within like a block of one another. Like, wow.

BUT. And this is a very BIG butt. This Sunday marks the start of weekend hours at TotT BECAUSE it's ye olde Lefferts Gardens House Tour, and if you stop in you have a ticket, you get a free brownie. Word.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Changes Afoot for Lefferts Gardens Charter School

Congrats to the Lefferts Gardens Charter School on choosing its new school leader. He's Michael Windram, most recently of the Mott Haven Academy. After a national search for a new principal, the board and parent's association seems very pleased with their choice and hopes to start its fourth year on solid footing, knowing that its home on Parkside will be its home - the co-location has been approved for permanent status. The capable Wendy Ramos, Bronx Charter School of the Arts, was hired this year as head of operations; and Katrina Raben as curriculum coordinator. There's been a bit of a shakeup on the board as well, and the probably too small current board is looking to find strong new members. All in all, things are looking up.

One last thing to note, and it's no small passing tidbit. I've noted here before that I think it's worthy of note that the "progressive" charter school movement seems to have no problem with union-busting, as the vast majority of charters choose to form without UFT support (New American Academy's new charter opening this fall being a rare exception). But just recently, LGCS teachers sent a letter to the administration and board stating their intention to form a union, allied with the United Federation of Teachers. In other words, LGCS will be unionized, assuming the board doesn't decide to go all Ronald Reagan and fire them all like in his union crippling move of 1981. Given what I've seen - great teachers and a warm, tight-knit family vibe at the school, this is more about protections and job security, and about the basic rights that workers have fought so hard over the last century to secure for themselves. [When I sat for awhile on an unsuccessful bid to build a charter school, I couldn't get around how uncomfortable I was with the way the charter movement took for granted the idea that school's are always better if they have no union. Well, we've all heard the horror stories about rubber rooms and wretched teachers who should've been fired years ago. But does that mean that teachers should be denied basic workers contracts? I firmly believe that schools are better when teachers are happiest and most supported. They must be good teachers sure. But like any workplace, they must feel secure and know that they have the tools and the security and the backup to grow and succeed. Fear is never a good motivator - and I think that's been the problem with teacher testing from the get-go. It's a management's not about making better teachers. It may be useful in getting rid of the worst of the worst. But dang you should be able to spend a day or two in the classrom and figure that out yourself!! Why put ALL the kids through the stress of tests for that?]

Interesting. Very interesting.

Anyhoo, congrats LGCS on a successful consummation of your search!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Green Samaritan

Anyone notice that the stumps in the tree pits on the SW corner of Lincoln Road and Ocean have become beautiful new trees, all bemulched and wearing chic gators and supported by sturdy poles?

And anyone notice the cute signs in the tree pits on Lincoln and Ocean asking neighbors not to throw trash and doo-doo in the tree pits? And anyone notice the cute little gardens sprouting up around the area, and the near absence of trash? What gives?

Well there's no reason to keep it a secret. A certain someone whose initials are Amy Musick (who, as it happens, is a public school music teacher) has been leading the charge to beautify the area around her building, and she's been doing a bang-up job of it, roping in kids from the Maple Street School, snagging free trees from the tree give-away in Kensington earlier this month, liaising with the Mayor of Lincoln Road Dynishal Gross, and generally going rah-rah gung-ho on making the area more beautiful.

If you see Amy out there cleaning up trash, or showing kids how to take care of plants or trees, give her a hearty howdy and say thanks. She's just the sort of humble do-gooder the world could use a lot more of - doing it for the love of it, not the glory. Sing on, Mrs. Musick!

145 Lincoln Road

Don't Miss This One - a classic post from the historian who goes by the alias Montrose Morris, this particular subject is 145 Lincoln Road. She's the bomb, y'all. A true hometown treasure. And yes, that's her picture, and her real name is Suzanne Spellen. Sorry to let the cat out of the bag, but sheesh she deserves the accolades, not some long-dead architect named Montrose!

Free Prom Dresses While They Last

I've heard of politicians kissing babies. I've heard of them shaking hands. I've even heard of politicians giving a few quid for some pro quos. But this one is new to me:

Frankly, I think it's awesome to think of recycling prom dresses, and not breaking parents' banks for a one-night affair, so please don't think I'm Mr. Snark over here. Well, maybe a baby snark, not a Great White Snark.

Is the Gubba Mubba Worth All That Hubbub?

In some ways, the furor over the Great Googa Mooga, the last day of which was canceled due to rain, shows how far Prospect Park and Brooklyn generally have come since their nadirs. 20, even 10, years ago few people even knew where the Nethermead was let alone waxed rhapsodic about its delicate infrastructure and crucial spiritual significance to the soul of the borough. They used to VERY occasionally have opera out there in the 1970s, but it was wicked weird to do it. They held full-bore equestrian events out there - you know, horse shows. And festivals of one kind or another have been common - often fenced-in ones - through the time that even the Q has lived here (that goes back 25 years now...oy). So before we all get our collected panties all bunched up we might be served to remember that the Giggy Miggy did not invent the idea of a festival in the park. In fact, urban parks throughout the country and world do this kind of thing ALL THE TIME. Often in the grassy parts. Yes. In the grassy parts.

Does that mean the Greek Geeky Meeky is a good idea? Probably not. But the reasons why it is not a great idea, in my opinion, which I'll elaborate for those who care, have nothing to do with the mission of "a" park or "this" park, or the Prospect Park Alliance, or the NYC Parks Department or any other nonsensical statements I've heard or read. Parks are what we want them to be. If enough of us don't want the Googa to come back, it probably won't. Last year the complaints were out there, but it was hardly an uproar. But given the dire state of funding for the park, and the fact that the Alliance administers the park and is always looking for new earned revenue and ways to bring in new members and ways to be creative with its extraordinary resources - generally in the interest of making the park better, stronger and more fun - I said and still believe that it was worth giving them a couple years to experiment with a generally well-respected outfit like Superfly (the Googs and Bonaroo's organizer) and see how the vendors, attendees, and most important the lawn, reacts.

And what's the verdict, after two years of the Grape Gaple Maple? Last year ended in a hung jury. After this year, every last participant seemed to have been hanged and is still swinging in the breeze. Vendors got stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars of unsold food. Superfly didn't make it's dough. The park didn't get the public relations bounce it was hoping for (see the nasty NY Times diss). The Sunday bands like De la Soul and Kool & the Gang didn't get to play. And tens of thousands of ticket holders didn't get to go at all, many waiting in line for a couple hours being teased by the organizers into thinking the show must go on.

To the event itself: I went Saturday afternoon-eve, and the rain had kept it to under 20,000 attendees. It was great. Geeky, but great. (I think the wilder, zanier, druggier more "Burning Man" kids were at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Queens). It was a lot of fun, good clean fun, this Guggly Muggly. The concert on Friday was apparently a blast. This was just the sort of urban festive good time I've come to love about NY summers. The biggest problem, as has oft been noted, was that the location is a grassy respite, not a big dirt box or parking lot, which is really the right location for something like this. I agree that common sense dictates that (see picture at the bottom). State Fairs, which the Gaggy Maggy most resembles, are never held on grassy meadows intended for grassy meadow style recreation. They're held on dirt-bag drag-race mud-pits.

Some interesting random thoughts I picked up off the inter-wires included Ryan Sutton's piece on why it's not a very interesting idea in the first place to have a bunch of restaurants showing off their wares outside. As in, this sort of things happens at places like the Brooklyn Flea's Smorgasburg (now, gulp, in Manhattan too!) already every weekend. And we've got food trucks, and you can even get some of these upwardly priced wares at Nets games and Rat-Center events. So the whole specialness of the thing, which seemed so provocative even just a year ago, is kinda Goot Moot when you think about it. Then there's the mildly entertaining aspect of reading contemporaneous tweetage.

But the big point I want to make is this. It's not like the event was created by Monsanto and featured live beatings of baby seals to the sounds of neo-nazi skinhead music. It was a well-intentioned event created by a beloved music festival featuring dozens of local restaurants and well-regarded bands, many local, and beer and wine makers, many local, that was so popular they had to limit the FREE tickets to a lottery so as not to overtax the once-underused Nethermead. Even 10 years ago, the NY Times was talking (unfairly, and quite elitist-ly if you ask me) about the nastiness of our side of the park, starting at, yes, the Nethermead.

But lastly I must ask, to all of you who feel so passionately that this park must remain pure and untouched and fully sodded and that the City has handed over control and an expectation that we will raise a certain amount of money towards the Park's upkeep...are you prepared to kick in some dough to make that happen? Because Prospect Park ain't gonna maintain itself. And let's be honest, here. We ain't exactly the cleanest park patrons either. Folks who frequent our side of the park are known to litter and leave whole truckloads of trash behind after picnics. The Parthenon over by the Parade Ground sometimes looks like Fresh Kills. Even the Nethermead gets trashed, even on non-Googa weekends. We could all do our part.

Lakeside, the big brilliant soon-to-open skating and lake-reclamation project is soon to be the pride of the east side. We've got our lovely Lincoln Road and Imagination playgrounds. We've got the Boathouse and the Nethermead and the Carousel and Lefferts House and Zoo. We have the lake, the Drummer's Grove, the other drummer's circle down by the lake, the Oriental Pavillion, ,concert grove, lovely paths etc. etc. That dude who wrote that NY Times piece claiming we got the short end of the stick was high, high, high when he wrote it, or rather, things have definitely taken a turn for the better. Given all that, I think we could all stand to cut the Alliance a break, and recognize that they're looking for new models to cut their deficit, because they're not getting the sort of private support that Central Park gets. And that's a shame, because there's PLENTY of money in Brooklyn right now. But that money hasn't deemed it worthy to walk its green presidential legs on over to the jewel of the borough. Let's hope that begins to change, Giggy Miggy or not.

Alas, it does look like the 'Mead took it pretty hard. Gothamist took this shot and many others.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Behind the Tip of the Tongue

So, behind the tip of the tongue would be...mid-tongue? Let me take you right into the middle of the tongue then...

Today, the Q got a sneak peak inside the shoppe everyone is talking about. Okay, not EVERYONE, but an awful lot of people seem to want to know what's happening with the old Blue Roost that was K-Dog place. And I'm here to tell you that the Q, while admittedly easily impressed, was pretty overwhelmed. I'm saying that TotT is hott. As in, this place looks great, smells great (they were testing out the baking this morning), tastes great (ditto, on the croissants at least), and, yes, the coffee's quite good (well, I don't know anything about coffee except that the coffee tasted And an awful lot of work is going into it, including the pouring over of the coffee over the grinds, which suggests to me they know what they're doing, though I'm pretty sure Mr. Coffee has been doing that for awhile. The espresso machine looks positively Chitty Chitty Bang Bang however).

To the connoisseurs and belly-minded, the deets are these: Forty Weight will be your coffee and comes with its own sommelier, so there was Matt Marks from the company busy readying the industrial machinery to make the coffee brew-ready. I know some people really geek out on this stuff, so at the bottom of this post I cut and pasted an orientation on their articulation of the java creation vis a vis the pouring of the hot water over the coffee to make the coffee into coffee. (In case you're salivating, they're not opening til just after Memorial Day. Sorry!)

Fresh euro-style breads have been missing from the neighborhood - and fresh baguettes and the like they will serve. The pastries are all designed by co-owner Eric McIntyre who is a proper pastry chef with credentials from Eleven Madison Park, which is someone named Daniel Humm's restaurant. I'm reveling in the fact that I know nothing about any of this stuff - but it's exciting to see how excited are the partners, their partners, and their partner's partners. Seems like a class act start to finish. Here's the folks I met this morning, and their roles:

From left to right, that's co-owners/spouses/daddies Scott Fagan and Eric McIntyre, Matt Marks the brew-meister, and Bethany Morey and Zahra Lee, your Pastry Sous Chefs.

I had a double-d delightful time talking to the fellas. Scott's a born and bred multi-generational New Yorker, with interestingly enough Caribbean roots on his mother's side. Who knew there was a centuries-old community of immigrant Jews on St. Thomas? Well, Scott did. And now I do too. Look it up! After a high-tech stint in San Fran during the go-go late '90s, he met his future husband Eric, and after the tech boom up-belly-ed, they both enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in Manhattan, and soon after founded their successful catering business "Tip of the Tongue." Thankfully, despite their pedigrees, they don't come off as food snobs in the least. They seem passionate about food and business and the neighborhood they call home, which the Q calls Lefferts. They live on Winthrop between Flatbush and Bedford and their toddler son will matriculate at Maple Street School next year.

What else? Oh, the decor is very considered. I noted the cool decorative walls made of moulding from old houses:

 The nifty arbor inspired wall paper:

The retooling of Blue Roost's display case into a refrigerated air tight utilitarian pretty thingy:

And of course, my favorite word of the decade, the sconces, which I'm betting go very nicely with scones:

Good luck gentlemen! Look for a soft launch just after Memorial Day, meaning shorter hours, while they fine-tune things. Please, save your reviews til they've been up and running for a few days.

God bless America, and God bless good croissants.

Appendix on the coffee:

The Coffee

While opening/designing/constructing the first Forty Weight cafe was a HUGE learning experience, coffee is what the company knows, and knows well. All of the coffee for the cafe is sourced and roasted by co-owner/roastmaster Andrew Ballard in Freeville, NY. Roasted and shipped twice weekly, the coffee being served in the cafe is never more than a few days post-roast. Most of the coffee is brewed to order on a custom made pourover bar, using Hario v60s, and Coava Kone filters. There are always three different impressive options for customers to choose from for their pourover coffee. For those customers in a hurry, who just need to get in and get out, there is french pressed coffee ready in thermo-carafes. During the warmer months, the cafe offers cold brew iced coffee. In an effort to offer our customers the most comprehensive experience, we also offer the Japanese method for preparing iced coffee.

The Espresso

In a specialty coffee world where espresso seems to be getting subtly marginalized in favor of single origin black coffee, Forty Weight Coffee stands firm as espresso junkies. The cafe's espresso is ground using Mazzer Superjolly grinders and pulled through a two group La Marzoccos GB/5. Each talented barista has his or her own personal and passionate relationship with this high-caliber equipment and Forty Weight's brilliant espressos, and the results are dramatic. The cafe serves Forty Weight signature Pressure Drop Espresso, as well as a rotating single origin espresso. At the time of this writing, the single origin espresso is one of the finalists from the El Salvador Cup of Excellence.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Camba Gardens - Actually Affordable Housing

Guitarist Vernon Reid was asked, back when he was high-flying with his rock band Living Colour, what the "New York Sound" was. He said if there was a NY Sound it was probably the sound of people looking for cheap apartments. And while there are no more "cheap" apartments to be had, at least not with bathrooms or electricity, we often hear about the crisis of affordable housing. Affordable housing. Yes, affordable housing...

Politicians are for it! (They're also for education, jobs and mothers). But what exactly is "affordable housing?" Sounds about as vague as the term "middle class." However to some non-profit developers, like CAMBA, affordable housing means something quite specific, and I doubt very much that any of you are paying anything like what CAMBA is offering for its newly constructed apartments at CAMBA Gardens, just down Clarkson Ave near Kings County Hospital. A one-bedroom for $810. A two-bedroom for $976. A three-bedroom for $1,127. Granted, you won't be living in Tribeca or Dumbo, but it ain't so bad in East Flatbush, or Wingate, or whatever you want to call Kingscounty-ville. CAMBA also built those new supportive services furnished apartments over at 97 Crooke Avenue in the micronabe the Q likes to call Caledonia, the ones for chronically homeless and seriously mentally ill tenants. CAMBA Gardens, however, has no such requirements. Thank God! It must be so hard to PROVE you're mentally ill and homeless on a housing application!! (off color joke, sorry).

If you want an application for CAMBA Gardens, see the below flyer, or go to Camba Gardens webpage. Granted the lottery will have brutal odds, but you never know. Actually, I have friends who have won these lotteries. You may have to apply for tons before you get an "affordable" apartment, but if your income falls into the guidelines it's certainly worth trying.

So why aren't there more options like this? And why does living in NYC have to rely so much on luck and timing? Whenever you hear a politician claim to be "for" affordable housing, I suggest you stick your hand up and demand exactly what they mean and how they're going to make it happen. Because anyone running for City office who doesn't know this stuff backwards and forwards is not worth voting for. And how about politicians who don't know about the many ways that tenants are harassed into leaving their longtime homes by greedy landlords? And how about politicians who don't know how city budgets work and how to leverage and influence others towards the needs of their districts? And how about politicians who...argh, don't get me started...

Envisioning the Neighborhood: Part II - Come Out This Sunday!

This Sunday, from 2-5PM at the Jewish Children's Museum, come be part of the Community Board's "plan" for the coming years. We did one of these back in November, and the feedback that CB9 got is helping to form the agenda for the future. The Board, and its committees, really do use these feedback sessions as the fuel for strategies and outreach to the City agencies and stakeholders involved.

And guess what...I'm hear to tell you that the City is listening. On one issue after another, the demands from the Community Board get attention. Do we always get what we want? Of course not. But the conversation is happening, and agencies know where we stand. And in a few areas, we've got some solid victories to point to.

So...please come out. PLUS, the Jewish Children's Museum, on Eastern Parkway at Albany, is a fantastic family day out. Enjoy free admission if you're attending the Envisioning session! They call it "Jewish," but if you ain't Jewish, it's not like it's restricted! It's still a marvelous museum full of historical games, exhibits and run-around space. All are welcome.

For those who attended the first round, thank you, come again!

Last time, areas of concern that became part of the blueprint for the future included:

  • Community Centers
  • Community Banks
  • Senior Centers
  • Development of Business Strips
  • Strategies to Reduce Trash
  • Addressing Lack of Engagement Around Economic Development
  • Development of the Empire Blvd Corridor
  • Creation of BIDs and Merchants Associations
  • Outreach to Absentee Landlords
  • Help for Startup Businesses
  • Combating Discriminatory Housing Practices
  • Affordable Housing Initiatives, City and State
  • Senior Services and Outreach to Seniors
  • Wellness Initiatives

and in regards to Safety:

  • More beat cops
  • Better lighting
  • Better traffic enforcement
  • Shutting down drug dealers and drug dens
  • Rethinking traffic patterns and pedestrian safety
  • Monitoring illegal after-hours clubs and parties
  • More security cameras.

Many of these things are already being addressed, and many more will need input and help from you, the people.

enough with the rah-rah. just come!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Flatbush Blood Drive Today

Got some blood? Of course you do! You wouldn't be reading this if you're dry to the bone!

Why not share a little. The 70th Precinct is holding is blood drive today. From the 70th:

         Just a friendly reminder about our Blood Drive, which will be held from 12:30 pm- 6:00 pm today, May 14, 2013.
        There is no substitute for Human Blood.  According to the New York Blood Center; One in three people will need blood sometime during their lives.  Blood last only 42 days.  Your donation now is critically important. We look forward to seeing you.  Thank you. (154 Lawrence Ave. between E 2nd St. and Ocean Pkwy)
 Remember, as the missive says: THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR HUMAN BLOOD.  Unlike teachers, sugar or dairy products, there is no alternative. Even vegans need red blood, good old human blood, be it A, B, AB or O. Remember the Ramones tune? ABBA-O, Let's Go!

"Cameras at Parade Ground to Be Fixed" - Cops

My main questions remain unanswered, but word is:

70th precinct has confirmed that the disabled camera will be repaired within the next ten days. Thx to Ed Powell, Officers Scotto and Bourne at the 70th, and the Parks Dept
Keep an eye out, and let the Q know if they actually look like they're working.

Monday, May 13, 2013

City Council Candidate Number 4: John E. Grant Profiled on DPC

A quartet to choose from!

The 40th Council District, the one that most all of you reside in, the one that you MUST be registered as a Democrat to vote for IN SEPTEMBER"s primary, since the Republican sacrificial lamb hasn't a chance in Hades - has turned into a bit of a crowded field. The frontrunner must be assumed to be the incumbent Mathieu Eugene, but Saundra Thomas is nipping at his heels, with newcomers John Grant and Sylvia Kinard yapping from the cheap seats. For now...anything can happen of course.

Get to know John in the ongoing Ditmas Park Corner series, right here:

Guns, Crack, Smack and a View of the Botanic Garden

From the 71st came this description of police action across from BBG:

Thursday May 9, 2013 the 71 Precinct executed a search warrant at 915 Washington Ave. Four guns,a 1/2 kilo of heroin and 11 ounces of crack were seized. One male occupying the apartment was taken into custody.
A bueno bust if ever I heard of one. Kudos to the gentlemen below:'s ic

Who's Watching the Cameras That Are Watching, Anyway?

Always vigilant Elizabeth C. noted a couple weeks ago that the security cameras at the Parade Grounds, the ones local residents fought hard to have installed after multiple violent incidents, have been neglected and may be more unplugged than an aging grunge band.
One of the locals who led the charge to get the cameras went out and checked on them, and that started a cascade of questions. Like...who's looking at these things anyway? Are they just meant as deterrents, and if so, how much of a deterrent are they? Does anyone check up on their functioning? Is there a feed, or are they just storing video for AFTER the crime?

Anyhoo, Nora at Ditmas Park Corner picked up on the story, and you can read about it here:

Speaking of "unplugged," how about checking out this Flatbushian Jeffrey Stirewalt who gives tours of the area under the moniker Brooklyn Unplugged. At the Q, segues are always on our menu!

Thanks to all the Caledonians keeping a lookout for trouble and/or joy in the dense Flatbush to Parade Place, Parkside to Caton micro-nabe that has yet to grab a proper name for itself. (C'mon y'all, get cracking!) The area is rich in pre-war buildings with big apartments, and will soon find itself host to a new giant neighbor in 123 on the Park, the massive apartment complex currently (slowly) being developed from the skeleton of the old Caledonian Hospital. And yes folks, it was very much a working hospital, not so long ago.

Out of respect for the old hospital and its importance to the neighborhood, developer Joseph Chetrit has vowed to create an artisinal shoppe on the ground floor, a place to get 20 varieties of extra-virgins (olive oil, that is) 24-hours a day. It will lovingly be called "The Emergency Room," a one-top shoppe for after-hours gourmands. 


Tip of the Tongue

It WAS on the Tip of the Tongue! What I meant to say a few posts ago was that a reliable source tells the Q that ToT (a nickname that might just stick?), the new take-away and coffee and more place, will open next week to limited hours while they work out the kinks, and once said kinks our outworked, will open for the morning rush as well.

From an eagle-eyed reader comes the Craiglist post looking for baristas, below. This place is clearly on point with zeitgeist java protocols.

Tip of The Tongue is looking to hire new baristas for its Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn location right next to Prospect Park and the B/Q/S subway stop. We will be working closely with and serving Forty Weight Coffee. We are looking for somebody with experience, a positive attitude, and a strong work ethic. We pride ourselves on excellent service, a deep connection with our customer base, and a strong knowledge for cutting-edge coffee.

- Must have genuine passion for coffee and the ability to pull great shots consistently (you must have pulled a shot within the last 3 months)
- Should be familiar with current trends in the specialty coffee industry, i.e. origin profiles, coffee processing methods, single origin espresso
- Our espresso is made on a La Marzocco GB/5.
- All of our coffee is brewed using a Fetco brewer and the pour-over method
- We make Japanese iced coffee as well as Toddy cold brew
- Basic latte art is preferred, but not required. (We can show you a thing or two without attitude)
- Experience with pourover extraction a plus
- Food Handler's License is a plus
- Flexible schedule

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Beast of a Car Wrecks Meytex

The Q just happened upon a gnarly scene this eve at Meytex, the Ghanian restaurant at 543 Flatbush. From what I saw and concurring descriptions from witnesses, an SUV was attempting to park or leave a parking spot when he stepped on the gas hard in reverse, smashing through the window of the Meytex dining area. One woman was placed in an ambulance, and was conscious but understandably shaken. I saw the vehicle, and indeed the vehicle won the war with Meytex - just some bumps and scrapes. The driver looked bummed out, but not messed up in the noggin'. Somewhat surprisingly, the always friendly and chattering crowd inside continued to revel despite the massive and sudden change in the decor.

Admittedly this is an unseemly time to review the place, but what they hey. This place will not conform to any of your Euro-American expectations, but if you (and I'm assuming for the moment that you are not from, nor well-traveled in, West Africa) let down your inhibitions and let the patrons feed you, you will undoubtedly be back for me. Ask for recommendations, and be prepared that "spicy" means "explosive." So says everyone. Except one reviewer, a person known to the Q, who explains her displeasure with great flair on the Yelp. If you want to know more about Ghanian chop bars, check it out here.

Stephen Brown photo

Federation of Block Associations

Marty Markowitz, in his year of victory laps, hereby promotes the annual assembly of The Federation of Brooklyn Block Associations. If you are a member of a block association or looking to form one, this is a great place to learn best practices and figure out how best to organize around issues beyond simple - but absolutely important to unity and mutual - block parties. That reminds me, I best get that Street Activity Permit application in pronto. Want to get a block party rolling for this year? Best do the same! (click that link for the SAP office, which works out to SAPO, when you add the "office" part). $25 and you get to close down your street. Just organize, e-apply, then contact your District Manager at the Community Board for the next steps. You'll need signatures and lots of goofy or serious activities, but it's a chance to befriend your neighbors in a way that mere howdies cannot.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Can't Recall

I had something to tell y'all about something I saw today up on Lincoln Road, something very very cool looking, but danged if I can't's on the Tip of the Tounge...little help here?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Say Tomato, I Say Ganja, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Hilarious story of a Lefferts Avenue mix-up in today's NY Daily News. Seems neither the Super nor the Cops could tell whether a bunch of tomato plants left on a roof were actually Mary Jane sprouts, Zombie Weed, Muggie, Wacky Terbacky or any of 500 other slang terms for Marijuana.
Todd Maisel, photo
Thanks Adam B. for the tip!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where Jackie Robinson Once Reigned, A 7-11 Rises

The mystery is revealed. The SW corner of Empire at Bedford, which once would have looked across the street to the mighty Ebbets Field, will become a 7-11 store, which despite its name will undoubtedly be open 7-7-7, or rather 24 hours a day like most good bodegas, of which there are nearly a dozen already in the direct vicinity, meaning it will have to be the world-class Slurpees and 16-hour slow cooked hot dogs that draw in the crowds. Or, more accurately, it will be the small number of parking places that
allow for a quick in-and-out, or Kum-n-Go as we used to say in the midwest. The parking is HUGE to winning profits, since it's so hard to park next to your favorite bodega. The Q doesn't own a car, however, and there are a small army of 24-hour places on the west side of Flatbush up to Empire, so I doubt I'll ever see the insider of the place. Still, good to know there's a Slurpee to be had if I'm in some sort of DSM-V diagnosed emergency.

I'm not terribly surprised of course. Empire has become a bit midwestern in character anyhow, sort of resembling a typical cow-town frontage road, with its fast food and self-storage and auto-parts and beloved Firestone and such. It's a shame I suppose that it couldn't be more grand, and maybe one day it will be. Ultimately I blame Phat Albert's for letting its grand old bread factory building fall into disrepair, lending the whole boulevard a sense of desperation. With no civic leadership to speak of, there's also been no effort to develop the area, meaning, as it does elsewhere in the city, a sort of lowest common denominator hodgepodge of nondescription. As I've noted here before, I've always felt that this area would be great for mid-rise affordable apartment buildings, retaining ground-floor retail of course. I mean, right near the Park and Garden! Oh well. No one asked me and I doubt they will. Check out this picture though:

On the subject of convenience stores, I was excited to see that one of the very first, some say THE first, was a joint called UToteM from the southwest U.S. They were eventually bought out by the wildly popular Circle K franchise in the early '80s. I suspect the play on an "Indian" word didn't always meet with approval. Heck, I recall eating at a Sambo's restaurant when I was a kid, and thankfully you certainly don't see THOSE anymore. Trust me, despite the offensive name, the food wasn't worth saving either.

Over the years, and in my travels, I've never ceased to be amazed by the sheer number of these git-n-go style stores and the slight variations between them. In Iowa growing up, we had a lot of the aforementioned (and cringe-worthily named) Kum n Go's, but also both Quik Trip:
and Kwik Trip:

Casey's General store was another. But here are some of the other popular brands of Co-sto's I've noted and, yes, purchased oversized fountain drinks from:

Anyone from metro Philly has undoubtedly sated their munchies by walking into a Wawa and muttering "Gottahava Wawa."


But Upstaters and New Englanders are just as familiar with the Stewart's logo, emblem of a shop that seems to have really hit a home run by focusing on massive portions of ice cream, even sporting their own brand. Oh, and of course hardrolled pb&j for 99 cent! The classic indeed.

And don't fret if you head south of the border! Mexico's got you covered too. It's pronounced oak-so:

Thank you. Come again!

SOS Forum Tonight in Crown Heights

I'm awed by the extraordinary mission of Save Our Streets (SOS) Crown Heights and strongly encourage anyone who wants to learn more about the causes and real community based solutions to street violence to attend. The flyer is below, and a website to SOS is here.

So often, gun violence erupts from known disputes. There is often an inevitability to the outcome when the adults are too scared, or too disinterested, to intervene. The lack of role models, particularly for young men, mean there's no one to step in when the resentment and anger take hold. Many men who've resorted to violence immediately feel remorse and had no intention of letting things get so out of hand. But rather than talk them down, peers often pile on the pressure to act, to tragic ends for all involved. As demonstrated in the film "The Interrupters,"  , there is much work to be done on the ground. If you want to make a donation to SOS, or get to know their work more closely, that's always a way to put some skin in the game towards lessening violence throughout Central Brooklyn.

Highly, highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Q's School Tool: Part 6: Rocket Scientists Agree: It Ain't Rocket Science

First come the middle-classers, then come the researchers. Jennifer Burns Stillman is a PhD research analyst employed by the NYC DOE in its "Office of Innovation," a term that sounds like a bit of an Orwellian oxymoron. Why not "Bureau of New Ideas" or "Department of Interdepartmental Innovation Diagnostics and Achievement Coordination?" (I mean, does anyone ever actually think about how these things sound to the outside world? At my job, once a month I have to log in to the federal governments Payment Management System, using it's acronym. Once a month. Unbelievable...)

Back to the PhD in question.

Ever wonder what the eggheads are saying about the process of gentrification in schools? Stillman wrote "Gentrification and Schools: The Process of Integration When Whites Reverse Flight."  I'm linking to her book on Amazon so I'll feel better about reprinting the piece she offered up to By all means, buy the book! But, if you're as lazy as I am, what you'll get from the below, if I may paraphrase, is basically the same reasoning that any yuppie-esque (not quite yuppie, but not quite not) parent looking at public schools in Brooklyn can pretty much recognize without the advanced degree. Still, it's helpful to have the ideas laid out by someone who's put time into the analysis. Along with Lance Freeman's book "There Goes the Hood," which she name checks, it's nice to see a rational assessment of the plusses and pitfalls of neighborhood integration. I'm sure there are those who see only the positive or only the negative, but there are rational cases to be made for a more nuanced view. Here's Dr. Stillman's:

I researched the process of school integration in gentrifying neighborhoods because I think school integration remains an important societal goal, despite the dismantling of racial integration programs across the nation. Gentrifying neighborhoods seem full of potential.

I wanted to figure out how a school without any white, middle-class families goes through the process of integration. What does it take to attract the first white families to a school in a gentrifying neighborhood? And the next wave? And the next? Why do these families stay or go? Is there a point at which we can say the school has successfully integrated? My research question was one of process, not outcomes, relying on existing literature that links integration with positive effects. I am a “gentry parent” myself (which I define as white, middle and upper-middle class, highly educated parents who are gentrifying a neighborhood with their presence and wealth), and I understand why neighborhood gentrification is controversial.  

Long-time neighborhood residents might be displaced as rents increase, and the neighborhood might lose whatever was considered its authentic character. But I think there is a lot of possibility wrapped up in the demographic mixing happening in these neighborhoods, if only the people living in these neighborhoods could figure out how to engage in some sort of meaningful social mixing. My hope is that if the schools in gentrifying neighborhoods integrate along with the neighborhood, some common ground can be found between the opponents and proponents of gentrification.

How did you conduct your research?
I decided to allow the racial aspects of gentrification guide my research, even though gentrification is primarily an issue of class.  Lance Freeman, author of “There Goes the Hood,” argues that while middle-class black and Hispanic families can be — and usually are — part of the gentrification process, it is the entrance of white families into a neighborhood that overtly signals a neighborhood’s gentrification, and causes the non-gentry residents to take note and react. I decided the same reasoning would apply to schools.

I interviewed more than 50 white, middle-class “gentry parents” in three different New York City gentrifying neighborhoods about their elementary school choice process — those who were utilizing their neighborhood school, those who were sending their children elsewhere, and those who had tried their neighborhood school and left.  Because these families typically have the ability to choose something other than their zone school, I hypothesized that school integration in a gentrifying neighborhood must happen through the collective choices of the more privileged group.

What were your major discoveries?
School integration in gentrifying neighborhoods does happen, but rarely. It happens through a chain of actions and reactions of different types of gentry parents, each with a different threshold for tolerating their own minority status, each with a different idea about whether they can and should try to change a school to better match their preferences.

The first gentry parents who enroll their children in a segregated school usually find some sort of enclave program where they can concentrate their presence, like a Gifted and Talented, Dual Language, or preschool program. If this first group of gentry parents feels welcomed by the principal, and if the principal can successfully bridge the “gentry/non-gentry culture gap” that exists between the new type of parents who are coming in and the existing parent community, this first wave of gentry parents will keep their children enrolled in the school, and they will work to attract the next wave of gentry families with a flurry of activity and outreach, primarily through staging impressive school tours, all of which will give the school the label “changing” in the gentry neighborhood network.
“Changing” schools are difficult to move to the final stage of integration. Many gentry parents enter a “changing” school because it appears to have already changed enough to match their most important school preferences — diversity and progressive pedagogy. Often, however, they discover it actually hasn’t changed enough for them to feel comfortable. The school feels too traditional, too authoritarian in tone, and these less tolerant gentry parents take their children out, looking for a school that can give them what they want. If this skeptical group does stay, the final wave of gentry families will soon arrive, and the school successfully tips and becomes integrated, or “diverse,” as the gentry would say.

Schools that have the easiest time integrating seem to have the following two characteristics: First, a school with a diverse non-gentry composition appears to be more welcoming of gentry families, as there is not a single, dominant culture that already exists in the school beyond the school culture. The principal is already skilled in managing a diverse constituency, and adding the gentry to the mix is not jarring in the way it is when a school is primarily one ethnic/racial group. Second, a school that is in a neighborhood much further along in the gentrification process has a surrounding community much more accepting of school change, which gives the principal political room to adjust the school’s culture to better match the preferences of the gentry.
What can policy makers learn from your work?

Enclaves are an important tool for gentry parents who need to concentrate their presence to feel comfortable in a school. But, those enclaves that screen children, such as G&T programs, risk alienating the existing school community and usually fail to achieve socio-economic integration. To facilitate enclaves without screening, I propose the creation of Urban Education Cooperatives (UECs). As conceived, UECs would be groups of parents, formally organized by a school district (in the case of  New York City, the Community Education Council would likely be the organizing force), who are committed to public education, but who don’t feel comfortable with their zone school, and are willing to enter a district school that is underutilized by zone families if they are guaranteed two things: 1) That their children will be in the same kindergarten classroom with other members of the UEC, and 2) That they get to decide, as a group, which school they would like to attend after meeting with the principals and parent leaders of each school in the district that is identified as an option.

An alternative to UECs would be to target new charter schools in gentrifying neighborhoods, with the intentional goal of recruiting a diverse student body from day one. If the goal is integration, changing a school is much more difficult than starting a new one, especially when the new school is not restricted by zone lines and can cast a wider net for students. In New York City, there is a nonprofit organization that has recently been formed to achieve this goal, the Tapestry Project. It is currently recruiting school leaders to found racially and socio-economically diverse charter schools, and I am hopeful about its potential to foster a new crop of diverse schools in gentrifying neighborhoods.

I was going to leave her analysis alone to fend for itself, but I gotta point out that I'm not crazy about her use of the word gentry. As far as I'm concerned, neighborhoods like ours already HAVE gentry. It's not like no one was here before discovered the neighborhood! If "gentry" is to have any useful meaning in the non-British-coat-of-arms-nobility sort of way, I think it has to refer to leadership and commitment to the civic betterment of a neighborhood or place. And there have always been people who match that description, regardless of their background or wealth. I understand the use of the word of gentrification in all its glory, but if the word "gentry" is going to be used to describe anyone, it's the people who have held positions of stable esteem for decades, not newcomers. (Also, someone able to buy a house for $150,000 back in 1980 probably WAS wealthier than most people around them! I remember when $150,000 seemed like a fortune to me. When I was making $19,000 a year anyway, and interest rates were way higher, there's no way I could have afforded a $150,000 house! And I certainly didn't consider myself "poor" back then. Oh Einstein, with your damn relativity! Can't thou just let me be?)

Also, I continue to be amazed how supposed liberals have completely given up on the idea of subsidized or controlled rental schemes. We now just take it for granted that capitalism will do its thing, that there's nothing to be done about it, so why even bother. There was a time when people banded together to create things like rent control and stabilization and public housing and Medicaid and Medicare and folks, it wasn't that long ago. A lot of people who led those fights are still with us. Maybe some of them are the current "gentry" of our very neighborhood. Rather than fight, we're all just looking for a good cup of coffee and nice sit down restaurant. Sound harsh? It's meant to! In fact, most "liberals" I know have firm arguments in hand for dismantling unions (teachers, other City workers) and laissez faire housing strategies, like the elimination of rent stabilization. What a long strange trip it's been, indeed.

By the way, I'm not even sure where I stand myself on any of it anymore. The propaganda is so deep on all sides I can hardly think straight.

All that chatter aside, I like the fact the Skillman calls it like she sees it. She's looking at the "gentry" from their perspective, which happens to be her own, and she's describing the view very well. Now, for the other view...perhaps someone wants to take it from here? If you want to write it as a full blown essay, write me here and I'll create a separate post out of it.