The Q at Parkside

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 do YOU feel about the planned tower at 626 Flatbush?

Whether you're excited or appalled by the planned building of a 23-story luxury rental tower at 626 Flatbush, you gotta respect the passion and savvy that has created what I can only describe as a truly organized grassroots opposition to unfettered development in Lefferts, in just a matter of a few short months. It may still be hard for some to put themselves in the shoes of those who feel emotional and radicalized by the sudden news of a "non-contextual" unaffordable (to most) skyscraper (well, relatively speaking) growing up in a neighborhood one's long loved and called home. But I urge you to try, so as not to feel that this is anything other than an honest and heartfelt expression of people feeling helpless in the face of changes that are effecting not just us, but huge swaths of Central Brooklyn, not to mention all of NYC, with lighting speed. And in the case of 626, it seems that not even the stunned cries of the "original intent" of the venerated park visionaries Olmstead and Vaux seems capable of applying the brakes.

So, if you're shocked by the hubbub, and you want to get a better sense of what's REALLY going on here, I suggest you attend this Saturday's big meetup on the issue at 4pm at the Jan Hus Church along Ocean Avenue across from the Park itself. First, the flyer below, and then some random thoughts I've collected from my own observations.

Suffice to say the "tower" has touched a nerve - deep you might say. In a single rendering, or actually two, drawn by the project's architects (Marvel), you can per se, there's a subtext here that reads loud and clear to many longtime residents. That message might sound like this: "Hey PLG! We finally discovered your neighborhood and are now ready to encourage ever-larger numbers of people, most richer and whiter than you, to "discover" it too. You  people have had to live in such squalor for so long...I'll bet you're DELIGHTED to see us come and help clean things up a bit and make it safer and more desirable to the Modern American Post-Graduate Artsy Professional (MAPGAP).

Of course I'm being a bit dramatic, sort of. (And my term MAPGAP is not yet trademarked). But you can probably recognize the dismissive condescension inherent in some forms of city planning and real estate development.

Maybe not, but then that may be because you haven't gotten to know a lot of the extraordinary folks who've called Lefferts Gardens their home for 20+ years. (Some 20+ year veterans may in fact support the project, but I have a sneaking suspicion the length of time in the neighborhood is at least one important indicator of feelings on the project). And things might just come out during the meeting on Saturday that might lead to some head scratching, about how exactly building plans like this come about and get green-lighted before anyone really has a chance to digest it all.

If you still have no idea what I'm talking about, I recently wrote a clumsy and inelegant allegory on the subject called The Qatarification Quandary. I'll also try to dramatize a thought I heard recently from an African-American neighbor who put it in away that I, a white dude originally from outside the City, could really understand. She could be talking about many places in NYC, or many cities across the whole country. And before you say that a building like 626 isn't about race, it's just sort of a natural economic thang, I encourage you to try the following on for size:

"Imagine you're black for a second - maybe African or Caribbean American. I know that's REALLY hard to do, but just give it a try. Every day as an honest and concerned professional doing your best to raise a family, you go to work in Manhattan in a neighborhood and in a job that's predominantly white, and for the most part about the white world. You're asked to function as a cheery member of the dominant culture in your dark skin, and you play the part well. You play by the rules, you don't complain when your coworkers make off-color remarks, you stay true to your beliefs that all people are created equal and even say a prayer for even the most ignorant of bigots. You might even have some good white friends with whom you can laugh about the absurdity of racism in an age of a Black President. And then, you get back on the train and you head home. You get off at, say, the Q at Parkside, and you feel a little bit of tension leave you, because you're back in your neighborhood, a place that ain't perfect, but it's your home, and you don't have to be anyone but yourself because this is a place you feel comfortable in your own skin"

I think we all know a place like that, where you just feel a bit freer and yourself. For me, it's become Clarkson Avenue, but only after a few years of calling this block and neighborhood home. It used to be Ames, Iowa long ago, and then my college campus, and then the East Village and the lovely Gowanus Basin, and just about any dingy rock club in any American city. And on the whole housing justice tip I could go on, as I have in the past, about how renters really are being pushed out, sometimes legally sometimes not, and how rising rents may spell capital gains for people who own (like me) but eat away at the sense of security in others.

Some, of course, are simply upset about a tall building along the park. Some are upset that zoning hasn't been properly addressed. Some are upset that a development of such magnitude seemed to sneak by without any review (Tom Anderson of the now-being-built 33 Lincoln Road building came by the Community Board, and that felt like the right way to introduce a new project - with transparency and sensitivity to a neighborhood "in transition.)

And some of you now may wonder - are so-called gentrifiers now the bad guys, and are people saying that white folks aren't welcome in Lefferts? Hell no. That would be too simple and knee-jerk a reaction. In fact, Lefferts has an uncommon history in the last 50 years of being remarkably resistant to full-on segregation. People like Bob Thomason and his colleagues at the original PLGNA worked hard to ensure that the neighborhood remained a bastion of King-like tolerance and unity. THAT's the legacy on which PPEN emerged, not some sort of us-against-us scenario. This is an open and honest movement of people concerned that decisions of enormous consequence are being made for the neighborhood by interests that have no deep concern in people over profits. Want an example? When Hudson looked for a community partner to help their affordable housing cause, they could find no non-profit closer than the Fifth Avenue Committee to help out. What do they, the 5th Ave group, know about us, one might ask? Part of the reason they got the nod I suspect is that we don't have strong advocacy or housing groups of our own (though Camba clearly works in the nabe more than 5th Ave), and we certainly have NO leadership from our Council person, who doesn't appear to grasp the most basic issues at play here. He does seem to blow with the wind, though I doubt he will be leading the cause for or against. It's not

Bottom line, since 2009 we've seen tremendous demographic change, so yeah the issue of race is at play in a project that promises bigger and faster change. But no one is suggesting that the legal transfer of property is a problem, or that changes in racial composition are anything but inevitable as Brooklyn continues to attract young professionals into its neighborhoody bosom. So don't feel singled out, whitey!. It's not about you, or your friends, or even the opinion you may have. It's about people coming together to manage their own destiny. And maybe make some noise, and try find out just how big and strong are their numbers.

To some 626 is the tree...a very tall tree. But to others, it's the forest. And if you can't see the forest for the tree, then you may not be on the same page as someone else who does. Though I can guarantee we're all reading the same book, at least for now, and since it's one book in a whole series, we kinda know how this one usually turns out. And there will certainly be a reading from various pages of that book on Saturday, and even an attempt at a rewrite or two. So why not come on down? We can even come indulge in a few more hackneyed metaphors to describe the whole darn sitch, cause I done drove that book/forest thing into the ground.


Alex said...

I think 9 stories is a bit low - more like 12 would be a sufficient cap in my uneducated and not very passionate opinion. I think it's also important to make ground floor commercial space a requirement.

Anonymous said...

Why make this about race?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to ask:

If not here, within a few blocks of an express train station which gets to Canal Street in Manhattan in 20-25 minutes, where is an appropriate place to build tall, dense mixed use development? And if density/height is not the issue, but economics is - where is an appropriate place to build non-subsidized housing?

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in the area; and as someone driven out of this neighborhood over 35 years ago because I did not "blend" in anymore, I find all of this quite ironic. All should agree that the tower is ridiculous and out of place - but not protest it because of who might move in.

Anonymous said...

The black and white flyers conveniently leave out the 15-18 story towers to the north of the new building...

People want affordable housing and yet try to stop every "out of context" building that is proposed. You can't making housing more affordable by restricting supply. If so the Village in Manhattan would be the least expensive place to live in NYC.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that a new development that may bring some more new people to the hood - people with jobs and direction- gets so many people ready to rally. Yet you all turn a blind eye to
The drug dealers at Maple and all the other sketchy corners. Guess all that helps keep the rent cheap!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Anon 9:36. Are you suggesting that theQ is making this about race? Whether you like it or not, race is involved in a lot more than I suspect you're willing to admit. But I assure you that I am merely reporting what I've learned, not trying to insert my own opinion. It's out there - deal with it or not.

Anon 9:51. Clearly you're all for tall buildings along the park. No one is suggesting you're not allowed to have that opinion. And it needn't be about race or class or any of the rest of it. You believe in an unrestricted environment for development, and your perspective is well-represented in this City.

Anon 10:01: You're making the claim that people are trying to stop the building entirely. That is not the case, so please don't keep making that assertion.

Anonymous said...

I wish they would start building it already!

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I guess some new folks just don't want to acknowledge what's happening and why people are scared. They can be for big buildings, but please try to see that real people are feeling left out of a process that will remake their neighborhood forever. Nobody is blaming you personally. Why do whites always think their being attacked?

Anonymous said...

Hi Clarkson Flatbed - Anon 9:51 here again.

I'm not saying that there should be tall buildings all along the park. I'm saying that there should be tall buildings within walking distance of every express subway stop in the five boroughs.

As to the economics, I believe that subsidizing mixed-income homeownership (i.e. co-ops) is one of a number of tools (along with strong transit and public education) necessary to encourage social mobility. I think subsidized low-income rentals are a poor tool in encouraging social mobility.

I'm interested in learning the big-picture urban planning opinions of those who believe this development is too large for the site.

Anonymous said...

I fully acknowledge people are scared - they should be; rapid change is happening everywhere in NYC. What I can't stand is people stoking that fear by focusing on one building and creating misleading architectural renderings. Even if this building were totally halted, rents would continue to rise at an alarming rate in PLG.

If it's an aesthetic objection to the height, make that argument. It's a totally legit viewpoint (though one I disagree with). But don't pretend that stopping the project, or even lowering it to 9 floors and making it 30% affordable units, will do anything to slow the rise in cost of living in PLG. Don't lie to the people you claim to be helping.

-Paul G.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Other than the rendering I wonder what "lie" you feel is being offered up. If someone has a position, and wants to create urgency, you create that sense with pictures and words. It's called advocacy, and I don't see the lie. I see people trying to change the nature of things, which of course is their right in our republic.

The people they claim to be helping? I don't think this is just a matter of charity. It's an attempt at self-determination, and it's not coming from outside the community.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

And now de Blasio names Bratton his chief of police. So I guess my Chief of Trolls, who claimed de Blasio would never name Bratton because of deB's stance on Stop and Frisk, will have to eat his words. I wish he'd fess up to who he is, so I could ask him for coffee. Such a negative Nelly!

Anonymous said...

The anti-building flyer bases its objections to the 23-story structure on some some amusing claims.

The building is too tall. Therefore it cannot be permitted to rise.

As if there's some natural law that precludes the construction of a 23-story building, a building that's shorter than the Williamsburg Bank Building and others along Flatbush Ave.

How about this one? The high rents -- characterized as too high for today's neighborhood residents -- will cause rents in older neighborhood buildings to rise.

So it's now being claimed that an increase in the supply of neighborhood apartments will drive all rents HIGHER? That would mean that if we woke up tomorrow and found the number of apartments in NY City had magically doubled overnight, that, in response, rents would, what, also double?

The other side of that logic says that if half the apartments in NY City disappeared overnight, rents would drop. Right?

Out of character vis a vis the neighborhood?

Wow. Nothing like hidebound resistance to improving an area that's been languishing for years.

My favorite: Casting a shadow and maybe becoming the angle of death for songbirds. Not your everyday birds, but songbirds, as if songbirds are acknowledged to be inept at flying. Leading them to and crash, with fatal consequences, into new buildings.

Is there some research to support this form of songbird death? You know, like the birds taking hits from wind generators?

And, wouldn't you know, it's been suggested that migrating birds are blind pilots leading blind followers along those aerial routes. Are there any buildings in NY City around which mounds of dead migrating birds pile up in the spring and fall?

About those shadows. I gotta say, on those hot summer afternoons, when the sun is blazing, walking in the shade is a relief.

And there's more: Light and air would be blotted out.

Yeah, they've been saying that about the Flatiron Building since it was built. And the Empire State Building, and the Williamsburg Bank Building, and on and on.

How is air blotted out? Does the writer mean to claim that a vacuum would envelop the building? And no light? So perhaps the neighborhood will become the first proven location of a black hole? Wow. Point the Hubbell Telescope this way! Quick.

Anonymous said...

I am trying to figure out what the organizers of this protest movement think they are going to accomplish and I am at a loss. The project has a building permit and the state agency financing has already been approved. The developer is going to start digging the foundations there by the end of the month. The train left the station a long time ago on this one.

Anonymous said...

I'm not disputing that people have a right to self determination and free speech. You want to protest it - knock yourself out.

However, the "Fight the Tower" flyer makes an assertion that this tower will have a "ripple effect in the neighborhood leading to rising rents in buildings that are currently affordable." The conclusion then, is that by "Fighting the Tower" this ripple effect will be halted and currently affordable rents will remain so. THAT is the lie. Or if lie is too strong a word, then how about "misleading" or "wildly misinformed" statement.

-Paul G.

(c'mon people, put some kind of identifying name!)

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Anon 10:51. You've missed the point entirely. It's not just about one building. I suggest you reread the post.

And of course a building can be halted, temporarily or permanently. You just need to appeal high enough in the food chain. Check the City Charter. The Mayor can do pretty much whatever he wants, unless the Council overrides him.

I'm not suggesting such a claim would win. I am saying we've seen major projects in the City get shut down due to the protests of average citizens.

Anonymous said...

And I'll do my best to come to the event at John Hus. It is right next door to me...

-Paul G.

Anonymous said...

Bratton to become police commissioner. Remarkable display of common sense on de Blasio's part. We'll see soon enough if he made a move that will satisfy his constituency.

Bratton was booted by Giuliani for drawing too much praise for reducing crime. Rudy was unhappy that he was competing with Bratton.

What will de Blasio do if Bratton continues Stop & Frisk, which, assuming he does, will mainly result in stopping and frisking blacks and hispanics?

de Blasio might get edgy about the negative overshadowing?

In any case, as we both know, violent crime will remain concentrated among blacks and hispanics. Thus, how will de Blasio get around that one, especially when Bratton's department continues to arrest the same demographic of perpetrators?

The new councilwoman representing Crown Heights, Laurie Cumbo, wrote a clumsy, inarticulate letter to her constituents that blamed the "knockout game" in Crown Heights on the Jewish victims. It was one of those brilliant anti-Semitic canards in which she claimed Jewish landlords and Jewish home-buyers were driving out black residents who were excusably and simply responding to the evil forces at work.

Anyway, Bratton is returning to a different NY City, one that his policing policies made possible. He's not going to pretend, as many liberals do, that a police presence inspires people to commit crimes. Therefore, de Blasio will either look like a complete hypocrite to his supporters, or Bratton will once again leave town a little earlier than first planned.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

FYI to anyone reading this...the "many" comments FOR the building are coming from two IP addresses. One is my longtime trolly nemesis, the other is a longtime pro-business dude whose attitudes are consistent with pro-development forces in the City. Fine. But they both comment incessantly, so don't make inferences about the mood of the neighborhood based on their anonymous assertions.

Guys, please start using a consistent screen name. I don't mind hosting your opinions, but please don't continue to pretend to be different people.


Clarkson FlatBed said...

Paul: I'd say that you and I have a disagreement on the meaning of the word "lie." What you call a lie I would call a difference of opinion. But perhaps in the heat of argument, the word lie is shorthand for "I think you're wrong in your conclusion."

Clarkson FlatBed said...

The difference of course being that a lie is a knowing direct contradiction of fact. Emphasis on "knowing."

Anonymous said...

To get back on topic...

The building is as of right, there is nothing that can be done at this point that won't set a legal precedent that will change the course of development forever.

If people were so concerned about the neighborhood's development pattern, this would have been addressed years ago.

As for the race issue, it should be a non-issue at the local level. That new building will rent to those who have the money to afford the rents, it will have nothing to do with race.

We should be socially and economically tolerant, its not a 1 way street.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

If you attend at Jan Hus, you will see that the issue WAS addressed years ago. Again, I think you're missing the broader context, and I think you are wrong in your assertion that buildings have not been stopped in the past that were permitted "as of right" though I am not an expert and someone else might be able to lend their expertise.

cheryl on parkside ave said...

Nuff said Q, @11:31a.m!!!!

Anonymous said...

So the group who are against the height of this building are so because of a shadow, the skyline will give them an eyesore !! such major issues affecting their delicate precious lives oh dear!.

I would think building a place for people to live should trump those deeply life altering frustrations.

Anonymous said...

"FYI to anyone reading this...the "many" comments FOR the building are coming from two IP addresses.... don't make inferences about the mood of the neighborhood based on their anonymous assertions."

Well, that isn't proof that the opposite is true either. In situations like this, the "anti" side is always much more passionate and vocal. Can you recall many placard-laden demonstrations in FAVOR of Atlantic Yards???

Another reason support for this development might be muted is the nasty tone the anti-626 campaign is starting to foster. Perhaps I'm projecting but it seems that anyone in favor of, or even neutral on this issue runs the risk of being labeled a greedy gentrifer who wants to destroy the neighborhood character. And put long-time residents out on the street. And ruin Prospect Park to boot.

Personally, I'm fine with 626. But if somehow the project is blocked, I won't mourn. I liked the neighborhood before and I'll like it with or without one new building. But I'm not going to sign my name to this comment (I almost always do)... who needs the hostility and aggravation?

Anonymous said...

At anon 2:49 PM

Look at this post on this blog made a few weeks ago, you'll find there are more pro 626 than opposing it!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Yes, you're projecting. I don't quite understand why it's nasty to be a proponent of a position. The nastiness, if you ask me, is simply a matter of perspective. I haven't heard any name-calling...just good old-fashioned rhetoric.

If the opponents are saying that the target of the their actions is the Big D Developer, why are you (or anyone for that matter) taking it personally? Are you a member of the corporation, or a decision maker therein?

That's why I think you nailed it when you said "projecting." And I also think you owe it to yourself and your community to hear out the position of those who've organized the protest. I don't think I've done justice to the way people feel - I'm just trying to help present an alternate reality to the one being presented by the builder and proponents of unmitigated commercial enterprise.

If Hudson can present itself as more cognizant of the concerns of the community, as I urged it to do in my initial conversations with them back in April, who knows. But their position was one of hubris from the beginning, in my perspective. Maybe there's a win-win for everyone, who knows. I also doubt that the project can be stopped, but that doesn't prevent me from recognize the passion and power of grassroots advocacy. I'm glad people are organizing, and I'd prefer people were also listening to each other. But that's just me being idealistic again.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

True, true. Comments on The Q at Parkside can be used as a scientific sampling of neighborhood opinion, either for or against. So to you two, or three or four or five, most frequent free-market commenters...rev your engines. Popular opinion depends on your tenacity and hard work! Vote early, vote often!

Anonymous said...

Yo dude, just because we support this one project doesn't make us Michael P. Keaton young Republican free-marketeers.


Anonymous said...


ALEX P. Keaton.

Anonymous said...

Well-written post, as always, Q. I think it's great that people are organizing against the building, I just hope those efforts make a difference. I personally have mixed feelings on it, especially as a native Brooklynite, and a long-time renter who can barely afford the rising rent of the small apartment I am currently living in. Not sure if people realize, but there is very little housing inventory in PLG, both rental and for sale. It doesn't help matters that 1-bedroom CO-OPS are apparently going for close to, if not over, half a million (!!!). It's a sad state of affairs, especially for people, like myself, who would love to eventually purchase, but don't see it as even a remote possibility...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Hold it, Paul. I'm not talking about you...I'm talking about the anonymous posters who, according to my log, like to create the impression that they are many people.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like good discourse and you're one of my favorite discoursers.

But if I were to describe the tone of many anonymous pro-626 comments, I would have to say free-market is a fairly apt description, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Q -

you gotta admit, you have been more aggressive on the 626 posts than with any other of our lively discussions (excluding our honorable councilman).

- BG

peter said...

Q, re: your comments at 11:04 and 11:40 about whether the development can be "stopped": if this project required a zoning change or variance, or some other kind of special approval yet to occur, I would say you're probably right. But in this case it is simply too late. The State HFA has already issued $50 million in bonds and construction is underway. The HFA is not in a million years going to stop and reverse its decision to finance a project when it has just sold bonds and given the project a $50 million mortgage.
And "as of right" development does mean exactly that. If the project complies with the Zoning Code and the Building Code, it can get a building permit. This project already received DOB approval and already has its building permit. So, whether the project should be 23 stories or not is a moot point. They have the approved plans and its happening. These folks can protest all day but they can't change that. I would focus efforts on rezoning for future development, which is something probably a lot of people would support.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in PLG in the 70s and 80s and my folks still live there today, so I frequently visit the neighborhood. I recently thought about moving my family to PLG, but the one issue that has always given me pause is the lack of good restaurants, shops, etc. One of the great things about living in Brooklyn is being able to walk out your door and go to a great restaurant, coffee shop, grocery store, liquor store, hardware store, etc. without having to get in a car. Growing up, we would always drive to Park Slope for provisions. New residential development on the scale of 626 will likely lead to more and better commercial options along Flatbush Avenue. I think this is something most residents of the neighborhood would like to see. Indeed, I assume the reason this blog (of which I am a big fan) is always quick to post about any new commercial establishments is because they are something people long for and welcome. IMO - while there may be some down sides to the new building, on balance it will make the neighborhood a better place to live for most of its residents.

Anonymous said...

I'm for the building.

Rents going up/gentrification: 5 years ago the City of New York chose to double the property tax for the 144 unit apartment building where I live (40% rental, 60% coop). Many landlords have no choice but to raise rents when property taxes are increased like this, it's not greed at work.

For as long as the gravitational pull of Manhattan is as strong as it is, under-developed neighborhoods like ours will be subject to change/higher density.

150 years ago this land was farmland. 100 years ago it was balloonframe 3 story wood houses. 80 years ago 6 story brick apartment buildings. All built by developers btw. Why would you think the neighborhood is done changing? Because we live here now? A city (and we are part of a city) is an ever changing, organic thing. Keep the good, rethink the bad. The tower doesn't replace any significant structures, and doesn't impair the neighborhood in any significant way.


Clarkson FlatBed said...

Jenny: Your history is spot on, and as I've said many, many times in this thread and elsewhere, no one is expecting at this point to stop the building completely. There is a question, retroactively perhaps, of fairness, of community input, of being refused a proper hearing by City Planning, of a building being built that has no precedent alongside the park. It is close to 50% taller than any other park abutted building. Those are serious questions, and ones worth addressing in my view.

What I see, and I always try to call it like I see it, is that in the yearning for new amenities and better services, people are willing to suspend disbelief and assume that things will work out in most people's favor. And in fact, if enough people in favor of such development become the majority in the neighborhood, you would be correct. But why expect those who differ to turn the other cheek? Proud people fight for what they believe in.

What I object to most is the assumption that just because people are concerned that they have no control over their own destiny that they are somehow AGAINST change. I've yet to meet anyone who can't see how the neighborhood could and should change for the better. How that's achieved? That's where the difference of opinion lies.

It's not so different than a small town, like the one I grew up in, that becomes divided by the subject of economic develpment. Some argue for a measured approach that takes into account all the constituencies; another sees growth and progress as fulfilling destiny, regardless of the type, size or character. And often, there is money to be made, and who could argue with that?

Here's the big difference though. In my hometown, people were able to vote for their elected officials, who in turn were able to steer the course of the ship. Democracy was at play. In the case of a neighborhood, however, particularly one with little to no political clout, decisions are being made for it. Some folks have gotten wise to this up in Crown Heights, but it's probably little too late for many present and former residents.

Change is clearly inevitable. But don't think for a moment that every one of the turning points you noted through history there weren't various interests trying to control the change, and as we've seen time and again, the most powerful voice is usually the one with the most money.

If I seem aggressive it's probably because I'm thrilled to see political activity of ANY kind in this neighborhood. And I'm saddened to hear people mock it, though today I was relieved to see how many of those folks are the same two guys!

Looking forward to more comments from you Jenny.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

And yes, in a separate move, a zoning study is once again being requested by CB9.

Anonymous said...

To the comment about property taxes. You do realize that property taxes go up not just when they're raised but when buildings value is reassessed, and that your building will likely see increased assessments the more that rents and houses increase in value. True many landlords don't use this as an excuse for greed. But many do. Mine in fact has raised my rent by 100 percent since I moved in four years ago. I'm ready to bail.

Caton and Ocean said...

Keep it up Q. The silent majority is with you.

KT said...

People protested the Barclays Center a nd looked what happened? The Nets had their first game on 11/4/12. In my opinion, I support the project, as long as there are a percentage of affordable housing, like 30% as stated on the flyer.

Anonymous said...

Right on 4:59! Bring on this building already.
All these complainers have quieted down about the horrendous signage problem at Washington & Flatbush. While you're all complaining about some building go up as of right, someone will be struck and killed by a left turning car. This is a more immediate concern that need addressing.

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Anonymous said...

And can he stop tall buildings from rising?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how gullible some of the people are on this thread. They really think that developers are the answer to the neighborhoods problems. I've worked with Hudson and many others and I can guarantee you they don't care at all what happens to or in a neighborhood, particularly if their own employees don't live there. All over the city developers cut up bits of real estate and make longterm plans to displace tons of people in the name of profits. It's not a byproduct - it's the whole point. They call whole areas underutilized or undercapitalized and make plans to change the demographics not by chance but by design.

Do your homework folks. Your selfish reasoning is want what you want and you want it now. To claim this sort of building is all in the name of some higher good is to not understand the machinations of power, greed and racism.

Anonymous said...

Mr CF, from yesterday:
"I haven't heard any name-calling...just good old-fashioned rhetoric."

See Anon 8:39 directly above. Not blaming our blogger, but pointing out the tone of some in the debate. Entirely their right to say it, but it makes those like me—basically in favor of 626—want to tune out.
Rereading the comments here and previously, and experiencing other conversations in the neighborhood, my sense is that the "pro" side isn't saying this development is perfect or ideal, but on balance, good for most people in many respects. Nowhere do I hear "developers are the answer to [our] problems."

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Besides calling "some" gullible, I thought it was a pretty reasonably written point. What's the part that makes you want to tune out? Makes me want to tune in, frankly. This is a pretty meaty subject.

Tone is a subjective thing. It's easy to handle "abrasive" if it fits with your world-view. That's why Huff Post and Fox News have so many loyal viewers. People who feel strongly have a hard time settling into a gentle tone, and they have a hard time not mocking the other side. It's just the nature of debate I think, egged on by the nastiness of media outlets.

But I was reading recently about how this has always been the case, and that the complaint that today's tone is somehow different is a fallacy. Smart people use words to propagandize and put down the other side. Same as it ever was.

What's DIFFERENT perhaps is that each side isn't insulated from the other, and you have to confront the strong feelings of others, making it seem like you're constantly in a war, when in fact the average Joe or Jane is not nearly so angry.

babs said...

Finally weighing in here, while trying to remain as neutral as possible.

However, I absolutely do not buy the argument that these new, nice, shiny apartments will push up the rents for existing units. I think it's quite the opposite - the availability of modern apartments, with things like dishwashers, central air, new plumbing fixtures and (gasp) maybe even in-unit laundry facilities (or at the very least in the building) will cause a decrease in demand for the current stock of rental property in the neighborhood.

The vast majority of large rental buildings in the neighborhood are poorly maintained and have zero amenities - in-building laundry facilities are rare, and dishwashers are non-existent except in deregulated units. I hear from many of my friends about frequent boiler and elevator outages, dirty lobby conditions, and other problems that are legally the landlord's obligation to address, yet which remain uncorrected for days, if not weeks.

I can think of only two rental buildings in this neighborhood that I personally would consider living in (and I'm a real estate broker, so I'm pretty familiar with what's out there - and I do not handle rentals in any other large buildings in the neighborhood for that reason).

Additionally, the fact that most of the existing apartments in large buildings in this neighborhood are rent stabilized will keep rents down. Even if an apartment's rent rises above the $2500 threshold with a tenant in place it remains stabilized as long as that tenant lives there (and whose household's Federal AGI does not exceed $200K for two consecutive years).

Maybe the competition will make these landlords shape up, while rest stabilization laws will prevent outlandish rent increases for existing tenants.

I know numerous people who love this neighborhood and would gladly pay more to stay here in a nicer apartment, but it's just not out there right now.

I am also disappointed that this is such an obviously one-sided meeting - no-one from Hudson appears to have been invited or even contacted and the tone of this flyer seems a turn-off to anyone of a moderate POV on this issue. I hope I am wrong, and that some cooler heads prevail; I'm a bit afraid to attend myself lest I be tarred with the "gentrification" brush merely for suggesting that this might not be all bad.

Am I thrilled about this 23-story building? No, but I am willing to listen to both (rational) sides. I don't need to hear from fear mongers on the one side and right wing nut jobs on the other.

babs said...

Also, I have to say that your neighbor's comment almost sounds like a paean for segregation. I hear where she's coming from, but think about turning it around. I've had some decidedly similar experiences when I was in the minority, color wise, and have been routinely subject to "off-color" (was that an intentional pun?) remarks from members of the dominant race. For some, it's like the situation is reversed - the tension starts when you get off the train in the place that's supposed to be your home.

Or, how about this - try to imagine yourself a woman, trying to be "one of the guys" and having to listen to their remarks, etc. Same thing and it happens every day to many of us (especially if you work in business).

This building seems to be a flashpoint for a lot of issues that go much deeper than real estate and that no amount of "contextual zoning" is going to fix, unless you really are talking about segregation - which is hardly a fix, but rather an admission of defeat.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Well put, Babs. On both counts. But I would caution against drawing similarities between you being the only white person and a black person being only a country with our history you can't really make those equal. And the problem with your female to male comparison is that you don't live in a predominantly female neighborhood! I don't see the analogy working on either count, personally.

I think people are once again "projecting" that this is an angry mob protest. It's not. These are people you know who are thoughtful on such matters. Many are longtime professionals with careers or retired from careers and are educated and concerned and have raised families here and are not a bunch of wildass yokels looking for a barn burning. And from what I can tell they're very MUCH interested in what people have to say on all sides. Once again, I think it's fear of racial confrontation that keeps people from speaking to one another honestly. And there will be plenty of white people there, if that's an issue for anyone.

I suspect there are more people than you know who have a measured feeling about the building. And I too hope they show up and lend their voices. I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what's so wrong with feeling strongly about not wanting a tall building on Flatbush in the first place!

The real surprise to me wasn't that the building had was that people felt so strongly that they wanted this tall building that they would denigrate those against it. I've gotten some emails offline that suggest there's some real animosity out there that ANYONE would question this buildings right to exist.

THAT I find odd.

babs said...

I agree that the two are not 100% equal, but I think your neighbor is really going overboard. There are bad people of all races, sexes, and colors, and she's making it sound like she doesn't feel that way, like everything that happens once she gets off that train is all warm and fuzzy, because it's mostly black. And we all know that isn't true.

Friends of mine on hearing where I live (or on riding the train here) often ask me if I don't fell odd being in the minority, at which point I remind them that there's a good chunk of this country that feels that way most all the time, so no, it doesn't particularly bother me.

In terms of an all-woman neighborhood or even country - who knows? It might be fun to try. Or better yet, to have men try being "the weaker sex."

And I'm well aware that many of the leaders of these groups are thoughtful, intelligent, landmark-home-owning white people - which to me makes their overtly economic and covertly racial fear mongering all the more suspect. If they didn't want people to get the idea that this would be an angry mob protest perhaps they could have used less-florid language.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Babs: She didn't say warm and fuzzy. She said comfortable in her own skin. See! Now you're doing it too! So much "reading into" going on...

I've read and re-read the flyer, and despite the possibility of being able to disagree with some of the predictions, I just don't see the inflammatory rhetoric that you and others are claiming. Suki probably wrote the text, and she feels strongly. But it's hardly class warfare they're calling for. Look at it again:

They want the building shorter.

They want more affordable units.

And they want contextual zoning.

I may be completely off base here, but I really think this is the kind of issue that allows people to place all their fears, hopes and anxieties onto. Because from my view, there just ain't all that much there to get angry about. Disagree sure...

As for my friend's story, I would have thought the appropriate response would be "thanks for sharing," rather than to try to tear holes in it. It's how she feels. I prefer to just accept it.

some of the claims

diak said...

"...despite the possibility of being able to disagree with some of the predictions, I just don't see the inflammatory rhetoric that you and others are claiming."

As I read it, the predictions ARE the inflammatory rhetoric.
The three proposals you cite from the flyer are all worthy of discussion — although as many have pointed out, it may be too late for this project. But the bullet points above the proposals sound, to me anyway, like the sky is falling and the entire neighborhood will be ruined by this one project. And some of us aren't buying that.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Point taken. Let's check back in five years. Maybe you'll be right, and the tower was no big deal. But it may, just may, be remembered as the moment things really changed. I see nothing wrong with anti-tower folks wanting to identify a moment as a game-changer (much like a smaller scale Barclay's) and wanting to express their feelings about it.

I work a block from the arena. I knew it was going to change the surrounding nabes forever. I don't think I ever could have imagined HOW big. Coupled with the very-planned reimagining of downtown Brooklyn (I was there to see the original blueprint by the DBP, then BAM Development Corporation), and the rezoning of fourth avenue and fulton mall, this area has become truly and undeniably unaffordable to 95% of Brooklynites.

Good thing? You might think so. Others might disagree. But you don't get to go back if you want a do-over.

And the cynic in me wonders why anyone even tries. But there have been moments when forces coalesce and a new partnership forms, and the rules get rewritten. So some people are dreamers...let 'em dream. It's not hurting you, is it?

Anonymous said...

Is there ever a time or a place where everyone agrees in every way about the development of a piece of real estate? In this city? Never.

Do today's complainers have a leg to stand on? Probably not. What would have happened if resistance to earlier projects had succeeded?

Would Brooklyn have fared better without the Brooklyn Bridge? A lot of people and businesses were displaced on both side of the river to make way for that one. Needless to say, they saw what was coming and they were opposed.

How about the Verrazano Bridge? It cut Bay Ridge in two and tore neighborhoods apart. Was it wrong to build the bridge? Gay Talese wrote an extraordinary piece of journalism about the project and how it affected life in the borough.

Meanwhile, has there ever been a successful effort at stopping the construction of a housing project? After witnessing the results of early Great Society housing projects, there was no further mystery about each new one to come along.

Did opponents of housing projects suggests plans should be dropped because the buildings might create havens for crime and impair life in the surrounding neighborhoods?

The writer of the anti-626 flyer claimed the new building would cause an increase in neighborhood rents. Of course that's a false claim. The building itself might enjoy rising rents over the years. But, as Babs said, more housing supply of better quality would lessen demand for the space in the lower quality buildings.

On the other hand, the forces that destroy real estate values are painfully evident in neighborhoods with project housing. Of course, project housing is housing that's entirely in the hands of the government, which should instruct citizens, once again, in what happens when bureaucrats spend other people's money.

New York City will continue on the path it's been on since the Dutch bought Manhattan from the Indians. The friction between those who want to build and those who want to freeze development at a point that comforts their own psyches will never end, but, in virtually every place there's friction, the builders will eventually carry the day.

babs said...

And if I say I feel more comfortable in my own skin when I'm around people who look like me I'm a racist. Do you say, "Thanks for sharing," when people share their prejudices with you or do you try to explain that that's kind of like how we all feel at times, but that's no reason to say it's the fault of any one race?

Does anyone feel completely "at home" in a workplace environment? I think everyone probably feels like she does, but not simply because those people are one color and these people are another.

And I find bullet points 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 to be unfounded, speculative, and at times just plain wrong, yet they are presented as facts, so I would call them inflammatory, yes.

Let them show some facts to prove any of these.

Number 2 I, as a real estate broker, have already stated my disagreement with and why. I am more than able to expound upon this point.

Number 3 - Patio Gardens. Enough said

Number 4 - The bird problem is associated with all-glass structures that birds don't see and fly right into, as well as ones emitting large amounts of light at night (as in office buildings that stay lit all night). This is neither.

Number 6 - Pure speculation with no proof that this will occur. Additionally, the larger buildings on Flatbush contain rent stabilized units. As Bruce Ratner knows well, the only way to get rent stabilized tenants out of a building en masse, even if it's sold, is to have it seized through eminent domain (or declared an immediate safety hazard). You think AY was about Dan Goldstein's condo? Nope, that was just holding The Rat up from having the state throw out all the tenants in the rent-stabilized apartments in the surrounding buildings he'd bought up over the years. Additionally, the commercial spaces in these buildings are not of sufficient size for "big box" retailers.

Number 7 - See above. Clearly this is where changed zoning can also be more effective. Anything not built as of right (or passed off to the state à la AY) will require passage through ULURP, meaning the community will have input here. Some important things to add would be a requirement that x number of new classrooms be constructed for every y apartments and that other services be increased as needed. But why more cars? Yes, there is a requirement that new buildings contain a certain number of parking spaces, but this issue is being revisited in a number of new sites, including the former Bergen Tile site on Faltbush just north of AY.

Again, I think that, unfortunately, many people with actual knowledge of these urban planning and real estate matters will be too turned off by these unfounded claims and will not want to get involved and that our community will miss an actual opportunity to change things.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Mr. Burgermeister Meisterburger, as I'm going to call you until you give yourself your own name:

In the shorterm you may be right that the building won't cause rents to rise. However, developers have a longer-range vision. If you sufficiently lighten the complexion of the neighborhood, you can in fact start calling the neighborhood arrived, and then all bets are off. I had this conversation yesterday in Crown Heights and there are plenty of folks who can't even believe how fast it happened.

So even if the rents DID decrease as a result of this building despite the fact that developers are COUNTING on being copied and businesses coming to help pick up the pace of neighborhood change (I'd love to tell you who they're thinking about for the groundfloor business, but I'm sworn to secrecy), it wouldn't last long.

I'd argue that you sir, Mr. Burgermeister Meisterburger, are not looking at the big picture in one way (rents), and looking at a laughably big picture at the same time (Brooklyn Bridge? are you serious?)

At any rate, I look forward to checking back in with y'all in a couple years.

babs said...

I would just like to point out that the presence of housing projects is not holding down real estate values in all neighborhoods. Look at the Robert Fulton Houses in Chelsea for example - now you've got chic hotels to the south, the High Line and expensive condos to the west, and landmark brownstones and apartment buildings, as well as more condos, to the east. All doing just fine, thank you.

Here's an old article on the subject:

Of course, things were looking a bit shaky there with Bloomberg talking about selling off parts of their green space, but hopefully with de Blasio coming in that idea will go out the window.

babs said...

And while we're at it I think we should propose the Bond Bakery (Phat Albert) building and 43 Lincoln Rd/534 Flatbush Ave (the Wholesome/LPT building) as individual landmarks, both because of their historic roots in the neighborhood (534 Flatbush Ave may have been a former Childs Restaurant, like the one currently being restored on Coney Island) and their architectural significance (terra cotta in the case of 534 Flatbush).

Let's not wait for some developer to file demolition permits on these to do something.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Babs: If you say you're more comfortable around people who look like you, that is an honest statement. It's about your feelings. You aren't denigrating anyone, you're owning up to a reality. That is not racist at all.

It appears that to even express one's feeling about race is to fear being decried a racist. And that's probably why we have such a hard time talking about it. I find such admissions refreshing, frankly.

Anonymous said...


In fact, I believe the erecting new buildings and increasing the number of housing units in a neighborhood generally results in rising rents -- because the neighborhood is improving.

On the other hand, even if a neighborhood remains unimproved, it may see rising rents simply because rents are rising faster in nearby neighborhoods.

Windsor Terrace tracks Park Slope, but it will never close the gap.

Re: Brooklyn Bridge. There's even an excellent book on the subject. There was plenty of opposition and there were plenty of people whose palms were greased to ensure the bridge was built. Nevertheless, no one today talks about the people who were pushed out.

And surely no one is crying for Daniel Goldstein and the $3 million bribe he received to pack up and get out of his condo by Atlantic Yards.

babs said...

But don't you think saying that you're more comfortable around people who look like you means you haven't been exposed to enough difference in the world, or are taking the easy way out? Personally, I'm more comfortable around people who think like me than necessarily those who look like me - part of why I'm no longer in banking!

FlatLen said...

Hi, I find this debate rather interesting. Thank you.

I thought of the observation made by your neighbor who wanted to go home to a community of people who looked like her after spending the day in white corporate America.

I think it is easy to forget that identity is not limited solely to race. I would not be surprised if there were long standing residents, African American or Caribbean in the area, who would welcome the change, because they don't like the nature of the community as it is. They might be middle to upper middle class, but they dislike that the neighboring communities are mostly black and working class.

They look around the neighborhood and don't see "their people," even though a vast majority of people look like them. In addition, they might be long term owners who like the idea of benefitting from the gentrification wave.

It might be a naïve view, but black on black crime and a lower class black culture can do a lot to destroy any solidarity numbers of middle and upper class blacks might feel for the lower class ones in their midst.

peter said...

Babs @ 4:34:
I wholeheartedly agree - the Bond Bakery building should be made a landmark.

Anonymous said...

I would not describe the tower as "on the park." Like Patio Gardens, it's on Flatbush. And adding more commercial space to Flatbush would make the street more of a shopping destination that would help all our neighborhood merchants. More population brings more services for everyone. How can we all hope for restaurants and banks and coffee shops and gyms without the population to support them? The single-family homes in the district result in less density and fewer services. I'm in favor of the building because I'm in favor of more density, especially on an express stop. - ckbk