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, January 31, 2014

The Q's Block On the Block

As I reported here last November, the three old Victorians on my block are being demolished for a new apartment building. Matt P. alerts me that the plans have been filed, and that we can expect 48 units to go up. From the Brownstoner:

Three houses at 50-54 Clarkson Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens are being demolished right now to make way for an eight-story residential development. The plan exam application for the new building was first reported by BuzzBuzz Home. Nataliya Donskoy will be the architect on this project, which will have 48 units and 24,600 square feet. The 85-foot building will have parking for 24 bikes, a laundry room, two recreation rooms and an elevator.
Public records show an LLC bought 50 Clarkson Avenue for $760,000 in December 2012, and building permits reveal that the developer is Joseph Hoffman of Bushburg Properties. The other two houses were also purchased the same month, for $445,000 and $545,000. Donskoy, who previously worked for disgraced architect Robert Scarano, designed the unusual looking building at 146 South 4th Street in Williamsburg, which recently started leasing.
Privately I'm aware of some details that have yet to be worked out that have to do with the projects's position between two pre-war apartment buildings on either side. We'll see where it all lands.

But suffice to say, without prejudice or opinion...

With the condominium conversion of the large apartment building to my immediate east (35); and the steady selling of coops across the street (40); now this building, and plans by Landlords, as relayed by their Supers, at two other buildings (80 and 60) to attract a "different" sort of clientele, and the new building reported at Wednesday's meeting going up just across Bedford where the Haunted House stood, it's quite possible that Clarkson won't resemble anything like its current self in even two or three years.

The first is my pic from last fall, the second from Brownstoner yesterday:

Bit by bit, piece by piece, both the building, and the neighborhood.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

111 Clarkson Goes the Way of the Dodo

It's official(er). The Haunted House of Clarkson, home to the ghosts of the Magnificent Ambersols, the Old Wet Lady, or as some days I called it The Bat House, is heading out to pasture. Or out to the City Dump, with a few odds and ends probably ending up at Demolition Depot, or better yet, Olde Good Things.

Rebecca from Brownstoner was there and here's her report. From her article comes news of the plan, though sadly no rendering yet:

(Developer Seth) Brown didn’t show any pictures, but described his plans: The 70-foot buildings will have 22 and 28 units each, and there will be a parking lot with 25 spaces between the two buildings. Both buildings will extend to the property line on either side of the 50 by 242 foot lot, with a driveway on each side of the lot, allowing for parking lot access from Clarkson and Parkside Avenues. Architect Joseph Spector will design the rentals, which will be mostly one- and one-plus bedrooms with a few two- and three-bedroom apartments mixed in. Most units will have balconies, and there will be a washer/dryer in each apartment. Both buildings will have an elevator and roof terrace.

And despite feeling a bit misty over the loss of an odd and historic building, I am not leading any charge against the development or its size or even it's choice of kitchen furnishings. It sounds like this is what's happening with the old stuff that can't be re-purposed, and there it is. This would appear to be a building suited for its place. And the gentleman was kind enough to come out and meet with neighbors.

See, Hudson? See how easy that was?

D Avenue Grand Opening Tomorrow, And No More Anonymous Comments

Richard w/Renee from last year
Richard from the newly named and signed "D Avenue" at 673 Flatbush is calling tomorrow the Grand Opening. Stop in for Drink Specials all day til 11pm. You've known it as Rhythm Splash, you've known it as Lime, and back in the day it were The Handyman Special. Richard is a swell cat and deserves your lounge business. This place has been looking for the right vibe, and YOU my friends can make it happen. Yes, your business is wanted. And yes, you will feel comfortable, especially after that third martini.

By the way that's "D Avenue," not "Avenue D" as this non-Trinidadian has been calling it.  Look the Q was born in the Midwest, so he didn't get it at first that it's like De Hot Pot, mon.

And here's a piece of info you may want to know:

I'm not entertaining Anonymous Comments anymore. I'm done. Too many people are hiding. The plus was I got a lot of silliness and maybe even some honesty I wouldn't get otherwise. But I'm tired of the negativity. I'm too old for nonsense other than my own, and the attitude of some of the commenters wears on me. It brings out the worst in me too.

By the way, I like all the regulars a lot, even when we disagree. You guys are my online pals, and I've come to know a lot of you "on the outside." Please keep it up! And if you have a Google ID you can comment. Or an OpenID with a url (like if you're a blogger or such). So really, anybody can still comment, but you can't just lurk out there anymore.

Oh, and yes, it was a great meeting tonight. Fitzgibbon is a straight shooter, and we've opened a dialogue.

Meet the New Chief at the 71st Precinct - Tonight at Play Kids

The Q and Shelley from Play Kids on Flatbush at Westbury Ct invite you to join us tonight to meet with Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon of the 71st, tonight at 7PM. There's a lot to talk about, both with the D.I. and with each other. A great group of concerned citizens has been meeting fairly regularly to keep the pressure on crime and safety. Please be part of the solution, and if you can make it tonight, fabuloose.

More on that "Gastropub"

Sonja Sharp from DNA Info was at the Community Board meeting on Tuesday. That must have been her right behind me! I was wondering who comes to these things with a computer taking notes. Duh! A REAL journalist, of course. I'm just sitting there playing with the pencils and lobbing questions and goofy remarks. Here's her story on the gastropub coming to Flatbush and Midwood. (If you're not familiar with the term gastropub, never fear, it just means you're not a a Gastroenterologist or have various and sundry forms of gastroenteritis. Gastropubs were begun in the U.K. at the end of the 20th Century to provide healthy and rehabilitative food to alcoholics suffering from such conditions. Initially this involved a lot of raw roots and herbs and pre-masticated tempeh-based dishes, but has apparently moved on to Lobster Rolls and Spare Rib Sliders. Some in the movement are concerned that these foods might actually exacerbate certain Gastro conditions, but the research so far is uncorroborated, since most of the scientists interested in this issue are themselves alcoholics and currently soaking in a marinade of rooftop honey and triple-distilled artisinal bourbon.)

To say that this joint, featuring partners Chad from Tugboat  and Kalkin Narvilas from Franklin Ave's Cent'Anni, will be a game changer for the bourgie mood around like saying that oil changed Texas, or "Taxes" as a recent heartbroken commenter wrote.

From the article:

"We’re going to have a lobster roll on a pretzel bun, and some short rib sliders," Narvilas said. "We’re going to have 24 draft lines and high-end whiskeys and scotches with a focus on local New York breweries and distilleries."

Though it's a far cry from the traditional Italian cuisine at Cent'Anni and Narvilas' Washington Heights Italian eatery Saggio, the planned pub could be similar to Narvilas' earlier Hell's Kitchen venture, Blue Ruin, he said.
And the Q's fave quote:
"This isn’t my first rodeo," said the restaurateur, who appeared before Community Board 9 seeking support for a full liquor license Tuesday night for the new Flatbush Avenue establishment. "I definitely need to get open, but assuming there aren’t any hidden traps waiting, I think as early as June."
Good luck cowboy!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meeting Tonight on What's Coming To 111 Clarkson

It's always fun to meet your neighbors and talk about the future of the 'hood. And it's rare to have the chance to talk directly to the dude building the new building - in person - and hear their thoughts and plans. Some folks may confuse this meeting with the sort of out-and-out protest that's been happening around 626 Flatbush, but that's really not the goal here. The idea for this mtg is if the ol' Haunted House of Clarkson is coming down, and an upscale apartment building going up, stuff is going to happen. Be there at the moment that the "stuff" starts happening, and listen and share. In the Q's opinion, that's the way it should go down - lines of communication open and all that. So...
Come to a community meeting to talk to Seth Brown, the developer of 111 Clarkson Avenue, and express our concerns and desires for the project:

Wednesday, January 29
7:30 PM
119 Clarkson Ave
Betsy Andrews

We need a strong and open community presence at the meeting, so please come, thanks !!

A Little Bit About A Lot of Things

So you say you're "all ears?" Let's go then.

Community Board 9 met tonight. Some tidbits:

1) Chester Court received unanimous support for its designation as a historic district, meaning you can't come and buy a couple of these adorable Tudors and build a six story luxury condo. Bad news for luxury condo buyers, good news for this extraordinary little block abutting my beloved Q train. (And my somewhat beloved B train).

2) CAMBA is moving on to phase two of its Camba Gardens affordable housing plan for the Kings County Hospital campus. Apparently 7,000 (!) applications were filed for apartments in phase 1 (see below for details). The new building will have more studios and functions more as supportive housing. Number 2 is being built primarily to house formerly homeless folk and families, and you should really take a spin by building 1 on Albany and Winthrop. Quite amazing to see ACTUAL affordable housing being built in this day and age. Oh, and to build number 2 they'll be razing scary Building G, the former insane asylum, er, mental hygiene asylum. That place did NOT have a particularly positive vibe. Newly elected councilperson Laurie Cumbo remarked tonight that when she was growing up elders would say "you better be good or you'll end up at Building G." Yikes!

That's not to say that I didn't bend founder and CEO Joanne Opustil's ear to implore her that something be done about that godamn Barry Hers and his disgraceful 60 Clarkson building (read that saga here). Trust me, she knows who I am because I met with her and staff to complain about it and I've done my best to try to keep her "abreast" of the situation. CAMBA provides services there, and to my mind ought to be able to get DHS to cancel Hers's $3,000 a month contract (per unit!). And how about that piece on WNYC about it? Listen below:

3) That bar the Q alluded to that's opening at Flatbush and Midwood? Not only will it be a nice sit-down joint, it'll be what the young folks call a Gastro-Pub, with (I ain't kidding this is what they said) 50 types of beer and 30 artisinal and classic bourbons and scotch whiskeys. Did I hear a few gasps of joy out there amongst the Q faithful? Just don't get hit by a dollar van when stumbling out the door. Look for an opening mid-summer.

4) Speaking of bars, that joint on Rogers with the nifty sign that says "Brooklyn Rick's Cafe?" I went in on my way home tonight to find them readying the place, and Rick (number 1, there's two) is a sweet guy with big plans to make his joint at 429 Rogers the kind of neighborhood bar it used to was back in the day. In fact, he said WAY back in the day that it first used to was it was an Irish bar. On Rogers. Cause, well, there were lots of Irish and Italians around here, so I've heard. And no, there won't be 50 beers, but after all, how many beers can one person drink in one sitting anyway? Actually, that's a rhetorical question. I answered that question many, many times in my youth and it's a miracle I'm hear to write the tale. Rick's will have food too, they just got permits for the kitchen. They'll be up and running darn soon. Please stop in - the vibe is very friendly and homey.

5) The Dominican joint on Flatbush next to Rhythm Splash (soon to re-grand-open as D Avenue) has new ownership and a new name. Look for an improved look and feel, and hopefully better health department grades. We supported their liquor license as well, actually wine and beer I believe. I'm a huge fan of Dominican food, so I really do hope they get it going on.

Speaking of getting it going on, the Q best be going on to bed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Now THAT Is a Meeting

Whoa Nelly! Move over Yalta...there's a new conference in town and it's name is The Parkside-Empire! After years of fitful starts, a true merchant's association was birthed today at none other than Dr. Cuts. The good doctor was in, Desmond Romeo, and he presided as the newly elected president of the Flatbush Merchant's Association. The other elected board members included Exec VP Shelley Kramer of Play Kids, VP of Communications Joyce David Esq, Treasurer Jesse Gomez of 30 year merchant Gomez & Gomez, and VP at Large Tammy Merlain of Human Hair. The meeting was joined by many merchants, neighbors, some CB9 folks AND the Director of Economic Development Dale Charles of the Pratt Area Community Council. You see, the PACC is helping organize and assist the Merchant's Association in its quest to finally bring together the feisty ragtag assortment of businesses that call the Flabenue home. Yours truly, wearing the hat of sanitation chair at CB9, blah-blahed about trash on the avenue and how to rid ourselves of it.
left to right Shelley, Desmond, Dale (seated), I. Dunne O.,
The Lady From Small Business Administration,
Jesse, Joyce and Tammy
Before reading any further (farther?) please go to their Facebook page and "like" them. Le Facebook page.

The Q's been watching helplessly for the past many years as a group has tried to get off the ground, and tonight I believe he (I) witnessed the beginning of something truly marvelous. Sandra from Tafari Tribe was there. Richard was there to talk up D Avenue, his latest bar to sprout at 673 Flatbush. Michael was there from the Fen Empire (65 Fen, Delroy's and PLG Outpost). Which reminds me to say that the businesses just off the Flabenue are included, plus Lincoln Road and hopefully Parkside. Because the Flatbush BID ends at Parkside from Cortelyou Road, and doesn't include the Parkside businesses.

And who runs the BID now that Jack Katz, the old-school style leader of decades, has passed on to the great Street Fair in the Sky? Her name is Lauren Elvers Collins, and she holds the titles now of Executive Director of both the Church Avenue BID AND the Flatbush Avenue BID. This super-slick move should create efficiencies, one would think, and she does think it too.
I had lunch with Lauren last week at Am Thai, the delectable restaurant on that very Church Avenue near Lark Cafe, either of which many of you have probably stumbled into a time or two. That little section of Church Avenue almost to Coney Island Avenue has become quite the Little Economic Engine That Could, and a new bakery just opened up called, um, um, shoot I can't remember. Looked super cute though. Since I stole the picture to the right from Ditmas Park Corner I really should just link to their brief article about Lauren here rather than pretend I staged that shot myself. Thanks Nora!

Speaking of Am Thai, here's their delivery map area. Guess the Q's gonna be drowning in the Tom Yum while some of you are plum out of duck basil.

However, I figure that since according to this map about 20% of their delivery area goes to dead people in Greenwood Cemetary or squirrels in the Nethermead, they could probably be convinced to deliver throughout Lefferts. Anyone had any experience with their delivery radius? Amy who owns Am Thai assured me that sweet talking can do the trick, and promises of a nice tip.

Anyhow, Lauren's great and I'm sure she'll whip that beleaguered Caton Market into shape, among other things, so so so many other things. Visit the Church Ave BID site here, and remember to tip your delivery person well. All of your Lefferts neighbors are counting on our good reputation among deliverers!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fire at 48 Hawthorne

Just came back from a walk down Hawthorne. 48 burned, and thank God no one was hurt. Here's a couple pics. Nearly 30 firemen on the scene. The helicopter? Strange thing to send to a fire scene, but maybe to provide light?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

There's a New Sheriff In Town

Actually, there's a bunch of new sherriffs. Actually, it's more like there's a new team in town, led by the Good Doctor Cuts. After years of struggling to move forward, the merchants of the Flabenue have finally started what's sure to be a re-energized merchant's association. Just check out the press release:

And their first General Merchant Meeting is coming up on Monday. Tell everyone at your fave local shops to join! Lincoln Road and Parkside included, and anyone just off Flatbush.

The new name - Parkside Empire - is awesome. So is Desmond, from Dr. Cuts, the new president and everyone on the Board. Happily, the new board reflects the great diversity of the Flabenue itself. This is great news folks. Great news indeed.

Next Thursday: Basement Roundtable On Crime & Safety

The Q requests your presence next Thursday night the 30th of January at 7pm at Play Kids, 676 Flatbush. What began last summer in the basement of 40 Clarkson Avenue as a plea for more support from local law enforcement has become a formidable group of concerned residents that some were calling Lefferts Area Crime Team and Troubleshooting Entity (or L.A.C.T.A.T.E.) but then thought better of it. Let's just call it Lefferts Area Safety Team, no acronym, but maybe if people want to call it LAST that will be okay and no one will be offended? Or we could wait to name it. Last fall we were saying D.A. Task Force since we had engaged the District Attorney's office and things were moving along and then a new D.A. came in and we're trying to reconnect our network there.

So...come on down and meet our new commander at the 71st precinct, Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon,
who most recently headed the district of Canarsie, an are of predominantly Haitian-born and their families. When I met with him last month, he was burning incense in his office I kid you not. He's super friendly and committed to being a community-minded police force. BUT...we have yet to see evidence of that, as many prior posts and comments make clear. It's time to relate our priorities and concerns in a constructive fashion that leaves no ambiguity as to what we NEED on the Flabenue and environs.

Please come on down and ask your questions directly to the man in charge. Our last meeting at Play Kids took on the form of a roundtable, and all participants were asked to contribute to the discussion and share the issues that matter most and that pertain specifically to certain blocks and buildings and activities. A rendering from that mtg appears below. As you can see, we ask that you bring your own chainmail and tunics.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hapless Heist Creep Collared

When the cops nab their man, they like to tell us about it. From the 71st comes this great paragraph-long narrative of events this afternoon. Locals will recognize this corner as precisely one block from the 71st station house. I'm surprised the guy wasn't wearing a red jumpsuit. Those are "in" this season in the perp scene.

Today at approximately 3 PM a male walked into the Chase bank located at 1000 Nostrand Avenue and passed the teller a note demanding money. After the teller refused the male walked across the street to the Carver bank and verbally asked for money in a threatening manor. The bank teller handed over money and the male fled the bank. Chase and Carver bank both called 911 and where able to give a good description. The description was broadcasted and a patrol car spotted the male a few blocks away. The male was apprehended and all the money from Carver bank was recovered.   

Semi-interesting graphic below:


We're Certainly Not The First Neighborhood To Confront This Stuff

The other day I heard someone remark "only in PLG would people actively oppose progress" in regards to the planned 23-story 626 Flatbush. I've tried to remind folks that unwanted development is happening all over the City and that frequently the issue is outdated zoning. There was a time when the City begged for new buildings and cared not for aesthetics. While Patio Gardens is home-sweet-home to many, few would argue that it's design deserved any awards, or was even appropriately sized given its closeness to the park.

For an illustration of how other neighborhoods have argued for self-determination, take the successful effort by those in Carroll Gardens back in 2007. It was signed by more than 1,100 folks. I have to say I find their use of language particularly invigorating. Power to the people, indeed. And while I doubt the value of homes in C.G. was ever in question (skyrockets in flight!) I certainly can identify with the desire to decide one's own destiny.

The text from that petition:

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes.

We understand that the current laws and the R-6 zoning which we fall under allows this at present---but the letter of this law does not reflect the spirit of the law, nor the wishes of the very people who have made this community so desirable. We feel that the "as of right" clause recognized by the city, planning/zoning and building departments should not strip us of
our rights to have a say in the height, bulk and density of the structures placed in our community.

We are presently not permitted any type of control in this regard, but we understand that there are different rezoning and/or landmarking measures which would help remedy this situation. We have been informed that it is typical for the process to take several years. Clearly, the very character of our neighborhood cannot afford to wait that long.
Therefore, we DEMAND an immediate moratorium on all buildings and alterations in our neighborhood, where the ultimate height of any structure to be built will exceed a height of fifty feet, while we await a decision on rezoning and or landmarking in our beloved Carroll Gardens.

We, the undersigned, vow to support ONLY those public officials who will act upon our demands and achieve our goals NOW.

And that last line, ladies and germs, is what the Q calls an attention grabber.

PPEN Complaint Against 626 Flatbush Available Online

If you want to know precisely what's been filed with NY County Supreme Court, you can go here:

Then type in Index number: 101695/2013

A lot of detail is there that you won't find in my layman's analyses.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

PPEN Hearing Against 626 This Thursday

Last night local residents met at a private home to discuss the latest regarding efforts to fast-track contextual zoning along the Flatbush-Ocean parallel corridors from Parkside to Empire. For those just getting up to speed on this one, a local group called Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) has emerged to both enlist community opposition and to wage war against unfettered and outsized development in our neighborhood. The building at 626 Flatbush has galvanized some in the community against the developer Hudson Inc., led by David Kramer. A suit has been filed against the state for agreeing to finance the project in view of a promised 20% of the 23-story tower's apartments being set aside for affordable housing. The long and short is that a hearing will be held on Thursday at 111 Centre Street for a judge to hear the merits of the lawsuit that's been brought by PPEN against the State for agreeing to release financing without doing a proper environmental review. By environmental, ALL aspects of the effect of a building must be studied before the money spigot opens. This usually means looking at context and economic impact as well as the more obvious issues of infrastructure and health.

In meeting with and talking to residents leading this charge, the Q feels that despite the need for more, and more affordable, housing for Brooklynites, the trend towards massive wholesale reconfiguration of the borough without (in my view) thought or care has proven incredibly destructive, both to the character of neighborhoods and to the people who have long called Central Brooklyn home. While some pay lipservice to the idea of democracy within big D development, anyone who has seen the doc My Brooklyn or has kept up with the rapid pace of big money following big money into our borough knows how plans are made and implemented without the consent or even general knowledge of the people most affected. The "people" have no say in how their neighborhoods and City are being changed, and changed so rapidly as to take one's breath away.

Here's the full release, which includes a few choice remarks by said local politicians:

Brooklyn Community Files Lawsuit to Stop Luxury High-Rise

23-story luxury tower planned for Prospect Lefferts Gardens defies low rise historic neighborhood

BROOKLYN, NY, December 19, 2013—Residents and community groups in Brooklyn’s Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood have filed a lawsuit asking that the development of a 23-story residential tower in their low-rise, mixed income neighborhood be halted. The lawsuit against the New York State Housing Finance Agency, Hudson Companies Incorporated (a private real estate development company), and other defendants contends that more than $72 million in public funds were approved for the development without the proper environmental impact study required by state law. Petitioners are represented by law firm WilmerHale and Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program.

Community residents and organizations have formed a coalition to fight the development of the high rise luxury tower. The Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) is not opposed to new construction, but does ask that the development be contextual and respectful of the existing architecture and environment in the neighborhood. Petitioners also include the Flatbush Development Corporation, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA), and six individual community residents.

Members of PPEN sought legal counsel in this issue so that their voices could be heard,” said David Bassett, legal counsel for the petitioners, and a partner at WilmerHale. “They contend that the Housing Finance Agency’s determination that the construction of a 23-story tower in the midst of their low rise neighborhood on the edge of Prospect Park would have no significant environmental impact was improper and arbitrary, and in violation of New York State law.”

While the area has always been mixed-income, the addition of the tower would change the rental market so that long-time residents living on fixed incomes would not be able to afford to stay. The new residents who would occupy the luxury tower would impact the nature of local businesses which have long served the economically and ethnically diverse community. Low-income tenants and businesses would be priced out of the neighborhood.

The NYS Housing Finance Agency failed to take a hard look at the impact this tower will have on the neighborhood’s residents and businesses,” said Rachel Hannaford, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program. “Our clients are concerned that this tower will lead to tenant displacement, as landlords see new opportunities in a high rent market. In recent years, developments like this one have changed the character of Brooklyn neighborhoods and forced the most vulnerable out of their homes and communities.”

"As a group of tenant associations battling the displacement of long-term tenants in the neighborhood, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition is very concerned about the scale and affordability of this proposed development,” said FTC member Redoneva Andrews.  “Without more affordable housing for low-income families, the development will change the neighborhood.  It will drive up rents and the cost of everything else in the area, and drive out low-income tenants and small store owners. Low-income families are already treated with little respect—apartments are so run down that tenants are forced to move out. We want to make sure all families are treated with respect and have safe, affordable housing."

The building would also dramatically affect Prospect Park, as it would be almost 50% taller than any other building on or near the perimeter of the park. The tower would cast shadows, impacting flora and fauna.  It would also, by towering above the tree-sky vista that is currently the view from within the park, violate the design intentions of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted who carefully designed Prospect Park to be a rural retreat from the sights, sounds and stresses of urban life. Buildings this tall are not permitted by zoning in other neighborhoods that border Prospect Park, including Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington.

The people of Prospect Lefferts Gardens share a neighborhood of remarkable beauty,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke. “I have lived on Midwood Street for my entire life, and I know that this neighborhood’s character has been defined by generations of families and small business who have remained here for decades. The construction of a twenty-three floor tower in a neighborhood where even the highest buildings are less than half that height threatens to undermine the quality of life enjoyed by the people in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I urge a thorough review of this proposal and its potential consequences.”

"Given the drastic change the proposed 23-story mixed use tower will cause to the skyline of this historic portion of Flatbush Avenue, as viewed from Prospect Park and from Prospect Lefferts Garden, I think it is important that there be some extended public discussion of the project's appropriateness before demolition and construction begin on the site," said State Senator Kevin Parker

I am energized and excited by the efforts of this community group to take a strong stance for responsible development in Prospect Lefferts Gardens,” said Assembly Member Karim Camara. “Additionally, I am working with my colleagues in the City and State to propose more encompassing legislation regarding contextual zoning, community notification, and a greater commitment to affordable housing, particularly when taxpayer dollars are used for development.”

It is important that we maintain the character and integrity of our communities,” said NYC Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is a neighborhood with a rich history.  I strongly advocate that the City Planning Commission soon review the current zoning in the area of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens adjacent to Prospect Park.”

It is imperative that we maintain and protect the integrity of Prospect Lefferts Garden's low rise and historic homes,” saidBrenda Edwards, a homeowner on Chester Court and a member of PPEN. “This does not include a 23-story tower hovering relentlessly over our heads. I feel that without the immediate approval of contextual zoning, which was requested since 2008, that the proposed Hudson tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue will become an invitation for other such development.”

Prospect Lefferts Gardens is a real community, with both diversity and cohesion,” said Quest Eric Bohman Fanning, a tenant of Patio Gardens and lifelong resident of the neighborhood. “Our community is unique and vibrant; we don't need to become Manhattan.”

About Prospect Park East Network
Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) is an organization of concerned residents formed to address this development and the larger concerns it brings, which include the urgent need for contextual zoning and impact studies on such issues as traffic, subways, parking, schools, safety, sanitation, low income and affordable housing, and Prospect Park itself.

About Flatbush Development Corporation
Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC) is a nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of a diverse Flatbush community. FDC identifies and responds to these needs by creating programs, campaigns, and partnerships through economic development, housing, youth, immigration and other initiatives that promote enhanced quality of life, safety, and preservation of the neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, and South Crown Heights (which includes Prospect Lefferts Gardens).


On this particularly trashy Flatbush commute, I'm reminded of the oft-heard complaint that we are a neighborhood of litterers. While I don't dispute the claim, it is not, in my opinion, the litter that causes the trash problem. It is the dumping, and the lack of simple cleanup by merchants and landlords along the Flabenue. Because we haven't got a BID doing regular cleanup, we're stuck with what we got.

Dumping includes leaving big bags and stacks of trash at corners and in tree pits and next to buildings. Over the last few days, a Trash Vigilante on Ocean has been sending me pictures like this:

Besides being a health concern and despite the fact that wind can easily blow debris all down the street, this kind of thing just encourages more dumping and littering. These photos have been forwarded to Sanitation with promises of greater enforcement.

I'm heaping mad at this stuff. It degrades the neighborhood and shows complete lack of respect. To me, this is not an issue that invites division among neighborhood residents. Rather, it's something we can all agree could make the area much more livable. That's why I may come off as...obsessed(?) about it. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

UPDATE: Shooting at Church Ave Subway Station

Yes, the shooter was wearing a red jumpsuit. The victim is expected to survive. And did I mention the red jumpsuit? It just goes to prove what I've said here many times...there is a strong correlation between violent crime and poor judgment.

This just in, via Ditmas Park Corner, a shooting at the Church Ave side of the Church Ave Q/B.

Nora from Ditmas Park Corner
For those closely following the slowdown in shootings in the 71st, it's worth noting that there's been an upsurge just south and west in the 70th. Winter hasn't slowed the pace, unfortunately, of nearby violence.

UPDATE: MTG POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER: Tomorrow Night: Meeting On 111 Clarkson Development

The meeting is now scheduled for Wednesday January 29. Thanks again to Developer Seth Brown for taking time to meet with neighbors.
Those of you who are mourning the soon to be razed Haunted House of Clarkson, a/k/a the AIA's fave example of Berserk Eclectic Architectural Movement of 111 Clarkson, will be interested to hear what developer Seth Brown has to say about his planned 50 unit building with luxury amenities, an earth-friendly building to boot.


Tuesday, January 21
7:30 p.m.
At 119 Clarkson

We are sitting down with the developer of 111 Clarkson Avenue, Seth Brown, to discuss our concerns and wishes for the upcoming project. 

Please join us. We need a strong, but courteous and friendly, community presence at this meeting. 

Contact: Betsy Andrews,

Please pass it on thanks!

To some, this may seem like an overdue use of a parking lot and dilapidated-beyond-repair mansion. To some, it may seem like the loss of a neighborhood icon. And to some, it's simply not wise to tear down a haunted house, thereby releasing the spirits and creating an antagonistic relationship with the angry gods who oversee the ORIGINAL purpose of the site, which was as a Native American burial ground. Add to that the fact that the site is also the peak of a legendary volcano system and the intersection of three major fault lines, not to mention the site of numerous Sasquatch sightings over the years...there's bound to be trouble.

But hey, it's steps to park and 25 minutes to midtown, so basically six of one half dozen of another.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Helicopters Seeking Armed Bandit

According to the Twitterverse, the heavy helicopter action is about an armed robbery at the Green Lake Express, just down Flatbush at Caton. Same address (803) could be the deli next door though. This used to be the wonderfully named "Best Fast Food" store, which was just too down from Best Liquors and Best Meats. The cops pursued the guys and called for helicopter backup. Hope they found him/them. Hard to imagine a female in that armed gunperson role. Am I being sexist?

Friday, January 17, 2014

LGCS Tours

For those interested in the new and improved Lefferts Gardens Charter School, four opportunities to visit have been announced:

Coming up next week join them for an open house at 6PM on the Thursday the 23rd. For those wanting to see the tykes in action, the following Tuesday the 28th is a 9am tour. Also in February, try 2/11 at 6pm or 2/27 at 9am.

Parents...see you there!

From the 71st Precinct Comes The Newly Formatted Newsletter

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Watch "My Brooklyn" Online

If you've been wanting to learn more about how public policy led to the quickest and most sweeping changes in Brooklyn's history since the bridge, you have a month to view the film "My Brooklyn" onlin. It's okay as documentary - I'm not a fan of the personal memoir style - but fantastic as a primer for what's been happening.

I was at meetings with Joe Chan back in 2004 when he started running the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Click here to see their website. (It's ironic, in my view, that one of the things they're promoting right now is a show on Brooklyn's Abolitionists. As if being politically correct in your promotions means you've cared even two whits about the present and future of African-Americans in the borough.) I work in a building - 80 Arts on Hanson Place - that was one of the first shots in the war against old Brooklyn. The idea was to convert an old building on a sorry street next to run down apartments and the Salvation Army, and bring a bunch of college educated artsy folks in through subsidized office space for BAM-approved non-profits. We would make it "safe" for coffee shops and upscale eateries to move to Fulton. The BAM Development Corporation was on the top floor, and the famed Harvey Lichtenstein had offices there. BAM was instrumental in seeing that Ft. Greene and downtown Brooklyn changed for the arty and upscale. BAM used to joke that if it could move BAM to Manhattan they would have been much better off, this from someone who used to work there. No surprise of course - we all knew that was true. But if you can't move the building over the bridge, why not bring Manhattan to Brooklyn? Eventually, BAM was taken over by the Downtown Partnership, when the plan became not only feasible, but likely.

When I saw Joe's plan, and even questioned him about it, I, these guys have a massive vision. It'll never happen, I thought. Not in downtown Brooklyn. It's too popular and profitable. Maybe you could get some arty types to live in the lofts above the stores on Fulton. But a big mall - Albee Sqare - had already failed, and Metrotech was an eyesore. And a pro sports franchise with a big arena next to that hideous Atlantic Center? Keep dreaming!

How naive I was. They did it. Including the part where they try to "bridge" the neighborhoods of upscaling Ft. Greene with upscaled Brooklyn Heights. I saw the renderings - a space safe for white folks to walk from one nabe to the other (they put white folks in the rendering in case you weren't able to make the imaginative leap). And BAM, in many ways, is at the heart of it all. Without it, I doubt they ever could have been so successful with all the residential buildings, and so quickly. Every brochure or website touts the location as "at the heart of the BAM Cultural District). They originally thought it would be mostly commercial towers like Metrotech. But sometimes, success has a way of snowballing.

80Arts has a fabulous museum on the bottom floor, that provided perfect cover for the most far-reaching aspects of the plan. Called MoCADA, founded by now City Councilperson Laurie Cumbo, the gallery-sized museum celebrates the wide-ranging arts heritage of the African Diaspora. If you're not familiar with that term I find it incredibly handy. How else to describe the amazing cultures that developed when slaves blended with their owners' cultures, then developed through good and bad times to the present day? I feel the location of MoCADA is incredibly cynical, given the plan that it helped launch. But then, the Partnership and the Mayor were never racists per se. They supported development and increases of tax base and business to compete in a global economy. No one said that buppies couldn't be part of that plan. Assimilated Blacks and Latinos and Asians were more than welcome.However, if you don't have the means to live or shop here, well, that's just the natural evolution of things.

Am I being glib? Watch the movie, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Q's School Tool: Part 8: Compass Charter School

So you say you want a progressive education for your child?

Like many parents who like to consider themselves progressive, the phrase has a nice ring to it. Who wants a "conservative" education for their kids, when they can be assured that they're getting forward-thinking and cutting-edge schooling (and free for the price of taxes to boot)? Whether you're considering going to private or public schools, the type of schooling is often among the top priorities, along with cost, location, and, let's be honest here, demographics. The Q's noticed in the last couple years of school-gazing that schools get branded as one thing or another, often by a single online review, and it becomes nearly impossible to undo the diagnosis. In our fair district - 17 - the pronouncements can be quite damning, and often unfair.

I've heard folks repeat certain depictions of schools over and over again, often quoting verbatim one source or another. On more than one occasion, I've heard folks repeat my own wording from a post on a school. (That's the internet for you. Blowhard laypeople get aped alongside the experts!) Here are some of the stereotypes:  PS92? Too strict, stuck in the past. PS770, The New American Academy? Progressive-ish, 60 kids per class w/4 well-paid teachers. PS249 The Caton School? Homey but not particularly progressive. Great for dual language Spanish. PS375 Jackie Robinson? Improving, super poor, with a lack of diversity. Explore Charter School? Again, not diverse, and a nose-to-the grindstone, "no excuses" kinda school. To diversity, NY Times went as far as to base a whole article on segregation on Sonny Kleinfeld's experience at that one school, Q post here. There are tons more examples, so don't think I'm trying to leave anyone out. It's just so heartbreaking to see parents tortured decisions being made on such shreds of evidence!

Then there's the rest of Brooklyn. Where once there were a couple, now there are literally dozens of gentrifier-approved public schools. Many use the descriptor "progressive" to distinguish themselves from...from...from what exactly? The fact is that unless you're sending your kid to the Brooklyn Free School (super loosey goosey) or some military-styled "yes ma'am" "academy" that teaches basics, basics, basics, you're probably gonna get a healthy mix of discipline styles, curricula and school cultures. The bread and butter, of course, is your kid's teacher, and even at great schools there are bad apples, or ones suffering from breakdowns or personal dramas, or who leave mid-year. And one guy who knows told me you can expect at least ONE bad teacher in your kid's run at elementary school. Still, 5 outa 6 ain't bad. (Little tidbit: that was Meat Loaf's original title for his #1 smash single from '78, but his producer felt the chorus was too long.*)

If you've been following the currents of new school development in the BK, you may have heard of a new school being started by a leadership team of three who met while working at Community Roots. I recently sat down with Todd Sutler, a man just crazy enough to try to put the "progressive" back in progressive. He and his two partners -  Brooke Peters and Michelle Healy - spent a year criss-crossing the nation looking for exemplary schools, teachers and methods. Called The Odyssey Initiative, their tour convinced them more than ever that "experiential" or progressive models can be applied successfully to kids of any means, class, race or culture. Now the trio has a charter, and are starting the Compass Charter School this fall with Kindergarten and First Grades only, adding a grade each year. And hey, they're into looping! I only just heard about it this year, but I kinda dig it in theory. You stay with the same teacher(s) for more than one year, and in the case of Compass that means for two year stretches at a time. And the founders are most certainly dedicated to seeing that their student body reflect Brooklyn's demo. The newbies often have certain expectations of what their school should offer, but that doesn't mean the same techniques don't work for all.
When it comes to teaching the most educationally vulnerable, as Todd sees it, there's something paternalistic and bigoted about expecting that the only way, say, a poor black kid can learn is through brow-beating and constant testing, always looking at results over experiences. As if one group of kids don't need the same things as other kids? Project learning. Best practices in math. Socratic method. Arts. Individualized attention. Integrated Studies. The whole nine. 

I sat down with Todd to talk turkey about his new school, opening in District 13 (sigh, not 17) this fall. Since he and his colleagues/co-founders seem to have such a splendid grasp on the currents of education it's a real drag that the DOE couldn't find a spot for Compass in our fair and underserved District. They lobbied for 17, as well as 13, but the space was only to be found in Ft. Greene, not far from the school at which the three met and joined forces - Community Roots. Croots (as I like to call it, though no one else in their right mind would) is a fan favorite and has been since its Bank Street educated leaders built it eight years ago now. If you want to read as thorough a description of the "progressive education model" as I've come across, or rather the kind that you might be able to understand as a non-academic, it would look something like this. Croots puts it all out there, and from what I've heard from close friends who attend, they achieve their objectives. It's therefore one of the tougher tickets to scalp, kinda like gaining entrance to a Stones club date before their world tour. As in it helps to know Jagger or Richards, or in this case, I guess Mick Jagger would be Alison Keil and Keith Richards would be Sara Stone, the co-founder-directors (or vice-versa - I don't know them personally, or well enough to say which plays guitar and which handles lead vocals). But Charters work by lottery, with siblings getting in first, so it's not like KNOWING them gets you in, but then relationships ARE important even on supposedly impartial waiting lists and...well, this post isn't about kindergarten admission strategies, but suffice to say a lot of parents go through hoops, or pay through the nose, in order to get into their fave schools. Think stories of parents renting an extra apartment in a favored district are urban myths? Think again. If you have the dough, it's darn effective, though parents may be loathe to admit it. Lying about addresses? Yep. Begging? You bet. And what does that ultimately say? The most entitled get the most entitlements. Same as it ever was. (I'm no saint, but I did decide I wasn't interested in starting my kids educational journey with a big lie. It's just me, and I don't really fault anyone for going the distance for a perceived head start for their kid. Still, I can't think that I'm doing my daughter any favors by modeling sneakiness. That damn conscience! What has he ever done for me anyway? Why you I oughta...)

Lots of smart folks like Todd-Michelle-Brooke aren't interested in kissing the oligarchy's ass by ignoring the needs of the least privileged. They want a school that works for all, and doesn't market itself just to one group or the other. It's clear that a diverse student body is an audacious goal, particularly in a stratified class society like we have today, but you can tell Todd means business. I'm no sociologist, but I'd dare say that the Horatio Alger myth has never been more myth than it is today. A few educational examples:

  • One can pay top dollar now to get your kid tested "gifted and talented."
  • I know a dude in Princeton, NJ who charges more per hour than most lawyers for an hour with your child to study...the SATs. 
  • Need-blind admissions are becoming increasingly rare at the best colleges. 
  • Parents actively or passively shun schools that are too poor or too black, even when the schools get good grades
  • That little thing about renting apartments in better zones  and working "connections" to get a spot at a fave school?
  • Affirmative Action's been stripped of effectiveness. 
  • Very few powers-that-be talk seriously about school integration anymore
  • Charters often consider one style of teaching to be good for poor kids; another for affluent ones, further exacerbating segragation

Most folks consider busing to have been a miserable failure, and few new attempts have made to seriously address what most educators would call a major problem affecting not only nonwhite school performance, but also cementing the toxic notion of cultural otherness and by extension, unworthiness. If your world is segregated from the moment you become aware of society, i.e. school, what chance do you have of living King's dream? If that dream has relevance. Sometimes I wonder.

Oops. Got sidetracked again. Todd and I had the same problem in our wide-ranging conversation. We kept trying to get back to our core agenda, so I could maybe write a thoughtful piece on his school. He kept wanting to talk specifically about what his school was going to be; I kept wanting to get at the heart of what it means to be "progressive" in a world where words like "inquiry" and "integrated" and "holistic" and "diverse" get tossed around like so much feed in a chicken coop. And then of course, the question of the constant sloshing of capital in Brooklyn comes up, and the whitening of black Brooklyn, and the entitlement gap, and...anyway, Todd's my kinda guy, and though I may not live in district, I certainly share the same air when it comes to this stuff. I sat on a founding board for a dismal charter school application (don't ask) so I read his team's app with great curiosity. If you're someone who likes the nitty gritty, you can read the whole dang thing here.

Here's the sort of stuff the Q likes to read about a school, and it's right there on the Compass website: 
Students at all grade levels will engage in meaningful inquiry based interdisciplinary projects. All students will participate in a variety of research practices including observations, question development, interviews, artifact collection, field visits, note taking and hands-on experiments.
Here's another snippet I dig:
Sustainability education and sustainable practices will be infused through the daily practices and curriculum of CCS. Our interdisciplinary units of study will give students opportunities to examine the concepts of environmental stewardship, resource management, social justice, and economic justice. We will incorporate sustainable practices like recycling, eating responsibly sourced food, and using energy efficient products in our school environment. We will also encourage students, families, and staff to adopt these practices in their lives outside of school.
Yes, ma'am!  And for an arty-farty guy like myself, you know I like:
CCS will value the arts as a form of communication and expression. Visual arts, music, and movement/dance will be incorporated into the CCS model. Arts specialists will design  discipline based courses as well as plan lessons and co-teach with classroom educators to fully integrate the arts into the core subjects.

At the very least I urge you to check out Todd and Michelle and Brooke in person at one of their upcoming outreach sessions, like the one coming up on this Thursday at the Central Library. Even if you don't think the school is right for you, either practically (it's on Adelphi 'tween Dekalb and Lafayette) or ideologically, you can ask these folks the kinds of questions you might not get to ask in your typical school tour.

And besides, you really shouldn't formulate any depictions on what some pasty chubby old dude writes on his blog, now, should you?

"Original lyrics to Two Out of Three Ain't Bad - "I Want You, I Need You, I Heard You, I Employ You, I Gave You a Necklace For Your Birthday, But there ain't no way..."

UPDATE: It's Official: We're Filthy

Just got off the phone with Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, chair of CB9. He was understandably ticked off by the whole affair. He contacted Sanitation and made it absolutely clear that we need more help, more summonses, more attention. Thanks Jake for taking the bull by the horns.

Just followed a Q-tip, and while it ain't a surprise, it IS pretty bumming to be deemed most garbage-strewn neighborhood in the whole City. Read what DNA Info had to say today:

According to the year-end numbers, just 85.1 percent of streets in Community Board 3, which encompasses most of Bed-Stuy, were listed as "acceptable." That's one of the worst marks in the entire city.

Only two other community boards in the city had a lower percentage. In Brooklyn's Community Board 12, which encompasses Borough Park, Midwood and Kensington, only 82.8 percent of streets were listed as acceptable.

And in Community Board 9, which encompasses south Crown Heights and parts of Flatbush, just 82.3 percent of streets were acceptable (emphasis mine)
That's right. Though the title of the piece was that Bed-Stuy is dirty, we're damn dirtier. (If you were caught unawares, we're Community Board 9, from Eastern Parkway to Clarkson, Flatbush/Ocean to Utica). If you've followed the Q for any length of time you'll know that cleaning up Flatbush from Empire to Parkside is a borderline obsession of mine. I even joined CB9 with filth (and safety and housing) on the brain. They even made me chair of Environmental Protection, mostly because no one was doing the gig. That's the committee that deals with Sanitation by the way, and making sure your sewers and water and air aren't killing you. And noise. As you can see by the numbers, I'm doing a heckuva job.

If you recall, the Mad Mommas have done a couple clean-up days, after which the streets look great for a couple 24-hours then quickly soil themselves. So we asked Sanitation to beef up ticket-writing, since businesses and landlords are required to clean up in front of their buildings, not once a week but every day, to 18 inches out into the street. The latest report from DoS is that they're writing double the tickets they were even 6 months ago.

Is it getting better? Well, that depends which way the wind is blowing.

Please Pass This Along to Anyone Who May Face Foreclosure

Tax and Foreclosure Prevention
Legal Clinic

Sunday, January 19th
(following the 11:00 a.m. mass)

Come learn more about tax issues facing low and fixed-income New Yorkers, loan modification programs and
the foreclosure process.

Free Legal Services will be available.

Hosted by:
Saint Gabriel’s Episcopal Church
331 Hawthorne Street
Brooklyn, New York

For more information about the event, please contact Rev. Marie A. Tatro at, or (718) 774-5248