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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here We Go Again...

Forgotten NY does a fairly good job, usually, of identifying the truth behind old NYC myths. Here's a nifty article about Brooklyn neighborhoods. And then, the fun begins. How on earth do you think you can be a definitive source on the ever finicky neighborhood boundaries? Here's what they say about Lefferts. Take a good look at the last paragraph in particular.

LEFFERTS GARDENS
The Lefferts Homestead, found just inside the Prospect Park entrance at Flatbush and Ocean Avenues, was built by the Lefferts family in an area east of the park along the Old Flatbush Road at about where Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street are now. Peter Lefferts had arrived in New Netherland in 1660 and had purchased a farm in this area in about 1675, and passed the property on to his son John.

On August 23, 1776, British forces engaged American rebels in the area near the farm. Rather than allow the British to occupy the house, the rebels burned it to the ground (the family had already left town to escape the anticipated British invasion). John Lefferts died a couple of months after that, and his family set to the task of rebuilding the farmhouse. By 1777, John’s son Peter had produced this gabled, shingle-roofed building featuring a 6-columned porch and dormer windows; the Lefferts family continued to occupy it until 1918, when the City took it over and moved it to its present location. It’s presently used as a children’s museum, complementing the larger one in Bedford-Stuyvesant. During the year, there are sheep shearing exhibitions a swell as Dutch and African-American festivals.

The neighborhood just to the east of this Colonial relic is called Lefferts Gardens, or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Part of it has been designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, as the side streets have some distinctive late 19th Century and early 20th Century attached houses along well-shaded streets. The neighborhood is defined by Lincoln Road, Hawthorne Street, Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue. (emphasis mine)
Today, no one would define Lefferts thusly. But I DO recall Bob Marvin saying Hawthorne was the bottom at some point, then Parkside, then extended to Clarkson. Why? Ask Bob Thomason, I dunno. Whole thing seems a bit silly to me. Back in 1968 when Bob T. and folks created the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (with the ever-bewildering hyphen) who would have dreamed that this NE quadrant of Flatbush would end up referring to itself by the dreadful "PLG?" 

Once again I beg of you to call it Lefferts. Or if you must, like the MTA buses, call it Lefferts Gardens (though there is only ONE Botanic garden, and yes, some "greenest" blocks. But giving garden a whole plural just for that? Ludicrous I say!)

If just one thing comes from this blog, just ONE thing, I hope it's the name change. Lefferts was the dude who bought the farm. Then of course he "bought the farm" and the rest is growing pains. We were all part of the colonializing Lefferts Homestead, and calling the neighborhood "Lefferts Homestead," while suitably quirky, just doesn't hang together. Lefferts. Lefferts. Lefferts. Say it three times quickly, then sloooowly. You're getting sleepy. That's right, into a deep, deep, Lefferts sleeeeeeeeeep....


15 comments:

Adrian said...

I want to vigorously weigh in against truncating the neighborhood name to simply "Lefferts." There is no doubt that "Prospect-Lefferts Gardens" is a mouthful, but there are numerous other New York neighborhoods with "Gardens" appended to the name that have stood the test of time and are quite easy to say. So let the name be "Lefferts Gardens."

Brooklyn has Carroll Gardens. Queens has Springfield Gardens, Kew Gardens, Forest Hill Gardens, Sunnyside Gardens, and Oak Hill Gardens. Carroll Gardens' name derives from the large front yards in front of many of its brownstones, and the Queens neighborhoods appear to take their names from the "Garden City Movement." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_city_movement

None of these neighborhoods are distinctly more "gardeny" than ours, which borders on the verdant Botanic Gardens and Prospect Park, and which additionally contains sufficient tree-lined streets and attractive home landscaping to justify the name. "Lefferts" by itself is perfunctory and abrupt, with no hint of the green appeal of the place, and gives too much weight to the name of the slaveholding family that once controlled the land. http://www.brooklynhistory.org/exhibitions/lefferts/slavery-in-brooklyn/

If "Lefferts" is going to be in the name, let it be balanced by "Gardens."

Bob Marvin said...

As I've said before, I have no quarrel with the use of "Lefferts" as long as it's understood to be a shorthand expression for the whole mouthful "Prospect Lefferts Gardens" which, awkward as it is, has almost a half century of use behind it.

I don't know where Forgotten NY got that truncated set of boundaries; the expansion from Hawthorne to Clarkson to the south took place before I bought my house in 1974, and the western boundary went from Flatbush to Ocean a year or two after that. AFAIK PLGNA defined the northern boundary as Empire and the eastern boundary as New York Ave from day one. People DO get confused between the boundaries of PLG/Lefferts, as a whole, Lefferts Manor, and the PLG Historic District, but it's not THAT complicated.

Adrian said...

Of course the name could simply be truncated to Prospect Gardens (or Prospect Garden, for those who thing there are not sufficient "Gardens" to justify the final "s." This would avoid honoring the slave-holding Lefferts family, which is elsewhere recognized in the Lefferts Avenue, Lefferts Place and Lefferts Boulevard street names.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Adrian: Thanks for the thoughtful response. Personally, I think the word "gardens" is so overused as to be meaningless. And if we're dumping Lefferts, maybe we should just call it Garden Gardens?

I appreciate the not wanting to glorify slavery. Although were we to rename everything with the name of a former slaveholder, we'd have quite a time finding replacements. But hey, I'm all for change!

And Bob: YOU may not be confused. And after having lived here awhile a reasonable person might not be confused. But let me tell you, the rest of world has NO IDEA what we're talking about. The neighborhood name should be clear and instantly recognizable. "Prospect Park East" for instance. Simple. Tells you where it is. But with so many variations kicking around, I'm surprised I know how to find it home each night.

Bob Marvin said...

Tim,

I had it all straight in my head after living here a mere 20 years :-)

SB said...

I have been using the name Prospect Gardens to refer to the neighborhood since I moved here over a year ago. The name is much less of a mouthful and virtually "explains" exactly where the neighborhood sits geographically. It also helps avoid the inevitable "where is that" "never heard of it" or "leopards what?" that I hear whenever I say "Lefferts Garden" or "Prospect Lefferts".

rose lefferts said...

It is indeed a mouthful. Like SB, I always say Prospect Gardens-easy, to the point!
I can’t stand when someone looks puzzled or says where is that? I find it annoying. We should stick to one designation.

Bob Marvin said...

"Prospect Gardens" is the only variation of our neighborhoods name I haven't heard before. FWIW I usually say the full triple name or "Prospect Lefferts", unless I'm feeling snooty; then I say "Lefferts Manor". My son, who was born and raised here always says "Flatbush: when asked where he came from; I guess that enhances his street cred.

Obviously there's no right or wrong here and I doubt that any single version will stick, as desirable as that might be.

Christopher1974 said...

Neighborhood names in NYC are particularly open to change. Chicago, where I grew up, the neighborhood boundaries and names are codified by the city. DC where I moved from gets very specific about their names. But New York? Most of the neighborhoods south of Prospect Heights were just called South Brooklyn. The East Village was called the Lower East Side (and the Lower West Side is long gone.)

I don't have any quarrels with PLG. Or the full name, but Lefferts is silly. Why must we b short? Also while my neighborhood is actually Wingate (not PLG), I prefer the old name Pig Town or even just referring to it as South Crown Heights. We've added new neighborhoods to what were once much larger areas. The Crown Heights branch of the BPL is 3 blocks south of Empire. So..

Clarkson FlatBed said...

My dear sir, "Lefferts" is hardly silly! No more so than "Midtown," "Chelsea" or "Harlem." Heard of them?

boleroid said...

per SB's brilliant suggestion, I move to rename the neighborhood "Leopards Gardens."

Alex said...

Or perhaps we could go with the suggestion a friend of mine once came up with:

Le Farts

momonwinthrop said...

I love Leopards Gardens!

Seth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth said...

I think a lot of the confusion came from the column you wrote last year where you announced that the neighborhood had changed its name.

Many people just saw the headline or read the first paragraph and misunderstood that you were joking.