The Q at Parkside

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

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

If You Make ONE Meeting In April, This Is the One

For those too new to remember, our new Borough President Eric Adams used to have his State Senate office where the hardware store is now, just north of Patio Gardens apartments. That's where the Q first met him, and I've been impressed with his focus and intelligence ever since. He takes his new role very seriously, and seems to know that all eyes are upon him. After watching the Prospect Park East Network get up and going, I gave him a shout and asked for an audience to hear the group's concerns. A bunch of us headed over there, and after Celeste Lacy Davis gave a thorough reading of the group's grievances, Eric made a clear request. He wants to hear what the WHOLE community thinks about development in the area, not just a select few. When told PPEN had 1,000 signatures asking for a halt to out of context buildings, he said great. But what he really needed was to take the temperature himself. Thus, a Town Hall meeting with BP Adams at the helm.

Monday, April 7th, at the John Hus Church on Ocean Ave. You busy? Great! We'll see you there...


22 comments:

leffertspapa said...

Is this forum limited strictly to those voicing opposition to 626 or will individuals wanting to offer nuanced opinions in support of 626 be welcome to speak? (and more importantly will they be tarred and feathered if they do so)

Clarkson FlatBed said...

It's intended to bring all voices to the table. My own feelings are nuanced, particularly about buildings that do provide affordable housing components. At this point, it seems the best option for creating new units. Builders that don't go through proper environmental review while grabbing State tax dollars at enviable rates and with tax abatement...no I'm not into that. Nor am I into towers. Isn't that nuanced?

Please come. Make your voice heard. But please, do listen to the other voices as well. It's only fair.

nwinthrop55 said...

YYY

nwinthrop55 said...

Sorry about that! It's great news that he is at least willing to listen to all.

share holder said...

Last night after leaving City College at 135th St I walked down to 125th Street. Wanted to check out the Dino BBQ Rib joint across the street from the Cotton Club and Fairway.

On the north side of 125th St is a HUGE construction site where HUGE buildings owned by Columbia U are going up. HUGE.

After that I walked east on 125th and came upon a couple of other construction sites where HUGE buildings are going up. HUGE.

Out by Citi Field, Willet's Point, a HUGE project has been approved. 2,500 apartments, plus commercial and retail space.

The Long Island College Hospital site is still embroiled in debate.

It's having a de Blasio moment because the local residents get to chime in on the project. So far, they've gummed up the approval process, but changed nothing in regard to the final plans.

If they persist, the site will sit empty and undeveloped for a year or two, or maybe 10, and they will have achieved nothing.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Share Holder: you write:

The Long Island College Hospital site is still embroiled in debate. It's having a de Blasio moment because the local residents get to chime in on the project. So far, they've gummed up the approval process, but changed nothing in regard to the final plans. If they persist, the site will sit empty and undeveloped for a year or two, or maybe 10, and they will have achieved nothing.

What exactly do you know about this situation? Do you realize that the reason there is even a SLIGHT hope of having a hospital (of some kind) there is because of community protest? Your argument is basically while you're being screwed just lie back and think of England. Is "community-input" a dirty word now? Please. If the project is a good one, trust me, it will sail through. If it sucks, give people a right to disagree.

diak said...

In response to leffertspapa's question up top:
I have no reason to think that BP Adams does not want to hear all sides. I'm happy he's having this meeting.
However, I can tell you that I was at last fall's Lefferts Manor Association meeting where PPEN made its case against 626 Flatbush. In my opinion, it isn't a great exaggeration to say the atmosphere wasn't, let's say, "receptive" to opposing ideas. It was closer to "get the torches and pitchforks and let's kill the Monster!"
In fairness, no one was prevented from speaking and no one was shouted down. And maybe every single person opposed the project so no one felt motivated to speak in favor.
Personally, I'm fairly neutral; 626 certainly isn't perfect but I find the sky-is-falling rhetoric very overblown. In any case, given the atmosphere in that meeting, I had no desire to stand up and begin with "on the other hand..."
The April 7th meeting might be very different. Who knows? But if anything, PPEN has only gathered momentum and passion as Hudson moves forward. I don't expect a measured, reasoned discussion. If you plan to speak in favor of 626—either in a "nuanced" way or as a full-fledged cheerleader—I hope you have a thick skin.

share holder said...

clarkson,

McDonald's doesn't ask the people in a neighborhood to vote for or against the opening of one of its restaurants. Why? Because the company studies the area and comes to its own informed conclusion.

When it comes to hospitals, there are responsible people who study the area and reach informed conclusions about the need for more or fewer hospitals and more or fewer healthcare sites that are not full-service hospitals.

LICH was losing $13 Million a MONTH. That's wildly irresponsible. That's $13 million that could be spent on healthcare in which treatment is delivered to people who need it.

I recently spent three days basking in luxury at the Fort Greene Four Seasons Hotel otherwise known as Brooklyn Hospital.

The ER was busy the day I went in. It had snowed, it was cold and people seemed determined to take advantage of the ice and snow to fall down, injure themselves and head to the ER for some patch-work.

On the other hand, there were plenty of empty beds throughout the hospital. There was no evidence doctors were overburdened with patients.

Nevertheless, locals generally favor the notion of having a hospital nearby, probably because they believe a neighborhood hospital gives them some kind of security, even though it doesn't.

Meanwhile, Urgent Care Centers have popped up all over the city. Faster than new yogurt or burger shops. Therefore, no one in Cobble Hill is facing a future of living in a neighborhood that's a healthcare desert.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oy. You're back. Name change, but same guy. O.K. I'll take the bait one more time.

Look at the latest proposals, all of which would not have happened had the sneaky and woefully underinformed board at SUNY Downstate gone ahead without protest. The sheer size and number of proposals, all from reputable developers, all including hospital beds, shows that plenty of people think you can make money with a residential/hospital mix. You're the gullible one, Share Holder. You buy every laissez faire right wing argument without question.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/03/monday-ranking-long-island-city-hospital-proposals.html

Clarkson FlatBed said...

FYI, Share Holder is the same guy who's been lurking and screeching on this blog for some time. He even went so far as to create a brand new screen name on Google in order to hound the Q some more. Click through and you can see he's still basically anonymous - no info listed at all.

Lame. Hidden. Annoying. Not brave enough to stand behind his opinions.

Barbara Ann Rogers said...

Thank you so much for outing that creep, Mr. FB. I was afraid there was a new crazy in our midst.

theforest1 said...

diak, I agree, I just think if I turn up to this meeting and voice an opinion that is any thing other than complete allegiance to the anti 626 crowd it will be like walking into a hail of angry bullets.
Gonna go and try on my thick skin suit :o

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Look y'all, the issue is about a moratorium on new non-contextual building in the area along Flatbush and Ocean - until zoning review can take place and settle the issue. Yes, there are some very strong feelings about 626, but the options to get them to lop stories off it are slim pickings. The point here is about new buildings and whether they should be allowed to tower over the park. Other issues will come up, but that's because people have a desire to have their concerns heard.

Voicing support for 626 as planned would be great to hear if it's sincere. Voicing support for the current and sure to be oncoming upward spiral in rents and displacement of local businesses and people will be, as you can probably understand, hard for some folks to hear. But I don't think that's what you're talking about.

If you have some strong arguments for why non-contextual development should take place, please voice it here first so we know what that is about. I have yet to hear anyone state in as many words what that is. Maybe Paul G. said it well at one point, I can't recall offhand.

Like I've said, my own opinion matches most of those in PPEN. Not a problem to building new buildings. Not a problem to take tax and loan subsidies and provide affordable housing. Problem to do so arrogantly, illegally (as the lawsuit claims), or without respect for the prevailing context of the neighborhood and areas contiguous to Prospect Park.

Personally, I think even THOSE arguments are quite nuanced and fair.

The thing is, a vote for more luxury housing and gentrification is pretty moot. It's already here, and it's "voice" at the meeting will be loud and clear.

diak said...

<< the issue is about a moratorium on new non-contextual building >>

Then could someone define for us what exactly "contextual" will mean in our situation? Two-story townhouses a la Maple St? Four-story houses like Rutland? Five or six story apartment houses? Chester Court-like Tudor-inspired architecture? No glass facades? It seems that the most relevant term in this debate is being left extremely vague. (Or is "non-contextual" just a high-falutin' way of saying "I don't like big things.")

Meanwhile, checking the "displacement of local businesses" scorecard, I went away last week and upon my return discover (within 2 blocks north or south of the 626 site):
1. another new hair salon (featuring, according to the signage, an experienced "loctitian." Nice new word!)
2. a new lingerie boutique, with, I believe, "adult novelties"
3. an awning announcing a soon-to-open storefront law office. Hmm, maybe to handle all the predicted real estate closings? Alas, no. As the giant lettering says: "CRIMINAL—FEDERAL AND STATE" (Really? We have a lot of federal cases around here???)

I also saw a small computer repair shop. It could be new or it could be one of those tiny places that might of been there for months—or even years—and I just never noticed it before...

Yes, the pawn shop near Phat Albert's closed. Hear all the weeping over that? And a hair salon near Midwood St. has paper up in its window; unclear if they're closed or remodeling. But where is this widespread displacement?

And lastly, Mr CF, I like the new look!

Alex said...

Diak, I think the displacement concerns are a little more in the long term.

My only ask is for the Manor PPEN members to turn the lens inward, even just a little, and think about whether renewing that deed covenant every few years has helped or hurt prospects for affordable housing in our area. That's a lot of square footage to landmark and prohibit from being converted into multi-family dwellings. I value the Manor, and it's one of the reasons why I live in PLG, but the long term drawbacks are important to recognize, too. The Manor represents a really brilliant, beautiful, unique and valuable piece of preserved NYC, but it's important to acknowledge the flipside, and maybe give new development a little more breathing room as a result.

Please note that I am not trying to be incendiary. I know the counter arguments to what I am expressing, but I don't think it's illegit to question the impact of nearly 100 years of real estate policy that is unique to the Manor. And again, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change anything about LM, I think it's a wonderful asset to the area and Brooklyn as a whole.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Diak: Your anecdotal evidence shows you really don't know the full story of what's happening around here. As I meet business owners and residents, their version of what's happening is light years from what you're expressing. For one, many landlords are very specifically saying to businesses you are no longer welcome. One-year leases are becoming the norm, or when renewals come up, there are enormous price increases that stipulate five years or more, with no graduation. The message is loud and clear.

As to individuals, there are three ways that landlords in the big buildings are getting rid of rent stabilization. One (and they're thrilled about this) they no longer have to provide preferential rents. For many years, residents of the big apartment buildings had leases that listed the maximum allowable rent on their leases, but landlords lopped off money to reach market rates to fill the apartments. Now, and in a span of one year, they're jacking up the rents to the legally allowed rate. This is a huge hardship for most families...essentially they're getting 20, 30 and sometime 40% rate increases in just one year. They will have to move out and the landlord can once again up the rate (substantially, as you can on a vacancy) to get out of stabilization altogether ($2,500 a month, currently). You have no idea, Diak, how terrified people have become that they will be displaced.

Second, some landlords are not accepting new tenants who do not meet their "criteria." It's easy for them to discriminate, based on the sound of one's voice, their name, or claim a place has already been rented when they see that someone is not "right" for the apartment. I'm told by tenants rights groups it is extremely hard to claim discrimination, unless spies are sent who can prove it.

Third, it is no longer possible to get a long-term lease, or even two in many cases. Again, tenants need to organize and inform themselves. Most will fall through the cracks. Look around, Diak. What's happened elsewhere is happening here now, and no eyeball analysis by you is going to change the reality.

Contextual zoning? Simple. Don't build something that towers over what's there. How hard is that to understand?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I suspect there are lots of folks who are saying "good riddance" to those receiving Section 8. However, just yesterday I learned of a building at Lefferts and Bedford, one of many, that has made it an unwritten policy to get them all out.

If we created the subsidies democratically, is it really okay to say now you must go, even if you are entitled to a place to live, since we no longer build housing projects to give homes to the poor?

Hey, if you want all the poor gone, you're getting your wish. Don't be surprised that it's coming back to bite you in the ass in terms of a massive rise in homeless people. Who, as I've learned, are not necessarily what you might picture them as. I see the families with small children at 60 Clarkson, and the mothers and fathers want desperately to work and afford a home. Most had one, but lost it.

Only a real cold heart cannot feel something when you look in the kids eyes. Sorry. I ain't buying your argument.

diak said...

Maybe my anecdotal evidence runs contrary to what's going on behind the scenes. You undoubtedly have more and better sources than I do. Just reporting what I see and what I see is that more local-based businesses are opening than closing.

But the rest of your response has nothing whatsoever to do with what I said which was entirely about businesses, NOT RESIDENCES. I deplore housing discrimination in every form and would like to see it vigorously prosecuted. In the current kick-'em-out environment, I'd support extending and enlarging rent-stabilization protections. And I'd like to see more of the egregious slumlords in handcuffs.
Don't tell me I don't know how terrified people are. And how do you even make that accusation based on the fact that I pointed out some new businesses on the avenue?

And I'm very surprised by your answer that "contextual" is "simple." All you've done is declare a very limited definition—no towers—that satisfies you. First, I'm afraid that isn't how consensus works. And second, it leaves open the possibility of all sorts of hideous-looking projects built lower to the ground...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Diak: Your defense sounds hollow. Anytime someone bemoans another hair place, the subtext is clear, even hostile. Sorry, but I'm not the only one who sees it that way. As if local business people should check with you first before setting up shop. Poppycock.

As to merchants. Two years ago people were screaming about a lack of options. K-Dog had closed - there were no coffee houses, a bourgeois desert in Brownstone Brooklyn. Now we have four coffee places (when Brooklyn Bean opens). What else have I announced? New bank (TD), new drug store chain (Walgreens), a dozen new upscale housing projects - many with retail, a gastropub, another upscale restuarant at Beekman and Flatbush, an Oyster place on Flatbush, a giant yoga studio, Planet Fitness, even the toy store is just two years old. Damn man, how much more does it take to convince you the direction the wind is blowing?

I'm working on a zoning primer for the neighborhood based on some swell maps (remember that band?). I'll publish it later today. It should make it perfectly clear what is and isn't contextual, as it relates to zoning.

To the casual observer, yes, "contextual" is primarily about height. There are many other factors that show what is allowed and not when developing "as of right" and the drawings touch on that as well, including the sunlight plane that requires setbacks. Oh, and parking is a big issue too.

"Contextual" right now is an open-ended term on purpose. It means that during the moratorium, you'll have to come to the government to find out if your project fits. That means we'll have a say.

And all this is just to say "hold on a minute, give us a chance to figure out what the zoning should be."

You should be glad that someone is actively trying to discourage, for instance, the kind of Fedders-style cookie-cutter nonsense that was going up seven years ago. Just take a look at the corner of Bedford and Parkside if you need evidence.

diak said...

Who is "bemoaning" and "hostile"? I'm CHEERING the fact that local businesses are opening! (And you are too. I think.) They might not be businesses catering to me, but this isn't about me.
I say, bring 'em on! I want there to be room for all who work hard and provide goods and services people want.
When I see a new hair salon or computer repair shop open around here, I don't think oh, it's a missed opportunity for more overpriced coffee. I see someone's (or usually half a dozen someones) entrepreneurial dream and a way to feed their family. And if they also live near here, to STAY here.
I don't know how to spell it out more clearly for you: I THINK THAT'S A GOOD THING!!!

You didn't even bother to respond to your wholly false accusation that I don't know or care about people in danger of losing their homes. How come?

But yes, good to hear you acknowledge that creating contextual development involves many complex factors. That's a long way from your earlier flippant answer that "no towers" is definition enough.



diak said...

one more thing... can zoning really have much of an effect in stopping the kind of eyesores like the awful box you mention at the corner of Bedford and Parkside? I mean, how do you legislate architectural quality? Or in this case the complete lack of it?
I'm NOT challenging you on this. I'm genuinely asking.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Can zoning have an effect...actually it can. There are now many subcategories of zones that can dictate a number of restrictions and/or possibilities.

However, I'm not being flip about building height. That is the single most egregious issue, since it gives a greenlight to certain types of development. R7-1 is simply too permissive for blocks along the park. Nostrand is now being eyed as the next 4th Avenue, though admittedly they'd need big lots to go THAT high.

I'm copying what you wrote so that you might read it again. I think you're backpedaling, but that's fine. Just know that a lot of people read this stupid blog, and some comments are just plain insensitive. Even mean.

As to the law office, you're referring to is Joyce David, a seasoned attorney who tells me of the horrors inflicted on some young black men when arrested for crimes they didn't commit. She is a founding member of the new merchant's association, and a welcome new part of the community.

Meanwhile, checking the "displacement of local businesses" scorecard, I went away last week and upon my return discover (within 2 blocks north or south of the 626 site):
1. another new hair salon (featuring, according to the signage, an experienced "loctitian." Nice new word!)
2. a new lingerie boutique, with, I believe, "adult novelties"
3. an awning announcing a soon-to-open storefront law office. Hmm, maybe to handle all the predicted real estate closings? Alas, no. As the giant lettering says: "CRIMINAL—FEDERAL AND STATE" (Really? We have a lot of federal cases around here???) I also saw a small computer repair shop. It could be new or it could be one of those tiny places that might of been there for months—or even years—and I just never noticed it before...