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, April 30, 2014

Save the Date! Pre-K and Kindergarten Summit at Play Kids

As promised, Shelley Kramer and the Q bring you the Lefferts Kindergarten Summit 2014. So many questions, fears, concerns and boogeymen out there, as parents choose schools and back-door strategies. So...why not get together and divulge our wisdom and anxiety?

MAY 14, 7PM, Play Kids, Flatbush and Westbury Court.

All welcome. Share the love. Share the misery!

Tugboat Photography Opening: May 9 - Yoshiko Mori

Some really gorgeous photographs happening at Tugboat, opening May 9, from Yoshiko Mori. Arty yes, but dang these would look good hung in just the right nook. Bring your checkbook ('member those?) Check out the festive opening, Friday May 9. See you there!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Come and Get 'Em! $2100 Studio Apartments!!!

Caledonia rises, and this time to the tune of $3,800 three-bedrooms. If your family is wee, perhaps you could fit into the studios at $2100? With gorgeous Prospect Park as your front and/or back yard, you'll be just a couple of loogie hawks away from a recently remodeled Mickey D's and the Parade Ground, where ne'er a naughty night passes. The lap of luxury, and across the street is your very own replica of the Parthenon!

Come to think of it...have you ever seen them in the same place at the same time?

Digging It

The L-shaped apartment building with entrances on Lincoln Road and Flatbush is humming along nicely.

You won't find any complaints from this blombre (short for blogger hombre). Despite the fact that he chose not to borrow from government sources, developer Tom Anderson chose to honor his commitment to 20% affordable units. That's right, folks. He didn't have to. He's making it up by going market on the other batch, which would have been priced 10% below market had he used HDC financing.

With tons of predatory real estate dealing taking place out there, Anderson is looking like a veritable superhero in a sport jacket.

To Become...

From a real estate listing:

272 Hawthorne St Brand new DEVELOPMENT LOT in Lefferts Gardens! be a part of the building boom going on in this most sought after neighborhood. The lot is 40x106 zoned R6 with a Far 2.43 or 10,000 square feet , there is the possibility of increasing the FAR to seven stories with off street parking or high lot coverage, allows for more apartments than might be achievable under height factor regulations. Sanborn map 310019, tax map 31601. Call now for this unique opportunity!

 BK to the Fullest has this to say about it. As a commenter noted, the empty lot that was next to it is already going up as a Fedders. The picture below is from Google street view. They can't keep up, obviously.


Funky Shoes!

As Jimmy J.J. Walker might say, DYYYYY-NOOOOOH-MIIIIIITE!!!

Best of luck, MFS. This is bound to be a fun addition to the Flabenue.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Flatbush Merchants Association Meeting - Tonight!

It's spring y'all, and that means meetings! The Q is one of those weird guys who just LOVES meetings. Why? Cuz I get to see my neighbors up close and personal like. Take Monday's PLGNA meeting. Good times. Good vibes.
Sure some were peppering neighbor Eric Landau of the Prospect Park Alliance with concerns about the upcoming parking lot and entrance at Lincoln Road. Sure there was the smiling candidate for State Senate, Jessie Hamilton, slinging election hash to the masses. Sure there was the wonderful Cheryl Sealey signing up for PLGNA Board membership. Sure there was Pavani talking Parkside Playground and youth initiatives. Sure there was the Parkside Committee. Sure there was PLGNA Prez Martin Ruiz, getting personal and offering bonafides. Sure there was Quest and Dynishal and Brenda and Suki and Desmond and...hey, that reminds me why I was posting this in the first place. Tuesday night, come out and help the fledgling Parkside Empire Flatbush Avenue Merchants Association gain its footing, with a Meet & Greet at D Avenue (pronounced davenue for those unfamiliar with local slang):

Farmers Markets a-Comin'

From Seeds in the Middle, the do-gooder organization behind the effort to bring fresh produce to our area, sent along this flyer:

Friday, April 25, 2014

How to "Play" In the Real World - Wednesday May 7 at Brooklyn College

To many of us who engaged in an extended adolescence, then made the awkward transition to adulthood and grow-up responsibilities, we may be a bit out of touch from the realities of growing up in rough and tumble Central Brooklyn. The fact is, for a lot of young people around here, getting a leg up in the world of work and adult living is super difficult. For many, the stretch from home and school to mainstream society is tough and full of obstacles. As you'll see from the below list, however, there's no lack of organizations trying to help. The biggest problem? Reaching youngsters and getting them to realize the help is out there, and the dream not so far off, if they truly dedicate themselves to the "game."

I say game only half-jokingly, because as we all know there are certain rules involved, certain game faces to apply, certain clothes to wear and manners to articulate. Some have distinct advantages, having been born into families where the culture matches the mainstream. The codes are distinct and rigid. And it's a game too, in the sense that if you get knocked out early, it's nearly impossible to recover.

So...if you know a kid in the neighborhood please tell them to come out to this CB14 Annual Youth Conference. While a few hundred attended last year's conference, you can bet that some of the hardest kids to reach are the last to attend.

If you can, please print out the above flyer and post it in your building or place some near the front door or on a sign-post (I didn't say that last thing about posting illegally, and yet, I did. How can both be true at once I wonder?)

EVENT: Brooklyn Community Board 14 7th Annual Youth Conference
EVENT TITLE: "Get in the Game: Learn How to be a Player in the Real World!"
EVENT FOCUS: Jobs, Internships & Volunteer Opportunities for Youth, ages 12-20
DATE: Wednesday, May 7, 2014
TIME: 4-7 PM
LOCATION: Brooklyn College Student Center (East 27th St & Campus Rd)
PHONE: 718-859-6357

2014 Workshops:

1. Getting Hired: Resume & Interview Do's & Don'ts
To Be Presented by the Brooklyn College Magner Career Center

From resume basics to interview tips, learn how to make the right first impression by learning what employers will be looking for from an applicant.

2. Talk Like a Pro: Facebook/Instagram Edition
To Be Presented by Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

Make your online profiles professionally appealing, learn the do's & don'ts of social media & gain the customer service skills to help you land the job!

3. Hot Jobs with Cool Benefits: Your FDNY Career
To Be Presented by The New York City Fire Department
Find out what it takes to work for the New York City Fire Department! Learn about the training, the rewards and how to get on the FDNY career path!

4. Target: College
To Be Presented by Target: Achieve, Learn & Lead
Learn about opportunities, planning, applying for and funding your college education. If your dream is college, there is help to get you there!

5. Stop Bullying Now: Stand Up & Speak Out
To Be Presented by COPO's Alternatives to Violence Program
You can help put a stop to bullying in your school, neighborhood or family. Learn what to say, how to say it and what community resources are available to help.

6. Safer Sex Workshop
To Be Presented by Housing Works
Make sex safer; learn to protect yourself against contracting and STI or HIV.


    Healthcare Education, Training & Development, Scholarship Information
    Summer Youth Employment, Training, Community Service Programs
    Internships, Training, Women & Youth Program

Education, empowerment and community for undocumented youth

    Promoting healthy eating & active, tobacco-free living
    Information and applications for poll worker jobs on election day.
    Life Skills, Sports & Educational Programs for young men
    Admissions Information, Training & Development programs
    Offering college admissions information, services and resources.
    Training & Development, Awareness & Resources.
    Training, Development & College Preparation Materials
    Museum Apprenticeship Program & Teen Night Planning Committee
    Volunteer Opportunities & Job Search Support Services
    Internship Opportunities, NOW Chapter Information & Resources
    College Prep & Training Program information
    Youth Employment & Internship information, Program information
    Volunteer & After-school Program Information
    Community Emergency Response & Disaster Preparedness
  • CITY PARKS FOUNDATION: Learning Gardens Programs
    Summer Youth Employment, Internships, Training & Development
    Health & Nutrition Education for Teens
  • COPO (Council of People’s Organization)
    Summer Youth Employment & Summer Youth Programs
    Internship Opportunities & Resources
    Summer Youth Employment Applications, Youth & Community Programs
  • FDNY (New York Fire Department)
    Firefighter & EMT/Paramedic Youth Training Programs
    Health, Fitness & Social Interaction Programs for Teens
    Education, Employment, HIV/AIDS & Intervention Information
    Training & Development Resources, including Business Skills for Women
    Summer Youth Employment & Summer Leadership Institute
    Internships & Interviews for permanent employment
    Medical Services, Youth Group, Training & Development Resources
    Health & HIV/STD Information
    HRA Service Information & Resources
    Internships, GED & College Readiness Programs
    Voting Information & Resources
    Sexual Health Care Access for Teens
    Internship, Training & Development Information
    Health Insurance and Healthcare Access Information
    Volunteer Opportunities & Outdoor Educational Programs
    Training & Development, Community & Volunteer Opportunities
    Summer Youth Employment, Training & Community Services Programs
    Volunteer & Summer Camp Information, Aquarium Docent Program
    Cyber-bullying, equal access, fair housing, discrimination programs
  • NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE: Keep Good Going program
    Internships, Job Training & Development
  • NO KIDDING: Straight Talk from Teen Parents
    Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Self-Esteem Building Programs
    Job-related training & development programs
    Emergency Preparedness Information
    Voter Registration Forms, Poll Worker Job Information
    Youth & Community Service Programs
    Teen Pregnancy Prevention & other Program Information
    Internships, Job Training & Education Programs
    Cultural & Social Youth Programming & Internship Information
    Summer Youth Employment, Training & Development Opportunities
    Internships, Volunteering, Discovery Guide program & Summer Camp
    Internships, Training & Development, Film Making Programming
    Training & Development, Youth Programs
    Summer Youth Employment & Internship Information
    Admissions & Educational Programming
    College Access & Community Building Resources & Training
    Volunteer Opportunities & Internship Information
    Job Opportunities & Reproductive Health Services
  • T.H.E.O. PROGRAM: SUNY Downstate Teen Program
    Youth Employment, Internships, Health Education Information
    HIV/AIDS Harm Reduction Information
  • EDP on LR

    Folks have been asking after an incident on Lincoln Road, at 101 tween Flatbush and Bedford, a couple nights ago. Seems an EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person) had barricaded himself into his apartment. Interestingly, and I first heard about this during an incident last year on Westbury Court, the police are required to call in a negotiating team to avoid any crazy violence if at all possible. Thus the big police ruckus, and tons of cars. Usually an ambulance is on the scene as well, so it ends up looking like a murder. Thankfully, this was not the case.

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Prices of Town Homes on Clarkson - Just $6,500 in '13!!

    Check out the Brooklyn Eagle online and search for your block!

    This picture is pretty rich. I hope that when you click on it you can zoom in and catch some of the wild advertising language, even for areas near here like the Slope and Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Clearly back in '13 (1913 that is), the building boom was on big time. Considered the suburban tract housing of the day, these "gorgeous" homes were once considered a blight on the rural landscape. Large landowners were selling off chunks to developers, who in turn threw up rows of houses as quick as possible. Granted, back then the idea of "middle class housing" meant craftmanship and durability that we can't imagine today. Massive quarries upstate meant limestone facades were relatively cheap. Until I moved into one I thought the whole house was limestone. For those like me was, most of the "stone houses" in this borough are actually brick with a thick skin of limestone. When they start to crack, you can find the brick not far down. In my backyard, a bit of gardening revealed hundreds of leftover bricks from the days of construction. Each brick was marked with its manufacturer. Or at least that's what it seems those names imply.

    I'm also digging this idea of the mortgage being rolled into the sale. $1,000 down back then becomes $23,000 in today's dollars, hardly a lot for a down payment.  Your monthly bill would be around $1,500 in today's dollars. How does this compare? Why don't we assume 20% down on a million dollar house ($200K) and maybe $6500 a month?

    Lastly, I'm pretty sure this Easy Housekeeping company bought up rows of these for resale, since I do recall seeing a listing for these houses at $2,000 wholesale.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Tenant Profiles In "Brownstone" Brooklyn

    There are so many rich things to discuss in this report on the characteristics of renters in Brooklyn that I hesitate to open the worm-can. First, props are due to Ideal Properties for providing this in depth analysis. The purpose here is obvious - to encourage a robust rental market to keep up the heat. This is, of course, in Ideal's best interest and I take no issue.

    The opening statement from Aleksandra Scepanovic lays out the framework. Note the phrase "Brownstone Brooklyn" and the fact that incoming tenant traffic is at "rates higher than ever before." I'll come back to that. And of course, I'm happy to see that a rebounding tech and media landscape have brought more jobs to our fair city. Her forward:
    With national retailers courting Brownstone Brooklyn, and New York City making a sharp turn from a “Silicon Alley” to one of the nation’s prime tech hubs, the area’s rental markets absorb the incoming tenant traffic at monthly rates higher than ever before. And while the maturing of Brownstone Brooklyn’s rental landscape attracts a mixture of young, either creatively or technically savvy individuals, most tenants respond to the rising prices by opting to rent with friends or family members.

    Park Slope and Williamsburg reign supreme as top rental destinations. Brownstone Brooklyn is also attracting tenants from out of state and from out of the country, further solidifying the reality those of us who live here witness daily: Brownstone Brooklyn is becoming one of the most exciting
    boroughs of New York.

    Aleksandra Scepanovic
    Managing Director | Ideal Properties Group

    Someone told me the other day that I'm "obsessed" with race. To which I replied "what makes you say that, white boy?" But what I find so interesting about this kind of report is how it leaves out the issue of race altogether.  With all the nosy demographic information contained in this report, why no mention of race or ethnicity? They even mention international origin in one graph, with fully 10% of new renters in "Brownstone Brooklyn" being internationals, presumably not mostly what we typically refer to as "immigrants."

    And why not remain blithely unaware of racial realities? We're already discussing the mythological "borough" of Brownstone Brooklyn (that's what Scepanovic calls it - a borough - slip of keyboard?). Brownstone Brooklyn, as we find late in the report, consists of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront District, Downtown, DUMBO, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Red Hook, Vinegar Hill, and Windsor Terrace. The irony, of course, is that there are way more brownstones in Lefferts and Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights and East New York than in Red Hook, DUMBO, Gowanus and the creepy sounding "Columbia Waterfront District." But clearly Brownstone Brooklyn is a stand-in for something else entirely.

    The defining face of these neighborhoods is the "sort" of people who find these places desirable and can actually afford to rent there, meaning lots of upper middle class young folks (look at the charts - even their parents' incomes get mentioned in the section on guarantors, showing how many grew up in comfortable households) who are, as most upper middle class young folks in this country are, mostly white and/or coming from nice universities. Like contemporary art I can't say what this demo "IS" precisely, but I know it when I see it, and you probably do too. It's not necessarily white, and it's not necessarily elite educated. And it's maybe artsy and maybe simply professional. IT most definitely owns a Mac. The word hipster is too unnecessarily derogatory in my opinion. My current verbose definition (see above) is more to my taste, though I'm clearly teetering along some strange line of my own creation that's probably not necessary anyway, because I've probably not lost anyone who is reading this blog, at least not until this unwieldy sentence.

    Since, as David Gates of Bread is quick to point out in his gorgeous "If" - a picture paints a thousand words - so too I'll let this classic from the much-missed Stay Free do the do:

    What we learn about "Brownstone Brooklyn" in the Ideal report is that it is becoming younger, richer, with more folks shacking up together to afford rent. Some will note that this report doesn't really discuss the buyers, who are increasingly paying super-top dollar for the pleasure of calling Brooklyn home. We do learn however that fewer and fewer folks are coming from Manhattan, and many more people are moving to Brooklyn as their first choice in NYC, from all over. I don't think that the buying crowd is the one that's really remaking the borough - we're too busy raising brats and panicking over schools to bake artisanal pretzels. But as I've noted many times before, the current building fever is primarily about rentals, studios and one-bedrooms, meant for young people in their urban experiment phase. This report documents the neighborhoods where such young people are able to use their guarantor AND make enough dough to essentially choose their surroundings and those they want to see at the subway station. So it stands to reason that folks renting further and further east are doing so to chase the lower rents, which is causing rents to rise, etc. etc. etc. Thus, the new faces at the Q at Parkside platform. And thus the dilemma for longtime Flatbushians, who are now experience at warp speed the changes that have been working their west since Jane Jacobs stuck her nose into the business of one Greenwich Village more than 50 years ago now.

    It is, of course, inconvenient and probably illegal to note in such a report as this that the areas further east are becoming less and less black. A stand-in term for these areas, replete with all the tact of the phrase "white trash," is "ghetto," since the type of blackness we would be talking about is not Barack Obama and his enviable family. When I first moved here a guy on the street asked me what I was doing in "the ghetto." I suspect longtimers will take issue with the term, for any number of reasons, but his message was crystal clear. It was like a brag and a reproach at the same time. I also recall a plumber remarking on how nice and safe our neighborhood was, relative to East New York where he was living. It's enough to make your head spin sometimes, 720 degrees at the neck. (And let's face it, you have to be inadvisably sure of yourself and who you are to even delve into this stuff in print. Because at some point you're going to put your foot so far into your mouth you'll swallow a toe. Or at the very least never be able to run for public office.)

    If the building boom leads to a new and permanent younger, wealthier, whiter borough, then it is this crowd that will define Brooklyn's next 50 years. If, however, a major event or crisis drives these renters away (say free tapas at happy hours in the Bronx, or a terrorist attack), then we will be left with a glut of apartment buildings and perhaps, finally, some relief for the would-be renter of moderate means trying just to stay in the City for longer than a New York minute.

    And who knows, maybe those cookie cutter pop-up buildings will have retro charm by then.

    The Tragic History at 109 Winthrop

    The Q moved into Lefferts in 2003, so I hadn't heard of the terrible story at the corner of Winthrop and Bedford, the vacant lot I mentioned in the last post. The parcel was apparently sold in January, so we should expect an apartment building of some sort.

    But the events of January back in 2001 are retold in a NY Daily News piece:

    With flames licking at his feet, Sammy Williams was forced to make a terrible choice yesterday. Intense smoke and fire were forcing him off the porch roof of a Brooklyn house, where he stood with his 81-year-old mother, Ezerlene Armstrong. His screams for help were going unanswered - but he didn't want to throw his mother off the roof because that, the 46-year-old Flatbush truck driver believed, "would kill her automatically."
    So Williams left his mother and jumped. He landed safely on the roof of a nearby car. But the flames thwarted firefighters' rescue efforts, and, tragically, Armstrong and Stephanie Livingston, Williams' 35-year-old fiancee, perished in the early morning blaze. "I've lost my baby," Williams sobbed. Investigators said the blaze broke out about 5:30 a.m. on the porch of the three-story house at 109 Winthrop St. and quickly spread to two alarms. Passersby alerted the occupants that the building was burning. Livingston died a heroine, investigators said, after running upstairs to rouse a boarder, who was rescued by firefighters with only seconds to spare. As fire engulfed the building, Livingston dashed up to the third floor and banged on tenant Samuel Hill's door. "We've got a serious fire here!" she screamed. "As soon as I opened the door, I felt the heat from the fire; the smoke was just overwhelming," said Hill, 54. He handed her one of three flashlights he kept by his bed and took another for himself. "You can't go back down!" Hill shouted. "The smoke is so intense.

    " It was so thick, he remembered, he could only make out her hand. "She said to me, her last words were: 'I've got to try to go back down. "I never saw her again," Hill said. Hill barricaded himself in the kitchen, then kicked out a window screen and climbed out onto a ledge. He waved his flashlight urgently at an approaching fire truck. "You better hurry!" he yelled. Firefighter Joe Scarazzino climbed the truck's ladder and rescued Hill. "About 30 seconds later, the fire shattered all the windows, and that would have been it," said Firefighter Carlos Font. Deputy Chief Charles Blaich said investigators believe the fire started beneath a small freezer on the porch. The freezer had been sitting on an extension cord, probably for years, and over time the cord's wiring was exposed, sparking an electrical short, he explained. Later, Williams was asked why his fiancee would have risked going back down the smoke-filled staircase. "I guess she was just worried about me," he replied.

    On the Way In To Work

    Can't help but notice, after years of neglect, that the vacant lot at the NE corner of Bedford and Winthrop has been cleared. For what? Perhaps some of you lot-hounds can sniff it out?

    And then on the other side of the coin, I'm surprised, shocked and dismayed but the horrible dump-like conditions of Flatbush along the Botanic Garden. My understanding of the law is that this is the property-owner's responsibility. And now that the BBG has closed down our beloved entrance at Empire, I'd surely hope they had the personnel to go out and pick up the dirty diapers and plastic bags. This picture hardly does justice to the enormity of the problem:

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Kindergarten Freak Out - Lefferts Style

    The notices went out. Some parents are pulling out their hair right now, some swiftly planning their panicked move to Sweden or Paraguay or Paramus.

    Never fear. When the dust settles in September most of us will have found a place where we're comfortable, and our kids will be the ones leading us back towards sanity. In the meantime, I reached out to Shelley  Kramer about doing a Kindergarten Summit at Play Kids. We should set something up in the next week for parents feeling like the above lady. I can try to bring an expert to answer Q's.

    Will let you know. In the meantime, don't fret. Folks always find a place eventually, though I know if you only got an invitation to Jackie Robinson you're probably feeling a bit loopy.

    Green Roof Tops Neighor's House

    You've heard of green roofs. Or "rooves" as I believe the plural ought to is. Did you know that a neighbor on Midwood between Rogers and Nostrand put one in herself, with a little help from her friends, and lived to tell the tale? Read the whole story on Lory Henning's blog. Perhaps if she allows camping up there and rents out the campground we might suddenly find some "studios" available in the neighborhood for less than $1,000 a month!

    Some of the photos borrowed below:

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Hello All Renters - It's Al Jazeera Calling

    A producer from Al Jazeera is doing a piece on the rent crunch in the U.S. Many of you I'm sure saw the NY Times piece on rents rising beyond middle class incomes?

    Al Jazeera, of course, is the Qatar based news agency that has grown substantially into a worldwide powerhouse.  Most of us became aware of the network when it covered the aftermath of 9/11 and the Afghan and Iraq wars waged by the U.S. They often provided a counterbalance to pro-Western accounts. To its credit, the government owned Al Jazeera often surprised folks by going out of its way to produce "fair and balanced" reports, not always of course. But then even our own "fair and balanced" network doesn't always adhere to its dictates either.

    The irony of course is that just a few months ago I posted my allegory of a mostly white middle-class neighborhood (Lefferts of the future) being overtaken by Qataris in search of cheaper rent near the Park - The Qatarification Quandary. The combination of these two thangs has made me think, in toto, of Qatar 100 times more than I ever had before, though I've always been fond of the Arab country's spelling, though of course it's no use in the traditional rules of Scrabble. On a semi-non-related note, I've always been annoyed by the use of the phrase in toto, when a nearly exact same sounding English phrase, in total, can be used. Sometimes, I guess, it pays to sound haughty.

    Lori Gordon is the producer's name. If you or someone you know would be willing to speak to her for her piece on the rental crisis, please email me and I'll make the introduction. 

    71st Precinct Newsletter - Let's Get Rid of Graffiti!

    From Vinnie and the 71st. I reordered it so you can see the graffiti part first.

    Please, if you see graffiti you want removed, email Richard Silverstein of Community Affairs. The City is offering us a great deal...take a picture and tell them exactly where it is, they'll deal with it. We need your help to get rid of the nasty writing on the wall and gates!


    Best Regards From Your Council Leader

    PLGNA General Meeting - All Welcome - April 28

    A few years ago, five or so I believe, a group of your neighbors worked together to revive a 40-year old neighborhood association, pronounced PLeGNA. Anyone can be a member - I think I paid a $5 lifetime membership at some point, but that's not the point. A Board was elected and the group set out to address problems and set solutions in motion. Come to the general meeting on Monday, April 28 to hear what PLGNA's been up to, learn more about neighborhood organizing efforts, and elect new Board members. Your participation is what makes groups like this thrive and become more adept at representing your views on the City's many influential stages. This is a town where groups like PLGNA can wield great influence, when properly managed and supported. In a City this size, it's hard for individual voices to break through the static. A strong neighborhood org can get a seat at every important table. And various committees are busy addressing things that you may have an interest in. The meeting is open to all:

    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    Way To Ruin A Perfectly Bad Paint Job

    Someone decided to whip out their sharpie and give commuters at the Q at Parkside some harsh morning medicine. The following statements are not the mottos of a movement, so I would take them with a grain of salt. To the easily rattled I would say that our neighborhood is, as we've learned, the most densely populated in the borough, and the actions of any one person don't a movement make. And yet, you can't help but note the timing. Part of me wanted to ignore it on the blog, which of course is what's really warranted. But, for the sake of the history books, here's the gallery:

    I don't mean to make light. But the double exclamations mean this one actually emphatically states that white people ARE allowed.

    If I had to pick one this would be my favorite.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Folks, This Is Not Sustainable

    I know a lot of y'all are tired of all the talk about 626 Flatbush. But as I've said many times it's really an oversized stand-in for everything that's going on all around us. In another life, the Q might have been an economist, because I'm endlessly fascinated by the workings, and failings, of capitalism. I stopped reading the sports pages years ago when I noticed that the world of money was, for me, infinitely more entertaining. So I notice things, and sometimes, I become as perplexed as a lifelong Met fan.

    A couple of years ago I first started noticing the degree to which our affordable neighborhood was becoming unaffordable to people of my own income level, the one that (obviously) I'm most familiar with. Mrs. Flatbed and I bought a small rowhouse in 2003 on a rough and tumble block, and to make the mortgage we had to pay almost twice what we were paying for rent in le hot South Slope. So while it's still a stretch for us now with two kids and mostly just one income, for the time being, we can just about afford it. I hope we're earning the least we'll earn during our working lives, while the little ones need lots of attention. But you never know. Do you? Heck there were years when I made $5,000 and got by, though there was a lot of cash coming in and going out. Ah, to be young and brash in the '90s.

    When we first moved here in 2003, you could still get a one-bedroom for just shy of $1,000. I know because I kept on eye on it, on and around our block anyway. A two bedroom could be had for $1,200. (Remember, I'm not talking about the heart of the Historic District, rather on the southern side, where we have a bit of what I like to call the "Parkside Drawl" and perhaps a slighter higher tolerance for rambunctious streetlife). The 2-bedder is probably what we would have gone for had we not decided to take the plunge and put more than half of our annual income into our home, which we hoped would be our home for at least as long as our mortgage, and maybe beyond. The American Dream. For a modern musician and a rock dancer, wait, rock musician and a modern dancer, it seemed extravagant, and we did our best to slide into working the kind of jobs that could afford us this life, while hanging onto our creative lives as best we could. Then we decided to have two kids. Whoa. Now we were REALLY middle class. Middle. Middle America. Though living in the 'Bush during the Bush years made it seem less middle middle boring middle. It's NYC. City of Dreams. The Big Apple. City of Broad Shoulders! (er, that's Chicago, but our shoulders are pretty broad too). All good. And this is, bar none, one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the whole borough. If you don't think so, you and I got different ideas of exciting. I mean world-class krazy fun and never a dull moment. Great great people, not boring, with great stories and fascinating perspectives. And the Park, man!

    My nearby neighbors thought we paid an arm and two legs for this house at the time. It was the most anyone had ever spent on one of these Clarkson row houses - by almost TWICE. Actually, these homes hadn't traded hands much through the years. Some folks had owned their homes for decades, and some died in them. Maybe that'll happen to me. Never know. (Sometimes I wonder how long I'll have to live here before I get to stop being a spoiled gentrifier? Probably til I'm surrounded by richer and whiter people, though I'm pretty damn ruddy pale.)

    The rents and the housing prices in Brooklyn had risen before - quite a bit actually since 1996, the start of the big housing run-up. By 2007, a lot of people were acting like they did during the late '90s tech boom - the bubble was in full effect, and you could feel the anxiety. The bubble was palpable. Or rather popable. I remember that people I knew were buying up houses to flip...I never DREAMED of such a thing happening, but the frenzy was on. Then it all came crashing down, and a full-on Argentinian-style meltdown nearly happened here. And It started again, and the money that'd been waiting on the sideline got the greenlight to build, build, build. Where were all these people coming from to buy these overpriced apartments and houses? They weren't ALL coming from Manhattan. Folks were calling Brooklyn the "it" city. Really? Brooklyn? Well, okay if you say so. I think that was partly because so many bold-faced names were saying Brooklyn was their home, and many folks in the media actually live here. But a funny thing happened. The whole borough started to become wildly speculative in its pricing. Bed-Stuy even. Bed-Mothereffing-Stuy! The place Billy Joel was CRAAAAZY enough to walk alone. And otherwise sane people started saying that this was the new normal. Mad prices. Mad rises. Irrational exuberance. Delirious Brooklyn.

    My friends, this is NOT the new normal. Anytime you hear someone say that you know we're in a time of berserkness. Remember that book called Dow 40,000? And if I needed any more proof, I got it tonight when I finally saw the numbers comparing the "affordable" rents to the market rents at 626 Flatbush. Remember, the affordable rent is unlikely to go up much, since it's based on 50% of median household income, which is roughly $50,000 a year for NYC and hardly budging. I know I don't need to tell you this, but it's worth thinking on it in this context. HALF of NYC households earn more than $50,000. HALF of NYC households earn less. HALF. Wow. (If that doesn't blow your mind then, well, I guess you're not me. And yes, it's barely growing in real dollars, certainly not at the rate of housing.)

    Just a few years ago I noticed for the first time that market rents in Brooklyn were becoming 1 1/2 to 2 times what would work for a median to just-above poverty working family, which is often a single parent. Neighborhoods of lowish income families were now officially out for half of the population. Pretty much all of brownstone Brooklyn, save parts of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy. People were starting to pay half or more of their gross income in rent. Crazy, but true. And the more hip folk moved here the more crazy it got.

    So now I'm looking at the affordable rates vs. market at 626. And if trends continue, market rates will go up considerably by the time the building opens. Remember affordable is based on 50% of median. Oh, and there are almost no 2 or 3 bedroom units in the building. They're simply not as economical for the landlord. Families, it would appear, are simply not where the money's at:

    Studio - $696
    1 bedroom- $748
    2 bedroom - $908
    3 bedroom $1039

    Studio - $1,875
    1 bedroom - $2,200
    2 bedroom - $2,800
    3 bedroom - $3,500

    I recall from my book larnin' that it was just a hundred years ago that socialism and its naughty brother communism broke through to the level of the State. By 50 years ago we'd built nearly 200,000 units of public housing in NYC. By 45 years ago we passed the Rent Stabilization Law. By 35 years ago the City went bankrupt as the middle class left for the suburbs. 30 years ago marked the first age of the yuppy. 25 years ago housing prices plunged. 20 years ago Courtney Love had a hit record. 15 years ago everyone wanted to start a dot com and we all lost our minds in the stock market and frenzied speculation. 13 years ago planes hit the towers and we wondered if NYC would ever recover. From then til now, minus the speed bump of 2008-9, we've been on a tear. A bloombergian mega tear.

    It's not sustainable. We're in a bubble. We're in madness. You don't usually know when you're insane. I mean that's part of the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing and expecting different results?

    Madness. Unadulterated madness. Who's got a pin?

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Hold On To Your Family Jewels At Planet Phitness (NOT Someone Else's)

    Word just in from the 71st - don't place your valuables in the lockers while working out. Too easy to bust 'em open, apparently. Everyone the Q's spoken to about Planet Phitness's Phat Albert's location is ecstatic to have a low cost gym nearby. Says local dad E.G. "I like getting in shape. And I like TV. What's not to love?"

    Also, Vinny reminds us not to leave our keys in the car. Apparently, so-called "Super Bandits" are able to open the door, enter your vehicle, turn the ignition and drive away. WITHOUT your consent.

    Be careful out there guys. It may be the NEW Brooklyn, but it's the same old story.

    But One Example of Racial Housing Discrimination

    Sometimes landlords can't tell the decent folk from the bad, but they've decided to make the place more attractive to those willing to pay higher rents. So they do what any good racist would do, and try their darndest to switch out the blacks for whites. Much easier to determine race than character.

    Tomorrow, a press conference is scheduled to broadcast a lawsuit against one such building on Hawthorne. It's notoriously hard to prove racial discrimination. Let's hope the plaintiffs have their case in order.

    Tenants File Federal Lawsuit Against Landlords Who Target Black Renters

    Suit alleges violations of Fair Housing Act, New York State and New York City Human Rights laws 

    WHAT: Press conference announcing the filing of a federal lawsuit against a landlord who has aggressively harassed and targeted Black tenants in an effort to displace them from Prospect-Lefferts Gardens apartments.

    WHO:   Tenants, Flatbush Tenant Coalition, Attorneys from Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, Council Member Mathieu Eugene
    WHERE: 414 Hawthorne Street, Brooklyn, 11225 (Map)

    WHEN: Tuesday, April 15th, 9:30 AM

    WHY: Tenants and advocates will announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against landlords who have aggressively harassed and targeted Black tenants in an effort to compel them to move so that their apartments can be rented almost exclusively to younger, white tenants. The landlords’ discriminatory tactics have included refusing to cash Black tenants’ rent checks for months on end and then sending rent demands for tens of thousands of dollars, refusing to make repairs, and bringing baseless housing court cases against Black tenants. Since purchasing these buildings a few years ago, the landlords have succeeded in pushing out approximately 20 families out of a total of 52. Plaintiffs (eleven tenants and the Flatbush Tenant Coalition) allege violations of the Fair Housing Act and the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws.