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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Candidates Forum - Why You Should Care - Saturday July 12th

It might be tempting to say "another election for Albany - so what?" Well, I'll give you one good reason, and maybe it'll be enough to convince you to come out and see the candidates who will represent you. Wanna know what that super special reason is? I'll learns ya if you don't already know...

This is one of those rare elections that matter. Not because of any particular issue, though there are plenty. It matters because once elected, Democrats tend to STAY elected. For years and years and years. So who you put into office the first time around is absolutely essential. For those who don't know, the State Senate maps were recently redrawn, meaning that I went from being part of Eric Adams old district into being part of Kevin Parker's district (if you're in Western Lefferts that's possibly you too). Parker will likely stay put, but he'll be at the above mentioned forum and you'll have a chance to see for yourself the man who pulls the trigger for you Upstate.

Better yet, for those other Flatbushians, Eric's seat is up for grabs and needs your input. You may have seen the candidates out there stumping around. AND (drum roll) Rhoda Jacobs is giving up her Assembly seat after about a hundred years (she's primarily Caledonia and below). Again, you should weigh in, because God only knows the next time you'll have a chance to do that!

If you want to know who represents you and then go find out more about whether you're being represented well, start here:

See you on the 12th. At the very least, it should be quite entertaining (that's no joke - it really can be hysterical to see low-level politicos go at it. it's like minor league baseball.)

Farmers Market at Q at Parkside to start July 11

Seeds in the Middle informs the Q that due to a delay in the EBT machines, the Farmer's Market in the Q plaza at Ocean and Parkside will begin on Friday the 11th of July. It is hoped that MTA will have removed their makeshift work camp by then. And yes the Q is open, running southbound. And despite the Manhattan Q not running this past weekend, there's no scheduled maintenance next weekend.

The Q is loving the Q renovation - safer, less leaky. Though the paint job is unbelievably bad, and they did almost nothing to replace crumbling tile and crappy doors.

I'm quite convinced that the painting department is where you get mothballed at MTA when the union discovers your drinking problem.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rally Today Against 626 Joins Forces

In an interesting twist to the ongoing saga around 626 Flatbush, neighbors are joining forces with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to protest today from 1-3 pm. It's a positively European development against the development, where coalitions of workers and other groups like students are common.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flatbush BID Street Fair - Sunday!

The Q has never been a huge fan of street fairs, but as they go the Flatbush BID's street fair (from Parkside down to Beverly) is pretty fun, with an especially high quotient of Caribbean good times. My kids just recently discovered "bouncy rides" so we'll definitely be there partaking in that and face painting, both of which happen on our end of the Fair.

The Q has done his best to point out how well run this BID is, currently by Lauren Collins who also runs the Church Ave BID, and how lucky it can be to have one. Perhaps one day the Flatbush Empire|Parkside Merchants Association will become one (though it has a long way to go), because BIDs collect money through the City from landlords to take care of things like hiring people to clean up litter. The guy who picks up around here does an awesome job, and that's why it's generally cleaner and more amiable to foot traffic south of Clarkson. (The section from Clarkson to Parkside is still the most exciting stretch of road in Brooklyn for my money, with a diversity of offerings unparalleled. My pharmacist (Lincoln), my fave shoe store (Sneaker King), my discount store (GEM), my go-to electronics repair man (Voltan), the best baked goodies and Beef Patties (Jamaican Pride), two killer hip-hop boutiques, the craziest most knowledgeable cell phone store, a nutty bargain-with-em odd lots store (Closeout Heaven), the Duane Reade, the driving-school-notary-public, lawyer "A. Shoemaker" and much much more.)

Oh, and from the BID:

Join us Sunday at one of the largest street fairs in Brooklyn featuring hundreds of vendors, rides, live music by Haitian rara band RaRam de NY, dance performances, and free activities:

When:  Sunday June 29 from noon to 6pm
Where:  Flatbush Ave. from Parkside Ave. to Cortelyou Rd.

All day:  Pony rides (betw. Tilden Ave. and Beverly Rd.), carnival rides (at Clarkson Ave. and at Tilden Ave.), face painting (betw. Clarkson Ave. and Lenox Rd.).

Special Activities:
12:00 - 3:00: Stilt Walker extraordinaire Bibi Farber (throughout the fair)
1:00 - 4:00:  Balloon Twisting (throughout the fair)

1:30 - 4:30Haitian rara band, RaRam de NY (corner of Flatbush Ave. and Caton Ave.)
2:00 - 2:45:  Magician Apollo Riego (steps of Flatbush Reformed Church, corner of Flatbush Ave. and Church Ave.)
2:00 and 3:00:  
Dance performances by Cynthia King Dance Studio (Flatbush Ave. and Snyder Ave.)

Street Closures:  Flatbush Ave. from Parkside to Cortelyou will be closed to cars on Sunday starting at 7:00 a.m. and cars will be towed starting on Saturday night. Also, the B35, B41, and B12 buses will be rerouted for the fair.

Like us on Facebook (FlatbushAveBID) for festival updates or contact the BID at 718-282-2500, x79290 or, or stop by our table on Sunday in front of the Dunkin' Donuts on Flatbush Ave. right off Church Ave. The fair is proudly sponsored by Affinity Health Plan, HealthPlus Amerigroup, and Fidelis Care of New York.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Leffets Goes Arty

Central Brooklyn is teeming with tax preparation places. Often offering loans so you can get your return cash faster, the storefront joints seem to proliferate in low-income neighborhoods. (Along with check cashing places and liquor stores and social services agencies, oh and drug dealers, it's remarkable how many people make their living off the poor). Not that they're all predatory userers, but enough are that the U.S. Senate recently opened hearings on the matter.

But WAIT! One tax preparer is trying to change that image by opening an art gallery inside his store. Derek Noel owns the shop at 204 Parkside, and since summer is usually his down time, he's doing a gallery show that will be up for two weeks starting the 3rd of July. The deets are below.

But here's another art-scoop for you. Longtime "downtown" bass player, guitarist and composer Oren Bloedow is opening a bar/performance venue on Rogers near Gratitude cafe and the Fire House, at 497 Rogers. I know Oren well enough to tell you the bookings will be on the arty side of jazz and experimental rock. And since he owns the building, perhaps massive ticket sales are not the primary objective. For those who are familiar with the scene, Oren's most popular band is Elysian Fields, a partnership with the enigmatic chanteuse Jennifer Charles.


Rum Punch!
July 3rd - July 17th, 2014
Opening Reception: Thursday, July 3rd, 6-9 PM
204 Parkside Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11226
Monday - Thursday: 5 -10PM
Friday: 3 -7PM
Saturday - Sunday: 12 - 5PM

“Rum Punch!” is a group exhibition featuring artists living or working in south Brooklyn. It is the inaugural show at 204 Parkside, quite possibly Brooklyn's only event space and art gallery that doubles as a tax preparation office. Organized by the participating artists and the proprietor of the venue, Derek Noel, this exhibition showcases a variety of work and media. Inspired by the uniqueness of the space, much of the work is site specific and made especially for this show.

Bursting with a feeling of collectivity and integration, the diversity of the works and the artists who made them mirror the ever-changing population of Flatbush. Like a big bowl of rum punch we hope that this exhibit serves as a mixing and a gathering, the artwork inspiring a blending of neighborhood artists with the local community.

Artists Include:
Juan Pablo Baene
Rory Baron
Darell Day
Francks Deceus
Georgia Elrod
Baris Gokturk
Sarah Elise Hall
Mckendree Key
M P Landis
Rachel B. Ostrow
Sarada Rauch
Orlando Richards
Carrie Rubinstein
Rosemary Taylor
Ezra Wube

204 Parkside
Derek Noel:
Georgia Elrod:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CB9 Votes In (Almost) Entirely New Leadership

Whoa Nelly! Now THAT's entertainment. In a mtg that lasted past 10:30pm, we saw the "retirement" of Rabbi Jacob Goldstein after 34 years as Community Board 9 chair. We voted in a new 1st Vice Chair, Laura Imperiale, who just happens to live in Lefferts. We voted in a new secretary, Lefferts resident Rosemarie Perry. Jacqueline Welch joins Eve'lyn Williams as Members at Large (both Lefferts livers). They're all cool, and along with the new treasurer Diana Richardson and returning 2nd Vice Chair Demetrius Lawrence (both from south Crown Heights near Medgar Evers) you've got a formidable Executive Committee. Yours truly lost in the four-way election for member at large, but given Eve'lyn and Jacqueline's more than 100 years between them of life in the neighborhood, I should be proud of my 12 votes and vow to serve as a lowly committee chair, and I'm hoping maybe ULURP?

Something like 15 new board members were there, an unprecedented amount of turnover, most appointed by Eric Adams, who, it must be said, took the unnecessary step of forcing Jake out by threatening to not re-appoint him to the board if he didn't step down (true story). Why unnecessary? Because anyone could see that Dwayne was gonna win in a cakewalk, so why risk angering the Chabad community? Which, if my sources are correct, is in fact exactly what he did. One Lubavitch board member told me they (the Jewish community in Crown Heights) were ready to throw the bum (Eric) out tomorrow if given the chance. Add to that the fact that now there are NO Jewish executive committee members or committee chairs, and well, frankly I don't know how you can say the representation is appropriate. The Lubavitch Jews have a HUGE presence in our Community District. Of the new members, all but one was black. The lone new Jewish member - Avi Leshes from the Chamber of Commerce - is replacing a non-reappointed Chabad board member. Frankly, I just don't see how that makes political sense, but I ain't the one driving this bus. (And no, I'm not complaining about how few non-orthodox white folk are on the board, so don't misread what I said! There's plenty of honkies, maybe too many, what do I know. Writing that word "honkies" sure feels weird though...does anyone actually say that anymore?)

Like I always says, I'm gonna call it likes I sees it!

Speaking of which, man oh manischewitz, there were some ANG-GRY people there tonight from over on Maple almost to Utica. I'd written about it before, this apartment building going up on a long-empty lot. It's to be developed and run by a group called The Bridge, who are experts at running permanent housing facilities for people with permanent mental illness. It will also have affordable housing units, probably for seniors, as well. But the folks who live right around there are LIVID that so many crazy people will be dumped in their front yards. Never mind that these are not VIOLENT crazy people, or anything other than ueber-monitored and cared for by full-time supportive services. To hear people screaming about not wanting "those people on our block" and concerned for the safety of their children and feeling their house prices will plummet (it was a filthy and dangerous vacant lot before for chrisakes) was eerily reminiscent of what whites used to say when blacks tried to live among them. I mean, it was nutty how intensely discriminatory they sounded. A well made and well run building on my block that includes affordable housing for seniors? I'd trade that for 60 Clarkson in a New York minute! Let the thorazine shufflers in, man. They deserve a place to live like everyone else, and some of them may be relatives of yours, so give bigotry a rest!

That's enough, but I thought I'd share before beddy-bye. Night.

Breaking News: CB9 To Get New Leadership

Sometimes, nice guys finish first!

The Q will happily share the outcome of tonight's elections at Community Board 9, but in the lead-up to the vote, I've just learned that longtime chair, Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, has decided not to run for a (I dunno 30th?) term. Dwayne Nicholson and Sylveta Hamilton-Gonzales are running for the position. Other Executive Committee positions are being contested by relative newcomers, yours truly included.

Should be an interesting evening at the CB. Will let you know how things turn out. All CB9 meetings are open to the public, and start at 7PM at MS61's auditorium, 400 Empire Blvd at NY Avenue.

I've gotten to know Jake fairly well over the past few years. We had coffee last winter, and he took me on a private tour of the Chabad neighborhood on and around Kingston and Eastern Parkway, spiritual home to the movement. You could see how proud he was of the enclave and his role within it. He's a super guy and a great leader in his community and beyond. He continues to serve as a chaplain in the army, one of the few "exemptions" to the beard rule! It may be time for a change, but it's always good to reflect on the many good things he's done for the community. Thanks Jake!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bard in the Park Thru Sunday

You, lucky near-the-second-greatest-park-in-the-world sort, YOU can zip up on the B41 to Grand Army Plaza, or walk across the luscious center of our Park, to see the New York Classical Theatre's wild and outdoor production of As You Like It, a pastoral comedy from some earring wearing hipster from England. You get to follow the action as it moves through the park, and no tickets or reservations are needed. Are you seriously NOT considering going? Really? Just read the synopsis and then chortle at the appropriate times, and your date will think you really know your Bard, and then you can smooch in the Nethermead on your moonlit walk back to Lefferts. Just be wary of mistaken identities!!

Friday, June 20, 2014


pic by Jeffrey Joslin

Sure looks sneaky, don't it? These gentlemen were snapped on the first block of Midwood from Flatbush (Midwood I to the newcomers out there) They're loading up the circulars, getting ready to deliver the goods to every house and apartment building that doesn't have a strict policy against it. A few years ago, some brilliant neighbor made up some laminated signs to just say no to flyers. We bought ours at Hawthorne hardware, and it's worked like a charm. One of them was actually stolen I love the (perhaps fanciful) idea that someone needed one so much that they took it in desperation.

Who made 'em, and how can we get some more? Would make a big difference I think.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bluestone Cafe Review: From the PLGourmand

Debra weighs in with another review of an outstanding place for eats. of yet no beer/wine, and they've been super flaky on hours. So call ahead (or imbibe ahead, or both). Is it actually IN the neighborhood? Darn tootin'. I dare you to claim it's in ANOTHER neighborhood. And it's a quicker walk for moi than to LPT. The Splash Pad? Another Lakeside winner. But now that it's summer, who's roller skating? Seems like that place needs a party consultant. DJ nights would be wise. Actually, DJ nights with the Splash Pad open to adults, so you could DANCE in the Splash Pad. Holy crap that's a great idea, Q! Now about that alky-hol...

Bluestone Café at Lakeside
review by the PLGourmand

For those of you who have not yet been to the newly renovated Lakeside area of Prospect Park – it’s really time to drop everything and go. If the park is Brooklyn’s oasis this gorgeous lake surrounded by wildflowers and filled with turtles, fish and swans is the oasis of the oasis. (Somebody get me a thesaurus for my birthday). And Lakeside showcases panoramic views of this sprawling lake by surrounding it with benches as well as two skating rinks – in the winter one for ice hockey and the other for general skating fun; in the summer one for roller skating and the other turns into a water feature for kids to drench themselves in to beat the heat (Or grown-up kids at heart!) – and the wonderful chef-inspired Bluestone Café.

Executive chef Andy Seidel has put together a delicious menu that includes starters like fried pickles and truffle parmesan fries, sandwiches and burgers on Brooklyn-made rolls, including a classic burger, a vegetarian beat burger, chicken “schnitzel” sandwich and a Cajun fish sandwich, salads made with beats and/or roasted kale, an array of pizza choices, mac and cheese and a kids menu with grilled cheese and hot dogs. The burgers are grilled just right – kinda smoky, which I really like. And – here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say after the age of ten – the chicken strips are my favorite dish on the menu! Yeah, the chicken strips! They are battered perfectly so they are crispy and flavorful on the outside and tender on the inside with a maple honey dipping sauce that’s so tasty you may be tempted to drink it right out of the container! There are also desserts from local Brooklyn eateries that include sea salt brownies, chocolate mousse, fresh baked cookies and milkshakes made with Blue Marble ice cream. The black and tan shake is not beer inspired like I feared when I first read it – the place is thankfully not that hipster-y – it is actually made with vanilla and chocolate ice cream and is incredibly delicious. They also serve beer and wine and fun soft drinks like old-fashioned lemonade and iced cappuccino.

The café has indoor and outdoor seating with views of the lake, skating rinks and water feature. At $7 a burger and $4.50 per side it may be a little overpriced – but food at parks is always overpriced, except usually it is overpriced garbage. At least here it is overpriced chef inspired organic family friendly and delicious! And the fun playlist coming from the skating rink makes you wanna dance. Or skate. In fact I’m sure by the end of the summer my clumsy feet are gonna get into a pair of skates. That music and atmosphere are infectious!

Bluestone café is open Wednesday-Friday 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-6pm, but take these hours with a grain of sea salt – I’ve seen them close a little early as it seems they may be still staffing. There is also a more traditional snack bar near the skate rental stand that sells hotdogs, pretzels and the like.

The best part of Bluestone and Lakeside (in my PLG-centric view) is that the closest entrances are near Parkside/Ocean Ave and Lincoln Road/Ocean Ave. (And once you enter the park there are about 40 billion signs leading you to it –it is literally impossible to miss). I’m planning to spend many hours there this summer myself so if you do decide to try it – I’ll see you there!

Address, Prospect Park, 171 East Drive
Entrances near Parkside/Ocean Avenue or Lincoln Road/Ocean Avenue

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PPEN et al Lose Suit Against 626: Silver Linings Abound

the full decision was uploaded by it here.

The Honorable Supreme Court Justice Peter Moulton has rendered his decision, and the answer (and now I jump to the legalese) is ixnay on oppingstay the ojectpray. 626 Flatbush may proceed as planned.

I just read the decision and the pro bono team representing the petitioners did a nice job of laying out the case against the State Housing Finance Agency for not conducting proper environmental review. In essence, the judge concurs with the complaint that the review was not thorough, but states that it was sufficient in this case, given that the building is being built as of right and poses negligible impact on the neighborhood, that being his opinion, and his being the opinion that matters in this case. The judge is unwilling to suggest that the zoning itself might be wrong for the plot's "environment," and therefore, despite the fact that this project is supposed to be reviewed in accordance with a strict process spelled out in the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, hey, why bother. That particular law (known as SEQRA) seems to have been designed to prevent unwieldy urban and suburban sprawl, but neatly applies in the case of 626, which it occurs to me is an example of the NYC equivalent of sprawl...UP, not out. Granted, some upward sprawl is necessary, but IMO, how and high and where must be weighed carefully and often. That's what SEQRA is supposed to do, and in the opinion of many, what it did NOT do.

Okay, that paragraph was a mouthful, but the fact is the zoning is super wrong in the first place, so basing a verdict on a wrong premise just shows you really CAN'T fight City Hall. And while the lawsuit loses this round (an expedited appeal is likely), you gotta blame the lack of attention to planning in our neighborhood, and the blame can be shared widely. Whatever. It was a longshot, given that the City and State generally encourage development of all sorts, and the fact that 20% affordable housing sounds, on the face of it, pretty swell to most cursory onlookers. Problem is, of course, an awful lot of people priced out now won't even qualify because they make too MUCH money, and while CB9 residents will likely get preference, it will be from throughout the district, not just around the park. As I'm acutely learning from the zoning process, CB9 is quite big and encompasses a heck of a lot diversity beyond the mosaic of Lefferts. PPEN vows to fight on, not just through the appeals process, but beyond, and to try to work towards preserving what's best about the neighborhood, and fighting the forces that would tear it apart.

Bottom line though, we can most likely look forward to a couple of years of construction, followed by a few hundred new neighbors, who will undoubtedly be lovely people, and in time, given the breakneck pace of development around here, 626 Flatbush will become but a reminder of an opportunity missed. The height will undoubtedly cause other developers to salivate, but as the folks from City Planning reminded us, there aren't a whole heck of a lot of lots out there - even if you buy up a bunch - that would allow for another tower so tall. I'm not so sure about that. That's why rezoning is a must. Now.

The silver linings? Well, the neighborhood has not been so organized, feisty and informed in years. People are waking up from what might be called a long post-crack-epidemic, post-9/11 civic slumber. I know I'm always saying it, but WE'RE the adults now, and it's time to start acting like it. We still have a say in how our community hangs together and grows, and it's time to start flexing some muscle and listening to each other. PLGNA, PPEN, CB9, The Parkside Empire Merchants Association...there's a new energy and passion out there. I'm buckled up...y'all ready for the ride?

Actual Real Life Authors To Read Books Out Loud. Books They Wrote Themselves! In Person!! You're Invited!!! Beer!!!!

PLG Arts Launches New Brooklyn Reading Series 

Two much-loved Brooklyn authors – Emma Straub and Elizabeth Mitchell – will kick off PLG Arts’ new Meet-the-Author Reading Series with a joint reading and book signing on Tuesday, June 24.

The event begins at 7:30 at The Inkwell Café at 408 Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn’s Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood.

“Prospect Lefferts Gardens is a neighborhood with a rich history as home to novelists, poets, journalists, editors and others who love the written word,” said Michael Hudson, a PLG Arts volunteer who curates the reading series. “We’re thrilled to have two captivating writers to launch what we hope will be a long and successful reading series.”

Straub, a longtime PLG resident, will read from her NY Times bestselling novel The Vacationers. Booklist Emma Straubcalls The Vacationers “sharply observed and funny,” “a delightful study of the complexities of family and love, and the many distractions from both.”

Straub’s previous books include a novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Vogue, New York Magazine, Tin House, The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and The Paris Review Daily. She is a staff writer for Rookie magazine.

Elizabeth MitchellMitchell will read from Liberty's Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty, her new narrative history of how the Statue of Liberty came to be – and the story of Frédéric Bartholdi, the artist, entrepreneur, and inventor who fought against all odds to create this modern wonder. Mitchell, a Brooklyn-based journalist and editor, is the author of two other books: Three Strides Before the Wire: The Dark and Beautiful World of Horse Racing, and W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty.

The Park Slope Community Bookstore is co-sponsoring the reading and will have the authors’ books for sale. The Inkwell has a great selection of drinks and craft beers.

The event is free and open to the public. Learn more at or email The Meet-the-Author reading series will take July and August off, but will resume in the fall.

Liberty's Torch

Michael Hudson, reading series curator

Rina Kleege, Co-President, PLG Arts
Hollis Headrick, Co-President, PLG Arts

The Best Offense Is a Zone Defense

Rezoning alert! Rezoning alert!

Not riveted yet? Let me try again.

Rezoning YOUR block alert!!!

Still heavy-lidded? Then you probably won't be interested in the rest of this post. I've been fortunate to be a (fat and vocal) fly on the wall through much of the leadup, and I'm happy to share what I've learned, since I only just started having a clue about these matters very recently. I'm going to presume (wrongly in many cases) that you know as little about zoning as I did, say, one year ago. Because with a little luck and some serious consensus-building, we're about to undergo the first rezoning in more than half a century. So here comes the prologue to what I'm sure will be many posts...

Every square foot of NYC is documented, many times over. The history of who owned it and sold it, what's underneath it, any infrastructure on or adjacent, and these records have been meticulously updated since the Dutch. Unlike the American Indians we encountered when we got here, we come from a culture obsessed with record keeping and property ownership, and the money that can be made FROM that property. To a huge extent, the economic and political history of Western Civilization is inextricably tied to the exploitation and accumulation of property. We take for granted of course that a human being can own, sell and make money off a piece of earth, but 'taint' necessarily so. As a people we could have chosen to honor a different doctrine, but hey, it is what it is. It is an organizing principle, which has, combined with domestication of animals and farming and technology and specialization of labor, made human "progress" what it is. It encourages vast sums to be spent to find further ways to MAKE vast sums. Land is more "real" than anything we got to sell. We even call it "real" estate after all. Colonial powers went WAY out of their way to accumulate ever larger stashes of land to own and exploit. And hey, when land ain't enough, you can always own...people. Then you have the land, the resources on or under the land, and a bunch of labor to work it. Nice hat trick if you can live with yourself I guess.

Focus Q, focus.

Back in 1961, the last time the City's zoning was fully mapped, the Big Apple's development and planning was ruled by something called The Board of Estimate. Made up of the Mayor, the head of the City Council, the Comptroller, and each of the Borough Presidents, this body was obscenely powerful. No wonder people like Robert Moses held on for decades...all you needed was five of these as allies (or even three - the Citywides got two votes each to the BPs one). This cabal was essentially The City of NYC's Board of Trustees, with the Mayor as chair, and they were not only ueber powerful but ueber undemocratic.  The borough of Brooklyn was clearly shafted, since it was represented by one vote for way more people than, say, the Island of Staten. The Supreme Court took notice, and declared The Board of Estimate unconstitutional in 1989, setting the stage for the current City Charter, the system of checks and balances that we now love or loathe.

Anyhoo, it was The Board of Estimate that decided to upgrade the hodge podge of rules that had been in place since before even the first World War. Considering that whole industries, neighborhoods and transportation networks had appeared and disappeared since the original planning documents, it seemed a good time to update things. The BoE paid consultants to study the City, held a relatively few meetings on the matter, and declared the City to be zoned for three classes of properties - residential, commercial and manufacturing. Within each class there were many subclasses, governing everything from height and density to various forms of activity. It was a noble effort, and in same ways it proved to be quite lasting and helpful. But that was more than fifty years ago, and since then too, a lot a lot a lot has changed.

We have the Board of Estimate to thank for our current system of zoning, but the BoE itself was outlawed 25 years ago. And so The City Council got a major boost of power as a result. They now share responsibility for budget and land use (which includes development and planning). The borough presidents are still involved, but not to such a degree. The legislative and executive pass the ball back and forth many times throughout the fiscal year, and the Comptroller gets to play referee now and then. Most of the time, it works pretty well, considering that this particular corporation oversees the interests of more than 8,000,000 people. Visit a park, drop your recycling by the side of the curb, drop your kid off at school, drink a glass of water, flush the toilet, call 911...the list is long indeed. You need the City and it needs you (don't forget to pay your taxes or they might withhold your flushing rights).

To build something or renovate it, all you need to do is dust off your trusty zoning map, buy a piece of property and get to work. If your idea conforms to what's on the map, get yourself some permits and you're off to the races. That's what's called "as of right." You own the property, do your best and god bless.

But sometimes you want to do something that DOESN'T conform to the map. You want to build taller or denser, or go from one class to another (manufacturing to residential, say). Used to was you'd go to the Board of Estimate and they could, right there on the spot, offer you an exemption. Not no more, says the updated City Charter. You must now go through a process. And it is the same process every single time, lest anyone think it unfair. At the end of this process is the City Council, which must vote to allow for a zoning change or amendment. This can happen at the micro level for one building or project. Or (and now we're getting close to the crux) it could be for a whole neighborhood, or at least a big hunk of it.

This process has a name. The Universal Land Use Review Process. Otherwise known as ULURP (pronounced you-lerp).Through the ULURP, that zoning map is changing all the time, but not all at once. Come to think of it, it's unlikely to ever go an exhaustive City-wide's done piece by piece now. You must, in essence, wait your turn, because you need the Department of City Planning to do a study and provide oversight of the ULURP. Last year, a portion of Crown Heights was rezoned. You can read all about it and get a sense of what can be done with ULURP at the neighborhood level. And you've already seen the results of Brooklyn rezonings like Williamsburg and Downtown and 4th Ave in Park Slope. Now maybe you can see why it's such a big (and sometimes tall) deal.

Okay, that's the backdrop. On Monday I sat in a room with a bunch of folks from Community Board 9 in the first of what will be many conversations, now that City Planning has agreed to take up our case. Despite some backlash about "process," the move by CB9 to send the letter initiating the process passed three months ago. I've since been to the Brooklyn Planning office twice, both times at the behest of the Prospect Park East Network. Since I've inserted myself in the process in three ways - as blogger, as CB9 member, and as a PPEN rep - I hope to stay in the game til the end. And it's going to take some time.

Next up, I'll discuss the players and their concerns. I wrote all about zoning at the time of the Community Forum a few months ago. A lot of what will be coming up in ULURP was brought forward then.

Safety Help For Parkside Playground

Hail to the Chief
Parkside Playground activist Pavani T. and Officer Martinos at the 71st confirmed that the Playground will get a full-time security officer, at least during the hours of greatest use, starting next week through the end of the summer. Thank Precinct Commander George Fitzgibbon for making the call, after hearing from many in the community of a need to rein in some particularly anti-social behavior, from weed smoking to Fight Club style testosterone fests, gang graffiti, and at least three incidents of fired guns since the Playground's opening.

Thanks Vinnie, Pavani, Inspector Fitzgibbon and all of you for keeping an eye on the young ones. They deserve a safe and sane place to let off steam, be kids, play ball, and douse themselves with cool water in the nifty fountains.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PLG Arts Invites You To a Party - This Weekend

These guys are the real deal. A powerhouse hyper-local arts group that you need to be supporting, because they be supporting you and your neighborhood! Plus, you get to check out Dorsey Gallery over on Rogers. If you're new to Planet Lefferts, check out all the cool stuff they do. And swing by on Saturday!

Dear Neighbor,

We invite you to become a member of PLG Arts, your neighborhood arts group. Want to learn more about the arts in our neighborhood?  Come to our free membership party!

Saturday, June 21, 2014
4 – 6 pm
Dorsey Gallery
- 553 Rogers Avenue, between Fenimore & Hawthorne

Please join us to meet your neighbors and enjoy refreshments, the exhibition, and music and theater performances. Learn about PLG Arts and its mission to cultivate creativity in our community.
What does your membership support? Here are a few of our activities:
  • Visual arts exhibits at Tugboat Tea Company; collaborations with Dorsey Gallery
  • Neighborhood murals
  • Jazz at the Inkwell
  • Chamber Music concert series
  • Theater performances and staged readings
  • Meet-the-Author book readings
  • Greening the Bridge live plant installations on the Lincoln Road Bridge
WE WANT TO DO EVEN MORE! And we want you to be part of it!
PLG Arts has steadily built on the vibrant creativity of the residents of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. Entrance to all our events is either free or low cost. With your support, we can do even more to produce new arts events and activities for everyone in our community and strengthen our neighborhood at the same time.

Your basic membership of $25 includes:
  • Merchant discounts locally and in the wider Brooklyn area
  • Special member events, such as “Dinner with the Artist”
  • Artist Memberships ($15) available
Can't attend, but would still like to support PLG Arts?  Join here!

We NEED you!

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

For more information, please contact or

Needed: Strong Dude Or Muscle Lady

I want to grab some awesome wooden planters for the bald spots on Clarkson Avenue. If you read this and have some strength, will you please email me? I want to do this tonight, just around dusk so it ain't so hot. Maybe 8:30? Gotta take these things from a roof on a dolly, down to the basement, and out to waiting 4x4.

It'll be like an Amish Barn Raising, without the barn or the Amish. Though if you ARE Amish, you're more than welcome, though maybe you'll have to walk the three short blocks rather than ride in the car?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Carpenters Nail Hudson

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters was out again today, taking aim at Hudson Companies for hiring subs who don't do the job via union workers. So if you were strolling the Flabenue today and wondered what the fuss was about THIS time at 626 Flatbush, there's your answer, and a pic for the files from neighbor Sven Carlsson:

Friday, June 13, 2014

626 Debate on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

The last bit of this piece is on 626 Flatbush. Other interesting bits on the seniors being kicked out of PPW and the Stuyvesant and Peter Cooper in the East Village.

I would encourage you to listen in particular to the bit near the end where it's pointed out how City Council Members can lead, and even fund, the sort of rezoning that would have rendered this whole discussion moot. Or put another way, if you know what the hell you're doing you put issues that matter to a huge number of constituents at the top of your to-do list. And if you don't know what those issues are, go and find out.

On the same day, Alison Novak from Hudson gave an interview that shows that from the beginning, as I noted a year ago, there was little recognition from Hudson that the building would ignite passions. I suspect she speaks not only for the developer but for a lot of folks who wonder what all the fuss is about. And that - the lack of understanding about the sensitivity of the issue - is the part that concerns me most. The courts, and the law, will determine the fate of this building and countless others. The underlying causes of distrust and dismay won't be resolved so easily.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Don't Know About You, But I Live In Melrose Park

Thanks Bob Marvin, for setting the record straight. I live in Melrose Place Park. Not to mention, I need to change the name of the blog to the "L at Woodruff." Priceless, Bob!

Hope you're reading Nicole & In & Cheryl et al

Site Specifc Theater This Saturday In Prospect Park Train Station

Now THIS is what I'm talking about!

Spellbound storyteller Lauren Jost takes preschoolers and their grownups on a journey through the subways of New York. This site-specific and interactive storytelling performance follows a lost toy through the colorful maze of tunnels under and above New York City.

Hosted by the Maple Street School and Spellbound Theatre, this unique event will take place at the Prospect Park Subway station.

Ages 2-5 and their grownups

Performance times:
June 14th, 10am
June 14th, 11:30am

Prospect Park Subway Stop (Q/B/S)
Lincoln Road Entrance

Tickets to this event are free, but seating is limited and reservations are required.  Please reserve your tickets here:

Created in collaboration with the students and staff of Maple Street School as part of Spellbound's 2014 in-school artist residency.

Without Landmark Status, in an R6 or Higher Zone, You Can Look Forward To These Replacing Rowhouses

More Real Estate Tidbits For Your Consideration

The Real Deal today reports that Douglas Elliman (or as I like to call him Doug E. Fresh) has once gain noted the rental price gains in Brooklyn. And once again, he's defined an area known as "Brownstone Brooklyn" in which Lefferts Gardens is the "cheapest" at $1,250/month for a studio apartment. In many an article that I've noticed, however, people have stopped noting that these figures are NOT for ALL of Brooklyn.

From the article (I'll follow with a bit of Q-analysis):

In Brooklyn, the median rental price in May was $2,800 per month, up 8.6% from $2,579 per month in May of 2013, according to the report.

Brooklyn’s most expensive apartments were two-bedrooms in Dumbo, which had a mean rental price of $5,321 per month, according to MNS’ May rental report, which was also released today. The least expensive apartments were studios in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, with a mean rental price of $1,250 per month.
“The shortage of new inventory in Manhattan (is) impacting Brooklyn,” said Andrew Barrocas, CEO of MNS. “I think the whole tech sector, having a big concentration in Brooklyn, has impacted the rental market and created a lot of demand for rental housing.”
But even as Brooklyn rental prices rose, Miller pointed out that they started to stabilize. Brooklyn’s median rental price of $2,800 per month was $500 less than Manhattan’s median rental price of $3,300 per month in May. In February, the difference was just $210.

In part, that’s thanks to new rental developments and more available inventory in Brooklyn. “There are more options for the consumer, therefore prices don’t rise as fast,” Luciane Serifovic, Elliman’s director of rentals, said. In the borough, inventory rose to 1,546 in May, up 57.3% from 983 a year earlier, according to the Elliman report.

Along with more inventory, landlords are easing up on concessions, according to Citi Habitats’ rental market report, also released today. In May, 7% of transactions included landlord concessions, down from 12% in March, according to the report.

“Landlords’ incentives during the last five months played a role in stabilizing pricing, as well as reducing vacancies,” Gary Malin, president of Citi Habits, said. “They created a sense of urgency for tenants to act where they weren’t acting before.”
"Malin said the numbers are likely to drop further. “Right now, given where vacancies are, the landlords put themselves in a strong position,” he said.
First off, Prospect Lefferts Gardens is NOT the cheapest by any stretch of a King County imagination. East Flatbush, Brownsville, East New York and probably Mill Basin, Flatlands and Sheepshead Bay are cheaper. Which means Doug E. only considers certain neighborhoods when making its analyses.

The last bit about increased inventory stabilizing prices is good news I suppose, particularly to the supply/demand folks who claim more luxury apartments make it cheaper than it would be otherwise. However, I'd like to point out one much overlooked fact. The single biggest way the borough has increased inventory (by the thousands) is by folks like Doug "deciding" that certain neighborhoods are okay for white folk to live in. When they (in concert with the media, notably the NY Times) declared Lefferts safe for white consumption, prices boomed. The demand out there is so intense that by saying it's okay to live there, prices can jump to the cheap rate of $1250 a month for a single room apartment.

I would argue that it is the declaration of neighborhoods as "hot" that adds to inventory, way more than new construction. And I'd add that the declaring of neighborhoods as "hot" creates unnatural desire on the part of the public to live in those neighborhoods, as opposed to Queens or Yonkers or god knows where.