The Q at Parkside

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

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yep. Landlords Matter.

Last weekend two men were shot in the lobby of 250 Clarkson, between Rogers and Nostrand. It's always harrowing when bullets fly in such a public place, and a stark reminder that we live in a City in close quarters with one another, as hundreds of residents in that building and close-by had to endure open violence so close to where they lay their heads. There are probably 2,500 people living between me and that building, but it's just two long blocks, which can sometimes in NYC feel like a LONG way away. It's not of course. Last year at this time shootings were a bit too many for comfort, I think we'd all agree, and the Q was shouting to anyone who would listen about it. We even got a new C.O. at the 71st, I would argue because of the uptick. Just two years since poor marksmanship left a young mother dead on my very block, and a year and a half since an innocent transit work was shot dead on Lincoln Road for looking at a drunk trio of hoodlums the wrong way, it's hardly front page news that a sloppy "assassination" style shooting took place on a summer weekend a couple days ago. In general, shootings are up a bit in the precincts around the 71st, while in Lefferts proper they're down a notch. So the Q's not screaming about it, just resigned to the fact that there are too many guns, too few jobs, and plenty of resentments and turf wars out there to keep the NYPD in business.

But something about this particular crime, still seeking a perp, is worthy of note.

250 Clarkson is owned by a man named Barry Hers. Hers also owns 60 Clarkson. Both buildings have dozens of units that he lets to the City for its scatter-site homeless housing program. If you want to read more on the disgrace that is a "program" that would pay a slumlord $3,000 a month to use a "temporary" homeless shelter, rather than allow its continued use as a rent-regulated apartment, well here's a couple of the Q's past posts. Uno, and Dos. And tres. And you simply must listen to the WNYC piece on his buildings and the program.

This is not the first time that 250 Clarkson has endured violence. 60 Clarkson is home to near-nightly visits from the cops or ambulances. Despite repeated pleas for 24-hour security, a lone occasional doorman sits at a dilapidated desk deep inside the lobby. Two times upon my entering the building, which is usually unlocked, he didn't even look up as I dropped off books or toys in the lobby. No questions. No nothing. Residents tell me this is par for the course. Remember, this building is home to dozens of kids and women who are enduring longterm abuse from men. The place should be airtight for christ's sake.

So what happens in buildings when you place 60 vulnerable families into squalor, without the security and services they need, with a drunk or stoned super, and a landlord so vile he can't set foot on the block without bodyguards? Well, there's the 9-year girl who was raped by a 14-year old on the roof last year. I've documented more than a half-dozen serious crimes, and countless anecdotal incidents of neglect, violence and capital T trouble over the past few years. 250 Clarkson, and other Hers owned makeshift "homeless shelters," also receive more than their fair share of calls for police, fire and ambulance. And as I have expressed to whomever will listen, I blame Barry Hers for creating the unsafe tinder-box conditions in his buildings. When I floated his name to CAMBA C.E.O. Joanne Oplustil she shook her head and said "we're working on it, it's a real problem." CAMBA is responsible for providing the needed social services to homeless clients in these buildings, but I went so far as to visit them at headquarters to ask why the heck CAMBA couldn't exert more pressure to get Hers to clean up his act. The Department of Homeless Services is responsible for creating an expensive folly that enriches the likes of Hers while not providing a true environment conducive to homeless recovery. We've got the money...let's do it right.

I hear from an insider that DHS is moving to end the Scatter-Site program. One would hope they'll create a smarter and more secure alternative. I read all the time that neighborhoods go ape-shit whenever news of a new shelter is announced. To which I say...fine. Build the shelters. We as decent neighborhoods can make room for those in need. But for God's sakes do it right. I live within blocks of at least a dozen high-needs buildings, and there is a night and day difference between well-run and full-on chaotic and dangerous.

For the safety and quality of life for everyone involved, we need the City to hear us and do the right thing.

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