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, August 28, 2014

Zoning and Stoning

the lovely space that is Tafari Cafe last night

Despite enduring a mean-spirited personal attack, I quite enjoyed the tone and message from last night's zoning workshop/info session with Tom Angotti. I hadn't intended to speak as a rep for the Community Board but was happy to. With more than 20 new members, there's not a lot of "institutional memory" at CB9 anyway, other than D.M. Pearl Miles and deposed chair Jake Goldstein, maybe Mike Cetera who was (is?) the ULURP chair that heads up zoning issues. Here's hoping the new leadership assigns committees ASAP. I put my hat in the ring, but haven't heard so I'm doubtful.

Bottom line: folks are mad. Folks want to organize, and they're looking for common ground. Folks want to know what the City really has in mind, and they want their elected officials to take a stand in keeping with their flapping gums. Or, if those power-brokers got an idea that goes against the grain, they need to articulate it and let the people know that they're taking their stand for the "greater good" or whatever. I liked the speeches at the end, for folks talked of the need for unity. Would have been nice if those speeches started off every community meeting, before they heat up.

Look folks, I'm not gonna lie. I don't care for shouting matches and people hogging the spotlight when they should be raising their hand and waiting their turn. I like passion, I really do, but it's gotta be FOR your cause, not to character assassinate. I like raking politicians through the coals as much as the next guy, but I'm also not into distorting or exaggerating people's words for personal gain. The Borough President may have mentioned, as many of us have, that Empire Boulevard could stand for some apartments. Right here on this blog I imagined a vision along Empire for truly middle class housing, you know the kind for households making less than a hundred grand? Turns out we're living in a city where six figures is not a hell of a lot of money to raise a family on, and we need to keep these folks in NYC every bit as much as the working poor. If that offends your sensibility, then I would ask that you disagree with me with a wee bit of gentility! Ah hell, do whatever you want, I can take it. I may be a "fat white fuck," but I'm a FWF with a thick skin (that easily burns in the summer mind you). And I've got all kinds of thoughts about how to better keep people in rent-stabilized apartments, if you want to hear them. Actually, you probably don't, but then you can always go back to Youtube when you get bored.

What is emerging, if I may be so bold as to call the play-by-play, is that folks around Empire are very leery of any rezoning or zoning study. They imagine a worst-case scenario, as those who live on or just-off Flatbush have, where tall market-rate apartments ruin their quality of life (one already is). Of course, the ironic part is that all this building is raising home values. And let's face it, an awful lot of the folks at this meeting are home or apartment owners, all of whom have profited greatly (at least on paper, myself included). So what drives all this anti-development anger?

I would argue that for many it's a combination of one or more of the following: a sense of powerlessness, a sense of betrayal, a lifetime of experienced racism, and/or a sense of fear of the unknown. No one can really see the future. We draw conjecture, we hypothesize and we create doomsday scenarios or utopian visions. Humans are notoriously bad at forecasting the future. And that's why this whole zoning thing is a bit of a crapshoot - we may THINK we're doing right by the community, but we might end up like Park Slope, with a 4th Avenue-like corridor that feels Dystopian and unfriendly, that accomplishes goals by bulldozing through communities that have little or no say in the process. When I entered into the fray, I thought it seemed pretty simple. Downzone, or even just get a text change, so you can't build anymore towers over a certain height. But now, after engaging the powers-that-be and tapping into anger and resentment over myriad other issues, we may have done ourselves a disservice in that regard. Maybe it WAS better not to have the CIty looking at this neighborhood holistically. Because frankly, as Tom Angotti noted last night, once the "plan" is hatched, the Mayor won't even let the study happen til he has his ducks in a row. And who are the ducks? The big-pocketed folks and the power brokers. The Q's been the guy saying from the beginning that it's really only the Mayor who could stop 626 or any other building or planning scenario. He has the key, the lock and the tools to the shed. All we get is a couple of coffee cans full of rusty bolts and screws. If I'm to take the metaphor to the next level, the BP gets to use the lawn mower. Sometimes.

The Borough President gets the mower Mondays, Thursday and alternate weekends
Alls I'm saying here is the genie is out of the bottle, the mower is out of the shed, the seal is off the top of the Pringles. And by antagonizing the guy with the mower, we may actually not be able to see the lawn for the blades. You know, forest for the trees? Cut off our noses to spite our face? Throw out the baby with the bathwater? Get sold down the river for an emperor's new coat?
Someone asked about zoning maps. Here they all are.

Below is the district-wide one, but if you click through the above link you get juicy details. I actually don't even remember what I wrote back then. I wonder if I've evolved?


Anonymous said...

Maybe these people are envisioning the C2-8 zone on Empire Boulevard to be upzoned to R7-1. I have no sense as to how likely or unlikely that would be.

Alex said...

So... people are sniping over a two block stretch of Empire when nearly all of the surrounding nearby blocks could be redeveloped into highrises under current R7-1 zoning?

And did someone really call you FWF? Sorry that you had to endure that.

So the MTOPP rallying cry is, "long live the two block industrial zone," I guess?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

yep. I got the FWF. A couple of others got the WB. That's a troubled dude. But don't sweat it anyone. Testosterone is a powerful drug.

So to Disco I'd say only that "up" zoning does not seem like an accurate description of going from commercial to residential, or mixed-use residential. So until last night I had no idea what MTOPP was saying.

And to Alex, while I appreciate your sarcasm, I assure you that folks are quite serious about leaving Empire alone, rather than have it developed per anyone's agenda.

I think it would be helpful for us all to respect that for what it is, knowing that many will disagree and have a right to. That's why it's not easy, and why there may be a few more FWF's before we're done. Hopefully no more WB's though.

Democracy, even a warped one, is never pretty. Bring it on.

Alex said...

No doubt, but you're being cryptic, CF! What was MTOPP saying?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Since my last comment, Alicia Boyd sent me an email calling me many more names. Hmmm. Starting to smell something fishy.

Anyhow, she said they want no residential on Empire. That's as close to a definitive answer as she'll give me. She's pissed off almost all the elected officials at this point, and CB9, and many neighborhood organizations. I don't know how much farther she expects to go, but she sure got a lot off her chest in that email! I'm saving it for now, but I'll print it if she gives me any more headaches.

Govan said...

Print away CF. She should go on the record concerning her ideas on the direction of this area. A quick google search possibly puts her residing on that easily forgotten first block of Sterling which may well be the hidden gem of the neighborhood. It flys under the radar unlike it's sisters Maple, Midwood, and Rutland, but has only a fraction of the traffic, both foot and car. A very quiet block.

Residential development potentially threatens everything that block enjoys. You might say the same of streets like Montgomery. I have mixed feelings on it all. In the end people get a little more fired up when the issues at hand start infringing on their own backyards whether it be being pushed out of apartments or more density near your own 2000sq ft of turf. Not equating the two in any respect, just wondering about motivations. Everybody has a horse in the game.

boleroid said...

If someone is asking for the support of their neighbors and is also fine throwing around racial slurs, those neighbors should kinda be aware of the sort of person they're lining up next to.

babs said...

I wan't able to attend this meeting, and reading your description, I'm glad I missed it. I was hoping (as I'm sure PPEN and PLGNA were) for a civilized, informative session, which is really what the people most concerned by this need, but obviously the MTOPP types are having none of that. Unfortunately, they're capitalizing on the fears of a lot of people who don't know any better.

I think that, regardless of what does or doesn't happen on Empire, Sterling between Washington and Bedford will always be less-trafficked, specifically because it's only one way and it doesn't go all the way through to Flatbush, so it's of no use as a short cut through the neighborhood (unlike Lefferts Ave., where I live - a two-way street that goes directly into East NY Ave., meaning that trucks use it all the time, even though we've had Truck Route and No Through Trucks signs installed).

Anonymous said...

Heh. Trucks aren't supposed to use Lefferts Avenue? That sounds like a good candidate for another NYPD crackdown.

I've seen the MTOPP flyers in my building. From the artistic rendering on the flyers, they seem to be afraid that large high-rises will be built in their backyards.

babs said...

From what I understand they are required to turn onto Rogers when heading east and to take Empire when heading west (they may then turn on Bedford and go down to Lefferts). I think it's only the blocks east of Rogers that are off-limits to through trucks. We've worked with the DoT on this for years (hence the signs and a speed bump) but the NYPD really doesn't care (as usual).

Parkside_Guy said...

Clarkson, you jumped the shark when you aligned yourself with the "PLG Communist Party". Predictably, they've turned on you, now that you and anyone with a brain realizes the only thing that will sustain low income people in rent-stabilized apartments is building more "luxury highrises [that are] bringing down the quality of life of the area" (not sure what that was supposed to mean).

Unfortunately they should have built the "hated" towers 10 years ago in Prospect Heights. Then this area could have stayed cheap indefinitely. As it is, people are now being pushed to East Flatbush and Brownsville, because we waited too long as a city to allow more housing to be built. Building more housing will always lower rental costs, but it might do it 2 neighborhoods away. It's simply supply and demand. NYC has absorbed 300,000 new residents in the last four years alone. How many new housing units did they build? Probably 20,000 per year. Anyone out there want to tell me where all these people are supposed to live??

I can't imagine why any rational individual would try and prevent upzoning Empire. It is hands-down the ugliest stretch of roadway for miles. Some millionaire NIMBYs operating under the guise of "equality"? (seriously, check real estate values on that block.) i love the irony. But, at the very least, her lies are now exposed for all to see. Apologies to CF for being the one to expose that.

no_slappz said...

It appears the de Blasio real estate development plan is finally seeing the light of day.