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, October 15, 2014

Honest Mistakes vs. Pupu Platters

I wish I could say I'm done posting about the whole Lefferts rezoning thang. But I can't keep it to myself. The dung flinging just won't let up. And the lies are thicker than bugs on the bumper of an 18-wheeler driving through the Bayou.

First, the honest mistake. In his rush to get some good looking color maps of zoning in our district out to us, Ben the CB9 intern made a pretty big goof in labeling the areas of C8-2 as C2-8. Then just the other day a certain "zoning expert" brought in to talk to neighbors took a look and figured heck, that means a FAR of 10 and you could build hotels as high as the sky! Panic ensued in the "reply all" world, and the Q sent around a note to confirm that no, in fact, you cannot build a 60 story hotel on Empire Boulevard. What fool developer would try such a thing I have no idea. But then rationality has been in short supply lately, so who the eff knows.

It's C8-2, and absolutely a hotel could be built on Empire Blvd, though it would be a modest affair. Is that something MTOPP wants? Well, at the rate they're going, that's probably what they'll get, and I heard some pretty reliable whispers that exactly that is in the works. Does the Q care? Not much. It's a nice spot to visit, what with the Park and Garden and museum and all, and you'd probably get a decent restaurant out of it. Not a lot of hotels around here, considering how many people live in the area, so it could be a nice investment for someone. And technically, it wouldn't add to the density, would it? However, it WOULD probably impact some AirBnB hosts around here, so you might expect a protest or two in the hotel bar from time to time. All in a good night's sleep...

Here're the REAL zoning maps, even if they are dustier and less colorful than Ben's:

Oh, and then Suki Cheong, purportedly of PPEN but more and more sounding like Alicia, sends an "open letter" to the Community Board, using a list of emails she's grabbed probably by hijacking them from a CB9 "top secret" missive to the Board about, I dunno, parking for the meeting or something. Her letter was disowned by PPEN's steering committee later in the day, since PPEN is working on a statement of their own. Both Suki and AB have taken to sending direct messages to the 45 or so CB members aimed at influencing their votes and hearts. Which I suppose is legal and all, maybe, but in my time on the Board I can't ever remember someone hijacking the list to lobby the Board directly. Usually people come out to the meetings and speak their piece in the allotted time, and since it's our job to listen we usually do. And they don't usually shout down other speakers or serve up lawsuits to the one truly full-time paid employee, the DM, for transcribing the results of a share session into a letter to City Planning, as she was asked to do. For Suki's part, she practically helped write the resolution in the first place. She was there the night of the vote and congratulated me afterward. Sure they were pushing for a "text change" about Flatbush and Ocean specifically, but we already knew the answer from Planning was no, and this was our best shot at changing zoning around here.

 I could go on and on about what normal folks usually don't do, but let's just say that these two have really gotten under a lot of our craws. Mine? You bet. Not just for writing, but for slamming our reputations every chance they get. Because votes have not gone their way, rather than moving to the next phase and reasserting their views in a rational and respectful manner, they (and I'm sad to say even a few of the Board members) are convinced that we must UNsend a letter to City Planning that was already sent, and received positively, asking for a zoning study. The letter (or resolution if you must refer to it, since it was in fact voted upon and put in formal language, voted FOR by wide majority openly and after considerable discussion) was always intended and received as a starting point for a discussion about where build-able residential and commercial could happen in the neighborhood, and gauge the appetite for certain kinds of housing, including 80/20 or 50/30/20, and of course potential height limits, and maybe up, down or side-zoning various areas to conform with modern, more nuanced zones than the ones set in place some 60 years ago. In other words, if you've actually been paying attention and not listening to the demagogues and fear-mongers, you'd know that what we SHOULD be doing right now is talking in open forums with City Planning present, listening to diverse experts and speakers (keyword "diverse") about what our community could and maybe should look like in 20 years or so. (And by the way I've met these planners and they're basically Brooklynites like you and me so don't go picturing Montgomery Burns). But no, no...that's not what's happening, and I'm ashamed to say the disorganized and poorly led Board is not making it any easier by acting slowly and unpersuassively. These ARE volunteers after all, and not all are born for the gig. But, and this is a big butt, they are not bought and sold by Eric Adams or the development industry. They're for the most part bright, committed neighbors who've lived here for, on average, probably 40 years - many from the time they were born. I can guarantee the vast majority don't want outsized luxury buildings crowding out our way of life, and they most certainly DO want to see more means-tested affordable housing built, and they generally recognize that every change to a community has benefits and liabilities. But they generally ALSO recognize that change has been and is now all around us, and that a zoning study can do little more than address some of the potential pitfalls, and plan for growth in a way that's a little less haphazard. Too pedestrian and boring for you? I've got 5 letters and an address on Sterling Street to refer you to.

I'm pretty fed up watching neighbors of mine impugn the good names of folks on the Board without the decency of getting to know who they are. I mean, I'm seriously stunned that a decent human being could live with herself after some of her 23 (and counting) emails to her battered followers, but then, she's on a mission from God and facts and reputations are hardly worthy of comment in a slash and burn campaign. Folks, I'm not exaggerating. At some point I'll need to print all 23 (and counting) and you'll see how far afield the screeds have gotten.

Don't get me wrong. As an opinionated blogger (is there any other kind?) I expect to take some hits. It's part of the deal, and I'm putting myself out there to be egged on occasion. And politicians, well, they just have to suck it up. They signed up for the job and the First Amendment is one of the things they're sworn to uphold. They're gonna get slammed, and sometimes even libeled, but that's the gig. Sorry Eric and Laurie, but you only THOUGHT you won last November! The real fight will continue til the end of your term(s). Saundra Thomas, are you out there? Maybe it's better for your sanity that you lost after all!

I'll end with this. Richard Bearak, he of land use policy at the BP's office, has put it in a way I hadn't thought of before - perhaps it'll be useful to some of you other zoning newbies too. The current zoning map shows the POTENTIAL for residential units (roughly, of course). Why potential? Because many of these areas on the map are not built out fully.

When a building like 626 Flatbush comes along, it is allowed to build the maximum number of units, at a certain height, because that's what's cooked into the map. If we want to have ANY say at all about how this potential for growth will play out, we have to do a Zoning Study. If we don't, we get no say, and you'll probably read about one after another "surprise" building that ruins your whole breakfast.


no_slappz said...

Letters, meetings, complaints, character assassination, lies, deception, self-interest, name-calling, and the ponderous, slow-moving quicksand of bureaucracy -- what a combo.

Ebbets Field Apartments set the height precedent over 50 years ago. 626 Flatbush Ave reaffirmed the ancient precedent. Everything in between is headed up to similar altitudes.

It was reported today in a release from the NYCEDC that city hotel occupancy in August was 94%, which says the welcome-mat is out for more hotels.

It's not likely a hotel will cut into AirBnB business. In fact, the presence of a hotel, which would benefit from a marketing program more ambitious than Alicia Boyd's, would probably create more interest in visiting the area. For those intrigued by the area and simultaneously in search of bargain rates, AirBnB would answer their prayers.

Bob Marvin said...

I think N/S is right that a hotel would actually improve business for B&Bs. Of course it's probably just a coincidence that a certain B&B operator opposes zoning changes that might preclude hotels being built.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

And in timely fashion, the NY AG just called most AirBnB's illegal. Coincidence? :)

diak said...

Surprising (to me, at least) fact from today's NY Times article on the AirBnB story:

"The [AG's] report will say nearly three-quarters of all Airbnb rentals in the city are illegal, violating zoning or other laws. Commercial operators, not hard-luck residents, supply more than a third of the units and generate more than a third of the revenue. At least a handful of landlords are running what amount to illegal hostels."

And those landlords are pulling apartments that would otherwise be available, off the market...

Andre said...

The monthly CB9 meeting is 12 days away. At this moment there is still no agenda posted on their website. I attended last month's meeting and am not looking forward to a repeat of what happened in September. Members of MTOPP made their voices heard. Now it's our turn. How do we, the rest of the community, make our voices heard in a sane, respectful and constructive manner? How do we prepare for this next meeting if we don't even know what the agenda is? And to speak in front of the room, no sane person is going to volunteer to speak for 3 minutes if they know that for 3 solid minutes they are going to be heckled. And I use the term "heckled" loosely. As a board member, what do you suggest should be our next course of action? What clear steps should we take in order to achieve positive measurable results?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I wish I had a clear answer for you Andre. I've been back and forth with various people on this various issue, and my best guess is that people are going to have to express themselves outside of public forums, since AB seems intent on disrupting any and every meeting. We've asked various community groups to submit a position statement. I think it's probably time to create a petition as well that average Joes and Janes can sign.

You know, Alicia claimed to have 4,000 signatures. But for what, exactly? Her acolytes were obtaining signatures at the train stations, but they were saying the most ridiculous things about how signing the petition would stop the City from building luxury towers. The CITY from building luxury towers. If only! Luxury projects for EVERYone! Basically they were asking people to sign an anti-gentrification statement, whatever that is.

But that doesn't qualify as people being against a Planning Study. Who even knows what that IS? That's why such things are supposed to be decided by people who have at least a clue. Or have attended workshops or even committee meetings. Or, dare I say it, Community Board members, who are, despite all appearances to the contrary, ACTUAL intelligent members of the community. And yes, mostly African and Caribbean American with a smattering of orthodox Jews and run of the mill whites. And not a one represents the development industry.

No one's actually seen those petition sheets by the way. 4,000 is a boatload. I think we need to demand to see them.

kingscounty said...

Maybe a show of civilized solidarity? LIke every time there's a sustained disruption, those of us who would prefer to hear what the recognized speaker is saying simply stand up and silently raise our hands or something?

If the crowd is introduced to the concept early in the meeting, I'd guess something like that would catch on quick and would send a message that rational voices far outnumber the obstructive ones.

Anybody seen something like this work? I think I remember Occupy Wall Streeters doing something similar at their leaderless town halls or whatever.

Jackie Springfield said...

Sadly, I think any study might be doomed. If we as a community can't come together and decide how to proceed and there are some that are hellbent on not compromising on anything.

Also, I think the only voices that have been heard by City Planning are from one raging con artist who's biggest concern is a shadow on her herb garden. I guess when you're sitting on million dollar property, you don't really care about affordable housing.

How can someone be so blind. Development is happening, whether you like it or not. Why, because there is demand!!!! Developers aren't coming here because they are on a secret mission to take over black communities. They are coming here because they can make money!!! Right now we have no control over what is happening and is going to keep happening. Hey AB, how successful were you at stopping 626?? How are those lawsuits go?? Why, because they were buiding AS A RIGHT!! It's legal!! With current zoning they're not doing anything wrong.

She may be able to bully elected officials and the community board into following her ignorant misguided lead, but that's not going to work with the developers.

The city has finally given us an opportunity to take some control over our community (height limits, mandatory inclusionary housing) and look at the show our community has put on. We'll never have full control, because this is America where money does most of the talking, and money has set its sights on Prospect/Lefferts Gardens.

Don't let someone who says she wants her neighborhood to be affordable but takes an affordable housing unit off the market so her airbnb tourists have a place to stay. She rails against tourism in the neighborhood, yet she is singlehandedly bringing the tourists in. She calls herself a healer in the same vain that Benny Hinn can fix your back by putting his hand on your forehead. This woman has made a living off of conning people and this is her latest scam. She cares about herself, her property, and nothing else.

I say our because bad apples and all, we're one tree. And if the roots get poisoned we all die.

Ok, I got it out.

no_slappz said...

Patio Gardens, Ebbets Field Apartments, Tivoli Towers, and now 626 Flatbush Ave. It's settled. It's all about tall. There's no grounds for a height fight. New construction is heading skyward -- because it can. Because it already has.

Alicia Boyd can rampage through meetings, shout down anyone and everyone who opposes her. But it doesn't matter. No one outside the meeting rooms is listening. She and her crowd are performing in a closed venue that has no power to persuade anyone up the municipal ladder.

Eric Adams wants to see more construction projects. Every city council member wants more construction projects -- even if their public statements go the other way. Only a handful of local residents are opposed, but as we know, the new buildings will be around far longer than the opponents. And all neighborhood property owners will benefit from the presence of the new buildings and new people who come into the area.