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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time To Give To Parkside Plaza

From Rudy and In and Duane and Sonya and Blaise and...actually the list is much too long to write in the 2 minutes I have between bedtimes, but here's a note from Rudy, asking for a little gift in the run-up to "Giving Tuesday," a particularly galling answer to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Please Just Get It Over With And Kill Me Now Sunday.

Hi, everyone,
On Tuesday night, we'll be calling a close to our fundraiser.  If there is anyone who you have asked to give, and who you've been meaning to remind, now is the time!  The link is here:

The video alone is here:

Parkside Paradise from Thorsten Thielow on Vimeo.

If anyone has any doubts about how great the plaza will look next spring, you can send them photos form our daffodil planting:
But, as of now, we've raised $6000.  I know there are a few thousand more dollars out there for the asking, and I know we're going to need the money once the plaza gets built.  So make those last asks, and let's see how much more we can raise:

Friday, November 28, 2014

MTOPP Shifts To the Real Battle

While poor Pearl Miles continues to bear the brunt of Alicia Boyd's malice, MTOPP is turning some of its legal energy to the real bear...scandalously unscrupulous landlords. Let's hope this is the beginning of MTOPP's alliance with the Flatbush Tenants Coalition and the Crown Heights Tenants Union, two groups who have actually hit the road with the rubber to bring real justice to real people.

If they have success helping even one unfairly targeted family stay in their homes, they will have been heroes in the Q's book (of heroes, I guess, which I'll be publishing right here, and probably won't actually look like a book, but whatever.) The other lawsuits they've leveled against the Community Board are frivolous and dangerous to the notion of community involvement in zoning. Let's hope the pivot becomes more than a passing fancy. Racist landlords are the real enemy, not your neighbors who just happen to disagree with you on how best to address the already-coming development with a bit more restraint and intelligence.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking the Bulb By the Horns

Sunday was spectacular along the X/Y axes, X being Parkside and Y being Ocean. Two of the neighborhood's biggest stars of beautification - Rudy Delson and Amy Musick - led throngs of sweaty masses through the process of bulb planting. And to sweeten the pot, the Parkside Committee set up a model plaza to show off what might soon be, once In Cho's design with DOT takes off next Spring. Oh, and a library too, right out there on the Plaza? Believe it.
Musick on Ocean

Bulbs Don't Plant Themselves, Now Do They?
How Nutty To See Actual Hanging Out Happening Here
The Pop-Up Library Caught Many By Surprise
By the way to find out more about the Uni Reading Room project, here's the jump. And there's still a bit of time to donate to the Parkside Paradise Plaza Project.

Lastly, I believe I'd mentioned that Rudy managed to raise some discretionary money from Mathieu "Can Do" Eugene. $4,000 I think. Thing was, it had to be given to a 501c3 non-profit. No problem! Mathieu was comfortable giving it to the fledgling Friends of CB9 group that I thought I was a part of; heck I even payed $50 to keep it afloat right when it got off the ground. Seems the current CB9 leadership doesn't want me involved, so I'm outa there, and the door didn't hit me as I left, letting them know my displeasure. Shame, because in yet another realm they have no idea what they're doing and need to ask for assistance. I tried to make the case not to have the Board of the 501c3 be the same as the elected Executive Committee of the Board, since those positions can change every year and you want some consistency on the TOTALLY SEPARATE entity that's set up to raise money for community projects. Did it bother the Q that his advice, after years in non-profit management, and his offer to volunteer his time were brushed aside? Oh yeah. When it comes to people being petty and stubborn about losing their control over their tiny fiefdoms I have no tolerance. Poor Rudy, I left him to fend for himself, but he's a lawyer and clearly knows how to get stuff done. But see, heroes like Delson don't let this stuff get to them. They doggedly pursue their goals, and never betray any frustration. That's the mark of a true leader. Me, all I can do it huff, puff, blog and sigh. Maybe there's a reason for it all, but I can't yet see it. The hitch is that Friends Of needs nearly $2,000 to get the insurance that will allow them to accept the City's money. Good luck guys. You're gonna need it.

Those tidbits matter not in the big picture. One day, we'll look back and note that 2014 was the year that the neighborhood started to look prettier, even while right under the surface the waters roiled and the sharks swarmed. As Amy noted, maybe best to focus on the things we can all enjoy. Even the wee ones can enjoy a good bulb planting now and then.

Bumper Stickers For a Dimmer Future

Is that poo wearing glasses?

Courtesy of Paul G, get your bumper stickers here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

It takes a lot not to notice the changes big and subtle on the Flabenue these days. For years the vibe was generally the same day to day to week to month. And certain things still are dependably as they were. But the more you walk it, and I walk it a lot, and ride the bike (when the kids are NOT in tow of course), the more you notice that the foot traffic is quite a bit more intense these days. People seem to be going somewhere in a hurry, and it's not just because it's getting colder. Transplants to Brooklyn move with a sense of purpose, maybe unease, maybe just always late, but there definitely seems to be an agenda. Am I imagining this? As the next generation of "quarterfinalists" hang their shingle in the NYC Entrepreneurial Persona Sweepstakes, it feels both familiar and tiring, with every new face a potential friend or competitor, or both. At what point do you stop caring? And will anyone not working for the City EVER retire, or are we doomed to reinvent ourselves every decade til we keel over from the sheer weight of self-discovery?

It's all what it is, of course, and what it is includes some of the following. First, the big BIG news that's hardly news at all:

Man, oh man, once you lay that concrete you can really build baby build. Only five  more stories to go, by my count. Then I notice this:

Just a couple years ago I was talking to Wilfrid Compere, president of the Flatbush Merchants Association. He ran the above tax-prep joint, and now it's for rent, not just by "some dudes from Boro Park" but by big-time agents Douglas Elliman, or Doug E Fresh as he's known by me. In fairly short order, Wilfrid and Delroy Wright were sent packing by the newly formed Parkside Empire merchants association, which has worked with CB9's Economic Development committee to organize a Buy Local campaign. It's always a great idea to support your ma & pa businesses, because their success is OUR success. Don't you think? Under CB9 EDC chair Warren Berke you get the following pic:

I don't necessarily buy the line "it take you to start the trend," because the more important truth is "it takes you to FOLLOW a trend," since really only one person can start it, or two people who will forever argue over who actually started it. But I quibble. It's all for the best, eh Warren?

I'm always amused and a bit shocked to see the following scene. We've all seen it dozens of times, but lately I notice how incredibly shoddy is the execution. It goes like this: medical arts building, a clinic say, with those mailboxes for "specimens," looking something like this:

Kinda makes sense. You've got some gunk you need tested and they come and pick it up. You put it in a box with a key, so they can pick up after hours. I get that, though it seems like pretty shoddy safety of the specimens to me, plus there's all manner of wintry and summery weather to freeze or melt your, um, "specimens." But on further inspection, I walked up to these just to see how easy it would be to mess with them. Hell, they weren't even locked down. You could just pick these up and walk away. Not that you'd necessarily have reason to walk off with a box of, um, "specimens." But then I get a look at the print on the box, and now I can't help but let out a girly shriek. I mean c'mon:

Well, I guess we should be glad it's blood and urine ONLY. No bile or entrails allowed.

(This is where I start to feel like blogging was invented by Andy Rooney's grandson).

A new barber shop opened between Joyce David's law office and Hawthorne Hardware, in case you want to get a haircut between buying spray paint and getting busted. I like the sign, and the name: East Coast Barbers. Maybe one of you typesetting or graphic types can tell me what type of...TYPE...that is. I mean font. Cuz I likes. It's a familiar feeling...maybe early '80s hip-hop? I love the pac man "c" that looks like it's eating the "o."And the little line that makes a triangle an "a?" Wait a second. That IS a Pac Man font! Right? Heading over to Google Images now...yep! Not exactly, but really close. God how I love the Google! (now I love it, before it turns on us, if it hasn't already. Basically my whole life revolves around Google. They have all my pictures, videos, my blog, my friends, my music. They know everything about me, even as I'm living my life, they gather each day, each second. Truman Show ain't got nothing on this. Dang. You reading this Google? Google? I'll be good Google, promise I'll be. Just don't dump my stuff, please?)

What an awesome mural next to Errol's, no? I love the way the hardware attached to the building seems woven into the picture. I don't think until recently did I fully appreciate what an extraordinary effect a well-done mural can have on a place. Between this one, the Crown Heights Youth Collective one at Winthrop, the PLG Arts one and the Kwenci Jones jungle-love near Empire, that's a lot of visuals twinkies for a hungry phat man walking slow enough to appreciate it all.

Lost Kitty

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Finally...the Smoking Gun!

What you're about to read may shock you. A prophylactic Klonopin may be in order. It would appear, on close inspection, that the ill-fated motion to rescind CB9's Zoning Study Resolution has...PASSED AFTER ALL. That's right. The vote count was wrong. So even though 18 members of the Board in September were new and had little knowledge of what was being voted on (since the meeting itself was meant to inform them but there was no chance of that given the screaming and yelling, and some even complained after that they didn't realize a "yes" vote was actually a "no" vote) even the tally itself was reported wrong. In a nearly epic display of Keystone-Copsism, the motion to rescind did in fact pass. Adding a note of irony to the proceedings is the fact that your correspondent - the Q - had actually just left the auditorium before the motion vote, sensing that the meeting had been a dismal failure and that his presence was not needed, especially because there was no plan to vote on anything, it having just been summer and there was nothing on the agenda or committee reports to vote on, until Fred Baptiste blindsided everyone by giving in to Alicia's ranting. Meaning had I stayed, and voted "nay" as would have been my preference, the motion actually would have FAILED, because it would have been an even number of ay's against a combination nays/abstentions, meaning no majority of yeses as required by the City charter. I mean, how nuts is that? Once again, you can blame it on the Q.

Words cannot convey the supreme absurdity that has accompanied a seemingly straightforward attempt to make updates and improvements to the 50 year-old zoning rules that led to a certain 23 story tower at 626 Flatbush. At this point, I'm flabbergasted that so much energy and time has been wasted on this sh#tshow.

Here's the smoking vid from which Alicia made her astute observation about the real count:

There's a lot of hilarious moments in that, but I suspect you're not prepared to give up an hour and forty minutes of your precious time. And rather than post all the pictures of the tally sheets, I encourage you to simply go over to MTOPP's website if you want the whole sordid history with footnotes. The gist - a couple votes were tallied the wrong way, which made it appear that there weren't enough "yes" votes to rescind. Before you jump to the assumption that someone rigged the vote, I would remind that MOST people voted to rescind and we all figured it was passing anyway so there was no reason to fudge. Seems secretary Rosemarie Perry or Pearl or whoever was writing them down didn't do themselves or us any favors here.

It was an error, a human error. But costly, when you consider the fact that now Alicia and her acolytes have more ammunition to accuse the Board of corruption and deceit. For all I know, this could turn out very badly for the current Executive Committee, whom I suppose with all the legal paper floating around could be forced to resign or at least eat some public humble pie. Though the easier route, and the one that I've been pushing them to take at every opportunity I get, is to just send it back to committee and let the chips fall where they may. I get why Board members are loathe to do that, feeling they've been bullied into it. Now I believe there's no getting around it. You have to respect the motion and go back to committee. I'm actually hoping the Board appoints a Parliamentarian, because they're completely lost when it comes to procedure. That person could be me, since I offered, but the Board chair has decided he doesn't like me and is probably not going to do that. So an outsider might be forgiven for thinking the whole circus has gone from very "high school" to very "junior high." At the last meeting, I sat in front of two of the Hasidic board members whom I'm friendly with, and they were making hilarious side-comments throughout, which made me feel that I had in fact turned back the clock to 1980 in my junior high auditorium, though in Ames IA there were 100% fewer Orthodox Jews. Despite the heckles being occasionally in Yiddish, it was pretty much the same scene as when Kathy Gradwohl ran for student council.

In a related story, this week I was at a Town Hall organized by the Washington Avenue block association. That loooooooonnnnng block runs from Eastern Parkway to Empire, and is interestingly MOSTLY as developed as it can be, given the extraordinary five and six story pre-war structures currently on it. Plus, two new projects that are coming on line (and therefore not affected by any talk of zoning changes that wouldn't take place for a couple years anyway) will flesh it out. There's a fair amount of low-rising fruit and parking and vacant lots and vacant to the east that seems likely to rise into housing at some point. One thing to note: many in attendance would start their question by saying "I keep reading that...", and of course what they've been reading is the MTOPP literature and emails that get pretty much every point wrong. Adams was clearly annoyed by that, but generally kept his cool.

Anyways, the BP started the Q&A by laying into Alicia, although not by name, for a hate-filled campaign that the night before had exploded on a scene down in Ditmas Park, where neighbors gathered with Adams and Councilmen Eugene and Williams to talk about crime amidst a current spree of armed robberies. Apparently, Miss Boyd (you can read the meeting's play-by-play) made it very clear that she considered gentrification to be the cause for current criminal strife and and hijacked a meeting about "solutions" and turned it into a referendum on housing. Which, while important, was hardly the point, and instead of "coming together" as the politicians like to say, insults were hurled and anger stoked.

What the hell? So anywho, there's Adams and his zoning guy Richard Bearak once again saying what they've said for a half a year, which is that they will not abide tall towers, only six stories max, to be built within the CB9 zoning study. And he made it pretty clear that Boyd had made it impossible for people to talk to each other and that he had even reached out to her and she had told him "I hate you" and would do everything in her power to make sure he fails to meet his development goals.

Oh, and did the Q tell you about her performance at the CB9 meeting on Tuesday? After threatening to shut down the meeting because the allotted time for public comment had expired and some people weren't gonna be able to talk, the dude from Medgar Evers offered to cede his presentation time to hear from the remaining speakers. Which I figured Dwayne Nicholson and company should have done anyway since there were only four more speakers lined up and what the hell give them their time at the mic. They mostly said the same old stuff - mad as hell and ain't gonna take it anymore - so there wasn't much to report there.

BUT...Boyd actually brought up a prop for her passionate and tear-filled performance. A young boy. He was, according to Boyd, about to be evicted the following day. There was no information provided on the why, but she claimed she was not fight for herself, but rather fighting for him and his mother (who was in the room) despite the fact that zoning has pretty much NOTHING to do with housing laws for current residents. During her speech, a few of the well-connected officials in attendance offered up their help to keep them in their home, but she not deterred. She went on to say that the young boy would end up in the awful homeless shelter system where (and this floored me) he will be subject to sexual abuse. She actually suggested to us all that the boy she was using as a prop was going to be sexually abused because we were not giving in to her position, whatever that is.

That, my friends, was the single most despicable act I've seen in these public meetings and I've seen a few. That kid was right there. In front of us all. Being paraded like a pygmy at a carnival and told he had horrible inhuman acts to look forward to in his near future. And it was at this point that something came out of Boyd's mouth that I suspect was not a malaprop. She used the word "we" and "us" in a couple of instances that made it quite clear to me that she considered such abuse to be something that she was familiar with. I could, of course, be mistaken, but suddenly my memory of conversations with folks who have had the unthinkable happen in their own childhoods suddenly came to me as a possible reason for the healing non-profit that she started and the mania that I've seen on display when she fights for the "dispossessed." At the very least, SOMEthing is going on here that for the life of me I can't explain, and perhaps the explanation is something human, something horrible, or at the very least psychological. I'm no expert, but I can recognize pain disguised by furor when I see it. And Tuesday's performance betrayed pain at the core, and suddenly I have no interest in assailing her character. Were I a praying man, perhaps this would be the time.

That's all from your seeking-humble correspondent, and I hope that all's well in your world as you enter the T-Giving week, which despite the hype I still try to imbue with gratitude for the remarkably bountiful and politically stable life that many of us have been merely born into, not earned. Thus the gratitude, to the fates or to your higher power. Because while Democrats and Republican might be tearing each other new ones, much of the rest of the world seems gripped with a homicidal passion from God so powerful that it would deny every human being in its path the right to live peaceably, if live at all.

God, so he tells me, has taken no position on the rezoning plan for CB9.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Live Blogging Ebola in Brooklyn

UPDATE AT 7:20 PM: Thanks be to Allah! No Ebola in Brooklyn (is that a Beastie Boys song?)...yet. The Bed-Stuy man who was thought to possibly have the Ebola came up negative. 

I like Laurie. I don't know Robert. But I like that within minutes of the announcement that Ebola may have come to Bed-Stuy, they issued a press statement. That's what leaders do. I also like that this gave me a chance to start to bury the blog posts that were even more about me than usual. I thought about NOT posting on them, but that seemed even weirder, since the whole point of this blog was self-examination and truth-telling. And truth be told, it WOULD be a big deal if Ebola started to spread in Brooklyn. Though given the intimacy required to become infected, I would just suggest we not share bodily fluids with strangers for the next 24-48 hours. Friends, lovers and congenial colleagues only. With consent, of course.

Joint Statement from Council Members Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. and Laurie A. Cumbo Regarding a Potential Ebola Case in Bedford-Stuyvesant

BROOKLYN, NY - Council Members Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. and Laurie A. Cumbo released the following joint statement in response to a potential Ebola case in Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn:

"One great benefit of our city's diversity is the compassion it naturally teaches for neighbors whose home cultures and experiences differ from ours. Central Brooklyn is home to many New Yorkers who are part of the African diaspora. Thus, we have been focused on the ebola crisis in West Africa both in prayer and in action, sponsoring a public health education forum focused on ebola and enterovirus in the 36th district just last week.

"We do not yet know if our community member is suffering from ebola or if his symptoms are due to another issue. Whatever the case may be, we are grateful that our city is well prepared to give him proven treatment of the highest quality while also protecting others who may be at risk.

"We encourage our constituents to maintain their compassionate focus on the well-being of us all. Anyone concerned that they have been exposed to ebola through travel or other means should call 911 to access a medical response, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. Others with questions or concerns may call 311 or our offices to be added to the contact list for future public health related outreach efforts."

"Q" and A

Rather than ask myself questions, which of course I do all the time, here's an interview of the Q by the indefatigable Norman Oder. I tried to get them to take my picture with my shirt show off my six-pack abs...but they said it was too cold outside and I might nip out. Apparently it's a family publication.

Interview with the Q in

Bklnr lets you read one article a month, but you have to pay for a subscription of $2 a month to read it all, and there are tons of good pieces in it worth reading more than the one on me. They're trying to create a journalistic model where the journalists actually get paid. Good luck with that! (Actually, my work-around was to open it up in a separate browser so it thinks it's your first time. But I would NEVER endorse that kind of thing. And anyway, you can only do that so many times before you feel like a thief.)

Seriously though, Norman is a good guy, a smart guy, a Flatbushian himself, and he writes the insanely thorough Atlantic Yards Report, which you'd be silly not check in with from time to time. And yes, look for a book from him in the near future. His theme? Don't trust "the Man."

The Q Goes TV to Talk Trees

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cock-a-doodle-doo, Caledonia

photo: Elizabeth C.
It's made of glass, apparently. Quite striking, don't you think? Corner of Woodruff and St. Pauls at the entrance to 123 on the Park.

Holy Smokes...Really?

The Q, it's been said, is obsessed with race and how it plays out in our neighborhood. Just so you don't think I'm too localized in my fascination and indignation, every once in awhile I like to zoom out a bit.

I'm sure you've heard how black Americans make seriously less than white Americans, Asians, and also Hispanics. I'm sure you've even heard that black families are less likely to own their own homes than whites (73% to 44%). But the way that a combination of lesser income and less home ownership combine to create less household wealth (total assets minus liabilities) is nothing short of staggering. Since right now, in Brooklyn, it's never been more apparent how different is the financial stability of owners vs. renters, I'm sharing with you a graph that makes me dizzy with disbelief.

Median Household Wealth (median, as you recall, is half above and half below, not average)
The relative lack of integrative success for blacks is often noted, but rarely understood by layfolk like in me, in my estimation. Issues of "personal responsibility" are often used to deflect the criticism that racism is as much a problem as it's been any time since the Civil Rights era, the following question shouts out from the data.

How the hell are you supposed to get a leg up in this country if you haven't any help from the generation before you? I mean, where would so many of Brooklyn's new residents be if their folks hadn't afforded good schools or neighborhoods where great schools are, or paid for great colleges or contributed to buying first houses or cars, or come to the aid when the shit hit the fan?

That's not to say that many members of today's middle to upper classes didn't work hard to get there. But if you look at the broader picture - and don't get too defensive about your personal case - it's not hard to see that the transference of wealth is a huge part of how the haves continue to have. And I'm not just talking about the super-rich. Just affording a downpayment on a house is becoming an act of razzle dazzle. It's becoming trickier and trickier to remain part of the middle class without more than mere income. A house, an heirloom, an inheritance, a hand, they've become precious commodities in the struggle to remain part of the bourgeoisie.

In a country where wealth breeds wealth, it's astonishing that the myth of Horatio Alger continues to dominate mainstream discourse. Work hard. Play by the rules. You too can snag a piece of the American Dream. The anecdotes abound. But the big picture is above, and it's not pretty.

The change of neighborhoods from black to white is often described as a mere transfer of real estate. It is, in my estimation,  a very deep reflection of lingering racism. I think it's worth asking why race is such a big part of gentrification at all. I know you're not dumb, and you probably wonder the same thing. The above graph says it all to me.

Our denial as a country knows no bounds. Like the looming environmental catastrophe, racial and class inequalities lie in wait, with perhaps as many implications for the country, hell the SPECIES, as anything we can conjure up in science fiction. Perhaps never before has a country on earth had the strength and resources to get this equality thing right and stay strong and resource-rich. We're failing miserably, and downing craft beer and kale as the opportunity to the right the ship passes by on the rising sea.

That’s one reason why black families have, on average, only about 6 percent as much wealth as white households, why only 44 percent of black families own a home compared with 73 percent for white households.

It's a Tugboat Kinda Night - This Friday

From your friends at

Please join us for the opening reception for a show of paintings by REPRE: A LONDON ART COLLECTIVE (that includes PLG Painter Noel Hefele) the newest show for PLG Arts Tugboat Local Artists series. It will be at the Tugboat Tea Company, 546 Flatbush Avenue, between Lincoln Road and Beekman Place. Please share with your networks.
Please join us, if you can. If you can't make the reception, or just want a great cup of tea or coffee, Tugboat's hours are Mon–Fri, 7 am–7 pm and Sat–Sun. 8 am–6 pm.

RSVP for the Reception on Facebook
RSVP for the Reception on Google

PLG Arts is a volunteer-run 501c3 organization dedicated to cultivating creativity in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. 

Here is Repre's press release: 

November 11 – December 8 2014 

We are delighted to announce Repre Art Collective’s first international show, which will take place from the November 11 – December 8 2014 at the Tugboat Tea Company in Brooklyn, New York. Repre is an art collective of 10 artists who share the common theme of representation. Their work ranges from the body to the landscape and each artist is concerned with not only depicting the real, but also exploring and pushing the boundaries of realism within their practice. 

The Repre LDN - - -> NYC show will display new works from each artist. With the challenge of transporting work from London to New York, there is predominant theme of light work, including paintings on paper, photography and prints. This exhibition focuses on the shifts in the artist’s practices as each artist seeks to find refreshing ways to break down, reconstruct and represent the concept of the real. Through the use of fragmentation, found images, transformation and abstraction the artists begin a dialogue around the ideas of what representation means today. Repre Art Collective has seen topics covered such as perception, temporality, celebrity, atmosphere, the body and the augmentation of images. The New York exhibition will provide an insight into these lines of enquiry. 


Repre was founded in 2011 by Rebecca Molloy and in this time the artists have hosted a variety of events. This has included their debut exhibition at The Crypt Gallery, Trafalgar Square (2012), an experimental warehouse exhibition in Silwex Studios, Shoreditch (2013) as well as their most recent residency at the DegreeArt Gallery (2013). The artists are driven by the activity of peer support and have also put on critiques, panel discussions, life drawing classes, pecha kucha events and collaborations.

The Repre LDN - - -> NYC is curated by Noel Hefele and
 Bob Marvin 

Exhibiting Artists

Julie Bennett
Natalia Davis
Nathaniel Fowles
Jemma Grundon
Noel Hefele
Amelia Humber
Rebecca Molloy
Louise Morgan
Andrew Newton
Patrick Simkins. 

Part of the PLG Arts Local Artist Series @ Tugboat Tea

Speculation, Much?

So how did we go from armed robbers going after Ditmas Park businesses and residents to targeting gentrifiers?

According to a Gothamist piece, folks are speculating that the spate of armed robberies - presumably by the same folks, given the pattern - is somehow targeted against middle-class (and up) newbies? That's absurd, and totally misses the point.

Unless these hooligans have a very strange idea of social justice, they are...let me be super clear...ARMED ROBBERS. They steal things, then sell them, and use the cash to finance whatever it is they finance. That's it. Even if they WERE upset about gentrifiers, it's hardly the reason they snatched your laptop. Hey I'll be the first to apologize for my little diatribe if I'm proven wrong. But, c'mon y'all, defensive much?

Let me give a 1000% more plausible reason Lark, for instance, was targeted. Cash. Cash and a lot of easily pawnable luxury brand computers - Apples I'll bet - easy to steal and easy to sell.

Sheesh. Dollars to doughnuts these guys have robbed plenty of non-gentriers too in their lifetime. Hey, maybe even as part of this crime spree. Though it wouldn't make the news as such.

Shooting On Dollar Van and Assorted Crime News

Some folks alerted me to a shooting at Flatbush and Lincoln yesterday afternoon. I just happened to be a few feet from Inspector Fitzgiboon of the 71st when I got word on my reasonably-smart phone. I asked him what happened. It wasn't an MTA bus. It happened in a dollar van. A bunch of guys got on one. An argument ensued. All but one guy got off. And he shot the driver. He didn't die, and is being questioned, since the assumption is that he knew the assailant. Depending on how cooperative he is, the cops are fairly certain the gun-toting meanie will be caught.

There was also a shooting near Rogers and Clarkson, but I don't have details and that might have been in the 67th precinct, where I know basically no one. Any info from y'all would be appreciated - I'm way too busy today to even google.

BUT...yes there've been a spate of armed robberies down at Church and Cortelyou (and notably other parts of the borough, but the ones at the upscale joints near us are getting the attention). In a terrifying brazen hold-up, the masked and armed men busted in on a writer's meeting at coffee house Lark and made off with sundry electronic devices. Which were not, apparently, transistor radios, but rather costly (presumably Apple) tech devices. The victims have since set up a fund to replace their items, though the effort has set off a backlash or snarky coments on the internets meant to belittle their losses, and I will not add to the mean-spiritedness. I feel for anyone who has to withstand a life-threatening experience with a loaded gun pointed at them. Thank god no one was hurt. The only jokey thing I will say is...who will be the first writer to publish a short story about the incident? Gentlemen and Ladies...start your laptops!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yes, We Still Build Regular Old Affordable Housing

But it should be a hell of a lot more.

Today from Rachel, our gem of a resource on all things Crown Heights/Lefferts (they really are twin cities, like Minneapolis/St. Paul or Buda/Pest - CH/L being separated by the great Empire River), comes an update on the nearly 500 units of actual affordable housing being built just to our East next to Kings County Hospital. Here's the full story. Excerpts below after I ruminate here for a second.

I've seen the plans for these come to fruition over the past few years. It's really right down the street from me, and we've been able to see the cranes for months as the nicely designed buildings are being built. Who's it for? Lower income folks, basically, and people from special populations requiring social services. You can't make more than 60% of AMI as a family, which means around $50K is the max. Most people will be making much less. They'll pay 30% of their income in rent, the rest is subsidized by the government. CAMBA provides the social services, and was also the developer in this case. They've become a behemoth in the world of building affordable housing. And yes, you may apply for the next round, and you'll get a leg-up in the lottery for living here. But remember a lot of the apartments are set aside for folks leaving the homeless system, and people with special medical needs and developmental or physical handicaps. I know, I know, it's like trying to find a parking spot when the only spaces open are blue with the symbol for wheelchair (that's called dark humor, just so you know before you send me more hate mail).

I asked CAMBA's chief and founder Joanne Oplustil at a Community Board meeting how CAMBA plans on avoiding some of the pitfalls of maintaining subsidized housing over the longterm. In other words, how do prevent these places from becoming the Pruitt-Igoe or Cabrini-Greens of the future? In those cases, when the cities of St. Louis and Chicago lost their tax bases, they turned their backs on proper financing of the "projects." We did the same here, and as a result of that and other social factors, the pj's became synonymous with urban decay, crime and family dysfunction. (See the great documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth for more on what happened to these bold experiments, and how social policy helped lead to their downfall. A lot of your assumptions about public housing might be smashed as a result - I know mine were. Disappearance of manufacturing jobs and even the Vietnam War for instance) Oplustil feels they're putting plenty of money into the maintenance fund so they can operate these things effectively for the next 30 years. Let's hope so.

I think this is great stuff, and very promising in terms of caring for the City's lower income and special needs folks. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with someone who asked me "why do we bother trying to retain all these poor folks, anyway? Isn't this City just too expensive and sought-after to bother trying to keep the costly poor here?" I'll leave that question hanging, in case maybe you want to think about what that question ultimately means. And I hope you can take into account the vast span of history and 20th Century nations and even older societies through the ages when contemplating it. I find it to be fascinating (at best) that such an attitude has gained prominence in this new Gilded Age. I hear echoes of it all the time in the real estate media in this current crazy run-up we're living through right now - which once again I must remind you is bound to end, and probably with significant consequences.

Rachel Holliday Smith for DNA Info:

EAST FLATBUSH — A large complex of affordable and supportive housing on the campus of Kings County Hospital is nearly halfway built, with more than 200 units completed and work on another 300 underway on the border of Crown Heights and East Flatbush. Leaders from the city, state and the non-profit CAMBA  which is leading the development of the project  broke ground Monday on CAMBA Gardens Phase II, a 293-unit building to be constructed on the site of KCH’s former psychiatric hospital.

Once completed in the fall of 2016, the building will house families earning less than 60 percent of the area median income and people exiting the city shelter system, CAMBA said, with case management, counseling and health care assistance offered to all tenants. By combining supportive services together in one location, officials hope to reduce overall costs of care.

“The two buildings together will save us over $3 million a year in emergency taxpayer costs including shelter, hospital emergency rooms and jail,” said Jessica Katz, assistant commissioner at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“We recognize that affordable housing, access to supportive services and quality health care need to work concurrently to ensure a quality life,” said Joanne Oplustil, president and CEO of CAMBA, of the new project.
Next door to the new construction site, more than 209 residences are ready for tenants at CAMBA Gardens Phase I, a 193,000-square-foot housing complex built in a formerly underutilized KCH building, which officially opened Monday as construction at the second building began.
Many residents of the first building have already moved in, including Elizabeth Melendez, the mother of a 21-year-old son and 16-year-old twin daughters born with developmental disabilities.

After losing their three-bedroom apartment in The Bronx following Melendez’s divorce from her ex-husband two years ago, the family moved to a one-bedroom apartment provided by the city. While caring for her daughters and dealing with health issues of her own including asthma and arthritis, Melendez said she looked for work and a better home, but “no one was biting.” “I couldn’t fight as much as I wanted to. I fought as much as I could,” she said.

But she found luck last summer when CAMBA accepted her application to CAMBA Gardens I at 738 Albany Ave. at Clarkson Avenue. Last March, she and her family moved into a brand-new three-bedroom apartment.

"We opened the doors and I looked at my children and I said, ‘Can you believe this?’ … I was like 'We are the luckiest people in the world,'" Melendez said through tears at Monday’s ribbon-cutting. “We went through a lot, but never once did I expect to be housed in a place as wonderful as this.”

Tenants at CAMBA Gardens pay 30 percent of their annual income toward rent, a CAMBA spokeswoman said, and the rest is subsidized by the nonprofit and the state. The building project will cost $165 million, $100 million of which is funded by New York State. Phase I includes a rooftop solar panel array designed to reduce energy consumption by 45 percent, several multi-purpose rooms, gardens and a rooftop terrace.
Phase II will include community rooms for health services, adult education and a computer lab in addition to 60,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space, open to the public.

More than 7,000 people applied to live at the first phase of CAMBA Gardens, the CAMBA spokeswoman said. Tenants of the second phase of the project will be determined by a lottery conducted by HPD when the building is more fully constructed, she said, which will be publicized on both CAMBA and HPD's websites.

That's Our Gal!

I would've liked to go the Brooklyn Public Library "conversation" about gentrification, if only to hear what Alicia Boyd sounds like when she's a panelist (BPL, whose idea was THAT? Did you want to be certain the dialogue would get ugly?) Turns out only my love for conflict would've been satisfied. Here's what a Q reader emailed to me:

Good evening,
I went to a lecture this evening at the Brooklyn Central Library focusing on gentrification, Alicia Boyd was a panelist along with Morgan Munsey, an architect and preservationist. Morgan, btw, is a frequent contributor to Brownstoner using the moniker Amzi Hill. His discussions on that blog about architectural history in Bedford Stuyvesant are quite interesting and informative. However, Morgan is also a RE agent with Halstead and apparently didn’t disclose that information to the BPL since it was not mentioned in the panelists’ brief bios that the library published. When he was introduced he mumbled, stumbled and coyishly smiled that he’s a RE agent and forgot to mention it. That was the beginning of the end for me.
Alicia Boyd then spoke and fired up her audience. It was essentially a race bashing, profanity  infused debacle. I was saddened and then maddened that the BPL would choose a panel of this caliber. My dismay and disappointment led me to do a little research about Ms. Boyd and I came across her healing site. How convenient that you can donate to it in the name of a donation to MTOPP. I then read your blog posting about her tactics, AirBnB hypocrisy and the comments that followed. Needless to say,  I am incensed  that anyone takes her seriously, INCLUDING the BPL!!! My next email will be to the BPL.
I’m a native Brooklynite and have wanted to live in PLG ever since my dad would take me for walks through the neighborhood in the 1960s (!).  I have a very sweet spot in my heart for PLG and I’m hoping to eventually settle there. But not on Sterling Place.

Thanks for listening.

(name withheld by the Q)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Don't Forget the Daffodils

It's like my old Grandpappy FlatBed used to say: "You don't get the flowers if you don't put in the hours." See you Sunday!

Lefferts Food Coop - Grand Opening This Weekend

Tired of poking fun at the Park Slope Food Coop? Now there's a new target for your righteous indignation! Congrats to the whole team for bringing a slight bit of culinary communism to the better side of the Park. Yes you have to work. But you don't have to circle Grand Army Plaza to get there. Stockers of the world, unite!.

Lefferts Community Food Co-op

We're Opening!

it's finally happening. On Sunday, November 23, 2014, we will be open for business!

Even though we are a member-worker food coop—everyone who shops here must be a member and contribute work hours as we have no paid staff—we are opening our doors on Sunday to ALL so that you can see what we will sell and buy what you need.

Please come by!
Come shop for your holiday needs and see what
a community-run grocery store can do for our community!

To become a working member of the food co-op, download the application here.

Add caption

Friday, November 14, 2014

Petition To Allow Us To Use OUR Parade Ground

Sometimes the reaction is overkill, and that seems to be the case with a strictly enforced rule to stay out of the Parade Ground after dark. Good folks that I know have been ticketed for walking their dogs or bicycling through the area at ungodly hours like 7pm. As dark comes earlier and earlier, the rule become more and more absurd.


The 70th Precinct says that the patrols are aimed at stopping violence from occurring, and there has been a fair amount of THAT in the past. However, and just stay with me here for a minute, if they're putting patrol people out there to ticket dog walkers, couldn't those same people simply be providing the police presence to deter crime? Instead of ticketing they could be doing something more productive, like texting. That's what most rookies seem to be doing these days anyway.


Having received my share of Pink quality of life tickets in the past, I'll say this: sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it don't. I get ticketing someone who pees between parked cars. I get ticketing  bicyclists who ride on the sidewalks. I DON'T get denying people a place to walk their dogs or take a shortcut home at a reasonable hour.


Look, if you wanna shut down the Parade Ground, pick a mutually acceptable hour. I believe that's much more appropriate than relying on the Sun, Moon and Stars. Is this now the Broken Zodiac theory of policing?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Beating Back a New Neighborhood Name

What, they thought we wouldn't notice?

Curbed points out today that there's been a rethink over whether the neighborhood should be renamed. I've heard through the years that certain neighborhood names came from real estate interests, rather than the more organic grassroots approach. The below is a picture of a new "townhouse" with rentals that's going up on Hawthorne btw Rogers and Nostrand. Originally, it was touted as part of a "new" neighborhood called "Heights Park," map above.

Among others, the Q protested loudly when Residential Development Group tried to rename our neighborhood thusly:

"A new neighborhood is actually taking shape in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and becoming known in inner circles as 'Heights Park.'"

The inner circles? Perhaps the inner circle refers to three real estate agents standing around the water cooler? "Inner Triangle" didn't sound quite right. "Heights Park," was used presumably to conjure other respectable Brooklyn neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Park Slope, and Brooklyn Heights.
Loving that majestic angle of the photograph!

How much would you pay for the above? $1.6 million and it's yours, with an owner triplex and rentals that will fetch more than $4,000 for the both, once again proving if you HAVE the money in hand, you can live nearly for free.

Even the Q prefers PLG to Heights Park. Still, Lefferts Gardens if you please.

Give Money to Help Sue the Q!

Man, it gets weird sometimes. If you want to give to Alicia Boyd and MTOPP's legal fees to sue ME and her own Community Board, well, look no further. You can make a donation or go to the fundraiser below. You can even get a tax deduction, by sending your gift to New Directions in Healing, Alicia's non-profit whose mission has nothing to do with MTOPP. I know from fundraising; this is called "fiscal sponsorship," and it's considered unethical but not strictly illegal. So no, we won't be counter-suing!

She claims that her position has been excluded from discussion, and that her group has not had the chance to be heard. Quite to the contrary, it's all the other voices in the community that have not had a chance to be heard, and the Chair of CB9 is currently soliciting written statements in lieu of being shouted down publicly. Send your own comments, should you feel inclined, to Pearl Miles at Fair enough. However, just in case you DON'T know MTOPP's position, I'm more than happy to give you this web address at which to hear and read everything you need to know. There's a video from Alicia that goes into great detail, and there's all kind of extra documents and backup. I've also posted the lawsuit. Please share widely, as I'd hate to think that I was somehow complicit in shutting down democracy! Btw, pretty much everything on this poster and in the lawsuit can be easily refuted, but I'll let this post be about her. Stick it to the man, man!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Classic Eugene

Before heading to bed, the Q flipped over to the Ditmas Park Corner Blog and read the notes from the Community Board 14 meeting as presented by the Corner's Anna Gustafson. The following paragraph is such classic Mathieu "Inside the Flag" Eugene that I burst out sob/laughing. Oh, if you didn't already know, he's YOUR councilman too if you're south of Empire Blvd.

Neighbors encouraged Councilman Mathieu Eugene  to become involved in the city’s participatory budgeting process, which allows constituents to directly vote on projects they’d like to see funded in their area. Residents Johanna Clearfield and William Cerf spoke to Eugene following his formal presentation during the meeting and encouraged him to get involved in participatory budgeting, which such area lawmakers as Councilman Jumaane Williams and Councilman Brad Lander have done but Eugene has not. Johanna reported that during the discussion with the legislator, he asked her if she knew how many city Council members there are and then pointed out that, of the 51 members, only about 20 are participating. “But, that doesn’t answer my question,” Johanna told Eugene. “I am asking if we can have it in our district.” The lawmaker said, according to Johanna, that having participatory budgeting in the district wouldn’t make a difference, saying that “we are all the same. We all work together. I save hospitals from closing down.” The neighbor reported Eugene went on to say that whether there is participatory budgeting or not, anyone can look into how he is spending tax dollars. “Again, I tried to explain the difference between ‘transparency’ (which is certainly important) vs. a constituent being able to impact where and how the money is allocated,” Johanna wrote to us. We have also reached out to Eugene about participatory budgeting.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Tale Of Two Restaurants

Hard to believe just two years ago you couldn't get a decent cup of coffee, glass of wine or bistro burger around here. Now, you can spend ALL of your discretionary bourgie dollars right here in Lefferts!

PLGourmand comes up with yet another upbeat review of the two newest entries in the entree department. I'm so glad it's you Debra Kirschner and not me doing these reviews. I'm way too sarcastic and snarky, even though both these jointz are A Okay in my book. And by the way, the Q's "book" is primarily written in pink scribble scrabble by my two little girls, so it's not like I get out a lot at night anyway. Take it away Debra!

Spotlight on Bluebird Food and Spirits

This terrific addition to the neighborhood, brought to you by the owners
of Lincoln Park Tavern, specializes in comfort food in a comfy atmosphere. In one fickle fall week, I experienced dinner on a cold rainy night by the fireplace and brunch on a warm, sunny day in the spacious backyard.
Too Pool for School

Bar, Bar, Baby

Backyard, Baby
Bluebird is way bigger than it looks. First, you walk into what feels like the most awesome rec room in somebody’s tricked out lakehouse – with a pool table and TV’s and benches and firewood stacked against the wall. Next, walk through this room to get to a cozy dining area with a warm fireplace and romantic lighting where you can sit on comfy banquets by candlelight. Alongside is a full bar that somehow feels vintage, clean and modern all at once. Through the dining room is a spacious backyard adjacent to the B/Q tracks, much prettier than that description makes it sound. And speaking of sound – the train noises are surprisingly not distracting. What little you do hear kind of adds to the cool.

Brisket, Baby
 The seasonal dinner menu includes Chicken Pot Pie, Brisket Sandwich with Cole Slaw, Pineapple Chicken Wings, Pork and Shrimp Dumplings, Picnic Burger and more. I enjoyed the Brisket Sandwich, which is topped with banana mustard and fresh pickles – on a delicious soft roll, which soaks in all of these wonderful flavors perfectly. I absolutely loved every bite and I’m mentally calculating my next free evening so I can go get it again! I also tried the chicken wings, which were juicy and fresh and easy to eat with a nice Asian flavor. Bluebird serves home made desserts that include a pie of the day. I am looking forward to this as a late night dessert venue – something this neighborhood has so far been lacking, as all the delicious bakery/cafes around here seem to be closed by 8pm or earlier. After rushing around in the rain, dinner here made us feel warm and welcome – almost too comfy like we never wanted to leave.

Brunch, Brunch, Baby
The following Saturday, brunch outside in the warm sun was energizing as we ran into smiling neighbors who all had the same idea. The brunch menu was fun to read… beginning with Brioche French Toast and including a Five Herb Omelet, Roasted Asparagus with Eggs and Truffle Oil and Fancy Grilled Cheese. I have to admit, I love the word fancy. Somehow it always seems ironic to me. I always want to say it in either a cockney accent or a Marisa-Tomei-in-My-Cousin-Vinny cadence… That said – the description did make it sound special – including apples and relish – and when I saw it delivered on the table next to us it looked stunning – with bread tilted sideways like a cheeky beret. I opted for the Brioche French Toast because no matter how wonderful the other offerings sounded I couldn’t get my mind off Brioche French Toast – which is how I knew it was The One. On the bottom of the brunch menu, it says, “No toast. Really, no toast.” I’m not sure what point that’s trying to make but for some reason it made me defensive. But I got over it when my Brioche French Toast arrived (a type of toast, no?) and was tender and sweet and flavorful and warm and perfect. Dreaming about getting back there to order that again too… plus try other things. There are fresh breakfast meats to order on the side – including a homemade sausage my husband loved.

So my two autumnal experiences were quite different but equally terrific and I cannot wait to keep coming back for more. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to try Bluebird when it first opened, but heard tell of summer style barbecue in the backyard. This will surely be a place to visit in all four seasons – day and night – with a full bar that includes a nice beer and wine selection.

Bluebird Wine and Spirits is located at 504 Flatbush Ave at Lefferts (between Lincoln and Ocean near the subway). They are open noon-11pm on weekends, 5pm-11pm on weekdays. I highly recommend checking this place out – rain or shine!

Spotlight on Midwood Flats

It’s here – our first official Gastropub!  This trend of casual bars that serve high-end imaginative cuisine alongside varieties of craft beers and select local whiskeys has hit PLG in the form of Midwood Flats.

It felt like the neighborhood buzzed about Midwood Flats for months before it opened. As we watched the gorgeous dark wood corner pub with old school signage (calling the neighborhood Flatbush, Brooklyn, USA) and large windows (which some of us repeatedly peeked into…) being built, all we knew was that it was being opened by restaurateur Kal Narvilas who had huge recent success with Cent’Anni in Crown Heights and that it was going to serve lobster rolls.

Open a little more than a month, the happily non-hipster vibe seems to draw in a diverse crowd and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. And, as promised, they serve two varieties of lobster rolls, a traditional New England style Lobster Roll, in their signature aioli on a potato roll, as well as their “Lobster Roll Nouveaux,” with avocado and Japanese togarashi pepper on a pretzel roll. I opted for the “Nouveaux” and it was delicious, light and flavorful with enough spice to keep it interesting. The waitress warned me that pepper was super hot – I found it tasty but not alarmingly hot at all – so I say don’t let them scare you! And the pretzel roll compliments these flavors perfectly.
Potato Skins served with a side of Plate Space (snark by Q)

The menu also includes Short Rib Sliders, Duck Torta, Pressed Chicken and a Seasonal Vegetable Sandwich with quinoa falafel – which shows that they are open to feedback because an early criticism of this joint was no vegetarian options… and now there are at least three (counting appetizers). While everything I tasted was delicious, for me the superstar was their incredibly delicious burger… so juicy the bun barely holds together, made from fresh angus beef with savory onion frites on top. While there are no traditional sides here – no French fries takes getting used to, at least for me – their “share” section includes fun appetizers like stuffed artichoke, loaded potato croquettes and a chip and dip plate – where the chips are actually baked slices of their yummy pretzel rolls and the dips include hummus and a balsamic tapenade… wonderfully crunchy and creamy mix of textures. If you prefer more of a restaurant atmosphere than a bar – come early. Around 7pm everyone in there is eating, even at the bar, with liquor on the side. Later in the evening, it is all about the drinking… and the delicious food is secondary for sure.

Bistro Burger, Baby
There’s a crowd every night. The bar boasts locally distilled scotches and whiskeys, a giant list of bourbons, an impressive craft beer list, and a non-traditional selection of delicious wines. They have a full bar and will make any cocktail you can think of – though there is no specialty cocktail menu yet. You can opt for their “Midwood Flight” deal and taste any three whiskeys for half price, 1 oz pours. And there are happy hour specials between 5pm and 7pm.

Despite the casual atmosphere, every dish tastes extravagant! Nothing is that expensive, but it is one of those places where you can easily keep ordering small plates and drinks without noticing your tab going up, up, up so be careful!
Lobster Roll, Baby

As to whether Midwood Flats represents the old Brooklyn of Flatbush, USA as is carved over the bar, or the new trendy so-called “Brownstone Brooklyn” as is reflected by all things artisanal and locally grown –I’d say its more of the latter… Even so, Midwood Flats is friendly and unpretentious and the food is delicious so I say give it a shot. Or order a shot…

Midwood Flats is located (appropriately) at the corner of Midwood and Flatbush, at 577 Flatbush Ave. They are open every day from 5pm until some wee hour of the evening, long after I’m asleep.

note: all the captions are the Q's not Debra's and while he laughed wildly too himself while writing them his wife has since told him that they aren't funny at all. The Q regrets the error, but for some reason is still laughing.