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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Eugene Shafts Us Again

I'm actually not a huge fan of the Participatory Budgeting process. When it works it works, but a lot of good ideas don't get funded because they're not "popular" enough. However, in the case of our councilman Mathieu Eugene it would be a HUGE improvement. Why should Kings County hospital get millions of dollars (every year) from Eugene when so many other capital projects go unfunded? How about gymnasiums and youth centers and park projects and you name it. The hospital is a borough-wide enterprise. Why should we foot such an enormous bill?

Oh, right. Eugene got elected by his steadfast support of the Hospital's unions. And management. Lots and lots of folks work there.

It's so cynical. So transparent, and obscene. And we get zilch.

Seriously, can you imagine how much great stuff we could do for $2.8 million?

Cultural Appreciation Day at the Q

When the Q wakes up in the morning the last thing he thinks about is his hair. I believe this is perfectly obvious to each and every person I meet through the day. Not everyone thinks this way, but clearly by looking at most of the Caucasian gentlemen at the Park Slope Food Coop and at my job and in any of 100 coffee shops, my cheveux nonchalance is shared by many of my peers.

Just recently a friend directed me to, and I fell in love with, a tune by the sublime India.Arie that nailed a black thang that's always intrigued me - the African hair conundrum (how to wear it, what it means etc.) The oversize importance of hair is not particular to the black experience of course. But it's meaning within the context of the African diaspora (shorthand: slavery) is distinct and powerful. this one song Ms. .Arie (is that how one writes her last name, with the period?) sums it all up. If you don't care for guest Akon's autotune stylings, just wait til India. drops in with her incredibly magical voice and all will be forgiven.

For the music nerds out there, I think this is one of my favorite uses I've heard of the I to flatIII to IV chord progressions I've ever heard. Note the similarity to the redneck anthem "Freebird."

Now for the Lefferts connection (though given the preponderance of hair shops in the neighborhood I think we're already there). For my black friends who wonder what's up with that slack hair attitude among whites, I give you Exhibit A. Pavement.

Pavement was a VERY popular band when I was touring the country with my exceedingly less popular band Babe the blue OX. in the '90s. Their anthem "Cut My Hair" was perhaps the song that broke them big, and their lackadaisical style and off-the-cuff vocal delivery spawned a million imitators. The difference between these two videos could not be more stark - super high-end video and audio production vs. amateurish Do-It-Yourself "authenticity." And...drum of Pavement's members lives in Lefferts Gardens. Know which one?

The larger point I'm making is probably self-explanatory, and the IQ's of Q readers (QIQ's) is off-the-charts (yes Google gives me the analytics) so I know I don't need to pound it home. But next time you see a person you don't know sporting something quirky with their cheveux, perhaps these vids will pop into mind.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Concerned Citizens Comes Up With Counter Proposal

Many of you may have read Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning's "position paper" addressed to the community. If you'd like to join their efforts, send Alan Berger an email. (I don't have permission from him to send out his private email, but he's on the Yahoo Listserv. I think they have a website. Anybody know it? I'll add it to this paragraph.)

My response is below. Then below that, the note written by CCCBP:

Just to be clear I'm happy to support Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning's (Alan/Suki et al) efforts and publicize meetings to a wide audience. I continue to try to temper enthusiasm for any efforts that will end in dismissal by the people who actually decide these things - namely Eric Adams, Laurie Cumbo, Mathieu Eugene, City Planning, the full Council, the Mayor, and the Board of Standards and Appeals. I guess you could call me a realist.

In other words, if you don't want to be part of the City's effort to encourage the building more market rate and (truly) affordable housing and preserve existing rent stabilized housing and build more supportive housing, all in the name of relieving upward pressure on rents and sales, or don't like the way the City plans to do that, you will have a tough time without some serious advocates at a high level. Tish James, for instance, might be an excellent Advocate, who just happens to hold that title as well! If you feel strongly against the Mayor's objectives, I would encourage going to her above all others, even finding money from her to do a parallel study to support whatever proposals you want to support or reject.

But I would ask that the community consider as legitimate the view that many of us share - that it is best to engage the City directly to achieve objectives, rather than try to fight it before we even get started. And I would encourage those of you who live in the historic district to consider that many of us do not. In fact, the majority of the proposed study area is not protected from non-contextual zoning in any way. Contextual zoning has been described as "landmarking lite." By protecting the "inside" blocks from outsized development, we can maintain the livability and beauty of many of our streets, particularly ones that all of one type of building, i.e. row houses. And I would remind people that the current zoning along north-south corridors (e.g. Flatbush and Nostrand) is not protected in ANY way. Current zoning allowed 626 Flatbush. If that building is not your idea of the direction developers should go, then please reconsider fighting the process as currently proposed.

The things I will continue to point out, based on what I've come to understand, that may run counter to Concerned Citizens' position paper:

1) The letter from CB9 is basically to start a Planning Study. It's the beginning of a long (probably too long) study of the neighborhoods of south Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens, including an environmental study that could provide the basis for a 197a plan to the City, demanding better services

2) We will know what's going into the application well before the ULURP clock begins, because we will collaboratively work on the application. But only IF we do so civilly and with the input of the very people who will be voting on it - e.g. our elected officials.

3) I would strongly disagree with the assessment that we would be better off "waiting for an independent" study. We've been waiting for years! What if we had gone through this process when we first asked back in 2008? To that point, what if we had started this process when it was first proposed and passed last year? What if the proposed independent study never happens because of lack of funding and no interest from elected officials? We get zero, nada, nothing. For those of us on non-protected blocks, the non-action will be just as powerful as action. Rezoning is "doing something." Not rezoning could be doing something far more detrimental.

4) Eventually, you have to go to City Planning and all the other power players. Why pretend you have more power than you do? This Mayor will likely be in power for another six+ years. His goals are not going away, and frankly are supported by a strong majority of the Council and the current head of Planning.

5) This is the one I consider most important. There are already more than two dozen projects in the works, and dozens more properties that have changed hands in the last year. Some are waiting to see how this plays out. Many will pay for their own studies. If they want, they can go to the Board of Standards and Appeals and get whatever zoning they want without a meaningful ULURP. Neighbors - residential or hotel development IS coming to the Empire corridor. It's an expressed wish of people like Eric Adams. Do you really want to sit back and let those decisions be made for you? Or do you want to sit down with power brokers and guide their hand?

thx for reading. and thx to Concerned Citizens for its attempts to bring a relevant independent study to the process.

the CC note:


Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning is making the below recommendations based on current information and last night's meeting with Paul Graziano, a planning consultant who developed the recent rezoning study for CB 8 and many others in NYC over past 20 years.

We believe that CB 9 will be at a significant disadvantage if we approve a formal request now to City Planning to conduct a study. Our reasons are as follows: 

1. Without providing a significant detailed assessment of the conditions in our district and without very specific details of what we are asking for and what we are not asking for, we are leaving the door open to City Planning to carry out their own agenda, which, according to Mr. Graziano, and what we are seeing in East New York and other neighborhoods, is at odds with the community's agenda.

2. City Planning will likely come back to us after their study is completed and not give us much time, it could be as little as 7-10 days according to Mr. Graziano, to be able to respond in an effective way, again putting us at a significant disadvantage.

3. According to Mr. Graziano, the de Blasio administration is even more developer friendly than the Bloomberg administration and laser focused on achieving their affordable housing goals. Any opening that they get in this regard they will take maximum advantage of.  There is no reason to prioritize adding affordable housing in any request.  If we ask for affordable housing we would likely end up without true contextual zoning, preservation of existing affordable housing, or preservation of our ability to build truly affordable housing on affordable land. 

4. According to Mr. Graziano we would be better off walking away now, reassessing in detail what our needs really are, and going back to city planning with a comprehensive planthat encompasses all the factors such as special zones, historic districts, commercial set backs, open spaces, etc.  This can be accomplished in as little as three months. Proceeding with a City Planning developed study now would lead to much greater density and height limits than if we did nothing at all.

6. City Planning is struggling with resources right now to carry out the city's ambitious housing agenda, therefore it is to our advantage to present a plan where much of the work has already been done.

7. Recently the city has announced a series of changes that may include adding 1 to 4 stories to existing contextual zones and eliminating parking requirements. Such changes would have a significant impact on this process. This is another reason to have an experienced and expert representative on our side to research and analyze what this will mean for our proposed rezoning plan.

Given the points above, we want to understand what reasons, supported by what evidence, our board has for not supporting this community in taking steps that will put us in the strongest possible position prior to asking the City for a rezoning?

We also make the strong recommendation that more dialogue take place between the community and the community board. We are not being given the opportunity to have our questions answered, so that we can hear directly from the board and better understand what their thinking is. This is the only way we stand a chance of making progress towards some kind of consensus.

Let's come together now and unite to assess the district's needs in totality using a professional planner to do the research and work with us to submit a detailed request to City Planning based on our study of our own community.

Thank you.

Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning

Please come to the CB 9 board meeting tonight at the Founder's Auditorium at Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Ave. starting at 7:00PM to ask questions and voice your opinion on this matter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Free Kiddie Science Workshop - This Saturday

Hey Parents! You might just get hooked. Carmen is awesome, and lives right here in the 'hood.

R.I.P. Lawrence Cassela

Rachel at DNA Info reports that Lincoln Road fixture Lawrence Cassella passed away at the tender age of 38. A battle with a rare immune system disorder caused his death. Here's the story, and a picture below. He was a dog-walker, so you may have seen him on the human end of a leash a time or two.

Picture by Billy Clark

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One Year Later - Back to ULURP Committee

It's hilarious. Unless you're sitting right in front of the action. Here's me taking a selfie video, but with my good buddy Alicia behind me. She probably cost us 45 minutes of our time, and basically runs the meetings now. Pretty much everything we do is on the Planning issue is respond to her. District Manager Pearl Miles spends countless hours answering FOIL requests and defending herself and the Board in lawsuits leveled by Alicia Boyd's legal team.

This video should give you a front row seat to what it's like to sit through these things. I had no idea she was so virtuosic on the noise-horn:

Some good ideas were shared amidst the shouting. Suki and Alan shared some nice ideas about conducting their own study, which I think they should absolutely make happen. I hope they do, so we have even more information to go on as we move through the process.

IF we get a chance. I'm still not hopeful that we'll ever get anything going. A narrowly defeated motion to scratch the draft entirely and start over at committee was beyond ludicrous. The draft is a fine place to start and members can add or edit at will. Have you ever tried to write something from scratch with, say, 20 people in the room writing every word? Nightmare. It (discussion) was (past tense? discussion) a (why not an? have we already decided the next word will start with a consonant?) dark (is that racial?how dark?) and (conjunction junction, what's your function?) stormy (adjective choice - too provocative) night (I told you they'd do it under cover of night!). Maybe we should have Snoopy write it. Probably be just as good. Like I said, nightmare!

Which is probably what I'll have tonight after being subjected to more than 20 minutes of the above. My ears are still ringing. But for the most part, I kept my cool. Progress, not perfection.

The Latest. Oy.

The way this is unfolding you'd think Alicia Boyd had uncovered the Watergate scandal. Her latest (I think we're up to 40 emails of poetry to her weary followers) includes transcript from last week's Executive Comittee meeting. You'll see her attack dog instincts in full effect (below). She pounces on anything she thinks is out of line. However she thinks it went down, let me tell you what actually went into the draft letter to City Planning from CB9 that is now up on the website. I have an insider's perspective of course, and you needn't trust me, but I'm not a good liar anyway.
(Basically the current draft ain't that different than what we originally passed last March. It took a year to get this far, which is, basically, nowhere new. FYI, I'm happy with the draft, because it will start the process from a pretty blank slate, recognizing as we do that the City is interested in considering downzoning and contextual zoning from EP to Clarkson, Ocean to NY Ave for new residential on Empire Blvd. It's really that simple - don't let MTOPP confuse the issue. They don't want new neighbors on Empire, right in AB's backyard. And they've turned it into an issue of the black neighborhood getting screwed. This is absurd, especially since the majority of members of the Board are black and longtime residents who are perfectly aware of what this all means and portends. But little details like that are easily dismissed by MTOPP, which calls those residents Uncle Toms. I won't begin to tell you what they call the Q!)
Alicia is looking for any technicalities that would invalidate the process. It's making everyone on the Board crazy, and we've been internally writing nasty emails to each other ever since she showed up on the scene. Be that as it may, after a whole bunch of community-wide meetings, the ULURP committee wrote a draft, with all members asked to contribute whatever they felt was important. No one, no one, repeat no one, felt that Alicia's point about excluding Empire Blvd from the Study makes any sense at all. Rather than concede that she lost that battle, she's dug in her heels, now claiming that the committee has no right to create a draft FOR DISCUSSION in front of the entire board and community. Apparently she expects that every word should be uttered and entered into the draft in public, thereby making sure she and others have the right to scream and bitch about every utterance. Tonight, it's likely that the draft will be discussed, Alicia will be removed from the auditorium for misconduct, and the draft will be sent back one more time to the ULURP committee for revisions and voting. At least that's what SHOULD happen. 
And no, the draft was not completed before the ULURP committee meetings happened. I know what was being circulated, and it wasn't completed until basically the day before it went up on the website, with the Committee chair Ben Edwards' blessing. We still have some quibbles about language, but that will be worked out tonight and at the next committee meeting where we'd vote and send to the full Board - exactly one year from the original resolution! 

From the Grand Dame of Lefferts:
Please don't forget tonight!
Please come out and demand that the community be involved
in the process of creating a draft and resolution!
Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Ave, 7 pm CB9 general meeting
Don't let Senator Hamilton or Laurie Combo Tenant forum
separate us.  We know what truly displaces communities of color
not individual landlords but huge development that gets
changed with City Planning!
Please find attached and/or below a transcribed statement of
the Executive Board meeting on Feb 17, 2015 at 7 pm
where a "draft" to be presented to the community,
was included in an agenda item.
Meeting of Executive Board, Feb 17, 2015, time 7:30,
Board Members Present,
Dwayne Nicholson, Detritus Lawrence, Evelyn Williams and Jacqueline Welch. 
This is summation of the issues, but please read
the short transcript for yourself.
1. It seems that some Executive board members
believe the draft will just be presented
and Dwayne believes it will be voted upon.
2. The draft was created before the ULURP committees in February met!
3. As Alicia predicted without seeing the draft,
Empire Blvd and Washington Ave would still be on the draft!
4. The draft was created in secret at the CB9 office
with five unknown members of the board!
5. The Executive Board believes it can conduct CB9 business
in a CB9 office, but not obey the Open Meetings Law! 
Meeting of Executive Meeting on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Sometime at the beginning of the meeting

Alicia: Who created this draft?
Dwayne: ULURP Committee members and other Board members
Alicia: When?
Dwayne: Two weekends ago
Alicia: Two weekends ago you created a draft two weekends ago?
Dwayne: From the information that was gathered at the ULURP meetings
Alicia: How many people were at that meeting when you created that draft?
Dwayne: I don’t know five, what was it.
Suki’s Husband:  Two weekend ago predated the first ULURP meetings.
Alicia: Thank you, Thank You
Demetius Lawrence: This is a draft that we started from awhile back, we started this from last year,
Alicia: Two weekends ago, how many people were at that meeting?
Dwayne: We had a hundred some people at the ULURP meeting?
Alicia: Yes but I’m talking about the creation of the draft.
Dwayne: Oh right it was it five of them?
Alicia: Five people and who were these five people?
Dwayne: People who were on that committee.
Who basically took time out of their day,
to put up their time their personal time they came up together
and wrote up the document.
Alicia: Okay so they came together
 and when did they write this document.
Dwayne: That weekend!
Pearl Miles begins to interject! Can’t understand what she is saying, but she is objecting.
Alicia: Excuse me Pearl, Excuse me Pearl,
I’m talking to Dwayne, obviously it must be completed and being presented.
Alicia: Excuse me Pearl, Excuse me Pearl, I’m asking a question.
So you are still working on this draft without the community
Jacquline Welch:  We are going to have a draft to be presented to the board
to get their feedback whatever,
 then we are going to come back and work on it some more.
Alicia: So you again went into a meeting with five board members
and you created a draft, did you notify the community of this meeting?
Dwayne: We don’t have to.
Alicia: No you don’t have to.  You can just create drafts.
Pearl: Yes
Alicia: Excuse me Pearl.
Pearl:  It was done in this office, this is my office, I can speak, this is my office
Alicia: Excuse me, it was business, is not a draft business? Do you have a copy of this draft?
Dwayne: No I don’t have it no.
Alicia: Does anybody have a copy of this draft?
This working draft, because it is still a working draft right?
 Does anybody have a copy of it?
Dwayne: We are going to vote on it next Tuesday.
 First we are going to talk about the capital fiscal year 2015
then the drafting is going to be presented and then they are going to vote on it.
Alicia: Vote on what?
Dwayne: On the Draft resolution that is presented
Alicia: What does that mean you are going to vote on the draft resolution?
Evelyn Williams: Let’s move on.
 Alicia: I just want to be clear about what he is asking.
Dwayne: We already knocked out number 1. (agenda item fiscal year)
Alicia: So what you are saying is you got a draft that you created two weeks ago,
with five board members that is still in process,
that the community is still not a part of
and you are going to present it on Tuesday.
Dwayne: Where do you think we get the information from to create the document?
Alicia: How do we know we haven’t seen the draft,
we don’t know what’s in that document, do we? Who has this draft?
Dwayne: I haven’t seen the draft either.
Alicia: Who has this draft?
Dwayne: I’m not sure
Alicia:  Who is responsible for the creation of this draft
Dwayne: The ULURP chair
Alicia : The ULURP chair, so he’s responsible for the creation of this draft
and who will be sitting with him when they create this draft?
Dwayne: Those other people who were working with him.
Alicia: And who were these people working with him.
Dwayne: I’m not necessarily going to name names
Alicia: You are not going to name names
Dwayne: They volunteer
Alicia: They are volunteers so they are going to go back create a draft
that you now think you are going to present on Tuesday to be voted ,
and we don’t have any idea what that draft looks like.
Dwayne: At this point I don’t have it.
Alicia: You don’t have it, nobody else has it,
Demetrius Lawrence: To my understanding
Jacqueline Welch:  We are not voting on a draft.
Demetrius Lawrence: To my understanding this draft is being formed
and created with community board members,
who are a part of the community.
Alicia: What about the residents, what about the non-board members?
Demetrius Lawrence: I hear you Alicia,
But then at the community board general meeting ,
we are going to present that draft to the community on all the points
that were put into at the ULURP community meetings.
Alicia : Yes, but he (Dwayne) just said he was voting on.
He said there was going to be a vote!
Jacqueline Welch:  We are not doing a vote.  Alicia we are not doing a vote!
Demetrius Lawrence: To my understanding as an executive board member
we can’t vote on the final resolution, if I’m speaking out of turn,
please let me know, we can’t vote on a final resolution,
if we don’t present it to the community first to show them draft of the input
that everyone has placed inside of this resolution. 
So in fairness to everyone on the board,
we are a part of the community, and we may serve in the capacity as Executive,
but we have input but not only our input, it’s the community’s input who at the ULURP meetings.
Alicia: You call not putting any residents (non-board members) on the ULURP input?
Demetrius Lawrence: That a different story
Alicia:  No it is the same story!
Demetrius Lawrence: Resident from the Board are a part of the community.
Dwayne: Thank You
Alicia: Excuse me I’m talking about non- board members
Demetrius Lawrence: That is a different story
Alicia: No that isn’t a different story

Further in the tape. There was a question posed by Suki how differences of opinions are arrived at,
when there might be two opposing positions.

Dwayne: Everyone has to have a give and take.
Alicia: Yes but you have to sit at the table,
you have to sit down at the table with the community,
you cannot do it in secret, behind closed doors
and expect the community to accept, what these concessions are. 
You can’t expect that, because I know what the agenda's here at this table,
the agenda is to up zone Empire Blvd and to keep Empire Blvd on the study. 
 And I bet you that draft, even though you had a slew of people standing up sayingthey did not want Empire Blvd on the study,
you will have Empire Blvd on the study,
even though there was a slew of people,
that showed up and said they did not want Empire Blvd on the study,
even though we are already creating our own Study,
 you will have Empire Blvd on the Study
Demetrius Lawrence: I don’t think no one here wants the up zoning of Empire Blvd.
Alicia: Well I bet you it will be on that draft. If nobody wants it why is it on the draft?
Demetrius Lawrence: I think since the last ULURP committee meeting it was removed,
or it was suggested that we should remove it, Washington Ave as well.
Alicia: Well we will see if it is removed, Washington Ave as well.

New York Avenue and Hawthorne - New Apartment Building Coming

664 New York Ave

More new stuff. Blah Blah from Yimby.

Let me tell you something weird about this one though. I'm pretty damn sure this is the very spot that was discussed at a ULURP meeting of CB9 I attended a couple years ago. Then, Enterprise was planning to use this corner as a car rental facility. That would have been an easy conversion. But this change sort of spells out the new reality. Anywhere you can build market rate residential, that's the best use of your as-of-right, and this corner apparently qualifies for residential. Maybe both business and apartments on this one stretch of NY Avenue? Who knows. I don't have time to keep up with all the filings.

On the corner of Winthrop is the Sanitation Garage for our district. It's way inadequate and when I was chairing Environmental Protection we were trying to find space for this to move to, maybe build a proper facility for the hard-working NY's Strongest. As more and more people keep moving to the area, we will likely need more trucks. This space is so small some trucks have to park on the street. Not ideal, especially being right next to hospitals and homes.