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, February 11, 2015

Alicia Gets Arrested = Pretty Good Meeting

Ooh, was she on fire tonight. Fiery enough that she was outa there by 7:30. And that crazy bespectacled deputy of hers who likes to call me KKK and point fingers at people, she was right behind. And you know what? Things calmed down quite a bit. It still took about 20 minutes before you could start hearing what people had to say, and some people continued to strut their discontent with flourishes, but all in all I could see where we were and where we were going. It was, all in all, a good night for reason and discourse. And while opponents of study still have a hard time imagining that anyone might differ with their perspective, I'd say that we (the Board, or what's left of it) heard very little that was new that would sway judgment one way or the other. It'll probably be a close vote...we'll see.

Not that anyone's going to be surprised, but here's what I think. Rational, smart people disagree on whether or not to go ahead with a study. My take, and yes I've listened closely to the arguments and done my homework, is go for it. I don't agree with the folks who want to do a dead-in-the-water-before-it-starts independent study - they're wasting their time. But I get where they're coming from. In a perfect world, I'd also like to tax the obscenely-rich pre-JFK. Ain't gonna happen. I'd also like my clothes to wash themselves, and hair to stop growing down my back at the same time it thins on my head, making me wonder if it's just plugged up somewhere and coming out a different hole in the pipe. Like a busted sewer line. Where was I?

I hope a letter to Planning looks much like my petition. Which was a milder, less wordy version of what already passed the Board last March, and that I tried to get CB9 to vote on in December. And the new letter will probably look the same, with even less specificity. Hopefully with this bit "we won't accept the loss of even a single unit of current rent-stabilized housing." A little line in the sand never hurt anybody but the sand crabs.

I also learned tonight that while many people in the room feel strongly, there are actually very few full-on assholes. It is definitely not a black-white divide on the issue. Skin colors vary on either side of the issue. But there are a few people who I only just realized are more than just tacticians to win their point of view. They are actually socially impaired with a condition (and don't be scared of technical terms) Assaholism, a too-unrare personality disorder that makes it hard for the afflicted to act civilly and avoid reproaching people personally and painfully. A few in the crowd are likely Assaholic's in remission, or "recovery." I'd like to think I fall into this category, though of course it's arguable. That mellowing often happens with age and the knowledge that if not treated, most Assaholic's die frightened and alone. That lady with the great hats and the evil stare that would burn right through your asbestos sweater? Assaholic. Imani Henry? Assaholic. They may have perfectly valid ideas to express, but when it gets right down to it they're just plain mean, vindictive and unable to imagine another's point of view. Assaholic's feed on anger. In Imani's deepening case, and after many productive and informative personal conversations with the guy, and my past vocal endorsement of his anti-gentrification project "Take It Back," Mr. Henry ran to Channel 12 news cameras to decry my racist and bigoted blog. When I stepped in to ask him what post in particular he was talking about, he had the gall to scream, on camera, "I'm being assaulted." To which the police officers just looked puzzled. "This Racist Touched My Shoulder!" The guy's a fraud. He doesn't want dialogue, and his soft-spoken voice is a cover for a deep and fear-soaked hate. Sorry dude. I'm not taking your bait. (Or maybe I am by writing this!) And you don't even live in the neighborhood anyway. (My offense, that he wrote me while we were at the meeting (yay smartphones!) after I told him how uncool he'd just been, was that I had attacked a black leader in the community (Alicia Boyd) and that I was therefore a racist. Which...oh whatever, I'm as racist I suppose as any white liberal who actually loves black people, black culture, black history and black politics, as in, you know, this shit is implanted in us and we have to push really hard against it. But I'd like to think I could call someone on their bullshit regardless of their race. To him, everyone black gets a pass even if they're hateful? I actually think that would be MORE racist, but you know, all of this stuff is topsy-turvy sometimes. My favorite was the lady who called me racist tonight because I wrote a post called Bye Bye Black Brooklyn. Clearly, she hadn't read it. At least now I know who's helping Ms. Boyd spread a lot of this racial division stuff. Monsieur Henry, J'Accuse! I'm not gonna stay mad though. You're not worth it. Or, if you man up and apologize, maybe we can even work on some stuff together.)

I'll end by printing Laurie Cumbo's open letter, because she's got the huevos to tell it like it is. And unlike Ms. Boyd, she's actually in a position to do something about it. Frankly, I think Alicia's got her sight on bigger things, and this small town community board fight is just her practice run. She's found her calling. If she finds a target worthy of the bluster, well, then maybe I'll be ally. Though I'm still not encouraging my parents to stay at her AirBnB when in town.

FROM LAURIE CUMBO, AN ACTUAL NYC COUNCILPERSON (take notes Mathieu - you might be one yourself someday):

Dear Neighbor,

Rapid change, growth and development are happening throughout Brooklyn. We have all been to the town hall conversations, rallies and protests surrounding our beloved Brooklyn and watched as people and local businesses have been displaced as luxury skyscrapers have taken their place to attract more affluent residents who did not participate in the struggle to make Brooklyn what it is today.

The rapid change that is taking place in Brooklyn would naturally cause every resident to fear what this change would mean for his or her community, including myself. As a born and raised Brooklynite whose family migrated here in the 1940s, I have always loved the diversity and neighborhood feel of our communities. I love the fact that this has been a place where local businesses could thrive and people could afford to raise a family.

In the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, more specifically in Community Board 9, the potential approval of a resolution to conduct a study that would evaluate how a rezoning would impact our community has caused a great deal of contention to put it mildly. When you look at what upzonings have meant in other parts of Brooklyn such as Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, where the entire fabric of the community has been changed with big box stores, massive buildings, a new arena, etc., the level of anxiety and contention that this idea poses is completely understandable. Logically, one would think that the best idea is to do nothing – as in no resolution, no study, no ULURP and no rezoning, in order to preserve the character and affordability of the community.
The reality of the situation is that as I write this letter, the cost of rent is increasing dramatically in Crown Heights, people are being displaced, local mom and pops are being replaced with boutique style shops and bars, plots of land are being cleared for “unspecified reasons,” and housing developments that require no allocation of affordable units are rising.

The development that is happening in this neighborhood is completely unplanned and the current zoning does not require the construction of affordable housing alongside new market rate development. In addition, unplanned development means that developers can build on their property as-of-right without having to take into consideration more support for the building of schools, parking, hospital beds, sanitation, and many other critical needs. It also means that the cost of rent will dramatically increase as the demand for housing increases, outpacing the development and creation of affordable housing.

I have stated at Community Board 9 meetings several times that not making a decision is making a decision. I have come to the conclusion that we simply cannot abstain and just hope that Crown Heights will remain the same, because you only have to walk down to the Franklin Avenue train station at 8am to see that the Crown Heights of 20 years ago has dramatically changed. I believe that the best option is to put forth a resolution that takes into consideration the lessons that have been learned from past studies and infuse them with the vision of local residents for their community.

Herein lies the challenge. Every Community Board 9 meeting has been abruptly interrupted by a consistent small group of individuals, who ridicule, humiliate, verbally attack and interrupt anyone that attempts to speak at the meetings with racist and anti-Semitic comments. Their bouts of shouting, running up and down the aisles and spinning on the floor is a total lack of respect for everyone that has taken valuable time from their families and jobs to participate in the meetings in order to have their voices heard. It has risen to such a level that a squad of police officers with a van parked outside has to be present at every meeting to ensure the safety of the people in attendance. The unfortunate part about all of this is that we have all missed a valuable opportunity to hear diverse opinions, ideas, thoughts and experiences in a safe space that can be incorporated into the planning of the community. I too have great concerns and reservations about the 80/20 model and how moving an influx of wealthy people into our community will impact us in exchange for a modest amount of affordable units and my concerns are further compounded by the fact there are very few safeguards in place for our commercial corridors.

As an elected official, you have to make difficult decisions and I believe that putting forth a resolution to conduct a study gives us the greatest understanding of what all of our options are in order to determine what is the best way to move forward. I do not have enough information nor have I come to any conclusions as to whether a re-zoning is right for the community. However, I am clear that we need all of the information possible to determine what is best for the community and I also support the idea of independent studies to be simultaneously conducted in order to create a checks and balance system for the recommendations of the study.

I ran for this office not to “go along to get along” in order to get re-elected. I ran because I care about my Borough greatly and I value the sacrifice and commitment that my family and thousands of other families have made to make Brooklyn a better place. A study conducted by City Planning with our input is only a set of recommendations and is not legally binding. Though my character has been challenged at meetings, on flyers and in emails, specifically in order to create an environment of distrust amongst the political leadership and the communities that they represent, I will simply let my track record over the past two decades; my body of work at not-for-profit institutions and my voting record speak for itself. We have to move forward.

Yours in Partnership,
Laurie A. Cumbo
Member of the New York City Council


MikeF said...

Maybe this will help:

Alex said...

Imani Henry lives in a glass house and should therefore learn not to throw stones.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

MikeF: A consensus will be reached. We haven't even started a study.

Right now, you have a VERY few people making a lot of noise. That doesn't constitute anything except...a few people making a lot of noise.

In making my decision of what "consensus" means, I've issued petitions and consulted with community groups and with my fellow Board members. The consensus is there. Don't let the distractions fool you.

MikeF said...

I do not believe consensus is possible, and thus do not support efforts to achieve it.

Unless someone's rights are being violated, I am ok with majority rule.

In this instance, I am endorse majority rule. I have watched the process over the last year, and all opinions have been heard.

Anonymous said...

There is NO reason to speak to people the way these people do, or respond to those who simply disagree with them as rudely as they have on the Lefferts list or on this blog the last couple years. What kind of lives have they lived or jobs they've held that they've never ever had to discuss and negotiate properly with those they disagree with? And why would anybody so inexperienced with that and so lacking in those skills be seen as the ones to lead their movement? Nothing will come of what they're doing except total dismissal by everybody as crazies. The interests of low income and middle class people need stronger, better quality representation than that. Yes, I said middle class too. If the middle class leave this city leaving only the very poor and the very rich it will all be a moot point because none of y'all will want to be here anymore. Good luck improving public schools without the middle class.

roxv said...

I'm glad Imani outed himself as an asshole--i always got that vibe from him when he'd ardently defend Alicia on the PLG FB group. Behind all his rational and meaningful discussions the bottom line is that he's willing to overlook the damage alicia is doing just because she's black--and generally mistrust anyone who isn't?? I can support a lot of his ideas, but not this.

MikeF said...

The developers are coming whether we love them,
and/or the NYPD,
and/or or MTOPP,
and/or our fellow commentators.

Those who don't have the money to stay, will have to leave regardless of their hue.

...whether that is funny or not.

Anonymous said...

"take notes Mathieu - you might be [a council member] yourself someday".
Right on!
As a constituent in his district I can vouch that he is utterly useless.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Zed Ludd:

Howdy pahdnah! You must be new round these parts! Just head over a post or two and you'll see that I call out people ALL THE TIME! And then I get slapped right back! I don't take it personally at all. Maybe I should?

I have three racist (presumably white) assholes who comment regularly, and I don't even let the public see them anymore. I got tired of calling them out, and others were tired of reading their bigoted rants. Stick around. You'll hear all the assholes you want! And I'll probably be your Asshole #1. Glad to oblige.

It took me awhile, but last night I finally figured it out, for myself, and I took pleasure writing it. These four people weren't just on "the other side" of an argument. They were jerks, a/k/a assholes, who don't give a damn who they offend or drag through the mud.

The number of people, black-white-gray-yellow-peach, that are smart, savvy, loving and kind in this neighborhood? Even Google doesn't have the storage to maintain the database. Perhaps I should call them out more often...

Don't be confused. Just because I call a few folks out for their behavior, doesn't mean it's all I'm about. Sometimes you have to knock off the outliers to get at the heart of the conversation. We live in a society that gives all the print to the most extreme opinions and people...I'd like to imagine there's another level of discourse out there.

Like I said Zed...welcome.

Curious27 said...

Now if only AB and her crew were going after the ineffectual Mathieu Eugene. Now THAT is something I'd throw my weight behind.

ElizabethC said...

I've always had an intense dislike are for Imani Henry, and I'm glad to see it was well founded. How ridiculous.

Alex said...

Same, EC.

Ever since his, "Tickets for running red lights unjustly oppress dollar van drivers" campaign, I've thought he was a total loser.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Alex: Right. But that's not why I give him the A-hole tag. That comes from personal behavior, not political or even legal.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good anarchist. Just not a mean-spirited anarchist. In fact, being an anarchist actually requires decent people skills, since in an Anarchy, there's no one to enforce the code!

ElizabethC said...

I think for me it was the "DWI sweeps are racist". As if we all don't benefit from having drunk drivers off the road! Blargh. But honestly any group he is in gets flooded with profoundly long messages and updates on his various causes. Nothing wrong with informing people or raising interest but 500+words on a FB neighborhood page is ridiculous.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I hate to playing Imani's role here, but I think his point was about WHERE the sweeps were. They were pretty suspect. As if people don't drive drunk in whiter areas. Knowmean?

ElizabethC said...

Meh. It didn't seem terribly well founded IMHO. Plus people drive horribly around here-- it would be nice to be able to blame alcohol instead of just being jerks. I almost get hit by someone cruising through a stop sign on the average of 2-3x a week.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I hears you. But a kid got killed on Prospect Park West. A checkpoint there wouldn't be a bad idea.

diak said...

An acquaintance (white) of mine got a ticket at that very corner on PPW. She told me that a pedestrian had just stepped off the curb as she was turning off PPW; cops were right there and directed her to stop. She was cited for "failure to yield" even though the pedestrian was nowhere near her car. In fact she said the cop who gave her the ticket even apologized but said he was under orders to follow the absolute letter of the law.
I've driven on PPW many times since and traffic is somewhat calmer (or more congested depending on how you look at it) but there are still the odd maniac speeding and zigzagging in and out and running reds.
But the dead child is old news, the crackdown is history and its back to business as usual...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Actually, the "dead child" is very much still current news. The ad in every cab keeps his memory is alive, and since de Blasio lived and represented the neighborhood of that family, maybe even friends, he's keeping it pretty darn front and center.

And the squeeze in the 78th is still in effect. I have two failure to stop at red light tickets on my bicycle to prove it (they want nearly $600! I'm pleading not guilty and hoping the cops don't show). I see those (underworked) 78th cops writing tickets all the time in Park Slope. I'm there way more than I wish I were! They're like pigeons on bread crumbs.

But that in no way resembles a checkpoint. The idea there is to stop everyone, or at least appear to stop everyone. The plus for the cops is that it not only lets them check for drunk drivers, but take a peek into every car they stop. That's why it risks stomping on people's civil liberties - it needs to be done fairly, and if it targets low income or colorful communities, then it IS a problem.

And to your comment that the police politely apologized? Geez louise, she musta looked like Bridgette Bardot, because that has never happened to me and I'm pretty sure it's never happened to a black man stopped by the cops either!

Anybody else receiving apologies from the police?

babs said...

Unfortunately, that child did what every parent most fears - he ran out into the street after a ball, without looking. The driver remained on the scene and I don't believe was charged with any wrongdoing. The incident did, however, contribute to the new 25 MPH speed limit in most parts of the City (now if they would just be respected and enforced!).

diak said...

"Apology" is probably too strong for what she told me occurred. When she protested that the pedestrian was not anywhere near her car and she was halfway into her turn, the officer looked "sheepish" (her word) and admitted that NYPD was being extra-strict because of the child who'd been hit and killed... so not really an "apology" but an all-too-rare admission nonetheless.

I haven't been in a cab in ages so I was unaware of the ongoing awareness of that horrible tragedy. Also, it's good to hear there's more enforcement going on than I'm witnessing. But unfortunately it seems like NYPD is content to pick the low-hanging fruit rather than pursue those who truly menace the borough. (Sorry if it sounds like I'm calling you low-hanging fruit, sir. I mean it strictly in the metaphoric sense!)

And it's good to note Mr Henry's efforts speaking up on behalf of drunk drivers. For too long their contribution to the businesses of tow-truck drivers, paramedics, ER staffs and funeral homes has gone unrecognized...