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, May 31, 2015

Gratitude Cafe Celebrates One Year Today - Stop By

Over by the Q train, you're likely to count your Blessings. But over on Rogers at Midwood, you've gotta have serious Gratitude. Each time the Q and family have stopped in at Gratitude we get more impressed. Ma or Pa Gratitude are quite often working behind the counter, and the place is always full of seriously satisfied customers. Good food, coffee, baked goods? Check. Blue Marble Ice Cream? Genius. Comfortable? Darn tootin'. Kids play area to get them out of your hair for one friggin' minute? Check. Clean washroom? Sweet. What's not to like? Nothing.

The reason I linked up in Paragraph I to Yelp reviews is not because I'm any huge fan of YELP. I do so to remark just how hard it is to get 4.5 stars after a few dozen reviews. Seriously, the neighborhood vote is in. Gratitude Cafe is a huge hit, and today they say thanks.

So, on PLG's Unofficial Opening of Summer - PLG House Tour Day - why not stop in for a cuppa and a cone? From Richard Otto:

Sunday, May 31st, is Gratitude Cafe's One year anniversary. Please stop by and join us between the hours of 11am -3pm. We will have activities for kids and families, including Giant Jenga, Giant Connect Four, Inflatable Twister, face painting and more.
We will also be handing out gifts to our KickStarter supporters, so stop down for your coffee mugs and T-shirts.

Congratulations Gratitude. One Year Is a Big Deal In the World of Small Business. Nicely Done.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This Saturday - More Beautification!

This stuff just warms the Q's cold, cold heart. Amphibian actually. Some say reptile. But flowers, and song, soothe the savage beast in me. Grrrrrrrrrrr. Pretty flower! Ahhhh. 1pm. Bring the kiddies. Saturday. Do it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Smile! You're Now a Brochure

NYC is, in many respects, the capital of the world. So it should probably not shock us, even WAY out here in Central Brooklyn, to become a focus of investment in a bizarre, even unprecedented, boom in real estate. But it's still jarring to see something like the below, a marketing piece in The Real Deal designed to spur even more interest in the area. A couple things jumped out at me. Wonder if they will for you too:

First, that picture of the new building on Hawthorne. I forgot how Fedders-esque it was to be. Given its modest nature, can you believe they to rename the neighborhood Heights Park?).

Second, the broker talking about commercial sounds almost activist in his description of how mom and pops are being priced out and displaced. But...wait. He's a broker. Isn't this GOOD news for his business?

Third, what's with the "white collar" "blue collar" figures? They account for 100% of residents in this strange demographics section, which oddly includes no race at all - seems to be hinting at it though. Is this an income thing? Because I can assure you many plumbers and electricians are bringing home more bacon than non-profit office workers. And what do you call the artists, entrepreneurs and the (hello!) unemployed? Well, the artists might be "rainbow collar." Freelancers might be "No Ties, Ever, And We Don't Even Have To Wear Pants To Work" The entrepreneurs might be "bluetooth collar." And the unemployed might be..."no collars?"

Fourth, the neighborhood is depicted as having been wealthy. I would argue that it was never wealthy so much as, maybe, upper middle in places but middle for sure. Professional class. If you take race out of the equation, yes, you could argue that it is returning to its previous class base.

But then it notes that Hispanics, Asians and Carribeans moved in and made it more diverse. How is it that they name Hispanics and Asians, but not African-Americans? No offense, but there's not a lot of Spanish and Chinese spoken around here. It's as if they purposely avoided mentioning black Americans NOT of Caribbean descent. Hmm.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Year and Two Months Later - The Letter Is Reinstated

Despite yet another last minute effort by CB9 member Fred Baptiste to table the motion, we actually after long, long last got to vote on whether to send the letter to the Department of City Planning asking them (mind you they still have to say yes!) to begin (just begin!) a study of our neighborhood in the wake of unprecedented change and an influx of big, big $ and buildings sprouting like grass over a septic tank.

Fred, you may recall, has been at the heart of the effort to derail this process ever since his motion to send the issue back to committee failed in March of 2014. With a little help from the Sultan of Sterling, he managed to blindsided the board with a motion to rescind the previous year's decision to start the process, caving to MTOPP at their first over-the-top showing in September. He also shut me down when I tried to get a vote back in December. I've also seen him getting chummy with Alicia, so despite the appearance of him being a "process oriented dude," his insistence that we follow HIS idea of process actually meant that developers have had more than a year to plan their takeover the neighborhood. Which, let's get honest, was going to happen anyway. I'm just pointing out that any good that comes from a study is now going to happen much later than we'd hoped. And I'm not going to hold any of this against Mr. Baptiste. He seems very much the Dudley Do-right character, and I appreciate that he has principles. Can't say that about some other folks in the room.

So how did "we the people" vote? It wasn't even close. I recall the tally being 24 yays, 6 nays and a handful of abstentions. Not too far off from the original vote over a year ago. Blah blah blah. The Q ain't taking any victory laps. This whole thing has been a massive drain on what should have been a community coming together to work with the City to strengthen its future. And there was Boyd, muttering "Uncle Tom" under her breath as the meeting came to a close, presumably referencing temporary chair Demetrius Lawrence. Who won the election to be the official chair for one month, even though we have to vote AGAIN in June for the official official chair for 2015-16. Process, people! Process!!

Which brings me to the REAL story that unfolded tonight. I've always liked Demetrius, his calm and his reason, but I had no idea how he'd fare in the heat of the spotlight. You know what? I think we just witnessed a real leader being born. He had the presence and the humility to become (dare I say it?) a really great CB9 chairman. And what was particularly poetic was that this was the night that the Board honored longtime chair and 38-year military man Jake Goldstein for his exemplary service to country. As an orthodox Jew he was one of the first to get to keep his beard in the army those many years ago. And as chaplain, he's been all over the world counseling our men and women in uniform. Thanks Jake!

And with that, the baton passes. Here's to a steady leadership under Demetrius Lawrence, whose name has never been, nor will it ever be, Tom. You will do well to remember to listen, but also to remember that she who speak loudeth is not always the righteth.

And with thateth, I bideth you goodeth nighteth.

Come On Down!

Used to be the dullest show in town. Then we added a new cast of characters and ratings soared! Copy of draft below. The letter passed the ULURP committee with a vote of 10 for, 1 against, 1 abstention. In business session the Board will finally vote. And yes, there has been public comment. A whole year and a half actually.

One item not to miss in the shuffle: Erv's, the cocktail bar on Beekman, wants to put a few tables out on the sidewalk. Longterm it would seem they want to move into the laundry space as well, lite fare, bigger joint. Could be good for biz, could be tough on neighbors. What think?

See you tonight!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day

Just spoke with a neighbor who lives at 60 Clarkson Avenue, you know, THE 60 Clarkson. She has six kids, she's juggling nursing school. The oldest ones are now in middle school and handle themselves nicely. Lots of help they are, really. Grown up real fast. They're doing okay. Living in a de facto homeless shelter. Doing okay, for now.

But she just told me a new family moved in Friday night. Mom, two kids, 4 and 6. She's a domestic abuse case, so she's not in the "system" yet to get her W.I.C. card. She came from intake in the Bronx with nothing. Nothing. As in nothing. Other homeless families in the building are sharing with her what they can. No sheets. No towels. No food.

Nothing. It might as well be a refugee camp somewhere on the other side of the world.

We're going to the grocery to pick up a few basics and drop them off. The system will kick in a couple days, one hopes. This story gets played out a thousand times a week in this, the richest City on the planet. And on this, a block with houses north of $1.5 million, the difference between haves vs have-nots could not be more stark.

Note to the fallen heroes who fought for the nation:

We're still working on it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Special Edition Echo Is Here W/Tribute to Carole

For the pdf just click. Read on, those who are house-curious.

ULURP Committee Meeting Minutes

UPDATE: Yes, a quorum was reached. Since Mike Cetera was not reappointed, and four other ULURP members resigned (Diana Richardson, Dwayne Nicholson and Rosemarie Perry, Laura Imperiale) that leaves just 19 members. 12 were present.

As I'm sure you were dying to know how the melee was officially described by the Board, below are the minutes submitted by Ben Edwards. Behind the scenes there is a call to protect Board members and in particular Pearl Miles with some sort of order of protection. We'll see where that leads. Needless to say, it is now officially impossible to conduct Board business with MTOPP present. They didn't even let us open the meeting. As noted by board member Kenya Sollas who lives at the building Crown Gardens where the community room was reserved, the crowd assembled had taken all the seats and refused to move to let the meeting begin. She did a terrific job of appealing to reason, but to no avail. The only way the committee was even able to vote was to create a scrum and shout to one another. Poor Evelyn Williams, longtime Board member and Hawthorne Street building president, suffered a cut lip.

Alicia spent the night in the pokey, as she most clearly resisted arrest and made dangerous flailings in an attempt, I guess, to keep from being handcuffed. She's been charged with various crimes, though short of felony assault, which the cops probably could have done. They showed considerable restraint if you ask me. Those are our Community Affairs guys by the way, hardly the "bad guys." It's all so horribly wrong. Her followers, many from outside the community, believe they are fighting to keep the neighborhood black and inexpensive. A few even expressed it as such, meaning that the very real illegalities perpetrated by landlords are not even their primary focus, but rather government officials and agencies. So here, under Boyd's guidance, they are targeting a bunch of appointed volunteers trying to reign in scattershot development.

In case you were wondering what other criminal charges were or weren't filed, there's this line from Alicia's follow up email upon her release:

You can see right there in the film.
One of the white board members grinning and smiling
who has been pushing to up zone our community.
This man has called people names at meeting
and even has an harassment complaint filed against him
because of his behavior and yet he has been empowered

to make decisions for us.

FYI that white man accused of smiling is Warren Berke. I don't think I broke into a smile the entire meeting. Felony "Smile 2" charges against Berke are likely to be knocked down to "Smirk 1" after plea bargaining.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

96 Parkside Avenue - The Peristyle

Things to share that the Q did not know. First, the Parthenon across from the Parade Ground is called The Peristyle. Second, it has an address - 96 Parkside Avenue. Third, it is likely part of the ghost situation at 123 on the Park, at least in the sense that ghosts go there to play croquet, since this is also apparently known as the Croquet Shelter. The wickets are likely ghosts as well, for I see no way to append them to the floor.

Then this wonderful postcard via Montrose Morris in her piece on said Colonnade:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Committee Nearly Unanimous In Wanting Planning Study

They hurled insults. They told lies. They riled the crowd up to a frenzy so intense that some of us questioned our decision not to stand closer to a door for ease of exit. This is what happens when dialogue gets trashed for demagoguery. For all the talk of wanting to be heard, they've done no listening. And tonight the committee said what it had said 14 months ago. Let's get on with a study, and push for our agenda at every turn. Yes, let's work with the City and plan our future.

The vote was 9 in favor, 1 against, 1 abstention. The letter requesting a Planning Study goes to the full Board next week. Expect more nonsense, and a likely yay vote.

Who knows where it will go from here. Nowhere good, probably. Just more neighbor against neighbor shouting and name calling. Unless, by some miracle, Alicia decides to take the high road and talk rather than pretend she's fighting the battle for the right to vote. Actually, she could have taken some notes on civil disobedience from the King, because her tactics are definitely not civil and the way she behaves when arrested could damn well turn into a riot one day. Here's some footage, not for the weak of heart:

Thanks Mike F for the embed (click thru for his coverage). By the way, yes, that is a child that one protester brought to the proceedings and encouraged to watch the whole thing. A member of the Board asked her if she wouldn't rather take her outside for the arrest scuffle, but she adamantly refused. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but was that necessary? The little girl couldn't have been a month past three if that. She also gets to watch the below, where about ten seconds in a woman rushes at Ben Edwards and looks like she takes a swipe at him.

 So what happened? Amidst the chaos, the Committee huddled to (barely) hear one another open the meeting, take the vote and adjourn. All that for that.

As I noted before, MTOPP's propaganda really paid off. She brought out significantly higher numbers than usual - maybe 30. But to highlight just how much horseshit she's been feeding people, I spoke with two woman who wanted to know why I was working for the greedy Developers. When I told them I was a 12 year resident who loved my neighborhood and my neighbors, they seemed aghast. But why was I fighting to put huge luxury high rises in the neighborhood? I said that was the very thing I was hoping to prevent, and to see that any new buildings had affordable set-asides. But why was I for buildings like 626 Flatbush? At which point, I just shook my head. It's all going to be okay I muttered, half of me not believing, and half just plain shell-shocked I guess.

There wasn't anything funny about tonight, or any of it. And I'm not the least bit happy that the right decision was made. I really think the anger on display tonight, of neighbor against neighbor, does not bode well for the next chapter, whatever that may be. And now, I fear, Alicia will claim the Board is responsible for the massive changes taking place in the neighborhood. If she's able to convince people of that, look out. Nobody's safe.

Shakespearean Caledonian Apparitions

Every once in awhile, on the internet, you just have to write a phrase that if googled in quotes will be the only result. I am quite certain that the above blog post title will stand the test of time. I'm thinking Macbeth of course.

The Q joked here about the possibility that ghosts might inhabit the old Caledonian Hospital, now known as 123 on the Park, which has been pointed out it is a bit of a stretch, since the entrance is actually around the corner. Now comes word that...folks, the ghosts are real. Too many people died in this building (probably tens of thousands over the years, don't you think? and it had a morgue in the basement! "Room for One More, Honey!") Think we're joking? The NY Post has the spook scoop.

photo: william farrington

Monday, May 18, 2015

March Madness

pic: Emma Whitford

Last Thursday thousands marched over the bridge to demand real affordability and an end to discrimination and intimidation. Local heroes CHTU got in the act, and the Q is happy to point out neighbor and activist Esteban GirĂ³n front and center in the photo below (holding the sign). He joined the CB9 ULURP committee this spring, and he's been very helpful to this blogger in terms of keeping up with the insanity, including commenting and giving up-to-date info. A real hero if you ask me, as are many others putting in the hard work of making noise and knocking on doors and reminding people they have rights and don't have to go quietly into the night.

pic: Emma Whitford

Putting the Pro in Propaganda

All over the neighborhood you'll see the flyers. Within lies a case study in how to deceive and manipulate. Let us count the ways.

1. Call yourself a "movement," when in fact you're a handful of people that has tried to grow from a handful of people for months without traction.
2. Use the word "they" as if you have a specific "they" in mind, even though the target is as varied as the neighborhood itself.
3. Use a picture that is completely fabricated to scare the hell out of you, of 16+ story buildings that have never been suggested by anyone including the Department of City Planning in its own tallest-case scenarios, that wouldn't look like this anyway because there's not enough land to go that high and wide at the same time, even with overly generous zoning.
4. Make it sound like this issue alone is the reason that developers will make money and push you out, when dozens of projects are already happening and landlords have been trying to get people out for a few years now...and are generally succeeding.
5. Suggest that "stop the vote" is a legitimate way of engaging the issues. In fact, a better way to get what you want would be to calmly and rationally state your position, or work on individual elected officials and community board members to come around to your viewpoint. As it is no one can hear you because you're screaming and spitting in their face.
6. Don't mention that the only reason any of this is up for discussion is because people DON'T want skyscrapers, and are looking to have a DISCUSSION about how to limit outsized development, improve infrastructure and keep the neighborhood affordable. Basically, the same goals, unless of course your goals are actually something different.
7. Don't mention that the only way to ensure the neighborhood is somewhat economically diverse in the future is to focus on building some affordable housing and/or addressing the massive influx of new buildings to the neighborhood, particularly in R6 and R7 designated areas or - as I've said a million times - focus on keeping people in their current homes by being a positive force and team player. Most recently, MTOPP has been denouncing the work of the Crown Heights Tenants Union, one of the few examples of REAL activism that is achieving results.

Look for another shitshow on Tuesday. Where will the Q be? Right in the middle of course. He's been appointed for another two years on the Community Board, and he loves being cursed at.

UPDATE: Another email goes out, with this gem, separating us all out by race/religion, just as God intended:

Just take a look at the CB9's rezoning plan for the R2 districts
R2 are very restrictive and protect 1 and 2 story homes

There are three areas,
1. Prospect Lefferts Garden (largest percentage of  Whites)
2. Jewish community
3. Crown Heights (Predominately Blacks) Crown St between Bedford and Rogers!
City Planning and Community Board 9 recommendations for these zones.
1. Prospect Lefferts Garden - no changes leave in tact (protect)
2. Jewish Community - Create a Special District that will have specific controls of development only half a story increase!
3. Crown Heights - Up zone adding 2 more stories!
In the Whites they are protected, in Jewish Area, they will be protected by a special district

but in the Black community they will be unprotected.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Am I Rent Stabilized?

Most likely, yes. You may not know your power. You have rights. You have a lease. You are part of the much-maligned but not-to-be-dismissed system of rent regulation in NYC.

Find out whether you're at the party or not:


Lefferts resident Chris Henrick made that site/app. Thanks Chris!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Q Calls Ponzi On Their Ass

The Q, Not Beholden To Ethics Rules, Says Scam Is In the Air

Okay. This is now officially ridiculous. There is absolutely NO way you can make a profit paying $44 million for a 200 unit building at 805 St. Mark's, diagonal the Brooklyn Children's Museum. You gots to do upkeep, maintenance, you gotta run the building. The name of the company that bought it is Swedish, called Akelius. Plenty of people already don't like their "business model." Expect nothing new here.

But here's the nutty part. The building was purchased for half that just two years ago by Freddy Sayegh of Burke Leighton. It's doubled in price in two years. AND Burke Leighton bought it from their cross-town rivals (buddies?) Pinnacle. You know, Pinnacle, another ethically challenged buyer who's part of a small cadre of big real estate players who've invested heavily in Central Brooklyn.

What's going on? The Q says...Ponzi. Forget all the obvious morally reprehensible stuff they do to make their properties whiter and richer. These guys all know one another. What's to stop them from saying, mafia style, you buy mine if I buy yours? Then it looks to the world like the "smart money" is willing to pay these massive valuations. And then we sell ONE MORE TIME. To someone who's NOT in the cabal. And all that back and forth that we spent turns into one big payday. We split the profits. Or, to make it look more kosher, you take this one, I'll take the next.

Seems like an effortless way to make millions in an overcooked market.

At the very least, we're way past prices that make sense for the old-school model of buy a property, improve it, create steady returns. They used to call it rent roll. Now, who knows what metric they're using? Maybe one of you finance heads can explain this to me.

146 Fenimore. Bring Cash To Buy Out Tenants

Alls you gots to do, according to this here advert, is to magically change the $22 s/f the building gets to $40 s/f. Shouldn't be too hard, if you use a little elbow grease.

On Third Thought

The always thoughtful Esteban, from the Crown Heights Tenants Union, added a comment on "On Second Thought" that puts this article in its proper one reminder of the tactics, but hardly the last word. Here's his comment from the last post:

I think part of what makes the story so compelling is the matter-of-fact way the issues are discussed. As Cea [from UHAB] says in the follow-up article, it's shocking to hear the actual words that Ephraim uses, but only because we are much more accustomed to hearing terms like "knowledge worker" or "good tenant" (that's my landlord's preferred phrase, and he uses it exclusively for new, white tenants). In the same way, it's common knowledge that though the law clearly prohibits it, landlords practice "source of income" discrimination ALL THE TIME. Ask any Section 8 recipient how hard it is to get a landlord to agree to rent to them; better yet, ask an HIV positive HASA recipient how they fare. The point is, these are not isolated incidents or things that kinda just "happen." Getting rid of the black and brown people in a building is an essential part of the business model for landlords like mine (Burke Leighton) or ZT or BCB. So you know they REALLY hate it when long-term tenants and new tenants organize together!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Second Thought

Been thinking this over. I don't like the smell of it, and I'll come right out and say it. There's something rotten in Denmark about that article I just posted about. I'm a fairly good judge of bullshit, and I'm starting to sense either a tad bit or a big pile. I might be wrong, but here's what I was thinking on my bike ride over the Manhattan bridge. (Spectacular by the way, except that weird Apocalyptic wind brewing.)

I'm not saying Gibson went for the marketing jugular here. Actually, that is what I'm saying. His book just came out, and this stuff is going through the roof on social media. I'm sure Mr. Gibson will profit quite handsomely off his oral history of gentrification. Imagine that. A white guy making money off gentrification.

What bothers me is that this very big issue of real-estate-ambulance-chasing is being reduced to some offhand and (literally) under the breath comments by a single guy. If in fact everything he's saying is reported accurately (I have to assume in the age of high profile writer's fraud that NY Mag listened to the tapes...yes?) then there are THREE hard-to-fathom things happening.

1. White people are moving in and expressing their displeasure in having to live in the same building as black people. Really? Privately they might be uncomfortable, but in 2015 it's REALLY uncool to express your racism publicly. And newcomer Brooklynites are painfully cool. And saying it to your landlord or management company is pretty darn public. I'm guessing it a hell of a lot. The fact is, buildings are changing so fast the racists hardly have to say much of ANYthing and their dreams will come true.

2. Even if they ARE uncomfortable with the old-school neighborhood types, they're DEFINITELY not going to be uptight about roommates of color, as expressed in the article. I mean these kids mostly went to liberal arts schools and bent over backwards to be cool on race. And if you hadn't noticed, interracial dating and groups of partiers is hardly uncommon. Middle to Upper Class people don't generally have a problem hanging out with a diverse group of other Middle to Upper Class people.

3. This Ephraim fellow must be having a bad common-sense day, or why would he be sharing this stuff so openly? One reason would be if, in a warped way, he's trying to impress Gibson. If that's the case, all bets are off. He could just be lying in that way that braggarts do, or exaggerating. Hell he basically says he has to lie to do his job. Why should we take him at his word here?

No, I'm not excusing this guy's behavior, or doubting that the actual transactions themselves are happening. For the most part, it's public record. But my instincts tell me this is more about selling books than in telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Just To Try To Hold On To Your Lunch After Reading This

From NY Magazine comes some craaaaazy sick strategy talk from a man who makes his money encouraging the rapid change of neighborhoods. Just like in the stock market, you look for an "edge." The edge, when it comes to buying and selling properties in black neighborhoods, is knowing how to play the many angles of racism, perception and ignorance. It's a shame that the quoted dude is Jewish, since it's not strictly a game for the religious sects. Far from it. But there it is. Perhaps he became a bit comfortable riding around in his own car, showing off a bit to writer DW Gibson. Catch Gibson's series of articles, and perhaps we can stop pretending that gentrification is some sort of natural market process - one buyer, one seller, all good.

Here's some of the hardest bits to stomach:

We’re small, so we look into places that haven’t caught on — we just did a place on Nostrand Avenue. People are not even there yet. We put in $600,000 and everyone was laughing at us. “It’s crazy, you’re over there. A building for yuppies, white people? It’s not going to work.” The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do.

My saying is — again, I’m not racist — every black person has a price. The average price for a black person here in Bed-Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars. Everyone wants them to leave, not because we don’t like them, it’s just they’re messing up — they bring everything down. Not all of them.

Most of them don’t believe you at first. "Oh, you Jewish people you’re a bunch of thieves, you’re never going to give me my money." But once you start actually having a base of people who know you, who you actually gave the money, it’s better. Sometimes it’s really tricky because you’ll have one person willing to leave for $2,000 and another wants $20,000. And the second this guy finds out that guy is getting 20 he says, “Hell no, I’m not leaving. I want 20, too.”

They don’t know — here he lowers his voice — that even if they get the money and they left, they could always come back. They don’t know that part. And it’s so scary sometimes because they could come up in the middle of construction and say, “It’s my property, I didn’t understand what I was signing, and I want to come back.” Some blacks have an attorney and everything. So I try to make them happy, even if they’re going to go for $7,000 or $8,000, I’d rather give them an extra grand so they’re happy and they’re not going to think about it too much. Again, I don’t want to be a racist, but when I have a building—I can’t even say it because it’s not going to sound right.

He lowers his voice again:
If there’s a black tenant in the house—in every building we have, I put in white tenants. They want to know if black people are going to be living there. So sometimes we have ten apartments and everything is white, and then all of the sudden one tenant comes in with one black roommate, and they don’t like it. They see black people and get all riled up, they call me: “We’re not paying that much money to have black people live in the building.” If it’s white tenants only, it’s clean. I know it’s a little bit racist but it’s not. They’re the ones that are paying and I have to give them what they want. Or I’m not going to get the tenants and the money is not going to be what it is.

The scary part about doing this is, if the black guys start to realize how much the property will sell for. This is a new thing now, the past year. A million, two million dollars—it’s crazy, crazy numbers. None of them realize yet—some of them do—the amount of money you can get. The scary part is they’re going to realize they can get the same exact house in East New York for $400,000, $500,000 and they can get paid $1.5 million for their home in Bed-Stuy, they’re going to start dumping houses on the market and the market’s going to be flooded and it’s going to cool down. It’s already cooling down.

Rent! Not the Musical

It's the basis of the NYC economy, myth and muscle. You don't get to 8 million people - 9 is the estimate by 2020 - without a heck of a lot of leases. There's a lot of talk about zoning around here - some people want to build more affordable housing and plan for smart growth; some people think the City will hoodwink us if we do so. No matter to the thousands of people already living here, many of whom are scared to read the mail from their landlords.

So what can you do? What if 100,000 people showed up at this? Think Albany could ignore us then? I don't think so. Look, maybe you're not political. Fine. Plan a day in Manhattan and stop by Foley Square and go grab some dinner after. Go to a movie or one of those late night Museum things. And be counted. And if your so inclined grab a sign and save your voice for the big scream. It's fun to see the full fabric of NYC laid out in one big colorful flag.

The line "stop gentrification" misses the point as far as I'm concerned, and is unnecessarily class and race divisive. If you really want EVERYone to show up, don't single out people as part of the problem. People move here all the time, and they move where they get the best rent. And some of them are connected in ways that could make the battle an easier win. Sigh. That's all from the critique side, but I can see why it's helpful to get out the numbers.

But screw it. When has an issue ever been totally cut and dry? See you there!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Shooting Near Parade Ground

Damn, damn, damn. See that helicopter hovering above the Parade Ground earlier this eve? It wasn't whistling dixie. Been quiet over near the Ground for awhile. Thank god no one was killed. The line "boy fled on bike" speaks volumes.

FLATBUSH — A teenage boy shot and wounded a woman and a teen girl across from the parade ground near Prospect Park Tuesday afternoon, sources said.

The unidentified 34-year-old woman was struck in the shoulder and the 14-year-old girl was hit in the leg, according to sources. They were taken to Kings County Hospital about 5 p.m., according to the FDNY. Their wounds were not life threatening.

The boy fled on a bike, but was quickly apprehended near the Brooklyn Museum, sources said.

More from DNA Info.

Get the Cars Outa the Park

It's time.

In this well-written petition, the pandering to cars has got to end. Y'all get free parking. Y'all get free access to Manhattan over the bridges. Y'all get to double-park, and pollute our air, and honk your asses off anytime you like, and mow us down in the crosswalks. Now vamoose from the parks. I ride my bike, with child no less, every weekday to her school. There are very, very few cars that use the entrance at Coney Island Avenue, the only one that's open any more. Maybe a few hundred a morning. And for this we have to be wary of traffic, which often seems oblivious to the rules - one lane for runner/walkers, one for bikes, one for cars. It's hard enough dodging the would-be Lance Armstrongs.

I've been shocked at the Community Board by how pro-car everyone around here is. They FLIP OUT everytime someone suggests creating bike lanes, or dedicated MTA bus lanes, or even slow zones. SLOW ZONES FOR CHRISAKES! Like on interior streets. Are you effing kidding me? No to slow zones?

Hey, I love cars. I love taxis and car service. I like renting them to get out of town. I want them to be able to get around quickly, just like everybody else. But cars in parks? What in heavens are we thinking, here? Does Robert Moses still work for the City? People get all nuts when we talk about new regs for cars, like we're taking away their baby bottle. It's embarrassing. Keep your car, but save your bitching.

Sign the petition. I know, I know, another stupid petition. But maybe it'll make you feel better. I know it made me feel great about myself for about three seconds. Someone tells me Brad Lander has an interest in this. Seems like his kinda thang. Here's the text:

As the neighborhoods surrounding Prospect Park have become more developed and more heavily populated, use of the park by pedestrians, cyclists, runners and other residents has increased. Although the reduction in car traffic in the park has been a positive development, it is becoming clear that even limited access to the park by passenger vehicles is a disaster waiting to happen.
There is no evidence that re-routing traffic through the surrounding neighborhoods will cause any negative impacts. It is time to completely close Prospect and Central Parks to traffic.
Sooner or later someone is going to get killed. A little kid or a senior citizen is going to get mowed down by someone who thinks they're saving 5 minutes by racing through a park. Then we'll stop rush hour traffic and everyone will remember their name. Mayor de Blasio, stop this unneeded rush hour traffic in the parks now and we will remember your name as the person who saved lives. 
These roads are closed for 158 out of 168 hours a week.  Can we just end this confusing and dangerous situation and let our parks be parks and not shortcuts.

This Is Why You Live In Brooklyn

And Lola's from Flatbush too. Designing clothes, roller skating...who's got time for anything else? And heck you, dear neighbor, can slap on your skates and roll right on over to the party. No need to drive or take a train. What a hoot. Me and the little ones were out there last Saturday when a party kicked into gear. The costumes were priceless.

The 2015 Lola Star Dreamland Roller Disco calendar includes:

May 15th: Flashdance – 80’s Dance
May 22nd: Xanadu – Glitter and Sparkle

May 29th: Pretty in Pink Prom – All Things Molly

June 5th: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – 80’s Girl Pop

June 12th: We are the Champions- Freddie Mercury and Queen

June 19th: Material Girl – All Things Madonna

June 26th: Bust a Move – 90s Pop and Vintage Hip Hop

July 3rd: Saturday Night Fever - Disco

July 10th: Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran and New Wave

July 17th: Let’s Get Physical – 80’s Workout Gear

July 24th: Cruel Summer- 80’s Pop

July 31st: Divas of Disco – 70’s Disco and Diva Fashion

August 7th: Groove is in the Heart – 90’s Pop

August 14th: Ziggy Stardust – Celebration of David Bowie

August 21st: Walk Like an Egyptian – The Bangles and 80’s Dance

August 28th: Hair Metal – Big Hair and Air Guitar

September 4th: Great Gatsby – Zoot Suits and Flappers September 11th: Purple Rain – All Things Prince

September 18th: Grease – 50’s Dance and Styles

September 25th: 80s Pajama Party – 80’s Dance Party

October 2nd: Just Like Heaven – The Cure and Goth

October 9th: Thriller –Michael Jackson and Halloween Preview

About Lola Star

Lola Star has captured the hearts of millions with the fabulous line of merchandise that she designs, hand makes and sells at The Lola Star Souvenir Boutique on the Coney Island boardwalk, the Lola Star Surf Shop, her brand new Rockaway Beach Boutique and her online boutique.

Lola created Dreamland Roller Rink which filled the formerly abandoned, historical landmarked Child’s Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk with glittering magic from 2008-10. As founder and former director of the Save Coney Island Organization she advocates for the preservation of the historic Amusement District of Coney Island. Lola is also a huge animal lover, vegan and helps to rescue animals in need.

Union Hall for Flatbush - The Nest

Charlie Kasov and Tyler Fischer

Underground comedy. Well alright then. Appears that Bluebird Cafe has a basement option, and you'll be able to head downstairs for some yucks, courtesy of funnymen Charlie Kasov and Tyler Fischer. Maybe bands to aren't far behind? If you've been to, or played at, Union Hall on Union near 5th Avenue in Park Slope, perhaps you'll get the vibe they're after. Without the bocce. Starting Saturday. Read all about it:

And it's called The Nest. And there's music on Wednesdays. Who knew?

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Mindboggling Really

Today Rachel at DNAInfo rounded up the latest 13 developments happening in the CB9 area, adding to her latest compilation of 15. This is much more handy than my slapdash noodlings and I appreciate that.

But if you REALLY want to have your noggin' shot off its perch, slop up a heapin' help of this mind-blower from Jacob G.

Far be it from me to suggest it, but don't you think a community undergoing this crazy barrage of building might want to do a Planning Study with the City to see what's to come of it, and maybe demand some goodies for the longterm health of the community? Nah. Let's just wait and see how it plays out. Wouldn't want to rush into anything, now would we? I'm sure the developers will wait for us to get our act together. They're due for a nap now anyway.

Diana & Isaac - Right Where They Belong

When you hold a special election mid-term, the winner's gotta get right to work! No slowin' down this single mom...

Diana - you deserved the win, and we're counting on you (and Isaac) to do us proud. Go get 'em DeeRich!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

The Q hates himself sometimes for always looking North. There's so much going on south and west of me it's easy to forget I started this blog thing to circumscribe the train station the Q at Parkside. In fact, quite a bit is happening in the microhood I call Caledonia, due to the decades long stint of the Caledonian Hospital on Parkside, now known to the world as 123 on the Park. Those 123-ers have now gone public with the brand new building they're building just next door:

With an entrance on Parkside, it'll function very differently than 123 and change the often quiet and dark stretch a great deal. But once again, like SO many renderings before it, do you notice something about the people drawn in the rendering? Look close:

Yep. You noticed too? Every single one of them is fit as a fiddle and lean as can be. Not a chunker among them. No flab on these cats. The inherent size-ism* is clear as a bell. I mean, what are the chances that six New Yorkers and one kid are going to be trim and fit? I mean, outside Chelsea. For shame.

If I've heard the old saying once I've heard a hundred times: "as East 21st goes, so goes Caledonia." It's a fascinating street, especially "our" section from Woodruff to Caton. I particularly love that one limestone house holding on for dear life, alone and proud. There are two fairly big vacant lots with new projects going up, and one looks like this:

 I'm no architect, but that seems like a whole lot of studios to me. The ones that say "kitchenette," that's like a dead giveaway yes? Or is this an SRO building? Methinks the former. The other site has no rendering, but appears to be developed by a company called Brookland. Here's a ton of projects they're working on all over the borough. Lots and lots of them are in Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, so they clearly have Central Brooklyn on the brain in their wallet.

Those projects alone match all the new development the Q witnessed around here in his first dozen years. As I've mentioned many times, my home road of Clarkson is hosting a steady stream of new projects, many on my own block. I was particularly saddened to learn that this house next to the Haitian Pentecostal church known as Mount of Olives will be torn down by the end of summer:

I remember being told when I first moved here that these two houses were "kind of sketchy." When you hear that word, always be skeptical. The house on the left is essentially the rectory for the church next door. And while they're not the best landscapers, they're about as sketchy as a hipster taking a painting class. Then the house on the right, the one that just sold, is home to an extended family of people so sweet and friendly hardly a day goes by I don't exchange pleasantries with them. They loved hanging on their porch. I learned yesterday that they're decamping for the south. That is, Ditmas Park. Don't cry for them, Argentina. The purchase price was probably well beyond their wildest dreams when they purchased the place decades ago for a song and a small pile of Susan B. Anthony's. But geez Louise I'll miss this little stretch. The brick town houses are apparently being bought too, amassing enough land to make a tear-down scenario likely. Would be a shame, since each is essentially a three family house right now. Three family house with 4-6 mailboxes that is.

*to those who haven't caught on, including the people who regularly email me that all the folks in these pictures are white, I'll let you in on a little secret. My talking about their weight is actually sarcasm, and yeah, I'm noting that they're white. But I don't really want to get into a whole thing about that, because it tends to get defensive and ugly. So shhhhh, don't tell anybody.

More Art - Flatbush Becomes Gallery

This time the artist's name is simply "Elle," and the Q shot a pic as she decorated the corner of Lincoln Road and Flatbush, or technically Washington. Once again, mom & Patio Gardens resident Jenny Ulloa is the curator (she does other things too by the way). As if in stark relief from the much-maligned (on this blog and the Facebook page anyway) "Don't Shoot" mural, this one speaks peace love and flora. Thoughts?

Meet the New Bedford Ave

A number of projects will be coming to Bedford Avenue in the next couple years. This is a bit of a sneak peak. The corner of Winthrop and Bedford has been vacant for many years following a tragic fire. This rendering shows a very "Crown Heights" use of a thin lot. Expect lots more. Number of means-tested units priced significantly below market? Zero. That's okay though. Because we're the sort of neighborhood that's prepared to take years reaching a consensus that will likely never emerge to decide what sort of hopes we have for the future. After returning from your summer vacation at your delightful Upstate fixer-upper, perhaps then will be a good opportunity to sit down over a chai latte and discuss whether we want to build affordable housing around here.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nice Heat For the Little Lady

Just got this pic w/the below marketing advice in my inbox. I have no idea how I got on this list. But it did remind me of some pretty static statistics that have resonated with me for years. More on that after the pitch that came with that image.
Whether he – or she – is concerned about personal protection and home safety or simply wants to take up shooting as a hobby, most new gun owners (and potential owners) share similar concerns about making that important first purchase. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), more than half of first time gun buyers purchase because they enjoy shooting activities; the next largest group of buyers is women concerned about self-defense.
I suppose this is only tangentially related to the Q's neighborhood, but every time a shooting takes place nearby I hear mutters of "maybe I should get a gun." To most liberals, of course, that's anathema. One useful statistic: a gun is 11 times more likely to be used in a suicide attempt than shot in self-defense. Plus the gun is way more likely to be used in homicides and criminal activity than ever shot to deter an intruder, who quite often isn't an intruder at all but rather someone showing up at your house at the deathly wrong moment. Or, as we hear way to often, an accident happens, often involving a kid. That's why the most lethal item in my house is a kitchen knife. You really gotta work hard to kill someone with that. I'm told (er, I read) that it takes serious effort and perhaps a hunter's skills to kill someone with a knife. I can also imagine that pulling a trigger is less jarring to the soul than repeatedly plunging a knife into someone's back or ribcage. These are the things that fill a blogger's mind at night.

But the more ominous statistic to me is one that lies just behind that picture, the loving scene of (presumably) husband and wife enjoying guns together, knowing that both can rest easier with firearms and and gun safety and shooting competence on their side. And yet, women are nearly 3 times as likely to be killed by gun violence if they have a gun in the home than if they don't. Because when the honeymoon goes south, and domestic disputes turn violent, the dude has a lethal weapon at his disposal that will allow him to make a miserable and un-doable choice. These are also the things that fill a blogger's mind at night.

Why am I writing this? I dunno. Cuz I opened the email I guess.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Must Viewing - One Neighor's Fight Against Greedy Landlords

The Q asks that you consider one tenant's fight with the forces of displacement.  Woodruff neighbor Hany articulates, in splendid detail, the realities of living in an "up and coming" neighborhood. Multiply this story times a thousand or more, and you can explain that feeling you get sometimes that there's a disturbance in the Force. Check it out. Can you relate?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Definitive Article on MTOPP and Boyd?

pic RHS - Yes that's yours truly taking a bath in Alicia's spit
Rachel Holliday Smith attempts to describe the last few months of disruption and divisiveness in an objective manner. God bless her. I know I couldn't do it!

From her article today in DNAInfo. Please read it on the DNA site and give her the "clicks" she deserves. Nicely done, Rachel.

CROWN HEIGHTS — Last September, a woman with a booming voice and shock of curly gray hair walked into the middle of a Community Board 9 meeting and slammed down papers serving the executive board and District Manager Pearl Miles with a lawsuit.
“This community board has been hiding behind all kinds of bulls--t!” shouted Alicia Boyd, the head of an activist group of local residents calling themselves Movement to Protect the People, which had recently been formed to protest the board’s effort to begin a study of rezoning parts of its district in Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.
“We are not playing!”

Since Boyd likes to knock the RWDs, or Rich White Developers (and who doesn't these days? It's as popular as being "for education"), and since she heavily supported Geoffrey Davis in the Assembly election, and since he got less than 5% of the vote, perhaps I should start referring to her as the leader of the Four Percenters, because that's about as much support as she's drawing right now. As she continues to claim she speaks "for the community," she becomes increasingly marginalized by attacking every single person and group that dares cross her in any way. Now - shockingly - she's turned her ire at the Crown Heights Tenants Union for its support of Diana Richardson. Apparently all the idealistic young white people who've joined forces with longtime tenants of color are simply working for the Man and ready to take over when the timing's right. Any natural ally gets trashed. It's truly, truly remarkable to watch this "piece of work" at work. Though I'm trying desperately to watch from a distance, rather than sit in front of her like in the above picture and try to be Zen. I don't do Zen well.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Don't Shoot

The way you read this may say something about where you're coming from. Curious what y'all think. This went up last night:

The Q rode by while the artist (yes, artist) was making this. Also yes, it was commissioned by The Sneaker King folk, landlord approved. Jenny Ulloa, a mother and resident of Patio Gardens, came up with the idea of putting up some art on the metal gate at 556 Flatbush and she used her vast databank of artist friends to curate artist Russel Murphy, seen here doing the do. Nothing Banksy about it; he was quick to tell the Q his name and Jenny chimed right in. But, the story doesn't end there.

Turns out Russell has already flirted with infamy. A picture taken by photographer Moe Gelber went viral, and the artist known as CASH4 became better known for his girlfriend than for his art. Live by the sword, die by the sword - make public art, deal with public art. But I feel for the guy. Cuz he's no one-hit wonder. So I'm posting some of his other work rather than regurgitate his most well-known pic that he didn't even make - though it's ridiculously romantic, and what's not romantic about making art? By the way, his arrest was due to an unapproved use of public property as canvas, and he ultimately plead guilty to sullying our fair City. More to the point, what he DID get was a cute girlfriend, a brush with immortality, and a chance to deliver a killer serve in the zeitgeist dialectic of the PL&G. So...who's first to strike back?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Diana Wins Big

9:35: Looking good! with 3/4 of the precincts in she's got 48% of the vote. Shirley's under 30%. Menachem's around 18%. Geoffrey's way back. Kinda surprised by that actually. Didn't he WIN an election for district leader?

9:40: Let's call this thing for Diana and head on over to her party at the church on Hawthorne tween Nostrand and NY Avenue.

My cheap analysis? Weak candidate put up by a King County Democratic Committee that was sleeping on the job. So I hear (I'm no expert) there could have been 200 people on the committee but only 10 were on when Karim Camara stepped down. Embarassing yes. But hardly a loss for the community. As a result of the chaos, we get an actual Assemblywoman we can work with.

Such an odd scene today on Parkside near the PS92 polling place. Eric Adams and Diana Richardson, mere feet apart, but such a psychic distance. C'mon y'all. Kiss and make-up. We're gonna need everyone on the same team to fight our biggest battles.

THEN CAME THE AFTER THE PARTY AT THE CHURCH OVER ON HAWTHORNE (I think it's called St. Gabriel's? After Gabe Kaplan from Welcome Back, Kotter I suspect).

The Q was happy to see so many local union leaders and rank and file whooping it up. The Crown Heights Tenants Union was there and other tenant organizers. A suprisingly broad coalition of elected officials from Scott Stringer and Jumaane Williams to Kevin Parker and Brad Lander to Yvette and Una Clarke were quick to take credit and congratulate their buddy. Conspicuously absent, of course, were longtime Central Brooklyn power couple BP Eric Adams and State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who, in my view, needlessly supported a weaker candidate. Sign of a splinter in the monolithic Democratic power structure? Nah. I spoke to a couple people who feel DR was simply the stronger candidate, and would have made a better choice from the git-go. It's all good, and I suspect after a day of nursing wounds it'll all be hunky dory. If it's not, that would be bad for us all.

What was perhaps most striking of all, however, was the anemic support for Geoffrey Davis. Was yours among the hundreds of cars graced with MTOPP flyers urging you to vote for him? If anything, it seems to have hurt him, as he barely managed more votes than the typical opinion poll's margin of error. See, I think MTOPP, with all of its anger and vengeance for the Community Board, has forgotten that the Community Board is a very minor player that hardly anyone cares about. I'm not being flip; it's really a tiny piece of the puzzle. CB9 is Alicia's neighbors. Corruption only counts when you have any power. Ain't no one on the Community Board getting bought out by developers. Because read my lips...nobody cares. And apparently, no one cares about her endorsement either.

It's all good. Keep an eye on this lady though. Diana's young, and she's an excellent speaker and a strategic thinker. She knows the right people and she can win friends and influence people. May she stay true to her core principles and not fall prey to the temptations of office. Frankly, and this might sound sexist, but I trust a woman in power more than a man. And yes, that's an early endorsement for you know who as well. It's time, and she ain't half bad.

Newcomers: Yes, You're Entitled to Vote

Don't let your recent change of address scare you away. You're entitled to vote in today's special election by affidavit if you live in the 43rd Assembly District. The forms will be there at your polling station. If you want to know where to vote, go here:

It's pretty simple. You're probably going to either PS375 on Sullivan & Franklin, PS92 on Parkside tween Bedford and Rogers, or PS249 - the Caton School - just south of the Parade Ground. But look it up to be sure.

Affidavit votes get counted in a close enough election, which this will probably be. So vote, y'all! This is about our future, our present, and whose mug we're going to have to look at for the next, I dunno dozen years or more.

District map:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Send Diana Richardson To the NY State Assembly

 Here's some video of Diana talking to Brooklyn Independent Media, and she's the candidate I wholeheartedly endorse.

For some comparison, here's Diana and Shirley at the PLGNA forum, thx to videographer and neighbor Barnabas Wolf, finally available just in time for perusal:

Shirley Patterson

Diana Richardson

Then the NY1 debate that includes Menachem and Geoffrey.

Look, there's nothing inherently wrong with the other candidates. They are capable people who are leading interesting and thoughtful lives. But Diana wants this gig. She wants to make her mark, and her enthusiasm is fun to be around. Yeah she's gonna butt heads with people. She's edgy. She can be funny and sarcastic. But she's Brooklyn through and through. Don't tell me that personality isn't part of this thing. People dig Diana because she's genuine. Keep your eye on her; she's going places. And I kinda dig that she's not the insider candidate. Always good to mix things up a bit.

In this very, very strange election, we have a rare opportunity to choose the outsider candidate, the one who speaks her mind and (I believe) really IS unbossed.

This is a kinda a big deal folks. People have a tendency to go to the State Capitol and stay there a long, long time. It may be forever before you have a real choice in the matter. Speak up. Send a signal. Vote DR.