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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mexican Food and Burgers - After All These Years Still Packin' 'Em In and Packin' 'Em On

The burger. The taco. The cheeseburger. The burrito. French Fries. Tortilla Chips. Pickles. Salsa. Where would the American waistline be without these simple and seemingly unstoppable foodstuff? I've got a firm handle on the burger story. But what about Mexican Food? Great book on the topic of how Mexican food came to dominate the American landscape.

NPR on  Gustavo Arellano's book

Jim Mamary's latest - Burger Mexicano - will soon open at the old Meytex location. Which probably confused a lot of people thinking the Meytex was some variation on Tex Mex, when in fact it was a tradition Ghanian Chop Bar. And so we've gone from something truly exotic to something truly common, and yet something tells me this place will do just fine. Mamary's old Enduro/LPT bit the dust at the top of the year, and was replaced by an unimpressive Mexican joint. So if Burger Mexicano shows any signs of life and zest, it'll be packed to the gills. Especially the Fish Taco. Will be packed to the gills. Fish. Gills.\

Here's the menu, courtesy of Otto on F-book:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

PLGNA Hosts Housing Help Session

Kicking it into high gear, the newly energized Housing Committee of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA) is hosting an important session for both those in crisis and those who want to help. We may have disagreements about how best to solve long-term planning issues, but most all of us agree that in the immediate economic environment people are being illegally harassed, overcharged and discriminated against. This is a story as long as history of landlords, but for these issues in 2015 NYC there are laws to help keep people in their rent-stabilized homes. By focusing on the tenants who have the right to stay put with dignity and fairness, PLGNA and the Crown Heights Tenants Union, UHAB and others have not been content to lobby for better protections going forward. They want justice now, before it's too late and we wake up one morning wondering where our beautifully diverse neighborhood has gone.

Come and learn and/or help. All welcome! PLGNA is ours, to make of it what we will. It needs your support. Let's not be the neighborhood without a strong and respected, even feared, neighborhood voice. Under Quest Fanning, Brenda Edwards, Dynishal Gross, Joyce, Nelson, Cheryl and more we've got some real talent and we need more. So say hello and sign up to become involved!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Empanada City: Lincoln East of Nostrand

Not just an empanada shoppe, Empanada City has incorporated as its own township at 363 Lincoln Road. The first of what the Department of City Planning calls a prototype to outsource to the private sector most of the governmental apparatus of individual parcels of land, blocks and whole neighborhoods, the owners of Empanada City plan to set their own prices, collect tax, serve locally made (onsite) empanadas, provide maintenance for all plumbing infrastructure (i.e. clean or plunge the toilet when necessary), pay for electricity, water and heat out of their own lease arrangement and provide security for the premises by locking the doors and windows to the City each evening. It remains to be seen whether Empanada City will be incorporated in New York State, since the new Governmental Outsourcing laws allow each new city to choose what state it wants to be part of. Some are suggesting that Empanada City might choose New Mexico, marking the first time in the history of the republic that a town resides outside a state's contiguous geographical area. Oh, and the empanadas are rumored to be quite tasty.

Seriously though, this is big news for Eastern Leffertsonians. Opening in October/November. And thanks to Facebook, you can go ahead and "like" it before you even try it! Good lucks guys. Visit their F-book page here.

Oh, and believe it or not (this one is true) below you'll find the familiar visage of  Chef Boy-ar-dee that I came across while googling Chef Boy-ar-dee (incredibly effective that). It reminded me of a simpler culinary time, and so I wiki'd it and found out that Chef Boy-ar-dee (later spelled without the hyphens) was actually an actual guy from Cleveland, an Italian immigrant named Ettore "Hector" Boiardi before cleverly canning his signature dishes and making a mint.

Hector Boiardi changed the spelling of his name for ease of pronunciation, prompting another Frenchman, a famous actor, to change his name to Gerard Dippy-Do.

More Reason To Come Out For the Flabenue Street Fair

Monday, July 20, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pinchin' Myself 6 Ways To Sunday

Is it all just a dream? Are fresh country vittles really coming to the Q at Parkside plaza? According to this very official looking fancy-schmancy document, I'd say we're in business. This weekend!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hold 'Em To It!

Great to see Diana out there rubbing elbows with Jesse and Eric. Election behind, moving forward....

The Q was heartened a full house of elected officials in front of 60 Clarkson yesterday. BP Eric Adams, State Assembly Member Diana Richardson, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Mathieu Eugene should all be familiar to you. Great messages. They're behind us. They're for bringing housing control back to the City from the State. They want the City to be held accountable for its worst practices, and landlords penalized for dicking-over tenants. They believe that housing should be the number one priority as we surge forward with an unprecedented display of building and development. And yes, gentrification. But all four elected are careful to avoid the sort of class and racial buzz words that create conflict where none should exist. What do I mean?

It should be possible to move a neighborhood forward economically without jeopardizing the contract made with the people who have lived and worked there longest. That's right. You don't need to be nasty to and about newcomers. And newcomers can embrace the old, with courtesy and dollars. Shop local. Get to know your neighbors. Step out of your comfort zone. Like...

There's a shit-ton of amazing food in the neighborhood. Perfect example. Have you TRIED Scoops? If you're a veggie, or even not, there is simply no reason to miss it. And it's right next to 626 Flatbush, y'all! Scoops should make a FORTUNE if all is right in the universe, with all the new professionals moving in. Brilliant Ital takeout? What's not to love? Go to Jus Fishy. Jamaican Pride. Peppas. Melany Da Hot Pot, De Bamboo Express. Try the great new and old bakeries on Nostrand and Rogers. Great new juices shops, like John and Jason's Brooklyn Greenery (5 star Average on that even possible?) and a cute place down by me on Flatbush next to the actually kinda great Rainbow store where I can get a salad too (lord knows I need it, right troll?). Erv's is a terrific little joint, owned and run by a dude in the 'hood down on mysterious Parkside Court. Bluebird & Midwood Flats get thumbs up from imbibers. Coffee places like Tugboat and ToTT and Cinnamon Girl and Blessings and Gratitude and Pels Pies and I.M. Pastry An old world hardware store where you can get your bike fixed (Hawthorne). An amazing computer repair dude (Abdo) and a comic shop (Maverick) on Parkside. One of a kind shopping boutiques (Sista, Tafari, Nykki's) a genuine toy store (PlayKids) and (rumors, rumors) a community bookstore coming (can't tell ya yet). New Mexican, new bars on the Flabenue coming. Parkside Plaza, the Parkside Trees, better traffic patterns, the two best playgrounds in Prospect Park (Lincoln and Imagination) Maple Street School and Lefferts Gardens Montessori and tons of great daycare centers. AND the world's greatest subway line (Q/B) and bus (B41) - and yes, I stand by that pronouncement having lived and worked all over this town. Working on the public schools. We'll get there.

And I can't forget...even if you DON'T take advantage of some of the most amazing hairdressers for kinky hair anywhere in the world, for God's sake appreciate it! So many salons, thriving, families hanging out, guys talking shit, music blaring, the West Indian festival, even Hot Yoga and co-work space (Compound). And yes, gyms (Planet Fitness and Blink). Wig shops. If you're white and don't get it, go rent Chris Rock's "Good Hair." Now. Blow your mind it will.

There will continue to be cultural comfort zones that prevent all groups from flourishing as more money comes to the neighborhood. But it doesn't have to be like that. Yes, some folks are going to move. But we don't have to accept harassment, or blatant racism, or replace every brilliant old-school joint with the latest and trendiest. There are hundreds of storefronts. Thousands of affordable rent-stabilized apartments. The second most outstanding park in the world. Lakeside. The Botanic Gardens. And yes, room to grow. I know that's not popular in some quarters, but if it's going to grow ANYway, by leaps and bounds as I've noted, then let's make sure we get affordable housing out of it, and smart planning along the RIGHT corridors. And protections for height and pollution and schools and...oy vey, been down that road a time or two.

Quite simply put we have an AWESOME opportunity to live the dream of a thriving, integrated neighborhood. And by integrated, I mean EVERY sort of person on the planet is welcome. Hell they're already here!

I hope we're up to the task.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Calling All Everyone: Please Come TODAY July 15 To Show Support

Gothamist's Nathan Tempey just published a piece on 60 Clarkson that gets the story right. At least, the story thus far. This quote from our pal Merlinda gets it about right:
"[Residents] participate in block parties, they send their kids to the public schools, they're active in local civic life," she said. "It's a community. You can't just destroy that because you see dollar signs when you close your eyes."
As she describes it, the building is like a family. People have really pulled together to make the best of a tough situation, many waiting for years for the chance to exchange vouchers for a permanent residence. That is, it's really tough to get back on your feet when you don't have an address to call your own.

As Paul Harvey used to say "and now for the rest of the story..."

Please set aside some time to come by 60 Clarkson tomorrow for a meaningful rally and press conference. We'll try to have as many of the families and block residents and press and elected officials as possible to stand in solidarity, asking the landlord Barry Hers(ko) not kick out tenants immediately, but give them a chance to use vouchers and other means to find a decent next place to live. Is 60, 90 days too much to ask? The Q thinks it makes sense for current homeless clients to be allowed to stay longterm and turn their vouchers into leases right there if they choose, as proper rent stabilized tenants. But the reality is that 60 Clarkson is not going to be a decent home as long as Hersko has his way with it. The best we can hope for is that he's held accountable for his practices and slumlording, and that the building remains affordable to all comers. Though we've heard through the street that he wants to rent to white people now. So don't expect any new navigation from his busted moral compass. 

Please join us tomorrow. At the very least, it'll be fun to see everyone out and supporting each other. If that's not what this life is about, then I simply don't know what is.

Russell's Show

Remember that whole todo about Russell Murphy and his graffiti art on the Sneaker Store? Well...come see his oeuvre at the Tugboat, yo.

Sweet Sneaks

You know how the cobbler works. Bring in your old dress shoes, get 'em back on their feet. But what if loafers and heels aren't your thing, but instead you're a Converse Connoisseur? What a great concept. Check out the article in Caribbean Life on St. Kitts native Courtney Richardson and his store Retro Revivals, between Caton and Linden on Flatbush. Here's wishing Courtney a long "run."

pic by Sara Hylton

The Q at Parkside Goes Greenmarket - SUNDAYS!!!

Fantastic news, y'all. A year after a failed attempt to bring a Farmer('s') Market to the Parkside Plaza, GrowNYC has announced this weekend will mark the beginning of the real deal. News, and flyer, from Frank Milliron of Parkside Court reached the Q just this morning. Lookie here:

To the whole Parkside crew - Rudy, Duane, In, Sonya, Quest, Amy, Kate, Desmond, Joyce, Shelley, Jackie...oh hell send me a list of names of folks involved in this effort and I'll give you a little e-hug.

Dang. This is such great news! And you can use your debit or EBT!!! Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

Dollar Danger

The Q takes Dollar Vans all the time. Cheaper and more fun than buses, I'm generally happy to pass along my transportation dollars directly to a hard-working commuter van driver and company. Plus, they're fast and ubiquitous. But like many of you, I find some Commuter Van operators to be totally out of control, driving like maniacs and putting their passengers, other drivers and pedestrians at risk with each rev of the engine.

Despite what you might think about the precinct's indifference, there have been 100s of Dollar Van seizures for infractions large and small over the past couple years, many in Flatbush (mostly 70th, 71st and 78th precincts, plus lots more in East Flatbush and Crown Heights east of here). The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has submitted to a pilot oversight program, born not of any animosity towards the (often) Jamaican drivers generally, but responding to consumer and citizen complaints about the driving behavior of so-called "cowboy" drivers, many of whom haven't the proper license to be competing in the field. If you're a frequent rider, you know precisely what I'm talking about. It's definitely a case of Rider Beware. It's one of the reasons I refuse to take my kids along for the ride, even though drivers often don't charge for kids, and my little ones are curious as beavers. Or cats. Or catlike beavers.

Yesterday, I took a van that was, from all appearances, legit. It had a license, TLC plates (NY 23407 BB to be precise) and the name of its company - Citivan - was plastered on the side. But the driver was acting like he'd put meth on his Wheaties that morning. As soon as I got in, I knew he was trouble. The van reeked of pot. He was shouting obscenities out the window at other van drivers. And he managed somehow (I'm still blown away) to change lanes on average three times per block all the way home. Everyone in the van was saying things about his erratic behavior, one was mock-praying, but of course he couldn't hear it because he'd cranked the filthiest pornographic gansta rap I've heard in some time. This is an example of the kind of Dollar Van driver that ruins the stew for the whole lot. Ask any honest driver and they'll tell you - these guys are threatening the livelihood of hundreds of (mostly all) guys.

So here's what I did. I looked up the number of Citivan and reported them directly to the company. It took a few tries, but I eventually got someone on the phone. Below is a list of all licensed and registered companies doing business as Commuter Vans with the number of vehicles. I enjoyed being able to have a conversation with the company directly, since I'd think they'd have some interest in the behavior of their fleet. That and a complaint to the TLC and we'll see how it goes.

I highly encourage all of you to help the situation by jotting down the license (either plate of registration number) and complain to TLC AND the company itself. I know it's a bit of time, but it could make the 'Bush a whole lot safer. And have the added bonus of keeping this great transportation option in business.

ALEXIS VAN LINES INC (917) 434-1614 41
ALPHA VAN LINE (516) 285-0750 13
B.Q.E BUS SERVICE INC (718) 690-3318 7
BROOKLYN VAN LINES INC (718) 676-0504 40
CITIED EXPRESS INC. (718) 399-8888 3
CITIVAN LINES, CORP. (718) 772-7885 17
CITY EXPRESS CORP (888) 646-8666 32
CITY LINK CORPORATION (718) 723-7269 29
DESTA TRANSPORTATION (718) 327-4083 20
DORCAL EDENWALD INC (718) 994-0834 10
EIGHT STAR INC. (718) 886-1700 10
FLEXIBLE LINE INC. (347) 551-0593 3
FLUSHING VAN SERVICE INC (718) 236-2082 27
G & E EXPRESS INC (718) 539-7777 22
G & E EXPRESS INC (718) 539-7777 15
GUYMACK EXPRESS INC (347) 728-4701 4
HCWC INC. (718) 425-8388 5
J & HE TRANSPORTATION INC (718) 709-8004 23
JAH LOVE (347) 387-4263 11
L & H (NY) TRANSPORTATION, INC. (516) 620-2932 8
L & W EXPRESS VAN SERVICE CORP (718) 879-2220 23
MONTEGO VAN SERVICE INC. (718) 481-7715 14
RED COLOR VAN SERVICE INC (212) 529-6060 10
TD VAN SERVICE INC (718) 331-6688 5

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Heat and Hot Dogs

Always sad to miss this one. (Early August I'm in Vermont, though don't get any ideas. My subletters are 8' tall and black belts in Karate. Not to mention those starving German Shepherds.) For some reason these posters just make me smile. I think it's the mash of fonts and graphics, particularly the crazy hot dogs. I love it when hot dogs get that curved happy smile treatment. When do hot dogs do that? Is that regionally specific? German, maybe? My hot dogs are always strictly horizontal. But seriously this is a good time, and a chance to hang out casually with some of the 70th's finest.

Lawyers Are Good At Writing Letters

Say what you will about lawyers. They can write letters! Clear, concise letters, with a bit of bold in the right places. They are saying "leave the folks alone til they get due process," though in reality the family I know best just signed a lease for public housing on Friday. After 5 years of "homelessness" at 60 Clarkson. To say that she and her kids are ecstatic doesn't quite capture it. In a couple weeks, they will have a home. They don't have any furniture, but as she says they'll find it bit by bit. And they will. They're survivors. One can only hope that with some stability she can get through nursing school.
You know, I have a sister in law with very much the same situation - six kids, no job, living in Texas. The conditions that led to that single-mom situation are besides the point. Suffice to say there's some odd mental twists that lead an intelligent person into that situation. But to call it her fault would be a sick stretch. Shit happens. So you can make generalizations about the homeless population, or single moms with many children from multiple fathers, or people who "milk the system." But in reality, people deserve a chance, a place to live, a meal, and health care. In the world's richest society, where the vast majority of our citizens are self-supporting and the majority of our taxes go to a military industrial complex, I think it's hardly a hardship to take care of those in need. How we do that, and the way we prepare people for self-sufficiency, determines what sort of society we are. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Harper Lee: Punk Rocker


No I haven't read it yet. But I'm having a ball imagining my (and perhaps YOUR) hero Atticus Finch rolling in his fictional grave right now. I was at my beloved Park Slope Food Coop the other day and heard a mom, about my age, calling out to her son Atticus. Will she have to change her son's name with the revelation that Atticus was a bigot?

(If you must read what someone besides the Q has to say on the issue, here's the Times. Remember, the book isn't even out yet. I'm speculating, just like everyone else.)

I mean HOW INTENSE IS THIS? It's not that notoriously reclusive Great American Novel writer Harper Lee wrote a follow-up. That would make it easy to dismiss her redrawing of the Atticus character as revisionist, or tainted, or angry. Nope. This book came FIRST. That is, she's known all along what crock it was that her Daddy was some sort of pre-1960s racially moral Superman. Even the most enlightened white Southern Gentlemen were products of their times. According to accounts, her father A.C. Lee even mellowed his segregationist views after the release of To Kill A Mockingbird, perhaps partly swayed by Harper Lee's extraordinary rendering of him as kind and just and brave beyond reproach? I mean, isn't Mockingbird the most awesome argument with your dad's generational conservatism and stubbornness? By creating an ideal Daddy, she can tell him what he SHOULD have been, and all of us for that matter. And how great would it be for us all to have a more perfect vision of ourselves to reflect upon? Maybe it's what it was all about, who knows. I mean, she's a writer first and foremost. But you have to write about SOMEthing, don't you.

I mean think of it. Harper's brilliant, radical. She studies law in Tuscaloosa, but she's clearer not cut out for following in her daddy's footsteps. She leaves small town Alabama - one of the two most backward of ALL the segregationist southern states - and moves to NYC. And doesn't just hang with the housewives and humdrum guys and dolls. She settles in with some full-on art-deco loving wackjobs like Truman Capote and Michael Brown, the nutty songwriter for Industrials like the Dupont musical at the 1964 World's Fair, which spawned a hilarious song my father the biochemist sings to this day. She visits home in AL, for her ailing dad, and is repulsed by what she now realizes was a fictionalized vision of innocence and place. So, she writes a book with that as a backdrop. Enter the publisher. Rewrite, focused on the pre-critical young Scout's understanding of the world, not the post-cynical and razor-sharp viewpoint of the adult Scout. Boom. A new Atticus? Of course not. It's the same Atticus. One came from the first-person kid and one from the third-person adult. Both true? Of course. Not. It's fiction. But true. Still, fiction. And true! In a story...but yeah, of course they can be the same person. And I can be my daughter's dad and my mom's son too. (How very, very differently they must view me, but I'm the same guy. Follow?) Harper has license - a Pulitzer license even! - to look at it from all angles. Even the Publisher's! It's HER character after all, not ours. It's not even Oprah's, or the legions of white high school teachers who take comfort each year knowing they've impressed young minds with the knowledge that a few great, white men helped usher in the Civil Rights era. Hogwash, of course, but deeply reassuring. Fact is, whites had to be dragged kicking and cussing into the new reality, and it was black "agitators" like the underestimated (yep, I said it and meant it) Martin Luther King who forced the hand. Blacks had help in high places, of course. But like same-sex marriage, it was a long hard battle, and the true battlers were those who had the most to gain. And lose. All Atticus had to lose was his KKK membership card and the Hickory Nuts from Mr. Cunningham.

Some say Lee must've been coerced by malfeasance, to let this book fly 50 years on. But what if she knew all along that she'd wait for the right moment to say "Booyah! You actually fell for that character? He doesn't exist. Except in your MIND! The mind of a CHILD! There is no white Superman, capable of soothing your soul and carrying the load for you. There's no legal case, no soaring rhetoric, no law passed that's going to fix this mess. It's up to you, in every moment of every day and those of your children and their children." It's pretty rare that white folks just give over their closely held privilege to black folks without pressure of some sort. Just look at Charleston. Or NYC. Or the Voting Rights Act. Or segregation itself. It was hardly the story of self-examination followed by amends.

Hell, I'm reading the book and nobody's gonna stop me. Even IF Jem dies. And the fiction of Atticus dies too, like the rabid dog in Mockingbird, and like the innocent Tom Robinson. Then maybe real-life Harper dies. And then, one by one, we all die too. And (gulp) our kids. And theirs.

And racism outlives us all.

Friday, July 10, 2015

DNA - Not Just For Fingering Perps

The ever-remarkable DNAInfo provides a detailed police blotter, and boy howdy does this one start with a barn burner. In a scene reminiscent of the cult film Reefer Madness, "crack" journalist Rachel Holiday Smith recounts the detail of a canabismal confrontation:

A man slashed his female companion in the neck with a machete after the pair’s pot-smoking session went sour.
The 45-year-old woman and the man were smoking pot at an apartment at 580 Flatbush Ave. inProspect-Lefferts Gardens in the early morning hours of July 4, police said. When the man told her to leave around 6:30 a.m., the pair got into an argument.
A short time later, the man took out the machete and slashed the woman multiple times in the neck, police said.
The woman suffered minor injuries and fled the apartment.
The last line leaves me stunned. "The woman suffered minor injuries..."
All I can say is this baked bully used remarkable restraint and precision to take a machete (my neighbor from Guyana calls it a cutlass) and slash a neck multiple times without serious injury. In my extensive experience, machete slashings tend to end badly. Real badly.
The more important question for me is whether this 6:30 am attack took place at the END of a long night, or was this is more of a wake and bake kind of thing?
Glad no one was hurt too terribly. Counseling, both anger and drug, might be indicated. 
An related advertisement caught my eye. First off, who needs a ten-piece machete set? Secondly, shouldn't a machete ALWAYS be sold with a sheath?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mark Your Calendars! Move Your Cars!

Nothing warms the Q's heart than the heady optimism of a phrase like "1st Annual."

For the 2nd Annual, I think an update to the trees is in order!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Flabenue Needs You! Take the Survey...

If you haven't already, please take a few moments to fill out the handy-dandy online survey from the newly-replaced-the-deceased-CEO Survey Monkey. We have an honest to goodness merchants' association with a kick-ass name (Parkside Empire), and they need to know what floats your boat, flips your butt, flies your bat, or flats your bush, so they can help convince you to keep your duckets right here on Lefferts Gardens' own Main Street.

And yes, the above prose was written in-between pressing tasks at work, and I take absolutely no responsibility for any of it. The Id did it.

New Adopt-a-Vegetable Program Opens Today at Kings County Hospital

Some may call them Farmer Markets. Some may call them Farmer's Markets. Some call them Farmers Markets. When many farmers are involved, they could be called Farmers' Markets. The key elements seem to be "farmers" and "markets," and when combined you can often find foods that you can't find at the Key, Associated, NSA or Pioneer.

I prefer to note that stray vegetables and fruits are often in need of loving homes, and for a pittance, they can become part of your kitchen and dining room. "Wild" vegetables in particular make excellent additions to the family, and are often quite delicious and nutritious as well as snugly and warm. The whole story of the coming Farmer('s)' Market(s) comes to you via the delightful Rachel Holiday-Smith of DNAInfo, which sounds like a Health Site in and of itself, but it's really hyper-local news. And no one does hyper-local better than Rachel.


Into Action - Next Wednesday Meeting

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Legal Beagles Sniff Scumbag Scent

Scene: Legal Aid Society, Downtown Brooklyn.

Cast of Characters: Six poorly paid lawyers, four brave women whose families are in the Homeless Shelter System; a leader each from PLGNA, Tenants & Neighbors, Crown Heights Tenants Union, an advocate for the women, chief of staff at Diana Richardson's office, yours truly, and a lady named Isis whose mom's lived at 60 Clarkson for more than 40 years.

Action: The ladies of 60 Clarkson lay it all out there. They've been kicked around one too many times and they're looking for redress. They don't want to be forcibly removed, sometimes with TWO hours notice, to even worse buildings. And most of all, they don't want to be sent up to PATH in the Bronx to start the whole process over again. They're IN an apartment, they're getting their lives together, why throw it all into chaos again? So the Landlord can throw on some paint, turn everyone out, and sell to an unsuspecting dolt who thinks the building comes without baggage? Enough is enough, say they.

Re-action: Legal Aid says they too have been sniffing at the scent of Municipal Betrayal. The case of 60 Clarkson and its shamefully greedy and deceitful landlord Barry Hers has the makings of landmark. They write a letter for each resident to use if someone tells them they must leave, saying that legal issues are being worked on and besides, you can't just turn someone out on their ass because you want to.

MacGuffin: Barry Hers, a name none of us ever assumed to be given, is actually surnamed Herskowitz, first name Isaac or somesuch. There are many reasons why a man like Barry wouldn't want people to know his real name, but we're on to you dude.

Plot Summary: Herskowitz buys building, runs building into the ground through neglect, forces out rent stabilized tenants by any means necessary, replaces them with homeless clients thru the poorly overseen DHS "Scattersite" system, gets over $3K a month for apartments that used to fetch less than $1,000, has to share some of that dough with CAMBA to provide social services, doesn't like sharing, so creates his only social services provider called "We Always Care" so he can get ALL the money, continues to run his building into the ground, does the same with at least five other buildings, looks for an exit strategy in which he sells nearly vacant buildings for tens of millions of dollars leaving a trail of misery and heartbreak and the stink of rodent feces.

At least one of the lawyers smells blood. This is good. This is very good. The whole system is rotten, and guys like Herskowitz exploit both the City and human beings for private gain. Is it illegal? No one can say for sure. It's only been tested in housing court and never made it to Appellate Court for a true rendering of whether this program is really legal. Here's why it needs to change.

Essentially, each time a landlord like Hers(kowitz) turns a rent stabilized apartment into a "temporary" home for someone in the DHS system, it's no longer available for rent-paying lease-holding tenants. In a housing crisis of current magnitude, that's absurd on top of cruel. It incentivizes a landlord to kick, harass or lure out tenants who pay the legal rent. PLUS, he then assumes that he's deregulated the apartments. After all, they've been fetching north of $3,000 apiece for years. Some folks like Merlinda have been in this "temporary" housing for five years! That's a lot of money for one landlord to make while doing ZERO repairs and providing NO security and at best SHODDY social services. Whoever said poverty doesn't pay wasn't a slumlord. It pays just fine, thank you.

Barry needs to be taken to court, no doubt about it. But it's the system that nurtures the Barries of the world that needs an overhaul. Think about it; all the court needs to do is say that these women ARE living in rent stabilized apartments. Instead of working hard to get them vouchers like Section 8 or its offshoots so they can move somewhere else, why not give them the option to stay right where they are and pay less taxpayer money than currently? Their kids are in local schools, they've made friends on the block, the building has become a family. Sure you need to look case by case to see if it's appropriate and whether the homeless families have been upholding their side of the bargain, but a legal victory for sanity means keeping these apartments affordable even after the homeless families are gone. DHS gets to take one family off its rolls. The De Blasio Administration can claim it saved a rent-stabilized apartment. Right?

AND...if you need facilities for homeless folks, let's agree not to take away the most valuable asset in the City right now. Affordable apartments.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. Oh, right. I'm not a lawyer. Dang, I knew there was a problem in my plan somewhere. But wait! We have Legal Aid Society on the case! Right?


Monday, July 6, 2015

American Taco

Thx to Seth Kaplan over at the PLG Facebook page we have confirmation that Burger Mexicano won't be another Cafe Pomidor (and if you get that reference you are a certified middle-timer). Extra points to anyone who can name what Cafe Pomidor, which never opened, became...

And Speaking of Comedy...

The Q's loving the awkward copy on the below sign heralding a comedy night at Bluebird's stellar cellar space. "Where Every Star's Ever Been Discovered." Y'all trying to trick us with that extra "ever?" I understand there's also a raga night that happens on Wednesdays. Anyone been and lived to tell? Maybe it's time for comedy and sitar to finally join forces. Check it out and holler back!

Power to the People

Man-o-Manischewitz, it is truly a beautiful thing to watch so many concerned neighbors snap into action over the "refugee crisis" at 60 Clarkson Ave. Over a holiday weekend, the Q's inbox was filled with offers of support. And in the case of Esteban from the Crown Heights Tenants Union, some real action flew into action. Below is the flyer he posted yesterday at the building.

Your correspondent plans to be at 111 Livingston to hear what can be done - a lawsuit against the City for a system that drags people along the bottom? Basically, the letters from "We Cares," landlord Barry Hers' bullshit social services company that manages the homeless families in his very own neo-slum buildings, scared many residents into moving immediately to other Hers buildings, leaving even personal belongings behind. That's what the system does to you - makes you think you have no rights whatsoever, when in fact, Hers had no business vacating the business thusly, ASAPly. If in fact We Cares, WE give our families time to get their crap together, and we move them to someplace that's not teeming with roaches, peeling paint and rat shit everywhere. Because WE are being given a boatload of money to treat these folks, many of the moms AND children being victims of abuse (does a child of 4 who was raped mean anything to ANYone?) with a bit of gentle decency why they get their lives back together.

And to the cynical among you, I'd remind you that WE FOOT THE BILL for this kind of craven disdain for our fellow humans. Yes, DHS and the City are failing these people. And not because of lack of funds for the landlords. MAYBE it's for lack of funds for oversight, but for chrisakes find people who can oversee this program of scattersite housing for the homeless. I hear nothing good about DHS or its ability to run its systems. Folks, the homeless population is huge and rising. Maybe it'll be 100,000 by the end of the decade, or sooner. But that's still just ONE PERCENT of the population.

We can do better for this bottom rung. We can do better for the working poor. We can do better for the hard-working immigrants, and single moms, and displaced families, and those seeking shelter that they're willing to pay for if they can just find a place that's not $2500 a month. Christ, even if you're working full time at FIFTEEN DOLLARS AN HOUR, more than minimum, you make like $30K. They are our neighbors, our citizens, our service providers, and yes, in many cases, people unable to work and in need of subsidized food and shelter. An increase of $100 a month in rent can put these families out on the street.

Is that a problem? That human beings can't always survive on their own in a cut-throat capitalist system, wherein millions make millions off the consuming of hundreds of millions? Do we care that the next generation of poor become the NEXT generation's problem to deal with? Or do we figure out a better way to alleviate suffering at the bottom of the economic food chain and give people the proper help and motivation to provide for their own families?

There are always going to be poor people. It's a natural fact. How we deal with the poor says everything about who we are as a race. The HUMAN race. And if saying that makes me a bleeding heart liberal, then get me a mop to clean up the mess coming out of my chest.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Sick Twist In the Saga of 60 Clarkson

Yesterday was quite something, even in the ragged story of a single apartment building on my block. Dozens of current residents, many single moms who've been there with multiple children for a year or more, convened in the lobby to express outrage and fear over being (once again) moved through the Homeless Services system with little regard for the realities of raising children. The treatment, as I've come to learn through countless interactions with the residents through the years, is basically that of refugees in their own country. Make no mistake, Capitalism exacts a toll on those least able to fend for themselves, and sometimes it looks this. A report from WPIX on the shenanigans of one greedy and cruel landlord - Barry Hers - doing his best to make tons of money off the misery of others. And make a good living he has. Because after social services provider CAMBA left the building, Hers formed his OWN social services organization called, darkly ironically, WE CARES. I snapped a picture of the vacate notice given to all the homeless tenants:

And where precisely are these families going to go? 250 Clarkson for one (ugh). Or, as in the case of my friend Merlinda and her six kids, to one of the worst, roach and rat infested heaps of filth you can imagine. Trust me, I've seen the pictures and videos. It's a hellhole, over on East 21st, near Cortelyou. Hola, Ditmas Park Corner! Have fun. Oh, and homeless families, don't forget Farm on Adderley does a killer brunch!

More soon, when I find some internet. Happy 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

Thx Kieran C. for this early morning tee-hee