The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, November 27, 2015

160 Stores Nearby And You're Still Shopping On Amazon?

Not one, not six, but one hundred and sixty stores are offering discounts during Shop Local CB9's campaign to convince you that pretty much everything you need for the holidays can be found right here. You can get yer toys, yer clothes, yer knick-knacks and yer paddywacks. More info:

Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Association Facebook Page

Tomorrow is the big kick-off at CB9 headquarters on Nostrand. No reason to put off exercising your purchasing power. Stores are open and they need our support. We love our neighborhood, and this is the American way to show love. With $$$! The Flatbush Avenue Merchants are flying their freak flags high as well. Make sure to stop in a local joint for discounts and goodies.

Exposing the apparatus in po-mo style, here's the press release rather than dropping the quotes into my own post making it look like I actually went out and did an interview. Pia and Warren from CB9 and Nostrand Ave Merchants are awesome though, and I can personally vouch for their commitment to the project.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MTOPP Suit Against CB9 Dismissed

After many months of trumpeting its lawsuit against lowly Community Board 9, MTOPP lost today in Supreme Court. Not THAT Supreme Court, mind you. The decision completely denies MTOPP (Alicia)'s claims that CB9, under district manager Pearl Miles, was underhandedly trying to dismantle the wheels of democracy. If you're into this sort of thing, the details are kinda fun to read. Otherwise, here's the short version. Nobody is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, Alicia. Some people, believe it or not, simply disagree with you. At the same time, in a separate decision, the disorderly conduct charges against Ms. Boyd were dropped. Meaning, basically, that she can continue to scream, shout and holler, then get hauled out of the meeting, but can't be sentenced for it. That seems about right to me. No one should be denied the opportunity - say in the Senate - to jump up and yell "you racist fascist pigs." However, that same person shouldn't be allowed to do that indefinitely. At some point, you gotta move on with the business at hand. Senators are allowed to filibuster in certain circumstances. Individual citizens, however, are granted no such powers.

And so another meeting went by, this one with not much to report. The Citywide text amendments to promote the building of affordable housing failed, predictably, after being hammered with all manner of blunt tools, ranging from misinformation to lies to specious economic arguments. Never you mind, says the Mayor. I'm the decider, says he, not to be swayed by a tide of public opinion. We'll see - if he wants another term he may need to rethink. Oh, and the Empire Blvd Reconstruction Project was tabled. Had the vote happened last night, I fear it would have failed for being lumped in with all the other anti-City votes. DOT is coming back to the table to better make its case. Here's hoping they succeed, because god knows I was losing the arguments.

Both Laurie Cumbo and Diana Richardson gave lengthy but powerful speeches trumpeting their good deeds. So did Mathieu Eugene. The Q happily shook M.E.'s hand and thanked him for all the new trash baskets. You know, the ones that say Mathieu Eugene all over them? Diana ripped Alicia a new one in a pulpit-pounding diatribe that reminded us why we voted for her in the first place. Man, that gal can speak! She's got such a terrific cadence and she rarely trips over her well-chosen words. Plus, she went into some detail about her plans for an ex-felon job fair. NOW we're talking! Too many young people get saddled with the wrong kind of degree - one from Superior Court, that dogs them for life. Second chances, that's why we let people out of jail in the first place. Regain your footing, grow up, take responsibility. But just TRY to get hired with a Felony on your record. You go Dee!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Born At The Junction

Too awesome not to share. Perhaps now Target will finally open a Neonatal Nursing department. Here's a picture of our heroes from the NYPDOBGYN:

Doris Cordero & Kelly Brown - Cops/Doulas

Monday, November 23, 2015

Your Signature Needed - Tonight's Vote Canceled

It's all weird, man. No vote tonight. Gonna be tabled. Not a bad thing. More later...


I'm posting this again in case you missed it. The petition will be presented tomorrow night at the CB9 meeting. I've chosen not to belabor the vote by bringing it back to committee - we were to vote on it last mtg but ran out of time. At an all-board policy mtg last week it became clear that many of the Board members plan on voting no to supporting this project because they drive and a) don't want the hassle of the construction work b) don't think there are safety issues and/or c) think this but another example of the bicycle lobby trying to slow down drivers and create traffic snarls. We weren't even talking about it, but four separate individuals said that pedestrians are the real problem. Oh, and there are plenty of trees at Prospect Park why do you need them at these intersections? If you agree with any of those arguments then I suppose the petition is not for you. I was told at the meeting to start listening more closely to what the community wants. Perhaps I'll be censured. Now THAT would be a resume builder!

I'm not going to go into it again, but if you're dying to read why a once unanimously supported project to fix two deadly intersections on Empire Boulevard is now in peril, read this.

The anti-government frenzy is starting to blow over into once non-controversial transportation planning. With reams of data and a solid plan to keep traffic moving as well or better, DOT found both the way and the means to make it possible to fix the cluster-fudge at Washington/Franklin/Empire. After years of residents asking for responsible changes to this intersection and others, money was finally found a few years back by then U.S. Rep Major Owens. Yvette Clarke pulled the trigger and now the money is ours, only for this to correct long-neglected intersections at both ends of our district. Best of all, there's money for new landscaping and greenspace. The crossing at Washington effects more Q readers, plus hundreds of parents and seniors who take fate in their hands when they negotiate the bizarre dance at this monstrous intersection, so I've been happy to focus on that one. (The other fix is elegant too, but I'm rarely down by Utica and Schenectady. Been enough to know it's a nightmare as a bicyclist though.) These are multi-million dollar projects, and the money disappears if we don't do the project.

Thankfully I'm not alone in seeing the folly of objections from some at the Community Board and others (you know the names) who at this point suspect the reason for the fix has something to do with plans to allow the blvd to develop as 10-12 story "towers" with means-tested apartments, a/k/a affordable housing. A neighbor of ours has put together a petition to allow sheer numbers to way against the loud voices of drivers who have expressed opposition to ANYTHING they perceive could slow them down.


20 Story Building To Replace Mathieu Eugene's Office

No, it's not April 1. From neighbor Jacob G. comes news that the building that was going to happen at 123 Linden (btw Bedford & Rogers) that was already a bit hefty is now going to tower over the neighborhood at over 200 feet. By taking an R7-1 to the max, this building will include community facility (that's profit-making rentals by the way, not a community "center" as some seem to think). Man-o-Manischewitz this does not bode well for preserving the context of the neighborhood, such as it is. Here's the filing.

I'm really too blown away by this news to spin it as yet another sign of the need for a Planning Study. FYI, Linden is not in CB9, which ends at Clarkson. But still, we have tons of R7-1 to offer. Just look at 626 Flatbush. And don't forget a 23 story whopper is coming to Nostrand below Church Ave. I guess it's time to settle in for a new normal.

384 Units. Market? Probably. I suppose some of you can hip me to the facts?

123 Linden - Your Councilman's Office Will Seem Quaintly Tiny One Day
Oh, and we've already talked about this on Lenox:

For fun, the 23-story coming to Nostrand:

And while we're talking south of CB9, let's keep rolling with Clarkson/Nostrand:

How many more mega-projects in the pipeline? With dozens of new projects having surfaced this calendar year, I think it's safe to say the ship has left the station. All aboard?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kiddie Science Trivia Fun Nov 28

Always happy to promote Kiddie Science, Mad Momma Carmen, Play Kids and Science. That's a killer Gang of Four.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Uses, Or Not, Of Hyperbole

Is it helpful to describe issues of development in Lefferts as class warfare? Probably not. This writer has tried to wake up the neighborhood to the fact that decisions are made in its name that will affect us for a long time. Perhaps his language is a bit over the top. Because, and here's the honest truth, there's not much any of us can do about runaway development. And on his most cynical days, he says...who gives a damn. If people are set in their ways let them be. They'll die, then I'll die, we'll all die, and why bother to point out hypocrisy when we're all equally to blame for destroying the Earth and punting our problems to the next generation? At least political movements like "Black Lives Matter" have identified true lingering sores in the fabric of America, and are trying to address it. I'm thrilled to see movements like that, Occupy Wall Street, the Crown Heights Tenants Union, taking hold. But when entrenched gentry start to defend their turf as if they are Entitled to make decisions for us all, I get on my high horse. I've always had a problem with Entitlement, even as I walk the streets oozing it from my pores. Perhaps we despise most what we see in ourselves. No matter. It's just a blog. It's just an opinion. Don't like it? Start your own blog, and I'll be happy to link to it. Seriously.

Every night I vow to quit CB9, save my sanity, and watch the neighborhood succumb to its own capitalist takeover, while people plan and scheme to demand from the City things it will not give. Even this whole Text Change war is nonsense. The Mayor's committed to it. He has quite a few allies on the Council. It'll pass eventually. Go ahead, count the Community Boards and "Trusts" and alliances for a "human scale" City. They're essentially anti-housing. And their arguments about "secondary displacement" are pretty hard to defend, especially when they're peppered with protectionism and preservationism. The Mayor and Carl Weisbrod are on a mission, and they're not going to let a bunch of "concerned citizens" get in their way.

Don't get me wrong - I love landmarks and landmark neighborhoods. But you can't landmark the whole City. Everytime you downzone or landmark, you have to recognize you've taken potential building away, and that with great demand you must build somewhere else. The "human scale" movement has one thing right - we don't need these damn super tall buildings that no one lives in but money launders and oligarchs. Who, as we've seen, don't actually live in them. Enough with the ultra-luxury market. Build market rate housing. But it ain't all "luxury." Some of it is shit for $5K. Try explaining that to the recent college grad who can't afford it, and decides to buy a whole house in Detroit for less than a year's rent. Granted, it's Detroit. But when you're young you don't care. The Q quite enjoyed his days next to two crack dens. Hardly noticed actually.

We can only try to squeeze this or that out of the whole thang, or cap heights. Repeat the fact: capping density or heights in one place (downzoning or contextual zoning) requires easing them elsewhere. Perhaps, were NYC not in a deep crisis of low inventory that sets rents spiraling upwards, we could imagine lowering potential density. This is not the case. It's not in the projections. High income jobs keep appearing and people keep moving here to nab those gigs, and they want to live here. Is this bad? Some say quite the opposite, it's good for the economy. It keeps people working, even those who live at the lesser income levels. Unemployment is quite low for NYC. That's good!! The problem, as we're told, is that all these working people - all equally deserving of a decent place to live - can't find one. When it's just "the poor," it's easy for the City to call it a social problem and deal with it that way, or more typically, not at all. But it's not just the poor anymore. It's working people all the way up to families $100K in income who are struggling to live here. The data don't lie. Folks can complain about "neighborhood change" all they want. But the change is a direct result of a healthy City in an unhealthy housing environment. Were we dealing with rampant unemployment and spiraling crime, the issues would be different. But the dissatisfaction and unease would be equally intense.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Down South They're Getting Serious About Affordability

Ah, the Caton Market. Once an outdoor flea, it became an indoor mini-mall with stalls. But it's never been very inviting. And while a few small businesses have indeed gotten their start there, most suffer from lack of foot traffic. People just don't go in. Time for phase III?

And guess what? This guy wants to cobble together the financing to make the ENTIRE building means-tested, at various levels. With the current anti-housing fever in CB9, we can only be glad it's happening in the district to the SW, namely CB14. One would hope the project will make its way through ULURP without too much trouble. And who's the guy leading the charge? A hometown kid done good, Meredith Marshall. Read all about the project in the Brooklyn Eagle.

Meredith Marshall photo: Lore Croghan
Question: What if we put political pressure on the case to do more of this, say along (gulp) Empire Boulevard? We'd finally find out how committed certain neighbors are to affordable housing, since this kind of project is for everyone BUT the luxury market. What do you think? Would MTOPP and Concerned Citizens go for it? Granted, it's not City land. But with the right politicians on board, and a community sufficiently dedicated to building low and moderate income housing...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Million Dollar Townhome Owners To Working Stiffs: Our Borders Are Closed: Try Poughkeepsie.

In a remarkable display of hypocrisy without irony or wit, your neighbors voted and expressed themselves in solidarity. And while most own homes appraised at upwards of $2 million, they voted no to Mandatory (that's right MANDATORY) affordable housing. Stunning, but not surprising. Older (and even pretty new) homeowners in this neighborhood seem to think they own the joint. They're pissed, because others might dare want a place near the park, just like them. That they can afford. How dare they!

Not one member of the committee seemed to express any interest in the City's best market-aided efforts to get rid of Fedders & Billyburg style buildings, build more homes for seniors, or require means-tested set-asides. We heard a lot of nonsensical comments about the "right way" to build affordable housing. And maybe, sometime next decade, there'll be the money and political will to do some of it, too little to late. By then, building affordable housing for the poor might be twice as expensive. Actually, by then the poor may have moved on, and the working poor will be commuting from Poughkeepsie. Maybe we can get them a discount on Metronorth tickets? The whole thing is so depressing. I don't know why I sit there and take the abuse, especially the 5 minute tantrum from Boyd who called me a punk, racist and coward for pointing out what a hypocrite she is for claiming her anti-gentrification bonafides all the while playing them up to Airbnb renters. She's a phony, but that doesn't matter. She gets what she wants. Just like my toddler. Lotta similarities actually.

It's enough to make me think that people in this neighborhood really DO want to be Park Slope. That's the way they're voting. They want downzoning ONLY, just like the Slope so successfully did through the years, selling out 4th Avenue because, you know, it really isn't the Slope, not the REAL Slope. See any black or brown folks over there? See any affordable housing? Have you seen that average incomes are over $120K? Did you know the Slope used to have huge black and brown populations? Couldn't happen here, though. Of course.

Am I the last person standing who wants downzoning on inner-blocks, with height-limited upzoning on the Avenues to allow for the building of affordable housing? Probably. Alicia says she wants REAL affordable housing. Something tells me she won't go for it on Empire Boulevard though. Why? Hypocrite. Light and garden and Euro-sensibility and parking loving hypocrite. What's sad is that the true righteous crusaders, like Crown Height Tenants Union often align themselves with her. If they only knew.

That's where we're heading folks. Park Slope. And tonight, we sealed the deal. What was hilarious was that many people on the Board and in the community actually made the arguments tonight FOR a Planning Study, though you best bet they won't be for it when the rubber meets the road. After years of wanting more affordability, the real cowards are the people who look the future in the eye, and say no to change, positive policy change that might just save not only OUR neighborhood, but the whole damn City.

Here's a fact, Jack. It's a Great Big City.

Sounds obvious, right? And it's getting denser. Community Districts all over the City are watching and feeling helpless as developers gobble up land and build the most profitable buildings for their investments. And right now business is very, very good indeed. Though land and building prices have skyrocketed, so have rents and the costs of owning a piece of America's greatest urban experiment - NYC. In a wild reversal of fortune from both post-9/11 New York and the financial crisis of '08-'09, for better or worse, we have become THE place to be, as an investor or a worker, business or resident. And so we come to the present moment.

I've lived here in BK since 1988. In all that time I've never seen a mobilization of forces that can only be called anti-housing. I make that distinction (anti-housing) because groups like Concerned Citizens or MTOPP have many arguments for their claims. But the one consistent complaint is - don't build denser or higher. Not even a little bit. We've got enough people. City and developers, please move on to the next "it" neighborhood. Why do I call this NIMBYism? Well, because that's what the acronym was coined for. Go ahead and build your damn housing. Just not here.

We have a request in to City Planning to do a study of our neighborhood, and even the Study is vehemently opposed by a few loud and omnipresent citizen activists. But that issue has been set aside for the moment by the City agency charged with such matters because they've created a series of what are called "text changes" that are meant to work throughout the City, not on any one block or neighborhood. They are, in the words of the professional planners, intended to:

a) spur or require the development of affordable "means tested" housing
b) spur the development of seriously discounted housing for low-income seniors
c) incentivize smarter, better architecture with taller first stories - spurring first floor commercial uses and going back to the pre-war model of higher first floors (don't like Fedders buildings? this one's for you!)
d) mandate (as in you HAVE to) build affordable units in any area that's been rezoned
Tonight you heard people speak out against it, and the nays have it. Oddly, what most people WANT - affordability and a diverse neighborhood - are the very things they voted against.

And that, my friends, is what I call lunacy. And really good propaganda.

Neon Groceries

Have y'all noticed how many new shoppes have flashing or neon signs? I wonder if the price point fell. Here's the new grocery on Woodruff at night:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Moses Supposes Erroneously

Moses Fried. Haven't though of him in a hot minute. If you're new to the story, he's the slumlord who owns 205 Parkside, the never-finished squatter haven at the corner Parkside and Parksie Court. It's unbelievable that it has sat "uninhabited" for more than a decade. At least its facade was fixed up a few years ago. The Q's written at least a dozen times about 205, but not in awhile. He fixed it up, but now it just sits, a miserable reminder that while there's a housing shortage, some people could give a rat's ass. He and grandson David Tepper clearly have little idea how much money they COULD be making.

The Q walked down Classon, past another of Ol Man Moses' notoriously neglected love shacks, the quasi-bordello he was running called "Lefferts Hotel" in Bed-Stuy. Here's what the condemned building looks like then and now:

People have moved in here. It's gone from hourly no-tell motel to (probably) super expensive rentals. Maybe we'll finally get some sort of action from 205. As anyone can see who walks by at night, there's still squatters living there. So strange at this point in time, but hey, there's a bunch of squatters on my street to. Ever since some houses foreclosed or were bought, folks just moved right in. Don't know if they're paying rent to someone. One woman clearly thought I was too nosy asking. I didn't want her to get kicked out, but something about my look told her not to trust me. No offense taken.

There's a desperation and an anger that if you're new there's no way you could fully appreciate. And yet, for those of us safe in our mortgages and those with reasonable or decent landlords, it's kinda the same as it ever was. All this talk of strife, when most people continue to go on with their lives, with rent often being low on the list of worries. One woman told me she's glad to be out of 85 Clarkson. Couldn't stand the "element" living next door to her. She'd been there 25 years! How long had she lived next to this element? 20! 20 years next to a jerk. Now she's moving to Marine Park. An old Jamaican lady, moving to Bensonhurst? Better believe it. A big spike in the number of Caribbean folks living down there, if the numbers are to be believed.

A sign of the Apocalypse? Hardly. But meaningful just the same. Yet the carnage continues, in buildings where the landlords have green on the mind and hate in their hearts. It was the best of times, the worst of times. A Dickens of a pickle if you ask me.

Nutty Rendering Gives New Perspective

Know that 23-story building (the OTHER 23-story building) coming to Nostrand below Church? There's a new rendering on Curbed today that really lays out what this sort of construction can yield. Here's from the south looking up our arse. I do believe that's Patio Gardens and Ebbets Apartments sticking up near the Park and garden. No need for contextual zoning here! Looks just super...(sarcasm intended).

Little Mo' Wine Open on Nostrand

From Mark Schwartz, owner of Little Mo' Wine store:

Q, I've got cases all over the floor but I'm taking cash and credit cards in exchange for wine an' booze. Little Mo Wine is open! 
The skinny: 75 reds and whites for $12 = $13 with tax, no coins! More at various levels of $. Spend $200 and I give you a $15 buyback. Case discounts available. Delivery coming sometime next week. Hours 12-9 daily. Hard to find spirits, wines of terroir, friendly people. Expert pairings with local takeout. 
Come by Thursday 11/19 before jazz at Michael Allen for a free tasting.
Le Grande Ouverture will be be Friday 11/20
If you got the cash, you can get the buzz. Good luck Mark! From the wall drawings I'd say you're in for a nice long run. Love that you're making the neighborhood integral to your biz model. Sweet as a Riesling.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Garden Deals Blow To Jerks Claims To Garden

The Maple Street Garden continues to amaze, not just with its greenery and communal spirit, but with its legal prowess. In the latest news, the con men trying to lay claim to the land have seen their deed called into question. Given the recent ruckus stirred up by the Old Gray Lady over developers using shady documents to claim ownership of properties, I'd say the wee Garden Folk are taking the right approach. The organization 596 Acres trumpets the first big victory here.

Go get 'em guys.

Over at another local garden named after me (Q Gardens) the Q and Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed III stopped by the big Pumpkin Smash on Sunday and had a merry time being among the first to throw our jack-o-lanterns onto a rocky tarp. If you google jack-o-lantern and "rusty tarp" you will come up with zero results. I'm hoping that changes after Google indexes this page.

One thing you should really know about Q Gardens is that you can bring by your compost on Sunday 2-4. And maybe other times to...check the website. Or better yet this here Facebook page. Haven't been? It's over by the Church stop on the Q/B, just north of Church, along where the train tracks run. It's adorable. A pic from the Smash:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Get Fit At LGCS - Tomorrow Thursday

Lefferts Gardens Charter School community event, coming your way:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

PPEN & PLGNA Enter the Planning Study Fray

The Q makes no apologies for his respect for the people behind the Prospect Park East Network and the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association. PPEN was the first to address the issue of outsized development, many of their members having started the fight back in 2007 around the proposed 23 story building on Lincoln Road (which eventually became a different project, the one that's topping out now). PLGNA's been around since the block-busting and red-lining '60s. Under Martin Ruiz and now Quest Fanning it's been laying the groundwork to become a powerhouse community resource, and has been sponsoring all kind of interesting work around neighborhood. So it comes as no surprise that they are now beginning a planning and assessment study of their own, with the support of elected officials even. There's been some bellyaching about PLGNA getting some dough to do this, but that's what happens when you place nice with people. They tend to be more likely to be helpful and respectful right back. Other groups take notice.

Here's what they're saying, per their website at

Monday, November 9, 2015

Brooklyn's Tallest Building - Come On Who the Fuck Lives In These Things?

A lot of folks are up in arms about plans to build a 90-story residential tower in Downtown Brooklyn.  Look, this is what happens when you allow Downtown Brooklyn to become the next Midtown. The zoning allows for just about any size, and now that rents have hit a threshold, it's actually possible to make money in Brooklyn building one of these things. Folks, this is not an inexpenisve building. It's skinny, but it's tall and it ain't cheap. Near where Junior's ever-was. Craaaaazy, man, crazy.

But the real question isn't whether this belongs. In Delirious Brooklyn, anything apparently goes. The real question is...who the FUCK wants to live up on the, say, 80th floor anyway? I don't know anyone who would choose this lifestyle. I mean, maybe for a weekend it'd be kinda cool. But seriously that kind of view is meant for a $20 ticket, you go up, say "whoa," look for your actual apartment way down there, make a statement about how the people look like bugs, and then head back down and get a bagel and smear. You don't live there. It's absurd. For a view? You gotta go up and down 80 stories everytime you want to get a pint of ice cream? Sure maybe you have it delivered, because you're too lazy, or more likely because it's ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS to go down 80 stories, even in an elevator, just for a Chubby Hubby or a cold Fanta.

We hear that very few people are living in these vanity towers. The units are purchased by shell companies, by people who may or may never set foot in them. That Marlboro 100 in Midtown comes to mind, and the Time Warner. Shit, somebody should put a stop to this right now. There's a housing crisis, man. Build for people who are actually going to live there, and enjoy it, and become part of the community. Yes, Empire, I'm talking to you. I think Peabody in Peabody and Sherman lives in one of these. But that's a talking genius dog, not an actual person.

And if you meet someone who would put down a few million to live at the top of this rather than live near terra firma in a proper house for the same dough, please tell them to come see me so I can beat some sense into them. What's next? Buildings that go a mile into the earth so you get a better view of the magma? Save on heating.

The Best Kind of Amnesia

Last weekend's big Flatbush cleanup warmed the Q's heart. Four years ago a bunch of neighbors did a Flatbush cleanup day too. It was a bunch of people I knew who organized it - Skei and Carmen and Babs and others. This time around I had no clue who got the ball rolling, though I'm glad they did. Though I did see this picture with longtime buddies Duane Joseph and Elizabeth C., and of course that was NOT a surprise at all:

I guess hats should leave heads for Virginia Bechtold and Jo Ann Brown, two women I've never met but who have a big presence on the PLG Facebook group. At first when I read about their enthusiasm I felt a deep cynicism coming on, since we'd gone through the same thing twice, once three and once four years ago. But then I realized just how fantastic it was that new folks were tackling the same problems. Then I got melancholy. Where was my zeal for cleaning that I had four years ago? I was so gung-ho. I headed up CB9's Environmental Protection committee, getting neighborhood associations together to talk about lasting solutions. As I learned, it's tricky. We got the City to start writing more tickets, but not everyone who gets the ticket was responsible for the trash. (Myself included to the tune of $100) I sent around hundreds of Sanitation flyers to businesses, telling them their responsibilities. But if just a couple storefronts per block ignore the rules, they can help make the whole block a mess. Then we tried to get the smarter trash bins that are harder to "dump" in. Actually some of those ARE starting to come our way! And remember when Carmen tracked down that nasty guy who was dumping construction garbage right onto Rogers? Those were the days my friend...

What was hilarious was when Shelly of Play Kids and the Flatbush merchants association were talking and we both agreed Flatbush has been looking much better than it did even just four years ago. This made me think about how annoyed I'd get when I'd complain about a rash of crime and old-timers would say "yeah but it's WAY better than it used to be." Maybe I'm becoming that guy? Only about trash. Actually, I think crime is a bit less overwhelming too, but I wouldn't say it to a newcomer. Especially someone who's just been mugged. You want sympathy, not "you shoulda seen it back during the crack years."

When the First Annual PLG Cleanup Day happened on April 30, 2011 it was brilliant. So many people came out, and volunteers from Community Groups. Skei had T-Shirts made, the posters were gorgeous. And after all that work I went out on May 1 and wrote this post. Of course we all knew the Flabenue would all go right back to its miserably filthy self, but so soon? At least on this Sunday I did notice a cleaner neighborhood, a hint at what could be.

But the fact is, nothing's going to change big time til we get regular street service, with Doe Fund guys or other BID hires. We have one from Parkside on down (the Flatbush BID), and except for the early hours of the day, it looks pretty damn good for all the traffic we get. The main culprits are the dumping of household trash and the overfilling of bins that's usually the result of the dumping. There's littering, I won't deny it. I pick up a handful every morning on my third of a block towards Flatbush. But a piece here and there isn't the same as a whole basketsworth. That's the kind of thing that makes me feel like no one gives a damn, when of course the reality is that almost everyone gives a damn, but we're held hostage by the few who don't. Give a damn, that is. Give a "damn?" Strange phrase. "Damns for the poor!" "Won't you please give a damn to man without a damn?" "Give a man a damn, he'll care for day. TEACH a man to damn, he'll care for a lifetime."

Damn. I'm outa time. Here's to the dreamers!

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Desperate State of Emergency at 60 Clarkson

If the City won't pay him $3,000 a month per apartment to run a roach-infested flophouse, then Barry Hers would rather turn the remaining tenants into refugees. He's cut power and gas. It's a friggin' mess. Nathan Tempey has the story.

From it:
Wednesday afternoon, four days after the Department of Homeless Services officially washed their hands of the 27 residents who stayed—making them squatters until a judge says otherwise—something happened to the power. "I was in my apartment and the lights just went out," Ravan Huddleston said.
Huddleston is one of 20-odd shelter residents and long-term tenants who have signed onto the lawsuit since it was filed, rolling the dice on the opportunity to inhabit one of the apartments and hoping enough legal pressure can force Hersko to fix the place up. So far that prospect is not looking good. Residents we spoke to on Thursday morning say at least five apartments have lost power, all of them home to former shelter residents who are plaintiffs on the lawsuit.
Workers were in the building's basement on Wednesday afternoon, along with two men who seemed to be supervising, residents say, and when people complained that they'd lost electricity, they say the men told them Con Edison had shut it off but it would be restored momentarily. It didn't come back. By 7:30 p.m., the workers were gone and lawyers, activists, and police from the neighborhood's 70th Precinct were on site trying to get to the basement, where the circuit breakers are. The elevator that goes to the basement was strangely inoperable, Tenants and Neighbors organizer Jennifer Berkley said, and an employee of Hersko's, who refused to identify himself to her, adamantly refused a cop's request for entry over the phone.
"It was nuts; the guy from Hers's office was screaming at the cop," she recalled. "They have some nerve. They're literally screaming at the cop."
Berkley and others who were present recall the man on the phone saying that he didn't care if he was arrested—he wasn't restoring power. The activists left around 9 p.m. without any luck getting Con Edison to come or getting access to the basement.
On Thursday morning, shelter residents, many of them mothers of small children, kept their kids home from school in hopes of a resolution. Nadina Brown, a plaintiff, said that she's all for standing their ground, but Hersko's alleged sabotage makes it hard.
"The baby's crying," she said. "How we gonna stick it out with no lights?"

Empire Boulevard Project Needs Your Rescue

The other night at the CB9 meeting I realized a couple things. New things. One, I had no idea that the pro-car sentiment was so strong that it would try to kill a common sense fix to two of the most dangerous intersections in the neighborhood. Two, that one of the ways to "stick it" to people like me is to tell them how "we're going to shove your project in your face." In other words, forget about the public good. This is about personal retribution for some people. Which made me wonder whether I just need to stop being so public about my feelings.

First off, this is not MY project that I invited to present at the meeting. This is a DOT initiative funded with Federal dollars that were placed into the budget years ago by then Congressman Major Owens. To put it in perspective - this project was but dream years ago, when one could only imagine a day when you could fix messed up intersections that needed a full redesign. The money became available, good people have been working on it for months, and now a few bike-hating zealots want to shut it down? I don't think so. Not if you can help it. I'll probably need to duck out the back door and let you convince your CB9 board member neighbors that saving lives and creating green public spaces is being civic-minded and forward-thinking.

The only big problem with the way DOT has tried to sell the project is that while it's called the Empire Boulevard Reconstruction Project, it really involves just two multi-angle intersections that are more than a mile apart. You probably know Franklin/Empire/Washington really well, if you're reading this here blog. It's a hot mess, all times of the day. The other intersection is also beyond ridiculous, in construction and right-of-ways and dead spaces, but it's a lot harder for me to gauge the need because I don't see it very often. Go check it out though - Empire at Utica and East New York, Remsen and then Schenectady. Dreadful. Bizarre. But I'll leave it to someone else to make the case in detail. I like what DOT is proposing there, but it's not the part of the project that I'm willing to draw blood (my own!) for.

Exhibit A below shows OUR problem location. If you have a small child, you know precisely how dangerous is this intersection. Cars come from all angles, jostling for position to make the beginnings or ends of light cycles. The tiny chunk of Franklin that veers off to the right as you head up Washington only adds to the sense of, shall we say, adventure. Often a bicyclist or pedestrian becomes stranded somewhere. If you're not paying attention, you can get injured or killed. In fact hundreds of accidents have taken place at this and the other project intersection in the last five years, with 29 people maimed or killed.

So DOT, after months of analysis and data crunching, has offered a solution, and has the money to pay for it. You need only look at the traffic flow to see how crazy it all is:

The proposed design will not hinder drivers in the slightest. Yes, you won't be able to sneak up the tube at Franklin, but that's one of the major confusion factors. DOT wants to send you up to Empire on Washington to turn right. Like just about every other intersection in the Western world. Western BEEF notwithstanding.

Best part of closing that bit of Franklin is that it gives you some space to put trees and benches. Add some neckdowns - you've seen them on Flatbush past Grand Army Plaza, between Park Slope and Prospect Heights. For elderly and children in particularly, these shorter intersections are a godsend. AND you don't have lengthen the traffic signals to provide safety. Cars move, people move, (okay here it comes) bicycles move. Everybody moves. No one gets hurt. As much. Hurray!

Let me share my favorite complaint, after DOT presented the landscaping, seen below. And it's not the first time I've heard it. "What do you need trees for? You've got Prospect Park just a block away!" Look, if you hate trees so much, maybe I finally can understand the bizarre attachment to the Western Beef parking lot. Which is nearly never full!!! It's like I'm living in a world so topsy turvy that people wear pizza and eat shoes. And hate trees. Actually, I guess that part is already true.

If you care about such things, I urge you to come to the next Board meeting and voice your support. Or start a petition. Or come to the Committee meeting where we'll resurrect this and revote. That's Wednesday, Nov 18 at the CB9 clubhouse, 890 Nostrand near Carroll. Questions just email me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Here She Goes Again...

if you're tired of this never-ending saga, i ask that you consider checking out the previous post, which is a lot more fun.

Sometimes, Alicia outdoes even herself. Our neighborhood's resident instigator Ms. Boyd is now taking on PLGNA (Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association) and their nefarious MLK Day celebration, a longtime tradition for those of you who live, Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I believe Ms. Boyd has forgotten that she too lives in Lefferts Gardens, on Sterling Street. As do all her neighbors. As do most of the people she claims to be protecting from (gasp) affordable housing. She seems to have confused her neighborhood associations, which is fair, because she really doesn't know much about the neighborhood she's trying so hard to protect. Let me explain, Ms. Boyd. PLeGNA. LMA. Two different things, and hardly at odds. Plus, laying into Diana Richardson? you have any idea who you're swinging at? Put on the goggles folks, it's gonna get messy.

Now I know that nearly ALL of you in so-called PLG are white and wealthy, so let's just have a little conversation, you and me. I'll speak white so you can understand what I'm saying. Enunciating clearly now! Here we go...

MLK ended the worst abuses of brutality and disenfranchisement in the South. He did it with brains, carefully assembled coalitions and the extraordinary bravery of citizens who would rather be beaten or killed than withstand another moment of a dehumanizing de facto apartheid. Is that worth celebrating as a neighborhood that continues to cherish its history and its racial, religious and ethnic diversity? Damn straight. You go PLGNA, you miserable racist rascals you! Can you give government money directly to a church for an MLK celebration? Nope. Though you can give it to specific programs run by churches that serve specific populations, say the homeless or elderly, provided you're open to all comers regardless of race or religion. Alicia talks about looking for organizations and non-profits "run" or "owned" by black folks. For the record, PLGNA has a racially mixed board. So does Lefferts Manor Association, the group she's confused PLGNA with. And no one "owns" a non-profit anyway. These are mere dastardly details however. From someone who claims "the devil is in the details," well, there you go. 

And with that, I give you the latest from Alicia Boyd, and MTOPP. Trust me, I'd ignore her, but she seems to be getting everything she wants these days. And with this kind of rhetoric:
Dear Neighbor
Why would a Black Local Politician
give money to the wealthiest whitest community in our district
to create  Martin Luther King children’s performances
in three Black Churches?
Our community is comprised of over 200,000 people
70% of those people are Black and have the average income
of $40,000.
There is however a group of homeowners who live in
Prospect Park Lefferts Garden, who’s average income
maybe topping at $200,000, according to their newsletter just published
and who describe the “Fruits of Gentrification” as having produced
whiter, wealthier younger population and at the same time has driven out
more than 2,000 people of color.
So why would our Politician then give to this very wealthy group
that comprised of less than 1% of the entire population
money to do a Black celebration in honor of Martin Luther King!
Is it that she couldn’t find any other black churches,
organization or non-profits run and owned by black people to do these performances? 
Is there a scarcity of educated and involved
black community residents, churches that could have used this money
and created a performance that is about the Black struggle.
Could this happen in a Jewish community? 
Would a local political give money to a non-Jewish group
and ask them to have performances
in synagogues representing the Jewish struggle?
Of course not!  So why is she doing it?
Well that is simple
Assemblywoman Dianna Richardson wants
to hide the fact that she is giving money to the 1% in our community,
$8,000 so that they can forge ahead
with a study that will get our community up zoned,
under the pretense of “providing” affordable housing.
And who want to do a “study” about what happens
when you put sky rise development
in poor and moderate income communities!
Do we really need a study to tell us what will happen?
As if we can’t see that for ourselves!
But we know the truth, a rezoning will get us Williamsburg
on steroids!  As the 1% continues to describe “gentrification”
as a “fruit”!
But she doesn’t want to put that on record,
so her and other elected officials decided to hide their deceit
by giving them money to perform Black Community services!
So instead of her budget saying “Study” it will say “Education”!
We Know Assemblywoman Dianna Richardson is Pro Development!
We have not forgotten she was a
Executive Board member of CB9  last year,
when all that illegal stuff was being done
and which has amounted to Pearl Miles, District Manger being removed
and 85% of the board, including herself resigning!
Dianna Richardson had talked to us about
compromising with the developers
and allowing them to build against Sullivan Place homes
that would block out their sun,
so that they wouldn’t build against Sterling St.
Is that called Divide and Conquer!
Dianna Richardson talked about
not supporting any study that City Planning doesn’t’ support!
Do you see any other community supporting City Planning!!!
Well how about us not supporting her!
We will be sending around a email, please take the time
to clink on it and send Dianna Richardson a message.
Remind her that election time is coming up for her again
and we will not forgot her actions!!!
And neither will her opponents!!!
Stop taking money from the Poor and Giving to the Rich!
How dare she in a predominately moderate income Black Community
choose to give money to a white upper middle-class group
to do Martin Luther King Performances in Black Churches!
Tell her to give this money to a Black organization.
And to stop supporting the rezoning of our community!

The Internet, Television and Lefferts Gardens

Television ain't what it used to be. I frankly don't even know how any of us are supposed to be pop-culture literate in this day and age, so much "must see" TV. So why not dig into the hyper-local world of TV by your talented neighbors? At least that way you'll have something in common to talk about over falafel and personal pan pizzas along the Flabenue.

Much like independent music, the financial barriers to entry in the world of Internet Web Series are much less daunting than, say, the days when Love Boat ruled the airwaves. That doesn't mean that high production values come cheap - we're talking tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands. But if you have a vision and some film friends who'll work for free or next to it, you can create some pretty impressive looking stuff. Witness the two PLG-based award-winners - despite their low-budges, they look and feel pretty damn pro.

First, take a peek at 47 Secrets To a Younger You, a rompy milfy goofy and painfully accurate look at modern momdom. You'll recognize nearly all the locales, and probably the ladies as well. There are creators and stars Laura Frenzer and Rohana Kenin, long of PLG Arts. And you can't help but note the strong performance from Siobhan O'Neill as well, playing the part of the Samantha-esque character. The series is directed by neighbor Ryan Blackwell and tons of other Lefferts folks helped out. The acting is uniformly great. Check out the first episode and then keep watching if your interest is piqued, which, I suspect it will be:

And if you haven't already fallen deep into the pillowy cushions of the World Wide Web by now, you can spend some quality time with "Livin' The Dream," a wry look at the Sisyphean world of aspiring film auteurs, created by Martense resident Kim Spurlock and sister Mai, with music by Ben Goldie, and production help from Eimi Imanishi and editing from Angela Cheng. You'll see the Compound Cowork space and Gratitude Cafe and plenty of heartbreaking scenes of dreams deferred.

Is There An Echo In Here?

Yes. Yes there is there is there is there is there is...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Hello Empire. Nice To Meet You.

In further proof that development chugs along quite nicely without community input, the Clean Rite at the corner of Bedford and Rogers will soon go the way of the Caledonian Hospital - as of right. Thanks Mike for the Brooklynian always seem to have your nose to the ground, you little hound dog you! How many stories do you think? And how much affordable housing do you think? Hmm...

The subject property is a corner mixed-use development site with potential
for 42,720 buildable square feet on the border of Crown Heights and
Prospect Lefferts Gardens. The site has 203’ of corner frontage of
Empire Boulevard and Rogers Avenue, one of the area’s most desirable
corridors. The site features a combined lot area of approximately 8,900
square feet of the site located within residential zoning (R6) with
commercial overlay (C1-3), which allows a maximum FAR of 3.0
as-of-right. A developer has the opportunity to further increase the
total buildable square footage via the Community Facility. If
implemented, the Community Facility bonus would add 16,000 square feet
to the site, increasing the maximum buildable to approximately 42,720
square feet. Public transportation is conveniently located nearby, just
2 blocks from the (2)(5) trains at the Sterling Street Station,
offering access to Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan within 20 minutes.
The property is also located a short walk from Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Botanic Garden and The Brooklyn Museum.

Straight Outa Compost

Never did like that band, Smashing Pumpkins. I don't think they wrote a single decent song and that voice...that screeching, nasal, whine...what was up with that? At least the "yarl" of Eddie Veder and company - which can be traced back to Cher by the way - at least that had some warmth to it. On occasion. "Can't Find a Butter Man" indeed. Never liked the Pearl Jam either. Or STP. Actually you can have the whole darn decade if you want it. All the interesting stuff was happening in electronica and hip hop, though I was too busy grunging to truly appreciate it. And I'm confident time will prove me true. Youth Movements are powerful aphrodisiacs though. As if youth needed any more help feeling horny.

Here's the tie-in. The fabulous Q Gardens, over by the Q train at Church, is hosting a Pumpkin Smashing. Bring your jack-o-lanterns on Sunday and add them to the compost pile. Sunday at 3.

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's Official - Greenlight Bookstore Moving Into 626 Flatbush

For all its unlikable height, 626 Flatbush is sure pouring on the charm. With its chunk of affordable (under-a-grand) apartments (for qualified lottery winners, natch), the Maple Street School, and now Greenlight Bookstore, the 23-story Hudson development has made some pretty serious peace offerings. Mind you, it coulda done all that without the assault on the sky. Still, now that it's cooked into the soup, you might as well add a salad. (I just made that one up and gosh darnit I like it. For now.)

No joshing, Greenlight Bookstore is the shit. You gotta be pretty surly not to love a Ma & Ma business like Greenlight. And co-owner Rebecca lives right here in The Lefferts. Greenlight lit up the corner of S. Portland and Fulton from the minute it move in, and they've managed to make bookstore browsing seem hip again.

Gotta go to sleep after a fun show at the BAM, so here's the first paragraph from the press release:

Greenlight Bookstore, the sixyear old independent bookstore located in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, has announced plans to open a second retail location in Prospect Lefferts Gardens within the next year. Greenlight coowners Rebecca Fitting  and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo have signed a letter of intent on a 2,100 square foot retail space with The Hudson Companies Inc., which is constructing a mixed-use building at 626 Flatbush Avenue. The new location will be a general independent bookstore, including both kids and adult books, as well as a basement space which will house the company’s offsite sales business. Like the Fort Greene store, the bookstore will be closely tailored to its neighborhood, and will host events and seek to partner with local institutions with the goal of becoming a true community space.

Congrats ladies. The Q wishes you many years of fruitful business. I look forward to doing a book signing when I finish my novel which I'm tentatively calling Liberal Sweaters. It's the story of a...