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.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The No Muss No Fuss Guide To Responsible Segregation

It may mean nothing, or everything. Think about it with me for a second, how the below George Bush mug from which I'm ironically drinking coffee in GOP country, down here in a nearly 100 year-old once legally segregated golf course engineered subdivision in North Carolina, how the meaning of the joke on the mug has changed just a bit.

Even Cheney Seems Centrist These Days
Created after the rise of the Tea Party in 2009-10, the cup was meant to remind disenchanted swing Obama sympathizers how star-crossed was their "Hope" vote. And now, as wingnuts like Trump and Cruz threaten to disrupt what's left of the semi-reasonable chunk of the Republican party, the message resonates like a reminder of just how unhinged has the GOP become.

What does the golf course have to do with it? Popsy, Mrs. CFB's late father, was an old-school Southern man. He was a good man to his family, certainly deserving of respects paid at his death at the hands of the very crop that made so many down here rich, and at the same time, kept so many dirt poor. King Tobacco perfectly personifies the Carolina fight between good and evil, rich and poor, black and white (and Indian, I might add). Particularly because its real benefit to humans is less than zero, it's an odd crop to have grown so lucrative. It provides neither sustenance nor actual satisfaction, since the relaxing and calming effects are nothing more than killing the jones of a nic-fit. If you, like me, have played Russian Roulette with cigarettes, you-we all know perfectly well that there is no true pleasure to be derived from those first few puffs from a cigarette - you must learn to like them, or rather NEED them. From the beginning, the lungs scream WTF and the buzz is anything but calming, the taste severe, and the smoky smell impossible to hide. And worst of all, you don't even get drunk. You just get...smelly and anxious. The anxiety can be treated only by another, and another. Duke, duke, duke it out. You'll lose nearly every time, like the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters (r.i.p. Meadowlark Lemon).

Tobacco. Golf. Subdivisions. Grocery stores. That's what's been on my mind. This non-gated gated-seeming community of Hope Valley was one of America's first planned suburbs, with a nifty twist. The golf course was designed first, and you had to join the country club to purchase a plot of land. It's not like segregation needed any clever help back then; it was, after all, the law of the land. But the unique requirement of club ownership prior to buying a home was an extra-level of exclusivity, and allowed not only a chance to keep out blacks but pretty much ANY undesirable. Blacks might eventually get to buy houses in once-white neighborhoods, but they most certainly couldn't gain entry to golf. Surely Armageddon would come first. Or a Tiger named Woods. Still, it's not like the floodgates have opened. Tiger was no Jackie Robinson, or rather, golf had no colored league full of world-class players ready and willing to integrate. (Golf - what a trip. Folks actually want to golf right up to the gates of death, and probably beyond. Rumor is a yearly struggle for supremacy between hell and heaven's 18-hole courses ends in a Ryder's Cup match between Good and Evil. The teams are fairly evenly matched, with Chi-Chi leading one team and Johnny Miller leading the other. Evil wins every time; Good suspects cheating, but has yet to prove it.)

The first families to buy in were true local gentry, their sons and son-in-laws, and doctors and men of high esteem from the local universities of Duke and Chapel Hill. At the time there were far fancier houses to be found, but the very fact that a car was required meant that Hope Valley possessed a certain hi-tech up-to-date upper-middle-class cache that even the Dukes themselves could only envy. Why? Because THIS Shangri-La came with built-in like-minded community - you know, friends. What with the newly built Methodist and Episcopal churches on-site, the Club pool-golf-tennis-bar-restaurant for-members and families only, a second-tier aristocracy was created that was soon the envy and the prototype for countless communities to follow. Interestingly it was about this time that President Coolidge codified much of what we now know as suburbanization through subdivision, creating a how-to manual for state and city planners. Developing a building was one thing; even a block. Now you could develop 100s of homes at once, and the White House provided you with the blueprints of how to do it.

This area is comprised of nearly 100% white folk. There are a couple of black hi-paid professionals. Interestingly, and unlike their white counterparts, their profession is almost always noted along with their complexion. It's as if it were necessary to note that they're the "right kind" of blacks. Two black sisters live together in a house here in Hope Valley; they moved from Brooklyn many years ago, and don't keep their landscaping quite as tidy as neighbors would like. At first, there was a rumor they might be lesbians. There's some "Triangle People" here, referring to the Tech Industrial Park that lures white-collar engineers, plus the highly prestigious Duke Medical folks. By NYC standards, the houses aren't even THAT expensive. $600k, $700K for a typical 3-4 bedroom house built anywhere from the '30s to the '80s in any of many styles. The closer to the golf course the greater your status, with houses ON the course costing two or three times as much. That should give you an idea of just how crazy house prices have gotten in Brooklyn. For half the price of a modest brownstone you could live in one of the toniest sections of Durham. Twice. But there's a catch. You'd have to live, one of the toniest subdivisions of Durham, NC. And you might just shoot yourself from alienation. You could take out some fellow citizens at the same time, with one of those cheap AK-47s that are so damn easy to come by. How easy? Just see how many automatic weapons you could nab off this website out of Greensboro - hook up with one of these guys, bring a six-pack and rat-a-tat-tat to your heart's content. Seriously though, don't fret. You have to click "I Agree" to go on to the site, stating you'll adhere to all applicable laws. Phew! Thought for a minute any Tom, Dick or Lunatic could get themselves an automatic weapon!

Like so many cities, Durham is near-thoroughly segregated, and it's done with such ingenuity that it's remarkable achievement probably escapes most longtime residents. By allowing in a few upscale blacks and introducing them to the benefits of privilege (at arms length mind you), whites can keep the miscegenation to a minimum while privately surmising it's never been about race anyway - decorum and civility need know no other virtues. Play by the rules, and you will be tolerated. Buy-in, live right, and you might just fit the bill and serve as a credit to your race, a mere 150 years since emancipation. (My, has it really taken THIS long to achieve such an unimpressive victory? MLK likely crying in heaven. Or pissed and ready for Plan B.)

Best of all, the fact of middle-class black neighborhoods add another level of smugness for the gentry. See, one can hear them say. Segregation is by choice, on both sides. Like really does prefer like. Churches prove it too. Sunday mornings remain shockingly segregated. Even while modeling Christ, we'd rather skip the diversity sort-of implied in the Sermon on the Mount. Is what's happening some sort of Catch-22, where we don't want to mix til the playing field equals, but we can't equal the playing field til we spend quality time together? Then again maybe there's something about whiteness that prefers boring church.

It's really quite phenomenal that we manage to look ourselves in the mirror and mutter nonsense like post-racial, integrated, liberal, non-racist, modern. All the while we're living in a country that's nearly as segregated as pre Brown v Board in our living rooms and in our schools and most tragically by our jails and morgues. Mean household wealth remains 20/1 white-black. Wealth passes molasses-slow for blacks generation over generation, while whites stand to transfer the largest pot of money from Boomers to X-ers in the history of mankind. It's staggering really, because as I've heard in story after story after story upon anecdote it's that intergenerational money that really makes the difference economically - inheritance, frequently inheritance of housing alone. And taking it a step further, just see how a single successful billionaire can sire dozens of future generations of shiftless and alienated wealth. It's shocking how few true self-made Americans there are. That is, Americans whose whiteness and American-ness goes back more than a few generations and who managed to not need a leg-up to stay up. Down here a couple Dukes spawned generations of unfathomable wealth. It didn't turn out so well for many of them, psychologically anyway.

Beyond the tumult of the '60s, the most radical and controversial court-mandated enemy of Order was the massive social experiment of forced school integration, a/k/a busing. Mrs. CFB was bused, and she fared well, even as H Valley residents generally opted out by sending their kids to private school rather than be forced to attend lesser, poorer, blacker schools. The stated complaint then, as it is now, was on not on race but "performance" and "behavior." The black schools were considered less disciplined and poorer performing. At the elementary school level at least, the behavior piece was simply not true. Young kids being what they are, scuffles happened, but Southern society is generally polite and true truancy and delinquency were non-existent at the younger grades The schools were, it must be said, poorer performing. But that was part of the point. Not just racial and economic integration, but integration of expectations, parental involvement and even friendship and teamwork. Social progressives had big hopes, and though many whites left the City or school system as a result, poor schools DID in fact improve. The wealthier schools fared just fine. Many are now reassessing the effects of this massive and massively unpopular experiement. Busing, it turns out, was working as promised. But the damage to the social compact of segregation led to revolt at the polls. Jesse Helms and his organizational prowess helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan. Busing essentially ended just as it was starting to show real results. Whites had shown their true color. They hadn't the stomach for addressing the base of racial inequality, and frankly, as Mrs. CFB's mom recounts, black folks weren't exactly overwhelmingly welcoming. She felt horribly UNwelcome in the once all-black school that now was educating her own lily-white southern belles. But as I asked more questions, the story softened. As time went on, she confessed, it became easier and easier and eventually everyone bonded the way parents do. Not lifelong friendships perhaps; that was best left to the churches and clubs. But meaningful, constructive interaction was happening daily, and you know what? The kids turned out just fine. And considerably more culturally aware and empathetic.

To my black friends and readers who might wonder how bad it gets when people of color are not in the room. In my many visits to Durham, NC, I've rarely heard blacks ridiculed, discredited, or insulted. While I know it gets uttered, I've never heard the word nigger uttered in my presence. In fact, I dare say African-Americans and black issues simply don't resonate much to wealthy white Southerners. Least not in polite company. The protests and anger and political agitation is not simply misunderstood; it's hardly a blip on the radar. It's "their problem" now. It just...doesn't come up, unless you force the conversation, and then comes the "don't stir the pot" under-the-table-pokes and shuffles and don't-go-there stare-stabs. There are so many convenient ways around the topic, subtle cues and innuendo, linguistic tricks and changes of subject. It's a vast conspiracy that doesn't need a leader or a written handbook. The meaning is clear, the goal obvious enough not to ever utter. At this point I'm not even sure it's about blacks being lesser than. Our president is proof of SOMEthing. But what really drives segregation is fear of losing wealth and privilege. Because on this side of privilege things are actually pretty fucked up. Lots of the children of privilege are lost, unproductive, depressed, unsure of themselves in a world that was handed to them. To in the outsiders would mean exposing the rusty and crumbling apparatus and the very human people who control it. Money is passed quietly between family members and generations and spouses and misfits and junkies. Oh there are plenty of Captains of Industry of course. But not nearly as many as there are big houses and luxury cars. Entitlement in this country is not so much earned as received, and many of us don't feel worthy of the honor. But still we're unable to give it up. The great American lie lies somewhere in the difference between worth and self-worth, miserly fear and a never-sated hunger for more than our share.

Ask a four-year old. They'll tell you to your face that 10 Christmas presents aren't enough in view of her sister's 11. True story.

East Durham

Hope Valley

Parkside Plaza Needs Your Support

Parkside Fundraiser 2015 from Thorsten Thielow on Vimeo.

The Q just gave. Please give.

Only a year ago the Parkside Plaza was a gleam in our eyes. Now it's here, and man ever has it changed our little corner of the park. Just last weekend the Farmer's Market came to end for this year, but it was a smash success and we hope to return next year and every year after.

The Parkside Committee is busy scrounging up donations from officials and foundations, but we're not there yet. We still need $20,000 for the coming year. Granted that seems like a ton. But remember the Plaza needs maintenance, every day. Trust me when I say we hope to have the Plaza self-sufficient in the next couple years, through electeds and businesses. But in the meantime, consider giving to the Plaza that keeps on giving.

From the whole Committee a hearty thanks.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Phat Albert Rethink

The Phat Albert building. Who hasn't dreamt of another use for the once bread-factory come five-and-dime? It's a terrific store, sure, but such a grand and historic building. Anyone with a penchant for bargains will tell you that Phat's gots the goods. It's frankly not much less a store than Target, though somehow Target has managed to project the image of high-end low-end retail. Someone should have an outsized bust in the marketing hall of fame for that one. When I was a kid in the midwest, Target and K-mart were both consider inferior to the century-old Sears. Holy Turn-a-rounds, Adman!

Albert Srour owns the building, and over the years many have pondered better uses - Trader Joe's, Beer Hall, even residential conversion. But now that Albert has turned over operations to son Jack (Phat Jax?) new uses are surely on the horizon. In the case of the second floor, that horizon about a week. Because as general manager for the ready-to-roll BKLYN Commons Alex Guerra says "come and get 'em while they last." Cowork office spaces, with windows on 'em to create community and light and stuff, are available from not much to $2K or more per month. Or you can sit at one of the community tables for around $20 a day. Granted you could do that at a coffee shop, but c'mon, how much work do you REALLY get done there? Plus you have to buy coffee and lunch there anyway to make it seem like you care about the proprietor's cost of doing business. Here, you ARE the income, so pack your own lunch. Here's a couple pics from inside the newly decked out space:

It's got the tech hookups and all those doodads plus a conference room and pretty decent bathrooms. In other words, it's not a whole hell of a lot different than the Compound Cowork in the building next door; the facilities are different and may be better suited to certain needs. If you're interested here tis the Commons. But you know the Q is about more than shill and shillings.

So here's the dirt. It would appear that Jack is interested in "what's next" for his signature space - the Phat Alberts. Got an idea that ISN'T Trader Joe's? Hop on the comment bus down below, and take a look at these swell pics of the clocktower (from inside) and from the roof.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hell Yeah, Bedford Armory

Sounds like our Bedford Armory is getting the sort of public-private development favored these days by public officials. Looks pretty sweet to me. The community center desired by the, community, seems to be alive and well in this plan. Interestingly, office space is included. My understanding is that office (i.e. WORKplace) space is in desperately low inventory. Could be that more jobs are moving to the neighborhood as well? This could be good for surrounding businesses. Cheers, Eric-Diana-Laurie-Jesse et al.

The Q: Boy Who Cried Wolf? Nostrand-amus? How About - Map Reader?

Thanks Jacob for keeping the pushpins rolling. Here's more details on the shocking (see above) tracking of new residential developments in the neighborhood.

Nice to see that the Historic District works so well to keep out new buildings - seriously it's a testament to the far-sightedness of old-timers. Wish my block had some protections. The kind that were in the works with a Planning Study, that could have downzoned inner blocks even down to rows of houses in favor of new developments where they dang well belong - along avenues of transit and sites that currently have taxpayer lowrises or fastfood and storage marts and parking lots. Imagine, favoring storage marts over housing for actual people. Bitter, Q? Hell yes.

But at this point I'm prepared to reflect and calm the fuck down. It ain't gonna happen. We have people bitching about density and complaining about light and air to the point that no one wants to be part of the City's efforts to deal with a housing crisis on the one hand and destruction of neighborhoods on the other. Folks, you can't "not build" your way out of near-zero vacancy-rates that're raising rents beyond reason. Can't be done. Not historically, not now.

Brooklyn is a victim of  success. There are thousands of new jobs, new amenities, new opportunities. People want to live here, and we can't stop that. We SHOULDN'T stop that. It's what this borough was begging for for decades. Now that it's here, we can't handle change? Smart development? Sure there's ridiculous luxury high-rise happening. And the City should stop it. That damn tower at One 57th St and 432 Park and the Time-Warner Center. But that is NOT part of the lower and middle class housing being proposed by City Planning for our neighborhood. And yes, making up to $100K a year is middle class in this town. Even $150K with a family of four. If you don't think so, you don't get out much. This City has changed dramatically and people with those incomes are desperate to find (gulp) AFFORDABLE housing. THAT'S why rents are so damn high around here. It's a great neighborhood, and it's been affordable to professionals and newly minted arrivers. Less so every day, though. Rents are topping $3K already in some buildings.

Anti-density folks will tell you they champion the working poor. It's bullshit. You can't favor downzoning everywhere and claim to care for the lowest income-earners. You should be organizing tenants and providing legal help to keep them in their homes if you really care. Join the CHTU of Flatbush Coalition. Get busy. But don't stop the building of apartments, of all income needs.

The actual poor? The much-hated City is doing everything it can to build supportive housing, but it will never be able to keep up. And when they DO propose building "public housing," which is what you should call it when you provide nearly all the income by taxes, folks come out of the woodwork to complain about all the poor and ill people moving in. I shit you not, you should hear the discriminatory nonsense that comes out of people's mouth when they announced putting some supportive housing on Maple east of here, built by a terrific non-profit called The Bridge. The "crazies" are going to abduct our children the neighbors yelled, with only the pitchforks missing from their flailing hands. Hell, the "crazies" are already living there and spewing hate if you ask me. And to think a mere 50 years ago the whites were screaming the same about blacks moving into their neighborhoods. I said it before and I'll say it again. In so many ways, we've made zero progress as a society.

Mayor, council, ignore the noise, please. Do what's right. It would appear that they're finally waking up to the reality that the current gentry (i.e. Community Boards) care about themselves, their cars, their parking, over the needs of the community they supposedly care so deeply about. And in a City where MOST people don't own cars or houses, and MOST people barely make rent, and MOST people would be better off with more density, we continue to play out this longstanding game, the one where we think we can keep the City as it is. Jane Jacobs was wrong in that regard. Her beloved Greenwich Village is a museum. A lovely museum, no doubt, but all her favorite parts have long since departed. That is, if she REALLY cared about social and economic diversity as much as she claimed. Think about it. Perhaps the single best thing protecting Manhattan's diversity are the giant housing projects built by Jane's arch-nemesis.

Roll over them if you must Mayor. The future of the City depends on you taking the long view, while landmarking and preserving where you can. That's why they call it City "Planning," not City "Preserving." Until we go socialist, it's the best you can do.

Sounds like the Mayor is finally beginning to fight back.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Race Tightens

No, not that race. For City Council in the 40th, against incumbent Mathieu Eugene.

Okay, so he's not running for reelection til 2017. But Mathieu should already be running scared. A likable, politically savvy newcomer has announced plans to run. Brian Cunningham lives in Flatbush and has all the trappings of a potential contender for political office. He's experienced in politics and government, he's cute, dresses nicely. I've met him a few times and I have no idea what sort of councilperson he'd be (yet) but I'm sure we'll all have plenty of time to get to know him before Primary Day a year and a half from now. Declaring early is a good idea though. This way when you see him around you can know you're talking to a candidate and ask all those questions you're dying to ask now. And I expect to see him around a hell of a lot more than the guy with the gig and the nearly $150K salary who actually lives in Canarsie and can't be bothered to show up or send a rep at CB9 meetings. Unless he's touting something like his new trash cans that were payed for by some of his discretionary money. Btw I shook his hand and thanked him for them.

So when I say the race has tightened, I mean the odds are already good that Brian can beat Mathieu and nobody knows Brian yet. As I see it, Brian needs support from a few key places and he's a gimme. If he can nail down support from 4 of 6 of Yvette Clarke, Diana Richardson, Kevin Parker, Jesse Hamilton and Eric Adams and Jumaane Williams that would pull him even at least. A couple unions go his way and you're golden. Unless other people run, then it's gonna be tougher. Another reason to announce early and try to raise money and dissuade others.

Here's his page with all the upbeat tidbits. What's he look like?

Why, you might ask, am I posting the picture with his wife Stephanie? Couple reasons. First, in order for a dude to get married he has to impress his to-be wife, right? She's attractive, smart, works at the Brooklyn Museum. She picked him, so maybe he's not all bad. I like married guys, at least until they end up as front page news for being not-such-great married guys. But let's assume for the moment that Brian's one of the good ones. She chose him, that's a plus. Sexist of me? Nah. Just practical.

Second, of all the places in the world to run into Brian, I ran into him and Stephanie last summer in Manchester, VT at the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln, called Hildene. They were also visiting the bizarre Pullman Car museumy situation they have there, where you find out that Robert Todd Lincoln really didn't do much with his life other than cash in on his daddy's name and become head of Pullman, a position that was handed to him for his political connections. The story of Pullman Porters, however, is a great window onto the world of post-emancipation racial economics, or put another way, how to turn slaves into indentured servants and make it look like you're a racial progressive, all the while only further stereotyping and belittling an entire group of people and calling every last one of them "George" or "Boy." Also the idea that train travel on Pullman sleepers could give you an opportunity to live like the upper crust, if only for a couple thousand miles, is bizarre in itself. Pullman Porters gave you a manservant for a few days, and quite possibly the closest thing to haute cuisine you could expect on wheels.

As bad as Pullman Porters had it, they were considered the top of the pops for black men. A small but steady wage, a decent uniform, seeing the country. Truth be told MOST Americans had shitty jobs at little pay during the dawn of the Industrial Age. Check out the coal miners and migrant farmers for starters. It was a time of great income discrepancy and fast-moving technological achievement and racial and political upheaval. How very very different from today. Must have been craaaaaazzzzy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The last person born in 1899

And she lives real nearby in East New York. Susannah Mushatt Jones. She eats four links of bacon every day. And her hair stopped being gray and has started growing brown again. No joke. The latest on her from NY Mag.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Barry Hersko Sinks Even Lower

60 Clarkson's homeless shelter families are set to have a nice holiday party tonight, with pot-luck and presents and a lot of neighbors chipping in. One problem...the landlord doesn't want them to. He's gone to court to shut it down.

Why? Beats me. Why does this asshole get up in the morning? To make money and screw his fellow human beings. Doing both at once provides him with double the pleasure, apparently.

More unnecessary drama as it unfolds...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Q and His Block Shafted By CB9

For months, now years, the Q has sounded the alarm. Do a Planning Study, or lose even the inner blocks that aren't in the Historic District, to absurd development. And who's led the loudest opposition to such a clear-headed strategy? Why would a few people in the Historic District, homeowners with nothing to lose by slowing down the process, a process meant to create thoughtful trade-offs and look for soft spots in current zoning, places that could yield unwanted buildings - want to stop that process in the middle of a real estate explosion, when we're actually being offered the opportunity to do it by DCP?. Look at the 20 story tower happening over on Linden in CB17, and countless ugly tear-downs and build-ups all around us. Some could have been prevented if a Zoning Study had sought to keep neighborhood height in check, and some downzoning and contextualizing where appropriate. Not every block is worthy of landmarking, so...have a heart.

The Q's block has been a hot mess for some time, and I have enough good humor to weather any insanity. But the irony is not lost. Plans were filed with DOB to tear down a limestone townhouse in the middle of a row of 10 to make room for a six-story building covering most of the lot. Don't worry, I'm not asking for sympathy. I know I'm a lucky D.O.B. S.O.B. to have a house at all, one purchased at the beginning of the century even.

Thx due to Barnabas for noticing the filing. There will be, of course, no means-tested units. The developer is clearly a scumbag. Here's a story on him, detailing his forcing a female subordinate to come with him while he urinates.

I feel terrible for the homeowners on either side, as these have been their pride and joys for decades. It's gotta be a done delicately, you know, this tearing down of brownstones. We share walls, don't you know, and these are old buildings. The size of the footprint means their gardens and backyards will be permanently screwed.

Maybe, just maybe, these guys have overreached. It's been suggested that their FAR goes to far.

So this Post is for you, all you helpful CB9 Board members who have done absolutely nothing to this point to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. And for what? Saving Empire Blvd for Wendy's and Self-storage? Keeping Nostrand from seeing some affordable housing? What a waste. 11 units in the middle of a row of houses, instead of affordable units on Empire. I guess I deserve it.

Here's the house in question, 19 Clarkson, rest in pieces:


Friday, December 11, 2015

Is This Info Even Useful? And Why or Why Not?

Need confirmation that guns are a big problem in the Borough of Kings? Check out the interactive map that's provoking lots of droopy-dog head-shaking all over the country. The Q took three screen shots at three different zoom levels to give you a sense of how we shape up in the gun violence department. I'll start with the tightest shot and move out. Note that red tags are gun deaths and orange "just" shootings. The greens mean there are more than one (usually 2) within a tight enough range that you couldn't distinguish them as two.

What do we learn? Well, even taking into account the lower density, I think it's fair to say that you have almost ZERO chance of getting shot in Park Slope. Shocking isn't it? This is just one year mind you, but in my 30 years of living in Brooklyn I don't recall a shooting epidemic in the Slope, even during Crack. I recall a groper or two, and a lot of iPhone muggings.

The second thing you notice is that there's nothing particularly special about YOUR area, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy. We all seem to be equally adrift in the same melange of the three G's. Guns, Gentrification and Gouging. (It's a stretch I know, but the gouging happens in all manner of ways from housing to staples and even expectations, and most importantly, it starts with the letter G).

The third thing, and I really didn't expect to see this connection...shootings most often happen on the major avenues and at intersections. Admit it, you hadn't thought of that before either! As always, mass shootings are barely a dent in the overall shooting statistics here and nationwide. It's the day in day out resorting to guns to deal with conflict - domestic, gang, adolescent - that really takes a toll.

Many folks are finally realizing that while the flamboyant killings garner the attention, the real epidemic facing young men, mostly black young men, involves something that our culture is unwilling or unable to do. A health emergency needs the right kind of experts, doctors and care. And what sort of care? Jobs. Dignity. Mentorship. Respect. Hope. Love. Community. And yeah, discipline where and when appropriate. We have, as they say, either a long way to go or not far at all. The choice belongs to the adults. For now, we're not showing a whole hell of a lot of courage. Or wisdom. Or even, I would argue, concern.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Parkside Memories

Roxie V. nails a clutch ID, a vintage pic of Parkside, Ocean to Flatbush, from the POV of, say, the Mickey D's. 

I'm guessing from the info on the Eugene L. Armbruster's collection that this shot of 205 and 225 Parkside dates from the 1930's. Definitely pre-WWII, no? Dyer's Cleaners sure had location, location, location. Oh and Armbruster, for whom the nickname Ol' Armbuster never fit (he was rail thin and 4'11"' tall), hailed from the German spa town Baden-Baden, a favorite destination of Mrs. Flatbed's. The Bath so nice they named it twice.

And hey, Parkside 'bout that tree?

The Kitties Need You

Give to the Kitties! 

When feral cats get trapped and fixed, they can live out their lives fairly peacefully. Since doing TNR to a gang of cats behind our house in 2005, we've nurtured dozens of cats through the years. Without the sex parts, they're sweet and docile and don't scream or spray. They mostly manage to live through the winter. Baby Bootsy, one of the original cats we neutered, is now TEN YEARS OLD! Senior Gato and Spazzy Penguin are new. The three of them are good friends. Sure I miss Scrabbles and Corn Dog and Nichols and May. But they lived good lives. And that's what it's all about, even for we of the human persuasion. To pretend it's about more is hubris. (But whatever we're sure you're very, very important and your contributions to the culture and the DNA of Homo Sapiens immeasurable. Why should I kill your buzz? Now, back to those adorable kitties...)

FAT Cats has emerged as a local powerhouse in the movement, and they operate right here in the 'hood. I can't recommend them highly enough. Committed, caring and effective. Consider a gift today!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Did James Brown Really Happen, Or Was It All Some Wonderful Dream?

The Q's stuffing envelopes at work - gotta go out tomorrow, there's no getting around it. He's listening to the James Brown singles from the mid-60's thru early '70s. The Q sometimes can't believe that JB ever really existed, because the tension, the politics, the monstrous polyrhythmic genius, the impossible ambition and confident execution - it's forever exploding my puny musical brain. I've spent my whole adult life trying to comprehend the enormity of his accomplishment, and they'll still be trying to pull it apart 300 years from now, the way scholars do with now with J.S. Bach. JB Bach. Toccata & Funk in D minor.

So you already know this. His "Popcorn" series is perhaps the moment at which he literally and figuratively blows the top off the whole kettle. In this remarkable filmed moment, his band sits while he dances and squeals. If you watch nothing else, check out what happens when he calls Maceo up at 2:30. From that moment to the end you will witness perhaps the most astounding duet in the history of sound:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ocean Ave Event - December 12

Amy Musick's at it again. Not even a little bit defatigable that one! She and Ocean by the Park Tree Club are not only advocating and beautifying they're doing something that only true urban gardeners fully appreciate...they're prePARing, thinking ahead, getting ready, being thorough, crossing their t's and minding their q's. They're winterizing. And you're invited:

Is that Bambi or Rudolph on the bottom left? Rudolph the Red Nosed Delson perhaps? No, he moved to Cleveland. Regardless, come on out on the 12th of December for a wintery mix jingle mingle.