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, June 28, 2016

Tonight A Score Gets Settled

Finally, I see all the pieces tonight, like the end of an HBO series. Now I can tell the whole tale, and it's really quite a shocker.

The Real Man of the Hour
It took decades, but tonight must feel pretty satisfying to Clarence Norman, Jr. Once the kingmaker of Brooklyn (he was the machine boss around here for many years as well as a State Assemblyman) he spent time in jail for shaking down judges. But before that, he had a "close friend" and campaign aide by the name of Carmen Martinez. Attractive and smart, Carmen applied for a job a couple decades ago at your Community Board 9 as its District Manager. She was up against an 11 year veteran assistant of the CB9 office, Pearl Miles. Was Pearl qualified? Of course. Was Carmen? Well, given that it's mostly a common sense job that involves political savvy, I'd say of course, if perhaps a bit too "connected" to be impartial. The Chairman at the time, and for many years before and after, was one Rabbi Jacob Goldstein. He'd worked with Pearl; he knew her, and knew he could trust her. Goldstein never cared much for Norman and his cronies, but he put up with them to get things done. Jake learns Clarence wants Carmen for the gig. Jake backs Pearl. Pearl gets the gig. Clarence plots revenge, but that takes time, both in front of and behind bars.

Then Jake and Pearl become the dominant force around here, mostly getting things done and taking no gruff. After Clarence spends time in prison, he states he's done with politics for good. Or is he? There are scores to settle.

First, he needs to get rid of the D.A. that put him behind bars. Stealthily he puts together a solid campaign, from the shadows of course, to knock off the once-unbeatable white Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes with the capable though decidedly not-white Ken Thompson. Ouch how that must have hurt Hynes, the Big Kahuna out in Breezy Point, Rockaways, where it's over 99% Caucasion. The corrupt politician you took down comes back and settles the score, and every day you gotta face the firemen and cops that make up your neighborhood, head hung low.

Next up, get Pearl Miles. In partnership with Borough Hall, now home to your one-time proteges Eric Adams and sidekick Ingrid Gordon, stack the Board with loyalists. Kick out the longtime chair Goldstein. "Help" the Board fire Pearl. The opening leaves an opportunity to replace Pearl with her onetime rival years, your old "friend," though many years after the initial duel! Everyone's older now. Pearl was almost ready to retire. Jake and Norman are likely in their 70s. Carmen? A woman never tells, a man should never guess. Ironically, of course, Pearl, among other things, claims age discrimination.

Crazy side bar? The BP stacked board doesn't even mind that Carmen was last fired by Comptroller Scott Stringer, though in fairness it's been suggested that that was political since Carmen was supporting a Stringer nemesis. She's been the presumed hire for months now, long before the Board went through the charade of putting together a committee and vetting resumes. Apparently, calling for references is no longer part of the hiring process. Unless of course they bothered to call just one - ex-Felon, corrupt boss Clarence Norman, Jr., who I'm quite certain would have offered glowing praise.

Tonight the Board met behind closed doors, again, but this time to seal the deal. And while I didn't stay long enough to see them come back from sequester, suffice to say I'm certain of the outcome. Actually, it was just texted to me. Carmen Martinez will be our District Manager. She'll be the one you call when you need a street tree or to complain that the drains on the street are backed up or to help you get permission for a block party. Oh, and there's the part that IS political, meetings, agenda, access to people and communication between, say, Borough Hall and the Board office, or say, Norman's First Baptist Development company. Pearl never did like Norman or Adams or any of them. She would always tell me they were all cut from the same cloth, that she had to put on blinders and just keep her eye on the work. She'd been called any number of names through the years, and she'd grown weary and wary. Now she's at home, maybe laughing, maybe not. To you, dear reader, I assure you. It's not funny. It's ugly, and it's anything but fair. Of the hundreds of people who applied to be District Manager, the only one the Board finds qualified is...the one we could have told you six months ago was going to get the job. And that was before they placed a single help-wanted ad.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Carmen Martinez is a current CB9 Board member? Technically that doesn't disqualify her for the job. But she's spent the past couple years getting to know everyone who eventually ended up voting for her. She's even been answering phones at CB9 and holding down the fort while the Board has gone without a single employee in the office. And did I mention that Carmen is actually related to chooser-in-chief Ingrid Gordon by marriage? Of all the people who are qualified, motivated, personable, eager and untainted by controversy and corruption the ONLY one to make it through was Carmen? 

Did I mention that I know for a fact that a very qualified woman who has worked for the community before offered her resume a few weeks ago and was told by the head of the new hiring committee that it was too late? "Too late" is after you offer someone the job. They didn't even read this person's resume

Pearl has a lawsuit cooking quite nicely. She wants compensation and she wants her old job back. Her lawyers have deposed any number of influential types, and they'll keep working their way through the list if they can. Alicia Boyd has lawsuits still in play, for shenanigans and foul play. After tonight, it's hard not to agree with her assessment. Even Hector Robertson, who tried desperately to wrest control of the hiring process from the Adams disciples, was dumbfounded at how blatant was the disregard for the community. He ran against, and lost, to Demetrius for the Chair gig tonight. Of course.

Do you remember the bit about how his committee chose three candidates who were NOT Carmen Martinez, then his committee was somehow disbanded for not following "the rules," which is hilarious because the Board rarely adheres to "the rules," except when "the rules" don't guarantee a desired outcome. Folks, this is madness, and you're being used, and there are actual real life consequences. While the Board plays these games, roads aren't becoming safer because of this Board. The neighborhood is being cut up and served to developers while Empire Blvd gets left to fallow. And we continue to have the single least-capable City Councilperson in town, who was actually endorsed in this last election by the Working Families Party, the Borough President and Jessie Hamilton among others more interested in loyalty to the machine than what's best for the neighborhood.

So. It's official. Norman and the BP's office got what they wanted. Part of me is relieved that it's over. But what kind of elected officials - disgraced or otherwise - go to such tremendous lengths to settle scores?

Petty ones. Petty people, with myopic vision and Machiavellian egos. That's who.

Good luck Carmen. Good luck Chairman Lawrence. And good luck Eric Adams, as you try to gain the trust of the electorate, so that they will hand you the keys to the City in 2021. So far, so not so good. I'm so disappointed, but I guess I should've known. The deepest, saddest, most unfortunate disappointment? Adams and I share priorities. He could've risen above it all. And why DID he meet with the AirBnB lobbyists at least five times and accept $32,000 for his non-profit? And to what end? If you're going to run a pay-to-play scheme at least make sure you get $100K minimum.

You can tell a lot about a person's character by the company they keep. Especially when that company is...Clarence Norman, Jr.

I leave you with a quote from then D.A. Hynes about Norman's conviction. Tonight we saw the evidence that Hynes spoke too soon. Voters; beware.

Mr. Hynes saw the conviction yesterday as the nail in the coffin of the Brooklyn Democratic machine, and a cautionary message for anyone who might try to revive it.
“We have exposed it for the evil that it is,” Mr. Hynes said. “Any political leader who engages in this kind of rank extortion, and think about it, any political leader who tries this, does so at her or his peril.”



long, long ago.


Anonymous said...

Wow! you can't make this S____up! So what's left for us to do as a community? What can we do, since we are voiceless?

Paul Galloway said...

The dice was fished?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Yep. Precisely as Julius Caesar said it at the Rubicon, just before he prepared one of his famous salads.

Anonymous said...

I had such high hopes for Borough President Adams. What a disappointment. The saying you "either with us or against us," is very apropos here. What a shame!!!! The Brooklyn "Political Machine" is still very much alive.

Anonymous said...

Have we really reached the point of no return? Q, for the community’s sake, I remain hopeful for better representation.

Anonymous said...

It's just awful. Community Boards have to be the worst aspect of NYC government. Eric Adams appears to have sold our community down the river just to settle personal scores. We all need to write to our mayor to ignore CB9 and instruct his agencies to hold community forums themselves and sample community sentiment from those.

PS Was there any vote on the school safety project the DOT asked CB9 to vet at the start of the year?

Alex said...

Anon 10:10pm, no. CB9 has completely stalled that project and it's atrocious. If you're referring to Empire/Washington, and democratically elected official allocated $11M to get it done, and in my personal opinion, CB9 has no business rejecting or modifying the project.

I do think there's hope, however. I don't really care who is on the board or administering for the board. I only care that they're responsive to the community. Perhaps the machine will bully Alicia Boyd out of the picture - wouldn't that be nice? I can see it happening. I doubt that anyone on the board is capable of actual corruption, so I am hopeful that now that the drama has died down, the board will be emboldened in a positive way and move proposals through their arcane processes. City agencies should definitely overrule their whims, however, especially when it comes to safety.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

To anyone who doubts the veracity, all I can say is that I've been getting private emails and texts thanking me for telling the story. People have felt bullied by the machine for so long, and it's been hard to go on record without jeopardizing your career. Sad. As to bullying Alicia, I believe they have actually been slowing down the Planning process hoping she'll go away. For better or worse, she and Imani are now the face of anti-gentrification. Even the Brooklyn Museum has sponsored a forum starring them and Tom Angotti. At the Museum's auditorium, offering them the ultimate in legitimacy. What politician wants to buck them publicly and become the face of "pro-gentrification" at this moment?

Anonymous said...

I've just written to the Mayor and let him know that I vote and he needs to listen to the community not the shenanigans of CB9. Ann 10:10, I agree...we all should write to the mayor.

Alex said...

It also seems to be that a CB is a weird place for a power grab. Its decisions are non-binding, and money does not exactly flow through the board. What's disturbing is that CB9's actions have stemmed the flow of resources to our neighborhood and discouraged agencies from approaching us with improvements.

Perhaps these messages to the Mayor should take the form of a petition?

Christopher said...

I've been really impressed with BP Adams and his work on development, for complete streets, and generally giving a voice to black Brooklyn. And while I generally find this kind of political machinations both fascinating and understandable (Hey, I'm from Chicago. This is how we play the game. No pearl clutching. All is fair in politics!) but still this doesn't seem like something the Beep should have gotten involved in.