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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Know You Want It

Non-controversial and utterly edible, the a visit to the Parkside Greenmarket should be marked weekly on your Google Calendar or file-o-fax, each Sunday through Turkey Day. Now that we're lucky enough to have it, let's be sure to shower it with love and dollars so we'll never have to go back to the bad old days of The Q (Plaza) at Parkside. Love and Veggies from NW MA.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Talk About Quality of Life Crime

From Ditmas Park Corner comes news of a truly bizarre crime just steps from Pepa's famous jerk chicken on the Flabenue near Woodruff. So much about this story is bizarre - like why the pummeling? Or perhaps stranger still, who's trying to by an iPod in this day and age? I guess a 70 year old guy might. The violence is positively beyond my comprehension. He got the guy's money, right? Then his getaway vehicle was a...scooter.

From Carly Miller's story:

A 70-year-old man tried to buy an iPod from the suspect (pictured above), outside of 730 Flatbush Avenue between Parkside and Woodruff Avenues, near Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, at 6:30pm on Wednesday, June 29. The man handed the suspect cash, and received no iPod, according to police. When the victim tried to get his money back, the suspect punched him in the face and head multiple times, knocking him to the ground. The suspect then fled the scene on a scooter.

Then a commenter bemoans the cops wasting their time over a quality of life crime over "probably a misunderstanding." Come again? The man was punched multiple times. Could have killed him. Yes, I'd say his quality of life was lessened a bit. Sheesh.

Record Store To Open Next To 65 Fen

So says a neighbor on le Facebook:

I have some exciting news, especially for you music lovers! A vintage record shop, Record City, is coming to our neighborhood. The location is where our beloved  65 Fen once occupied. This morning I had a lovely chat with the owner, Ian, and he is super excited to be a part of the PLG community. After a couple decade of selling vintage records online, this will be his first physical store and was honest about his anxiety and how his business will be received by the neighborhood. Hopefully He'll stop by the Street Festival on Sunday. Record City is expected to open by the end of July.

We're hearing old soul and funk, and I'm sure plenty of wacky one-of-a-kind finds. Here's to vinyl, baby.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

L.A.M.B.Y. - Landlord Abuse in My Back Yard

The Q tries to stay realistic about the facts surrounding neighborhood "change." I always likes reading Kelefa Sanneh, but I found his musings on the words "ghetto" and "gentrification" particularly relevant and useful. He's an egghead and an intellectual omnivore.. He's my favorite writer about music, if mostly because he thinks differently about music than I do, and that allows me to hear fresh ideas in familiar sounds. Pivot, Q, pivot...

Landlord Abuses in My Back Yard. L.A.M.B.Y. That is to say that with all the blah blah blah about NYC neighborhoods "in transition" (as if in a City of Renters that never happened before), one can get caught up in the hypothetical and anecdotal. It's easy to argue what's good and bad about a neighborhood's rising rents and incomes, does it GET that way? I'm not being glib. How does it happen that when I moved here in at the beginning of the century you could get a 2 bedroom for under a grand, and now that wouldn't get you a studio? Inflation and wages, up 30%. Yes, post 9/11 we saw real growth here, with more and higher paying jobs moving to NYC, outside the traditional media companies and finance concerns. And anyone who's moved here in the last 15 years was likely priced out in other 'hoods, only recently realizing how nice it is over on "this" side of the park. Unemployment is historically very low, even for black New Yorkers. Though it remains stubbornly twice as high as unemployment for whites.

We get all that. But how do you actually turn over an apartment - one that was rent stabilized, and therefore was becoming a better and better deal every year, as the market outstrips the dictated rate increases? We get that landlords want to charge as much as possible. A given, no? Every smart landlord is thinking not just about the current rent roll, but forecasting future profits, and deciding how much money to put into upkeep. Meeting that target is what it's all about, growing your business, having more cash to invest in other properties etc.

But it's those future earnings, chasing them, that provides the perverse incentive to screw over your current lower paying tenants in favor of those the next rung up. Take 260, 270 and 280 Parkside Avenue. Big buildings, lots of huge pre-war apartments. Some folks are paying less than $1,000. But some are paying more than $2K for the exact same layouts. Which tenant does the landlord want more of? Enter abuse, racism and connivance.

The other day the Q met with some tenants at 260-280 Parkside, which is quite literally "in my backyard" as I live directly behind these buildings, meaning we effectively share a backyard. I've been staring at them for more than a dozen years. I've heard babies crying, the annoying chirping of battery-dying smoke detectors, I've seen people throw huge mounds of garbage out their windows. And I've seen lovers on the fire escapes, and people getting randy in the evening (you know who you are!), fights, laughter and parties. Except for the garbage I've never had much reason to complain. The noise in the City is a given, and the music was nearly always hip-hop or dancehall, until very recently, when I heard both Tom Petty and Belle and Sebastian wafting through the air, the bass register conspicuously absent. Building turnover? Got me thinking. I even heard some Animal Collective the other day, and I'm pretty sure that was the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Hmm. What was I saying?

Oh yes. The tenants. As you might or might not be aware, landlords have gotten more and more aggressive as they try to turn their once boring but dependable investments into goldmines. The surest way to do this is turnover, the very thing that seems to run counter to common sense. One would think steady income would be preferable to churn. But in NYC's rent-warped marketplace, the only way to quickly increase rents in a stabilized building is to get 'em in and get 'em out.

The building is owned by Parkbush Realities. (Get it? PARKside and FlatBUSH? Thank god that didn't catch on as a micro-nabe name, right Cheryl?). Sam Farkas is the principal, and he's possibly part of the Andrew Farkas real estate empire, but that's really not the point. Farkas has taken a page from the great big book of landlord schemes. While blatantly and barely legally trying to change the demographics of the building, he courts the "Craigslist" crowd with enticing rates, won't take Section 8, and makes sure he rents to "right" sort of tenants. He works with brokers who claim "no fee" except of course that there is. A fee. And once you're in, the game is on. Suddenly the landlord mysterious withholds and doesn't cash your rent checks. Doesn't respond when you need him. Not doing routine maintenance. Not fixing leaks and letting days go buy without hot water or heat. This "next tier" crowd is paying double what longterm tenants are paying, tenants who have already grown weary of the same tactics to get THEM out to make room the next rung. And while the rulebook favors the tenants in these clearcut harassment cases, Farkas hires a stable of lawyers to keep you on your toes and in court. Now you're taking time off work just to stay one step ahead. You're sending everything certified mail and using a notary on the regular. Tenants say the stress can become unbearable, and that's what Parkbush is counting on. Now you leave, and the landlord takes the 20% vacancy increase, does feeble repairs, looks for his next "mark," and bingo you're on your way to taking your building market rate.

L.A.M.B.Y. Landlord Abuse in My Back Yard. With dozens of large and market-desirable apartment buildings in the neighborhood, and all the landlords taking a page from the big book of landlord shenanigans, your once culturally diverse neighborhood becomes ever-less so. Happened in Park Slope. Happened on the Lower East Side and the Upper West Side before it. We either stand with our brothers and sisters, join in the protests, help organize buildings like the Crown Heights Tenants Union and Flatbush Tenants Coalition. Or not. But don't complain when the landlords' work is complete. It will be too late, and god knows current homeowners aren't interested in allowing higher density to get more affordable rent-stabilized housing built. Our apathy, and in some cases our stubbornness, will be the legacy. Which side are you on?

Don't Sweat the Republicans. Here's Why.

Try to put down your personal data assistant for a minute. Your mind is about to explode from the insanity on display in Cleveland, from the reports of violence, or even from the (forgive me) tweets. (So many tweets in the news these days!) You need to remember that precisely the same number of people ALWAYS vote for the Republicans, and all the hyperbole about this particularly election cycle being particular will come to look just that particularly uninteresting. Other Republican candidates have been just as bizarrely out of touch with the times, and have pandered just as much to the fears and resentments of white have-nots and fundamentalists and good old boys and crotchety insurance salesmen - more even sometimes. Sure the candidate du jour is a blowhard, but which one wasn't? He's just greasier and less polished. We got to defeat him, no question. But don't you remember how close it was with Bush? With McCain, with Romney? Don't be so glum, chum! Just don't believe the yarn about the dismantling of the Republican party. They're still polling over 40% with their worst candidate in years. Some (not I) would say Hilary's the worst Dem candidate in years too, but there she is holding the same shoestring lead as Obama before her. The difference is that the political climate has changed a bit, with radicals on the right and left feeling emboldened. Do I sound like I'm turning 50? As a matter of fact, tomorrow...

Why do we forget every four years that this is a big, big, big country. About 90% white across the states that faithfully vote Republican. And even in those states you find legions of liberals, just not enough (yet) to be the majority. The country was founded by puritan racists, who if you think of it have actually come a long way since their slave-owning Indian-slaughtering days. Maybe not as far as we'd like...but forgive them father, for they are hopelessly ignorant and poorly dressed.

And I'd like to remind us all. Remember that "revolution" in 1968? Hardly made a dent, really. Some would say that consciousness shifted, but real lasting change? Just a bit, as the nation soldiers on, with much of the rest of the world in tatters or fraying. I don't believe we're on the verge of a radical shake-up anymore than I think that Brexit will lead to anything more than massive legal bills and a new rise of Labour, which will finally change its name to something more 21st Century. Like "The EDM Rave Party." REAL shit is going down in Turkey, in Nigeria, in Syria. We lumber towards greater civil rights and greater justice at the pace of backyard slug, but we don't tear apart, and that is truly remarkable. Our Constitution practically demands it, what with its checks and balances and gerrymanders and tug of war between state and Fed.

When you compare the Republicans to the worst abusers in the world, perhaps we should feel fortunate. The GOP is not dominated by murderers (just 20% or so are even card-carrying sadists), and I know a fair number and they can sometimes surprise you with their general regard for human life and civil liberties. When presented with solid arguments, some can even (eventually) be persuaded to change their minds. The others die off, as the country veers towards greater multiculturalism.

I emphatically believe that the police shootings will end, that vote will happen and the country will go back to normal, as it does every goddam four years. The young will suffer the first humiliation, get full time jobs and children, and turn into their own version of middle-aged bloggers who are frustrated by the slow pace of progress. With leadership and some strong support from the media, #BLM will become a powerful force for racial justice. It will hopefully change its name, since as I've written before the killings by police can't help but continue, white/black and other. Remember that sadist statistic? And they're in every field by the way. Even insurance salesmen.

Despite the rhetoric and the pundits and the loudest voices...the country is not fracturing. Perhaps this is not music to your ears. Perhaps you think revolution is in the air. I don't think so. We're too invested in our P.D.A.'s and binge-TV to suffer it. A lurch to the left never hurt, though.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Your Assemblywoman, Diana "Not Playin" Richardson

Need to get one of your new elected leaders a bit better? Here's a WNYC piece on freshman Assemblywoman Diana Richardson. Kicking ass and taking names.

WNYC on Diana

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Big Protest March Hits the Flabenue

Did you see it? Did you join? Glad Ditmas Park Corner was there to document. Great pics and videos. Congrats to organizers, incl Equality for Flatbush, on pulling together a massive show of solidarity, walking right by good ol' 626 Flatbush even. Just a year ago, a similar protest drew a dozen. Now 1,000. This is gettin' big, big big. Here's hoping Imani Henry can stick to the point and try not to take potential allies down with dirty tricks. You don't need to go low, man. Clearly you've got the power of the message to move you forward.

Monday, July 11, 2016

When Issues Are Framed To Inflame Rather Than Illuminate

Wherein the blogger wonders onscreen how on earth a lone assassin, mentally unstable and acting by himself, is allowed to hijack an emerging debate on the lethal use of police force, albeit one that was already becoming so diluted and devoid of rigorous analysis that we as a nation were being plunged into a month of Nancy Grace mysteries. I kid not - the media is LOVING this, even as they portend disaster. Trump, Sanders, Black and Blue Lives Matter - you can't script these kind of unit shifters. I honestly heard someone talking about the Dallas situation as "inevitable." That's right. It's inevitable that exactly one man among 320 million people will go (literally) ballistic on police officers during a peaceful protest. Why must outliers define the moment? Ugh and double-ugh.

So yesterday morning a manic man started shooting a gun in the middle of the street at Rogers and Lefferts. You can read the details here or elsewhere, makes little difference. The details seem consistent among observers. Some neighbors, upon hearing that a man had been shot by cops, instantly wrapped the incident into the current national narrative. You know the one. The one that every single person in America is talking about at the same time? At moments like these, I suppose it makes sense to ante up and get in the game. But hold on. This story meets none of the criteria of any of the big stories currently blending the public into a frothy frenzy. Man was out of his mind, had a gun, was shooting gun, and refused to relinquish gun when told to by cops. He was shot, he was not killed. On any other newsday, the cops would be heroes for preventing the loss of life. Any life. And we'd hope the man will get the help he needs, regardless of what real or imagined events or mind-melters, natural or concocted, touched him off. But within minutes, neighbors were writing things like "fuck AmeriKKKa" and wondering aloud whether the beastly cops were part of deplorable arrest of a UPS driver by cops in our own precinct. Perfectly fine to express oneself, of course. A sign of the times, perhaps of things to come.

But it got me thinking about whether we're being led on a wild goose chase (is a wild goose really that difficult to catch? remind me to ask my hunting-enthusiast relatives). Remember how that one Surfer Nationalist guy kills the indie rock band Franz Ferdinand  and it sets off WWI? Maybe I got my details wrong on that one, but sometimes the world goes craaaazy focusing on a single event or string of events. The fact is, the facts don't necessarily line up with what people are thinking and feeling right now. That's okay - racism is ugly, enduring and bafflingly difficult to address. On the plus side, I think it's amazing that we've gone from hush-hush to in-your-face. But we run the risk of missing the potential for progress in the hunt for headlines and heart-stopping videos. And we're practically begging our politicians and public figures to ratchet up the rhetoric, only further inflaming an already edgy public. To what end? Hopefully someone has a clue, but I doubt it.

The point is - we're seeing something in these current headlines that's been happening for years, decades, and longer. We're seeing how the power of police is sometimes warped, reflecting not just "bad cops" but bad society. And freaky freak of all freaky facts? Black folks involved in a police struggle aren't more likely to be killed than whites - it's almost the exact same number as the number of blacks to whites involved in the sorts of cop-calls that end in the use of deadly force. Even more bizarrely, for another to explain (actually Coates gave it a shot in his latest book) black cops are 3 times more likely than a white cop to shoot a black man in such an encounter. Are we even willing to look at the reality when it doesn't match our anecdotal convictions? If we're not, can we even begin to suggest the fix, beyond a wholesale overhaul of racial politics, systems and relations? Because the overhaul idea has been with us at least since the abolitionists. We've got a long way to go folks, but we don't have that long to make sense of the current political reality. Sometimes I think we're hard-wired to accept the simplest, least rigorous assumptions. God knows I have to resist every day the desire to simplify and stereotype.

What we need is adequate punishment for lethal policing, not condemnation of police generally, which can lead only to worsening relations between cops and folks. Even in the military, the ultimate killing machine, you have dishonorable discharges. Why doesn't something similar exist in the cops? At the very least, we must take away the badge of someone who can't hold muster when it comes to the deadly use of force against civilians. This punishment could, and should, have a much greater effect on the Lives That Matter, which for the families involved means every life that our own domestic security force takes. #BlackLivesMatter is incredibly important right now, but I wonder if the focus on shootings by cops is too emotional and outside the norm to have the real and lasting effect the country needs. Revolutionaries need P.R., and god knows the videos provide shocking fodder for foment. But the tactic is already showing its limitations in the rising tide of backlash. More outlier events, like the Dallas shooting, make it all too easy trash the reasonable goals of police reform. Reforming the society at large? Sadly, like all civil rights, it doesn't happen quick enough. But there IS progress. It's hard to see sometimes, but with each generation I believe the country moves a bit in the right direction, with fits and starts of course.

The problem at hand is actually a sum of the same underlying conditions that lead blacks to be twice as likely as whites to find themselves in that Russian Roulette standoff situation in the first place. Because nearly the exact same percentage of shooting victims by police are black as are the likely suspects and accused in the first place - about 25%, or twice the population of self-described black Americans overall. That is (and I know I'll catch hell here) there is nothing new going on, even when it comes to anomalous and ugly fuck-ups. And yes, they ARE anomolous. To suggest otherwise is to accept the idea that because you saw some heart-sinking video that you now understand what happens each and every time a person of color is stopped by the police. Hell yes, black folks are targeted and profiled at infuriating rates. The are treated horribly by some cops, and we KNOW this and we need to fix it. But when it comes to killing, do we really want to accept the facts? What is there beyond the pit in our stomachs that allows us to say with certainty precisely what's going on in the big picture?

What there is, is videotape. And a desire on the part of every citizen to watch them! Irrefutable evidence that all too often a police encounter becomes a shooting encounter, and we all know where that leads. Shooting is not the same as yelling the n word, or using profanity, or staggering towards a cop when you should be on the ground. Shooting happens when guns are drawn, or guns are thought to exist. If it's just about race video of non-black shootings wouldn't we? Bring it on! Let's go to the videotape! Why stop at egregious examples? Let's find out what's going on during those encounters that could help elucidate the lethal situation, when race ISN'T the primary issue.  Like in Fresno, where cops just released a terrifying video of a white kid getting the ridiculous overuse of force:

There are so many problems that need to be addressed here, I fear we're focused on the tree for the forest. Cops are not all dumb racists. And some of them have been working to address their professions shortcomings for years. Most notably the chief of police in Dallas is a noted reformer. Our own police chief is rolling out a massive new community policing program (more on that in a minute).

And yes, I blame you, Old Gray Lady, for some of the national hypnosis. With running headlines like "America Fractures" and other hyperbolic bullshit. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but it's just plain absurd to allow the news cycle to define a nation of 300+ million people. Who live in Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, crime ravaged Honolulu and (weird as it may seem) central Idaho. I hope it's clear I'm as outraged as anyone by the images I'm seeing. But were we to see the images of everyone of the 1500 or so lethal encounters nationwide, perhaps we'd see the bigger picture. And if we incorporate it into what we already know from groundbreaking Law and Order research from the Michelle Alexanders of the world, maybe we could start a real revolution, build of common ground and tactics. Nah. Easier to run that outrageous headline, and hope for a bloody summer and leadup to the weirdest election in decades. But NOT the weirdest in the history of the Republic. This is where the longer view becomes handy, and I'm grabbing whatever over-100-and-200-year-old stories I can to have at the ready!

The Q planned on writing today on the distinct differences between what he was led to believe about rural Idaho - the heart of so-called Trump country - and the reality. Here in Donnelly, a small lakeside town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, politics comes up less often than you'd think. Most folks are content to fish and hunt and recreate, and tend to view Washington D.C. like it were a foreign country. My own relatives - my brother-in-law a die-hard NRA Republican - put it best. "Western Republicans are generally Libertarians in search of a political party." To which I suggested "how about, er, the Libertarians then?" Split that vote, buddy. Split that vote.

Perhaps in 2016 we'll see if his comrades enter the fray as heartfelt Gary Johnson-ites. I know some activists want to imagine that all the Western State conservatives are neo-nazis and racist survivalists. But in a state so bereft of black people you can go days without seeing a person of color, race is discussed almost as a novelty, with a dose of naivete, and almost exclusively through the lens of the national media. Folks are a bit mystified by the national debate roiling the country. And yeah, there are bonafide KKKers around, but not as prevalent as you might be led to believe. Kids here love Bernie Sanders. The political climate is more Upstate NY than Doomsday Cults. Plus, the majority of Idahoans don't seem to care about anything more than Pokemon Go.

Gentrification happens in Boise; but it's almost purely about class. "Trailer trash" is the pejorative of choice, and the very same fight that takes place in Brooklyn's fast-growing neighborhoods about displacement is happening here. A whole neighborhood (actually its own incorporated town) called Garden City lies near the river and is ready to bust with new condos and houses. Folks in trailers lie in the path of the wrecking ball, and the do-gooders create non-profits to help them stay or move to better housing elsewhere. Affordable housing is a huge issue, as its never been before. Sure, folks could move 30 miles out of town for cheaper rent. But their quality of life would be severely lessened, and the fact is that here, like everywhere, a good urban environment needs a healthy mix of incomes to thrive.

But that's not what's on my mind today. I borrowed my sis-in-laws HP laptop (she actually works for HP) because I've read probably all the same articles and opinion pieces and looked at the videos and the heartbreaking scenes of grief and my first reaction matched the headlines. But after a day of reflection (literally - I was out on the lake in the sunlight in a kayak, gratitude abounds), I'm more pissed off than ever at...the Feeding Frenzy known as the Mainstream Media. I feel manipulated, used, abused, lied-to and jostled in the back of the journalistic van by the insane focus on individuals, personalities, "experts" and the undeniable pain of families of victims, of whatever background. As has happened countless times in the past, the acts of a single person (Dallas) or incompetent and perhaps painfully racist and fearful cops (everywhere else) has become the pulse of the nation. What do we actually know? Again...

Cameras. Specifically, the ubiquity of smartphone cameras. THAT'S the real story playing out, and we could (probably should) be using this remarkable knew technology to change the way we practice civil rights and justice in America. Damn straight there should be a camera on every officer and patrol car. And smart phones should be encouraged the moment anything dubious goes down around cops. But this does not have to be anything more than evidence not that things AREN'T working, but that we now have the tools to make them better. Much, much better. Where's the optimism? Lost in hysteria of course.

I was happy to see the Washington Post's study of police shootings finally get some airtime, because many of the answers to current conditions and macro and micro solutions lie therein. Not to mention the fact that right here in NYC - our neighborhood in particular - a grand new scheme is community policing began just two weeks ago. I'll go on at length about it later, but suffice to say that many of the complaints and suggestions that many of us have been lobbing at the cops are finally being legitimately heard and acted on. We're moving towards a more personal and beat-cop approach, with emphasis on diversity and escalation-avoidance techniques. Our "quadrant" of the precinct will have its own two community police officers on speed-dial. And they will be part of, and invited, to every block party, block association, community meeting and blah-blah we can think of. I'm hopeful. Very hopeful, for the first time in a long, long time. Looking forward to introducing you to your capable officers, and developing a meaningful relationship with them.

What we learned from the WashPost's data was striking - the problem of lethal police force exactly mirrors the overall crime stats that have developed in this country generally. So even as we see specific examples of horrendous police abuses, we're actually not getting NEW information. Just confirmation, and the sort of specific video proof that lies beyond speculation.

The Q only hopes that rather than await the Fracturing of America, we can actually do something to prevent the break. It'll start with reality, some brave leaders (cue Obama), and a recognition that really precious few of us are served by a preponderance of lethal encounters between the citizenry and police. There is no vast conspiracy here. Just the age-old intractable issues of race, class and fear, not always in that order.

People. Still fallible. Still gullible. Still crazy after all these years.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Interesting Take From Neighborhood Acronyms

CHTU. PLGNA. PPEN. The Q has great respect for the missions and individuals therein. And so I'm happy to post the letter verbatim, sans (much) comment, that they sent to the brain trust at Community Board 9, i.e. Executive Committee. The Q doesn't agree with the assessments herein, except the anti-harassment part, but no matter. The three groups continue to brave the rezoning controversy with dignity and intelligence, so I give you the PPENPLGNACHTU position on matters crucial to the neighborhood's future. I'll save my rebuttal for another time!

Dear Members of CB9,

On March 22, the City Council adopted Mayor De Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability plans, which will impact any future zoning in our community. We know that CB9, among many other Community Boards, opposed that plan, which we applaud.

In numerous meetings, both public and private, Winston Von Engel from Brooklyn City Planning has made it clear that he works for the Mayor, and that he believes upzoning of areas within CB9 is inevitable. Therefore, we think that to proceed with rezoning at this time would be detrimental to our communities.  CB9 should not be among the first community boards representing a group of neighborhoods to be identified by the Mayor for his rezoning plans.  

The groups signing this letter also concur that our neighborhoods should be contextually zoned, which means zoning should be aimed at preserving the diverse, low-rise historic character of our neighborhoods and not upzoned to match current outliers such as 626 Flatbush Avenue, or in accordance with the Mayor’s MIH and ZQA plans. This area of contextual zoning includes major corridors and avenues within CB9.

We therefore urge CB9 to join with us in an effort to preserve existing housing and neighborhood character, protect rent regulated and presently affordable housing, and pursue new creative options to meet the future housing needs of our district that are not dictated by private development requirements. Development should be on a scale that is fair, that will not overly burden infrastructure or services, and that has democratic participation and cooperation of the community. 

Finally, this effort must also serve to protect tenants and local merchants from harassment and displacement. In this regard, we ask you to develop a CB9 anti-harassment plan since we are not included in the neighborhoods that Mayor De Blasio has targeted for anti-harassment protection.


Quest Fanning on behalf of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA)

Leah Margulies on behalf of the Prospect Park East Network (PPEN)

Esteban GirĂ³n on behalf of the Crown Heights Tenants Union (CHTU)

"You Don't Want Rules Made for People That Have...At the Expense of People Who Don't"

It's not just Lefferts, Crown Heights, Flatbush, Brooklyn, NYC, Austin, San Fran, Seattle, Portland...

We like to imagine that we live in a small town. That's why we're so neighborhood focused and 'hood proud. The City is simply not human-sized, and we yearn for a communal homestead. The fact is, the whole metropolitan area of 25 million people or so is a living organism, and what we do affects the whole body. The incremental changes here or there, when multiplied 1,000 fold, can mean the difference between a healthy body and a rotting gut.

Glad to see Conor Dougherty in The Old Gray Lady catching up with the real story. It's about time the mainstream media laid bare the reality - you cannot expect go NIMBY and not hurt others in the process. Maybe in a small town out in the Midwest, where jobs are scarce and no one really wants to move there anyway. But we in Brooklyn are a victim of success. There is no reason to also be a victim to shortsighted anti-planning zealots who don't recognize just how necessary it is to build lasting affordable housing, even as we protect the existing stock. Homeowners have ulterior motives when it comes to neighborhood "character." Character is what made Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill and the West Village astronomically expensive. They're almost museums in a crowded and thriving metropolis chock full of working people forced to look farther and farther afield for housing. Folks, the hot dog vendor on my work corner commutes every day from the Poconos. He's hardly alone. I've met dozens of immigrant laborers who chose the American Dream hours away rather than live in poverty right here. There is a middle ground between over-building and under-building, and the Q has fought for it, poorly at times. Allow the RIGHT kind of growth, the kind that helps level the playing field while recognizing that new housing is good, so long as it isn't out-sized or inappropriate (think finger buildings in the middle of blocks).

Some excerpts from this fine article that highlights that this is an American problem, not just Brooklyn. People are moving to Cities where their prospects for employment are less, based purely on home prices. I know it for a fact! Brooklynites are moving in droves, Upstate, Detroit, or towns with QofL but limited employment options like Portland and Boulder, but even those zeitgeist towns are feeling the same overheat at Brooklyn, and housing prices are zooming.

I particularly fancy the description of Council meetings, from this excerpt. Been there, done that, albeit at the glorious CB9.

To most people, zoning and land-use regulations might conjure up little more than images of late-night City Council meetings full of gadflies and minutiae. But these laws go a long way toward determining some fundamental aspects of life: what American neighborhoods look like, who gets to live where and what schools their children attend.
And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.
The lost opportunities for development may theoretically reduce the output of the United States economy by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, according to estimates in a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti. Regardless of the actual gains in dollars that could be achieved if zoning laws were significantly cut back, the research on land-use restrictions highlights some of the consequences of giving local communities too much control over who is allowed to live there.
“You don’t want rules made entirely for people that have something, at the expense of people who don’t,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ribbon Cutting at Blue Sky

It's so far away from me it hardly "Q"ualifies as news for those on the Q at Parkside. But still, I'm "fasting" today (okay, I'm eating watermelon) and this sounds really, really good to me right now.

Blue Sky Bakery opens its Lefferts location at 404 Rogers - for real - tomorrow at 10:30. No more "soft opening." This is a hard opening for some soft, scrumptious, gluten-filled yumness.