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, October 31, 2016

Risbo - Is It a New Sport? Nope. New Restaurant.

pic by Rachel of DNAInfo
Get your Rizzes out of the closet folks. It's nearly Risbo season, with intramural leagues fast filling at the Parade Ground. Professional Risbo players have been spotted along Flatbush, signing rizzes for kids in anticipation for starting day.

Much more accurately, Risbo is the new informal eatery coming courtesy of sexy chef Frenchman Boris Read all about it in DNA Info, courtesy of Rachel Holliday Smith, who's clearly back from holiday and digging up the dirt so the Q don't have to. Thx RHS!

Oh, right. It's on Flatbush near Parkside. 701. near Parkside Pizza and JJ's and the liquor store.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Vision of the Future of the Flabenue

Down the Q's way, the Flabenue becomes way cleaner. The streets are regularly swept and bagged by employees of the Flatbush Avenue BID. There are also a ton of "taxpayers," those low-rise buildings that are commercial only, paying the bills for landlords but not much more. There are also a stunning number of three-story apartment buildings, over stores, that are vacant, some gutted some filled with storage. Painted fake windows adorn one - a nod to the bombed out looking buildings of northern Manhattan and the Bronx of yesteryear. When the Q first moved to NYC, you'd see those buildings out the windows of the trains as you headed north. Folks forget. You could buy those buildings for a song. An album cut, not even a chart-topper.

It's also easy to assume that the move "back" to the cities by the middle and upper-middle classes (the super rich always had townhouses or pied a terres in the Big Apple) was the result of trends alone, and the growing-up of a fly-over crowd that grew up on Free To Be You and Me and Sesame Street. But that accounts for a mere fraction of the truth. Wealthier (and mostly whiter) folks have moved to the City(s) because jobs are once-again plentiful and the salaries decent or high. The urban "pioneers" from the '60s and '70s and '80s made it feel less uncomfortable for liberal young people to rent or buy, those still worried about crime and the appearance of downward mobility. The truth is, very few non-black-non-poor Americans want to live in poor-black neighborhoods. In my experience, not a lot of well-educated black folks want to live in poor-black neighborhoods either, but enough remained in Bed-Stuy and elsewhere that parts of Central Brooklyn never fell into utter ghetto-ness. When the Q used to drive the borough for kicks in his Mazda GLC in the late '80s, I often marveled at the beautiful homes and house-pride and neighborhood vibe of places the media would have told me not to visit. The Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue types moved in when they felt they had the okay from their peers, and when they could find a cool restaurant and bar and coffee shop nearby. It's not rocket science. A nice-paying or soul-fulfilling job doesn't hurt. Those, and a zillion creative gigs, are plentiful in the post-crash decade. A waiter or bartender can make decent cash money in this economy. Don't worry; it won't last forever. Perhaps we'd be advised to enjoy it while we can? I recall three distinct periods of downturn that made even the white-professionals shiver. Of course, the downturns hit the lower earners the hardest. Especially those without successful boomer parents to fall back on. But stress is stress, and we've seen our share of financial stress hit every stratum but the top. Actually, the one-percent are capable of money stress too. Think Bernie Madoff and the near utter financial collapse. We were really, really close.

Back here. Owners of Flabenue taxpayers and under-performing buildings have a choice to make. Will this be the time to sell to developers? Lots of current landlords haven't the background to develop sites themselves. But everyone has their price. The prices now are undeniably attractive. And so you can start to imagine these:

That's 850 Flatbush. It will soon be an 8 story mixed use building, and 8 stories will seem pretty high compared to current. All along Flatbush one can imagine 8-10 stories - more if you can cobble together the land. As you look north on Flatbush you can go higher with the R7-1 that comes with a "commercial overlay," which allows retail along the sidewalks. It's not the worst thing in the world of course. More apartments, newer buildings, perhaps even better facilities for businesses. But Flatbush will undoubtedly change in major ways that will make it unrecognizable a decade or two from now.

And no, there is no reason to expect that any new housing will be affordable. Except of course the all-affordable-stabilized building going up over the current Caton Market. A building, it must be noted, that some have already scoffed at. Just why folks aren't jumping for joy, given the housing shortage on the low end, I will never fully understand. The public's will to build new affordable housing has hit a will-wall. When people realize it might somehow affect them personally, they recoil. And we are.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Is There An Echo In Here Echo In Here?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with, the classiest actually printed neighborhood newspaper around.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sheesh! It's Ix!

New coffee shoppe y'all - Guatemalan style. Learn to pronounce it; learn to love it. Cafe Ix. That's right, pronounced Eesh. That's Mayan for jaguar. Read the deets from Rachel at DNA:
Cafe Ix

Cafe Ix, named for the jaguar in the Mayan calendar, is set to open within days, its owners said, taking over the spot recently vacated by Tip of the Tongue at 43 Lincoln Rd. And, yes, partners Brenda of next door taqueria El Patron and her cousin Jorge Cardenas, seated, and ready to serve it up hot. Like, by this weekend maybe.

New Pizza Joint Street Sweeper Suffers Fire

The Q's so sorry to report that newcomer eatery Street Sweeper suffered a fire that's set it back something fierce. It was a welcome addition to the Rogers corridor, and at least for a short time, will be sorely missed.

From their Facebook posting comes this eloquent heartbreaker:

Late last night there was a fire at the Sweeper. It happened after closing, no one was in the restaurant and no one was hurt. The extent of the structural damage though, was, to say the least, significant. Now comes the nitty-gritty of insurance, contractors and other bureaucracy…. 

We want to thank you, PLG- in particular that core group of cheerleaders and supporters who have seen us through and watched us grow thus far. Sometimes life deals you a bad hand but, young as we are, we’ve developed pretty formidable poker faces. It has been an incredible and motivating experience to watch, and actually be a part of, a community that is so steadfast and united in it’s effort to engineer gentrification by and for it’s own members. We hope you never take for granted that this place, this very small patch of a very big borough that is very quickly changing almost before our eyes- this neighborhood is unique in the ways in which it cultivates and encourages the aspirations of the Everyman.
We will be sure to keep you all updated as to the future of StreetSweeper. But whether or not you see us around again, Moussa, Patrick, and Mike will be OK, and we know that all of you will do the same.
Stay tuned.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ ”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To those who've wondered about the name, now you know. Good luck, Moussa, Patrick, Mike et al.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Prairie Dogs as Colors on a Map

The Q is kinda resigned to the fact that there's nothing to not-much that can be done at this point. It's become a spectator sport. The number of market rate units coming on line is absolutely staggering, particularly given the neighborhod the Q moved to a dozen years ago. At that time, 626 was a parking lot. 123 on the Park was a shuttered old Hospital covered in graffiti. Some blocks, like mine, looked a lot nicer than now, before the sell-off and vacant lots. With the tear-downs you have to root for something, anything, taking the place of garbage strewn "camping" sites. But whatevs. Development happens on someone else's time, unless you do something about it like, I dunno, plan.

Checking in with Jacob's development map for the first time in a bit, it's helpful to remember that in 2003, NONE of these projects were happening. None, at least that I recall. At the time there was TALK of a building boom, but it was just rumors. K-dog, the ol' beloved coffee shoppe opened on Lincoln, and suddenly there was talk of a neighborhood sea-change. A group formed to encourage businesses to update and sell to the gentrifiers, though of course, it was not put in those terms. It seems quaint now, And now will seem quaint in a few short months, quainter still by 2020. There is no turning back; the time for planning is, I'm afraid, quite over.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Poppin' Up Like Prairie Dogs

Someone noted the construction fence around the beloved BP station, one of the last of its kind (the triangle design where you're pretty much encouraged to make your own entrance and exit.) Per some sleuthing from neighborhood eagle-eyes, it appears they're merely replacing the tanks below the surface or some such. And I was hoping for a drive-thru Hardee's.

And for kix, the Q is obliged to share random photos of stuff going up in the neighborhood, with a recent update on the Ballgreen building on Lenox. For those of us on the South Side, the Lenox/Bedford/Nostrand/Clarkson corridors are absolutely stunning examples of the building boom, while the protected "historic" areas on the north of Lefferts remain, understandably, largely untouched.. Head north of Empire, or east of Rogers however, and you'll see more than a dozen tear-downs and build-ups. What with that and 626 Flatbush, the new Lincoln Road building at the Q/B/S (location location location!) and the new building on Parkside next to 123 on the Park, you've got yourself a whole new neighborhood's worth of people. Again, location. As with the tens of thousands before us, the Park beckons.

Surely you've heard of Blueballs? The Ballgreen complex suggests another condition, or perhaps, as is often the case, it's an amalgam of names, such as a Mr. Ball and a Mr. Green. We may never know.

From YIMBY's on-the-ball Rebbecca come these pictures and Ballgreen update. A mere sampling of the more than 100 projects within a subway station from you.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Blessings Does Dinner Part II

Mrs. Clarkson FlatBed Jr. has way more taste than her husband, in matters of style, interior design, modern dance, and food and wine. Classy, you could say. So she goes to Blessings last night for dinner with a doula friend (everyone should have at least one doula friend) and comes home raving. The food was terrific, like not adequate. Really, really good. Reasonably priced too. The wine was simple but well-chosen. (Lily IS Italian after all).

Look y'all, when a really nice choice for dinner presents itself, get out there and dig in! Only patronage can keep these places afloat. There's even a smart and cheap kids menu.

I know it's hard when a daytime joint tries to go all dinner on you. But good food is good food. The only minor complaint the ladies had was that the music wasn't quite right. Perhaps slightly better dinner lighting? Ambiance is tough; ask any restauranteur. Maybe you'll have thoughts too. Offer them up to the proprietor, with cheer and a smile of course! And please, eat and drink local. There are lots of new joints opening up all the time. Give 'em a review and send it my way. I'm happy to publish others' writing on topics of which I don't know jack. Food and drink, that's way out of my league.

You know it's gonna be good. Everything Lily & Co make is outasight.

Trick or Treat Without Leaving the 'Hood

Can't say enough for the local precinct-sponsored Trick or Treat route. If you're new, or if your kids just got old enough, come on out. Truly a highlight of the year, for all ages. And if you live ON the route, I'm so sorry you have to buy so much candy. Just consider it your contribution to the cause of Sugar Equality.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

We've Been Here Before

Must viewing, for those who think the Republic is at its breaking point. Perhaps this election is a sign of powerful movements to come?

When you strip away the parts of Trump that seem so cartoonish, you're left with the notion that this nation has always been, and may always be, the byproduct of tensions between revolution on the right and revolution on the left. The slow trudge towards a progressive politics may be frustrating, but the question it better to allow the free flow of ideas, no matter how painful or hurtful, or to work out our difference with bloody warfare in the streets? Hilary Clinton is in many ways a perfect embodiment of a bloodless civil war. If the Secret Service does its job, she may actually see us through the tumult.

On November 9, as the Donald announces his new venture into identity TV, an anti-Oprah channel maybe called simply T, we will realize that we HAD to live through this in order to see ourselves more clearly. Really. It's actually a good thing. Much worse is the sublimation of the American id, only to emerge powerful and monstrous when we're at our weakest. Think about it...had Trump come on the scene at the nadir of 2008, and Hillary had won the primary? That might have been much, much worse. And still, I can't help thinking the genius of the Constitution would have seen us through.

And the Blogger Will Rock - Oct 24

The Q's band Babe the blue OX plays early enough on a Monday for you to get a good night's sleep, but late enough that you must make it a date night. When was the last time you went to the Lower East Side for dinner and some gender-parity rock-n-roll? Playing with ol' pals from bands Lotion and Dambuilders in their new incarnations.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Big City Bullies

One of the 100 Worst Landlords in NYC, in Kindergarten
It should come as no surprise that more and more landlords are getting aggressive about dumping rent-stabilized tenants from their rent rolls. The latest lawsuit with teeth is hitting Empire Holdings, which owns (among others)

434 Rogers Ave
200 Rogers Ave
229 Rogers Ave
1604 Bedford Ave
1146 President St

Here's what Legal Services is saying:
October 13, 2016, BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program today filed a lawsuit on behalf of twelve low-income, longtime tenants facing eviction because they cannot afford the exorbitant rent increases that their landlordEmpire Holdings L.P., is illegally demanding from them. The tenants, mostly seniors, are supported by IMPACCT Brooklyn (formerly known as Pratt Area Community Council). 

And Public Advocate Leticia James just came out with her 100 worst landlords list. You can search for you building on her site. I'm going to print all their names below so there's one more place that they might show up on the internet in connection with their miserable loathsomeness.

5VED PARKASH42571020
6MARK SILBER102161003
10JOEL KOHN23152856
13DAVID DAVID5272787
14BRUCE HALEY7153783
18JAY MILLER7204739
19ADAM STRYKER10182724
20ZEV SALOMON8197717
23MEIR FRIED19139690
25MARK TRESS120664
27DAVID BARON4177645
39UZY STEIN249538
49JACOB GOLD428475
50JASON M GREEN5107475
53RON NAHUM658458
59KOBI ZAMIR4165434
63JOHN K ZI342418
72DAVID GREEN4107399
75BARRY HERS3144393
82ABE GREEN739375
92ABE PETERS376354
95JASON KORN3104350
100DAVID BOWEN853336

Friday, October 14, 2016

Last Night's Meetings, In a Nutshell

Nutshell, with Nut Still in Shell, Prior to Shelling

Went to the meeting set up by Parks Without Borders and the Prospect Park Alliance. About 40 people showed...seemed light for turnout, not well promoted. The basic idea is that there's money to fund new entrances and perimeter landscaping and wider sidewalks for the Flatbush Avenue side of the Park. I lobbied for a major entrance just north of the zoo, with a clearer zoo entrance. Everyone wanted bikelanes, though that's DOT's bailiwick. Seems like a MAJOR improvement is afoot. I want a 24-hour newstand at that middle entrance. Safer, and you can ride up and get a copy of the New Yorker at 4am when you can't sleep because you're mulling over your bourgeois problems.

Then it was off (on bike, after a near collision at, you guessed it, Washington/Empire, fuck 'em, y'all, someone's gonna get killed real soon.) to the CB9 ULURP meeting, for a terrific presentation by landuse consultant Paul Graziano. The southside of Fenimore has logged its hours researching its houses, and found that they all have deed restrictions limiting to one-family homes. And while a lawsuit could probably prevent a developer tear-down, you have to pay for it, so the good folks of Fenimore want the extra protection the City zoning can provide. The Block Association wants to downzone the south side, Bed to Rog, and while some on the committee felt it was unfair and unwise to open up zoning conversation with the City, even if it's a private application, good-neighborliness prevailed. Three voted against co-applying with Fenimore. But the majority, Q included, sided with the Fen Block Association, many of whom attended and pleaded their case. They have the goods, and have paid the consultant, and should be allowed to get their downzoning, though the Q and others were understandably envious. The Q was additionally saddened to realize that MTOPP has so thoroughly convinced many of your neighbors that ANY collaboration with the City is not in our interest. It's pure bologna, but hey, some people really, really, really like their Sonic burgers and dilapidated warehouse buildings and storage facilities.

Ben Edwards led a discussion of Parkside Ave, Flat to Bed, and their application to Landmark the houses there. Richard Walkes, who wants to landmark a whole swath of the nabe that's NOT currently included in the Historic District (South PLG if you will), felt that it was more practical for the neighborhood to go in together, and he's even created a non-profit to do just that. The CB tabled the vote on whether to support the Parkside application, citing, among other things, the need to hear from the residents themselves, none of whom showed for the meeting.

Two things you may or may not know. Landmarking does not apply to houses only; rent stabilized big apartment buildings can be just as historically significant, often built by noted architects. And it needn't be contiguous old-time buildings - a single modern building does not a landmark neighborhood negate. so if you think you're unworthy of landmarking, take heart. It's not just about how purdy a building is; it's about history and the worthiness of protecting that history going forward. Paul nailed it though - Landmarking and the agency itself, are notoriously capricious. Who knows who will succeed and who will fail? Only time, and a lot of tears, will tell.

Touch a Truck, Not a Stranger

On the plus side, Trump won't be there to grope the trucks. On the other plus side, you'll be helping support a great local school right here in the ol' 17th District.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Some Neighbors Actively Promoting Development and Teardowns

As the Q has tried (in vain) to point out, not all Development = bad Development. Sometimes it's good to build housing, especially in a tight and overpriced market. That's how prices come down. And given the Mayor's priorities and tactics, that's also how you get new affordable, rent-stabilized housing. Except on City-owned property, like the Bedford-Union Armory, your options are somewhat limited, given the law's basic assumptions of the right to build on privately owned land. Givens? Givens,

Just saying you're against change doesn't mean that change stops. And many benefit from upward rent and development pressure. Actually, anyone who owns land or sells land or builds or does commerce, and let's face it, that's a lot a lot a lot of people who have financial incentive to gentrify and grow.

Take real estate brokers. Now, I have nothing but respect for the real estate broker in question and her  wonderful home up in the Manor. They're lifers, a lot of these agents, full of love for the nabe and its inhabitants. But I was surprised at the enthusiasm she shows for tearing down buildings, talking up the oversized and disruptive 626 Flatbush and overzoned R7 distinction for much of the neighborhood (R7 led to 626 and is helping create elephantine structure all over Flatbush). Developers probably don't need much hyping. I'd frankly have left the house and lot sell themselves, to whomever. But then it IS the seller's choice and right to exact whatever they can from their property. A developer will probably pay twice what a single homeowner would. This is, we must resign ourselves, the age in which we live. And there's nothing that the CB's or your elected leaders seem interested in doing about it.

Perhaps what bugs me the most is that folks in Historic Districts should really be content to enjoy the benefits of their low density housing, rather than promoting the destruction of buildings nearby.