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.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gratitude Cafe Closes Chapter...Enter, You?

You know it's a classy joint when they go out with a beautifully crafted letter like this. Any takers? Turnkey business indeed. Rogers Avenue is where it's at, and this place is the bomb. Annalisa and Rich deserve a big thanks for creating a space with such warmth and obvious attention to details. Will greatly miss, but best of new adventures to your entire family y'all. Many "blessings" upon you! (But don't get any ideas Lily!)

CB9 Ineptitude and Anti-Bike Fervor

It's kind of remarkable, in a Trump-administration sort of way. The anger, misinformation and downright surliness of the Community Board and its committees and their attendees has officially entered the realm of absurdity. After arguing with DOT over crash stats, asserting they know more about how 18-wheelers turn corners than those "useless" compute simulations, insinuating that buses cause traffic jams that are actually caused by OTHER drivers parallel parking, and fighting common sense fixes to long-standing safety problems, this last one is outrageous even for this longtime bystander and ex-board member.

Get this. The Transportation Committee managed to so botch its vote for upcoming road repairs to Franklin Avenue south of Eastern Parkway that they actually wrote themselves out of a bike lane that there is PLENTY of room for. That's right. After noting that they are REQUIRED to reduce the car travel lanes to one from two since the street is too narrow (what with double-sided parking), the board actually screwed us out of a dedicated bike lane to continue the Franklin bike lane in CB8 north of EP.

I'll let Rachel at DNA tell the story. I'm too pissed to even retell the debacle. If a bicyclist or pedestrian is killed or maimed because of these fools constant pro-car posturing, I hold them personally responsible.

Ridiculous. We deserve better. Actually, our children, seniors and non-car urban travellers (the majority by the way) deserve a wholesale change in the board, which is skewed well over 50, home-owning and car-driving. And surly beyond belief. At the full board meeting, speaker after speaker spent their moment in the spotlight to bash bicyclists. Whom let's be honest often ride unsafely. But even when they do, they don't mangle your car the way your car can mangle a bicyclist.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Not Lend Mike Tyson Your Ear?

Know what I mean? If you do, then you were clearly "woke" while it was all going down.

So, now that Greenlight Bookstore is no longer just Ft. Greene's bookstore but OUR bookstore too, I'm happy to trumpet their kooky and informative and entertaining goings on. I was at a storytime a weekend ago and was happily surprised by the vibe and turnout. Other readings have been similarly well-attended. But nothing prepared me for the news of their offsite talk happening at Kings Theater, with none other than Mike Tyson, the once unstoppable brute force who almost single-handedly destroyed the concept of professional boxing, then came crashing back to earth, spectacularly. The doc on him is pretty great too, btw.

So...that's the book, taming the beast (great cover).

Here's the event:

Thursday, June 1, 7:30 PM
Mike Tyson presents Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D'Amato
In conversation Paul Holdengräber

Greenlight Bookstore in association with Brooklyn's newly-restored Kings Theatre is pleased to announce a one night only appearance of boxing legend Mike Tyson, presenting his new memoir Iron Ambition in conversation with Paul Holdengräber, the founder & director of Live from the New York Public Library.    

Copies of the book Iron Ambition signed by Tyson are included with bundled tickets; additional signed copies for sale on site at the event.  

I Watched Music Videos So You Don't Have To

The only connection to the neighborhood is that I was at home in yours and my neighborhood while watching dozens of "best" music videos until too late. Yes, I got sucked into the vortex last night. Why be selfish? I found some stuff that tripped my trigger, so why not share? These videos, and the bizarre and wonderful music that goes with them (or vice-versa) made me trust that the arts-fartsy youth of today are doing things other than just checking Facebook on the elevators. They're making hi-art, and blending every conceivable tool at their disposal.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Time To Vote For Projects In the District - Til Apr 2

Yep. It's time.

A number of projects are up for City Council funding as part of its now near-universal Participatory Budgeting program. Used to was the Councilperson spent their allotted discretionary funding only on whatever they pleased, which usually means projects that help them stay in office. They still get to spend most of their discretionary that way, but now they free up a million bucks or so for you and me to vote on. In my experience, they sometimes even free up a bit more than advertised in order to show their commitment to the hard work of those who proposed and championed various projects.

Here's the voting platform, online for the first time. This should quadruple voting, easily.

Have at it. T'would be beneath the stature of the Q to attempt to sway your vote. (hee hee, like I didn't have more opinions than Carter had liver pills and Reagan had jellybeans.) Schools, safety, even trees. Have at it.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

This Is Your Day To Get Involved

Ask questions. Introduce yourself. The Q's said it before, he'll say it again. Diana Richardson is just at the beginning of her career, but she's the rare politician - honest, tough, brilliant and thank god not so "polished" that she's above ruffling feathers from time to time. Noon. Nearby. There you go.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Get Your Nerd On - April 3

The family that adds together, stays together.
Geeks make better daughters.
The World Needs Nerds.
If You Love Math Their Are An Infinite Number Of Possibilities.
Not Knowing Numbers Is Amathema To Me
Pels Pi Are Square

These are some of the mottos that popped out my head when I saw this terrific event is happening at our own PLG Coffee House, formally known as Gratitude (but then some ungrateful douchebags made them change their name may they go out of business.)

Be there or be squared

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ghetto Whites and Redneck Blacks

I'll get to that provocative title in a minute. First...The neighborhood report.

Tonight CB9 and various community members expressed their near-unanimous dismay that Cornell Realty hopes to build 17 stories on Franklin near the Botanic Garden with well over 500 units, 25% of which will be "affordable," or rather means-tested. They'll be $1000 or less, even for two-bedrooms, so when someone asks "affordable to whom" just say they are a shit-ton cheaper than what you'd see on Craigslist and leave it at that. As I've said in these meetings they are NOT for the poor. That would be public housing, and hey I'm all for buiilding that too, unlike many of the so-called champions of the little gal who when it comes down to it really just want no new people, and particularly not people that aren't to their liking, which it doesn't take a leap to say is middle to upper-middle class whites - the neo-colonialists. The developer noted that The Q was wrong (yes, unlike the prez, I can admit it)...the Spice Factory is NOT a part of the upzoning request. Oh, and the Garden, remarkably, had little to no comment - it's rep said BBG has no opinion on matters that don't affect it. Hmm. The environmental review showed that there are virtually no shadows cast on the Garden throughout the day and year by a 17 story building on Franklin, so apparently the BBG doesn't care that it's views from within get sullied, even though that was the whole reason the area was downzoned 25 years ago. Go figure. Oh yes, and confirmation received that rents on the Flabenue are nearly double what they were even five years ago. And yes indeedy they're letting things stay vacant til they get the big bucks, oh and a well respected Cake dude is opening a bakery near 626. Generally though it would appear only gentrifier-friendly joints need apply. Double the rent; wow. Like the apartments on my block, which are now officially TRIPLE what they were when I moved here 14 years ago. The only kind of doubles we need around here are those delicious little curried chickpea snacks from De Hot Pot. And the only kind of triples? Dunno...the only culture I know that makes triples is America. The Big Mac. Three layers of bun. Ray Kroch was a genius. Three buns!

And in other, broader news:
  It occurs to the Q that much of what we as a nation do is gossip. The Q is guilty as charged. It seems a particular keen, maybe even crucial, way to differentiate ourselves from others, helping to define our tribes. Sometimes it's harmless (she's got a serious pants problem) or viciously hurtful (he's a big fat loser). Lately I've been noticing, once again, that Americans of all sorts have a real problem with the poor, and seem less and less afraid to express their displeasure, even in polite company. I came across a 2016 table (left) that worked its way into my brain and set up shop. It's a simple set of numbers and should come as no surprise to anyone. But with the current state of affairs I can't help being jolted by the fact though black Americans are 2.5 times more likely as whites to be poor, there are still almost twice as many whites as blacks who are poor nationwide, and that's a lot of votes, potential or realized. I tend, and the liberal-ish media tends, to focus on the first fact, and it is of course a continuing national disgrace. But so is 17.8 million white poor people, in a country that boasts dozens of restaurants with tasting menus topping $500 before wine, tax and tip. And country clubs with $250K initial membership dues. And, well, the absurd wealth of the entire cabinet of the new administration.

And if such obscene disparities of means weren't quite enough, doesn't it seem almost conspiratorial that poor whites and "minorities" should be so manipulated by pollsters and pols and religion and universities that they are corralled into neat political boxes of left and right by media and moneyed elites on both sides of the aisle? It would seem that people of limited means would have enough in common to break out of the bonds of Elephant and Donkey. And yet, somehow, we're still in a golden age of blame, whether for Trump Racists or Welfare Queens, White Trash or Hoodied Hoodlums. I've been party to many a white-trash trashing conversation and til recently I barely raised an eyebrow. And hell I was raised among 'em, though truth be told I heard nary an anti-immigrant or anti-black sentiment in my youth. Maybe some ignorant jokes here and there, misconceptions, even stereotyping. But rarely downright mean and offensive. The real white national types were out there, but you stayed clear of those folks. They were the minority then, and Representative Steve Kings accounted for, they're still the minority. It's true. Most people I knew grew up with love in their hearts, and a certain reverence for the civil rights era, and sure they don't always vote the way you'd want them to. But plenty do, and still do, and the ones that don't well, sometimes they're as susceptible to bullshit as the rest of us. Mostly though, Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats, no matter who's running, and whoever fires up even a fraction of the country to get out there will take home the mantle. It's true. NO REALLY. Barack Obama won Iowa in the first delegate race in Iowa in 2008, and went for him twice in the general. Oh, and my year's homecoming king was black in a town with, I dunno, maybe a couple dozen African-Americans all told. That's not to say folks didn't harbor their ignorant feelings. But they weren't threatening to eradicate anyone. You read that shit now; it's been given a legitimacy I couldn't have dreamed possible. All because of one loudmouth asshole who proved that, yes, ANYone can grow up to be President.

It's amazing to me how the center holds even as all hell breaks loose around the fringes. Now with the Antifa and Neo-Nazis on the rise, the media cling to a narrow reading of political bickering, much of which is so familiar it reeks of smokescreen. Is the healthcare debate really as good as it gets? A compromise on the left or compromise on the right, that seems destined to fail and will need fixing again in four years? Maybe it's time for a real discussion. In this country, or hell, in ANY country, people want to make a decent living. By and large they WANT to work. Hanging out on The Corner or at the Kum 'n' Go gets old real quick. A guaranteed income for work, whatever the work, starts to make a lot of sense. And with the robots on the rise, will there be much work to do at all? And weren't the robots supposed to SET US FREE? For more leisure and/or hanging out on the corner or at the Kum 'n' Go? Or at the $250,000 golf club?

Let Papa Q tell you exactly what we need. $15 minimum wage. Guaranteed living standards. Free universal healthcare. Childcare, maternity leave. A job for everyone, even in public service. Wait. Sound like Scandinavia? Here's the latest "happiness index" list, top and bottom five:

It's not that hard, really. And yet, it is. Advanced capitalism. And in my house with hot and cold running drinkable water, curb-side garbage and recycling, organic honey and frozen Edy's popsicles, and healthy children and a decent-paying job - I've got a lot of damn gall calling out poor folks for being poor, ignorant or gullible - even if they voted for Trumpy. And yet...I'm pretty sure that's what we've been doing, politicians, media, home-owners, police, TV, and the tone-deaf social-media echo-chamber of which I participate, on the left or on the right, not recognizing the three-dimentional nature of contemporary America. A bunch of babies we are, stewing in our own diapers.

Oh and if you're looking for a rent-stabilized home under $1,000 a month near the Park and Garden, well, we're more concerned about a few shadows, secondary displacement and increased traffic than your sorry ass. Go be poor somewhere else. We've got density to worry about.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Island To Island Brewing - A Bit Of the Sauce In Your Juice?

Whoa. I hardly know what to make of this. Is "seed to spirit" a thing now? I suppose it is. House of Juice continues to defy expectations with clever marketing and cool programming, from themed events to comedy. It's a great space, and soon enough the back garden will be warm enough for lounging. This event sounds downright outrageous. Oh, 643 Rogers, just below Parkside. Southern portion of PLG? Nah. Right in the center of the universe, from this old man's perspective. I'm also keen on House of Juice's clear motto of clean living, so even if you do partake of the alcoholic side of things, do so in moderation. What a crazy concept! Moderation! Gotta try that some time...

Read all about it. 

Island to Island Brewery is Juicery-Brewery focused on a “Seed to Spirit” experience. From the Caribbean Islands of Trinidad & Tobago to these New York Islands, the brewery is taking traditional back home Caribbean processes of fermentation and interpreting them with the available produce of New York. “The world began merging in the Caribbean then migrated to New York City for more opportunity to share with the world at large.” Danii Oliver

“Now we are bringing the vibrant culture of color and excotic flavors to society in liquid format both for those who wish to be healthy and sober and for those who enjoy a rich drink that soothes muscles and relaxes the mind.”

In 2014 House of Juice soft launched a silent opening, no noise, no press blast. The local communities House of Juice served remained largely in dark about the brand. Once in a brick mortar location local wondered greatly about what was going on at 642 Rogers Avenue as hey watched the space build and change over time. Now the Juice-Brewmasters are ready to share what they have been brewing up and finally fully open Island to Island Brewery to the public, tourist and wholesaling to local bars and restaurants.

House of Juice is a cold pressed raw juice brand which is the seed and juice portion of the overall experience. 2017 the remaining aspects of the business, the brewing and fermentation of the same New York State produced craft drinks with an adult ABV% rating, are set to grace the menu and taps. During the opening fete ( Trinidadian for party ) guests will have flights of the seed to spirit experience. Much like a beer flight but only one beer on the paddle. Instead the flights will be made of seeds (smoothies), fresh produce (juices), ferments of herbs (kombucha), brews from matured produce (beer & cider) and finally spirits (distilled brooklyn crafted alcohol). Not a get drunk experience, but a culinary journey.

642 Rogers Ave, Brooklyn NY, 11226
Grand Opening Fete - public
Date: March 25th
Time: 6PM - 12AM

Friday, March 17, 2017

Race & Our Local Schools

Perhaps no decision you make as a parent will be as fraught as where to enroll the little buggers in Kindergarten. Speaking now from the OTHER side of K for both my girls, I will admit that the whole Private/Public/Charter/Home school debate will likely leave you with a head AND heartache, plus an industrial-sized case of self-righteous anger. Eventually the chip on your shoulder might give way to acceptance, and then the "middle-school-cold-sweats" but you'll never quite get over the nagging suspicion that maybe you could have done better. This, I am told, is the tragic condition of parenthood. There is no judge to declare you a winner, no medal to be earned, no pantheon to join. But a certain question will become oh so important. Are my kids happy and learning? Yep! And as I understand it, private schools do not teach a secret 27th letter. The child will tell YOU what she needs. This is such good advice I can't believe I just gave it to myself!

In Central Brooklyn, particularly in the Crown Heights/Lefferts/EastFlatbush District 17, you can add another frothy layer of fraught. The schools for which you are likely zoned - say PS92 or PS375 - are not regularly cited as tops in the borough, nor do they garner lots of positive reviews from the meager online resources. For decades, middle-classers have found ways into other public schools, out of district, or opted for private school if they could afford it, leaving the local schools poorer and even under-enrolled. A few years ago parents banded together to start a science oriented Lefferts Gardens Charter School - to address the apparent need for a more progressive and higher quality alternative. (It has since lost its charter, ironically for poor performance). But was it really an issue of too few options that led to LGCS in the first place? Or were local parents simply too put off by the overwhelming blackness and poorness of the local choices? (Please excuse the inexact word poor. But DOE does mark the number of free lunch qualifiers, and 92 and 375 are over 90% free lunch, also known as Title I schools). Were the demographics and/or principals the reasons so many (honestly hundreds if not thousands) of mostly white and mostly wealthier children went to schools outside the neighborhood through the many many years?

Answers vary to why exactly so many parents chose not to enroll locally. Other neighborhoods have seen schools become reverse-integrated as the neighborhoods became whiter/wealthier. Perhaps that time is upon us, right here in Lefferts. Questions abound:

  • Why have parents been so resistant to attending and helping local schools succeed?
  • What do those parents mean by "succeed?"
  • At what ratio of whiteness (10%? 20%?) do white parents feel comfortable enrolling?
  • Is this more about class than race? Like, would these whites go to an all-black school of (forgive me) Sashas and Malias?
  • What role does, or should, a principal play in a school's integration?
  • Are programs like Dual Language and Gifted and Talented primarily about attracting whites to go local and public?
  • How important is it that mostly black schools add more white students in the first place, since we've supposedly all agreed that it's important for mostly-white schools to add students of color?
  • Why do progressive whites still have such sticks up their asses? 

And so on.

You do have other options in D17 by the way. I don't mean to dwell on Jackie Robinson and PS92. They - and the Caton School and Parkside School and PS770 and LGCS and Explore - just happened to be the ones I spent some time looking into. And I went to PS9 and PS11 and others, plus had discussions with charter schools and homeschoolers and Montessori etc. Whew I learned a lot. And went to another D17 school, the delightful PS705, for pre-K. Then opted for a g&t spot at PS38 at Pacific St between 3rd Ave and Nevins. Always happy to talk about any of them, but really it's the parents who actually go to the schools that you should reach out to. Oh, and PS241! Happy to introduce you to folks at these schools. PS241 especially, since that school has just recently come on my radar thanks to local parent I know.


From that very parent comes this:

Hi friends and neighbors.
A few of us have been talking about how to get organized in support of our local (District 17) schools.
We have roughly 33 elementary and middle schools full of talented educators, bright students and involved families—but, for the most part, the schools remain segregated, under-enrolled, and under-resourced.
And as you know, the ability of PTAs to raise money for schools also perpetuates inequity across the city. Rich schools attract more kids from wealthier families, who in turn raise more money to supplement the school’s budget. For schools that predominantly serve kids from less wealthy families, those forces work in reverse – they’re less able to raise outside money, and they often have populations with higher needs.
To address this systemic inequity, we would like to create an auxiliary, district-wide fundraising, advocacy and support group for District 17 schools. If community residents and local businesses go to work on behalf of the local schools, the schools will get stronger and kids and families across the community will benefit.
We have some ideas about how this could work. We need yours, too. On Sunday, March 26, we're going to start planning in earnest. After introductions, neighbor and InsideSchools researcher Nicole Mader will do a brief overview of the district to get everyone on the same page. Then we'll get to work.
Anyone interested in and committed to quality public education is welcome — including people who don't have kids and people who send their kids to schools in other parts of the city. We’re interested in coming together to make sure our neighborhood schools -- and the kids they serve -- have the resources they need.
RSVP so we know how many snacks to buy. And feel free to spread the word.

Sunday, March 26 2:30 to 4:30pm 808 Nostrand Ave (Repair the World)

Participate in the Budget - Cumbo Style

If you live north of Empire, the ducks are pretty much in a row to vote on various participatory budget items. They want to double the number of votes to more than 3,000 this year. Do-able sure, especially if you have a favorite item you would love to see happen. Your vote goes a heck of a lot farther than your 1/2 a vote (in NY) for President. Preview the projects here. Of course, no word yet on Mathieu Eugene's plans for my (our?) 40th District, south of Empire. Heck he was resistant to the whole notion of you, the voters, deciding how to spend a portion of his discretionary budget in the first place.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the (Youth) Forum

Tell every young person you know. They needn't go to just one of these - go to both! CB9's in a week (see above), but CB14's is TODAY (see below). These things are great, so say actual teens.

Jobs. Internships. Opportunities.
10th Annual CB14 Youth Conference

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Flatbush YMCA

1401 Flatbush A

Brooklyn, New York
For ages 12 – 21
FREE & OPEN TO ALLGotta encourage all the kids to go!

CB14 Youth Conference

Thursday, March 9, 2017

$1.4 Billion For Central Brooklyn

Holy smokes that's a lot of mackerels. Did you know this was coming? $1.4 billion to create a healthier and more positive environment specifically for Central Brooklyn. While the media has focused never-ending attention on gentrification in the nabes of Crown Heights, Flatbush, Bed-Stuy and even East NY and Brownsville, here comes the moolah. Such a strange time in Central BK history, but welcome nonetheless. I say strange because crime and unemployment have been going down for the last several years, business is picking back up, and land prices are skyrocketing. If this is in fact a "holistic" plan, I hope the right people will be doing the planning.

NY Times On Cuomo's Plan

There will undoubtedly be more analysis to follow. $700 million for direct health care - where does it go precisely? What sorts of jobs will be created and trained for? What local groups benefit, and what politicians will reap the rewards?

Ironically I asked my daughters today to look out the bus window on the way to school and venture guesses as to what was in all those bags piled high on the back of a long flatbed truck. "Money?" my youngest asked, imagining stacks upon stacks of $100 bills. The truck was heading towards GAP. Metaphorically, anyway, it appears she was right on "the money."

Again, I don't want to be cynical when so much money is being promised to such a relatively small chunk of the state, albeit populous and deserving. But I also get a bit itchy looking at how the Chamber of Commerce took center stage, and those real estate companies and banks make the whole thing seem a bit...oh maybe I should just be glad someone's paying attention. Right? The full announcement is here. The bullet points first:

Social and economic indicators show that Central Brooklyn is one of the most disadvantaged areas in all of New York State, with measurably higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, limited access to healthy foods or opportunities for physical activity, high rates of violence and crime, wide economic disparities from unemployment to poverty levels, and inadequate access to high quality healthcare and mental health services.  

Vital Brooklyn will break down barriers of health and wellbeing through eight integrated areas of investment:
  • Open Space and Recreation
  • Healthy Food
  • Community-Based Healthcare
  • Comprehensive Education and Youth Development
  • Economic Empowerment and Job Creation
  • Community-Based Violence Prevention
  • Affordable Housing; and
  • Resiliency

And then the more biz focused Chamber's announcement:

Brooklyn Chamber Encouraged by Governor Cuomo's Vital Brooklyn Initiative

"We want to commend Governor Cuomo for his Vital Brooklyn Initiative which will pump $1.4 billion into Brooklyn's most underserved areas," said Brooklyn Chamber President and CEO Andrew Hoan.

"As Brooklyn continues to grow jobs in the private sector, there's no reason why residents of Central Brooklyn shouldn't get the proper training and access to these jobs.

"The Governor's eight-pronged strategy will also work to transform community health and wellness in Central and Eastern Brooklyn. We thank him for recognizing that it is necessary for every Brooklynite to have access to primary care doctors and mental health facilities.

"In targeting communities like East New York, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, the Governor is offering inclusive resources that will assist people in every neighborhood, and business sector, in meeting a range of needs for thriving, growing and expanding in Brooklyn and beyond.

"We look forward to working with our state legislators to help advance this series of initiatives, outlined here."

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo with Brooklyn Chamber Board Members Eladia Causil Rodriguez, of Eladia's Kids, and Trish Martin, of Halstead Property. The Governor's announcement was hosted at Medgar Evers College, a Chamber member.

Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finally, Some Kick From the "Other" Side

So few folks seem to want to believe that fighting new housing is also fighting affordable housing. That's fine, they have their reasons. But economics, history and actual renter's needs should not be primary among them. Planning experts don't buy that homeowner NIMBYism and downzoning are good for prices and rents. Restricting supply is not a viable alternative to rapid gentrification. The Mayor's much-demonized MIH plan REQUIRES that below-market permanent housing be added to new buildings. But that's when you start to realize how selfish it is to fight ALL upzonings. Should be smart changes, for sure. Combined with contextual downzonings. But that ain't the way the winds been blowing. Here's a much-needed alternative perspective from Neighbors for More Neighbors, and a hilarious PSA to boot (thx MikeF)