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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Aging Blogger's Band Still Kicks Ass" - Reliable Independent Source

The show is this Wednesday May 3. We play at 9. You'll be home by 11. You could even go to dinner first. Think about it. It's called a, um, a...shux I can't remember the word. When you go somewhere with your partner, away from children and work and chores, and you try to enjoy each other's company? Rhymes with fate. CRATE! You go out on a CRATE! Actually, we kind of DO go out on a crate. In a crate. The Q's going for cremation, though. Talk about rekindling that old flame!

Yep. Babe the Blue Ox is playing a mid-week early-ish show in NYC next Wednesday May 3, with friends Baby Spiders and He Arrived By Helicopter, a newish project of the indefatigable C.Gibbs. It's in Berlin. Or rather, AT Berlin, which is a club in a place called the East Village, where we once wheat-pasted posters on the regular. Was a time when we played a show every month in NY and toured 6 months of the year. Did that really happen? Yes it did. To prove it, Exhibit A, a scan of an old Village Voice from the early 1990's, for a late Friday gig at a place (do you remember?) called The Cooler, in a once desolate stretch of an area now known by tourists and tunnel-folk as the 24-hour 24-dollar-cocktail ueber-glamorous Meatpacking District. Actually, it was called that back then too, but the drinks were $2 - Bud 40's from the 9th Ave corner bodega.

And if you read this far, and you must have because you're reading this, we'll be happy to put you and a guest "on the list." Just email. That's it. And we'll see you there. - Leffertsonians Hanna, Eddie, Tim and Kensingtonian Rose.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Our Winning Participatory Budgeting Projects

And the envelope...

1. Air Conditioning for P.S. 92 and P.S. 139 
Locations: P.S. 92, 601 Parkside Avenue, and P.S. 139, 330 Rugby Road
Description: Install air conditioning in 46 rooms at these two Title I schools, so students and teachers can focus on learning.
Cost: $250,000
2. Technology Upgrades at P.S. 217Location: P.S. 217, 1100 Newkirk Avenue at Coney Island Avenue
Description: Purchase teacher resource stations, computers, and much-needed equipment to improve learning for diverse, often immigrant children.
Cost: $250,000
3. New Play Yard for P.S. 139
Location: P.S. 139, 330 Rugby Road at Cortelyou Road
Description: Renovate the cracked and often flooded asphalt lot, to create a safer and more engaging public space for families.
Cost: $500,000
4. Street Trees for Rogers Avenue
Location: Between Midwood and Winthrop Streets in Prospect-Lefferts
Description: Plant trees between Gardens — 4 blocks have only 7 trees. More trees help clean the air on this bus route and keep street cooler in the summer heat.
Cost: $39,900

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Caton Market - Town Hall Mtg and Hiring Director

It's one of the most iconic of buildings in the area - the Caribbean Carnival looking market at Caton and Flatbush. Most new folks probably don't know that this structure was built to house the many outdoor vendors who had come to populate this corner right next to the parking lot. The idea seemed strong - give the vendors proper stalls and year-round space to hawk their wares.'s never really drawn a lot of traffic. Last weekend I spent some time browsing and talking to shopkeeps, and there was a trickle of neighbors strolling by the stalls, but precious few. The problem is that you have to GO IN, and unless there's something specific that you need from one of these vendors (like a haircut from Orlando, to talk lefty politics no less), one isn't really drawn to the mostly dark and unappealing building, whose architecture feels more like a storage facility than a mall.

And now, as the market gives way to a new building that will house ALL below-market housing, 250 units to be precise, it must be torn down to make way for both the building AND a reboot of the mini-mall itself. I applaud the affordable housing initiative, and was heartened to see that the OTHER QatParkside Community Board, numero 14, was supportive. Trust me, had this project been proposed for Empire Blvd all hell would have broken loose.

And hey, if you want to help market the Caton Market, you can get paid to do so. Check out the job listing:

Marketing Director Spot

Monday, April 24, 2017

Empanada Cloud In the Sky

Hello Muddah. Hello Faddah. I just ate an. Empanada.
Spring is very. Entertaining. And they said we'll have some fun when it's stops raining

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Wacky World of Brooklyn Retail Rents

I'll begin with an actual quote from an actual article on The Brooklyn Owl, soon to open on the Upper Flabenue near the Nets Arena (I refuse to say Barclay's anymore - get your damn bank's name on the friggin' subway map for chrisakes, for how much a year? There ought to be a law...). And no, this is not another April Fool's Day joke. The article's dated the 21st.
"It’s not just the normal gift shop with a million different brands," said Annie Bruce. "We’re really trying to give the customers a unicorn experience to make them feel special when they come into the shop." Upon entering the store, shoppers will be greeted with a list of instructions to help guide them through the transformation "from human being to unicorn being," Cory Bruce said. The metamorphosis concludes with a magic mirror that lights up and talks to shoppers, congratulating them on completing the journey.
Now that that's out of the way...

The Q has obtained documents that confirm the hearsay - retail rents and lease-terms and non-renewals along Flatbush Avenue are undergoing an absolutely dizzying change. Building after building is either denying new leases to tenants, for various given reasons, or applying 50% or more increases in cost. You know, I thought this sort of thing was the case a few years ago, but that was when there was just hint of gentrification in the air. (Now that hint in the air is more akin to the stench of the fancy perfume on the wealthy dowager sitting next to me last night at a schmancy benefit for the LGBT Center where Lana Wachowski, Marc Jacobs AND Hillary Clinton all spoke. Lana's was the most fun speech, all Matrixy and stuff, though Hilary did receive a tearful standing ovation and reminded everyone why she was so ridiculously more qualified to affix the Presidential Seal, and most specifically not to embarrass 2/3 of the nation every goddam day.)

It seemed every few months for the past couple decades there'd be rumblings of wholesale change about the Flabenue, or Rogers or Nostrand or SoFro (South Franklin, forget I said it, just messin' with ya) or Church Avenue and on and on. But we really haven't seen the crazy kind of flippage that happened to NoFro (North Franklin, forget I said that, just messin' with ya). Bizzes have come and gone, sure, but the general make-up of the area has remained roughly the same. Lots of busy hair and nail places, a couple coffee shops and bars, discount stores and bodegas and green grocers, then a toy store here a specialty foods store there, couple new hardware stores and a place to fix your i-Crap. Cell Phoneries. A wine shop. Another wine shop. Another wine shop. Another wine shop. A record store. Sure there are more middle-class or yuppie amenities than there were a few years ago, but the mix has simply diversified in drips and drabs, and that slowish pace has been reassuring to some of us old-farts who don't want our beloved 'hood to change TOO much. We are, after all, old-farts, and that means we like our change to come in bits and bobs, the better to assimilate it into our age-addled brains.  (The advent of the internet, for instance. Slowly you go from AltaVista to Yahoo to Google, downloading your first mp3 to streaming to podcasts to unrelenting constant connection to the world wide web, soul-crushing addiction to useless information, browser reloads, pointless games and vapid emails, posts and tweets. It took almost 25 years for my very existence to be usurped into the Wachowski Matrix, my intellect devolved to the desperate act of blogging, a cry for help if ever there was one, trapped behind a Keyboardian Hell of my own making. Help. Help.)

But the rumble's become a roar. When Nelson's and the Notary/Driving School at Flatbush/Parkside get booted just for being. When the beloved Maverick Comic Book store is up for rent (tis true). When three businesses get warehoused together at the corner of Rutland/Flatbush, awaiting god knows what to put in an offer. When brokers now routinely seek $60/sf and up in annual rent, and will WAIT until they get it, when longtime local bizzes are offered only short-term leases or none at all, when shops that don't fit the right "profile" don't make the cut, you know you're entering the Wacky World of Brooklyn Retail Rents. Storefronts are priced by the square footage - it's up to the business owner to determine what qualifies as the right combination of size, shape, price and location-location-location.

From the most recent REBNY report, comes some startling statistics (below): Use the $60/ sf mark to gauge where WE'RE now at, and you'll see that while we haven't reached Park Slope terrain, we're gaining. We're almost up to prime 5th Ave Park Slope, which took a dive to $80ish. Just 10 years ago you could expect to find a place in our neighborhood for $25/sf and a longterm lease, easy. If you struggle figuring how much the monthly rate is on a joint, I like to think of a typical 800 s/f store at $60 s/f is about $5K a month. The math is simple but daunting. Make that much (net after sales) just to break even. And that's on the LOW end of the spectrum in big bad BK. You'll need to clear $20 to $25 K each month in the toniest nabes. Just feast your eyes on these puppies:

  • Franklin Street between Meserole Avenue and Commercial Street in Greenpoint saw the highest increase in asking rent at 41% or $89/square foot compared to Winter 2016, while 7th Avenue in Park Slope came in second with a 35% increase at $129/square foot.
  • 86th Street between 4th Avenue and Fort Hamilton Pkwy in Bay Ridge came in third with a 29% increase at $110/square foot for ground floor retail space versus $85 from last year.
  • Washington Street between Main and Water Streets in DUMBO saw a 13% rise in asking rents at $127/square foot while the Fulton Street corridor between Boerum Place and Flatbush Avenue saw an 8% rise with a whopping asking rent of $326/square foot.
  • The Report states the increase on Fulton Street can be attributed to the seemingly endless numbers of residential towers being developed in the area as well as to new retailers hoping to attract “spillover” customers from City Point.\
  • Brooklyn Heights’ Montague Street spanning Hicks Street to Cadman Plaza, and Prospect Heights’ Flatbush Avenue from 5th Avenue to Grand Army Plaza both remained the same since Winter 2016, with asking rents at $188/square foot and $102/square foot, respectively.
  • The Report notes that the Flatbush Avenue corridor has remained the same since REBNY began compiling these reports in Summer 2015, however they see the strip’s potential to increase significantly with the Pacific Park residential project in the works.
  • Over in Cobble Hill, Court Street between Atlantic Avenue and Carroll Street experienced a -14% drop to $151/square foot whereas asking rents along this corridor were $175 in Winter 2016. Smith Street between the same borders also saw a decline of -12% down to $122 versus $139 in Winter 2016.
  • According to the Report, leasing on Court Street has slowed due to competition from the adjacent Smith Street which offers lower asking prices for ground floor retail spaces.
  • Park Slope’s 5th Avenue between Union to 9th Street also saw a decrease of -8% down to $78/square foot as opposed to $85/square foot from Winter 2016. Hopefully these lower asking prices will help to fill up the many empty storefronts currently lining 5th Avenue.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cornell Pulls Application - Garden "Safe" For Now

With a battalion of naysayers ready to speak out against the proposed upzoning near the Botanic Garden's by developer Cornell, it would appear the armada itself was deterrent enough to convince the applicant to pull its ULURP application at the last moment, leaving the entire project on hold for now. This may prove to be a phyrric victory, as Cornell has claimed to be seeking broader support for the project before proceeding. In translation, this means they had not obtained the backing of all the relevant players - BP, council person and Mayor. A cynic might note that all three have reelection campaigns running for September's primary, and it does not look good to shove a project down constituents' throats just in time for them to pull the lever.

One should not underestimate the power of sheer numbers, however. Clearly Cornell looked at the landscape and felt it was unfavorable for them to go ahead at this time. That's a testament to organizing prowess and heads-up ball displayed by the longtime gentry of the neighborhood. Eric Adams' right-hand woman Ingrid Gordon lives nearby. A slew of CB9 Eric-Adams appointees live and own nearby. And Councilperson Laurie Cumbo is facing a serious challenger in Ede Fox, and is often the target of anti-developer fervor. Though frankly I find much of it to be unfounded. She, like any thoughtful politician, is looking for creative ways to balance the need for new housing with the concerns of current residents. Thoughtfulness is not a quality much in abundance these days, however.

So what does it all mean? Two possibilities. One, Cornell tries again after tacit commitments from elected officials. Two, it builds what it can under current zoning. This will mean hundreds of market rate apartment with NO affordable, below-market, permanently rent-stabilized apartments. But it will be shorter, though you will certainly see it as a bridge between Ebbets Field apartments and Tivoli Towers. It won't, as might be the hope, simply disappear into the horizon.

This is where we are headed as a neighborhood. There is no credible study of what effect the extraordinary market-rate boom will have on our neighborhood in 5 or 10 years, but one need only look to other rapidly gentrified neighborhoods for clues. Upper West Side. Lower East Side. Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope. Each had its rapid-change-decade, and each saw massive changes in racial makeup, income levels and housing costs. South Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens seem convinced that by fighting tall buildings it is somehow fighting those fights, but the words ring hollow to the Q's ears.

NIMBY - in its best and worst guises - does not equal progressive housing policy. Unless we remain committed to creating new housing that lower-income working people can afford, we stand no more chance of remaining a culturally and economically diverse neighborhood than any of those prior-mentions. In fact, we have LESS defense. We don't have the honest-to-god Public Housing that has helped keep Manhattan and many neighborhoods throughout the City from becoming wealthy enclaves.

Whatevs. The people have spoken, with a surprisingly singular voice. They don't want tall buildings, and they won't tolerate upzonings to build affordable housing. They also won't tolerate homeless housing, or social services housing. They also won't tolerate new market-rate housing. And if push comes to shove, I suspect they don't REALLY want low-income housing either. We shall see, won't we? I'm curious if when presented with the possibility of an enormous building with hundreds of new residents making less than $30,000, with the requested less-stringent credit requirements - will people will truly be as welcome to the prospect as they have heretofore suggested? One hopes the opportunity presents itself. I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Tonight's the big night for you to sound off on the application by Cornell Realty to rezone a couple key square blocks in order to build taller and (one would assume) more profitably along Franklin Avenue, just north of the Spice Factory.

I will leave to others to determine whether such uproar would have been needed had MTOPP and others not bullied-away a zoning study for the entire neighborhood. It would appear that residents are left fending for themselves, one project at a time, with no coherent strategy or underlying assumptions about what should and should not be protected, or height limits, or requirements for affordability. It gives me no great pleasure to tell y'all the Q told you so. And this is just the beginning.

So where are we? Come to Ebbets Field Middle School tonight and share your thoughts. But remember, your voice AGAINST the project is also against the creation of affordable below-market permanently rent stabilized housing, the very housing that gets created when developers are allowed to build taller, in this case 17 stories rather than 23 at 626 Flatbush. It is easy to assume a posture of offense, taking offense at plans to ruin one's views. But were actual people living in these proposed buildings, actual people as in actual neighbors, many of whom would likely be grateful for the apartment near garden, transit and park - would you feel any differently? What if that person were, say, you?

Either way, I suspect you don't like the height of these buildings, and should say so. Where and when?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 7 pm - Community Board 9 Land Use Committee Hearing on  at Ebberts Field Middle School 
46 McKeever Place, Brooklyn N.Y. 11225

I love some of the ominous looking caricatures floating about, especially this one on the online petition (sign if you like.) 
rendering by Fernando Conteli de Castro

"Soft sites" identified decades ago

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Let's Do the NIMBY, Again!

Not just a social phenomenon. The NIMBY is now a dance craze sweeping America. Everybody who owns a house now, to the tune of the Hokey Pokey:

You put your equity in
you file a lawsuit case
you cite your Quality of Life
and then you rub it in our face.

Relax, I'm only kidding around. It's good to laugh at our own hypocrisy now and then. Below, you gotta view the wildest local political propaganda I've seen in...well, ever! I suspect the Crown Heights Tenants Union or maybe MTOPP is behind it. Hats off, it's INCREDIBLY effective. As I shot this you can hear me explaining what it's about to a couple passers-by, many of whom were riveted by the LED images. I mean, people really don't know this is happening, especially since there are major changes afoot for TWO Brooklyn armories. That are both on Bedford Avenue for chrisakes! And both have plans that are related to affordable housing issues. Check this truck out, which, by the way, was idling to keep the power running. With no one in the truck and the doors locked! Just outside the Shirley Chisholm office building near the DMV:

Kill the Deal! Kill the Deal! Well, yeah, as it stands it doesn't seem low-income Crown Heights residents have a lot to cheer about. Current plans are to build a rec center that lots of folks probably can't afford, a ton of apartments that lots of folks probably can't afford, and a few dozen apartments they probably CAN afford if they win the lottery. Throw this in with the new massive homeless shelter opening in May on Rogers at Carroll, and the planned big ol' building on Franklin, and you've got yourself lots of new residents, and potentially a tall tower or two to boot, visible from the sacred BBG. But truth be told, you also have a lot of progressively minded projects to address a) a general housing shortage b) too few below-market rent-stabilized apartments and c) lousy facilities for transitional families, i.e. homeless, mostly as a result of the housing shortage and lack of rent-stabilized below-market housing.

Confused? Some folks aren't. And those folks would be the NIMBYists, who as far as I can tell, don't want ANY of it. Not housing where it realistically can go, not affordable housing if it comes with market rate, or as they like to say "luxury," not homeless housing, and let's be honest, they don't REALLY want low-income-only housing either, with eased-up credit requirements that (clear-minded) activists say is necessary to provide actual opportunities for most low-income folks. That's essentially Public Housing, and when you call it THAT, or Section 8, the real tough NIMBYism comes out, the kind with unkind words for poor people, lazy people, trash throwers and drug dealers. Yes, I've been to those meetings too. And god forbid you should have supportive housing for mentally ill folks!

Last thing that just BLOWS THIS BLOGGER'S BEAN - Remember when I was bellyaching about how First Baptist Church (of Clarence Norman Sr and Jr. fame) was getting $500,000 to help "sell" the Bedford Union Armory project? Guess who came out with an op-ed IN FAVOR of the Deal that so many want to Kill? Yep. And here it is, in all its developer-drenched glory. Them's some Almighty Huevos sizzlin' over at the rectory. This from the pastor, now that $500,000 landed in the church's development company's lap. (full disclosure, most of this I actually agree with, but still, this is the kind of politics we're dealing with here):

For Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Crown Heights has been offered a once-in-a-generation chance to revitalize the Bedford-Union Armory with a new recreational center, affordable office space for nonprofits and affordable housing — all resources our community has been demanding for years.
Let’s not squander this incredible opportunity by capitulating to a shortsighted approach that would “kill the deal.” Let’s work together to make it an even better deal for all Crown Heights families.
For more than a half century, the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights has been at the forefront of religious, political and social activity in our neighborhood. As First Baptist’s pastor, it would be a disservice for me to sit idly by without adding my voice to the chorus of those speaking out on the Bedford-Union Armory. Remember that First Baptist is not just a stakeholder in this process — the proposed development also encompasses the full block directly behind our church.
We strongly support the redevelopment of the armory because of the powerfully positive impact it will have on local residents of all backgrounds.
Young people and seniors — and everyone in between — will benefit from free and low-cost programming in the armory’s new quality athletic facilities, which will include basketball courts, indoor fields and a swimming pool. These facilities will also play a vital role in providing much-needed opportunities for local public schools, which often lack space for their sports teams to practice and play games.
Nonprofit organizations — such as the West Indian American Day Carnival Association and Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy — will gain the permanent homes they need in new affordable office space at the armory. These organizations serve tens of thousands of Crown Heights residents, including many of African and Caribbean heritages who have historically been underserved.
When it comes to affordable housing, I believe the mixed-income plan at the armory represents a positive step for our community. The proposed rental housing will be 50 percent affordable — a total of more than 160 affordable apartments — with homes for both low-income and middle-income individuals and families. While I agree that low-income housing is a huge priority in Crown Heights, we also need more homes for middle-income earners. The reality is that, yes, people of color in our community do make $75,000 per year, or $100,000 per year, or more. They will surely benefit from this deal — and that is a good thing.
This does not mean we think the armory proposal is perfect. While a mixed-income approach is good, we believe there should be more low-income housing at the armory. We are currently working with our elected officials and the developers — BFC Partners and the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights — to discuss paths for achieving deeper affordability. It is likely that more city and state resources will be needed to accomplish that goal — and we are ready to push for those additional resources.
Here’s one thing I know for sure: If we kill the deal, we won’t get any more affordable housing. We will get nothing.  No rec center for our youth, no office space for our nonprofits and no housing for low- and middle-income families. The armory will simply sit vacant for many more years to come.
We can’t afford to lose this opportunity. Let’s work together to make the new Bedford-Union Armory a reality for our Crown Heights community.

Friday, April 7, 2017

What Would the Master Do?

Well, for one thing, he'd probably come up with a Master Plan, right? For housing the homeless, no less. Couldn't help being reminded of that famous question, usually phrased with "Jesus" where "Master" is. But I always liked "master" better, more romantic, the image of anxious acolytes questioning the teacher for guidance, a la Socrates or Confucius or Gwyneth Paltrow.

Look, the Q's no God Boy. My religious education ended with confirmation at the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Ames, IA. But somehow the phrase kept coming into my head with so many people upset last night, deadset against the City opening 267 Rogers, a/k/a the "ugly gentrifier building" a/k/a the site of the old St. Ignatius Church which is now slated for - you heard right - a state-of-the-art temporary housing shelter for homeless families. Folks from the Dept of Homeless Services joined the leaders of planned shelter manager Samaritan Village to bravely face down the unhappy residents of nearby blocks in a Town Hall on Thursday night at PS161. Most every speaker seemed to suggest that the better use of the finished but unusually small apartments would be for permanent low income housing. This seemed to be a refrain. What the Q wants to know is, well, a few things actually.

A) This building at 267 looked fishy to me from the get-go.  I suspect it was always going to be a shelter, but the City had the good sense to keep it under wraps til they finished, lest they'd never get past the design stage. Heck, the first residents will be moving in in MAY. So this is no recent decision. Once it started to rise, 267 looked suspiciously like dormitories to me, and the 160+ apartments meant the average apartment size was gonna be pretty dang small. Also it was right in the thick of the Medgar Evers constellation. No one would have been surprised if it had been intended to house a few students at what to date has been a commuter school. Here's the before and after:

B) Was the architect chosen for their shelter experties? Go to Think Architecture's website and social services housing is something they do, and they're clearly proud of it. Check it out.

C) Is this the fate of 33 Lincoln Road as well? An astute reader pointed out that the listings for 33 Lincoln haven't really come on line, even as 510 Flatbush have - they could easily be marketed as two separate buildings, separate entrances and all. There was a point a couple years ago when it seemed builder Thomas Anderson had lost his initial state financing to build a bunch of affordable units as part of the original plan. Could it be that he found new financing, a/k/a the Mayor's plan to create a bunch of updated and (hopefully) well-run shelters? And if it happens, don't be surprised if neighbors become equally agitated by the proposition, again with all sorts of politically-correct sounding mumbo-jumbo to back their discrimination. And ultimately, that's what it is. The Big D.

The "Master Plan" involves the City closing down the hundreds of poorly operated slum-shelters and scattersite housing that they can't seem to control, and opening new buildings wherever it can, and trying to house recently homeless families locally so the kids can stay in local schools and the parent(s) can get back on their feet without unnecessary disruption. Ideally, this shelter would be OUR shelter.

Because, you see, this is what a compassionate and progressive City does. But just try to get people to see it that way. Oh, and when they close Rikers and start putting "community based" jails on Empire Boulevard? Not so far-fetched by the way (thanks Andrew!) It would be OUR jail. Follow?

So what were people, including electeds Laurie Cumbo, Diana Richardson, Jesse Hamilton, Letitia James and others crying out for at 267 Rogers? Permanent low-income housing. Not "affordable," not based on 40% of AMI or 60% of AMI, but "low-income." Hmm.

What exactly is the difference between permanent low-income housing and PUBLIC housing? You know, the kind that lots of the same anti-shelter folks would NOT welcome into their community? (I've been to those meetings too, the ones where people are concerned about crackheads throwing garbage out their windows.) The whole POINT of public housing (a/k/a "the Projects") is to subsidize housing to meet every income, including those of the "low income" variety. Mostly low-income, matter of fact. I'm a bit tired of hearing euphemisms bandied about, especially when the whole point from local residents seems to be:

I don't like change, and I especially don't like it when it involves people who are not like me and are not like those I consider to be my TRUE neighbors. Which, coincidentally, are usually a lot like me. - Your Average Longtime Local Resident
Sound like discrimination to you? Perhaps my favorite refrain in all these meetings is "would they do this in Park Slope?" I wonder if Park Slopers have any idea how often their neighborhood's name is taken in vain at meetings in Central BK. Problem with this line of attack is that the Mayor plans to put up new shelters there too. It's his home nabe, so I guess he feels obliged to take on "his fair share." Good for him. That's the attitude, Billy old boy!

Now I'm not so idealistic that I miss the not-subtle cultural differences between a) whiter younger single folks and 2) mostly-POC low to moderate income folks and 3) long-term residents who rent and 4) long-term residents who own homes and even rental property and 5) religious Jewish residents who have low incomes and rent and 6) religious Jewish residents who own homes and 7) Asian residents wondering whether they're considered POCs, white or "other" in this equation and 8) mixed-race families with either low-incomes or moderate incomes or middle incomes or upper incomes or 9) white families who rent or 10) white families who own. Oh, and childless couples, and childless GAY couples, and soon-to-have children gay couples, and oh, and then there's the question of how LONG you've lived here. One year? 10 years? 20 years? Born here? New Yorker or Ausländer? Disabled? Seniors? Nuns? How about Muslims? Africans? Latinos? And don't even try to qualify/quantify folks from the Caribbean, more adequately broken down by Haitian, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Grenadan, Turkses & Caicoses and, and, and. And what one's grandparents are Haitian, Caucasian, African-American and Latino? Born in the Midwest, 10 years living here in a condo, with a hairlip and a pants problem?

Maybe we can just cut through the bull here and get real. Black folks feel their reliably black neighborhoods are being taken over by whites, via City collusion with Developers. And that makes a lot of sense to me, and probably to you, even if you're part of "the problem." If this were really about affordable housing, and AMI and income requirements and homelessness alone, I really don't think every public meeting would end in acrimony and grandstanding. Last night started with MTOPP's Alicia Boyd cussing out councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, but thankfully thinks got more civil from there.

Guess who brought the heat down a notch and cheekily pointed out that Ms. Boyd had just given an example of "what not to do" with your turn to speak? A minister of course. A guy who might actually ask that question once in awhile. "What would the Master do?"

But here's the rub. We can't be both FOR equal access to housing and AGAINST it. The law can't, and shouldn't, make exceptions based on your personal preference of who you want to live around. That just gets us right back where we were, and we've made such precious little progress, we can't afford to give an inch. But we also seem to place a great deal of weight in private property, in the ability to buy or sell, and the idea that the highest bidding farmer gets the cow. Or condo.
So while we're all mixed up inside, why NOT accept homeless families into our neighborhoods? Why NOT consider the possibility that mixed income buildings and neighborhoods can be encouraged by enlightened policy? And for god's sake, what's so damn wrong with saying PUBLIC HOUSING done right is a hell of a lot better than any other answer to homelessness, affordable housing crises and the like? Bring it on, baby. We can take it.

As was made clear by the Powers That Be last night, you don't have a say in the matter anyway. You can vote de Blasio out of office. (Er, except he has no viable opponent.) We get him for another four years, and I don't think he's budging on this one. They've already invested much too much time and money closing the current shelters and buying, leasing or building new ones. And good riddance to the old ones, say I. 60 Clarkson had none of the amenities of this new place, and none of the security either. When you have families ravaged by domestic abuse, how can they possibly move on when every Harry Dick or Tom can waltz through the door at any hour of the night? When dealers take up residence? When the children call the rats their pets?

I say you go, de Blo. Close crappy shelters and create new ones that work for their intended purpose. And when the whole world tells you to go to hell, just remember to ask it loud for all the righteous to hear: What Would the Master Do? 

Whomever that "master" is to you. Swami. Conscience. Secular Humanism. Or just plain human decency and compassion. Suck it up NYC. If we can't all get along, no one can. Say it loud, I care and I'm proud.

Maple Street Garden Might Just Make It

Great news coming from the Maple Street Garden, a testament to the pluck and prowess of your green thumbed neighbors. Terrific write-up in BKLYNR will give you the deets, and a great story about how you, yes you, can improve life in your neighborhood AND do the right thing at the same time. Kudos MSG (the healthy kind).

photo: Ali Jacobs

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tonight: Another NIMBY Town Hall

In another mind-twisting show of down-is-up, expect anti-homeless forces to come out and decry the creation of temporary shelters in their backyards, down the block, or even on the other side of the neighborhood. Tonight's "show" will be yet another opportunity for people to scream at elected officials. The irony? This time, instead of complaining about (mostly white) gentrifiers they'll be complaining about (mostly black) poor people. Because, you know, the only people that deserve a place to sleep at night are those that fit Goldilocks/Baby Bear's "just right" demographic.

This one is pretty nutso. You know that church, St. Ignatius, that they tore down to make way for this?

The City's gonna lease this as a Homeless Shelter.

So at tonight's meeting, the real issue will come to the fore. "We" don't want gentrifiers. But we don't want actually-poor people either. It's kinda poetic, in a way. True colors coming out and all that.

Getting real here. You can't decree a housing shortage by restricting supply. You can't rectify affordable housing crisis without building below-market housing. You can't help the homeless without rental subsidies. You can't protect homeless families without secure shelters with services. And sometimes, in the big city, you're gonna have to deal with that. You chose to live here, you trumpet NYC's virtues of inclusion and diversity - well, you get the idea.

I've been living around supportive service housing, transitional housing, halfway houses for YEARS, in six different neighborhoods. And on Clarkson, there are four separate facilities within a block for otherwise homeless individuals. Only 60 Clarkson rose to the level of desperate problem, and that had nothing to do with the City. It was the greedy, cruel landlord, and a lack of ANY security.

Every neighborhood should shoulder the burden of helping other people, if in fact it's really that big a burden. I just went to a meeting at Kickstarter out in Greenpoint yesterday, and it seems like there's some space out there too. If the City starts getting real about creating transitional AND Affordable Housing, maybe there's something to this. Then again, the solution needs to be holistic. That's a lot to ask.

In the meantime, look for a whole lot of hooting and hollering.

But it's worthy remembering that we're all in it together. And either we have compassion and provide for our down-on-their-luck brothers and sisters or we don't. Or we move to Indiana where they wouldn't put up with this homeless shelter shit. I'm taking my chances right here.

Empire Reconstruction Project Moves Forward

In the Q's mythical fantasy he fell on his sword for the good of the people. Not accurate though - the government does what the government does. After losing my gig as chair at CB9 over this project and subsequent vociferous defense of a need for traffic fixes and improvements, I was however gratified to learn that DOT is moving ahead as planned. Was it the hundreds of you that signed a petition in favor that helped swayed the day? Never hurts. Was it the intrepid Committee members who stayed on despite the pro-car rancor? Sure. For months after the anti-bike anti-City crowd at CB9 had their tantrums, DOT seemed eerily quiet on the topic. I asked for an update multiple times, to the sound of City crickets. Then last night came world the DOT Commissioner had given the project the greenlight, despite the protests. And thus the project goes forward.

Thank you all who signed, and especially to the diligent committee members who stuck it out through thin and thin.

If you're coming to this issue late, I've reposted a post on the project below. I hope you'll join me when all is done for a picnic

Also note that CITIBIKE is coming to the area. Some proposed locations include:
  • Brooklyn museum
  • Sterling and Bedford
  • Rogers and Sterling
  • Bedford and Sullivan
  • Washington and Empire
  • Franklin and Montgomery (Jackie Robinson Playground)

Note, none of this is final. More public comment is required, and I would not that currently there are no plans to remove any parking.

More on the Empire Reconstruction Project, below, from the Q's post of November 6, 2015:

The other night at the CB9 meeting I realized a couple things. New things. One, I had no idea that the pro-car sentiment was so strong that it would try to kill a common sense fix to two of the most dangerous intersections in the neighborhood. Two, that one of the ways to "stick it" to people like me is to tell them how "we're going to shove your project in your face." In other words, forget about the public good. This is about personal retribution for some people. Which made me wonder whether I just need to stop being so public about my feelings.
First off, this is not MY project that I invited to present at the meeting. This is a DOT initiative funded with Federal dollars that were placed into the budget years ago by then Congressman Major Owens. To put it in perspective - this project was but dream years ago, when one could only imagine a day when you could fix messed up intersections that needed a full redesign. The money became available, good people have been working on it for months, and now a few bike-hating zealots want to shut it down? I don't think so. Not if you can help it. I'll probably need to duck out the back door and let you convince your CB9 board member neighbors that saving lives and creating green public spaces is being civic-minded and forward-thinking.
The only big problem with the way DOT has tried to sell the project is that while it's called the Empire Boulevard Reconstruction Project, it really involves just two multi-angle intersections that are more than a mile apart. You probably know Franklin/Empire/Washington really well, if you're reading this here blog. It's a hot mess, all times of the day. The other intersection is also beyond ridiculous, in construction and right-of-ways and dead spaces, but it's a lot harder for me to gauge the need because I don't see it very often. Go check it out though - Empire at Utica and East New York, Remsen and then Schenectady. Dreadful. Bizarre. But I'll leave it to someone else to make the case in detail. I like what DOT is proposing there, but it's not the part of the project that I'm willing to draw blood (my own!) for.
Exhibit A below shows OUR problem location. If you have a small child, you know precisely how dangerous is this intersection. Cars come from all angles, jostling for position to make the beginnings or ends of light cycles. The tiny chunk of Franklin that veers off to the right as you head up Washington only adds to the sense of, shall we say, adventure. Often a bicyclist or pedestrian becomes stranded somewhere. If you're not paying attention, you can get injured or killed. In fact hundreds of accidents have taken place at this and the other project intersection in the last five years, with 29 people maimed or killed.

So DOT, after months of analysis and data crunching, has offered a solution, and has the money to pay for it. You need only look at the traffic flow to see how crazy it all is:

The proposed design will not hinder drivers in the slightest. Yes, you won't be able to sneak up the tube at Franklin, but that's one of the major confusion factors. DOT wants to send you up to Empire on Washington to turn right. Like just about every other intersection in the Western world. Western BEEF notwithstanding.

Best part of closing that bit of Franklin is that it gives you some space to put trees and benches. Add some neckdowns - you've seen them on Flatbush past Grand Army Plaza, between Park Slope and Prospect Heights. For elderly and children in particularly, these shorter intersections are a godsend. AND you don't have lengthen the traffic signals to provide safety. Cars move, people move, (okay here it comes) bicycles move. Everybody moves. No one gets hurt. As much. Hurray!

Let me share my favorite complaint, after DOT presented the landscaping, seen below. And it's not the first time I've heard it. "What do you need trees for? You've got Prospect Park just a block away!" Look, if you hate trees so much, maybe I finally can understand the bizarre attachment to the Western Beef parking lot. Which is nearly never full!!! It's like I'm living in a world so topsy turvy that people wear pizza and eat shoes. And hate trees. Actually, I guess that part is already true.

If you care about such things, I urge you to come to the next Board meeting and voice your support. Or start a petition. Or come to the Committee meeting where we'll resurrect this and revote. That's Wednesday, Nov 18 at the CB9 clubhouse, 890 Nostrand near Carroll. Questions just email me.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

It's Official: Amazon Go To Open In Western Beef Location

Okay: I've had my fun. Thx for all the incredulous emails! Made my weekend...til next year!

Many of those tracking the on-again off-again attempts to rezone Empire Blvd thought the most likely scenario was a hotel, barring rezoning for market & affordable housing. Then a few months ago word trickled down that Home Depot was looking at Western Beef for one of their new Home Depot Express stores. Maybe a bidding war ensued...anyhow, here's the poop, direct from my friend Dave who now works at Amazon in Seattle running the marketing for that pesky device the Amazon Echo, the one that sits in your house waiting for you to call its name and order more toilet paper or determine the weight of an African (or European) Swallow.  Bottom line, without a single community meeting or rezoning request, here comes:

Western Beef (lock, stock and parking lot) signed over its land last week. Look for demolition over summer with a launch as soon as this time next year. Shouldn't be too tall, so I guess MTOPP will be pleased, though the increased traffic might bug some Sterling residents. THIS project has major buy-in from De Blasio, Eric Adams and likely most of the City Council. Jobs, innovation, a chance to hobnob with Jeff Bezos. Funny. Had it been Wal Mart they'd all be blowing their tops.

We shouldn't be surprised. Brooklyn is the undisputed King of Kool in the East, and this will be the third store to open after Seattle and San Francisco. I suspect they could even eat a loss for some time while building their brand. God knows it's what Amazon did for YEARS as it built its empire. Hey, that kinda has a ring to it. The Empire on Empire. It's Amazon's world; we just shop in it.

Here's what they expect you're gonna do, when you don't have two whole days to wait for a product on Prime. Maybe you need lunch, fancy Paprika, or vegan floss. Even if it's one of about 20,000 popular items from garden gnomes to candle wick trimmers , you can just order it by noon and pick it up after 6 at one end of the building. But if it's grocery or household items, you just pop in with your smartphone and leave without seeing so much as a cashier. How much time does this save you over, say, Whole Foods? Not much I suspect. Seems like a bit of a gimmick. The lines at Whole Foods are never bad anyway (so I hear; I'm a PSFC kinda guy). But the young folks will LOVE it, and we old folks will probably find a way to identify the trend as the exact moment that civilization ceased and the borgs took over.

For more propaganda from Bezos and Co., just check out their marketing video below. Then, if you haven't yet seen it, click the video below THAT which shows how drones will soon be delivering your goods directly to you within the hour. Amazing. Or rather, Amazonazing. Or Amayonnaising (because you can get mayonnaise, get it? which I just discovered has two n's).