The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CB9 Votes To "Kill the Deal" - Will It Matter?

It was a hot one at MS61 last Monday, and as a result, I think, the rhetoric was a bit less heated. That's right, the Q thinks the heat might actually have kept folks in their seats. Who wants to sweat MORE? Not that there weren't fireworks, and a bit of twist that the Q hadn't seen coming - a steady stream of actual or arm-twisted supporters of the project. Folks who actually want a big recreation center even if it's funded by a deal with developer BFC partners. The plan was unanimously voted down though 15-0, and only a fool (and the Q's mama didn't raise no fools) would have dared vote yes.

On the "kill the deal" side all the usual suspects were there - union fighters, housing activists, self-flagellating gentrifiers - railing against the project as if it would be a personal betrayal, rather than just another project in a City of wealth-speculators and well-meaning City Planners. Had this project come to fruition closer to its inception (2012 maybe?), it likely wouldn't have caused so much ado. But the pent-up rage in CH has reached a near-boiling point (and I say "near," because there's always a notch higher, and history shows the toppest notches ain't pretty.)

Take a step back a minute in G-fication time machine. Was a day not so many years ago that longtime Crown Heights residents would have welcomed a new rec center with open arms. Don't listen to the crazy arguments about the center's inaffordability - even without the added discounts to be offered as needed, $10 a month (as projected) is not out-of-reach for the vast majority of residents interested in using a modern pool/fitness/sports center. It's an incredible deal, and many of the operators and leagues offering services will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity with local kids who need financial help. Claiming that the world-class facility needs to be free to all is simply absurd. Folks can scrounge the few bucks, and those that can't wouldn't be turned away, at least not with local Electeds keeping the place honest.

Even the housing component would have been welcomed. A decade ago the idea that permanent affordable housing would be included in a multi-million dollar plan to re-purpose the armory would have been seen as a win-win-win. The market rate housing? Back when the seismic demographic shift of the neighborhood seemed fanciful, even absurd, no one would have blinked. When the Q started this blog there was another, much more popular online rag called "I Love Franklin Avenue" and it burst with enthusiasm every time a new espresso house or eatery opened, as if a dormant bear was waking from his winter snooze to smell the coffee. At the time only a smattering of youthful whites could be spotted along long-challenged Franklin, and the first sprouting new businesses were seen as economic rejuvenation, not hostile takeover. I fully believe if the project had begun just after that recession, we'd all have gotten used to the below by now:

But City projects move slowly, and the neighborhood has gone through a massive economic rebound, and the change has left longtime locals aghast, out-of-an-apartment, or wildly wealthy (if they owned property.) Dollars are flowing in and out of the neighborhood in buckets.

I say all this not to pass judgment, but to provide context, because on the surface or from afar it might seem strange, even self-defeating, to say F.U. to a huge public amenity that would house space for the arts and senior and after-school activities, not just swimming and soccer and basketball through the cold months. And far from a fantasy, this one is on the books, payed for, and ready to roll. The City was understandably stoked when it figured out that it could hire a developer to build out the whole shebang since it would make its money on the rentals. The condos - sold by BFC - would finance the rec center. Follow? In exchange, BFC would get a 100 year lease on the land, which means years of solid returns for the company - much of which would go to finance other projects and so on. Sure, people would get paid handsomely - they didn't enter the developer world purely out of the goodness of their heart after all. Nor do most of us go to work every day purely for the joy and camaraderie.

So here we are, with more drama to come. Will Councilperson Laurie Cumbo buck CB9's will and negotiate a deal with the City? She currently says she opposes the plan, but then she's up for re-election, and she might be wise to remain mum til after the September primary. And BP Adams - isn't this precisely the kind of "build, build, build" he was championing after his election?

The politically simple call would be to vote no, and start over, and not risk a loud and sustained backlash from vocal detractors. But maybe the prudent thing, knowing that all social or political or economic hell might break loose at any time, would be to take the bird in the hand rather than the two in the (Flab)bush.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Risbo To Open In a Month

Seems like Chef Boris has been working for awhile to get Risbo up and running, his French American Cuisine, fast casual concept with heavy rotisserie influence, large banquette with communal eating style with meats, fish, and plenty of vegetables. At 701 Flatbush, next to Parkside Pizza and ParksideZ deli and the lively drunks of Parkside Liquors which is now called First Class Liquors, as in only the best fortified wine in the borough.

And yep. And that's him folks:

Looks like it's gonna be classy KAJ y'all. Not unlike Food Sermon?

Friday, June 23, 2017

And Speaking of Vino

What's going on here? Did all of Lefferts suddenly become winos? Sorry, wine enthusiasts. Oenophiles. People who like to get drunk in a classy way? Give me Mad Dog 20/20 any day. Actually, don't. You wouldn't like me when I'm drunk. Only right now am I realizing that

Gotta say this is Location, Location, Location for a wine shop. Parkside Avenue, right across from my beloved Q. Seems only a matter of time before this stretch starts to upscale generally.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Empanadas y Vino - Saturday June 29

The Q can't resist sharing this one. Between Empanada City's delicious savoury confections and Little Mo's gleeful-but-knowledgeable irreverence, a match has been made in nirvana. You can't miss this soiree on June 29. Just check out the screen shot I took from my office computer! Where'd Big Mo get that mouth-watering picture? Did he stage it and take it? Or did he merely right-click?

Friday, June 16, 2017

From Hookah to Sing Sing

His name was Larry Pagett, but maybe you knew him better as Biz, or Biz Loc, or Molotovbizzz, the man who's been charged with killing Droppa, sorry Chrispine Philip, at the Flatbush Ave Buda Hookah Lounge. 589 Flatbush, to be exact. 

This was a particularly terrifying gangland style shooting at a public watering hole and there were others critically hurt in the deadly assault. Depictions of such off-ings in movies might seem sickly glamorous to some. You know, Fats Joey sits in a quiet red checkered tablecloth eatery, face to the door, and his assailant enters with guns a-blazin'. Gore pours from the poor goon's head and onto his pasta. Visible splatters on the carefully arranged pictures of the owners with Freckle-Face Freddy and Squeaky Sal and Tony Orlando (with and without Dawn). In reality, as I've noted through the years of morbid fascination with these Brooklyn gang murders, the killer is a shitty shot and terrified and maybe high and he ends up shooting unintended victims and gets sent up river for a long, long time. Or gets off on a technicality. Or the wrong guy gets collared. Or...

Want a dark humor snicker? Check out the Google reviews of Sing Sing

Patch story by Marc Torrence

credit: D.Iudici
Before this particular place was the Hookah Lounge it was just plain Ali's Roti Shop, a classy looking joint with delicious take-out, a nice decor and swivel chairs at round tables. Then it went all Hookah on us, and the noise complaints started piling up. Neighbors weren't happy about it. The craziest part of this story is the strange lead up to the shooting, when the 311 calls about the place being unruly started piling up, and this appeared on a local telephone pole:

Some neighbors smelled a whiff of gentrifier haughtiness, and Ali's responsibly responded with this:

So in January of 2015 the place went from Roti Shop to Roti & Hookah shop, then a Roti & Hookah and Hooch shop. Then it got loud. Then it got REALLY loud - like bang bang bang. The next day it looked like the below.

credit: D.Iudici
They seem to have found the guy, and another shooting seems to have been linked by retailiation to another shooting, at the same time as J'Ouvert at the start of September. Blame the Hookah? Nah. This crime probably would have happened anywhere. Whatever happened to the good old fashione Duel? You know, like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton? Ten paces, turn, and pow. No innocent bystanders.

That was then, this is now. A new swell looking biz called Tasty has moved in. (Pretty sure this is cousin to another Tasty further down in the 'Bush.)

Sometimes you need a leader to put it all in perspective. Your councilman and mine had a fascinating insight when he stopped by the joint later that day of the early morning shooting, noted at the end of this contemporaneous account.
Councilman Matthieu Eugene stopped by the scene earlier Friday. He said the gun violence is just too much, not only in his district, but everywhere.
Amen, Einstein.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Armory Activists Out In Force

At the Crown Gardens meeting space on Nostrand Avenue last night you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting an anti-deal activist. Now this wouldn't be the Q if the Q didn't take a swipe at the irony in the room. White gentrifiers decrying market rate housing. Socialist protesters from NYCC not really knowing anything about the project, just showing up for yet another cause (some, not all of course). Alicia Boyd shouted down by fellow protesters for being too crass (she seemed out of her element not being the center of attention). And don't miss the PRO signs in the back of the room, held by young people obviously there because they were brought by the Clarence Norman/Geoffrey Davis forces that were, not at all ironically, paid by the developers to produce support from the community for the project. That's Norman's white shirt and hair just to the right of the woman in the horizontally striped dress on the left side of the picture.

The screaming, the chanting, the bluster...all on display. Ultimately there's not really any support at CB9 for the current BFC Partners project to create a beautiful recreation center and community group space out of the Bedford-Union Armory - leastways not if there are going to be any market-rate "luxury" rentals or condos in the mix.

The fact is, this particular parcel belongs to us all, and it probably SHOULD go to house the poorest among us. Yep. Public Housing. The kind that gets such a bad rap, even though public housing has been a lifeline for millions of Americans through the last 100 years. Look it up. Heck, even Eastern Bloc countries saw fit to follow suit!

But you gotta ask yourself...will such a "better deal" ever materialize? As it is, a perfectly good GIANT community resource is actually nearly happening, and the funding is all set. It's been more than a decade in the making. Are we really going to walk away in hopes of a better bargain? And more to the point, will the community REALLY come out in support of Public Housing (cause dammit, that's what it is)? Or is this just a bunch of posturing? For some, like the Crown Heights Tenants Union, I think it's a very REAL issue. They're understandably fed up with the rent hikes and displacement and blatant racism and ageism, and they resent the very notion of market-rate anything going on public land. As to the not-so-few carpet-baggers, I can appreciate a good protest, but a lot of folks seemed to know absolutely nothing about this particular project. I suspect if NY Communities for Change issued a call to protest Mr. Softy for running a non-union truck, the orange-shirts would be out in a jiffy, with signs reading "No Justice, No Sprinkles!" The fact is, this process is a lot more nuanced than "kill the deal" can possibly explain. But we don't really DO discourse at CB9, so there it is, no 'splain, no gain.

I guess you could say the Q's a realist. Or, cynic. Depends on whose talking. But really I to assume that everyone who lives near this potentially giant housing project is going to welcome his low-income brothers and sisters with loving arms? I certainly hope so. We'd be showing the City that we actually care about those least able to pay their bills.

But wait...isn't this the same community that wants nothing to do with a well-maintained and secure homeless shelter for families just down the block?

For those keeping score at home, here's what "the Community" seems to be saying. Give us a bunch of City subsidized housing (and it don't come cheap) for people making less than the actual median income ($38K for a family of 4 in Crown Heights). BUT, if those same people suddenly can't afford the roughly $800 - $900 month and become homeless, well, we sure as hell don't want them HERE.

To her credit, councilperson Laurie Cumbo was parked in the front row, and remained quiet as the battle raged. My considerable gut tells me she understands the nuances, and understands too that to favor this project is political death. She's come out against it and will likely win reelection as a result, and now she claims to want NO market rate housing. (When you want to emphasize the point, just call 'em "luxury condos.") But there's no hint of where the money will come from to build all this subsidized housing AND giant community center. Just a lot of hyperbole and bullying.

Lastly I'd just like to add what I always want to add to those who decry Developers out of hand. I'll bet Dollars to Donuts that the very home you're living in now was built by those nasty, greedy humans otherwise known as Developers.  Yep. Even your fancy townhouses were the once much-derided tract housing of its day. Developers are builders. And even if they make a profit, you don't get housing without them. The City got out of that business a long time ago, and for good reason. The corruption alone cost a fortune. Sure you can hire a non-profit developer. And you're just as likely to get reamed, too, by a bunch of crooks and shysters and volunteer board members.

Maybe it's time to park those dollars in the Carver for a minute, eat a few of those donuts, and reconsider whether there IS some compromise to be made before we end up with a 500,000 square foot vacant lot til the next recession ends in, oh, 2030 or so.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Flavors of Flatbush - Thursday June 15

Flavors yes. And smells, too, one would imagine. The spelling "flavours" gets the thumbs up from Google. But Flavors, without the "u" is misspelled, so sayeth the Great Brain of the Valley of Silicon. Well, there it is. Google is an Anglophile. Great Brain, Great Britain. The world's collective consciousness. Don't laugh; it's just a matter of time before Google becomes self-aware, and then...

Look, this is going to be a terrific event. Do NOT miss, and it's a good cause to boot. The Merchant's association is finally firing on most pistons.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Here They Come - The Candidates Get Down To Business

Yep. There were lots of people. Maybe 200 at the peak? And while all 200, mostly working people, many with families and duties, managed to come on time and prepare for the 7pm start, your Councilman Mathieu Eugene came more than half an hour into the program. Did he know this was a crucial close-up-to-constituents opportunity? Who knows. The guy has his head so far up his arse I'm surprised he knew this wasn't just another ribbon-cutting.

I liked the candidates...a lot. I was particularly impressed by Brian, Rose and Pia. Jennifer seemed shaky, and maybe not quite ready for the big time. I say that with love, because I know she's a dedicated servant to the tenants she works with and for, keeping people in their homes and fighting unscrupulous landlords. But I gotta say, and I hope this doesn't sound too crass...the seat belongs to a person of color. While we may be trending towards the Caucasioid these days, it's really important that longtime residents of the neighborhood feel they have a voice at City Hall. Were the race just Eugene and Berkely, I might feel otherwise. But there it is; the Q don't mince words. Let's keep the seat in the hands of a qualified black candidate. And we have three solid ones to choose from, each with their own assets and potential liabilities. Mostly assets though.

If you want the skinny, I highly recommend this thorough rundown from, of all places, Kings County Politics and journalist Phoebe Taylor Vuolo, who also took the below pic. KCP is often seen as an insider rag that seems more press release than hard news source. Perhaps that's changing? We could all use more information about those who serve us. We need strong leaders at every level if we're to turn back the tide of racist nationalism that has beset our noble republic.

Keep an eye on this race. Gonna be good, and while 5 is too many candidates, I hope that one emerges as the consensus to knock the good Doctor back to Canarsie where his actual home resides. Perhaps then he'll actually have to get a full-time job? I hear he has a medical degree from Mexico so he'll be just fine, between that and his black belt in something or other (true stories all - and he know Jean Claude Van Damme and once met an actual astronaut!).

According to Eugene, people in "HIS" district are very, very happy with him

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Black Educator's Perspective

If you have a perspective you'd like to share, feel free to shoot the Q an email. Thoughtful, engaging, provocative, challenging, moving, hilarious...send it along. And if this issue of segregation and inequality in the public schools is a concern of yours, please show up next Tuesday for another thought-provoking and hopeful action-inspiring event, flyer and info at the bottom of this post.

Longtime Lefferts neighbor, activist and "local gentry" Brenda Edwards shares her thoughts on the state of segregated schools and the history of such in our very neighborhood.

In the mid 90s a group of us black teachers decided to form a committee to protect our students and to be a definitive voice in the decision making process in what we saw as the coming onslaught of a white dominated school. For us, this was the beginning of gentrification which would affect our school,Erasmus Hall High located in Brooklyn's district 17. The district encompasses parts of East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts, Gardens, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.
We did not believe ourselves to be paranoid or over reacting. We had already seen the displacement and destruction of communities when its residents became more white and more wealthy.
We were determined to establish a balance within our school and with in the New York City educational system. We would be ready for whatever was to come. Students of all ethnicities would be welcome, but our black and brown students would not be excluded. We were armed with our teaching skills, our knowledge of the educational system and it's history of school segregation. We had witnessed the wrath of racism and economic inequities.
We would approach this issue with a vengeance. We would perform the necessary research citing evidence based on neighboring schools as well as others across the country. We would look for the signs: A sudden windfall found in the school budget resulting in long overdue renovations, the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment, and a generous inventory of school supplies including enough books for each student. Although this should be the normal working operations of a school, more often than not; this does not occur in schools located in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods,especially in the inner city.
We eventually realized that there would be no influx of white students eagerly registering for our school. The trickling stream of gentrifiers at that time and the presently increasing number would unequivocally decide that our school was not the right choice for their children. Perhaps it was and still is a clash of cultures, a resistance to change and a fear of the low performance that is associated with our neighborhood schools. Whatever the rationale, this choice continues to promote an imbalance where the majority of desirable schools are overwhelmingly stocked with the more affluent, the high achievers, the less needy and white students.
But as the neighborhood becomes more diverse, parents are organizing in preparation for their children to attend the schools around the corner, down the street and just a few blocks away. The hope is that the schools will reflect the various faces of its residents. And that all who live here will take responsibility in insisting on quality education for all students who cross the threshold of each classroom.
It is evident that in a changing neighborhood that our schools will also change to accommodate the newcomers as well as re-evaluate what works and does not work for the students who are already there. A successful educational system should never remain stagnant. it should be a system that proposes to satisfy the needs of its students regardless of who they are. It should not be a sudden and blatant realization that the schools are in need of substantial improvements only when the demographics change.
To quote the title of the song that Sam Cooke made famous "A Change Is Gonna Come." We will see where it takes us.