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, November 29, 2018

Jackie Robinson PS375 Deserves A Solid Look

If you're a parent of wee ones, perhaps fretting the jump from pampers to pre-school, do yourself a big favor. The Q's been through it all before, and he's got some knowledge to drop on you that might just make your life a lot less complicated, and soothe your soul in the process. Here's a tip.

Go check out Jackie Robinson, for any grade, but pre-k is for sure, as it's the soft-landing you might need in order to enroll within walking distanceuy. Yours truly met the new principal a couple years back when she was brand spanking new - Schwanna Ellman - and I was super impressed by her vision and goals. 375 wasn't always top of mind for local parents - and frankly, for good reason. I'm not going to dog the old principal and assistant, but having some insider info definitely steered me and Mrs. Q away. If you check out online resources, you'll often see outdated comments and reviews. And in the case of PS375, that's a real shame. No school should suffer a bad rep from old news.

A couple weeks back the Q put on his nursery school mittens and visited a good friend, a pre-K and special education teacher who's been at the school long enough to experience the change from one administration to the next. Marie and her co-teacher welcomed me into their warm and colorful classroom at recess. And all the good vibes that the FlatBeds have had with pre-K, at both PS705 and PS38, came flooding back. Pre-K in the NYC public schools is magic. That's no exaggeration. It's about fun and love and snacks. It's about letters and numbers and "stations" and songs on the rug. It's about first friends and playdates and learning how to be one among many, a peer, a team

In Pre-K, you get two teachers for just 18 kids. And if you're lucky enough to get an Integrated Co-Teaching class (ICT), you'll get up to 4 teachers. And PS375 excels at ICT. Perhaps you've heard of the Children's School down Gowanus Way? It's an excellent elementary, made up entirely of mixed special and general ed. And lest your vision of Special Ed be tainted by the short bus jokes of your childhood, it actually means learners who need some sort of support. And since that support comes free by law, you get extra specialized teachers in the classroom. In my second-graders class that means an extra loving and qualified professional all day every day. My daughter loves her so much and vice-versa. And the "special" kid is delightful too. Consider asking for such a class.

From the picture you can see that for recess the kids simply step out the door into their own playground, often with support from paraprofessionals and parent or grandparent volunteers. Each of the children I met on my visit was wide-eyed and adorable, checking out the big guy with a bit of trepidation but lots of curiosity. I instantly felt that burst of joy that only 4-year olds can tap. Once that age passes the innocence can remain, but at 4 it's the real McCoy.

And that's why I want to encourage you to go to the next Open House for Pre-K at Jackie Robinson. And it's happening December 12 at 9:30 AM. That's right, coming right up. Many of us are zoned for PS375. We all need to embrace our local schools, in whatever way we can. When David Eppley helped the Q make the Flatbush Trees project come alive, he brought in older kids from Jackie to create the flowers. This is a school that should feel every bit a part of the neighborhood as Peppa's or Prospect Park. Oh, and being so close to the Park, Zoo, Garden and Museum means so many options for walking field trips.

If you have questions about schools generally you know where to find me. I know I have like to have silly fun with blog posts and I like to take the hot air of people, places and things. But to me, there is no more serious business than making sure our schools reflect our neighborhoods. Like my good friends at Live Here Learn Here, whom you should feel free to contact, the time is now to make sure all kids in NYC learn together. There is no downside, and everything to gain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Steak House on Jean-Jacques Dessalines?

Patrick Steak House. That's what it says on the Community Board Agenda for tonight - a new restaurant looking for a liquor license. 227 Rogers cum Jean-Jacques Dessalines Blvd. Ironies and Worcesteshires abound.

JJD, btw, is a fascinating historical character, the first Emperor of Haiti, and a figure who struck fear in the hearts of Confederate-Americans for his massacre of a few thousand whites after taking power in 1803. His exploits became the stuff of legend, often helping to swing potential swing-voters on abolition into the "hell no" column. Such is the power of well-timed propaganda, no?

The City Council co-named Rogers Ave Jean-Jacques Dessalines Blvd just last year. And while some articles mention controversy around the rebranding, the Q hasn't heard a whit of controversy beyond the occasional question about what and who gets a co-naming in the first place. Sure the guy slaughtered a bunch of people, but hey, who didn't? In fact, "greatness" was pretty much defined by slaughter back then. If anything, I'm not sure Dessalines slaughtered ENOUGH people to join the pantheon, but given his remarkable achievements pushing back the very French who'd enslaved him, it's worth giving it up for his Excellency. As an Emperor, maybe he should have gotten part of Empire Blvd too. Strange that Rogers AVENUE becomes Dessalines BOULEVARD. I guess Blvd is more impressive sounding.

There's more backstory too. This particularly Haitian rebranding was taking place simultaneous to efforts to rebrand our area Little Caribbean by some locals, in particular Shelley Worrell of CaribBEING. Shelley was making short work of the process, astounding all with her organizational savvy, bringing in Caribbean orgs and BP Eric Adams to support her effort, and all was looking like smooth sailing on the high Caribbean seas.

But fracas soon clogged the email lanes, as elected officials like Assemblyperson Rodneyse Bichotte said absolutement non to the Little Caribbean idea, because she and others had apparently been working for years on the distinction of Little Haiti under the umbrella Little Haiti BK,

So which is it? Little Haiti, or Little Caribbean?

The Q has no cheval in this race, but in looking at the maps of the two districts I noticed an oddness worth noting. Where Haiti would strike one as the smaller, less inclusive distinction, Haiti being but one island among many in the Caribbean, Little Haiti is actually a LARGER area than Little Caribbean, as far as these "official" maps are concerned. The only opinion I will share? Little Haiti is DAMN big. That is all. Maybe Big Haiti makes more sense.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Patio Gardens Was...A Movie Theater?

Ever wondered how the Patio Gardens apartments got their name? Was it the patio? The gardens? Or was it taken from the name of a movie palace that used to was on that very plot of land? As it turns out, Patio was the name of a popular theater that fell into ruin by the late '50s.  (For those of you Lefferts/Flatbush history buffs, I apologize for having missed the tidbit before. But dang this is a great picture below). And you do know that Fred Trump, the Donald's father, developed and owned the building, right? It even showed up in the recent NY Times expose about how Fred transferred tens of millions to the current president without incurring estate taxes.

Speaking of pictures, the picture showing at "The Patio" in the aforementioned picture, which you can see if you zoom in, was "Virginia City" starring Errol Flynn, Miriam Hopkins and an early career Humphrey Bogart. That would have put the year at 1940. The Q wonders if there was outcry when the Patio was torn down.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Predictably Predictable

46 Crown from the East. That's Tivoli Towers on the right.
Thx to Kadia Goba and BKLNER for attending the City Council meeting
You'd be forgiven for asking: If the government is the ultimate sovereign authority, why do developers do so well for themselves in this City of supposed progressives? Sure there are sweetheart deals, corruption, and the ever-present need for campaign donations, all of which give developers their access, swagger and sway. But the single biggest reason that Developers get to do almost anything they want? They own the land under most of their projects. Absent the use of Eminent Domain, one can do whatever the zoning will allow. That means that any parcel that is NOT landmarked or public property will generally be bought and put to use in the manner that creates the greatest return. Those are the sorry fact. I don't personally know any developers, but I do know the power of profits. Developers like profits.

(Actually, let's be honest now. YOU like profits too. And maybe, perhaps, at the same time, espouse socialist views on a range of topics, particularly those that don't negatively impact your property, prestige or quality of life. It's how American ideology's works, especially if you're lucky enough to have gone to a private liberal arts college, where the REAL major underlying every major is hypocrisy. That's where you learn how to be a faux revolutionary, all the way until the birth of your first child and/or home purchase.)

And so, despite all the sturm und drang the Q has witnessed and sometimes personally endured, the new owner of the plot at 40-46 Crown Street - Carmel Partners - used the power of its land rights to give Councilperson Laurie Cumbo an ultimatum. Either accept our request for taller rezoning, or we build only million-dollar plus condos as-of-right. The requested rezoning comes with a 140 below-market "affordable" rent stabilized units. In exchange, the City gives up some height. The building will be then be 16 stories with some setbacks bulkhead. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden says it won't impact the Garden's sun exposure. You can only imagine who called bullshit on them. I've promised myself not to utter her name. For awhile.

So, if you're Laurie Cumbo, the only real decider on the issue, what do you do? Yep, the Developer always has the upper hand.

And for perhaps the dozenth time the Q reminds you - despite the fact that activists thwarted a neighborhood-wide zoning study - one that would have allowed for downzoning in certain areas in exchange for just this sort of rezoning - we are being completely dismantled and remantled piece by piece. A la carte. And no, we are not in the driver's seat.

And perhaps now is the time to remind us all  This is but one of four huge projects, probably more, for the area north of Empire to Eastern Parkway. And eventually, the Empire itself will fall.

Empires always do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Give Lease A Chance

More than 100 formerly homeless women and children, living for up to five years in apartments owned by notorious slumlord Barry Hers, have been told to vamoose by a Brooklyn judge who has sided with the rights of the landlord over the human rights of now rent-paying tenants. This just plays into Hers' hands, and signals landlords they can push people around without repercussion. It's really, really messed up, y'all, and deserves your attention. We can't even pretend to be liberals and let people be treated this way. Yes, horrible things are happening at the border, overseas, and even at our beloved Q/B at Church Ave. But this is something we can change laws about, if we demand them from our City Council.

When the Q first started writing about 60 Clarkson a few years back, it was clear that justice was not being served. A man who breaks the law as often and as callously as Hers ought to be in jail and the key tossed randomly into a dark corner at the post office on Empire Blvd. Used to be having tenancy meant something in this City. At the very least the families should be offered leases at the proper rent stabilized rate in the very places they call home, which according to folks I know in the building is still pretty reasonable legal rent in most apartments. Why throw them out and back into homelessness, where they must go through the whole process again?

At today's presser/rally at another Hers-owned building at 250 Clarkson, residents were joined by the tenant champions Crown Height Tenants Union and Flatbush Tenant Coalition - the people who are doing the tough work to organize and protect the rights of harassed and bullied neighbors.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Oh Deer

So I'm walking westerly on Clarkson the other day and what do my eyes spy but a new bus stop advert, truly an incredible piece of vertical real estate for the City to share issues of great concern to us all. And what social, health or civic issue is being shared but this:

The Q chortled and chuckled all the way home, only to find upon Googling that in fact, deer have become quite the frequent site in parts of the north Bronx and Staten Island. Now, the North Bronx is basically Westchester so that I get. But Staten Island? What, they came over on the ferry? Fearlessly dodged traffic on Goethals? No, neighbors, they swim there from Jersey. I shit you not. Look at this video, and apparently it's no fluke. Happens all the time:

But why place the deer posters here in Central Brooklyn? Seems like a waste of effort and money, right? Until just the other day, when I headed up to Parkside Plaza and caught these "faunas" eating our "floras." And no one on the Plaza even gave them a second glance...

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A City's Disgrace - Kicking Paying Tenants Out of Slumlord's Building

As in the Deep South last night, sometimes the Deplorables eek out victories. From Kathleen Culliton of Patch comes this video and story. about the Q's multi-year education in heartlessness:

The block is shocked that a dwindling number of homeless families have been given the boot after a number of years calling this dump home. Said neighbor Irene Dowdy

"I'm about to be homeless with my kids," said Irene Dowdy, a mother of five who has lived at 60 Clarkson Ave. for four years. "We're not going to have no place to stay."
Just two months ago the families of 60 Clarkson were playing in the streets at our block party. They were part of our absurdly diverse block in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood - they were geting by in a cruelly expensive city. The judge says - no more. And the truly evil landlord Barry Hers gets to continue shoddy renovations followed by short-term tenants moving in and quickly moving out, so he can put this once grand building out of rent-stabilization and into the open market.

Fixes to rent laws can't happen quick enough, Diana, Kevin, Zell and Walter and...let's get it done.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Fighting the Actual Enemies

Here's what events of the last couple years have taught me.

If you lie enough, use social media to turn up the volume on those lies, use race-baiting language, refuse to listen to dissent, decry mainstream media, let criticism throw you into a rage, and demand absolute loyalty and allegiance from your followers, your demagoguery might just win you enough converts to satisfy your enormous ego. Demagogues take advantage of times like these, and they thrive on fear, anger and prejudice. Any news that runs counter to the thesis becomes "fake" news. No compromises allowed, winning at all costs.

And no, I'm not just talking about #45. 😜 Let's just say I had a few friends over to the house today...

But enough unpleasantness. Today the Q chose to head to the Island of Staten, not exactly a hotbed of liberal activism, though it's truly beautiful this time of year, and right now it's home to an outpouring of enormous optimism and energy to turn the NY11th Congressional District from red to blue. There are many good people on Staten Island, and I've gotten to know some of them in the past two days of canvassing for a marvelous candidate who defies pigeonholing - Max Rose. He's a Purple Heart and Bronze Star decorated army Captain and universal health care proponent. He's had the good sense not to talk Trump to voters - people have already made up their minds about the Orange One, and to win a conservative-majority district you must focus on things that matter most to voters. On the Island that means transportation, the opioid epidemic, and meat-and-potatoes ma-and-pa issues like stagnant wages and tax-breaks for millionaires. He's a guy who feels he's been given a second chance, after an IED nearly killed him in Afghanistan, to practice some good old fashioned Tikun Olam (Hebrew for repair the world). He believes in true justice, and while he's not a fan of racist cops, he's not leading with the cop issue because - it's Staten friggin Island, know mean? That's called strategic. Because you don't win elections by leading with your chin.

So me and a pal humbled ourselves enough to get bossed around by kids less than half our age, some of whom did and some of whom didn't seem particularly experienced. Yesterday the field office on Forest Avenue was hopping with energy. But today?? Good lord the throngs were stopping traffic. People from all over Staten and NYC, eager to do their part to create an ACTUALLY powerful opposition to the hateful forces of ACTUAL white supremacists and racists who are dead set on thwarting progress and denying the vote to their enemies. And as we've seen, some are emboldened to take the rhetoric out of the political realm into far more ghastly shows expressions of ideology.

The Q was downright teary to see lines, yes, LINES of people ready to volunteer.

When the Q graduated college, he wanted to be a revolutionary. Today, he just wants the country to step back from the brink. Because he believes in white supremacy? No, because he's lived long enough to see what happens to countries that try to make radical change without majority consent. It's brutal. Truly, savagely brutal. We're not much more than beasts after all. And politics can be a beastly business.

We can wish for a better world, we can even fight for it. But somehow we also have to live with each other. The only other alternative? Die with each other. Yep. It's that stark. If you don't believe me, let me introduce you to a a bit of world history...

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lefferts Pop-Up Art Show - WN7

The day after the biggest midterm elections of the...well, ever...come celebrate the Blue Wall with a Harvey Wallbanger, or Harry Wallhanger, or whatever it is people drink at Pop-Up Gallery Shows these days. All Flatbush/Crown Heights artists. Buy something for above the couch, or the foyer, or better yet, just cross-room from the bidet.

The artists:

-Alexandra Lake
-Amanda Isaac
-Bernadette Adrian
-Christian Hamrick
-Gabrielle Hilaire
-Goldie Gross
-Janos Cseh
-Kyle Shike -
-Laura Thorne
-Noel Hefele
-Tyler Holland
-Yoshiko Mori