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, September 21, 2014

Why You Must Come To the CB9 Meeting This Tuesday

The Deets. To sign up to speak for up to three minutes, you must call or email the district office by noon on Tuesday.
 
Date: September 23rd, 2014
Time: 7:00pm
Venue: Medgar Evers College, Edison O Jackson Auditorium
Address: 1638 Bedford Avenue, corner of Crown Street
Phone: 1-718-778-9279
Email: bk09@cb.nyc.gov

'Twill be quite a show, imagines the Q. After a summer of protests and community meetings the Community Board meets on Tuesday with its first new chairman in a couple decades. There'll be our local firebrand Alicia deadset on destroying the Board's reputation and insisting it's in the pocket of the Borough President. A minion of her followers will be ready to pounce; a whole host of social issues seem to be wrapped up in a simple letter (resolution) sent to City Planning last spring asking to update zoning to reflect community preferences, i.e. lower heights and affordable housing for displaced residents, and increased opportunities for economic development - you know, commerce and jobs and the like. Sound innocent enough? Think again. It's not sitting as pretty with some as you'd have thunk.

For those who were there last March when the decision was made to send a letter to City Planning asking for a rezoning, the Q was one of the voices adamantly opposed to slowing things down, sending it back to committee for further discussion. Why? Because we'd already had multiple meetings on the issue over a year, including district-wide listening sessions, and the concerns had been heard, and developers were already taking advantage of outdated zoning to build against the wishes of many. We had to get going; the process takes awhile. Just look at what's happening all around the borough, people were saying. And after all, it was the letter that needed to be written in order to set in motion the REST of the process, the hard part - determining WHERE to study and HOW best to manage the City's goals of increased housing stock, new affordable units, more jobs, and growth along transit corridors - frankly the only growth that makes sense, given the world's over-reliance on cars to commute. (And, let's face it, in this City cars spend an awful lot of fossil fuel just looking for places to park and idling during alternate side parking. Makes me almost as mad as diesel Fresh Direct trucks...what a middle finger to the environment that is. Clean, tasy, organic, local food sent by a gas guzzling smog spewer? Gag me.)

So de facto, we were going to look at Empire all along...and Nostrand, Flatbush, Ocean, New York Ave and anywhere else that needed a review. A lot of folks mentioned Empire throughout the process, complaining that such a low-grade commercial zoning (C8) ought be left to areas not so close to public transportation and the beautiful Park and Garden. Think about it... how dumb is it to have fast food places with drive-thru, and grocery stores with giant parking lots, on such a perfectly located piece of ground? It wasn't the BP, or the Mayor, or City Planning leading the charge. Any idiot could tell you that Empire was a potential place to build if you're gonna build affordable units, and by extension, market rate units. Not to piss anyone off...but because people deserve a decent place to live, whether market or subsidized. And hey, you live here! Isn't it awesomely situated? Why not share the love? We prefer Big Macs to new neighbors and housing the displaced? (Well, I guess it depends on your level of hunger, but you know what I mean. And don't give me that yarn about how low income folks need McDonalds. It's patronizing to suggest that just because someone's poor they can't cook healthily and on a shoestring. Besides, there's plenty of fast food around to make up for a space hog on the Boulevard. Ever seen the menu at the Chinese joints? Way more food for the buck and the big corporate dollar-suckers.)

As for the process, once approved by CB9 and Planning, the expensive and lengthy environmental review would happen, and Planning would make recommendations. What could one expect, given Planning's and the Mayor's prior successes and mistakes? Calls for MORE affordable housing for each development built, maybe 30%. Or 20-30-50, with the 30 being middle-income. The 20, 30 etc would be stabilized. NEW units stabilized. And we would look for height restrictions - real ones - in exchange for greater density. I know this is possible because it's happened elsewhere, even just north of hear in West Crown Heights last year. (WeCro? Ugh.)

Btw, the term "affordable housing" is now being hissed at. Do people even know what it is? I'm not talking about the "middle income" housing that's being balked at with Ratner Center. We're talking about affordable to people making UP to 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) of about $45,000. That means, if you make more than $22,500 you're TOO RICH to qualify. Even at 626 Flatbush, that's the breakdown. Hiss all you want, unless you're the one lucky enough to win the CB9 preferenced lottery.

Do we all realize what an enormous opportunity that is for someone who doesn't want to be priced out of this nabe now, or even in two or three years? Priceless, I'd say. And remember, the only kind of affordable housing that anyone is building anymore (except for special needs populations thru non-profits) is being built by private developers through incentives like low-cost financing and tax breaks. The City stopped building projects decades ago. This is it folks. These are the cards that have been dealt. Do we play them, or do we fold and go home, screwing everyone who doesn't own their home? Look around the room sometime at these community meetings. It's predominantly homeowners, whom I would argue have way more conflicting concerns than the Borough President.

This is the first all-liberal administration and Council in decades. And, I might add, the first liberal administration since the real estate and Wall Street run-ups of the '90s and '00s. Where once you couldn't beg developers to build, now you can extract affordable units in places like Crown Heights and (gasp) East New York. If you are following the news and the political process, you know all this, and you've probably come to some conclusions on how best to manage the new normal. Maybe you think the Mayor is a sell-out? Well, he's doing EXACTLY what he campaigned on. There are no surprises here. If you voted for him thinking he was going to do something MORE liberal and less about building more and denser, you made a bad bet.

But some came late to the zoning party, and they are on a scorch and burn mission to stop the process dead in its tracks. and are insisting on a no-new-development strategy and/or unachievable visions for low-rise non-residential landscapes on Empire, ones that no one is going to pay for let alone entertain, pretty much disabling any attempt to manage a housing crisis through the use of governmental innovation. And if you imagine Empire as a row of small ma and pa shops and leisurely strolling folk on  beautifully landscaped broad sidewalks...well who the hell is going to be the customer base? Commerce along Empire is doing just fine. There is absolutely no incentive for any landlord to do anything other than what they're doing right now. You want McDonald's to sell to a ma and pa green grocer and a local ethnic restauranteur? Be serious. This is Ronald McDonald here, and he's no clown when it comes to profits.

MTOPP has also pissed off every elected official and accused everyone who even breathes the phrase "affordable housing" as an enemy to the people, and to people of color in particular. That claim is an insult to intelligence. You can't house people who have been displaced if you don't offer up any new housing. Right now the current housing stock is becoming less affordable by the day. Is it somehow gonna grow new units because the community says no to rezoning?

If you're looking for conspiracies, a better bet would be the strangely aligned incentive of certain Sterling homeowners and their current quality of life. But as I've said before, people have mixed motives, and some hide them beneath deep layers of denial. I'm not crass enough to point fingers and demonize people. As you can see, I like a good fight as the next civic-minded dude. My hats off to good warriors, but I'm calling bullshit when I see it.

Somewhere down the line, Alicia Boyd and MTOPP decided that a great conspiracy was afoot to build giant high-rises along Empire, specifically Empire. She lives on Sterling. It's natural to think that she might be forced to endure a massive building IN HER BACKYARD, much like folks on Chester Court and Flatbush and Ocean near 626 are enduring right now. Lord knows she's not special in having to put up with construction in this borough. Or, at this point, just imagining it. It can't be fun. And it's always scary to imagine the future, especially when you see the rest of the borough changing so radically so quickly.

But then there's the issue of race and class, which I was told I am not qualified to discuss, because I am a racist who can't see his racism, and therefore irrelevant to the conversation. This, in a scathing personal email from Ms. Boyd. Fine. I'm not qualified. In which case, ignore everything I've said. 

The real nemesis here, if I may be so bold, is not Eric Adams, City Planning, Laurie Cumbo, Mathieu Eugene, Tim Thomas, Pearl Miles, Jake Goldstein, Mike Cetera, half of CB9 or any of the others who have been called out by Alicia for sleeping with the enemy. Nor does the blame lie with Alicia herself or anyone else with a bullhorn and a bone to pick. Capitalism and racism have always been bedfellows in this country. And they are wreaking havoc right now on low income black neighborhoods. And none of us who've escaped, not through grit but by birth, the scourge of generational poverty can sandpaper our hands thoroughly enough to exfoliate the dirt. It's all blood money. Your house, Alicia's, mine. The taxman, the tax cheat, the landlord, the cigarette seller, the check-casher, the non-voter, the look-the-other-way-er, the miser, the right-winger, the banker, the drug dealer, the therapist, even the teachers bless-their-heart teaching the system to yet another generation of eager cadets. So before casting stones, one might want to look at one's own glass house. Is the glass house half full or half empty? Well, at least it has a nice garden and good bones and is "dripping" with period details (ew...reminds me of Helter Skelter). And hopefully, it would seem by the drawings of the future Empire w/out people, no new neighbors. A brick Shangri La wrapped in limestone. Blood money, the lot of it. So what you gonna do? More landscaping and a prayer?


I'm expecting that Tuesday will involve much earthy rhetoric, and I hope some sane and reasonable voices will come to offer different perspectives than the one currently carrying the loudest message. It should be possible to have a thoughtful conversation about how to house the hundreds, probably thousands, of residents being priced out. Looking at my Gentrification Steam-punk Timepiece, we have mere hours before the full-blown forces of gentrification come to the avenues. But if we can't figure out a way to be a PART of this great experiment called New York City, if we can't put aside our own (self) satisfaction for at least an honest conversation...we're faring way worse than I imagined.

Here's what the Q believes. We were late rezoning Flatbush - we didn't stay on top of the issue when it became malignant in 2007 then oddly into remission (recession), and now we must move to keep the Flabenue from becoming a canyon along the park. And here's where we should be working WITH the powers that be. Build. Create jobs. Improve schools, amenities and services. Don't fuck over our neighbors in the process. Recognize cultural difference, don't exploit it or condemn it. Use whatever tools are at our disposal to keep people in their homes and work to create better housing laws and curbs on despicable landlords. Recognize that (as I learned Friday) there's been a 20% jump in homelessness in six months. Recognize that right now everyone and their aunt wants to live here, but who's to say it's gonna last? Booms aren't booms unless there are busts before and after. And so, the WAY WE PLAN NOW IS GONNA MATTER. BIG TIME.

If nothing comes of rezoning and the brute force of propaganda rules the day, I won't be surprised. But whatever your thoughts, please come out and share them. I already know what one person's gonna say; I'd like to hear some others.


Ebbets Field Flannels

In Seattle. Pic: Kendall C.
Vintage baseball jerseys, or pajamas for 1720 Bedford Avenue?

See You At the March - 11:30 am Start - CPW





O No! SoCro Goes So NoCro on Fra So of EPW.

Translation: The rebirth of Franklin Avenue north of Eastern Parkway West (EPW - nice, right?) has meant sky-high rents in both residential and commercial spaces. So, naturally, the trend moves south of EP to the less yuppified SoCro. Now, I know all these terms are absurd. They ALL are. I guess since shorthand is no  longer a requirement for today's secretarial pool, I think we're all looking for more modern time-savers, in this oh so hectic world. Such busy lives! Answering email! Getting coffee! Taking care of THE KIDS! (um, you always had to take care of the kids. that one is not new y'all). Working!! (yep, always had to do that too). Church! (wait, most of us took that one out). Doing chores! (now you're just whining).

I'm ready for Carroll Gardens to become CarGa, Boerum Hill BoHi and Bedford-Stuyvesant Bed-Stuy. Actually, it's already called that, so let's shorten it a bit more to just BeSt. I've already predicted that East New York become ENY (pronouced eenie) and Mill Basin MilBa. Sheepshead Bay? SheBa of course. Brighton Beach? BriBe. It's my blog. I can do this all night...

First up in the new biz department, a place sure to keep waistlines bulging and the species procreating called Butter and Scotch. Basically you can get shitfaced and then shove your pie hole full of pie. And therefore, my prediction? Huge hit. The gals already have a big following and they seem to have that quirky Brooklyn sense of humor thing down. They're calling it Brooklyn's First Artisanal Dessert and Craft Cocktail Bar.

Founded by Keavy of Kumquat Cupcakery and Allison of First Prize Pies, Butter & Scotch will have an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and the interplay between the bar and pastry kitchen, Butter & Scotch will be exciting, welcoming, and most of all, fun! They plan to open in October or so, but in the meantime you can find them at Smorgasburg market every weekend.


Names that didn't make the cut: Bourbon 'n' Buns; Plastered Pastries; Liquor the Batter

But then SoCro already has the delightful bakery down, in Lady Charles. Karen Charles has been eliciting oohs and ahhs and mmmmm it's positively sinfuls for a year now. Up 241 Rogers at Carroll, the joint is spiffy and colorful, next to an attractive wedding apparel joint called Pantora (below the below), run by a (gasp) 24 year old entrepreneur named Andrea Pitter.


Andrea Pitter of Pantora (pic by CC Woodby)
And longtime fave from above the Parkway and one of the early gentry entries along now-fully bourgie Franklin Avenue OWL AND THISTLE has moved to SoCro (no really, I promise I'll stop). Rents meant you can't run a store like this, with it's curated knick-knacks under the subtitle "General Store" and expect to make a profit on six or eight grand a month in rent.

Oh, and there's a bar opening on 225 Rogers by a dude named Chris Buckley. This joint anticipates the large apartment. building going up where the church used to was.

So much commerce. So many calories. So much alcohol. So many marriages. So little time.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Great New Restaurant Opens On OUR Franklin Avenue

 

All this talk about Empire Blvd lately has me once again lamenting how that pesky six-lane junk heap of a rue manages to keep Leffertsonians from considering Southern Crown Heights as part of their 'hood. Tivolians and Ebbetsinians have no trouble bouncing down to Flatbush for vittles and fixin's, but the reverse? Not so much. Now you have a reason to venture northward. A new restaurant and healing center called Mountain just opened at 903 Franklin Ave next to the Associated and across from Tivoli Towers.

co-owner and acupuncturist Justine Lynch 'n' kids




Organic and local fresh ingredients? Check. Veteran creative chef? Check, in Tom McCauley from the pre-trendy Miracle Grill. State of the art acupuncture and new-agey health herbs and goodies? Check, with acclaimed healer Justine Lynch as your guide. Tasty gluten free options? Check. Specially pressed healing juices? Check. There's even a relaxing meditation and yoga space in the back. This place screams 2014 louder than Time Square on New Year's Eve. Of 2013. At midnight. You get the idea.

But here's the thing. It's GOOD. Good food, good medicine. Actually, good food IS good medicine, so there's nothing odd about the pairing. Unless you're worried you'll get needles in your soup instead of noodles. Which ain't gonna happen. These people are professionals after all.

I'm looking at the menu right now and saliva is running onto my keyboard. Lavender and Maldon Salt Crusted Pork Loin? Verdure Curry w Local Grains? Tonifying Chicken Soup w local greens and grains, Chinese herbs and pastured chicken? Morning frittata or spelt quinoa muffins  and Mountain's own granola? Coffee, espresso and fresh herbed teas? It's like Sun in Bloom but with meat, y'all. And ancient Chinese healing.

Do yourself a favor. Do like Mohammed and go to (the) Mountain and see and eat for yourself. Do it before the whole world finds out what an awesome joint it is, and how delicious are the freshly made cold pressed healing juices. I dare you. Go.


It might be the oddest location for a state of the art statement of nowness, but then, nothing around here is anything less than odd. And thank G*d for that.


Bluebird Cafe - Open Tonight

So says a commenter. Seems worthy of a post however. "Bluebird cooking from 5 tonight...take these wilted greens and make them fly. All my life. I was only waiting for a cafe on the 'Bush"

Not In My Black Yard


The Q counted 140 people at one point
The Q's hat's off to MTOPP's Alicia Boyd for really knowing how to rile up a crowd. She was on fire tonight at a community forum on capital D Displacement. She actually managed to upstage everyone on the bill, heavy hitters like Charles Barron and neighborhood activists like Tom Angotti and recently elected district leader Geoffry Davis and a nabe activist named Rob Roberinson on the original invitation email, but that's not right. Geoffrey's name was misspelled too. And she neglected in the email or on the flyer to mention the name of the church at 267 Fenimore, only the address. Small things, little insensitivities, started to add up in my mind. And that's what got me thinking...

It's not that Alicia isn't right on a number of points. She is, and she articulates them passionately. She does sometimes put words in people's mouths and insists on pounding home certain incorrect facts, but almost anyone trying to make a point does that. (Just look at politicians - that's how they get and stay elected.) Her analysis of the how and why of the white takeover of Brooklyn is persuasive. MTOPP's alternative community plan for low-rise ma & pa commercial businesses along a beautifully re-landscaped Empire Blvd sounds positively idyllic. A long single story row of ethnic cafes. That was one phrase I particularly liked.

Then I started to put it all together.

It's not just that she's sitting on a gold mine in her nearly two million dollar town home complaining about potential high rises in her (actual) back yard. It's not that the "alternative" community plan seems highly supportive of her own quality of life and those who own. It's not that she quite often sounds like she's using the poor (I'm sorry, did I misspeak? using the plight of the poor) in the neighborhood to suggest that building LESS apartments is somehow going to save their rentals (which I'm sorry but it ain't). It's not that one detects a hint of guilt that she, like many of us, have personally profited off the racism that undervalued the neighborhood for years and is finally blossoming into outsized equity gains.

It's that she seems to believe that EVERYone is in on it. She thinks the borough president is a liar and cheat. The developers are all greedy and racist. The Community Board is a bunch of "lawyers and architects" and other professionals (no, say it isn't so!) and therefore not to be trusted, because they were appointed by the liars in the first place (there are tons of clergy on the board by the way, who might bristle at the idea they're in bed with Adams and Developers). City Planners are a bunch of sycophantic nitwits following marching orders. The Mayor is a fraud and his plan for affordable housing is a lie whipped up to please developers. Mathieu Eugene, Laurie Cumbo and every elected official who WASN'T there gets verbally pistol whipped. And she saves special relish for her new sworn enemy Pearl Miles, district manager at CB9. Clearly, as a City employee who DOESN'T EVEN LIVE IN THE DISTRICT!!! she deserves a special place in her Hall of Shame for having the audacity to suggest that Empire Boulevard get some apartment buildings to help the City solve its housing shortage. Based on (guess what?) members of the community saying they wanted more apartment buildings and affordable apartments in particular (yeah I was there, she wasn't). Basically it appears that everyone who has been working on issues in the neighborhood heretofore was and is in the pockets of the big greedy developers. (I know I am. How about you? I signed my pact with them in blood, and I've been lavished with gifts and vacations ever since. David Kramer helped get my kid into nursery school!)

I'm beginning to think that Alicia doesn't like anybody who isn't poor and oppressed. And I'm beginning to wonder if she even likes them. Because there's absolutely no love in her message. There's no compassion. There's not even a betrayal of concern that she might be damaging the reputations of people who actually care about the neighborhood and want to make a difference. People, mind you, who have been working on these issues a hell of a lot longer than she has.

Not everyone was wowed by her performance, by the way. A few snarked privately that the pep rally was woefully short on facts about how limiting housing supply in the face of rampant abuses by landlords was going to help those very people being displaced. She was best, and I'd love to see more of it, when she tries to educate and organize those who need to know their rights and stand up loud and strong for them. Including those of us with knowledge and contacts who have sat by and observed for way to long. Kudos to that.

If you go to an Alicia Boyd sponsored event, be warned. You will hear a lot of talk and it might even sound or even BE convincing. That is, she does manage to be right on a number of points. But regardless of where you stand on any of these issues, think about whether this a discussion or whether you, as someone with a brain and a question, are being asked to leave both at the door and surrender to the preacher. I saw a lot of people nodding their heads as if hearing the Gospel. But as I left I realized that there was no room in that hall tonight for anything but The Truth. Everyone's a liar.  Except her.

Oh, and thanks to Pastor Maxine Nixon and the United Methodist Church for their donation of community space. See that's not so hard.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Who Knew? Did You?



How is it that the Q, of all people, is last to know that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is opening a new restaurant? Yellow Magnolia. A proper sit-down-and-talk-about-nothing-of-consequence restaurant! I love, love, love the current cafe; will it still be there? I would be heartbroken, because I've been consuming its Chunky Chicken Salad since I moved to the borough 26 years ago. (Wait, is that why I'm a FWF? Hidden calories!) And those sub-continental guys! They've been there forever, and working their butts off. I'll hold off the tears til I hear for certain...I wrote to their press office today.

Okay, I just got the official word. Longtime cafe operators Charles Sally Charles are out. Time for a last visit before the end of an era? I'm astounded about how melancholy I just got.

But this is like big big news to those of us within spitting distance. Er, walking distance. Spitting is prohibited in the Botanics.

From le website de BBG:

Coming in Fall 2014!

Named for the remarkable flower developed by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Yellow Magnolia Café is a project of Brooklyn chef Rob Newton (owner of Nightingale 9, Wilma Jean, and Smith Canteen), who will oversee the seasonal menus and overall creative vision of the Garden’s food service starting in fall 2014. Newton’s focus on regional foods from small farms and purveyors is in keeping with BBG’s longstanding interest in sustainable practices. The new, vegetable-focused restaurant is committed to offering the freshest local and organic ingredients possible, with a changing menu sourced from local farmers' markets and the Garden itself.

Visitors will have the option of dining in a brand-new interior space (Yellow Magnolia Café) or ordering from a convenient outdoor kiosk (Yellow Magnolia Canteen). The family-friendly restaurant will be open Tuesday to Sunday, offering such treats as Brooklyn-grown lettuces and greenmarket vegetables, barley risotto, and fried-chicken sandwiches. 

Yellow Magnolia Café is slated to open in late October—watch this page for updates!

Let's Put a Lie To That One Right Now

If someone tells you that Empire Boulevard, or Lefferts Gardens, is the densest part of Brooklyn, does your BS alarm go off? Mine too. It's plain to me that if you want dense, you'd be hard pressed to find a better sardine packing than over in Caledonia and along Ocean Ave south of the Park. And in fact, that's what the map shows:

The census tract of Caledonia, my goofy term for the area boxed by Ocean, Caton, Parade Ground and the Park, has over 6,000 people in it. That's quite remarkable actually, given that none of the buildings top six stories, and it's like 16 short blocks in all. You'll see from the map that density does, in most cases, follow the train lines. Ocean Ave roughly tracks the B and Q, and gets its share of passengers along Prospect Park and down past me (Clarkson/Woodruff) and then heading down south, all the way to dense areas in Brighton Beach. While Ebbets Field and Tivoli Towers may seem high - and they are - they're on fairly large tracts of land and surrounded by low-rise. Remember this map next time you hear that this or that is the densest part of Brooklyn. The numbers are the numbers, and unless you're calling all of Central Brooklyn a neighborhood, you gotta imagine that increased density will, or should, be carried equally along public transportation routes. And Central Brooklyn, for better or worse, has lots of trains.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Bit of Perspective

Finally, some reasonable description of what's happening in the neighborhood over zoning. Zoning. Just the zoning part. The zoning.  From Crain's reporter Andrew J. Hawkins:


On the day after Labor Day in the historically Caribbean neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in central Brooklyn, the thumping bass and steel drums of the annual West Indian Day Parade gave way to a different urban soundtrack: jackhammers and nail guns.

At 626 Flatbush Ave., yellow-vested construction workers scrambled around the five-story frame of what will eventually become a 23-story luxury residential tower. Less than two blocks away, at 33 Lincoln Road, work continued on a nine-story apartment building. And farther east, at 651 New York Ave., builders were laying the foundation for a 40-unit condo development that will feature private elevators and large, open terraces.

All told, at least 10 new luxury towers are going up in the residential section of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Meanwhile, the city is mulling the rezoning of Empire Boulevard, a one-mile stretch of low-rise warehouses and storage units, to foster construction of affordable housing.

The neighborhood has a population density that is among the highest in the borough. No wonder some residents are crying "Enough already!" in a clash that could make the rezoning an important test case for the mayor's push for more housing, as well as one likely to deepen divisions within the community.
When it comes to private development, more seems inevitable. Back in May, The New York Times declared Prospect-Lefferts Gardens to have arrived "on the map." Some real estate brokers compare the area to the Park Slope of 20 years ago.

"It's the real thing," said Evan Duby, a broker at Douglas Elliman.
Meanwhile, with a new mayor in office—one determined to build 80,000 units of affordable housing during the next decade—attention is shifting northward to Empire Boulevard, where Prospect-Lefferts Gardens meets Crown Heights. Zoned for commercial use, the boulevard is home to giant storage and warehouse businesses, auto shops and a handful of fast-food joints. In April, the local community board asked the City Planning Department for a zoning study of the neighborhood, with a particular focus on Empire Boulevard. Since then, the department has held a half-dozen meetings with residents.

No doubt at all

"Empire needs to be developed; there's no doubt about that," said F. Richard Hurley, a local lawyer and president of the Crown Heights Community Council.
What many community members hope to see built is not luxury housing but the apartments that they can afford to live in. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan, developers wanting to take advantage of new zoning must set aside between 20% and 50% of the apartments they build as affordable, but local leaders like Mr. Hurley warn that City Hall needs to tread cautiously. He notes that skepticism about the city's definition of "affordable" runs deep in the community.

"They always throw 'affordable housing' in there, but it's not affordable to anyone who lives here, only to those coming from Manhattan," he said. "De Blasio is shoving it down our throats, whether we like it or not."

Some residents are already starting to push back. A town-hall meeting in early August hosted by Borough President Eric Adams saw a barrage of criticism from opponents of a possible rezoning. A spokesman for the City Planning Department said the agency is still studying the matter.

One group, calling itself the Movement to Protect the People, claims that Mr. Adams and his supporters want to rezone Empire Boulevard to turn it "into a tourist attraction and make tons of money off the community." Among other things, critics note that Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is already one of Brooklyn's most densely packed neighborhoods, with as many as 61,000 people per square mile—nearly twice the boroughwide average—according to recent Census data.

On the upside

Some business owners take a different view. The say they'd welcome taller buildings and more people in the area, reckoning it would help bring more customers through their doors.

"I don't think it would hurt," said Carlos Rivera, who manages Advantage Wholesale Supply. "Not at all."

Bob Lucas of Firestone Complete Auto Care agrees. "Not one iota," he said when asked how a crop of residential towers springing up around his business might affect life along Empire Boulevard. Even some residents who unsuccessfully sued to block residential construction elsewhere in the neighborhood are OK with rezoning Empire Boulevard for added density—just as long as it doesn't take the form of the type of steel-and-glass towers they've come to loathe.

"Nobody wants buildings out of context with the neighborhood," said Leah Margulies, who as a member of the group Prospect Park East Network has tried to block the 23-story tower at 626 Flatbush Ave. "But I don't personally have a problem with greater density."