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.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Q's Moving On

I have a rock solid belief that working with the Department of City Planning is in the longterm interest of the neighborhood, and the best chance to build affordable housing and to get the City to examine way-outdated zoning that's only creating havoc. Plus, look at infrastructure, height limits - City Planning is even empowered in this new administration to make serious recommendations to other agencies like the DoE and DEP, and with Council and Mayoral approval anything is possible. But...but...but...let's get real, shall we?

This neighborhood has riots for frigs sake in its somewhat recent past. Just under the surface are lingering resentments that have only grown more intense in the last few years. Tensions between orthodox Jews and African-Americans are revealing themselves once again, and now you can throw in a lot of anti-gentrification (anti-white) sentiment as well. The new colonialism is a very real reality for many proud longtime Central Brooklynites, and it's become clear to me that any new move towards change with a capital "C" is going to be perceived as an assault on the locals It may be, and I can't believe I'm saying it, time to let things play out as they may, and not make serious policy choices that will only exacerbate the conspiracy-peddling and fear-mongering. Maybe, since the neighborhood is already being remade at lighting speed, it's time to let the loudest voices win the day. Because they have no plans of toning it down, and will lay the blame for any unwanted changes at the feet of their perceived enemies.

To be clear, I don't think Alicia and her minions should be tolerated, appeased or even listened to. That's not my concern here. My point is that this battle has implications for the relationships that bind a neighborhood together. The good will of neighbor to neighbor is more important, I think, than any particular land use issue. It's probably too late to affect the current development insanity. I think our chance passed, for now. And I don't think that any "victory" for the moment will be anything more than short-lived. Just imagine meeting after meeting after meeting during the planning process, constantly disrupted, with the nasty rhetoric only intensifying as changes become closer to ratification.

When you're in a battle with a rational opponent, you can expect them to concede defeat when presented with a vote against their position. I did my best to articulate a position of working with the current administration and Council and BP to reach modest housing goals. I wish I could say that a simple majority of Community Board members would be enough to set that process in motion. What I'm saying is that it might be in the longterm interest of peace to respond to any zoning change requests on the other end, either accepting or denying the ULURP applications should they come from, say, developers or elected officials or even DCP itself. I would still like to vote on the currently proposed letter to initiate a study, because I have no idea how much support there is and I would like to know. I've been agitating for a vote for nearly a year. I only know what, maybe, a dozen people think.

But sometimes the "adults" have to take one for the team. I believe this is one of those times.

The below is a statement that I hope to read at the CB9 meeting on Tuesday. I've already asked temporary chair Laura Imperiale for the floor to do so. I wrote it as if it's from the Board not because the Board approved it, but to give the Board a sense of what it has the right to do - issue statements and vote on anything it wants. In all the rush to judge, people seemed to have forgotten that not everything needs to come from a committee. The Board can do work on the floor of its monthly meetings AS WELL as in committee. I'm still not sure where that fallacy about process began, but I hope we can start to follow precedent rather than create unnecessary restrictions to getting work done, so long as the community is given a chance to weigh in before the vote of course. Here goes, again, meant as a draft:

In March of 2014, Community Board 9 requested a Planning Study of the Department of City Planning. We began meeting with the Brooklyn DCP office, and seemed to be heading in a positive direction, wherein various neighborhood groups would have a seat at the table as we outlined the parameters for such a study. There was plenty of precedent for such a collaborative approach to strategic planning of a NYC neighborhood - not the "top down" rezonings that have led to complete transformations of neighborhoods. We felt that the outdated Zoning Map of 1961 did not adequately address the needs of modern Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens and Wingate. We were seeing unwanted construction, greedy displacement of longtime tenants, and the developers were swarming. It seemed to many of us high time we took constructive steps to mitigate the negative affects of such a feeding frenzy, and encourage smart growth and mandate affordable housing set-asides in all new construction.

Soon after, the Borough President approved the replacement of an unprecedented 18 members, and the election in June of 2014 brought new blood to the Executive Committee, including a new chair. It also meant that there was a great deal of inexperience on the Board. Such a scenario was an opportunity for growth and rebirth, but it came with risks. The Planning Resolution that past March meant that Board needed a strong voice and solid infrastructure to perform its duty over the coming months or years. In some ways, it was a perfect storm. Because at the first fall meeting of 2014, a group of activist community members brought the full brunt of its anger to bear. In haste, and without a meeting of the relevant committee to discuss and inform, the Board rescinded its own motion from the previous term. The process with City Planning ground to a halt. This was considered a major victory by the anti-zoning activists. And it started a spiral of chaos from which we have yet to emerge.

In hindsight, it's clear that the Board was not up to the task of dealing with a serious attempt to thwart its authority to conduct meetings, and to observe the rules of democracy and rules of order. The activist group, though admittedly small, was able to disrupt every Board meeting and relevant committee meeting for the rest of the 2014-15 Board calendar. And while no one on the Board saw it coming, we believe it should not have caved to outside pressure so easily. A lack of meaningful precedent and guidelines, coupled with inexperienced leadership, doomed the best efforts of the Board to conduct civil discourse.

And so after many failed attempts to restate the intentions of the Board as it engages with City Planning, we find ourselves fighting lawsuits, personal attacks, and deeply troubling accusations of impropriety and misconduct. The Board, made up entirely of volunteers who wish to serve the community in which they live and work, have been made to feel attacked at every juncture. It has been humbling and it has been extremely aggravating. But it has also brought out a certain animosity between individuals and groups, as angry residents continue to pummel members of the Board and each other with vitriol, even stooping to baiting various groups within our diverse community, seeking, it would seem, to provoke confrontation and tear us apart.

We are better than this, both as a Board, and as a wider community. We've let individuals and specific opinions gain outsized influence. We have seen many resignations come as a result of the chaos and animosity. And so, we've come to the following conclusion.

In this environment of hostility and mean-spiritedness, we believe it is in the best interest of all for CB9 to step back from this debate and focus on our internal workings, by-laws and structure. Development is taking place all around us at a breakneck speed. But we risk doing great harm to our sense of dignity and civility if we begin to strategically plan under unhealthy conditions. Over the next few months, we will strengthen the Board, hold new elections, and develop deeper committee commitments to all the issues that must be addressed by an effective Community Board.

To some this will seem like a capitulation. To us, it is necessary to take one step back to take two steps forward. Many of us individually would have wished for a different outcome, but we realize that maturity means admitting one's shortcomings, even when the urge might be to win a fight. Had the Board moved ahead with this effort at this time, the victory would have been short-lived. The anger and resentment has presented itself, and we are living through trying times, in the borough and in the nation. We want to be remembered for having helped the neighborhood survive its growing pains. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

With an overwhelming commitment to the neighborhoods we serve,

CB9


Friday, April 24, 2015

RSVP For Sunday's Big Beautification Day

From the indefatigable Amy Musick comes an event that you simply MUST attend. But it helps to RSVP to Amy directly. See the below note about Volunteering to beautify the Lincoln Road entrance to the Park. Note from Amy below:

Hi Neighbors -
Do you love Prospect Park?  Do you enter and exit the park at Lincoln Road?  Do you spend hours at Lincoln or Imagination Playground?  Do you live or work in PLG?  If you have answered yes to any of these questions, PLEASE COME SUNDAY, APRIL 26th at 10am to help us spruce up the Lincoln Road entrance to Prospect Park and surrounding areas!

I have worked the Prospect Park Volunteer Corps (http://www.prospectpark.org/get-involved/volunteer/) to set up this special event, and I guaranteed AT LEAST 15 ADULT (age 18+) VOLUNTEERS - but honestly, I think together we can far surpass that number if our neighborhood can come out in full-force to show how much we care about our park and our streets!  If you can make this event please E-MAIL ME DIRECTLY at alvmusick@gmail.com so I can get a preliminary headcount and register you for the event.  Kids are welcome, but must be with an adult who will be with them at all times (come on parents - all those hours we spend at the playgrounds - let's make them even more welcoming and show our kids how to help beautify our neighborhood).  Maybe you can even get a group together from your block, school or business and volunteer together?  That would be awesome.

Below are more details about the event provided to me by the Volunteer Corps.

Date and Time:Sunday, April 26th 2015—10am-1pm
Timeline: 10am- Volunteers Arrive and sign-in10:15am- Project Begins12:45pm- Wrap-up Project and Pack up Tools1:00pm- Volunteers Depart
Meeting Place:Lincoln Road & Ocean Ave- Lincoln Road Entrance
Keep in Mind:1.  Wear clothes that you do not mind getting dirty2.  Wear long pants, not shorts3.  Do not wear open-toed shoes or sandals4.  Do not bring a lot of baggage- there won’t be anywhere to lock it up5.  All necessary tools and materials will be provided6.  RAIN OR SHINE

LET'S DO THIS!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Monday's Crime Meeting Makes Gothamist

For those who'd like an outsider's wrap-up of Monday night's neighborhood meeting on crime and solutions, set up by Rebecca and yours truly for the Clarkson Avenue Block Association, read on:

Gothamist on Meeting

Look, Eric Adams, as an ex-cop and someone who lived through the worst of the Crack Years (I give it capitals now), the guy has an inspirational message about dealing with quality of life issues. Which essentially boils down to, get off your ass and organize. Hold Brooklyn South, the D.A., the elected officials and the various precincts feet to the fire. Identify problem spots and buildings and even apartments. Keep at it, hounding if necessary. Show up at Precinct Council meetings. I couldn't agree more. We need your help. Sign up by sending me an email, and we'll alert you to meetings, strategies etc. I know I say this every time we meet, like once a year it seems when a string of incidents inspires people, but we need to meet quarterly and continue the collaboration between residents living in the 70th, 67th and 71st. That was perhaps the nicest thing to come out of the meeting - a willingness to tackle the problems holistically.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We Need Bold Leadership - Come Hear the Candidates Apr 27

The Q endorses...the debate! Okay, it's a "forum," but this is a special election on May 5th, when turnout tends to be light, light, light. And your vote will count triple. Let's make a solid choice, because whomever it is, you'll see a lot more of them over the years.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Race For Student Council President Marred By Hijinx

In a bizarre turn of events, much-endorsed candidate for your 43rd NY State Assembly seat Diana Richardson, made this statement this afternoon:
"Several shop owners started calling me around 4pm today.
A man who identified himself as working for Diana Richardson's campaign was storming into businesses and ripping the posters out of the window.
I was given a description of the man and was told he was going north on Nostrand Avenue with a black  garbage bag full of my posters. I grabbed a friend and headed in that direction. After walking several blocks, I caught up the person described. The video is bad but the audio is clear.
The man states that he is "heading back to the campaign office on Montgomery & Nostrand" "they told me to rip it down...so they can put up new ones......I don't know...I'm doing what they paid me to do"
Whose campaign is on Nostrand & Montgomery? Shirley Patterson.  (Address 418 Montgomery Street). See attached pictures
Attached is a copy of the video.  I  will send a picture of her campaign office on Montgomery as well."
If this is true, and I don't know Diana to be a liar, nor would she gain anything by making it up (it is just flyers after all), well, 'nuff said. Ms. Patterson's campaign has also been dogged by concerns about her relationship with developers, in particular Glenwood Management's infamous Leonard Litwin, utilizing a loophole to take more than the legal limit from a single donor.

News at 11.

video


Saturday, April 18, 2015

A New Low

The Q's heart is heavy today. It's time for soul-searching I guess. As much as I'm certain the neighborhood needs a long-overdue opportunity to strategically plan for the future, I don't have the stomach for the latest batch of invective. I'll let you read the latest outburst to MTOPP's list; sometimes it's just best to let Ms. Boyd say it in her own words. This one put me in a reflective state, particularly since it's readily clear she ain't going anywhere, and the rhetoric is only becoming more incendiary. Imagine if we DID pass the motion to start the planning process? What then? One can only imagine that every meeting, every proposal, every aspect of the study will have to contend with this behavior.

She continues to make what should be a conversation about how to build and protect affordable housing and limit the negative effects of a wildfire of new development into a heated fight over race, gender, class, wealth and even religion. Following on the heels of painting herself as a Gentrification Freedom Fighter (GFF), now there's this diatribe, clearly meant to elicit more anger at everyone on the other side of her argument. Given the number of people of color, religious Jews and yes even respectful white men (and women) involved in the process, this stuff is so unnecessarily incendiary. The suggestion is...oh just read it. You'll see where she's going, and why I'm nearly certain it will be impossible to hold frank and fruitful discussions.


Black Women:  BE SEEN but NOT HEARD!

At the Police Precinct meeting with the community,
 on April 16, 2015, a Black woman stood up
and described an incident that occurred
At the last CB9 ULURP meeting,
where there were [White] board members
calling [Black] women residents “Cunts” and “Fuck You”.

In response Stuart Balberg, [White male],
Precinct Board member
stood up and admonished this woman,
because he felt that stating the curse words
or even describing them with an abbreviated letter
 such as the “F”, was offensive
and goes against the bible.

Now he wasn’t upset about this incident;
that women were being verbally abused by
CB9 board members
 just the reporting of it!

How dare he admonish this woman for describing
abusive behavior being done
towards the black women in this community! 
That is why there is the Precinct meeting
with the community so that we can voice our concerns
and let the Police know what is transpiring. 

But this isn’t the first time Black women in public
have been admonished for speaking their mind,
stating facts or even asking questions.

 At the last CB9 meeting, March 24, 2015. 
Twice during the meeting
 Rabbi Goldstein, CB9 member,
requested that events be circumvented
and postponed because they would either occur
during the Jewish Saturday observance or
the 2 week long Jewish Holiday

In the latter case, a ULURP meeting was trying to be scheduled,
because an immediate response was required by this committee
and the 2 week long holiday, might prevent it from happening.

As a result of this a Black Woman board member stood up
and asked how many Jewish people were on the ULURP committee,
because if the ULURP committee can still have a quorum
(enough members present to have a legal vote)
it should still meet.  The answer was 1.

In response, however, Rabbi Goldstein, CB9 member stood up
and stated that this question was anti-Semitic
and she shouldn’t be asking this type of question etc…

Again it shows that Black women are not allowed to ask questions,
to report issues and to state offensive behaviors being displayed
 because they are seen as anti-Semitic or violating the bible.

Our Community is made up of many diverse ethnic groups,
cultures and religious beliefs,
being respectful is the understanding that everyone has the right
to ask questions and to present facts.
The Board members of these community organizations need to understand
It is their job to hear and not to curtail the voices of the community!

The Black women of this community have a right to stand up
and speak, to voice their opinions, to state the facts
 (no matter how offensive it might be to others),
to ask questions, without White male board members
on these various community organizations admonishing them.
These are the behaviors that are racist and sexist!
We will not be silenced!

We will continue to call out behaviors
That are abusive, divisive, separatist, and racist

Our voices will not be silenced!
We will be SEEN and HEARD!
Alicia,
www.mtopp.org
(718) 703-3086

White male Board members calling Black women "cunts?" Believe me, I would have remembered THAT. The word doesn't even cross my lips - I learned that lesson a long, long time ago - ask my wife! Jake, the rabbi, wouldn't say that. Warren Berke? No way. What other white male members are there? Quest Fanning? What a sweet and gentle soul. Seriously, who are they talking about? I'll give you a "fuck you" here and there. That's been uttered many times on all sides. In NYC it's practically a greeting, especially if you're being disrespected. It's also used as a synonym for "oh, c'mon!"

The baiting of the Jewish community is unconscionable. And not to quibble, but Passover is not TWO WEEKS, especially this year falling as it did on the Sabbath. I mean, seriously? And since when has POSTPONEMENT been a big issue for MTOPP? They've been pushing back, and pushing back, I don't even know how long it's been since the Board even held a vote. Look, you can't say "how many Jews are on the committee - why not just hold the meeting without them?" and expect everyone to say "oh yeah, that's a good point you have there." Fortunately there a lot of Christians and agnostics on the committee, so it's pretty certain a quorum can be reached. Forget the secular Jews. Even if they do celebrate Passover they'll bounce right back on day three. Oy, and thank god there's no Amish or Muslims!

But rather than dig into that fight, I want to suggest another option. Nothing. That's right, nothing. In this one email, Alicia made it clear this can only get uglier, and uglier. She will not allow consensus on ANYthing, and she might just drag us down into a 1990 pre-riot sensibility. Her followers are getting angrier and angrier. The whole City has gone anti-rezoning crazy, as if THAT's the real problem causing rents to rise. Ugh. This is such intense ignorance of how capitalism works, how the City charter works, how the DEVELOPERS work, what as-of-right means, how little the City has in its tool kit to prevent neighborhoods from completely changing complexion and wealth.

But if the "leader" for the opposition to a study stoops to such lows, and considers the Community Board the problem...maybe it's time to remove the "problem" from the conversation. A bunch of members have resigned. Most don't speak up at meetings. There's no sense at all that people realize what's at stake, save maybe a dozen concerned Board members. So...maybe it's time to take one for the team. There's simply no winning, even if we "win."

All I know is, there's a meeting Rebecca F and I are hosting on Monday night, same time as the ULURP, since it was rescheduled, again, at the last possible minute. And for the first time since this whole thing started, I don't seem to care that I won't be there. The well has been poisoned, and even my friends and allies stay mostly silent, unable to counter the strength and volume of a few very, very angry residents. 

I'm going to be at my block's meeting at 40 Clarkson Monday night. We'll be talking crime. You're all invited. Hope to see you there.

I just hope all these negative voices realize that the worst excesses of developers, and the lack of affordable options, will be on their hands. They claim they're fighting for no more unwanted buildings like 626. I wonder how much they'll be able to deliver? Remains to be seen, I suppose.

Bar Coming to Mid-Lefferts on the Flabenue

Flatbushed.com strikes again! From the excellent upstart blog comes news that a saloon will be coming to the previous Compere & Compere tax and accounting shop, that was also a temporary DOT center during the examination of Flatbush traffic patterns. That is, 653 Flatbush. I note the Compere & Compere connection primarily because Wilfrid Compere was involved for many years with FECMA, the merchant's association that predates the Parkside Empire, group that's really come on like gangbusters after years of lackluster merchant organizing. And Flatbushed has the below astounding picture of Flatbush at Hawthorne to give the really, really longview:


And put July 26 on your calendar! The Parkside Empire association is planning its first street fair, a modest chunk in the middle of the Flabenue that will include tons of local vendors and a stage for local musicians. Yeeeeehawww! Will there be horse and carriage rides to celebrate ye olde Flatbush experience per above? How Brooklyn would THAT be?

The effect of 626 Flatbush will most definitely speed the process of commercial turnover. And clearly, the early birds expect to get the worms. Though I'd never describe new movers to the neighborhood as worms!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Psssst. It's gonna be Mexican...

Do you like burritos? Tacos? Beans? Well, have I got a neighborhood for YOU! Nope, not in Mexico. Central Brooklyn! NY!! USA!!! And Oaxaca is its name-o.

From Flatbushed comes news that no, it won't be Japanese, but rather Mexican. Rogers at Sterling. Next to the Inkwell. As we rumored here, they were thinking of going to Flatbush but chose Rogers instead. The inside word is that its cheaper and "up and coming" in a way that Flatbush is thriving, packed and bit chaotic. Its landlords are notoriously "closed" as well, though with all the buildings changing hands and 626 that's all likely to change in a big, big way. New owners will have a very different "aesthetic" when it comes to commerce. This is precisely the thing that many mom & pops have long feared, though the short leases and higher rents have pretty much been a shot across the bow.

The one on Smith St. Wow! And an ATM!!





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Pinnacle of Propaganda

The Q was trying so hard to ignore her. But this poster really got my goat. (My goat is getting got way too often for my own good these days).When you see it, it's outrageous isn't it? These poor protesters, surrounded by surly cops. So gruesome! So inhumane! So...so...mean!

Pretty much everything about this propaganda schlock is complete bull. So what actually happened? After disrupting the meeting for about 20 minutes, keeping an important government meeting with a serious agenda from taking place, the cops were asked by the chair to have her removed. She refused. With an extraordinary amount of delicacy, they managed to get her out of there. It took about 10 minutes just to remove her without hurting her, since she was basically foaming at the mouth and kicking and flailing. Then the text - she claims a draft was created in secret, when I happen to know for a fact that the draft was collectively written and reviewed by the committee, then the draft was brought before the public, and we went over it line by line to discuss it and hear dissent. Hell, we might have heard more if she hadn't been disrupting the damn meeting.This is one whole year after a near-identical letter to DCP was overwhelmingly voted for. And she claims the point of the draft is to create luxury high rise buildings, when in fact it's a request for DCP to study the neighborhood in RESPONSE to an accelerated level of displacement and real estate development and speculation. The document asks for contextual zoning, maximum affordable housing requirements, height limits and a look at all possible unwanted outcomes and consider remedies where appropriate. It's all much to sane and reasonable for Ms. Boyd, who's real objective, it seems, is for status quo. She has no rationale vision of her own. And so, in order to be super clear, let me give it it's own paragraph:

The whole point of doing a study is to minimize the insane explosion of ill-conceived luxury (market) housing at the expense of affordable housing and to create decent sized buildings that don't dwarf what's around them. Clear enough? And while we're at it, maybe we can look at the effect of 30+ new projects already going up, with many more to follow.

Meanwhile Alicia deserves an Oscar for her memorable performance as aggrieved citizen number one. She's admitted that it's all a show, overheard laughing to a friend about how she really turns it on for the public. Meanwhile, half the Community Board she so reviles is up for reappointment or not. One would hope that good people are retained and dead-weight let go - without regard to political orientation or allegiance, so that the board could continue (yes, I said continue) to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood. A few dedicated souls are trying to right the ship and one can only hope they're allowed to continue in the right direction. Let them keep at it. A number of folks have already turned in their resignations or chosen not to reapply. It could be yet another fresh crop of faces by May. I obviously crave the mayhem or I would have joined the exodus. I'm still asking questions, being curious, being amused. I never intended to get this close to the action. But it's sure entertaining - no cable subscription required. I'll know in a week or two whether I'm back on or not. Don't hold your breath...I know I won't. I need all the brain cells I have left!

I still have faith that a lot of folks really DO have the needs of the citizenry at heart, and are working to create a better future. But it's hard to feel that way, when everyone's talking over each other. Fear, anger, disappointment...they're powerful intoxicants. And you should never try to assume reasonableness in a roomful of drunks.