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, November 25, 2014

Taking the Bulb By the Horns

Sunday was spectacular along the X/Y axes, X being Parkside and Y being Ocean. Two of the neighborhood's biggest stars of beautification - Rudy Delson and Amy Musick - led throngs of sweaty masses through the process of bulb planting. And to sweeten the pot, the Parkside Committee set up a model plaza to show off what might soon be, once In Cho's design with DOT takes off next Spring. Oh, and a library too, right out there on the Plaza? Believe it.
Musick on Ocean

Bulbs Don't Plant Themselves, Now Do They?
How Nutty To See Actual Hanging Out Happening Here
The Pop-Up Library Caught Many By Surprise
By the way to find out more about the Uni Reading Room project, here's the jump. And there's still a bit of time to donate to the Parkside Paradise Plaza Project.

Lastly, I believe I'd mentioned that Rudy managed to raise some discretionary money from Mathieu "Can Do" Eugene. $4,000 I think. Thing was, it had to be given to a 501c3 non-profit. No problem! Mathieu was comfortable giving it to the fledgling Friends of CB9 group that I thought I was a part of; heck I even payed $50 to keep it afloat right when it got off the ground. Seems the current CB9 leadership doesn't want me involved, so I'm outa there, and the door didn't hit me as I left, letting them know my displeasure. Shame, because in yet another realm they have no idea what they're doing and need to ask for assistance. I tried to make the case not to have the Board of the 501c3 be the same as the elected Executive Committee of the Board, since those positions can change every year and you want some consistency on the TOTALLY SEPARATE entity that's set up to raise money for community projects. Did it bother the Q that his advice, after years in non-profit management, and his offer to volunteer his time were brushed aside? Oh yeah. When it comes to people being petty and stubborn about losing their control over their tiny fiefdoms I have no tolerance. Poor Rudy, I left him to fend for himself, but he's a lawyer and clearly knows how to get stuff done. But see, heroes like Delson don't let this stuff get to them. They doggedly pursue their goals, and never betray any frustration. That's the mark of a true leader. Me, all I can do it huff, puff, blog and sigh. Maybe there's a reason for it all, but I can't yet see it. The hitch is that Friends Of needs nearly $2,000 to get the insurance that will allow them to accept the City's money. Good luck guys. You're gonna need it.

Those tidbits matter not in the big picture. One day, we'll look back and note that 2014 was the year that the neighborhood started to look prettier, even while right under the surface the waters roiled and the sharks swarmed. As Amy noted, maybe best to focus on the things we can all enjoy. Even the wee ones can enjoy a good bulb planting now and then.

Bumper Stickers For a Dimmer Future

Is that poo wearing glasses?

Courtesy of Paul G, get your bumper stickers here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

It takes a lot not to notice the changes big and subtle on the Flabenue these days. For years the vibe was generally the same day to day to week to month. And certain things still are dependably as they were. But the more you walk it, and I walk it a lot, and ride the bike (when the kids are NOT in tow of course), the more you notice that the foot traffic is quite a bit more intense these days. People seem to be going somewhere in a hurry, and it's not just because it's getting colder. Transplants to Brooklyn move with a sense of purpose, maybe unease, maybe just always late, but there definitely seems to be an agenda. Am I imagining this? As the next generation of "quarterfinalists" hang their shingle in the NYC Entrepreneurial Persona Sweepstakes, it feels both familiar and tiring, with every new face a potential friend or competitor, or both. At what point do you stop caring? And will anyone not working for the City EVER retire, or are we doomed to reinvent ourselves every decade til we keel over from the sheer weight of self-discovery?

It's all what it is, of course, and what it is includes some of the following. First, the big BIG news that's hardly news at all:

Man, oh man, once you lay that concrete you can really build baby build. Only five  more stories to go, by my count. Then I notice this:

Just a couple years ago I was talking to Wilfrid Compere, president of the Flatbush Merchants Association. He ran the above tax-prep joint, and now it's for rent, not just by "some dudes from Boro Park" but by big-time agents Douglas Elliman, or Doug E Fresh as he's known by me. In fairly short order, Wilfrid and Delroy Wright were sent packing by the newly formed Parkside Empire merchants association, which has worked with CB9's Economic Development committee to organize a Buy Local campaign. It's always a great idea to support your ma & pa businesses, because their success is OUR success. Don't you think? Under CB9 EDC chair Warren Berke you get the following pic:

I don't necessarily buy the line "it take you to start the trend," because the more important truth is "it takes you to FOLLOW a trend," since really only one person can start it, or two people who will forever argue over who actually started it. But I quibble. It's all for the best, eh Warren?

I'm always amused and a bit shocked to see the following scene. We've all seen it dozens of times, but lately I notice how incredibly shoddy is the execution. It goes like this: medical arts building, a clinic say, with those mailboxes for "specimens," looking something like this:

Kinda makes sense. You've got some gunk you need tested and they come and pick it up. You put it in a box with a key, so they can pick up after hours. I get that, though it seems like pretty shoddy safety of the specimens to me, plus there's all manner of wintry and summery weather to freeze or melt your, um, "specimens." But on further inspection, I walked up to these just to see how easy it would be to mess with them. Hell, they weren't even locked down. You could just pick these up and walk away. Not that you'd necessarily have reason to walk off with a box of, um, "specimens." But then I get a look at the print on the box, and now I can't help but let out a girly shriek. I mean c'mon:

Well, I guess we should be glad it's blood and urine ONLY. No bile or entrails allowed.

(This is where I start to feel like blogging was invented by Andy Rooney's grandson).

A new barber shop opened between Joyce David's law office and Hawthorne Hardware, in case you want to get a haircut between buying spray paint and getting busted. I like the sign, and the name: East Coast Barbers. Maybe one of you typesetting or graphic types can tell me what type of...TYPE...that is. I mean font. Cuz I likes. It's a familiar feeling...maybe early '80s hip-hop? I love the pac man "c" that looks like it's eating the "o."And the little line that makes a triangle an "a?" Wait a second. That IS a Pac Man font! Right? Heading over to Google Images now...yep! Not exactly, but really close. God how I love the Google! (now I love it, before it turns on us, if it hasn't already. Basically my whole life revolves around Google. They have all my pictures, videos, my blog, my friends, my music. They know everything about me, even as I'm living my life, they gather each day, each second. Truman Show ain't got nothing on this. Dang. You reading this Google? Google? I'll be good Google, promise I'll be. Just don't dump my stuff, please?)

What an awesome mural next to Errol's, no? I love the way the hardware attached to the building seems woven into the picture. I don't think until recently did I fully appreciate what an extraordinary effect a well-done mural can have on a place. Between this one, the Crown Heights Youth Collective one at Winthrop, the PLG Arts one and the Kwenci Jones jungle-love near Empire, that's a lot of visuals twinkies for a hungry phat man walking slow enough to appreciate it all.

Lost Kitty

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Finally...the Smoking Gun!

What you're about to read may shock you. A prophylactic Klonopin may be in order. It would appear, on close inspection, that the ill-fated motion to rescind CB9's Zoning Study Resolution has...PASSED AFTER ALL. That's right. The vote count was wrong. So even though 18 members of the Board in September were new and had little knowledge of what was being voted on (since the meeting itself was meant to inform them but there was no chance of that given the screaming and yelling, and some even complained after that they didn't realize a "yes" vote was actually a "no" vote) even the tally itself was reported wrong. In a nearly epic display of Keystone-Copsism, the motion to rescind did in fact pass. Adding a note of irony to the proceedings is the fact that your correspondent - the Q - had actually just left the auditorium before the motion vote, sensing that the meeting had been a dismal failure and that his presence was not needed, especially because there was no plan to vote on anything, it having just been summer and there was nothing on the agenda or committee reports to vote on, until Fred Baptiste blindsided everyone by giving in to Alicia's ranting. Meaning had I stayed, and voted "nay" as would have been my preference, the motion actually would have FAILED, because it would have been an even number of ay's against a combination nays/abstentions, meaning no majority of yeses as required by the City charter. I mean, how nuts is that? Once again, you can blame it on the Q.

Words cannot convey the supreme absurdity that has accompanied a seemingly straightforward attempt to make updates and improvements to the 50 year-old zoning rules that led to a certain 23 story tower at 626 Flatbush. At this point, I'm flabbergasted that so much energy and time has been wasted on this sh#tshow.

Here's the smoking vid from which Alicia made her astute observation about the real count:

There's a lot of hilarious moments in that, but I suspect you're not prepared to give up an hour and forty minutes of your precious time. And rather than post all the pictures of the tally sheets, I encourage you to simply go over to MTOPP's website if you want the whole sordid history with footnotes. The gist - a couple votes were tallied the wrong way, which made it appear that there weren't enough "yes" votes to rescind. Before you jump to the assumption that someone rigged the vote, I would remind that MOST people voted to rescind and we all figured it was passing anyway so there was no reason to fudge. Seems secretary Rosemarie Perry or Pearl or whoever was writing them down didn't do themselves or us any favors here.

It was an error, a human error. But costly, when you consider the fact that now Alicia and her acolytes have more ammunition to accuse the Board of corruption and deceit. For all I know, this could turn out very badly for the current Executive Committee, whom I suppose with all the legal paper floating around could be forced to resign or at least eat some public humble pie. Though the easier route, and the one that I've been pushing them to take at every opportunity I get, is to just send it back to committee and let the chips fall where they may. I get why Board members are loathe to do that, feeling they've been bullied into it. Now I believe there's no getting around it. You have to respect the motion and go back to committee. I'm actually hoping the Board appoints a Parliamentarian, because they're completely lost when it comes to procedure. That person could be me, since I offered, but the Board chair has decided he doesn't like me and is probably not going to do that. So an outsider might be forgiven for thinking the whole circus has gone from very "high school" to very "junior high." At the last meeting, I sat in front of two of the Hasidic board members whom I'm friendly with, and they were making hilarious side-comments throughout, which made me feel that I had in fact turned back the clock to 1980 in my junior high auditorium, though in Ames IA there were 100% fewer Orthodox Jews. Despite the heckles being occasionally in Yiddish, it was pretty much the same scene as when Kathy Gradwohl ran for student council.

In a related story, this week I was at a Town Hall organized by the Washington Avenue block association. That loooooooonnnnng block runs from Eastern Parkway to Empire, and is interestingly MOSTLY as developed as it can be, given the extraordinary five and six story pre-war structures currently on it. Plus, two new projects that are coming on line (and therefore not affected by any talk of zoning changes that wouldn't take place for a couple years anyway) will flesh it out. There's a fair amount of low-rising fruit and parking and vacant lots and vacant to the east that seems likely to rise into housing at some point. One thing to note: many in attendance would start their question by saying "I keep reading that...", and of course what they've been reading is the MTOPP literature and emails that get pretty much every point wrong. Adams was clearly annoyed by that, but generally kept his cool.

Anyways, the BP started the Q&A by laying into Alicia, although not by name, for a hate-filled campaign that the night before had exploded on a scene down in Ditmas Park, where neighbors gathered with Adams and Councilmen Eugene and Williams to talk about crime amidst a current spree of armed robberies. Apparently, Miss Boyd (you can read the meeting's play-by-play) made it very clear that she considered gentrification to be the cause for current criminal strife and and hijacked a meeting about "solutions" and turned it into a referendum on housing. Which, while important, was hardly the point, and instead of "coming together" as the politicians like to say, insults were hurled and anger stoked.

What the hell? So anywho, there's Adams and his zoning guy Richard Bearak once again saying what they've said for a half a year, which is that they will not abide tall towers, only six stories max, to be built within the CB9 zoning study. And he made it pretty clear that Boyd had made it impossible for people to talk to each other and that he had even reached out to her and she had told him "I hate you" and would do everything in her power to make sure he fails to meet his development goals.

Oh, and did the Q tell you about her performance at the CB9 meeting on Tuesday? After threatening to shut down the meeting because the allotted time for public comment had expired and some people weren't gonna be able to talk, the dude from Medgar Evers offered to cede his presentation time to hear from the remaining speakers. Which I figured Dwayne Nicholson and company should have done anyway since there were only four more speakers lined up and what the hell give them their time at the mic. They mostly said the same old stuff - mad as hell and ain't gonna take it anymore - so there wasn't much to report there.

BUT...Boyd actually brought up a prop for her passionate and tear-filled performance. A young boy. He was, according to Boyd, about to be evicted the following day. There was no information provided on the why, but she claimed she was not fight for herself, but rather fighting for him and his mother (who was in the room) despite the fact that zoning has pretty much NOTHING to do with housing laws for current residents. During her speech, a few of the well-connected officials in attendance offered up their help to keep them in their home, but she not deterred. She went on to say that the young boy would end up in the awful homeless shelter system where (and this floored me) he will be subject to sexual abuse. She actually suggested to us all that the boy she was using as a prop was going to be sexually abused because we were not giving in to her position, whatever that is.

That, my friends, was the single most despicable act I've seen in these public meetings and I've seen a few. That kid was right there. In front of us all. Being paraded like a pygmy at a carnival and told he had horrible inhuman acts to look forward to in his near future. And it was at this point that something came out of Boyd's mouth that I suspect was not a malaprop. She used the word "we" and "us" in a couple of instances that made it quite clear to me that she considered such abuse to be something that she was familiar with. I could, of course, be mistaken, but suddenly my memory of conversations with folks who have had the unthinkable happen in their own childhoods suddenly came to me as a possible reason for the healing non-profit that she started and the mania that I've seen on display when she fights for the "dispossessed." At the very least, SOMEthing is going on here that for the life of me I can't explain, and perhaps the explanation is something human, something horrible, or at the very least psychological. I'm no expert, but I can recognize pain disguised by furor when I see it. And Tuesday's performance betrayed pain at the core, and suddenly I have no interest in assailing her character. Were I a praying man, perhaps this would be the time.

That's all from your seeking-humble correspondent, and I hope that all's well in your world as you enter the T-Giving week, which despite the hype I still try to imbue with gratitude for the remarkably bountiful and politically stable life that many of us have been merely born into, not earned. Thus the gratitude, to the fates or to your higher power. Because while Democrats and Republican might be tearing each other new ones, much of the rest of the world seems gripped with a homicidal passion from God so powerful that it would deny every human being in its path the right to live peaceably, if live at all.

God, so he tells me, has taken no position on the rezoning plan for CB9.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Live Blogging Ebola in Brooklyn

UPDATE AT 7:20 PM: Thanks be to Allah! No Ebola in Brooklyn (is that a Beastie Boys song?)...yet. The Bed-Stuy man who was thought to possibly have the Ebola came up negative. 

I like Laurie. I don't know Robert. But I like that within minutes of the announcement that Ebola may have come to Bed-Stuy, they issued a press statement. That's what leaders do. I also like that this gave me a chance to start to bury the blog posts that were even more about me than usual. I thought about NOT posting on them, but that seemed even weirder, since the whole point of this blog was self-examination and truth-telling. And truth be told, it WOULD be a big deal if Ebola started to spread in Brooklyn. Though given the intimacy required to become infected, I would just suggest we not share bodily fluids with strangers for the next 24-48 hours. Friends, lovers and congenial colleagues only. With consent, of course.

Joint Statement from Council Members Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. and Laurie A. Cumbo Regarding a Potential Ebola Case in Bedford-Stuyvesant

BROOKLYN, NY - Council Members Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. and Laurie A. Cumbo released the following joint statement in response to a potential Ebola case in Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn:

"One great benefit of our city's diversity is the compassion it naturally teaches for neighbors whose home cultures and experiences differ from ours. Central Brooklyn is home to many New Yorkers who are part of the African diaspora. Thus, we have been focused on the ebola crisis in West Africa both in prayer and in action, sponsoring a public health education forum focused on ebola and enterovirus in the 36th district just last week.

"We do not yet know if our community member is suffering from ebola or if his symptoms are due to another issue. Whatever the case may be, we are grateful that our city is well prepared to give him proven treatment of the highest quality while also protecting others who may be at risk.

"We encourage our constituents to maintain their compassionate focus on the well-being of us all. Anyone concerned that they have been exposed to ebola through travel or other means should call 911 to access a medical response, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. Others with questions or concerns may call 311 or our offices to be added to the contact list for future public health related outreach efforts."

"Q" and A

Rather than ask myself questions, which of course I do all the time, here's an interview of the Q by the indefatigable Norman Oder. I tried to get them to take my picture with my shirt show off my six-pack abs...but they said it was too cold outside and I might nip out. Apparently it's a family publication.

Interview with the Q in

Bklnr lets you read one article a month, but you have to pay for a subscription of $2 a month to read it all, and there are tons of good pieces in it worth reading more than the one on me. They're trying to create a journalistic model where the journalists actually get paid. Good luck with that! (Actually, my work-around was to open it up in a separate browser so it thinks it's your first time. But I would NEVER endorse that kind of thing. And anyway, you can only do that so many times before you feel like a thief.)

Seriously though, Norman is a good guy, a smart guy, a Flatbushian himself, and he writes the insanely thorough Atlantic Yards Report, which you'd be silly not check in with from time to time. And yes, look for a book from him in the near future. His theme? Don't trust "the Man."

The Q Goes TV to Talk Trees

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cock-a-doodle-doo, Caledonia

photo: Elizabeth C.
It's made of glass, apparently. Quite striking, don't you think? Corner of Woodruff and St. Pauls at the entrance to 123 on the Park.

Holy Smokes...Really?

The Q, it's been said, is obsessed with race and how it plays out in our neighborhood. Just so you don't think I'm too localized in my fascination and indignation, every once in awhile I like to zoom out a bit.

I'm sure you've heard how black Americans make seriously less than white Americans, Asians, and also Hispanics. I'm sure you've even heard that black families are less likely to own their own homes than whites (73% to 44%). But the way that a combination of lesser income and less home ownership combine to create less household wealth (total assets minus liabilities) is nothing short of staggering. Since right now, in Brooklyn, it's never been more apparent how different is the financial stability of owners vs. renters, I'm sharing with you a graph that makes me dizzy with disbelief.

Median Household Wealth (median, as you recall, is half above and half below, not average)
The relative lack of integrative success for blacks is often noted, but rarely understood by layfolk like in me, in my estimation. Issues of "personal responsibility" are often used to deflect the criticism that racism is as much a problem as it's been any time since the Civil Rights era, the following question shouts out from the data.

How the hell are you supposed to get a leg up in this country if you haven't any help from the generation before you? I mean, where would so many of Brooklyn's new residents be if their folks hadn't afforded good schools or neighborhoods where great schools are, or paid for great colleges or contributed to buying first houses or cars, or come to the aid when the shit hit the fan?

That's not to say that many members of today's middle to upper classes didn't work hard to get there. But if you look at the broader picture - and don't get too defensive about your personal case - it's not hard to see that the transference of wealth is a huge part of how the haves continue to have. And I'm not just talking about the super-rich. Just affording a downpayment on a house is becoming an act of razzle dazzle. It's becoming trickier and trickier to remain part of the middle class without more than mere income. A house, an heirloom, an inheritance, a hand, they've become precious commodities in the struggle to remain part of the bourgeoisie.

In a country where wealth breeds wealth, it's astonishing that the myth of Horatio Alger continues to dominate mainstream discourse. Work hard. Play by the rules. You too can snag a piece of the American Dream. The anecdotes abound. But the big picture is above, and it's not pretty.

The change of neighborhoods from black to white is often described as a mere transfer of real estate. It is, in my estimation,  a very deep reflection of lingering racism. I think it's worth asking why race is such a big part of gentrification at all. I know you're not dumb, and you probably wonder the same thing. The above graph says it all to me.

Our denial as a country knows no bounds. Like the looming environmental catastrophe, racial and class inequalities lie in wait, with perhaps as many implications for the country, hell the SPECIES, as anything we can conjure up in science fiction. Perhaps never before has a country on earth had the strength and resources to get this equality thing right and stay strong and resource-rich. We're failing miserably, and downing craft beer and kale as the opportunity to the right the ship passes by on the rising sea.

That’s one reason why black families have, on average, only about 6 percent as much wealth as white households, why only 44 percent of black families own a home compared with 73 percent for white households.