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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Le Chat est Outa la Baguette

Can't deny it any longer. A French restaurant is coming to the Flabenue, at 701 Flatbush to be precise, previously a bodega. Confirmation is in the liquor application that's made CB9's monthly General Board Meeting for tomorrow-Tuesday on the agenda below. Chef's name is Boris Ginet. He says of his new comfort-food joint specializing in poulette:

 “[We hope to] reimagine the rotisserie experience, infusing this French traditional roasting style with the familiarity of the Brazilian staple churrascaria and the American ideations of comfort food. Various all-natural meats will be roasted in different culinary techniques, served with signature sauces and local, seasonal vegetables to create a cosmopolitan feel with minimalist, flavorful dishes.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nothing New But the Outrage

Taking back my pledge not to opine on the upcoming elections. Can't help it. I have never before seen such hand-wringing by Democrats over how and why a douche like Donald J. Trump could be doing so well. Things have changed - the racists are out of the closet! The white male is ANGRY! The Republicans are out to EAT OUR YOUNG!!!

Look, I ain't heartless. I see the videos of people getting shot by cops. I see the brave marchers and the cries in the streets of Chicago. I can see that 9/11 led to a destabilization in the world FAR greater than the tragedy of the crumbling of a couple tall buildings. A hundred times more people have died since in needless wars. Thousands more are homeless and state-less. Civil liberties have been cast aside and zealots rule the roost. The waters are rising; folks starving.  But what's new, really?

Take Herr Drumpf. Sure he's a psycho. His politics are indecipherable. His manner wouldn't pass muster at a cock fight on a pirate ship. He's bigoted and annoying and undeniably ugly. And yet...he's just another version of the perennial Republican candidate for President. He has no polish, he has no discipline. He's the Republican Id incarnate. But is he really all that different? Perhaps only because he has no filter and a sick sarcastic sense of humor.

Look at the polls. They're in pretty much lockstep with every other presidential election of the past few decades, with the exception of the Reagan landslide of 1984 and Nixon in '72. Heady years those; heady years now. Given that, it's interesting the conservatives aren't doing even BETTER. But answer me this - did you really think that Republicans were going to up and dump their party en masse because their candidate lacked common decency? And I'm not trying to put down ALL Republicans as if there weren't some nuances there. It's a big tent remember - 100 million people or so! The KKK feels comfortable enough to endorse the guy but so do a lot of other folks, many who have morals and common sense. Some rush to disaster-zones and help out in tragedies, give money to the needy, and sometimes ARE the needy. Trump has 40-45 % of the electorate ready to pull the trigger, er lever, either with relish or holding their nose. Because that's what they do, Republicans. They vote...Republican. We're not a Parliamentary democracy - you don't get to choose the specific flavor of right or left leaning without wasting your vote entirely.

Romney was polished. McCain was savvy and a war hero. GWB was a dooffus, but not entirely unlikable (they say). GHWB had the Lyndon Johnson know-how and a gentle presence that made middle class Americans breathe easy. But they and Trump are part of a grand old party legacy that includes everyone from George Wallace to Susan Collins. Why don't Republicans see the truth about Trump? They never saw the truth about those folks either, apparently. Why start now?

The difference is the outrage. The difference is that the Tea Partiers (remember them?) now have a "disrupter" to vote for. They have a chance to stick it to that evil Clinton spouse. Theu can "send a message" and avenge the country for electing its first black president - from Hawaii via Africa no less - with a name that sounds like Osama. In essence, they're doing what Republicans do. Even Ted Cruz sank to his knees in an act of contrition and stumped for Trump. When one man endorses another he hates - that's the Two Party system for you.

The difference is the outrage. The visible outpouring of racial frustration over lingering issues of stigma and degradation, of neglect and coercion. This anger and outrage is exacerbated by Trump, but Trump doesn't cause it anymore than he pulls the trigger in Charlotte. He's a poster boy for the outrage, but he's still just another goddam white male Republican.

The difference is the outrage. My liberal friends are always busy tearing their hair out around this time in the election cycle. This time, it's a bit more hysterical. Even a lot more hysterical. The thought of a Trump presidency has a lot of us envisioning the end of the Republic generally. I don't know that Trump is crazier than Nixon, but we got through Tricky Dick somehow. I don't think Trump will win - he hasn't topped 45% even once. But when all is settled I suspect we will look at an electoral map that looks remarkably familiar. The more things change...

The country's stuck. It doesn't know how to move forward. But we're clearly in a 1965 moment of outrage and unrest and dis-ease. Disease is actually a good metaphor for the country's inability to recognize that racial divides equal political, social and moral divides. They must be confronted in order for us to move towards a more perfect union. And yet, it will take a whole-sale reexamination of the mechanisms of our society. And with white America generally uneasy, not just relishing their entitlement, it will be difficult. Very difficult. No one seems to think they've "got it good." And the ones that actually do got it good are laying pretty low.

So this, I'm afraid to say, is just another election between Republicans and Democrats in the United States of America. The stuff that you're seeing in the streets of Charlotte? That, on the other hand, is unadulterated outrage. And rightly so. Only the outrage is different, and one can hope there's more than JUST the outrage. Real change requires real organization, even a reconfigured Democratic coalition. 

Civic Minded - today at noon

If the shenanigans at Community Board 9 make you feel there is nowhere to turn to engage the City, Diana Richardson (one time CB9 Treasurer now Assemblywoman) devised a brilliant alternative - Civic Minded. Show up today if you can, say hi to Diana, and see where you can fit in, or just get some basic questions answered. This is the kind of radical rethinking of the old ways that fresh faces like Richardson can bring to our neighborhoods.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Can't See the City For the Neighborhoods

What a golden age of information! The Q can easily post and link micro-nabe info on crime, house prices, density, transportation, schools, sanitation and more. But lately I've noticed that there's a treacherous downside to the competition and comparisons, the one-upmanship and the calling-out others for their opulence and entitlement. We forget to be a City, which is the most challenging and invigorating and impossibly diverse family of all.

We live near a train, on a block, in a micro and macro neighborhood. We live in election districts, and precincts and community board boundaries. We live in a borough. We live in a City. We live in a metropolitan area. And lately, I feel we're being encouraged to think TOO locally. Buy local, vote local, plan local, rah rah rah local local local. Look after your own, protect your turf.

I've been in many, many community meetings over the last five or six years, and I've come to the conclusion that the word "community" can now describe everything, and often, therefore, nothing. Who is YOUR community? Is it big, is it small? Is it prescribed by race, religion, income, owner/renter, car/ped/bike/vegan/fat pt shorts/old/young/hipster or craft/coffee/tea/hair/gender or cat/dog/single/couple/family?

One of my favorite expressions, that I've used time and again, is "the grand experiment we call NYC." I live in NYC. It has a mayor. It has tall buildings and cute townhouses, commercial centers and parks, business districts, corporate headquarters and cultural meccas. The extraordinary health of this ecosystem means that Manhattan swells to more than 4 million people during the day, with 3 million on weekdays and just over 2 million at night. Its "outer" boroughs are dense giants themselves.

Real estate is about the vacant lot or new apartments down the block, of course. But it's also about the 100 story tower in downtown Brooklyn, the huge supportive affordable housing complex near Kings County Hospital, the shady lease maniputations at Ebbets Field apartments, and yeah, the new luxury residential towers on the Upper West Side, and around Barclays, and along the waterfront in Queens. Jobs have become more plentiful in Brooklyn, subsistence to overpaid. Some apartments are frightfully small, some have tall ceilings and strain to call themselves lofts. Some people have to travel 2 hours to work; some fall out of bed and serve coffee at the shoppe down the block. It takes, as they say, all kinds.

When I hear folks complain about THEIR block, THEIR businesses, THEIR parking, THEIR quality of life - sometimes I ask myself "where did the THEIR come from anyway?" I have friends who've lived in Tribeca for nearly 30 years. They've been lucky, and bought in when the old building went coop. Last year, the wrecking balls came and knocked down their longtime view - a new hotel is going up, and that'll be what they see for as long as they live there. Bummer? You bet. Goes with the territory. But they're still making it, in the thick of it all, in the Big Apple, city that never parks for long.

Unless, of course, you're fortunate enough to have your block or micro-hood designated a landmark. Now it's frozen in time. Charming! Gas lamps. Period windows, pure facades. But guess what? The City still grows. It yearns for more space but it doesn't have any. It pushes here and it pulls there. The landmark districts ensure that certain eras of New York continue to be represented, and that's cool, if expensive to live in. But - does it really benefit EVERYone? Only a flunker of economics would say so. Someone, somewhere, will have to bear the cost of every major land use decision in not just Lefferts, or Brooklyn, but in the whole metro region. Dare I say, the whole country, then continent and world? Like Will Rogers said...they ain't making any more of it.

There was a time when humans could think tribally AND globally at the same time. In the modern world, in a world being torn asunder by man-made activities and overcrowding of cities and concentration of wealth and housing shortages...we must still encourage GDP growth, or suffer the consequences of recession and depression. Perhaps we've collectively forgotten how dire it seemed just 8 years ago. Or the 1970s and runaway inflation. S&L crisis. The Great Depression. The Middle Ages for chrisakes. Yes, we have to grow, and we have to provide for our progeny.

But we can't be foolish. We have to plan for even larger cities and even greater needs. We have to sacrifice sometimes, our own comforts or habits, for the benefit of others. These others may not be our idea of terrific dinner guests. But there's an obligation, moral and for simple selfish fact of survival.

The questions of political justice remain. But it's worth asking, as the Republic makes a fateful decision on its future:

How big is your tribe? What is your neighborhood? Are you a citizen of New York City? Or of your house, block and back yard?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The View Of the Nabe From 626

A reader sent this map from the Parkline website, noting that all but 16 apartments appear to be rented. Really? I guess we'll see.

Here's the selective map they include with their promotional materials:

Once again, as Mr. Spock might say..."fascinating."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Empire Blvd - Never a Dull Moment

Hey the Q's no longer on CB9 so what do I care? Here's a note I sent to them earlier this morning, along with a picture of a nasty wreck over the weekend. (If you're new to ridiculous fight AGAINST major improvements by a bunch of novice transportation planners at this outrageously dangerous intersection, here's a primer.)

 Dear CB9 and Transportation Committee and Elected Officials:

Just a little picture to remind us that while CB9 fiddles, Rome burns. This was Washington/Empire this AM - the corner about which members of the Transportation Committee effectively stopped a multi-million dollar safety and infrastructure project from proceeding. This at an intersection that anyone with kids will tell you is an absolute nightmare, and just one accident away from every parent's worst nightmare. Apparently we prefer a couple spaces of parking and slip lane that very few cars even use.

In other developments (literally):

The Parkline (626 Flatbush) has opened its 23 story tower. 120 year old buildings keep coming down. No new affordable housing is being built - only market rate. The Bedford Armory plan has been shouted down. The streets and avenues are looking filthier than ever. The schools are not improving. Landlords are harassing and removing tenants. Longtime businesses are losing leases. Empire Blvd is more of a dump than ever, cutting the neighborhood needlessly in two and providing one of the ripest spots for crime in the entire area. Oh, and no new housing of ANY kind, despite the obvious need.

I wish you all a productive, sane and neighborly year!

tim "theQ" thomas
no longer of CB9
but forever a concerned member of the community

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dooooooooooooode! Nooooooooo....

No way. Really?


Did he think he was in Colorado? Did he grab the wrong jar, thinking it was the Maraschino Cherries?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Frequent Flyers

It's September and that can only mean one thing. Flyers! Lots and lots of flyers. Meetings, events, new businesses, lost doggies. From science classes for kids, to a safety meeting in the Park, to Jazz (tonight!) up in the triangle by the Brooklyn Museum, to a grand Day of Mulch along the Ocean Ave side of the Park...the Q formally endorses all these events in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Black Institute Fights Back

Subtitled: In NYC, you must never appear less liberal than your neighbor, lest you get painfully skewered.

Looks like the plan to build apartments and a recreation center at the Bedford Union Armory has hit yet another setback. Have you been following this story? If not, read on, it's a doozy. I'll try to condense...

We're talking about the big beautiful old Armory at Bedford Ave and Union. It was owned by the State, who sold it back to the City. Great! Now the City can make the "best use" of the building and land. The City, as represented by the  NYC Economic Development Corp, put the project out to bid. They wanted a mixed-use sitch. You know, market rate apartments, affordable apartments, and a big old recreation center. God knows there's room for it. Lotsa politicians wanted and want a piece of THIS prize.

The winning developer, Slate, recently landed in a bunch of corruptive hot water over another project needing City support. They dropped out of the BUA as a result. (Let's use BUA since it's shorter and sounding it out is kinda phun - I'm going for bew-ah). Now the developer to whom Slate sold its half of the rights - BFC - lost its star endorser and backer, the Knicks b-ball star Carmelo Anthony. Why? Because he was scolded by a woman named Bertha Lewis and a remarkably powerful ragtag collection of activists. So Anthony pulled out having been chastised for turning his back on the "real" black community. Lewis claimed in a letter that Anthony was being used to create unaffordable affordable housing and a rec center that the current residents would not be able to use (read "afford.)

Why do these shaming tactics ring oddly familiar to the Q's ears? (see a dozen or so previous Q entries over the past two years for the answer).

Bertha Lewis was the CEO of ACORN in NYC. You know ACORN, the group that was targeted by conservatives through a counter-insurgency by right-wingers and FOX news, then Republicans in Congress. A video surfaced, ACORN got buried as if by a mob of busy squirrels, and largely de-funded. And yet, there was no stopping Bertha and her devotees. She and key supporters became The Black Institute here in NYC. You'll also see the group NY Communities for Change involved in this and other efforts to block "affordable housing" initiatives that the groups consider Gentrification Enablers (my term). The thinking here - open for debate - is that by developing new market rate apartments and amenities, even with affordable components, you are forcing out longterm residents of color. I say "open for debate" because the question remains - if you don't build new housing, for ALL income strata, how exactly do you ever get runaway prices in check? This is not a purely Liberal vs Conservative argument. This is about economics, and sadly, where economics are concerned not everyone reads the numbers the same way.

Back to the Playbill. When Alicia Boyd and MTOPP needed folks to create the impression that there was a huge outcry about your Community Board 9 and its efforts to engage in a collaborative process with the Dept of City Planning - she got a lot of folks to come out to meetings from followers of both formerly-ACORN affiliated groups - NYCCFC and TBI. That's why many of the people shouting down your neighbors at these meetings seem to not be from the neighborhood. They aren't. They are part of a larger, sometime fractious but always rebellious movement to stop business as usual. And business as usual in NYC is about real estate.

Alicia has effectively shut down CB9. Bertha has effectively shut down the BUA project, both at least for now.

The pushback against gentrification - guided or misguided as you think it may be - has jumped into warp drive. To the point where politicians - black politicians especially - must now choose sides. Are you for those racist "Greedy Developers"? Are are you with US?

An economic "Sophie's Choice" perhaps. Walter Mosley, Diana Richardson, Laurie Cumbo, Eric Adams et al...there's an enormous Pink and Black Elephant in the room right now. And it ain't going nowhere. So whatcha gonna do?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Simple Machine

The lever. That's a simple machine, no? The idea of "pulling a lever" for a candidate is now officially a metaphor only. There are no more levers, or even those little metal thingies you'd flip to the side. Filling out a circle with a number 2 pencil feels strangely even MORE anachronistic than the bizarre Byzantine NYC election contraptions that were, until very recently, what I associated with the Brooklyn Political Machine.

Tomorrow we vote. No, not THAT vote. But why not get your circle-filling-fingers in shape for the big day in November, when the national character truly lies in the balance? It is remarkable just how powerful is the presidency of the United States, and yet, it's such an imperfect process to get the gig. I've heard many people lament that they'll leave the country if fat man (yes, he's fat, but no one says it, while trouncing on Hillary's shoes) gets the gig. But that's bullshit, y'all. When things get tough the chicken-shit get going. Listen bub: you stay, you double-down, you work harder than ever to put the country back on track. Sheesh, when did my compatriots become such a bunch of whiners? It's not like other countries are just dying to take us in, anyway. Hell they're fighting crackpot right-wing insurgencies of their own. Did women scram when they didn't have the right to vote? Did abolitionists decamp? Did gay rights activists just pull up stakes and move to...I dunno, Canada? Okay, maybe a couple or three. But still, you fight to create a more perfect union, no?

Tomorrow though you'll have some very, very strange but beautiful levers (sic) to pull. My favorite choice by far is that you will get to vote for Barbara Rogers and Carmen Castillo-Barret as two of the three members of the Kings County Democratic Committee from some subsection of the 43rd Assembly district. What does that mean exactly? Well, since they're pals of the Q I asked. And while it has something to do with choosing candidates and taking votes about stuff that the electorate is too dumb, busy or uninterested to handle on its own, even THEY'RE not exactly sure, but I'll hold them to the promise to check in and tell us all about what goes down at those shenanigan shindigs, or meetings or whatever they do...square dances maybe?

If you want to know who's on the ballot just go to, wait for it,...Who's on the So far it's one of the only reliable places on the web to find such basic information. Oh, a coupla ladies are running for Civil Court judges, but nobody's heard of them and, you know, what's a judge but a person who decides who's right and wrong? Not a big deal or anything.

After the past few years of rubbing elbows with folks, I'm shocked that I actually know most of the people running for the obscure Democratic Party positions. And I'm certainly happy to endorse most, especially those aforementioned "Mad Mommas," one who's an astute real estate broker and bold commenter here and on other social media (that's Barbara Rogers) and the other the creator of Kiddie Science, a wonderful out-of-school option for young people interested in the goo and guts of science (that's Carmen Castillo-Barret). Lots of the other names on your ballot (depends on where you live precisely) are cogs in what is surely "the simple machine" that runs the world as you know it. The fact that they are cogs should not be construed as an insult - the Machine abides. But the fact of the matter is that most folks have no interest in any of this, and so the elected leaders of today were chosen from the primordial ooze by just these sorts of folks, and the future leaders, and the judges, and corrupt disgraced candidates of tomorrow, because by the time a person gets to the general public's attention it's really too late to do much about it. Snooze or lose, as they say. Oh, and don't dare knock the Top Dogs. You'll never make it in this town as you so much as sneeze in the presence of the Clarence Norman, Jr.'s and Vito Lopez's and Frank Steddio's and Eric Adams and on and ons. Not that they differ much from you on the ISSUES per se. It's all in the family, right? Just a big table of Democrats eating turkey, some white meat, some dark, some fatty some lean.

Are these the best candidates to do our business? Who knows? There is virtually no real competition, and almost zero interest from the public.

And so to my friends in the 42nd Assembly district, whose state ass rep (sic) is Rodneyse Bichotte, be sure to consider this, and please note the fact that I don't know squat about him or his challenger. Josue Pierre (leave out the last "H" for Haitian) has been named a "rising star" in politics, a West Indian American to watch, and he is running for something known as the District Leader, an unpaid position that allows you to win an election, run a few things, then get it together to run for something bigger. Many of your electeds were originally District Leaders (Jesse Hamilton for instance, not too long ago).  The interesting thing is - that puff piece about Josua being a "rising star" that pops up in many a feed was written in a insanely butt-kissing rag called Kings County Politics that is known for accepting $$$ for good ink. Also, the former DL Ed Powell just so happened to step down at the right time, so that Pierre was "unanimously" named to replace him by a bunch of people you don't know including Powell himself, obviously to help catapult Pierre to the seat against a lovely seeming man by the name of Victor A. Jordan. Josue also likes to post things to the neighborhood Facebook page making him appear much more important than he currently is. But no matter. While none of us are looking he's like to actually beCOME someone quite important without anyone giving a shit.

Here's to Josue, to Victor to Babs and Carmen and all the true patriots who remind us that this is both the greatest, and the sorriest, democracy on the planet.

Outgoing District Leader Ed Powell Hands the Baton to Josue Pierre - So You Don't Have To!
And the guy running against Pierre, who clear as mud does NOT have the love of the machine needed to win in this town, Victor A. Jordan. (He's even also running against Bichotte herself for Assembly. The NERVE of that guy!)

Victor A. Jordan, running against in Pierre AND Bichotte, in the 42nd