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, February 27, 2017

Word On the Street: Nelson's Gotta Go

Say it ain't so. While the world wonders how the Oscar went first to the lily-white-straight movie by mistake when the jet-black-gay movie was the real winner, rumors are swirling that the building that houses Nelson's barbershop on Parkside is being sold, and longtime proprietor Nelson Urraca must find new digs in just 30 days.

Here's the Q's first write up on the place a few years ago. I've been a happy customer at least three or four times a year ever since.

As anyone living in Lefferts knows well, the Barbershop is a place of community. It's a clubhouse and a therapy session and a place for advice and empathy, soul and sympathy. This is true at the small town "white" cutters too, but nothing can compare to the ecumenical church that is the "curly" hair barbershop. It's a fixture of black-cast movies, and at 9 Clarkson I've watched as a true family has developed in just four years, the tiny shop packed noon and night with laughs and sports.

The Q will keep you updated on the real deal. Let's hope Nelson can work something out, or at the very least, find a spot nearby. I know his mom lives on Flatbush around the corner, so it's been good to be so near. Feeling a little weepy about it, though I do know shit happens, nothing lasts forever, change is inevitable. Still, this one hurts.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Town Halls and Catcalls

I was in Cuba with the family. Whaddya want, a substitute? I suppose I could have left an "Out of Blogosphere" message, but I do appreciate your concern, really. Now that Americans can easily go to Cuba you'll hear tons of people saying (nasally whine) "oh, I just got back from Cuba and I'll bet you want to hear ALL about it." Yuck. So...let me tell you all about it! Next post. Hint - don't expect culinary genius or inexpensivity. And pretty much everything you take for granted is out the window.

The Town Hall Meeting. In some towns, a Town Hall Meeting takes place in the Town Hall. Typically, however, it's in a public school auditorium or similar non-threatening meeting place. Just about any elected official might call one, book the date, choose the topic, look like they're doing something. Most of the time it's a quiet, thumb-twiddling affair whose most notable features are bad sound and poor ventilation. Not so in the roaring Tea Party 10's, and not now neither. Boy howdy, the Left's on the loose. Do they have the stuff to go the distance? More on that in a sec...

While I was trying vainly to find an internet hotspot in Old Havana, y'all were not attending the local CB9 meeting, a sort of monthly ongoing mini-Town Hall where since 2013 that familiar "disrupt and dismantle" playbook has been followed ferociously by MTOPP. Once again, common sense and compromise were wrestled to a choke-hold by the misguided, misinformed and thoroughly unhinged Ms. Alicia Boyd. Get a load of this terrific footage from DNA Info's write-up on fiery NY Assembly member Diana Richardson's attempt to talk sense:



Then came an ACTUAL Town Hall, also not at a Town Hall but at a just-south-of-secular Reform Synagogue on Eastern Parkway, hosted by your suddenly awakened Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. A bit of vid can be found here. I gotta be honest here. I don't find her to be terribly inspiring. She seems a solid C+, the plus for voting the right way. But she's been damn near nowhere for YEARS, and trust me I've actively sought her out. She's not particularly well-respected or even well-known in D.C. She's not much of an orator or interviewee. But you know how this game goes. Reps in NYC tend to be there a long, long time. At least until they move on to higher office or get indicted. Only once in a blue moon does a Rep even get close to losing their gig. But I do hope that the political moment will bring out the best in her, and I was glad to hear positive reports on this week's shindig. The "town hall" was overflowing, quite literally, since many folks were unable to breach the official fire code capacity figure.

What's to become of all this angst and chutzpah?

Take away the absurdity of DJT himself, there is a certain symmetry in this political moment just 7 years on. What were they claiming about Obama? Socialism, communism, even Islamism. Yes, tons of folks still think he's a Muslim. What are we claiming of Trump? Fascism, Racism, Nationalism. Tons of people still think he's an Asshole. Symmetry. (Difference being reality vs fiction. Right?)

Obviously, America's got some issues to resolve, or it only gets uglier from here. We have yet to shut the back door on our ugliest past, or open the front door to a more egalitarian future. As far as I can tell, no neatly defined "group" has offered itself up to be the last through that front door. You never know who's going to slam it shut in your face, right?

Say this for the Donald. If we weren't watching closely enough before, he certainly got our attention.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Townsfolk Are Restless, Jesse!


Seems the awakened electorate has grabbed its pitchforks! The oft-ignored State Senate has become the latest fault line. Jesse Hamilton is beginning to feel the heat from angry constituents (he's got a chunk of Crown Heights, Lefferts, Park Slope, Sunset Park) who are not amused that he's been spotted holding hands with the Upstate Senate Republicans. You can read and/or sign the petition that's going around if you like. Do remember though that the IDC is a bit of a parliamentary ploy, and not as simple to pigeonhole as Democrats Gone Bad (DGB). Still, anyone who hears about his caucusing with Republicans instantly breaks out in hives. It's a condition, and with the current allergens in the air, it's only gonna get worse.

The text of the petition is pasted below:

Sen. Hamilton was voted in as a Democrat and he needs to act like one! In November 2016, he joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of NY State Senators elected as Democrats but aligned with Republicans. They allow Republicans to BLOCK:
  • DREAM Act to provide tuition assistance to children of undocumented immigrants
  • Women’s Equality Act to codify Roe v. Wade in New York law
  • GENDA to protect LGBT New Yorkers from discrimination
  • Voting Reform including early voting and automatic voter registration
  • Criminal Justice Reform including “Raise the Age"
  • Campaign Finance Reform and Ethics Reform to clean up Albany corruption
  • Single payer health insurance
  • Tenant protections to keep housing affordable and reversing Vacancy Deregulation, which has removed tens of thousands of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments necessary for working class families and seniors
As voters in his district, we demand that Jesse Hamilton immediately return to the Democratic Caucus or resign from office to allow for a special election.  

Party Off, Wayne

Could be a major bumsky coming for the Pop-Up Discotheque Sonic Jungle planned for the as-of-yet unoccupied building on Flatbush at Lefferts.

Un-Safety Dance

Let the record state that the Q is all for these parties, so long as they happen but a few times. I hope they get the permits, and I hope there's not an upper age limit. And all the Old Fogeys need to remember the freedom of youth fondly, and let the kids dance on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

So Painful I Could Cry

The Q can't contain his feelings right now. Digust? Sadness? Astonishment? Hilariousness? Gas?

Your councilperson just sent a "press release" for an event happening at 3pm today. That's in less than an hour. I can't even bring myself to describe its contents. After almost zero communication with his constituents, zero web presence and zero work on your behalf, he sends this:

     

      **FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
COUNCIL MEMBER MATHIEU EUGENE TO PRESENT MISS HAITI RAQUEL PELISSIER WITH A PROCLAMATION AT CITY HALL
   
(New York, NY) - Council Member Mathieu Eugene and members of the Haitian community will present Miss Haiti 2016 Raquel Pelissier with a proclamation at City Hall today to celebrate her recent achievement as 1st runner up in the 2017 Miss Universe pageant.
A survivor of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, Ms. Pelissier is studying to be an optometrist while serving as a role model for young women. She is Haiti’s first runner up in the Miss Universe pageant since 1975, and hopes to use her role as Miss Haiti to empower the Haitian community.
“We are so honored to welcome Raquel Pelissier to New York City, where we can come together as a community and celebrate her wonderful achievements on behalf of the Haitian people,” said Council Member Eugene.   
The proclamation ceremony will take place today at 3pm in the cafeteria on the 16th Floor at 250 Broadway in Manhattan.

Wait...So Gentrification Hasn't Hit Yet?

So says this article in the Brooklyn Paper, the presence of $2 million dollar homes and $2K-plus rents is not enough for the landlords along Flatbush to reel in the BIG G stores. This despite bars, eateries and coffee places galore that cater to the middle class and youthful newer residents. (Okay, a lot of them are white, but not all.)

pic by Colin Mixson, as is the aforementioned article
It's a bit shocking...sort of. There is ALWAYS another level to go UP, until you reach, I dunno, Tribeca or DUMBO or Billyburg level gentrification (or the Upper West Side before that, or East Village or, uh, Dubai).

So where are we in the stream of upclassing? Who knows. Depends a lot on the economy, which given the current political crises could implode any day now. Look for a lot of discounts on storefronts if that happens, the UPside of DOWNturns.

Of course the whole narrative is slimy with irony at every turn. That shouldn't prevent you from having a good chuckle or snit fit when you read the piece. Happy reading!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Long Arc of the Kwenci Jones Mural

His name is Kwenci, and he's a serious artist and community activist. Big heart. Big ideas. You know him from the gorgeous recently demolished mural at the MTA building at Flatbush/Ocean. Having loved and followed the saga of the mural for years I assumed he'd be devastated that they tore down his art to rehab the building. Instead, he had the below to say. Til your next project Kwenci Jones!


I originally painted this mural in 1998. Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth collective commissioned me to cover up the graffiti on this 120 ft. monstrosity. In the 18 years of its existence I’ve had to restore it twice.

Fr the most recent in 2012 I decided to turn it into a community-building project. That inclusion over a four season period involved over 150 volunteers, alternative sentencing participants, students and donors that contributed to this iconic Central Brooklyn landmark. This huge painting was the largest single theme mural for a ground level mural in New York City. 

But alas when I first met this wall it leaked. The small cracks have expanded after twenty years; the two layers of stucco have worn away in those areas. I’m not surprised…just a little disappointed. Considering all that we put into it, I wish it would’ve lasted longer, but MTA engineers stayed away as long as they could...but the water damage was becoming internal. 

Over the years, I’ve seen children become adults, became a staple of the neighborhood; took pictures with and met tourist from all over the world. We all did some great work and getting almost twenty years out of a damaged building is a good run for any mural.

I salute this great collective accomplishment…great mural, great people, great times.


…the restoration is never an afterthought…it still lives…

Kwenci



r.i.p.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rolling a Spare

Nicely done gentlemen! A (presumably) Parks Dept truck knocked down another streetlamp. Will it be replaced? Keep your eyes peeled! (Actually, don't peel your eyes. That's...really unpleasant.)

near The Q at Parkside entrance to our beloved park

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fenimore, or Less

If you don't know this house on Bedford you probably don't live in the area.
As discussed here previously, your neighbors on Fenimore 2 (that's Bedford to Rogers, folks round here count their east/west streets from their Flatbush origin) have brought their plea for downzoning to the local community board, the fighting 9th. Despite protestations from Alicia and MTOPP, the Board decided to co-petition the City for the southside ONLY to be downzoned. They have an excellent case, as their houses have deed restrictions limiting homes to 1-family affairs, much like the acclaimed Lefferts Manor to the north (yes, there IS a group of men in the area who refer to themselves, cheek in jowl, as the Lords of the Manor). With word that the above historic wooden stand-alone is to be torn down to make way for an apartment building of some height, the neighbors are understandably alarmed, not just for this house but for the entire block. Sound familiar to some of you? I feel a need to remind that the entire neighborhood could have been downzoned on inner blocks had it not been for the distinguished Sultan of Sterling and her merry band of zoning zealots.

To help Maura and the block gather the money they need to fulfill their legal and applicational needs, see their GoFundMe page.

The narrative therein is republished herewith:

Neighbors and Friends--

The Fenimore Street Block Association learned late last month (Jan. 2017) that a beautiful house on the southeast corner of Bedford Avenue and Fenimore Street is being targeted for demolition.  A prominent Williamsburg developer recently filed for a permit to demolish 174-176 Fenimore Street. While no plans have been filed as of yet, we suspect that he will construct an as-of-right apartment building many times the size of the existing house. 

For several years now, our Block Association has been fighting to preserve our neighborhood from non-contextual development that is quickly becoming the hallmark of new construction in PLG. We are currently in the process of initiating a rezoning application to change our current R6 zoning - which allows high density development - to R2, which only allows single family homes. This is due to our research, where we discovered that houses on the south side of Fenimore Street between Bedford and Rogers--including 174-176 Fenimore--have deed restrictions that explicitly prohibit the development of apartment buildings, as the language makes clear that only single-family houses may be built - like the rest of Lefferts Manor. We discovered that this side of the street was originally part of the Lefferts Farm and should have been included in both the R2 single family zoning which begins on the north side of the street as well as the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Historic District, which covers the entirety of Lefferts Manor proper. In fact, as of this week, all 19 properties on the south side of Fenimore Street have been found eligible to be added to the National Register of Historic Places as an extension of the existing Lefferts Manor National Register Historic District.

The Fenimore Street Block Association intends to battle this developer in court with the understanding that we have a very strong legal leg to stand on. We are doing this because the courts have routinely deemed these original deed restrictions to be binding if found enforceable, which our zoning and land use expert has affirmed to be the case. However, we lack the necessary funds for a sustained legal battle. It is possible that there are other parts of PLG which also have enforceable deed restrictions as well and a victory in this case could set an important legal precedent for future court cases against developers.  

If you live in the neighborhood and are sensitive to the unsightly skyscrapers being wedged into narrow lots on residential streets, and/or if you are generally a fan of a more reasonable zoning approach in the city overall, please support our effort and give what you can. We will update this page periodically to let you know how the court case is proceeding.


Many thanks,
Fenimore Street Block Association

Monday, February 6, 2017

How Do You Recognize the Start Of Your Own Civil War?

History suggests that martyr(s) come in handy when you want to take your political movement to the next level. And who might that be? Not hard to imagine, really. Could happen any day, as a matter of fact. One, ten, maybe a hundred martyrs. A guy on my block runs in this shadowy world, that recently has emerged in a spectacular way online. Masses of organized folks rushing walls of riot cops - this sort of overt confrontation (the charging mass) is frankly designed to create just such a martyrdom, and set off the crisis that seems almost inevitable.

Imagine this scenario. The ever-growing Antifa movement stages a protest at a Pro-Trump event. Riot police are called. The "kids" rush the cops, shots are fired, it becomes unclear who has guns (probably not the protesters - they tend to shun them) and a dozen or more people are killed. Recruitment quadruples every week, cities brace for violence, the National Guard gets called (by you-know-who), unions take sides, churches take sides, the victims of riots strap on their weapons. And most importantly, the guy in the White House shows absolutely no interest in calming things down or reaching out to anyone in the name of domestic peace. This is the "race war," "class war," "war for the soul of America" that many have been pining for. Far-fetched? Google "Antifa protests" and witness, not from the NY Times, but from ground zero. It's real, and the paranoia of infiltration from rival groups adds to the sense of urgency and desperation. We can assume that every one of these groups is under surveillance. Politicians want to call these protesters terrorists, which depending on your perspective I suppose is accurate. (But so are the skinheads and republinazis of course). But they're mostly just kids, 20-somethings following 30-somethings, and they've been around the black bloc - World Bank, Occupy, Ferguson, Berkeley. They are a very small but growing fringe. But they get attention! Think of how hundreds of thousands marched on Washington on January 21st. But on inauguration day, the Antifa stole the show. It's the protest that's still being talked about.

In many ways the current political shitstorm seems a crisis of, among other things, the Internet. How else to describe once barely noticed anarchist protests garnering hundreds of thousands of "views," with either rightist or leftist narration calling each other idiots, cowards, racists or commies?

If you're like the Q, you've been snooping around, sniffing for meat on recent "black bloc" protests, you know, this whole Antifa thing. The radical left Anti-Fascist resistance is growing by tweets and bounds, drawn out by the high profile riotous protests on Inauguration Day, nazi-punchings and counter-beatings, then planned "happenings" at Berkeley and NYU. It's not hard to see why Antifa, Occupy , #BLM and anarchist groups in all manner of Ninja outfits are appealing right now. White supremacists took the White House. It's theory no longer. This shit is real.

You're smart and curious, you read all about Trump's whisperers, the alarmingly persuasive birthers and conspiracy theorists and nationalist updated CCC thugs who now pass as policy wonks and regular ol' Steves. Bannon himself has left a long and tedious trail of films and writings that show exactly where he's coming from, and it ain't pretty. It's not even entirely surprising, or even unknown to the MSM. The very things that have been in decline (so goes the rhetoric) are the things Trump bemoaned the loss of in his bellicose bullying - Christian "values," patriarchy, white hegemony, pro-life anti-gay anti-PC anti-manufacturing you name it, if Trump hears it's in decline, he'll call it out. Of course he's really just another overweight Oligarch in search of meaning and validation. Big time daddy issues and a whale's belly of insecurity. Personality disorder. Serious nutjob, but don't cry for him Argentina - he's the President of these here United Sates.

The sieg heilers are now on speaking tours to draw out the Antifa. The Antifa respond on cue, but their numbers overwhelm even the white nationals. Antifa is now more popular on liberal arts campuses than Jagermeister and EDM. Actually Antifa probably goes well with beats and shots, so I should shut my trap about what college kids get off on. I haven't been one for a long, long time - an undergrad OR a shot-drinker. I DO know sure as shootin' that young kids love a good idealistic fight, and boy howdy do we have a dandy right now. The hood's off the KKK (turned out half of white America were closeted card carriers), the billionaires aren't content with ACTUAL power - now they want government credentials as well, and Democrats haven't a clue how to keep up with the outrageous equity canyon. School's out! And revolution has always been sexy as hell.

Of all the videos of black-clad rioters - from Ferguson to D.C. to (good lord) Omaha just the other day (I shit you not) the one bit online that stands out for me is a young woman defending the Antifa at Berkeley. She's like a Feminista Che, relaxed enough to articulate but determined as an Olympian shot putter. Check her out, absolutely destroying a local news anchor who probably assumed she'd easily shred her guest, but ends up looking ridiculous herself.



So why bring up civil war, or at least widespread violent confrontation? Because the right is obviously fixing for a fight, and have been for a long time, and they feel emboldened. The left is feeling angry, cheated and helpless. All it takes is for one of these many, many bigger and bigger confrontations to devolve into lots of shooting, bombs and/or heavy casualties, and now you've got Kent State times 100. Rodney King times 1000. The riots, sorry Uprising, in L.A. is not so long ago. The Occupiers haven't all moved to Canada. The White Lives Matter crowd didn't suddenly grow up and apologize. And of course, the police, while often full of well-meaning decent people, have hotheads and rednecks on staff in every precinct in the country.

Chilling? Maybe you're not buying my premise, and the Q hopes he's wrong. (sort of - I've been fixing for a fight for weeks.) But for unsettling, nothing gets to me like this ad for just the kind of firearm that could set off the national emergency.



Civil War happens when all else fails. And lately, a lot of taken-for-granteds ahve failed. Miserably. Throw in a comrade to die for, and, well, I shudder to think.