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, July 18, 2017

Woman Has Psychotic Break: Daily News Leads With the Fact She Was Topless

The Q was called out for tastelessness in regards to his recent post about gang violence. And while I can take the criticism I just wanted to point out that it was intended as sarcasm. This time I'll just straight up tell you how I feel about the media's reporting of criminal behavior.

So you'll recognize this corner at Beekman, home to the long dormant Subway Hoagie Shoppe.

photo: Steven Rex Brown for Daily News

A woman has an episode of some kind - the result of what we do not know - and the headline from the Daily News reads:

Topless woman threatens to jump from Brooklyn building’s window before cops carry her off on stretcher

Under what circumstances is it okay to note that a disturbed woman doesn't have her shirt on? First, that's not a crime in NYC. Second, was she supposed to dress in a certain manner while losing her proverbial mind? Have some compassion folks! Thankfully no one was hurt. Damn. I hope her family didn't read that insensitive shit.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Don't Mess With Bicycle "Rough" Riders

Shooting on Parkside near Parade Grounds. Seriously wounded but not dead. The headline from DNAInfo caught my eye though.

2 Men in Car Shot by Cyclists Near Prospect Park, NYPD Says

Were these "cyclists" part of the alleged broader left-wing conspiracy to shut down our roadways like the recent closing of Prospect Park to ALL motorists? Read about that here.

Next time I see a pack of wanna-be Lance Armstrongs barrelling down the loop road in the Park I'll be sure to remember it's not all bike lanes and traffic calming for these guys. Sometimes these Testosterone-ays are packin', and I'm not talking about GORP in their panniers!

Actually, there's a website called AltRider that sells - bicycle panniers with holsters for your guns. I shit you not.  http://www.altrider.com/altrider-hemisphere-waterproof-soft-panniers/pid/1527



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Council Forum - Everyone In One Place! Saturday


A Hearty Thanks Due To You

Anyone notice lately what an absolute tear the Liberal Fake News have been on as of late? Whoa! I know that we're supposed to believe there's no "deep state" or "bias." But c'mon now. Let's be honest. Don't tell me the NY Times, CNN, NBC, Google, Daily Beast wouldn't LOVE to take down these MoFo's and gather a few Pulitzers along the way?

It's called the 4th Estate. It's made up of mostly smart, patriotic, elitist and earnest folks, many, many of whom live in the neighborhood. (See. There's ALWAYS a link to Lefferts in a Q Post. Always. This morning I just thanked an NPR Correspondent for his conspiracy's good work on the country's behalf, at the B41 stop no less.)

Love this picture below. Says it all. And I don't deny it, not for a second.

Viva La Republic. There's still so much work to do. Go get 'em guys and gals! We got yer back in the upcoming elections.






Monday, July 10, 2017

Too Horrible For Headlines

Was going to make a play of words on headlines but thought better of it. Awful. Woman hit by bus on Nostrand, possible suicide. Decapitation? Not sure how that happens, but this is really horrible. No need for comment. Life, death, MTA.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/woman-decapitated-throwing-brooklyn-mta-bus-article-1.3311731


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Changes and Sames

Not a Tiki Bar, as previously reported by some fleabit rag
There it is folks. The Q's first attempt at creating a "boomerang" GIF. Just wanted to make sure you captured a bit of the bling comin' atcha from the space next to Peppa's famous jerk chicken at 736 Flatbush Avenue, what WAS Closeout Heaven that moved down the 'Bush a piece and seems not to have retained its former glory. Though there's more space in Closeout's new space, it no longer feels like a third world bazaar, and thus it doesn't speak to me and my zeal for bargaining quite as much. Still, if you need a few dozen dented cases of Capri Sun and mini bottled waters it's hard to beat. Is $49.95 a good price for a weave? Hell yeah. Maybe TOO good. And with the wildly gorgeous advertising vehicle parked outside I'm wondering if they do house calls? Let's hope this isn't the beginning of an all-out weave-war...it could get ugly out on the Flabenue, hair flying everywhere like so much tumbleweed at the O.K. corral.

So no Tiki Bar. I'm starting to think I was had! Who would do such a thing to the Q? Actually I know just who! You better write me a mai tai mea culpa to boot!

From eagle-eyed Jacob G comes word that the building on the southeast corner of Flatbush/Parkside - the one that had the killer "everything" store that included driving lessons AND notary public and now you can clearly see the old word "photostat" from the old sign now that they took the more recent one down that still had a lot of outdated language about faxes and copies - wait, what was the subject of that sentence? Oh yeah, the building won't be torn down, but rather built up at least another story, or "penthouse" as it says in the filings. Look for "luxury" rentals and new commercial tenants in a year or two. Here's the deets:
"ENLARGEMENT OF EXISTING 3 STORY MIXED USE 2 DWELLING & 2 COMMERCIAL INTO 4 STORY & PENTHOUSE 8 DWELLING AND 1 COMMERCIAL BUILDING."
There are some busy beavers (not weavers) working at the old Play Kids spot that was Shelly Linen before that, which of course is hilarious because recently moved Play Kids is owned by Shelley (and hubby Carl) but it's too soon to say whether a Shelley or Shelly will be involved in this new venture which word on the street says is coming at you from folks who own Parkside Pizza, so I guess we could probably rule out pizza place. We're talking the corner shop at 676, for those who need to punch digits into the map app.

Like most of America's children, mine love the musical Hamilton, and today I landed a copy of a copy of a bootleg DVD of the show, from back when Lin was still in the cast. You know the kind, where someone sneaks a mini camera into the theater and somehow manages to hold fairly steady throughout. But as much as I find the $500 and up prices of the musical about Democracy on Stubhub obnoxious, I feel almost worse watching this ill-gotten version. It's one thing to complain about highway robbery, quite another to commit it. There's a terrific adage in that. Actually, I think that IS it. Put in a different font and bolded, it goes:

It's one thing to complain about highway robbery, quite another to commit to it.




I have no idea when and whether that phrase will come in handy again, but I do think it could easily be applied to political policy-making back in 1789 right up to the current moment. As for the opportunity to create a verbal meme, I'm not throwin' away my shot. I'm just like a snuggly I'm warm, fluffy and huggly and I'm not blowin' away my...snot! (that worked with the kids for about 30 seconds tops. If you don't know the soundtrack and therefore that reference by heart yet, you will, yes, you will. It's basically this generation's Sound of Music.)


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Um...

This is the part where I ask you, gentle readers, to identify what might be ill-advised about this fundraiser for one of the four primary challengers to Councilman Eugene. As a fundraiser by day myself, and someone who very much respects work on behalf of indigent clients, I feel I must disqualify myself from critique, no matter how glaring. Anyone want to chime in? Free beef patty from Jamaican Pride for the first correct response. (or veggie if you're vegetarian; chicken if you're Hindu; gluten-free slice of toast without butter available as substitution.)


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CB9 Votes To "Kill the Deal" - Will It Matter?

It was a hot one at MS61 last Monday, and as a result, I think, the rhetoric was a bit less heated. That's right, the Q thinks the heat might actually have kept folks in their seats. Who wants to sweat MORE? Not that there weren't fireworks, and a bit of twist that the Q hadn't seen coming - a steady stream of actual or arm-twisted supporters of the project. Folks who actually want a big recreation center even if it's funded by a deal with developer BFC partners. The plan was unanimously voted down though 15-0, and only a fool (and the Q's mama didn't raise no fools) would have dared vote yes.

On the "kill the deal" side all the usual suspects were there - union fighters, housing activists, self-flagellating gentrifiers - railing against the project as if it would be a personal betrayal, rather than just another project in a City of wealth-speculators and well-meaning City Planners. Had this project come to fruition closer to its inception (2012 maybe?), it likely wouldn't have caused so much ado. But the pent-up rage in CH has reached a near-boiling point (and I say "near," because there's always a notch higher, and history shows the toppest notches ain't pretty.)

Take a step back a minute in G-fication time machine. Was a day not so many years ago that longtime Crown Heights residents would have welcomed a new rec center with open arms. Don't listen to the crazy arguments about the center's inaffordability - even without the added discounts to be offered as needed, $10 a month (as projected) is not out-of-reach for the vast majority of residents interested in using a modern pool/fitness/sports center. It's an incredible deal, and many of the operators and leagues offering services will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity with local kids who need financial help. Claiming that the world-class facility needs to be free to all is simply absurd. Folks can scrounge the few bucks, and those that can't wouldn't be turned away, at least not with local Electeds keeping the place honest.

Even the housing component would have been welcomed. A decade ago the idea that permanent affordable housing would be included in a multi-million dollar plan to re-purpose the armory would have been seen as a win-win-win. The market rate housing? Back when the seismic demographic shift of the neighborhood seemed fanciful, even absurd, no one would have blinked. When the Q started this blog there was another, much more popular online rag called "I Love Franklin Avenue" and it burst with enthusiasm every time a new espresso house or eatery opened, as if a dormant bear was waking from his winter snooze to smell the coffee. At the time only a smattering of youthful whites could be spotted along long-challenged Franklin, and the first sprouting new businesses were seen as economic rejuvenation, not hostile takeover. I fully believe if the project had begun just after that recession, we'd all have gotten used to the below by now:


But City projects move slowly, and the neighborhood has gone through a massive economic rebound, and the change has left longtime locals aghast, out-of-an-apartment, or wildly wealthy (if they owned property.) Dollars are flowing in and out of the neighborhood in buckets.


I say all this not to pass judgment, but to provide context, because on the surface or from afar it might seem strange, even self-defeating, to say F.U. to a huge public amenity that would house space for the arts and senior and after-school activities, not just swimming and soccer and basketball through the cold months. And far from a fantasy, this one is on the books, payed for, and ready to roll. The City was understandably stoked when it figured out that it could hire a developer to build out the whole shebang since it would make its money on the rentals. The condos - sold by BFC - would finance the rec center. Follow? In exchange, BFC would get a 100 year lease on the land, which means years of solid returns for the company - much of which would go to finance other projects and so on. Sure, people would get paid handsomely - they didn't enter the developer world purely out of the goodness of their heart after all. Nor do most of us go to work every day purely for the joy and camaraderie.

So here we are, with more drama to come. Will Councilperson Laurie Cumbo buck CB9's will and negotiate a deal with the City? She currently says she opposes the plan, but then she's up for re-election, and she might be wise to remain mum til after the September primary. And BP Adams - isn't this precisely the kind of "build, build, build" he was championing after his election?

The politically simple call would be to vote no, and start over, and not risk a loud and sustained backlash from vocal detractors. But maybe the prudent thing, knowing that all social or political or economic hell might break loose at any time, would be to take the bird in the hand rather than the two in the (Flab)bush.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Risbo To Open In a Month

Seems like Chef Boris has been working for awhile to get Risbo up and running, his French American Cuisine, fast casual concept with heavy rotisserie influence, large banquette with communal eating style with meats, fish, and plenty of vegetables. At 701 Flatbush, next to Parkside Pizza and ParksideZ deli and the lively drunks of Parkside Liquors which is now called First Class Liquors, as in only the best fortified wine in the borough.

And yep. And that's him folks:

Looks like it's gonna be classy KAJ y'all. Not unlike Food Sermon?

Friday, June 23, 2017

And Speaking of Vino

What's going on here? Did all of Lefferts suddenly become winos? Sorry, wine enthusiasts. Oenophiles. People who like to get drunk in a classy way? Give me Mad Dog 20/20 any day. Actually, don't. You wouldn't like me when I'm drunk. Only right now am I realizing that

Gotta say this is Location, Location, Location for a wine shop. Parkside Avenue, right across from my beloved Q. Seems only a matter of time before this stretch starts to upscale generally.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Empanadas y Vino - Saturday June 29

The Q can't resist sharing this one. Between Empanada City's delicious savoury confections and Little Mo's gleeful-but-knowledgeable irreverence, a match has been made in nirvana. You can't miss this soiree on June 29. Just check out the screen shot I took from my office computer! Where'd Big Mo get that mouth-watering picture? Did he stage it and take it? Or did he merely right-click?

Friday, June 16, 2017

From Hookah to Sing Sing

His name was Larry Pagett, but maybe you knew him better as Biz, or Biz Loc, or Molotovbizzz, the man who's been charged with killing Droppa, sorry Chrispine Philip, at the Flatbush Ave Buda Hookah Lounge. 589 Flatbush, to be exact. 

This was a particularly terrifying gangland style shooting at a public watering hole and there were others critically hurt in the deadly assault. Depictions of such off-ings in movies might seem sickly glamorous to some. You know, Fats Joey sits in a quiet red checkered tablecloth eatery, face to the door, and his assailant enters with guns a-blazin'. Gore pours from the poor goon's head and onto his pasta. Visible splatters on the carefully arranged pictures of the owners with Freckle-Face Freddy and Squeaky Sal and Tony Orlando (with and without Dawn). In reality, as I've noted through the years of morbid fascination with these Brooklyn gang murders, the killer is a shitty shot and terrified and maybe high and he ends up shooting unintended victims and gets sent up river for a long, long time. Or gets off on a technicality. Or the wrong guy gets collared. Or...

Want a dark humor snicker? Check out the Google reviews of Sing Sing


Patch story by Marc Torrence

credit: D.Iudici
Before this particular place was the Hookah Lounge it was just plain Ali's Roti Shop, a classy looking joint with delicious take-out, a nice decor and swivel chairs at round tables. Then it went all Hookah on us, and the noise complaints started piling up. Neighbors weren't happy about it. The craziest part of this story is the strange lead up to the shooting, when the 311 calls about the place being unruly started piling up, and this appeared on a local telephone pole:


Some neighbors smelled a whiff of gentrifier haughtiness, and Ali's responsibly responded with this:


So in January of 2015 the place went from Roti Shop to Roti & Hookah shop, then a Roti & Hookah and Hooch shop. Then it got loud. Then it got REALLY loud - like bang bang bang. The next day it looked like the below.

credit: D.Iudici
They seem to have found the guy, and another shooting seems to have been linked by retailiation to another shooting, at the same time as J'Ouvert at the start of September. Blame the Hookah? Nah. This crime probably would have happened anywhere. Whatever happened to the good old fashione Duel? You know, like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton? Ten paces, turn, and pow. No innocent bystanders.

That was then, this is now. A new swell looking biz called Tasty has moved in. (Pretty sure this is cousin to another Tasty further down in the 'Bush.)

Sometimes you need a leader to put it all in perspective. Your councilman and mine had a fascinating insight when he stopped by the joint later that day of the early morning shooting, noted at the end of this contemporaneous account.
Councilman Matthieu Eugene stopped by the scene earlier Friday. He said the gun violence is just too much, not only in his district, but everywhere.
Amen, Einstein.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Armory Activists Out In Force

At the Crown Gardens meeting space on Nostrand Avenue last night you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting an anti-deal activist. Now this wouldn't be the Q if the Q didn't take a swipe at the irony in the room. White gentrifiers decrying market rate housing. Socialist protesters from NYCC not really knowing anything about the project, just showing up for yet another cause (some, not all of course). Alicia Boyd shouted down by fellow protesters for being too crass (she seemed out of her element not being the center of attention). And don't miss the PRO signs in the back of the room, held by young people obviously there because they were brought by the Clarence Norman/Geoffrey Davis forces that were, not at all ironically, paid by the developers to produce support from the community for the project. That's Norman's white shirt and hair just to the right of the woman in the horizontally striped dress on the left side of the picture.


The screaming, the chanting, the bluster...all on display. Ultimately there's not really any support at CB9 for the current BFC Partners project to create a beautiful recreation center and community group space out of the Bedford-Union Armory - leastways not if there are going to be any market-rate "luxury" rentals or condos in the mix.

The fact is, this particular parcel belongs to us all, and it probably SHOULD go to house the poorest among us. Yep. Public Housing. The kind that gets such a bad rap, even though public housing has been a lifeline for millions of Americans through the last 100 years. Look it up. Heck, even Eastern Bloc countries saw fit to follow suit!

But you gotta ask yourself...will such a "better deal" ever materialize? As it is, a perfectly good GIANT community resource is actually nearly happening, and the funding is all set. It's been more than a decade in the making. Are we really going to walk away in hopes of a better bargain? And more to the point, will the community REALLY come out in support of Public Housing (cause dammit, that's what it is)? Or is this just a bunch of posturing? For some, like the Crown Heights Tenants Union, I think it's a very REAL issue. They're understandably fed up with the rent hikes and displacement and blatant racism and ageism, and they resent the very notion of market-rate anything going on public land. As to the not-so-few carpet-baggers, I can appreciate a good protest, but a lot of folks seemed to know absolutely nothing about this particular project. I suspect if NY Communities for Change issued a call to protest Mr. Softy for running a non-union truck, the orange-shirts would be out in a jiffy, with signs reading "No Justice, No Sprinkles!" The fact is, this process is a lot more nuanced than "kill the deal" can possibly explain. But we don't really DO discourse at CB9, so there it is, no 'splain, no gain.

I guess you could say the Q's a realist. Or, cynic. Depends on whose talking. But really now...am I to assume that everyone who lives near this potentially giant housing project is going to welcome his low-income brothers and sisters with loving arms? I certainly hope so. We'd be showing the City that we actually care about those least able to pay their bills.

But wait...isn't this the same community that wants nothing to do with a well-maintained and secure homeless shelter for families just down the block?

For those keeping score at home, here's what "the Community" seems to be saying. Give us a bunch of City subsidized housing (and it don't come cheap) for people making less than the actual median income ($38K for a family of 4 in Crown Heights). BUT, if those same people suddenly can't afford the roughly $800 - $900 month and become homeless, well, we sure as hell don't want them HERE.

To her credit, councilperson Laurie Cumbo was parked in the front row, and remained quiet as the battle raged. My considerable gut tells me she understands the nuances, and understands too that to favor this project is political death. She's come out against it and will likely win reelection as a result, and now she claims to want NO market rate housing. (When you want to emphasize the point, just call 'em "luxury condos.") But there's no hint of where the money will come from to build all this subsidized housing AND giant community center. Just a lot of hyperbole and bullying.

Lastly I'd just like to add what I always want to add to those who decry Developers out of hand. I'll bet Dollars to Donuts that the very home you're living in now was built by those nasty, greedy humans otherwise known as Developers.  Yep. Even your fancy townhouses were the once much-derided tract housing of its day. Developers are builders. And even if they make a profit, you don't get housing without them. The City got out of that business a long time ago, and for good reason. The corruption alone cost a fortune. Sure you can hire a non-profit developer. And you're just as likely to get reamed, too, by a bunch of crooks and shysters and volunteer board members.

Maybe it's time to park those dollars in the Carver for a minute, eat a few of those donuts, and reconsider whether there IS some compromise to be made before we end up with a 500,000 square foot vacant lot til the next recession ends in, oh, 2030 or so.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Flavors of Flatbush - Thursday June 15

Flavors yes. And smells, too, one would imagine. The spelling "flavours" gets the thumbs up from Google. But Flavors, without the "u" is misspelled, so sayeth the Great Brain of the Valley of Silicon. Well, there it is. Google is an Anglophile. Great Brain, Great Britain. The world's collective consciousness. Don't laugh; it's just a matter of time before Google becomes self-aware, and then...

Look, this is going to be a terrific event. Do NOT miss, and it's a good cause to boot. The Merchant's association is finally firing on most pistons.




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Here They Come - The Candidates Get Down To Business


Yep. There were lots of people. Maybe 200 at the peak? And while all 200, mostly working people, many with families and duties, managed to come on time and prepare for the 7pm start, your Councilman Mathieu Eugene came more than half an hour into the program. Did he know this was a crucial close-up-to-constituents opportunity? Who knows. The guy has his head so far up his arse I'm surprised he knew this wasn't just another ribbon-cutting.

I liked the candidates...a lot. I was particularly impressed by Brian, Rose and Pia. Jennifer seemed shaky, and maybe not quite ready for the big time. I say that with love, because I know she's a dedicated servant to the tenants she works with and for, keeping people in their homes and fighting unscrupulous landlords. But I gotta say, and I hope this doesn't sound too crass...the seat belongs to a person of color. While we may be trending towards the Caucasioid these days, it's really important that longtime residents of the neighborhood feel they have a voice at City Hall. Were the race just Eugene and Berkely, I might feel otherwise. But there it is; the Q don't mince words. Let's keep the seat in the hands of a qualified black candidate. And we have three solid ones to choose from, each with their own assets and potential liabilities. Mostly assets though.

If you want the skinny, I highly recommend this thorough rundown from, of all places, Kings County Politics and journalist Phoebe Taylor Vuolo, who also took the below pic. KCP is often seen as an insider rag that seems more press release than hard news source. Perhaps that's changing? We could all use more information about those who serve us. We need strong leaders at every level if we're to turn back the tide of racist nationalism that has beset our noble republic.

Keep an eye on this race. Gonna be good, and while 5 is too many candidates, I hope that one emerges as the consensus to knock the good Doctor back to Canarsie where his actual home resides. Perhaps then he'll actually have to get a full-time job? I hear he has a medical degree from Mexico so he'll be just fine, between that and his black belt in something or other (true stories all - and he know Jean Claude Van Damme and once met an actual astronaut!).

According to Eugene, people in "HIS" district are very, very happy with him

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Black Educator's Perspective

If you have a perspective you'd like to share, feel free to shoot the Q an email. Thoughtful, engaging, provocative, challenging, moving, hilarious...send it along. And if this issue of segregation and inequality in the public schools is a concern of yours, please show up next Tuesday for another thought-provoking and hopeful action-inspiring event, flyer and info at the bottom of this post.

Longtime Lefferts neighbor, activist and "local gentry" Brenda Edwards shares her thoughts on the state of segregated schools and the history of such in our very neighborhood.

In the mid 90s a group of us black teachers decided to form a committee to protect our students and to be a definitive voice in the decision making process in what we saw as the coming onslaught of a white dominated school. For us, this was the beginning of gentrification which would affect our school,Erasmus Hall High located in Brooklyn's district 17. The district encompasses parts of East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts, Gardens, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.
We did not believe ourselves to be paranoid or over reacting. We had already seen the displacement and destruction of communities when its residents became more white and more wealthy.
We were determined to establish a balance within our school and with in the New York City educational system. We would be ready for whatever was to come. Students of all ethnicities would be welcome, but our black and brown students would not be excluded. We were armed with our teaching skills, our knowledge of the educational system and it's history of school segregation. We had witnessed the wrath of racism and economic inequities.
We would approach this issue with a vengeance. We would perform the necessary research citing evidence based on neighboring schools as well as others across the country. We would look for the signs: A sudden windfall found in the school budget resulting in long overdue renovations, the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment, and a generous inventory of school supplies including enough books for each student. Although this should be the normal working operations of a school, more often than not; this does not occur in schools located in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods,especially in the inner city.
We eventually realized that there would be no influx of white students eagerly registering for our school. The trickling stream of gentrifiers at that time and the presently increasing number would unequivocally decide that our school was not the right choice for their children. Perhaps it was and still is a clash of cultures, a resistance to change and a fear of the low performance that is associated with our neighborhood schools. Whatever the rationale, this choice continues to promote an imbalance where the majority of desirable schools are overwhelmingly stocked with the more affluent, the high achievers, the less needy and white students.
But as the neighborhood becomes more diverse, parents are organizing in preparation for their children to attend the schools around the corner, down the street and just a few blocks away. The hope is that the schools will reflect the various faces of its residents. And that all who live here will take responsibility in insisting on quality education for all students who cross the threshold of each classroom.
It is evident that in a changing neighborhood that our schools will also change to accommodate the newcomers as well as re-evaluate what works and does not work for the students who are already there. A successful educational system should never remain stagnant. it should be a system that proposes to satisfy the needs of its students regardless of who they are. It should not be a sudden and blatant realization that the schools are in need of substantial improvements only when the demographics change.
To quote the title of the song that Sam Cooke made famous "A Change Is Gonna Come." We will see where it takes us.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kandidate Korner - First Up, Pia Raymond

It's a testament to the weakness of incumbent City Council person Mathieu Eugene that he's facing four challengers to his throne this Fall. An even semi-popular council dude would easily slide to his max number of terms (Eugene was "grandfathered" so he has yet another term to go before being tossed out). Two popular and qualified candidates announced a while ago, with two new ones joining the race since. Of course everyone has the right to challenge Eugene, so we can't fault anyone for piling on, But the chances of beating him outright have plummeted as a result. Mathieu will maintain his most steadfast base, and each of the other candidates will carve out their spot in the electorate. Since it's do or die in the Democratic Primary, and you need just a plurality to win (no run-off), conventional wisdom says Eugene robs us of another four years of strong, vocal and imaginative leadership.

Unless..well, we'll cross that bridge in a later post.

Brian's the one with the beard
Let's get right to the candidates. The Q wrote about the first-announced challenger last fall, Brian Cunningham. At that time I would have called him a shoo-in to top Eugene in a head-to-head battle. Smart, experienced, politically savvy with many friends in his native neighborhood, his early announcement was meant to dissuade others from joining - a shrewd political move given the nature of Democratic primaries and the cynical power of incumbency. It seemed to be working...for awhile.


Pia has no beard
Then we learn that longtime Crown Heights resident (5 generations - wow) and currently Fenimore II mom Pia Raymond joined the race. She too is smart and popular, albeit less experienced in the ways and means of the notoriously arcane and treacherous City legislature. So who wins? Let's start with surface details. Anyone who knows Pia can't help but note (and her campaign poster attests) she's quite glamorous and fashionable, plus tall and svelte - she doesn't fade into a crowd. I'm not quite sure how that fits into the equation. I mean Brian's handsome too, though his beard is new! The two could be homecoming King and Queen. The calculus here is tough to determine. She's African-American; his roots are Jamaican; Eugene's obviously Haitian. (another recent addition to the roster of candidates is ALSO Haitian, Rose St. Albord). To say these things don't matter is to deny the reality of our neighborhood (oh hell, any neighborhood), where language, culture, dynasty and custom - not to mention rivalry - often rule the day. And yet a winning candidate must transcend such simplistic identity-politics and appeal broadly, and most important, s/he must bring out the vote. It ain't easy to get people to the polls for a primary in September just as the new year begins (and let's face it, the year begins in September, no matter what the calendar says).

And who really takes the time to get to know these folks or the issues they champion? You, perhaps? Yes, identity, roots, family, church...these things really do count for a lot. But so does YOUR identity, your roots, family, spirituality, gender (let's not forget that), orientation and, for lack of a better word, your politics beyond this particular race. These are all Democrats, mind you. They're not going to go all Trump on your ass. But still, there are differences, and some come down to the intangibles of charisma and leadership. You want someone who will inspire, lead the charge on contentious issues, take tough stands, articulate difficult issues, be teachable and tolerant, communicate effectively on ALL means of communication (just try to find your current Councilperson on le Web).

Oh yes, and then there's the endorsements. Will BP Adams and Jesse Hamilton et al go to bat once again for the miserably unfit Eugene? Will the Working Families Party endorse him again too, after catching flack for giving him the WFP seal of approval last time? How about the powerful unions, particularly the hospital workers? Then there's the local political dynasty of Una and Yvette Clarke. They too showed no remorse or independence four years ago, sticking with the man they placed in the job in the first place. With the contest running near-even in 2013, they conpspired to robo-call folks in the district aGAINST capable and independent challenger Saundra Thomas. And while some consider her position as Congressperson untouchable, Yvette is more exposed than you'd think, and a strong candidate could take on her seat anytime - her district is much more diverse than it was 10 years ago. Therefore, look for her to hold on to the Haitian vote as long as she can. (So gross. To think politicians would stand by a loser for their own self-interest. Wait...I guess that's most of the Republican party with Donald Trump. Sanders supporters said the same of Clinton. I might as well have just described the political class in general. Ah, I hate everyone. Except you, of course, dear reader.)

The Q met with Pia on Friday morning, and though I've served with her at Community Board 9 for a few years, this was the first time we had a one-on-one conversation. I've gotten to know quite a number of people on CB9, but Pia is reserved, where I'm a loudmouth. I'd like to think I listen too, and I DO I really do, but Pia strikes me as a particularly good listener, and an excellent conciliator. She's super proud of her heritage, and she has plenty of good reason. She's managed to trace her own legacy to slave owners in North Carolina, and from those tortured beginnings her family rose to prominence in Brooklyn with her father - Syl - becoming a true stalwart (gentry, if you will) in Crown Heights through his sporting goods and trophies shop on Nostrand, at Park Place. This is a good example of the problem with the term Gentrification. I mean, with clear-souled folks like Syl Williamson helping define a neighborhood and working to keep kids on the right path...they were the heroes that kept a place from completely falling apart after the earlier gentry abandoned the neighborhood for the 'burbs. That's Gentry - the real deal. For a brief bio on the famous Syl Williamson, Pia's dad, check this here. Pia ran the business for awhile but eventually the landlord decided he could get more than Syl's could pay. It was then that Pia started her non-profit "Creating Legacies," dedicated to identifying and preserving the deep histories that differentiate "community" from "neighborhood."

Pia saw the worst of the drug and gang years through the eyes of a child. By the mid-80s, she started to plot her escape. She managed to earn a spot at Groton, the blue-blood boarding school in Connecticut. Then to Boston University, and back to NYU for Social Work. She's that powerful combination of reverent for elders, strong of character, and comfortable in non-native worlds. She puts people at ease. She's a laid-back presence in a rumble-tumble world. She's thoughtful and passionate, though maybe a bit circumspect. That's my only concern, really. Where folks like Diana Richardson, Jumaane Williams, Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo can walk into a room and demand attention, Pia acquiesces. She may grow to lead, to command a room. If she surrounds herself with good people, we'll be in good hands, and she will put at ease any fears you may have of engaging with your elected officials.

Pia's work with Community Board 9 has focused on the needs of small businesses, and she and co-chair Warren Berke put together the successful and ongoing Shop Local CB9 campaign. She's a champion of local merchants as part of the Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Association, long under the stewardship of Lindiwe Kamau. Pia has brought fresh energy to NAMA, and maintains healthy relationships with all the local merchants, old and new. And she's a board member of the Lefferts Manor Association (LMA) that helps keep "the Manor" alive and thriving as a tight-knit 'hood within a 'hood. Her hubby's cool, her kids are gorgeous. What's not to like?

See what I mean? It's tough. We're going to have to look hard at these candidates and see in them what we want for the future of our neighborhood. I'll be coming back to Brian again, because I think he deserves a close-up now that we're heading into the busy season of signatures and campaigning, door-to-door. And don't you dare forget the upcoming "debate" at the Brooklyn Commons!




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Let's Get Ready To Rumble - June 5


When Your Bank Says No, Champion Says YES!

Is it all just a game of good-cop bad-cop? Maybe. The City Planning Commission (read: the Mayor) is going forward with the current plans by BFC Partners for the Bedford-Union Armory - they just decided to start the official ULURP process, which does NOT mean a for-certain conclusion. But the battle lines have been drawn. Usually, though not always, the City Council sides with the council person on these matters. T'would be interesting if they didn't in this case, since Laurie has come around to finding the deal insufficiently community controlled. I've discussed the issue ad nauseum, but story keeps giving. It's a terrific metaphor for so many social, political, racial, economic zeitgeist issues.

Maybe my analysis is too grandiose. I think what's really going on is that Laurie Cumbo senses she cannot get re-elected if people feel she has not been sufficiently Lefty on the issue. And by Lefty, I mean Socialist (this is Brooklyn, USA after all). At this moment in political history, it's not enough to be a Democrat. You must defy the very forces of capital and the captains of industry! You must make certain that no one makes any money, even if a few good things might come of it.

Seriously...seriously. That sort of one-up-person-ship as to who is the true progressive - that's what I sense is happening, and not just around the Bedford-Union Armory. In my own life, at the kids' school and work and friendships, I see folks struggling for their very identity in a world turned upside down. It's not okay to side with forces that could be seen as reactionary or pro-business. To do so would be to betray one's liberal bonafides, to side with the Trumpers, to send the country back to its darkest days i.e. last Wednesday. Or was it Thursday?

If you want to know what the Socialist perspective is, why not go to the source? NY Communities for Change is one of the closest organized relatives of the World Workers Party we have going right here in the Windy Apple, as I like to call Brooklyn. Actually I think Brooklyn's outline looks more like an apple than Manhattan, which always struck me as more of a sawed-off shotgun. When I look at the outline of Brooklyn, I actually see the silhouette profile of a bear, sort of a Paddington like fellow, with a funny hat. See how his back leg (bottom right) is in the air, making him look like he's walking leftward? That leg is actually Floyd Bennett Field. And are those little shards of poop coming out of Canarsie, or maybe his backup ruptured sending cheese puffs a-flyin'?


Anyhow, the beef of the matter here is that NYCC is actually deeply involved in the Armory issue, and their participation has shown that the Left, as in the REAL Left, has plenty of kick left in her, not unlike Mrs. O'Leary's cow. It's never too late to set a City on fire, you know.

Here's the latest missive from NYCC, which many of you first encountered as ACORN:

We are not moving forward with the project.”

That’s what Council member Laurie Cumbo said last week about the Bedford Armory deal, but yesterday the City gave the development process the greenlight.1

That means that Mayor de Blasio’s administration will move forward with the project while Laurie Cumbo gets to tell her constituents she’s against this gentrification plan during the election season.

But we can still stop this deal from happening. Laurie Cumbo has the power to finally kill this deal and start over with a new plan for community-controlled, 100% affordable housing at the Bedford Armory.

Tell Council member Laurie Cumbo to stand up to Mayor de Blasio and demand that this project be pulled from the approval pipeline! Call her office at (718) 260-9191.

Laurie Cumbo and the administration are in the middle of playing good cop/bad cop with us, all while leaving Crown Heights stuck with a terrible housing deal.

This is completely unacceptable. Our neighborhoods, homes, and lives are not a game. Laurie Cumbo may say she’s fighting with us, but now she has an opportunity to actually step into the ring and stop this deal from happening.

This deal prioritizes private profit on public land, in a neighborhood that’s facing rapid gentrification and a homelessness crisis. We shouldn’t have to choose between a recreation center and the housing Crown Heights needs.

The only acceptable way forward is to kill the deal and start over under a framework that puts community control front and center. Council member Cumbo should demand that the City stop this process and start over with a deal for 100% affordable housing at the Armory.

Call her office now at (718) 260-9191 and urge her to demand that the City stop the approval process. Click here for a sample script of what to say.

Until we win,

Vaughn Armour
NYCC Member & Crown Heights resident of 16 years
 

Monday, May 22, 2017

War of the Armory


What better place to hold a war than an Armory?

Since the Q's last post, beleaguered councilperson Laurie Cumbo and BP Eric Adams have come out AGAINST the deal to create housing and a rec center from the Bedford-Union Armory. Politics is trumping Cumbo's realism and Adams' "Build Baby Build" rhetoric.

Folks this is a major teaching moment for us all. A relatively small - actually no, an ACTUALLY small - number of residents have struck big fear into elected officials around all manner of development and housing issues. Watching this up close has been fascinating and eye-opening. By keeping the pressure on, and using truly inspired propaganda like this website called Real Gentrifiers and a roving van with fancy LED screens calling out officials by name, this coalition of housing activists have created the unflattering attention needed to convince the Powers-that-Be to switch sides. Hungry wanna-bes are waiting in the wings to knock Cumbo, Adams, Hamilton and others out of position, by painting them as betrayers of the largely black and poor long-time residents of Central Brooklyn. Remember, this area is represented by a battalion of strong black politicians (our noble councilperson the exception to the "strong" rule). While young Caucasians may find themselves attracted to the assertive tactics and boisterous chanting, the underlying cries of "sell-out" and "Uncle Tom" may strike some as bizarre. Again, checking under the hood you sometimes find more there than just rusty spark plugs.

Great Facebook Live video on the demonstration (against AND for, it should be noted) and all the currents from Patch's Mark Torrence. Yours and my fave ballbuster Alicia Boyd aids a strong cast with her "look at me" antics:

THE LATEST FROM PATCH

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What's Under the Hood At the Bedford Union Armory?

 On the surface, it sounds so simple, so enticing. The City bids out a behemoth 110 year old drill hall in southern Crown Heights to be re-purposed for much-needed recreation. The drawings from the winning bidder show basketball courts, dancing classes, an indoor swimming pool, spaces for community groups to meet or host productions. The City's engine for Public-Private partnerships, the Economic Development Corporation, leads the way. After all, it knows how to get things done. While the City itself can't always be relied upon to produce big, big projects, EDC has a pretty solid track record. Sounds good so far, yes?

Over the years NYC EDC has been responsible for shepherding and helping finance everything from our beloved Lakeside Center to the Harlem River Park, the updated Whitehall Ferry Terminal, the Brooklyn Cyclones' MCU Ballpark and hundreds of projects throughout the City that make the City the City. Their secret? Land. It's all stuff that's on City-owned land. They essentially try to make the "best" use of what the City already has - land - to keep jobs here, bring jobs here, create housing opportunities and build civic amenities for all New Yorkers - not just for the super-rich. They issue bonds and provide financing and expertise. And it could be argued that the EDC's previous incarnations helped stave off the worst of the NYC downfall and abandonment of the '60s and '70s. You know, white flight, job flight, manufacturing flight, flight flight...all the stuff that led to the kind of poverty-choked decay that seems such a distant memory now. Unemployment is low; wages are up, housing is tight, land is scarce. It's a far cry, though not without its own set of Big Apple sized problems.

So that's the EDC, for better or not so. A lot of the coolest parts of the City owe their existence to it. And sometimes, fair to say, it bulldozes over the City's history. In the name, mind you, of progress. And sometimes EDC ushers in visions of the future that look like this:

BFC rendering - proposed
Enter the other Armory acronym - BFC. Easy to get them mixed up. But BFC is not the EDC. BFC Partners is the Developer. They're known for doing a lot of, der, developments. They do what developers do, better or worse. They make money by building stuff - a bunch in Staten Island, the East Village, now Brooklyn. (Important to note - without developers, in essence, you got no City as we know it. Folks who work for the City understand that Developers are as key to the City's economy as manure is to farming. A lot of times it stinks, but it's hard to grow without it.) Like many Developers, BFC has gotten pretty good at making money. Finding "undervalued" land and making it more valuable. The very act of development, it could be argued, is the stuff of gentrification, in the broadest sense. As land becomes more valuable, as the properties ON the land become more valuable, the surrounding neighborhood's living costs rise. The poorest folks get priced out. The newcomers stay for awhile, and even some of them eventually get priced out. Conversely, sometimes the bet doesn't pay off. (Don't cry; there are ways of shedding those losses, believe you me and your current president). Continental Capitalism does its thing as its done since the days of the Dutch. What was worth a few guilders and a bucket of tulip bulbs is now worth a few hundred million dollars and seat on the Board of the Met.
BFC Rendering - Proposed

As I wandered the massive spaces and hidden tombs of the Bedford-Union Armory last night as part of a CB9 ULURP tour, led by (don't get confused) both BFC and EDC, I couldn't help but be reminded of a simple fact. No project HAS to go the way it usually goes. We could, at any time, decide that our priorities for a given project are a) not to make money or b) not even to break even. We could decide to c) spend money. Yep. Tax money, the money that's MADE through gentrification and value-addition. And we could do so to, say, alleviate human suffering, build colleges or medical centers, house the homeless, or create new public spaces and amenities that aren't intended to pay for themselves but rather to make the City a more livable place for people of modest means, thereby shining dignity upon all our brethren and standing as a beacon to the entire nation. And if you do it right - and there's no assurances you would - you might just end up ennobling the Great Experiment of New York City, which in many ways stands as one of America's greatest living achievements. I'm not being ironic here - I believe this to the core of my being. Now, one might fall on one's face trying, of course. But guess what? For-profit and break-even projects fall apart ALL THE TIME. Folks brush themselves off and start again. Just because you can make it work out on paper doesn't mean it works out in real life. So yes, NYC COULD think big, like government did in the first age of public housing and the New Deal and the creation of Medicaid/Medicare and (this one always blows my mind) create a system of Upstate reservoirs that easily brings potable water to millions and millions of thirsty people who speak 200 languages and come in every conceivable size, shape, color, creed, sexual identity and (gulp) political philosophy.

Or, you could create a bunch of market rate condos, a bunch of below-market means-tested rentals (i.e. affordable housing), and a public/private recreational center that costs around $10 a month for memberships, with breaks for kids and seniors and maybe others. You could, essentially, play it safe. Not necessarily horrible, or inherently evil. Maybe even pretty darn good. And by doing so, you could help BFC Partners make a boat-load of money. On the one hand, you have an incredible Crown Heights resource - land, building, history, nearly unlimited potential. On the other hand, you have a bullet pointed prospectus and an achievable plan to turn the whole site around in a couple of years, barring a financial collapse or terrorist attack or both. Safe or visionary. Which would YOU choose?

There are many activists working overtime to "Kill the Deal." They might just be able to oust incumbent City Councilperson Laurie Cumbo as a result - her capable and popular challenger Ede Fox is building her campaign around tarring Laurie as a tool for developers and gentrification (not fair, in my view - this stuff is too nuanced to be so glib) and it seems to be working. Laurie's been blindsided by her own early acquiescence on this project, and her slow change of heart on the issue may have cost her deeply. At her State of the Union speech on Thursday, look for the activists from Bertha Lewis's Black Institute and NY Communities for Change (think Acorn renamed) and the Crown Heights Tenants Union and union leaders to be doing their best to intimidate and castigate and, yep, "Kill the Deal." The activists feel, with good reason I think, that the City is selling the neighborhood short, by not thinking big, and not thinking about how $$$ already budgeted to homeless housing should and could be going to low-income permanent housing, thus lowering the numbers of homeless. Okay, that reasoning is not entirely sound or as straight-up as it's portrayed, but sound enough to be worth a listen (because not all sounds are worth a listen natch). And the chanters claim that the high-cost condos will speed-up the neighborhood's already monsoon gentrification. And while these claims of secondary displacement are hard to prove, since there are too many variable to do a controlled study, they're certainly plausible, and anyway, the fear felt by many current residents is very real indeed. Another 16-story building of condos doesn't sound like the kind of plan that takes their needs to heart. And don't forget the NIMBYists! They don't like change, especially at the cost to light, views, architectural integrity, though they're usually okay with a new sit-down restaurant or two. Or as (I kid you not) the C in BFC partners, Don Capoccia delicately put it "once New Yorkers get their own housing sorted out its like screw everybody else." I'm actually floored by the deep truth in that statement, and plan on using it myself and probably not crediting the Don. Btw, Don is an openly gay die-hard Republican, who says NYC is the most anti-development City in the world. The world is complicated, man. But don't get me started on the F guy. I mean, F that guy, Joseph Ferarri or whatever the punk's name is. Massive Trumper. But he's a NYC Real Estate guy...you expected more? The idea of him pocketing green off City land turns my tummy. And it's a BIG tummy!

Is the Q neutral? Maybe I kinda was at first, if I was honest, but only because I'm cynical and figured NOTHING would happen if we walked away from this deal. I mean I think it's really, really important to get a rec center happening, and the economy could give way before anything at all happens. But then I asked myself...don't we have enough money to do the rec center already? The City has a budget of nearly $100 billion dollars a year. Just picture a pile of a million dollars. Then picture it again and again up to a thousand. Now do that again 100 times. Oh who am I kidding. Let's bring out the visuals! I'll leave you with this...

$10,000 in $100 bills


$1 million in $100 bills



$1 billion in $100 bills, a pallet, and a person with no gonads


$10 billion in $100 bills


$1 trillion in $100 bills


$1 trillion dollars, again



$15 trillion - why not? It'll warm your huddled masses if you light it on fire

By the way, I'm almost MORE into seeing the Statue of Liberty on a football field than trying to visualize $15 trillion dollars next to a 747. C'est moi.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Parkside Plaza Needs Support - Now!For

For god's sake it even has a logo!!!


If you're new to the neighborhood you can be forgiven for assuming that the Parkside Plaza was always a lovely, manicured, flora-filled, farmer's-market-hosting, pride-inducing paramour of our dear Q at Parkside station. I can assure you, dear neighbor, this was not always the case.

Up til about 3 years ago the plaza was about as lovely as an abandoned strip mall parking lot. That's until a group of locals banded together to lobby the City for funds to reclaim this public space for the greater good. I can still hardly believe that it's come to such frothy fruition. There were ups; there were downs. But in the end, good prevailed, the force is with us, and Tatooine wasn't destroyed by the Death Star, but rather nourished with water and turned into the Leffertsonian equivalent of a Garden of Eden. In-a-gadda-da-vida indeed.

So I ask you, I implore you, I beseech you, I importune, I demand, I expect, I solicit, I supplicate, I pray you will do the right thing and budget a wee bit of your wages for this communal jewel.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT

With a public commitment of just under $10,000, we signal to the City, to elected officials, to the DOT that maintains the plaza, and to our partners, that we care deeply about this ongoing project. We hope one day to get full funding from our elected officials, and you should all demand that our next Councilperson back this project 150%. For now, please show you care! If you read the Q even just once in a great while, consider this gift in support of the Q, for whom advertising is anathema, but whose love for you knows no bounds. I really, really love you. And I love you most when you're shedding your greenbacks in the name of greenery.

the project

We are thrilled to be celebrating the second anniversary of the Parkside Plaza. Over the past two years, the plaza has grown to become critical in displaying  the arts and culture of our community. 
For over 40 years, this space was barren concrete. However with your support, we were able to rejuvenate the plaza by:
-Installing benches and moveable seating for residents to sit and take in the splendor of the park;
-Hosting the Grow NYC farmers market every weekend during the spring, summer and fall seasons;
-Providing outdoor space for numerous cultural events (like PLG Art and local musicians), and
-Beautifing the landscape with plants, flowers and shrubbery

At a time in our society when we are all at risk for losing support and funding for arts, culture and green spaces, your donation to the Parkside Plaza matters now more than ever!

the steps

Every spring we work with local artists, organizations and merchants to host cultural events, resource events and showcase local talent. Our next steps will be to continue our outreach for local artists, further our relationships with resource providers and ensure that we continue to provide the community with a space to enjoy and programming and resources that benefit everyone.

why we're doing it

The Parkside Plaza is "A neighborhood plaza by and for the community".
The plaza exists to help the community and it needs the community to keep programming possible.
The plaza is now a part of our lives and we want our community plaza to continue to be accessible and enjoyable by everyone. The Parkside Plaza would not exist if it weren't for the individual donations from generous community members like you!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PLG Music Festival - May 15-21

Or as some are calling it, PLeGnapalooza. (actually only the Q is calling it that at that moment).

Had it not come from the reliably truthful DNAInfo, I'd not have believed it. But here it is on the PLG Arts page:

What can you say? And have you been hearing the jazzy tunes wafting from the Parkside Pizza place lately? Dang. Positively swingin'! (By the way, while both this and the last post about the Tiki Bar could have been Q April Fool's gags in year's past, this ain't no joke folks. I'm just hoping a hair salon opens next to the new bar going in next to Peppa's and calls it Tiki Barbers)

Saxy Festival Player Kazemde George





Monday, May 8, 2017

Tiki Bar Opening Next To Peppa's



That space on the Flabenue btw Parkside and Woodruff/Clarkson next to Peppa's Jerk Chicken? You know the one that's being built-out as we digitally interact?

Tiki Bar. No effing kidding man. Right from the owner. Or rather the owner's neighbor. Very trustworthy citizen, she, so it's basically a done deal.

What is a Tiki Bar, precisely? My guess, my hunch, my suspicion, is that there is something not wholly politically correct in the concept, using Polynesian masks and silly umbrellas to doll up the pursuit of intoxication. From the Grail, a/k/a Wikipedia:
tiki bar is an exotic–themed drinking establishment that serves elaborate cocktails, especially rum-based mixed drinks such as the mai tai and zombie cocktail. Tiki bars are aesthetically defined by their tiki culture d├ęcor which is based upon a romanticized conception of tropical cultures, most commonly Polynesian.
The interiors and exteriors of tiki bars often include "tiki god" masks and carvings, grasscloth, tapa cloth and tropical fabrics, torches, woven fish traps, and glass floats, bamboo, plants, lava stone, hula girl, palm tree motifs, tropical murals and other South Pacific-themed decorations. Indoor fountains, waterfalls or even lagoons are popular features. Some tiki bars also incorporate a stage for live entertainment such as exotica-style bands or Polynesian dance floor shows.
Why does the Q suspect un-PC-ness? The words and phrases "zombie." "tiki culture." "romanticized conception of tropical cultures." "tiki god" "hula girl." "exotica-style bands." You know. Standard cultural appropriation stuff.

Apparently Trader Vic came up with the whole idea and it took off like wild-tapas. Trader Joe's is also indebted to Tiki Culture, the '50s-'60s fad that included the brilliant music of Martin Denny. If you don't know his lounge music, you gotta check it out. The style is known as Exotica, after his famous record of that name, and dozens more, that use every manner of instruments and gorgeous stereophic sound that just bubbles off your hi-fi. Given the comely come-hither poses of beautiful ladies showing off their "exotic" sexiness, I can only surmise that we have wandered into yet another land mine of insensitivity. And yet, people still do mock German, Russian and Transylvanian accents without backlash. We'll see. Perhaps "Tiki" is simply too silly to be offensive.

In the meantime, c'mon out and get your mai tais. Opening soon.