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    That's right. Was it really just over a year ago that the neighborhood was largely livid at its lack of latte? Well, looks like a little place will be opening up at Midwood and Rogers. The Q first heard the rumor at a post-Thanksgiving dinner, then the ever-on-it Babs met Rich the owner today, and sure enough soon enough you'll be able to express your love for espresso on The Rog. "The Rog," sometimes spelled "The Raj," as the Q just decided to call it for the first time, is rumored to have been named for local resident Barbara "Babs" Rogers' great great great great grandfather Benjamin "Bugs" Rogers of the notorious Pigstown Seven, a group known for its ruthless running of an blacksmithing cartel. (Apparently the article "an" was used before vowels and hard B's, T's and Y's before 1823, though that may just be a rumor).

    Y'all I also heard a rumor there's an ACTUAL blacksmith on Rogers. This one is no joke, he has a gallery and everything. Will someone here post more info? I'm just too damn busy to chase down these leads, but who doesn't want something smithed from time to time? Or scythed for that matter (any scythers out there?) Maybe he has some objets d'arte for holiday presents. Colour me intrigued. Britishly so.

    And speaking of "Rumours," or rather Rumors...

    Today the Q indulged his poppier sensibilities with a bit of a guilty pleasure by putting on the 4th highest selling album of all time by, yes, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and company. I'm no huge fan, but I always perk up when the Mac comes on the radio, if only to listen to the delicious interplay between bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, and of course the out-of-this-world warbling of the Queen of Shawls. Rumors was flawlessly produced, with outstanding performances and a sheen that makes it sound like the record was actually made out of cocaine, which apparently was being consumed in large quantities by the band at the time (and the entire record industry as well), quantities of which probably fell out of workers' noses at the vinyl pressing plant.

    So how weird is it to dial up the 30th Anniversary edition, which you can now do basically for free on Spotify or some subscription service like the one I've had for 10 years called Rhapsody, and see that not only do you get the original record but a ton of live performances and demos and outtakes of tunes you've basically heard your whole mother-loving life. So I listened, and at first I was intrigued by the strained singing and lame guitar and what probably was Lindsey Buckingham playing drums while Mick was out partying. And suddenly...all the magic was gone for me. These classic rock geniuses suddenly became regular old Joes and Janes trying to make a hit record. Listen to it...seriously, it's quite bizarre how these things ever made the light of day. What were they thinking? That we actually want to hear how bad they sound when they sing in the shower?

    So much for rumors and Rumors. I honestly hope they never release Michael Jackson's demos, because I love his recordings so much I never want the Quincy-magic to disappear for me. The Mac I can take or leave, but don't mess with my Billy Jean. Or one of the 20th Centuries greatest artistic achievements..."Wanna Be Startin' Something." Gives me the goose pimples that one does.

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    Some might think I'm giving outsized coverage to the Lefferts Gardens Charter School (LGCS). But in just its first three years of existence, the school has gone through more than its topsy and turvy, and I've tried to stay abreast as best I can, seeing as I and so many of my friends have spent "outsized" time to looking at kindergarten options. LGCS shares space with PS92 on Parkside, the building that's the most obvious candidate to bear the name "Lefferts Gardens." While much has been written about Charter vs DOE schools (much of it too partisan to be taken at face value, I might add), the fact of the matter is that local parents DO have a fair number of options available, and LGCS is one of them. It's stated mission is incredibly appealing:

    The Lefferts Gardens Charter School will utilize an environmental science program to develop academically motivated and civic-minded students to succeed in competitive high school and college programs. The proximity of several community-based environmental institutions provides a unique opportunity for learning that extends beyond the classroom. Graduates of LGCS will leave with an understanding of the relationship among science, the environment, and the everyday world.
    In fact, having toured the school not once, not twice, but three times now, I can say with great confidence that the mission is very much the guiding principle at play. And recent additions include a full-time art teacher Maude Whiltshire (read her engaging school blog here) and a head of science curricula for the school generally. The kids sing in chorus, a throwback that touches my heart, since I remember music class in elementary school probably better than anything else. Perhaps most appealingly, they have field trips once a week (the phrase "field trip" is out-of-fashion, but you know what I mean) to dovetail with what the kids are studying in the classroom. Everyone learns American Sign Language (a useful skill by any standard, but also a great tool if you want to keep some order in a noisy classroom). The building, despite its being more than 100 years old (says so right when you walk in), is big, bright and schooly in the classic sense. It's right next to newly renovated Parkside Playground and basketball courts. It's got a big gym and auditorium. Oh, and it's walkable, a quaint and seriously sweet experience for both parent and child.

    So what's the catch? Until recently, I would have said that the lack of stable, strong leadership was the big ? about LGCS. The first couple years were shaky, as might be the case at any new school, with a lot of student attrition despite a likable founding principal in the pulpit. To say that his departure was destabilizing would be an understatement. Last year was an administrative horrorshow (so say those who have the scars to prove it), as the next principal had to be shown the door and another was unable to stay beyond the year. The well-regarded teachers decided to unionize (probably a sign that something ain't quite right with management) and the Board always struck me as too small and inexperienced to deal with trauma and triage effectively. Would I have considered sending my own kid into a school with such a backdrop? Probably not. And yet every time I've visited, I've seen another thing I liked. This time, I saw the best sign of all for the school - a smart, engaged, thoughtful principal in a role he seems born for. Michael Windram, should he hit all the right notes in his first year, could really take this school somewhere special and I for one wish him the best of luck. Because no matter how you feel about charters, or our very own District 17, its controversial superintendent, or segregation in the schools, or unions, or the's the kids that matter, and kids at LGCS seem happy and challenged and willing to engage the unique curriculum, geared as it must be to the almighty "Common Core Standards" that have taken center stage in the country's education wars. FYI, the Q thinks they look just fine and doesn't get what all the hoop and la is about, but then I'm not a teacher and unqualified to judge. Windram thinks their implementation is good for his school. And I have yet to read anything in le Core de Common that makes me want to gag, like all the standardized tests kids take AFTER the learning as occurred, making them absolutely useless in the most important way, in that they don't help you adjust your teaching until after you taught. If there's a time for testing, they should be short snapshot tests in the middle of the year, or frequently enough to understand what a kid is learning, or not. We used to have pop quizzes in grade school all the time. Isn't that THOSE were for? (Listen to me, I'm turning into one of those "now back when I was a kid..." types. Learning was pretty trad where I grew up, in the heartland, but it never messed me up none, now done it?) Anyhoo, Mike is the sort of principal who will likely make you feel like you're leaving your snuggems in good hands.  I'm fully expecting the school to become a popular choice with local parents. And after all, the school was started specifically to be an option for local parents who felt uncomfortable with their other walkable options. (PS92 will get a new principal next year, so who knows. 770 has become a fan favorite. And the Explore Charter School is another reputable choice, though with a strict adherence to the basics that might turn off the "progressives." The Caton is delightful, though the gentrifiers haven't embraced it fully for some reason that I know not. I have yet to hear the good news on Jackie Robinson, but you never know. Actually, if you got the skinny please share!)

    And so I say check out the new regime and see for yourself. Walk into the classrooms and you're likely to see two teachers per grade, since the school accommodates most special needs and so can augment the teacher-ratio to be able to accept Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for those needing special attention. Seems like a win all around...the popular "Children's School" in the Slope Steppes (my name for when Park Slope hits 4th Ave and sorta slides into the Gowanus Basin, then heads into the obviously sarcastically named Boerum HILL, a joke that just keeps on giving 50 years after its fabrication) for instance is highly regarded in large part for its focus on integrated learning for IEP kids. (To which I say most parents think of their young Einsteins, Didions and Rothkos as deserving of a tailored IEP of the genius genus, tailored to Albert or Joan or Mark's unique proclivities and sensitivities, of course).

    Look for Michael to be doing the rounds at local pre-schools, churches and daycares. But in the meantime, check in about tours. The Q suspects you'll be glad you added LGCS to your mix of possibilities.

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  • 12/03/13--10:47: Where To Get Your Tree
  • Just this morning Lil' Miss Clarkson Flatbed Jr. and I noticed a vendor selling Christmas trees at the McDonalds corner of Empire Boulevard. For a lot of Lefferts area folk that's close enough to walk the tree home, so you wouldn't even need to tie it to a car. Nice. And if you're in the eastern and/or middle part of Lefferts you might want to consider Kings County Nurseries on New York Ave at Rutland, which just happens to be the same corner as the 100+ year old sandwich place Mama Louisa's Hero Shop, which if you haven't been you owe it to yourself today to go for the Brisket/Tree combo. ML's gets 4 1/2 stars on 20 reviews on Yelp, a mean feat for a little ol' Pigtown mainstay.

    Some may prefer to know precisely where their tree comes from, and that it was raised free-range and without pesticides or antibiotics. You would therefore want to go to Union Street between 6th and 7th Avenue to the Park Slope Food Coop, where you don't have to be a member to lovingly pick out a certified organic tree from Vermont.

    All trees from the Coop have been given the seal of approval by PETAF, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Advent Firs.

    And since the season of Christmas in most of America tries patronizingly hard to be inclusive of our Jewish friends, I would remind you that as always you "chosen" folks are free to come along with us to celebrate the "holidays," and you may even give us gifts wrapped in a suitably non-denominational paper. And this year we're serving Kosher eggnog! So come out caroling with us!

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  • 12/04/13--05:52: Flatbush Traffic Update

  • Traffic along the Lefferts link of the Flabenue has been moving quite nicely in the last couple business days, not the logjam of last Monday and Tuesday. In fact, a water main problem at Caton Avenue seems to have caused the bulk of the problem during last week's changeover in traffic design (this from DoT's assessment). So it would appear that the local uproar about the changes by drivers was a bit premature.

    However, the ridiculous problem at the Lincoln to Washington left turn persists. We were denied our request for traffic agents, citing their deployment at other areas due to holiday traffic. Fair enough. So we asked the 71st to step up enforcement, and yesterday I'm pleased to report for the first time summonses were issues for those disobeying the signage on Lincoln. According to Vinnie Martinos of Community
    Affairs, 25 summonses were issued. There really is no other way to change driver behavior, so it appears.

    I for one am thrilled about the relative calm I've seen lately. Traffic is moving with a steady syrup-like fluidity. BUT a sign needs to clearly state the disallowed Lincoln turn, as in "NO LEFT TURN ONTO WASHINGTON ALLOWED," and enforcement needs to continue unabated.

    And yeah, we'll push for a more formal request through CB9 to deal with reckless Dollar Vans. Anecdotally, a woman I know told me that as she was riding in a Dollar Van she asked the driver what he though of the new lanes. Clearly it had been slowing him down, and perhaps noticing her color and/or  demeanor, he blurted out "You're the reason this happened!" Trust me, that was not an isolated opinion. I don't need to go into further detail, except to express my deepest sympathies for the man and his loss of his ability to put pedestrians and drivers in harms way. Clearly, he's been the victim of a systematic attempt to destroy his livelihood, even as his paying customer attempted to make convivial conversation. I'm generally on the side of protecting the rights of longtime residents, but this was one time I wasn't buying it.

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    Whether you're excited or appalled by the planned building of a 23-story luxury rental tower at 626 Flatbush, you gotta respect the passion and savvy that has created what I can only describe as a truly organized grassroots opposition to unfettered development in Lefferts, in just a matter of a few short months. It may still be hard for some to put themselves in the shoes of those who feel emotional and radicalized by the sudden news of a "non-contextual" unaffordable (to most) skyscraper (well, relatively speaking) growing up in a neighborhood one's long loved and called home. But I urge you to try, so as not to feel that this is anything other than an honest and heartfelt expression of people feeling helpless in the face of changes that are effecting not just us, but huge swaths of Central Brooklyn, not to mention all of NYC, with lighting speed. And in the case of 626, it seems that not even the stunned cries of the "original intent" of the venerated park visionaries Olmstead and Vaux seems capable of applying the brakes.

    So, if you're shocked by the hubbub, and you want to get a better sense of what's REALLY going on here, I suggest you attend this Saturday's big meetup on the issue at 4pm at the Jan Hus Church along Ocean Avenue across from the Park itself. First, the flyer below, and then some random thoughts I've collected from my own observations.

    Suffice to say the "tower" has touched a nerve - deep you might say. In a single rendering, or actually two, drawn by the project's architects (Marvel), you can per se, there's a subtext here that reads loud and clear to many longtime residents. That message might sound like this: "Hey PLG! We finally discovered your neighborhood and are now ready to encourage ever-larger numbers of people, most richer and whiter than you, to "discover" it too. You  people have had to live in such squalor for so long...I'll bet you're DELIGHTED to see us come and help clean things up a bit and make it safer and more desirable to the Modern American Post-Graduate Artsy Professional (MAPGAP).

    Of course I'm being a bit dramatic, sort of. (And my term MAPGAP is not yet trademarked). But you can probably recognize the dismissive condescension inherent in some forms of city pPlanning and real estate development.
    Maybe not, but then that may be because you haven't gotten to know a lot of the extraordinary folks who've called Lefferts Gardens their home for 20+ years. (Some 20+ year veterans may in fact support the project, but I have a sneaking suspicion the length of time in the neighborhood is at least one important indicator of feelings on the project). And things might just come out during the meeting on Saturday that might lead to some head scratching, about how exactly building plans like this come about and get green-lighted before anyone really has a chance to digest it all.

    If you still have no idea what I'm talking about, I recently wrote a clumsy and inelegant allegory on the subject called The Qatarification Quandary. I'll also try to dramatize a thought I heard recently from an African-American neighbor who put it in away that I, a white dude originally from outside the City, could really understand. She could be talking about many places in NYC, or many cities across the whole country. And before you say that a building like 626 isn't about race, it's just sort of a natural economic thang, I encourage you to try the following on for size:

    "Imagine you're black for a second - maybe African or Caribbean American. I know that's REALLY hard to do, but just give it a try. Every day as an honest and concerned professional doing your best to raise a family, you go to work in Manhattan in a neighborhood and in a job that's predominantly white, and for the most part about the white world. You're asked to function as a cheery member of the dominant culture in your dark skin, and you play the part well. You play by the rules, you don't complain when your coworkers make off-color remarks, you stay true to your beliefs that all people are created equal and even say a prayer for even the most ignorant of bigots. You might even have some good white friends with whom you can laugh about the absurdity of racism in an age of a Black President. And then, you get back on the train and you head home. You get off at, say, the Q at Parkside, and you feel a little bit of tension leave you, because you're back in your neighborhood, a place that ain't perfect, but it's your home, and you don't have to be anyone but yourself because this is a place you feel comfortable in your own skin"

    I think we all know a place like that, where you just feel a bit freer and yourself. For me, it's become Clarkson Avenue, but only after a few years of calling this block and neighborhood home. It used to be Ames, Iowa long ago, and then my college campus, and then the East Village and the lovely Gowanus Basin, and just about any dingy rock club in any American city. And on the whole housing justice tip I could go on, as I have in the past, about how renters really are being pushed out, sometimes legally sometimes not, and how rising rents may spell capital gains for people who own (like me) but eat away at the sense of security in others.

    To some 626 is the tree...a very tall tree. But to others, it's the forest. And if you can't see the forest for the tree, then you may not be on the same page as someone else who does. Though I can guarantee we're all reading the same book, at least for now, and since it's one book in a whole series, we kinda know how this one usually turns out. And there will certainly be a reading from various pages of that book on Saturday, and even an attempt at a rewrite or two. So why not come on down? We can even come up with a few more hackneyed metaphors to describe the whole darn sitch.

    , the one to the right is the architects actual drawing,

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    1,000 signatures. My goodness. I had no idea that many people had put their name to the Prospect Park East Network's petition against the 23-story residential tower going up at 626 Flatbush. That was one of many tidbits I learned tonight at the PPEN-sponsored organizational meeting at Jan Hus Church on Ocean Avenue. 300 or so online. 700 or so off-line. (That off-line advantage suggests something of a digital divide in tactics as well as membership). Yours truly was added late in the game to a diverse panel of locals with various beefs against the tower. As any reader of Q comments knows, my position on the tower has gone from neutral to opposed, for various reasons, though the adamantly smug pro-tower comments helped push me there, so ultimately I felt comfortable sitting up there. As the representative of the "South Lefferts Mid-timer White Parent of Young Children Homeowner Blogger Gentrifier" set, I batted cleanup, though the line was set arbitrarily. The venerable and accomplished Celeste Lacy Davis M.C.'d, making it clear from the outset that the meeting was about organizing and planning for PPEN's opposition, and that it was not an attempt to provide an objective forum. In a frank exchange with another attendee who has been critical of the group's objectives (a super guy by the way, no numbskull), she copped to having written the flyer for the meeting. The flyer itself is something of a manifesto, with words carefully chosen to incite passion, and since Lacy Davis has a long history of identifying social ills and organizing to address them, she's certainly done just that. During the meeting she singled out Suki Cheong as "the spark" of the movement, and it's evident that Suki has done a great deal of work behind the scenes to turn a few isolated chunks of beef into a flavorful beef stew over pasta, some might even call it a political stroganoff.

    Nancy Hoch led a history of developer Hudson's plans for the tower, and no new ground was covered, but it was covered in an articulate and thorough, even objective, manner. If you're familiar with the project, you know that that in order to build 23 stories, the company needed only purchase enough land to do so, and that no further review was needed, as zoning permitted such height. Many of the same crew who are leading the PPEN group fought another tall tower slated for construction at 33 Lincoln Road in 2007, a site now being built by Tom Anderson at 9 stories. (Incidentally rumors that 33 Lincoln has switched to all market rate are not true...yet. Tom nixed HDC funding for taking too long and has gone to private money, but still aims to go 20% affordable anyway, affordable being up to 60% of the average local income.)

    Also on the panel was Quest Fanning of PLGNA, who has lived within a stone's throw of 626 since conception. He noted that he welcomed new building in the area but objected to an insensitve sentiment echoed by some newcomers and planners, who suggest there isn't a lively, robust and functioning community already here, one that needs to be respected and consulted when major changes are introduced. Then awesome successful small businessman Dr. Cuts, a/k/a Desmond Romeo, said he needed more information to fully assess the situation, but was concerned what the tower might mean to his successful 13-year shop and others who have relied on the current scene to survive. And by-the-by, he noted that he and Shelly Kramer (Playkids) and Joyce David (newly arrived lawyer on the Flabenue) have started to resurrect the Merchants Association, a move that the Q heartily cheers!

    Longtime Chester Court resident Brenda Edwards, whom I've really come to respect and recognize as someone who truly knows and understands the young people in the neighborhood as an educator and active community presence, noted the obvious that yes, Patio Gardens is annoyingly tall and fugly too, but she's gotten use to it like "dull headache." She's not eager to embrace a new splitting headache on the other side of her (hopefully) soon-to-be-landmarked cul-de-sac, which I just yesterday learned was originally slated to be landmarked with the rest of the Lefferts Historic District but was left out since it wasn't contiguous. And you know Carol Schaefer who runs the Lefferts Manor Association's House Tours? She was there to explain the Manor's long history of support for "contextual" development and issues effecting the larger neighborhood. Rachel Hannaford from South Brooklyn Legal Services was there to lend support and to lend credence to what she called the "very real" fact of secondary displacement that is taking place all over the borough due to massive luxury projects heavily marketed to a demographic much more moneyed than current residents. Chester Court resident Derek Edwards is a teacher and NYC tour leader who dropped this nugget: of all the neighborhoods he shows to tourists, he often gets a thank you from them when he shows off Lefferts for finally getting to see a "real New York neighborhood." Nice.

    It's worth emphasizing that Celeste adamantly maintains that this is NOT an anti-gentrification protest. In another time, say 25 years ago, SHE was the gentry, buying her beautiful house on Ocean, moving from Harlem, and raising a family. And she IS part of the old gentry now (sorry Celeste, I mean "remarkably young old gentry"). People will move, they will sell, prices will rise, folks will "discover" neighborhoods, all of that is perfectly natural. What is not natural, so says PPEN, is a massively out of context building that should have gone through a review process, and that the City should have downzoned the Ocean/Flatbush groove in the first place had they listened to the community. The fact of government-backed financing and tax breaks demands transparency and neighborhood buy-in, they say. I'm inclined to agree. Responsible development. That's what they want. Their flyer lays out their platform.

    The Q? I related a lot to what was said by the panel, and to the folks in the crowd. There's a lot of fear out there, and a lot of it has become manifest in an absurdly large tower that will (c'mon now be honest) house mostly whites on a mostly low-rise block of businesses in a mostly black neighborhood that gets put-down by newcomers as not classy or tidy enough for them (I'm with you on the tidy part - we're working on it. Safety too). Word's gotten around, and people are in fact feeling the squeeze. Patio Gardens itself is pushing folks out, folks who have lived their for years and years. A resident tells me of their shady practice of listing one price on the lease that's over the rent stabilization limit then giving a rebate, just to keep the apartment off the r.s. rolls. You can bet that many longtime businesses and renters along Flatbush will be gone in a couple years due to this building and others, and of course, housing prices in general will rise big time, not because there will suddenly be more inventory (that would suggest a downward trajectory) but because the neighborhood will be more attractive to college educated professionals, many of them heretofore uncomfortable with the...the..."urban" vibe. I will gladly take a bet on that...say, a dinner at the one of the new bistros to open in the next three years?

    But the icing on the bitter cake, to me, is the audacity of a company to slip in behind everyone's back (I know, I know, we were all sleeping, including our do-nothing councilperson) and build the biggest tower anywhere along the park, when it was fully well-known we wanted rezoning.  To me, it's a basic matter of fairness, of self-determination, of the beloved park. Did you know that former park president Tupper Thomas wrote a letter against it? That the current Prospect Park Alliance is against it? And incoming Borough President Eric Adams? And Assemblyman Karim Camara? And Senator Kevin Parker? And Councilman Eugene? Plus Public Advocate Tish James will surely jump on this one. And see the below from the good Rabbi, chair of CB9. PPEN is no joke folks, and whether there's a prayer of getting de Blasio on board, who represents the only chance of actually negotiating with an "as of right" building developer, who knows. Because, as I noted at the meeting, the Mayor can in fact step in and change the rules, or make it clear that if the developer wants smooth sailing in the future, he's got plenty of room on his big lot to build as many units at a lower height. To be continued...

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  • 12/10/13--20:11: Express Yourself Ceramically
  • If you have youngsters and are looking for a crafts activity for them, or if you yourself are feeling craftsy, or if you've been looking for new ways to express yourself and you've yet to try to "say it with ceramics," y'all gotta hurry on down to Lindiwe Kamau's wonderful corner store on Nostrand at Rutland called "Expressions in Ceramics."

    We just signed up our 4 year old for 10 sessions (up to 2 hrs each) for $80 (you read that right) to come in and make all kinds of fun stuff. Today she started making homemade ornaments out of clay. You cut 'em out and form them, then they get fired, then you paint them and voila...gramma cries when she opens the present! (That's how it's supposed to work; I'll keep you posted.) Then you're on to the next holiday...Valentine's Day I suppose.

    Lindiwe is someone I've championed here before for her role as leader of the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association. She's a real civic go-getter, organizer, and all around Trinidadian-American powerhouse. Her shop was something of a de facto campaign headquarters last fall, so I have a sweet spot for that too.

    Seriously stop by, tell her the Q sent you, and sign on up. Note that she doesn't do the wheel - it's all hand stuff and painting. But you can get pre-made forms like plates and bowls and paint those if you're dying to get something utilitarian. It's really something anyone can do from the git-go. You can sign up in small groups if you want to turn it into a playdate so mommy/daddy can get a little time to themselves. You can even leave your kid there, as there's always teacher running things. You just call ahead to make sure the time is available. Pretty neat, right?

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    An interesting and perhaps a bit heated exchange broke out in the last few posts on the planned residential tower at 626 Flatbush, and I thought I'd elevate a germane exchange to a post, since I think a commenter got a bit of a misread, and their feelings were ones I've heard echoed a lot recently, though not so much on this blog. The exchange went thusly (I'm leaving out the less relevant comments):

    Lifetime on Lefferts said...
    The fact is that many people have been not so secretly wanting this to happen for years. This is the payoff for their investment. They don't care if there's some collateral damage. They can rationalize all they want but this building is a victory for everyone who wishes they could have afforded to live somewhere else. But it's a loss for everyone who needed this neighborhood to stay the affordable side of the park. You can claim your victory but you don't have to be smug about it.
    December 9, 2013 at 11:46 PM
    Anonymousdiak said...
    I'd like to respectfully ask "Lifetime on Lefferts" what evidence you have for your comments (11:46PM above). Not grudges or resentments. Not assumptions or stereotypes about people who you probably don't actually know. Evidence.
    December 10, 2013 at 4:10 PM
    Lifetime said...Delete
    Many people I know first hand have told me they attempted to buy in other neighborhoods and were priced out. You must be blind or deaf not to know that. They settled on PLG. It was not there first choice. And now they are thrilled to see that there neighborhood is becoming more like the ones they couldn't afford. You ask for evidence. Why not ask around.
    December 10, 2013 at 4:47 PM
    BloggerClarkson FlatBed said...(after claims he/she was referring to ALL newcomers and buyers)
    Sticking up for Lifetime here I'd say that he/she may have put it inelegantly but I don't think they were claiming to be talking about everyone. Actually I know that - s/he said "many." This is what I'm talking about that everyone is so defensive on these issues. SOME people obviously feel they want the neighborhood to be more like others. SOME people fear that were it to become so, they'd be priced out. SOME people have lived here a long time and have always loved it. SOME people are probably brand new and couldn't be happier. That's not a dichotomy, that's a quadchotomy, and there are many more "sides" I'm sure.

    But the defensiveness is troubling to me, my own included if I'm honest, because I think what's at play is a very imperfect study of what's been, what is and what is to come. The change happens so fast and it's scary. I'm frankly floored by what's happened in Brooklyn in the last dozen years since 9/11. Whole neighborhoods are completely unrecognizable. After 9/11 we thought the City might just disappear as we knew it. It did. Just not like we thought it might!

    And c'mon guys, let's be honest here. The racial change of neighborhoods is absolutely astounding. There is no precedent for it, accept perhaps the Great Migration northward. If the PPEN movement skews black, it is likely the result of this. I think Lifetime was pointing out that the forces of demographic change are extraordinarily powerful, both race and class (I'm putting words in mouth here) and that some seem to be winning and others losing. How can you argue the point? I can't see it otherwise, frankly. We don't have to take it so personally, really. If he/she had said the word ALL you'd have a beef, but that's not what they said. Diak in particular said that Lifetime was condemning all, and I think that's unfair. I suspect your nuanced view of the neighborhood is beyond that person's criticism, so loosen up.

    And to those who do wish this neighborhood get a little more Prospect Heights, your wish will soon be at hand. I'm a betting man. I give it five years tops, barring a major terrorist attack or financial implosion.
    December 10, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    AnonymousAnonymous said...
    I bought here this summer not because we could not afford to live on the other side of the park, but because we could buy an entire house that was the nicest we had seen in over 9 months of looking and for the same price as the single floors or duplexes of brownstones in PS or the classic 6s and 7s on PPW we were originally going to buy.

    I bought here specifically because I expect it to change significantly over the next 5-10 years and sure hope it does both for our investment and for our daily quality of life. I'd rather it look a lot more like prospect heights on Flatbush avenue than the hot mess it is right now.

    I've lived in quite a few of the Brooklyn neighborhoods that went through similar changes throughout the years and it certainly seems as though it's about to happen here as well and the sooner the better. Not so I can cash out, but so I can raise my family here and not worry about people getting shot in broad daylight on Flatbush avenue like we saw the first week we moved in this summer.

    Hopefully the development gets done with some sort of compromise to make it more contextual and still has the impact of bringing more amenities and a cleaner , safer Flatbush avenue.
    December 10, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Okay Anon 11:55. I appreciate your honesty, though as always I'd appreciate a screen name so we know who you are throughout the conversation. However, I must point out that you are EXACTLY who Lifetime On Lefferts was talking about. You would have bought that big house had you been able to afford it in other more gentrified neigborhoods. And now you hope that development like the new building will move the nabe towards a more like Prospect Heights-like scene. (I don't think I need to note that PH has become much wealthier and whiter in the last 10 years, so we can infer that's what you want for Lefferts.)

    You call Flatbush Ave a hot mess. You point to shootings and I suspect lack of stores catering to your interests and perhaps trash and/or graffiti.  Perhaps you've noticed tough guys on corners hanging out, and wondered which of them are dealing drugs or members of violent gangs (most of them are not by the way). And so now you want Big D developers to come in and solve your problems.

    The Q would argue, as he has repeatedly, that these problems can be solved by current residents working together, and does not have to involve wholesale demographic turnover, which ultimately is what you're suggesting, because I guarantee you the newcomers at 626 will not resemble the guys on Flatbush that you want gone. The babies will most definitely be tossed with the bathwater.

    You can clean up trash and invite economic development with a strong merchants association come B.I.D. (this is happening). You can organize and work with various law enforcement and create watchgroups and clean up drugs and gangs (believe it or not, this is happening). You can encourage local business owners to carry more of the items you're going cross town to buy.

    There is a lot of great stuff on Flatbush Avenue, much of it deserving of support, and some of it already thriving. Your "hot mess" depiction is indicative of the attitude I find most problematic. You'd rather replace than improve.

    That's why there's resistance.

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    Check out the Kickstarter campaign. Give a little money and invest in your neighborhood. Very sweet. Good luck Rich and Annalisa!

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    Thar She Blows
    From a nearby neighbor about a building coming down (the old Haunted House of Clarkson at 111) and the new market rate buildings going up in their place:



    The house at 111 Clarkson is coming down this winter.
    Apartment buildings are going up next spring.
    Then what??


    119 Clarkson Avenue
    Wednesday, December 18
    7:30 PM

    Sarah Blackwood, 119 Clarkson;
    Betsy Andrews, 121 Clarkson, 646-416-2207,

    Here's what's known so far:

    Developer is Seth Brown of Aspen Equities, known for green and sensible development. A best-case scenario would meet those criteria.He isn't going to save the house (too much water damage), so that is coming down in next few weeks. Then ground breaking will be in Spring 2014. It will be two buildings. The one on Parkside will probably be a bit larger. He might set back the one on Clarkson a bit. Neither is currently planned to exceed current as of right zoning. All market rate rentals. Maybe some landscaping. Parking. He says he'll meet with neighbors. The above meeting would be to see what neighbors would like to discuss.

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  • 12/14/13--11:47: Wreaths On To Believe
  • When you see a couple of roaches in your kitchen you best believe there are at least dozens of them, because the ones you see are just the ones you see. So it is with creative people. The Q has met dozens of wildly creative people in the 'hood, so you best believe we got scores. But when NYC does creative we take it the extra mile.

    Take a father and son team who live on Lefferts Avenue whose specialty happens to be holiday wreaths. Year in and year out the Q has witnessed their annual ritual of topping last year's unbelievable creation. And this year, once again, they've broken the mold, even gracing the NY Times on Friday with both dad and son's creations:

    The top creation by 11 year old Hollis Fox was even purchased, making him a professional artist at that tender age. It's made of duct tape and wire. The bottom piece by his father Eddie Gormley is made of rat traps. Mr. Gormley is also an accomplished architect, drummer and pinata maker among other things. He noted that Deborah Zingale, another Lefferts resident, has long been an organizer of the wreath show in its earlier incarnation at the old K-Dog and Dunebuggy coffee shop (now TotT or Tip of the Tongue to newcomers). You can see the show at the Central Park Arsenal Gallery through January 9. Congrats gentlemen! Til next year!

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    The Petish
    Lil' Help? After many conversations with the indefatigable Nancie Katz of Seeds in the Middle (check out their holistic approach to health and wellness for kids in central Brooklyn here), I'm happy to report that we're within page inches of getting a small but sweet Farmers Market (or is that Farmer's Market?) on the burgeoning Q plaza at Parkside come this spring on Friday afternoons (one whole day before Grand Army Plaza how bout THEM apples?)

    We've filed the permit application but now need a host of signatures saying that the public wants the market. That's where you come in. If you print out the below form and gather ten signatures, then drop it by Play Kids or scan it and email me here, we can get the signatures into the Street Activity Permit Office by the deadline of December 31 and get ourselves a permit for every Friday from March through November 2014.

    Y'all know one person can't do all that themselves, not me nor R. Delson nor any one member of the Parkside Committee. We need help, and if a few of you each take it upon themselves to gather a page worth of signatures I know we can blow 'em away, like that scene with all the letters for Santa Claus from Miracle on the 34th Street. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.

    Say, Santa coulda used a farmer's market. Few too many reindeer burgers, big guy?

    Hope y'all are having a merry run up to the end of the year.

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    The Precinct is holding its annual Holiday Party at 5:30 this Thursday. Bring the kids! Lotsa fun. And here's an added bonus. At 7pm it's the Community Council meeting, where you can come out and discuss any issues you may have with, um, I dunnon, traffic enforcement for example. Listen, if you don't tell 'em how you feel you can't expect them to know.

    Here's the poster:

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  • 12/17/13--18:45: Santa's Got a Brand New Suit
  • Psssst. Want to know what locals can do when a developer wants to swoop in and build a 23-story luxury tower in their midst, kinda sneaky like? Not much you say, especially if the building is being built "as of right?"

    Well hold your horses and put your guns back in their holsters, cowboy. PPEN, the Prospect Park East Network, PLGNA, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, lots of individuals, backed by attorneys from Goliath law firm WilmerHale and the David law firm South Brooklyn Legal Services are going to announce on Thursday that they are filing suit against both Hudson Properties (the developer) and the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the unit that approved $72 million in public backed funds be used, along with tax breaks and incentives involved in 80/20 buildings that agree to set aside 20% of their units for affordable housing. The suit contends that the neighborhood was blindsided by the project, and that by law Hudson was required to conduct an environmental review, which included studies to determine all sorts of impacts on everything from transportation and infrastructure to (yes) the environment and affordable housing generally and rents and commerce etc. etc. etc. Due process. Respect. Self-determination. Contextual Development. The beauty and future of Prospect Park. Overheight. Did I mention respect?

    The press conference is happening on beautiful Tudorian Chester Court this Thursday December 19, at 11am. 

    Though I've been following the story closely, I must emphasize that I am not a party in this suit, nor have I been involved in its planning or the movement to halt the project. My feelings continue to evolve as I learn more about how 626 came about, it's potential impact on the neighborhood, and the deep feelings that people have about how this speaks to Flatbush, Brooklyn and Lefferts's future.

    Stay tuned for more developments

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    A little chicken just peep-peeped in my ear and it'll spell good news to neighborhood quaffers. A nifty new bar is planned for the corner of Midwood and Flatbush, just the sort of place to provide a watch and tie sidekick to the more lovable ragamuffin indie feel of Lincoln Park Tavern and the sophisticated island sipper of Rhythm Splash (soon Avenue D). The owners have signed a lease and will start renovating soon. The main dude is known to the Q, and I think the neighborhood will be pleasantly surprised by decor, booze and foodstuffs. Keep you posted.

    FYI, it's the place that never opened as Cafe Pomidor, and used to be Phoenix Gift Shop.

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  • 12/19/13--07:11: A Sign of My Age?
  • Riding my bike after dropping of my kid at school, I passed a young attractive indie-dude (I don't like the term hipster - too mean), looked a little like Vito Morgensen from Lord of the Rings, so you know he feels invincible. He's riding a skateboard, no helmet, fast, darting in and out. We come to a light at Bergen, and over the previous block I had rehearsed this statement, and gather the huevos. Thus spake the old dude:

    As a human being I have assessed that you are most likely a son, brother, nephew, and/or grandson. Trust me when I say they don't want to get that call. Don't do it for you. Do it for them. Just think what it would feel like to get that call.
    Then I tapped my helmet. He looked at me funny. But then he got it. Don't know if it will make a difference. Young Vito may never get hit or suffer a catastrophic fall. But some Vito, somewhere, will. I'm no Vito, but damned if I didn't nearly shuffle off this mortal coil last spring.

    If you're reading this, you are also most likely a human being, or a resident of planet X4F3non, in which case your brain is encased in a two foot layer of blubber that protects you from even the blow of a piano falling on your head. (Ever wonder where Looney Tunes got the idea? X4F3non'ers visited us in the early '30s and gave a demonstration out at Area 51.)

    Wear the stupid helmet. After awhile, you forget that it's there.

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  • 12/19/13--10:51: Squeaky Wheel Gets the Sign
  • DOT continues to blow me away. So responsive! Check out the new signs they're planning to put up for Lincoln/Flatbush/Washington:

    Even I can read that one. Thanks to everyone who's kept up the pressure, especially Alex E. who's become an absolute guardian angel for that area.

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  • 12/20/13--10:58: Phat Albert to Get Phit
  • It's really happening. Planet Phitness, as reported to you on the Q, is coming to the Phat Albert's second floor. Now I'll have an opportunity to turn my abs from pony keg to six-pack.

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    Mary at Park Slope Stoop and Ditmas Park Corner and...well where ISN'T she most days...wrote an absolutely stellar piece on the opening of Lakeside and its skating rink. Here 'tis. Mary is the best. She doesn't just cut and paste. She really gets out there, and as far as I can tell this is by far the best piece about this historic opening out there ANYWHERE. Kudos Mary! So I'll let her pictures do the talking here. You should read her piece for the details, but better yet, go on over, even if you've never skated before, and lace 'em up.

    Below you'll see kids from our own PS161 (where the Community Board and Precinct Council meet, on Empire at NY Ave) and Jackie Robinson School (in the shadow of Ebbets Houses) checking it out as the invited early birds, many trying the blades for the first time.

    Folks, this is BIG news. If this doesn't make your eyes tear up a little, you may need to bring them in for a fill up. Maybe a future Olympian will be born from these first few days. But this inexpenxive hobby is for everyone who's mobile, and it's for a lifetime. Thank you Prospect Park Alliance for seeing this through. This is truly your greatest hour since I've lived in the fair borough. Only the resurrection of the bandshell as a home to free concerts can compare. So what's next? Vale of Kashmir!! (enter Led Zeppelin tune).

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    Many of you have already answered neighbors Richard and Annalisa's call for cash flow support on their upcoming neighborhood brew and hang spot  Brooklyn Clean Bean. If you haven't, give the vid a spin and remember, you're only offering a pledge and you won't be charged if they don't reach the $20K goal. And if the DO reach the goal and you ARE charged, you get bragging rights for as long as they're in business. "Ever been to Clean Bean? Yep. I helped finance that joint."

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