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  • 01/10/14--05:52: Will This Be The Fix?
  • Another eagle-eyed reader snapped this pic this morning and theorizes that the Do Not Enter/Don't Go This Way/Stop Breaking the Law Fool signs will go closer to the beginning of Washington rather than at a typical intersection location..This intersection has vexed the DOT for years, and with the constant community outcry the Q feels confident that a fix will eventually come to pass. We've made the dangers clear, and I don't want to put too fine a point on it, but a serious crash is kind of on the hands of those who don't listen to the public at this point. DOT is doing its job as best as possible. Let's hope enforcement keeps pace.

    And yes, turning Lincoln into a one-way towards the park is on the table. But before that happens, I expect an opportunity for community input, probably at CB9.

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  • 01/11/14--07:29: Crime Blotter
  • God bless crime-tracking duo Nicole and Vinnie for continuing to create a blotter specific to Sector C of the 71st. Sector "Charlie" essentially conforms to the Lefferts area, as the community district (a/k/a precinct) is quite large, and in certain ways conforms to the notion of "quadrants," with Empire Blvd as the horizontal intersector. (Shouldn't that be a word?)

     Anyone who's followed the Q for long knows that I've been spittin' mad about crime for the better part of 3 years. After a crazy run of violence in the precinct, things have calmed down quite a bit in the last six months (crossed fingers) leading to a pretty solid set of "numbers" from Compstat for the year. Deputy Inspector Jack Lewis was ousted a couple months back, presumably for the high numbers. Just before getting the ax, or rather "being transferred to borough commander for school safety," he suggested at a Community Council meeting that they had made great progress in getting the worst repeat offenders off the street. Was he responding to pressure when making these investigations and arrests? It's hard to say. But needless to say, it didn't hurt. Community outrage over shootings all over the Lefferts area didn't let up and the Q is thankful to you all for your attention to what has been frequently noted as the number one concern among neighbors. We kept hammering, even calling attention to the problem at the D.A.'s office, which claims it set up investigations of its own. That's the best we could do I guess, other than getting truly serious about block watches. An investigator contacted me at one point for a private meeting where he told me to continue with the D.A. task force and feed him and Brooklyn South information, but he made it clear that I should not identify myself as a leader of anti-gang efforts. Keep a low profile he cautioned. Frankly, no one but my friends and the super-curious even know what I look like, so I wasn't really worried. The drug dealers in my area are still just as creepily friendly with me as ever. The rumor on the street is that I'm an ex-cop, which tickles me to death given my background. But I kinda look the part of a 20-and-out guy. Actually, that could be me second from the left in this picture:

    In winter I often wear my super swell old cops coat and, get this, a $3 hat from the Gem that says FBI. A lady on the street actually asked me if I was from the FBI! I love it! Ever seen those guys from the Feds with their ridiculous FBI jackets on? Is that the easiest uniform to fake you've ever seen, or what? It's like if the marines wore a headband that said "marines."

    The crime stats that I keep my eye on are felony assaults and shootings. As a detective once told me, murders are a misleading indicator of general safety, for a couple of reasons. One, whether or not a person dies from their wounds is not a good indication of anything but luck and hospital care. Two, the numbers in a single precinct can vary wildly throughout the year and year to year percentage wide, but the total number of murders aren't great enough to produce a representative sample. For instance, say four people are killed in a single incident. That could massively up your numbers, but the incident itself may not suggest a massive increase in crime generally. It's all so gruesome, of course. But worth noting.

    As to whether a neighborhood is "crime ridden," well, that seems to me a matter of perception and comfort level. Not to overstate things, but they really DON'T have crime in Park Slope. There, I said it. They don't. Shit just don't happen there. When it does, it's a big, big deal. Some iPhones get stolen. There's some domestic stuff. Occasionally there's a break-in. But if you want to be super safe, you could do a lot worse than to spend ALL of your time in Park Slope. And no offense, because I like the Slope and it's calm tree-lined streets, but if I had to be stranded on a desert neighborhood for the rest of my life, I'd choose ours over theirs in a heartbeat. Again, it's just personal preference. But I'd die of boredom. And really, what the heck is there to blog about? That's why FIPS (short for f*cked in park slope) has to resort to filthy language to keep things interesting. (I jest; it's a fun site when it's not being douchey - sounds a little like the Q).

    So how did the 71 finish up? The quiet from September - December did a lot of good for the arbitrary yearly round-up. Here's the last report, and you'll see that felony assaults came way down for the year from where it was in summer. We were up just 8% and shootings kinda came down. Shocking, right? Remember how it felt back in August?

    Folks, we're going to meet up at the end of this on January 30 at Play Kids to talk to the new commander, Dep Insp Fitzgibbon. Please come. 7 pm. We need to show the cops how serious we are AND how important it is for the cops to know the neighborhood, its people, its merchants and its culture. We don't need a crackdown. We need smart, sensitive policing.

    And now, the Fabri/Martinos report, created by hand, remember. If you see something missing, please let us know:


    Crime Report
    October 4, 2013 - January 10, 2014
     
    Robberies
     
    October 10th, 10PM. Bedford and Midwood. Gunpoint robbery of credit card and money.
     
    October 12th, 7:30PM. 159 Winthrop. Attempted robbery, no property removed.
     
    October 12th, 6:30AM. Parkside & Ocean. Cell phone snatched.
     
    October 14th, 10PM. Flatbush and Hawthorne. Cellphone snatched. 20 yr old female arrested.
     
    October 16th, 6:20AM. Bedford and Parkside. Credit cards and cell phone taken.
     
    October 16th, 5PM. 322 Rutland. Credit card and debit card stolen.
     
    October 16th, 7:20PM. 231 Fennimore. Cell phone snatched.
     
    October 18th, 3:30PM. 668 Flatbush. Commercial location. Store was robbed at gunpoint.
     
    October 18th, 9:30PM. 239 Ocean Ave. Purse snatched. 
     
    October 20th, 5:20PM. 691 Parkside. Cell phone snatched.
     
    October 23rd, 8PM.  597 Flatbush Avenue. Cell phone snatched at gunpoint.
     
    October 24th, 10AM. Bedford and Parkside. Gunpoint robber, cash taken.
     
    October 25th, 9:15PM. 44 Empire. Robbery from store, arrest was made.
     
    November 1st, 2:30AM. 11 Maple. Female handbag stolen.
     
    November 2nd, 1PM. Flatbush and Ocean. Cell phone snatched.
     
    November 6th, 11:35AM. 44 Empire. Man ordered food at McDonalds and left with the food, refusing to pay.
     
    November 8th, 6:20PM. 601 Parkside. Money taken at gunpoint.
     
    November 8th, 5:30PM. 560 New York Avenue. Perp removed small speakers from person.
     
    November 10th, 3:45AM. 150 Hawthorne. Cell taken at knifepoint.
     
    November 13th, 3PM. Nostrand and Sterling. Cell phone snatched, female victim. Arrest was made.
     
    November 14th, 3AM. 335 Lefferts. Wallet taken.
     
    November 17th, 3AM. 2121 Beekman. Cash taken by physical force, victim punched in face.
     
    November 18th, 7PM. 28 Maple. Simulated firearm, cash taken.
     
    November 21st, 9PM. Midwood and New York. Money was taken – arrest was made.
     
    December 8th, 6:30PM. Ocean and Parkside. Victim (male) punched, cell phone taken.
     
    December 9th, 7PM. 537 Flatbush commercial store. Robbed at gunpoint.
     
    December 12th, 12:30AM. 552Parkside. Attempted to take victim’s bank card, arrest was made.
     
    December 16th, 7:30. Sterling and Nostrand. Cell snatched.
     
    December 17th, 3PM. Bedford and Parkside. Knife point robbery (perp was 15, victim was 11 years old).
     
    December 21st, 130AM. Bedford and Hawthorn. Cell phone taken.
     
    December 21st, 6:30PM. 135 Hawthorne. Cell phone snatched.
     
    December 22nd, 1AM. 200 Winthrop. Choked victim and took credit card.
     
    December 22nd, 1PM. New York and Maple. Cell phone taken, arrest was made.
     
    December 26th, 9PM. 612 Flatbush. Jewelry taken at gunpoint from male victim.
     
    December 29th, midnight. 374 Hawthorne. Displayed firearm. Credit card and money taken.
     
    January 1st, 1AM. 150 Hawthorne Street. Female handbag stolen.
     
     
    Felony Assaults
    October 8th, 10:30PM. Nostrand and Winthrop train station. Victim assaulted with stick, minor injuries to head. Victim refused to press charges.
     
    October 21st, 12:30AM. Nostrand and Winthrop train station. Victim hit with umbrella. Arrest was made.
     
    October 25th, 125 Hawthorne. Female was hit with belt, arrest was made.
     
    November 9th, 2:PM. 388 Midwood. Person was cut with cutting instrument.
     
    December 9th, Nostrand and Flatbush. Person was hit with bottle.
     
    December 23th, 11:00PM. Parkside and New York. Female was stuck in head by unknown object. Arrest was made.
           
    Burglaries
     
    October 10th, 9PM. 1069 Nostrand. Came in through rear window, took electronics.
     
    October 30th, 4:30PM. 1283 Nostrand came in through window. Took electronics.
     
    October 30th, 11:00PM. 566 Parkside. Came in through rear window and took electronics.
     
    October 30th, 8:30AM. 441 Rogers. Came in through front door and took electronics.
     
    November 3rd, 12:00PM. 236 Fennimore. Entered through rear window, took money and electronics.
     
    November 5th, 9AM. 54 Lincoln. Apartment building. No sign of forced entry. $1200 taken.
     
    November 9th. 305 Parkside Ave. Came in through front door and took electronics.
     
    November 18th, 7:30AM. 2015 Bedford. Came in through window and took electronics.
     
    December 8th, 10PM. 191 Winthrop. Rear window, took food.
     
    December 11th, 9PM. 316 Rutland. Took electronics and cash.
     
    December 20th, midnight. 215 Midwood Street. Came in through front door and arrest was made.
     
     
    Grand Larceny (No physical force between victim and perp)
     
    October 3rd, 6PM. 590 Flatbush. Credit card and cash taken.
     
    October 8th, 12:30PM. Ocean and Lincoln. Cell taken from person.
     
    October 24th, 11:30PM. Ocean and Lincoln. Cell phone taken from person.
     
    October 29th, 7PM. Flatbush and Ocean. Credit card taken.
     
    October 31st, 7:45PM. Nostrand and Midwood. Cell phone taken.
     
    November 3th, 3PM. 657 Rogers. Cell phone taken from person.
     
    November 15th, 5PM. 665 Flatbush. Hair extensions taken.
     
    November 16th, 5:30PM. Empire and Flatbush. Cell phone taken from person.
     
    November 22, noon. 400 Empire. Jewelry taken.
     
    November 23rd, 2PM. 590 Flatbush. Cash and credit cards taken.
     
    November 25th, 7PM. Beekman and Flatbush. Cell phone taken. Female was victim.
     
    November 30th, 9PM. Empire and Bedford. Cell phone taken from person.
     
    December 1st, 11AM. Bedford and Clarkson. Cell phone taken from person.
     
    December 3rd, 3AM. Nostrand and Winthrop. Cell phone taken from person.
     
    December 6th, 2AM. Parkside and New York. Purse taken from car.
     
    December 8th, 3:30AM. 67 Rogers. Cell phone and credit cards taken from car.
     
    December 16th, 9:30PM. 558 Parkside. Credit card taken from person.
     
    December 26th, 5:45PM. 1220 Nostrand. Cell phone taken from person.
     
     
    Grand Larceny Auto
     
    October 8th, 1AM. Flatbush and Parkside. 2013 White Chevy Impala taken.
     
    October 16th,  10:30AM. 346 Parkside. 2009 red motorcycle taken.
     
    October 19th, 8AM. 125 Hawthorne. 2003 Green Toyota taken.
     
    November 8th, 9:30PM. 566 Parkside. 2000 blue Ford Crown taken.
     
    Rape
    November 8th, 11AM. Ocean Avenue. Boyfriend and girlfriend. Arrest was made.
     

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    If walking down Parkside Avenue from Flatbush suddenly became more pleasant, you have these intrepid volunteers to thank:

    Twas raining and chilly

    But that couldn't stop 'em

    First you dig the holes in the four corners

    Then you drop those homemade tree guards into the holes

    Brilliant architect Tim Shields barking orders suggestions
    Big shoutout also to Blaise for construction, and the whole Crew for its eyes fixed firmly on the prize.






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    From the creators of the film that asks us all to look a bit harder at what we thought we understood about development and gentrification - My Brooklyn - comes the good news that their film is finally coming to the emerging medium of television. This note is from your Brooklyn neighbors Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean. It will be available post-broadcast for streaming on the emerging medium of the internet for the very first time thereafter. Here's the trailer:


    Look, I know we don't all agree on what progress should look like. And heck I've not even seen the film yet, though I know it manages to lay bare some of the egregious stuff I've witnessed, and even been a part of, from my catbird seat over here 80Arts near BAM. In the supposedly laissez-faire economy, it's really not always about supply and demand and the natural flow of capital. Sometimes, there's a plan. And that plan may not treat all stakeholders equally. That's alls I'm a-sayin'

    Check it out, and maybe we can talk about it?


    Happy New Year My Brooklyn community,

    We are writing with great news! My Brooklyn is going to be on TV on Tuesday, January 14th!

    The screening is part of the PBS series America ReFramed, curated by the American Documentary team (the producers of POV). America ReFramed brings nonfiction independent films to the airwaves and cable, showcasing films that give viewers a "snapshot of the transforming American life — the guts, the glory, the grit of a new and changing America."

    Most of the screenings are on PBS World channels, but some regular stations, like WGBH in Boston, are showing it on their main channels too. To find out if you have PBS World via broadcast or cable, go to http://worldchannel.org/schedule/localize/ and enter your zipcode. The program you are looking for is America reFramed and the date for My Brooklyn is Jan. 14th, 2014. It's not as complicated as it sounds, and there are some other amazing documentaries on the series so it's worth knowing how to find it.

    My Brooklyn will also be streaming free from the America ReFramed site for a month. If you haven't seen My Brooklyn yet, this is your chance! If you have seen it, please help us spread the word. Below is a message your can paste into an email or facebook post:
     
    Dear friends,

    I am writing to encourage you to tune in to My Brooklyn, a documentary about the transformation of Downtown Brooklyn's Fulton Mall from a successful African-American and Caribbean shopping district into a luxury residential neighborhood. It sheds new light on the debate around gentrification by exposing the corporate and government actors driving seemingly natural neighborhood change.

    My Brooklyn will be on the PBS World series America ReFramed on Jan. 14th. Check local listings at http://tinyurl.com/n8ubxxc. It will also be streaming free for 30 days starting Jan. 14th.

    Thanks, as always, for all your support. And best wishes for 2014!

    Kelly & Allison

    My Brooklyn website: www.mybrooklynmovie.com
    My Brooklyn Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MyBrooklyn

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    Aged? Not Looking A Day over 100!

    One of my favorite properties in the nabe is up for sale, for a cool $20 million. Perhaps you've visited our good Councilman? If so, you've been to the above building on Linden between Bedford and Rogers.

    From the Wall Street Journal, via neighbor Kendall, comes this story:

    A development site with a rare tax abatement is on the Brooklyn market for $20 million. New York Congregational Community Services, a senior care provider, is selling 123 Linden Blvd. in the Flatbush neighborhood; the four-story building has air rights of about 250,000 square feet for residential use. The site alternatively could be built to about 316,000 square feet for a community building under its current zoning. James Nelson and Nick Mahedy of Massey Knakal Realty Services are handling the sale. The site is eligible for a 15-year tax abatement through the 421a program, which was used to encourage development in underused areas. The program was revised in 2008 to require 20 % affordable housing in new developments. The Flatbush site, however, is eligible for the program even if a building with all market-rate apartments was built, said Mr. Nelson. The asking price is about 80 a buildable square foot, less than the $300 a buildable square foot in Brooklyn neighborhoods closer to Manhattan, he said. Mr. Nelson expects the property to attract developers who have focused elsewhere in the city. "I think there are many developers who would love to build rental, but they can't, because of the price of land."—Roland Li

    Despite my spoof to the contrary, the home does not currently house any old folks. That job happens in a separate facility, which is not part of the sale and intends to continue to operate. Visions of granny being dropped on the pavement aside, this does spell yet another major transition for yet another block in the 'hood.

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    Local mad momma Carmen is also a talented teacher of science. And her "Kiddie Science" program has begun to attract a following in these parts.  She's throwing a fundraiser to help her expand her offerings. It's a bit of an open secret that it's hard to make a profit on these kinds of programs unless you're herding them in like the super-popular Carmelo the Science Fellow in Boerum Hill, who also has a preschool and a shoppe on Atlantic Avenue, where I enjoyed his schtick recently at a Birthday party. I mean, um, my 4-year old enjoyed his schtick. Not a whole lot of science happened, but he kept the kids laughing.

    Back to Carmen. She's building a program from the ground up, and cold use a little inflow to build up the infrastructure. The deets are included below, and by all means try out her one of her Saturday classes. You need only sign up for one, here, and see hows you likes it.



    Join us on Sunday, January 19th for the Kiddie Science Wine & Cheese Fundraiser. From 7pm to 9pm, enjoy appetizers and a curated wine bar courtesy of Brooklyn’s own 65 Fen wine shop while supporting quality science education for young children. If you cannot attend, your purchased ticket is still a donation to Kiddie Science, a local, soon-to-be non-profit organization.  All collected funds will go toward expanding our program offerings for 2014. Your donation is tax deductible when filing your 2014 tax return.


    Kiddie Science provides inquiry-based, hands-on programming that uses experiments and child-led exploration to empower children to think scientifically. The goal of Kiddie Science is to expand a child's natural curiosity about science and enable them to apply critical thinking skills to their world. To learn more about our programs, visit www.KiddieScience.com


    Looking forward to seeing you on the 19th! Thank you for supporting Kiddie Science.

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  • 01/13/14--19:31: It's Official: We're Filthy
  • Just followed a Q-tip, and while it ain't a surprise, it IS pretty bumming to be deemed most garbage-strewn neighborhood in the whole City. Read what DNA Info had to say today:

    According to the year-end numbers, just 85.1 percent of streets in Community Board 3, which encompasses most of Bed-Stuy, were listed as "acceptable." That's one of the worst marks in the entire city.

    Only two other community boards in the city had a lower percentage. In Brooklyn's Community Board 12, which encompasses Borough Park, Midwood and Kensington, only 82.8 percent of streets were listed as acceptable.

    And in Community Board 9, which encompasses south Crown Heights and parts of Flatbush, just 82.3 percent of streets were acceptable (emphasis mine)
    That's right. Though the title of the piece was that Bed-Stuy is dirty, we're damn dirtier. (If you were caught unawares, we're Community Board 9, from Eastern Parkway to Clarkson, Flatbush/Ocean to Utica). If you've followed the Q for any length of time you'll know that cleaning up Flatbush from Empire to Parkside is a borderline obsession of mine. I even joined CB9 with filth (and safety and housing) on the brain. They even made me chair of Environmental Protection, mostly because no one was doing the gig. That's the committee that deals with Sanitation by the way, and making sure your sewers and water and air aren't killing you. And noise. As you can see by the numbers, I'm doing a heckuva job.

    If you recall, the Mad Mommas have done a couple clean-up days, after which the streets look great for a couple 24-hours then quickly soil themselves. So we asked Sanitation to beef up ticket-writing, since businesses and landlords are required to clean up in front of their buildings, not once a week but every day, to 18 inches out into the street. The latest report from DoS is that they're writing double the tickets they were even 6 months ago.

    Is it getting better? Well, that depends which way the wind is blowing.



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    Tax and Foreclosure Prevention
    Legal Clinic

    Sunday, January 19th
    1:30pm
    (following the 11:00 a.m. mass)

    Come learn more about tax issues facing low and fixed-income New Yorkers, loan modification programs and
    the foreclosure process.

    Free Legal Services will be available.

    Hosted by:
    Saint Gabriel’s Episcopal Church
    331 Hawthorne Street
    Brooklyn, New York

    For more information about the event, please contact Rev. Marie A. Tatro at mtatro@gts.edu, or (718) 774-5248

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    So you say you want a progressive education for your child?

    Like many parents who like to consider themselves progressive, the phrase has a nice ring to it. Who wants a "conservative" education for their kids, when they can be assured that they're getting forward-thinking and cutting-edge schooling (and free for the price of taxes to boot)? Whether you're considering going to private or public schools, the type of schooling is often among the top priorities, along with cost, location, and, let's be honest here, demographics. The Q's noticed in the last couple years of school-gazing that schools get branded as one thing or another, often by a single online review, and it becomes nearly impossible to undo the diagnosis. In our fair district - 17 - the pronouncements can be quite damning, and often unfair.

    I've heard folks repeat certain depictions of schools over and over again, often quoting verbatim one source or another. On more than one occasion, I've heard folks repeat my own wording from a post on a school. (That's the internet for you. Blowhard laypeople get aped alongside the experts!) Here are some of the stereotypes:  PS92? Too strict, stuck in the past. PS770, The New American Academy? Progressive-ish, 60 kids per class w/4 well-paid teachers. PS249 The Caton School? Homey but not particularly progressive. Great for dual language Spanish. PS375 Jackie Robinson? Improving, super poor, with a lack of diversity. Explore Charter School? Again, not diverse, and a nose-to-the grindstone, "no excuses" kinda school. To diversity, NY Times went as far as to base a whole article on segregation on Sonny Kleinfeld's experience at that one school, Q post here. There are tons more examples, so don't think I'm trying to leave anyone out. It's just so heartbreaking to see parents tortured decisions being made on such shreds of evidence!

    Then there's the rest of Brooklyn. Where once there were a couple, now there are literally dozens of gentrifier-approved public schools. Many use the descriptor "progressive" to distinguish themselves from...from...from what exactly? The fact is that unless you're sending your kid to the Brooklyn Free School (super loosey goosey) or some military-styled "yes ma'am""academy" that teaches basics, basics, basics, you're probably gonna get a healthy mix of discipline styles, curricula and school cultures. The bread and butter, of course, is your kid's teacher, and even at great schools there are bad apples, or ones suffering from breakdowns or personal dramas, or who leave mid-year. And one guy who knows told me you can expect at least ONE bad teacher in your kid's run at elementary school. Still, 5 outa 6 ain't bad. (Little tidbit: that was Meat Loaf's original title for his #1 smash single from '78, but his producer felt the chorus was too long.*)

    If you've been following the currents of new school development in the BK, you may have heard of a new school being started by a leadership team of three who met while working at Community Roots. I recently sat down with Todd Sutler, a man just crazy enough to try to put the "progressive" back in progressive. He and his two partners -  Brooke Peters and Michelle Healy - spent a year criss-crossing the nation looking for exemplary schools, teachers and methods. Called The Odyssey Initiative, their tour convinced them more than ever that "experiential" or progressive models can be applied successfully to kids of any means, class, race or culture. Now the trio has a charter, and are starting the Compass Charter School this fall with Kindergarten and First Grades only, adding a grade each year. And hey, they're into looping! I only just heard about it this year, but I kinda dig it in theory. You stay with the same teacher(s) for more than one year, and in the case of Compass that means for two year stretches at a time. And the founders are most certainly dedicated to seeing that their student body reflect Brooklyn's demo. The newbies often have certain expectations of what their school should offer, but that doesn't mean the same techniques don't work for all.
    When it comes to teaching the most educationally vulnerable, as Todd sees it, there's something paternalistic and bigoted about expecting that the only way, say, a poor black kid can learn is through brow-beating and constant testing, always looking at results over experiences. As if one group of kids don't need the same things as other kids? Project learning. Best practices in math. Socratic method. Arts. Individualized attention. Integrated Studies. The whole nine. 

    I sat down with Todd to talk turkey about his new school, opening in District 13 (sigh, not 17) this fall. Since he and his colleagues seem to have such a splendid grasp on the currents of education it's a real drag that the DOE couldn't find a spot for Compass in our fair and underserved District. They lobbied for 17, as well as 13, but the space was only to be found in Ft. Greene, not far from the school at which the three cut their teeth - Community Roots. Croots (as I like to call it, though no one else in their right mind would) is a fan favorite and has been since its Bank Street educated leaders built it eight years ago now. If you want to read as thorough a description of the "progressive education model" as I've come across, or rather the kind that you might be able to understand as a non-academic, it would look something like this. Croots puts it all out there, and from what I've heard from close friends who attend, they achieve their objectives. It's therefore one of the tougher tickets to scalp, kinda like gaining entrance to a Stones club date before their world tour. As in it helps to know Jagger or Richards, or in this case, I guess Mick Jagger would be Alison Keil and Keith Richards would be Sara Stone, the co-founder-directors (or vice-versa - I don't know them personally, or well enough to say which plays guitar and which handles lead vocals). But Charters work by lottery, with siblings getting in first, so it's not like KNOWING them gets you in, but then relationships ARE important even on supposedly impartial waiting lists and...well, this post isn't about kindergarten admission strategies, but suffice to say a lot of parents go through hoops, or pay through the nose, in order to get into their fave schools. Think stories of parents renting an extra apartment in a favored district are urban myths? Think again. If you have the dough, it's darn effective, though parents may be loathe to admit it. Lying about addresses? Yep. Begging? You bet. And what does that ultimately say? The most entitled get the most entitlements. Same as it ever was. (I'm no saint, but I did decide I wasn't interested in starting my kids educational journey with a big lie. It's just me, and I don't really fault anyone for going the distance for a perceived head start for their kid. Still, I can't think that I'm doing my daughter any favors by modeling sneakiness. That damn conscience! What has he ever done for me anyway? Why you I oughta...)

    Lots of smart folks like Todd-Michelle-Brooke aren't interested in kissing the oligarchy's ass by ignoring the needs of the least privileged. They want a school that works for all, and doesn't market itself just to one group or the other. It's clear that a diverse student body is an audacious goal, particularly in a stratified class society like we have today, but you can tell Todd means business. I'm no sociologist, but I'd dare say that the Horatio Alger myth has never been more myth than it is today. A few educational examples:

    • One can pay top dollar now to get your kid tested "gifted and talented."
    • I know a dude in Princeton, NJ who charges more per hour than most lawyers for an hour with your child to study...the SATs. 
    • Need-blind admissions are becoming increasingly rare at the best colleges. 
    • Parents actively or passively shun schools that are too poor or too black, even when the schools get good grades
    • That little thing about renting apartments in better zones  and working "connections" to get a spot at a fave school?
    • Affirmative Action's been stripped of effectiveness. 
    • Very few powers-that-be talk seriously about school integration anymore
    • Charters often consider one style of teaching to be good for poor kids; another for affluent ones, further exacerbating segragation

    Most folks consider busing to have been a miserable failure, and few new attempts have made to seriously address what most educators would call a major problem affecting not only nonwhite school performance, but also cementing the toxic notion of cultural otherness and by extension, unworthiness. If your world is segregated from the moment you become aware of society, i.e. school, what chance do you have of living King's dream? If that dream has relevance. Sometimes I wonder.

    Oops. Got sidetracked again. Todd and I had the same problem in our wide-ranging conversation. We kept trying to get back to our core agenda, so I could maybe write a thoughtful piece on his school. He kept wanting to talk specifically about what his school was going to be; I kept wanting to get at the heart of what it means to be "progressive" in a world where words like "inquiry" and "integrated" and "holistic" and "diverse" get tossed around like so much feed in a chicken coop. And then of course, the question of the constant sloshing of capital in Brooklyn comes up, and the whitening of black Brooklyn, and the entitlement gap, and...anyway, Todd's my kinda guy, and though I may not live in district, I certainly share the same air when it comes to this stuff. I sat on a founding board for a dismal charter school application (don't ask) so I read his team's app with great curiosity. If you're someone who likes the nitty gritty, you can read the whole dang thing here.

    Here's the sort of stuff the Q likes to read about a school, and it's right there on the Compass website: 
    Students at all grade levels will engage in meaningful inquiry based interdisciplinary projects. All students will participate in a variety of research practices including observations, question development, interviews, artifact collection, field visits, note taking and hands-on experiments.
    Here's another snippet I dig:
    Sustainability education and sustainable practices will be infused through the daily practices and curriculum of CCS. Our interdisciplinary units of study will give students opportunities to examine the concepts of environmental stewardship, resource management, social justice, and economic justice. We will incorporate sustainable practices like recycling, eating responsibly sourced food, and using energy efficient products in our school environment. We will also encourage students, families, and staff to adopt these practices in their lives outside of school.
    Yes, ma'am!  And for an arty-farty guy like myself, you know I like:
    CCS will value the arts as a form of communication and expression. Visual arts, music, and movement/dance will be incorporated into the CCS model. Arts specialists will design  discipline based courses as well as plan lessons and co-teach with classroom educators to fully integrate the arts into the core subjects.

    At the very least I urge you to check out Todd and Michelle and Brooke in person at one of their upcoming outreach sessions, like the one coming up on this Thursday at the Central Library. Even if you don't think the school is right for you, either practically (it's on Adelphi 'tween Dekalb and Lafayette) or ideologically, you can ask these folks the kinds of questions you might not get to ask in your typical school tour.

    And besides, you really shouldn't formulate any depictions on what some pasty chubby old dude writes on his blog, now, should you?


    "Original lyrics to Two Out of Three Ain't Bad - "I Want You, I Need You, I Heard You, I Employ You, I Gave You a Necklace For Your Birthday, But there ain't no way..."






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  • 01/16/14--06:26: Watch "My Brooklyn" Online

  • If you've been wanting to learn more about how public policy led to the quickest and most sweeping changes in Brooklyn's history since the bridge, you have a month to view the film "My Brooklyn" onlin. It's okay as documentary - I'm not a fan of the personal memoir style - but fantastic as a primer for what's been happening.

    I was at meetings with Joe Chan back in 2004 when he started running the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Click here to see their website. (It's ironic, in my view, that one of the things they're promoting right now is a show on Brooklyn's Abolitionists. As if being politically correct in your promotions means you've cared even two whits about the present and future of African-Americans in the borough.) I work in a building - 80 Arts on Hanson Place - that was one of the first shots in the war against old Brooklyn. The idea was to convert an old building on a sorry street next to run down apartments and the Salvation Army, and bring a bunch of college educated artsy folks in through subsidized office space for BAM-approved non-profits. We would make it "safe" for coffee shops and upscale eateries to move to Fulton. The BAM Development Corporation was on the top floor, and the famed Harvey Lichtenstein had offices there. BAM was instrumental in seeing that Ft. Greene and downtown Brooklyn changed for the arty and upscale. BAM used to joke that if it could move BAM to Manhattan they would have been much better off, this from someone who used to work there. No surprise of course - we all knew that was true. But if you can't move the building over the bridge, why not bring Manhattan to Brooklyn? Eventually, BAM was taken over by the Downtown Partnership, when the plan became not only feasible, but likely.

    When I saw Joe's plan, and even questioned him about it, I thought...wow, these guys have a massive vision. It'll never happen, I thought. Not in downtown Brooklyn. It's too popular and profitable. Maybe you could get some arty types to live in the lofts above the stores on Fulton. But a big mall - Albee Sqare - had already failed, and Metrotech was an eyesore. And a pro sports franchise with a big arena next to that hideous Atlantic Center? Keep dreaming!

    How naive I was. They did it. Including the part where they try to "bridge" the neighborhoods of upscaling Ft. Greene with upscaled Brooklyn Heights. I saw the renderings - a space safe for white folks to walk from one nabe to the other (they put white folks in the rendering in case you weren't able to make the imaginative leap). And BAM, in many ways, is at the heart of it all. Without it, I doubt they ever could have been so successful with all the residential buildings, and so quickly. Every brochure or website touts the location as "at the heart of the BAM Cultural District). They originally thought it would be mostly commercial towers like Metrotech. But sometimes, success has a way of snowballing.

    80Arts has a fabulous museum on the bottom floor, that provided perfect cover for the most far-reaching aspects of the plan. Called MoCADA, founded by now City Councilperson Laurie Cumbo, the gallery-sized museum celebrates the wide-ranging arts heritage of the African Diaspora. If you're not familiar with that term I find it incredibly handy. How else to describe the amazing cultures that developed when slaves blended with their owners' cultures, then developed through good and bad times to the present day? I feel the location of MoCADA is incredibly cynical, given the plan that it helped launch. But then, the Partnership and the Mayor were never racists per se. They supported development and increases of tax base and business to compete in a global economy. No one said that buppies couldn't be part of that plan. Assimilated Blacks and Latinos and Asians were more than welcome.However, if you don't have the means to live or shop here, well, that's just the natural evolution of things.

    Am I being glib? Watch the movie, let me know what you think.












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  • 01/17/14--08:17: LGCS Tours
  • For those interested in the new and improved Lefferts Gardens Charter School, four opportunities to visit have been announced:

    Coming up next week join them for an open house at 6PM on the Thursday the 23rd. For those wanting to see the tykes in action, the following Tuesday the 28th is a 9am tour. Also in February, try 2/11 at 6pm or 2/27 at 9am.

    Parents...see you there!


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    According to the Twitterverse, the heavy helicopter action is about an armed robbery at the Green Lake Express, just down Flatbush at Caton. Same address (803) could be the deli next door though. This used to be the wonderfully named "Best Fast Food" store, which was just too down from Best Liquors and Best Meats. The cops pursued the guys and called for helicopter backup. Hope they found him/them. Hard to imagine a female in that armed gunperson role. Am I being sexist?

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    The meeting is now scheduled for Wednesday January 29. Thanks again to Developer Seth Brown for taking time to meet with neighbors.

    Those of you who are mourning the soon to be razed Haunted House of Clarkson, a/k/a the AIA's fave example of Berserk Eclectic Architectural Movement of 111 Clarkson, will be interested to hear what developer Seth Brown has to say about his planned 50 unit building with luxury amenities, an earth-friendly building to boot.



    COMMUNITY MEETING TO DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT ON CLARKSON/PARKSIDE

    Tuesday, January 21
    7:30 p.m.
    At 119 Clarkson

    We are sitting down with the developer of 111 Clarkson Avenue, Seth Brown, to discuss our concerns and wishes for the upcoming project. 

    Please join us. We need a strong, but courteous and friendly, community presence at this meeting. 

    Contact: Betsy Andrews,

    Please pass it on thanks!

    To some, this may seem like an overdue use of a parking lot and dilapidated-beyond-repair mansion. To some, it may seem like the loss of a neighborhood icon. And to some, it's simply not wise to tear down a haunted house, thereby releasing the spirits and creating an antagonistic relationship with the angry gods who oversee the ORIGINAL purpose of the site, which was as a Native American burial ground. Add to that the fact that the site is also the peak of a legendary volcano system and the intersection of three major fault lines, not to mention the site of numerous Sasquatch sightings over the years...there's bound to be trouble.

    But hey, it's steps to park and 25 minutes to midtown, so basically six of one half dozen of another.

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    Yes, the shooter was wearing a red jumpsuit. The victim is expected to survive. And did I mention the red jumpsuit? It just goes to prove what I've said here many times...there is a strong correlation between violent crime and poor judgment.

    This just in, via Ditmas Park Corner, a shooting at the Church Ave side of the Church Ave Q/B.

    Nora from Ditmas Park Corner
    For those closely following the slowdown in shootings in the 71st, it's worth noting that there's been an upsurge just south and west in the 70th. Winter hasn't slowed the pace, unfortunately, of nearby violence.

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  • 01/21/14--06:47: Trash
  • On this particularly trashy Flatbush commute, I'm reminded of the oft-heard complaint that we are a neighborhood of litterers. While I don't dispute the claim, it is not, in my opinion, the litter that causes the trash problem. It is the dumping, and the lack of simple cleanup by merchants and landlords along the Flabenue. Because we haven't got a BID doing regular cleanup, we're stuck with what we got.

    Dumping includes leaving big bags and stacks of trash at corners and in tree pits and next to buildings. Over the last few days, a Trash Vigilante on Ocean has been sending me pictures like this:

    Besides being a health concern and despite the fact that wind can easily blow debris all down the street, this kind of thing just encourages more dumping and littering. These photos have been forwarded to Sanitation with promises of greater enforcement.

    I'm heaping mad at this stuff. It degrades the neighborhood and shows complete lack of respect. To me, this is not an issue that invites division among neighborhood residents. Rather, it's something we can all agree could make the area much more livable. That's why I may come off as...obsessed(?) about it. 


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    Last night local residents met at a private home to discuss the latest regarding efforts to fast-track contextual zoning along the Flatbush-Ocean parallel corridors from Parkside to Empire. For those just getting up to speed on this one, a local group called Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) has emerged to both enlist community opposition and to wage war against unfettered and outsized development in our neighborhood. The building at 626 Flatbush has galvanized some in the community against the developer Hudson Inc., led by David Kramer. A suit has been filed against the state for agreeing to finance the project in view of a promised 20% of the 23-story tower's apartments being set aside for affordable housing. The long and short is that a hearing will be held on Thursday at 111 Centre Street for a judge to hear the merits of the lawsuit that's been brought by PPEN against the State for agreeing to release financing without doing a proper environmental review. By environmental, ALL aspects of the effect of a building must be studied before the money spigot opens. This usually means looking at context and economic impact as well as the more obvious issues of infrastructure and health.

    In meeting with and talking to residents leading this charge, the Q feels that despite the need for more, and more affordable, housing for Brooklynites, the trend towards massive wholesale reconfiguration of the borough without (in my view) thought or care has proven incredibly destructive, both to the character of neighborhoods and to the people who have long called Central Brooklyn home. While some pay lipservice to the idea of democracy within big D development, anyone who has seen the doc My Brooklyn or has kept up with the rapid pace of big money following big money into our borough knows how plans are made and implemented without the consent or even general knowledge of the people most affected. The "people" have no say in how their neighborhoods and City are being changed, and changed so rapidly as to take one's breath away.

    Here's the full release, which includes a few choice remarks by said local politicians:

    Brooklyn Community Files Lawsuit to Stop Luxury High-Rise

    23-story luxury tower planned for Prospect Lefferts Gardens defies low rise historic neighborhood

    BROOKLYN, NY, December 19, 2013—Residents and community groups in Brooklyn’s Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood have filed a lawsuit asking that the development of a 23-story residential tower in their low-rise, mixed income neighborhood be halted. The lawsuit against the New York State Housing Finance Agency, Hudson Companies Incorporated (a private real estate development company), and other defendants contends that more than $72 million in public funds were approved for the development without the proper environmental impact study required by state law. Petitioners are represented by law firm WilmerHale and Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program.

    Community residents and organizations have formed a coalition to fight the development of the high rise luxury tower. The Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) is not opposed to new construction, but does ask that the development be contextual and respectful of the existing architecture and environment in the neighborhood. Petitioners also include the Flatbush Development Corporation, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA), and six individual community residents.

    Members of PPEN sought legal counsel in this issue so that their voices could be heard,” said David Bassett, legal counsel for the petitioners, and a partner at WilmerHale. “They contend that the Housing Finance Agency’s determination that the construction of a 23-story tower in the midst of their low rise neighborhood on the edge of Prospect Park would have no significant environmental impact was improper and arbitrary, and in violation of New York State law.”

    While the area has always been mixed-income, the addition of the tower would change the rental market so that long-time residents living on fixed incomes would not be able to afford to stay. The new residents who would occupy the luxury tower would impact the nature of local businesses which have long served the economically and ethnically diverse community. Low-income tenants and businesses would be priced out of the neighborhood.

    The NYS Housing Finance Agency failed to take a hard look at the impact this tower will have on the neighborhood’s residents and businesses,” said Rachel Hannaford, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program. “Our clients are concerned that this tower will lead to tenant displacement, as landlords see new opportunities in a high rent market. In recent years, developments like this one have changed the character of Brooklyn neighborhoods and forced the most vulnerable out of their homes and communities.”

    "As a group of tenant associations battling the displacement of long-term tenants in the neighborhood, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition is very concerned about the scale and affordability of this proposed development,” said FTC member Redoneva Andrews.  “Without more affordable housing for low-income families, the development will change the neighborhood.  It will drive up rents and the cost of everything else in the area, and drive out low-income tenants and small store owners. Low-income families are already treated with little respect—apartments are so run down that tenants are forced to move out. We want to make sure all families are treated with respect and have safe, affordable housing."

    The building would also dramatically affect Prospect Park, as it would be almost 50% taller than any other building on or near the perimeter of the park. The tower would cast shadows, impacting flora and fauna.  It would also, by towering above the tree-sky vista that is currently the view from within the park, violate the design intentions of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted who carefully designed Prospect Park to be a rural retreat from the sights, sounds and stresses of urban life. Buildings this tall are not permitted by zoning in other neighborhoods that border Prospect Park, including Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington.

    The people of Prospect Lefferts Gardens share a neighborhood of remarkable beauty,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke. “I have lived on Midwood Street for my entire life, and I know that this neighborhood’s character has been defined by generations of families and small business who have remained here for decades. The construction of a twenty-three floor tower in a neighborhood where even the highest buildings are less than half that height threatens to undermine the quality of life enjoyed by the people in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I urge a thorough review of this proposal and its potential consequences.”

    "Given the drastic change the proposed 23-story mixed use tower will cause to the skyline of this historic portion of Flatbush Avenue, as viewed from Prospect Park and from Prospect Lefferts Garden, I think it is important that there be some extended public discussion of the project's appropriateness before demolition and construction begin on the site," said State Senator Kevin Parker

    I am energized and excited by the efforts of this community group to take a strong stance for responsible development in Prospect Lefferts Gardens,” said Assembly Member Karim Camara. “Additionally, I am working with my colleagues in the City and State to propose more encompassing legislation regarding contextual zoning, community notification, and a greater commitment to affordable housing, particularly when taxpayer dollars are used for development.”

    It is important that we maintain the character and integrity of our communities,” said NYC Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is a neighborhood with a rich history.  I strongly advocate that the City Planning Commission soon review the current zoning in the area of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens adjacent to Prospect Park.”

    It is imperative that we maintain and protect the integrity of Prospect Lefferts Garden's low rise and historic homes,” saidBrenda Edwards, a homeowner on Chester Court and a member of PPEN. “This does not include a 23-story tower hovering relentlessly over our heads. I feel that without the immediate approval of contextual zoning, which was requested since 2008, that the proposed Hudson tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue will become an invitation for other such development.”

    Prospect Lefferts Gardens is a real community, with both diversity and cohesion,” said Quest Eric Bohman Fanning, a tenant of Patio Gardens and lifelong resident of the neighborhood. “Our community is unique and vibrant; we don't need to become Manhattan.”


    About Prospect Park East Network
    Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) is an organization of concerned residents formed to address this development and the larger concerns it brings, which include the urgent need for contextual zoning and impact studies on such issues as traffic, subways, parking, schools, safety, sanitation, low income and affordable housing, and Prospect Park itself.

    About Flatbush Development Corporation
    Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC) is a nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of a diverse Flatbush community. FDC identifies and responds to these needs by creating programs, campaigns, and partnerships through economic development, housing, youth, immigration and other initiatives that promote enhanced quality of life, safety, and preservation of the neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, and South Crown Heights (which includes Prospect Lefferts Gardens).



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    If you want to know precisely what's been filed with NY County Supreme Court, you can go here:

    http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/

    Then type in Index number: 101695/2013

    A lot of detail is there that you won't find in my layman's analyses.


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    The other day I heard someone remark "only in PLG would people actively oppose progress" in regards to the planned 23-story 626 Flatbush. I've tried to remind folks that unwanted development is happening all over the City and that frequently the issue is outdated zoning. There was a time when the City begged for new buildings and cared not for aesthetics. While Patio Gardens is home-sweet-home to many, few would argue that it's design deserved any awards, or was even appropriately sized given its closeness to the park.

    For an illustration of how other neighborhoods have argued for self-determination, take the successful effort by those in Carroll Gardens back in 2007. It was signed by more than 1,100 folks. I have to say I find their use of language particularly invigorating. Power to the people, indeed. And while I doubt the value of homes in C.G. was ever in question (skyrockets in flight!) I certainly can identify with the desire to decide one's own destiny.

    The text from that petition:


    We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes.

    We understand that the current laws and the R-6 zoning which we fall under allows this at present---but the letter of this law does not reflect the spirit of the law, nor the wishes of the very people who have made this community so desirable. We feel that the "as of right" clause recognized by the city, planning/zoning and building departments should not strip us of
    our rights to have a say in the height, bulk and density of the structures placed in our community.

    We are presently not permitted any type of control in this regard, but we understand that there are different rezoning and/or landmarking measures which would help remedy this situation. We have been informed that it is typical for the process to take several years. Clearly, the very character of our neighborhood cannot afford to wait that long.
    Therefore, we DEMAND an immediate moratorium on all buildings and alterations in our neighborhood, where the ultimate height of any structure to be built will exceed a height of fifty feet, while we await a decision on rezoning and or landmarking in our beloved Carroll Gardens.

    We, the undersigned, vow to support ONLY those public officials who will act upon our demands and achieve our goals NOW.

    And that last line, ladies and germs, is what the Q calls an attention grabber.

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  • 01/22/14--20:15: Hapless Heist Creep Collared
  • When the cops nab their man, they like to tell us about it. From the 71st comes this great paragraph-long narrative of events this afternoon. Locals will recognize this corner as precisely one block from the 71st station house. I'm surprised the guy wasn't wearing a red jumpsuit. Those are "in" this season in the perp scene.


    Today at approximately 3 PM a male walked into the Chase bank located at 1000 Nostrand Avenue and passed the teller a note demanding money. After the teller refused the male walked across the street to the Carver bank and verbally asked for money in a threatening manor. The bank teller handed over money and the male fled the bank. Chase and Carver bank both called 911 and where able to give a good description. The description was broadcasted and a patrol car spotted the male a few blocks away. The male was apprehended and all the money from Carver bank was recovered.   

    Semi-interesting graphic below:



     

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