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    The Q requests your presence next Thursday night the 30th of January at 7pm at Play Kids, 676 Flatbush. What began last summer in the basement of 40 Clarkson Avenue as a plea for more support from local law enforcement has become a formidable group of concerned residents that some were calling Lefferts Area Crime Team and Troubleshooting Entity (or L.A.C.T.A.T.E.) but then thought better of it. Let's just call it Lefferts Area Safety Team, no acronym, but maybe if people want to call it LAST that will be okay and no one will be offended? Or we could wait to name it. Last fall we were saying D.A. Task Force since we had engaged the District Attorney's office and things were moving along and then a new D.A. came in and we're trying to reconnect our network there.

    So...come on down and meet our new commander at the 71st precinct, Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon,

    who most recently headed the district of Canarsie, an are of predominantly Haitian-born and their families. When I met with him last month, he was burning incense in his office I kid you not. He's super friendly and committed to being a community-minded police force. BUT...we have yet to see evidence of that, as many prior posts and comments make clear. It's time to relate our priorities and concerns in a constructive fashion that leaves no ambiguity as to what we NEED on the Flabenue and environs.

    Please come on down and ask your questions directly to the man in charge. Our last meeting at Play Kids took on the form of a roundtable, and all participants were asked to contribute to the discussion and share the issues that matter most and that pertain specifically to certain blocks and buildings and activities. A rendering from that mtg appears below. As you can see, we ask that you bring your own chainmail and tunics.

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    Actually, there's a bunch of new sherriffs. Actually, it's more like there's a new team in town, led by the Good Doctor Cuts. After years of struggling to move forward, the merchants of the Flabenue have finally started what's sure to be a re-energized merchant's association. Just check out the press release:

    And their first General Merchant Meeting is coming up on Monday. Tell everyone at your fave local shops to join! Lincoln Road and Parkside included, and anyone just off Flatbush.

    The new name - Parkside Empire - is awesome. So is Desmond, from Dr. Cuts, the new president and everyone on the Board. Happily, the new board reflects the great diversity of the Flabenue itself. This is great news folks. Great news indeed.

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  • 01/24/14--19:19: Fire at 48 Hawthorne
  • Just came back from a walk down Hawthorne. 48 burned, and thank God no one was hurt. Here's a couple pics. Nearly 30 firemen on the scene. The helicopter? Strange thing to send to a fire scene, but maybe to provide light?

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  • 01/25/14--12:58: Get Your Ex Back!!!
  • After writing about the soon-to-open coffee spot on Flatbush near Hawthorne, comments started showing up offering all manner of love spells designed to get your fellow or lady back. They are very amusing, and contain an enticing email address that makes it sound you will be able to communicate directly with the spiritual spell caster himself.

    After doing a bit of poking I found that (gasp) these are scams that originate in various countries, mostly Nigeria (home to the great "help! send me some money so I may give you MORE money" scams). But one quack really took it to the extreme, writing on his wonderful expoSAY site:
    Dearest Clients and friends,
    When I wrote to you on my Blog about love spells scams, I wrote from my heart. It saddened me a great deal when I received your emails complaining and describing the horrible experiences you have encountered.
    It was very painful for me to accept that there were actually such cold-hearted people out there that would do such things to a fellow human soul. There is nothing worse than to take advantage of an emotionally hurt and vulnerable person. These con artists are ripping off thousands of dollars from their targeted victims without casting any spells for them. These swindlers of money even have the nerve to offer money back guarantees.
    Please know that these crooks have used my name, Aisha Haadi, as well as my Egyptian Witchcraft content without my permission and that this will not be tolerated. At the same time they started the to publish untrue, false and manipulated reviews about me so it will op up in search engines when you search for “Aisha Haadi” that my customers and clients can be deceived and victimized by these scam artists.
    I will not tolerate that anyone is using my name, my content or my clients to scam and defraud people and this is the reason why I am exposing this massive love spells scam ring right here on my website.
    That is outstanding marketing! Good lord how I do honor the pluck of that particularly huckster.

    But let's get serious for a moment. None of those love potions will do you a bit of good, and you will simply lose your money, your self-respect, and CONTINUE to have that man or woman gone from your life.

    That's why I'm offering here, for the first time via internet, the SURE FIRE method of healing the heart of break-up pain. Why am I sharing this advice with you free of charge? Because the Q cares, that's why. He cares a lot. About you personally.


    If your loved one has left you for more than a month...and you believe they were a decent sort of person (that's why you give them a month rather than three minutes)...and if they have managed to utter the painful words "it's over..."

    Then it's over. Kaput. Fini.

    Don't try to get them back. They've done you a favor by leaving rather than hanging on for fear of hurting your feelings.

    All you need is time. Get some exercise. Get your game face on! Pull those tight-fitting clothes out of the closet! It's time to get back out there and enjoy your freedom! You're still young, no matter your age! And the TRUE love of your life may be right around the corner. Or not.

    If not, then check back in here at The Q at Parkside and start the process all over again!!!

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  • 01/27/14--18:55: Now THAT Is a Meeting
  • Whoa Nelly! Move over Yalta...there's a new conference in town and it's name is The Parkside-Empire! After years of fitful starts, a true merchant's association was birthed today at none other than Dr. Cuts. The good doctor was in, Desmond Romeo, and he presided as the newly elected president of the Flatbush Merchant's Association. The other elected board members included Exec VP Shelley Kramer of Play Kids, VP of Communications Joyce David Esq, Treasurer Jesse Gomez of 30 year merchant Gomez & Gomez, and VP at Large Tammy Merlain of Human Hair. The meeting was joined by many merchants, neighbors, some CB9 folks AND the Director of Economic Development Dale Charles of the Pratt Area Community Council. You see, the PACC is helping organize and assist the Merchant's Association in its quest to finally bring together the feisty ragtag assortment of businesses that call the Flabenue home. Yours truly, wearing the hat of sanitation chair at CB9, blah-blahed about trash on the avenue and how to rid ourselves of it.

    left to right Shelley, Desmond, Dale (seated), I. Dunne O.,
    The Lady From Small Business Administration,
    Jesse, Joyce and Tammy
    Before reading any further (farther?) please go to their Facebook page and "like" them. Le Facebook page.

    The Q's been watching helplessly for the past many years as a group has tried to get off the ground, and tonight I believe he (I) witnessed the beginning of something truly marvelous. Sandra from Tafari Tribe was there. Richard was there to talk up D Avenue, his latest bar to sprout at 673 Flatbush. Michael was there from the Fen Empire (65 Fen, Delroy's and PLG Outpost). Which reminds me to say that the businesses just off the Flabenue are included, plus Lincoln Road and hopefully Parkside. Because the Flatbush BID ends at Parkside from Cortelyou Road, and doesn't include the Parkside businesses.

    And who runs the BID now that Jack Katz, the old-school style leader of decades, has passed on to the great Street Fair in the Sky? Her name is Lauren Elvers Collins, and she holds the titles now of Executive Director of both the Church Avenue BID AND the Flatbush Avenue BID. This super-slick move should create efficiencies, one would think, and she does think it too.
    I had lunch with Lauren last week at Am Thai, the delectable restaurant on that very Church Avenue near Lark Cafe, either of which many of you have probably stumbled into a time or two. That little section of Church Avenue almost to Coney Island Avenue has become quite the Little Economic Engine That Could, and a new bakery just opened up called, um, um, shoot I can't remember. Looked super cute though. Since I stole the picture to the right from Ditmas Park Corner I really should just link to their brief article about Lauren here rather than pretend I staged that shot myself. Thanks Nora!

    Speaking of Am Thai, here's their delivery map area. Guess the Q's gonna be drowning in the Tom Yum while some of you are plum out of duck basil.

    However, I figure that since according to this map about 20% of their delivery area goes to dead people in Greenwood Cemetary or squirrels in the Nethermead, they could probably be convinced to deliver throughout Lefferts. Anyone had any experience with their delivery radius? Amy who owns Am Thai assured me that sweet talking can do the trick, and promises of a nice tip.

    Anyhow, Lauren's great and I'm sure she'll whip that beleaguered Caton Market into shape, among other things, so so so many other things. Visit the Church Ave BID site here, and remember to tip your delivery person well. All of your Lefferts neighbors are counting on our good reputation among deliverers!

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    So you say you're "all ears?" Let's go then.

    Community Board 9 met tonight. Some tidbits:

    1) Chester Court received unanimous support for its designation as a historic district, meaning you can't come and buy a couple of these adorable Tudors and build a six story luxury condo. Bad news for luxury condo buyers, good news for this extraordinary little block abutting my beloved Q train. (And my somewhat beloved B train).

    2) CAMBA is moving on to phase two of its Camba Gardens affordable housing plan for the Kings County Hospital campus. Apparently 7,000 (!) applications were filed for apartments in phase 1 (see below for details). The new building will have more studios and functions more as supportive housing. Number 2 is being built primarily to house formerly homeless folk and families, and you should really take a spin by building 1 on Albany and Winthrop. Quite amazing to see ACTUAL affordable housing being built in this day and age. Oh, and to build number 2 they'll be razing scary Building G, the former insane asylum, er, mental hygiene asylum. That place did NOT have a particularly positive vibe. Newly elected councilperson Laurie Cumbo remarked tonight that when she was growing up elders would say "you better be good or you'll end up at Building G." Yikes!

    That's not to say that I didn't bend founder and CEO Joanne Opustil's ear to implore her that something be done about that godamn Barry Hers and his disgraceful 60 Clarkson building (read that saga here). Trust me, she knows who I am because I met with her and staff to complain about it and I've done my best to try to keep her "abreast" of the situation. CAMBA provides services there, and to my mind ought to be able to get DHS to cancel Hers's $3,000 a month contract (per unit!). And how about that piece on WNYC about it? Listen below:

    3) That bar the Q alluded to that's opening at Flatbush and Midwood? Not only will it be a nice sit-down joint, it'll be what the young folks call a Gastro-Pub, with (I ain't kidding this is what they said) 50 types of beer and 30 artisinal and classic bourbons and scotch whiskeys. Did I hear a few gasps of joy out there amongst the Q faithful? Just don't get hit by a dollar van when stumbling out the door. Look for an opening mid-summer.

    4) Speaking of bars, that joint on Rogers with the nifty sign that says "Brooklyn Rick's Cafe?" I went in on my way home tonight to find them readying the place, and Rick (number 1, there's two) is a sweet guy with big plans to make his joint at 429 Rogers the kind of neighborhood bar it used to was back in the day. In fact, he said WAY back in the day that it first used to was it was an Irish bar. On Rogers. Cause, well, there were lots of Irish and Italians around here, so I've heard. And no, there won't be 50 beers, but after all, how many beers can one person drink in one sitting anyway? Actually, that's a rhetorical question. I answered that question many, many times in my youth and it's a miracle I'm hear to write the tale. Rick's will have food too, they just got permits for the kitchen. They'll be up and running darn soon. Please stop in - the vibe is very friendly and homey.

    5) The Dominican joint on Flatbush next to Rhythm Splash (soon to re-grand-open as D Avenue) has new ownership and a new name. Look for an improved look and feel, and hopefully better health department grades. We supported their liquor license as well, actually wine and beer I believe. I'm a huge fan of Dominican food, so I really do hope they get it going on.

    Speaking of getting it going on, the Q best be going on to bed.

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    It's always fun to meet your neighbors and talk about the future of the 'hood. And it's rare to have the chance to talk directly to the dude building the new building - in person - and hear their thoughts and plans. Some folks may confuse this meeting with the sort of out-and-out protest that's been happening around 626 Flatbush, but that's really not the goal here. The idea for this mtg is if the ol' Haunted House of Clarkson is coming down, and an upscale apartment building going up, stuff is going to happen. Be there at the moment that the "stuff" starts happening, and listen and share. In the Q's opinion, that's the way it should go down - lines of communication open and all that. So...
    Come to a community meeting to talk to Seth Brown, the developer of 111 Clarkson Avenue, and express our concerns and desires for the project:

    Wednesday, January 29
    7:30 PM
    119 Clarkson Ave
    Betsy Andrews

    We need a strong and open community presence at the meeting, so please come, thanks !!

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  • 01/30/14--04:36: More on that "Gastropub"
  • Sonja Sharp from DNA Info was at the Community Board meeting on Tuesday. That must have been her right behind me! I was wondering who comes to these things with a computer taking notes. Duh! A REAL journalist, of course. I'm just sitting there playing with the pencils and lobbing questions and goofy remarks. Here's her story on the gastropub coming to Flatbush and Midwood. (If you're not familiar with the term gastropub, never fear, it just means you're not a a Gastroenterologist or have various and sundry forms of gastroenteritis. Gastropubs were begun in the U.K. at the end of the 20th Century to provide healthy and rehabilitative food to alcoholics suffering from such conditions. Initially this involved a lot of raw roots and herbs and pre-masticated tempeh-based dishes, but has apparently moved on to Lobster Rolls and Spare Rib Sliders. Some in the movement are concerned that these foods might actually exacerbate certain Gastro conditions, but the research so far is uncorroborated, since most of the scientists interested in this issue are themselves alcoholics and currently soaking in a marinade of rooftop honey and triple-distilled artisinal bourbon.)

    To say that this joint, featuring partners Chad from Tugboat  and Kalkin Narvilas from Franklin Ave's Cent'Anni, will be a game changer for the bourgie mood around like saying that oil changed Texas, or "Taxes" as a recent heartbroken commenter wrote.

    From the article:

    "We’re going to have a lobster roll on a pretzel bun, and some short rib sliders," Narvilas said. "We’re going to have 24 draft lines and high-end whiskeys and scotches with a focus on local New York breweries and distilleries."

    Though it's a far cry from the traditional Italian cuisine at Cent'Anni and Narvilas' Washington Heights Italian eatery Saggio, the planned pub could be similar to Narvilas' earlier Hell's Kitchen venture, Blue Ruin, he said.
    And the Q's fave quote:
    "This isn’t my first rodeo," said the restaurateur, who appeared before Community Board 9 seeking support for a full liquor license Tuesday night for the new Flatbush Avenue establishment. "I definitely need to get open, but assuming there aren’t any hidden traps waiting, I think as early as June."
    Good luck cowboy!

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    The Q and Shelley from Play Kids on Flatbush at Westbury Ct invite you to join us tonight to meet with Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon of the 71st, tonight at 7PM. There's a lot to talk about, both with the D.I. and with each other. A great group of concerned citizens has been meeting fairly regularly to keep the pressure on crime and safety. Please be part of the solution, and if you can make it tonight, fabuloose.

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    Richard w/Renee from last year
    Richard from the newly named and signed "D Avenue" at 673 Flatbush is calling tomorrow the Grand Opening. Stop in for Drink Specials all day til 11pm. You've known it as Rhythm Splash, you've known it as Lime, and back in the day it were The Handyman Special. Richard is a swell cat and deserves your lounge business. This place has been looking for the right vibe, and YOU my friends can make it happen. Yes, your business is wanted. And yes, you will feel comfortable, especially after that third martini.

    By the way that's "D Avenue," not "Avenue D" as this non-Trinidadian has been calling it.  Look the Q was born in the Midwest, so he didn't get it at first that it's like De Hot Pot, mon.

    And here's a piece of info you may want to know:

    I'm not entertaining Anonymous Comments anymore. I'm done. Too many people are hiding. The plus was I got a lot of silliness and maybe even some honesty I wouldn't get otherwise. But I'm tired of the negativity. I'm too old for nonsense other than my own, and the attitude of some of the commenters wears on me. It brings out the worst in me too.

    By the way, I like all the regulars a lot, even when we disagree. You guys are my online pals, and I've come to know a lot of you "on the outside." Please keep it up! And if you have a Google ID you can comment. Or an OpenID with a url (like if you're a blogger or such). So really, anybody can still comment, but you can't just lurk out there anymore.

    Oh, and yes, it was a great meeting tonight. Fitzgibbon is a straight shooter, and we've opened a dialogue.

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    It's official(er). The Haunted House of Clarkson, home to the ghosts of the Magnificent Ambersols, the Old Wet Lady, or as some days I called it The Bat House, is heading out to pasture. Or out to the City Dump, with a few odds and ends probably ending up at Demolition Depot, or better yet, Olde Good Things.

    Rebecca from Brownstoner was there and here's her report. From her article comes news of the plan, though sadly no rendering yet:

    (Developer Seth) Brown didn’t show any pictures, but described his plans: The 70-foot buildings will have 22 and 28 units each, and there will be a parking lot with 25 spaces between the two buildings. Both buildings will extend to the property line on either side of the 50 by 242 foot lot, with a driveway on each side of the lot, allowing for parking lot access from Clarkson and Parkside Avenues. Architect Joseph Spector will design the rentals, which will be mostly one- and one-plus bedrooms with a few two- and three-bedroom apartments mixed in. Most units will have balconies, and there will be a washer/dryer in each apartment. Both buildings will have an elevator and roof terrace.

    And despite feeling a bit misty over the loss of an odd and historic building, I am not leading any charge against the development or its size or even it's choice of kitchen furnishings. It sounds like this is what's happening with the old stuff that can't be re-purposed, and there it is. This would appear to be a building suited for its place. And the gentleman was kind enough to come out and meet with neighbors.

    See, Hudson? See how easy that was?

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  • 01/31/14--10:20: The Q's Block On the Block
  • As I reported here last November, the three old Victorians on my block are being demolished for a new apartment building. Matt P. alerts me that the plans have been filed, and that we can expect 48 units to go up. From the Brownstoner:

    Three houses at 50-54 Clarkson Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens are being demolished right now to make way for an eight-story residential development. The plan exam application for the new building was first reported by BuzzBuzz Home. Nataliya Donskoy will be the architect on this project, which will have 48 units and 24,600 square feet. The 85-foot building will have parking for 24 bikes, a laundry room, two recreation rooms and an elevator.
    Public records show an LLC bought 50 Clarkson Avenue for $760,000 in December 2012, and building permits reveal that the developer is Joseph Hoffman of Bushburg Properties. The other two houses were also purchased the same month, for $445,000 and $545,000. Donskoy, who previously worked for disgraced architect Robert Scarano, designed the unusual looking building at 146 South 4th Street in Williamsburg, which recently started leasing.
    Privately I'm aware of some details that have yet to be worked out that have to do with the projects's position between two pre-war apartment buildings on either side. We'll see where it all lands.

    But suffice to say, without prejudice or opinion...

    With the condominium conversion of the large apartment building to my immediate east (35); and the steady selling of coops across the street (40); now this building, and plans by Landlords, as relayed by their Supers, at two other buildings (80 and 60) to attract a "different" sort of clientele, and the new building reported at Wednesday's meeting going up just across Bedford where the Haunted House stood, it's quite possible that Clarkson won't resemble anything like its current self in even two or three years.

    The first is my pic from last fall, the second from Brownstoner yesterday:

    Bit by bit, piece by piece, both the building, and the neighborhood.

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    pic by Sonja Sharp/DnaInfo
    Thursday night at the new community room in the basement of Play Kids, a bunch of us said hello to the newish precinct commander at the 71st, George Fitzgibbon. He was accompanied by longtime community affairs officer Vinnie Martinos. The two kindly offered more than an hour of their time to answer questions and offer perspective on the sorts of issues that have concerned folks around here for...for...well, for a long or short time depending on the issue and your length of residency.

    Serious crime, for instance. It's not the "busiest" precinct in the City, but we've got our problems, as the year ending last September will attest. Fitzgibbon was quick to point out his early tenure successes busting a serial robber and stings on drug dealers. He talks a lot about working with detectives and narcotics officers from Brooklyn South and investigators from the D.A.'s office. Questions about gangs or "crews" led to a discussion of graffiti, clearly on the rise 'round here. And while gangs aren't a specialty of the commander's, he's well aware of the threat and presence of crews and we urged him to keep a keen eye on certain hot spots where locals block crews seem to operate. We spoke of specific corners and buildings of concern. It's our hope that they be targeted for increased enforcement. To be clear, we're talking about routine offenders - the folks we ALL know to be trouble, not random folk who happen to be talking to each other or hanging out. So please guys...take the time and get to know who's who! Our little "task force" has been helpful in identifying EXACTLY where those spots are, and we'll try to keep the pressure on. If you'd like to add to the list of hot spots, or reinforce our "database," please comment here! And to be part of the group (we number around 75 on the email list) please write me here.

    As for traffic concerns, Fitzgibbon says he takes them seriously. But despite the clear urgency in the tone of a question from concerned resident Alex Ely, it does not appear to the Q that the commander has a firm grasp of just how out of hand the driving can get on the Flabenue. He does claim he'll be cracking down on illegal and irresponsible Dollar Vans (here here!), but his first response to our concerns was to note the recklessness of jaywalkers. Granted, jaywalking is a big safety problem, and folks all over town are starting to get jaywalking tickets as of the beginning of this year (now THAT is newsworthy - whoa - jaywalker getting tickets - in NYC - that's as big news as the first tickets for beers in paper bags back in the 90s) But that's not what we were talking about. Jaywalkers take their lives in their hands, to be sure, and can cause drivers headaches, but rampant speeding, dodging and redlight running is what we were talking about. (You gotta admit it's gotten better since the new traffic patterns.) Hopefully this conversation will lead to a better understanding of the nature of the problem. Look, we're not getting speed cameras (the State won't do it - see chart of U.S. states and their camera laws), and obviously traffic is fairly low on this precinct's list of priorities. (By the way, if you click that chart, note that NY State allows cameras for red light offenses ONLY in cities bigger than 1 million people. If ever there was a law that described the divide between NYC and NY State lawmakers, that's it! But if they can do it for stoplights, why not speed? This is definitely something to bring to State officials attention. Their longtanding answer that "it can't be done" is clearly bull. Like most of what comes out of Albany).

    Deputy Inspector Fitzgibbon promised that he has an eye on the Parkside Playground. The day following the Thursday night meeting he texted me that two drug busts had gone down in our area. Hey, this is the guy we got, and he seems to be a straight-shooter, and able to tell us to our face if he is or ain't gonna do something. He's moved a lot of officers around to suit his style of commandeering, and promised to respond to concerns as we make them known. Sir, consider yourself welcome by the gang. That is, the gang that isn't the other kind of gang.

    One last thing I noted, and it's not the first time I've heard it or sensed it. Regardless of what you think of the cops, they're human. Which means they respond to positive feedback as well as negative. When they do something well, we need to let them know that too. I'm reminded of just how well the Chabad community does at establishing bonds with the precinct. Members of the "community police" Shomrim were developing that relationship from the moment Fitzgibbon stepped in (see pic from the ever-informative Granted those of us who call Lefferts home aren't tied together by religion (though many of us share the same church - the Q train at Parkside, aligned as we are in a line with our brothers and sisters at Prospect Park or Church Ave, contiguous sects of the denomination known as "Brightonism"). And yet one would hope that on many issues we can speak with one voice, as it were.

    Bottom line? This is it. The bottom line of the post. Or rather, now THIS is the bottom line.

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    Hawthorne street between Rogers and Nostrand to get a little "lift" in the air. The listing certainly leaves no ambiguity:

    Brand new DEVELOPMENT LOT in Lefferts Gardens! Be a part of the building boom going on in this most sought after neighborhood. The lot is 40x106 zoned R6 with a Far 2.43 or 10,000 square feet , there is also the possibility of increasing the FAR to seven stories with off street parking or high lot coverage typically allows for more apartments than might be achievable under height factors regulations. Sanborn map 310019, tax map 31601. Call now for this unique opportunity!

    Building Boom. Sought-after neighborhood.

    It seems clear to the Q that you can expect all the Victorian and detached homes in the area outside the Historic District to start getting offers. There are a few strings of unprotected rowhouses as well. Clarkson has a set of neglected brick rowhouses that come to mind. Do you have any that seem ripe for the picking?

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    626 Flatbush is in full demo-mode. A couple days ago some folks were peeved, saying it reeked that the wrecking wreaked havoc on a Saturday, since usually you can't do big demo on the weekend. I asked the gentlemen rerouting traffic on the sidewalk to show me their permit, and while they knew not they let me view the permit case and sure enough there at the top, recently posted, was a special Saturday demolition permit.

    I've often wondered how one attains one of these. I mean, think about it. The rule is meant to protect neighbors from undo noise and dirt-raising. And yet, those same neighbors aren't consulted in order to get a special permit for weekend or night work. Like, who hears the case and decides it's okay? Very odd.

    Granted no one's gonna miss the sorry taxpayer that was there before. Still, there's an eerie sense of drama surrounding the coming rise of the Flabenue from a dusty cradle. As one smart aleck put it "Brooklyn is growing up." As another Alec put it (actually Alexander the Great) "Sex and sleep alone make me conscious that I am mortal." However, the original Alec of Smart Alec(k) was a gentleman named Alexander Hoag who, along with his hooker wife used to rob Johns of their possessions while the deed was being brokered. Which begs the question, since she was Alec's wife: was she actually a hooker or did she just pretend to get the loot? And who is John?

    From a neighbor on Ocean and a crane shot from the internets, here's the action in action:

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    You may know that, come spring, your neighbors are working on bringing a farmer's market to Parkside Plaza, aka the Q station at Parkside and Ocean. The farming family who works with the nonprofit that is coordinating the market needs help, tho. While they are currently serving Brooklyn families at the Brower Park and Metz Park markets in Crown Heights, the Hildebrants haven't been able to fully plant their 45 acres since the death of "Farmer Roy" Hildebrant. They have started a fundraiser to buy seed, plant, and pay off liens incurred from Roy's illness.

    The amount may look huge, but unlike with Kickstarter, fundraisers disburse your pledges immediately. So even the smallest amount will help Michelle Hildebrant, her kids, and their farm. And, eventually, us in PLG too!

    Click here to give: You

    Below's a vid of Farmer Roy turning on folk to the joys of tomatoes at the Crown Heights Farmer's Market:

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  • 02/04/14--14:52: 71st Precinct Newsletter

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    What can the Q say? Parents and kids love this school. The teachers get universal raves from parents I've gotten to know from the playground. The principal, Jessica Saranovsky, was one of the first "master teachers" at Shimon Waronker's brave experiment in team-taught 60-kid giant classrooms, and by all accounts she's smart, hands-on, and super-accessible. If you're considering the school for pre-K or kindergarten next year, it's time to get on the ball and go check it out. Just three more open houses before the February 13 public school kindergarten online sign-up deadline. Here are the dates and times at PS 770, otherwise known as The New American Academy:

    February 6 at 5:30 pm
    February 11 at 10 am
    February 13 at 10 am

    View Larger Map

    If the day's decent, it's a half hour walk, or a 10 minute bike ride from Tugboat, due east. Or take an Empire bus, or the B-12 along Clarkson, or an IRT to Utica and walk down along Lincoln Terrace Park. Think this is too far east for you, in that way that east means trouble? Just wait a couple years. With Utica the next express stop on the 3 and 4 trains, you can already see this is the next area to "pop." I'm told speculators are already buying up buildings, and yes you already see young college grads moving in out there. Lordy lordy, who would've thunk.

    If you want to email Principal Saratovsky, here you go.

    I've discussed the NAA a bunch in the past, so I kinda feel like I'm treading on old linoleum, but the fact is I've done a fair amount of follow-up with parents to see whether the good news of an actually strong school in District 17 (I know, quite a shock) was actually true. The Q spent a good deal of time talking to founder Waronker, whose Harvard PhD studies led him to the conclusion that the "Prussian Model" of education is too rigid and conformist and that a new "flow" needs to be cultivated. Frankly, he may be stretching the extent of New American's breaking of new ground, but he's clearly a thinker and puts nearly all the emphasis on instruction and supporting it. He's got four teachers in each grade, working together, with the master teacher making a decenter living that your average DOE teacher, via a special arrangement with the union. The team teacher deal is that rather than teaching in isolation, the four get together every morning to plan and assess and divide and conquer (well, divide and facilitate would probably be a better phrase). The school is economically diverse (yes, that's a PLUS silly) and despite being practically to Brownsville the neighborhood is not unlike Flatbush so no need to invest in a suit of armor. School buses are provided for those in district and more than 1/2 mile away.

    So what's the downside? Well, for one, it's a young school, and not all the pieces are in place. The PTA is up and running, but money for the extras is tight. I know just how they feel, with my kid doing pre-K at PS705, a school even younger than 770. You really start to realize how much work goes into getting a school to the level of "established." What do you need to do that exactly? Well, you need a great principal, great teachers, a committed parent body, a decent facility, students eager to learn, and at least enough money to keep the ball rolling and retain some talent. Though a lot of times it's the principal who can retain the talent through great leadership and encouragement and support, not just the dough. You need too, in my view, a commitment to the arts and extra-curriculars and after-school, and safety, and a PTA devoted to building community and raising some money. Does 770 have those? You bet.'s a bit of a hike. Yeah, that matters. No parent who's being honest will deny it's heading the WRONG WAY! Even if it's only psychological, we're all oriented towards Manhattan, or at least downtown Brooklyn, and for years the mental calculus was to fear the east. East New York, Brownsville, even East Flatbush, seemed to be where the negative energy was. And yet, a lot of those stereotypes seem just that once you move to central Brooklyn and actually live among real people instead of watching them on the 10 o'clock news.

    Look, I'll level with you. I've done my homework and PS92 and PS375 out and out suck. We need new leadership in both of them and the sooner the better. I've got plenty of info to base that on, and anyone who reads this blog knows that our superintendent for district 17 is a piece of work, and has been under investigation (I even got called for questioning.) I'm not going to lie to you...we've got a lot of work to do over here. But between the lefferts charter school, 770, 705, 249 (don't argue with me, it's a great little school and the parents who go there give it raves, it just might not be a gentrifier school...yet) AND  don't forget that tons of folks go to other schools not too far away in other districts that DIDN'T lie about their addresses, and, well, it's not really so bad as all that. 

    For those craving details, here's some more on the methodology of NAA:

     1Four Person Teaching Team: P.S 770 teacher teams work with the same 60-65 students within a grade-level cohort. In addition to a Master Teacher, each team includes licensed Special Education and English Second Language (ESL) teachers. Research has shown that four or five person teams provide the optimal balance between too many and too few voices. Teams allow for transparency, positive peer-pressure, multiple perspectives, and a diverse range of skill sets. Team-based models are common across a diverse range of sectors from the military to healthcare, and are being used with great success in schools across Victoria, Australia. Education, particularly in urban neighborhoods challenged by low socio-economic status, is a complex task deserving of the same professionalism that is now standard in other sectors.
    2) Looping Cycles: Looping allows for the development of trust and meaningful relationships between students, parents, and their teaching team, and have been proven to improve student learning both nationally and internationally. The relationships developed encourage greater parent involvement, student-to-student interdependence, and allows for targeted and differentiated teaching. Our students loop with their classmates and teaching team for five years, with a constant of at least one teacher each year. Moreover, looping allows the teacher/s on a team to inform new teacher members of students’ learning profiles so that instruction can begin on the first day of school without having to spend weeks to get to know students and acculturate them into the classroom. Looping also provides a powerful and organic accountability system, as each teacher team will ultimately be directly responsible for their students’ scores in the testing grades.

    3) Mastery-based Career Ladder: Research has shown that a quality teacher is the greatest single determinant of student academic success. Unfortunately, teacher ability and development is often not recognized or rewarded. A career ladder provides a continuum for teacher growth that is both supported and incentivized. The TNAA four-step career ladder (apprentice, associate, partner, master) is based on demonstrated ability, culminating with the Master Teacher. P.S 770 teachers receive higher salaries than their DOE counterparts with Master Teachers earning $120,000. This attracts and retain quality teachers and ensure that the most talented teachers can remain in the classroom directly supporting student learning.

    4) Multi-dimensional Teacher Evaluation System: Good teaching is complex and nuanced. TNAA teacher evaluation system draws upon a diverse range of indicators, including student testing data, peer review, and Danielson-based classroom observations to create a holistic and accurate measure of teacher performance. Our teacher evaluation will allow us to promote and reward those teachers who are effective and to remove those who are not.

    5) Lower Teacher/Student Ratio: Each four-person teacher team works with a group of 60-65 students. A 15:1 teacher student ratio has been shown to increase student achievement .3-.45 standard deviation per year in grades K-210 and allows for more personalized attention for every student. By flattening our organizational structure and by redistributing external resources to the classroom we are able to have four fully licensed teachers per team.

    6) Embedded Master Teacher: Each four-person team includes a Master Teacher. Earning $120,000, these highly skilled professionals provide support to all students in their classroom and serve as mentors to the three other members of their team. Master Teachers provide minute-to- minute coaching, support, and feedback and ensure best practice and appropriate rigor. Integral members of each team, they are in the classroom all day, every day. In addition to raising the quality of instruction team-wide, an embedded Master Teacher also ensures that inexperienced teachers are never left alone to “sink or swim” at the expense of student learning.

    7) Five Week Summer Training Program: Our five-week summer training program begins with a week-long seminar at Harvard. Created in collaboration with Professors’ Barry Jentz, Katherine Boles and Eileen McGowan of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and Professor Baruch Bush of Hofstra University, this seminar goes beyond standard professional development to focus on in-depth communication, reflection, and listening skills. Critical for any team-based environment, these skills enable our teacher-teams to maximize their collective potential and to avoid the interpersonal pitfalls and misunderstandings that often hamper collaborative efforts. These skills are then practiced throughout the next four weeks as teams create their curriculum maps, management systems, and curricula for the school year. Our five-week summer training program forms the foundation for our professional development program that continues throughout the year. While newly formed teams will participate in the entire five-week program, returning teams participate in two weeks of summer training and in an annual school-wide curriculum planning week that takes place at the end of each school year.

    8) Six-Step Hiring Process: Effective hiring and retention is the foundation of organizational well- being. The TNAA six step hiring process includes a written application, phone interview, group unit building activity, panel interview, reference checks, and demo lesson. As candidates progress through this process they are observed and assessed by parents, teachers, and administrators. This ensures that the candidates who are selected have been vetted multiple times and are a good fit for the school community.

    9) Reflective Practice: Reflection is the key to improvement. We reflect as a community, as teams, and as individuals to improve our practice. In addition to the daily ninety minutes of conference time each day, every team has one and a half hours each week dedicated to group reflection.

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  • 02/07/14--17:49: So Long 111 Clarkson
  • Before it gets torn down to make way for a new apartment building, the Q would like to pay his respects with this lovely photo, sent to me by neighbor Brent. Addio amore mio, sniff sniff...

    And for good measure, the interior, circa 1978:

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    Folks have been asking what went down at the ULURP (Universal Land Use Review Process) committee mtg this past Wednesday, and well, let's just say it got a bit convoluted and confusing by the end, so much so that I spent some time on Thursday and Friday tracking down folks from the meeting to double-check I got things right, and that the notes to the meeting were logged properly. Now that the dust is settled, I think it's all pretty clear, at least in my mind. It should have been clear to begin with, but the problem is...let me explain as simply and concisely as I can manage, since I'm by no means an expert and have had to ask experts at many steps along the way. And as always Pearl Miles is there to help guide the process along.

    As I've been "reporting" here over the past few months, the building at 626 Flatbush has galvanized a sizable portion of Leffertsonians to confront what they see as an unwelcome (literal) development. The 23-story luxury tower (okay, 20% go to affordable housing due to public financing) on a previously six-story only stretch (okay, Patio Gardens being an exception) from Empire on down has struck many as out of context. It mirrors a previous star-crossed development that folks fought a few years back, a similarly-sized glass tower to go on Lincoln Road where the current more modest development is rising next to the Prospect Park Station. The economy killed that one, though the opponents specifically asked City Planning to rezone the area to prevent such future buildings. They said no, they're broke. Okay, we've got all that straight, right?

    The reason 626 can build 23 stories is that the zoning, dating from WAY back, allows it. R7-1 they call it. The developer Hudson maxed out its legal ("as of right") options and built as tall as it could on the plot of land that they bought. And what could be wrong with that? Technically nothing. Accept for the fact that they received public financing which required an "environmental review" which should have included a detailed study of the effect of their building on the surrounding area. They clearly didn't do that. AND it's been brought to my attention that they didn't pay attention to other not so minor details, though it may just be technicalities unworthy of lawsuit. Folks are looking into that. Oh, and there IS a lawsuit.

    So FAR so good. (that's a little zoning joke by the way, and if you got it, you're ready to slurp up some ULURP baby!)

    Now comes the meeting on Wednesday. The group PPEN and others were there to demand immediate change to the zoning. Downzoning in fact, from R7-1 to something more contextual. That process, we learned through Richard Bearak of the Borough President's office, takes time. A good deal of time. And study. And money allocated by the City and affected council members. Enter ULURP process and blah blah blah. So, concurrent with this request, the group is asking (pretty please) for a moratorium on NEW construction that is not contextual. The committee figures the only way that can happen is by Mayoral decree, SO we all figured if you want something from the Mayor you might want to ask the new Borough President Eric Adams to go to bat, since (no offense sir) our council person don't know shit from shinola and certainly doesn't know how to lead on this kind of stuff (where was he, or at least a representative?) nor does he have any clout with anyone in City Hall anyway. (For more fun on him there's this from today. The bit about him is halfway through the column.) Given the fact that PPEN had written a letter asking Adams for the moratorium, and given the fact that he had vociferously voiced dismay at the tower, I figured I'd send him a note asking for a meeting and he politely agreed. A bunch of us are meeting with him sometime next week. Who knows what will come of it, but at least we'll make some noise and ask for attention and maybe even some kind of sanity to the building process. And it'll be nice to see our old friend Eric in his new digs!

    Now here's where it gets kinda weird. At this very same meeting came a plea from the head of the Jewish Community Council of Crown Heights, Eli Cohen I believe, representing 60(!) synagogues in the NE quadrant of our Community Board 9 that is known as the international home of Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Hasidim, since that's where its beloved rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson led the sect out of 770 Eastern Parkway. (To those who go or are thinking of going to PS770 The New American Academy, the number was chosen by founder Shimon Waronker for that very reason. Hey, and the DoE gave it to him! What baitsim on that guy!).

    What was ironic was that they were asking for UPzoning in their neck of the woods, from R2 and R4 to R6. A lengthy conversation ensued on precisely what this meant, and I've since come to understand that Jewish families living in mostly single and two-family dwellings along blocks like Carroll and Union east of New York Avenue have been trying desperately to add on to existing structures to accommodate bigger and bigger families, but they've not been allowed to do so by strict building enforcement. Mike Cetera, the ULURP committee chair "running" the meeting, explained that all sorts of creative means to maximize livable square footage have been employed, and it's to the point where many houses are practically R6 now by default. I don't know from R6, but I can certainly see the JCC's point. Though it's pretty much the OPPOSITE concern that you hear expressed by landmark districts! The JCC wants to build all manner of up and out to the classy old townhouses, and landmark folk want to keep them as is. It's a funny mixed up world. But like Rodgers and Hammerstein said, the Farmer and the Cowman can be friends. Or the Hassid and the Brownstoner can be friends. O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A Oklahoma. Yow! Or Crown Heights-Lefferts. Oy!

    Folks from an area called Dodgertown (SE quadrant, like Winthrop out toward Utica Ave) want to downzone to preserve their cute houses (check 'em out some time) because ugly tall buildings have started to crowd in and they're worried about developers buying up two or three of their houses and putting them up right in the middle of their nifty development. Nostrand Avenue could soon look like a mini-4th Avenue in Park Slope without a downzone. In this hot market, anything is possible, and now, not later, is the time to get this process moving.

    If you come to this month's full Community Board meeting, we'll be voting on whether to formally request the moratorium on new construction along Flatbush, and whether to add the JCC's recommendation and PPEN's recommendation to our proposed areas to be studied by the City Planning Commission. Other areas that need to be looked at, now's the time to do it. I'll try to post the newly developed zoning map as soon as possible so you can see where your area stands. But dag nabbit it'll only be for CB9. I wish I had three brains and six legs so I could do CB14 too, but I'm sure Ditmas Park Blog will keep us up to date on all that.


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