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    Last Thursday and Friday many residents in the vicinity of the 626 Flatbush demolition were freaked the eff out by what felt like a seismic event. I've heard from a number of people near the site that they experienced a crazy rattling of their houses that scared the bejesus out of them. From a neighbor all the way on the other side of Flatbush:

    It actually happened on Thursday and Friday. The worst was on Thursday, the 6th.Just before noon there were loud booms sounds that shook the house. They sounded like they were coming from my roof. I would liken it to the sound of very close-by pile-driving. Or as if someone was banging (hard) against the side of the house. Literally, the roof was shaking and vibrating, the cabinet doors to my closet were rattling as did the windows. This went on repeatedly for at least an hour to an hour and a half. I thought that our roof joists were in structural failure and that I should perhaps evacuate my house. I did actually back up the important files I was working on, just in case.

    These subsided for the rest of the afternoon until around 5pm when they started again for about a ½ hour. It was during this time that I was talking to my mother-in law who had just read a story it that day’s paper about these strange frost quakes that have been happening in various places around the Midwest and Ontario. It was an AP story that was picked up by many news organizations. The descriptions and weirdness seem to jive as well as the fact that they happen after a rapid dip in temperature. These booms happened again on Friday about 11:45 for about 15 minutes and around 2 pm for a few minutes. My next door neighbor was home on Friday and she felt them also.

    Frost quakes? Y'all know what the heck happened? Did you experience this too? Was it related to demolition? And why is there now a Stop Work Order at 626? Please share any and all!

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  • 02/09/14--21:00: 123 On the PARK
  • After many, many years of sitting fallow, the once rugged Caledonian Hospital is set to return from the dead like a great Scottish Lion. That is to say, rather than having to become ill or heavy with child to take up room at the Great Inn of Caledonia you can now rent a studio, one, two or even three bedroom apartment for (probably) anywhere from 2 to 3 thousand Simoleons, who knows maybe more. And while literally thousands of Brooklynites breathed their first sweet breath in the building now dubbed 123 on the Park, it was never a beautiful building. But it what it does have in spades is an abundance of front lawn. That lawn, divided from the Castle by a two-way moat named Parkside Avenue, is known to locals as the Park of Prospect, and in the following video from the newly operational website, you can see that it is the SOLE reason at this point to consider buying a condo therein. Take a look:

    Nary a word about the building, the laundry room, the price, the size, no floor plans or ceiling plans, nor even closet sizes nor whether there's on-site parking. Just pictures of the front lawn in all its warm weather glory. Makes you wonder if they're renting apartments or campsites.

    But I did capture the rendering, poorly, one night a couple months ago, so we do know that the end product will look something thusly, though probably less blurry and reflecty:

    Unless the development has been led by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, wrapping the building in, say, Saran wrap, it will likely NOT have a shiny transparent plastic veneer as above. It IS however an 80/20 building in the sense that 80% of the residents will be skinny tall white women (pictured) and the remaining 20% will be set aside for "other." Overweight humans need not apply, but there will be a certain set-aside for fat pets.

    There's still room for more building (I haven't investigated what's happening with that - last I heard there was trouble getting permission to build a new second structure), but no politician or power-broker ever expressed any interest in engaging the buyer Chetrit in any way. Where the mere mention of an out-of-context dormer might cause ear-shattering gasps on the Slope side of the park, you could hear the sucking sound as you exit the air lock into outer space as the world basically said "really? they're going to do what with that? are you serious? who? why? okay, whatever" and moved on to talking about the latest culinary "find" along Vanderbilt or Dekalb or Franklin or somewhere in Bed-Stuy. Despite it being one of the most major projects along the second greatest urban park* in the world in decades, 123 has flown pretty much under the radar. This to me a sign of what has long been Flatbush's backwater status, that the building would go from hospital to poorly run medical arts center to abandoned property to luxury apartment building without so much as a whimper from pols or outcry from block associations or community boards or anyone getting up in arms about the trash and graffiti over the last many years. I mean am I overstating it? It's really, really odd.  In a certain way, this building has been a stand-in narrative of what was and is and will be of Brooklyn herself. From its old-world beginnings as an outgrowth of the post-turn-of-last century's gentry's concern for the health of their poor countrymen (the Scots), to its new post-turn-of-this century's concern for the health of the new gentry (the Hips), Caledonian has lived a century of change.

    In fairness, this is about as good a turn of events as one could hope in the current environment of, ho hum, laissez faire blah and blah. Roughly 100 years ago folks of means were scrounging together coin to create a hospital for mostly indigent immigrants (check out this wild page from The Caledonian) to build the hospital below, the first structure of which was basically a converted house and eventually the building to be luxury condos as we know her today:

    Early in my Brooklyn years a friend was rushed to the E.R. here. Ah, the memories!

    *guess which is might be wrong!

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  • 02/10/14--20:14: Guy Walks Into a Barbershop
  • The Q needed a haircut. It's 9pm. Problem? Not in Lefferts! I put on my jacket and walk up the Flabenue to see if Nelson is in (on Parkside just off Flatbush). He's out, stuck in Rockaway. Time to see if the doctor's in. Dr. Cuts, that is. Desmond Romeo is Dr. Cuts, and the new president of the Flatbush Merchant's Association, now known as The Flatbush Empire. He's a great guy, I've talked to him a bit and he always seems upbeat and welcoming, and the Q's always enjoyed looking in through the bright floor-to-ceiling windows and seeing guys laughing and jawing sometimes til well past midnight. As a white guy I figured it was sacred space, meant for Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer but not Clark Kent and Clarkson FlatBed (seen them in the same place at the same time? hmmm?) But my buddy Duane encouraged me to break down the wall and bust in on the yuck-fest at Nelson's, so why not try the Doc? My hair has DEFINITELY not been itself lately. You might say it be illin'

    Desmond is a true blue philosopher-barber, who just happens to be heading into dentistry. He's finishing up his coursework now to enter dental school. But don't expect Dr. Cuts to turn into Dr. Teeth. He'll be running both practices, though only one will take insurance. Born in Trinidad, he's been a successful business owner on Flatbush for over a dozen years. He's been able to buy a place in his homeland that his mom lives in (must she be proud!) He's been part of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health's program to share information with men who are often much less likely to visit a doctor once a decade than a barber once a week. It's a brilliant idea when you think about it, and Desmond will launch into a treatise on prostate cancer while cutting your locks, and he'll school you just enough that you'll be heading to his colleague Dr. Jellyfinger for a yearly checkUP. That pic up and to the right is a picture of Romeo speaking at an AAIUH gala.

    And if the question on your mind is, can he cut a white guy's hair, I'll let the pictures below be your guide, the first taken earlier this evening at an open mic night and the last taken just moments after returning home:


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  • 02/11/14--08:39: Jaywalkers Take Heed
  • In yet another sign of vigilance to come, the 71st has issued an unambiguous statement on jaywalking, though it mysterious chooses not to name it as such. Let this be a warning...other precincts are cracking down, and we may be next. And let me tell you those little pink tickets are super-annoying. You have to go to Red Hook and get lectured about being a better community member. Trust me. I've been twice!

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    Prepare to be inconvenienced. Starting February 21 you will no longer be able to get off or on the train heading south at Parkside Avenue. Phase II of the reconstruction project begins then and runs through a projected June 22.

    And of course, keep your eyes open to various midday closings as well, 10am to 3pm. The MTA does not suffer an uninformed consumer.

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    Read from Brooklyn Paper here for word of how Karen Oh and company have really moved things to the next level. Want to buy in? Head on over to their website now!

    While I'm sure some will bemoan the location at 324 Empire Blvd, it's actually perfectly situated to draw in the wider neighborhood of Lefferts and Southern Crown Heights. One might even call it "central" to the greater neighborhood, given its location near Nostrand.

    Colour me impressed. Way to go y'all!

    And a big "clean-up" day is happening this Saturday! Come on out and meet your neighbors and find out what this cooperative thang is all about.

    The indefatigable Karen Oh!
    Co-op Clean Up
    Saturday, February 15, 2014
    9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
    324 Empire Blvd.

    The co-op needs your help cleaning up and doing some repairs to the store. This is in preparation to renovations that we need to make. If you are a Park Slope Food Co-op FTOP member, you can bank hours working with us! Come see the space, get dirty, and share your vision for what it could be.

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    pic by Reuven Blau, NY Daily News
    Below in itals is the story from today's Daily News by Reuven Blau about the sick joke of a building at 115 Ocean. Thanks Reuven! Btw, the scumbag landlord also owns 55 Winthrop Street. What do y'all know about THAT building?

    Got two words buddy - for shame! And if he now decides to rent to only the "right sorts" tenants and kick out the longtime stabilized renters, don't be one bit surprised. The well-worn scheme is to focus on recent grads who don't mind a bit of squalor for (what for them is) cheap rent. Then the landlord fixes the place up just enough til they can get out of stabilization all together. We've got to create some sort of task force to take this problem on. Head on.

    Toilets without water, flooding ceilings, leaky radiators and a front vestibule door that never closes top the list of complaints at Brooklyn’s worst apartment buildings.

    The city has named 115 Ocean Ave. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens the borough’s most problematic slum building and has targeted the six-story apartment complex for repairs.

    Situated across the street from Prospect Park, the complex boasts an astounding 444 open violations for everything from peeling lead paint, roaches and mold to broken sewer pipes and a wide open front door, city records show.

    “The landlord just doesn’t care,” said Molubah Kollie, 30, a resident at the building his whole life. “When they come to fix something one month later it’s broken again.” That includes the toilet of one tenant who was forced to fill it with water from his tub for close to a year. “There are plenty of problems here,” said another resident who declined to give his name.

    Last Tuesday, the building, owned by Lincoln Prospect Associates, was one of the 187 apartment complexes placed in a city program that tackles the most heinous slums in the city, including a whopping 103 in Brooklyn.
    The Alternative Enforcement Program, created by the City Council in 2007, allows the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to complete emergency work and bill deadbeat landlords for the repairs.
    The city has already shelled out $7,904 to cover emergency repairs at 115 Ocean Ave. since 2001, records show. Just $326 of that has been paid, according to online records.

    Tenants say they frequently spot loiterers smoking pot and hanging out in the building’s vast entrance and hallways. “The door breaks two times a week,” said Jean Pierre, 18, another resident in the building. The building’s owner did not return calls for comment.

    Besides 115 Ocean Ave., officials sited 84 Lawrence Avenue, 1059 Union Street, 55 Winthrop Street and 2 Stoddard Place as nearly as shoddy. Each had in excess of 300 violations. Citywide, the new list of the worst of the bunch includes 55 buildings in The Bronx, 19 in Manhattan and 10 Queens. “A severely distressed building puts the well-being of its tenants at risk and can act as a catalyst for destabilization with a community, and we are resolute in ensuring that does not happen,” said HPD commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas.

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    It's Valentine's Eve. Mrs. FlatBed and I used to make it a regular thang to go out the night before Heart's Day and therefore avoid the gouging and the crowds. We hadn't since the kids, but just like the old days, it worked like a charm. Our wonderful regular babysitter Simba was available (since she's celebrating with her guy tomorrow night) and there was like no one there at the restaurant we've been dying to go to. It's like Boxing Day in reverse. So we went to Saul. At the Brooklyn Museum of course.

    Evan Sung took this picture for the NY Times
    Now, there's a couple things you should know. One, Saul and family live on Chester Court, and the Q interviewed him awhile back and can't say enough positive about the guy. Here's the post. Two, Mrs. CFB and I enjoyed his first restaurant very much, the one and only time we went there, fifteen friggin' years ago. That Smith Street location ended up becoming one of the hottest tables in town, thanks to Saul and Lisa's homey touches, the delicious food, and a certain star from the Michelin Man. (Though how that chubby dude ever managed to squeeze into that old storefront I'll never know.) Three, the Q is NOT a culinary expert nor does he even go out to eat that often. The Q has two young children, and the Q spends most of his meals eating what they don't, then going back for late night bowls of cereal. Oh, and of course salads and diet cokes at lunch so he can kid himself that he's "watching" his weight. So take what I'm about to say with a grain of saul.

    I LOVE this place. I felt totally cared for, not in a weird pampering kind of way, as if after applying thousands of diapers to children you really want to be "pampered" anyway. I mean, the service was always there when you need it, but not hovering or congratulatory. Saul came by to hang with the staff and greeted them fondly. He's not pretentious or pompous, just an ueber talented chef and solid local dad. He comes over to see if you want to chat and asks about the food. He's quick to note the pluses and minuses of moving into the belly of a gigantic institution that itself struggles to define itself. He and his team have done a great job carving out a decent space though, and it's comfortable, not showy. The windows look out to the Museum, but you're still inside the museum, so it's kinda mall-like in that way, like dining at the Piercing Pagoda. But it has those great Williamsburg Murals that were saved from housing projects, you know the ones that were done during the WPA back during the depression, and they look great in that room, though I doubt many people were eating THAT well during the Great Depression. Going to Saul at night is a trippy experience, since you're walking into the front of the titanic beaux-arts building's wacky 21st Century nose job entrance, then walking past security and the membership desk to an inviting restaurant within a closed Museum! You almost expect Ben Stiller to be the maitre d'.

    We had two fish dishes - the bass and the monkfish. We had the beets and the charcuterie for starters. We got the chocolate concoction for desert. Did I mention to you that I know very little about haute cuisine? Hell I don't even know much about not-so-haute cuisine. But I'll tell you this. To MY tastebuds the food was extraordinary, and the shapes and colors and smells were divine. (Ruth Reichl, eat your heart out. And while you're at it, why not consider putting a vowel in there before the last "L?")

    How much, you ask? Not that bad I'm told. A $30 entree ain't a slice a pizza. We got out of there for $150, $180 after tip. Now, I'm not saying that I can afford that more than a couple times a year. But we were there for a lovely three hours, that's $60 an hour for two, or $30 an hour per person. Like how I worked out the math? $30 an hour for a fantastic experience, away from the kids, with delicious things in your mouth a lot of that time.

    I say go. Do it now. Before the word gets out that it's the best restaurant in SoCro or some nonsense.

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    Recognize this?

    That corner building just sold for $1.7 million, says a tipster. It has three stores - the 99-center, the laundry and the tailor/sew shop. It has two two-bedroom apartments and two three-bedroom apartments. Back of the playing card Q-estimate says the new buyer could, if he wanted to, renovate a bit, hit the Craigslist, and gross $15k a month easy. Is there any wonder that the smart money follows the gentrifiers? Or rather, the REALLY smart money LEADS the gentrifiers. Remembering that you live in NYC, home to some awfully smart people, the odds are stacked against the budget-conscious renter. Unless, of course, your version of budget conscious is another man's budget buster. Ah, life.

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  • 02/15/14--06:18: The Losers of Lefferts
  • The Alternate Enforcement Program. That's what the Department of Housing and Preservation and Development (HPD) uses to identify the worst rental buildings in the City in terms of violations. We have a bunch of them in our Community District, in fact, way more than our fair share. One that the Q pointed out in a previous post is 115 Ocean, as written up in the Daily News.

    Then there's the gorgeous wreck known as 67 Clarkson, a rowhouse cum crackhouse down my block. Then there's 443 Rogers, which is just north of Lefferts. Anybody know anything about that one? Then of course there's 55 Winthrop, which I understand is a quickly gentifying building. I'm wondering if this is one of those situtations where the landlord is making life hell for some stabilized tenants in order to get them out and raise rent. And 45 Hawthorne next to that goofy contemporary building - what's the dealio there? 1159 President is not far away, between Rogers and Nostrand. 1059 Union is just up the road, off Franklin near Eastern Parkway. And while "Stoddard Place" may not ring a bell, it's the little street just north of Empire and just east of Bedford, behind the Rite Aid and where the new TD Bank is going up.

    From back in 2010, a similar list went out and our then-neighborhood-watchdog Hawthorne Street had this to say:

    I was psyched to see that the City has put its slumlord data to good use: a handy map allows web users to see the worst landlords at a glance. Here in PLG, two have earned the "worst" designation, Louis Bombart of 150 Lefferts Avenue (bet. Bedford & Rogers), and Jean Bernard Mode of 441 Rogers Avenue (bet. Lefferts and Lincoln). Congratulations, guys.
    The program accelerates penalties and gives short windows to remedy the situation, or the City does it at their expense.

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    If you are the person responsible for keeping a sidewalk clear of snow and ice, you can probably commiserate with the Q. This has been a bitch of a year to keep the stuff at bay. Now, I grew up in a much colder & snowier climate, and I don't find this winter to be particularly anything. And I don't have a car, so the endless scenes of drivers trying to dig out of useless street parking spots barely registers on my radar - such is the reality of free parking on the street. But the strange mix of precipitations and suddenly frigid temperatures has made it incredibly hard to shovel at exactly the right time to avoid freeze-over scenes like this on Woodruff, just outside the mysterious community garden just west of Ocean Ave:

    pics by Elizabeth C
    Turns out it's the responsibility of the gardens' caretakers, a group identified by Community Board 14 as Woodruff Seniors. And who are they? We're investigating! (If you know, please post a comment or email the Q). I've talked here before about UMMA, the group Muslim-American neighborhood watch group responsible for creating the park (thank you Ed Powell!). But Woodruff Seniors? Granted you don't want to send gramps out there swinging and stabbing at the ice, BUT somebody's gotta do it. (Maybe grams? She always did the heavy lifting in the family anyway...)

    We've all dealt with it...a barely passable sidewalk...and cursed the owners for their laziness. But there is basically NO ROCK SALT to be found in the stores, the stuff that magically melts the solid ice. For those like me who had to look it up, I'll save you the trouble and tell you that the salt creates saltwater on the surface of the ice, which freezes at a much lower temperature (seen a frozen ocean lately?).

    Dang. Just as I was about to post this I see I better shovel again. Dang.

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    The Q's spies are everywhere, and thank goodness! A full-time working father of two spastic lovebugs can't be pounding the pavement for small-town stories as big as this one. Remember when I noted a couple posts ago that the building at Beekman and Flatbush had been sold for $1.7m? Well, a Q reader reports she overheard a discussion at TotT about their opening a new cocktail bar (I thought that phrase went out with the Brat Pack) at that very corner, to be named, perhaps, Beekman Place. As early as summer. Cafe by day as well.

    I know, I know. Sounds crazy, but probably no crazier than it sounded when people first opened upscale joints on Franklin or in Bed Stuy. And make no mistake, this is NOT the same place as the gastropub that's opening at Midwood and Flatbush.

    Which reminds me of a funny story. When the Q was 16, growing up in Ames, IA, he wanted to go see a local rockabilly band called Boys With Toys. Problem was, they were playing at a 19-up club (the drinking age was 19). My friend Tim Rood and I decided to chance it. At that point, they'd usually only "card" you when you ordered, not at the door. We had a plan. When the waitress came to our table, we both ordered (get this) a Mai Tai. Yes, complete with the little umbrellas. It was the only proper cocktail we'd ever heard of, and we figured if we ordered something exotic we couldn't POSSIBLY be underage. Worked like a charm.

    We drank many mai tais that night and the band was great. I intended to keep every single one of those little umbrellas, but accidentally left them in the bathroom in an alcoholic haze.

    Next time, remind me to tell you the Adam Ant story...

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  • 02/23/14--20:00: Bye Bye Black Brooklyn
  • The Q's been dreading this post for some reason. So maybe I should resist? Sometimes the more you learn the more you wish you could unlearn, because your idyllic little home enclave ecosystem seems so wonderfully organic and natural, and who wants to see the swamp on which paradise was built? The dynamics of a New York City neighborhood are complex and vital, and while we can all profess to an underlying compact to get along with one another, the reality is always a bit more, er, fluid. No single question so defies logic, and stirs deep fear and pride, than the question of whose neighborhood it is. Anyway. So I keep asking it, hoping I'll come to some sort of conclusion in the asking.

    For better or worse, we've become a society of demographics, and even those labels don't do justice to the reality on the ground. Where once it was enough to say black or white, rich or poor, Yankee or Southern, blue or white collar, the shades between have become infinitely more nuanced. Each time the pundits trot out the charts and graphs at election time, they seem surprised that various groups aren't acting according to type. Sure, black folk voted overwhelmingly for Obama. That was historic. But where the experts tell you that, say, white men voted for Mitt, that was true only by a few percentage points. Millions upon millions of white men voted for Obama - twice. Democratic women prefer Hilary, except when they don't, which was almost half the time in primary battles. Blue collars prefer Democrats? No, but plenty do. Even unions aren't unified. Hispanics? Forget convention, even the "dependable" Cubans. Mixed race - which side prevails? How about Jews? I mean how dumb a thing is it to lump Jews together politically or even socially? Have you seem how many ways there are to be Jewish? Lately? Oy.

    Poor Muslims, middle class Catholics, rich Blacks, educated underpaid children of mixed marriages, depressive wealthy agnostics, gay business owners, short hirsute unemployed PhD children of second generation Irish immigrants, etc. Surely they as a block, no? Nate Silver, the incredibly accurate common sense statistician, eschewed most of that nonsense for simple analysis of what various district and state polls parlayed and ignored "conventional wisdom," because by the time you've got CW worked out, it's four years later and the sociological train has left that particular station. Ten years ago who would have predicted how many states have gone giddy for gay marriage? And how the "tea party" would've redefined political paralysis? There are no blue or red states; just various shades of purple. And lots of pissed off people living in them.

    Where once Brooklyn was a borough of parishes churches and synagogues, where block by block you could identify whose was whose, we're now a borough of rapidly changing sets and subsets wherein the most reliable shorthand for a neighborhood's character is Gentrified or Not-yet-gentrified. But where gentrified in East Harlem or the Lower East Side, or in a previous generation's Upper West Side, meant middle-class whites moving in on Puerto Rican and Dominican turf, gentrified vs. not-yet-gentrified in Brooklyn means primarily-white-and-getting-whiter vs. black-for-now-but-not-for-long. And why? Because with all due respect to the romance of the word "Harlem," Brooklyn has been the gravitational center of the northern African-American universe. I would argue, and I'm sure I'll take heat for it from people who actually know such things, that as whites get bolder about moving into once solidly-black neighborhoods, and given the irrefutable fact of rental racism, we will start to hear more loud and uncloseted calls for a new and more acutely relevant civil rights movement. Resentment is out there big time; some degree of political clout is there too (witness the latest slate of local elected officials and their pedigrees); the double standards are there; the entitlement and stereotypes are out in force. As the Q might ask in his more morally troubled moments, what's so damn great about the world we're living in today, that we should put up with even an ounce of racial injustice? Especially here, in the CENTER of the American Black Universe?

    In the 2010 census we were told that blacks were becoming less numerous Downtown, in Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Flatbush and Crown Heights. (Even Brownsville and East NY saw a few pale faces more than the years before). The numbers we were fed were astonishing. But guess what? Things have picked up considerably since 2010, with a building craze not seen since the pre-war apartment boom. You know the one that left so many New Yorkers THRILLED with their closet space? No matter how many more whites resided in once solidly black nabes in 2010 over 2000, we've seen as much again since 2010 to now. Even Utica Ave on the IRT has gone paler - don't believe me, get off at that last express stop sometime and give me a holler if you don't know what I'm saying. Given Brooklyn's vast size and population, it's really quite astounding just how striking is the change. Is it too cynical to equate it to a blacks must move to the back of the bus moment? "I'm sorry sir, your house is conveniently located near some of the best transportation, bistro and park you mind moving to East New York temporarily, until my brethren can gather the gumption to move you from there too?"

    For those who still aren't buying my amazement that this isn't MORE of a front page story, consider this: For more than half-a-century, nearly a million African-American folk have lived in a roughly four mile by four mile square area of Central Brooklyn. Their numbers are dwindling at a staggering rate, the steam gathering with each frothy year in the housing market.

    You may have already seen, digested, and dismissed the following analysis from the 2000 to 2010 census study, but I'll drop it on you again just in case, and keep in mind this was through mid-2010, nearly four years ago, and things have WAY kicked into high gear since:

    From 2000 to 2010, Brooklyn's population grew by 39,000 people. The White population grew by 38,774 while the Asian population increased by 75,838. Blacks lost almost 50,000 people (-49,517).

    • Black losses were substantial in several communities with historically large Black populations. The Black population declined by 10,000 in Crown Heights North (a loss of almost 12% of the Black population), 8,400 people in Flatbush (decline of 14%), 7,258 people in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens (decline of 12%), and almost 6,000 people (-5,936) in Bedford (decline of almost 15%). [Note: The City Planning Department created two separate "neighborhood areas" for the community commonly referred to as Bedford-Stuyvesant. We use the Planning Department's "neighborhood area" delineation for this analysis.]
    • Communities in northern Brooklyn such as Bedford, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill in 2000 straddled the area of central Brooklyn with substantial Black population plurality and the Park Slope/Brooklyn Heights area with substantial White population plurality. By 2010, Black population concentration had declined and White concentration had increased. In Bedford, the White population had the greatest percentage increase of any of the major groups citywide -- 633% (an increase of almost 16,000 people), increasing the White population share in that neighborhood from 4% in 2000 to 25.5% in 2010. In Prospect Heights, the White population share increased from just over one-quarter in 2000 (28.2%) to almost half (47.2%) in 2010 (an increase of 3,818). In Clinton Hill, the White population share more than doubled from 15% in 2000 to just over 35% in 2010 (an increase of 7,419).
    Sure, some folks have moved to "East," as Dr. Cuts told me some people call it. Yes, East New York. (I've actually heard the term before and didn't get it.) Or Canarsie, or even Flatlands. And the feel good story you sometimes hear is that some people are moving "back South," presumably, I dunno, because "the cotton is high and the living is easy?" But plenty of people are being "encouraged" to leave high-priced NYC de facto and de toldso. A social worker friend tells me it's commonplace in her profession to coach poor single mothers to move to a more hospitable municipality, preferably one with more government supported housing, like cities Upstate or down South. And then there's that pesky new huge homeless population that grew under the Bloomberg years. A little carrot here, a little stick there, and they should be gone before the REAL numbers hit the books.

    I'll go right out and say it. Black Brooklyn is being gutted before our very eyes, and frankly, I'm shocked there aren't more people screaming from the new 40-story-luxury-rooftops about it. You can choose not to care, and clearly most people choose not to care, or you can say it's just the way of things, can't stop progress and yadda yadda. Or you can say, this ever-wealthier City turned its back on one of its greatest cultural, literary and historical legacies. Oh sure if you're brave and lucky enough to join the Black middle and upper classes and CHOOSE to live in Brooklyn, the City will let you stay, provided you don't mind while it tidies things up a bit. Oh, and make sure your taxes are paid up. If so, we cool.

    Despite generations of racism, poverty, injustice, malnourishment, bad education, drug epidemics, mass displacement, profiling, getting shot by cops while unarmed, and one after another misplaced do-goodism by people who don't know what the f*ck they're doing, black Brooklyn is disappearing. Oh, and it would be disappearing MUCH, MUCH faster if it weren't for those quaint and oft-ridiculed laws that try to hold rents at a reasonable increase year after year, or rules that try to prevent landlords from gaming the system or hovering like vultures around old-folks on fixed-incomes.

    Don't get me wrong, less well-heeled whites and other races and ethnicities are being shown the door as well. But no single group is being more exploited during the current rush to New Brooklyn than those, I would argue, most responsible for its "brand." Okay, the Dodgers too. But when I moved to Brooklyn in 1988, the world knew where I was moving, and it wasn't to Pee Wee Reese's old place.

    You know, I WAS going to write about the lovely afternoon I had with Rabbi Goldberg, chair of CB9, on Kingston Avenue the other day. He showed me around his neighborhood. His neighborhood being the area around and mostly south of 770 Eastern Parkway, world headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement. It's a wonderfully vibrant and quaint and distinctly Jewish neighborhood, almost harkens to another era. People know one another. It's a desired location to live if you're part of the clan. It wouldn't be wise to call it "their" neighborhood, because you might sound accusatory, and after all, no one ultimately OWNS a neighborhood. And to be super-clear, I don't mean to pit one reality against another. God knows there's been enough of THAT in Brooklyn's history too. But to a certain degree, the orthodox Jews of Crown Heights have built a true neighborhood for themselves. One wouldn't dare to suggest it shouldn't be so. Certainly not I. Somehow, the idea of neighborhood and ethnicity, religion, race, primacy of purpose - be they Chinese or Russian or Muslim or blue-collar or hipsterist or foodist or older-parentist - they continue to exist, you know? And we yearn for it. We create it. The continuity. The familiar places. The generational transference. In essence, it has meaning to people - deep meaning. And you can sense it when it grows and prospers, and you can sense it when it begins to crumble before your very ideas.

    Does any of it matter?

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  • 02/24/14--21:03: Demolition Complete at 626
  • The above motion shows that...well, apparently all it shows is that the lawsuit did NOT stop demolition through a TRO, otherwise known as a Temporary Restraining Order. Any fool with eyes could tell you that. The lawsuit lives on though, for the construction phase. But what once was a drab "tax payer" building and poorly maintained parking lot now looks thusly:

    While the building won't be ON the park, you can get a sense from these pictures just how close it WILL be, as these shots were taken from a building on Ocean. Funny how this comes right on the tail of my last misty-eyed post about the end of an era. Once the dust settles, we'll all move on as if the building had always been there, of course. And I'll be among the first to welcome our new neighbors.

    My biggest issue remains, other than the ridiculous height of the building of course, is that the public really never had a chance to voice its opinion. No elected officials weighed in early, no community group was given notice in time to look at the proposal, no review of the buildings' effects on the Park, the City, and the future were given their due. The developer wanted to build a 23-story building there, and now they're building the building. And there you are. Money and profits are essentially all that tells us how we want our City to be. There was a time, not so long ago, when you had to BEG developers to build. That time is over. It's not a buyers market anymore. It's a sellers market. We can demand more from the builders than we ever could have dreamed. Instead, we settle, uncontested, for whatever someone wants to build and where. We applaud 20% affordable on a building that will make a fortune. 20% doesn't cut it anymore, especially with secondary displacement, which yes, is a real thing.

    It's time to stop being told how we're supposed to live. A huge movement is brewing in Manhattan to stop the madness, but you'll need to read about THAT on another blog.  It's time to tear the page from the 1961 playbook that zoned our neighborhood. We need to come together and discuss what we want to be when we grow up. And grow UP we're being forced to do, very quickly.

    Come out to the Community Board meeting tomorrow night, where a motion will be made to place a moratorium on non-contextual new construction along Flatbush Avenue until such a proper study can be conducted and new zoning decided. Oh, it's probably too late for 626 of course, and I know plenty of Q readers love the rendering and all that they expect the building will do for the neighborhood. But I also know, and have come to listen to, the many many people concerned about what this building means to their home, to THEIR idea of home. And not everyone is pleased, nope, not at all. So I can't help but feel sorry that the voices didn't have a chance to be heard sooner and the conversation had before the rubble was cleared.

    Que sera sera. The smart money wins. The early bird gets the worm. Sleeping squirrels gather no nuts.* Out with the old, in with the new. A stitch in time woulda saved nine. The Phat Lady sang. That's the way the patty crumbles.

    *By the way, that sleeping squirrels one is the Q's. Use it frequently enough and maybe it'll catch on. I could die happy knowing that I'd created a phrase that lived beyond me. I tried to get people to call Barclay's Center "Fudgie the Whale," but failed miserably.

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  • 02/25/14--12:06: And the Bloodbath Continues
  • Finally, a decent story in the Times about landlords and their lust for profits over human decency. And the law.

    NY Times

    “Our only sin is to have lived here for a long time,” said Carlos Calero, 52, a supervisor at a recycling company who pays $706 a month for the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife, two children and two young grandchildren.
    Yep. That's the apartment.

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    Todd Heisler/The New York Times

    The Q LOVES it when the NY Times does a story that I've been meaning to do for years! I adore Montrose Morris (Suzanne Spellen) and her insights into our borough. She is an NYC treasure hersel, and I hope her story of foreclosure on her home in Crown Heights, has resonance as well. We gotta hang on to the MMs, y'all! Brooklyn's loss is Troy's gain.

    Here's the story.

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    On our way, bit by bit
    All are welcome. Even No_Slappz. Though I may have to start my giving him a few Yes_Slappz upside the face first.

    The more the merrier. Winter is a great time to get involved in this ongoing grassroots revival of the beloved Q Plaza!

    Dear Friends of Parkside,
    This Sunday the Parkside Committee is hosting a big meeting to talk about what should come next for our plaza on Parkside.
    • WHEN:  Sunday, March2, 5pm
    • WHERE:  Play Kids @ 676 Flatbush
    • WHO:  Everyone who loves the new trees; everyone who loves the old Q; everyone!

    This plaza is everyone's plaza, and it will only succeed if everyone in the neighborhood has a say in how the plaza feels.  So please come out!  And Shelley from Play Kids tells me that the basement meeting room can get hot when there is a crowd ... so dress in layers.

    We look forward to seeing you there,

    Rudy, for the Parkside Committee

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  • 02/27/14--16:19: Did That Really Just Happen?

  • The Q couldn't do justice to Tuesday night's Community Board 9 meeting over at MS61 on Empire at NY Avenue. Thankfully, plenty of folks were in attendance, so you can probably find someone to back me up. It was hilarious. It was sad. It was absurd. But you know what? In the end, we'd made it to the end, and no one was bleeding on the floor. (I had a bit of a cramp in the tuckus, but no flesh wounds).

    Here was the gist, and trust me, you're lucky to be getting the short version. Three different groups came before the Board (via a chaotic couple of committee meeting two weeks ago) asking for remedy regarding land use - ULURP they call it. The Department of City Planning is in charge of deciding what you can and can't build on a property. Think you can do what you like on your land? Heck no. There's all kinds of rules of what you can and can't and permits and Changes of O and who really cares to go down that rabbit hole right now anyhoo.

    (please excuse the simplistic nature of some of this...for you land use experts please don't be offended - and hey, we might need your help!)

    The basic idea here is that a City as dense and diverse and compact as ours has to have some way of organizing itself, so that we're both able to grow and prosper AND not get in each others' way too much. (Actually, I think I just accidentally did a pretty good job of explaining a lot of people's City salaried raison d'etre.) It's really important stuff, and we've been lucky to borrow the Borough President's land use guy Richard Bearak for info and guidance. The man has such a twinkle in his eye when he talks about zoning it almost makes you wish you understood what the Sam Hill he was talking about! (Seriously, the guy is a godsend, because once people trot out the R7-1's and R6-A's and C-3PO's and R-2D2's you need a ULURP Jedi Warrior like Bearak to bring it all back to Alderaan. Follow me, Chewy? Speaking of disturbances in the force, how about that crazy lady Pat with the Fight the Power t-shirt and the Gilligan hat? She's been jazzing up the CB meetings for as long as I've been a member. Thank god she's there to keep it light. One classic Pat question from the floor to a person who had just made a presentation: "Who are you and what are you doing here?")

    So one group, the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, representing dozens of Chabad Lubavitch synagogues, and therefore a few thousand people, wants a bunch of blocks in the NE quadrant of the community district upzoned from R2 or R4 to R6. By the way, it's no small feat to achieve such rezoning. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes money (usually coming from the City, so you gotta get your electeds on board). The reason for the request, as Rabbi Eli Cohen of the CHJCC put it, is designed to allow families to build out their houses to accommodate big families. It's no secret that many Orthodox families are quite large, and current zoning restricts how much you can build up and out. The reason for such restrictions, as I've mentioned, is to avoid a situation where MY building plans piss YOU off, and as a result of the limits we can all maintain some uniformity to the housing stock and the density and "feel" of a block - and my view from my backyard won't suddenly become a view of your second home. If you want to make it even MORE uniform, you can try landmarking. In which case you can't hang a picture without seeking permission first. (I'm joking, of course, please don't [lime]stone me for poking fun!)

    Now, it would be tempting to lump that request in with the request coming from the other side of the park - namely, asking that the Board support a moratorium on too-tall development along the park and Flatbush Avenue. Not a moratorium on DEVELOPMENT with a big D, mind you. Just massive luxury buildings designed to appeal to folks wealthier than 95% of the people living in the neighborhood. There's not much anyone can do about buildings going up that achieve market rates. In fact, good for you! Many of us prefer, of course, that there be an affordable element to your building, and 80/20 is frankly not keeping pace with the displacement, but that's what we got for now. However, we know you're not in the business of "giving away" homes, so let's be reasonable here. Do you really have to completely change the character of the neighborhood? Without asking? Or even checking in? In the case of 626, that would appear to be the case.

    The moratorium on outsized development, like the lawsuit against 626, is a longshot of course. In fact, it rarely happens. But there are ways to bring the issue to the powers-that-be and hope for someone to come along and look at the zoning, and perhaps as we've since learned, add an amendment of some sort to the zoning R7-1 along Ocean and Flatbush that would protect the view from the park, and the view of the sky from the rest of the neighborhood. It could even be a very specific height restriction, say 100 feet or so. Because regardless of what anyone thinks of the 23-story building at 626 Flatbush, it's just the beginning. The "secret" is out. Yep. We're near the park. And (sorry I can't resist) white people are now willing to live here.

    One other request was by a land owner on Empire Blvd near Brooklyn. He wants to build an apartment building, where now it's zoned commercial. The Q feels this is an excellent use of this process...turn moribund commercial space into places to live. He was pretty sketchy on the details (probably an 8 story apartment building), and he didn't bother to come before us himself (he sent his lawyers), but generally speaking this is the sort of thing we need MORE of on Empire, rather than Sonics and Self-Storage.

    I'm not going to bore you with the details of how all three motions were received - it was pretty unpretty at times. The CHJCC motion is going back to committee due to our (CB9's) incompetence, but the moratorium idea passed with overwhelming support. Despite concerns, the Empire lot rezoning passed too. In retrospect the three motions probably shouldn't have been presented at the same meeting. Because, and here's where I start choosing my words very very carefully, there is a history in Crown Heights that suggests great care be taken to identify problems and deal with them individually and not in relation to one another - as in, one group gets this, another group gets that. Feelings and resentments are still fraught with anxiety, even 20+ years after the terrible riots. And all this ties back into the question of whose neighborhood is it, and the what are the needs of its inhabitants.

    Now if that was too vague, let me focus on Lefferts and say just one more thing. As the demographics of the neighborhood change, so does any "consensus" about the kind of future we're looking towards. In parts of Canarsie, by way of contrast, the neighborhood is more than 90% Haitian. It's pretty safe to say, then that if the Haitian community develops consensus around something, then you can move forward with confidence on that project, after hearing of course from the minority views. But right now, the demographics of Lefferts are SO diverse, economically-racially-ethnically-religiously-birthplacely-dareIsayPolitically, that it will be very hard to find true consensus on things that involve even slight controversy between those various sets (assuming there's consensus WITHIN a set of course). Which is why even though there are plenty of folks who see ALL development as bad for rent prices, that was not the motion and is not the mission the Q has signed on to. The members of PPEN, pretty much all our elected leaders, the groups LMA and PLGNA, have all signed on to a contextual zoning request, and now are being urged to support a moratorium on non-contextual development until that happens. Once it happens, we can all go back to playing our congas in the drummer's grove. Groovy? Good.

    Addendum: We were one of the first groups to meet with new borough prez Eric Adams (go team Lefferts!), and he's agreed to hold a town hall style meeting on March 20 to discuss. We need everyone and their nephew to come and out and speak up.

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  • 03/03/14--08:08: Hold Still, Little Man!
  • There are a number of things that I love about this scene. Don't worry, I asked his mom if it was okay to shoot and share the picture. This scene is at the barbershop on Clarkson near Flatbush. The little guy is three.

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  • 03/03/14--09:47: The Suits Are Swarming
  • The Q was talking to a fellow, new to the nabe, not long ago. He said the worries about developers and new buildings were way overblown. So a few folks decide to build buildings here - that's good. We need more housing he said. Sounded rational the way he put it. don't always get a good mix, I says to him. And the people doing the building have one motive - maximizing profits (as is their right of course). Is this always good for a neighborhood? No I says. Yes he says. Economic activity is always good.

    I'm consigned to the fact that I will disagree with a lot of you readers. I also know that a lot of readers, and more importantly a lot of non-readers, are very, very concerned. To put a finer point on it, comes this missive from the Real Estate industry from a gentleman named Robert Vernicek at Bisnow in a newsletter to the industry (see below). The only comment I'd add is to please take a look at the crowd of "450" and tell me how many white men in suits you see, because I was having trouble finding any.

    Know where Prospect/Lefferts Gardens is? No? You’re behind the curve. All the developers speaking at Bisnow’s recent Brooklyn New Development Frontiers event have multifamily projects in the works there, as institutional investors feed on Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn.
    apologies to the photographer - i didn't find your name

    450joined us at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott on Thursday to hear how these entrepreneurs search for new neighborhoods. Hello Living president Eli Karp looks around the perimeter of Prospect Park (Brooklyners’ reason for living) and follows the 2 and 5 express subway lines. Prospect/Lefferts Gardens fits the bill and still offers tax abatements, which are long gone from Park Slope. In Prospect/Lefferts, he’s putting up 40 condos at 651 New York Ave, 56 luxury apartments at 270 Lenox Rd, and 42 condos at 2415 Albemarle Rd.
    When Eli (left, with Cayuga Capital Management’s Jamie Wiseman and Hudson Cos’ David Kramer) started building in Prospect Heights in '07, construction financing was hard to find. It became easier as he built more in the neighborhood, he says. He later faced the same hurdle in Crown Heights. And now the banks are giving him a hard sell in Prospect/Lefferts. Jamie says doing deals in Brooklyn can be like playing college football (compared to Manhattan’s NFL), considering the guy who owns the title on a pretty parcelmight be, say, a scrap yard operator. David's firm will deliver 23 stories of 80/20 apartments at 626 Flatbush in the submarket in 2016. What he seeks are those magic neighborhoods that are still emerging but can support ground-up development. Pick the wrong block, and rents won’t rise. Pick the perfect block and land costs too much. (It's Goldilocks for grown-ups.)

    TerraCRG president Ofer Cohen put that concern into context by tracing what’s happened to land prices in BK’s now-core markets: From 2010 to ’13, deal volume rose from $1B to $5B, and prices doubled.

    In the search for neighborhoods,’s David Maundrell (left, with our moderator, Tarter Krinsky’s David Pfeffer) is like all developers. He watches where other developers are going but also, of course, follows Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

    For all those who think Park Slope has jumped the shark on cool, our keynote, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce CEO Carlo Scissura, suggests Midwood (a great place to raise a family), Ditmas Park, Sunset Park, Borough Park, Coney Island (the boardwalk is on its way), Sheepshead Bay (miles of beachesand a marina), and Bensonhurst (spectacular quality of life, despite bell bottoms’ exit from the Saturday Night Fever setting). Oh, and he also requests that you bring some office supply to Brooklyn.

    CPEX’s Brian Leary says 1M SF of Brooklyn office was removed from the market in the past 12 months, like Benenson Capital Partners’ demolition of 210 Livingston St Downtown (to be replaced by apartments in a JV with Rose Associates announced last week). In fact, office hasn’t filled in as expected since Downtown BK’s rezoning 10 years ago. But he hopes Savanna plans office for 141 Willoughby St Downtown, which it just bought from the Institute of Design and Construction. Plus, Jed Walentas is doing 400k SF of spec office at Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar factory, and Kushner et al. are putting in loft office for creative types at DUMBO’s Watchtower site.

    MNS’s Dave Behin (left, with Andrew Kimball, Industry City CEO for Jamestown) expects office development to pick up now that tax abatements for resi are over. And Andrew says massive sites like Industry City and Domino are unique opportunities for developers to create balanced live/workcommunities. (The best way to balance the Domino Sugar site would be adding a little spice.)

    Jonathan Butler of and Brooklyn Flea & Smorgasburg founding fame (right, with our moderator, Holland & Knight’s Paul Proulx) agrees, saying Wallabout, the area around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, would go all residential if planners enabled that without restrictions. But for a community to thrive, it needs a formula, he says, citing the truly mixed DUMBO, aided by a single landowner that was making decisions for the long term. Greg O’Connell is doing the same in Red Hook, Dave says.

    My thanks, in advance, to Mr. Vernicek for allowing me to reprint it in its entirety.

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