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    Interesting piece from Danette Lambert of Oakland. She works for Dan Kalb, a City Council Member out there. Below I'm stealing the list (there's more to the article), since it's likely to stir some thoughts. To many of you, the below is likely just good manners and common sense. But I'm pretty sure it's essential in a neighborhood of lightning-quick change.

    20 Ways

    1. Smile and say hi to your neighbors when you see them, even if they seem scary or don’t say hi back. Sometimes it takes time to build a rapport and gain the trust of the community. And it's important to remember that in many communities, saying hi is seen as a sign of respect, and not saying hi is a sign of disrespect.
    2. Recognize all the people outside of your door as your neighbors, even if they look different from you and live under different circumstances. This includes single mothers with three jobs and migrant workers who might not speak any English, as well as the homeless people who sleep in the park, the drug dealers who sell outside the liquor store, and the prostitutes walking nearby streets. Treating all of these folks with respect and dignity from the beginning will give you later leverage to talk to them about changing their behavior and getting out of the life.
    3. Change the way you perceive neighbors by changing the language you use to describe them. Think about the motivations for their actions. Instead of “that illegal immigrant standing on the corner all day” think “my neighbor (insert name here), who happens to be undocumented, stood out in the sun all day waiting for the chance to work so that he could send some money back to his family." See if that doesn’t change your opinion of him.  
    4. Really think before you call the police. Ask yourself, 'Is this something that can be fixed by a simple conversation? Did a violent crime just happen?' If so, then of course you should call the police! But your neighbor playing their music too loud is not a police issue. Remember many communities have experienced, and still experience, real trauma at the hands of the police. While you may think a person has nothing to fear if they didn’t do anything wrong, an African American may be holding Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and Michael Dunn in their mind. A simple interaction with the police can trigger the collective PTSD from which the entire community may suffer.

    5. Pay your taxes with the knowledge that your newly introduced tax base will contribute to neigborhood improvements and increased social programs. Lobby your elected officials to make sure their budgetary decisions prioritize these issues. Vote for progressive tax reforms.  Many people take the fact that a neighborhood is rundown as an example of how taxes are not worth paying, instead of recognizing that the lack of a significant tax base is what is keeping substantial changes from coming to those neighborhoods.
    6. Remember low-income communities and communities of color may be suffering from hundreds of years of historic trauma, and this trauma is very fresh in the minds of most people of color. 
    7. Recognize most of the perpetrators of crime have also been the victims of a system you have most likely benefitted from disproportionately.
    8. See all of your new communities' problems as opportunities for growth, creative problem solving and entrepreneurship. Refuse to complain about a problem unless you are willing to play an active, communal part in the solution. 
    9. Donate and/or volunteer at local organizations that build solidarity and add capacity to low-income communities of color.
    10. Shop local and small. Go to the dive bars, hole in the wall restaurants and small mom and pop shops as often as the upscale restaurants, swanky bars, and boutiques.
    11. If you are opening up a business, make sure your prices are within reach for the majority of people in the neighborhood you operate.
    12. Hire locals, low-income folks, people of color and people from a variety of backgrounds. Take a chance on someone with low experience, but high potential. Hire someone who has been formerly incarcerated. Train some folks. Forgive them for not understanding the ins-and-outs of the workplace as quickly as you would like. If it doesn’t work out, clearly explain to them why and suggest some job training organizations that could help them develop the skills they need for the next job.
    13. Recognize your new home has a very unique and vibrant history and culture, and you were attracted to this location because of the energy that is already here. You should be here to add to that history and culture, not to erase it.  Remember, while it's a good start to support hole in the wall restaurants, you don’t gain culture simply by eating a burrito. You gain culture by engaging in a real and meaningful manner with the person who makes the burrito. 
    14. If you can, give to crowd-funded campaigns that support local projects. Encourage low-income folks to launch their own crowd-funded campaigns to help them go to college, get their car fixed so they can drive to work, buy a suit they can wear to an interview, or get a computer so they can pay attention to all that is going on in the community. Invest in your neighbors’ well being. A neighborhood where everyone’s needs are met is a safe neighborhood.
    15. Identify your privileges. We all have them. Having a privilege is not necessarily the problem—it’s what you do with that privilege that counts. As an Afro-Latina woman, I am not who you would traditionally consider "privileged." However, I do have some privileges in this society over people who have darker skin, less education, a less respected job or less money. When I am in situations when these things act in my favor, I use my privilege to enrich myself and the people around me. I mentor people. I try to find jobs and internships for people of color. I teach people how to navigate city services. I know whatever success I gain, I didn’t gain it on my own. I have a responsibility to the community that has facilitated my success to be a resource and asset to those people still trying to make it.
    16.If you create a neighborhood organization, make sure the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the group is reflective of the neighborhood. Actively recruit members who have differing perspectives. Find translators that can help facilitate the recruitment and retention of non-English speakers. If there is another organization working in the neighborhood, ask them what they are doing and how you can help, not the other way around.
    17. If you plan any major projects in the neighborhood, make sure you do active outreach, and seek the opinions of all your neighbors. Put in the extra effort to build a consensus and make sure your project is in line with the existing community's goals.
    18. Engage with the government and advocate on behalf of policies that benefit all the residents of your city, both those born and raised there and recent transplants. Support affordable housing, education funding, re-entry services, job training and placement programs.
    19.Learn all that you can about the culture and history of your new home. Don't assume that just because positive changes haven't come to the community, that the community doesn't want change. They do. They just lack the financial means, political savvy and/or free time it takes to make it happen. Asking your neighbors what's been done before and what they want to see now can lead to neighborhood improvements that are inclusive of all perspectives—and your neighbors will be happy to finally get the help they need to make the improvements they've likely been dreaming of for years.
    20. Fall in love with your new community, both for what it is and what it could be. Give your new neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Ask them how they'd like to be treated. Don't be afraid. Be nice to each other. Build community and understanding.

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    This issue isn't all the Q is interested in of course. But when a point is this well articulated, it's worth reposting. Thanks Bob for the heads up:

    Jeremiah's Vanishing NY on Spike Lee, Hyper-Gentrification and the monster that ate NYC

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  • 03/04/14--09:54: Newsletter from the 71st

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    Years ago, an annoying ditty called "Don't Worry Be Happy" became the number one song in America. That was at a time when one had very few entertainment options - just the TV and radio and, um, your Sony Walkman. Maybe the 8-track tape player in your uncle's pickup truck?

    Anyway, unless you've been living under a rock lobster, the song of the moment is "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, with a video so infectiously adorable that you've got to be a pretty hardened cynic not to smile, just a bit. The song is fan-fabulous, though it never reaches a truly transcendent pop peak. Mr. Pharrell continues his domination, after "Get Lucky," with his perfectly timed for the times Curtis Mayfieldisms. The song's beat and sound are perfect for the tune, and the descending harmony lines are the songs true hooks, no small feat, since that's usually not the focal point of a chorus. The chord changes are refreshing in today's I V VI IV pop landscape. Nicely done sir.

    And what does this have to with The Q at Parkside and Lefferts? Well, check out Olivia Killingsworth, doing her rendition of the video along, you guessed it, The Fabulous Flatbush Corridor. Nice work O.K.! I trust you're a neighbor?

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  • 03/05/14--10:46: Alittle Trouble From Alotta
  • Check out this video about the little apartment broker on Flatbush near Winthrop:

    Neighbors complain that they also make Alotta noise. An excerpt from an email the Q received:

    Alottaapartments is very disruptive to the neighborhood primarily to those residents whose windows back up on the backyards bounded by Flatbush/Parkside/Bedford/Winthrop.  Alottaapartments hosts parties every Friday night which they have characterized as "Real Estate Mixers".  All last summer we battled them each Friday evening.

    The music would start around 10 PM and last until 3 or 4 Saturday morning.  The storefronts  at 701 Flatbush has access to a courtyard in the rear of the building and they would set up some weapons grade loudspeakers out there and crank it up.  It was reading 100 decibels from our backyard 75 feet away and was impossible to sleep through even with earplugs and moving to the street side of our house as the bass would reverberate through our building.

    I started texting Officer Frank Bulzoni who had given me his cell at that big meeting we had in your building's basement.  I was pretty sure this was one of thouse underground clubs we had been alerted about.  He got some officers in there and the music let up for a few minutes but started back up as soon as the cops left.  It was then we found out it was not a club but the "Real Estate Mixer" being run by Alottaapartments.  They were not selling booze and there wasn't evidence of drugs.

    We persisted.  Det Martinos got involved and he even got Dep Insp Lewis involved and everyone took our grievances seriously.  They finally went in there personally one Friday evening when the music started and Dep Insp Lewis warned them that he would start issuing summons if there were any more complaints.  The music stopped being played outside but continues inside to this day.  We foresee a repeat of last years problem but will stay on top of the situation.  The sound must be unbearable within the buildings near 701 Flatbush but evidently no one complains.

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  • 03/06/14--10:17: As Easy As 123 On the Park
  • The old Caledonian Hospital looks closer and closer to its birthing day. And what's this? The pile of debris behind it, closer to Woodruff than Parkside, looks to be ready for its big dig. I do love the image of an excavator truck perched atop a massive mound of rubble. But you gotta wonder what's in store for this hunk of real estate.

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    Community Board 9's ULURP (universal land use review process) committee has set up a forum to discuss what the appropriate use of our...LAND...should be.

    Those who have an interest in how the neighborhood is being developed should come and be part of the process. In a couple years, there will be more changes to the Lefferts and South Crown Heights area than there has been in 50 years or more. We need to know what you think about it all, so we can represent your views at the level that it matters most...

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  • 03/07/14--16:30: Coffee and Flowers
  • Where once, 'twas a java desert, today comes announcement of a fourth entry into the Lefferts coffee category - Bles*ings - where Sassy Scissors used to was at 663 Flatbush 'tween Win and Haw. I'm leaving out the "s" in their name not for "savings," but because last time the Q told you about this place he got spamdoozled, probably because of the word "Bles*ings."

    And guess what? You can get foodstuffs and flowers to go with your espresso.

    The invitation to come on out and check it out is below. Pretty slick. And dig the living wage offer. Sweet! Good luck Liliana and William.

    We have the pleasure to invite you to Bles*ings, on 663 Flatbush Avenue. 

    Located in the heart of Brooklyn, Bles*ings is a new cafe' and flower-herb shop in the neighborhood of Lefferts Gardens. Housed in a former hair salon, the original space has been meticulously restored and updated to offer wholesome food and service yet to be seen in the borough, while preserving the character of a local community joint. With an array of menu options designed by renowned restaurateur Roberto Aita, of Aita in Fort Greene and previously Fiore in Williamsburg, each menu is tailored to feature a variety of offering for breakfast and lunch, as well as other options like fresh and healthy take-away kid's meals for parents on the run, and vegan and gluten free alternatives. An outside backyard will offer al fresco dining in the warmer months. To complement Bles*ings' healthy-giving selection, organically grown flowers, herbs, and seeds will be offered by the pounds or laid out in beautiful arrangements. 

    Only top-notch ingredients sourced from local, ethical and fair-trade businesses like the Brooklyn Roasting Company, Zone 7, and Nine Chains will be used in Bles*ing's comprehensive food, beverage and herbal program. Instead of following the conventional industry practice of paying minimum wage, Bles*ings undertakes to pay its workers a living wage, and will focus on hiring people from the local community.

    Bles*ings is the result of the combined visions of co-owners Liliana Bonafini, a former film producer from Italy, and her husband William Farrell, a native New Yorker. 

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  • 03/11/14--09:10: Back to Trash
  • Been awhile. You KNOW the Q hates trash as much as you. Each morning and evening I pick up a dozen pieces of litter from my house to the corner. A lot of times it's stuff that's blown all the way from the corner bin, which is usually overflowing with household garbage and pieces of crap that people "lay" on top. Sure there are litterers, but after 11 years of watching this play out I can see now that the litterers are basically just tossing things down on an already filthy street. They do it way less on a spotless surface. So like Sisyphus, I continue to roll that boulder up the hill...a piece here, a piece there...

    Last night I called a meeting at CB9 to talk trash. (I chair the Environmental Protection Committee). The heads of the Kingston, Nostrand and Flatbush Merchants Associations were there (Sholom Goldstein, Lindiwe Kamau, and Desmond Romeo/Shelley Kramer respectively). They were extremely helpful in identifying the real problems, and after enough study and frustration I'm inclined to agree. It's household trash - dumping - that causes most of the debris. Why do people bring their personal garbage to the corners and tree pits in shoddy bags that bust open and create a daily trashcastrophe? I tells you why. Landlords are not making it easy for tenants to do the right thing. If you don't give your tenants somewhere to put their trash when it accumulates, they're gonna put it wherever they can, because they don't want to keep it in their house (except the hoarders). Many times there is simply no trash system; no barrel alongside the building, no backyard holding pen, no basement access, to hold the garbage til trash day. And then, some Supers let it pile up, if there's a Super at all.

    For those too new to remember, twas a time in our fair city when most every merchant had a crappy looking dump ster outside their business. The City did away with those eye and nose sores, wisely I might add, but the trade-off was that people had no place to (illegally) dump their trash anymore. Come to think of it the Q used to do that too! Naughty, naughty young selfish Q. For shame. But I cop to it to tell you that HAD there been an easy, better alternative I would have done it. I was living on Vanderbilt Avenue at the time, right near the corner of Prospect. The neighbor was pretty dismal back then, but it was rarely filthy the way Flatbush is today. And that, my friends, was because there was always somewhere to dump your rubbish.

    In many modern cities of Europe they have a crafty solution (don't they always?). Everyone takes their garbage to bright, cheery communal bins just down the block or around the corner. Yes, it's not the European City's job to come directly to your house and do the dirty work. YOU have to do it, then they simply come by and empty the big containers. Even when they get all graffiti covered and wheat pasted they're still built with this primary directive in mind - "Keepen Zie  Müll off the Straße, Günther!"

    So what decideth the Brain Trust last night was actually in the realm of possibility? Well, other nabes have gotten their councilmember to allocate money for these kinds of corner bins:

    They cost about $500 each, and it's much harder to dump in them cuz of the small hole at the top. AND the trash can't fly around as much, what with that roof on the rubbish. (Tear the Roof Off the Rubbish, Tear the Roof Off the Rubish, Tear the Roof Off the Rubbish - G. Clinton)

    Some neighborhoods have the solar powered Big Belly bins that cost a few thousand bucks:

    But let's get reasonable here. That ain't gonna happen on the struggling-to-get-organized stretch of Flatbush from Empire to Parkside.Thank you Pratt Area Comunity Council for helping to get the merchant's act together, but in the meantime here's the plan:

    • Go to our council people to get new bins out of the budget
    • Bring the Sanitation Manager for District 9, Mr. Williams, to a meeting to discuss how to ticket the scofflaws
    • Put more emphasis on the household garbage and stop harassing merchants who are doing the right thing
    • Identify worst offenders and find out who the landlords are and bring some garbage to their houses and dump it on their living room couch

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  • 03/11/14--19:24: Here We Go Again...
  • Forgotten NY does a fairly good job, usually, of identifying the truth behind old NYC myths. Here's a nifty article about Brooklyn neighborhoods. And then, the fun begins. How on earth do you think you can be a definitive source on the ever finicky neighborhood boundaries? Here's what they say about Lefferts. Take a good look at the last paragraph in particular.

    The Lefferts Homestead, found just inside the Prospect Park entrance at Flatbush and Ocean Avenues, was built by the Lefferts family in an area east of the park along the Old Flatbush Road at about where Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street are now. Peter Lefferts had arrived in New Netherland in 1660 and had purchased a farm in this area in about 1675, and passed the property on to his son John.

    On August 23, 1776, British forces engaged American rebels in the area near the farm. Rather than allow the British to occupy the house, the rebels burned it to the ground (the family had already left town to escape the anticipated British invasion). John Lefferts died a couple of months after that, and his family set to the task of rebuilding the farmhouse. By 1777, John’s son Peter had produced this gabled, shingle-roofed building featuring a 6-columned porch and dormer windows; the Lefferts family continued to occupy it until 1918, when the City took it over and moved it to its present location. It’s presently used as a children’s museum, complementing the larger one in Bedford-Stuyvesant. During the year, there are sheep shearing exhibitions a swell as Dutch and African-American festivals.

    The neighborhood just to the east of this Colonial relic is called Lefferts Gardens, or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Part of it has been designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, as the side streets have some distinctive late 19th Century and early 20th Century attached houses along well-shaded streets. The neighborhood is defined by Lincoln Road, Hawthorne Street, Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue. (emphasis mine)
    Today, no one would define Lefferts thusly. But I DO recall Bob Marvin saying Hawthorne was the bottom at some point, then Parkside, then extended to Clarkson. Why? Ask Bob Thomason, I dunno. Whole thing seems a bit silly to me. Back in 1968 when Bob T. and folks created the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (with the ever-bewildering hyphen) who would have dreamed that this NE quadrant of Flatbush would end up referring to itself by the dreadful "PLG?" 

    Once again I beg of you to call it Lefferts. Or if you must, like the MTA buses, call it Lefferts Gardens (though there is only ONE Botanic garden, and yes, some "greenest" blocks. But giving garden a whole plural just for that? Ludicrous I say!)

    If just one thing comes from this blog, just ONE thing, I hope it's the name change. Lefferts was the dude who bought the farm. Then of course he "bought the farm" and the rest is growing pains. We were all part of the colonializing Lefferts Homestead, and calling the neighborhood "Lefferts Homestead," while suitably quirky, just doesn't hang together. Lefferts. Lefferts. Lefferts. Say it three times quickly, then sloooowly. You're getting sleepy. That's right, into a deep, deep, Lefferts sleeeeeeeeeep....

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  • 03/12/14--17:38: Matthew Power: 1974-2014
  • I can't say I knew him well. But looking back in my inbox I realize Hawthorne Street resident Matthew Power had been probably the single best "source" this blogger's ever had. We enjoyed a lot of silly back-and-forth, and though he told me he was a journalist by trade I had know idea how accomplished he was, righting crazy cool story's for Harper's and Men's World and all manner of stuff (he's eulogized here in Vice). Humble I guess they call it. He was the kind of adventure journalist you thought only existed in war zones. But Matthew went after truly bizarre and humane stories that I will now feel super inspired to delve into and get to know the guy better through his writing. Because, I think, maybe, we were becoming friends? It's hard to tell at my age, where exactly does witty banter becomes genuine affection. But I always knew I was engaging with a brilliant mind, an artful writer, and I'm sure his family, his friends and of course his wife whom he's left behind, will miss him terribly, terribly.

    39 is pretty darn young, well, by my standards now anyway. He looked like he could have been a decade younger:

    That's Matthew - on the left
    Maybe you've seen him around the 'hood? I'll bet no one would have loved the coming of the Blessings coffee shop more than he, given that it's just around the corner from his home. We spent a good deal of digital space talking about development and class and race and what this speck of NYC is all about. We came to no conclusions, by the way. How could we?

    Matthew was the first person to hip me to plans for 626 Flatbush, and we discussed that one quite a bit. And now that's where my eulogy ends, because to stretch it further would make this post about me. I feel saddened to learn that such a dedicated seeker of stories and truth would die so young. In Uganda, of heatstroke, following the story of a British adventurer walking the Nile. It was the desert, far from medical help I assume. I guess that's the way you might go out, if that's the sort of story you're after. Here's the NY Times obit.

    The last emails I have from him are from a week ago. He's the one who hipped me to the Youtube video of the woman singing along to Pharrell Williams "Happy" on an early Flatbushian morning. Then he told me a rumor so ridiculous it of course could be true, though don't quote me, or Matt. By the time I'm posting it it's probably sixth generation, but what the hell are blogs for but to spread rumours? A real good guy he was. Here's his last email:

    The other thing I heard, which I assume is just rumor, is that Trader Joes is in talks to take the commercial space at 626 when it's built. Have a hard time believing they'd be doing a deal before they've even started building though.

    Off to Uganda! Talk to you when I get back.

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    The time has come. After a decade of stops and starts, the old Caledonian Hospital is prepared to start showing its wares. The Q signed up for email updates so I could share them with you! So here's the first...

    We are anticipating our on-site leasing office to be opening within the next month…at which time we will begin scheduling appointments to view the building. We are currently on schedule to be able to move people in for May 1st.

    Pricing is slated to be as follows:

    Studios starting at $1,999 per month
    1 bedroom apartments starting at $2,299 per month
    2 bedroom apartments starting at $3,250 per month
    3 bedroom apartments starting at $3,800 per month

    If pricing and move in dates coincide with your needs and you would like to be added to our priority list for opening weekend, please let us know and we will contact you once we begin to schedule appointments.

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    Great article about a neighbor leading the way in green funerals.

    Amy Cunningham in NY Times

    But as Paul G. pointed out, the real kicker for the Q is in the third to last paragraph:

    Ms. Cunningham has seen a dog become visibly distraught as its master’s body was taken away; a son ride a bicycle to his father’s green burial, all the way from the Upper West Side to Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; children place their friend’s favorite sandwich in his coffin. “Amy has always been into rituals and creating the best possible milestone moment,” Mr. Waldman said. A number of parakeets and gerbils currently rest in the backyard of their two-story limestone in Lefferts, each having had a ceremonial exit.
    Now, I have no way of knowing how this came to be, the using of the slick one word "Lefferts" to describe her neighborhood. And since there is currently no website called "" I'll just have to point out here that I am very, very pleased. I don't even know the writer of the article!

    However, Ms. Cunningham's husband is Steven Waldman, the guy who started, and he and I had a cup of coffee some time ago. Full disclosure and all. But dang, the NEW YORK FRIGGIN' TIMES!! The Old Gray Lady!!! The PAPER OF RECORD!!!!!!

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    Once again, the Old Gray Lady comes in to officially state what we all know is happening and that the Q has been flapping his digital gums about for the past thousand posts. The Big Money is onto you, Lefferts. "You're a lovely neighborhood, albeit with a few quirks, so get ready! It's your time to S-H-I-N-E!!!!" The whole story here. And yes, you'll recognize some of those quoted in the story. Shout out to Desmond and Quest yo.

    Just check the handy map Alison Gregor and associates provide in the article that notes the new upscale and rental and condo projects happening:

    Hey, just read the article and tell me what you think. I gotta get to work, but I thought you'd enjoy the advanced heads up. The print article comes out in the Sunday Times.

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    Were the name of the 'hood Prospect-Lefferts Garden (singular), tomorrow's meeting at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Washington Ave entrance - 7PM) would have special relevance for an issue very much in the minds of many Leffertsonians. Though I guess it's true there are a number of sub-gardens in the Garden. Maybe that's what they meant! Bob?

    O.K., time to stop dicking around. As the last post should make clear, the neighborhood has been sleeping for years and it's time to wake up and take what little control of our destiny the City's Charter allows. Each Community District is allowed a say in the Universal Land Use Review Process (ULURP), and rather than let developers usurp our ULURP, it's worth coming out and expressing your opinions on the matter of zoning. While most folks don't care too whits about whether R6 or R6b is appropriate for, say, YOUR block, come on out and say what you like or don't like about buildings in the area in plain English. It's not that hard for the folks at City Planning to translate, since they're bilingual English/Zonish.

    Even though I express myself forcefully sometimes, I don't want to tell you what to think, truly I've been trying to take the pulse of the neighborhood myself. But I do hope you WILL think. Because in five years you'll barely recognize this neighborhood, and it will be too late to have our itty bitty say along the way.

    See you tomorrow night!

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    From the 71st comes a story almost too horrific to share. But here goes. Directly from Vinnie, because I can't even bear to write it:

    Today, March 16, 2014 at approximately 9PM a 5 year old boy was struck by a vehicle on Empire Blvd. between Nostrand to Rogers Avenue. The child was rushed to Kings County Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The accident is currently under investigation by the NYPD Highway Accident Investigation Unit.  Please remember the family in your thoughts and prayers.

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  • 03/18/14--11:01: Caledonia Rises
  • The back of 123 on the Park will look like the below, according to the architect Ken Fischer's rendering:

    For those unfamiliar with the old Caledonia Hospital's backside, this is it. They kept that old circular thingy (architecture term, you wouldn't understand) but added a luxury drop-off or pick-up your passengers thingy and bunch of greenery. Once again, the people in the rendering are decidedly thin. What race? Hard to tell. They seem pretty gray, though she seems to be wearing a suit, holding a briefcase and wearing heels. That's not something I see a lot of around here. Do they live there? Did they just walk off and leave their car in the pick-up and drop-off thingy? And what meeting are they going to? So much tension in this picture.

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    Nice turnout last night at the BBG auditorium. It's always a bit DIY with these community building things, but I thought the proceedings were handled really well by Pearl Miles, District Manager. The CB9 intern Ben showed some slides (I'll put 'em up as soon as I get a copy) of the zoning in the neighborhood. He followed a long-standing tradition at the CB of cutting up the district into quarters. You gots your NW quadrant (Botanic Gardens, Medgar Evers) your NE quadrant (large Hasidic population), your SE quadrant (Kings County Hospital and Dodgertown) and your SW quadrant (Lefferts, home sweet home). Last night, Nostrand was the east/west divide, and Empire the Equator.) Ready to roll?

    We signed up to speak by quadrant. Quadrant A, B and D (NW, NE and SE) had just a few names all told. Quadrant C? We had to stop taking names just to get the party started. "Lefferts" was out in force, and not just the burgeoning movement known as the Prospect Park East Network, who were there with bells on (and signage). It was a real nice mix of folks, and given the fact that the NY Times has said we're now "on the map," we were all trying to look our best for the folks from the City Planning Commission in attendance. So much pressure to live up to the hype!

    And what did folks have to say? It WAS a listening session, and so most of us listened. A few scattered "so why don't you move"s didn't spoil the whole show, though when you consider how strongly people feel on these issues of development and land use, it wasn't too, too bad. I've never been a fan of the "why don't you move" line anyhow, and not just because it's disrespectful and belittling. Mostly I just find it, well, not very creative. If you're gonna put somebody down, you should really go for the jugular with a witty barb, don't you think?

    I'm gonna use some of the candids I took from the front row to jog my memory of what was said. One of the first speakers was Evelyn Tully Costa who I'm pretty sure is a landscape architect and lives in quadrant A, the NW. Beautiful area up there, if you haven't walked the streets above Empire you're really missing something. Anyhoo, she's super pro-landmarking, and bases a lot of her argument on aesthetics. And of course, she has a point. Brooklyn has some drop-dead architecture, and many of its blocks are historic and one-of-a-kind. It would be a shame if ALL the blocks of Brooklyn got hacked to bits for a quick buck, and Landmarks Preservation is there to lend a hand to areas that are willing to trade freedom to do as they please with their house for a bit of insurance against the whims of time. The Q digs the landmarking thing, and congratulates Chester Court on moving in that direction with those sweet dead-end Tudors that SHOULD have been part of the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens Historic District but were rejected because they weren't contiguous. But the Q stops short of suggesting that ALL pretty blocks be landmarked because, well, if the majority of people on the block don't want it Landmarks isn't going to designate it. A pity some will say. I say, live and let live. Your landmarked block just got prettier because some other decided to Fedderize it.

    Then came an emerging firebrand of CB9, Dwayne Nicholson, of beautiful Crown Street in the NW, tween Bedford and Rogers. Dwayne would like to see most of the NW downzoned, and doesn't like the way chunks of his nabe are being sold off and diced up. He'll also be quick to tell you he's no fan of Medgar Evers college either, but that's got a long backstory I really shouldn't get into right now, though another fight over M.E.'s planned closure of Crown Street from Franklin to Bedford for a grassy quad is about to heat up again.

    The next three gentlemen to speak were, in order, a guy named Mendel something (couldn't make it out, pictured), Shalom Goldstein president of the Kingston Ave Merchants Association, and Eli Cohen, (pictured) exec dir of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. The beef over there, for the Orthodox anyway - can't speak for the rest since they weren't really there last night - is that the restrictive zoning of R2 and R4 doesn't allow them to do ANYTHING with their homes, since they're already "overbuilt," a term that means they've already met or exceeded what's legal for that zoning. The R2 designation is actually reserved for larger free standing homes, like the ones they have in Ditmas Park, sorry, Victoooorian Flotbush. The story I heard on how some of those blocks got R2 is this - a lot of mucky mucks used to live in those beautiful mansions along Union Street, and convinced other mucky mucks to give them the lowest possible zoning to preserve their property. I'm sure Montrose Morris would know the truth! I think of her as Encyclopedia Brownstone.

    A gentleman named Frank Hebbert spoke, in a British lilt, about the need for safety along certain streets. He was charming in that way that Brits are, so I googled him and found the below video, which oddly enough deals with a pretty nifty idea for boarded up storefronts IN the NW sector, called Supertable. He came up with it with Haruka Horiuchi, his partner in crime I'm supposing. For halftime, check it out, cuz I'll come back with Sector C (the SW) in my next post. Don't go away, we'll be right back!

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  • 03/19/14--10:22: Horny SUV Mounts Q Train

  • From DNA Info:

    ROOKLYN — An out-of-control driver crashed her SUV over a concrete barrier and through a chain link fence before landing the front wheels on top of a Q train early Wednesday morning — then fled the scene, police said.

    The woman, whose identity was not released by police, was driving a Nissan SUV east on the quiet, cul-de-sac Albemarle Road at East 16th Street just after 5 a.m. when she failed to yield to the dead-end signs, mounted a small mound of dirt, drove up the waist-high concrete wall and crashed through the metal fencing that separated the roadway from the aboveground train tracks, police said.

    A southbound Q train with 50 passengers aboard left the Church Avenue station about 5 a.m. and passed Albemarle Rd. — just as the woman's front tires crashed atop the train and ground to a halt, according to an NYPD spokesman and a witness.

    The woman who was behind the wheel fled the incident and was still on the lam as of noon Wednesday, the police spokesman said. Neighbors said they slept right through the crash and had no idea how the woman was able to mount the fence. They said they awoke to the sound of helicopters overhead. The subway car involved in the Wednesday crash sustained only minimal damage, the MTA said. No injuries were reported, an FDNY spokesman said.

    A rescue train retrieved the approximately 50 passengers who were on board at the time and brought them back to the Church Avenue station, the MTA said. The SUV was removed from the scene about 9:30 a.m., workers there said. MTA crews were working to reinforce the fencing on Wednesday morning.

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    NIBBY: Not in Brooklyn's Back Yard!
    Then came the meat. Rather, the meat of the matter for those for whom the Q is their hometrain. From the picture you can see that the Prospect Park East Network was out in force Monday night, placards to boot. They mean business. Suki Cheong and Celeste Lacy Davis are gifted speakers, and definitely brought an air of urgency and passion to the proceedings. They're part of the group that filed the lawsuit against the 23-story residential tower going up at 626 Flatbush, with support from PLGNA, LMA and the Prospect Park Alliance and various elected officials. In fact, a bunch of us gathered at Eric Adams borough hall office recently to talk about options. He's concerned too. He'll be holding a town hall to talk specifically about the Flatbush/Ocean stretch and environs and what can be done about preventing a sudden spree of outsized building without warning or consultation. That's what "non-contextual as-of-right" zoning means, and that's the kind of zoning we have right now along that valuable stretch. That's what allowed the developer Hudson to come in and trash whatever precedents had obviously been set in the neighborhood, adhered to by all but Patio Gardens, because quite frankly there was a time when the City couldn't BEG anyone to build over here, and so they cared not about context. Basically our zoning says come and do whatever you want, we don't care. Two officials from the Department of City Planning were there, taking notes, and I hope some of the evening's proceedings sunk in. I suspect they did.

    How dense is too dense? Those of us from the Parade Grounds to Nostrand and up to Hawthorne are living in, and I'm quoting here, the densest neighborhood in Brooklyn. A look at the census will bear that out. There was a reason a lot of us fell for Brooklyn. And pretty soon, some of those reasons will disappear. I'm not bailing, I'm just saying. I'm a committed Brooklynite, committed to the great experiment as much as anyone. Once the tall buildings and the arena and the million dollar apartments started popping up, I realized my experience of the "outer borough" had started to radically dissolve. We've hit a moment, in some neighborhoods, of true diversity, but these were the once nearly all black neighborhoods, and the moment is fleeting. The money is loading the dice and rent laws can't hold back the tide (sorry for the mixed metaphors). There's a reason that the black population is quickly declining. Actually it's growing Upstate. Anyone remember that story I related about social service workers telling people down on their luck to move Upstate where there's still a possibility of being able to afford to rent a place? Seems the advice is being heeded.

    I caught a couple folks on video who had really interesting things to say, and whom you should really know. The first is Bob Thomason, the guy who started PLGNA. It became a mover and shaker and a community organizing machine. Not that it can't be again mind you, but it certainly ain't that right now. I wished I would have taped the bit where Bob asked why someone doesn't make a musical about the rise of man in East Africa - I really didn't see that one coming, Bob! Back in the days that whites were leaving the City because the blacks moved into their neighborhoods, PLGNA fought to help keep the neighborhood together. They fought redlining and organized tenants. And they did it all without email and Facebook and seemed to have done a pretty good job of it. Here's Bob:

    Then there's Derrick Edwards, of Chester Court, a NYC tour guide who threw in a few zingers, including this choice nugget:

    CB9 will be collecting thoughts from the forum to share at next Tuesday's full Board meeting. Some random Q thoughts:

    Despite the fact that they were both presented on the same night, I truly don't think the issues brought by the Chabad community and the issues of encroaching development in Lefferts belong in the same conversation. That's a freak of City district-making, that we must decide these things together, and shouldn't be allowed to create antagonism between folks. Not at all in fact. Both issues have to do with the zoning, but that's where the similarities end. I have been told by Richard Bearak, the land use guy for the borough president, that there are ways to allow some modifications to homes in a low zoned area without allowing tear-downs and out of context construction. A zoning like R6b (don't quote me) with a text addendum could handle it nicely. Were a significant majority of folks on certain blocks in Crown Heights to agree to such an arrangement, I don't see how it's different than a majority of homeowners wanting to landmark. I know, I know, they're beautiful old buildings. But they ARE people's homes too. If the folks don't want to landmark, are you saying we should force them? Trust me, even if no more streets in Brooklyn get landmarked, we've got a ton of brownstones in the system, and I happen to be on the side of the more the merrier! But don't force people to conform if they don't want to. That's divisive, and given where we're coming from, 20 years after the riots, let's just not go there, okay?

    As to PPEN's claims of an emergency, damn right. When a neighborhood "arrives" in the NY Times Real Estate section, the game's basically already a blowout in the fourth quarter, but...I admire the tenacity and spirit of the group and their message. I admire that they took their grievance to court, and brought so many others along for the fight. I think anyone who thinks they're kidding around need only look into Suki's eyes when she's delivering a speech and see she ain't one to back down! That goes for the whole bunch of PPEN's leadership. A tenacious bunch if ever I've seen one.

    Lastly, I'll say this. When gentrification is the matter of one seller and one buyer, I can hang with that. When it's about a bistro and coffee shop opening up, cool. But when gentrification becomes a money-making juggernaut, designed by politicians and businesses outside the neighborhood, sowed with cynicism and contempt, and yes racism, I ain't into that. Please real estate people, don't give me that line about how "it's the diversity of Lefferts" that's so appealing. If it was so appealing, you would have built your tower years ago. You've only been given the greenlight now by the money players because enough white people are living here now that you can rent at the right price to make big bucks. You've watched it work in other neighborhoods and now, as hearsay tells me a Hudson exec said, it's time to cash in.


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