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  • 05/22/13--19:39: The Green Samaritan
  • Anyone notice that the stumps in the tree pits on the SW corner of Lincoln Road and Ocean have become beautiful new trees, all bemulched and wearing chic gators and supported by sturdy poles?

    And anyone notice the cute signs in the tree pits on Lincoln and Ocean asking neighbors not to throw trash and doo-doo in the tree pits? And anyone notice the cute little gardens sprouting up around the area, and the near absence of trash? What gives?

    Well there's no reason to keep it a secret. A certain someone whose initials are Amy Musick (who, as it happens, is a public school music teacher) has been leading the charge to beautify the area around her building, and she's been doing a bang-up job of it, roping in kids from the Maple Street School, snagging free trees from the tree give-away in Kensington earlier this month, liaising with the Mayor of Lincoln Road Dynishal Gross, and generally going rah-rah gung-ho on making the area more beautiful.

    If you see Amy out there cleaning up trash, or showing kids how to take care of plants or trees, give her a hearty howdy and say thanks. She's just the sort of humble do-gooder the world could use a lot more of - doing it for the love of it, not the glory. Sing on, Mrs. Musick!

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    Congrats to the Lefferts Gardens Charter School on choosing its new school leader. He's Michael Windram, most recently of the Mott Haven Academy. After a national search for a new principal, the board and parent's association seems very pleased with their choice and hopes to start its fourth year on solid footing, knowing that its home on Parkside will be its home - the co-location has been approved for permanent status. The capable Wendy Ramos, Bronx Charter School of the Arts, was hired this year as head of operations; and Katrina Raben as curriculum coordinator. There's been a bit of a shakeup on the board as well, and the probably too small current board is looking to find strong new members. All in all, things are looking up.

    One last thing to note, and it's no small passing tidbit. I've noted here before that I think it's worthy of note that the "progressive" charter school movement seems to have no problem with union-busting, as the vast majority of charters choose to form without UFT support (New American Academy's new charter opening this fall being a rare exception). But just recently, LGCS teachers sent a letter to the administration and board stating their intention to form a union, allied with the United Federation of Teachers. In other words, LGCS will be unionized, assuming the board doesn't decide to go all Ronald Reagan and fire them all like in his union crippling move of 1981. Given what I've seen - great teachers and a warm, tight-knit family vibe at the school, this is more about protections and job security, and about the basic rights that workers have fought so hard over the last century to secure for themselves. [When I sat for awhile on an unsuccessful bid to build a charter school, I couldn't get around how uncomfortable I was with the way the charter movement took for granted the idea that school's are always better if they have no union. Well, we've all heard the horror stories about rubber rooms and wretched teachers who should've been fired years ago. But does that mean that teachers should be denied basic workers contracts? I firmly believe that schools are better when teachers are happiest and most supported. They must be good teachers sure. But like any workplace, they must feel secure and know that they have the tools and the security and the backup to grow and succeed. Fear is never a good motivator - and I think that's been the problem with teacher testing from the get-go. It's a management's not about making better teachers. It may be useful in getting rid of the worst of the worst. But dang you should be able to spend a day or two in the classrom and figure that out yourself!! Why put ALL the kids through the stress of tests for that?]

    Interesting. Very interesting.

    Anyhoo, congrats LGCS on a successful consummation of your search!

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  • 05/26/13--20:05: It's Tongue's Time To Shine
  • Hey, I googled it, I can honestly say that the phrase in the above title has never been used before on the internet! But it is SO apropos! On Tuesday at 9:30 am, if you're unemployed, a swingshifter, retired, out of school, a member of the "creative-class," a caregiver, a homemaker, on break, taking the day off, ill, or all of the above, head on over to Tip of the Tongue a/k/a TotT for some opening day goodies. The shoppe will be open starting May 28 with abbreviated soft-launch hours from 9:30 - 3:30 through Saturday the 1st. Regular hours will be: M-F 7-7 and S-S 8-7. Some folks have asked so's I'll tells you. This is primarily a coffee and pastry kinda place not a take-away lunch/dinner sort of thing so don't be disappointed thinking you can come in and get say a tongue sandwich. I made that joke and someone's face lit up and then I felt really bad. And also in terms of the way people used to be so down on the neighborhood and there being no good coffee places? Like, seriously, like in two days we'll have two awesome places within like a block of one another. Like, wow.

    BUT. And this is a very BIG butt. This Sunday marks the start of weekend hours at TotT BECAUSE it's ye olde Lefferts Gardens House Tour, and if you stop in you have a ticket, you get a free brownie. Word.

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    The shooting in March of Flatbush Avenue resident Samuel Waterman has now become a murder. Condolences to the family.

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    Come Get In On the Ground Floor Ground. Helping hands, young and old, needed this Saturday June 1st, to turn Maple street vacant lot into a community garden!!

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    Kudos to Ditmas Park Corner and newcomer Sebastien Malo for his piece on Mathieu Eugene's remarkable good fortune in finding affordable apartment rentals. Some of you may not have lived in the area long enough to know that back in '07 when Eugene first ran for office in a weird 10 candidate special election in a brisk February, he forgot to move into the district on election day, meaning that we all had to vote all over again costing the City tens of thousands of dollars. No matter, we just trotted out the machines all over again and a very few thousand people voted him in a second time. I was one of the many Flatbushians to get to vote for the Haitian Sensation a second time in what was one truly bizarre election, doubling my joy at sending the good doctor to City Hall to represent the fightin' 40th. I then voted for him again in 2009 when he ran against two unseasoned politicians, even though in all honestly Mr. Eugene had done little at that point to distinguish himself. It was early on in his tenure though, and the guy is charming.

    It's been a full six years and a few months however since that cold February, and the people of Flatbush should now know their councilperson very, very well indeed. If you've lived here most of your life, I'm sure you know him and have met him and can even compare him favorably or unfavorably to his predecessors the Clarkes, Yvette and her mother Una. Perhaps you've gotten to know other council people too, like Tish James or former councilman Bill de Blasio or Jumaane Williams or Brad Lander. Or maybe you've gotten to know some of the people running against Eugene, or running for Tish's seat, people like Saundra Thomas or Sylvia Kinard or Ede Fox or Laurie Cumbo or Jessie Hamilton or...

    Yes. It's election season. And because NYC is Democratic, it's all gonna be decided on September 10. That means, get registered, or move your registration if you've moved, because you gotta be in it to win it. And these local elections really do get won by a matter of a few votes.

    And read that piece by Sebastien Melo. It's a hoot. The gist, as far as I can tell, is that our councilman never really wanted to be on the council so much as he really, really, really wanted that great deal on an apartment. And in NYC, people will go to ANY lengths to get a cheap apartment.

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    Once a year, the 71st Precinct and the Community Council of that very same 71st Precinct, throw a Family Day Picnic meant to galvanize the relationship between the neighborhood and the cops that serve the community. To the cynics, I say hold your snickers. Many people on both sides of the uniform work very hard to improve relations and build trust so that we can all be safer. Events like this, when attended by as many people as possible, help foster such attitudes. I hope if any of you are looking for some good clean fun on Sunday, you'll consider heading out to the precinct at 11:30, or Hamilton Metz park sometime thereafter.

    And who knows, maybe they'll be playing Family Team Taser Tag!

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    Unless you've been hiding under a brownstone for the last forty-three years, you already know about the extraordinary housing stock of Brooklyn, USA. So the PLG House Tour, much like its sisters throughout the borough, is no longer so unique. So, much to its credit, it has started to innovate. This year you'll find a studio apartments and a pre-war coop and gardens and basements and two-family dwellings and artist studios all part of the appeal. Oh, and yes, brownstones on pretty tree-lined buildings in Lefferts Manor, of course. The studio that's featured is in the Patio Gardens building on Flatbush Avenue, so the truly curious among you should really consider this year's tour for sheer breadth of offerings. Check out the menu here.

    AND for the hoarder bargain hunter in you, June 2nd is like Super Bowl Sunday because check this out, from a reliable source:

    The following blocks are holding stoop and tag sales 12:00 – 5:00, Sunday, June 2nd  during the Prospect Lefferts Gardens House & Garden Tour Day. The Maple II Block Association is helping to organize stoop and tag sales that day all over the neighborhood. So far we know of a few Streets that will hold sales.

    ·         Maple Street between Bedford & Rogers
    ·         Rutland Road between Flatbush & Bedford
    ·         Midwood Street between Bedford & Rogers
    ·         Sterling Street between Rogers and Nostrand
    So come on out and buy some of other people's garbage so that you too one day can hold a stoop or tag sale of your own. I jest of course. It's all priceless. Everything and everyone is god's children.

    I need a shower.

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  • 05/31/13--11:21: The D.A. Makes Us An Offer
  • The name of the Brooklyn District Attorney is Charles "Joe" Hynes and he's been around for quite some time. In fact, the Flatbush native just turned 78. Happy Birthday, sir. Hope you like scandals, your own reality shows, and close reelection campaigns! If so, this is YOUR year to shine!

    The District Attorney finally took a meeting with the Q after weeks of tries, since I'd heard that it could be very helpful to draw in the law side of the Law & Order equation, especially when trying to get a grip on violent crime in your neighborhood. I mean Jerry Orbach was a saint, and he gave the gift of sight to two New Yorkers, but you needed Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy to keep those rascals behind bars, and he played a mean Abe Lincoln in his younger days as well. As I recall, he recited a whole Lincoln speech at Cooper Union a few years back too. And remember when Fred Thompson ran for president, not long after stepping down as district attorney? Wait. That's mixing truth with fiction isn't it. Let me start that again.

    Archuke Franz Ferdinand, too,
    had a handlebar moustache
    The District Attorney finally took a meeting with the Q after weeks of tries, since I'd heard that it could be very helpful to draw in the law side of the law & order equation, especially when trying to get a grip on violent crime in your neighborhood. Even our precinct commander had noted as much to me. 40 Lincoln's Dynishal Gross had been trying to get a meeting too, and it turned out that Saadia Adossa of the D.A.'s office scheduled us both to come in to meet the D.A.'s team at the same time. Dynishal reached out to her crew over on Lincoln, I reached out to the Clarkson crew and Duane Joseph over on Woodruff, Quest from PLGNA came too, and we had a nice little quorum to meet and greet and find out what the McCoy side could do to help bring down the violence and drug quotient in the neighborhood. We went to the downtown D.A. headquarters, which happened to be in the same building as the Marriot (wonder what their room rate is), headed up to one of the top floors (nice views thank you), walked past a long line of former Brooklyn District Attorneys dating back 150 years (it would appear that until relatively recently a requirement for the job was a long handlebar moustache).

    We were led to a super-large conference room. Much too big it would have seemed for a group of 8 of us and the D.A. and a couple of assistants, right? Wrong. One by one, the "suits" started showing up. Heads of divisions like "Gangs" and "Narcotics" and "Murder" and things called "Green Zone" started introducing themselves, and pretty soon there must have been a dozen or so middle-aged men with nice ties and war-worn smiles (they're seasoned prosecutors and such after all) and then the D.A. walked in sat down made a few dry jokes and we were off and running. He wanted to hear what each of us had to say about our experiences in the neighborhood with drug-corners and gang activity and guns and the recent murders and since D.A. Hynes had grown up in the neighborhood and lived in Brooklyn and Queens his whole life he knew the area and specific corners and asked good questions and then what he said next surprised us, though me not so much, because a friend of mine who live in Crown Heights North had prepared me.

    He said if we wanted to turn around the area and worked with his office and with the the 71st and 70th precincts and the various patrols and met every two months or so that we would see a huge improvement and that he had "never failed." Period. And that's what my friend said too about Crown Heights North; that they had seen a big improvement in the amount of street crime. And Jack Lewis of the 71st was sitting next to me and he smiled and he said Tim, you should take that deal.

    Now I have no idea what that was all about, and debriefing with Dynishal and Quest and Duane and the others I don't know what to make of it but here's what I do know and I'm sharing with you because it involves all of us. We were asked to convene as many folks in the community to get together and his office will send down folks to find out where the problem spots are and what are the problem buildings and apartments and corners and at-risk kids and worst landlords and businesses and they'll start running real intelligence operations and get to know the area much better than they already do and get as many users into treatment as possible, let young people know about the programs available as alternatives to street life, provide job opportunities to those who want them, run gang interference etc etc etc.

    I'll be honest. I have no history with stuff like this, and I'm frankly a little tired of trying to organize stuff. I have yet to find anyone who really wants to take a leadership role around here and find out what the young people are lacking and needing, why the gangs persist, why the adults are M.I.A., why everyone is so fearful. I mean I see drug deals happen and everybody just looks the other way. No wonder nothing ever changes. If I were a drug dealer around here I'd think this is a GREAT PLACE TO DO BUSINESS. Nobody seems to give a shit. People just walk right by, never call 911, never organize, never do anything. Over the last three years little meetings crop up and people say this has got to stop, or there needs to be more this, or someone should really do this, or the kids need to that, but nothing ever happens. The cops say the 911 calls are just not happening. Then crime spikes, I mean really spikes like recently, and the 911 calls still aren't there. A bunch of newcomers move to the neighborhood, iPhone thefts go through the roof, still no real effort to curb the gangs and drug activity. I get the part about not wanting to go up to a known drug dealer and say "hey, stop dealing drugs on the street in front of my kid you moron." But generally speaking, aren't we all a lot less safe when guys who make their living selling crack cocaine and have access to guns think it's okay to ply their trade with impunity? Right in front of our homes and on our walks to the train? I'm not calling anybody out, I'm just noting that it's been frustrating to take part in one little group after another and still be no farther along than three years ago.

    Lewis did say that the Impact Zone is coming to the area, so even with heightened police activity now, it's probably gonna ramp up even higher. This could be good, but it's not necessarily what the the D.A. has in mind. If any of you have lived in an Impact Zone it's a lot a lot a lot of blue. The boundaries he's drawing are, if I recall, Park to Nostrand, Lincoln down to Clarkson. Some have already expressed privately to me that it might make some young people nervous in the way that things got tense in East Flatbush. Let's hope not. Perhaps our block associations can foster dialogue to get the kids talking about and to the cops?

    By the way, Delroy Wright of the Flatbush Merchant's Association was also at the D.A.'s office, and he noted as I have that Ray's bodega is clean. That is, besides cleaning the glass of his bodega at the corner of Flatbush and Maple, he also heard us loud and clear and stopped letting all the hoodlums hang out there and in front. If you've a mind to, stop in and thank him for cleaning up his act. He was never actively dealing drugs out of there himself, he just didn't feel he had anyone backing him up to get the bad dudes to move along. Jack Lewis agreed - Ray has been cooperative. If you need a candy bar, buy it from Ray. I think it's helpful to show him you appreciate that he's helping to keep the area free from thuggery.

    On the other hand, "Pancakes From Hell" as I like to call the Woodruff Deli at Woodruff and Flatbush was recently host to a LOT of crack dealing. After I sent a note to the 70th Precinct based on a tip, they asked me to come down last week to look at a video they got from the deli's owner. In it, a heavy-set lady could be seen leaning over the ice-cream freezer talking on a cell-phone. The freezer, if you know the deli, faces Flatbush. A man come in and opens the freezer drawer next to her. She reaches into her mouth and pulls something out and places it on the closed drawer in front of her. He reaches down and puts his hand on top of hers, taking whatever is under hers, and places his hand in his mouth, while she takes what he's given her and puts it in her pocket. Thus the transaction is made. He walks out. She walks out a few moments later. It's quite graceful actually.

    The cops tell me the runners never have more than one baggie on them, that's why they're moving constantly. The dealers on my block are moving ALL day long. When they're not dealing, they barely move; that's how I know they're working or not. They hold the stuff in their mouth, sometimes in the butt cheeks. They don't worry about the weed of course. That's not really even a crime anymore. If they get caught, they'll swallow the narcotics. Even if they get caught with some on them, they'll plead guilty and usually spend little or no time. The dealers are tough to lock up for long too. The best way to get someone for a long time? They shoot or kill somebody. Or get caught with illegal weapons and a big stash. Those are rare busts. On my street they got a guy for heroin, crack and guns on a warrant. We'd been talking about him for awhile. I posted about a guy they got on Washington Ave recently. These are the successes. When I talk to the guys at the precincts there are lists of guys who could be next. It's really sad. On my block, there are six guys that I now know by name with long rap sheets. None of them are over 25. Most of them say hello. Is Clarkson special? Not at all.

    So, what's to be done?

    The answer I get back time and time again is NOT a) turn the other way, b) don't look, c) pretend they're not there, d) wait til gentrification happens, e) wait for winter, f) hope the cops do their job etc. It's always "let us know what's going on," "find out who these folks are," "get to know the good kids from the bad kids" "reach out" "communicate" "form block associations "get involved" "find out what the kids are saying" "say hello to neighbors" that kinda groovy stuff. And whenever a crime or funny stuff goes down, call 911. And call 911, not 311. 311 for garbage and noise. But 911 when it's something you want the cops to know about. You can blame the Q for telling you that, because the cops told me that. They need the numbers in order to justify taking action, and 911 gives them the numbers.

    Dynishal is organizing a meeting with the D.A.'s folks for the northern part of what she calls PLG on Lincoln Road. For the southern part of "Lefferts," say Woodruff, Parkside, Clarkson, Winthrop, Ocean Ave (south of, um, the townhouses?), Hawthorne, Lenox Ave...etc. or anywhere that feels like the Q train is your hometrain say, feel free to send me an email to help be part of this effort. I'd like to create an email list of people that will be kinda "block captains" for this whole D.A. thing. I really don't think it will take a lot of time, but we do need to try to take advantage of this opportunity. And who knows, maybe the D.A. will lose the election, so maybe the whole thing will be short lived. But we'll create a sort of infrastructure anyway!

    The Clarkson Ave Block Association will be hosting the first informational meeting about the effort to rid the area of guns, gangs and drugs on:

    June 12, 2013
    40 Clarkson Ave
    Basement Community Room
    7:30 PM

    You're all invited to join us and hear what the D.A.'s office is offering in the way of ideas and support. Remember, they claim to have "never failed."

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  • 06/02/13--12:48: Triple Shooting on Lenox
  • As if to illustrate the need the point in the previous post and comments, just minutes ago a triple shooting took place on the north side of Lenox. Not sure about fatalities yet. Police have close off the block between Flatbush and Bedford. Helicopters above. Rumors abound. I won't pretend to guess what actually happened, and the info I do have is just from three separate reports off various wires. The cops wouldn't let us anywhere near the apartment building.

    By the way, you're free to email me with info you're uncomfortable sending to the cops. At this point my phone is full of numbers of law enforcement people, so what the hey, why not make them useful.

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  • 06/03/13--04:31: A.M. NY
  • You're Right. Everyone's entitled to their reaction. I ditched that last silly post.

    But no, it's not everyday a maniac shoots people at 50 Lenox. Though truthfully, the block's got a couple problem spots. Ask anyone who lives there. As with so many blocks around here, vast majority great people...few rough spots holding the block hostage. Same story over and over.

    And lest we think we're alone, it was a particularly bloody weekend:

    25 people shot in 48 hours.

    I hope that residents of the block will join the community effort to help rid the neighborhood of those chronic hot spots.

    Please join us June 12 at 40 Clarkson, 7:30, basement community room. The D.A.'s office will layout the plan that's worked again and again elsewhere. Come share your thoughts.

    As for cops "on the take" that I've heard mentioned on a previous thread, it's a heavy accusation. If you have credible info, I hope you're prepared to share it with the D.A. It's not "the only explanation" for why the drug trade persists. Most of the drug dealing around here is pretty low level for a cop to risk his career over. But yeah, it could happen. I recall they got some dirty cops not too long ago not far away. But come learn about why it's hard to keep low level dealers off the street, and why despite the fact people say the cops have known about the drug trade for years and "do nothing about it," that's often not the case. Hear their side, and share yours, and let the d.a. know. And please call 911.

    Lighthearted story to start your day. A guy from the Wall Street Journal called me yesterday when it was going down. He said he got my number from someone who said I was an activist and wanted some information. I said no, I'm not an activist, I'm a blogger. He said "oh, o.k." and hung up.

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  • 06/03/13--20:00: ICH - End of An Era
  • The little coffee shop that could never really did. So many times I wanted it to be, but Abdo didn't have a Bohemian Barista's hands, his touch was more like that of a Digital Geppetto. He's now returned his shop on Parkside to a less complicated straight up computer repair shop. I can attest to his skills and good prices, and now his signage accurately reflects the work going on inside. I still miss the good bagels and coffee flavored coffee, but I wish him luck in his more pure vision for repair work. Don't schlep to Tekserve; go to Abdo and spend your duckets locally. (I'm suddenly reminded of long departed blog Across the Park and a piece Alex did on Internet Coffee Shop many, many moons ago before ICH even opened. It's still filed away on a corner of the interweb, six years being an eternity in the blogosphere.)

    Then there's this joint below, also on Parkside, which seems to be going out of business. I've never seen a Western Union Check Cashing Digicell EZ Pass store having a going-out-of-busines "fainal" sale before though. I had fun imagining them heavily discounting telegrams and EZ Passes, til I realized they also had a lot of what was probably quickly unloaded and turned-to-cash jewelry. So maybe they're trying to just as quickly sell it back. Hey, and if they make a little money on the deal, that would be a great business model. They could even hold it for awhile as collateral and sell it back to the very people who they got it from at a hefty mark-up, then sell it if need be when the original owners can't pay up. That's a million dollar idea, Q!

    Oh, wait. That's a pawn shop.

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    Since Mrs. Q and I moved to Clarkson 10 years ago we've battled now and again with our hulking neighbors 35 Clarkson over any number of things, from people throwing garbage out their windows to drugs and drunken fights. It's not been horrible day in and day out, and there are plenty of fine folks in the building, but it's been enough of a pain that I've made an attempt to bond with the owner and managing agent, and over the last year we identified the gang members in a particular apartment and have been working with them and the 71st and the block association to get them out. Finally, with the help of cameras and a number of arrests, the owners were able to evict the family in question. It was obvious to anyone on the block what was going on. Junkies would scream up at 5 in the morning (not cool,'re blowing their cover! even dealers need sleep!) Our dealers attracted other thugs, so it was kinda Thug Central Station for awhile. The building across the street installed bright lighting, which forced us all to get better curtains, cuz you could have played major league baseball in our bedroom at night. Where am I going with this?  (By the way our bedroom isn't big enough to play baseball. I was referring to the light. You might be able to play a cramped badminton on a rainy day, but it wouldn't be much fun given the lamps. Badminton is another one of those words I always have to look up. Maybe if I started pronouncing it correctly that would help. You know, with the 'n' in it. Of course, I rarely have use for the word, so maybe it's not worth the effort, any more than it's worth writing this sentence. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice day!)

    Oh yes. A few months ago, the managing agent John tells me they're going to convert to condo. I laughed "Yeah, right. Are they giving mortgages to crackheads now? You think it's still early 2007? Gimme a break Johnny boy!!!" That's why they wanted the worst offenders out. I'd noticed that some apartments were staying vacant longer than you'd imagine being profitable. (I've since learned this is called "warehousing," an unscrupulous practice that allows the owner to sell more units when the building gets approved for conversion). They've been doing work on the building non-stop for the past year and now...ladies and gentlemen. THIS is what they're selling:

    They used a wide angle because frankly, the building don't look so hot. According to DNA Info, ALL 14 of the listed condo apartments were snatched up in ONE night. With backup buyers, and at listed rates between $200K and $400K. Dougie Elliman is showing the goods.

    So basically I've known this place as a bit of a problem, the sort of place when they do work on the plumbing rats end up in our yard. The place where, when I started trying to turn our backyard mud pit into a garden, and we can see the west facing apartment windows, a guy would stick his ying-yang out the window and let his yellow mother nature fly on a regular basis. And one time I just got so fed up I looked up and yelled "you stick that thing out the window one more time I'm gonna shoot it off with my shotgun!" He never did it again. Never mind I don't have a shotgun and I don't know how to shoot. Then there was the time kids were throwing eggs on me from the roof, and I ran through my house and into 35 (the door was never locked) and charged up the stairs and heard doors shutting behind them and I yelled "you kids better cut it out. You don't want to mess with a crazy retired COP!!" Honestly, I don't know where the words came from, but I'm pretty sure word got around because people pretty much leave me alone.

    And now this is how they're trying to market that very same "lobby":

    and "interior garden":

    and the apartments?

    Look. It doesn't need any commentary from me. The pictures say it all.

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  • 06/05/13--16:52: Shots Fired on Hawthorne
  • UPDATE 12:15AM: To the commenter with a description, and to anyone who saw the shooter, please call the detective's squad at 718-735-0500. They may need people to corroborate descriptions or look at mugshots. You will not be asked to confront anyone in person or put yourself in harms way. Thanks!

    UPDATE 10:44PM: This will be the third "ratcheting up" of police presence in as many weeks, if my tally is correct of statements to that effect by the Deputy Inspector. At this rate we'll all have our own body guards by Labor Day.

    Feel free to keep commenting away. I have nothing to add. I forwarded the description of the shooter (thank you Anon) to everyone who should have it and I'm hoping this all leads somewhere useful in the end. Right now, it just seems surreal and designed to ensure that the District Attorney does not leave the meeting on June 12th without a sense that the neighborhood is quite tired of business as usual. He's confirmed by the way. 40 Clarkson. Be there.

    From two friends come word of shots fired on Hawthorne between Flatbush and Bedford. From one account, a shooter shot twice then yelled "take that nigga."

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    Remember that dude who led the charge for the Pop-Up Gallery at the old Mike's International on Flatbush, the space that's become the hair place "feel?" His name is Brian Fernandes-Halloran, also of PLG Arts. Brian is a super guy and his art is both approachable and full of criss-crossing layers of meaning and sophistication. (That's me being a visual art critic, and to quote Will from the musical "Oklahoma" That's About As Fur as I Can Go.)

    The opening for Brian's big show is happening tomorrow, Friday, on the island of Manhattan (bridges and tunnels have been specifically designed to get you there), and I encourage you all to go out and support our local hero.

    Old Toys and Lost Friends

    Opening Friday June 7th, 6-9 PM

    287 Spring Street Gallery & Performance Space

    287 Spring St. NY, NY 10013 

    It may rain, but studies show that assemblage works actually look better on rainy days :)
    here are some links:
    FRONTRUNNER Magazine Interview about the work
    Facebook Event page for the opening
    287 Spring exhibition page

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    Some of you may recall the Q opining that the primary problem (and there are many) with traffic on Flatbush is that there just ain't room for six slots - parking on each side and two lanes of traffic each way. Just one double-parker and it's like a House of Cars; pretty soon everything just falls apart. I fantasized that the long awaited Congestion Corridor project would reduce the driving lanes and create turn lanes where needed, thereby effectively telling dollar vans and speeders to cool it with the crazy lane changes and vroom vrooms. I've been biking up and down Flatbush and watching traffic closely (I know I know after my accident I should be riding on Bedford, but the Q is Qurious like a Quat), and I'm convinced that it would actually make traffic snarls less likely not more.

    So how great was it to have DOT come down to the Ed Fanning-led Transportation Committee on Monday and propose EXACTLY that? They'll lay out the plan for the public at the full Board meeting. It's a no-brainer, though I'm sure the Scarecrow will be there complaining about reduced lanes of traffic.Hopefully the Lion and Tinman and Toto will have the votes needed to send the strawman packing. Here's a picture from the presentation, taken by none other than Ed's much younger brother Quest:

    When the work to be done? SEPTEMBER! THIS September. Dang, that's gonna be a huge change, for the better I reckon.

    There's also a plan to fix the boondoggle that is Lincoln/Washington/Flatbush, and to create a dedicated right turn lane when traveling south on Flatbush when you hit Empire.

    Which leads me to the topic of the Flatbush Trees.

    Folks.............DOT loved the application. We've been approved! That means, as soon as we finish raising the money (they're giving us as much as $2,000 to start) we can create a truly beautiful piece of art out of those ugly green eyesores. WE GOT APPROVED! The trees are going to finally get a make-over, and it may be that this becomes a revolving art project every couple years, as well as the beginning of reclaiming the whole plaza. They're going to help us at every step of the way. If you don't recall, PLG Arts signed on as partners, and we'll be working with middle-schoolers to create the hexagons needed to create le piece. So tired. Must sleep. Sleep.

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    From the NY Times:

    There, there. It's gonna be all right. Poppa Sulzberger's got it all under control.

    By the way, that line about Crips and Bloods wearing blue and red bandanas is misleading, and lifted from, I dunno, a documentary streamed on Netflix or something. Yes, occasionally you see bandanas in pockets, but the colors things is an overused topic of conversation, just ask the experts. The gang guys even switch back and forth these days, and they may call themselves part of a big scary gang but only be a half dozen guys living on a block and acting out a fantasy. Would be nice though if the bad guys DID wear uniforms, wouldn't it?

    A commenter has posted on a previous post about the NY Times article, and a commenter on the gangs colors thing. So I'm just going to add:

    It gets to my much repeated point that it doesn't much matter after you've been arrested a dozen times what you wear. The cops know you, they know your history. You're basically just trying not to get caught, simple as that. Being in the gang is not a crime. We do have a Constitution after all. You have to actually commit a crime to go to jail. And selling weed and even small amounts of narcotics doesn't usually put you away very long. A plea of guilty gets you even less. The question is...what happens when a kid gets tired of the street life and wants to change? What's available then? And take eight steps back. What happens when a kid is presented with a choice to join the street life or not? Is someone there to offer an alternative? That's really what we're talking about. Right, Duane? Didn't you say the Council for Unity saved you from just such a fate? I'm looking forward to telling your story on the blog. It's so deeply important.

    Down my way, the guys have taken to wearing varsity jackets. It's a funny look. One guy also started wearing these very studious looking glasses. The combination with his jeans hanging to mid-thigh is a real head-twister.

    Before folks get too riled up about the Times making distinctions between the leafy blocks of the Manor and more hardscrabble blocks around it, I think it's important to remember that it was the perspective of the writers and a couple interviewees, not the neighborhood at large. We all share the same streets, shops, train stations on a daily basis. If you happen to live on a quiet block, that doesn't mean that the dynamics of the larger neighborhood are not important to you, nor does it mean that violence or drugs don't spill out over borders. And it's still a choice - you can ignore all of this if you want, and that's fine. I really mean it. I don't think any of you reading this are particularly unsafe, and if reading this stuff freaks you out too much then limit your intake. I have to do that with politics - better for my health!

    The crime that's happened lately is either a) random and anomalous or b) part of a troubling trend. You get different perspectives depending on who you ask. Some like to look at the 25 year slide in crime and shrug their shoulders. That was me, til recently. Two years ago, I identified what I chose to call answer B - troubling trend, and have been working under that assumption ever since. If you agree, let's start being more proactive about neighborhood watches, demanding appropriate attention and services, working with all available outlets (CB9 and CB14, precincts 71 and 70 and 67, PLGNA, block associations, C.O.P. program and most recently - the D.A.'s office). If each of us just took one small chunk and started doing that bit on a regular basis it would add up.

    I think Eric Adams' idea of block captains is starting to sound pretty good right about now. A database of people - two on each block - who meet once a month to discuss trends on their block, with presence by the precincts and district attorney, and maybe even social service groups. You have two people on each block so one can make it if the other is busy that night.

    Back to work...

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  • 06/08/13--21:22: Trash is Trash
  • Was out sleuthing the sludge the other day, looking for the worst offending dumpers of detritus, when I came across this uncomely sight at 700 Flatbush, or rather, between 698 and 700 Flatbush:

    I'm giving you two views so you can gain a true appreciate for the depth of the dump.

    The folks at Beautiful You are good about cleaning in front of their store, and can't be expected to deal with this level of crap on a regular basis. It's actually a tree pit right in front of a slim alley that's behind the mammoth 225 Parkside, you know the building that houses Popeye's and Family Pizza etc. So technically, it's their responsibility, not any of the commercial establishments. Now I was getting somewhere, because I've called and gotten them to deal with their mountains of trash before. So I sent Pearl Miles the deets, expecting it to be days before anyone dealt with it over at DSNY. I mean there was like dried cement from a construction job in there and everything. But by mid-afternoon, this tree pit, which had been covered in garbage for more than a week was cleaned up.  And sure enough, Pearl had arranged everything.

    Thanks Pearl. She really does know how to get things done. When you're at your wits end about garbage, or just about anything having to do with City services, please, please, please call her. (718) 778-9279. Don't expect Mary Tyler Moore in the phone manners department and you'll be pleasantly surprised; Pearl is a lot of fun and she'll always shoot straight. No bull, ever. Or if you prefer a little bull, you could post here if you like and I'll call her. I can do bull, no problem.

    I'd like to think Sanitation would just take care of this stuff, but I guess they like to be reminded that we really love them and need them.

    Next up, dealing with that sand pit on the sidewalk near the Wendy's. Remember when I called Pearl and told her about that hole? Well, they came and filled it in with sand. And like a fool, I just assumed someone would come along and eventually fill it in with, I dunno, cement?

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    Last weekend, it was Maple II. Great job guys...mellow, friendly, like the block itself. Ageless cover rock band Bangstrum was there nailing the Doobies (the band) and it felt like one of the true first days of summer.

    This weekend, it's Rutland I, and they always throw down. Proceeds benefit the Lefferts Montessori. Stoop sale, a krazy kool raffle, that knife sharpening guy, a bouncy house (remember not to get your knives too close to the inflatable bouncy house), I'm telling you this is among the best BPs of the summer.  

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    Well folks, it appears to be happening. 626 has closed, and Hudson's ready to roll.

    626 Flatbush.

    Le post previous on le subject.

    Regarding comments below about the other big apartment projects:

    Chetrit's still plodding along on Parkside. Tom Anderson said they were up for another shot at public financing in June for Lincoln Road. I'll drop him a line. Everybody wants these things done yesterday, huh?

    Always with the schpilkas! They'll happen when they happen. What, you're gonna get out there and help them throw up some gyp-board?

    Seriously though, I've been watching the wheels go around both here and in other parts of Brooklyn very closely. And I'm wondering...what exactly is it that you makes y'all so sure a big tower goes up, and things get clean and tidy and less gangstery? And how does that happen, exactly? I mean, the police ARE paying very close attention, and have been, and a lot of things they've been watching I can't even tell you about because it really could muck things up if word got out. I'm serious...not that we've got Einstein and Holmes on the case, but there are cops out there, believe it or not, so I'm not sure a single building would, by itself, spell the difference.

    I think one commenter nailed it when he/she talked about strolling Flatbush. Because of the perception of danger, families don't really shop or hang on the Flabenue, making it LESS safe, and that feeds on itself. Businesses have no need to cater to types of business that doesn't exist, and the cycle continues. Lighting is spotty; supers and biz owners don't shoo away loiterers. Dogs are allowed to terrify people. This stuff ain't rocket science. What I'm saying is if more people WENT there and hung out, fewer knuckleheads would hang there. And if more people hung out, more 911 calls would come in complaining about unacceptable behavior and trash. That's really a big part of what changes - perception. There's other stuff too of course, but that's what I saw happen on Smith Street, long before it became restaurant row. And folks, it was DANGEROUS in 1989. No joke. Then I saw it on 5th Ave. And Vanderbilt. And Dekalb. And Murder, I mean Myrtle. And Franklin...

    And I'm looking at this issue as closely as I can for a guy with a family with a full time job. It's fascinating stuff. I keep coming back to the book "There Goes the 'Hood." by Lance Freeman, mostly because it's the only full book I've had a chance to read since, I dunno, Voyage of the Dawn Treader or something, but also because he notes the both micro and macro ways that change happens.

    These days I'm watching a slow motion soap opera on my street, and the story is not at all linear. And real people get lost and bruised in the shuffle. There's more white folk on block, to be sure. Has quality of life gotten better? Me and (30 year resident and co-conspirator) Janice were talking last night and the answer is...sorta, not really. And very few people, at the end of the day, give a damn about the big picture.

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