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  • 09/25/14--18:41: Red Tail Hawk Is Back
  • Thanks to Rob B. for this confirmation that our red-tailed friend has returned to the top of 160 Parkside, probably a fave roost for breeding. Soon he'll have an even taller lookout over towards Flatbush and Chester. (Dang, thought I'd make it through a whole post without mentioning nabe change.)



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  • 09/25/14--18:57: PPEN Reclaims High Ground
  • Been looking for some statement from the good folks at the Prospect Park East Network, the group who really transformed this sleepy neighborhood seemingly overnight and organized the reasonable and legal response to what it saw as an overgrown injustice growing from the ground at 626. Little did the Q know all those months ago that he'd learn so much about the way the City and State do business, and the way people REALLY feel about what's transpiring. It's been an intense year of larnin.' The Edumucation of Mr. FlatBed.

    Tonight, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what went down this week, and looking up at the stars in the middle of nowhere as I am right now, no moon in the sky, shooting stars abound, the Milky Way as plain as the chill in your bones in mountain air, I'm reminded that this is actually not my people's holiday, this New Year, but for today I'm an honorary member of the Tribe, sneaking out of the City for last weekend of r'n'r and apple pickin due to the holiday at the Public Schools. What a luxury. It is a New Year. Things feel different. There's unfinished business, and there's a lot left to learn, listen and engage.

    To put it simply, it's clear that one way or another, people's voices will be heard, whether they "win" or "lose." For that, we can begin this new year with gratitude for the human spirit, feisty, loving and always looking for a better alternative. It's never too late to get it a little more right.

    From PPEN:


    Prospect Park East Network is a group of residents from PLG.We came together out of the need to protect our community from the effects of the luxury development that has penetrated our neighborhood.
    The most glaring of these projects has been the development of the 23 story luxury tower at 626 Flatbush Ave. that is being built by Hudson companies. We are very much aware of the racial, economic and class overtones and undertones of such a building and have never sought to hide these facts. As a matter of fact, these ideas have always been at the forefront of our mantra.
    We are unwilling to allow any misguided accusations to lead us from our primary purpose which is to band together as one in an effort to maintain the beauty, diversity and uniqueness of our community.
    We cannot afford to be confused or distracted by those who have defined us based on their own fears and limitations. To do this would be to play right into the hands of those who do not have our best interest. As we destroy each other with unfounded accusations, we weaken our strength as a community. The developers and the powers that be look forward to such a blundering mistake. It allows them to strategize even further for their own benefit as we fight each other.
    It is real simple; there is a 23 story luxury tower going up before our very eyes. By the very definition of the term "luxury" in the grand scheme of today's developers, most of us in this community will be excluded from the grand opening in the "community center" and most of us will be excluded from any schools that may be provided by Hudson companies.
    And how many of us will qualify for the 250 apartments of which only 50 are slated as affordable units and of course the affordable is questionable.
    Again, Prospect Park East Network  is a group of sincerely concerned residents who do not wish to exclude any of the members of our community who are willing to work along with us to provide the best living conditions for all. In the words of the late great Ruby Dee "we are in this thing together"

    PPEN





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    CLICK HERE TO GIVE!!! HALF THE WAY THERE!

    We're at $4,300 with just days to go before the deadline of September 30! If you gave already...thank you! (Please suh, may I have some moh?) If you haven't, you gotta give now! Because...

    The first five people to give $200 or more get one of these FANTASTIC drawings by the artist David Eppley. He's like way, way, way on his way up (he gets shows all over the place and commissions up the wazzoo), and the gifts that you'll get, suitable for framing, are pictured here, all titled "Studies for Crowd Control," in pen, ink and paper at 9x12 size. $200 to own a piece of history! On the IOBY site, the donors are listed in the order in which they come - we'll contact the winners presently!







    The video will tell you more about the project to resurrect those dilapidated sheet metal trees at the intersection of Empire/Flatbush/Ocean.

    I don't ask for much in return for whatever entertainment you may derive from this dorky blog. Can I count on you to help, even a wee bit? I thought so!!


    Oh, and if you don't mind, could you send a link of this to everyone you know, and who ever lived around here? It would be great if there were a worldwide aspect to this campaign. Because folks, Flatbush is a neighborhood with an extraordinary history, full of extraordinary people, and its coolest days are behind it, ahead of it, and all around it. I know that's more than 100%, but hey, so's Flatbush. It's alive, it's you, it's me. It's NYC to a capital NYC. It's America as it could be. Except for the street trash...but we're working on that!

    sincerely,
    tim "theQ" thomas

    THANKS TO ALL THE DONORS THUS FAR!! YOU'RE THE Q'S HEROES!!!

    • Jane R.
    • Joanie and Bill Schaffer
    • Mark D.
    • Greer & Jonah
    • in c.
    • HOUSEOFCAKES
    • Leon H.
    • Anonymous
    • Joseph D. Borrero
    • Jeff Gross
    • Anonymous
    • Ingrid
    • Barbara Ann Rogers
    • Mary S.
    • Pavani T.
    • Liena Zagare
    • Roberta W.
    • Mary Miller
    • Rina Kleege
    • Barrie Koegel
    • JoshG
    • Saulnier Family
    • Arthur G.
    • Jackie And Stan M.
    • Skobie
    • Adrienne R.
    • A. B.
    • Marie Spinney
    • BG
    • wendy c.
    • Kimplicated
    • MicheleCetera Architect
    • Anonymous
    • Jenna Cardinale
    • Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte
    • Barbara Ann Rogers
    • William Stover
    • Anonymous
    • Andrew Woodward
    • Daniel Kristjansson
    • Jeanne Gerrity
    • Anonymous
    • Heimbach S.
    • Gayle Price
    • Anonymous
    • Natalie Beall
    • Julia and Hannah's mom
    • Anonymous
    • Paige B.
    • Cheryl,Sealey4
    • Anonymous
    • Sara Keenan
    • Miles Farmer
    • Liz Munch
    • Ryann & Chris I
    • Lou
    • Gerard Middleton
    • Diana L.
    • Anonymous
    • Anonymous
    • Jeffery Welch
    • Elona P.
    • Stephen Warner
    • Bob Marvin
    • Henry
    • Gary
    • David W
    • The Hellman-Shamos Family
    • Anonymous
    • Agnieszka T.
    • Distant friend of the hood
    • Barbara R.
    • Anonymous
    • Anonymous
    • Suzanne Cooke
    • George Plimpton
    Total Funding Needed: $9,880
     





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  • 10/01/14--06:58: We Did It!!
  • With offline donations, we reached our goal for the Flatbush Trees project! IOBY, unlike Kickstarter, does not "take back" the money raised if you don't reach the online goal. But you all came through, including a wonderful gift from Lefferts Manor Association at the wire. Oh, and special thanks to the Fanning family, who was not thanked in the earlier post.

    We're moving forward. Look out Flatbush. You're about to get a brilliant colorful makeover.


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    I expect another rollicking meeting tomorrow, and with the "rock star" of the anti-development movement, former City Planner Tom Angotti, on hand to bash his old colleagues at the Department of City Planning, you never know where it will lead. (What did they do over there, give him nonstop wedgies? And what, is he like "on tour" or something?) It's great to see people meeting and organizing and engaging the City rather than passively watching and gawking. The Q's hat is off to his parallel neighbors on Lenox. I hear this is a great group, and if you live in the vicinity, please do join them at the mighty Lenox Road Baptist Church at Nostrand.








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  • 10/01/14--11:02: Choice and Race
  • The first big racial makeover of Flatbush happened when white "chose" to move out. Granted, there were negative incentives - the infamous block-busters warned folks of impending doom if they didn't run for the suburbs. We've since learned that developers on Long Island and New Jersey and the Island of Staten helped fuel the exodus, implicitly and explicitly supporting the block-buster phenomenon. The dangled choice looked pretty good, given the darkening on the horizon.

    Black folks, by and large, CHOSE Flatbush as a home. Caribbean Americans too. Not that their choices weren't restricted by the prevailing anti-black prejudice. For instance, Bensonhurst and Windsor Terrace remained nearly all-white, and are still remarkably non-black. And of course, the ever-present price-per-square-foot analysis, and whether or not people from similar islands and nations resided here.

    White folks now are CHOOSING to live in Flatbush (Lefferts, Caledonia, Caton, Ditmas, PPS) for its location and its price per square foot. Some of the movement was speculative; neighborhoods become more "desirable" with upward mobility, and the "bet" payed off for buyers. But some chose to live here, either reflecting their ease in the neighborhood, and/or of course, the ever-present price-per-square-foot.

    Current residents of Flatbush are being FORCED to leave in droves. They don't want to go. You hear it in the stories and you see it in the numbers. Not all are people of color. Far from it. Current tenants, often pawns in the game, are flummoxed by landlords lack of interest in keeping them. Who, me? For every one lucky longtime homeowner who "cashed out" after years of being the local gentry, there are dozens more priced out or "eased" out by landlord practices and market forces. It's easy to focus ire on developers; their projects are so much more visible than person to person demoralization and dehumanization that characterizes so much apartment busting.

    It's not the same. It's simply not the same. Some recent commenters have tried to suggest that:

    a) race is not an issue
    b) class is not an issue
    c) to discuss race and class exacerbates the issues of race and class
    d) that this is merely a "free market" doing its thing
    e) that it's no different than previous racial changes and therefore benign

    I'm actually stunned that anyone would want to explain the de-blackifying of NYC on the basis of pure, unadulterated cost analysis. Because how black a neighborhood IS, to a large extent, IS the COST ANALYSIS itself.

    Fairly consistently for decades, the same house on one side of the Park has been twice what it is on the other side. You can't tell me that the reason is solely, as it was in the early 1990s, because of Little Things and Snooky's and Grand Canyon and then Two Boots. Equidistant from the Park and Garden and Library, with somewhat similar apartment and housing stock, and solid public transportation, the neighborhoods continue to serve as a case study. Fifth Ave was hardly a gourmand's paradise. Boutiques? Origami Classes? Those things didn't even exist to explain away the difference. There was even significant crime back then, before the whole CIty seemed to settle down post-crack turf-warfare.

    I think most of you get it. I suspect most of you did your own cost analysis, whether you're black OR white or both or neither. I've come to believe that we are all both symptom and cause of the cost analysis. It's damning, and it's frightening. Not just in the ways that show our glaring differences. But in the ways they continue to mask our sameness.

    I never would have thunk I'd have to defend what's as clear as the pink nose on my face. Not in Brooklyn. Not in NYC.

    I'm not trying to give you a hard time. I'm not trying to bring down the system. I'm resigned to describing, and reacting as best I can. I wish I had my own brain paired with Em Topps balls. Iron balls. Seriously iron balls on that one.




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  • 10/01/14--20:46: Sneaking Down On You
  • Here's one that snuck up on us. For $5 million bucks, you can buy a space I didn't even know you could buy, just next to the beloved Botanic Gardens. No, not that strange tiny triangular space on the east side past the S train tracks (the picture of what you could build there is hysterical - designed for wee people with a triangular design aesthetic). No I'm talking about this space:


    As reported by Joyce Chen at something called buzzbuzzhome.com, this could soon be something akin to:

    More than 20,000 buildable square feet in all. Granted it's no behemoth, but did you ever imagine that space wasn't owned by, I dunno, the City or something? I'm wondering how they fit the giant communications tower into the prospectus? "Marble countertops, Sub Zero refrigerators, and in an emergency, you'll never lose your connection to Emergency Command Center directives." Maybe with Empire Blvd becoming the Champs d'Elysees, you could imagine you're living next door to the Eiffel Tower?

    So while Rome fiddles and Nero burns, the march south continues. Would be nice to have a, er, Planning Study to look at how all this random development could and should look. I wonder where we might get one of those?

    If this scene keeps up, below, taken by your trusty correspondent at last week's community board brawl, it'll get harder and harder to imagine any kinds of limits on anything. Imagine the 13 seconds below, plus another two hours of same, and you'll get a sense of what we endured:


    After enduring insults and gross accusations, not to mention the serving of a baseless lawsuit, Pearl Miles then read the basis for and the resolution itself, during which she was shouted down for doing so. At one point she couldn't take it anymore and started shouting "Shut up, shut up" and that episode, caught on video, is now making the rounds to show how arrogant she and CB9 are.

    And now, apparently, for doing a study of zoning in the district, we will also lose J'ouvert, according to this guy. How on earth do you get there? One of NYC's signature events will be stopped by a zoning study? Why? Because the luxury-livers who have already signed the leases on the 25th Floor of their decadent flats can't handle a street scene? Shoulda been on Central Park West a couple weekends ago. Those folks endured a scene louder and messier than even their annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, and it lasted hours longer than J'ouvert. Okay, it was mostly during the day, but still. I effing love J'Ouvert and would go to the mat for it. The blog that claims J'Ouvert's imminent demise is a Steel Pan blog, and you and I both know that Steel Pan blogs are generally known for their moderate and objective coverage of Planning Studies. So this is truly uncharacteristic.

    The hysteria around this thing is nuts. MTOPP is now going to protest the Community Board clubhouse on Nostrand next Wednesday. Don't forget to call in sick and join! By forcing out the City employee Pearl Miles as District Manager you'll halt runaway gentrification AND ensure that Empire Blvd becomes a non-residential strollers paradise.

    Madness. I couldn't MAKE this shit up.





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    It still blows the Q's mind every time I say it, but perhaps the best elementary school in our District 17 is quite a few blocks East of Lefferts. PS770, the New American Academy, burst onto the scene four years ago to disrupt the typical public school model. With few strong choices nearby, Lefferts parents started making the trek to the modernist looking building shared by failing school PS398.

    Here's a former post I did on the school. I visited a bunch and love it and the school leader Shimon Waronker. And here's their campagin to raise money for a proper arts program. Yes, 70 students per class, four teachers, teachers running the show, master teachers getting paid handsomely, slashed bureaucracy, big open spaces that can become small groups for specific lessons...and a teacher body that gets universal praise from local parents. Sure it's practically Brownsville, but so what? People travel much farther distances for schools west of here. West, East, North, South. What are they but directions on a compass? (Not Compass Charter School mind you, which is also a bit of a hike and in another district.)

    Link to the campaign.

    PS770 LET'S GET THE ARTS



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    From the Daily News:

    A 26-year-old woman was shot four times on a Brooklyn street on Saturday, authorities said.

    The young woman was on Rogers Ave. near Hawthorne St. in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens when an unidentified gunman began blasting away at her about 8:15 p.m., hitting her twice in the hip and twice in the buttocks, police said.

    Paramedics rushed the woman to Kings County Hospital, where she was listed in stable condition.

    The gunman, who may have fled the scene on a skateboard, remained at large

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    All are invited. Join the Empire, with your Emperors Desmond & Shelley and their cast of might centurions:


    You're invited to our

    Meet & Greet

    Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

    7:00 PM SHARP

    Location:
    Tafari Cafe
    593 Flatbush Avenue

    This Holiday Season we're partnering with 

     Nostrand Avenue Merchant Association (NAMA)
    &
    Community Board 9

     Hear about strategies to increase revenue & foot traffic to your business during the Holiday Season

    Don't miss out on our Holiday Fair
    &
    Small Business Saturday promotional events

    Refreshments & food provided by
    Flatbush Avenue merchants.
    The Parkside Empire is dedicated to promoting the small businesses between Parkside & Empire Blvd. We hope to unite merchants so that collectively we can promote a clean and safe shopping district

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  • 10/06/14--09:13: This Is War?

  • At the bottom of this post, if you haven't received it already, is the latest screed from Alicia Boyd, the self-annointed poobah of a ragtag group called MTOPP. If you've been following the saga you'll know that she has created an enormously antagoinist force hellbent on keeping this community from interacting with the City in one of the few ways that we can really have any hope of influence - through ULURP, the Universal Land Use Review Procedure, that allows communities a modest voice in telling the City how it wants to grow. Note the word "grow," because the City is growing, by leaps and bounds. That growth happens largely whether we want it to or not. Landowners do what they will and sell at what they can, and when they can't, they seek variances, and if those variances are in sync with a Mayor seeking to house both rich and poor, variances are usually granted. People and Community Boards can voice their opinion; but we've seen time and again that there are plenty of more powerful voices than "we the people." So be it. This City was here when we got here, by birth or by immigration, and it will be here when we leave, by death or emigration. Love it or leave it, or love AND leave it. Or stay and loathe it. The City don't care.

    Two years ago, the Q and others started noting that big D development was finally setting its sights on the east to southeastern side of Prospect Park. Some of us thought it'd have arrived here earlier, and it would have too were it not for a near meltdown of the world's economy. The forward march happened nonetheless, primarily along lines of public transportation, with or without zoning changes or resolutions or anything other than money following money. Word of a giant tower looming over Prospect Park finally galvanized some support for zoning changes that would reign in height to within reason. A "text change" maybe, but City Planning said no to that. A sliver of Flatbush and Ocean downzoned perhaps? Too costly they said, especially given the fact that it would result in fewer rather than more net new units. This brought on a further conversation about how best to mitigate the effects of big D development on rents and on the character of an extraordinary place on the American map called Lefferts Gardens. Would we start to resemble other parts of Brooklyn, so made-over, not always for the better? Would huge numbers of folks be secondarily displaced by so much frantic building and buying and renting? And yes, for a proud largely African and Caribbean American neighborhood, there was the sense that once again blacks would be sent to the back of the bus. The lucky could sell and move "back" down South. The unlucky, maybe a trip north to Poughkeepsie, my favorite stand-in name for Upstate hardscrabble towns. It was this last bit, the sense of being "colonized" by forces from without, that hit hardest and hurt most to many of our neighbors. First Harlem. Then Ft. Greene and Clinton Hill and Crown Heights and (seriously?) Bed-Stuy. Soon East New York, and Brownsville. Not that anyone was saying explicitly that diversity was bad. A few more whites, some amenities, maybe a bit less crime. But they saw how it'd happened elsewhere, and that sweet spot called "diversity" quickly dwindled to the majority becoming the minority. Predictable? Maybe. But sad, and historically familiar, just the same.

    Some, MTOPP in particular, would take this situation and turn it into something it is not. It is NOT a major rift in the way we as a community see ourselves and the world. Most smart, sane people recognize that we can do a lot but only so much. That the greatest need right now is for tenant organizers to educate people on their rights; the power of standing together is real when it comes to existing law. Also, policy wonks can curb developer abuses like "poor doors" and onerous application and lottery processes. And zoning. And planning. And study, the kind that tells you what's here and what could happen and why one way is better or worse than another.

    The process, is to do a study in concert with the community, so the City can know the temperature of a place before upsetting equilibrium. During that process, back-and-forth needs to happen. Various voices need to be heard - not just one. But there are those who want to shut down the process before it starts. They've made pronouncements about what's REALLY going on, and spread misinformation in order to further their agenda. They even call their efforts "propaganda." Their methods include bullying and obstruction and name-calling. It's a royal bummer, dude.

    The Community Board? Well, let's get real. It has very little real authority over anything. Really. It's a place to gauge sentiment, and it's made up of up to 50 people from the 100,000 or so in the district, people who can be kinda counted on to gauge what people think on an issue and render an opinion. At CB9, I know quite a few of them. They're good people. Smart. Honest. Volunteers. They want to do the right thing. They represent a wide variety of backgrounds. The majority are people of color. Quite a few are Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic Jews. There's a few regular old whites. No one seems particularly rich or lavished in patronage. Do some work, show up, be a mensch, you might get a slot.

    Let me tell you what I know about them. No one I've met wants outsized development in the neighborhood. They generally understand that the City grows and that as it does there will be changes. But the consensus I've observed is that folks want to be sure that we do everything in our power to make sure that people don't get displaced, that new apartments are built for those on the lower side of the income scale to replace the many units that have disappeared from rent stabilization or become too pricey, and that we respect the rich history of the neighborhood and do our best to maintain the low-rise nature of most of the area, lest we lose the neighborhood-ness that we love so much to the canyons that define much of Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.

    In other words, we're pretty much in super-majority agreement with most of you. So why, then, all the vile accusations and email campaigns and shouting down of fellow citizens at community meetings? Why the vitriol, and accusations of racism and Uncle Tom-ism and conspiracy and collusion with developers, and words like "war" and "lies" and mean-spirited assassinations of character?

    Only someone truly unhinged would turn a difference of opinion on how to achieve the above goals into war, and characterize the act of zoning as an act of violence on the neighborhood. Right now, because the Community Board itself is not standing up to the absurd notion that it has somehow acted with malice towards the community itself, it, CB9, has shown itself to be exactly what it is - a fairly representative group of neighborhood residents intent on helping, but hardly the sort of organized constitutional body capable of countering a full-on negative war of words. Right now, it's even more disorganized than ever, with new leadership and tons of new members. Even if most of us were appointed by this Borough President or the last, most of us were not close friends with either of them. We put in applications, we were deemed "worthy enough" and asked to take an oath to be honest and not vote when having conflicts of interest. I know of no developers on the Board. I know of know convicted pedophiles for that matter. I know of no psychopaths or even reality television actors. All members have but one brain and most have two arms and two legs and various lengths of hair on the head, face and elsewhere. In other words, they appear to be humans.


    Last Spring, sensing the urgency to act, we sought counsel from the neighborhood, and did what is required. We sent a letter (okay, resolution if you must. It was a letter, okay?) to City Planning asking that it consider beginning a study of the neighborhood giving this that and the other concerns that had been raised at the listening sessions. The district manager, being a good writer and knowing all the people this letter was intended to reach, created the letter. We voted to approve and send it. Should it have gone back to committee? In hindsight, probably. Had we done so, it most likely would have sailed through, since nothing in it seemed odious or damning. The language was left vague on purpose. And probably should have left out any specific notions of where to place additional housing - AFFORDABLE HOUSING mind you - though it was plain to anyone that you can't build in the historic district and that Empire Boulevard is hardly the Champs Elysee, so new housing would go there, on Flatbush, on the other avenues, and on lots along the streets. This seemed like a reasonable place to start, Planning agreed, and we met a few times in small groups to start the consideration of what part of the district to look at first.

    That's it. That's what happened. And now all this.

    Yours truly has been doing his best to stop the juggernaut of misinformation and convince all involved to be the adults and counter the ridiculous accusations and now lawsuits that are only making it harder to talk to one another and to the City about what we need and want in this community. I guess that's the point. Keep us from talking, make us look foolish, make us turn on each other. It's heartbreaking, really.

    Meanwhile, the Whirling Dervish of Sterling Street has scared everybody silly. I'm doing my best to stand up to her self-serving divisiveness, but I can only do so much. This has become a fight against gentrification. And if you ask this observer, it's VERY much about NIMBYism of the folks owning townhomes on Sterling. It's a lovely block. No one is talking about bringing bulldozers to destroy it. But we DO want to talk. They're deadset on not letting us. And as I write this, they're creating a parallel document to the one that CB9 created. Fine. We should look at it. But we shouldn't be taken hostage if we disagree. Let the Board calmly look at the issues. There are LOTS more community meetings to come. Nothing has been decided, and nothing is set in stone.

    But if we do nothing, I've learned exactly what will happen. Haphazard development. Backdoor deals. Developers buying up multiple lots, using loopholes, paying for small zoning studies, building whatever they want. We won't have a chance to tell the City about our needs for height restrictions and affordable housing.

    In essence, we get nothing.

    In the below email from Alicia, the latest but surely not the last, you'll see the degree to which she's intent on inflaming passions. Fine. But then she goes on to basically do the study for City Planning. Most of what she writes here is pure conjecture, and I have it on authority, her conjecture is actually fabrication. Fine again. If we want to let a raving lunatic decide whether or not we're going to get ANY affordable housing, and whether we're going to get to work with the City to determine our future, then follow her lead. Having systematically alienated and horrified every potential ally that this neighborhood has, she now thinks she can dictate to City Planning how to do its study. In a recent email to me she said that she "will be the first woman of color to ever win the total downzoning of a neighborhood." Given that Planning won't even look at rezoning a whole neighborhood without considering where it can build new housing, I find that a pretty far-fetched goal. More likely, she'll succeed in wearing us all out, to the point where we all give up and just let the buildings grow where they may and at whatever height. Because they're coming. And now that MTOPP has officially pissed off everyone who could possibly help us mitigate the worst, I can guarantee you they won't be asking our advice.

    In particular, I wonder whether she's even thought through the fact that the CB is just advisory when she says things like:

    What we are asking at this point is for this resolution to be withdrawn and a new one created. One that has tighter controlsto ensure we are not taken advantage of.

    Tighter controls? The resolution has "controls?" All the resolution does is to start the process of the study. We don't control. We advise. There is no "ensuring" to be done. Either we work with and advise, or we scream and yell and go home empty handed.

    The choice is clear to me. I hope you'll stand up for sanity, if called upon. Or at the very least, take pity on those of us trying to do right by the neighborhood in an atmosphere of utter madness.

    From your new community leader, the only one with the guts and wherewithal to lead, the one and only Alicia Boyd:

    Many came into a battle
    and didn’t even realize there was a war!
    But now that you know,
    it behooves you to truly know the facts
    Before irrevocabledamage is done to our community.
      
    then after some business, she launches into the full pitch:
    Now for more specific stuff. 
    MTOPP wasn’t opposed to the entire resolution,
    we were opposed to two sentences in that resolution
    that would have acted like a Trojan Horse
    and undermine everything that we did not want to happen –

    Paragraph 4) Increase residential and retail density along transit and commercial corridors
    - Allow contextual mixed-use developments along commercial corridors including Empire Boulevard.

    First, from the minutes of the meeting it clearly denotes Pearl Miles,
    an office manager, as the sole author of this document. 
    So the question is asked, who ever uses words like corridors,
    contextual developments, residential density?
    These are highly specific words that planning people are familiar
    with but surely not the layman,
    which implies she was helped or may not even be the author?

    Second, let’s see what it really means. 
    Well along transit and commercial corridors
    in this context means major streets
    that have transit access and commercial zoning.
    This would mean, Washington Ave, Bedford Ave, Flatbush Ave.
    And remember it said includingEmpire Blvd,
    which means more than just Empire Blvd. 

    Yes Empire Boulevard is the only one that is commercial
    but all the other corridors have transitaccess,
    so it includes those as well!

    Third, what is going to happen on these corridors,
    you are going to increase residential density. 
    This means adding more people into the community,  
    because residentialmeans  residences - apartments, condo, coops etc…
    which equals people.
    Where? On corridors that have transit access and commercial zoning.

    Fourth, it goes even further
    and says it will do contextual development. 
    Some of these corridors already have residential development,
    so if you are going to add, it will have to be up, right? 
    But how far up,  it will be contextual. 
    That means City Planning will look around
    and say what is high in this community
    and let’s build to that height, being within context!

    Fifth, let’s look at our community
    and see what are the highest buildings
    that are near our transit and commercial  corridors.
    On Flatbush Ave you now will have a 23 story building (626 Flatbush)
    On Washington Ave there is the Tivoli Towers which is 24? stories.
    On Empire Blvd there is Ebberts fields that are 25 stories.

    Thus these two simple lines,
    that Tim Thomas said was so innocent
    and nothing for us to complain about
    Could give the power to City Planning to build 20 -25 story buildings
    all along Washington Ave, Flatbush Ave and Empire Boulevard! 
    What is deemed the most expensive and valuable property,
    because of its proximity to the Park and Garden.

    Is this what we want?

    There was no restriction to this resolution,
    there was nothing that said not Flatbush, not Washington Ave,
    all it said was including Empire Boulevard,
    and why because if they didn’t pinpoint
    an area they wanted to develop
    that sentence would not have went pass the few players involved. 
    But it just added Empire it did not exclude Flatbush. 
    All the players had,
    that were pushing for this resolution,
    was City Planning’sword
    that they will be “negotiating” with Community Board 9
    as the study was going on.

    City Planning said this resolution was one of the best resolutions
    they have ever gotten from a Community Board
    because it was so broad! 
    Why because there was so many possibilities
    for developers to make money
    and do as they please as they negotiate with the community,
    who by that time would be just advisory!

    Yes let’s look at that one.
    Borough President Eric Adams and Community Board 9
    would act purely as advisory. 
    The Borough Presidentdoes not have any power
    to create “policy” which is law!
    Rezoning is law! He has no veto power
    and would be in the same position as the community.

    The only power that he now has is through the Community Board itself. 
    By appointing people and then asking they support his position!

    Thus Eric Adams has no power to negotiate
    or even promise to protect this community,
    once this resolution would have been in the hands of City Planning. 
    Watch the documentary!
    And you will see how City planningbehaves
    with the community at this level.

    What we are asking at this point is for this resolution
    to be withdrawn and a new one created.
    One that has tighter controls
     to ensure we are not taken advantage of.

    Clear language that includes height restrictions,
    specific areas to be studied etc…
    No increase in residential,
    we are already the densest populated area in Brooklyn!
    A resolution that comes from the community
    and is based upon what the community truly wants

    Not a free pass for developers to come here
    and change the entire character of our neighborhood
    Off of the suffering of the home owners
    and tenants in our community.

    Finally, City Planning
    and others have said but it is only a study.
    No, because what you study is what you will get!
    City Planning will spend thousands of dollars,
    and years of creating it
    They will find that up zoning
    (which was requested by Community Board 9,
    in that resolution paragraph 4,
    which they will site!)
    is a great idea and the “study” will prove that
    and they will pass it
    And that will be that!

    How do we know this
    well out of the 140 studies that City Planning has done
    140 were counted into law!

    NO Residential On Empire Blvd!
    Preserve Our Affordable Community!
    Down Zone Empire Blvd!
    Alicia,
    www.mtopp.org
    (718) 703-3086

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    I know, I know. Always asking for money. But this one is for the OTHER plaza, at my beloved Q at Parkside. After raising money from Mathieu Eugene's office and getting the go ahead from the DOT plaza program, we're now ready to move forward with the completed plaza. Rudy Delson and team have created a great video to highlight what's going on. They need just $5,000 in start-up cash for maintenance. All the deets are below.


    You need visuals? Look no further:


    Here is some excellent news.  New York City has come through for us.  In the spring of 2015, the Department of Transportation will be building us a plaza at Parkside.  (And, this winter, they're going to be replanting the trees that never came to life last spring.)  One year from now, our neighborhood will have a whole new face ... and benches, planters, shade, greenery, the real deal! 

    But here is the bargain the city has struck:  They'll build the plaza, if we pitch in to maintain it.  This means that we're all going to need to chip in a few bucks once a year or so to pay for maintenance and plantings and the like.  Our Councilmember, Mathieu Eugene did his part:  He kicked in a cool few thousand for the plaza this year.  So now we all need to do our part.  Can you spare $20?  Or $40?  You can contribute right now, online, right here:

       https://ioby.org/project/parkside-plaza

    Please help!  And if you'd like the learn more, the Parkside Committee is having its next meeting on October 19 at 5pm.  Place TBD in this very blog!  They're very friendly folks, and they need all the help they can get.

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  • 10/12/14--20:15: Up, Up and Away
  • The insane march skyward of home prices has reached another absurd high. On the very street that launched the MTOPP anti-everything movement - Sterling between Washington and Bedford - a humble two and-a-half story row house is asking $1.5 million dollars. And for those of you who know the Parkside Playground well, the town home immediately adjacent just fetched $1.25 million. Might want to board up the eastern window for a good night sleep! (I should talk; I'm on a bus route and wildly "social" block. Not to mention those damn hookers! I mean honkers! I mean both! Do they really get anywhere faster? Noise machines, my friends, are a very good investment. The old fashioned kind are best, with just a steady whirring...)

    35 Sterling - 20% down and, I dunno, $8K a month? Maybe best to break it down to $275 or so a day

    150 Winthrop - And they throw in the mystery vehicle under the blue tarp - small yacht?
    And Babs also alerted us to the fact that 608-612 Flatbush, home to both the pharmacy and Desmond's Dr. Cuts, have been sold. If taken in tandem with the bombed out building next to it, this could be a fairly big FAR to play with. With the R7-1 zoning, an awful lot (pun) could happen here. Not sure about the nail place, but I know the pharmacy and Dr. Cuts are pretty much fixtures up there. Would certainly be sad to see the owners put the squeeze on, though I imagine they're already planning on making juice. (The squeeze; juice. Just trying to avoid cliche metaphors.)


    Oh how I wish we could talk about rezoning. Or talk about something other than Empire Boulevard, which any eyes can see is going through a bit of a building boom of its own - both on and around. It's time for a major Planning Study of this neighborhood. Actually, it's about five years too late. But some, it would appear, are intent on making us wait a bit longer.

    You know that bodega at 492 Flatbush? I think it's called "Garden Deli," just south of the subway entrance across from Phat Albert. It's for sale, with rentals above. Tear down? You could actually build up on ALL the buildings along Flatbush.

     Oh, and this modest home on Fenimore? Just shy of $1.30 million.


    Riding around I can see three new multi-house lots that are for sale. Added to the dozen or so developments that are currently underway...

    The thing about rezoning boulevards along transit lines to allow higher density is...well, the alternative is more patchwork insanity like you have in Williamsburg. We need height limits and affordable affordable housing. I'm not backing down. I'll keep pushing for sanity. And anyone who thinks that by obstruction we'll get fewer new residents is not looking at the rest of the borough, or the City for that matter. They'll come. It's just a matter of whether we'll be ready.





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    Just over the line of the C8-2 commercial corridor of Empire that's been a hot topic lately, you'll find lots and lots of R7-1. That's the zoning that led to a 23 story tower on Flatbush. Today comes news that Toomey's, longtime diner on the SE corner of Rogers and Empire, will soon be a 50-60 unit apartment building. Undoubtedly, this will not be a low-rent affair. Not with Lefferts Gardens being the Hot Pocket that it is. And who pray tell is building there? The same lovable lug nuts who brought us this gem, replete with Starbux.

    Question is: is this a R5 or an R7-1? Ektorp in his comments below points out the discrepancy.

    Which brings up another point. Take a look again at the zoning map in our area. And by "our area" I most certainly include Crown Heights south of Eastern Parkway. There's TONS of room to build up, up, up. Empire from the Park to Rogers is a tiny sliver compared to what else could happen around here.

    Oh, and that tiny sliver of C2-8, er C8-2, that led to the shutting down of the last Community Board meeting? What exactly CAN you build there? Inquiring minds...

    OR, as Ektorp pointed out...which is it? C2-8, or C8-2? The above document was done by the Planning intern at CB9. Something tells me he switched his numbers around.

    Oy gevalt.

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    Trailer Parks. This post is about trailer parks. It might take me a minute to get there though...

    When things feel too local, sometimes it's good to zoom out a bit. The Q had business in California last week. As fate would have it, I spent time in places that spoke directly to the swirl going through my head about Central BK.

    First, the remarkable transition happening in Downtown Los Angeles. When I first encountered downtown some 20 years ago, most upscale folks wouldn't dare set foot there after dark. And there wasn't much reason for them to go there BEFORE dark either. I recall playing the scuzzy indie-rock joint called Al's Bar, and it was difficult to draw even the tattooed set down there. Over the next few years, various neighborhoods nearer downtown than storied West L.A. started to take off. Silver Lake became L.A.'s hipster neighborhood before the term even took hold. Remember Beck in his heyday? Silver Lake was where you'd see him, maybe hanging with the Dust Brothers, mixing Scientology with break beats. Beck defined the zeitgeist in the mid-90s, and both Sliver Lake and Echo Park were neighborhoods just north of L.A.'s downtown that managed to bring that quirky version of bourgieness east. Some of the lovable true weirdos stayed out at Venice Beach. But a new batch of weirdos took their place closer to D-town. Actually, there were enough weirdos to go around - it IS L.A. after all. Generally, though, for all its claims of eccentricity, these neighborhoods soon became pretty mainstream, in that way liberal art school grads define mainstream - offbeat, but not so offbeat you couldn't have your parents over. Rents, and house prices, headed skyward. Still heading...

    But then, lured by cheaper rents and a less overtly chic sensibility, these same sorts moved to Downtown L.A. proper. It became trendy to the hearty. With all the old, derelict theaters and reasonable loft and work space, the bums of Skid Row found themselves panhandling to a new clientele by the early aughts. The moves to Silver Lake, Echo Park, then Eagle Rock and East L.A. and even Downtown seem somewhat analogous to the NYC migration and influx of the past 25 years or so. Recent grads have always trended to the action. And the action in L.A. moved east, bringing with it rising rents and zeitgeist nightclubs, boutiques and eateries. Downtown now has fancy lofts and a business improvement district. Two blocks down the hill from Grand, though, and you find that you're in a NYC-like scene from not so long ago, with homeless people everywhere - I counted a hundred people sleeping on the sidewalks on a short walk at just 10pm. Of course we have tons of homeless too, though not nearly so concentrated in a single "tolerated" area. It undoubtedly won't last long in L.A. Newcomers won't stand for it and, well, it's bad for business. For now, the cheapest hotel in L.A. is the vestibule under an old movie theater marquis. And I must say it's among the most diverse populations of street folk anywhere.

    There's a conversation about hipsters vs. homeless Downtown, but it misses by a mile the HUGE percentage of residents - the working poor - who have for years called the area home. In a west coast flip of the NYC norm, many domestics and service personnel live downtown and commute out of the central city for work - to Beverly Hills etc. As I left L.A. for San Francisco I mulled over a conversation I'd had at a chichi arts fundraising event the night before, where we discussed the coming development of downtown. As in Brooklyn, art is being used to lure ever greater real estate investment. MoCA and the new Eli Broad Museum, plus Disney Hall, Redcat and half-a-dozen revitalized theaters and galleries have meant the smart money has arrived. Like the BAM Cultural District, which helped birth the Dowtown Brooklyn renaissance, people of means LOVE to be near the art, even if they don't personally take advantage of it. Like great restaurants and nightlife, you get to boast to your friends and reassure your family at the same time! See, City Life is awesome! And safe! And...arty!

    Frankly for the capital C cities of America, art can be very good indeed. It's a euphemism for class change, a harbinger of the money that follows. And though that might sound cynical, maybe even snotty, let me point out that I'm a big fan of art. (Well, some art. Short art...always best to make your point quickly and get out, I always say. That way, if you're unsuccessful you won't waste too much of our time.) The great migration back to America's cities is a well-worn story, and it's often told as a surge in creativity. Even Detroit has its intrepid returners, prepared to remake the City in organic and Portlandian ways - perhaps with a special twist of irony to reclaim its automotive glory days? What if, say, Detroit one day boasted America's greatest bike culture, with lanes wider for bikes than even cars or electric buses? America's wealth has grown to a point where we now play the resurgence of our aged cities as team sport. It's a good news story, the converse of the yarn of the troubled City, dying and desperate, and in need of a cash infusion.

    But the story is not fully accurate. The Detroits of the country were destroyed not just from within, but from without. The final blow, it can be argued, was busing, starting in the early '70s. Any last reason many middle class white folks had to stay disappeared after they were being forced to integrate. Yet again, it was race that tore us apart. In order to send their kids to predominantly white schools, the suburbs offered a deal: higher property taxes for a virtual gated community. All across the country it played out. The suburbs were cut-off from the City, with a separate tax base in fully self-sufficient incorporated towns. Now you could have your own Mayor that looked and sounded like you. Segregation was now de facto, not necessarily de jure, and therefore much more palatable. The Cities, starved of cash, stopped paying the bills on "frills" like maintaining housing projects. (Seen "Kill the Messenger" yet? You probably already know the story about our own government dumped crack into the inner cities to pay for dirty wars in Latin America. Heck, if the CIA hadn't 'fessed up I'd have sworn it was just another conspiracy theory.)

    L.A. still has room to sprawl of course. But for all the talk of the displacement coming to downtown, there's still quite a bit of "affordable" housing in L.A. Not in the most desirable, trendy neighborhoods of course. But unlike NYC and San Fran (which I visited later in the week), Los Angeles is not particularly confined by water. Okay, the Pacific Ocean blocks you on the west. But L.A. has something that the other two don't. That's right, trailer parks.

    Trailer parks are the affordable housing of last result for many people. A minimum wage job might even come close to paying the rent in some of the least fancy. And the crazy part is that the economics are such that people actually MAKE money off of trailer parks. My brother-in-law owns some out in Boise, ID and swears by them as an investment. Apparently some folks can survive in t.p.'s on disability checks and social security. Hardly luxury living of course, but that's what capitalism mixed with welfare and state-sponsored retirement can serve up. At least it's something I guess.

    The reason that 80/20, or 50/30/20 "inclusionary housing" have become a hot solution in the San Fran and NYC markets is that we don't have these low tier options for new renters. Sure we might, and should, keep folks in their rent stabilized buildings. But if you have been displaced by, well by whatever, you should have a chance to find new digs. Okay, okay, assuming you're a law abiding citizen and have a bit of income. I get it. These developers don't want to fill up their buildings with deadbeats. But, much like trailer parks, at least it's something.

    I dunno. I thought it was an interesting point. If you got all the way down here and you're disappointed, just send me a note and I'll refund your nickel.

    For your consideration, a Los Angeles trailer park.


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    Brouth to you by Eric Adams, Vivia Morgan and Mathieu "Inside the Flag" Eugene.

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  • 10/15/14--13:16: New Wine on New York
  • Interesting to see a wine shop going up on New York Avenue, right by the Kings County Nurseries. Hey, if you live on the "east side" it's not much of a hoof at all. Give it a try and let us know what you think! 590 New York Avenue (Midwood/Rutland).

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    Carole Schaffer, longtime neighborhood do-gooder and Lefferts champion, died last night. The announcement, below, comes from funeral director Amy Cunningham, also of the nabe. Feel free to email her with questions.


    I'm writing to tell you some very sad news. Carole Schaffer, the wonderful woman who put together the fabulous Lefferts Manor house tour for SO MANY years died yesterday at New York Presbyterian hospital. While death was not expected, Carole had been on-and-off ailing for a several years. Her husband Arthur is now at home at 72 Midwood Street.
    The funeral service, then burial graveside service, are planned for this Sunday (October 19) at eleven a.m. in a chapel at Green-Wood Cemetery (guards at gates at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street will give you directions). John Musco (who lives on Rutland Road) will preside as he is a deacon at Grace Episcopal...Amy Cunningham will be the funeral director. Please come! 

    Carole will be impossible to replace. She did so much for the neighborhood and was open to everybody.  A truly lovely, committed and hard-working lady. She loved this neighborhood so much and knew every inch of it.

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    I wish I could say I'm done posting about the whole Lefferts rezoning thang. But I can't keep it to myself. The dung flinging just won't let up. And the lies are thicker than bugs on the bumper of an 18-wheeler driving through the Bayou.

    First, the honest mistake. In his rush to get some good looking color maps of zoning in our district out to us, Ben the CB9 intern made a pretty big goof in labeling the areas of C8-2 as C2-8. Then just the other day a certain "zoning expert" brought in to talk to neighbors took a look and figured heck, that means a FAR of 10 and you could build hotels as high as the sky! Panic ensued in the "reply all" world, and the Q sent around a note to confirm that no, in fact, you cannot build a 60 story hotel on Empire Boulevard. What fool developer would try such a thing I have no idea. But then rationality has been in short supply lately, so who the eff knows.

    It's C8-2, and absolutely a hotel could be built on Empire Blvd, though it would be a modest affair. Is that something MTOPP wants? Well, at the rate they're going, that's probably what they'll get, and I heard some pretty reliable whispers that exactly that is in the works. Does the Q care? Not much. It's a nice spot to visit, what with the Park and Garden and museum and all, and you'd probably get a decent restaurant out of it. Not a lot of hotels around here, considering how many people live in the area, so it could be a nice investment for someone. And technically, it wouldn't add to the density, would it? However, it WOULD probably impact some AirBnB hosts around here, so you might expect a protest or two in the hotel bar from time to time. All in a good night's sleep...

    Here're the REAL zoning maps, even if they are dustier and less colorful than Ben's:



    Oh, and then Suki Cheong, purportedly of PPEN but more and more sounding like Alicia, sends an "open letter" to the Community Board, using a list of emails she's grabbed probably by hijacking them from a CB9 "top secret" missive to the Board about, I dunno, parking for the meeting or something. Her letter was disowned by PPEN's steering committee later in the day, since PPEN is working on a statement of their own. Both Suki and AB have taken to sending direct messages to the 45 or so CB members aimed at influencing their votes and hearts. Which I suppose is legal and all, maybe, but in my time on the Board I can't ever remember someone hijacking the list to lobby the Board directly. Usually people come out to the meetings and speak their piece in the allotted time, and since it's our job to listen we usually do. And they don't usually shout down other speakers or serve up lawsuits to the one truly full-time paid employee, the DM, for transcribing the results of a share session into a letter to City Planning, as she was asked to do. For Suki's part, she practically helped write the resolution in the first place. She was there the night of the vote and congratulated me afterward. Sure they were pushing for a "text change" about Flatbush and Ocean specifically, but we already knew the answer from Planning was no, and this was our best shot at changing zoning around here.

     I could go on and on about what normal folks usually don't do, but let's just say that these two have really gotten under a lot of our craws. Mine? You bet. Not just for writing, but for slamming our reputations every chance they get. Because votes have not gone their way, rather than moving to the next phase and reasserting their views in a rational and respectful manner, they (and I'm sad to say even a few of the Board members) are convinced that we must UNsend a letter to City Planning that was already sent, and received positively, asking for a zoning study. The letter (or resolution if you must refer to it, since it was in fact voted upon and put in formal language, voted FOR by wide majority openly and after considerable discussion) was always intended and received as a starting point for a discussion about where build-able residential and commercial could happen in the neighborhood, and gauge the appetite for certain kinds of housing, including 80/20 or 50/30/20, and of course potential height limits, and maybe up, down or side-zoning various areas to conform with modern, more nuanced zones than the ones set in place some 60 years ago. In other words, if you've actually been paying attention and not listening to the demagogues and fear-mongers, you'd know that what we SHOULD be doing right now is talking in open forums with City Planning present, listening to diverse experts and speakers (keyword "diverse") about what our community could and maybe should look like in 20 years or so. (And by the way I've met these planners and they're basically Brooklynites like you and me so don't go picturing Montgomery Burns). But no, no...that's not what's happening, and I'm ashamed to say the disorganized and poorly led Board is not making it any easier by acting slowly and unpersuassively. These ARE volunteers after all, and not all are born for the gig. But, and this is a big butt, they are not bought and sold by Eric Adams or the development industry. They're for the most part bright, committed neighbors who've lived here for, on average, probably 40 years - many from the time they were born. I can guarantee the vast majority don't want outsized luxury buildings crowding out our way of life, and they most certainly DO want to see more means-tested affordable housing built, and they generally recognize that every change to a community has benefits and liabilities. But they generally ALSO recognize that change has been and is now all around us, and that a zoning study can do little more than address some of the potential pitfalls, and plan for growth in a way that's a little less haphazard. Too pedestrian and boring for you? I've got 5 letters and an address on Sterling Street to refer you to.

    I'm pretty fed up watching neighbors of mine impugn the good names of folks on the Board without the decency of getting to know who they are. I mean, I'm seriously stunned that a decent human being could live with herself after some of her 23 (and counting) emails to her battered followers, but then, she's on a mission from God and facts and reputations are hardly worthy of comment in a slash and burn campaign. Folks, I'm not exaggerating. At some point I'll need to print all 23 (and counting) and you'll see how far afield the screeds have gotten.

    Don't get me wrong. As an opinionated blogger (is there any other kind?) I expect to take some hits. It's part of the deal, and I'm putting myself out there to be egged on occasion. And politicians, well, they just have to suck it up. They signed up for the job and the First Amendment is one of the things they're sworn to uphold. They're gonna get slammed, and sometimes even libeled, but that's the gig. Sorry Eric and Laurie, but you only THOUGHT you won last November! The real fight will continue til the end of your term(s). Saundra Thomas, are you out there? Maybe it's better for your sanity that you lost after all!

    I'll end with this. Richard Bearak, he of land use policy at the BP's office, has put it in a way I hadn't thought of before - perhaps it'll be useful to some of you other zoning newbies too. The current zoning map shows the POTENTIAL for residential units (roughly, of course). Why potential? Because many of these areas on the map are not built out fully.

    When a building like 626 Flatbush comes along, it is allowed to build the maximum number of units, at a certain height, because that's what's cooked into the map. If we want to have ANY say at all about how this potential for growth will play out, we have to do a Zoning Study. If we don't, we get no say, and you'll probably read about one after another "surprise" building that ruins your whole breakfast.

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  • 10/16/14--08:54: Triangulation
  • For those of you who regularly find yourself above Empire on Washington, you've undoubtedly seen the development site that is being built at 995 Washington. It's a tiny little triangular piece of land that I used to joke would be perfect for a squatter with a teepee.

    But in this day and age, it's actually a $2.5 million plot worthy of the following:



    This style of architecture I like to call "21st Century Magna-Tile" design, a post-post-post-modern school that is alternately referred to as the Amazon.com Movement, or ACM for short. For more information, go to Wikipedia. However, for more information on this particular topic, just ask anyone hanging out at the Subway sandwich shop.

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