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  • 12/13/14--07:16: Shopping Locally


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  • 12/15/14--08:34: Crime News
  • While I hate to burst the holiday vibe, it would be remiss of me not to note to major crimes in the area. Last week, an armed robbery occurred at 618 Flatbush, which I believe is the Rochdale Pharmacy (or the salon next door, 618A). Police are considering it possibly connected to the rash of armed robberies in the Flatbush area over the last month. Scary stuff. Everybody on the ground, give us your money. Right out of the movies.

    Then yesterday, a dispute turned violent on Rogers and Winthrop. The shooting is being investigated, and being called "gang-related," which the Q has learned means pretty much next to nothing, since almost any dispute between two black guys gets called that. Not being snarky; just something I've learned through the years of blogging. The insinuation is "don't worry, they weren't out to get YOU, just each other."

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  • 12/15/14--10:41: Yes!
  • A Victory for Capital C Community
    Thanks to every Q reader who gave to the Kwenci Jones mural project. He hit his $4,000 total goal, and can now protect the mural with a fancy high tech coating and we'll be able to enjoy it for years to come.

    Sweet.



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    The MTA is taking applications for use of the space inside the train station at Prospect Park, where the Maple Street nursery school now resides and has for a decade. In order to let them know that we prefer to keep them there rather than cede to, say, the world's smallest Applebee's, please sign the below. No money, no hassle. Just a simple e-signing and you're off to experience more free-floating anxiety about the holidays!

    Just clicketh here.





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    You've heard the Q extol the virtues of the Crown Heights Tenants Union and the Flatbush Tenants Coalition. I urge you to support their march this Saturday in the lead-up to the showdown in June in Albany over rent regulation. Some big numbers on Saturday at 10:30 at Franklin and President, or along the route, will show the State we mean business.

    This is where the real war for our neighborhood's diversity of income gets fought. Wherever you are in your life and finances, please support those whose very homes are at stake.



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  • 12/16/14--09:25: Hilarious, But True
  • So you move to NYC. You've got barely a trunkfull of belongings. You drive from Lafayette, or Omaha, or Eugene 'cross the heartland. Your heart skips a beat when you see the Empire State Building, maybe even a bit of Lady Liberty. You've saved all summer to pay the first month and security deposit, prepared to steam espresso for your fellow 20-somethings while you plot your indie-rock takeover. Some fellow students from Vassar/Bard/Oberlin and that dude who used to sell you weed (did he even GO to the college?) are also planning to be there, and you can't wait to start up that Sustainable Rooftop Farm collective you designed for a senior class thesis. And meet a mate. Eventually. And have babies and move to Maplewood. But you don't know that part yet.

    You check out the NYC Craigslist. You scan for places under $1,000 a month (even better - $900!) You know it'll be a share, but that's cool. That's how you lived in the "commune" at Vassar/Bard/Oberlin anyway. Then you see it! You better pounce! And it's in Williamsburg to boot! Score! Victory!

    Perhaps the greatest thing about this place (a true Craigslist posting) is the way the poster has taken so many pictures and provided the full panoramic awesomeness of this under-100-sf room. Props to Curbed for finding it. Because L&G's, this is what it means to move to NYC to fulfill a dream. And it's almost identically sized (actually it's a bit more spacious) to the place the Q rented in South Park Slope when he fulfilled HIS midwestern NYC fantasy...at $300 in 1988.


    Towels may look closer when zoomed in on

    Towels included (fee for washing)


    Air conditioner not included (provided for size check); towels included (fee for washing)
    The posters come with the room! Bedspread not included.
    The first time the dishes have been done in this shared kitchen in months!
    Best part? You only have a trunkfull of belongings anyway.

    I'll TAKE it! (but you're too late. someone already got it...and it's that guy who sold you weed at School!)

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    The Q Loves Martense! Follow it to Nostrand for the world's best Meat Market, Michael's!

    An eagle-eyed Q reader noted the below description of an unusual looking house on Martense described as residing in "Prospect Lefferts Gardens South." (note the lack of hyphen. might this be the defining mark of southern Leffertsonians?) Other interesting tidbits: the listing clearly notes Lefferts newcomer Midwood Flats as being an attraction, Vero Yoga, and Planet Fitness, all of which are clearly part of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens NORTH. And where's the Mason-Dixon line do you suppose? Hawthorne? And the southern tier? Church? Erasmus Hall? Better vote now, or the real estate agents will make the call for us!!!

    Classic Victorian- Style, two family frame townhome in the premiere historical neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens South. This exclusive offering is uniquely suited to todays buyer who is looking to purchase a multi-family home in this prestigious location for a price well below the current record-breaking sales of over $1.5 million. Original details abound in this circa 1920s home with a dramatic entrance that shows off an ornate solid wood staircase. 10 ceilings, stunning wide plank oak floors, classic crown moldings, original wainscoting, and French doors dress the entire home. The main living area is anchored by an impressive exposed brick decorative fireplace and large bay windows. The entire residence includes custom fit window treatments, generous closet space, and solid wood floor to ceiling built-ins. An incredible bonus is a wrought iron and oak spiral staircase on the second floor that leads to a surprisingly large, fully finished attic space with a cathedral steeple ceiling, measuring 14 in height at its peak. Multiple windows adorn this space that was designed by a talented previous owner/architect. This magnificent bonus room that makes for a perfect home office or guest quarters, has a private door that leads to the roof where you can easily add a quaint roof deck for additional outdoor enjoyment. The property also provides the luxury of private parking for two cars on a deep 122-foot lot that still allows for a sizeable backyard and deck. Currently over 2,100 square feet of finished living space with the potential of a complete 2,400SF double duplex layout after finishing the basement. Located within blocks of Prospect Park, Midwood Flats gastro pub, Lincoln Tavern , Vero Yoga, Planet Fitness, and the 2,5, and Q trains. Luxury and value welcome you at the front door of 226 Martense St. Come on home.

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    115 Ocean and Yankelovich: Article/Photo - Claire Moses

    An eagle-eyed reader noted the sale of 115 Ocean in The Real Deal, and while the sale of a big apartment building is hardly news in these heady times, the price paid is a real eye-popper - $26 million. You coulda bought a building like this a decade ago at $5 million or even less. Especially one like this, called the "worst in the City" due to violations like roaches and mold and peeling paint. The apartments are all stabilized of course.

    So stick with me here. At that price, each apartment is worth nearly $300K. If you bought this building, wouldn't you want to take it coop/condo eventually? Even if you got market rate of (say) $2,500 per apartment, at 89 apartments, that's about $2.67 million a year. Strangely close to a 10% return. But then you got lots of money going into renovations and upkeep. Can you clear 5% at those market prices? I suppose so.

    Now, I don't know the first thing about running a 90 unit apartment building. But something tells me you gotta up the rent substantially from its current rent-stabilized state. Maybe you buy everyone out and sell the units? How do you do that without being accused of "warehousing?" I'm being serious here. How do you DO this without being a d-i-c-k?

    Note the final sentence in this post from TRD:



    A 87,000-square-foot multifamily building in the heart of Prospect Lefferts Garden traded for $25.7 million, The Real Deal has learned. Owner Lincoln Prospect Associates sold the building in an off-market deal to a local investor. Lincoln bought the 89-unit building in 2010 for $9.8 million, property records show. GFI Realty’s Erik Yankelovich was the sole broker on the off-market transaction.

    The unnamed buyer is a local family “that has been investing in Brooklyn for multiple years,” the broker said. The apartments in the building are all rent stabilized. In February, the city reportedly named the building the borough’s worst building, due to violations that included peeling lead paint, mold and roaches. According to the most recent records on the Department of Buildings’ website, there are currently 12 open violations on the building, a dramatic decrease from the hundreds of open violations that were reported earlier in the year. The $25.7 million sale price works out to $290,000 per apartment or $295 per square foot.

    The price for the building is one of the highest in the area, said Yankelovich. With a lot of money coming into the area and a lack of supply in multifamily buildings, he said, more properties in the neighborhood will likely be sold for similarly high prices.

    A 87,000-square-foot multifamily building in the heart of Prospect Lefferts Garden traded for $25.7 million, The Real Deal has learned.
    Owner Lincoln Prospect Associates sold the building in an off-market deal to a local investor. Lincoln bought the 89-unit building in 2010 for $9.8 million, property records show.
    GFI Realty’s Erik Yankelovich was the sole broker on the off-market transaction.
    The unnamed buyer is a local family “that has been investing in Brooklyn for multiple years,” the broker said.
    The apartments in the building are all rent stabilized. In February, the city reportedly named the building the borough’s worst building, due to violations that included peeling lead paint, mold and roaches. According to the most recent records on the Department of Buildings’ website, there are currently 12 open violations on the building, a dramatic decrease from the hundreds of open violations that were reported earlier in the year.
    The $25.7 million sale price works out to $290,000 per apartment or $295 per square foot.
    The price for the building is one of the highest in the area, said Yankelovich. With a lot of money coming into the area and a lack of supply in multifamily buildings, he said, more properties in the neighborhood will likely be sold for similarly high prices.
    - See more at: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2014/12/17/brooklyn-building-bought-for-10m-sells-for-26m/?utm_source=feedly&utm_reader=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brooklyn-building-bought-for-10m-sells-for-26m#sthash.3lWVXeNX.dpuf
    A 87,000-square-foot multifamily building in the heart of Prospect Lefferts Garden traded for $25.7 million, The Real Deal has learned.
    Owner Lincoln Prospect Associates sold the building in an off-market deal to a local investor. Lincoln bought the 89-unit building in 2010 for $9.8 million, property records show.
    GFI Realty’s Erik Yankelovich was the sole broker on the off-market transaction.
    The unnamed buyer is a local family “that has been investing in Brooklyn for multiple years,” the broker said.
    The apartments in the building are all rent stabilized. In February, the city reportedly named the building the borough’s worst building, due to violations that included peeling lead paint, mold and roaches. According to the most recent records on the Department of Buildings’ website, there are currently 12 open violations on the building, a dramatic decrease from the hundreds of open violations that were reported earlier in the year.
    The $25.7 million sale price works out to $290,000 per apartment or $295 per square foot.
    The price for the building is one of the highest in the area, said Yankelovich. With a lot of money coming into the area and a lack of supply in multifamily buildings, he said, more properties in the neighborhood will likely be sold for similarly high prices.
    - See more at: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2014/12/17/brooklyn-building-bought-for-10m-sells-for-26m/?utm_source=feedly&utm_reader=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brooklyn-building-bought-for-10m-sells-for-26m#sthash.3lWVXeNX.dpuf

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  • 12/17/14--18:55: Mamary Bounces; LPT to Move?
  • Jim Mamary is closing Lincoln Park Tavern. Well, as I've said here before, that's the plan. Landlord Rong Ge wants serious coin, and now that Mamary has Bluebird Cafe up and running, he's probably willing to ride month to month til Rong locks the doors. He recently re-upped his liquor license, so perhaps there's an extension or two in play for the (tentative) Feb 1 sayonara.

    But wait. There's more.

    Enter the ghost of Meytex, one of the only real Ghanaian Chop Bars in town. Since closing earlier this year, I'll bet you've wondered what will take its place. What if I told you, on very good authority, that Mamary has leased the place and will be moving his operation over there? If the fight with Rong is finally winding down, perhaps the longtime restauranteur will finally find the right mix of businesses for his Leffertsonian strategy. A notorious tinkerer, Mamary is always looking for the perfect mix of zeitgeist and comfort. Perhaps at 545 Flatbush Avenue, he'll hit the sweetspot.

    Au Revoir Meytex. Remember that time the SUV backed into the windows?




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    WTF?

    In the middle of the day, yesterday around 4pm, gunfire rings out on the Flabenue. Clearly some kind of beef is getting mighty serious that people pull weapons on a sunny Thursday afternoon. The internets say four perps shot a woman, but I'm waiting for confirmation from the 71st to say for certain.


    Pic by Noel H.

    Pic by Noel H.

    It's not related of course, but have you been following the story of Bobby Shmurda and his run-in with the cops? The accusations against him are pretty intense. I assumed when I saw his "shmoney dance" video that it was pretty harmless but annoying gangsta stuff, but Bratton seems to think there's nothing "video game" about it.

    I bring it up because this sort of run around shoot 'em up stuff is definitely too video-esque for safety. You wanna kill someone out in the open? Who does that? Someone who watched Scarface too many times, and thinks they'll live forever. In other words...your average teenager with too much time and too little hope.

    I'm not going to embed the Shmurda video here, if you haven't seen it, click through. And I trust if you watch it you have the good sense to place it in historical, political and musical context. I don't mean to glorify or vilify...but the way these young neighbors (E. Flatbush mostly) are basically baiting the cops (Bratton & co. obviously took the bait because they're nailing Shmurda for a massive gun and gang ring) reminds me of NWA back in the early '90s. The video's bravado and lyrics and smoking and drinking read "come and get me pig!" Punk rock was nursery rhymes comparatively.


    Intense stuff, not for the wee ones. And then there's that silly Shmoney Dance part of it, which is just plain wiggy. Cartoons, automatic weapons, goofy dancing. A sociologist's doctoral thesis in the making.

    Is it early '90s all over again? Makes you wonder.



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    The cops have released a picture, from video surveillance, of the probable shooter in Thursdays broad daylight shooting on Flatbush near the bus stop and the diner-counter Chinese Food place and what was Lily's Touch of Millennium 2000:


    A description of the all-too-typical scenario came from Vinnie:

    Two groups of males had an argument with each other. It looks like one from each group started shooting at each other and a 40 year old female was hit in the shoulder. She is in stable condition. We are trying to enhance some video footage from the scene that may have caught it.




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  • 12/21/14--19:30: Spree Hits Home
  • Flatbush. Rogers. Nostrand. Throw in Lenox near Rogers and you've got a lot of gunplay in just one week. Enough to bring back memories of 2013. Related? Probably not. Except by proximity. Does it relate to the other horrible story dominating the headlines? Most definitely not. And yet, unease is easy to come by these days.

    Even the 71st Precinct is much bigger than our immediate vicinity of course. Most of the shootings this year have taken place east of here, and quite a few north of Eastern Parkway. One thing I will note - these nearby shootings are taking place outside because the shooters and victims are mobile at the time - it's not the house party stuff that seemed so common last year. Both shooters and victims may not live around here. Some, like shootings in cars or dollar vans take on a mystery quality - almost cinematic - while others seem like kids with a beef, working it with lead rather than fisticuffs.

    The 71st has seen an uptick in shootings - this rash will certainly see us top last years numbers. As they like to say the figures are historically very low...but that matters not when you live round the corner from the sound of gunfire.

    There's no questioning the numbers - shootings are up around 5% over last year. It's the shooting numbers and the Felony Assaults that I pay most attention to - and rapes and murders of course whenever there's a spike. Other crimes seem almost faddish in their ups and downs. The iPhone theft craze seems to have dissipated as the phones become cheaper and less easy to turn to cash. Thus robberies have plummeted. Autos of certain makes and models become suddenly easy to convert to green, or easy to hotwire.

    Does it feel like something new is going on? Personally I can't tell yet, and I look to Vinnie Martinos and Inspector Fitzgibbon for clues as to what's going on here and whether there's something, anything, that can be done in the short term other than - get some bodies out there. And you can rest assured I'll put in a good word on that count. You can always email Vinnie and add your voice!







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    Now it's complete. Flatbush, Bedford, Rogers, Nostrand all played host to a shooting in the span of just one week. Last night around midnight, a male was shot on Bedford near Hawthorne.

    Merry Christmas, Santa. Hope you're wearing a vest.

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  • 12/29/14--07:41: Flipping Out
  • The Q's neighbors are flipping out.

    In Flatbush, Apt 3F at 41 Clarkson Ave., was bought in May for $202,800 and unloaded in September for $360,000. The 77.5 percent profit made it the second highest Brooklyn flip. It had been on the market for 33 days.
    And I didn't even have a chance to bring by a plate of cookies.

    I have a hunch that the reason for the enriching flip was that we put some planters out near the curb along Clarkson from Flatbush, spaced evenly to provide maximum effect. Despite a couple rounds of vandalism, I suspect that the apartment in question increased in value due to our floral capital improvements. I do believe I'm entitled to some of the profits? Those planters - hand-me-downs from a neighbor on Ocean - were damn heavy and barely fit into the elevator, but clearly were worth a hundred grand.

    Never, ever, ever, in my wildest imagination did I see this one coming. I thought the heavily Section 8 building would gradually turn from poor to middle. When the management told me they were going condo I laughed at John, whom I got to know through a serious of complaint calls, and wished him a facetious 'good luck.' They warehoused the apartments long enough to sail through the conversion process, the economy assisted, and now the building is likely worth ten times what it was when I moved to the block 11 years ago.

    The gold rush is on. The speculators are back! Move over '49ers. The '15ers are here.

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  • 12/31/14--08:29: 2014: A Race To the Bottom
  • This is the first of two year-in-review posts. Tomorrow I'll do a more "here's what happened" thing, if only for my own memory, which is notoriously short. Another reason to write a blog...plus it's all right there, for everyone to see and hate you for!

    You know what's different about Tucson and Brooklyn? Just about everything. And yet, one thing remains irrefutably universal - everybody loves the Trader Joe's here too. Can't get enough of it, or stop talking about it. Same as Brooklyn.  But the differences are truly striking, and not just that there ain't no shade anywhere, being as trees don't grow here, just cacti.

    This Tucson is a truly southwestern town. It's 180 degrees but just 100 miles from Phoenix, which I have nothing but meh to say for. Tucson is cool. And it's pretty much a half-Mexican town. Well, originally ALL Mexican if you want to take the long view. Mexicans give Tucson its character, its food, its life. Cuz there are a heck of a lot of retirees here from, you know, the Midwest and Canada and the like. Folks end up here, don't really move away. Funeral homes do a good business. It's a college town too, big State school, but that doesn't define it. Did I mention the food is insane? Not everything's a chain (yet) and the people are genuinely in love with their hometown. I'm glad my folks ended up here, because Iowa was brutally cold and brutally hot/humid in equal measures. And who needs trees when you got millions of Saguaro cacti and a bevy of air conditioning? Nice move ma and pa. Not a bad place to visit either.

    Tucson is dealing with slower motion change than Brooklyn, a reasonable speed that gives people and planners time to make conscious decisions about growth. Displacement happens, though there's a great deal of space for people to spread out to, and everyone needs a car, so it's not so crucial to be right next to the train, say. And the spread between haves and have-nots isn't so steep. On the affordability index, a median house costs roughly 2 1/2 times median income. Actually, this is true across most of the country, outside of the more compact and most desirable spots for high-earners. New York City. San Francisco. Silicon Valley. Huge swaths of California actually. Seattle. Boston. The historical multiplier, I have read, is 2.6. (In "Renaissance" Brooklyn, of course, that's a laugh and a half. We've now become, were we our own City, the least affordable town in America.) For the aforementioned highly desirable places, "high-earner" isn't the real measure of who's buying these ungodly expensive homes. It's net worth, parental aid, AND earnings. Talking to folks about the difference has become a bad habit of mine, because few people want to note how they managed the down-payment. Often it's from selling a previous property, but that's doesn't tell the story of how they got THAT property in the first place.

    So why do I call this a "race" to the bottom? You guessed it. I want to write about race again. Race and housing, and who can afford to live here and who can't, and why that's so upsetting to so many people. I keep trying to spin the tired gentrification yarn into a new sweater, because I really think there's something here that most folks don't seem to get, and I'm only starting to get. You know, the root problem, not just the surface stuff about lattes and rents.

    (Out here in Tucson, black folks make up just under 5% of the population. Language, assimilation, and even the racial disparity familiar to Mexicans are trickier for this gringo to penetrate, though I'm always looking for the angles. In its way, the 500 year old dominance of the Spanish over the Aztecs plays out something like the white/black dynamic in the U.S. We instinctively recognize this and translate it fairly well. The dark-skinned native looking Mexicans, less-likely to be well-educated or come from a comfortable background, are seen as ONE kind of Mexican, as reinforced by Mexico's own racial baggage. The lighter skinned zeitgeisty Spanglish seem, bluntly, more American. In Tucson, the best jobs seem to go the more European looking Mexicans, and even Mexican-owned businesses have a familiar top-down look - lighter skinned owners and customer service people - darker hued folks doing the heavy lifting and cleaning. In fact, the story of racism south of the border is pretty well covered elsewhere so I'll leave it in the hmmm category for now. Enough Tucson. Oh, except there's apparently a great book about how Mexican food took over America. And not just the Bell of Taco. Real Mexican food, and it's everywhere. C'mon, admit it, you LOVE good Mexican food. Can you say that about Canadian cuisine? Buffalo Bill apparently introduced southwestern Mexican dishes to NYC, creating something of a pop-up restaurant as part of his Wild West show when it camped out at the original Madison Square Garden for a spell. Winter of 1886-7 to be exact. How time flies when you're eating enchiladas.)

    A couple things have been gnawing at me for, like, years, ever since I became truly race conscious, which was probably sometime in college, because everything I'd learned about race until then was summed by the Malcolm X poster my parents kept in the basement because it made gramma uncomfortable. You know the one, with his finger pointing and the letter "f" seeming to come from his lips, as if to say "fuck you whitey." He was probably actually saying "friends" or "finally I got a cab," but no matter, I guess gramma didn't approve of the cussiness of his expression, and besides, she was from rural Illinois where they didn't have any black folk, and so they let the Irish fill the bill. Catholics in general I'd say, those dirty thieving types who play cards, drink and live down by the Mississippi river. Not civilized like the Germanic Lutherans of the farm country. Brother Malcolm was just plain foreign to gramma, and yeah, a little scary. So that was where it started, and my fascination with the Civil Rights movement, and the fact that one of just two African-American guys in my high school graduating class was elected Homecoming King. Isn't that nice? We don't see color here in Ames, IA, folks! We elected a negro Homecoming King! Post-racial even in 1984!! The year of "Purple Rain" baby! (Dang that movie is the worst best movie of all time, am I right or am I right? And I still don't know what the hell he means by "purple rain," but it's damn near spiritual just the same. Purple Rain, Purple Rain! Yessssssss I Soooooo agree.)

    So, like I was saying, this was the year of a conceptual breakthrough for me.

    We all know that blacks make less than whites. About 3/5 as much (remember how much of a man a slave was "worth" in the original language of our Constitution? Mere coincidence I'm sure, no?) But the chart that blew my wheels off was this one, showing the relative household wealth:


    Why the enormous difference? Easy. Since this is median household wealth, and less than 50% of Black and Hispanic households own their own home, the majority of those households don't have the single piece of the American Dream that has real power to set a family up for life - "real property." And without real property ownership, most Americans wouldn't have as much to leave to their progeny. And such inheritance, as anyone with eyes and ears and love for gossip can tell you, is a MAJOR factor in determining your ability to own a home TODAY. How many downpayments on first houses are purely from hard-earned savings? Those young coop and condo buyers in NYC got out of college debt-free and with more than $100,000 from, uh, their work-study jobs? I don't want to poke fun, because frankly it's as American as Apple Stock to have your folks lend a hand for school and first cars and houses. Granted plenty of folks DON'T get that leg up, but enough do to make a huge dent in real estate prices. Add to that the fact that the greatest transfer of wealth from one generation to the next is taking place as I write this (the Boom-Boom-Boomers who made a killing in the market and on houses) and you can probably see where my logic's leading.

    That's the big story, in my view, in all this hemming and hawing about gentrification. Not, as I've reiterated time and again, the honest transfer of deed from one owner to the next. But rather the ugly underbelly - racial wealth.  Oh, and commercial desirability, from hair to real estate, remains the domain of the dominant culture. Caucasian culture. Put those together and segregation has all the gravy it needs for a festive feast.

    Or put more clearly - racism begets racism, just as privilege begets privilege. That's what's wrong with gentrification, and there's nothing built into our capitalist system to counterbalance. You're no more to blame than me or anyone who helps perpetuate a system designed to benefit whites over blacks. We participate, partake, drink from the well. To extend the metaphor, there are two wells. And like in the segregation of yore, one is for whites and one is for blacks. We've made almost no progress, by nearly every measure. Seen how many black kids get into Stuyvesant High School? I rest my case.

    Where's the outrage? Certainly not coming from the "liberal" Democrats we send into office. Or from us. It IS making its way into the consciousness of the current Civil Rights struggle. And make no mistake, that's what we're seeing. Forget the specifics of the case in Ferguson or Staten Island, or what happened in Florida, or Kimani Gray last year. This is big stuff, in the Q's view. And how we respond as the dominant culture will be treated harshly or generously by history. The choice is ours.

    150 years after emancipation, and 60 years after the dawn of a great Civil Rights movement, 45 years after MLK's death, 22 years after the post-Rodney King-Verdict civil unrest in L.A., and six years after the election of the first president born to a father of undeniable African heritage, we are living in a nation that has managed to move the ball from the 20 to the 29. Punt or go for it? The way that we segregate ourselves is such a key component of the ongoing cycle that leads one generation of African-Americans to the next to progress so slowly. The below incriminating chart shows how little progress we've made towards economic integration. Bars one and three shows your likelihood to live in a poorer neighborhood in one generation, then bars two and four for the next generation. And poor, remember, is REALLY poor. The poverty line ain't no joke.

    Look, I'm no sociologist. And my writing is mine, and woefully bereft of scientific analysis. But I'll tell you what...just as I wrote at the beginning of the year, long before the latest media blitz turned to the vast chasm between white and black experience of America, something very powerful is taking place. You don't often get to sense and see history being written, but folks I believe we are living in a moment where something has to give. Brooklyn is just one piece of this saga, but when I wrote "Bye Bye Black Brooklyn" near the beginning of 2014 I meant to say this is not your usual neighborhood gone upscale story. Brooklyn, for so long, WAS black in the public imagination and via stories, music, art, film. It stood for black (sorry Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Windsor Terrace etc - you weren't what the world thought of when you's reference Brooklyn). Along with Harlem and Oakland and the southside of Chicago, Brooklyn, in a sense, helped define black. And there are still hundreds of thousands of black folks living here, watching their story take an earthshaking detour before their eyes.

    This isn't a sounding of alarm. I don't mean to say invest in tear gas companies. I don't mean reconsider your move. I don't mean anything other than to meekly counterweight the emphasis out there on reporting on Brooklyn's "renaissance" as if it were bloodsport and conquest. This is a very human story, and I'd argue that the losers greatly outnumber the winners. Their stories are only beginning to be heard. And yes, black lives matter. Even if they're not shot down in cold blood in the streets.

    I read recently that "Occupy Wall Street" was a failure because blah blah blah...the writer launched into a litany of what was wrong with the movement's strategy. Strategy? Why the emphasis on strategy, and not on the movement's causes? It's not every day that your fellow Americans decide to camp out right in the center of world finance for a few months. Awareness on campuses hasn't been this high since the anti-apartheid movement. There is a deep sense out there that fairness and decency have lost out to greed and an erosion of the American promise of equality of opportunity and equality of justice. We may well read in our histories that OWS was just the beginning of a renewed civil rights struggle.

    And as groups like the Crown Heights Tenants Union show us, the coalition doesn't have to be segregated. We can make a choice, to stand up for fairness and decency. This year the rent laws are up for renewal. We can tip the balance. We can save our City, one of the greatest human experiments of all time. The promise of NYC. The French even saw it. The French! It's all right there, at the base of our most famous island statue. They didn't put it in Tucson, or Topeka. They gave it to us. Our city. Our moment.






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  • 01/01/15--09:55: 2014: The Q in Review
  • 1. A Zoning Catastrophe

    The year started on an upbeat note, despite the digging of an enormous hole into which our beloved 626 Flatbush was to rise. Is it not huge? I mean ABSURDLY huge? A lot of folks thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill, but dang if you don't think that thing is way out of line for the neighborhood, then, well, I guess you don't think it's out of line for the neighborhood. Look down Hawthorne or Fenimore from Bedford. Yikes. Or look from inside of the Park. Blech. We could've rezoned, we didn't rezone, we get what we didn't do when we could've done what we needed to do. I'm convinced had we held Planning's feet to the fire after the original request was denied back in 2008, we would've gotten there. We got no help from the Community Board through the years, but we ARE the community, so who can you blame? And frankly I don't think any of us thought Flatbush (and Ocean) were so vulnerable as this.

    Some think the Q's been wishy-washy about development in general, but reading back through the year's posts I actually think I've been clear as a bell as to my own position. Building apartments, ugly as they may be, is what inevitably takes place in boom times. That's how cities get built in the first place, and as you read this, you are quite likely living in the result of such a boom build, of whatever decade or century. I don't care if you're in London, Tucson or Des Moines, this is how humans have come to organize and house themselves, and this is how we've decided as a society we will pay for it. Someone buys the land, crunches the numbers, puts up what they believe the market will bear, and turns over the keys to the tenant/buyer with the best possible demographic, er, credit rating. Simple. Elegant. There's even a nice fat dividend for the savvy developer, and everybody's happy. Right? Right?

    Were we expanding like the universe into nothingness, and all places were equal, all would be right in the social order. But in NYC (and San Fran, notably) we build on top of the ruins of the old world. Over and over. These ruins aren't ancient of course. Some were created last week. Some folks, who owned their own houses, sold recently and made out like bandits and headed for the hills, or the South, or even another part of town. A certain amount of cultural churn is to be expected. As a place becomes ever-more desirable, its price commands premium. Conversely, as it becomes less desirable to the market, its price drops. And Adam Smith smiles in his casket.

    That's the number one story around here, I'd say. New development, redevelopment, and the emergence of two new voices from the neighborhood. One, Prospect Park East Network (PPEN), went as far as to sue the developers of 626 for ignoring the mandates of environmental review. The other, Movement to Protect the Park (MTOPP) seemed to revel in its anti-everybody-ness while preaching community and togetherness. Once it became clear that 626 wasn't the greatest threat to their quality of life, but rather any potential residential building along glorious Empire Boulevard, the target shifted to anyone and everyone with a pulse. MTOPP has become a thorn in the side of the Community Board, all elected officials, and anyone who dares contradict their often contradictory goals of...oh, I don't know anymore what they want other than to burn Pearl Miles at the stake. (She's the District Manager for CB9, and she's had one hell of a year.)

    Therefore, Person of the Year HAS to go to Alicia Boyd for leading the MTOPP movement. She's one of a kind that Ms. Boyd of Sterling I.  You know it occurs to me just now that she was sitting at the table with the rest of us at Brooklyn's City Planning office just last summer. She HAD a seat at the planning process. What more can one constituency ask for? PLGNA was there. PPEN was there. The Jewish Community Council was there. The Dodgertown homeowners group was there. Leaders from Montgomery, Crown, Ocean... But what happened was - it became clear Alicia wasn't gonna get her way, so she went on the offensive. Her call for unity and consensus is total bullshit. She wants what she wants and she wants it now. For that, she gets my Person of the Year. May she not repeat.

    If 626 Flatbush isn't enough to get your panties in a bunch about why we need rezoning, perhaps this post will remind you just how many projects are potentially being hatched as I write this. And its not Uncle George adding an attic to his garage. This is serious neighborhood redesign. We have pretty much no say in the matter, unless we ask to sit around the table with the powers that be. For God's sakes let's get down to it!

    2. New Leadership All Around

    You can't sidestep the fact that everywhere you look new faces have come to lead the scene. You could start with the new heads of the 71st and 70th precincts, but I know George Fitzgibbon the best at the 7-1 and I give him passing grades and a big shout out here for being available and acting accountable for what goes on under his command. Right now, what happens to Bratton's tenure is anyone's guess, with many cops just plain ignoring their duty to enforce the laws in response to the tragic assassination of two cops over on Myrtle. It's not the first time cops have been killed of course, but the timing and the shocking premeditated brutality sent the whole discussion of race and policing back to the dark ages. Had the killing been part of some madman's strategy to forward the course of policing in America, and it appears it was not in any sense but the madman part, it could not have been more ill-timed or ill-conceived. We will be dealing with the aftermath, I suspect, for ages.

    Desmond Romeo and Shelley Kramer et all have started strong with their  Parkside Empire merchant's association. Replacing the miserable and outdated Flatbush Empire to Parkside Merchant's Association (FEPMA) the new group has come out swinging, sponsoring workshops, collecting surveys, and running a shop local campaign. They've been creating relationships with Sanitation and the Cops and we should continue to see strong growth from that economic corridor in the coming years. Good work and keep it up!

    New Mayor. New Borough President. New State Senator. New Councilwoman (above Empire). Same Councilman below. Ah well, can't win 'em all. That's a lot of new blood, and one can always hope that the new bosses have the integrity and vision to lead effectively.

    New Chancellor of schools. New principal at Jackie Robinson (the school most of us are zoned for). New Superintendent for District 17, thank the lord.

    Lastly the Community Board. After decades of leadership from Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, our beloved CB9 shook things up radically, electing new chair Dwayne Nicholson and receiving a whopping 18 new members via the Borough President's office. While it's too soon to tell whether the new group and its By-Laws and Executive Committees will set in motion positive change, I'll tell you right now that I've been saddened by the slow pace of action on Zoning. Alicia Boyd's basically been running the CB meetings, and it seems all Dwayne does is in reaction to her. We haven't even met the ULURP committee since last Spring. Yes, we're an embarrassment right now, but maybe January will see us come together and get the job done with City Planning. The best offense against Alicia is to ignore her. To my bewilderment, the Board actually rescinded the work it did last year on Zoning, appeasing MTOPP and their outside agitators. How shameful, in my opinion, to simply ignore the wishes of the previous Board in order to satisfy a misplaced notion of "process." You know what process is? Voting overwhelmingly for something. The current Board acted as if that never happened, and slowed the pace of the Zoning Study by a whole year. I rewrote the zoning resolution to remove even the slightest traces of controversy just to see if anyone cared that we've wasted 9 months on this ridiculous argument. Of course, it lost, though I wonder if someone else had led the charge it might've been at the very least DISCUSSED. A sad state of affairs, but them's the cookies.

    3. Changing Traffic Patterns on the Flabenue

     I recall last winter that many were decrying the redesign of traffic lanes along Flatbush as catastrophic. Turns out the first couple days of the new patterns coincided with a water main break down on Caton, and the hour delays along Flatbush from Grand Army Plaza were short lived. Coupled with the new slower speed limits, I'd say the Flabenue has calmed considerably. The new intersection at Washington/Flatbush/Lincoln has finally stopped the flow from Lincoln going east then up Washington. That intersection is a dozen times safer. The BP gas station still has cars coming and going from every orifice, but what you gonna do? We begged, but no dice. Some of us will keep hammering for a move of the express B41 down to the south portion of the BP, because right now 1,000s of people every day jaywalk from the Phat Albert's to the subway station, the B41 being so poorly sited as to actually encourage it. I'm missing Ed Fanning at CB9 Transportation right now. He wasn't reappointed. I'm probably next.

    4. Old Victorians Coming Down Left and Right

    They don't get the same love as brownstones and maybe rightly so. But the delightful woodframe houses that dot our neighborhood are coming down faster than you can bat an I-beam. I'm saddest about the Haunted House of Clarkson and the three well-maintained houses on my block that gave the density a bit of a break. Other development sites are detailed here, and that's just the old news. I can think of at least a dozen others, and new ones are happening almost every week. Utilizing outdated zoning, many of these will become eyesores on their respective streets. But hey, Delirious NY continues. Seen Williamsburg lately? Whoa Nelly.

    5. Opening of 123 on the Park

    When I moved to NY, the old Caledonian Hospital was still a going concern. Just imagine how different Parkside was with an emergency room entrance right near the Parade Ground. Then when I moved here a dozen years ago, it was still alive as a medical building - doctor's offices and such. Then it was closed and lay unused and unloved for many years. Now it's a swank apartment building, and while current Caledonian residents might find the rents outrageously high, for an apartment right on Prospect Park many are finding the rents relatively cheap. The real story here, besides re-purposing an old building (this is the kind of market rate development that makes a great deal of sense) is that the old "this side of the park, that side of the park" dichotomy is beginning to break down. With Lefferts having been "discovered" by developers and apartment hunters, it's only a matter of time before the old 1/2 ratio falls for good - that being that prices on THIS side of the park are roughly half what they are in Park Slope. That held true for many decades, but we're moving towards parity. 123 and its resulting demographics push us closer. Don't believe me? Check out the below latest from the 123 website. By the way, these aren't even as high as are the real rents. They're "net effective" after they give you a month or two free. To put it mildly, these numbers would have been unheard of just a few short years ago.

    Unit Beds Baths Rent* Date Available
    1M 1 Bedroom / Flex 2 1 Bath $2,631 Immediately
    1P Studio 1 Bath $3,531 Immediately
    1U 1 Bedroom 1 Bath $3,086 Immediately
    6L 1 Bedroom 1 Bath $3,134 Immediately
    7D 1 Bedroom 1 Bath $3,253 Immediately
    1B 2 Bedroom 1 Bath $2,824 Immediately
    3K 2 Bedroom 2 Baths $3,081 Immediately
    6D 2 Bedroom 2 Baths $3,536 Immediately

    6. Parkside Committee Gets Busy; Trees and Flowers on Ocean

    It's been a slow but steady climb for Rudy Delson and his cohorts at the Parkside Committee. But this was the year they turned a corner, and with your help of about $6,000, they plan to have an operational plaza at the Q at Parkside this summer. Oh, and those trees are courtesy of the P.C. as well. Replanted and guarded by handmade treepit rails, the trees themselves make a huge improvement. Send Rudy a note if you'd like to help.

    Meanwhile, just around the corner, Amy Musick and her indefatigable bunch keep on beautifying Ocean Avenue. After getting dozens of tree pit guards from the City, they clean and mulch and plant bulbs in the pits, and come this spring look for a gorgeous display of flora. They've got their eyes on the longview, so don't expect Ocean to backstep anytime soon. And now a group is forming to address the entire perimeter of the Park on the park side. The trees and sidewalks need serious love, and this inter-neighborhood group will need support, and you can always be on the lookout for an Ocean beautification day. Keep your browser pointed here.

    7. Our Neighborhood Has Been Bought

    If you live in a large apartment building - the big pre-war five and six stories that dominate the area - chances are its been bought and sold within the last few years. A handful of companies, with names like Pinnacle and Shamco (I kid you not), have invested in the neighborhood in a big, big way. The south-moving gentrification process has shown just how the gig works, having spun its black magic from Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights and even northward from Flatbush (particularly Ditmas). The business plan is simple: buy a big building with 50+ units, which is likely mostly or all rent stabilized and therefore sold at a perceived discount. Make minimal but visible capital improvements. Renovate apartments as rent stabilized tenants "leave," allowing you to jack up the rents. Make life somewhat miserable for the new tenants that got what they thought was a steal off Craigslist. Repeat. Get each apartment to top $2,500 in rent, so that it leaves rent stabilization for good. If you're making good money, hang on to the building. But you can usually sell for a profit anyway. Better yet, leverage your building to the hilt to buy more buildings. Build a big fat portfolio. Ride the Housing Bubble Tiger! (People keep telling me Brooklyn's not in a bubble, just a boom. I would argue that because we're so out of line with both the rest of the country and historical price/income, that we must be bubbling big time. Part of it is that Brooklyn has become more desirable to high-earner-high-net-worth folks. But that can't explain it all. Irrational exuberance is an old familiar phrase. Then again, I famously predicted Wesley Clark would be president.)

    9. New Openings Galore

    Midwood Flats. Erv's. Cinnamon Girl. Blessings. Gratitude Cafe. Bluebird. Mountain. All are game-changers for the neighborhood, and join Tip of the Tongue (the Q calls it TOTT) and Tugboat to bring Lefferts Gardens into the age of modern Brooklyn eats and drinks. Look for a new Mexican place and a couple more surprises in the coming weeks and months.

    And by the way, we already HAD a plethora of good food choices.  Shelley Kramer of Play Kids did a nice job of summarizing your options here.  From Scoops to De Hot Pot to Jus' Fishy and Mango Seed, you'd be a fool not to try the great Island options around here.

    How about Planet Fitness? And the new co-work space The Compound? And the Bikram Yoga joint above the beer distributor? New uses galore for the Phat Albert's 'n' Sons parallelogram tween Lefferts and Empire.

    Oh. And Lakeside! Geez Louise how quickly I forget that this remarkable asset to our side of the park is pretty much brand spanking new. And it has a decent restaurant to boot. Oh yeah, and ice and roller skating and a splash pad. Lakeside has been the Q's favorite new amenity by a longshot.

    10. The Rise of Tenant Activism

    This was the year that the power of occupy Wall Street met the power of tenant organizing. Since both longtime and shortime renters are getting hit by the same market forces - and treated to some deplorable landlord b.s. - groups like the Crown Heights Tenants Union and the Flatbush Tenants Coalition are changing the notion that ridiculous rent hikes are like taxes - inevitable and inescapable. Folks, they ain't. This City has a long history of rent activism and tenants rights. Now's the time to join the struggle and help people on your block know that there's help out there. The CHTU meets every third Thursday, and don't let the name fool you. You're welcome and encouraged to help make Lefferts part of the movement.

    Landlords are intimidating tenants, and some are just plain racist in their renting. Most insidiously, they're offering buyouts that sound like big money to longtime tenants, but that actually amount to precious little over the long haul. What's $25,000 when you're paying $800 a month for a two-bedroom apartment? Cuz you gotta live somewhere. I guess if you were planning to move anyway it's a good deal. That happened to folks I know during the last run-up in prices in the East Village and Dumbo. But if your life and family are right here, the buyout makes no sense at all. Except to the landlord. Think about it. If he's willing to hand over $25,000 in cash, what must it REALLY be worth?

    11. Lefferts Gardens Food Coop Takes Flight

    Do you believe in magic? Well don't, it'll burn you every time. (Oh, David Copperfield, why hast thou foresaken me? You can't fly...I was such a fool.) Believe rather in the hard work of neighbors like Karen Oh who spent years ushering in a new coop to the neighborhood. Even the Q was skeptical...I kept thinking why reinvent the wheel when the biggest Coop wheel around is just a bike ride or car service ride or B41 ride away? But when I attended the Open House I got it. Coops ARE about local, and here's to the Lefferts Coop having a long and successful and cooperative existence.

    12. The Flatbush Trees

    How could I not end with this, the Q's white whale, finally being harpooned? Granted, I'm not the artist. The brilliant David Eppley is well into the process of creating the hexagrams that will become the flowers of the Flatbush Trees at Empire and Flatbush. Folks, this is going to be outrageously cool. Middle school kids are already making the pieces of sign vinyl and David will attach them to the trees in the Spring. Every one of you who gave to the project will get your name on the dedication. Just thinking forward to that day, I'm filled with the joy of a thousand cuddly toys in a red barn on a cools summer's eve, surrounded by freshly bathed domesticated animal babies while listening to the soothing sounds of the breeze through the ample waves of grain, in my favorite sweater, smartphone in hand, dialing up Little House on the Prairie as read by Gore Vidal.

    Hey, we all have fantasies don't we? Don't judge.

    Here's to 2015. And if I missed something of significance, which I undoubtedly did because I'm writing this while caretaking three little girls as they tear apart the house, please drop your wisdom below. Oh, and goodbye No Slappz! I'll miss you, you old racist scumbag. The last big story for the Q? Moderation is now ON.

    To the Trees!











     

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  • 01/04/15--08:46: Qomments
  • So starting now, anyone can comment. No need to be a Google user or anything, and you don't have to fill in those silly letters. But I'll be moderating, so keep it somewhat clean and yeah, certain folks (three in total so far) are banned. Also it will take as long as it does for me to check my email before your post goes live. Usually that's within the hour, but life happens. No need to post your comment more than once.

    And in celebration of the new policy, I leave you with the below poster from near 50 years ago. To most of you it will mean nothing, but for some, I hope you enjoy as much as I did. By the way, Mr. Old Time Rock 'n' Roll was considered on a par with Iggy in late '60s Detroit for his "raw" live shows. In other words, you never know which way the wind's gonna blow. Against the Wind? You bet. Like a rock? Like a Rock Against the Wind? (Always bugged me that line "Like a rock...STORMING FROM THE GATE." Don't know about your rocks, but mine don't really storm from anything, usually just sit there.)



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  • 01/06/15--06:54: Wanted for Parkside Shooting
  • Lotsa times I'm wary of posting these pictures because the faces are so obscured, and this is no exception. However...the jacket is pretty darn recognizable. Seen this guy?



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  • 01/07/15--06:47: Terrific Show at Tugboat
  • A neighbor with the handle Anton Gold is putting up some of his photographs at Tugboat today. He sent me some pictures that are really stupendous that I thought I'd share. The opening is Saturday, so come out and give him a big kiss, handshake, bump or bow, depending on your comfort level and cultural norm.

    Anton moved to Lefferts Gardens 11 years ago, on Lefferts III. Married with two Yorkies named Lefferts and Gizzy. (As far as I know there are no plans to rename a local street "Gizzy.) He had this sweet thing to say about the project:

    My little Tugboat photo show's true purpose (which is the mantra of my photography) is that I can take a photograph of PLG on any given day that is at face value (as a production of light) as beautiful as any photo taken that day anywhere on the planet. 
    I'll bet the Opening on Saturday is around 6pm, the prototypical "Opening" time, but I'll try to confirm that. And now, for some extraordinary samples:



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  • 01/08/15--13:41: Zoning Update
  • Some of y'all have emailed asking about where we're at with a zoning study. CB9 members were invited to a special training session by the Brooklyn Department of City Planning on Tuesday, where we were treated to an extraordinarily thorough examination of the neighborhood and the potential for this and that scenarios. Zoning is a funny thing, and a notoriously blunt tool for social engineering. However, by learning about some of the plans for, say, East New York (here's the big proposal - it's actually fascinating), we were able to ask questions about what is and isn't possible, since so much of it relies on what developers are and aren't willing to build once the zoning is in place. If you're interested in the how the future of Lefferts/SoCro, or LeSoCro, could potentially unfold, I urge you to familiarize yourself with zoning, at least enough to get the gist. A nice intro about the various zoning designations can be viewed here.

    Way Out Atlantic Ave: The ENY of the future? A bit optimistic, perhaps?

    And while there wasn't a lot of NEW information discussed, much of it was new to the new Board members, many of whom, in a bit of a panic, helped to rescind last year's resolution to begin the process of studying our neighborhood and proposing changes consistent with the neighborhoods priorities. Turns out a formal "resolution"wasn't really needed, and we went quite a bit further in ours than had, say, CB8 in its initial approach to Planning. All they wrote was a letter, and it had nothing specific at all in it. But Winston et al at City Planning quite liked our resolution, and were quick to engage the CB to move forward. I've been over this 1,000 times, but it's worth repeating, particularly since some in the room on Tuesday didn't really know how far we'd gotten before things blew up in September.

    The bottom line is this. City Planning is not about to pour enormous resources into a rezoning study, and engage in the lengthy process of dialogue and ULURP, if a) we don't invite them in formally and b) we won't entertain the possibility of finding places to build new housing, in particular affordable housing as laid out in the goals of the current Mayoral administration. Dig? So somehow, CB9 has to go back to the drawing "board" and restate its support for a study and its acknowledgment of the goals of the DPC. Barring that, we get stuck with the same lousy 50-year-old zoning that led to the creation of 626, an outdated map that actively encourages a totally random hodge-podge construction environment. With more than two dozen development plans already in the works for the area south of Eastern Parkway, west of Prospect Park, west of NY Ave, you can see why some of us are very nervous about what this means in practice. Actually, so much is already cooked into the pie that an 18-month zoning process will barely make a dent.  We've already lost a year. Here's hoping the bleeding stops now.

    You probably already know about the other unneighborly 23-story tower going up on Nostrand below Church. But did you know that inside sources tell the Q that the Associated on Nostrand above Empire, which lost its lease, is already likely to be a huge, and maybe tall, apartment building? (Sadly, neighbors spoke to the grocery store's owners asking that they stay, and were sold a bill of goods about how they would. Real money talks, and that's whose speaking now over there.) Did you know that a hotel firm is looking at Empire right now? Did you know how big the apartment building will be at the recently sold Sea Crest linen spot? Did you know that R6 zoning has no height limits, and that other than the absurd and "loose" R7-1 zoning that led to 626, our neighborhood is chock full of R6? Did you know that a simple change from R6 to R6A or R6B could include not only height limits but "quality housing" dictates that ensure the context of our blocks remains intact?

    It really IS consequential. And Tuesday was a great start towards making the board understand those consequences. And yes, Empire Blvd, Flatbush to Rogers, will be on the table. But so will dozens of other blocks. Hopefully we'll move forward without any more shenanigans from the scaremongers at MTOPP, but who knows? One can only hope that their, um, enthusiasm can be contained long enough to discuss the issue soberly.

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