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    Remember Robert Durst? He's the billionaire elder scion of Seymour Durst's real estate empire who escaped conviction on not one, not two, but three obvious-to-an-idiot murder suspicions. His life is the stuff of movies (there are at least two, plus a number of Law and Orders) and he continues to live and soak in his own dirty soul right here in NYC. So what does that have to do with Lefferts? I'll get to that in a long minute.

    As the Q learns more and more about the true fiscal machinery behind seemingly organic gentrification, he begins to wonder whose town this is anyway. At the Community Board meeting the other night an older member asked what's both an absurd and profound question related to zoning. He asked "whose land is it anyway, that these developers are taking?" On the one hand, the query is laughable. It's private property of course, and they pay for it, with some form of currency, even if it's all on paper. I even snottily answered the question by interrupting "go far enough back and the land is actually the Indians'" but given the native people's looser view of the public/private partnership, it might be more appropriate to say "God" or someone of his stature actually "owns" the land. Our whole society and notion of wealth and growth stems from private ownership of the very land beneath our feet, and it's really an ingenious proposition when you think about it. Without that simple concept you get no United States, or Louisiana Purchase, or lawn mowers. You can't get loans, you can't build empires, and you sure as heck can't grow a tree and call it yours. So that's a bit of fiscal machinery at play. Sometimes it's fun to remember that the very basis of things is not actually self-evident, but constructed.

    The Q don't know about you, but I was actually floored to learn that 115 Ocean traded for $26 million. Not because I have any concept of that much money, but because it was more than 2 1/2 times what another supposedly sophisticated investor paid four years ago. And at this moment, 115 is the same much-maligned much-neglected dump it was back then. No improvements to speak of, still on the list of worst landlords. Granted, the land beneath our feet is seemingly made of black gold these days, so speculation is inevitable. But supposedly "sophisticated" investors don't usually jump in whole hog without an exit strategy. Do they? I mean, the building is basically "worth" $300 s/f now. There is no conceivable way the building can make money as a rent-stabilized building at that valuation. With the rent laws up for review this summer in Albany, that's a heck of a lot of confidence, don't you think? Because either they have to radically change the building in six months (which is not legally possible in such short order) or have some bug in their ear (probably not Bob Marley) telling them "every little thing is gonna be all right." If the rent laws ain't gonna change, and you have a "friend" who knows that for sure, well then I guess you could plan for the long haul. Hmmm. Look, at this point a moneyed developer is going to know, or have lobbyists who know, ALL the relevant players Upstate, and a pretty good idea of how things are going to roll. The rest of us may find us putting faith in a rigged outcome.

    Sammy
    Freddy
    Of course, it's not just this one building. That line in the statement from the realtor that 115 was sold to "a local family that has been investing in Brooklyn for multiple years." makes you think its Andy and Opie and Aunt Bea who aare now buying up Central Brooklyn (with Barney as the lovable super?) And who did this lovely NYC family business buy 115 from but the ethically-challenged group called Burke Leighton, led by Freddy Sayegh and some other unholy roller named Sammy (both pictured here - as you can see Sammy seems quite excited in this head shot. Go get 'em Sammy!)

    So Burke Leighton made a killing on this sale. Recognize any of these buildings? BL seem to be in the habit of buying up all kinds of buildings in our area, and, it would seem by the sale of 115, "preparing them" for resale. How do I know Freddy Sayegh and his team at Burke Leighton are ethically-disabled? Because they are one of the prime targets of the Crown Heights Tenants Union, a brave bunch of tenants who have banded together - old-timer and new-timer - to take on the nasty treatment that ALL of the tenants are being given in order to get them out and jack up the rent 20% with each new lease. That's the loophole that fast-tracks a building right out of rent stabilization on the way to the absurdly high prevailing market rates. Below's the poster for a tenant organizing meeting for Burke Leighton tenants coming up this Wednesday, so by all means if you live in any of these or other BL buildings please go! Remember, your owner is probably behind an LLC name (like 115 Ocean, which was called Lincoln Prospect Associates), so do the diligence if you can and find out who's behind the mask. You may be helping tons of fellow tenants to learn that they too are part of this group that's organizing.

    All good, and weird. I started wondering who this "family" business might be, the one that bought 115 at such a ridiculously high markup.  I thought to myself, well, maybe it's just another one of these companies buying up tons of buildings right now. Maybe one that's bought THIS many buildings:




    Pretty impressive, no? One might even call it a geographic strategy...one that dovetails nicely with the current trend of fast-paced gentrification. As you well know, there are tons more buildings than just the ones noted on the above map, a map that appears proudly on Burke Leighton's website. But between them and Pinnacle and Shamco and BCB and a handful of others, most of the buildings round here have been bought and sold and leveraged many times in very recent years. So what, you might say. The big money figured there were low lying fruit to be plucked. That's how capitalism works, and why should we care?

    Well, for one thing, these big asset firms aren't buying up candy for resale. They're purchasing people's homes. Granted those people don't own their homes, but many of them have been paying rent for decades and have made landlords money in the process. They're part of the fabric of the neighborhood, the schools, the shops, the churches. You could go as far as to say they ARE the neighborhood, for what is a neighborhood but the people who live there and raise families and play in the playgrounds and shop the stores? (You could say that's old-fashioned of me, but just think how so many distinct neighborhoods of Manhattan have disappeared into anonymity as they've been turned into monolithic worker dorms, many designed for the young professional who's here to start a career, marry and move away. Am I being glib? Maybe, but think of the old Lower East Side, or Chelsea, and how it's changed for the blander. Progress, maybe. Or just plain part of the greater corporatization of the culture. And we read just this weekend (NY Times: Why the Doorman Is Lonely) that one quarter...yes 25%...of all NYC coops and condos are owned by people as a second home. They don't even REALLY live here, or pay income tax. And they say we have a housing shortage.

    I've echoed what's been written elsewhere, about how these very small number of players are literally owning the 'hood. It's not new. But maybe you haven't heard about this one - Bennat Charatan Berger - and what I found out kinda blew my mind. BCB is one of the companies that the CHTU is fighting. And oddly, as I was checking out their homepage, I ran across this tidbit.

     Founded in 2008 by the mother and son team of Debrah Lee Charatan and Bennat Charatan Berger, BCB has preserved and improved more than 36 multi-family and mixed use buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
    How charming! A family business...wait. Isn't that the language used by The Real Deal when talking about the unnamed company that bought 115 Ocean from Burke Leighton? I know companies often have relatives working together. But it struck me as odd that BCB makes such a point of it, as if to say "we must have integrity, being that we're a mother and son business." Perhaps that's an image they're trying to cultivate, and that they're selling to others through P.R.

    But here's the intrigue. If the name Debrah Lee Charatan doesn't ring a bell, maybe you should take a closer look at the story of that guy I mentioned at the top of the post - Robert Durst. Apologies to Wikipedia for quoting so liberally, but they provide all the details in a wonderful summary. If haven't read the abbreviated version of his story, you simply MUST:

    Early life

    One of four children, Durst grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and attended Scarsdale High School. He completed his undergraduate degree at Lehigh University and attended graduate school at UCLA. At age 7 Durst reportedly witnessed his mother's apparent suicide; she either fell or jumped from the roof of the family's mansion. According to Reader's Digest, Durst underwent extensive counseling because of his mother's death, and doctors found that his "deep anger" could lead to psychological problems, including schizophrenia. Durst went on to become a real estate developer in his father's business; however, it was his brother Douglas who was later appointed to run the family business. The appointment in the 1990s caused a rift between Robert and his family, and he became estranged from them.

    Fugitive

    In 1973, Durst married Kathleen McCormack, who disappeared in 1982. Her case remained unsolved for 18 years when New York State Police re-opened the criminal investigation. On December 24, 2000, Durst's long-time friend, Susan Berman, who was believed to have knowledge of McCormack's disappearance, was found murdered execution-style in her Benedict Canyon, California house. Durst was questioned in both cases but not charged. According to prosecutors, Durst moved to Texas in 2000 and began cross-dressing to divert attention from the disappearance of McCormack.In 2001, Durst was arrested in Galveston, Texas, shortly after body parts of his elderly neighbor, Morris Black, were found floating in Galveston Bay, but was released on bail. Durst missed his court hearing and was declared the first billion-dollar fugitive in the US. He was caught in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a Wegmans Supermarket, after trying to shoplift a chicken sandwich, Band-Aids, and a newspaper, even though he had $500 cash in his pocket. A police search of his rented car yielded $37,000 in cash, two guns, marijuana and Black's driver's license.

    Trial

    In 2003, Durst went on trial for the murder of Morris Black. He hired defense attorney Dick DeGuerin and claimed self-defense. During cross-examination, Durst admitted to using a paring knife, two saws and an axe to dismember Black's body before dumping his remains in Galveston Bay.  He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which the defense argued explained his behavior. The jury acquitted him of murder. In 2004, Durst pleaded guilty to two counts of bond jumping and one count of evidence tampering. As part of a plea bargain, he received a sentence of five years and was given credit for time served, requiring him to serve about three years in prison. Durst was paroled in 2005. The rules of his release required him to stay near his home; permission was required to travel.

    Second arrest

    In December 2005, Durst made an unauthorized trip to the boarding house where Black had been killed and to a nearby shopping mall. At the mall, he ran into the presiding judge from his murder trial, Judge Susan Criss. Due to this incident, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles determined that Durst had violated the terms of his parole, and he was returned to jail.  He was released again from custody on March 1, 2006. In 2011, it was reported that Durst had purchased a townhouse in Harlem, and his family confirmed that he was living there at least some of the time.

    Third arrest:

    In July 2014, Durst was arrested after turning himself in to police following an incident at a Houston CVS drugstore in which he allegedly exposed himself without provocation and urinated on a rack of candy. He then left the store and casually walked down the street. Durst was charged with criminal mischief and is currently awaiting trial. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, he may serve up to a year in prison and may be subject to a $2000 fine.

    So beyond learning that one can plead Asperger's as an excuse for chopping someone up into tiny bits with a paring knife, we also learn that Durst became a gentrifier in Harlem in 2011. Who helped him find the place? Why, BCB Property Management of course.

    Because Durst's second wife, the one he didn't murder (so far), is Debrah Lee Charatan. And she's still married to himby the way. And the family company she runs with her son, Durst's stepson, BCB, is clearly on a mission to build an empire of its own. Maybe as some sort challenge to the younger Durst brother, who is still enormously successful and apparently terrified of his older brother to this day?

    All of the above, dear reader, is true, as far as my sleuthing can ascertain. But one bit of speculation could either turn this into a big story or a "the Q has gone off the rails" fable.

    What if BCB and Burke Leighton were conspiring together to ratchet up the prices of buildings like 115 Ocean? I don't know for a fact that BCB was the buyer, making BL a big, big profit. BUT, if they (or any other real estate concerns) colluded to increase the price of the building and then sold one more time - this time to an unsuspecting gullible party, they could split the diff. You know, the way a shill bidder can bid up the price to net the seller more dough at auction. Just a hunch. Because otherwise, I just don't see how any of it makes any sense.

    When people's very lives and homes are at stake, the Q thinks it warrants a ton of action by elected officials and the D.A. and the media to figure out who these new Lords of Flatbush are. By jacking up the price of the buildings themselves, they make them completely unworkable as a business to landlords. It was one thing when tenants paying $500 - $1000 for an apartment fed a building worth a couple million. You can still make money. But when an 89 unit building costs $26 million? And it's a dump needing oodles of repairs? It don't take Warren Buffet to see where this is heading.

    To say the very least, the story unfolding before our eyes is much richer, much more sinister, and much more interesting, than I ever could have imagined.


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  • 01/13/15--04:35: Kings Theater Lineup
  • Soon you'll be able to stroll down the promenade of the Flabenue and take in some theater or music a la the Beacon Theater uptown. More shows have been announced, and as I suspected, Oldies and Oddities will be the norm. The only thing truly contemporary here is Mavado and it reflects the nabe. It's also odd that this list is through the end of the year, so there are certainly large gaps that will need to be filled. But this is just the beginning, of course. My kids will love Annie. That Disney thing seems creepy, and Sarah McLachlin still has fans? Guess the Lilith never dies. I wonder how Dancehall music will go over in space? Here's to a great run. I'll save my predictions for a year from now when we can assess how the strategy is working. See you at Annie! The Widespread Panic, not so much.



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  • 01/13/15--07:09: La Police Sont de Retour!
  • That's right! The NYPD are back, and ready to ticket. Just this morning, the Q got his first summons of the year. For turning right on a red light. On a bicycle.


    Friends, rest assured that the City coffers, so depleted during the work slowdown protest of Mayor de Blasio telling the truth about excess force and the experiences of his own son and not apologizing for said truth which happened to coincide, sadly, with a terrible shooting by a madman, those coffers will soon fill to the rim with the rich taste of Benjamins.

    As the wizened bard Huey Lewis once mused, "I'm taking what they're givin' cuz I'm workin' for a livin'"


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    Sometimes the City's infrastructure comes up to bite us on the ass. Check out this scary vid a neighbor sent of a Con Ed transformer fire:


    Here's what our new friend had to say:

    Went to bed last night and woke up this morning to intermittent sounds of exploding manhole and continuously burning underground Con Ed transformer (at least that's what FDNY told us it is) on Clarkson in between Bedford and Rogers.  We called Con Ed about 12 times over 14 hours, and they only came out around 10 am today to look at it, then mostly sat in their van and watched the show.  FDNY also only occasionally present.  

    As a matter of fact, they were digging up the street one block down, tween Flabush and Bedford, when I went to work this morning.

    I put in a request to the DM at CB9 to see if I can find out whether this has been contained.

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  • 01/13/15--11:48: Affordable Housing Summit
  • Man oh man that's a lot of public figures. Here's hoping they don't all want a moment on the stump. Note: they need an RSVP if you're going. Something tells me it's gonna be packed. Heck, the aides alone would probably fill the place.



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    The Q gathered together some addresses from the various activist groups fighting landlords for targeting tenants for displacement through many means, from miserable service to harassment to not cashing rent checks to renting only to whites to offering miserly buyouts and intimidating the vulnerable. Evil? Nah. Just all in a day's work on the way towards a Lease That Lays the Golden Eggs - a building free of rent stabilization. Twas a time when the spread between market rate and rent stabilization was not so great. In fact, thousands of people in the neighborhood were given "preferred" rents for years, a discount from the maximum the landlord could charge under stabilization. Those days are gone.

    If you or folks you know live in one of these buildings, I encourage you to reach out to the Crown Heights Tenants Union, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition. And remember, you have the right to get a rent history of your apartment, which will show you how much you SHOULD be paying now. The Q just learned that one of these landlords who owns hardware and constructions concerns actually PAYS THEMSELVES for capital improvements that are shoddy. But the receipts are there for the judge! And the landlord can jack up the rent as a result. It's so disgusting and demoralizing as to make your head spin. This is how neighborhoods are torn apart, typically by race and class, and reconfigured to meet the outsized profit goals of the below companies, who have essentially cornered the market in Crown Heights and Flatbush and Lefferts and... Plus remember, this is just a subset of the bigger story in NYC. At this point, these companies are controlling so many lives they're like mini-states. Any of you live in any of these buildings want to share?

    Building Address Landlord
    990 President Street 11225 burke Leighton
    951 Carroll Street 11225 burke Leighton
    805 St. Marks Avenue 11213 BK burke Leighton
    1834 Caton Ave 11226 BK burke Leighton
    1016 President Street 11225 BK burke Leighton
    2505 Bedford Avenue 11226 BK burke Leighton
    215 Sterling Street 11225 BK burke Leighton
    389 East 48 Street 11203 BK burke Leighton
    78 Hawthorne Street 11225 BK burke Leighton
    31 East 21st Street 11226 BK burke Leighton
    21 East 21st Street 11226 BK burke Leighton
    726 Ocean Avenue 11226 BK burke Leighton
    2201 Cortelyou Road 11226 BK burke Leighton
    219 E 17th Street 11226 BK burke Leighton
    610/612 Flatbush Avenue 11226 BK burke Leighton
    476 Ocean Avenue 11226 BK burke Leighton
    458 15th Street 11215 BK burke Leighton
    2564 Bedford Avenue 11226 BK burke Leighton
    2325 Foster Avenue 11210 BK burke Leighton
    608 Flatbush Avenue 11226 burke Leighton
    115 Ocean Avenue 11225 BK Jonas
    181 HAWTHORNE STREET Jonas
    1600 CATON AVENUE Jonas
    315 OCEAN PARKWAY Jonas
    217 EAST 7 STREET Jonas
    465 EAST 7 STREET Jonas
    1620 CATON AVENUE Jonas
    214 EAST 8 STREET Jonas
    714 EAST 27 STREET Jonas
    415 WASHINGTON AVENUE Jonas
    245 OCEAN PARKWAY Jonas
    241 OCEAN PARKWAY Jonas
    147 Ocean Avenue Jonas
    931 PUTNAM AVE ZT Realty
    637 NOSTRAND AVE ZT Realty
    5 MACDONOUGH ST ZT Realty
    403 MACON ST APT 16 ZT Realty
    1045 UNION ST ZT Realty
    874 BERGEN ST ZT Realty
    95 KINGSTON AVE ZT Realty
    244 NEW YORK AVE APT 8 ZT Realty
    942 BERGEN ST ZT Realty
    1398 DEAN ST ZT Realty
    267 CLIFTON PL ZT Realty
    303 PUTNAM AVE ZT Realty
    299 PUTNAM AVE ZT Realty
    306 PROSPECT PL ZT Realty
    293 STUYVESANT AVE ZT Realty
    585 PARK PL ZT Realty
    276 THROOP AVE ZT Realty
    3 MACDONOUGH ST ZT Realty
    820 FRANKLIN AVENUE ZT Realty
    927 PUTNAM AVENUE ZT Realty
    1082-1092 President St Shamco
    1026 President St. Shamco
    1 St. Pauls Ct Shamco
    200 E 18th St Shamco
    2015 Foster Ave Shamco
    215 Martense St. Shamco
    350 E 19th St Shamco
    538-546 E 21st St Shamco
    543-549 E. 21st St. Shamco
    75-89 Hawthorne St Shamco
    860 Ocean Ave Shamco
    1702 Caton Avenue Shamco
    1710 Caton Avenue Shamco
    1716 Caton Avenue Shamco
    1722 Caton Avenue Shamco
    50 E. 19th St. Shamco
    1901-1907 Dorchester Rd. Shamco
    65 E. 19th St. Shamco
    2110 Newkirk Avenue Shamco
    690 Rogers Ave Shamco
    566 Parkside Ave Shamco
    558 Parkside Ave Shamco
    2101 Bedford Ave Shamco
    1204 Ocean Ave Shamco
    1553 Ocean Ave Shamco
    79-93 Bristol St Shamco
    1155 DEAN STREET Renassiance Realty Group
    1151 DEAN STREET Renassiance Realty Group
    764 ST JOHN'S PLACE Renassiance Realty Group
    1561 PITKIN AVENUE Renassiance Realty Group
    39 ARGYLE ROAD Renassiance Realty Group
    45 ARGYLE ROAD Renassiance Realty Group
    285 SCHENECTADY Renassiance Realty Group
    1646 UNION STREET Renassiance Realty Group
    153 CHAUNCEY ST Renassiance Realty Group
    511 Lincoln Place Renassiance Realty Group
    493 Lincoln Place Renassiance Realty Group
    495 Lincoln Place Renassiance Realty Group
    519 Lincoln Place Renassiance Realty Group
    505 Lincoln Place Renassiance Realty Group
    487 Lincoln Place Renassiance Realty Group
    2-12 Sutter Avenue Renassiance Realty Group
    235 Utica Avenue Renassiance Realty Group
    1701 Utica Avenue Renassiance Realty Group
    564 West 126 St. BCB Property Management
    556 West 126th Street BCB Property Management
    560 West 126th Street BCB Property Management
    308 West 88th street BCB Property Management
    1159 President St. BCB Property Management
    1153 President St., Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    543 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    529 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    527 Nostrand, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    525 Nostrand, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    179 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    384 Court St, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    1215 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    317 4th Ave, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    250 Pacific St, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    234 Union Ave, Brooklyn BCB Property Management
    285 Court St BCB Property Management
    384 Court St BCB Property Management
    1059 Union St BCB Property Management
    1115 Union St BCB Property Management
    442 Lorimer St BCB Property Management
    15 Crown Street BCB Property Management
    991-993 President Street BCB Property Management
    329 Lincoln Place BCB Property Management
    315 Lincoln place BCB Property Management
    319 Lincoln Place BCB Property Management
    323 Lincoln Place BCB Property Management
    1171 President Street Pinnacle
    382 Eastern Parkway Pinnacle
    225 Parkside Avenue Pinnacle
    991 Carroll Street Pinnacle
    706 Lefferts Avenue Pinnacle
    681 Ocean Avenue Pinnacle
    1554 Ocean Avenue Pinnacle
    459 Schenectady Avenue Pinnacle
    176 Clarkson Avenue Pinnacle
    3301 Farragut Road Pinnacle
    489 Eastern Parkway Pinnacle
    481 Eastern Parkway Pinnacle
    497 Eastern Parkway Pinnacle
    990 Montgomery Street Pinnacle
    40 Argyle Road Pinnacle
    28 Argyle Road Pinnacle
    307 12th Street Pinnacle
    961 Washington Avenue Pinnacle
    1535 Ocean Avenue Pinnacle
    1362 Ocean Avenue Pinnacle
    619 Rugby Road Pinnacle
    615 Rugby Road Pinnacle
    607 Rugby Road Pinnacle
    1042 Union Street Pinnacle
    292 St Johns Place Pinnacle
    926 Carroll Street Pinnacle
    1038 Union Street Pinnacle
    1597 Bedford Avenue Pinnacle
    916 Caroll Street Pinnacle
    1048 Union Street Pinnacle
    85 Clarkson Avenue Pinnacle
    529 East 22nd Street Pinnacle
    1060 Union Street Pinnacle
    601 Crown Street Pinnacle
    426 East 22nd Street Pinnacle
    222 Lenox Road Pinnacle
    2102 Beverly Road Pinnacle
    176 Clarkson Ave Pinnacle

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    From your good friends at CB9:

    Dear Community:

    Community Board 9 is pleased to present an informational session on New York City's Zoning and ULURP Processes on Thursday, January 22, 2015, 6:30 pm, Crown Gardens Community Room, 1185 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, NY 11225 - Entrance to the Community Room is on Nostrand Avenue, between President and Carroll Streets, right across the street from Community Board 9's office on Nostrand.

    We encourage everyone to come and learn what zoning is; and the process for conducting a zoning study.  You will also be provided information on ULURP (the Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure)

    The informational session will be conducted by representatives from the Department of City Planning.

    We look forward to welcoming you; and to providing vital information on these very important processes.

    Best Regards

    Pearl Miles

    Once again, you will have an opportunity to hear what zoning is and isn't. If it's like last week's session for the board, there will be opportunity to ask questions as well. If you have yet to become involved, this would be a good place to start. If you've been involved for quite some time, well, this is where the Board has decided to go...pretty much back to the beginning. Be there.

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  • 01/15/15--09:13: Lefferts Quiz
  • So, who recognizes the following and where it is. Pic one is of the construction to date, pic two is the new rendering, courtesy of Stephen Smith and YIMBY:





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  • 01/16/15--10:17: Treesy Does It
  • Lincoln Road got some love today, with a new tree AND a replacement for a lost brother in branches. That's the $26 million building, 115 Ocean, right there on the right of the tree-man. Such lavish new landscaping is likely the key reason for the massive pop in price.



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  • 01/19/15--05:33: When Cultures Collide
  • You're going to see it eventually, even if it's when your cousin Edna sends it in her monthly "newses" email from Omaha. So why not on the Q?



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    The Q's mind is a muddled mess on race. I started this blog to unclutter and unpack some of my lifelong chatter, but I just seem to grow more befuddled by my ever-changing perspective and lack of understanding, since, you know, I'm not...there I'll go right out and say it. I'm not black. Never have been. Never been a woman neither, but for some reason I haven't trained my eye on feminism the way I have on racism. (Mrs. Q is thanking her lucky stars on that front right about now...if she even reads this stuff anymore.)

    In the span of 24 hours, I've been sent many fun items to check out, four of which came in the following order:

    A) A treatise by a not-particularly accomplished dude named James Buntin in Slate titled "The Gentrification Myth: It's Extremely Rare and Not As Bad For the Poor As You Think."

    B) An SNL skit (see bottom of post) that wouldn't be funny at all if Gentrification in Brooklyn weren't in fact a thang (because comedy is way more real than any cherry-picked statistics, especially statistics as interpreted by a dude who clearly gets off, as do I, by being contrarian, and somehow thinks that Adams Morgan in D.C. somehow qualifies as a case study in current trends.)

    C) A hilarious observation that this weekend's Charles Blow scorcher on how wealthy people should consider, contrary to their stated beliefs, that it's extremely expensive to be poor, was placed right next to this here Air BnB picture:


    D) A biting piece on how you and I probably don't know "what Martin Luther King actually did," which boils down to the following - MLK urged and taught black folks to face their worst fears born of years of living under a constant state of terror, thereby ending the terrorism in the South. Terrorism - good choice of words. And he urged and taught black folks to collectively take the beatings and fury with dignity, thereby exposing who it was that was truly weak and ultimately the most fearful and ignorant - the white Jim Crow power structure. And so, I surmised after reading the essay by Hamden Rice, MLK is not just the "Dream" guy, but actually a nightmare-ender.

    I urge you to read/view them all, and tell me if your head too spins like a dreidal in its neck socket.

    Btw, Buntin's article is a sick and sorry piece journalism. First, the studies he cites are nearly 20 years old. Talking about '90s gentrification to describe current social trends would be like talking about the '90s internet to describe current social media. He cites some of the same statistics I've seen elsewhere to say displacement doesn't happen, then notes that gentrification is actually REAL in places like D.C., Chicago and NYC. Like, who actually gives a damn about anywhere else anyway? (Btw, add L.A. to the list James - white folks have finally crossed the old freeway dividing lines. Atlanta's undergoing racial upheaval, and Texas...well, only Texas cares about Texas so I'll let them sort that out.)

    What's crazy too is that his editors let him stick with the jaw-dropping headline when halfway through he completely changes the subject: 
     While critics of gentrification decry a process that is largely imaginary, they’ve missed a far more serious problem—the spread of extreme poverty.
    I wonder exactly how many critics of gentrification actually missed the spread of poverty? Oops! Didn't catch that USA Today scoop!It may shock readers of the Q but this "displacement" that Buntin says doesn't happen isn't even the core of the real problem. It's the WAY that it happens. If a landlord in a market rate apartment raises the rent - because he can - and can find a tenant who can pay the higher rate, well, that's how capitalism works and it sucks if you were the one priced out. It's happening all the time in post-gentrified Manhattan. But if a landlord CAN'T legally raise your rent more than a certain amount and employs illegal and intimidating tactics to get you out or to pay more, then you have SYSTEMATIC displacement. And when that process happens by whites to blacks, don't be surprised if it arouses a bit of suspicion and echoes of previous struggles.

    If, as Buntin argues, you are black with at least a high school diploma, and you manage to keep your place of residence, you too may see some benefits from gentrification. His advice runs something like this: hold tight mildly educated not-too-impoverished black folks! We're coming to the rescue sooner than you can fire up a Macbook Air! Assimilate while you still can; it's good for you! Roll film...




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    What do y'all know about this? Sounds pretty cool. Who's going and can tell us about it?

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  • 01/20/15--14:02: Lefferts Quiz
  • Just after the blizzard of '88 - 1888 that is - Adrian Vanderveer Martense took this picture of a horse drawn sleigh:


    If you can guess where it is, you either cheated or have a darn good memory for someone nearly 150 years old. Hmm?

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    Hey, we're on a roll with mayo! After getting a new State Senator in Jessie Hamilton, when longtimer Eric Adams became Borough President, now we're saying sayonara to the Reverend Karim Camara, our NY State Assembly dude. He's moving on to lead something you've never heard of and probably don't care about so I'll spare you the details. Let's just say it sounds like a lot less of a headache and he won't have to take any more heat for the State's notoriously inept governance.

    Granted parts of the Q's readership are NOT in his district - the 43rd. And granted further MOST of you couldn't care less, because let's face it, most of you are more interested in cinder block collections than following Albany politics. As (my) state senator Kevin Parker pointed out to me in a super fun sit-down, though, there's a HELL of a lot of power in those bodies, even if it seems like three people decide everything. Andrew Cuomo - quite probably the ugliest of the 50 governors - seems to be all-powerful, but in fact it takes dozens and dozens of scary-looking-overachieving-angry-paunchy men to make the State truly dysfunctional. So...here's to you, Karim. For being soft-spoken, well-dressed and baby-faced. While I have no idea what you've done for us, I expect it's both more and less than we expected.

    In all seriousness this is always an opportunity to think about what sort of person we want representing us when no one's watching. It's an exciting district - lots of change, lots of character, and plenty of characters.  And so, just days into his new term, Karim bids us adieu to yieu and yieu and yieu, meaning a special election will likely be called and we can breathe again knowing we are once again represented. Til then, try not to take unnecessary risks.

    Want to know if the 43rd is YOUR district? The Q's got you covered:



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  • 01/21/15--09:21: Josh & Karen and AirBnB
  • Apologies to Joshua and Karen for questioning their validity and identity. As an eagle-eyed reader points out, not only were they the poster children for an AirBnB ad in the Times mentioning Lefferts Gardens, but today they're quoted in the Old Gray Lady herself:

    But just as distressed over the skyrocketing cost of housing in the city were residents who said the money they made from renting spare bedrooms on Airbnb has become indispensable. Joshua Greenberg, 39, a freelance writer, said that housing costs had chased him from Manhattan to Carroll Gardens, to Crown Heights, and finally to Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he now lives with his wife, Karen Wight-Greenberg, and two young children.
    I have to say that despite my populist leanings I'm really only in support of this being legal if you own your apartment or house. If you're a renter, I think you should get some sort of permission from the landlord, unless short-stay rentals are specifically allowed. I do NOT think landlords should be saving apartments for the purpose though. In a housing crisis, that's just nasty to withhold (probably stabilized) apartments. And while I got no problem with it legally, the same is true for people withholding their legal apartments from the market generally. Though in a private house, I don't think the City should be in the biz of telling you what to do.

    Oh, and people should absolutely have to pay hotel tax. It's not fair to those who do.

    And shouldn't Airbnb capitalize the b's? I found it difficult to pronounce and comprehend at first.

    Comments?

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  • 01/21/15--11:42: From Mad to Madness
  • I just read the latest from Alicia. My jaw is on the floor. I think I just stepped on it by accident. The below is what she wrote to her list. Rezoning - in order to preserve the predominant character of the neighborhood and encourage smarter development than the chaotic building we have happening now - has been characterized as...well, you can read it for yourselves:

    Good Morning Neighbor

    We have just been confronted with a serious crisis!
    Community Board 9 plans on not having any resolution
    presented to City Planning!

    That is right!  Without a Resolution we are done!

    What they want is to have 1ULURP committee meeting
    on Monday, Jan 26, at 890 Nostrand Ave.
    Solidify the parameters of the study,
    which is entire Black community, from Eastern Parkway
    to Clarkson Ave, from Flatbush/Ocean Ave/ Washington Ave
    to East New York Ave!

    This is the entire Black Community
    and it contains none of the Jewish Community!

    Then on Tuesday, at the Community Board meeting
    Located at 650 Bedford at 7 pm,
     not include the rezoning study on
    the agenda, so we can't speak
    But present a recommendation during the "Business session"
    where the community can not speak
    and vote to pass these parameters into City Planning Hands!

    We need to come out on Monday and Tuesday
    and shut CB9 down!
    We will not allow our community to be sold to
    the White Man, for whatever pay off they are gaining!

    Yes, I'm calling a spade a spade!
    This is our reality
    A black community is being sold
    to White developers
     And they are using Black people to do it!

    The Jewish Community is not being included
    in this study and thus has protection!

    If you want to help mobilize for this coming week
    Please call me asap.
    We need people to man the phones
    and to get flyers out into the community!


    Dwayne Nicholson, chair of CB9, just wrote the board a note to us denouncing her latest two emails as hateful. You have to wonder whether ANYone, from the Mayor and Council on down, could be comfortable with MTOPP's language and sentiment. And how many of them, and the hard working folks at City Planning, would characterize a zoning study as "selling a black community to white developers?"(WvE, they're on to you! What are those white devils paying you, anyway? I understand, really I do. It must be hard to watch all those millions being made as you cash your civil servant paychecks. Just remember to make my cut out to my alias cuz I don't want to get reamed on my taxes, 'kay?). Especially when those white developers seem to need little help buying up properties all over Brooklyn. They've been on a spree for years now, and were hardly waiting for MTOPP's permission.

    Then, perhaps most ominously, she basically accuses black members of the Board as being "used." I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear a certain Uncle's name invoked on Monday and/or Tuesday. The 71st will be on hand. Let's hope we have the balls to escort her out to the ambulance. Kings County Behavioral is mercifully just down the avenue. The meds will be waiting in paper cups.

    Perhaps this a blessing in disguise, and her willful divisiveness will bring us all to the table together to slay the beast of racial invective, whilst engaging in respectful dialogue about a matter of some importance to the community? 


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    Yep. And given that last email from MTOPP, it's gonna be fun with a capital Ferocious. It's the Q's hope that the good folks at the 71st will be on hand to gently escort away anyone making trouble or preventing respectful dialogue. There's business to attend to, and while the Community Board is required to hold an open meeting, it is not obliged to facilitate people who have vowed "to shut it down."

    The agenda, the one that the Q has been begging the chair to discuss for 7 months now, is printed below. If like me you are drawn to conflict like a moth to flame, you will undoubtedly be there. If on the other hand your mind is made up about whether to engage City Planning in a Zoning Study of our outdated zoning, and where the study should focus, then you may be excused with good reason. Still, it would be nice to see some numbers in favor of joining the City's efforts to build affordable housing IN context with the prevailing architecture. And yeah, we'll probably see some residential on Empire to take the place of the current landmark-able fast food and storage places. Not tall - everyone involved has agreed there must be strict limits on height to avoid becoming another NYC canyon. In exchange we can expect to downzone and contextualize the zoning through huge chunks of the neighborhood. That's all speculation by yours truly at this point, but informed speculation.

    In short, there is nothing to fear about engaging City Planning in a dialogue. Otherwise, we get what we get. Oh, and it won't take 3-5 years as some knuckleheads say to get a resolution through the Council. Probably closer to 2 years (check out the CB8 timetable).  Why the rush? Let me just remind you that in 2008 we first asked for rezoning. It's 2015. Do the math. If you don't take advantage of the City's resources when they're offered, it could be years before we have the chance again. The City, and the economy, they giveth and they taketh.

    Do the right thing CB9. Ask for a gentle and thoughtful rezoning. And remember, the fight for the soul and diversity of the neighborhood is not rezoning. It's predatory landlords. And loopholes in rent regulation. And THAT should be the very next order of business, if this CB9 is to have any relevance at all. Oh, and that nonsense about how the Jewish Community is "protected" from rezoning? Let me remind everyone that the Jewish Community asked to be part of this study to accommodate growing families in overly low zoned areas, and generously stepped aside, recognizing that the western part of the district needed more immediate attention. If anything, we should be thanking Eli Cohen and the JCC for being gracious.

    Lastly, there is nothing funny about race-baiting. Not in Crown Heights. Not anywhere. Not now. Not ever.






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    Hey Ben Edwards! It's your turn to get served! Seems like it was only minutes after Alicia Boyd read Ben the riot act for not following the letter of the law on the Open Meeting statutes, CB9 announced a change of venue. To Erv's on Beekman. Drinks on Boyd!

    Just joshin' It'll be:


    The Q's pumped. I always wanted to go in that building! We'll have an opportunity to show those students how adults conduct themselves in the real world! Watch and learn, kids! Watch and learn!

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    You know what the Q loves to see? And I've seen it more than once. Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo sitting up there in the front row listening intently. There she was, not bragging or wagging her finger, but just listening. Being part of the group. Learning things. Very, very cool. One might even be forgiven for thinking that she gives a damn.

    Other than that tonight's community "training" session at Crown Gardens (that complex on the east side of Nostrand tween Carroll and President) was pretty tame. Alicia Boyd made a lot of racket, sounding off like she was more the expert than the three professionals with Master's degrees and decades of experience between them. Granted I left around halftime, and there was plenty of time for things to get out of hand. Maybe they did; please share with us! But the first half didn't see a lot of ball movement, just the usual hard earned first downs and punts. As usual, the zoning experts were clear and calm.

    One thing did become abundantly clear. We need contextual zoning for large swaths of the district. The "Quality Housing" rules that go with "letter" distinctions like R6A or R6B or R7A would go a long way to preserve the character of the neighborhood. Nearly half the district is R6 for instance, and you can create an awful lot of Fedders buildings with all that real estate. You can build tall too if you grab enough land, so the strict height limits would be welcome as well.

    I rode my bike home, past the beautiful blocks of Crown and Montgomery. Even if they don't become landmarked, Quality Housing designations could help preserve their context, maybe even prevent developers from buying them up in twos or threes to build new. Past Ebbets and Tivoli, past the new developments just north of Empire, then...Empire. And it really is shitty city down there. The Western Beef is fugly, and that parking lot is way too big and kinda creepy. The damn fast food gauntlet. The storage spaces that barely employ anyone. And then I really got it. Alicia doesn't want to lose her sense of air and space that the WB provides. It's very open there - you even get a nice bit of sky. I find it god awful and mugger-heaven, but perhaps if I lived on Sterling I'd be fond of it. No matter that a developer could buy up Western Beef right now, without rezoning, and build a tall hotel - maybe 15, 20 stories if it were skinny, which it probably would be with the park and garden views. Heck from the top you might be able to see over the Park and Greenwood Cemetery's tallest points right to the harbor. And those sunsets...those deep chemical New Jersey sunsets. Breathtaking. Book me the honeymoon suite!

    So I get that. If that's at the core of all this nonsense, I wish she would just come out and say it. The fact is...something's going to go where the Beef is. It may even be in the works. The question worth considering is...wouldn't this be a great place for housing? So more people could enjoy the great transportation, the Park and Garden, and some of those units could be mandated affordable? I just don't get it. But then, there's always the other reason to leave it zoned for crap commercial, or C8-2. Tradition!!

    thanks again Paul G!




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    Mark your calendars. Tomorrow, Friday, January 23rd, is the soft-launch of Brooklyn Greenery at 560 Flatbush. Now I know the Q told you it would be a Mexican place, an outpost of popular Oaxaca Tacos. Tuns out Brooklyn Greenery, a swank little fresh-juice and take-out place switched places with Oaxaca which is now going next to Midwood Flats. That's two fun new joints for the price of one.

    The two guys who run BG are Jason and John. They're buddies who met at Brooklyn College, and both of them grew up around here. I love it when you ask a true Brooklynite where they grew up and they tell you their High School! So if you must know, Midwood and Erasmus respectively. This is their first venture, and I couldn't wish them weller. Below is a decent photo I got off the web, and below that is me surprising Jason when he was probably sleeping because he's been working non-stop to get this place open:




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