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  • 09/01/15--19:32: No Mas Fooling Around
  • Toomey's parking lot turns into a Mas Camp. What's that, ask the uninitiated? Mas is short for masquerade. The beautiful costumes for Carnival (this coming Monday) are made, traded, bought, tried on. Each group marching has its own place to prepare. Steel bands practice. Community. Food, drink. Good times.

    Or at least, that's what I'm told by the folks in this picture. The mural adds a nice touch to the scene:

    Toomey's parking lot. Here's a good story about steel pan bands looking for space to rehearse.
    Look for mas camps all over the neighborhood. Some have been doing the "pop up" thing for years in unleased storefronts or commercial properties. I remember a couple years ago when Lili's Millenium on Flatbush became a costume showroom. Some of the friendliest people in the world are from Trinidad and Tobago. Stop in and say hi or listen to the music. The history of Carnival and J'Ouvert? Dang interesting. Read on, unless you're annoyed that I'm even writing about such an obvious thing:

    Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is celebrated before the commencement of the Lenten season. From 1783 for half a century, the French developed their Carnival , which was noted to be a season of gay and elegant festivities extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. These festivities consisted of dinners, balls, concerts and hunting parties.
    The Africans started to participate in the festivities from 1833 after the Emancipation Bill was passed. The Africans brought Canboulay to its festivities. Canboulay was first played on August 1st, Emancipation Day , but subsequently took place after midnight on Dimanche Gras, the Sunday before Carnival. In early celebration of the festival by the masses activities were held over the three days preceding Ash Wednesday. However in the face of over 60 years of criticism from the upper class about the low standard of Carnival and strong feelings expressed about the desecration of the Sabbath, in 1943 Carnival on the street was restricted to the Monday & Tuesday.
    Okay, that's a pretty sterile description. J'ouvert is inseparable from Carnival, and starts late at night on Sunday and goes til dawn. A crowd of revelers marches, and they come down Clarkson outside my window. For the first couple of times I thought I was dreaming. It's craaaaaazzzyyy y'all! You've got to see it and hear it. Smearing paint and oil on the bodies was originally to avoid being recognized. What I didn't get for a long time was that since slaves were forbidden from participating in the celebrations, they started their own WAY more exciting parties.

    If you're new the neighborhood, keep your eyes and ears open as the week becomes weekend becomes full on out of control mayhem. Try to be patient with the noise if that's a problem for you. This is the biggest Carnival celebration in America outside of New Orleans Mardis Gras. Why, you might ask, is it done all over again at the end of summer? Dang, if you were into parties like this wouldn't you do them, like, ALL THE TIME? If it's good enough for the young American Electric Daisy Carnival set...

    I mean, had you noted that the word Carnival seems perfectly matched in these two cultural phenomena?

    More likely to hear deadmau5

    More likely to hear Machel Montano

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  • 09/01/15--19:35: Taste Just Like Cherry Cola
  • What are the chances? Just days after I posted about Salon Lola on Nostrand, a very different sort of hair place with the name Lola's opened just around the corner from me on Flatbush at Clarkson, next to the Subway (the sandwich shop, not the mass transportation system). At night, this Lola's seems out of a sci-fi movie, with silver and gold shiny mannequins with nothing on but hair. Long, mostly curly, wigs. Obviously a place designed to make an impression. Unlike other hair sellers, this place is spare and space-age. Gotta love it. Which reminds me of a tip for you...

    For that hard to shop for white person in your family, I suggest a copy of Chris Rock's "Good Hair," particularly if he or she is confused why so many hair places in a predominantly black neighborhood. This is must-know stuff, and I'm being straight up here, what with my straight hair and all. Which until I met Desmond at Dr. Cuts I thought was curly. Straight hair, I learned, is what a black barber might call your hair Mr. White Pants even if wasn't what you'd call straight. You know, Caucasian hair? Not kinky? Dear Lord, if you're just coming off the bus from Nebraska, you got a LOT to learn. Take your time. Life just keeps getting richer.

    Now you want to know the craziest part of this post? When Chris Rock's daughter asked him one day why she didn't have "good hair" he was hit hard, and decided to make a documentary. And what's the name of Chris Rock's daughter?

    You guessed it. Lola.

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  • 09/03/15--08:24: The Q's Heart Leaps
  • Back in the day, the Q was friendly with Oren Bloedow, a talented multi-instrumentalist. We were enmeshed in a scene at the old Knitting Factory on Houston that I still can't believe I was lucky enough to be a part of. James Blood Ulmer. Ronald Shannon Jackson. Matthew Shipp. Lounge Lizards. William Hooker. Elliot Sharp. Wayne Horvitz. And of course John Zorn in many incarnations. Saw Half Japanese, Galaxy 500, The Ruins, Eugene Chadborne. Seeing the genius Christian Marclay in the smaller Alternaknit. Soul Coughing opened for us at their first show and quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Small room, brilliant ideas. My bands Dolores and Babe the blue OX were but specks on a wild and weird collage of sounds and sweat.

    Then the Knitting Factory moved to Tribeca. Still later to Williamsburg. Michael Dorf was forced out, and opened City Winery, a great place for live music but with a solidly AOR older folks program. But now, Bloedow and longtime collaborator Jennifer Charles (they're the band Elysian Fields) are opening a connoisseur's music club on Rogers. Remember Tonic? Know Zorn's "The Stone?" If you do, expect a similar vibe and wonderfully reckless curation.

    One big smile on the Q's face as I post this link from DNA Info. Set to open this Fall at 497 Rogers.

    pic by Rachel Holliday-Smith

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  • 09/04/15--06:12: Absolutely REQUIRED Viewing

  • This fantastic report about GMACC (Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Change) offers hope in an area that mystifies mainstream folks. We may have our hearts in the right place, but focusing on law enforcement and the courts alone won't fix everything when it comes to violence on the streets. Actually, the more programs like GMACC out there, with people able to negotiate conflicts effectively, the better chance law enforcement has to do what it's charged with doing.

    Last time we on Clarkson held an open community crime meeting, reps from the 71st, 70th and 67th precincts came out. We looked forward to hear about their efforts and hot spots and reactions, and how they work together (or not.) What we got instead was a lot of anger vented at the cops from Imani and folks from Cops Watch. It was so not the forum for that, but you can't shut down a conversation like that. We became the unlikely hosts for anti-police sentiment.

    What made it turn around was when the folks from GMACC took hold of the conversation. To them, solutions to deadly violence (not so much the petty stuff) involved knowing the perpetrators at a much deeper level than maybe we can every expect police to go. This is community policing. It's not venom, though obviously there's a time and place for protest. In my opinion, the last thing we need is open war between activists and cops.

    Please look at this video and respond with thoughts?

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    Sigh. Another shooting, this time in the NE Quadrant. And while the police may consider the per unknown, precedent suggests the victim knew his shooter. Babs suggests the victim was the owner of Taste of Brooklyn. At the risk of starting rumor, does anyone have confirmation?

    From the 71st:

    Today approximately 5 A.M. a 37 year old male sitting in his car in front of 223 Lefferts was shot twice by unknown perpetrator(s). The victim drove himself to Kings County Hospital were he succumbed to his injuries at 1137 AM. Anyone with information please contact the 71 Precinct Detective Unit at 718-735-0501.
    In case you think that Lefferts has a lockhold on shootings and crime, it's always useful I think to broaden the view. Above is a (blurry) Spotcrime map of shootings and assaults since the beginning of the year through just before the Ali's shooting. As I've mentioned before, there are significantly more shootings to our north, south and east than in Lefferts proper.

    Make you feel less or more safe? Remember, these aren't generally shootings of law abiding citizens. Black, white, yellow, green you may be a lot safer thank you imagine.

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  • 09/07/15--18:37: J'Ouvert
  • The Q's been in NYC for 27 years. He's been to all kinds of parties and celebrations. For sheer exuberance and musicianship and joy, there is nothing quite like J'Ouvert. I was having too much fun last night at 4:30 am to shoot a lot of video, but below you'll see the beginning of the early morning parade before the Parade. Starting at GAP and going down Flatbush to Empire then east, J'ouvert has none of the absurdly loud decibel-busting trucks and much less of the giant shimmery outfits that make Carnival so instantly recognizable. The pulsing sound of drums and chanting mix with the powder and oil and paint to make it feel more primal & proudly spiritual than, say, Burning Man or an E-laden rave. One truckbed had an entire female drum contingent, led by a monster player on the kit. Others had steel pan bands. Almost all the music was acoustic, but loud enough to dance to. The handful of Caucasians seemed to struggle to find their groove, maybe just out from parties or bars, but awed. Almost every face was smiling, and shrieks of laughter and big hugs broke out every few seconds as friends found each other. The anticipation of morning, mixed with not-a-faint whiff of ganja and rum, means anything is possible and cares are forgotten.

    You've undoubtedly heard about the violence that accompanied the early early morning. Whether related directly to the event or not, you can pretty much count on a steady stream of chest-thumping about how this unique event should be reconsidered. In my view, the cops do a generally terrific job of keeping order without taking the occasional rowdy bait thrown their way. Mostly I saw people being respectful and cordial with police, some visibly glad for the sense of security that a security detail assures. And yet, as with nearly every parade since I got to NYC, a shooting or two or three, a couple stabbings, some fights happened through the night. Is it extraordinary to have shootings on a warm Labor Day night? Historically, not really. Should we expect better? Of course. On some level, given the extraordinary party atmosphere and huge crowds throughout Crown Heights and East and West Flatbush, I'm surprised there isn't MORE violence. Not because this is a particularly violent event; far from it, it's joyous and loving and uplifting. But because there continue to be a small but deadly bunch of (mostly) young men hell bent on destruction and revenge. Add to that a heavy buzz and a firearm or knife and, well...It's like a giant club with no metal detectors. Even ballparks frisk you on the way in. This is a big, sprawling mass of parties. Tooling around the neighborhood at 11pm then 5am I couldn't believe how varied and happy was the partying.

    I saw Inspector Fitzgibbon at Bedford and Empire not long after an aide to Governor Cuomo was shot in the head, and another person got shot in the finger, and many fled towards the 7/11. The 71st commander was resigned to the fact that it might be a long, long day. In fact, the worst had already happened. More than a million people enjoyed the parade in relative peace. It was hot. Damn hot. Some kids were enjoying their very first Carnival, and assuming no one gets rash and over-zealous, they'll be back for more.

    And while it's easy to blame this big raucous street party for the violence, it's probably true too that the answer to all the violence is just as apparent in the bonds of friendship, family and faith that brought so many people together to begin with.

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    Marvel & Michael Allen
    Score another point or three for Nostrand. A world class pastry chef and chocolatier is launching his flagship storefront with a soft opening today. The Q visited his shop at 1149 Nostrand over the weekend and got a sneak peak at the kitchen and special basement Wonka-esque chocolate factory where he'll be weaving his magic on his candy loom.

    Allen is no novice. A second-generation pastry chef who's wowed the crowds at Water's Edge and United Nations, we now get his famous confections and baked goods with killer coffee and a nicely appointed cafe. Plus homemade gelato, and according to NY Magazine's review of his old place in Ft. Greene, the best cupcakes in town.

    His wife Marvel is a superstar as well, a singer of awesome soul & power. Like check out this outstanding performance of "Love For Sale" that the Q unearthed on the YouTube:

    The two live in the building on Nostrand as well. I think it's fair to say that the Allens are here to stay. So stop by as they settle in, because you can say you were there from the Git-Go.

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    In a bold move destined to change the very nature of representative democracy, Council Member Laurie Cumbo of the 35th District has decided to take the risky step of asking her very own constituency how they would like to see a million dollars in capital money spent, out of her discretionary pile of course. Down here below the Empire/Dixon line, you won't see such populist foolishness. OUR rep at City Hall, the Doctor (sic) Mathieu Eugene doesn't fall for that sort of flimflam zeitgeist nonsense. Best leave it to the good doctor to decide what the doctor done ordered. After all, no one knows his district better than The Doctor!

    You go, sister.

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  • 09/08/15--18:05: Voila!
  • As if on cue, Councilman Eugene is good to go! Turns out the poster is boilerplate!

    That means that by coming to one of the below meetings, perhaps you can convince the good CM to fund projects that have great meaning for the nabe. My experience last year with PB was that you need to get people out to vote, meaning organizing is a key element. The meetings on the poster are likely informational and to exchange ideas. Be there, or miss out!

    In case your browser won't let you click on that image, the times and places are:

    Grace Church 1800 Bedford Sept 20 5PM - 7:30 PM
    St. Gabriel's 331 Hawthorne Street Sept 28 6:30 - 9PM
    St. Paul's 157 St. Paul's Place Oct 7 6:30 - 9PM

    If you are of the Devil and unable to enter a Christian church, I'm sorry there is no alternative site for you to participate in Participatory Budgeting. However, you might best be served by moving to Texas anyway.

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  • 09/09/15--06:50: Laurie Cumbo On Gun Violence
  • Normally the Q wouldn't just post a press statement verbatim, but you know CM Laurie has a unique way of expressing herself. I'm pretty damn sure she doesn't rely on ghost writers - she's a solid communicator, and while she's become less off-the-cuff as she becomes a more seasoned politician, she still speaks from the heart. A Spellman grad and the founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora (MOCADA), she has a strong respect for and knowledge of the issues facing black Brooklynites. Short version, I read her emails.

    I was dismayed by the outpouring of condemnation of the Carnival parade, as if somehow a parade is the CAUSE of the violence that can erupt during its related festivities. There was nothing wrong about the way the parade was organized, nor did I see any blatant missteps by the police. The whole issue betrays a lack of understanding, I think, of the dynamics at play in the neighborhoods of Central Brooklyn, where literally hundreds of thousands of people live in a very few square miles. Where entrenched poverty and racism and educational segregation live beside new-found wealth and development and values imported from other parts of the country and world. I'm no gentrification-basher. I recognize that change is inevitable, good and bad. Despite my 13 years in the 'hood I'm a first-generation gentrifier myself, not self-hating by the way. But I'm often shocked that people of intellectual curiosity and liberal ideology become so defensive and quick to blame others when it comes to issues that effect us all, regardless of background. These problems are OUR problems. These celebrations are OUR celebrations. If we don't see them as "ours" we don't stand a chance of creating a more just and egalitarian society by addressing them together.

    We become yet another generation to sweep it all under the rug. We leave the world the same, or worse, than we found it.

    If people really mean what they say when they say they love living in a diverse urban environment, I believe they have to recognize their own shortcomings, even ignorance. In my mind, the place to avoid the messy underbelly of America is the suburbs or exurbs. They were created, like theme parks, to highlight and reinforce one version of the American Dream. Some were incorporated as whole other corporations to avoid mixing even the money and schools of the inner cities. It's the perfect place to move when you throw up your hands and can't be bothered with the work of integration and political, judicial and economic equality. That's not to say I don't understand the urge and the pull. It's just not for me, and I suspect it's not for a lot of you. Unless, of course, you moved to Brooklyn specifically to recreate the suburbs for the City, the homogeneous from the heterogeneous, the dream from the reality.

    So, for what it's worth, here's what one thoughtful Brooklynite had to say. I think she meant second year in office, not term, by the way. (That's one of the ways I'm certain she wrote it!)
    As a Council Member serving in my second term in office, I would say the most challenging aspect of the position has become writing statements or press releases or even attending rallies around issues of gun violence in our communities. I have grown frustrated with simply putting out a routine statement surrounding gun violence in our communities without having the necessary resources, manpower or infrastructure to address the issue in a systematic, continuous and meaningful way. I believe we have come to that tipping point where we can all recognize that whatever strategies we have been utilizing to address gun violence in our communities have not made the impact that is desired in curtailing the violence that has become so commonplace particularly in communities of color.

    For the past 48 years, people have traveled all over the world for the West Indian American Day Carnival held in Brooklyn, New York during Labor Day Weekend. I pray and hope like so many others that every year, it will be a safe weekend and that the spectacular and important nature of the Carnival will not be overshadowed by an act of violence that might happen anywhere in Brooklyn and often not directly related to the Carnival. In addition, as an African-American woman, I recognize that an entire race of people are often condemned when acts of violence like this occur and it undeniably impacts how people will view or treat people of the African Diaspora.

    Gun violence in New York City is an epidemic and it has been an issue for some time. I can't remember a time in my life, living in New York, that the reality of gun violence wasn't very real or often hit close to home. It is interesting to me how different administrations are often identified by how they have or have not dealt with gun violence. However, in a very personal way, I have never felt the absence of gun violence in my life. Questions have been pouring into me about how can we make the Carnival safer, but I think the real question here is how do we get to the heart of the issue and that is how do we put real resources that are sustainable towards the epidemic of gun violence in our communities? I believe this should be a central part of the #Blacklivesmatter movement and all other movements that are focused on the senseless killing of innocent Black people.
    If we truly believe all lives matter then we have to recognize that this weekend unfortunately like far too many weekends this summer, resulted in violent incidents. A 24-year-old man was fatally stabbed; a 21-year-old man was shot and is in stable condition; and a 33-year-old man was stabbed and currently in serious but stable condition. Additionally, 43-year-old Carey Gabay, who is a member of Governor Cuomo's Administration as the First Deputy General Counsel, is fighting for his life while surrounded by family. These dynamics are deep rooted and it is critical that we get to the heart of these issues versus playing politics or the blame game. Our energies, prayers and thoughts should be with the families who need our support now more than ever. These are challenging issues that have a long history, but we simply cannot say that there is nothing that we can do about it moving forward. Generations of young people are depending upon us to provide them with the safety that we as adults are obligated to create for them.
    It is critical at this time that we address the issues of gun violence head on. We must begin with restoring critical funding to Operation SNUG (Guns Spelled Backwards) a project of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. SNUG was launched in 2009 with $4 million allocated from the New York State Legislature, which covered seven cities. SNUG is currently funded at $2.9 million. SNUG is a cure violence model that is working all across the state and nation, but it requires adequate investment. According to the website, "officials from Buffalo say Operation SNUG led to a reduction in street violence. In Albany, shootings decreased by 29% over eight months. In Rochester, shootings dropped by 40% over six months and violent altercations fell to a 10-year low." NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an additional $12.7 million in funding that will allow the total number of Cure Violence partner sites in NYC to triple in 2015. The City of New York is working towards solutions but again more resources will be required and it will take time to address these issues.

    I believe that every Borough should have an office focused specifically on addressing gun violence that deals with mental health services, community outreach, organizing community partners, town hall meetings, 72-hour responders to gun violence throughout the City, school interventions, teen summits, city-wide marketing campaigns, and art and athletic outlets for our youth. I am committed to working with my colleagues to make this a reality. There are other models that are working such as in Staten Island, where they launched the "Occupy the Blocks" initiative throughout the summer months, three days a week in order to have a consistent male presence in their neighborhoods to avert violent acts, while providing man-to-man counseling to area male youth. This initiative brought crime down to an unprecedented level this summer on the North Shore, but in order to make programs such as these sustainable, adequate and consistent resources are required. I was also proud to have the support of my colleagues in government to expand the Anti-Gun Violence Initiative, which is now listed under the overarching Public Safety Initiative, by $720,000 to bring the total of the Initiative to $8,840,000 in order to include the arts in the Initiative as a key tool in addressing gun violence.

    Finally, I look forward to sitting down with the organizers of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association to discuss how we can utilize the greatest convening of people of African descent in the United States to launch an anti-gun violence campaign that has the power to spread all over the world and to reach millions of people. I believe that it would be very powerful for the Caribbean community to lead the way in organizing a Carnival that brings people together for a very important celebration of cultural heritage but is also infused with a powerful, social justice message of peace.

    Yours in Partnership,
    Laurie A. CumboMember of the New York City Council

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    So just how committed ARE you to representative democracy? Tomorrow is the true test for all you lovable little Democrats. Slim pickins. There's but one race in our area.

    His opponent has a very cool name -Isela Isiris Isaac. But Michael Gerstein seems like a good guy, a likable nerd, and I have no intel to say he should be booted from his gig even after 10 years on the bench. Gerstein is endorsed by just about everybody, and the Q expects him to win handily.

    But I got a note from a reader that gave me pause. Gerstein's wife is a pediatric dentist, Dr. Lois Jackson, and she apparently sent out a card to all (or some of) her patients that looked like this:

    Question: Isn't this a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality? I'm not saying a law was broken for sure, but it seems odd that a doctor/dentist/psychiatrist would use their client list for electioneering. And while I suppose Dr. Jackson would be within her rights to say to a patient who's under the drill, or in her case who's CHILD was under the drill, "by the way my husband is a really great guy and he's running in an election tomorrow." But by mail? Seems squishy in the ethics department.

    So that's it. Civil Court Judge. That's all you get to pick tomorrow, and as we all know the Dem gets the nod in these parts. So you'll be picking the person who you one day stand before after you've done something dastardly.

    Pick wisely. You never know when you might drop your scruples, or be accused of dropping them.
    Isela Isiris Isaac
    Isela Isiris Isaac

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    It's craaaazy right now y'all. For new parents, finding a decent school that feels right is a riddle wrapped in an onion wrapped in a DOE rabbit hole. But somehow, it almost always manages to happen. I know literally dozens of families that have made it work. They're at PS295 or PS 8,9 or 10 or PS705 or Brooklyn New School or Arts and Letters or Community Roots or Compass or PS261 or the school both my girls are at PS38, or 33 or 39 or 118 or Children's School or a ton of others. This idea that public schools in NYC suck is old news. It's simply not so. I mean, it's no Dalton or St. Anns or Packer...those schools seem to have money to burn, though there are plusses and minuses to any school. But what you get in return for your not-money is the knowledge that you're part of a great ongoing experiment in publicly funded education, and that you're part of the melting pot that is NYC. It's fun. There's lots for parents to do, lots of advocacy, lots of cultural nuances, lots of super committed teachers and adorable children. I'm not kidding. I've been super involved and I gotta say there's nothing more humbling and ennobling than being part of the solution, in ways small & large.

    So here's some good advice for today. There are still some spots in Kindergarten, First Grade and Fifth Grade at local District 17 trendsetter PS770. Call 718-221-5837 and ask for Principal Jessica Saratovsky. I know lots of parents who have found a warm and loving home at this relatively new school, called The New American Academy, headed by the innovative Shimon Waronker. Here's a post I did on the school: The Q's School Tool PS770.

    Take a deep breath. It'll be okay. I promise.

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  • 09/11/15--11:45: Cynthia's Final Toush

  • The Q noted the fine work of Cynthia Campbell years ago after noting her move to her own store, but until Mrs. FlatBed starting coming home with beautiful butterfly garments by her, I didn't really get it. Why would I? I'm a dude who buys his clothes at Burlington Coat Factory. Because (get this) it's a step up from the Target house brands, like Merona (who out there doesn't own at least one Merona? Come on, be honest). A real sharp-dressed man I am. Sharp as butter.

    The wife, on the other hand, is known around town for her handsome outfits and trendless style. Not only did she recently start wearing a couple of Cynthia's handsown technicolor butterfly gowns, but she bought some for friends who have their noses in the know when it comes to looking good. The look seems kinda muumuu to me, but they seem super comfortable and they're eye-catchers.  What the hell is the Q talking about, you might ask? Take a peek at THIS dress:

    Right next to De Hot Pot, up on Washington between Lefferts and Lincoln, there's a little tiny weeny shoppe called Final Toush. Never mind that she meant Final Touch but the sign came back wrong. Cynthia is one of the hardest working women in Brooklyn, in two careers. Not only did she used to have this shop down at the Caton Market, even before they built the yellow and green storage-like structure, when it used to be an outdoor market, which it still should be cuz no one goes in there because it's depressing. She sewed her stuff to put herself through nursing school. Now she runs the shop and works as a nurse, so if you catch her sleeping in her store that's why. She left Jamaica 30 years ago, and only now can imagine bringing her grown kids to NYC. Sometimes the immigrant story makes my heart hurt. I know people of the entitled class who work 20 hour or less weeks because they need more time for themselves and their spiritual development. And they can't afford their life. Actually not just a couple people. A lot of folks are stuck in that place. I've become convinced that humans weren't actually built for leisure and introspection. But that's another post.

    Y'all owe it to yourself to see her shop and consider how much better to wear one of her super reasonable pieces of all kinds of garments, rather than shop some chain store with Clearance Racks of crap that you buy only because it's on sale not because you really like it, probably made by children in Indonesia or 7-day-16-hour indentured servants in the Northern Mariana Islands.

    (I tried to snap a shot of Cynthia but she was feeling shy. Lovely woman. Please do stop by and let her show you her wares.)\

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    Nathan Tempey over at Gothamist gives us this yet another breaking story and below a great shot of "Radiating Mold," part of a permanent installation at acclaimed gallery "60 Clarkson." Just look at the earthen hues in this reminder of life's fragility and the grim reality of the post-post-modern mise-en-scene . Only contemporary installation artist Barry Hers (real name Issak Hersko) could pull this off with such verve and nerve. Another triumph!

    Photo of Herko's "Sentient Sink" by Nathan Tempey/Gothamist

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  • 09/15/15--13:38: Get Healthy Rogers!
  • Ding. That's another ring of the groovy "new business bell" for Rogers Avenue. This one's at 642, just below Parkside, not a hop, skip and jump from the Winthrop train station.

    Granted the Q just rode by a new joint on Flatbush on his way to work this morning on Flatbush - "Green House" - in the old BlueRoost/BFruitee spot. More on that when I sample the wares (looks awful cute). 

    It seems only right that as we mark a New Year for the Jews that we celebrate a New Year for the Juice. Seems you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a healthy eatery these days specializing in frothy fruity beverages. It's as if the whole world has conspired to convince the Q, as if by intervention, that it is time to give up the starches and sugars and give in to the green goodness. Why doesn't anyone open a shoppe called 'Nilla Wafers? Using organic 'nilla of course.

    The latest entry, and perhaps the first to brew its own alcoholic ciders, is called House of Juice. Run by husband and wife team of Danii Oliver and Kevin Braithwaite, a local couple who embraced the "garden to cup" lifestyle after the birth of their daughter awhile back. And it won't just be juice. Kevin sent me a picture of brunch that looks quite delightful:

    House of Juice is a “Garden to Cup” made in Brooklyn juicery and brewery. House of Juice crafts organic cold-pressed juices and smoothies along with small batch ciders and jun kombucha. House of Juice offers superfood boosters, shots and special drinks for nursing mothers. House of Juice’s organic ingredients come from gardens in Brooklyn so, juices stay organic, local and seasonal. In this manner, House of Juice has found a way to be more local than everyone else by actually growing our produce in the garden. House of Juice literally serves “garden to cup.” Also, House of Juice is the first juice bar that will serve its own freshly brewed alcohol ciders, making House of Juice both a juicery and brewery. 
    The couple's sure to nail their Sorrel-style drink; Purple Heart" they call it. For those not of the West Indies, I like to think of sorrel as spicy iced tea. I quite like it, regardless of how you describe it. In a largely West Indian neighborhood, it's a sin not to try it.

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  • 09/17/15--09:24: Like Losing Teeth
  • If the north side of Winthrop between Bedford and Rogers were smile, it lost its first tooth:

    Here it is from the Google, picture a few months old at least:

    It would appear this long row of highly unique woodframe houses date from the '40s. Which begs the question...what was there before? Brownstone row houses? Chicken coops? Shotgun shacks? An apiary? A long, skinny revival tent? Bocci? Horseshoes? A Hooverville?

    Just noticed the gap the other day while sitting on a bench in the playground. Hmm. Wonder what's going up? Probably just the first of many to go. And soon.

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  • 09/18/15--07:33: WSJ Does PLG
  • Cracks me up. "If you're browsing for a home..." sounds like you're out and about with some bills in your pocket looking for a new pair of shoes. Kathleen Lucadamo writes another "up and coming" piece about our area. I guess you can't get more Up and Coming than the Wall Street Journal. Since I get sort of annoyed when I try to read a piece in the WSJ and they actually expect me to PAY for their due diligence on MY neighborhood, I'm making the executive decision to repost the whole article below. Thx Kathleen! (and Rupert).

    When Rebecca Fitting returned to Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, last year after a six-year hiatus, a lot had changed. The Lefrak Center at Lakeside, long under construction in Prospect Park just off Lincoln Road, had opened with ice skating, roller skating and a splash area for children. There was a new bakery, Pels Pie Co., that serves beer. And the number of brunch places had multiplied. Still, the 41-year-old said, the neighborhood hadn’t lost its West Indian flavor and small-town feel. “People say ‘hi’ to each other here. That’s not something you see a lot of in New York,” said Ms. Fitting, who with her toddler moved from Clinton Hill to a junior one-bedroom. Prospect Lefferts Gardens, bordered by Ocean Avenue to New York Avenue between Clarkson Avenue and Empire Boulevard, boasts landmarked homes, large in scale and lower in price than in nearby Park Slope. While families seek these homes, artists and young professionals are gobbling up rentals in new construction, say real-estate agents. Prices range from $3 million for single-family homes to $300,000 for studios. “It looks like an extension of Park Slope lately,” said Keith Mack, a broker with the Corcoran Group who has lived in the area for 15 years. “The secret is out. It’s a destination now.” Mr. Mack said he sold four homes last year in the Lefferts Manor Historic District, which stretches from roughly Flatbush Avenue to Rogers Avenue and Fenimore Street to Lincoln Road, each for over $2 million, but estimates similar homes in Park Slope average for about a third more. “They are coming from Manhattan, Westchester, the West Coast. They are finding the same-sized house and same details they can find in Park Slope,” he said. Now, says real-estate agents, families are also scooping up fixer-upper homes on side streets outside the historic district while single adults stick with rentals. Not everyone is thrilled with gentrification. One local group sued to stop the construction of 626 Flatbush Ave., a 23-story rental, arguing it was too tall and needed a proper environmental review. A judge ruled in the developer’s favor in February, and the building is on the rise. Rents at 123 Parkside, a hospital-turned-luxury building with a roof deck just outside Prospect Lefferts, run $2,400 for one bedrooms. Two residential towers on Clarkson Avenue are also in the works. Bill Sheppard, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens and longtime resident of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, counts at least 10 new developments in the area. I’ve seen many changes, but on the other hand there’s a historic district, so it’s stayed pretty much the same,” he said. Sale prices have gone up 50% in the last three years, he said, adding that bidding wars are common because turnover of historic homes is low. “There are never many properties available. Every year there are more buyers and the supply is about the same,” he said, though he noted many older homeowners are opting to sell and capitalize on the high prices. Gentrification shows no signs of easing: Dessert-guru Michael Allen is opening a shop in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. The Maple Street School, a cooperative preschool, is expanding to a new location in the fall of 2016. “We used to beat the bushes for students 20 years ago,” said Mr. Sheppard, who sent his daughter there. “Now it’s competitive.” Ms. Fitting, who owns Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, said she does all her errands locally but worries area businesses and longtime residents won’t survive the rise in rents. “You get a quality of life here that is almost affordable,” she said. “Nothing is affordable anymore.” Parks: The area is bordered by the southeast portion of Prospect Park, which houses the Parade Ground with ball fields and the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, where there is a skating rink and sprinklers. Schools: Prospect Lefferts Gardens is in District 17, but many parents send their children out of the neighborhood or to progressive schools in the area including Maple Street School, Lefferts Gardens Montessori and the Lefferts Gardens Charter School. Restaurants: Popular cafes include Blessings on Flatbush Avenue, Erv’s on Beekman Place and Gratitude Café on Rogers Avenue. For sweet stuff, Pels Pie Co. and Jamaican Pride are tasty stops, while Midwood Flats is best for dinner or brunch. Traditional Caribbean food can be found at De Hot Pot. Shopping: Parents flock to Play Kids for toys and gifts. Grocery stores, nail salons and pharmacies line Flatbush Avenue. Transportation: The area is serviced by the 2, 5, B and Q trains, and several bus lines.

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  • 09/18/15--11:47: $17.5 million over 22-Months
  • That's how much Isaac "Barry" Hersko stands to earn for a contract with the City to be a de facto Homeless Shelter landlord in his few Brooklyn buildings. For the past many years, that seemed like a pretty great deal for a notorious slumlord like Barry. Usually, a slumlord makes his money simply in the difference between whatever rent he can extract and his meager expenses. Keep your expenses low (as in deny them gas, electric, hot water or repairs) and you can make a tidy profit. Better still if there's no underlying mortgage. But the City - through the DHS Scattersite Housing system - made him very rich indeed. Because now he gets $2700 a month for each apartment reGARDLESS of whether he does or spends anything at all.

    It's all come to a head in the past couple months, thanks to the work of the tenants themselves, media like the NY Times and WNYC, activists, and now lawyers from Legal Aid Society. Read all about it here in another nice piece from Nathan Tempey of Gothamist. I still have no idea where it's all going to lead. But with the head of DHS being forced out and official apologies coming from the agency, plus lawsuits and increased citizen attention, one can hope that a new model can be found to temporarily house folks who've been evicted from their homes. And remember, at 60 Clarkson, it's almost all families. As in children. Lots and lots of children.

    Let me tell you how this whole storm started about three years ago. I wrote about the building not out of some great moral crusade, or because I sleuthed and journalistically investigated. Actually, it began about FIVE years ago when we reorganized a block association. In planning the block parties, we started to meet our neighbors. Upon meeting with and working with them, we started to hear about their plights. No one was happy with the situation at 60 Clarkson. The police and ambulances every night, the roaches and filth, the crying children, the late night drop-offs of scared and destitute families. People were asking me, us, to do something. Anything. A number of us took it as a challenge and an imperative. But what do you do? You start to squawk. To anyone who will listen. You get meetings, make phone calls. Learn the ropes. And you encourage people to get organized, and try to put them in touch with people like the Crown Heights Tenants Union or elected officials or PLGNA etc. I'm learning. We're learning. I hope we continue to do so.

    Gotta love this picture Nathan took of Mimi Rosenberg from Legal Aid:

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    America loves oil. America loves burgers. Put 'em together and you got gas, baby. The BP Burger. Have it your way.

    I have no idea who has the best burger in Brooklyn, NYC, or the world, but it's really hard to make a super BAD burger, which is why I took offense to LPT's. Haven't been to Burger Mexicano (who has time to eat out?) but I hear it's pretty decent. NOW though, you'll have a truly special option - Hard Time Sundaes - a semi-permanent food truck planning to move to the "parking lot" at the BP station starting...soon. As in I have no friggin' clue. Maybe owner Andrew Zurica has to push it here cuz he ran out of gas? That could take awhile. It's on a slight incline all the way here.

    Full article here:

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