Articles on this Page
- 02/28/16--13:53: _Zika Hype Machine
- 02/29/16--10:44: _Let the Woman Speak
- 03/02/16--11:52: _Bring It On
- 03/06/16--15:57: _The Howling Of Youn...
- 03/08/16--06:07: _This Is How We Can ...
- 03/10/16--07:17: _On Flatbush: The Be...
- 03/10/16--09:16: _Owner of 60 Clarkso...
- 03/11/16--06:12: _Slow Down Lefferts
- 03/12/16--20:20: _When It Becomes Pro...
- 03/14/16--10:32: _So Many Town Halls ...
- 03/15/16--08:50: _Spitter Strikes Again?
- 03/16/16--07:12: _Silver Sushi City
- 03/16/16--07:35: _Maple Street Commun...
- 03/17/16--12:47: _Like Clockwork, We ...
- 03/23/16--07:18: _Ta-Nehisi Coates: N...
- 03/23/16--19:52: _All the Stuff That ...
- 03/24/16--09:07: _Parents of Pre-K & ...
- 03/26/16--05:20: _CB9 Might Be Deadlo...
- 03/26/16--07:23: _For Instance...
- 03/27/16--19:57: _The Big Man of Broo...
- 02/28/16--13:53: Zika Hype Machine
- 02/29/16--10:44: Let the Woman Speak
- 03/02/16--11:52: Bring It On
- 03/06/16--15:57: The Howling Of Young Men: In Black and White
- 03/08/16--06:07: This Is How We Can Really Help - Wednesday
- 03/10/16--07:17: On Flatbush: The Beat Goes On
- 03/10/16--09:16: Owner of 60 Clarkson Gets His
- 03/11/16--06:12: Slow Down Lefferts
- 03/12/16--20:20: When It Becomes Profitable To Do So
- 03/14/16--10:32: So Many Town Halls - Tonight, For Instance
- 03/15/16--08:50: Spitter Strikes Again?
- 03/16/16--07:12: Silver Sushi City
- 03/16/16--07:35: Maple Street Community Garden Needs One Moment of Your Time!
- 03/17/16--12:47: Like Clockwork, We Get New Precinct Commanders
- 03/23/16--07:18: Ta-Nehisi Coates: Neighbor?
- 03/23/16--19:52: All the Stuff That Happened Plus A Wine Store
- 03/24/16--09:07: Parents of Pre-K & K kids. Don't Freak!
- 03/26/16--05:20: CB9 Might Be Deadlocked, But Safety Concerns Persist
- 03/26/16--07:23: For Instance...
- 03/27/16--19:57: The Big Man of Brooklyn Politics Is Back, Folks
How to connect this to the neighborhood...hmm. This guy in the neighborhood was talking about Zika. There you go!
The Q had the pleasure of meeting an NYC Medical Ethicist at dinner the other evening. For the curious and curiouser, science geeks make excellent company. Of course, like any science fiction fan, I wanted to know when and how the Clones will take over, and whether they're already walking among us. Turns out the issue on his plate right now, and about which he's about to deliver a talk, was Zika virus. And how the media response, and as a result poLITical response, is way out-a-hand and unwarranted.
I'd name him by name but it's way early in this soon-to-be-damning debate, and there are a lot of people frantically searching the internet for clues, and I'm not a journalist, just a dude who eats dinner and talks to people. His evidence was damning though. Because the WHO and CDC were so slow and inept in their response to Ebola, he thinks they're making up for it by making a big deal about a mosquito-borne virus that has ZERO evidence of connection with birth defects. A vague possibility is how he described it, and relative to the typical defect numbers in countries like Brazil. When I started investigating his claim by going to the Library of Congress (er, I mean googling) I found precious little debate on the internets about it. What I DID notice was that almost every new major story in every major outlet was dated the same date...that's usually a sign that you're merely reading a rewriting of a press release. Most interviews seemed to be conducted with the same few people, though if you'll notice they're not really interviews at all. More "Dr. XXX says that..." which could have easily been picked up in the press release. Having written a few of them myself, I gotta say it's pretty incredible how otherwise seasoned journalists print the things verbatim.
Mr. M.E., as I'm calling the PhD, said that the number of confirmed cases of coexistent microcephaly is, like, two. Yes, thousands have come forward with babies afflicted with the horrible and heartbreaking disease. And the images of such children are emotionally powerful. But, as my new friend offers, most of these "thousands" babies haven't been tested. They merely point to, perhaps, a larger than usual number of tiny heads this year. That is, the issue could either be a) completely unrelated or b) merely more people coming forward. As Brazil has an enormous underclass and wildly divergent opportunities for medical care, we could either be seeing more microcephaly or just more of the already existing cases.
But think about this - have you ever heard of governments telling women not to become pregnant because of remote possibility of having birth defect? That's craaaaaazy. There's a million things that can go wrong in pregnancy, but usually they don't, and it's hardly reason to stop women (and men) from having families. And considering canceling the Olympics? Really???
Sounds like a typical case to overhype and under-science to this blogger. Anyone else?
Some more fun debunking here.
One of her supporters recently told me I don't give Cabia Doily enough opportunity to speak truth to justice. Well, she sent a note to the whole community board and elected officials today that I figure pretty much sums up her positions, so I thought I'd share. More than one member of the Orthodox Community is outraged. The whole thing stinks, and she continues to get her way at every turn of the story. No one has yet been able to stop her power grab. Feel free to give her a call to "discuss." Or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, she's driving the conversation about zoning, planning, district managers, committee and overall chairs, transportation and safety, housing...if anyone deserves Time's Person of the Year, she rivals the Trumpster. On the one hand "who cares?" On the other, there are so many missed opportunities here, and so many elected officials have written us off.
As you well know by now, the Q is drawn to conflict. And what bigger, badder, more consequential conflict can we Americans call ours than the looming Trump vs Clinton smackdown?
The Q's in Downtown Los Angeles at this moment, the NPR's and Democracy Now pundits still ringing in his years from my yester-eve block by block LAX to hotel ride through residential L.A. Through the poorest low-income California-style housing projects and South Central liquor store corners through middle class nabes and decrepit art deco buildings, then out for tacos in East LA (it's like the old Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, with better food), the remarkable densely populated homeless of Skid Row...then the gleaming office towers and water plaza which, I swear to god, is built directly over another plaza/street that's all trucks and homeless encampment. There's so much to behold in this town that has nothing to do with Hollywood or beaches. I highly doubt I'll see much of either on this visit. Did I mention there are two world-class modern art museums within two blocks of where I'm sitting right now? The amount of luxury housing being built down here is staggering to anyone who remembers the OLD downtown. Which, to a certain degree, is still here, just being pressed out from the inner core like a mini-Big-Bang.
From this strange unstable perch the Q is more than ready to say "Bring It On." Trump defines a certain macho bravado that speaks to a certain American ethos. He brays and pontificates like a spray-tanned Mussolini. He's been bankrupt a hundred times but claims to be adept at "The Art of the Deal." What's more American than THAT? And he's prepared to make the biggest deal of all. Give me four years and I'll turn America back into the bright shiny Casino on the Hill. Or, conversely, we can just declare bankruptcy and start over. He didn't just "win" yesterday. He clobbered his opponents, weak-spirited and Trump-blind as they are, and he will waltz to the nomination. He's already changed his demeanor, slightly, in a pivot away from making a BIG impression and swallowing the anti-government vote. He's now prepared to set his sights on middle America - he will garner many Democratic votes along the way, and anyone who does not like the fact of a black or woman president - you know who you are! Yes, maybe it's sad, but this is how democracy works. Identity politics may get a bad rap, but gee whiz did you really think anyone pays attention to issues? Most Americans can't name a SINGLE Supreme Court Justice. Not one. And while Trump may not be who they ARE, it's who they WANT TO BE. Ask any Power Ball player who, while waiting in an absurdly long line to play, will actually discuss rationally the relative merits of taking a lump sum or an annuity.
The Q likes Hillary. Always has. You have to be super-duper resilient to contend with the nonsense heaved at her through the years. From the backlash about "Tammy Wynette" to her husband's predilection for, um, cigars, to a constant and unrelenting Republican barrage of non-issues - none of which has landed her in real trouble, by the way - and even a well-reasoned attack from the Left. I don't care for her hawkish politicies - she needs to heed the lessons of Iraq and Libya. Frankly though, I have yet to hear a single "right" approach to any of the messiness in the world. My one request is that we just not make things worse like we always do. But let's face it, she's our nominee. And she's been around so long people seem to have forgotten she's...a woman. Folks, there's an actual chance that a woman might hold the most powerful position on the planet. She's worn pants so long that it's easy to forget, especially with Trump clowning about in his remarkably unflattering suits. In fairness, since I posted that Trump picture, there's Hillary looking unhinged.
A Hillary Clinton presidency will be an extension of what we know, not what we don't know that we don't know. I'll take the know that we know over the no that we don't know, or the know that we know we DON'T know, any day of the week. No? Ask Rumsfeld. I'm sure he'll know.
To the issues that matter most in OUR neighborhood, it's clear to me the Democrat will do less harm. But it's not clear at all that in matters affectively low income people of color that Hillary is producing anything substantive, beyond mimicking some of the #BlackLivesMatter mantras. I will say that Bernie's presence and popularity has made her take a second look at how she's perceived by the black intelligentsia and activists. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander have made it clear that Clinton was way slow to recognize the longterm harm caused by mass incarceration of black men that gained steam under Clinton I. (Yes I know calling them Clinton I and II isn't the same as the generational Bush I and II, but so what?) The sad fact of the matter is that Fear has always driven racial politics in this country, and the zeitgeist mindset in the late '80s and through the '90s was "get 'em off the streets by any means necessary."
It sickens me to think I was sleepwalking through much of that era, wrongheaded on zillions of issues. That crack was somehow different from cocaine (I tried the latter, not the former, and had I gotten hooked, it would have been a health issue not criminal behavior). That gangs somehow popped up out of nowhere simply to terrorize. That the L.A. riots were about Rodney King, rather than sparked by it. That O.J. was not about O.J. That "Broken Windows" had an ugly side. That profiling was not just unconstitutional - that it fed existing inequalities and bred hopelessness. That schools had become more segregated than ever, that blacks were behind in net work 10 to 1, that parents have to give their kids "the talk" about how to not get shot by cops. And that many whites were the joining the upper class without so much as a day's hard labor, due to the largest transfer of wealth in world history, only to help exacerbate the divide between classes, even as reparations remained a non-starter. That the war on terror was also a war on liberty itself. That war, wherever, only breeds more war, rarely-if-ever longterm reconciliation.
And all the while, I called myself a liberal. Liberal what, exactly?
Ah hell, here's the greatest and most hilarious sendup of Donald J. Drumpf you're likely to see.
God bless rock 'n' roll, in its many shades and forms. When Public Enemy came out everyone and his bandmates knew it was punk rock with jewelry. But this time the message wasn't just anarchy and alienation...it was revolution, history and a reclamation of culture. It was, in a word, smart. And wicked danceable. And powerful. And just like the best rock 'n' roll before it, it scared the heck out of the parents.
On one of our most adorable blocks comes the below story from Brenda Gueye Edwards, who raised a family of her own on the same block that now sees a new generation of families. The Q can relate, and is happy to relate this story she shared with me:
I'm willing to bet that the exuberant teens that descended on my block in gentrifying Prospect Lefferts Gardens one heavenly late spring afternoon were simply being teenagers,ecstatic about the party they were attending to perhaps celebrate their band's first CD release or to claim victory for their favorite sports team.
I do not believe their rambunctious behavior was due to any allegiance or solidarity as gang members. I find it difficult to comprehend the idea that their sole purpose was to frighten those that peaked out of their doors and windows to see what all of the ruckus was about and then seemingly satisfied with their observations,went back to their business or routine because after all kids will be kids.
I believe that as responsible parents and as a community we must allow such instances in the life of our youth. Of course, we are here to help them define appropriate behavior at the appropriate time that will keep them safe and respectful and yet allow them to find their own way.
But I also believe that the observers of this teenage frenzy would have had a different reaction had the teenagers been black. The imagery of black teens running, ripping and screaming to the top of their lungs would have provoked fear and a need to call out the militia.
Black youth have been denied the privilege and freedom of just being teenagers out in public having a good time and living out loud. The assumption is that they are "thugs" and "savages". This train of thought has festered like a terminal disease triggering systematic racism and prejudices.
We are all a product of this unfortunate and predictable system. The problem is that too many of us are either in denial or are either profoundly comfortable with living with the inequities that will never build a strong community.
The subtleties of racism are routinely projected and practiced in incidents such as the one I have just described; each of us taking notes subconsciously and or consciously as to just where we stand. And as for black teenagers, learning this debasing lesson only adds to the difficulties of navigating the process of growing into adulthood reasonably "well-adjusted".
The good news is that they come from a long line of resilient ancestors. And hopefully,those of us in the village who are conscious will provide positive guidance and commit to necessary change.Whether the '70s, '80s, '00s or today, it's nice now and then to acknowledge musical trendsetters and the way they attempt to enchant the disenchanted.
|Blitzkrieg Bop - Beat On the Brat|
|Straight Outa Compton - Fuck the Police|
|Is This It? and New York City Cops (poor babies!)|
|The obscenely popular Flatbush Zombies - Thug Waffle and AmeriKKKan Pie|
The Q heartily recommends you consider attending PLGNA's housing meeting on Wednesday. We may be losing the battle to rezone and demand affordable housing as the neighborhood grows and changes hastily. But that's about a strategy for the future. Right now, our neighbors need to know their rights, know that there's help (both financial and legal), and know that their community won't allow landlords to pressure them to move. Many neighborhoods have gone through the pain, but many organizations and leaders have learned from prior battles how best to stand up to illegal intimidation, price-gauging and racist lease practices. If you want to be a hero, help someone stay in their home. And please, plug in to an organization - Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association - that is interested in reasonable dialogue and respectful collaboration with all stakeholders - from City agencies to elected officials. Because, well for one thing, we ALL live here and the world is bigger than just two blocks of Empire Blvd.
Some sadness AND gladness surround the expansion of Erv's on Beekman Place. The Q reported many moons ago of the Erv's/Laundry/99centstore building's changing of hands nearly two years ago. Erv's, the "boutique" Cocktail Bar of Beek, has since become a fabulously well-beloved drinkery despite its dinky size. But that was always meant to be temporary, or at the very least a toe-dip before Erv's expanded. Why? Because Erv's owners and building owners are one and the same. We're trusting, hoping, that fairness and due process were involved in the lost of lease. If otherwise, please comment.
Thx Noel for confirming the laundry's demise:
And now to the Q's quandary. Long a fan of Melany's Dominican joint at Lenox and Flatbush, and long a fan of El Castillo de Jagua on the Upper Flabenue near 7th Avenue - what to do? For awhile I believe I'll be splitting my pesos between the two. Thx Otto for the photo of Castillo's new shop on the Lower Flab tween Winthrop and Hawthorne.
Even Lower on the Flab lose the flab by attending some killer classes at the The Flatbush Loft at 859 Flatbush's 3rd Floor (Martense). The Q was a bit overwhelmed by the ladies pictured on the website doing their thing, but he is too old and too married to make note of it. But I thought I'd share this picture below and note that Conga Guy is feeling pretty good about his choice of instrument right now.
|Thank you, Jesus, that I didn't go with the viola after all. - Conga Guy|
One last picture to inspire or horrify the yoga nerd in you:
Nathan Tempey has stayed on the case, now with the latest legal trouble for Barry Hersko of 60 Clarkson, in a show of why investigative journalism and persistence is so important. I've been totally heartened by the outpouring of interest and support ever since the Q and his neighbors started bemoaning the cruel landlord and the program that made him possible:
A notorious landlord and homeless shelter operator is resisting turning over documents to state investigators who say they have "direct evidence" that he and his relatives and business associates may be harassing tenants, skimping on maintenance, and perpetrating schemes designed "to evade the rent laws and regulation" in at least eight different Brooklyn apartment buildings.
|Read Nathan's piece|
You hear a lot of talk about whether this home or that building will disappear during the big Flatbush Development Rush (FDR) of the middle teens. There seems to be misconceptions aplenty. For instance, one might assume that you wouldn't tear down a single building in the middle of a row of 10 conjoined townhouses. Or that a certain apartment building would have too many units to discard. Or that perfectly fine Victorian homes might be raised. Some unprotected blocks, like the cute one on Sullivan (tween Rogers and Nostrand) are losing conjoined single-family homes of the variety that Lefferts I has in spades...with those narrow driveways between and second floor decks above the foyers, and often a carriage house/garage out back. You know, like this:
|262 and 264 Sullivan, soon to bite the dust. More from DNAInfo|
Is this a bad thing? Depends on your perspective. Are you one of the incoming renters? Are you selling and retiring? Are you a neighbor? Are you someone who fears height and density? Are you someone who bemoans yet another lost opportunity to demand more affordable units from developers? Is this the sort of block that deserved protections, or is density better suited here than, oh let me just throw one out there at random...Empire Blvd? I'm just taking a piss of course, because we all know we'd be wrapping up a Planning Study around now if it hadn't been for...she who shall not be named. Seriously, she won't. Not gonna do it.
The other day someone was telling me that the worst of the development boom was over, because there just weren't that many more spots to build. Hilarious. Basically, anything is possible. For instance, one wouldn't think you could take a perfectly good building full of rent-stabilized apartments and go condo with them, during an affordability crisis and all...but guess what! You absolutely can. 35 Clarkson was about as affordable as you could get on my block...til the stabilized apartments started going for north of $350K two years ago (they've jumped in price since). The AG even signed off on this giant puppy up in uber-trendy Crown Heights:
|382-90 Eastern Parkway Goes Condo. Story here from Real Deal.|
They will disappear, if, and when...(all together now):
It becomes profitable to do so.
And the Town Halls keep on coming. This one, again on affordable housing, will have the Mayor leading the show. Some people forget, particularly those who rail against the volunteer Community Boards, that it's the Mayor and his administration who wield the real power in this town. Seating starts at 6 for a 7pm show. Geez, you'd think Justin Bieber was leading this thing! A certain element in the audience will definitely calm down if Hizzoner starts crooning
"Is it too late now to say sorry? Cuz I'm missing more than just your votey."
(FYI, that lame gag works a teensy bit better if you pronounce "sorry" the way someone from Winnipeg or Bemidji, MN might, with the long "o.")
The Spitter of Lefferts, or perhaps a copycat, took Blessings hostage this morning. After sloppily kissing a customer, he then attempted to spit on the cook.
What the hell? Cops were slow to respond, said patrons. A description, given by a solid witness, was such:
No discernible accent
Full Beard (shaved down)
Since I don't have a picture of the guy to share...
Here's a picture of the late '90s rock band from Memphis called Saliva:
|Where are they now? Flatbush, perhaps?|
Right on. Silver Sushi is open for business. Primarily takeout, but you can belly up to the bar if you like. This Silver Sushi stuff is righteous. Next to Midwood Flats at, um, Midwood and Flatbush. (I only just now got the "Flats" being related to "Flatbush." This is the sort of thing that I really shouldn't admit, but there it is, to err is human, to miss a play on words, divine. Speaking of which, the above title is intended as a tongue twister. Five times fast!)
|Councilman Eugene Needs To Hear From YOU! It will literally help OPEN HIS EYES!|
HERE'S THE EASY TO SIGN ONLINE PETITION
The story in a Q-wrapped nutshell:
Owner of a home dies more than a dozen years ago. A fire leads to the destruction of the building. Vacant lot lies fallow for a decade. No heirs come forward to claim the deed. Scam artists create fake deed and claim ownership in order to build apartment building. Tired of vacant lot, diverse group of neighbors come together to create community garden. Scammers come back and try to lock them out, aggressively. Lawsuit filed by the gardeners. Scammers fight back. Stand-off. Elected officials offer help. Plan hatched to create fund to pay heirs for land if they come forward - essentially an escrow. Councilman claims to want to help, but needs show of support from the neighborhood. Gardeners seek support. You come along and offer to help by signing petition and calling Councilman's office!
The Q lives on a divided street. Not just rich-middle-poor, black-white. But right down the middle of the road is the line between 71st and 70th precincts. Two years ago, each precinct got a new top dog. And now, both have new commanders once again. What gives? Why all the turnover? I can only imagine this is part of a Bratton-led strategy. Don't get too comfy!
|Norman Grandstaff (I'm sure he was never teased about that) of the|
The only picture I could find of the new guy at the 70th, James Palumbo, was ironically a picture next to former 71st Commander (from before Fitzgibbon) Jack Lewis, a sweet guy that the Q quite liked. Jack told me once that he used to run into the head of the 70th, then Eric Rodriguez, at the Supermarket and talk shop. This was on Staten Island, of course.
|Retiring Jack Lewis and Incoming 70th Commander James Palumbo|
70th New Commander
And quite literally, figuratively, metaphorically and legally...The Beat Goes On.
If you're too young to remember the Sonny & Cher show, I suggest you click on that. It's hard to believe now. The Q never missed an episode. Sonny became a Republican congressman from California. Cher...well, she's Cher. The animation that leads the show is absolutely worth the price of your click.
Last thing...I actually think that the "yarl" favored by singers such as Eddie Veder and Creed and a million other bands came from a combination of Cher and Cat Stevens. Think about it. Just think about it...not too hard, mind you. Just think about it..
The Q's no journalist. Is he held to journalistic ethics? Maybe. But a rumor this good, that keeps cropping up, is simply too good to ignore.
I'll post it as a question, like a celebrity gossip columnist might.
What celebrated author, often called the "James Baldwin of his generation," famously an ex-pat to Paris, originally from Baltimore, has allegedly purchased a home on Lincoln Road right here trendy Lefferts?
Sorry. You can't hang on to THAT one til the Old Grey Lady weighs in.
Here's the Q's musings on Mr. Coates, whose latest book he read last summer while vacationing in perhaps the whitest state in the nation.
The Q on Coates From the Land of Cheese & Sanders
Just a thought on the words "gentrification" and "gentrifier" that I realized last night. So many folks seem fixated on who is or isn't one, whose fault it all is, whether one is complicit in the process simply by buying a house or renting a place or wanting a wine bar to open. Or close. My insight was simply that it's all a red herring, designed to avoid the more difficult and potentially hurtful and shameful conversations about race. Or to the point, the painful DECISIONS and policies that must follow.
More later, as if Q readers aren't sick enough of the topic.
Oh, and if you can confirm the above I'll buy you a double-latte-soy-escargot
First, yes, that's the wine store opening up by the Prospect Park Station. Yep, at the Flatbush entrance. 492 Flatbush to be exact. Gonna be nice, so I hears. The Q don't drink but I hear wine is good for you in moderation. Apparently it tastes good too. In moderation. Goes well with meals and witty rejoinders. Comes from grapes. The owners live in the neighborhood. All good. And yeah, I know it's been a long time since I told you about it and some of you doubted me but sometimes it takes a while. Running a business is no cakewalk, even if your business is baking cakes. Or running cakewalks. Speaking of which, the origin of the phrase cakewalk is intensely odious. Look it up. Terrifying even.
Second, yes, there was a CB9 meeting last night. Liquor licenses were doled out to El Patron on Lincoln Rd. (the old LPT) and a new Haitian food joint on Rogers called Boucan, which the owners told us translates to "campfire," like on the beach. So kinda Creole barbecue-ish? Anyhow, sounds like a winner. Erv's, the little cocktail bar that could, asked to renew and noted they're taking over the laundromat that was next door to expand and serve food along with their delicious cocktails. Which, since the Q don't drink, I'm completely parroting what's been said elsewhere about the clever concoctions shaken and stirred therein. When I was drinking many moons ago, you could've put an umbrella in a tumbler of Listerine and I'd have called it delicious, so ignore everything I say about the matter. FYI El Patron has been getting better, foodwise. And the family that owns the joint is positively lovely. So if you haven't been, or swore to never return, please do. Return, that is. Every restaurant, like every new snack food or brand of pop, must be tried at least twice, preferably some length of time apart.
Then the surprises started to roll in. First, after the usual Alicia Boyd diatribe about how she's saved the neighborhood from 50-story towers, Ms. Karen Fleming got up and railed against Boyd for being an activist but NOT a leader. Talk about air being sucked from a room! Karen & Alicia had been thick as thieves til just last month, when they were busy getting me kicked out of the Transportation Committee chair. Apparently Boyd had sent out an email mentioning Fleming, but didn't bother to call her partner in crime ahead of time. Plus, Boyd's had some pretty sharp words about one-time Mr. Big around here Clarence Norman, Jr., and Fleming don't play that. She READ Boyd on that one, saying long before Alicia moved to the neighborhood in the late '90s (gentrifier!) Norman was doling out favors, I mean help, to the community, so don't try to lecture US on how he's a Felon (which is he is) or prone to corruption (for which he was convicted - shaking down judges basically) etc etc.
And the Elephant in the Room that almost became visible, but then snuck back behind the curtain, was the issue of Carmen Martinez. And who is she, you might ask? Well, she was once "tight" with Norman back when he was Assemblyman and King County Democratic Party grand poobah. Crazy story - Carmen was actually up for the District Manager job that Pearl Miles got. And now she's on the community board - housing chair, and quite engaged I must say, and proactive. And while she's likely perfectly qualified to be hired for that gig nearly 30 years after being passed over, to some she's still tainted by the old Norman affair (did I say "affair?) and a lot of folks on the board are none too keen to see her name atop the list. Then all sanity left the proceedings, and the head of the search committee that's been vetting names for DM, Hector Robinson, essentially confided that he'd been shut down by CB9 chair Demetrius Lawrence for, supposedly, not having a satisfactory level of involvement from the committee, though that has never stopped CB9 before. After working hard to find the 3 best qualified candidates, Robinson was understandably pissed to have his work be for naught and called into question. And it would appear that it was not just poor attendance on the part of his committee-mates that led to Mr. Lawrence to not release the names. Someone's name is clearly not on that list that was supposed to be on that list. Was that Clarence Norman Jr. sitting in the audience? Why I do believe it was. Settling scores perhaps? Out for a night on the town? Or perhaps engaged in a wee bit of revenge mischief? You be the judge.
I was sitting right next to Ms. Martinez, who I quite like by the way, tough as nails and sharp as exacto, and asked her if her name was on the list of finalists. She looked genuinely unsure, though I have no idea what the hell is going on. Except I do. And you probably do too. And she probably does too. And nobody seems willing to say it. So I guess I will.
More on that in my next post. A poorly worded motion was made, the reliably fastidious Fred Baptiste tabled the motion, the meeting was adjourned. And AFTER all that, Laurie Cumbo got up to talk about the just passed new housing law that included most of the text amendment stuff that the Board's ULURP committee had wasted months debating, even though its passage was never really in doubt. The Q was the only committee member to vote for it, recognizing just how important it is to demand affordable housing be part of any new development. But to hear others tell it, like those on your own CB9, the City will go to hell in a hand basket as a result. Which is ludicrous, but somehow has become gospel to the new Low Density Singers. Whose first single is entitled "We Don't Need No New Construction," sung to the tune of...well, you know.
And by the way to all of you so disillusioned in your liberal mayor...did you really think he intended to STOP the growth of new jobs, new apartments, new amenities, all in the name of keeping neighborhoods undesirable enough to whites to keep them out? Are you HIGH? Because that's what people seem to be suggesting. That De Blasio's mandate was to keep neighborhoods poor and black. No. His mandate was to be sure that everyone had a place to live that he/she could afford. So they could follow there dreams, raise their kids, earn a paycheck. Jeez! Since when did Jane Jacobs get in the way of a decent quality of life for regular people, regardless of race or income? Entitled nonsense and a lot of fuzzy history and math if you ask me. And you didn't.
You want to do something real and not full of college ideology and utopian fluff-brain? Slow preferential rent increases to a reasonable rate. Put more undercover operations out there to stop racist rental practices. Force landlords to do timely repairs and maintenance. Insist on permanent affordability and make it hard to warehouse apartments to take them condo and coop. You know, stuff you can do with a simple council majority or compromise at the State level. And yeah, compromise means giving something in return for something. But most housing activists don't believe they have to give ANYthing. And that's why most housing activists get shafted, again and again. Because they're demanding something that EVeryone has the right to, but they forget to include...(gulp) the middle class, god bless 'em. Why not a coalition of the, I dunno, the vast majority of the population? You can't fight the top 1% with the bottom 20%. It's just not a fair fight!
It just gets weirder, and later, tired, so tired...
The below message came from Kelly Bare, a phenomenal force of nature who, with principal Sandra Soto, seriously turned PS705 (on Classon north of EP) into the little school that could (my eldest attended pre-k there and it was terrific). She also managed to bring the school into the growing public school diversity movement, whereby schools commit to keeping 40% of their seats open for low-income families, even as they gentrify. Anything she says can be believed; honest.
All that to say, please read her note with the highest recommendation I can muster. If you have a child going into pre-K or K (or any grade for that matter), please don't count out your local school options! If like many of us you are zoned for PS375, for instance, there is a terrific new principal there willing to work to make her school more amendable and welcoming to ALL parents, without losing some of the good stuff that's already there. Take a tour; visit PS375 (the Jackie Robinson School) DOE website for contact info. Don't be put off that they don't have a fancy website yet - you could be the parent that spearheads that initiative! I'm telling you there is nothing like the feeling of being part of a school community and bringing your skills and ideas to the table. (Though I've learned along the way that you must must must be respectful of the community that has paved the way and make sure you don't come across like a change-the-school-warrior. Everybody gains when you listen and work together. Who knew, right?) We've got two kids at PS38 right now, fyi. We may have missed the chance to be part of the changes at PS375, but you can do it and be proud you made it a more diverse place, hopefully benefiting all the children (or more importantly, all the parents!)
By the way, I met with the new principal at PS375 Schwanna Ellman and she seems like the right leader for the right moment.
(Mom to D/7 + L/4)
The Q may have been ousted as Transportation Committee chair by his arch nemeses, but the quest for safety continues unabated, by activists and concerned citizens alike. This warms my heart. I've met some dedicated advocates for safer, smarter streets, and I think that history, progress and the City's growth are on their side.
|pic of Thursday's safety forum by David Meyer|
Read David Meyer of Streetsblog's recap here.
There will always be a need to keep traffic moving. But in the Q's trying-to-be-humble opinion, bicyclists and pedestrians have long been shafted by the City's pro-car policies, and only now are we starting to see a move towards reason. Coupled with the growing mania for bicycling to school and work, and a concern for the environmental impact of automobiles, our neighborhood will eventually embrace the modern age. There's a generational aspect to it of course, but my own experience shows that there are plenty of older residents who favor safety and a focus on alternatives to one-to-a-car driving.
The CB9 Transportation Committee has been taken over by car people. The number of community residents who joined as a result of hating the Empire Reconstruction Project proposal now stands at half of the entire committee. There should never be (it's been a rule) more non-Board members on a committee than Board. Big mistake. Live and learn? There are real life consequences.
Make sure you attend Transportation Committee meetings if you can and voice your opinion. Third Wednesday of the month at 890 Nostrand!
The Q was dyeing for some eggs and walked up to The Associated, only to find a perfect example of why traffic safety is such a high priority around here:
This is no hyperbole, folks. Old news to many, this stuff is absolutely essential information for the informed voter in Central Brooklyn. And now I see the NY Post has picked up the next piece of the story.
His name is Clarence Norman, Jr. For those who don't know his name, well, I was in the same boat a few years ago. But to a longtime resident not knowing his name is like not knowing George Washington or Una Clarke. Una who you say? Gee whiz, do I have to explain EVERYthing? Let's start with Clarence Norman, who I just found out. through an anonymous source, is apparently an excellent dancer. That is besides the point, but it's a nice metaphor just the same.
After reading about how Clarence Norman, Jr. went to jail (Power thy name is Corruption), I was still pretty clueless. Pearl Miles, the longtime District Manager at Community Board 9, gave me the skinny on Norman. He'd been both NY State Assemblyman and head of the Kings County Democratic Party. As such, he had enormous powers to control who ran for what, and who became an elected official. The list of Brooklyn "who's whos" reads like a list of Norman's who's who's. There is nothing new to report about his trip to the dark side...you can read the whole sordid story yourself. However, a line from the NY Times article on his conviction is worth repeating. First, the Brooklyn D.A. at the time, then Norman:
For his part, Mr. Norman acknowledged that his political influence had ended. “I’m out of politics,” he said. “No politics for me, that’s in the past tense.”
The story started as an embarrassment for Brooklyn's Dem bigwigs (Adams/Hamilton etc), because they had planned on making longtime ally Shirley Patterson the nominee, but didn't have the votes at the Party meeting to make that happen. Apparently they'd forgotten to stock the committee with their allies. By all accounts Philpotts was THRILLED with the unexpected victory, and prepared to take his outsider status to the people, machine be damned. But something funny happened on the way to the Forum...
Philpotts missed his filing deadline. Some say that was not a simple mistake, that Norman & Adams and State Senator Jesse Hamilton made sure Philpotts didn't make it to the polls to collect his "gimme" ballot line. Did they intentionally mislead him? "Happen" not to tell him about the strict deadline? Or was it coercion? Only the no-longer-smoke-filled backrooms could tell you, if their walls could talk, and if those walls hadn't already been silenced by Norman et al and given cushy civil service jobs in return. Did Philpotts get cold feet and decid to opt out on his own? Not bloody likely. He was seen crying after he learned he'd screwed up. I couldn't believe that story didn't get more play than it did. Where was the follow-up with Guillermo? Shucks I suppose I should've called him. Actually, Milford and I led a debate, come to think of it. When Philpotts showed up I didn't know who the hell he was. I hadn't even heard the story yet. I could've asked him.
This, folks, is what happens to our Democratic system of government when we're not paying attention. And given the miserable numbers showing up at the polls on primary days, you, dear friends who don't vote, get precisely what you deserve. Miserable, corrupt, paternalistic, patronage-based undemocratic leadership. Or, when we're lucky, we get very good politicians whose sole motivation is "doing the right thing." Yes, when we're lucky. But you can also get lucky with a "good King." So why not just flip over to Monarchy? We could use the Gowanus as our moat.
As a result of the above insanity, four candidates ran for a State Assembly seat that should have been a shoe-in for the Democratic pick. Newcomer Diana Richardson swept into victory, since all the viable candidates had to run on third-party lines, meaning the Dem machine was disrupted. Come this fall, one might expect that someone, a Norman-Adams-Hamilton ally, will run against Diana, since she has yet to align herself "properly" and seems to have a mind of her own, god bless her. Will it be Demetrius Lawrence, faithful CB9 chair? Or someone else with the proper bonafides? In Part II of the saga, trust me, it gets even weirder. But first, more about the Big Man.
Politics is often about loyalty. And resentments. And loyal resentments. And one-upmanship. And power that leads to bad decision-making. And maybe, as one racks up victories, it leads to a sense of entitlement, or of being above the standards the rest of us are held to. After longtime D.A. Charles Hynes put Norman away for wrongdoing, do you suppose Jr. came out of jail fully reformed and fully removed to the world he'd known his whole life? You'd think he'd have nowhere to go, but having bragged he'd "made" dozens of judges and politicians, a lot of people owed, and still owe him, favors. And his skills translated well into political consultancy. Clarence Norman, Jr. may have been humbled, but he sure as heck ain't gone.
Were you paying attention a year and half ago when the once unbeatable D.A. Hynes got sent packing by Ken Thompson? Talk about a shot heard 'round the borough. It was definitely an indication that the center of gravity had shifted. Suddenly we went from two old-style New York white guys strutting about - Hynes and longtime Borough President Marty Markowitz - to Thompson and Adams respectively. Yes, the Empire Struck Back. And make no mistake, Adams has his eye on Gracie Mansion. That's not speculation - he's announced already - for 2021. And if you're to bake the Big Big Apple Pie, you have to start getting the ingredients together. Norman is in a position to consult Adams et al all the way to the top. Some would say the plans are being laid. Those some would be correct. We are watching the grab for next Mayor unfold in slow motion.
As to the reality of the future for the Machine - Brooklyn may be getting whiter, but that's yet to manifest itself at the top of the ticket here in Central and East BK (Jumaane, Richardson, Eugene, Hamilton, Mealy, Cumbo, Adams, Parker, Williams, Clarke, Mosley, Barron and a dozen or so others, many of whom I have great respect for, others, not so much). In many ways, the longtime Machine is vulnerable, just note that once solidly old school nabes like Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope etc went new gentry (Levin, de Blasio, Lander et al). It's only natural to assume the same will happen in Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Ft. Greene, Flatbush, and then East Flatbush, Brownsville...so the Machine has to up its game, and as always, it will center around the one cultural bastion generally off-limits to whites - the churches. Specifically, for the machine, it's primarily about The First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, on Eastern Parkway at Rogers. (Interestingly the home of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic community is 770 Easter Parkway near Kingston, just down the street. And they are the other "block" that is worth courting if you have designs on elected office.)
To understand how Norman got where he is/was, you have to understand that politics in Central Brooklyn is all about the Temples and Churches. This may be hard to grasp if you're, say, new to the neighborhood and religiously unaffiliated or generally Godless. But Clarence's father - the Sr. - was leader of First Baptist. It's spitting distance from the Bedford Union Armory, and that's not incidental, as the Church's Crown Heights Development Corporation made a play to develop the Armory. Not only is Norman, Jr. heavily invested in the church and its corporation, but that particular congregation is home to many current and past elected officials, and as a center of power, plays host to numerous luminaries when they visit the borough seeking support. In other words, every Sunday, many of the people who call the shots in your life are worshiping together with one eye on Jesus and the other on politics. I'm not being cynical here - we all do a version of this, trying to live up to our ideals in the moral and spiritual realms, while claiming our piece of the pie in the secular reality. Amiright or am I right?
Which gets me to the weirdness of this week, which I'll relate tomorrow after a night of sweet dreams about the wonderful Easter egg hunt we had on the Nethermead today. It really is a fantastic place to live, this Brooklyn, especially when I'm blithely ignorant to its politics.