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  • 06/05/16--09:31: Phat Albert Gets In Shape
  • Phirst, neighborhood fixture Phat Albert opens a gym, right upstairs in phact - Planet Phitness. Then he opens a phreshly appointed co-work space - Brooklyn Commons. It's even got pherns phlushing out its lovely rooph garden. Even the clock on the tower will soon get a phresh phace. Phat itself will be gone soon, and in its place...well, let's just say that the neighborhoods' desires have been registered. He's gonna have to make a profit of course, and Phats is no dummy. He's actually already reached out to TJs. Oh, and he has an actual name.

    Jack Srour, son of Albert, has taken the neighborhood by storm, some would say. (Here's my recent post on the rehab - even the clock's getting fixed.) He even lured 10 neighborhood "leaders" (his word, not mine) to a roundtable atop the decaying old Bond Bread factory at the corner of Empire and Flatbush just this past week. What say he? Actually he was mostly interested in hearing what the organizations in the neighborhood wanted from a for-profit co-work space like BKLYN Commons. Reps were there from the PLG Facebook page (Seth Kaplan), the Parkside Committee/CB14 (Duane Joseph), the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association PLGNA and PPEN (Brenda Edwards and Cheryl Sealey), PLG Arts (Noel Hefele and Bob Marvin), the Lefferts Food Coop (Deborah Brinkley), photographers Anton Gold and Luna Solo and more. The upshot? Everyone loves the idea of a night or two a month dedicated to meetings by local groups (free or heavily discounted). This might help groups attract more attendance and set the sort of regularity that helps with planning. In fact, Seth and Jack agreed on a free day for Facebook page members, so if you're not one, head on over to get the skinny (hint: its Thursdays for free first come first serve. You have to be a member though, or say you're a member anyway, unless Facebook is now issuing I.D.'s.) Actually, we've created our own I.D.'s, voluntarily opening up our entire lives to the scrutiny of law enforcement and corporations all in the name of "free" and "ease." That's another story, but it's now being told by researchers and academics and essayists alike and its terrifying or liberating or eh. We're so lulled by capitalist pleasures at this point that we've entirely given over to the system. Who knew? After reading Orwell's 1984 years ago I thought to myself that would never happen. It did. Right here. With nary a shot fired. Gotta go. Just got a text...

    Some spaces are still being built-out

    A large event space will accommodate bigger meetings, parties etc

    From Roof looking towards Tivoli Towers and Ebbets Apartments

    Down Flabenue Way - the Car Wash Is Owned By Else-One. Anybody Want A Car Wash?

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    What devil's potion dwells 'neath this cauldron's earthly seal? Ay, Magic Is Afoot!

    What if I were tell you that there were a magic process, passed down through the millenia, to turn garbage into life-producing earth? You'd think I were mad. MAD!! And yet, it's true. TRUE!!

    Give a dollar, ten or a hundred to the FREE community composting program at the Little Garden That Could - your very own Maple Street Community Garden.

    To learn more and give (in dollars or scraps, or dollars AND scraps):

    Crowd Rise for Maple Street Garden

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  • 06/08/16--08:32: Trapping Speed
  • Leadfoots (Leadfeet?) beware!

    You can find out, and even help other drivers identify, where red light and speed cameras are located throughout the City. Just click here for the map, or to add new cams as you find them or get ticketed. I screenshot (screenshat?) the speed (green) and redlight (red) markers in Central Brooklyn fyi. The City is limited to the total it may place as a result of car-loving Upstate legislators who control these things. But if you, fair neighbor, were to place one of these cameras, where might it be and why?

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    Today it's official. The Q's five year odyssey as Community Board 9 member formally comes to a close. Yesterday he met with Ingrid Martin of the Borough President's office, and it's clear that he's not ingratiated himself enough with Borough Hall to make the cut. And yes, it matters whether or not you're in with the BP when it comes to doing the CB9, long the heart of then-State Senator Adams' district. Appointments are made to people the BP knows and trusts - Ingrid was clear on that. But the Q learned a ton more during his mtg at "The People's House," had some good laughs with Ingrid, and now feels strangely free. Ms. Martin lives in our neighborhood. Grew up here. Has been with Eric for ages and ages as trusted #2. No, says she, the decisions have been made, and I'm not being re-upped. Au revoir, les enfantes. And yes, the Q's sometimes cynical view of local politicians did not help his case.

    As IM noted, as a member of the peanut gallery I can now take the gloves off against our common enemy AB. I don't think she fully knows the degree to which I've bare-fisted it even while on the Board these past years. And maybe I'll just skip the whole CB thing. It's been severe taxing to my nervous system. But like any great wreck, it's hard not to rubber neck. (That's a sweet line for a C&W tune. Feel free to nab it if you like.)

    I've heard for the past couple years since Eric Adams' wholesale shakeup of the Board that my days were numbered, despite making allies and enemies a-plenty. But yesterday I saw the official sheets with my name upon them, showing that BP Adams actually never appointed me in the first place. I was a Marty Markowitz appointee who was given a one year extension by Councilman Mathieu Eugene. That is hilarious of course; the guy hates me, and only realized he'd oopsed when asked whether he wanted to give it to me again. I even learned that he didn't bother to make a recommendation for one of his Councilperson recommendation slots, and the BP asked if they could fill it for him and he said yes. I got that spot in what's called a mid-term reappointment, meaning I was finishing someone else's term.

    Ousted chair Rabbi Jake Goldstein tells me that's absurd and never happens - only new appointments get the one-year treatment. Sorry Jake. It happens now. And I hate to be the one to tell you: the "old ways" are over. Jake has been ousted from the Board altogether, along with other longtime members. In Jake's case, of course, he was Chair for nearly 30 years, and canning him entirely is a kinda big dis to the Jewish Community. It's score settling time! First DM Pearl Miles, then Jake, then the rest of the old crew. Ed Fanning. Mike Cetera. Lots of others. Is Jake pissed? Damn straight. He's not going down without whatever fight he can manage, and he says he has "the goods to take them all down." We'll see! Read all about the suit here. I talk to Jake on the regular. Talk about stories!

    But you won't hear the Q getting involved in any lawsuits. And the one against me by AB will go nowhere. CB's can be great deliberate bodies, and can help create tighter communities. This one? Nope. If anything it's torn apart what community existed here, especially by having to absorb so many new faces so fast. That chaos and naivete made Alicia Boyd possible. Maybe I'll come back some day, after Eric and Ingrid and this current crew have moved on. Which is likely just five years away, when Eric makes his (already announced) bid for Gracie Mansion.

    To my count, 27 seats of 50 have changed persons in just two years. With an over-50% turnover I'd say you can count on CB9 lining up tightly with the BP for the foreseeable future. In particular, I expect that Carmen Martinez (Ingrid was clear that she's always been their first choice) will get the gig. The first hiring committee was disbanded, ostensibly for not having a quorum at all its meetings. But when Martinez didn't make the final cut, somehow we now have a new process. And guess what? Carmen's on the list! She's qualified of course. But I took the opportunity to warn Borough Hall that hiring someone who has been fired for "stealing time" and who is linked to a disgraced politician and convicted felon (Clarence Norman, Jr.) may be legal, but it's not going to sit well with a lot of folks. Sure, the firing of Martinez was probably political. Carmen had been working on a campaign of a Scott Stringer opponent, while working in Scott's office. And so he found a way to fire her. Or so the story goes. Ingrid and most Norman pals HATED Pearl Miles with a passion. She's still pushing her lawsuit through the courts by the way. And if she succeeds, you know what one of her demands is? Her old job back. How odd would that be? (Let me be clear - I disliked Pearl's rabid personality but thought she was extraordinarily effective. I think Carmen's super competent. But I don't think putting someone so politically toxic is a good idea for a civil servant job charged with serving EVERYone in the community. I think the plan will backfire. We'll see.)

    What's fascinating to the Q is that he, me, is on board with nearly every one of the BPs objectives, including but not limited to, working with City Planning on a neighborhood study and rezoning, building affordable and market rate housing on Empire and making it pretty and commercially diverse, keeping people in their apartments, fighting predatory landlords, encouraging businesses to move here and thrive here, and helping to create an inclusive environment that allows both old Brooklyn and new Brooklyn to live and work peacefully as one. I like the way he both recognizes problems with racial policing AND the realities of youth violence - he was a cop himself. I love, love the way he's turned Borough Hall into "The People's House." Generally speaking, I really like Eric Adams. And after breaking the ice with his First Lieutenant, I found myself really enjoying Ingrid and her passion for doing what she can to help her neighborhood, her community, and the world, better resemble her ideals. She was an activist; but now of course she has to play the role of a political creature, and that means toning down the rhetoric. Unless, of course, you're Donal Trump, who more and more seems some sort of Eastern European style thug-o-crat.

    Speaking of the Donald, yesterday I was riding my bike to work, through the park, and needed to pull to the curb, thereby slowing down and riding briefly through the walking/running lanes. A jogger who was approaching shouted "now you're taking over the walking lanes too!" After coming to a stop at the curb, I said as she past "don't worry lady, I'm just pulling over" to which she said loudly "Trumper! You're a Trumper! Go back to Manhattan you Trumper! We don't like your kind in Brooklyn!" I'm still trying to unpack that one. So much stuff there, and yes, I'm almost exactly Trumps size. But the day I see Donald Trump riding a bike in Prospect Park is the day I scrape my jaw off the blacktop. Backpacking and camping with Trump. Eating GORP with him on Earth Day. Arguing which is our favorite Toni Morrison character. Doing a few Sun Salutes. Hugs. Lots of hugs.

    What's next for the Q? A shower. Beddy Bye. God Bless you. And God Bless the Borough of Brooklyn.

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  • 06/17/16--06:17: Daddy's Day @ House of Juice
  • By now you should have noted that Rogers Ave's "House of Juice" is just about the most creative small-business in the neighborhood. They've consistently shown up at all sorts of local events, offering free samples of their wares, and have grown into a neighborhood treasure through constant invention and menu additions. Even booze, y'all. So, if you're looking for a Father's Day treat, do yourself a favor and hustle, no, stroooollll, on over to 682 Rogers just below Clarkson.

    best friend, guide, mentor and role model
    June 19th 2016
    special event hours 2PM - 12AM
    Reservations welcome, call (347) 974-1985 for VIP seating
    indoor & outdoor garden setting
    House of Juice
    642 Rogers Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11226
    Enjoy Kombucha & Beer Flights, Wild Plant Burgers and Laughter
    with the man who makes you strong.

    ( Wine, Mocktail & Jun Bottle Service Available )

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    Shoot. I wish I'd heard about this sooner! What a great opportunity - I mean, when was the last time you got to try your hand at archery? Be honest. Ted Nugent, you keep hush. And this the night after Beethoven and fireworks for free in the park. Is this the greatest city on earth or what?

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    The Q has made no bones about his dissatisfaction with current City Councilperson Mathieu Eugene of the 40th Council District. In 2013, the Q took off the gloves and went to bat for challenger Saundra Thomas, who came within spitting distance of the two-and-a-half term incumbent. (Sorry for all the mixed sporting metaphors - but politics is like that.) The lackadaisical, uninformed and generally incompetent pol "Dr." ME has been granted the very odd opportunity to run YET AGAIN in 2017, despite term limits, due to the strange happenstance of his first election having been a botched mid-term affair after Yvette Clarke went to Congress. Having been hand-groomed by the Clarkes (Una and Yvette) there was no reason to assume he would be as vastly under-qualified for the gig as he turned out to be. But ask anyone who's had to do business with him - the guy is a stuffed suit at best, a great harm to his district at worst, and privately a laughing stock of the Council. Just try Googling the guy. You'll note that he doesn't even bother to communicate with his constituents digitally, such is the regard and esteem he shows you. And we have no one to blame but ourselves, because we've voted him in three times already, in super-low-turnout primaries that in Democratic Brooklyn is all you need. 5K or 6K votes is all it takes in a District of nearly 180,000 people.

    Enter Brian Cunningham, already announced, already putting together a great team, already talking like someone who has a clue and possessing the deep neighborhood love that's needed for the gig. I spent a couple hours with him last week crisscrossing the neighborhood and talking about what makes him the best possible candidate to send Eugene packing back to Canarsie. (Oops. That's right; he already lives there. ME doesn't even lay his head in the District at night.) Granted, other candidates may enter the race. But to the Q's ear, Cunningham's already capable of beating Eugene. A third or fourth challenger would make it harder. But then again, who's to say it wouldn't make it easier? The point is - Brian Cunningham is a decent, hard-working, smart, young, electable guy with friends around town (he was an aide to uber-competent State Senator Kevin Parker and pals with all the electeds), friends who might just be gutsy enough to blow off the machine-politics-as-usual and back a guy who might actually take this office seriously. Seriously.

    Brian grew up on Linden Blvd, right near SUNY Downstate. Our tour began at the apartment building that his mom raised him in. He remembers it all fondly, a rambunctious kid playing with the dozens of others who called his block home, playing tree-milk-crate basketball and causing mischief. He has Jamaican roots, though you wouldn't know from his Americanized English accent, though he can easily tilt back to an Island brogue as he hugs and greets friends along our walk. Every time I've ever seen him, he's wearing a nice suit and shoes, so he'll definitely give the dandy Eugene a challenge in the debonair demeanor department. The suit stands out on the blocks of his childhood; but it's no mere show of success. Brian meets every eye head on, as if to say "we can all aspire to something if we work twice as hard." He's even been mistaken for a newcomer buppie a time or two, but it's all good. Yet another example of judging a book by its cover.

    As we walked building by building, you can't help but note that pockets of the neighborhood are so Pan-Island you'd think you were strolling through the halls of a Caribbean U.N. And yet the children and grandchildren of West Indian immigrants become, to the greater society, part of the extraordinary diversity that myopic America calls Black Americans. Which is to say, from the Q's view, that mainstream white American doesn't really know shit from Shinola when it comes to Black. Most of white suburbia gets its image from rap videos, local TV news and racist Disney movies. Rich, middle, low, poor, PhD to junior high dropout, urban, rural, suburban, north, south, west, southwest, fat, skinny, wigged or natural or bald the black experience is the American experience and yet so often it's reduced to simplified demographics for marketing and polling purposes. And as multi-racial becomes ever-more ho-hum, the insistence on labels becomes more and more absurd, even as the profiling becomes even more pronounced. In the Trump age, or trumpage (note the lack of a capital T, as if he deserves one anyway), one sees a last stand for the insanity that is the census. I really believe that bit about it being a last stand, hopefully not as bloody as Orlando and Charleston, but I fear the worst. I don't think we're living a nirvana, nor will we ever. But there is a desperation to this political year that I've never experienced, on left and right. A sense from the right, a potentially toxic and violent sense, that there will never again be a pure white entitlement, that it will forevermore be mixed with resentment and fear and the need by some to defend it. Not just because now there's been a black president and a woman president (yes, calm down, there will be and it will soon be past tense) and queers of every variety in every echelon of power and prestige.  But because that entitlement is at its core unfair, just like the denying of the vote or marriage or a shot at the first rung on the ladder. Oh, the battle isn't over yet. But damned if the first shots haven't been fired. So many shots, in so many bizarre NRA-fueled outburst, that it no longer feels like isolated incidents. Especially given the backdrop of police on citizen violence, and growing protests, and Bern Feelin', and rent anxiety.

    This is the first of what I'm sure will be many profiles on Mr. Cunningham, here and elsewhere. You can read more on his website, so I'll spare you the details now; consider this a formal introduction. But mark my words, his name will become more commonplace in the months to come. By all means, seek him out, talk to him, get to know him, ask him hard questions about anything you like. Because come September 2017, we're already assured to have ONE thoughtful and passionate candidate in the race. The choice, dear Flatbushians, will be up to you.

    Your next Councilperson?

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  • 06/21/16--15:19: Blue Sky on Rogers
  • Adrian snapped this for the F-book
    For those at Rogers and Sterling, Blue Sky Bakery muffins can add to your Pels Pies for at least an extra inch or two around the middle - by Christmas. I think it was Alice of the Brady's who said "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips."

    No news of a gluten-free doughnut shop...yet.

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    Who doesn't love a great stoop sale?

    And who doesn't love this video by MC Front-a-Lot, who did, or maybe still does, live in the neighborhood?

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  • 06/26/16--11:45: $1.75 Million Rim Job
  • The perimeter of Prospect Park has been the subject of much concern to advocates on "our" side of the Park, and rightly so. It's often been difficult to tell exactly who has jurisdiction over which aspect of the areas outside the fence along the rim of the park. But thx to some dogged locals (including but by no means limited to Amy M., Stanley G. and Seth K. add name here), word has recently reached the Q's ear that $1.75 million in capital monies will be ponied up to extend the Prospect Park Alliance's efforts to include not just Flatbush from GAP to Empire, but also the park rim along Ocean Avenue.

    Interestingly, no such funds will be made available to improve Parkside from Ocean to PPW SW (alternately known as TD Bank Place). Why the piecemeal approach? The answer lies in the strange ways that our fair City draws maps, both politically and agency-wise. For instance, DOT gets the sidewalk to sidewalk, but Parks has the dirt closer to the park. Councilperson Brad Lander has Prospect Park, but NOT the perimeter outSIDE the fence. Oddly, no one seems to have or want the area from sidewalk to fence near the Botanic Garden. Perhaps Ms. Cumbo wants to stake a claim - it's already clear that bike lane is needed, but that's yet another set of agency and funding conundrums. As a result of the gerrymandering, we get attention paid to parts of our public spaces in the order of their priority. And who sets the priority? YOU have a lot more to do with that than you probably know.

    By getting to know your elected officials and agency reps (Parks, DOT, DEP, DCP etc through the alphabets) you can become THAT guy or gal who keeps an issue at the top of the City's agenda. This City is lousy with individuals who have become "the High Line guy," or the "Brooklyn needs a baseball team" guy or the "Smith Street lady" or the "Atlantic Yards gadfly" or the "No Development on Empire Blvd lady (and I use the term loosely)" and on and on. In the Q's mere 27 years in the BK, I've witnessed numerous turns of civic fortune happen because of the vision and vigilance of individuals who outlast the bureaucrats and politicians to see projects to their fruition. It could be as modest as speed humps, as lavish as the Brooklyn Bridge Park and/or DUMBO and Navy Yard. Because NYC runs on the temerity and tenacity of its citizens (remember, the City IS us after all - the buildings and government are things WE built to make life more manageable and protect us from the excesses of individuals), I'm not exaggerating or getting all Ayn Rand on you to is up to you. Truly.

    Good job all. Please do send me any other names of people whose vision contributed to this very good news.

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    626: A Cathedral to the Times
    Gonna be hard for the Q to stop referring to it as 626. That's right - 626 Flatbush has a proper name. The Parkline. Though it will come as little surprise to you, the "non" affordable 80% of the building does not come cheap. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the mid-middle class kinda gets shafted right out of the fee structure. That is, until we all get that big raise the boss is always a day or two away from giving us. By my rough estimates, if you are single, you'll need to be making at least $80K just to "hardship it." If you're a four person family, you'll need twice that and take no vacations - or come fully funded from prior endeavors or trust fund. That is to say - welcome Lefferts - to NYC's Professionals Club. From their intro email:

    Rentals are starting  
    Studio $2123
    1BR  $2584  
    2BR  $3553
    3BR  $4430
    Please note these are Net effective prices after 1 month free rent on a 13 month Lease. 

    Note the note. To the math-challenged, that means the rent is actually higher than printed. In other words, the word "free" really shouldn't be utilized. A teaser-year might be more accurate.

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  • 06/28/16--20:37: Tonight A Score Gets Settled
  • Finally, I see all the pieces tonight, like the end of an HBO series. Now I can tell the whole tale, and it's really quite a shocker.

    The Real Man of the Hour
    It took decades, but tonight must feel pretty satisfying to Clarence Norman, Jr. Once the kingmaker of Brooklyn (he was the machine boss around here for many years as well as a State Assemblyman) he spent time in jail for shaking down judges. But before that, he had a "close friend" and campaign aide by the name of Carmen Martinez. Attractive and smart, Carmen applied for a job a couple decades ago at your Community Board 9 as its District Manager. She was up against an 11 year veteran assistant of the CB9 office, Pearl Miles. Was Pearl qualified? Of course. Was Carmen? Well, given that it's mostly a common sense job that involves political savvy, I'd say of course, if perhaps a bit too "connected" to be impartial. The Chairman at the time, and for many years before and after, was one Rabbi Jacob Goldstein. He'd worked with Pearl; he knew her, and knew he could trust her. Goldstein never cared much for Norman and his cronies, but he put up with them to get things done. Jake learns Clarence wants Carmen for the gig. Jake backs Pearl. Pearl gets the gig. Clarence plots revenge, but that takes time, both in front of and behind bars.

    Then Jake and Pearl become the dominant force around here, mostly getting things done and taking no gruff. After Clarence spends time in prison, he states he's done with politics for good. Or is he? There are scores to settle.

    First, he needs to get rid of the D.A. that put him behind bars. Stealthily he puts together a solid campaign, from the shadows of course, to knock off the once-unbeatable white Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes with the capable though decidedly not-white Ken Thompson. Ouch how that must have hurt Hynes, the Big Kahuna out in Breezy Point, Rockaways, where it's over 99% Caucasion. The corrupt politician you took down comes back and settles the score, and every day you gotta face the firemen and cops that make up your neighborhood, head hung low.

    Next up, get Pearl Miles. In partnership with Borough Hall, now home to your one-time proteges Eric Adams and sidekick Ingrid Gordon, stack the Board with loyalists. Kick out the longtime chair Goldstein. "Help" the Board fire Pearl. The opening leaves an opportunity to replace Pearl with her onetime rival years, your old "friend," though many years after the initial duel! Everyone's older now. Pearl was almost ready to retire. Jake and Norman are likely in their 70s. Carmen? A woman never tells, a man should never guess. Ironically, of course, Pearl, among other things, claims age discrimination.

    Crazy side bar? The BP stacked board doesn't even mind that Carmen was last fired by Comptroller Scott Stringer, though in fairness it's been suggested that that was political since Carmen was supporting a Stringer nemesis. She's been the presumed hire for months now, long before the Board went through the charade of putting together a committee and vetting resumes. Apparently, calling for references is no longer part of the hiring process. Unless of course they bothered to call just one - ex-Felon, corrupt boss Clarence Norman, Jr., who I'm quite certain would have offered glowing praise.

    Tonight the Board met behind closed doors, again, but this time to seal the deal. And while I didn't stay long enough to see them come back from sequester, suffice to say I'm certain of the outcome. Actually, it was just texted to me. Carmen Martinez will be our District Manager. She'll be the one you call when you need a street tree or to complain that the drains on the street are backed up or to help you get permission for a block party. Oh, and there's the part that IS political, meetings, agenda, access to people and communication between, say, Borough Hall and the Board office, or say, Norman's First Baptist Development company. Pearl never did like Norman or Adams or any of them. She would always tell me they were all cut from the same cloth, that she had to put on blinders and just keep her eye on the work. She'd been called any number of names through the years, and she'd grown weary and wary. Now she's at home, maybe laughing, maybe not. To you, dear reader, I assure you. It's not funny. It's ugly, and it's anything but fair. Of the hundreds of people who applied to be District Manager, the only one the Board finds qualified is...the one we could have told you six months ago was going to get the job. And that was before they placed a single help-wanted ad.

    Pearl has a lawsuit cooking quite nicely. She wants compensation and she wants her old job back. Her lawyers have deposed any number of influential types, and they'll keep working their way through the list if they can. Alicia Boyd has lawsuits still in play, for shenanigans and foul play. After tonight, it's hard not to agree with her assessment. Even Hector Robertson, who tried desperately to wrest control of the hiring process from the Adams disciples, was dumbfounded at how blatant was the disregard for the community. He ran against, and lost, to Demetrius for the Chair gig tonight. Of course.

    Do you remember the bit about how his committee chose three candidates who were NOT Carmen Martinez, then his committee was somehow disbanded for not following "the rules," which is hilarious because the Board rarely adheres to "the rules," except when "the rules" don't guarantee a desired outcome. Folks, this is madness, and you're being used, and there are actual real life consequences, unfortunately. While the Board plays these games, roads aren't becoming safer because of this Board. The neighborhood is being cut up and served to developers while Empire Blvd gets left to fallow. And we continue to have the single least-capable City Councilperson in town.

    I don't know if I can even believe what happened. It's official. Norman and the BP's office got what they wanted. Part of me is relieved that it's over. But what kind of elected officials - disgraced or otherwise - go to such tremendous lengths to settle scores?

    Petty ones. Petty people, with myopic vision and Machiavellian egos. That's who.

    Good luck Carmen. Good luck Chairman Lawrence. And good luck Eric Adams, as you try to gain the trust of the electorate, so that they will hand you the keys to the City in 2021. So far, so not so good. I'm so disappointed, but I guess I should've known.

    You can tell a lot about a person's character by the company they keep. Especially when that company is...Clarence Norman, Jr.

    I leave you with a quote from then D.A. Hynes about Norman's conviction. Tonight we saw the evidence that Hynes spoke too soon. Voters; beware.

    Mr. Hynes saw the conviction yesterday as the nail in the coffin of the Brooklyn Democratic machine, and a cautionary message for anyone who might try to revive it.
    “We have exposed it for the evil that it is,” Mr. Hynes said. “Any political leader who engages in this kind of rank extortion, and think about it, any political leader who tries this, does so at her or his peril.”



    long, long ago.

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    Nagle's Bagels. Lincoln Road. Near your park and your Q/B/S train station. Another notch in your lipstick case. Donating 10% of profits to Parkside Plaza, baby. Opens tomorrow.

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    Couldn't help thinking of our old friend Burgermeister Mesiterburger at the BBG Picnic Night. (Talk about first world problems, but the Q's going for it, so settle in.) If you spend the roughly $100 for a membership to our dear Garden, one of the greatest treats of living in Central BK, you get invited to the after-hours Member Nights on Wednesdays during the summer. And on a few select evenings, you're even allowed to picnic on the grass! Oh hurrah, and hurray, say the little children. A chance to run and play on the most perfect lawns, with parents sipping wine and talking to neighbors and old friends from the playground, school or 'hood. Most Leffertsians seem to congregate on the beautiful open spaces just west of the cafe. It's a truly joyous occasion, and always leaves one with the most utter respect and love for the garden and its carefully coiffed arboretum.

    Until last night.

    Just after 6pm, as parents were laying out blankets and pulling out the corkscrews and quinoa salads, first one then two security guards show up, looking none too pleased. That's okay wethinks. They're just here to make sure the Garden's many manicured plants and trees are treated respectfully. Just as some girls have taken off their shoes and start engaging in the night's first cartwheels, and some of the boys start chasing each other, the directive comes loud and clear.

    "Children must not play or run. If they continue you will be asked to leave."

    The parents looked at each aghast. The children must not play or run? That's like telling the pope not to wear a funny hat. Or telling the fat lady not to sing. Or telling birds not to eat worms. Or telling Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account (is he actually gonna keep that once he's President? "Had lunch with Goofy Angela Merkel today. Her ratings are terrible. Not attractive. Doesn't have the best words.") No one can even believe it. The kids look at us like someone just cancelled Christmas. "What, no toys this year?" Clearly this directive came from someone without children, right? Lots of kids. Nice weather. Food and happy parents. Luxurious grass. Perfect setting. Good food. running or playing. Might as well ask the dollar vans to slow down.

    So the Q wouldn't be the Q if he just sat there, so he goes up to the guy and asks what's going on, but this only makes him more adamant. So the Q goes to his superior, who says the rules are to protect the garden. Fair enough. Stop the kids who are climbing on trees or ripping up grass, I say. Escort out the parents whose kid bludgeoned a toddler with a plastic light saber. But don't tell our kids not to run and play. Nothing. So now I ask to be directed to the head of security and the membership manager, whose job it is to keep the numbers up for memberships. I walk all the way to the Brooklyn Museum parking lot entrance, and as I approach they say "there he is." Someone has radioed ahead. As I start in explaining you can tell children not to eat the bamboo, but you can't tell them not to do cartwheels the security man says "I was with you til you said cartwheels. Our job is to keep the children safe, and they simply can't be doing cartwheels." I ask if he knows what a cartwheel is, but that's not going anywhere good. So I hear them out. Sometimes picnic night gets out of hand, children running willy nilly, parents not watching them, pretty soon someone gets hurt or lost and the BBG gets sued. Has anyone sued the BBG over picnic night? No. But no matter. I try a different tack. "Why not tell your guys to find some middle ground? Stand down a bit, let's see how it plays out. The parents will do their best to keep the kids from (I gulp) hurting themselves by playing on the hard, hard, nasty, sharp grass. (Okay, I didn't say that, but I wanted to.) Much to my surprise, they agreed.

    Eventually, the parents and children so outnumbered the garden personnel that they were forced to concede defeat. A few of our girls actually approached the guards themselves and asked why the "no play zone?" We were proud of course that our seven year olds were self-possessed enough to approach their elders like that, and the guards agreed that a few cartwheels, well designed and executed, would probably be all right. Pretty soon the garden was back to reasonable chaos.

    By the end of the night we felt happy again, though with a bit of WTF taste on our tongues. Then today comes word from a local parent that during regular hours today she and her kids were aggressively scolded for getting too close to the sprinklers. They weren't even running. Or playing, really. So unnecessary. Simply not nessa.

    The Q loves the garden so much. He's been going for more almost 30 years. He was in love with the Chunky Chicken Salad and saddened, no HORRIFIED, when they discontinued it. Then this new caterer comes in, and frankly, the lines are long and the food overpriced. The chili tastes fine, but it's too much broth and not enough, er, stuff. There's only two registers when there used to be three. Even the longtime workers seem unhappy. And don't get me started about the absurdly long construction time on the new garden areas. Is it, like, one guy doing all the work? They hired a landscaper from Long Island to come in on his days off?

    To the Garden. Please. Three nights a year, for two and a half-hours at a pop, let the kids run free. And at other times, don't harass us. If you see something truly dangerous or disruptive, fine. But let people walk without their shoes off for chrisakes. This is about enjoying nature and appreciating the botanicals. And while the reeds near the little creek and the leaves on the trees are beautiful, they ain't the Mona Lisa. Tiny damages, when they happen, will grow back. Tiny damages, like the rift that opened with my beloved garden last night, will heal. Just..chill out, y'all. For the sake of the children.

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  • 07/05/16--11:57: Ribbon Cutting at Blue Sky
  • It's so far away from me it hardly "Q"ualifies as news for those on the Q at Parkside. But still, I'm "fasting" today (okay, I'm eating watermelon) and this sounds really, really good to me right now.

    Blue Sky Bakery opens its Lefferts location at 404 Rogers - for real - tomorrow at 10:30. No more "soft opening." This is a hard opening for some soft, scrumptious, gluten-filled yumness.

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    It's not just Lefferts, Crown Heights, Flatbush, Brooklyn, NYC, Austin, San Fran, Seattle, Portland...

    We like to imagine that we live in a small town. That's why we're so neighborhood focused and 'hood proud. The City is simply not human-sized, and we yearn for a communal homestead. The fact is, the whole metropolitan area of 25 million people or so is a living organism, and what we do affects the whole body. The incremental changes here or there, when multiplied 1,000 fold, can mean the difference between a healthy body and a rotting gut.

    Glad to see Conor Dougherty in The Old Gray Lady catching up with the real story. It's about time the mainstream media laid bare the reality - you cannot expect go NIMBY and not hurt others in the process. Maybe in a small town out in the Midwest, where jobs are scarce and no one really wants to move there anyway. But we in Brooklyn are a victim of success. There is no reason to also be a victim to shortsighted anti-planning zealots who don't recognize just how necessary it is to build lasting affordable housing, even as we protect the existing stock. Homeowners have ulterior motives when it comes to neighborhood "character." Character is what made Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill and the West Village astronomically expensive. They're almost museums in a crowded and thriving metropolis chock full of working people forced to look farther and farther afield for housing. Folks, the hot dog vendor on my work corner commutes every day from the Poconos. He's hardly alone. I've met dozens of immigrant laborers who chose the American Dream hours away rather than live in poverty right here. There is a middle ground between over-building and under-building, and the Q has fought for it, poorly at times. Allow the RIGHT kind of growth, the kind that helps level the playing field while recognizing that new housing is good, so long as it isn't out-sized or inappropriate (think finger buildings in the middle of blocks).

    Some excerpts from this fine article that highlights that this is an American problem, not just Brooklyn. People are moving to Cities where their prospects for employment are less, based purely on home prices. I know it for a fact! Brooklynites are moving in droves, Upstate, Detroit, or towns with QofL but limited employment options like Portland and Boulder, but even those zeitgeist towns are feeling the same overheat at Brooklyn, and housing prices are zooming.

    I particularly fancy the description of Council meetings, from this excerpt. Been there, done that, albeit at the glorious CB9.

    To most people, zoning and land-use regulations might conjure up little more than images of late-night City Council meetings full of gadflies and minutiae. But these laws go a long way toward determining some fundamental aspects of life: what American neighborhoods look like, who gets to live where and what schools their children attend.
    And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.
    The lost opportunities for development may theoretically reduce the output of the United States economy by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, according to estimates in a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti. Regardless of the actual gains in dollars that could be achieved if zoning laws were significantly cut back, the research on land-use restrictions highlights some of the consequences of giving local communities too much control over who is allowed to live there.
    “You don’t want rules made entirely for people that have something, at the expense of people who don’t,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

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    CHTU. PLGNA. PPEN. The Q has great respect for the missions and individuals therein. And so I'm happy to post the letter verbatim, sans (much) comment, that they sent to the brain trust at Community Board 9, i.e. Executive Committee. The Q doesn't agree with the assessments herein, except the anti-harassment part, but no matter. The three groups continue to brave the rezoning controversy with dignity and intelligence, so I give you the PPENPLGNACHTU position on matters crucial to the neighborhood's future. I'll save my rebuttal for another time!

    Dear Members of CB9,

    On March 22, the City Council adopted Mayor De Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability plans, which will impact any future zoning in our community. We know that CB9, among many other Community Boards, opposed that plan, which we applaud.

    In numerous meetings, both public and private, Winston Von Engel from Brooklyn City Planning has made it clear that he works for the Mayor, and that he believes upzoning of areas within CB9 is inevitable. Therefore, we think that to proceed with rezoning at this time would be detrimental to our communities.  CB9 should not be among the first community boards representing a group of neighborhoods to be identified by the Mayor for his rezoning plans.  

    The groups signing this letter also concur that our neighborhoods should be contextually zoned, which means zoning should be aimed at preserving the diverse, low-rise historic character of our neighborhoods and not upzoned to match current outliers such as 626 Flatbush Avenue, or in accordance with the Mayor’s MIH and ZQA plans. This area of contextual zoning includes major corridors and avenues within CB9.

    We therefore urge CB9 to join with us in an effort to preserve existing housing and neighborhood character, protect rent regulated and presently affordable housing, and pursue new creative options to meet the future housing needs of our district that are not dictated by private development requirements. Development should be on a scale that is fair, that will not overly burden infrastructure or services, and that has democratic participation and cooperation of the community. 

    Finally, this effort must also serve to protect tenants and local merchants from harassment and displacement. In this regard, we ask you to develop a CB9 anti-harassment plan since we are not included in the neighborhoods that Mayor De Blasio has targeted for anti-harassment protection.


    Quest Fanning on behalf of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA)

    Leah Margulies on behalf of the Prospect Park East Network (PPEN)

    Esteban Girón on behalf of the Crown Heights Tenants Union (CHTU)

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    Wherein the blogger wonders onscreen how on earth a lone assassin, mentally unstable and acting by himself, is allowed to hijack an emerging debate on the lethal use of police force, albeit one that was already becoming so diluted and devoid of rigorous analysis that we as a nation were being plunged into a month of Nancy Grace mysteries. I kid not - the media is LOVING this, even as they portend disaster. Trump, Sanders, Black and Blue Lives Matter - you can't script these kind of unit shifters. I honestly heard someone talking about the Dallas situation as "inevitable." That's right. It's inevitable that exactly one man among 320 million people will go (literally) ballistic on police officers during a peaceful protest. Why must outliers define the moment? Ugh and double-ugh.

    So yesterday morning a manic man started shooting a gun in the middle of the street at Rogers and Lefferts. You can read the details here or elsewhere, makes little difference. The details seem consistent among observers. Some neighbors, upon hearing that a man had been shot by cops, instantly wrapped the incident into the current national narrative. You know the one. The one that every single person in America is talking about at the same time? At moments like these, I suppose it makes sense to ante up and get in the game. But hold on. This story meets none of the criteria of any of the big stories currently blending the public into a frothy frenzy. Man was out of his mind, had a gun, was shooting gun, and refused to relinquish gun when told to by cops. He was shot, he was not killed. On any other newsday, the cops would be heroes for preventing the loss of life. Any life. And we'd hope the man will get the help he needs, regardless of what real or imagined events or mind-melters, natural or concocted, touched him off. But within minutes, neighbors were writing things like "fuck AmeriKKKa" and wondering aloud whether the beastly cops were part of deplorable arrest of a UPS driver by cops in our own precinct. Perfectly fine to express oneself, of course.

    But it got me thinking about whether we're being led on a wild goose chase (is a wild goose really that difficult to catch? remind me to ask my hunting-enthusiast relatives). Remember how that one Surfer Nationalist guy kills the indie rock band Franz Ferdinand  and it sets off WWI? Maybe I got my details wrong on that one, but sometimes the world goes craaaazy focusing on a single event or string of events. The fact is, the facts don't necessarily line up with what people are thinking and feeling right now. That's okay - racism is ugly, enduring and bafflingly difficult to address. On the plus side, I think it's amazing that we've gone from hush-hush to in-your-face. But we run the risk of missing the potential for progress in the hunt for headlines and heart-stopping videos. And we're practically begging our politicians and public figures to ratchet up the rhetoric, only further inflaming an already edgy public. To what end? Hopefully someone has a clue, but I doubt it.

    The point is - we're seeing something in these current headlines that's been happening for years, decades, and longer. We're seeing how the power of police is sometimes warped, reflecting not just "bad cops" but bad society. And freaky freak of all freaky facts? Black folks involved in a police struggle aren't more likely to be killed than whites - it's almost the exact same number as the number of blacks to whites involved in the sorts of cop-calls that end in the use of deadly force. Even more bizarrely, for another to explain (actually Coates gave it a shot in his latest book) black cops are 3 times more likely than a white cop to shoot a black man in such an encounter. Are we even willing to look at the reality when it doesn't match our anecdotal convictions? If we're not, can we even begin to suggest the fix, beyond a wholesale overhaul of racial politics, systems and relations? Because the overhaul idea has been with us at least since the abolitionists. We've got a long way to go folks, but we don't have that long to make sense of the current political reality. Sometimes I think we're hard-wired to accept the simplest, least rigorous assumptions. God knows I have to resist every day the desire to simplify and stereotype.

    The problem at hand is actually a sum of the same underlying conditions that lead blacks to be twice as likely as whites to find themselves in that Russian Roulette standoff situation in the first place. Because nearly the exact same percentage of shooting victims by police are black as are the likely suspects and accused in the first place - about 25%, or twice the population of self-described black Americans overall. That is (and I know I'll catch hell here) there is nothing new going on, even when it comes to anomalous and ugly fuck-ups. And yes, they ARE anomolous. To suggest otherwise is to accept the idea that because you saw some heart-sinking video that you now understand what happens each and every time a person of color is stopped by the police. Hell yes, black folks are targeted and profiled at infuriating rates. But when it comes to killing, do we really want to accept the facts? What is there beyond the pit in our stomachs that allows us to say with certainty precisely what's going on in the big picture?

    What there is, is videotape. And a desire on the part of every living human being to watch them again and again. Irrefutable evidence that all too often a police encounter becomes a shooting encounter, and we all know where that leads. Shooting is not the same as yelling the n word, or using profanity, or reaching for a wallet. Shooting happens when guns are drawn, or guns are thought to exist. If it's just about race, this fear of getting shot that leads to shooting, we'd want to see some video of non-black shootings wouldn't we? What's going on during those encounters that could help elucidate the lethal situation, when race ISN'T the primary issue.  There are so many problems that need to be addressed here, I fear we're focused on the tree for the forest. Cops are not all dumb racists. And some of them have been working to address their professions shortcomings for years. Most notably the chief of police in Dallas is a noted reformer. Our own police chief is rolling out a massive new community policing program (more on that in a minute).

    But this year, the good guys aren't getting much of the spotlight. The "inevitable solutions" are being left to the craziest and least stable among us - like the Dallas guy - to settle the score. Like ISIS, guys like that will start popping up more and more if we don't get a handle on the narrative, the solutions and the reality - that hundreds of thousands of stops and arrests DON'T end up with the use of lethal force, despite the fact that this country has gone absolutely psycho for guns. NONE of these 1500 or so cop/resident situations needed to be lethal, if the cops could be reasonable sure a gun wasn't present in the first place. The problem is the gun that does or doesn't exist. It's the x factor that makes even routine encounters into crapshoots. In the egregious videos, we get to see what happens when everything goes wrong, right down to the wrong person wearing blue.

    And yes, I blame you, Old Gray Lady, for some of the national hypnosis. With running headlines like "America Fractures" and other hyperbolic bullshit. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but it's just plain absurd to allow the news cycle to define a nation of 300+ million people. Who live in Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, crime ravaged Honolulu and (weird as it may seem) central Idaho. I hope it's clear I'm as outraged as anyone by the images I'm seeing. But were we to see the images of everyone of the 1500 or so lethal encounters nationwide, perhaps we'd see the bigger picture. And if we incorporate it into what we already know from groundbreaking Law and Order research from the Michelle Alexanders of the world, maybe we could start a real revolution, build of common ground and tactics. Nah. Easier to run that outrageous headline, and hope for a bloody summer and leadup to the weirdest election in decades. But NOT the weirdest in the history of the Republic. This is where the longer view becomes handy, and I'm grabbing whatever over-100-and-200-year-old stories I can to have at the ready!

    The Q planned on writing today on the distinct differences between what he was led to believe about rural Idaho - the heart of so-called Trump country - and the reality. Here in Donnelly, a small lakeside town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, politics comes up less often than you'd think. Most folks are content to fish and hunt and recreate, and tend to view Washington D.C. like it were a foreign country. My own relatives - my brother-in-law a die-hard NRA Republican - put it best. "Western Republicans are generally Libertarians in search of a political party." To which I suggested "how about, er, the Libertarians then?" Split that vote, buddy. Split that vote.

    Perhaps in 2016 we'll see if his comrades enter the fray as heartfelt Gary Johnson-ites. I know some activists want to imagine that all the Western State conservatives are neo-nazis and racist survivalists. But in a state so bereft of black people you can go days without seeing a person of color, race is discussed almost as a novelty, with a dose of naivete, and almost exclusively through the lens of the national media. Folks are a bit mystified by the national debate roiling the country. And yeah, there are bonafide KKKers around, but not as prevalent as you might be led to believe. Kids here love Bernie Sanders. The political climate is more Upstate NY than Doomsday Cults."

    Gentrification happens in Boise; but it's almost purely about class. "Trailer trash" is the pejorative of choice, and the very same fight that takes place in Brooklyn's fast-growing neighborhoods about displacement is happening here. A whole neighborhood (actually its own incorporated town) called Garden City lies near the river and is ready to bust with new condos and houses. Folks in trailers lie in the path of the wrecking ball, and the do-gooders create non-profits to help them stay or move to better housing elsewhere. Affordable housing is a huge issue as its never been before. Sure, folks could move 30 miles out of town. But their quality of life would be severely lessened, and the fact is that here, like everywhere, a good urban environment needs a healthy mix of incomes to thrive.

    But that's not what's on my mind today. I borrowed my sis-in-laws HP laptop (she actually works for HP) because I've read probably all the same articles and opinion pieces and looked at the videos and the heartbreaking scenes of grief and my first reaction matched the headlines. But after a day of reflection (literally - I was out on the lake in the sunlight in a kayak, gratitude abounds), I'm more pissed off than ever at...the Feeding Frenzy known as the Mainstream Media. I feel manipulated, used, abused, lied-to and jostled in the back of the journalistic van by the insane focus on individuals, personalities, "experts" and the undeniable pain of families of victims, of whatever background. As has happened countless times in the past, the acts of a single person (Dallas) or incompetent and perhaps painfully racist and fearful cops (everywhere else) has become the pulse of the nation. What do we actually know? I'll tell you what we (sort-of) know...

    Cameras. Specifically, the ubiquity of smartphone cameras. THAT'S the real story playing out, and we could (probably should) be using this remarkable knew technology to change the way we practice civil rights and justice in America. Damn straight there should be a camera on every officer and patrol car. And smart phones should be encouraged the moment anything dubious goes down around cops. But this does not have to be anything more than evidence not that things AREN'T working, but that we now have the tools to make them better. Much, much better. Where's the optimism? Lost in pathos of course.

    I was happy to see the Washington Post's study of police shootings finally get some airtime, because many of the answers to current conditions and macro and micro solutions lie therein. Not to mention the fact that right here in NYC - our neighborhood in particular - a grand new scheme is community policing began just two weeks ago. I'll go on at length about it later, but suffice to say that many of the complaints and suggestions that many of us have been lobbing at the cops are finally being legitimately heard and acted on. We're moving towards a more personal and beat-cop approach, with emphasis on diversity and escalation-avoidance techniques. Our "quadrant" of the precinct will have its own two community police officers on speed-dial. And they will be part of, and invited, to every block party, block association, community meeting and blah-blah we can think of. I'm hopeful. Very hopeful, for the first time in a long, long time. Looking forward to introducing you to your capable officers, and developing a meaningful relationship with them.

    What we learned from the WashPost's data was striking - the problem of lethal police force exactly mirrors the overall crime stats that have developed in this country generally. So even as we see specific examples of horrendous police abuses, we're actually not getting NEW information. Just confirmation, and the sort of specific video proof that lies beyond speculation.

    The Q only hopes that rather than await the Fracturing of America, we can actually do something to prevent the break. It'll start with reality, some brave leaders (cue Obama), and a recognition that really precious few of us are served by a preponderance of lethal encounters between the citizenry and police. There is no vast conspiracy here. Just the age-old intractable issues of race, class and fear, not always in that order.

    People. Still fallible. Still gullible. Still crazy after all these years.

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    Did you see it? Did you join? Glad Ditmas Park Corner was there to document. Great pics and videos. Congrats to organizers, incl Equality for Flatbush, on pulling together a massive show of solidarity, walking right by good ol' 626 Flatbush even. Just a year ago, a similar protest drew a dozen. Now 1,000. This is gettin' big, big big. Here's hoping Imani Henry can stick to the point and try not to take potential allies down with dirty tricks. You don't need to go low, man. Clearly you've got the power of the message to move you forward.

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    Need to get one of your new elected leaders a bit better? Here's a WNYC piece on freshman Assemblywoman Diana Richardson. Kicking ass and taking names.

    WNYC on Diana

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