Articles on this Page
- 07/20/16--18:32: _Don't Sweat the Rep...
- 07/20/16--20:35: _L.A.M.B.Y. - Landlo...
- 07/22/16--07:49: _Record Store To Ope...
- 07/22/16--11:54: _Talk About Quality ...
- 07/27/16--09:00: _You Know You Want It
- 08/04/16--08:59: _Garrison Keillurrgh...
- 08/09/16--07:04: _A Remarkable Reality
- 08/13/16--07:52: _KRAZY Developments ...
- 08/15/16--11:24: _Another Episode Of ...
- 08/15/16--18:53: _Emergency Mtg on Gu...
- 08/15/16--18:56: _Machine Chooses Can...
- 08/18/16--19:37: _America's Historic ...
- 08/20/16--18:56: _Your British Coloni...
- 08/23/16--08:23: _Gun Buyback - Augus...
- 08/24/16--11:17: _The Density Illusion
- 08/25/16--19:43: _Alkaline Shooting V...
- 08/26/16--06:48: _My Grandson. Oy Vey.
- 08/26/16--08:33: _Need Your Help Find...
- 08/28/16--19:51: _Fighting Gentrifica...
- 08/30/16--07:39: _Ebbets in Context
- 07/20/16--18:32: Don't Sweat the Republicans. Here's Why.
- 07/20/16--20:35: L.A.M.B.Y. - Landlord Abuse in My Back Yard
- 07/22/16--07:49: Record Store To Open Next To 65 Fen
- 07/22/16--11:54: Talk About Quality of Life Crime
- 07/27/16--09:00: You Know You Want It
- 08/04/16--08:59: Garrison Keillurrghhhspyatpfooyuck
- 08/09/16--07:04: A Remarkable Reality
- 08/13/16--07:52: KRAZY Developments Keep Coming Out of CB9
- 08/15/16--11:24: Another Episode Of "This Old House" - Bites the Dust Edition
- 08/15/16--18:53: Emergency Mtg on Gun Violence Nearby Thursday Aug 18
- 08/15/16--18:56: Machine Chooses Candidate - So You Don't Have To!
- 08/18/16--19:37: America's Historic District and Race
- 08/20/16--18:56: Your British Colonial Not-So-Underground Economy
- 08/23/16--08:23: Gun Buyback - August 27. Do They Work?
- 08/24/16--11:17: The Density Illusion
- 08/25/16--19:43: Alkaline Shooting Video In Front Of Pepa's
- 08/26/16--06:48: My Grandson. Oy Vey.
- 08/26/16--08:33: Need Your Help Finding Missing Teen! Needs Meds...
- 08/28/16--19:51: Fighting Gentrification In All the Wrong Ways
- The battlefield is not in the gentrifying neighborhoods. It is in the more wealthy neighborhoods where empowered residents fight to keep new people out.
- The enemy is not the gentrifiers or developers trying to serve them. It is the rich people who use their influence to thwart development in their neighborhoods. The more they fight to depopulate desirable neighborhoods, the more people are left seeking alternative neighborhoods.
- The mechanism of gentrification is not development. It is zoning, and other regulations that thwart development in currently desirable areas.
- The solution is not to fight development in currently gentrifying areas. It’s to call for radical liberalization of zoning in already wealthy areas, and to stand up to neighborhood groups who try to abuse zoning to prevent that.
- The reason people gentrify is not to disrupt ethnic or economically-challenged neighborhoods. It is most often because they have been priced out of the neighborhood they desire.
- 08/30/16--07:39: Ebbets in Context
Try to put down your personal data assistant for a minute. Your mind is about to explode from the insanity on display in Cleveland, from the reports of violence, or even from the (forgive me) tweets. (So many tweets in the news these days!) You need to remember that precisely the same number of people ALWAYS vote for the Republicans, and all the hyperbole about this particularly election cycle being particular will come to look just that particularly uninteresting. Other Republican candidates have been just as bizarrely out of touch with the times, and have pandered just as much to the fears and resentments of white have-nots and fundamentalists and good old boys and crotchety insurance salesmen - more even sometimes. Sure the candidate du jour is a blowhard, but which one wasn't? He's just greasier and less polished. We got to defeat him, no question. But don't you remember how close it was with Bush? With McCain, with Romney? Don't be so glum, chum! Just don't believe the yarn about the dismantling of the Republican party. They're still polling over 40% with their worst candidate in years. Some (not I) would say Hilary's the worst Dem candidate in years too, but there she is holding the same shoestring lead as Obama before her. The difference is that the political climate has changed a bit, with radicals on the right and left feeling emboldened. Do I sound like I'm turning 50? As a matter of fact, tomorrow...
Why do we forget every four years that this is a big, big, big country. About 90% white across the states that faithfully vote Republican. And even in those states you find legions of liberals, just not enough (yet) to be the majority. The country was founded by puritan racists, who if you think of it have actually come a long way since their slave-owning Indian-slaughtering days. Maybe not as far as we'd like...but forgive them father, for they are hopelessly ignorant and poorly dressed.
And I'd like to remind us all. Remember that "revolution" in 1968? Hardly made a dent, really. Some would say that consciousness shifted, but real lasting change? Just a bit, as the nation soldiers on, with much of the rest of the world in tatters or fraying. I don't believe we're on the verge of a radical shake-up anymore than I think that Brexit will lead to anything more than massive legal bills and a new rise of Labour, which will finally change its name to something more 21st Century. Like "The EDM Rave Party." REAL shit is going down in Turkey, in Nigeria, in Syria. We lumber towards greater civil rights and greater justice at the pace of backyard slug, but we don't tear apart, and that is truly remarkable. Our Constitution practically demands it, what with its checks and balances and gerrymanders and tug of war between state and Fed.
When you compare the Republicans to the worst abusers in the world, perhaps we should feel fortunate. The GOP is not dominated by murderers (just 20% or so are even card-carrying sadists), and I know a fair number and they can sometimes surprise you with their general regard for human life and civil liberties. When presented with solid arguments, some can even (eventually) be persuaded to change their minds. The others die off, as the country veers towards greater multiculturalism.
I emphatically believe that the police shootings will end, that vote will happen and the country will go back to normal, as it does every goddam four years. The young will suffer the first humiliation, get full time jobs and children, and turn into their own version of middle-aged bloggers who are frustrated by the slow pace of progress. With leadership and some strong support from the media, #BLM will become a powerful force for racial justice. It will hopefully change its name, since as I've written before the killings by police can't help but continue, white/black and other. Remember that sadist statistic? And they're in every field by the way. Even insurance salesmen.
Despite the rhetoric and the pundits and the loudest voices...the country is not fracturing. Perhaps this is not music to your ears. Perhaps you think revolution is in the air. I don't think so. We're too invested in our P.D.A.'s and binge-TV to suffer it. A lurch to the left never hurt, though.
The Q tries to stay realistic about the facts surrounding neighborhood "change." I always likes reading Kelefa Sanneh, but I found his musings on the words "ghetto" and "gentrification" particularly relevant and useful. He's an egghead and an intellectual omnivore.. He's my favorite writer about music, if mostly because he thinks differently about music than I do, and that allows me to hear fresh ideas in familiar sounds. Pivot, Q, pivot...
Landlord Abuses in My Back Yard. L.A.M.B.Y. That is to say that with all the blah blah blah about NYC neighborhoods "in transition" (as if in a City of Renters that never happened before), one can get caught up in the hypothetical and anecdotal. It's easy to argue what's good and bad about a neighborhood's rising rents and incomes, but...how does it GET that way? I'm not being glib. How does it happen that when I moved here in at the beginning of the century you could get a 2 bedroom for under a grand, and now that wouldn't get you a studio? Inflation and wages, up 30%. Yes, post 9/11 we saw real growth here, with more and higher paying jobs moving to NYC, outside the traditional media companies and finance concerns. And anyone who's moved here in the last 15 years was likely priced out in other 'hoods, only recently realizing how nice it is over on "this" side of the park. Unemployment is historically very low, even for black New Yorkers. Though it remains stubbornly twice as high as unemployment for whites.
We get all that. But how do you actually turn over an apartment - one that was rent stabilized, and therefore was becoming a better and better deal every year, as the market outstrips the dictated rate increases? We get that landlords want to charge as much as possible. A given, no? Every smart landlord is thinking not just about the current rent roll, but forecasting future profits, and deciding how much money to put into upkeep. Meeting that target is what it's all about, growing your business, having more cash to invest in other properties etc.
But it's those future earnings, chasing them, that provides the perverse incentive to screw over your current lower paying tenants in favor of those the next rung up. Take 260, 270 and 280 Parkside Avenue. Big buildings, lots of huge pre-war apartments. Some folks are paying less than $1,000. But some are paying more than $2K for the exact same layouts. Which tenant does the landlord want more of? Enter abuse, racism and connivance.
The other day the Q met with some tenants at 260-280 Parkside, which is quite literally "in my backyard" as I live directly behind these buildings, meaning we effectively share a backyard. I've been staring at them for more than a dozen years. I've heard babies crying, the annoying chirping of battery-dying smoke detectors, I've seen people throw huge mounds of garbage out their windows. And I've seen lovers on the fire escapes, and people getting randy in the evening (you know who you are!), fights, laughter and parties. Except for the garbage I've never had much reason to complain. The noise in the City is a given, and the music was nearly always hip-hop or dancehall, until very recently, when I heard both Tom Petty and Belle and Sebastian wafting through the air, the bass register conspicuously absent. Building turnover? Got me thinking. I even heard some Animal Collective the other day, and I'm pretty sure that was the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Hmm. What was I saying?
Oh yes. The tenants. As you might or might not be aware, landlords have gotten more and more aggressive as they try to turn their once boring but dependable investments into goldmines. The surest way to do this is turnover, the very thing that seems to run counter to common sense. One would think steady income would be preferable to churn. But in NYC's rent-warped marketplace, the only way to quickly increase rents in a stabilized building is to get 'em in and get 'em out.
The building is owned by Parkbush Realities. (Get it? PARKside and FlatBUSH? Thank god that didn't catch on as a micro-nabe name, right Cheryl?). Sam Farkas is the principal, and he's possibly part of the Andrew Farkas real estate empire, but that's really not the point. Farkas has taken a page from the great big book of landlord schemes. While blatantly and barely legally trying to change the demographics of the building, he courts the "Craigslist" crowd with enticing rates, won't take Section 8, and makes sure he rents to "right" sort of tenants. He works with brokers who claim "no fee" except of course that there is. A fee. And once you're in, the game is on. Suddenly the landlord mysterious withholds and doesn't cash your rent checks. Doesn't respond when you need him. Not doing routine maintenance. Not fixing leaks and letting days go buy without hot water or heat. This "next tier" crowd is paying double what longterm tenants are paying, tenants who have already grown weary of the same tactics to get THEM out to make room the next rung. And while the rulebook favors the tenants in these clearcut harassment cases, Farkas hires a stable of lawyers to keep you on your toes and in court. Now you're taking time off work just to stay one step ahead. You're sending everything certified mail and using a notary on the regular. Tenants say the stress can become unbearable, and that's what Parkbush is counting on. Now you leave, and the landlord takes the 20% vacancy increase, does feeble repairs, looks for his next "mark," and bingo you're on your way to taking your building market rate.
L.A.M.B.Y. Landlord Abuse in My Back Yard. With dozens of large and market-desirable apartment buildings in the neighborhood, and all the landlords taking a page from the big book of landlord shenanigans, your once culturally diverse neighborhood becomes ever-less so. Happened in Park Slope. Happened on the Lower East Side and the Upper West Side before it. We either stand with our brothers and sisters, join in the protests, help organize buildings like the Crown Heights Tenants Union and Flatbush Tenants Coalition. Or not. But don't complain when the landlords' work is complete. It will be too late, and god knows current homeowners aren't interested in allowing higher density to get more affordable rent-stabilized housing built. Our apathy, and in some cases our stubbornness, will be the legacy. Which side are you on?
So says a neighbor on le Facebook:
I have some exciting news, especially for you music lovers! A vintage record shop, Record City, is coming to our neighborhood. The location is where our beloved 65 Fen once occupied. This morning I had a lovely chat with the owner, Ian, and he is super excited to be a part of the PLG community. After a couple decade of selling vintage records online, this will be his first physical store and was honest about his anxiety and how his business will be received by the neighborhood. Hopefully He'll stop by the Street Festival on Sunday. Record City is expected to open by the end of July.
We're hearing old soul and funk, and I'm sure plenty of wacky one-of-a-kind finds. Here's to vinyl, baby.
From Ditmas Park Corner comes news of a truly bizarre crime just steps from Pepa's famous jerk chicken on the Flabenue near Woodruff. So much about this story is bizarre - like why the pummeling? Or perhaps stranger still, who's trying to by an iPod in this day and age? I guess a 70 year old guy might. The violence is positively beyond my comprehension. He got the guy's money, right? Then his getaway vehicle was a...scooter.
From Carly Miller's story:
A 70-year-old man tried to buy an iPod from the suspect (pictured above), outside of 730 Flatbush Avenue between Parkside and Woodruff Avenues, near Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, at 6:30pm on Wednesday, June 29. The man handed the suspect cash, and received no iPod, according to police. When the victim tried to get his money back, the suspect punched him in the face and head multiple times, knocking him to the ground. The suspect then fled the scene on a scooter.
Then a commenter bemoans the cops wasting their time over a quality of life crime over "probably a misunderstanding." Come again? The man was punched multiple times. Could have killed him. Yes, I'd say his quality of life was lessened a bit. Sheesh.
Non-controversial and utterly edible, the a visit to the Parkside Greenmarket should be marked weekly on your Google Calendar or file-o-fax, each Sunday through Turkey Day. Now that we're lucky enough to have it, let's be sure to shower it with love and dollars so we'll never have to go back to the bad old days of The Q (Plaza) at Parkside. Love and Veggies from NW MA.
New respect for the Daily News, given their admission they were wrong about the potential negative effects of ending Stop & Frisk, the notoriously anti-constitutional policy that was supposed to have reduced crime dramatically through the years. With a 97% reduction of S&Fs, there has been no uptick in crime. Quite the opposite.
So let's reflect for a moment, shall we? That's thousands, no hundreds of thousands, no millions, of demeaning and wholly unnecessary infringements on civil rights over the years. How do we reconcile that with the justice and equality we Americans supposedly strive for? It's outrageous, nearly inconceivable, and as clear a sign that racism thrives in NYC - perhaps the greatest working, breathing social experiment in human history. What legacy are we leaving now?
See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. If it's not happening to me, it's not happening.
SLATE MAG ON S&F
Even on vacay, the Q can't avoid peeking into the emails and listening to the messages from the absurd fi despite his generally strong political posture, it's safe to say that BP Eric Adams and longtime lieutenant Ingrid Martin-Lewis have managed to aide their nemesis, the egomaniacal "activist" Alicia Boyd, by helping to dismantle and discourage the board to the point of deep cynicism. The latest lawsuits and countersuits and accusations are completely avoidable, but have ensured that CB9 remains embroiled in acrimony and mistrust well into the coming fiscal year.
|not the Rolling Stone, but I'll take it!|
NOW...after engineering (with a great deal of difficulty) the foregone conclusion to hire Board member and longtime ally of the Brooklyn political machine - Carmen Martinez - an injunction brought by Boyd & company has BLOCKED HER HIRING while a lawsuit proceeds claiming that Martinez was hired illegally, without proper processes, and given a whopping $120,000 starting salary to boot. Read more from Rachel at DNA Info.
Meanwhile Pearl Miles' lawsuit for millions of bucks and her old job back keeps inching forward, and Jake Goldstein's suit has a docket number, and Demetrius Lawrence (current chair of CB9) has endured more suits than a Brooks Brother. (Actually, DL has a lot of actual suits of the clothing variety too, so perhaps I should clarify when I mean lawsuits. Dapper guy that Demetrius, though as a fellow sweaty man, I'd go with short sleeves in summer. But a good suit can hide unsightly bulges, it's true. Comfort counts too, though I tend to agree we men often err on the side of underdressed these days.
I think I might just shave today, come to think of it. And put on some pants...ANY pants.
The corner of Bedford and Lenox made the Q's list of houses that are "Only A Matter of Time" last winter and sure enough, it's coming down, making room for the sorts of tiny overpriced units favored by current market conditions. Thx to Rebecca Baird-Remba and the ever-busy YIMBY team for noting the permits.
|If Lenox and Bedford is your idea of ideal location-location-location, you'll have plenty of new buildings to choose from within spitting distance.|
While it's been relatively quiet on the western front (Lefferts) the sounds of gunfire have been constant in the 67th Precinct and SE chunks of the Seven One, where there's been a big uptick in felonious violence. And so your Friends of Wingate Park are calling a meeting to address, redress and undress the issues.
6-8 PM THURSDAY
1346 Utica Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11203
What a crock. Will we ever wake up, or do we simply not care that a new "political star" is rising and we have zero say? Our fault, or theirs?
Josh Pierre. A decent guy, a smart guy, maybe even a worthy guy. But just read what the machine rag Kings County Politics has to say. Ed Powell, perfectly nice guy who has done next to nothing for years besides holding the ceremonial position of police liaison (prez) thru the 70th Precinct Community Council, "chooses" the next Kings County Dem Party district leader. Chooses, as in bequeaths.
|Josh Pierre - Your District Leader, Want Him Or Not|
So in that spirit, I tried to identify what whites do to other whites when they have no blacks to subjugate. And to be clear, when I take the word “whites” out of context from the term “blacks,” I find myself in foreign thinking. What is that, anyway? When blacks aren't present, do you (white reader) think of yourself as in the company of “whites?” Or do you instantly recognize that you are among a diverse group of people from various backgrounds each with his/her own baggage, finances and challenges? Bingo. I thought so. You read the room as it should be when you see a large group of black folks congregating - diverse as can be - but chances are you've been programmed to see “large group of black folks” first rather than "large group of folks." It's like an optical illusion.
Alcohol. Guns. Guns and alcohol. Domestic abuse, physical and sexual. Guns. Alcohol, and various and sundry other drugs. Alcohol. Guns. Jealousy, anger, violence. Fists. Alcohol. Guns. Sex. Alcohol.
Alcohol. Thinking on that as the boys from the swim team drank (and snorted?) their way into a heap of trouble. I met a guy who'd spent 25 years in prison for a murder he was too drunk to remember. Hmm.
Well, well! The snoots at The Economist seem to have picked up on the joyous insanity of the Dollar Vans.
Obviously geared towards the "Free Market" crowd, the Economist is British (note the spelling of neighbourhoods), and like the U.S. it's known for its large number of West Indian citizens and residents. (And the Brits are quite frankly TWICE the Olympians as the U.S. if measured per capita of medals won in Rio.) To gauge just how big the Dollar Van "system" is, check out this excerpt from the piece:
But you, dear reader, are so down with the Dollar Van scene that you might even get a kick, as I did, from our man Sam Star and his hilarious send ups of various Caribbean dollar van drivers accents and attitudes. Warning: newbies might need closed captioning or repeat viewings to comprehend:
IN PARTS of New York city, if you know what to look for, you will find a vast and quasi-legal transport network operating in plain sight. It is made up of “dollar vans”, private 15-passenger vehicles that serve neighbourhoods lacking robust public transport. With an estimated 125,000 daily riders, they constitute a network larger than the bus systems in some big cities, including Dallas and Phoenix.
Think that was tough to follow, wrap your head around this one. After a dozen years I'm finally starting to make this stuff out on the first go around.
It sounds good on the surface. Fewer guns, less chance one will be used in a crime. Do they work? Lately the only thing I've read is "no." And yet they persist. A feel-good gesture, or is something else at play? Good P.R.? A chance to interactive positively with the community? And maybe, just maybe, one of those guns doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Good enough? Here's the Observer citing an NYPD source on their ineffectiveness.
You hear it all the time, in casual conversation or in sloppy comments on the interwet. More people. More density. Long lines, crowded sidewalks, packed subways. And yes, it's true that NYC has added people. All over. But when it comes to explosive growth round these parts, it's all a bunch of hype. Increases of a percent or two are hardly noticeable. The real problem is affordability, but as the Q has documented, time and again local gentry - part of the only 15% of locals owning homes - have used the issue of density to justify antagonism towards new rent-stabilized below-market housing. Density IS the answer to affordability in a finite City. Why is this so hard to comprehend? It needn't be Hong Kong style. But it does need to happen. And it needs to be smart and it needs to accompany planning and study that views the whole City as an organism, not just tiny fiefdoms.
Think about it. If we're going to grow, and we're growing, shouldn't there be a benefit for years to come? Shouldn't every new building come with affordable units? The carrot was dangled, but we didn't chomp.
Fact is, we're not as dense as many livable Manhattan neighborhoods (Upper East or West Side, Central Harlem) We're about on par with other Central Brooklyn neighborhoods, and even Greenwich Village. We have WAY more renters than other nearby neighborhoods, though. I think that is a real difference here than elsewhere. All these stats and more are available in the exhaustive annual Furman housing and neighborhoods report here. For a list of major trends to be found therein about gentrification, just click on the "duh" section here.
Yes, the hue and income of residents has been changing in Central BK. Any numskull can tell you that. When the Q moved here in 2003 I rarely if ever saw white people. And as I've noted many, many times before, that's why I could afford to buy a house here while my middle-middle class sisters and brothers rented small apartments in tonier neighborhoods. I make no illusions about the fact that my family benefited directly from racism, in the sense that housing prices on the eastern side of the park were monstrously less than on the west. We weren't looking to "gentrify." We were looking for a house we could afford in a place we liked. Only now do we look like real estate geniuses. But hey, you gotta have a place to live, right? The house, I'm afraid, belongs to the kids anyway, when you get realistic. Either we sell to pay for our end-of-life care or they get the house and any profit. Oh the indignity of it all! Can't take it with you I suppose. Just a toothbrush and a change of underwear.
Had you taken a guess in, say, 1965 whether Park Slope or Lefferts/Flatbush would become predominantly white or black by 2000, lots of folks would've lost the bet. North Slope was very African-American. If you haven't seen The Landlord, check it out. That's Park Slope baby. My neighbor John had a house there and sold it to an eager white guy 30 years ago. Couldn't believe how good a price he got! Love those anecdotes...
But it's all anecdotes when it comes to density. For every house turned into apartments there are apartments and SROs that became single family homes. And most of the new buildings (626 Flatbush and 33 Lincoln) haven't even populated yet. While it's certainly dense (it's NYC folks) that's actually one of the reasons people WANT to live here. Amenities, the park and garden, and a healthy and lively housing, commercial and social diversity. And most of all, great public transportation. We have LOTS of subways, thus we house many people, quite happily. The Q/B at Church and Prospect Park. The Franklin Shuttle. The (ahem) Q at Parkside. The 2/5 at Winthrop and Sterling. Dollar Vans. Cabs aplenty. The B41, B12, B16, B44 and many, many more, including those slick and efficient SBS buses. (Could use more bike lanes, but hey, I get it, I've seen it. Old timers hate bikes. I've been at the meetings. "Why don't we go back to horse and buggy?!" they shout.)
The proof is in the numbers. Feelings aren't facts, and the facts are these. There has been no major surge in population here. The subway stations have barely nudged up in ridership over the years. Some examples of daily ridership increases 2010-2015 below. And remember there's been a huge boom in employment since then, with many more people commuting to work:
QatParkside: barely budged up in 5 years
Prospect Park Q/B/S: added 318 daily riders to 10,033 a day
Winthrop 2/5: down 179 to 7541
Sterling 2/5: exactly the same for 5 years
Church B&Q: up 338 to 17,811
Year to year increases in ridership in Brooklyn generally have been about 1%, and despite the horror stories on lines like the notorious L, people are getting where they need to go. Improvements WILL come, but only if we continue to let City Planners do their work. Transportation in this City is absolutely key to its continued prosperity. There will be bumps - the bureaucracy and politics involved are headaches. But we can do it. We will do it.
What we HAVE seen, and I've been documenting it on the ol' blog, is a strong uptick in investment of capital into the neighborhood. New commerce, new construction, property changing hands and being renovated. The Lakeside Center and other major improvements to our side of the park. New trees planted, some important improvements to transportation and other infrastructure. Individuals have made tremendous progress as well, like Parkside Plaza and along Ocean Avenue.
And while the changes are by no means all for the better, it's worth remembering that one of the worst things that can happen to a neighborhood, or City, is disinvestment. Folks leaving and no one taking their place. Businesses without shoppers, shuttering. No jobs. Despair. Feeling cutoff from the rest of the City. Can anyone remember where we've been, as a city? There are still plenty of despairing ex-industrial cities awaiting your tourist dollars if you so desire a view of the past. Flint anyone?
Yes, the area will see a net gain in people in the coming years, providing no catastrophic changes. But it will happen somewhat gradually, just as the neighborhood waxes and wanes with the times. Newcomers are taking up more square footage per person. Lots of singles and young couples moving in. These are the signs of health in a neighborhood. People actively WANT to live here. There was a time when the biggest fear for any neighborhood was NEGLECT. Money and commerce and jobs disappearing. No new construction. No rehabilitation of old structures. No upward mobility.
I say the above not to diminish the very real injustices to longterm tenants and to people of color by law enforcement and the seemingly intractable realities of racism. But to keep NYC affordable to working people at all income levels, we need to be clear-headed about how much density is acceptable, as a trade-off to increasing housing stock along crucial mass transit lines.
Here's what it says from his bio, case you're curious. I admit, the grooves are pretty catchy and the lyrics bop and weave, but yorkle, that voice...makes me yearn for Eddie Veder and yarl, and that's saying something.
Twenty year old Dancehall artist Alkaline says his music represents everything that society is afraid of and society represents everything that he is afraid of. Alkaline comes to the fore with a bundle of hardcore rhymes, killer hooks and slick production, and undoubtedly one of the "Baddest” lyricist.
Describing himself as an ‘in di streets yute’, ALKALINE, whose real name is Earlan Bartley, was born in 1993 ‘under the clock’ in Kingston at the Victory Jubilee Hospital.
Alkaline’s first attempt at committing lyrics to paper was age 14, and by 16 he was already recording and producing his own records. Whilst at Ardenne High, where he completed his high school studies, Alkaline balanced school and the groundwork of a solo career by recording music in and around local studios whenever he got the chance. At Ardenne High he copped six Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) subjects and currently pursues a first degree in Media and Communication at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.
Alkaline is a major Martin Luther King enthusiast and in addition to loving “LIFE” and his music he lists fashion, fishing and playing video games among his passions.
His personal style is not that of a typical artist, but one with a sort of urban edgy with a twist hardcore appeal. One he dubs as dancehall meets urban pop rock culture.
|That's me! I always wore the tie...|
My youngest son, of 9 you know, he worked as hard on his books as I did on the truck. Jack wore glasses, and I paid for the best. He never wanted for anything, and he paid me back by going to college and taking the train down on weekends to help his mother with the chores. Good boy. Good grades! A lawyer! And me, crying like a fountain at his first paycheck. He married late, in his '30s. His mother and I worried maybe he was funny about girls, so we were relieved when he brought home Susan, though she was much too skinny. After a daughter, they had you. Named after me! Ezra, but you preferred Ezzy. Ezzy you were always more the artist. Drawing, writing, daydreaming. We were worried, but they your dad pulled some strings and whoosh you were at Harvard University, greatest in the world! So proud your gramma and me. He's going to be President I said to my friends. Then you get a big fat MBA, and me I'd finished 5th grade. What an accomplishment! From hot dog cart to top of the world in two generations!! You get a job at a bank, one of the biggest in the world, you bought a big house in Westchester. Your kids they're all artists, maybe not so hard-working, but you've got it all Ezzy!
Just one question, Ez, my boy. After all that...why did you give it all up to start your own hot dog cart? Sorry, "artisanal locally sourced grilled cheese." I'll never understand it. I go back to sleep now, after all I'm nearly 120, but still...I just don't get it.
|Late '80s in East Village. Were you there? Seems like yesterday...|
I've been doing my best to learn about the mechanics of gentrification. The Big G may look like a conspiracy, but in some ways it's the fault of neighboring neighborhoods' own NIMBYism, which made the next neighborhood so appealing. And while it's tempting to meet NIMBY with NIMBY, the problems just get kicked down the road to other neighborhoods even less able to sustain some moderate growth. Sometimes it's worth remembering that we are a City, not a collection of warring territories.
Strange bedfellows emerge in times like these. Anti-gentrification forces have curried favor with (in my view) much more salient and convincing political movements like Black Lives Matter, grassroots tenant organizing and calls for corporate come-uppance. That is, the kind of activism that actually aims to hold law enforcement, landlords and the Oligarchy accountable for racist and reactionary behavior. Anti-Gentrification is not the same kind of issue; it's more of a lament. Because try as you might, it is near impossible to legislate away gentrification. The big G has been happening for decades and nothing has proven resilient to capital, except, of course, city housing. Which, btw, has single-handedly kept some modicum of diversity alive in Manhattan. The only things that would stop or slow gentrification are economic downturn or a radical reassessment of a town's desirability (read: terrorism, seismic events, climate change, toxins). Or maybe even a radical dismantling of rent controls entirely (might just work). Massive downturn was what happened after 2007, when housing prices dropped and development ground to a halt, and no one could get a mortgage anyway. THEN, prices truly stabilized or even decreased! Wealthier whiter folks stopped moving to Lefferts, actually to all sorts of "developing" neighborhoods. I (you) witnessed it first hand. There were a few newly constructed buildings that sat vacant or couldn't find tenants. One (on Caton) actually took housing vouchers when they'd expected to hit the jackpot at market rate. That Fedders building at Bedford/Flatbush wanted $800K for each mock-townhouse, but ended up cutting them up to apartments and begging for renters, recent grads by the look of it. So if you want to slow gentrification, maybe an act of terrorism should be on the table?
The fact is, developers would happily build, build, build in tonier neighborhoods, but there's not a lot of legal rights left to tap. Some nabes have already downzoned or landmarked to the point where you can't build much that's profitable. Land values have become prohibitive anyhow. And guess what. That's exactly what happens when you restrict development so tightly. If your goal is to prevent gentrification, you're actually causing the opposite. Folks have less housing to choose from, and bid up the prices. Downzone too much, and its on to the next 'hood, and the pace only quickens on down the line.
Some common sense from Market Urbanism:
Whether you are a class warrior or market urbanist, here are some tips to more effectively fight gentrification:
I would argue that the conservative NIMBYists currently winning the day in the neighborhood's dialogue about the future, are actually ACCELERATING gentrification with a stubborn unwillingness to create affordable housing alongside the already breakneck pace of market rate. And most important, they are at best imploring the city to pass us over, while the NEXT neighborhood on the gentrification list gets the brunt of whatever we don't achieve to build. The arguments about precious light and air? Had no one challenged such notions we wouldn't have a glorious neighborhood to "protect." Healthy cities grow, and when they have limited land, they grow up. Do it sensibly, and you'll barely notice the difference. Are we really going to equate MY views with YOUR need for a place to live?
Sure it gets my goat that people don't see that MTOPP Inc.'s real goal is not anti-gentrification at all. Alicia Boyd, a very smart con artist, was until quite recently praising the neighborhood's gentrifying aspects online in her Airbnb ads. And most confounding of all, she continues to claim that Lefferts Gardens was until very recently an "all black" neighborhood. Neither the census nor anecdote attest to this fact, particularly in the Historic District. Actually, it irks a lot of longtime white residents quite a lot, since many of them resisted the pervading wisdom to "get out" during the '60s - '90s. If Ms. Boyd and company truly cared about the loss of low income tenants (of all races and groups one would hope) they would be pushing for more, not less, housing for the lower strata, including lots of affordable homes on Dump Empire.
Put it this way. Would she welcome the City buying up Empire Blvd and putting up low income housing? City housing? You know, the kind that we build as tax payers because we believe in egalitarianism and equal opportunity for all, and because we think homelessness in a City of plenty is morally offensive?
When faced with the possibility of an influx of low-income residents, true colors would undoubtedly emerge. Funny, but almost no one talks about building true low-income housing anymore, subsidized to the hilt. Isn't it about time we pivot?