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    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.

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    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, 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?

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    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.

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    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.

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  • 07/27/16--09:00: You Know You Want It
  • 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.

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    Spitting Image
    Since the Q is currently out of cell and wi-fi distance, he thought he'd reminisce a bit, but not before telling you some dude named Daniel was climbing trees up on Lincoln Road and giving the cops a chance to flex a new muscle. Tip of the Tongue closed, not so much because of the landlord Rong Ge, but because sometimes things in life just don't work out, business-wise and personally, and a coffee joint, no matter how well-located or beloved, becomes an albatross around one's, or in this case two's, necks. Gratitude Cafe changed its name but not its fabulousness. Some dogs got lost, others found, and alley cats remain goddesses to some and rats to others. It's a cruel world, and tree-huggers and cat-lovers CAN be friends, no matter what Rodgers and Hammerstein had to sing about the issue. Oh, and a pic of the serial spitter came thru on the Effbook. He's the guy spitting on moms and kids and occasionally fellows smaller than himself. And yes, he's not well in the 'noggin. Cops know him well, but there's apparently little to be done about spitters other than tell their parents and wear protective garb. Out in the sticks you've got Lyme disease; in Flatbush, it's this.

    But here's what I really came up to the Town Hall to steal some internet to tell you:

    Garrison Keillor makes me want to vomit. And I mean that quite literally. Let me explain.

    Steve McCall and I had a plan to get drunk, back in the early fall of 1980, just as Ronnie Reagan was delivering his snake-oil pitch that would strike-out the labor movement, cut taxes, create a gleaming new oligarchy and turn America back into a beacon on a hill or make it great again or somesuch and start a war on drugs, a covert war against Contras, and help fuel the inner-city crack epidemic. But Steve and I were blithely unaware of all that, we were just two American kids growing up in the heartland, and maybe even supporters of John B. Anderson. If you remember THAT guy then you really ARE old and a bit sad, because he may be the reason you looked on at the Bernie Sanders with a twinge of melancholy, recognizing that political revolution is not as easy to achieve as a bunch of rallies and a good slogan.

    We had a 1/5 of Jack Daniels stolen from a boy whose dad was a serious drunk. Never miss it, said Brian Gardner, though as many years later as a drinker myself I always knew exactly how many bottles I had stowed away, even if I couldn't tell you what day of the week it was. No matter. Brian sold it to us for a hot lunch ticket at Ames Junior High. Did I ever tell you that if you were still hungry after lunch you could go up and beg for butter sandwiches? Probably margarine between Wonder bread, but delicious nonetheless.

    We had until 10 pm to get home after a night out on the old festive college town, it being VEISHA, a celebration that years on would inspire riots as drunken frat boys lit fires and looted liquor stores in mad mayhem fired by a seemingly reasonable want - to rock and roll all night, and party ev-e-ry day. VEISHA stood for the various colleges at the university...let's see, veterinary, engineering, industrial something, science, home economics and agriculture. That's right, home economics. It was Iowa, and it was the 1970s, and it was a land grant college, the kind that prepares farm boys to stay put.

    Oh wait. It was homecoming actually. But VEISHA is a better story, so VEISHA (pronounced vee-shah) it is.

    We bought cokes, in cans, though for me booze would later be associated with Big Gulps of Mountain Dew from the Kum 'n' Go. (Not kidding, that's what it was called. Another was known as the Git 'n' Go, then there was Quik Trip and Kwik Shop, but when you needed to satisfy a need, ANY need, and FAST, the Kum 'n' Go was the obvious choice.) The coke can was, and is, 12 ounces of sugar water. Dump the sugar water, you have 12 empty ounces of can. Fill it with Jack Daniels and you now have ONE SERVING of Jack Daniels. Right? Neither Steve nor I knew any different. The idea of an “ounce of liquor” would come many years later, it being a unit of measure against a never-ending imagined or occasionally very real war with a breathalizer.

    After an hour of pure exhilarating buzz and spin, and a trip to our town's very first ATM, we found ourselves in a church parking lot, existential and laughing. I sucked the coke can dry and tossed it; Steve looked at me like he'd seen a black widow spider crawling up my neck. “You drank that whole can?” My answer, and the next 12 hours, will never reside in my memory banks. The cops were called as I wretched upon my ripped jean jacket while resting, I'm told, uncomfortably on my back. I guess I didn't know, or rather didn't care, that charismatic band members were known to die this way. And I hadn't even composed my first rock opera! At home my mother was, so I'm told, horrified, and asked the police “what is he on?” “It's only booze ma'am.” Wiser words never spoken. What harm can a little nip now and then do a fella? No hearts or lives have ever been broken due to hairs on dogs, now have they?

    The next morning I awoke on a plastic tarp, covered in puke, wisely laid out by my biochemist father to prevent undo stains on the carpet. He stood over me and insisted in ungentle terms that I must do my paper route. It must have been six or so in the morning on a Saturday, and that was the hardest half hour of my life. When I returned the tarp had been rinsed, and I lay back down to another few hours of coma.

    When I came to, my head felt like it had been smashed like an Oscar Meyer wiener into Oscar Meyer bologna. That's when I noticed, perhaps for the first time, the extraordinarily vomilodious voice talking about above average children and buttermilk biscuits and a lake with a pun for a name. Woe-be-gone. Hah hah. Hah hah. Hah aaaaereerggggghhhhyuhhhhhgggpyuuuuppp all over myself for the next 59 minutes or so as my mother prepared a horrible smelling version of Hamburger Strogonoff and seemed to inch the volume up on the wireless ever-so-slightly with every puke.

    Never again would I hear the voice of Garrison Keilor without a wee bit of phlegm coming up in my throat and at least half a spin. Til that day only Carl Sagan's voice had affected me so adversely. And don't get me started about Ira Glass...

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  • 08/09/16--07:04: A Remarkable Reality
  • 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.


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    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!
    For some background that's not mine, there's always the incredibly detailed resource known as Crown Heights Info, the popular news rag for worldwide adherents of the Chabad Lubavitch sect of Hasidic Judaism favored by those living (mostly) in southern Crown  Heights. The Q's become friendly with quite a few influential Chabad members and to a number I've found them to be smart, savvy and politically adept, not to mention hilarious. They too are dismayed and befuddled - what the hell is going on? When longtime CB9 chair Jake Goldstein was canned by a coup from Borough Hall, I was hopeful that the (wholly unnecessary) outside agitation from Adams (quite undemocratic, but then so are CBs by nature) would lead to a new openness and frankness of dialogue. Instead, I now know why Jake and longtime District Manager Pearl Miles (also canned this last year) had become so cynical about the machinations of Brooklyn politics. To read the whole sordid story of the Q's disillusionment with the Kings County machine, read on. Still kicking myself how long it took me to connect the dots. They don't offer a playbook...though some of my good friends at MTOPP did offer a Playbill! It has become one of my most cherished mementos...

    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.

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    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.

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    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.


    Friends of Wingate Park invites you to an emergency community meeting with  the NYPD to improve relations. “We need to talk about community patrolling and more cultural sensitivity training for police, " said Vivia Morgan, Pres. of  Friends of Wingate Park.  "A healing is needed in our community after weeks of gun violence," Police Officers from the 67th Pct. and 71st Pct. will join the community on building stronger relations with the community residents.
    Power of Love Outreach
    Thursday, August 18, 2016 
    1346 Utica Avenue
     Brooklyn, NY 11203
    Best, Shawn Clark

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    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

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    In the quadrant of Flatbush known as Lefferts Gardens there is the Historic District, much of which is known as Lefferts Manor. In the quadrant of the globe known as the United States of America, there is the Historic District, much of which is known as Vermont.

    Vermont brings you maple syrup and cheese and disgruntled fairly-left-leaning Senators. It is remarkably white, very rural, with pockets of the sort of granola-toting entrepreneurs who should be familiar to any liberal arts college graduate or Phish phetishist. There are two sorts of extra-long bearded gentlemen here. One is fashion conscious and likes indie, jam and/or roots rock. The other is fashion-averse and likes Skynyrd and ZZ. (I take that back; they both like Skynyrd, though one ironically). Both like to smoke weed. Both would not be out of their element at a bluegrass festival, though the former would head over to the “craft” beer tent and the latter would pull a Coors from his cooler, though both have been known to chug a PBR at the end of the night. The former likes to drive a Subaru; the latter wouldn't be caught dead in anything but pickup, ATV or tractor. I counted three of the former and four of the latter voting at the local Town Hall, where the Democratic Primary was held last Tuesday. My understanding is that 40 to 50 people entered the Hall during the course of the day, and that was considered a pretty good turnout for an early-August primary featuring the first opportunity in many years to fill the Governor's mansion's closets with new brands of workboots and flannel.

    Racial politics, so much a part of life in Central Brooklyn, are at first blush irrelevant up in syrup country. The news mentions protests and #BLM as national issues taking place in another reality, though this lefty strong-hold surely finds much to admire in protests over things that truth-be-told might not matter much in folks' daily lives. A terrific front-line BLM protester came on the NPR affiliated radio, outlining the ways that the movement must address the very real class differences between black Americans, the sorts of differences withIN that make it hard perhaps for the “comfortable set” to see the “police state mentality" that rules poor black neighborhoods. And so, in keeping with the speakers suggestion (like Malcolm?) that whites need to look at themselves more closely and focus on what THEY can do, not merely "sign up" and thereby water-down the movement. They need to look at their entitlement and privilege, in order to address centuries of accumulated social, legal and psychological occupation of black America.

    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.

    At the town pond I noticed, over the course of several visits, only three black men, each, oddly I thought at first, with a white significant other, with kids in tow. In NYC, one would hardly notice, but in Vermont, people notice, though they're generally too polite to stare. Biracial, or mulato, was a term I heard occasionally growing up, and while it's become completely unremarkable in my life today, here it got me thinking. What sort of expectation of fair treatment might there be for a light-brown-skinned child? What do townies think of the black men in their midst? Are the women who choose black mates frowned upon here like they would have been in an earlier generation? I know, I know, it's “liberal” Vermont. But c'mon, they're still mighty proud of their Norman Rockwell-ness, and I don't recall the Saturday Evening Post front covers featuring mixed family Thanksgivings.

    I make small talk with the other families. We're all here on a weekday in August spending time with our kids, and as they splash in the pond I find that I've just made a snap judgment about two of the guys. One, by his comportment, language and accent, I instantly assume to be college educated and middle to upper middle class. This happened so fast I barely had time to register what and how I'd done it. The other guy spoke with a dialect I instantly associated with inner-city black neighborhoods. They both oozed confidence, but of two seemingly different sorts. I was doing my best to appear cool, but I was so busy judging my judging I hardly had time to notice that my girls were screaming at me to “look, Daddy, look!” Parental duties being what they are, I excused myself and “looked, daddy, looked” as if my very happiness depended on it. My mind was still on my mind, though. Did these guys get stopped more often by the (rarely ever seen) local authorities? Crime is so low around here, you'd think it would be completely unnecessary to stop ANYone who wasn't actually in the act of a crime. Pivot...The two most frequent crimes around here are (can you guess?) domestic violence and drunk driving. Not incidentally, alcohol is often involved in each. And that got me thinking (danger, danger!) 

    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.

    Forget stop and frisk, and profiling for a minute. How much would crime go down if there were no guns? No alcohol? No...domestic, er, families, um. Okay, you can't do without sex or domestic situations. But what if no guns or booze/drugs? I'm not advocating a ban on booze (tried that didn't we) or even guns, totally, because I know that too is impossible to achieve both in practice AND theory. (They're already here in insane numbers, and they don't disappear because we legislate it.)

    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.

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    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:

    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.
     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:

     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.

    Long live the legal and licensed Dollar Vans. May the illegal cowboy vans meet their Waterloo, or at least have their horses impounded by the Sheriff.

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    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.

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  • 08/24/16--11:17: The Density Illusion
  • 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.

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    Did you see a fantastic mob dancing along to a short cool looking Jamaican dude in a convertible right in front of Pepa's right about now? Had to ask of course, but that's Alkaline, and his millions of fans love his dancehall stylings. The Q loves all kindsa music, including dancehall, but damned if I can't stand it when rappers use the auto-tune to sing. I was also going to embed a video, but they're all women twerking, and I figure if that's your thang you can go on Youtube and watch for yourself. The whole twerking thing seems kinda silly, but if I'm honest, were it directed specifically at me, I'd probably find it anything but silly. I may be a middle-aged blogger, but that hasn't beat the red-blooded american male out of me.

    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.

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  • 08/26/16--06:48: My Grandson. Oy Vey.
  • That's me! I always wore the tie...
    I came to this great country in 1911. To Ellis Island. Beautiful island, stinky as it was. I never saw a lady look so gorgeous as Lady Liberty. From the old country I had nothing. Others had those big old sturdy trunks. I had a tiny bag for my underwear. There were holes in the underwear. Not where they should be, mind you. My first job I earned 10 cents a day cleaning up after Moishe's Live Poultry. Chicken heads, droppings, blood. I was as grateful as a turkey in December. By the end of the first month I had a bed in a one-room apartment with 8 cousins. Three had the runs from the dysentery. I never laughed so much. By the turn of the decade I apprenticed a hot dog truck! By the start of the Great War I had my own truck! I worked that truck 14 hours a day most days. In the mornings I sold Rachel's knishes. Imagine me, hungry every day since my mother died on my birth bed in Poland. Now I could eat as many knishes and dogs as I could fit in my stomach. But I was wise. One knish, two hots a day. I wanted to save every penny. When I met Ginny I had enough for the biggest ring on the Lower East Side - cost me $100! That's a lot of hot dogs, boy. But she was worth every penny, every hot dog. God rest her. She's sleeping just next door, about four feet away, though I can't see her through all the dirt.

    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.

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    Call 911 immediately if seen.

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    Late '80s in East Village. Were you there? Seems like yesterday...
    It's become trendy to be a white renter in central Brooklyn and fight gentrification. Couple that with the current fad where Comp Lit majors try to out-liberal their Facebook friends, and you've got a perfect storm. Take a peek at the crowds, small as they may be, at recent MTOPP and Equality for Flatbush functions and you'll often see a minority of minorities. Is there something sustainable here, a movement wherein the children of haves finally break the stranglehold their parents have held on the inner city poor? Probably...not.

    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:
    • 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.

    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?

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  • 08/30/16--07:39: Ebbets in Context
  • What's the orientation here? Is that Franklin Ave on the left? And what's the cross street there...Sullivan? The old Malbone?

    circa 1920s

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