Articles on this Page
- 12/08/17--11:47: _Is He A Peeping Tom...
- 12/09/17--06:48: _For A Great Christm...
- 12/15/17--06:07: _Awesome Gifts
- 01/05/18--12:40: _Bob Thomason - Nine...
- 01/09/18--19:27: _Sometimes the Numbe...
- 01/12/18--06:36: _Below the Headlines...
- 01/12/18--12:56: _Alicia's Frivolous ...
- 01/16/18--11:58: _Then There's This W...
- 01/17/18--09:24: _What the Zell! Is H...
- 01/24/18--07:38: _Is It Racism To Bla...
- 01/29/18--08:33: _New Supermarket On ...
- 01/29/18--11:38: _Tonight: If You're ...
- 01/30/18--08:46: _Another Four Years ...
- 01/30/18--12:48: _Thoughts After the ...
- 02/05/18--08:12: _Shhhh... don't scre...
- 02/11/18--10:46: _The Most Crucial Pi...
- 02/13/18--08:09: _Jaw Dropping New Br...
- 02/14/18--06:36: _What's Cooking At t...
- 03/01/18--06:31: _The Rise of Saigon ...
- 03/01/18--19:02: _How Do You Like The...
- 12/08/17--11:47: Is He A Peeping Tom When He Looks OUT Instead Of IN?
- 12/09/17--06:48: For A Great Christmas Tree, Look No Farther
- 12/15/17--06:07: Awesome Gifts
- 01/05/18--12:40: Bob Thomason - Ninety Is the New Eighty In Twenty Eighteen
- 01/09/18--19:27: Sometimes the Numbers Just Don't Add Up
- 01/12/18--06:36: Below the Headlines the Resistance Is Real
- 01/12/18--12:56: Alicia's Frivolous Lawsuits Keep Losing - Will She Ever Give Up?
- 01/16/18--11:58: Then There's This White Guy
- 01/17/18--09:24: What the Zell! Is Hamilton Giving Away His Shot?
- 01/24/18--07:38: Is It Racism To Blast Jesse Hamilton For Joining the IDC?
- 01/29/18--08:33: New Supermarket On Its Way
- 01/29/18--11:38: Tonight: If You're Interested In Race and Schools...
- 01/30/18--08:46: Another Four Years Of Mediocrity
- 01/30/18--12:48: Thoughts After the PLGNA Schools Thingy
- 02/05/18--08:12: Shhhh... don't scream for ice cream
- 02/11/18--10:46: The Most Crucial Piece of Recovery - People
- 02/13/18--08:09: Jaw Dropping New Brooklyn
- 02/14/18--06:36: What's Cooking At the Spice Factory
- 03/01/18--06:31: The Rise of Saigon - The Fall of Brooklyn
- 03/01/18--19:02: How Do You Like Them Apples?
The Q's beloved Q Station has become the focus of a contemporary quandary. An anonymous poster known only as "Parkside Avenue" (no relation) has been taking photos and videos of random passers-by in front of the Q at Parkside station at Parkside and Ocean (like I had to tell YOU that). The question confronting those who've learned of the semi-invasive Instagram account - is it legal? ethical? hilarious? boring? titillating? any or none of the above? An example of a picture posted - one of a fairly obscured identity (lest you think I'm part of the problem, which, I'm told, I usually always am):
Marc Torrence of Patch wrote a piece about it, and then he managed to bag an interview with the dude, still anonymous. Marc provides some context, in the form of legal perspective on the notion that NONE OF US should assume we have any privacy when out in the public sphere. That is, make sure you put your pants on before you go outside and try not to pick your nose too much. And don't cavort with your paramour or do crimes or even trip and fall in a hilarious manner, because you might be starring in someone's reality TV series.
This reminds me of a situation I had a few years back, that I relayed right here on ye olde blogge. It was about the now defunct Disc Mart African music and ephemera store across from the Kings County Nursery on New York. Here's the post . For the click-averse, basically the store owner told me I couldn't take a picture of his sign without paying him, and I told him where to shove it and he preferred not to and it went south from there. Though truth be told, I chose not to publish the photo, not because he was right, but because despite my reputation I'm really not spoiling for a fight.
Here's the Q's take on the hubbub. Of course you can shoot a photo. You can even share it with the world if you like. When the photos are your art, or in this case your sort-of-art, you should take your ethical role a bit more seriously. That's opinion - that's not law. In other words, yeah you're invading people's privacy and you know it. Typically it's good form to ask before you take someone's picture, regardless of the reason. But if the art is ABOUT being a 24-hour security camera, well, I suppose we'll need to judge the worth of your art vs. the worth of privacy. Not for a court of law, but because we need to do something MUCH more important.
We need to figure out whether you're an asshole.
And in the end, that's 90% of what Justice is all about, is it not?
Further? Farther? Anyhow, the Q is outrageously pleased to share the arrival of a TRUE storefront florist to the neighborhood. On Fenimore, sandwiched between the adorable Record Shop and quirky wild-to-table sit-downer called Honey Badger, Rasheeda and company have opened early specifically to deliver outstanding Christmas trees and wreaths. And soon, you'll find all your floral needs, including (get this) flowers!!!
When Mrs. Q and I moved to the nabe 15 years ago, there were only four things we felt would make our lives complete, commerce-wise. All the other "amenities" seemed unnecessary given the wild variety of offerings here and just a short train ride away. We hoped that one day the following would be opened by local entrepreneurs: a) wine store, b) coffee shop, c) florist and we wanted the d) the NY Times available at the local bodegas. That's it. We weren't looking for yoga, or kale salads, or book stores, or bars or any of the rest. It's a big beautiful city and not everything has to be within a few blocks. With the coming of the ubiquitous smartphone, the Times thing is moot. There are five wine stores and half a dozen coffee shops. And now...a florist!
Two nights ago we purchased the most beautiful, fresh Christmas tree we ever, ever had. It's drinking heavily (this is good in trees, not so much in middle-aged men). It's fat and phat and smells like Christmas, which as a lapsed Christian is about as close to tradition as I can muster. We love it, and we're very much hopeful the new shop will (ahem) flourish!
Need an Awesome gift for that hard-to-gift loved one? Pop on down to Awesome at 617 Flatbush tween Rutland and Fenimore. The Q's been meaning to go for awhile and finally got his fat ass up the 'Bush and was oh so pleasantly surprised to find goofy, hip and "woke" gifts that even made this old man blush a time or too. Owner and new mom Vanessa Raptopoulos lives in the nabe, so this is yet ANOTHER Mom 'n' Pop shop on the ever-expanding list of entrepreneurial upstarts making Flatbush and environs a micronomic engine. (ugh, that sentence! No time for edits.) I'll just leave you with a picture and a plea to go check out AWESOME.
If you've used the term PLG to describe your neighborhood, there's one man you can thank (or curse) for the name more than any other. He's longtime resident Bob Thomason, who helped start the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association darn near 50 years ago (hold crap). And while not everyone latched onto the neighborhood name, Bob latched onto the neighborhood and stayed involved through good times and bad, often invoking the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. at functions big and small. He's delightful. And this post is most definitely NOT in memory. Dude still has a lot of kick lift.
|You can call him Mr. PLG|
Besides creating community, Bob's other great love is cycling. He pedaled across America, from New York to San Diego, at age 61 and he's never stopped. He's seen the world on his two-wheeler, taking solo trips of three months or more to China, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands, among other places. Although he's slowed down a bit in recent years, you can still find Bob circling Prospect Park and taking overnight trips out of town.
And if you run into Bob on the street, don't be surprised if he offers to sing you a song, usually a selection from the American Songbook. If you are that lucky, please take him up on it. Nothing makes Bob happier, and it's guaranteed to brighten your day as well. He's quite the crooner!
So, Happy Birthday to our friend and neighbor. Bob often says he's aiming for 100. We wish him that and more. And we wish for him, and for all of us, the world that he's envisioned and worked toward for so many years.
*** We are on a temporary hiatus, though our location at 346 Rogers is now permenatly closed, sign up for the mailing list for more details on upcoming programming and relocation ***BKLNER. (don't forget that period at the end!) Publisher Liena Zagare has been a leader in the local neighborhood news scene since launching Ditmas Park Corner, nee the Ditmas Park Blog, but then Liena went to AOL for a hot minute after selling the blog to AOL's "Patch" and then came back to launch "Corner" which then became an amalgam of blogs covering Kengington to Park Slope and even "Cheaps Head Bay" and calling it Corner Media and (take a breath Tim) and then THAT became BKLNER. - and all was good in the world. Terrific writers and hyper-local news. I know people who are absolutely ADDICTED to the stuff. And why not? If all politics is local, then all news is politics. Or some suchamuch.
Simply put. It takes. Money. To run. A company. And the advertising dollars for local media don't add up much better than for, say, the aforementioned local art movie house. After DNA Info and Gothamist disappeared a couple months ago after workers threatened to unionize, BKLNER. seemed all the more crucial.
So when Liena announced that she'd need to close up shop by end of this year if she didn't reach a threshold of subscribers (or in the parlance of non-profits "donors"). But like some Christmas miracle out of "It's a Wonderful Life" nearly 2000 hearty souls whipped out their plastic to sign up to make payments as low as $2 a month to keep the enterprise going - for now.
And to roll with this theme the Q just noticed that relatively longtime falafel stop NY Halal & Co just became Atomic Wings, probably to boost numbers. Shrewd move methinks. Folks love wings, even when they look like warmed over schmegg. Think on it. Someone had to actually stage and take this picture, and conclude it was a winner:
And tonight, the joint was still serving curries and lamb over rice. So maybe they're going to cash in on the Atomic chain name while still serving their Halal standbys. Apparently Atomic Wings is one of those joints that co-exists anyway. Like, you can be both an Atomic Wings and the Local Bar, or Atomic Wings and Le Haberdashery.
The Q's a big boy and he loves crappy food. But quite honestly, that picture is giving me a hankering for a fast at least til the break of said fast. As in, nighty night.
Have you noticed that pretty much every news source covers the same 5-10 stories every single day? Sure they each have their own click-bait headlines and opinions to hawk, but the Trump-centric news cycle is tiresome. He said "what" now? Forget about it. He's a racist, windbag, ass-slapping snake oil salesman. Expect racist, windbag, ass-slapping snake oil salesman nonsense to come out of his mouth. Put a pin in it, and take it out the next time you're considering voting for him or not-voting for his opponent because "they're all the same." And let's vote every last one of the Trumpies out of office.
In the meantime, you have true heroes fighting in the trenches every day to try to get the meat-and-potatoes policy realities out into the public sphere. Like immigration, and the fact that I.C.E. waltzes into town yesterday and grabs a well-respected immigrant activist named Ravi Ragbir in downtown Manhattan and arrests him for apparently no new reason. No 40th district councilperson and supposed immigration champion Mathieu Eugene to be seen. But councilman Jumaane Williams practices some non-violent protest and tries to block the ambulance (why ambulance? to be sneaky Petes?) from taking Ragbir into custody.
If you want some inspiration to start gearing up to take back both houses of congress come hell or high water, just watch and listen to Jumaane as he speaks to Buzzfeed's reporters. Folks, this is a NYC Councilperson. An elected official. And one truly patriotic American.
At this point, if you haven't been sued by Alicia Boyd you can't rightly call yourself of member of the community. The latest CB9 Chairperson to be targeted by her wrath is Musa Moore - the 4th chair since she started her crusade - and he's shown more patience than most. Having lost nearly every conflict, you'd think she'd sulk away. But like a certain character in the oval office, facing reality is not her strong-suit. Even after being scolded by a judge as she lost her case against ULURP chair Michael Liburd and Moore, she's been telling everyone that Moore is not just in Eric Adams' pocket, he's on his payroll, and that should disqualify him from his chairmanship. Not so, says MM: From CB9:
The male Homo Sapiens is an odd bird (or, mammal). Over the millenia he has developed many useful traits that have made him the Lord of his destiny. Among them, his fierce tribalism and loyalty (to tribe, not women mind you - his seed must be sown! Or at least shown, right Mr. C.K.?) have allowed him to go into battle for the dumbest of reasons. But each war, however small, has heightened his ability to conquer. In the 20th Century alone he went from single shooting shotguns to nuclear bombs. His intelligence (in certain situations) is clearly superb, though common sense is not his forte.
This fierce tribalism has led him down many ugly paths. Slavery, through the millennia, seems to have been his preferred choice of labor. Female domination and sexual predation has been a near-constant. Subjugation of peoples and whole nations has led him on an inexorable path to destruction, fueled by an insatiable appetite for more, bigger and better. Love continues to hold a premium to this beast, and yet even love takes a back seat to power, greed and good old fashioned fun. And beer.
There are few better examples of this creature's true genetic tendencies than his love of American football. All of the above qualities seem to mingle in the mind of this adult adolescent. And sometimes, as in mob mentality and state brutality, this rushing of hormones mixed with his dominant status provokes outlandish displays of...of...well, we'll let this Minnesota Viking fan tell the story in his own voice. And the fact that the team is called "the Vikings" is an irony not lost on the Q, a longtime fan of the team himself, why, he'll never fully understand. Note: this video is not for the faint of heart, or a New Orleans Saints fan:
For more terrific analysis, here's reader Josh's suggestion (great stuff):
This is a longer story, and I'm on a deadline, so I'll cut to the gist. State Senator Jesse Hamilton has his hands full. Had Trump not won the presidency, he may have been able to continue in his Independent Democratic coalition (IDC) and kept his seat without incident. But folks are pissed at Republicans in a way they haven't been for years (well, at least 9). And the fact that Hamilton caucuses with the Repubs to gain more money for the district (and not coincidentally for himself - a chairmanship and all) has not won him many NEW fans. Hamilton was Eric Adams' chosen successor, and Adams himself took a bit of a victory lap when Hamilton won the 20th district, calling himself a Kingmaker. The truth has been a bit more nuanced.
And so this year a challenger is already making noise and raising cash, a young fellow with a terrific name - Zellnor Myrie. I mean, does this guy look like he means business or what? Smart choice posing before the subway station. Who can't relate to that??
|Check out his story: Zellnor|
This is gonna be interesting y'all.
|The Renegade Democrats: IDC|
The Q has watched with some detachment as the whole thing unfolds, mostly because I know that Jesse wants what's best for his district, and in particular the folks in his district who have been held back and demonized for too long. And generally I support that - it's why I voted for him and why I can honestly say that some of his IDC tactics have paid off, particularly with Raise the Age and specific funding for locally important issues. But 2018 is a different time, and the pitchforks are out, as they are for almost anyone tainted by association with (gasp!) Republicans. EVEN if they vote like a Democrat.
No Jesse is not a Republican. And in fact, if the IDC explodes, one would hope that he would come back to the fold during a Democratic majority to pass all the legislation that Dems have struggled with for, like, decades. The question is...can he? Or has he burned so many bridges it's time for his constituents to consider new blood? Not a white guy or gal. Not a gentrifier or a developer. Just someone new. And that person (of color) has already raised a ton of money and raised his profile considerably.
A full-throated articulation of anti-IDC racism appeared in Kings County Politics yesterday by Mike Tucker (def click the link to read more - I'm selectively quoting below). If you've seen "Get Out," you'll get the clever reference. I'd ask that if you're white or anti-IDC you read the whole thing, then reflect, before responding. My own reaction twisted and turned a bit overnight.
Get Out was a film that dared to reveal the horror of liberal racism in America.
The villains here aren’t neo-Nazi skinheads, or southerners from red states. They’re middle-class white liberals. The kind of people who read this newspaper. The kind of people who shop at Whole Foods, donate to the NAACP and would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. The kind of people who protest black elected officials who are not aligned with their ideologies.
This same liberal anti Independent Democrat Conference (IDC) crowd created a fake website using Black Lives Matter in a derogatory manner. There are many white liberals who are promoting positive community dialogue, but there is a new crop of loud activists who are completely tone deaf.
The three black and brown IDC members are attacked constantly by white liberal groups online and offline with some groups even sending hate mail to their home addresses. I will call out racism as I see, hear and breathe it. We cannot be shielded from the reality that — beyond white racism — is white privilege and obliviousness that cannot be excused. We laugh off the less overt racism. Chris repeatedly does this in Get Out. We’ve gotten to a place in society where people of color don’t react because we’d be reacting all day. We’re trained, subconsciously or not, to protect white fragility.
I attempted to talk to one of the anti-IDC protesters about Senator [Jesse] Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) to no avail. He called Senator Hamilton names as if he were a dog. I told him he had a problem of white privilege. The harsh reality is that people in a position of privilege benefit more from ignoring marginalized perspectives than listening to them.
They don’t really understand as people of color we face racism daily. First, we become angry about the racism. Then we get angrier with ourselves, because we don’t know how to make you stop, or how to make you care enough to stop those who pull the triggers. Senator Hamilton was stopped by the police this summer, he was only giving a warning after the cop noticed a white senator in the passenger seat.
I attended an anti-IDC town hall last summer and the first thing I realized was that room was over 95% white liberals. The optics were bad, African-American and Latino supporters defending elected officials against white liberals. They vehemently attacked Senator Hamilton for being a member of the IDC. They did not notice his stellar record of service and initiatives, which I found mind boggling. We’ve been at war with Republicans for years. So when a group of liberals tell Senator Hamilton to get in line with establishment Democrats in Albany, you can imagine how I disapproved of the blatant racism.
This past year I have seen some of the worst forms of liberal racism directed at elected officials. City Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington) never attacked Senator Jeff Klein, the chair of the IDC directly, but he had no problem being aggressive with Senator Hamilton on Twitter. A member of Lander’s Facebook group #GetOrganizedBK publicly posted the senator’s home address with complete disregard for the safety of his family. The Senator has a 90-year-old mother-in-law, a wife, and two kids. You would think Lander’s group would have a little tact, not so much. Lander’s group even had a debate about keeping Senator Hamilton in their group, similar to the auction scene in Get Out.
I suffered the death of my son to a police officer. The Senator and I grew close because of his passion to end Broken Windows Policing. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio, our first Democratic mayor since David Dinkins, brought back Commissioner Bratton and re-embraced Broken Windows. Eric Garner and my own son, Stephonne Crawford, and numerous others have died because of Broken Windows policing. How can NYC call itself a liberal city if over 85% of misdemeanor arrests are people of color?
He is the same mayor who viciously attacked Senator Hamilton at a townhall for being a member of the IDC. Again, he never attacked Senator Klein even though Senator Klein has been a member of the IDC since 2012. These same white liberals gave the mayor a pass for his horrific criminal justice record and named him the most liberal mayor in America. What is more important, defending mainline Democrats or defending children who get killed, like my son?
Local Democrats are using the IDC drama to deflect from the fact that they have no answers for ending Broken Windows or that the lead paint issue has become an epidemic; in one Census tract in East New York, 25% of children tested positive for lead. I have not read a press release from the Working Families Party condemning the mayor for lead poisoning. What is more important, the health of our children or party politics?
If well-meaning white people want to help us, start by holding all elected officials accountable and not spreading hate towards black and brown elected officials because they are easier targets. If you want productive political change, then you must start with yourself and your own tone. It’s not fair that we have to police our own emotions and privileged people don’t. It’s not fair that you have to keep the conversation open but they can disregard you. It’s not fair that they have privilege and everything is stacked in their favor so that they don’t have to care but you must.
People in positions of privilege bear an even greater responsibility. A responsibility that the writer of Get Out takes seriously.
Mike Tucker is the Founder of the Lay the Guns Down Foundation.
|Fresh, Organic, Pricey and Delicious Dry Wall 'n' Flourescents|
All around the neighborhood new buildings have finished or are coming on line. Time for another bike and shoot around the neighborhood (with photos! bike and shoot with PHOTOS, folks!!)
|showing its best face, not as bad as some would claim|
Tonight. Reminder. Don't miss. At Greenlight Bookstore. Right On.
Retch-worthy quotes from this KCP article, which just goes to show how low folks will go to curry favor with various parts of the electorate. From some Sheepshead Douche named Deutsch comes this:
Oy. And then this disappointing line from the soon-running-for-mayor Tish James, which seems to suggest that the mere fact of Eugene's Haitian background is cause for celebration, rather than any real achievements as legislator and leader. I mean, the first time he was elected in a special election to replace Yvette Clarke, sure, there was reason to celebrate the rise of a Haitian leader. But after a decade and change of nothing, it's a reason for disgrace.
If you're new to the neighborhood, a piece of advice: despite what it may say on his council nameplate, you have no elected representative at the City level. You're going it alone. Make allies elsewhere. This guy is a fraud, a buffoon, a charlatan and a joke. Yet the joke's on us - we voted him in a FOURTH and final time. Sigh.
|This is about half the crowd at Greenlight last night|
And now here's where I digress into a mash of thoughts that have fried crisply after many years of fits and starts on the meat of the matter - race. We all want what's best for our kids of course, and the dizzying choice of schools presents philosophical, geographic, financial and moral dilemmas for many parents, particular those who benefited from excellent educations themselves. I've visited many schools, had daughters attend a couple, had conversations up the ying yang on the playground and schoolyard, talked to parents and administrators, sat in a zillion PTA meetings and worked on a School Leadership Team, spoke out and been shut down, written a few thousand words and been surprised at every turn by my lack of knowledge and my unwarranted oversized expectations of my own efficacy. In other words, I'm like a lot of other white gentrifier parents. I mean well, but I don't know shit. And it's a humbling experience, but worthwhile, and I highly recommend getting your own ass served to you on a platter a time or two. As was said about Colonel Carter by Old Sneep in the delightfully outdated kid's book Lentil by Robert McCloskey - I needed taking down a peg or two.
That doesn't mean I'm done opining. The Q wouldn't be the Q if he kept his thoughts to himself, now would he? Should I just shrivel away like some Victorian Era Blogger whose time has passed him by, squawking about how in the Great Queen's day things "may have been more top-down and button-down but at least there was respect for crown, class and proper diction?" Hell no. Let the reader beware. Blogging may be out, but old bloggers never die. They just start podcasts.
So here's the takeaway, if you hadn't gleaned it already. You may THINK you're the first generation of parents confronting these issues, that your step into neighborhood dynamics of race and class is cutting-edge and that you have resources and insights the envy of any principal or PTA. But those thoughts need to be tied up in a bag and tossed in the Gowanus like so many feral cats. (Okay that was a gratuitous grab for controversy - I don't advocate drowning feral cats. Just feeding them to dogs.)
This is my wizened advice to you, dearest friend and lovely Gentrifier Parent (GP):
You're not the first anything, you're not the brightest or most knowledgable, your skills are only as useful as they're brought to bear in a community of equals. Schools have been segregated by race AND class for a hell of a long time, and people have tried to solve that for decades. And when wading in you happen to lead with your Mother Jones rhetoric, you risk alienating the very people you hope to "help" with your well-meaning advice and advocacy. My suggestion - choose a school. Go to it. Make friends, particularly those whose background differs from yours. Let your kids choose their friends and encourage those friendships, regardless of who their parents are. Let them lead the way, and show and tell you what they're good at, what they enjoy, whether homework is helpful, whether "progressive" education has any real meaning and whether or not you should be all up in arms that someone brought Happy Meals for the whole class on their kids' birthday (true story that, stop me some time I'll give you the deets).
If you listened closely to the painfully-carefully-chosen words last night, you heard the story of separation. Certainly since the early '70s thru today, lefty NYC parents of every hue have sought to extract their children from the banal, rudimentary and often backward education of the day. From Waldorf to Montessori to "holistic,""gifted and talented," Charter, Open Classroom, "Free School," Quaker, International Baccalaureate, "inquiry based," Round Square (how's that?), Dual Language and every manner of Homeschooling and so on - you can draw a direct line back to the parent and his/her relation to the dominant culture, i.e. it ain't good enough, radical enough or engaging enough for precious offspring Johnny, Atticus or Zephyr.
And herein lies the birth of the problem as I see it - from the git-go we parents who are seeking outsider education are poised to separate our children to some degree from their peers. We self-styled free-spirits, rebels and renegades think of ourselves as somehow different, deserving of special treatment. We might send our kids to a prep school or "alternative" private school and pay up the wazoo for the privilege of separating our kids that way. Or we spend thousands of our own precious hours teaching at home. Or we scour the literature and landscape for any scrap of "alternativeness" in the public school system, gravitating in flocks towards schools that attain the mythical status of "new," alternative or progressive. When we could, ostensibly, just go to our local school and work with others. But we don't. We...don't.
In parenting and education, as in most aspects of human behavior, people seem intent on defining themselves by what they are not. It's the whole purpose of gossip after all! So hard not to partake. But that's how we decide who we are, and what tribe to belong too. By snarking about others, in the company of compatriots, we can chart our course. So now let me partake of the snarkage. Such phrases I've heard over and over and over...
"I want a progressive school for my child"
"I don't believe in testing"
"I don't believe in homework"
"That school is too strict"
"Dual language is such a great model"
"Too much emphasis on test scores"
"That school is just not diverse"
"I want to go to my local school, but I don't want my kid to be the guinea pig for desgregation"
"The Principle is unwelcoming"
"The diversity at PSXXX is just right"
"I'm not comfortable with the level of poverty at that school - it's almost all free-lunch"
If you don't recognize those as racial, if not fully racist, albeit clascist, statements, you may soon. Liberal white parents will jump through hoops not to say the phrase "that school is too black," but the meaning becomes clear after you follow the behavior, not just the rhetoric. Most white parents just aren't comfortable going to predominantly black schools. And I say black because I mean black! Hispanics and Asians and even Muslims and light skinned bi-racial families don't figure as much when white people see color these days. When a white person sees that demographics are, say, 90% or more black, their first impulse (even if they KNOW it's wrong) is to say to themselves "what's wrong with that school? If it's a good school, why don't more white-hispanic-asian-other kids go?" This is not always because they're blatantly racist. Actually, it's because they're smart enough to know the America that raised them! In a country they know to be hopelessly racist, they assume (and who could blame them?) that an all-black school must be inferior. The smart students and dedicated parents must have opted out, else why would they stay in an all-poor all-black school with miserable test scores? (Another irony! Remember, you told us you don't believe in testing!)
Okay so I'm going for low-lying snark-fruit. It wouldn't be racism if it didn't come drizzled in irony and hypocrisy. But there's a truth here that I certainly didn't see til I started getting to know the ropes and tie some knots. Here goes. God help me.
Black folks of means and/or education do the same damn thing. And they've been doing it a lot longer than YOU have, right here in Flatbush and Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy and Harlem and any place where working and middle class black Americans have built community for more than 50, sometime 100 years or more. They didn't want a part of any half-assed segregated racist curriculum bullshit anymore than you do. And so, many of them (again, right here in your very neighborhood) started their own schools, historically black you could say, but sometimes wholly outside the educational system entirely. Woke by the brilliant rhetoric of the great African-American thinkers and writers of the 20th Century, they rolled up their sleeves and educated their children to know their history, to respect their heritage, to question authority and much like their white-hippy peers, to look askance at the local public schools that drew most of the attention.
That's right Iowa boy and Wisconsin girl. We're finally getting hip to the fact that black people are a hell of a lot more diverse within than your MLK and Malcolm X and Black Panther primers taught you. Meaning we might just have to assess each person, each family, each school, each business, each economic and philosophical construct as its own entity with her own destiny, foibles and charms.
Then you throw in the whole mixed-marriage thing and your theories of race, neighborhood, schools, gentrification - they can easily come tumbling down around you, leaving only one solid question worth asking. What's little ol' me and little ol' Luka and Maya to do that's best for US?
And now you're right back where you started. Sorry. I didn't say there was an easy answer. Just tougher questions.
Hard to keep a secret these days, what with the old interweb and the F-book and Tweet Stick. So here's one for ya - that empty shoppe at the corner of Westbury Ct and Flatbush? That used to be Play Kids and before that (ironically) a place called Shelley Linens?
Ice Cream. That's right - ice cream. Owned and operated by the folks who do Parkside, the bar/bistro/pizza/pub across the way, this new joint is going to feature ice cream, parlour style.
Is that really a secret? Is there a way to whisper such a thing on the internet? As I learned when I spilled the beans that Ta Nehesi Coates had bought a place in the neighborhood, not only did it make its way around the world, I actually got a call from the venerated author himself! It wasn't to congratulate me on my excellent writing, as I had hoped. Rather he was pissed that I had let the cat out the bag, putting his privacy and well-being at risk. He has since sold another gazillion copies of his books and made many more millions, so frankly he probably became TOO famous for Leffertsanyhow. Still, the sharing of public information on a public forum - even if it's already public information - can get you in hot water. And yet, the way we get information these days is largely by that exact process. And were people not leaking to the press, we'd never find out about half the sick shit going down in the supposedly very public government. I for one am glad the internet and information are free. I know, I know, there's some growing pains right now. But those who would argue we're stuck with Trump because of TOO MUCH internet freedom are missing an important point. After 8 years of a strong, dignified black man in office, Trump would've happened ANYway. That's right. I'm sorry to break it to you. Americans sometimes (often) vote for douche-wads, and they tend to vote for them in the opposite party from the last leader. Internet or no internet, Trump populism started in earnest in 2010...all it needed was a take-no-prisoner candidate. If Tricky T hadn't come along they'd have had to invent him. (Cruz and Rubio would've done just fine for them.)
And here's where I share something truly surprising. A whole sub-culture has evolved around whispering, and small sounds that tingle the ears. The Q just attended something called "The Whisper Opera" this weekend, and while searching for the details I came across this whole ASMR community, which if you hadn't heard about it I'm going to quietly open your ears and blow your mind. Here 'tis:
Hi, my name is Clarkson FlatBed, and I'm an alcoholic.
12-step programs by design don't "fight back" against inaccurate attacks. It's written into the AA code of "attraction, not promotion," and never engaging in controversy. That's part of the official "traditions" that are roughly adhered to by the few million people who avail themselves of AA meetings, literature, online groups, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Al Anon, the Debtors, Sugar, Gambling and Sex programs and many others. There are no membership dues. Anyone can go to a meeting anytime they like, and can call themselves a member whenever they like, go or not go, get seriously into it or hang on the edges. No one is forced to do anything, or believe anything, though most meetings and sober AAs express some form of spirituality as part of their journey back to physical and mental health. At some meetings there are as many belief systems represented as there are people. I love meetings; I'd go to more if I could. I really can't imagine having gone so long without a drink without the help of literally hundreds of people, people from all walks of life - races, creeds, orientations and economic circumstance. It's been not just a tool for sobriety; it's been a remarkable eye-opening life affirming experience. And no, I don't believe in god, but I do believe in the power of community and service.
Clearly, people are getting something out of it. If you are truly an alcoholic, and I'll discuss that word "truly" in a minute, and you stop drinking, life will undoubtedly get better, or at the very least "easier." That's because no one goes to AA when life is bliss. It's generally the last house on the block. Most AAs tried myriad ways to get sober, from shrinks to drugs to yoga to switching jobs or locales, or switched from wine to beer or whiskey to vodka, tried counting drinks, tried hanging out with different people, tried drinking only on weekends, meditation, moderation, medicines, drying out, the list goes on. Granted some people get mandated to AA, but that rarely works. It's the seriously desperate alcoholic that's AAs best customer. And there are many satisfied customers indeed, who haven't paid a dime beyond the cost of a bad cup of coffee and an oreo cookie or hundred.
Why dump on AA then? Gabrielle Glaser likes to, and she makes tons of good points, though none of them seem to understand AA in the least. I just heard her on this week's On the Media podcast. Her "Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous" is one of the most read articles in the history of that magazine. Hmmm. I wonder why? Could it be that people desperate to mitigate the negative effects of drinking are looking for anything, ANYthing other than sitting in a church basement with a bunch of (god forbid) OTHER people one or more times a week? I sit in a circle and gab with strangers and friends a couple times a week, listening to the most outrageous and heartbreaking stories of depravity, abuse and redemption - better than any you'd read in books (actually a lot of them ARE in books - recovery lit is quite the popular genre). People cry, they laugh (a lot) and after a meeting I tend to feel lighter, more ready to face a world that seems cold, closed and spiteful.
If you struggle with addiction, by all means, avail yourself to the medical and scientific treatments available. If they don't work, there's still a way out, and that's the promise of AA, not some sort of guarantee or probability of outcome. Words like willingness and honesty and hope and identification don't grace the bottle of any prescription medication I know of. But AA also doesn't forbid the use of science and medicing as part of recovery. Where does this nonsense come from? Often from alcoholics themselves who have good reason not to want to get sober, or for whom the deadly malady hasn't fully overtaken them.
Alcoholism is a lonely disease. Not all full-blown alcoholics are physically isolated. But the booze, and one's unnatural relationship to it, can make one feel utterly alone, even among others, others who may in fact love the drunk dearly. Such isolation is deadly for the problem drinker, since it feeds the narrative of worthlessness and shame that leads to ever-more drinking, even suicide. I'm not making this shit up, by the way. I've been to a few thousand meetings myself, and to a number, ex-drunkards speak to this isolation as the most debilitating and deadly aspect of the disease . The booze or drugs, which are often personified as friend or foe by the addict, WANTS you alone. And no worry if you don't want to call it disease if that terms bugs you. I use the term broadly - it's a condition if you will, or a physical and mental problem if you must. It's a killer, that's for sure, and maybe (probably) you know someone who succumbed to this "not-a-disease," if not via alcohol then through opiates or some other addiction, or suicide resulting from the hopelessness of the depression and isolation the sickness causes. The current opioid crisis kills far fewer than alcohol, by the way, though it's a better media story I guess, and certainly has grown too fast to ignore. To me it's all the same - seeking relief, one becomes dependent. Same for binge eating, gambling, unhealthy sex, overwork, under-employment, over-spending, even smoking, porn and gaming.
What Glaser gets so wrong by pointing to the myriad other ways to get sober or manage one's drinking is that drunks KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF ALREADY. What self-diagnosed problem drinker hasn't tried one or dozens of the other available treatments? I would agree with her that State sponsored treatment facilities should not rely on AA, nor should judges and jailors. I recently went to Rikers Island to bring a meeting, and of the three dozen inmates in one ward who were there for drug and booze-related offences, only three showed up for our informal twelve-step meeting. And I can guarantee you, there weren't a lot of other options for entertainment that hour! Even just for shits and giggles you'd think a few more would join the circle, but hey, they're mostly young, and haven't been beaten down enough yet. AA is definitely for those who've reached the very end of their rope.
So three final points. One, Glaser and others say that abstinence is not the only result worth shooting for, and abstinence lays out unrealistic expectations of the drunk. Yes!! Couldn't agree more. In fact, AA agrees too. And yet (here's the kicker) the true drunk doesn't WANT a two beer buzz! That's not the point, neither is the taste. It's the effect we're after, so moderation is like Drinker Blue Balls (sorry for the vulgar analogy). It's actually easier not to drink at all than to become one of the "glass of wine at dinner" folks, the ones who often least understand why the drunk keeps refilling that glass beyond the point of reason.
Two, Glaser cherry-picked her problems with the not-perfect AA literature. She looks for the mistakes and contradictions. But what about the part in the book that practically BEGS the unconvinced alcoholic to try some controlled drinking, or drink like a gentlemen, and if you succeed AA says "our hats are off to you!" Such a person who can still learn to moderate is not the hopeless alcoholic then, or hasn't become one yet. Even though the Big Book of AA was written 80 years ago, today's alcoholic or drug addict is suredly aware of other options for treatment. In fact, the way I learn about them is from AA meetings! No better place to hear the honest stories of people struggling. AA has never been the treatment of choice for the not-yet alcoholic. If we could drink normally, we would! In fact, if I could drink normally, I'd drink normally every hour of the day 24-7!!
I guess Glaser is on a crusade, and I admire that. She wants more people to find a solution not fewer, and AA wants the same thing. She's trying to provoke AA to respond here, which of course, it won't do, as a matter of rule and tactic. Why fight with the haters when even AA itself doesn't run "studies" or compile useful statistics? For good reason, AA will remain (mostly) under the radar thank you very much. Except for the occasional pseudonymous blogger who's hoping he's not running too far afoul of the tradition of anonymity. Clarkson. That's my name. Clarkson.
But the big, big problem with the Glaser perspective is that it misses the single most important aspect of 12-step groups, more important than talk of higher powers and one-day-at-a-time, the twelve helpful steps, and all that jazz.
Community. Friendship with others who live and work nearby and help with problems small and big. Pulling for one another. Stories and listening. Camaraderie. Traveling to far off lands and meeting fellow "travellers" on the sober train. In short, it's the very opposite of isolation, which as I said is the major defining fact of the alcoholic's existence, beyond the drunkenness and hangovers of course. Are we really so scientific-minded that we can't acknowledge one of humans' most basic forms of therapy - companionship and encouragement?
So. If you've tried every one of those other methods that Glaser suggests are better than 12-step recovery (she claims that 37 forms of treatment work better!) then I will tell you what Craig Ferguson once said in this most astounding of monologues. Go to a meeting. See if it's for you. If you're feeling desperate, stick around for a bit. Then decide to move on to other 37 MORE effective treatments, many of which you will likely have tried already. And then come back if they don't work. All misery gladly refunded if you leave.
FYI, there's a great meeting right here in the neighborhood on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm at the Jan Hus Church on Ocean btw Parkside and Lincoln right near that traffic light. Which is a great metaphor for green - keep drinking; yellow - moderate your drinking or; red - stop drinking. For the true drunk, red is often WAY easier than yellow. Only you can judge for yourself. Good luck, friend. Or feel free to forward this post to a friend in need of the one thing hardest to come by in the depths of addiction. Hope.
Even the cynical ol' Q wasn't ready for the below rendering. Most of these buildings are already in place, but this puts the new 70+ story 80 Flatbush project in perspective (currently it's the soon-to-be-demolished building with all that amazing chalkboard-looking mural on it.)
For those of you who've lived in Brooklyn a long time (and yes, the Q is one of them - 30 years now), this picture will blow your effin' mind. That's the tiny little Williamsburg Bank clocktower (twas my bank many moons ago, and home to my dentist!), once the borough's tallest building.
Tonight, your local Community Board 9 meets its ULURP committee, and if the flying emails are any indication, it's going to be a doozy. Come on down and check out hyper-local quasi government in action.
On the agenda? The future of the mysterious yet beloved Spice Factory on Franklin.
So, what to do at 960 Franklin Avenue, a/k/a the Spice Factory? Well, here's the latest proposed plan by the new owners, who bought from longtime owners Morris Golombeck.
|A rendering of the new project, handed out at last night's meeting to show proposed heights|
in exchange for hundreds of new affordable housing units (dark coloring are the potential rezoned additions)
We all knew it was just a matter of time. Large site, near the Park and Garden, right next to the Q, B and Shuttle trains. Into town in 20 minutes, easy.
The Q advocated, hard, for a neighborhood planning study and rezoning that would have likely allowed for higher buildings along transit hubs in exchange for protections and downzonings for historic inner blocks. That effort failed, in large part (gotta hand it to her; she won) Alicia Boyd and MTOPP, which is basically her and a couple acolytes. Since then, her efforts to prevent any and ALL rezonings in southern Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens have brought about the firing of the old district manager, preventing the hiring of the new district manager, the resignations of many Board members, and the resignations of not one, not two, but three Board chairs. Incidentally, that's a position that's often held for years if not decades. Turmoil is Boyd's middle name, and even as she loses her lawsuits, the drag on the process takes its toll. Again, hats off. A worthy foe indeed.
Since then, the Crown Heights Tenants Union and now even the East Harlem's anti-rezoning activists have joined the fight, as the City's activist networks take on the developers and City Planners to stop building high in order to subsidize "affordable housing," which, as they argue, is not really affordable to the actually poor and homeless. I suppose they're right in this regard. Even $1000, or $1500, or $2000, despite the fact that they're being built to stay stabilized, is too much money for a lot of people. Though I must say that any tenant still paying less than $1,000 for an apartment is under extreme pressure, both legal and illegal, to leave their homes, as landlords recognize the potential profits from these older stabilized apartments. That fact remains, regardless of any new buildings.
In a certain sense, this is a battle of the Left vs. the Super Left, in that many of the Mayor's "Mandatory Inclusionary Housing" plans have been lauded as a step in the right direction towards creating more long-term, stabilized below-market-rate housing. You can't fight a housing crisis without building, and in NYC, that means building tall, so goes the argument.
What's a good liberal to do?
Last night, one thing became perfectly clear. The Community, as represented by the subset of that community who are on the ULURP Committee and Community Board, want nothing to do with rezonings, no matter the trade-off offered by developers or City. They don't trust that folks in the neighborhood will benefit. They believe that any and all tall buildings will lead to greater displacement than is offset by the new units of affordable housing. (And frankly, I would argue that's not even the point. The point of all this new building is for the future of the City, not just for those currently facing eviction.)
Professor Tom Angotti of Hunter College has become the intellectual of choice for the anti crowd. His book Zoned Out is their bible. CHTU leads the reasonable wing of the movement, in that they represent real tenants, real rent battles, and are co-led by the endlessly impressive and intelligent Esteban Giron, who often holds court at meetings because, frankly, he's the most knowledgeable and coherent anti-displacement advocate you'll find. He lives on Franklin near Carroll, and he and husband are under pressure to move out too. He'll tell you heartbreaking stories and win you over with reasoned arguments and a warmth that I find lacking from most of the hard-left activists. I have the utmost respect for Esteban, and in many ways, my own views have been shaped by my following his analysis.
Tom Angotti, on the other hand, seems to me a bit too smug and sure of himself as an ex-City Planner for me to drink his Kool-Aid. When his book is mentioned he smiles like a gloating David having slingshot his rock at Goliath. Like last night, he often tells tales that are patently false - like how Windsor Terrace fought back gentrification by fighting rezoning, and that Park Slope has therefore gentrified much faster as a result of their own rezonings on 4th Avenue. Say what, now? That doesn't jibe with my own experiences and even with the facts of rental and home increases. The neighborhood is, and long has been, all white, and has become terribly unaffordable to longtime residents there, many of them of Italian and Irish heritage (ever been to Farrell's?) One of my best pals is being forced out of his $2200 one-bedroom right now in WT. Angotti claimed prices have jumped 10 times in Park Slope while just 2 1/2 in the Terrace. Say what? Clearly he doesn't read the Zillow much.
The final analysis of the Committee might be a head-scratcher to those not familiar with the lines of argument. NO, says CB9. No rezoning. Make the developer stick with what he gets under current rules - supposedly up to 7 stories, ALL market rate, which around there is probably closing in on $3,000 if not more. Bring it on, says the ULURP committee. But you don't get an inch of extra height, and you can take your supposedly affordable units and shove 'em, we don't need 'em, because your longterm goal Mr. D (developer, devil?) is to get all the poor and POC's out to make way for your dream of a less colorful (in more ways than one) neighborhood.
Where do you stand?
Saigon fell in 1975. Long live Vietnam. Brooklyn, you worry me.
Just back from a family vacation in one of the most friendly, vibrant and eye-opening places the Q's ever been. It was a good thing we left visiting the War Remnants museum to the end. The brutal story of U.S. war crimes against French Indochina would have weighed heavily my whole time, and I might have missed the majesty and mystery of a country and people embracing the future with an optimism I haven't seen in the Western world.
It's not really a communist country at all. It's a one-party crony-capitalist state that really doesn't like to be criticized (sound familiar?) And most people are too busy hustling to argue. For now. When you make more money every year, it's easier to forgive the couple hundred jailed dissidents who merely had the gall to question the Politburo.
Been following things back home though! In our "advanced" society, the Q's once-maligned prediction of a Korean joint at the old Flatbush near Beekman sneaker store came true (read more on Flatbushed). Once Q-bashed now-resolutely-part-of-the-neighborhood 626 Flatbush will be getting an informal sit-down place next to Greenlight Bookstore (read more on Flatbushed.) Bergen Bagels finally opened where lively Ray's deli used to was. (read more on Flatbushed.) That Ice Cream and Coffee joint opened where Shelly's Linen cum Shelley's Toy Store was at the corner of Flatbush and Westbury Ct. (they make the confection in the basement, the same where a few of us met to talk about kindergarten just a couple years ago when it was a "community space.) Oh, and if it weren't painfully clear - Flatbushed is back with a vengeance! #LovingIt.
While in Saigon, I composed a note to the ULURP committee at CB9. We had received from Chair Michael Liburd a link to a Village Voice article at which Brooklyn City Planning head Winston von Engel was reported to have told a Bushwick audience that (and this is NOT a direct quote) - the city is interested in preserving architectural character not preventing displacement. Read all about it if you like.
So on the painful flight home from Hong Kong, I penned the below and sent to ULURP. It pretty much sums up my thinking right now, so why have a blog and keep it to myself?