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  • 10/23/18--12:46: Don't Bank On It
  • Back at the dawn of the 21st century, twas a bank on the banks of the Caton. HSBC was its name-o, but it closed not long after the Q opened his account there (unrelated). Right now it's my favorite local 99 cent store, bright and full of all the knick-knacks you could possibly need and even more that you don't. My girls love it. And I'll be sad to see it go.

    Because this is (was) a truly grand building. In its heyday I'm quite sure it was one of the lovelier banks about along the Middle Flabenue. Without question the rush to develop Flatbush Avenue is on. You've seen some of the mid-block buildings that have gone up, and there are tons of squat "taxpayer" buildings with retail that are easy pickings. Some of the Flatbush mixed-use buildings have had their apartments boarded up for years. It's safe to say that Flatbush will look very different in just a few years time. This new building is on the SE corner, but as you know a massive affordable housing complex will soon replace the now shuttered Caton Market. Talk about sea change. 

    Read all about it here on Real Deal

    Well past time to pull your money out of the HSBC that used to was
     And for more perspective, here's the Caton building that's going up kitty corner. I love that they left the world's nastiest Key Food in the rendering. Hard to imagine it will survive the upsell.

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    The Q is tired of this stuff too, but I must honor my commitment to publicly share my ongoing experience with the neighborhood I love. I've essentially been creating an archive of "what happened" and I can't leave out the most bizarre parts for fear of ending up carved into little pieces and stashed in a white-guilt-confused anti-gentrification gentrifier's icebox.

    Gavin on Drums; Caroline on Guitar & Vocals, the Q on the Electric Lyre.
    Pitchfork gave it 8.3!
    Really now. After 2500 posts, hundreds either lamenting gentrification's worst excesses or promoting understanding on issues related to race, the Q has been lumped with the ACTUALLY insane Cornerstore Caroline (who cruelly targeted and terrorized a 9-year old black boy) and the ACTUALLY white supremacist Gavin McInnes of the Proud Boys. Not only do I find both humans offensive to humanity, I don't even have a beard, drink beer, or ascribe to any of their other, um, rules. (The Proud Boys, I shite you not, abstain from self-stimulation in a character-eroding program they call #nowanks. It's all true, and this is more evidence in my mind that Trump's election has left the country in a deep state of PTSD).

    And that's why I know Boyd et al are deeply confused. The only reason to lump me into that crowd is sheer hatred and resentment at being criticized for their anti-democratic and anti-people behavior.

    The band, however, kicks ass.

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  • 10/25/18--05:23: Cul de Sacked
  • Unless you pass by every day you're unlikely to see the drastic change that's taken place on St. Paul's dead-end half-block just south of Church. In just a few short months the sleepy block has given rise to dozens of new fancy-ish market rate apartments. Once open and filled, lively Church Avenue will likely see big changes. So while certain self-styled activists hold protests against yours truly and other civic-minded blokes, the pace of wholesale neighborhood change barrels forward, with only the promise of a total economic meltdown to slow or stop it. Number of rent-stabilized semi-affordable units added? 0. Zero, Nil. Nada. Nilch, Naught, None.

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  • 10/25/18--12:56: PLGNA Rising

  • With all the hubbub on The Facebook and CB9 and the various and sundry smear campaigns from lovable local hate groups, its nice to see that the peoples can come out in peace and fellowship and get down to supporting one another. Had their been a fire, I suspect we'd have toasted smores and sung a rousing few verses of Froggy Went A'Courtin, my all-time fave being "without my Uncle Rat's consent, I wouldn't marry the Pres-I-Dent, mm-hmm." In fact, adding an mm-hmm to just about everything makes the day a shade brighter, mm-hmm.

    It's hard to remember, but a just a few years back their wasn't so much attention being paid to the neighborhood, by forces inside AND outside. My first Community Board meetings were snores. It was hard to get a rise out of ANYone. You had to scream to wake people up. In a snap, we've gone from yawns to howls.

    Many of the faces you see in the picture were there then and still there now. With some new energy, stronger organization and creativity, PLGNA will take its rightful place at the Round Table of Brooklyn under King Adams (soon to be term-limited out) so I'm thinking it'll be Queen Cumbo. No joking - seems to this armchair politician like the right move for her (you reading, Laurie?)

    What we saw and heard the other night could was both inspiring and potentially voluminous, so I ask only that you consider hyper-jumping to the various links below to learn more from:
    • Shelley Worrell and her mobile offgrid caribBEING house on the Parkside Plaza
    • Carmen and the widly eclectic Kiddie Science center on Rogers Ave - doin' it all in our backyard!
    • Deborah Mutnick and the now published Voices of Lefferts available at Greenlight Bookstore
    • Nancy Hoch and great news about permanent park status for Maple Street Community Garden 
    • A gentleman with an incredible opportunity to support Jackie Robinson School from Greenlight Bookstore to easily purchase needed books (just do it here!)
    • PLG Arts' Hollis Headrick clued us in to the dulcet sounds of neighborhood tunage
    • If you want to support neighbors fighting greedy landlords you need to know all about Flatbush Tenant Coalition - FTC
    • Josue Pierre/NYC Comptroller's Office was there talking Scott Stringer, but let's be real, he'll be running for office real soon - Council in 2021? I'd bet on it
    • The newly renamed Pratt Area Community Council is now IMPACCT Brooklyn focused on helping people band together on all sorts of progressive issues - Dale was in the house.
    • Lindiwe and Pia came touting your lovely Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association which successfully lobbied the City for more parking after the swift and rugged SBS came to town
    • There was the ever-affable Dr. Cuts himself, Desmond Romeo, hailing the holiday lights that have become part of Flabenue tradition via the Parkside Empire - Flatbush Avenue Merchants Association
    • Local heroes from The Parkside Plaza reiterated how important it is for the community to give a bit of money each year to cover insurance so we can keep getting funding for the maintenance - fundraising campaign coming soon!
    • MINKA brooklyn came to share its secrets for holistic happiness and mindful meditation - visit them below the giant Apple billboard!
    • Janet showed up ON HER BIRTHDAY to tell us about Live Here, Learn Here: Friends of District 17 which asks with farily little judgment "So, why AREN'T YOU sending your kid to a walkable school, thereby helping integrate a horribly segregated district?" Though she's really nice about it, it's clear that it's way past time Lefferts parents started considering 241, 249, 376, 92, 6 and more and stop spending a couple hours a day just commuting
    • Lefferts Community Food Co-op is still in the game baby! And expanding! Get in while you can still claim to have been part of it when...
    • Colleen McNeil & Jawara Hudson/Flatbush Beacon Center - This one deserves its own post, because there is SO MUCH GOING ON over at MS2 just down Parkside way - for kids of all ages, and its all free, free, free.
    • Brooklyn Voters Alliance! #strongertogether is busy getting people to the polls in a non-partisan manner (straight face) because goddammit if we don't exercise this right it gets taken away, just as it is for millions of your fellow Americans AS WE WRITE/READ THIS!!!!!!
    Watch this. It'll brighten your day, and remind you just how important this November 6 is for us and for future generations.

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  • 10/29/18--07:10: Vigilante Justice For the Q`

  • If you're just joining the show, you could do worse than to read this from BKLYNER about the Q and his sad travails.

    It would seem someone appealed to Alicia Boyd and Imani Henry and got Proud Bastard Gavin McInnes removed from the list of Flatbush's Most Wanted. Now it's just down to the two major "White Supremacists," the guy who writes essays and news about the neighborhood without pay or patrons (yours truly) and a serial harasser who has repeatedly threatened to call cops on her building mates, then traumatized a 9-year old boy and whole family by wildly accusing the child of groping her when clearly (as body-shaming social media posters have noted) there wasn't much there to grope. She then pretended to call the cops, which elevated the video-taped situation to a whole new level of zeitgeist outrage. Despite the fact I've never met nor condoned "Cornerstore Caroline," she and I apparently now embody all that smells rotten in Denmark. I mean Flatbush. I always DID confuse the Danes and the Dutch...

    (Let me reinforce the message if it wasn't clear - don't call 911 unless it's an actual emergency. And if that's the first you're hearing of that advice, you haven't been paying much attention to the last few years of news, both mainstream and non.)

    Given the recent tragic national events that have arisen from frothy and nasty political rhetoric, I condemn the poster advertising an otherwise worthwhile protest from Imani-Alicia and hope that he and she can focus on the bigger prize - creating a firewall against the biggest threat to democracy, tolerance and decency the nation has seen in at least 100 years. And no, its not CC or the Q. The Q, for his part, plans to spend the day canvassing for Democrat Max Rose, who might just catch the multi-term incumbent who's biggest claim to fame is a bill to get Trump's picture hung in every post office across the land.

    There it is. 2018. A year to remember none too fondly.

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    The day after the biggest midterm elections of the...well, ever...come celebrate the Blue Wall with a Harvey Wallbanger, or Harry Wallhanger, or whatever it is people drink at Pop-Up Gallery Shows these days. All Flatbush/Crown Heights artists. Buy something for above the couch, or the foyer, or better yet, just cross-room from the bidet.

    The artists:

    -Alexandra Lake
    -Amanda Isaac
    -Bernadette Adrian
    -Christian Hamrick
    -Gabrielle Hilaire
    -Goldie Gross
    -Janos Cseh
    -Kyle Shike -
    -Laura Thorne
    -Noel Hefele
    -Tyler Holland
    -Yoshiko Mori 

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  • 11/02/18--09:48: Zell/Dee All the Way

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  • 11/03/18--20:46: Fighting the Actual Enemies
  • Here's what events of the last couple years have taught me.

    If you lie enough, use social media to turn up the volume on those lies, use race-baiting language, refuse to listen to dissent, decry mainstream media, let criticism throw you into a rage, and demand absolute loyalty and allegiance from your followers, your demagoguery might just win you enough converts to satisfy your enormous ego. Demagogues take advantage of times like these, and they thrive on fear, anger and prejudice. Any news that runs counter to the thesis becomes "fake" news. No compromises allowed, winning at all costs.

    And no, I'm not just talking about #45. 😜 Let's just say I had a few friends over to the house today...

    But enough unpleasantness. Today the Q chose to head to the Island of Staten, not exactly a hotbed of liberal activism, though it's truly beautiful this time of year, and right now it's home to an outpouring of enormous optimism and energy to turn the NY11th Congressional District from red to blue. There are many good people on Staten Island, and I've gotten to know some of them in the past two days of canvassing for a marvelous candidate who defies pigeonholing - Max Rose. He's a Purple Heart and Bronze Star decorated army Captain and universal health care proponent. He's had the good sense not to talk Trump to voters - people have already made up their minds about the Orange One, and to win a conservative-majority district you must focus on things that matter most to voters. On the Island that means transportation, the opioid epidemic, and meat-and-potatoes ma-and-pa issues like stagnant wages and tax-breaks for millionaires. He's a guy who feels he's been given a second chance, after an IED nearly killed him in Afghanistan, to practice some good old fashioned Tikun Olam (Hebrew for repair the world). He believes in true justice, and while he's not a fan of racist cops, he's not leading with the cop issue because - it's Staten friggin Island, know mean? That's called strategic. Because you don't win elections by leading with your chin.

    So me and a pal humbled ourselves enough to get bossed around by kids less than half our age, some of whom did and some of whom didn't seem particularly experienced. Yesterday the field office on Forest Avenue was hopping with energy. But today?? Good lord the throngs were stopping traffic. People from all over Staten and NYC, eager to do their part to create an ACTUALLY powerful opposition to the hateful forces of ACTUAL white supremacists and racists who are dead set on thwarting progress and denying the vote to their enemies. And as we've seen, some are emboldened to take the rhetoric out of the political realm into far more ghastly shows expressions of ideology.

    The Q was downright teary to see lines, yes, LINES of people ready to volunteer.

    When the Q graduated college, he wanted to be a revolutionary. Today, he just wants the country to step back from the brink. Because he believes in white supremacy? No, because he's lived long enough to see what happens to countries that try to make radical change without majority consent. It's brutal. Truly, savagely brutal. We're not much more than beasts after all. And politics can be a beastly business.

    We can wish for a better world, we can even fight for it. But somehow we also have to live with each other. The only other alternative? Die with each other. Yep. It's that stark. If you don't believe me, let me introduce you to a a bit of world history...

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    As in the Deep South last night, sometimes the Deplorables eek out victories. From Kathleen Culliton of Patch comes this video and story. about the Q's multi-year education in heartlessness:

    The block is shocked that a dwindling number of homeless families have been given the boot after a number of years calling this dump home. Said neighbor Irene Dowdy

    "I'm about to be homeless with my kids," said Irene Dowdy, a mother of five who has lived at 60 Clarkson Ave. for four years. "We're not going to have no place to stay."
    Just two months ago the families of 60 Clarkson were playing in the streets at our block party. They were part of our absurdly diverse block in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood - they were geting by in a cruelly expensive city. The judge says - no more. And the truly evil landlord Barry Hers gets to continue shoddy renovations followed by short-term tenants moving in and quickly moving out, so he can put this once grand building out of rent-stabilization and into the open market.

    Fixes to rent laws can't happen quick enough, Diana, Kevin, Zell and Walter and...let's get it done.

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  • 11/08/18--10:43: Oh Deer
  • So I'm walking westerly on Clarkson the other day and what do my eyes spy but a new bus stop advert, truly an incredible piece of vertical real estate for the City to share issues of great concern to us all. And what social, health or civic issue is being shared but this:

    The Q chortled and chuckled all the way home, only to find upon Googling that in fact, deer have become quite the frequent site in parts of the north Bronx and Staten Island. Now, the North Bronx is basically Westchester so that I get. But Staten Island? What, they came over on the ferry? Fearlessly dodged traffic on Goethals? No, neighbors, they swim there from Jersey. I shit you not. Look at this video, and apparently it's no fluke. Happens all the time:

    But why place the deer posters here in Central Brooklyn? Seems like a waste of effort and money, right? Until just the other day, when I headed up to Parkside Plaza and caught these "faunas" eating our "floras." And no one on the Plaza even gave them a second glance...

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  • 11/13/18--05:54: Give Lease A Chance
  • More than 100 formerly homeless women and children, living for up to five years in apartments owned by notorious slumlord Barry Hers, have been told to vamoose by a Brooklyn judge who has sided with the rights of the landlord over the human rights of now rent-paying tenants. This just plays into Hers' hands, and signals landlords they can push people around without repercussion. It's really, really messed up, y'all, and deserves your attention. We can't even pretend to be liberals and let people be treated this way. Yes, horrible things are happening at the border, overseas, and even at our beloved Q/B at Church Ave. But this is something we can change laws about, if we demand them from our City Council.

    When the Q first started writing about 60 Clarkson a few years back, it was clear that justice was not being served. A man who breaks the law as often and as callously as Hers ought to be in jail and the key tossed randomly into a dark corner at the post office on Empire Blvd. Used to be having tenancy meant something in this City. At the very least the families should be offered leases at the proper rent stabilized rate in the very places they call home, which according to folks I know in the building is still pretty reasonable legal rent in most apartments. Why throw them out and back into homelessness, where they must go through the whole process again?

    At today's presser/rally at another Hers-owned building at 250 Clarkson, residents were joined by the tenant champions Crown Height Tenants Union and Flatbush Tenant Coalition - the people who are doing the tough work to organize and protect the rights of harassed and bullied neighbors.

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  • 11/16/18--17:42: Predictably Predictable
  • 46 Crown from the East. That's Tivoli Towers on the right.
    Thx to Kadia Goba and BKLNER for attending the City Council meeting
    You'd be forgiven for asking: If the government is the ultimate sovereign authority, why do developers do so well for themselves in this City of supposed progressives? Sure there are sweetheart deals, corruption, and the ever-present need for campaign donations, all of which give developers their access, swagger and sway. But the single biggest reason that Developers get to do almost anything they want? They own the land under most of their projects. Absent the use of Eminent Domain, one can do whatever the zoning will allow. That means that any parcel that is NOT landmarked or public property will generally be bought and put to use in the manner that creates the greatest return. Those are the sorry fact. I don't personally know any developers, but I do know the power of profits. Developers like profits.

    (Actually, let's be honest now. YOU like profits too. And maybe, perhaps, at the same time, espouse socialist views on a range of topics, particularly those that don't negatively impact your property, prestige or quality of life. It's how American ideology's works, especially if you're lucky enough to have gone to a private liberal arts college, where the REAL major underlying every major is hypocrisy. That's where you learn how to be a faux revolutionary, all the way until the birth of your first child and/or home purchase.)

    And so, despite all the sturm und drang the Q has witnessed and sometimes personally endured, the new owner of the plot at 40-46 Crown Street - Carmel Partners - used the power of its land rights to give Councilperson Laurie Cumbo an ultimatum. Either accept our request for taller rezoning, or we build only million-dollar plus condos as-of-right. The requested rezoning comes with a 140 below-market "affordable" rent stabilized units. In exchange, the City gives up some height. The building will be then be 16 stories with some setbacks bulkhead. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden says it won't impact the Garden's sun exposure. You can only imagine who called bullshit on them. I've promised myself not to utter her name. For awhile.

    So, if you're Laurie Cumbo, the only real decider on the issue, what do you do? Yep, the Developer always has the upper hand.

    And for perhaps the dozenth time the Q reminds you - despite the fact that activists thwarted a neighborhood-wide zoning study - one that would have allowed for downzoning in certain areas in exchange for just this sort of rezoning - we are being completely dismantled and remantled piece by piece. A la carte. And no, we are not in the driver's seat.

    And perhaps now is the time to remind us all  This is but one of four huge projects, probably more, for the area north of Empire to Eastern Parkway. And eventually, the Empire itself will fall.

    Empires always do.

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    Ever wondered how the Patio Gardens apartments got their name? Was it the patio? The gardens? Or was it taken from the name of a movie palace that used to was on that very plot of land? As it turns out, Patio was the name of a popular theater that fell into ruin by the late '60s.  (For those of you Lefferts/Flatbush history buffs, I apologize for having missed the tidbit before. But dang this is a great picture below)

    Speaking of pictures, the picture showing at "The Patio" in the aforementioned picture, which you can see if you zoom in, was "Virginia City" starring Errol Flynn, Miriam Hopkins and an early career Humphrey Bogart. That would have put the year at 1940. The Q wonders if there was outcry when the Patio was torn down.

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    Patrick Steak House. That's what it says on the Community Board Agenda for tonight - a new restaurant looking for a liquor license. 227 Rogers cum Jean-Jacques Dessalines Blvd. Ironies and Worcesteshires abound.

    JJD, btw, is a fascinating historical character, the first Emperor of Haiti, and a figure who struck fear in the hearts of Confederate-Americans for his massacre of a few thousand whites after taking power in 1803. His exploits became the stuff of legend, often helping to swing potential swing-voters on abolition into the "hell no" column. Such is the power of well-timed propaganda, no?

    The City Council co-named Rogers Ave Jean-Jacques Dessalines Blvd just last year. And while some articles mention controversy around the rebranding, the Q hasn't heard a whit of controversy beyond the occasional question about what and who gets a co-naming in the first place. Sure the guy slaughtered a bunch of people, but hey, who didn't? In fact, "greatness" was pretty much defined by slaughter back then. If anything, I'm not sure Dessalines slaughtered ENOUGH people to join the pantheon, but given his remarkable achievements pushing back the very French who'd enslaved him, it's worth giving it up for his Excellency. As an Emperor, maybe he should have gotten part of Empire Blvd too. Strange that Rogers AVENUE becomes Dessalines BOULEVARD. I guess Blvd is more impressive sounding.

    There's more backstory too. This particularly Haitian rebranding was taking place simultaneous to efforts to rebrand our area Little Caribbean by some locals, in particular Shelley Worrell of CaribBEING. Shelley was making short work of the process, astounding all with her organizational savvy, bringing in Caribbean orgs and BP Eric Adams to support her effort, and all was looking like smooth sailing on the high Caribbean seas.

    But fracas soon clogged the email lanes, as elected officials like Assemblyperson Rodneyse Bichotte said absolutement non to the Little Caribbean idea, because she and others had apparently been working for years on the distinction of Little Haiti under the umbrella Little Haiti BK,

    So which is it? Little Haiti, or Little Caribbean?

    The Q has no cheval in this race, but in looking at the maps of the two districts I noticed an oddness worth noting. Where Haiti would strike one as the smaller, less inclusive distinction, Haiti being but one island among many in the Caribbean, Little Haiti is actually a LARGER area than Little Caribbean, as far as these "official" maps are concerned. The only opinion I will share? Little Haiti is DAMN big. That is all. Maybe Big Haiti makes more sense.

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    If you're a parent of wee ones, perhaps fretting the jump from pampers to pre-school, do yourself a big favor. The Q's been through it all before, and he's got some knowledge to drop on you that might just make your life a lot less complicated, and soothe your soul in the process. Here's a tip.

    Go check out Jackie Robinson, for any grade, but pre-k is for sure, as it's the soft-landing you might need in order to enroll within walking distanceuy. Yours truly met the new principal a couple years back when she was brand spanking new - Schwanna Ellman - and I was super impressed by her vision and goals. 375 wasn't always top of mind for local parents - and frankly, for good reason. I'm not going to dog the old principal and assistant, but having some insider info definitely steered me and Mrs. Q away. If you check out online resources, you'll often see outdated comments and reviews. And in the case of PS375, that's a real shame. No school should suffer a bad rep from old news.

    A couple weeks back the Q put on his nursery school mittens and visited a good friend, a pre-K and special education teacher who's been at the school long enough to experience the change from one administration to the next. Marie and her co-teacher welcomed me into their warm and colorful classroom at recess. And all the good vibes that the FlatBeds have had with pre-K, at both PS705 and PS38, came flooding back. Pre-K in the NYC public schools is magic. That's no exaggeration. It's about fun and love and snacks. It's about letters and numbers and "stations" and songs on the rug. It's about first friends and playdates and learning how to be one among many, a peer, a team

    In Pre-K, you get two teachers for just 18 kids. And if you're lucky enough to get an Integrated Co-Teaching class (ICT), you'll get up to 4 teachers. And PS375 excels at ICT. Perhaps you've heard of the Children's School down Gowanus Way? It's an excellent elementary, made up entirely of mixed special and general ed. And lest your vision of Special Ed be tainted by the short bus jokes of your childhood, it actually means learners who need some sort of support. And since that support comes free by law, you get extra specialized teachers in the classroom. In my second-graders class that means an extra loving and qualified professional all day every day. My daughter loves her so much and vice-versa. And the "special" kid is delightful too. Consider asking for such a class.

    From the picture you can see that for recess the kids simply step out the door into their own playground, often with support from paraprofessionals and parent or grandparent volunteers. Each of the children I met on my visit was wide-eyed and adorable, checking out the big guy with a bit of trepidation but lots of curiosity. I instantly felt that burst of joy that only 4-year olds can tap. Once that age passes the innocence can remain, but at 4 it's the real McCoy.

    And that's why I want to encourage you to go to the next Open House for Pre-K at Jackie Robinson. And it's happening December 12 at 9:30 AM. That's right, coming right up. Many of us are zoned for PS375. We all need to embrace our local schools, in whatever way we can. When David Eppley helped the Q make the Flatbush Trees project come alive, he brought in older kids from Jackie to create the flowers. This is a school that should feel every bit a part of the neighborhood as Peppa's or Prospect Park. Oh, and being so close to the Park, Zoo, Garden and Museum means so many options for walking field trips.

    If you have questions about schools generally you know where to find me. I know I have like to have silly fun with blog posts and I like to take the hot air of people, places and things. But to me, there is no more serious business than making sure our schools reflect our neighborhoods. Like my good friends at Live Here Learn Here, whom you should feel free to contact, the time is now to make sure all kids in NYC learn together. There is no downside, and everything to gain.

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    Extra, Extra! Read All About It.

    It being Lefferts Manor, the stately Hood in a Hood in a Hood. (LM, in Lefferts Gardens, in Flatbush)

    As housing prices have finally stalled, at least temporarily, we can begin to assess a period of enormous capital gains in a neighborhood once known as a hidden gem. Hidden no more; affordable no more; splendid, still yes. (By my count, prices in the Manor and throughout the neighborhood have quadrupled since 9/11, in some cases quintupled. Remember, this is by no means normal, historically. We're due for a slowdown, or even correction. Rental prices? Tripled on my block. How bout yours?)

    Through it all, the Lefferts Manor Association's "Echo" stays true to its folksy mission and visage. Here's to the Echo, its makers and the residents it's profiled through the years


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    Here's a tip. Great art. Great food and drink. Great company. That's pretty much the best life has to offer, right there. Save the s-e-x part, which is absolutely NOT part of the plan for this evening. But who knows, later on?

    #546 on the Flabenue

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    I know it seems the plaza in front of the Q at Parkside has always been a lively place to sit and drink a coffee or explore the CaribBEING container or protest a blogger or overhear a conversation not meant for your ears that nonetheless makes you smile. Well, the Q's here to tell you that many moons ago (not even 50 or so moons) this was the saddest, most barren cement wasteland in all of NYC. Given it was just outside an important train and across from the park it was, shall we say, noticeably unpleasant.

    You may be tempted to ask - why do we need your donations if it's so obviously a City project? Well, the story there is too long to tell, I'll just offer this hyperlink. But the bottom line is, we (as a neighborhood) offered to cover the insurance on the plaza in exchange for many tens of thousands of dollars each year in maintenance, watering, setting up the chairs and tables and umbrellas...believe me, it's a terrific deal, and one we don't want to jeopardize. The Parkside Plaza volunteers bring you programming and provide the organizational backbone (reach them to volunteer through their Facebook page). But they need to raise just a couple thousand bucks in the next few days, and I implore you to give them some love.

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    Elevators. Where would a modern metropolis be without them? For that matter, where would our neighbors to the north be without them?

    Just ask. They've been dealing with shitty service for years.

    The NY Post skewers long-loathed landlords Fieldbridge for leaving tenants at the Ebbets Apartments hanging in mid-air.

    The only good news in the whole piece was...this photograph from 1962.

    It took me a second to get oriented...but I believe we're facing northeast, right? Jackie Robinson school would be in the bottom left of the picture with Sullivan heading off into the distance. And Eastern Parkway is the higher elevation stuff on the left side of the picture?

    And don't get me started about the new buildings going up all around here, many with less than the optimum number of affordable units. And what have we gotten in return for all these tall but squat buildings? Squat. If nothing more, we should have been negotiating for the betterment of Tivoli and Ebbets. Such reasonable requests might have at least gotten the attention of the relevant agencies, with timelines. But the City isn't listening to us anymore, and until CB9 cleans house and becomes a reliable partner, we'll have to rely on our electeds to lead the charge.

    Go get 'em Diana, Walter, Zell...

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  • 01/03/19--07:19: Shades of Racist?
  • Of all the nutty things about 2018, for the Q the nuttiest will be the threats and protests that came my way via my good friends Alicia Boyd and Imani Henry. I was prepared for their ire - well, Boyd's for sure. I've made no bones of my disdain for her race-baiting strong-arm tactics around neighborhood development. But I always saw ours as a frothy policy debate, not a death match, even if she did spit on me while screaming "fuck you tim thomas" a time or two. Trust me, there were plenty of other f.u.'s spraying out of her blowhole; I hardly felt special. Spirited. That's the word I'm looking for. Twas a spirited repartee.

    But then I learned that for all Boyd's remarkable chutzpah when the cameras are rolling, she's remarkably thin-skinned when it comes to bad press and questions about her tactics and the legality of her own cottage industry. These outsized reactions had some of us wondering what's under the hood. Similarly thin-skinned was her sometimes strategic partner, late-of-state Senator Jesse Hamilton. Clearly, in this Trump-age, throwing oneself into controversy opens oneself to all manner of insult. And one in particular has become the insult of choice as regards a white person shoving his nose into business involving people of color. And I'll admit, the term is most often apt, if in varying shades. But perhaps not always.

    There are precious few insults that can dent most white liberals' wimpy armor like "racist." Of course, there are racists for whom the descriptor is a badge of honor - true race warriors bent on the destruction, both physical and legal, of those they deem inferior. Clearly they deserve the full bold and capitalized rendition of the word. But what of those intellectually curious whites who mostly vote and speak with deference to civil rights but rarely do much to combat or restrain "supremacy?" Isn't there a different shade for them, or are they (so I've read) worse than the aforementioned variety, by virtue of their silence? And what of those who dare speak and act as if their black brothers and sisters WERE actually equals? Perhaps even showing deference to their intelligence and diversity, while (of course) still sometimes saying or thinking the wrong thing, only to admit their error and learn from it? Or sometimes dig in deeper only to learn that their arguments hold little sway? I'm sure it's clear which category I aspire to. If not, I've got Imani's email if you need it.

    Reading online black sites like The Grio and The Root and Blavity and essays by terrific young black bloggers will likely jolt liberal consciousnesses and provoke surprising resentments that college grads didn't even know they were harboring. Which is, you know. good. Know thyself. Knowledge is power. Fight the Power! (Just not where inherited wealth is concerned! Can I get a witness? And a downpayment? Can't fight the power on a low-thread-count-night's-rest!

    When I moved to Flatbush in the early 'aughts, I thought I would be on this race-consciousness path alone, along with a few neighbors and my own limited experience. I should've known the internets would provide ample company. And they certainly have. Down to the last internet.

    But when post came to shove, and a group of Imani/Alicia forces threatened, then followed through on, a public smear campaign, culminating in a crowd of angry strangers yelling slogans AT MY HOUSE and posting my image on wanted signs all over the neighborhood, guess who stood up for me and offered words of assurance and concern? Not my white friends by and large. In fact, you could almost hear the wind sucking out of the mouths of Q-readers. Most whites (and yes, I do think of you as whites - that's how the neighborhood has changed me) became conspicuously silent, fearing (I imagine) that any connection to me might tarnish their own bonafides. I got a few hush-hush "sorry this is happening to you" emails, and I did appreciate them. But given the hundreds of online readers, I was surprised by the timid support.

    In truth, a few dedicated white nabe activists and community-minded folks did reach out to me and offer more than just moral backing. A delightful and talented lawyer offered her pro bono services. Others met to discuss suitable responses to the nonsense. That certainly helped me keep level-headed about the whole ordeal, which could still be going on for all I know - this might just be an interim report after all. And a wonderful well-known local blogger - a hero, really - wrote a public piece in my defense. And yeah, she's white. But guess what? She was born in a country where her countrymen were an enslaved and oppressed people at the hands of mother Russia. Not unrelated methinks.

    No, it was people of color who offered the warmest embraces while the egg still streamed down my face. Let's think this through, Q. It was almost as if years of personal struggle with racism gave these kind souls special insight into the experience of being labelled something you know in your heart that you are not. That is...the experience of racism seems to give some people an enormous well of empathy from which to draw. Should I be surprised? Probably not. One evening though, I sat and cried when I thought about what that really meant.

    One day as I was tearing down some of the posters - the ones with my mug lumped in with white-power Proud Boy Gavin McInness and the mentally unhinged Cornerstore Caroline (ask me sometime what I know about her beyond the headlines), I ran into my neighbor John, a Vietnam war veteran with a grumpy demeanor and a heart of gold. He looked straight into my eyes and asked if I was doing okay, what with all the craziness. I told him, a bit sheepishly, who was responsible. You see I'd brought John to a CB9 meeting one time to argue for inner-block protections, and he witnessed AB in all her fury. His brow furled and he hurled some well-timed descriptors and told me to pay her no mind.

    I said I'm cool, and hell I'm sure it's nothing compared to what you've been through. He said "damn straight! but that doesn't mean it's ever okay to tear people down like that."

    So the man who was the first black electrician in NY"s union. The man who came from the Deep South, then Michigan, who fought in a filthy war for a country that didn't love him, who bought and sold a house in Park Slope in the '80s with his very-hard-earned union money, who helped hold the block together through the worst of '90s Clarkson war zone madness, who loves his wife dearly and has a massive collection of old Westerns on VHS...the guy who's probably heard the "N" word more than a young MC, and not in the "N" word's good-neighborly hip-hop definition. This guy who responds on a dime whenever anyone asks for help...

    If John can handle the insults, humiliations, bullshit, I sure as hell can handle a teeny-weeny bit of heat.

    Here's to you John, and all my Brooklyn friends who make this life of mine so rich. Not always easy, but full-on billionaire rich.

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