Thursday, August 26, 2010

Catching Up - Tacos, Links, and More

Things happen quickly when you're away! Nostrand Avenue is experiencing a retail boom of its own, as covered by Nostrand Park, including a Sandwich Shop and a Coffee Shop, as well as some upscale renovation by a community-boosting landlord. Not to be outdone, Franklin (well, Prospect right near Franklin) is getting a branch of Oaxaca Taqueria (currently in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope) in advance of the new offering from Chavella's opening up at Sterling and Franklin. As a reminder that, well, it's still Franklin, the Skywatch is back again, on the corner where a particularly grotesque midday shooting took place earlier in summer (and where residents have complained for a while about rampant dealing and its attendant violence). The police cited, of all things, traffic concerns, but I'd be surprised to hear that's the guiding principle at work here. Residents, are you happy this is back, or do you prefer your Avenue sans Skywatch?

There are a number of events coming up, including the monthly Sound Bath at Force and Flow Studios tomorrow, and I'll get to those in later posts. For now, some linkage that I missed:

- A nice look at Basil, the Lubavitcher-owned Kosher Pizza and Wine Bar on Kingston, in the Wall Street Journal.

- A little history (with excellent photos) of the lost Brooklyn Social Clubs, including the former Union League Club at Bedford and Dean, courtesy of the New York Times.

One final question - the Crown Heights tag/mural at Franklin between Atlantic and Pacific has been altered in a most specific fashion, namely, the signature (Home of the Smart Crue/Smart Crew) has been carefully painted over in red. Now, Smart Crew is a citywide (and sometimes wider) graffiti collective, and from what I understand, Franklin is bloods territory. Is it possible our local gangs were pleased with the mural, but wanted to make sure that their territory was marked? This seems to be the case, though usually stuff like this is outright defaced. Any thoughts?


  1. Have you heard that Nam's will be expanding into the old Nairobi's Knapsack location? I was hoping you might have the scoop on that?

  2. Glad you're back! I was about to post what LaurelB just said -- I heard sushi in that spot? But not sure how accurate that is. Also, Briston's is closed for renovations. Have you heard anything about that at all?

    As for the skytower, I am glad it's back. I used to live on that block of Franklin and it is full of constant deals (which leads to violence, etc. as we've been seeing these past few months). The chinese place on that block is full of more dealers than customers (although their sesame bean curd is soooo good...) and the shorey(shorty? depends on which sign you look at) deli is as well. I was so hopeful when the shorey/shorty deli opened a few years back since they were the first in that immediate area to have a grill, sandwiches, and looked much cleaner than, say, the place across the street. But it seems that they permit too much to happen and don't take a stand. It's a tough line for a store owner. Most of your customers are the dealers themselves and making enemies certainly won't make you feel safe(r) in the area. On the other hand, allowing it to continue makes *other* people not want to patronize the store -- etc. I think the skywatch is good. I've been watching a lot of The Wire recently and I'm hopeful that this could be a big sweep that takes out a whole group of dealers and not just one or two for a night. I am not totally against drug use per-say...but the violence that comes from territory and whatnot is scary and not helpful to the community as a whole. I'm not sure skywatch will have the results some people want, but I appreciate the police doing what they can.

  3. I can't find out if trivia is back every week at Franklin Park...any word?

  4. trivia is back at franklin park. every wednesday at 9:30ish. I think it's supposed to start at 9 but it never does.

  5. Glad to be back! I saw the sushi thing on Brooklynian and NP, but saw no evidence today when I went by the old space. I'll be bugging the guys at Nam's about it tomorrow.

  6. You've been watching "The Wire" and have concluded that the Skywatch may work? It seems to epitomize exactly the kind of reactionary police response that the show speaks out against, i.e. the highly visible sign that the police are doing their jobs while the drug dealing and violence just moves down the block.

    The "impact zone" is just going to push the dealing further into Crown Heights, where the middle-classes don't (yet) dare to go. Good for the newly-gentrified residents of Franklin Ave., but hardly a real solution. (Although I personally don't know what the real solution is.)

  7. Speaking of Skywatch, the Wire, and operation impact style policing, I was just in Baltimore (where I'm from), and saw that my parent's neighborhood has recently received a similar style of police attention. I was horrified by the result, and it is exactly what I have seen happen Franklin over the last couple of years.

    Baltimore is a city where neighborhoods can change drastically in terms of crime, income levels, and race in just one or two blocks. My folks live in a neighborhood that starts about four blocks from the main Johns Hopkins campus called Waverly. It is a neighborhood of 19th century Victorian houses (when Waverly was its own village outside of Baltimore) standing on the same block as classic Baltimore row houses. It has long been one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the city, both economically and racially. The neighborhood has never been low crime, but for the last fifteen to twenty years it has mostly been just drugs and other non-violent crime like theft, lots of theft. The drug dealers worked the main commercial drag of the neighborhood, and never really brought any of their business into the residential streets nearby.

    In the last few years the Baltimore Police Department has been putting cameras everywhere, but unlike the NYPD cameras which only have a sign alerting you to their presence, Baltimore's have a blinking blue light on the top of the camera. You can see these things from blocks away. The cameras had the effect of moving the shop corners to a block that didn't have a camera. Recently there were a couple of shootings in the neighborhood, and Waverly recieved increased beat cop patrol. Unlike the NYPD this is just one cop assigned to one corner. The impact is clear. There is now a shop open on the next block from my parent's house. For the last fifteen years, there has never been a dealer on that block. Simply put, the police didn't solve the problem, they moved it. The very people from my parent's mostly white middle class block who wanted the police to do more in the wake of the shootings a few blocks away have brought the problem closer to where they live.

    I have lived off of Franklin for almost four years now. When I moved here there was indeed a lot of drug dealing happening on the block between Lincoln Place and St. Johns. Before impact came to the neighborhood, the types of dealers that I encountered were more open about what they were doing, but also more friendly. Most of them would say hi when I walked by. It was pretty non-threatening. Granted my view may be skewed by living in Baltimore, but it didn't feel like it was that big of a problem. When impact first started, it was just more foot patrols on Franklin, no tower. In pretty short order the old dealers were gone; I'm guessing that some were arrested, and some were displaced into neighboring blocks. Either way, the dealers that have made it back to Franklin are less the guy in the neighborhood who sells weed, and more hard nosed about what they're doing. It seems to me like a different caliber of dealer.

    My reservations about impact style policing is that it creates a lot of weird chicken and egg scenarios. I question if the recent shootings would have happened if the old guys were still working the block. The problem is that drug dealers exist because there is a giant market for drugs. The demand is not going away. When you focus policing on "high crime" areas, they move to those you know to be "low crime", because people will still buy drugs. You trade the dealers who aren't hardened enough to stand up to increased policing with people who are. Also, in order for impact style policing to actually work permanently, it has to constantly be expanding. That to me seems like its just a recipe for a police state in the neighborhood.