Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Here Comes Mayfield

After a summer of renovations and a soft opening on Monday night, Mayfield (at 688 Franklin, just south of Prospect) is ready to open. Swing by and check them out tonight and this weekend. The seasonal menu will be a surprise, but it shouldn't be hard to guess who'll be on the stereo.

52 comments:

  1. White owners appropriating the name of a black musician known for his black consciousness for a hip restaurant that caters to an affluent, mostly-white audience in rapidly-gentrifying central Brooklyn - WOW! Seems obnoxious, but perhaps the impulse was sincere.

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    1. How do you know that the owners are rich white people opening a restaurant on Franklin ave for other rich whities? seems like a lot of assumptions. I'm personally psyched whenever a new business opens in my neighborhood regardless of the owners skin color.

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    2. Well, 75 South will be still open for the less obnoxious VIP clientele.

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  2. I think we can conclude that the owners believe that many in the neighborhood want more than casual dining.

    The "farm to table" craze isn't one I completely understand, but -hey- those into it seem to have money.

    Best of luck to CH's newest venture! May the owners buy lots of jazz records with the profits....

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  3. I'm not condemning whiteness, the restaurant's white owners, or its guests. I'm objecting to the name, "Mayfield's," which appropriates a "hipness" that our culture believes is specific to blackness, while ignoring the realities of actual black people. The name is decontextualized both from 1) Mayfield's black consciousness, which fought to stand apart from the dominant white culture, and from 2) this neighborhood's mass displacement of lower-income blacks primarily by whites, many of whom can afford to patronize upscale restaurants. Given these realities, the name is at least unfortunate.

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  4. 5:55-
    The name is not unfortunate if you like Jazz. Trust me.

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  5. I can't believe this...a restaurant, brings up racial discussions?? I just want a fuckin delicious and quality meal at an establishment that's willing to take a risk in a still evolving nabe. Oh, and I'm black! Truly.

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  6. Fought to stand apart from white culture? Um, you sure about that? Looks white folks be in the band.

    http://youtu.be/IBrnzqbGMaU

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  7. If I may say so, 5:55 just got his butt kicked by the video posted by 10:34.

    It made me smile.

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  8. I'm fond of the owners and don't think they chose the name unthinkingly, but I want to go back to what the original commenter/5:55 wrote, because I think these replies are missing the point.

    Curtis Mayfield was deeply committed to black empowerment and a trenchant critic of racism and inequality in all its forms (links below - they say much the same thing). That doesn't mean he didn't play music with white folks, and 5:55 wasn't saying that. What it probably does mean is that if he were alive today, he'd be a trenchant critic of gentrification and the ways in which low-income African-Americans have suffered disproportionate dislocation and hardship as a result of the process. 5:55 was saying, if I read his/her comments correctly, that we who dine there would do well to keep this in mind, and I agree.

    Does that mean the owners or patrons of Mayfield are bad people, or that they should change the name? I don't think so (5:55 may disagree with me) - after all, the name seems to have provoked a valuable discussion. I'd like to think that it's possible for patrons to see the restaurant's name not as a decontextualized confirmation of our own hipness, but as a tribute to the man and his ideas and a call to live them out as best we can in our own lives.

    Is that too optimistic? Yeah, probably. But I thank 5:55 for the reminder that we shouldn't take our class or racial privileges for granted, and we should challenge ourselves to recognize the structural inequalities that they're built on. Curtis Mayfield would have.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/arts/music/recalling-curtis-mayfield-souls-genius-of-gentleness.html?pagewanted=all

    http://curtismayfield.com/mylife.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtis_Mayfield

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  9. Does keeping things in mind while we dine change the world?

    Does simply eating while not thinking make it worse?

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  10. I'm so sick and tired of anti-gentrification cry babies - It's like returning a zip car and being pissed the next day when somebody else is driving it and listening to music you don't like.

    If you don't want to be priced out of a neighborhood, buy. The upset displaced residents and former residents of our neighborhood had ample opportunity to buy places 5 years ago for less than $200/sq ft.

    For those who aren't familiar with real estate, most people in the neighborhood at that time would probably have qualified for an FHA loan which means that a 1000 sq ft 2 bedrooms apartment would have required $6000 down.

    If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

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    1. Adam's got a great point.

      I mean, gentrification is just a group of people's desire to live in a neighborhood to their liking.

      Now, if eating fried quail and kale salad in a brownstone setting are to your taste, it raises the question, why not just choose to live and work in a neighborhood where you can already do that, like Carroll Gardens, or Boerum HIll, or Park Slope? Of course, those are expensive areas and not everyone can afford to live there.

      But, I have to say, I agree completely with Adam on this point: if you liked it, you shoulda put a ring on it. Fried quail lovers, you should've bought BoCoCa property before you were priced out! I mean, just 5 years ago you could still get a place for an affordable $250-300k, probably just $50k down.

      I bet you could find that kind of change leftover in a Zipcar glovebox!

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    2. Adam completely misses the point.

      Let's assume the $6K figure is accurate. Who's paying property tax? Who's providing the jobs that the city has actively displaced through predatory zoning? Who's paying the higher living costs that result from gentrification.

      More important, who's offering the social capital that Adam's crappy liberal arts college afforded him?

      Love,

      White, gentrifying public sector employee.

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  11. So as an owner of the recently opened Mayfield I feel like I should tell you a little about myself. I grew up in New York in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. My parents were NYC school teachers and administrators. Most of my time was spent on the streets and playgrounds playing sports and getting into trouble. I dropped out of college after 1 semester and have been working in New York city kitchens since I was 19 as a way to pay the rent and feed myself. My wife is from Brooklyn and her parents were also teachers. We've lived in Crown Heights for almost 7 years with our 2 kids. We have chosen to raise our family here.
    The name came from my partner and my deep affection for funk and soul music. I actually wanted to name it Goodfoot but he thought it sounded to much like a shoe store. While other kids were listening to Bon Jovi and Poison, I was listening to Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters and Curtis Mayfield. I still remember when I bought the Superfly soundtrack on album from a guy selling used records when I was interning on 125th street for the NYS Division of Human Rights my junior year in high school.
    It's been my dream to open a restaurant for many years. When I moved here I was immediately struck by the potential of Franklin avenue and have been working ever since to make that happen. If anyone wants to have a personal conversation about where the money came from I'd me more than happy to share my business plan and reveal how that money was raised.
    It is my hope that people will come to Mayfield, eat some good food, have a cocktail and listen to good music. If anyone has any other questions about the name or my personal wealth or anything else, please don't hesitate to ask.
    My motives were selfish in opening Mayfield. I love to cook. I love funk and soul music and I love being close to my family.

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    1. Looking forward to our first meal.

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    2. Congrats Jaque and Lev:) great food!!

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  12. I hope this conversation becomes contemplative to the degree that someone tries to define culture and/or the best way to change the world.

    The implication that people are unaware of racial and social injustice, and/or that they have an obligation to think about it all of the time seems patronizing.

    Has anyone tried it yet?

    Afterall, if the food and service isn't any good for the price, it won't matter how much they pay homage to a civil rights and jazz great.

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  13. Thanks to the owners for this reply.

    A couple of other quick thoughts.

    - Adam, as I'm sure you know, many people in the area did take advantage of such loans - CH had a strong tradition of homeownership before the current wave of changes, as evidenced by the CHCA and other such group. Still, there are millions of people in NYC who've never had the cash on hand (largely on account of the lack of steady, full-time, living-wage jobs) for a $6000 down payment, and I believe those folks deserve a shot at a stable place to live, too. Even if you don't, it doesn't mitigate the hardship of being pushed out.

    - Mike F, I'm impressed - dismissive sarcasm and a complaint about being patronized in the same post. In the interest of brevity (never ask a graduate student going through exams to define culture), I'll only take the bait on the latter.

    Awareness (of privilege or anything else) is an ongoing, everyday process, facilitated by conscious efforts including dialogue. It's not an issue of thinking about things "sometimes" or "enough," or of being "aware" or not. One of the main reasons I write this blog is to personally stay engaged with/aware of the issues at play in the neighborhood (I'm selfish, too, as we all are).

    Getting defensive because we feel we're sufficiently aware puts the brakes on the process by closing off dialogue. Dismissing 5:55's comments because someone found a video of Curtis Mayfield playing music with white folks is willfully missing the point. You don't have to agree with everything 5:55 said (as you can see, I didn't - I don't have a problem with the restaurant's name) to take his/her critique seriously.

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  14. Defensive? Nah. Dimissive? Nah.

    I just find the idea that there is somehow a white culture or a black culture to be entertaining.

    It implies that somehow one can betray their culture by acting in ways that are not prescribed, and/or that the modern excercise of power known as gentrification is somehow an act of a race, as opposed to lots of independently acting, self interested individuals.

    I'd love to hear more from 5:55, because now that I have finished with finals, I have time to learn about the things I enjoy.

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  15. I appreciate that the owners came in and spoke, however, I do not think who they are or why they used the name really matters. I think it is foolishly optimistic to say that the use of the name Mayfield is fine because it starts this conversation about what is going on in the neighborhood - this conversation will be dead in a month (at most) and the use of the name in the gentrifying neighborhood will remain.

    MikeF, are you serious? People's angry reaction about acknowledging the weight of the implications of the name only proves how much we do not think or wish to think about these issues. Yes, where you eat and where you spend your money matters. I am not saying new businesses are not welcomed, however, it is important to think about the change that is happening and how it is changing the neighborhood and remember that in many ways the changes are for the worst. We can't change the direction neighborhood is going, but we can try to help direct it.

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  16. When one has wealth, your ability to decide where you want to eat and live is increased.

    Given how education and opportunity are presently and historically distributed in this country, that means that some groups (often white people) have been able to secure more wealth than other groups (often non-white people).

    This is among the major reasons why those who will presently patronize Mayfield, Barbachino, Thirst Barvin, Sunshine Co, Bar Corvo, etc and buy the new condos are likely to be white, and those that can't are likely to be not white.

    Was any of that typing really rocket science?

    Likewise, the owners can name the restaurant whatever they choose, no matter what they look like. This is because the memory of Curtis Mayfield is owned by no specific group, and does not have to serve a particular purpose. The man is dead.

    ^That^ typing should also not be particularly riveting.

    If you are out to change the world or "try to help direct" the direction of the neighborhood, more power to you. Welcome to the club of people who wish to shape and understand the world.

    But please, don't try to tell others whether or not they are honoring or disrespecting someone who is deceased by naming a restaurant Mayfield or patronizing it.

    Why not look to the present leaders of today, and put them on a pedestal?

    http://newsone.com/1102975/top-15-civil-rights-leaders-of-the-21st-century/

    Why not try to convince people to emulate them, rather than spend precious time trying to convince others that the dead are being victimized?

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    1. Mike F - S.T.F.U.

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    2. MikeF, I don't see how your first point has anything to do with the name of the restaurant besides making broad boring statements about gentrification. The whole point of this thread is to talk about what it means take the name Mayfield and contextualize it as a business on the avenue, which is more complicated than your blanket statement.

      Obviously, they have every right to use the name, and it is clearly based on a personal choice. That does not mean that we should not acknowledge their choice and point out the problems with it.

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  17. Wow - has Brownstoner picked this conversation up yet ?

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  18. If we are lucky, we will look as silly, and become as famous as the "lost blue hat" conversation in Park Slope.

    http://gawker.com/166214/the-park-slope-hat-spat-read-all-the-emails

    So precious!

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    1. MikeF - seriously S.T.F.U.

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  19. Holy crap the navel gazing is nauseous. The dude likes Mayfield and names it after him. Done. Some people have nothing better to do but find issues in everything. What downers.

    You know what the blacks and whites and everyone else are gonna care about? Having a nice place to eat. For years people complain there's nothing in the area and now that there is you have the luxury to bitch about a tree in the forest. I'm guessing its more likely the guilt ridden uptight patronizing white libs that will find fault.

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  20. Any moment now, one side is going to accuse the other of being more privileged and entitled.

    It will be awesome.

    MikeF, you are an evil genius. I will gladly buy you a beverage at Mayfield. We can drink it as we shake our heads at the silliness.

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    1. MikeF --- triple STFU

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    2. 10:19, you need to go back to Gawker with the other 12 year olds

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  21. Thanks. I hope that I am able to stop by sometime this weekend. I hope that it is full of people who would like a nice dinner and appreciate Jazz and civil rights.

    I think that describes the vast majority of the neighborhood.

    I'll introduce myself to the owners and tell them that I think they chose a great name for their restaurant, and to know that they can not make everyone happy.

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  22. Went there yesterday for dinner. Food was great! They were not playing jazz, but 90's hip hop.

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  23. Stuff that's wrong about this:

    1. Curis Mayfield didn't play JAZZ. He played SOUL & FUNK (& also jazz doesn't need to be capitalized)

    2. BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS is not the same as BLACK SEPARATISM. I can push for black equality and still hang with white people. Look it up.

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  24. Is that the language police I hear arriving! I fear it is.

    They have arrived to tell readers that they are supposed to call Mayfield's music soul and funk, not jazz. Jazz doesn't need to be capitalized...

    They are here to call out 5:55 for stating black "consciousness" is what caused Mayfield to stand apart from white culture, when in fact, (had he done that) it would have been accurately referred to as "seperatism".

    Soon, people might actually claim that black people, black dead people and language itself is under attack simply because someone opened a nice restaurant.

    It is one thing to be a liberal, I am one. It is a whole 'nother thing to have a serious over developed sense of justice.

    Let's eat.

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  25. 3:58-

    I fear that you will be told that you are mitigating the injustices incurred by blacks in this country.

    ...and that language is important!

    But, yes, you should enjoy a meal at Mayfields soon, even if they are playing 90s hip hop.

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  26. I'm going there just to spite the whiners.

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  27. I like Oysters.

    I don't care about black consciousness, separatism, equality and resentments.

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  28. I like knowing that whenever ILFA has more than 6 comments, it is because some bleeding heart's ass is being kicked.

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  29. I'm a friend of the owners, and I can assure you they chose the name of their restaurant out of nothing but genuine respect for a great musician. It's important to note that the name is Mayfield, not Mayfield's, as one commenter here called it and as it will no doubt often mistakenly be called. I think it's an important distinction. There's a reason it's not called George Washington's Bridge.

    Also, I need to correct those here who are calling Curtis Mayfield a jazz musician. This point is not caviling and not entirely off-topic either. He was no more a jazz musician than the Beatles were classical musicians. To call him one betrays an ignorance of an important aspect of black history that doesn't speak well for being the new folks in the area.

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  30. So, we have three possibilities:

    1. Posters may have thought it was Irvin Mayfield, not Curtis (!?) Mayfield. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irvin_Mayfield

    2. People could really care less if he played jazz or soul and funk.

    3. People could just want to know whether the food, service and drinks are good.

    Thankfully, all of the above can be true and one can still expect a good meal.



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  31. I'm the person who wrote 'stuff that's wrong about this' and yeah, same thing as the person above. It was weird to be seeing this ignorance on a thread about the marginalization of black people. Like, here we go. Curtis Mayfield is jazz & black pride means hating white people. NO.

    The last one is the worst to me. You can be black & proud, and want black culture to mean something to you ('black consciousness') and not hate white people. You can have white people in your band. But they got to respect your music.

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  32. If they didn't respect Mayfield's music, hopefully they worked for cheap and/or kept quiet about their dislike of it.

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  33. Just wanted to say that the menu looks great & we're excited to try your food. Most of this looks like one very pissed-off dude???

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  34. The food is fantastic, the service is excellent, the place is beautiful, the owners are local, and the staff is about 90% local. As a Crown Heights local-business booster, I'm behind these guys 100%. Not that they need me to be - they've been packed since they opened (and for good reason).

    That said, I can be behind them and still think that critiques of larger processes of change that acknowledge displacement are legitimate and necessary. The original comments didn't strike me as "pissed off" so much as thoughtful, and the revanchist sentiments this thread has elicited ("I don't care about ... equality," "I like knowing that whenever ILFA has more than 6 comments, it is because some bleeding heart's ass is being kicked," etc) are pretty nasty. If you don't want to be reminded that rapid development has casualties as well as benefits, that's your right, I suppose, but that sort of thinking doesn't, in my experience, make good neighbors or good politics, which is why I try to give those critiques a fair and full hearing on this forum.

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  35. I just want to know how the food is!!!!

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  36. I'm all about unpacking biases and whatnot, but I also think it can be done without assuming the worst in one another.

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  37. "I like Oysters./I don't care about black consciousness, separatism, equality and resentments."

    The nastier comments make me think of the term "hipster racism," i.e. it's okay to say nasty, racially-based things as long as you're clever about it: http://meloukhia.net/2009/07/hipster_racism.html

    Pretty appalling thread, due to these comments. I feel that because of the attitude that everyone who lives in NYC is "liberal", we rarely can talk about race in an open way. Even if it's just anonymity of these comments that allows discussion, I still appreciate the forum.

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  38. I don't know if people are still following this discussion, but I do want to say that I appreciate the thoughts on race and class that the name of the restaurant brought up. If moving into a gentrifying neighborhood, one should do so with an awareness of the implications thereof. The fact is that the income levels are rather mixed in this area, and many of the people who were able to buy their own home have already done so. What makes me sad is the unawareness of newcomers of the limited means people of low or no income live off of. If you as a single mother support a family on $20K a year and maybe collect food stamps, an FHA loan will be out of reach to you. If you live off of social security, it will give you less than $10K per year. There are a lot of people in this city who live in borderline poverty, and as a "gentrifier" one should be aware of this. It appears to me that the the strong reactions to the initial comment in this forum is fuelled by either denial, unawareness or white guilt, or maybe a mix of all three. I am myself white and have lived in this neighborhood for 10 years, so I don't stand above these issues myself, all I am saying is that some awareness would be making the discussion a little more nuanced. If you don't want to learn about the complexities of a neighborhood in change, maybe it would be better to settle in a different area?

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  39. i just learned something very important now. Thanks for this information

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