Everybody has their own holiday traditions. Having grown up in a Jewish family, I was always left out of the whole Christmas thing. Saying that, my family had a December tradition of piling into the car and checking out the decorations which the “goyem” had deployed. My family wasn’t unique in this, of course. A girlfriend in high school’s family actually gave the practice of driving around the neighborhood seeking Christmas lights into something they called “Klooking.” The name came from the kids saying “Look Look Look” which soon became LOOKLOOKLOOOK as they drew close to a particularly outlandish display.
Just the other night, I convinced a friend to drive around Astoria for a while, and go “Klooking.” Here’s some of what we saw while driving around the neighborhood.
The Addabbo Family Health Center, located along Central Avenue in the Far Rockaways, is getting a major addition. The Daily News reports that the health center, serving one of the most medically underserved parts of Queens, is taking over vacant, city-owned land to expand 18,000 square feet. The $16,000,000 expansion will increase Addabbo’s capacity by 50 percent, holding exam rooms and new specialists in podiatry, endocrinology and ophthalmology.
The project will also create around 60 full-time jobs and 100 construction jobs. Work on the expansion should last until 2018.
Flushing’s RKO Keith’s Theater, a movie palace that opened in 1928, is now known for its long and troubled history. Notably, the Flushing developer Thomas Huang was found guilty of partially gutting the landmarked interior and dumping 10,000 gallons of oil in the basement during redevelopment. The building then moved on to a few different owners and has pretty much sat vacant for more than 20 years. The most recent news, announced this summer, was that new developers — JF Equities — were moving forward to build condos at the site, while preserving the landmarked theater lobby and ticket booth. We got an update from Jonathan Karlik at JF Equities, who offers some more details on the development to come: “In terms of a final product, generally speaking, we plan for approximately 270 condominium units, a 300 car parking garage, and approx. 43,000 SF of commercial/retail space (including a community facility approx. 17,000 SF). Of course, none of these numbers are finalized yet. We plan to complete the project sometime in 2017.”
A Q’Stoner tipster was able to get into the construction site and see what’s gone down as of late. And here is their report:
The old RKO Keith’s is a beautiful wreck. The seats are long gone, and most of the stage is demolished, leaving a muddy, graffiti-covered hole. But plenty of intricate wooden details around the stage have survived, like carved scrolls, twisting columns and cherubs. As you go further into the building, most of the details have been stripped, salvaged or demolished.
Little remains of the upper lobby except for a few arched doorways and some urinals, and a damaged but elegant balcony is the only interesting piece left in the rear mezzanine. Unfortunately, the landmarked part of the lobby was locked, so you can’t see what it looks like now.
It looks like more of the interior has been demolished since Matt Lambros, the author of After the Final Curtain, took photos in 2011. But Jonathan Karlik assured us that none of the landmarked portion has been touched: “We have a landmark preservation consultant on board with us and we have spent significant time and money to ensure this. There has been no demolition to the landmark space whatsoever. Any work that has been done was done with a LPC approved soft demo permit to clean up and protect the area. We plan to restore the landmarked area to its original condition. We have over 100 crates of salvaged material in storage and plan to implement pieces into our final product.”
After the jump, see the incredible interior photos for yourself…
In anticipation of the holiday week coming up, enjoy this video by Sunnyside resident George Burles entitiled “Christmas in Sunnyside.” As you can imagine, there’s plenty of neighborhood Christmas cheer to go around. Thanks to Sunnyside Post for bringing it to our attention.
An Astoria parcel with the potential for big development at 30-55 Vernon Boulevard is now on the market, reports Queens Courier. This follows recent news of another Astoria site near the waterfront — albeit much smaller — hitting the market for $8,000,000. This Vernon Boulevard land is going to get much more money than that. It sold for $8,200,000 last year and a Massey Knackal broker reports that offers are now as high as $35,000,000. According to the Courier, “At that price, the property would trade for nearly $230 per buildable square foot, which would rank among the top land prices in Astoria.”
The 37,116-square-foot site currently holds a warehouse, but could be built up to 140,665 square feet. Or, if a buyer also decides to purchase neighboring air rights, the property could be up to 220,000 buildable square feet. The Massey Knackal broker predicts it’ll become a mixed-use build with residential space.
After the break, the audience will listen — and sing along — to Christmas favorites such as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Il est né le divin enfant,” a traditional French carol by John Rutter, and “Gesù Bambino,” which Italian organist Pietro Yon allegedly wrote while riding an NYC subway. There will also be a rollicking version of the Caribbean ditty “The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy.”
The second half will also feature Jewish songs such as “Ocho Kandelikas,” a Ladino tune which celebrates Chanukah and its story of hope and redemption, and “The Lamp kept burnin’ on” by Long Island composer Linda Tsuruoka. Guest cantor Jerry Korobow will play guitar and lead the chorus and orchestra in a lively and spirited “Al HaNissim.” All the details are on jump…
There’s a little parcel of a neighborhood east of Astoria and north of Jackson Heights, east of the bail bonds offices of Hazen Street, north of the whizzing Grand Central Parkway and west of LaGuardia Airport’s expanse, containing a couple of surprising artifacts. Stop for lunch at the chrome-plated Airline Diner, built in 1952, at Astoria Boulevard and 70th Street where a scene from Goodfellas was filmed, make your way up Hazen, where buses enroute to Rikers Island roll past, detour a little down 77th Street; east on 19th Road brings you to one of Queens’ oldest homes.
The Daily News toured a warehouse in Long Island City that the Local 1 Union is turning green. Local 1, which represents 5,900 plumbers in all five boroughs, purchased the former Columbia Looseleaf Factory for $10,000,000. They are spending another $10,000,000 on renovations with the hope of achieving a LEED silver certification. Renovations include three building tanks that can hold up to 19,000 gallons of stormwater, which will be used for bathrooms and fire hoses, as well as a small hydroponic farm on the building’s roof. The water retention efforts will save 2,000 gallons a day. The rooftop farm, which will be used to grow blueberries, was made possible by a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Local 1 also totally renovated the warehouse entrance (pictured to your left), which features a waterfall and ceiling lamps shaped like copper tubing. The 52,000-square-foot building will officially open as the union’s headquarters in January. Local 1 also plans to let community organizations use the space for meetings.