Queens’ Old Relics Overshadowed and Outgrown by New Development

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All around Western Queens, you’ll notice houses which have long ago been outgrown by their surrounding neighborhoods. The structure pictured above is just a couple of blocks from the Citigroup building, not far from either Queens Plaza or Court Square, a hidden relic on 43rd and Crescent. It’s likely already been demolished, as this shot is from a few years back, but it does still appear in a popular mapping service’s “street view.”

The question I always ask about these abandoned, or shunned, houses is “why”? Sometimes they’re being held as stock by a developer in anticipation of some future project, sometimes there are torrid tales to tell. From the street, all you can see is ruination.

Whatever happened, these buildings are totems of a not necessarily simpler but certainly earlier time.

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I’ve been fascinated by this structure in West Maspeth, or Berlin, for instance.

It’s 44-11 54th Avenue, and it looks as if things have taken an ominous turn for this old girl, as evidenced by the boxed X inscription left behind by fire inspectors. According to the public record, this is a 2,030-square-foot multifamily dwelling which was erected in 1915. Last time I checked this was valued at around a half million bucks — an incredible number given its neighborhood of heavy industry, highways, cemeteries, a nearby superfund site and near zero access to mass transit as well as the obvious condition of the building itself.

Additionally, the Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction will be happening just a block away, which promises ample nighttime noise due to construction.

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All of Astoria, at least those who frequent the elevated subway line along 31st Street, knew this place at the intersection of 37th Avenue at the border of Dutch Kills.

I’m hardly the first person to mention this abandoned house, of course. Scouting-NY and Forgotten-NY have featured the enigmatic wooden structure before.

Everybody who grew up in this part of Astoria tells me that it’s haunted, and was routinely entered by nervous adolescents seeking spectral thrills — but that’s just a neighborhood legend and one of the rituals of youthful exuberance.

Neighborhood gossips inform me that the abandonment of the structure might have been as long as two decades. Last I checked (roughly June of 2013) it was in the process of being demolished, and it’s likely to no longer be standing by the time of this writing. The neighborhood simply outgrew this structure, with large scale development in the area erecting a series of tourist hotels and apartment houses clustered around Queens Plaza in Dutch Kills.

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One afternoon, on the corner where the course of 47th Street was severed by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, I found this shunned house. I liked to call these abandoned buildings that as it sounds really creepy, but it wan’t actually shunned, just dilapidated and unoccupied.

When this was built, the lane it sat on was called Oakley Street, and was later called 17th Avenue in the days of Long Island City’s independence. In 1852, this patch of land was the property of S.A. Halsey, and bordered the Charles Rapelye estate which is the site of a modern day public housing project.

Of course, I was hardly the first to find this spectral structure. Joey in Astoria, and the Queens Gazette, and QueensCrap (and Aviator Rob) called the place the “Astoria Mystery Mansion.” On the Joey in Astoria post, a person calling themselves “Matt” claimed the place belonged to his own family and gave it an apocryphal history. This shunned house had been erected in 1830 and was demolished in February of 2009.

Today, the site is occupied by a large garage designed for trucks.