04/08/15 9:30am

Kris Seto

Some enrichment options head outdoors with such events as a carnival, a gardening extravaganza, and a guided walk. But with “April Showers” in mind, the borough also hosts indoor fun, such as comedy, live music, film, theater, photography, and some 3-D magic. Here’s the rundown. (more…)

03/27/15 11:00am

Named for an 18th century family who owned property in eastern Queens and not the credited inventor of the telephone, Bell Boulevard has developed over 150 years from a dirt trace to harboring some of eastern Queens’ more entertaining samples of eclectic architecture.

From the NYC Landmarks Designation Report:

“Until the last decades of the nineteenth century, Bayside was primarily farmland. The property on which the house stands was acquired by Abraham Bell in 1824. A shipping and commission merchant operating in lower Manhattan, his firm, Abraham Bell and Company was involved in the cotton trade and in transporting immigrants from Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s.

“His son, Abraham Bell 2nd, became head of the firm around 1835 and the company changed its name to Abraham Bell and Son in 1844. The Bells had homes in several locations: Bayside, Yonkers (where Bell Brothers operated a money-lending business) and in Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island.

“The Bell property covered approximately 246 acres and  extended from near the site of the current Bayside station of the Long Island Railroad at 41st  Avenue to Crocheron Avenue (35th  Avenue) and from Little Neck Bay to 204th Street. An unpaved lane, known as Bell Avenue (now Bell Boulevard) bisected the farm.The east section, closer to Little Neck Bay, was called the lower farm, and the west section, the upper farm. Near the center of the property, along Bell Avenue, the Bells built a house in 1842. It is likely that it was occupied by Thomas C. Bell and Eliza (Jackson) Bell, who married in 1840. The house was demolished in 1971.”

bell1

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03/18/15 1:00pm

JVP on stage 1_0

He ain’t afraid of no ghost. James Van Praagh is one of the world’s most celebrated spiritual teachers. Known as a “survival evidence medium,” the Bayside native writes books, gives speeches, and generally teaches about communication with the dead. He has appeared on TV shows such as Oprah, Larry King Live, and 20/20, but he got his big break with the CBS mini-series Living with the Dead, which featured Ten Danson playing Van Praagh. He also worked on The Dead Will Tell with Eva Longoria and Ghost Whisperer starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Currently, Van Praagh has a streaming show, Spirit Talk, and a radio program, Talking to Spirit. On Saturday night, he returns to Bayside. More information on the jump page.

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03/04/15 9:00am

151-45 6th Road-whitestone

There have been reports of a new developer stepping in at 151-45 6th Road, a massive 13-acre property along the Whitestone waterfront. This site has a rather lengthy history of failed development so far. The land was zoned for manufacturing until the developers Bayrock Group bought the site for $25.75 million in 2005. The company then proceeded to rezone the area for residential use, proposing a multi-million dollar plan for 52 single-family houses (rendered above). Bayrock ran out of money, letting the property descend into foreclosure, and there were concerns of illegal dumping at the construction site. In 2012, Barone Management swooped in and paid $11.3 million to buy up the land, with plans to follow through on the previously-approved plan for single family homes. That never happened. Keeping track?

Sources tell us that this property was recently purchased by a new developer, although nothing has hit public records yet. Department of Building documents don’t offer any clues, either.

Although there are no set development plans in place, Senator Tony Avella has already released a statement regarding inappropriate development on vacant lots in Whitestone. Another property he expressed concern over is a vacant lot on 150th Street near 5th Avenue slated for foreclosure. He said of both, “I have continued to monitor these properties over the years and believe, along with the community, that building single-family homes makes the most sense. Now that both are potentially moving forward with construction, it is imperative that the developers do not stray from doing what is best for the community. Whomever decides to purchase and develop these areas must do so in a way that will not damage the character of the surrounding low-density residential neighborhood.”

02/19/15 10:00am

clearview-expressway

Yesterday, State Senator Tony Avella announced two multi-million dollar projects planned by the State Department of Transportation for repairs along the Clearview Expressway. The nine-mile thoroughfare runs from the Bronx to Hillside Avenue, through the Queens neighborhoods of Bayside, Auburndale, Oakland Gardens, Fresh Meadows and Hollis Hills. It’s known for its dangerous, pothole-ridden conditions.

All that’s about to change, as the DOT allocated $6.25 million to repave the entire expressway in both directions. The agency will also spend $20 million to repave various exit and entrance ramps, including the 73rd Avenue exit. The DOT plans to kick off work in early 2016 and finish both projects by the end of 2017.

Here’s what Senator Avella has to say about the news: “With the severe lack of public transportation options offered to eastern Queens, many residents rely solely on our roadways to get them where they need to be. Therefore, it is vital that these roads be properly maintained. The heavily-traversed Clearview Expressway has suffered decades of wear and tear that takes a toll on the daily commutes of thousands of people who use this highway. These repairs by the State Department of Transportation will help alleviate congestion due to poor roadbed conditions and create an easier travel experience by helping traffic flow more smoothly.”

02/09/15 1:00pm

carolina&andres3hor

It’s the most diverse county in the world and the best tourism destination in the United States, so it’s no surprise that Queens is overflowing with wonderful Valentine’s Day activities and bargains. In fact, local chances for romance and fun related to this international holiday are so numerous that they run for more than two weeks and include everything from live music to a “love run,” hotel getaways, and even a blood drive for the do-gooders. Another photo and many more details are on the jump page.

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01/27/15 11:00am

bayside.ahles

On the west side just south of 39th Avenue, we find the venerable fish-scale mansard roofed John William Ahles House (built in 1873).

According to longtime Bayside historian Joan Brown Wettingfeld, in 1873, Robert Bell, nephew of Abraham Bell, a local landowner for whom Bell Boulevard is named, built this house for his daughter, Lillie and her husband, John Ahles as a wedding gift on “Ahles Road” (now known as 41st Avenue). This road ran then from 208th Street to present day Bell Boulevard. Old maps show a portion of 41st Avenue as Ahles Road as late as 1941.

The naming of Ahles Road was no accident, for the road supervisor at the time was Abraham Bell II, and John William Ahles married Robert Bell’s daughter, Lillie, in June of 1873.

Known for his integrity and business acumen, John William Ahles died in 1915 after amassing a large fortune.

bayside.theatre1

The old Bayside Theatre on the NE corner of Bell Boulevard and 39th Avenue opened in 1927 (as the Capitol Theatre) and was designed by prolific theatre house architect Thomas Lamb. According to cinematreasures commenters, it was closed during much of the Depression, but reopened in 1941.

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12/19/14 1:00pm

OSQ_in_concert_4

The Oratorio Society of Queens — which includes more than 125 chorus members and top-notch string and wind sections – will offer its time-honored, annual holiday concert at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center this Sunday.

Founded in 1927, this group is the borough’s oldest nonprofit dedicated to the arts, and this is its signature show. The first half will feature portions of Handel’s “Messiah” with Maestro David Close, a 40-year veteran, and soloists Geraldine McMillian (soprano), John Easterlin (tenor), Vaughn Fritts (bass-baritone), and OSQ’s Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens.

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…

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12/11/14 10:00am

fort-totten-historic-buildings

Fort Totten, the historic Bayside park with more than 100 structures built between 1829 and the 1960s, is in need of some TLC. Queens Courier spoke with the Bayside Historical Society who has narrowed in on several historic buildings sitting vacant in the park, in serious need of repair. One structure in particular is the Willets Farmhouse. Built in 1829, it’s the oldest building in the area. The Parks Department stabilized it in 2013 but has since fenced off the area, cutting off any access to the building.

The Parks Department plans to embark on a $2,100,000 restoration project next year, which will restore the roofs of the historic Chapel and Commander’s House. The concern is that the buildings won’t last through this winter, and that the restoration doesn’t address all the structures that need repairs. “We would like to see them all being used so they’re not lost to history,” said Paul DiBenedetto, President of the historic society. “I see the realism of it but I don’t like the fact they abandoned these buildings.”

Fort Totten’s Historic Buildings in Danger Because of Neglect [Queens Courier]

Photo by Eric Jankiewicz for Queens Courier

12/03/14 11:00am

Fort Totten Officer's Club, JHenderson, Wiki

Most people are not aware that New York City had a ring of forts built around its ports and harbor to protect the city from invaders. After the War of 1812, no invader ever managed to attack our city by sea, but the forts remained, nonetheless. They are among our most interesting historic sites, but we rarely hear about them, unless one is threatened by something worse than foreign invaders, and that’s an attack by the bloodthirsty pens of budget cutters.

Many of these forts were quite extensive in their day, housing men, armaments and supplies. But over the years, as they’ve been decommissioned and scaled down, most of them now are only a fraction of their original selves, leaving perhaps one or two buildings intact, if that. Fort Totten is different, and that makes it one of New York City’s most fascinating ex-military sites. (more…)