01/26/15 1:00pm

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I was invited to attend the annual Ridgewood Democratic Club brunch over on Putnam Avenue last Saturday. The event raises funds for the upkeep and renovation of the building which has housed the organization since 1917. I was there last year as well, and my colleague Kevin Walsh offered this post describing the building at Q’Stoner back in 2013. The structure holds a collection of political memorabilia – campaign posters and so on – which is unparalleled in my experience. This year’s brunch had food and beverages provided by Congressman Joseph Crowley‘s office, although the Congressman was unable to attend as he was on a trip to India with President Obama.

Having arrived a bit early, as is my habit, I was treated to a short tour of the second floor which is undergoing renovation. Coming back down the grand stairs, a buzzy crowd and the smell of fresh coffee greeted me.

More after the jump… (more…)

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Today the Parks Department announced that it is holding its annual Clare Weiss Emerging Artist Award in Long Island City’s Court Square Park. The Clare Weiss Award (named after the former Public Art Curator for the Parks Department) is given to an emerging, NYC-based artist with a compelling proposal for an outdoor sculpture. That recipient will be granted $10,000 for the costs of fabrication, insurance, maintenance, installation and removal of the artwork, as well as the restoration of the site. The artist will then install their work in Court Square Park sometime in the fall of 2015, and it’ll be on view for one year.

If you’re an artist interested in applying for the award, go here. The deadline for submissions is March 22nd, 2015.

Photo by the NYC Parks Department

01/23/15 2:00pm

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Tonight’s the night! The owners of Ridgewood cafe Norma’s are opening their beer and wine bar at 818 Woodward Avenue near Cornelia Street. Dubbed Julia’s, there will be local beer, organic wine and a menu of charcuterie and small plates. (Expect Finback, Bridge and Tunnel and Transmitter Breweries on tap.) The opening was delayed due to Department of Building issues that have since been resolved.

And yesterday, Gothamist wrote about Bierleichen, a new German-style bar slated for 582 Seneca Avenue. The owners (also behind the Brooklyn bars The Bounty and The Drink) hope to open with German beers, sausages and pretzels within the next month. Gothamist posits that “it wouldn’t be totally out there to say Seneca, with its convenient subway stop, will become Ridgewood’s Bedford Avenue one day.”

All Julia’s coverage [Q'Stoner]

Photo via Julia’s Facebook

01/22/15 11:00am

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On a frigid afternoon last week, I found myself at Machpela Cemetery, visiting the grave of perhaps the greatest celebrity of the early 20th century – Harry Houdini. Houdini was a stage magician, an escape artist, a genius promoter, a star of the stage and screen, claimed to be one of the toughest men alive, and he died on Halloween in 1926.

There’s a tremendous amount of drama that revolves around Houdini’s grave, which the New York Times has reported on in this 2008 piece, and in this 2011 one. There’s little point in repeating the oft told tale, or the conflicts surrounding the upkeep of the monument as I’d just be dancing around other people’s reporting. Instead, I’d ask you to click through to the links above for the whole story (the links will open in new windows), and I’ll be waiting here for you when you’re done.

More after the jump… (more…)

01/22/15 9:00am

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Yesterday the Historic Districts Council announced its annual “Six to Celebrate” list. These are six neighborhoods the HDC believes merit preservation and attention, and they are selected from applications submitted by neighborhood groups around the city. For 2015, HDC selected Long Island City, alongside Crown Heights North, East Harlem, South Street Seaport, Woodlawn Heights, and all the city landmarks under consideration by the LPC. The preservation group +Partners, which has fought to landmark the LIC Clock Tower, submitted the application for Long Island City and will work with HDC throughout the year. The goal, according to HDC, is “to set and reach preservation goals through strategic planning, advocacy, outreach, programs and building public awareness.” Here’s more:

A new preservation group based in Long Island City called +Partners has formed to design, preserve, and catalyze the development of environments and places. Their inaugural project is an ongoing campaign to landmark the Long Island City Clock Tower, a beloved neighborhood anchor. They have recently launched a comprehensive survey of the industrial architecture of Long Island City, with plans to create a publicly-accessible internet resource to guide further preservation efforts.

Last year, HDC picked Forest Close as its 2014 “Six to Celebrate” neighborhood in Queens.

Photo by Mitch Waxman

01/21/15 11:00am

Vernon Blvd at Jackson Ave, Greater Astoria Historical Society 1

Around eight in the morning, on December 28th, 1892, the workers and residents of Davren’s Flats were getting ready for another day. The buildings, informally named for their owner, John Davren, were a block front row of four story brick storefronts with tenement apartments above. They stood on Jackson Avenue, between what were then 3rd and 4th Streets; today’s 51st and 50th Avenues. There was a post office building on one end of the block, a restaurant and a barbershop in the middle, and a jewelry store on the other end. At eight in the morning, the barbershop, post office and restaurant were already open for business, and serving customers.

Across the street, construction was going on to build a tunnel that would connect Manhattan and Queens by laying tracks for the railroad under the East River. The New York and Long Island Tunnel Company was digging a project that would take years to complete, and involved blasting through miles of tough metamorphic bedrock, in order to get deep enough to go under the river safely.

To do that, the diggers were using dynamite. As explained in the Chapter One of this story, dynamite could be very unstable, especially in the cold. In order to warm it up for safe use, the sandhogs had built a warming box which had proved very successful in using steam heat to slowly warm up the sticks of dynamite to a safe temperature. At six that morning, they had transferred two boxes of dynamite, enough for a couple of days’ work, from their storage facility well off-site.

At 8am, the diggers were ready to work. As they approached the shed, which was near the entrance to the shaft, the world suddenly exploded with the shed. The unstable dynamite had blown sky high, two boxes worth of unstable nitroglycerine, with enough power to shatter the streets of Long Island City, and change the lives of its residents forever. (more…)

01/21/15 9:00am

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Leasing must be launching soon at QLIC, the Long Island City rental tower that’s 21 stories tall and holds 421 units. This website has popped up with tons of renderings of the amenities and apartments. There are also floorplans of the studio, one, two and three-bedroom units, although no pricing yet.

The development will boast 28,000 square feet of amenities including, yes, a very nice rooftop pool. There’s also a landscaped courtyard, roof deck, media room, game room with billiards, shuffleboard and foosball tables, fitness center, dog washing station, and a 24-hour concierge.

As for the apartments, finishes will include white oak hardwood floors, walk-in closets for select apartments and an in-unit washer and dryer. Kitchens will have dishwashers, as well as white quartz countertops and a porcelain backsplash, bathrooms will feature porcelain tile and “Italian bath cabinetry.”

After the jump, tons more renderings of the amenity spaces and the apartments…

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All QLIC coverage [Q'Stoner] GMAP

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01/20/15 11:00am

Back in the infancy of Forgotten NY, April of 2000 to be exact, I was working at one of those jobs that only required me to be present 3 or 4 times a week (which is great for gathering Forgotten material but not so good when trying to pay bills) and, after a few weeks poking around abandoned hospitals and boatyards in Staten Island, I thought it would be nice to take a walk in a nicer part of town…a place that had, I knew, the most beautiful architecture ever conceived. Where might that be? Enter Richmond Hill, Queens.

The Victorian era, roughly 1865-1900, was a period characterized by a booming economy in many of its years, and architecture responded with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attitude. No color or design was written off, and no expense was spared in construction. Yet, nothing was tacky or tasteless and despite every house on the block being completely different from the other, Victorian neighborhoods retained a unity of spirit that can’t be matched in these days of prefabricated junk.

Richmond Hill, located in Queens between Forest Park, Kew Gardens, and Jamaica, didn’t spring up on its own, spontaneously. It’s a planned community. It was conceived in reaction to the increasing population in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the mid-1800s, with row upon row of tenements and attached brownstones. Even the best-appointed brownstones in Manhattan were often cramped and crowded. And, in the 1800s social mores dictated that the only place to raise a happy family was in one’s own house. In Manhattan, this wasn’t much of an option anymore.

For the solution, developers looked to the east and south, and built developments from scratch in New Brighton, Staten Island, Prospect Park South in Brooklyn, and here in Richmond Hill, Queens, among other locales.

Enter a Manhattan (Murray Hill) lawyer named Albon Platt Man. One day in 1869 he was riding along the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike (a toll road that is today’s Jamaica Avenue) on the way to his summer house in Lawrence, Nassau County (then a part of Queens), and noticed the desirable land along the route in an area then known as Clarenceville.

Man consulted with a local landscaper and architect named Edward Richmond, bought the property and developed it until his death in 1891. His three sons carried on after his death, and went on to develop Kew Gardens in all its Tudor glory to the north, and developed the woodland along the terminal moraine (the hills in the center of Brooklyn and Queens that mark the southern progress of glaciers during the last Ice Age) into what is now Forest Park.

It’s likely that the name ”Richmond Hill” was not a tribute to Edward Richmond, since he passed away before much of the development could get underway. Rather, Man probably named the nascent community after the London suburb Richmond-On-Thames, a favorite royal stomping ground.

Although there was no such thing as zoning in the late 1800s, Albon Man had several means at his disposal to make sure the community developed according to his specifications. He obtained restrictive covenants to dictate, for example, the absence of front yard fences and uniform setbacks, that would give Richmond Hill a forestlike atmosphere with lots of green lawns, which persists to this day.

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01/16/15 11:00am

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On Park Lane, at the east end of the vast Forest Park, which includes the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill and Glendale, a lone lamenting figure stands on a rise between the basketball courts and the tony homes spread out before it. His garments are ripped and his eyes look heavenward in a  supplicating manner. Passersby would be puzzled about what this figure symbolizes, were there not a NYC Parks sign positioned perhaps a bit too close to it.

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01/16/15 9:00am

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After a 34-block rezoning of Long Island City in 2001 that has dramatically changed the neighborhood, the city is now considering another significant up-zoning. According to the Wall Street Journal, “City Hall is targeting the Queens neighborhood along the East River and just north of the Long Island Expressway for a possible rezoning that would promote the construction around Queens Plaza of more high-rise apartment buildings, including ones with lower rents.” The Department of City Planning is gearing up to study 100 blocks around Queens Plaza, Court Square, Jackson Avenue and Northern Boulevard. The new zoning would prioritize mixed-income housing, as well as potential growth for arts and tech industries. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is concerned about schools, transportation, and affordable housing for artists, while the LIC Partnership wants to ensure more industrial and commercial growth. But right now everything is in its earliest stages, and it’s unclear how long the city’s study will last.

The first rezoning led to 8,000 new units in the neighborhood, 20,000 more under construction, and a 5.9 percent rent increase over the past year. The hope for any new rezoning is that it will strike a better balance between residential and industrial sectors, while creating more affordable units under Mayor de Blasio’s housing initiative.

Setting Sights on More High-Rises in Long Island City [WSJ]

Development map via LIC Partnership