Astoria pizza lovers, time to get excited. Popular NYC pizza joint Artichoke Basille is officially opening tomorrow at 22-56 31st Street, between 23rd and Ditmars avenues. We Heart Astoria reported that a soft opening was held yesterday before the big day.
Artichoke, which is known for its humongous, gooey and delicious artichoke slice, will be open seven days a week from 11 am to 2 am.
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?
Now there’s word 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.”
Something curious is going on at 62-76 – 62-88 Woodhaven Boulevard (the former Joe Abbracciamento site), where the Criterion Group kicked out six small businesses to build a seven-story, 120-unit residential development. A sale just hit public records that indicates that the site sold for $10.85 million to “62-98 Realty LLC,” a Flushing-based company. Criterion Group paid $9 million for the block-long site last year and it looks like they’ve gone and flipped it.
Over at the Department of Buildings, Criterion’s application to build the 117-unit building was disapproved. The DOB did approve an application from Criterion for demolition, although the agency did not issue permits yet to actually do it. (The building is still standing, with no permits issued to do any work on it whatsoever.) It’s unclear what kind of development the buyers of the site plan to move forward with.
Yesterday’s storm was officially the moment at which I, for one, have had it with this never ending winter. As my ennui is tantamount to becoming that proverbial monkey shaking a fist at the moon, the only reaction I can offer is that I need to see some bright, saturated color right now or I just might bury myself in the snow and disappear. Accordingly, in today’s post, “Scenes from Queens,” all of which were captured during warmer times.
Last week brought a little light to the New York State Pavilion, a prominent landmark of the 1964-65 World’s Fair that is now sitting unused. The Queens Theatre, Parks Department and the New York Landmarks Conservancy came together to light up the iconic towers — the first-ever lighting test was held on Friday night. This is part of a $5,806,000 restoration slated to upgrade the structure’s electrical system, rebuild the staircases inside the Pavilion’s three towers, and repair the concrete platforms supporting the observation decks at the top of each of the towers. Borough President Katz especially pushed to bring lighting to the tower. She believes that once lit up, there will be more momentum to restore the crumbling pavilion. A full restoration of the structure, that still wouldn’t allow any public access, is estimated to cost around $40 million.
The photo above was taken by the New York Landmarks Convservancy and was first posted by People for the Pavilion. Check out two more photos after the jump!
This week, Neir’s, the venerable tavern in Woodhaven, threw down the gauntlet as the Queens Historical Society anointed it NYC’s oldest continuously operated drinking establishment, challenging the self-proclaimed champion, McSorley’s on East 7th Street in the East Village, which claims 1854 as its opening year. NYC historian Richard McDermott claimed differently in the mid-1990s; according to his research employing old insurance maps, census data and tax-assessment records, indicators pointed to an 1862 opening. McSorley’s certainly gained cachet over the years from Joseph Mitchell’s stories in the New Yorker, collected in his book Up In the Old Hotel. Infamously, McSorley’s stubbornly insisted on settling for half its potential profits by only admitting male customers until a court challenge in 1970.
Both McSorley’s and Neir’s, if nature had not intervened, would lose out to the South Street Seaport’s Bridge Cafe, which under various ownership has been operated as a distillery, grocery and bar since 1794. However, the Bridge Cafe has been shuttered since the area was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and it is unknown when it will reopen. Its website says it is “temporarily closed” and it’s hoped that ‘temporary’ is indeed the case.
This leaves us with Neir’s, which, for the time being, at least, is the present champion. At 87-48 78th Street at 88th Avenue (formerly Snedeker, Snediker, or Sneideicker Avenue, depending on what map you consult, and 3rd Avenue, stands one of New York City’s oldest taverns, Neir’s, opened by their account in 1829 as The Pump Room, or Old Blue Pump House, to serve Union Course patrons.
Back in 2013, I wrote a Q’Stoner post about Hallets Cove that offered “Two aboriginal realtors named Shawestcont and Erramorhar (as witnessed by their cohorts Warchan and Kethcanaparan) sold much of what we know as Astoria (but which they called Sintsinck) to William Hallett (who was similarly accompanied by a company of witnesses and countrymen) on August 1, 1664.”
The East River frontage — back then it was called the Sound River — which Hallet purchased had a huge waterbody intersecting with the shoreline from upland properties in what we would now call Ravenswood, and it was called Sunswick Creek.
According to the Greater Astoria Historical Society the name of the waterway can be explained as “A drained marsh near the foot of Broadway. Scholars believe it may come from an Indian word ‘Sunkisq’ meaning perhaps ‘Woman Chief’ or ‘Sachem’s Wife.’” For close to 250 years, Sunswick Creek was practically synonymous with this area of Queens, but what happened to it?
Late last week, the city released a Request for Proposal for feasibility studies on developing over Sunnyside Yards. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to build 11,250 units of permanently affordable housing over the yards is a controversial one — a petition against development formed even before the mayor made his announcement. And now we are hearing about protest groups gaining traction in the borough, with plans to start petitioning soon. There are also murmurings of possible protests to take place at the St. Pats For All Parade this weekend, which the mayor is expected to attend.
Local pols have already picked up on local resistance to Mayor de Blasio’s idea. Council Member Van Bramer has yet to embrace any development plans, and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan released this statement yesterday:
I remain concerned that any attempt by Mayor Deblasio’s administration to develop Sunnyside yards faces environmental, developmental and density issues that has the potential to tremendously damage the middle class quality of life of our western queens communities. I recently wrote an op-ed article with various concerns that still need to be addressed. I will be vigilant in monitoring the actions of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and will continue to demand that the Mayor hear the voices of the many tax paying, middle class New Yorkers who live in Western Queens. The character of Queens would change completely with additional high-rise, overbuilt towers. I await more news from the administration and will continue to monitor this situation very closely.
And according to DNAinfo, Governor Cuomo spoke out against development for the second time just this Monday.
Both the New York Times and The Real Deal are reporting huge news that Citigroup plans to sell a massive development site located right next to its iconic tower. The parcel in question is bound by 44th Road, 23rd Street and 44th Drive in Court Square and is nearly one acre in size, or 36,000 square feet. It is expected to sell for as much as $150 million. A developer could build up to 780,000 square feet, and a C5-3 zoning allows residential, office, retail and hotel use.
The Times reports that it’s likely this will go residential, as the area didn’t quite make it as an office hub but is officially a residential hotspot. As the Times says, “If the property sale marks a shift in the neighborhood from commercial to residential development, it also is another sign of Citigroup’s diminishing presence in the city.” (The article details the many troubles faced by the bank since the recession.)
Citigroup sold One Court Square in 2005, but still holds a lease in the building until 2020. And in 2007, the bank built out Two Court Square in hopes to kick off a larger 1.5-million-square-foot development. Obviously that never happened, with Citigroup ultimately selling six floors of the 15-story building to the City University of New York School of Law.
Last week, Council Member Julissa Ferreras delivered her State of the District address — the Council Member represents District 21 which covers Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. There were a few major announcements, including the fate of the controversial Jackson Heights Business Improvement District, Willets Point updates, and a health care institution slated for Corona. We’ve broken down the biggies for you.
The last of the Willets Point auto shops are being relocated. Ferraras said that The Sunrise Auto Coop and Economic Development Corporation are now working towards finalizing a $5.8 million agreement to relocate Willets Points auto shops to a new work and business space in the Bronx.
And as part of the Willets Point deal Council Member Ferreras helped negotiated in 2013, there’s a new affordable housing development slated for Corona. The 67-unit rental building will be located 54-25 101st Street and will house low-income seniors. Amenities include a garden, community area and medical referral services, and there will be an early childhood development center on the ground floor. Construction should begin at the end of 2015 and is expected to last 18 months.
Jackson Heights BID
It looks like the controversial battle over establishing a Business Improvement District along 82nd Street is coming to an end. According to Ferreras, “Members of the community and the 82nd Street Partnership are near to reaching an agreement that will expand the Partnership from 82nd Street to 104th Street along Roosevelt Avenue.”
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The push to establish a Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance is also making headway. According to the Council Member, she “plans to hold the Mayor’s Office to its promise of establishing [the alliance] by spring.” An alliance would serve to protect the park’s historical significance and green space and establish more community programming.
Higher Education and Health Care Institution for Corona
The Councilwoman also spoke on a $10 million project with Queensborough Community College and Urban Health Plan to establish a 19,000-square-foot higher education and health care institution in Corona. The facility will provide space for training and clinical rotations, as well as affordable primary and specialty health care for the community.
Ferreras plans to fight for funding to upgrade the emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital — right now there is a $11.1 million gap in the city’s budget to do so. Her goal is to secure funding for 10,000 square feet of new space for the hospital, which would double the number of treatment bays and include five additional isolation rooms.