04/15/14 12:30pm

Dutch Kills_700

Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email emily@brownstoner.com.

The Spot: Dutch Kills Centraal, 38-40 29th Street, Long Island City.

The Deal: Dutch Kills Centraal is still a relative newcomer to the poorly underserved area north of Queens Plaza, having just opened last year after two years of planning and construction.

The owner, Dominic Stiller, found the space abandoned two blocks from his home and, as a longtime community activist and Queens resident, wanted to create a place for the neighborhood to gather. So began the renovations: He added additional windows, repaired the walls, and installed reclaimed furniture, including a long communal table down the center of the room. Throughout it all, Stiller kept the original flooring and, of course, the bar that originally drew him in.

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The Dish: Dutch Kills Centraal is a bar, and like any quality bar, the star on the menu is the burger. As Ken Holiday, in charge of marketing for the restaurant, says, “Every gastro-pub should have a burger on the menu. Our food is defiantly more upscale than a bar, but we want a place comfortable to everyone.” Centraal sources its meats and produce from local purveyors, and serves the burger on a butter-glazed brioche bun, topped with a homemade siracha sauce.

“To have a familiar item, in a cozy place, in an area called Dutch Kills makes it taste all the better,” says Holiday. “Elevated comfort, charm, a hospitality is what we aim for.”

04/15/14 9:00am

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That’s a wrap for Woodside’s new “affordable luxury” rental development. The Daily News reports that the 66-unit building is full up after six weeks on the market. (The building was half full in early March.) Prices ranged from $1,500 to $2,600 a month for studio to two-bedroom apartments. This is the first new “luxury” development for Woodside, with amenities like a virtual doorman and a landscaped rooftop deck with a barbecue grill.

Crain’s also shares an article on the changing demographic of the neighborhood, stating that as more young people are priced out of Long Island City and Astoria they are looking to Woodside. The neighborhood, rather than having an industrial background like LIC, is known for “well-regarded schools, low crime and a good, affordable housing stock.” As the population grows, new businesses are opening in the area, too: a cafe opened on Roosevelt Avenue and 85 percent of the available commercial space at Woodside Terrace, the new condo at 63-14 Queens Boulevard, is full.

Woodside Luxury Building Full of Tenants in Only 6 Weeks [NY Daily News]
Woodside, Queens, Draws a New Crowd [Crain's]
All Icon 52 coverage [Q'Stoner]

04/14/14 9:00am

woodbine-exterior

There’s a new rental development in town, at 17-21 Woodbine Street in Ridgewood. The developers, Stuyvesant Group, purchased the six-family building back in May. At the time it was in major disrepair, with significant mildew damage, and the developers completely gutted the interior and built out four three-bedroom units and two four-bedrooms units. All apartments have their own HVAC, hot water, video intercoms, modern kitchens and bathrooms. The ground floor units, which each have private backyard space, are priced at $2,995 a month. Rents for the apartments on the floors above are priced between $2,400 and $2,795. Miron Properties is handling the leasing — check out listings here.

Building amenities include a roof deck, bike storage, separate storage units, a laundry room and a gym in the cellar. The shared hallways are also covered in art done by the local artist Raul Ayala. After the jump, you can see lots of interior photos of the apartments, amenity spaces and the artwork. GMAP

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worlds-fair

Given that it’s the 50th and 75th anniversaries of both World’s Fair events in Queens, we’ve been celebrating the World’s Fair quite a bit these days. Let’s continue! An Imgur user posted old slides, taken by their grandparents, from the 1964 World’s Fair. The photographs really are fantastic and you can see all 36 over here. After the jump, we posted a few of our favorites.

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04/10/14 12:20pm

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The La Mesa Verde co-op complex in Jackson Heights, located at 34–19, 34–33 and 33–47 90th Street, is in danger of losing its courtyard. (Like many other Jackson Heights co-op buildings, La Mesa Verde boasts a large central courtyard. Unlike some Jackson Heights co-op buildings, La Mesa Verde is not landmark protected.) The complex owner submitted a proposal to use 60 percent of the central courtyard for a parking lot. They are currently asking for the votes of residents on this decision, so nothing is final yet. Here are details of the current courtyard, according to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal application:

Approximately 42% of the backyard is, and has always been, closed off to tenant use. This is land that has been vastly underutilized (not used at all), and which is available for use, as will be set forth below.

Approximately 18% of the backyard is paved and is currently used for parking, by tenants of the subject premises, as a for-fee service.

Approximately 40% of the backyard in unpaved, open, but unimproved space, with no recreational facilities.

The owner is proposing that 40 percent of the courtyard continue to be open for use by La Mesa Verde residents. According to the application “the areas will now be improved, landscaped, with recreational facilities. This space incorporates most of the areas that had previously been enclosed by locked fences, but the amount of land open for tenant use remains the same.” But here’s the kicker: the other 60 percent of the courtyard will be dedicated parking space. The application states that this will be “improved spacing, [with] landscaped areas within the parking areas.” These additional parking spaces will be available to La Mesa Verde tenants for a fee.

The application tries to press that no actual courtyard space will be lost: “Notwithstanding the increase in parking space, the incorporation of previously-unused space into open space results in the same amount of open space available for tenant recreational use. Thus, the change does not adversely impact upon the tenants on the issue of size or quantity of space… In the instant matter, the change is minimal at best. The tenants at the building will still be able to use the rear backyard for recreation… The proposed new parking areas will also be landscaped, creating a pleasant aesthetic effect. Far from being a reduction in service, the owner’s proposal is at least an adequate substitute, and is actually an increased benefit, rendering the proposed backyard area superior to existing conditions.”

We’ve got our hands on both the layout of the existing courtyard as well as the new parking lot proposal. The application proposes two diamond-shaped parking lots for the middle of the courtyard. (Currently, there is one smaller parking area near the north end of the complex.) In the proposal, landscaping and playground equipment will be added at the north and south ends. There will be one driveway added to the existing two. The existing pathway through the courtyard will be taken away.

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group has fought to landmark this building to no avail. Here are some details of the complex, built in 1926, from the “Request for Evaluation” form sent to the LPC back in 2008:

The complex is made up of six detached buildings, connected by sky-bridges, located between 90th and 91st Streets, between 35th and 34th Avenues. The buildings are set at an angle to the street grid, and form a saw-tooth pattern down both blocks. They enclose a large internal garden courtyard, similar to the garden apartments built by the Queensboro Corporation. There are no interior hallways at the La Mesa Verde; all apartments are reached directly from the open stairs. There is only one elevator for these six-story buildings. Tenants on higher floors ride the elevator up to the roof, then walk across the sky-bridges to their buildings, and then walk down the stairs to their apartment.

After the jump, you’ll see both the existing and proposed courtyard layouts.

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04/10/14 9:00am

queens-first-quarter-market-report

Douglas Elliman released its first quarter 2014 sales report for Queens, and the numbers look strong. In fact, numbers whiz Jonathan Miller notes that the Queens’ housing market is now dominated by rising prices after an extended period of stability, low inventory and rising sales.

The report found that the median sales price reached its highest first quarter total in five years, coming in at $370,000. That number is 5.7 percent higher than the number reported in the first quarter of 2013, $350,000. Average sales price reached its highest first quarter result since 2008, increasing 10.3 percent to $429,544. The number of sales impressively jumped 32.8 percent from 2,377 to 3,156. Inventory fell to its second lowest level in nine years, and Jonathan Miller believes it may be at or near bottom. (From the same year-ago period, it dropped 13.5 percent to 5,617 units.) Marketing time fell by a month as negotiability continued to tighten — this quarter, units spent an average of 103 days on the market as opposed to 121. And listing discount was down too, dropping from 5.8 percent to 5 percent.

The numbers also show that the price of a condo, co-op or home in Queens is rising. This quarter the average condo price came in at $460,321. The number was $398,334 last year. The number of condo sales jumped from 318 to 453. As for co-op units, the first quarter sales average was $212,276, up from $199,060. In one year the number of sales increased 51.9 percent from 736 to 1,118. Prices for one- to three-family homes came in at an average sales price of $574,001 as opposed to $493,878 in 2013. The number of home sales increased 20 percent. Finally, the median sales price in the luxury market increased an impressive 17.5 percent to $800,000.

The new development condo market share was 5.2 percent, up from 3.2 percent. The average price per square foot for a new development unit ($634) is the third highest number since 2010. But the price indicators are mixed: median sales price was down .6 percent to $491,790, with average sales price up 2.6 percent to $557,955.

A few other takeaways? Central Queens (including Forest Hills and Rego Park) has seen the largest six-year rise in market share. The Rockaways only show a market share of 2.4 percent, roughly half the average market share prior to Hurricane Sandy.

1Q – 2014 Queens Sales [Douglas Elliman]

04/09/14 11:00am

Flushing Town Hall, jim henderson for wiki 1

I love this building. It has a wonderful sense of whimsy and joy to it, and is just a delight to behold. Unlike the usually dour and ponderous town halls of most cities and towns, the Flushing Town Hall is not trying to convince you of how serious and important Flushing is. To me, anyway, it says that the Flushing of 1862, which is when the building was finished, was a town reaching for higher and loftier goals. Considering it was built while the nation was embroiled in a horrible Civil War, that was certainly a good thing.

Flushing was originally called “Vlissingen” by the Dutch who founded the settlement in 1645. They named it after the city of the same name in the Netherlands, which was the port city of the Dutch West India Company. English settlers came soon afterwards, and “Flushing” is an Anglicization of the Dutch name. When the English took over New Netherlands in 1664, Flushing was one of the original five towns that made up Queens County.

Fast forwarding to the middle of the 19th century, Flushing had become a populous and popular area, due in part to its proximity to Manhattan. It was already spinning off separate neighborhoods such as College Point and Whitestone. The farms and fields of Flushing were quickly being developed into residential neighborhoods, with Northern Boulevard as the town’s main street. As the town grew, it became apparent that a centrally located town hall was needed for civic functions. (more…)

04/09/14 10:00am

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Today Queens transit advocates will present their first traffic safety presentation on Queens Boulevard, well known as the Boulevard of Death. The New York Daily News reports that Community Board Six will hear the safety suggestions, which include widening the center median to make a protected bike lane, as well as changing the timing on lights at crosswalks. Advocates want to particularly focus on safety for the stretch of Queens Boulevard running through Forest Hills and Rego Park. While the Department of Transportation already made some improvements — like adding parking lanes and fences to slow traffic — safety advocates call these measures “band-aid fixes.”

The presentation to CB6 today will be followed by two Vision Zero Workshops hosted by the DOT on May 21st and May 29th. At those meetings the DOT will accept safety suggestions from the public regarding Queens Boulevard, or any other street for that matter.

Group Wants New Safeguards for the Queens Boulevard of Death [NY Daily News]
All Queens Boulevard coverage [Q'Stoner]

04/08/14 12:30pm

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Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email emily@brownstoner.com.

The Spot: Zenon Taverna, 34-10 31st Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: The Greek restaurant Zenon Taverna, located in the heart of Astoria, has been under the management of the same family since 1988. Stelios Papageorgiou trained as a chef in his native Cyprus and, after immigrating, wanted to serve “the food from his mother country to Astoria,” says his daughter and one of the managers, Elena Papageorgiou. “We strive to transport our customers to a taverna in Cyprus, for them to experience and enjoy it as if they were there.”

After 26 years, additional family members have stepped in to help in various roles from serving to managing to cooking, but Stelios is still active in the running of the restaurant. “He does all the ordering himself and goes to the markets to pick out things like our seafood,” Elena explains. “My father has tried to keep our prices as low as possible while still keeping the best quality.”

When customers need more than just a meal, Zenon Taverna also has a banquet room and offers catering services. Also be sure to follow the restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for rotating specials. Be sure to bring cash though; another traditional aspect of this taverna is that they don’t accept credit cards.

The Dish: For an authentic Cyprus dish, stop by Zenon Taverna on a Thursday or Sunday to try the Kleftico, a lamb entrée served with potatoes, celery, carrots, onions, herbs, and spices. “The folk story, as my father knows it, says Kleftico got its name from the word kleftes, which is Greek for robbers,” says Elena. “Robbers would steal lamb from farmers, and go somewhere far from the village to cook it so they wouldn’t be seen. They would dig a hole in the ground, skin, and cut up the meat. In this hole they would put firewood and start up some fire. They would put the meat and seasoning back into the lamb skin, and seal it tightly. They would then put the lamb in the hole, and cover it with dirt for the lamb to roast. They would return the next day to feast upon it.”

The taverna’s modern version eschews the robbery and dirt hole for wax paper and aluminum foil although the cooking concept remains the same: Keep the meat tightly sealed and allow it to cook in its own juice for many hours. Each serving is wrapped separately to keep the juice from escaping. Come early to try this dish because quantities are limited.

Elena says, “Although the recipe is a traditional one, in Cyprus, my father never put the vegetables (carrots, celery, onion); this was something he added when making it here at the restaurant.”

04/07/14 10:00am

482 Seneca Avenue-rendering

Wyckoff Heights posted the above rendering of 482-484 Seneca Avenue, between Harman Street and Greene Avenue in Ridgewood. The owner of the site, which now houses a factory, filed plans to enlarge the existing building to hold 16 residential units. The DOB approved plans last August. The architect of record, according to permits, is Charles Mallea.

Wyckoff Heights brings up some questions about the unique rendering in question. According to them, “The approved plans are for a 50-foot, four-story building while the image appears to show a six story building; the massing is somewhat different than the approved zoning diagram; and the neighboring buildings — a funeral home and a laundromat — bear no resemblance to what is shown in the rendering.” So we’ll see if this ends up being the final product. What do you make of the design?

Enlargement and Residential Conversion for 482 Seneca Avenue [Wyckoff Heights] GMAP