09/30/14 12:30pm


The Spot: Oliver’s Astoria, 37-19 Broadway, Astoria.

The Deal: Over the last year, the site of a former French restaurant on Broadway in Astoria has become the bustling craft beer gastropub. A main focus of Oliver’s Astoria has been making the restaurant a friendly neighborhood location, through its décor, events and provisioning.

On a warm Friday afternoon, the windows and doors are thrown open so the inside restaurant blends into the outdoor café, and plenty of patrons are idling over a late lunch and one of the rotating tap beers.

Oliver’s has a one-and-done keg policy that keeps the selection fresh and new. Although co-founder and general manager Rob Williamson says that it is more work than a typical bar, it’s helpful for bringing in special brewery guests and appealing to beer fans. The next guest brewery will be Dogfish Head on Thursday, October 9th.

“I’ve worked in beer bars forever,” he says. “The spectrum of beer is fantastic. Not all of them are winners but when they hit, they hit.”

To further the local vibe, Williamson says the restaurant works with local businesses to meet the menu needs. They purchase from the butcher and baker on the block.

“It’s always easier to shop in your backyard,” he says.

Oliver’s continues to expand its offerings and events, from Monday night trivia to brunch with $3 cocktails. The brunch menu has recently expanded to weekdays to accommodate Astoria’s large population of restaurant industry employees.

Read about Oliver’s Signature Dish after the jump… (more…)

09/29/14 1:00pm


SculptureCenter continues to break the mold. Founded as The Clay Club in Brooklyn in 1928, the nonprofit changed its name and moved to a carriage house on West 8th Street in Manhattan in 1944. Four years later, it relocated to another carriage house on East 69th Street. In 2001, the arts institution purchased a former Long Island City trolley repair shop, which was then renovated by Maya Lin, the landscape artist who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

Recently, ScuptureCenter underwent another renovation and it now boasts a new 2,000 square foot, one-story entrance lobby with bookshop, coatroom, seating area, and restrooms; 6,500 square feet of flexible interior exhibition space; an elevator and stairway to the lower level galleries; and a 1,500-square-foot, enclosed courtyard for outdoor exhibitions and events.

Now it’s time to celebrate with a special, day-long event and a four-month exhibition. More information and photos are after the jump page.


09/29/14 11:00am


On September 30th, 1916, the Hells Gate Bridge opened to rail traffic over a treacherous section of the East River. Nearly a hundred years later, the thing presents Queens with a big question.

Just the facts: Construction began in March of 1912, and was completed in 1916. The design of the thing is credited to Henry Hornbostel, under the direction of Gustav Lindenthal. The Hells Gate Bridge was co-built and owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad company and by the Pennsylvania Railroad, but today it is the property of Amtrak. Actual passenger service wouldn’t begin until April of 1917.

The whole shebang will be 98 years old tomorrow.

More after the jump… (more…)

09/29/14 9:00am

Hallets Point-rendering

Lots of news for the now-sleepy area of Hallets Cove, in Astoria, which will not remain sleepy for long. Over the weekend the Times reported that the Durst Organization recently paid over $100,000,000 for a 90 percent stake in the Hallets Point development site. The organization bought the stake from Lincoln Equities Group (who will keep the remaining 10 percent); Lincoln spent seven years compiling industrial properties in the area, and also worked with residents and city officials on the ULURP proposal. The Bloomberg administration approved the plans last year. The mega development includes seven buildings with 1,921 apartments, including 483 affordable units, as well as a waterfront esplanade, school and retail space. The developer will also build two affordable buildings on the grounds of the nearby Astoria Houses.

Here’s what developer Douglas Durst has to say about taking on the development, which is one of the company’s biggest residential projects to date: “Times are changing. Large-scale office development opportunities are sparse and Manhattan land is cost-prohibitive to build rentals. It is time for the family to go deeper into residential and to cross the ocean to Astoria.”

Moving on to Astoria Cove, the other area mega development making its way through the public review process, DNAinfo reports that the City Planning Commission will vote on the proposal today. The expectation is that the city will push for at least 30 percent affordable units at the 1,700 unit development — affordable housing has been a huge concern throughout the public review process. Stay tuned for news of the vote.

Builders Turn Focus to Housing Market [NY Times]
City Planning to Vote on 1,700-Unit Astoria Cove Project [DNAinfo]

Hallets Point Rendering via Lincoln Equities


This Sunday, the Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Activist Committee, Immigrant Movement International, the Partnership for a Healthier Queens and the Queens Museum is hosting a Community Action Day on 111th Street. Called “Planting Seeds for a Better 111th Street,” it’s a call for better pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure for a street considered the primary connector between Flushing Meadows – Corona Park and different neighborhoods. On Sunday, the public is invited to help plant more than 1,000 daffodil bulbs to call attention to safety measures needed on 111th Street. There will also be a community discussion about improving street design and park access — Transportation Alternatives spoke with residents of Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Lefrak City in a safety workshop this summer and found 111th Street to be a priority.

Kids are welcome to attend and light lunch will be served. Meet this Sunday, September 28th, from 10 am to 3 pm at 46th Avenue and 111th Street to participate.

Photo via Google Maps

09/25/14 11:25am


“The” City.

A recent post offered the term in a casual manner, with the statement that I had “convinced my wife to meet me in Queens Plaza after she got out of work in the city.” This started a bit of a debate in the comments section about the term which I haven’t been able to stop considering. If you’re a native New Yorker, and by native I include the 5 Boroughs, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, White Plains, or eastern Jersey – you are likely to refer to Manhattan as “the City.” The outer reaches of commuter land might substitute “New York” for “the City.” Typical usage is “we had dinner in the city” or “went to a concert in the city” or “works in the city” and so on. I’ve been overly intrigued about this one, for some reason, and have engaged in conversation about it with several people from all walks on the usage of the term. Most everyone, from Elected Officials to my local bartender in Astoria, agree on “the City” as referring solely to Manhattan.

What’s kind of interesting is that the so called “new people,” those who have found their way here in the last twenty years or so from the vast wilds of North America, think that this is all crazy talk. They look at Brooklyn and Queens’s East River coast and ask “what is this, the country?” To the generation of New Yorkers who were around in the 1890s that left the crowded streets of Manhattan for greener pastures on Long Island, it actually was.

More after the jump… (more…)

09/24/14 9:00am


The Aston, Forest Hills’ newest condo development at 108-20 71st Avenue, is in crazy high demand. DNAinfo shares that around 1,000 prospective buyers are waiting to check out the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments — and the 17-story building only holds 97 units. The building developer said of the demand, “It’s unbelievable, we get about 30 calls a day.” They expect to start arranging viewing appointments when the sales office opens next week.

Three-bedroom units, which were added to the development later to appeal to families, will start at $1,400,000. One-bedroom apartments will start at $455,000, two bedrooms at $790,000. The building will have amenities like a gym, outdoor terrace, parking garage and concierge.

1,000 Prospective Buyers Clamoring for Space in Forest Hills Luxury Condo [DNAinfo]
All Aston coverage [Q'Stoner] GMAP

09/23/14 12:30pm

Brick Cafe Exterior_700

The Spot: Brick Café, 30-95 33rd Street, Astoria.

The Deal: Brick Café, serving fresh Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, has been a mainstay of the Astoria community for 15 years but joined the Hells Kitchen Hospitality Group in July.

Despite the change in ownership, most of what has made this restaurant so enduring will stay the same. The staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for at least five years, will still treat customers like family, and Chef Willie is still running the kitchen.

“We treat each other like family,” says Zoran, manager. “We know their names and families. People celebrate their special days here.”

Changes — such as a daily brunch and Wine Wednesday ($5 a glass and $25 bottles on select wines) — are designed to complement and not compete with the restaurant’s ethos.

tri-color gnocchi_700

Read about Brick Cafe’s Signature Dish after the jump… (more…)

09/23/14 9:00am


Every year, Open House New York comes around and opens up a bunch of amazing sites throughout New York City to visit and tour. Yesterday OHNY announced the sites for this year’s event — which takes place October 11th and 12th — and there will be plenty of things to check out in Queens. Among the highlights: the Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science, the 100-foot-tall space with no corners or straight segments built as a pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, will open for a public “sneak peek” during the weekend after its multi-year restoration by Ennead Architects, as well as the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport (OHNY Weekend’s most visited site for the past three years). And on Factory Friday, a special event leading up to OHNY weekend, three different factories in Queens will open to the public.

Robin Lynn and Francis Morrone, authors of the Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes, will lead a tour called “Urban Landscapes Along the Water’s Edge in Long Island City.” And for the first time this year, OHNY announced it “is making its own mark on the built environment at the Welling Court Mural Project (WCMP) in Astoria, Queens.” One of the newest murals (pictured above) was commissioned by OHNY to celebrate this year’s event. Artists from Ad Hoc Arts, which organizes the WCMP, will be on-site during both days of the festival to lead tours of the area and discuss their work.

There are many, many more sites that will be open throughout the city. Reservations for events (which are required) can be made on ohny.eventbrite.com beginning at 11 am on October 1st — they tend to fill up fast.

09/19/14 11:00am


The turn-of-the-century English Garden City movement of Sir Ebenezer Howard and Sir Raymond Unwin served as the inspiration for Sunnyside Gardens, built from 1924-1928 from Skillman Avenue north to the LIRR and from 43rd to 50th Streets. This housing experiment was aimed at showing civic leaders that they could solve social problems and beautify the city, all while making a small profit. The City Housing Corporation, whose founders were then-schoolteacher and future first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, ethicist Felix Adler, attorney and housing developer Alexander Bing, urban planner Lewis Mumford, architects Clarence S. Stein, Henry Wright, and Frederick Lee Ackerman and landscape architect Marjorie S. Cautley, was responsible for the project. Co-founder Lewis Mumford [the long-time architecture critic at The New Yorker] was also one of the Garden’s first residents. The part of Skillman Avenue that runs through Sunnyside Gardens has been renamed in his honor.