On March 30th, 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened to traffic. Long Island City, and the rest of Queens, would never be the same. For the first time, vehicle traffic from eastern Long Island and Manhattan could move easily across the East River on Gustav Lindenthal’s new cantilever bridge, and the formerly independent Cities, Towns, and Villages of Western Long Island became suburbs. I know it’s difficult to conceive of Jackson Heights or Astoria as “suburbs,” but in the context of the early 20th century that’s what they were.
The Queensboro Bridge changed all of that, and Queens has never been the same since “The Great Machine” opened.
Well, the LIC Clock Tower is not going to be demolished. The buyers of the historic structure, as well as nearby parcels, told the New York Times that they plan to incorporate it into their proposed 915-foot skyscraper, which will someday be the city’s tallest outside Manhattan. (The rendering above gives you an idea of just how massive this tower will be. The clock tower — which will likely be landmarked anyway — comes in at 14 stories.)
The developers Property Markets Group and the Hakim Organization are using air rights from both nearby MTA land — which cost them $56 million — as well as air rights from the clock tower to build. They told the Times that this development will be at a “Manhattan caliber.” The clock tower will remain an office building for tech firms, and there are also plans to build out a 1.25 acre park at the site.
The developers are in a race to break ground by this summer to qualify for tax breaks without having to include affordable housing. Just to make that clear, that will be 930 new units in Long Island City, none of them affordable. They aren’t the only LIC developers taking advantage of this, either. Court Square Blog just reported that Tishman Speyer began working on its massive Long Island City project which will include 1,789 apartments, none of them affordable.
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.”
A few years ago, local controversy in LIC and Astoria was centered around a pair of Dutch era artifacts known colloquially as “The Queens Plaza Mill Stones.” The mill stones date back to the 1640s and were originally part of Burger Jorrisen’s homestead. For most of the 20th century, the artifacts were embedded in a sidewalk in Queens Plaza. When the “Queens Plaza Improvement Project” began, the mill stones were uprooted and stored in a decidedly dangerous manner. The Greater Astoria Historical Society led the charge on protesting this, and there was quite a hullaballoo about the matter, one which ended up being fairly divisive.
In the end, Jimmy Van Bramer stepped in, calmed the warring parties, and arranged for the stones to be moved from the construction zone and stored at the Queens Library until the construction was done. The ultimate home for the things was always meant to be the new Dutch Kills Greens Park, the creation of which was the whole point of the ”Queens Plaza Improvement Project.” I was wandering around Queens Plaza last week and decided to check in on the Mill Stones, which ended up being a disturbing visit.
Yesterday, the Department of Transportation unveiled its final design concept for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards. This comes after a full year of meetings, open houses and workshops. The DOT ultimately selected Design #2 (out of three different proposals), which creates a “transit-oriented boulevard” where buses will travel along designated lanes in the main roadway. The design allows for faster and more reliable bus service, where buses travel freely from any turning or parking conflicts. The DOT anticipates that passengers will save 25 to 30 percent of travel time. There will also be new median transit stations with shelters, seating, and real-time bus information, as well as a full reconstruction of the 14-mile thoroughfare. NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called this “the biggest, boldest, and most ambitious design concept the City has attempted for Select Bus Service.”
Streetsblog also agrees, saying that the project “goes further than previous SBS projects to keep bus lanes clear of cars.” They report that the $200 million project will begin in 2017 and should take a year to complete.
At today’s Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting, the agency decided to officially calendar the LIC Clock Tower. That means that at a later (unknown) date, the LPC will discuss landmarking the building. The neo-Gothic structure, built in 1927, has been under threat of demolition since a developer purchased the site for $30.9 million with plans to develop directly around it.
This news is a great victory for the preservationists who recently rallied around the landmarking of the clock tower. There are now more than 1,400 signatures on a petition to save it.
You might think San Francisco and Flushing have absolutely nothing in common, but they do share something. Way over in the extreme western end of Flushing, between College Point Boulevard, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Long Island Railroad and the Kissena Park Corridor, there’s a cluster of small streets unnoticed except by their residents and the people who work there.
One of the north-south streets is called Haight Street, the same name as the anchor street of San Francisco’s counterculture mecca, the Haight-Ashbury District — more colloquially, just The Haight. The Forgotten NY camera recently investigated both districts, and the contrasts are as different as the West and East Coasts.
Come and see where the smell of incense fills the air and where the smell of the Flushing River suffuses the nostrils …
Anyone who has ever walked or biked across the Pulaski Bridge will be thrilled with this news. The DOT announced that it is finally beginning construction to build out a dedicated bike lane across the Pulaski Bridge, which connects Greenpoint with Long Island City.
Tomorrow the work kicks off to the slight inconvenience of bridge commuters. Between 10 am and 2 pm, the DOT will fully close the bridge to vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic three times for about 15 minutes each. The closure is associated with the beginning of contract work, which should last until the end of this year. The $4.2 million project will convert one southbound car lane on the bridge into a protected bike lane. The DOT will also add new markings and signage near the bike path entrance at Jackson Avenue, as well as more space for bicyclists to get onto and off the protected lane.
A few things to get out of the way at the start of this post are that a) the intersection of 23rd Street and 45th Avenue in the Hunters Point section used to be part of the Van Alst family’s farming empire, b) the Van Alst land was purchased by Eliaphas Nott on behalf of Union College in 1861, and that c) it was purchased and developed by two fellows named Root and Rust in 1870. The predominance of buildings in the historic district are actually from the 1890s, and even in the 19th century this area was considered special – it was “White Collar Row” and home to LIC’s bankers and elected officialdom.
Awesome news for preservationists in Queens! This Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission will decide whether or not to “calendar” the LIC Clock Tower — officially known as The Bank of the Manhattan Company Long Island City Branch Building — to be considered for landmark status. Located at 29-27 Queens Plaza North, preservationists have rallied around this neo-Gothic structure, built in 1927, which is not protected from demolition. And recently, news came out that the owners of the clock tower, Property Markets Group, planned to develop 830,000 square feet on the surrounding land. Property Markets Group paid $30.9 million for the clock tower building late last year. As Queens preservationist Michael Perlman put it, “If not landmarked, it may undergo demolition.”
It’s not too late to sign the petition urging for landmark protection. This building is absolutely worthy of landmark status — let’s not let it be replaced with another glassy LIC skyscraper.