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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04/11/14 9:00am

kaufman-astoria-studios

The Wall Street Journal has a story on how Kaufman Astoria Studios helped bring bars, restaurants, and young residents into the neighborhood. It has, as the WSJ says, “helped catalyze a new wave of economic activity in Astoria.” The WSJ profiles new restaurants like Snowdonia and Maizal and points out the growing rent and demand for the area. As the owner of Maizal said, “I’m now paying $2,450 for a two-bedroom apartment and I used to pay $700 for another two-bedroom apartment.”

There’s plenty more growth to expect from Kaufman Studios. This spring, Kaufman will host LIC Flea & Food inside the studio for eight consecutive weekends. Kafuman Studios are even building out a 33-unit development on 35th Street and believe that the studio’s presence can act as a catalyst for more real estate development. The studio is also expanding itself, and will turn a parking lot and gas station into a new sound stage within the next two years.

Kaufman Studios Sets Stage for Astoria Action [WSJ]
All Kaufman Astoria Studios coverage [Q'Stoner]

Photo by Mitch Waxman

04/10/14 2:00pm

sweet-afton-astoria

Earlier today, We Heart Astoria published two very juicy rumors concerning new businesses coming to Astoria. First off, it looks like the bar Sweet Afton (pictured above) plans to open a new gastropub at the old Stamatis Restaurant space, 29-12 23rd Avenue between 29th and 31st streets. The ETA is for this September. Secondly, there’s word that the team behind both Sparrow Tavern (on 29th Street) and Mar’s (on 34th Avenue) signed a lease at 27-20 23rd Avenue, off 28th Street. There’s no news of the concept or the opening date, but We Heart Astoria reports that whatever it is, it’ll be something different that Sparrow Tavern.

Astoria Gossip- Big Changes Coming to 23rd Avenue [We Heart Astoria] GMAP

Photo via Facebook

04/10/14 12:20pm

la-mesa-verde-coop-jackson-heights-parking

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 3:00pm

bourbon-street-bayside

Bourbon Street, the Cajun-style eatery located at 40-12 Bell Boulevard in Bayside, hopes to build out a rooftop bar for the summertime. The Daily News reports that “patrons would dine and drink al fresco in the 2,500-square-foot outdoor seating space, lit with Louisiana lantern-style street lights… there would also be an open-face barbecue pit and raw seafood bar on the roof.” Sounds lovely! There aren’t any other rooftop bars like it in the neighborhood. The owner of Bourbon Street hopes to open the space by the restaurant’s 15th anniversary, which is this summer. They still do not have approval from the New York State Liquor Authority or the Department of Buildings.

First Rooftop Bar Planned for Bustling Bayside Boulevard [NY Daily News] GMAP

Photo via Facebook

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

IMG_5311

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 4:00pm

mumbar-restaurant-astoria

Today the Village Voice compiled a list of the five best restaurants in Little Egypt, the short stretch of Steinway Street between Astoria Boulevard and 28th Avenue. The top picks? Kabab Cafe at 25-12 Steinway Street (one of the most popular Egyptian spots on Steinway), Mombar at 25-22 Steinway Street (run by the brother of Kabab Cafe’s owner), Duzan at 24-11 Steinway Street (known for its fast food-like service), Sabry’s at 24-25 Steinway Street and Zeit W Zatar (for dessert) at 25-78 Steinway Street. Now we’re hungry…

The Five Best Restaurants in Little Egypt [Village Voice]

Photo via Yelp

04/08/14 2:00pm

yelp-drinks-queens

Thanks to We Heart Astoria for pointing us in the direction of Yelp Drinks Queens, a Yelp event taking place all this week offering discounted drinks to Queens bar hoppers. Check out the full list of participating bars right here — businesses include the Mosaic Cafe (pictured above), O’Neill’s Maspeth, Station House, Z Hotel and the Astor Room. (You can also see all the locations on this handy map.) Basically just visit any of the participating businesses during normal business hours until April 13th, ask for the Yelp Drinks menu, and get discounts up to 50 percent off. Nice!

Photo via Yelp