04/24/15 9:45am

whitetower

The Orange Hut at Broadway and 54th Street still carries the outlines and contours of its former life as a White Tower hamburger chain restaurant. The last White Tower closed in Toledo, Ohio, in June 2008; the chain originated in 1926. There were about 230 White Towers at the chain’s height in the 1950s.

The restaurants have operated in at least 14 states, including New York, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

The interior of the Orange Hut still contains some hints of its origins, such as swivel stools adjoining a counter. Here it is in its original incarnation, below. Pretty spiffy looking.

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Outdoor, nighttime marketplaces are very popular throughout the Asian world, so it only makes sense that one is about to open in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this Saturday. The Queens International Night Market will launch in the New York Hall of Science’s parking lot (above) at 6 pm with special music and dance performances. Vendors will sell a diverse array of culturally authentic street food (arepas, crepes, dumplings), art, and merchandise. This is the grand opening, but the founder, John Wang, plans to operate the bazaar on Saturdays throughout the spring and summer.

Photo: Queens International Night Market

04/23/15 9:45am

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There’s a house in Astoria where I’ve always wanted to rent a room, so I could write a gothic horror novel while living there. It’s a Second Empire home with a turret and a porch. It’s seen better days — but more about that below.

The house is nearby one of those intersections that can only occur in Queens: 31st and 31st (street and avenue, respectively). These intersections twixt time and space are thoroughly modern, as in 20th century.

That’s 31-70 31st Avenue in the shot above, but back in 1875 when the house was built, 31st avenue was called “Jamaica Avenue.” And in 1919, it was known as “Patterson Avenue.” It’s simple to explain the confusion: In 1875, Astoria had newly consolidated into the municipality of Long Island City, and in 1919 LIC was newly consolidated into the City of Greater New York. In both cases, the streets were renamed to conform to the new and larger street grids.

More after the jump… (more…)

1939 World's Fair, sjsu.edu 1

A World’s Fair brought the nations of the globe together for a celebration of culture, technology and commerce. Like the Olympics, cities and countries would lobby and fight for the opportunity to host this international event. Architects and visionaries dreamed up buildings and spaces that would reflect the best that modern civilization could be.

Scientists and inventors, innovators and merchants looked forward to introducing new wonders, even new foods and entertainments. A World’s Fair could be a glorious event. Especially in a time of economic disaster, with the threat of war hanging over the globe. That was the setting for the New York World’s Fair of 1939-1940.

There have been many great World’s Fairs. One of the greatest was the Chicago World’s Exhibition of 1893, which introduced the world to the wonders and power of electricity. It also ushered in the White Cities and City Beautiful Movements, which brought classical architecture to cities and towns across the nation, and gave New York City such structures as the Brooklyn Museum and Grand Army Plaza, Penn Station, the Municipal Building, the Met, and approach to the Manhattan Bridge.

In 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, a group of Manhattan businessmen decided to form a committee and lobby for a World’s Fair in New York City. They thought that a grand international exhibition could help lift the economy of the city, and perhaps even the country, out of depression. (more…)

04/21/15 9:45am

jackie.robinson

In Major League Baseball, April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day, honoring the player who broke the barrier against African-American players participating in MLB. His first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers was on April 15, 1947.

In many ways Jackie Robinson was the most compelling player in major league baseball history. He was selected by Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to break the MLB color barrier in 1947 (no African-American had been employed by a major league team since at least 1901, the beginning of the “modern era” of major league ball) after a sterling athletic record at UCLA, where he had lettered in track, football, baseball and basketball. Rickey needed a can’t-miss prospect, as well as a person who would be able to endure the inevitable racial nonsense that would arise in a sport where many players were from the deep South.

Robinson was a five-tool player who hit for average, and power (averaging 16 home runs per year),  possessed above average speed, and excellently threw and fielded his position (second base for his early years). Advancing age and diabetes slowed him down in 1956 and 1957; the Dodgers traded him to the Giants, who like the Dodgers were moving to California, but Robinson chose to retire. Jackie Robinson passed away in 1972, shortly after addressing a World Series crowd in Cincinnati. He is interred in Cypress Hills Cemetery, through which passes the parkway later named for him. In 1997 his uniform number, 42, was retired by every major league team, except for players already wearing it; the last one, legendary Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera, retired in 2013.

No borough-wide memorial had been named for him until 1997, when upon the 50th anniversary of his ascension to the Dodgers, New York State designated the entire route of the Interboro Parkway in his name. The above photo shows the Jackie Robinson Parkway at Jamaica Avenue.

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04/17/15 2:00pm

Andrew Berman Architect

The New York Landmarks Conservancy has bestowed one of its highest honors to a Queens arts gallery. On April 30, the SculptureCenter will receive the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, which recognizes individuals or groups that have made extraordinary contributions to preserving buildings in New York City. (more…)

04/16/15 9:45am

NYCEDC

The city unveiled a multi-faceted economic development “action plan” to prevent foreclosures, improve streetscapes, create affordable housing, and increase job-training opportunities in Jamaica on Wednesday.

The actions include creating a Jamaica-specific marketing and branding program, expanding free WiFi access via the LinkNYC program, and capital improvements to Rufus King Park and Brinkerhoff Mall Park in St. Albans.  (more…)

04/15/15 11:00am

Prospect Cemetery, prospectcemeteryassociation.org 3

Queens has some of the oldest remaining homes in all of New York City. The borough’s history has a tangible footprint back to the 1600s, when the Dutch began the first settlements here. With that in mind, it’s also fitting that some of the oldest cemeteries are also in Queens.

For historians and descendants alike, one’s final resting place is almost as important as one’s dwelling place. How people lived, and what they were like as individuals and within the society can all be learned in a cemetery.

Cemeteries don’t tend to survive the urbanization of a neighborhood or city. A burial plot, whether it used to be in a churchyard or someone’s field way back when, can end up in the middle of a desirable building site, or even in the middle of the street, depending on how the neighborhood is laid out.

Final resting places are not always final, after all. Through the efforts of many, this one is, and has had quite a history (more…)

04/14/15 9:45am

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General George E. Lawrence Square (actually a triangle), defined by Parsons Boulevard, Elm Avenue and 147th Street along 45th Avenue, can be found across the street from Flushing Hospital. It honors a St. Francis College graduate (my alma mater) who was a star quarterback at Penn, graduated with a medical degree and began his practice at Flushing Hospital, heading obstetrics and gynecology for many years.

Lawrence served with the “Fighting 69th” Regiment during WWI, receiving two Silver Stars for valor. He rose to Lieutenant Colonel at the end of the war and had risen to Brigadier General by World War II.

The square named in 1951 for Gen. Lawrence (1881-1949) was originally owned by the Flushing Garden Club, which allowed patients from Flushing Hospital to maintain the grounds.

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You may guess, though, the reason for my post today is the identifying sign, which probably goes back to the 1951 renaming. (more…)

04/13/15 1:00pm

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How about a two-hour blast from the past? Hits from the late 1950s and early 1960s will be performed live — mostly by their original singers or heritage groups — in Auburndale on Saturday, when Holy Cross High School hosts its 17th annual Doo Wop Spectacular.

With Golden Oldies disc jockey Dennis “Dion” Nardone serving as the host, some of the genre’s most famous acts will take the stage with The CODA Band playing backup. Concertgoers can expect to see and hear Jay Siegel’s Tokens (above, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,”), The Marcels (“Blue Moon,”), and The Orlons (“Wah Watusi,”), among others. (more…)