In 1928, much of Queens was still largely unpopulated and unbuilt-upon. Ridgewood, however, was an exception to the rule, due to its proximity to Brooklyn, and real estate developers hoped to capitalize on the cachet of the neighborhood. By then, Ridgewood was dominated by attached brick and brownstone houses, as well as blocks of handsome, yellow-bricked apartments constructed by developer Gustave X. Mathews. He built from materials created in the Staten Island kilns of Balthazar Kreischer.
In that year, the developers Realty Associates purchased 70 acres in a neighborhood then labeled as “North Ridgewood” but now a part of northern Maspeth roughly defined by Maurice Avenue, 64th Street, Grand Avenue and 74th Street. Builder John Aylmer set to work constructing two and six-family homes in the newly-named Ridgewood Plateau, so named for its location atop one of Queens’ higher hills.
Sunnyside Gardens, in northwest Queens, was the creation of architects Clarence Stein and Henry Wright and the City Housing Corporation led by developer Alexander Bing. Constructed between 1924 and 1928, it consists of a series of “courts” (composed of rows of townhouses and small apartment buildings) built on all or part of sixteen blocks, a total of more than 600 buildings. The designated area also includes the Phipps Gardens apartment buildings, constructed in the early 1930s, and Sunnyside Gardens Park, one of two officially private parks remaining in New York City (the other is Gramercy Park in Manhattan).
The large complex is one of the most significant planned residential communities in New York City and has acheived nagtional and international recognition for its low-rise, low density housing arranged around landscaped open courtyards.
In the early years of the Great Depression, nearly 60 percent of Sunnyside Gardens’ residents lost their homes to foreclosure. Those difficult years saw organized resistance by residents who forcefully opposed efforts by city marshals to evict families. The character of Sunnyside Gardens was protected by 40-year easements which assured the integrity of the courtyards and common walkways and controlled changes to the exterior of every property, extending even to paint color.
From the 1940s through the mid-1960s, young families and artists moved to Sunnyside from more crowded parts of the city. Well-known residents of that period included Rudy Vallee, Judy Holliday and Perry Como and a young James Caan.
On June 26, 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the community. Before designation, there was considerable illegal or inappropriate work done on the Gardens’ houses. Since designation, the district is returning to its original character.
The Real Estate Board of New York recently held the “Residential Sales Agent Boot Camp Seminar: Queens Overview,” in which reps from Argo Residential, Modern Spaces, Corcoran and Douglas Elliman discussed new developments, pricing and increasing consumer interest in the Queens real estate market. Apparently Queens merits its very own real estate seminars now! The free event was offered to REBNY residential members licensed for three years or less.
The picture of the panelists above includes Jodi Nath of Argo Residential, Rick Rosa of Douglas Elliman, Aleksey Gavrilov of Corcoran and Eric Benaim of Modern Spaces. The panel moderator was Miles Chapin of Warburg Realty Partnership. Topics of conversation included neighborhoods like Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing, Forest Hills and Jackson Heights, and panelists stressed a need for more REBNY certified brokers in the borough to accommodate growing demand. During the panel, Jodi Nath noted that over the last 12 months, she has seen a 50 percent increase in inquiries for homes in the borough. “Buyers are becoming more and more attracted to Queens,” she said. “They are leaving Manhattan in the hopes of more space and are drawn to the competitive prices and breadth of inventory available in Queens over the other boroughs. They are increasingly attracted to the sense of community, parks, cultural centers and retail establishments.”
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.
Back at the end of April we reported that this Forest Hills Gardens center hall, brick colonial sold for $3,000,000. At the time there was little other information available, not even a listing. We recently heard from the broker and have a few more images and some details on the home.
The six bedroom, 4.5 bath house at 34 Greenway South was listed for $3,350,000 by Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, so it sold for quite a bit below the asking price. Though Trulia indicates that the house was built in 1925, the broker says 1920. The sitting room has elaborately carved marble fireplaces, but all of the woodwork in the photos is painted. Though the listing mentions crown moldings and a center hall with a “wainscoted staircase,” these are not visible in the pictures. Unfortunately it looks like the original floors have been replaced and there is recessed lighting throughout. The home is large–4,700 square feet on a 7,450 square foot lot with a detached garage. The taxes are $15,402 a year and it last sold in 2005 for $2,100,000.
For a home with such a stately and historic facade, the interior feels a little soulless, a bit like a high-end flip–without question a nice place to live, but lacking any of the interesting quirks and historic feel one would expect in a nearly 100 year old home. Click through for interior pictures. (more…)
The abandoned courthouse has stood silently on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 90th Street, just east of Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, for several decades, awaiting either the day when it would once again be occupied, or meet a wreckers’ ball.
The Magistrates’ Court sports the clean lines of the new Art Moderne buildings that were being built in 1932, the year it opened. In 1962, Queens consolidated its courts in Jamaica and Kew Gardens, and it was shuttered. It was reopened in the 1970s, briefly, by a cultural and theatrical group which soon succumbed to the fiscal crisis of that decade.
The New York Daily News attended today’s City Planning Commission meeting and, man, it was a doozy. As we blogged earlier, Daily News tweets reported that the CPC unanimously voted for plans to build condos on the 5Pointz site in LIC. The most recent development plans include two residential towers with retail space, outdoor art installations, maybe a climbing wall and swimming pool, and some affordable housing. The developer, David Wolkoff, has expressed a desire to demolish the graffiti-covered artist warehouse by the end of this year. It looks like 5Pointz artists don’t plan to go down without a fight — they are planning for a rally.
Also at today’s meeting, the commission approved zoning changes for the $1 billion Hallets Point project planned for the Astoria waterfront. The project (pictured above) will bring 2,600 units to a now-sleepy corner of Astoria. Plans for this mega-development have been floating around for years so it’s big new that it’s finally ready to roll. The commission-level approval today follows the Community Board 1 vote of support back in May.
Lastly, the CPC approved landmarking of Jamaica High School and Forest Park Carousel. No surprises there, since the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to landmark these two structures earlier this summer.
LeFrak City, the 20-building, 40-acre housing complex in Corona, has seen a lot in its nearly 51 years of existence. The Commercial Observer pens an in-depth piece today about the complex’s origins as a self-sufficient “city” built for middle-class New Yorkers, its struggle through the crack epidemic, and the diversity found there today. The complex has produced stars like NBA players Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith, Sony Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai, and many musical artists. The Commercial Observer interviews Prodigy, a member of the hip-hop group Mobb Deep, on his time there from 1985 to 1990. As one longtime resident states of LeFrack today, “It’s not the same as it was 50 years ago – the whole climate has changed. But they’re working on it now to improve the quality of the complex.”
Is Ridgewood bound to become the next hipster haven of New York City? The New York Times seems to think so, in an article that looks at the rising popularity — and prices — in neighboring Bushwick. The average monthly rent for a studio in Bushwick rose 27 percent from July 2011, to $1,675, and it’s become the go-to neighborhood for hip restaurants, new development, and the HBO series Girls. Ridgewood, on the other hand, is home to much cheaper apartments, with a three-bedroom nearly 20 percent cheaper than in Bushwick. As the Times points out, Ridgewood doesn’t boast a comparable number of hipster destinations, but there are still “signs of gentrification.” They note Bunker, the new Vietnamese restaurant on Metropolitan Avenue, ChocoLatte Café, and the pedestrian plaza at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, 71st Avenue and Stephen Street. Buyers aren’t immune to the neighborhood’s appeal, either. A family who couldn’t afford Bed Stuy or Bushwick on a budget of $700,000 ended up focusing their search over the borough line. The median sales price in Ridgwood is $400,000.
While development is moving quickly in Bushwick, it may play out a bit differently in Queens. The Ridgewood Community Board is pushing to designate a manufacturing area south of Myrtle Avenue as an industrial business zone, which would keep residential development from the 18-square-block area. But at the rate Bushwick is changing, the spillover into Ridgewood seems inevitable. At least for now, though, the neighborhood remains relatively under the radar. According to Andrew Barrocas, the chief executive of MNS, “We’re getting a lot of these landlords who historically have been in Manhattan saying, ‘Tell us about Bushwick; what is this area in Queens?’”
Daniel Karatzas, broker at the Beaudoin Realty Group, has just put out his latest quartlery version of the Jackson Heights Real Estate Report. Not surprisingly, the data is quite bullish, although the overall numbers are small enough that a single data point can really throw off the averages. Here’s a summary from the email he sent us: “The good news is that there is a strong positive trend in both sales and prices. However, the lack of inventory may constrain any increase in unit sales. Larger apartments and houses have far shallower inventories and will sell quickly. Overall, the lack of supply and increasing demand are helping prices rise. Jackson Heights has received some positive press attention of late, further adding to the increase in demand.” To get the full report, you can sign up here.