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Taiwan’s biggest bubble tea maker has chosen Flushing as an entry point into the Western market. This morning, La Kaffa Group signed a contract with F & T Group to open a flagship store at One Fulton Square, a mixed-used development at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Prince Street that is currently under construction. Specializing in tea, coffee, desserts, and entrees, La Kaffa currently has more than 450 locations with distinct popularity in Asia and the Middle East. Meanwhile, One Fulton Square, which will have a floor area of approximately 330,000 square feet, will include retail space, 22 office units and 43 residential units. A rendition of the planned venue is below.

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Top photo: It’s in Queens; bottom photo: One Fulton Square

03/20/15 11:00am

Jamaica’s name has nothing to do with the Caribbean island country. The avenue, the neighborhood and the bay are instead named for the Jameco Indians, an Algonquian tribe that occupied the center and southern sections of what is today’s Queens County, for hundreds of years before the colonial era.

The Jameco name was Algonquian for beaver, which had been plentiful in the region; a remnant of this is Beaver Road, which ran beside the now-filled Beaver Pond south of the Long Island Rail Road. Native Americans used the trail, which connects to original trails that run from the East River to eastern Long Island, for trade with tribes spanning from the east coast to the midwest. After the Dutch settled the present day downtown area, known before 1664 as Rustdorp (“rest town”), Jamaica Avenue (as the Jamaica Plank Road) became a tolled highway for much of its length. The tolls were removed by the time of Queens’ consolidation with New York City in 1898.

Downtown Jamaica Avenue passes several buildings that went up during or just after the colonial period. It’s just north of Prospect Cemetery, which was established in 1668 immediately following the end of Dutch rule.

Today, though, I’m going to concentrate on a couple of buildings and items from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, known as the Beaux Arts period for its rococo architecture…

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02/20/15 11:00am

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Time hasn’t been kind to the tiny building once known as Shaw’s Hotel on 64th Street north of Woodside Avenue, hard by the Long Island Rail Road main branch. A couple of years ago, a huge condominium was constructed just inches away from it on the corner of the two cross streets. In recent months, though, the owner has made several upgrades, the most notable being a large picture window on the 3rd floor that looks out onto the LIRR/Roosevelt Avenue El transit complex.

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The building has seen much, including a Forgotten New York tour in Woodside in June of 2010.
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02/10/15 11:00am

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I had gone past Claremont Terrace thousands of times — literally – without giving it a second thought about what it was. It’s an alley that is hidden along another dead end in the heart of Elmhurst, one of Queens’ busiest, most populated and diverse neighborhoods — it’s buzzing with energy day and evening. I would pass it, though, on the Long Island Rail Road on my way from Flushing to Penn Station, since its last remaining mansion, in a decayed, ravaged condition, was visible along the tracks. Claremont Terrace’s origins lie in American immigration, and a young businessman who made his name in the United States in the pre-Civil War era, beginning an enterprise that exists and flourishes today.

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Samuel Lord (1803-1889) was a British foundry worker from Yorkshire who came to the USA with dreams of entrepreneurship, opening a drapery-dry goods shop on Catherine Street in what is now the Lower East Side in 1824, and after struggling for over a decade, he sent for his wife and children to join him in the USA. At about the same time his brother-in-law, George Washington Taylor, joined him as a partner and investor. (more…)

11/21/14 11:00am

ridgewood.plateau1Photo by Christina Wilkinson

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.

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10/14/14 11:00am

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Queens Boulevard in the mid-1910s

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.

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09/29/14 4:00pm

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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.”

09/19/14 11:00am

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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.

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07/07/14 10:00am

FH house1

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…)

12/24/13 11:00am

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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.

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