09/10/14 11:00am

Elks Lodge, Elmhurst. Wallyg for Flickr

There is something about the exclusivity, mysteriousness and the whole “secret society” element of fraternal groups that really appeals to many people. Today, many more of us are too busy with other aspects of busy city life to join such groups, but throughout the last couple of centuries, groups like the Masons, Shriners, Knights of Columbus, Elks, and all sorts of long forgotten societies were very popular, and in many cases, very important to people’s lives.

All of these groups were started to help their members; financially, socially, and in society at large. The Freemasons began as a guild of medieval builders. Since Catholics were forbidden to join the Masons, the Knights of Columbus were founded as a Catholic fraternal order. The Elks – well, their origins were a lot less important, although much more fun. The Benevolent Society of Elks began as a drinking club for a bunch of expatriate British actors in New York City. (more…)

08/28/14 11:00am


Not too long ago, I answered my wife’s query of “Where are you going today?” with the simple answer of “Newtown, the center of Newtown.” She’s used to puzzling archaisms at this stage of the game, so she asked “Elmhurst?” and I said, “Yes, Elmhurst.”

Off I went and before long one arrived at the navel, as it were, of ancient Queens.

From “Historic Churches of America” by Nellie Urner Wallington, courtesy Google Books:

Of the Dutch Reformed families in early New York many removed from time to time beyond the limits of New Amsterdam securing for themselves broader sections of land for tillage and among them a number of such families settled in Long Island where they formed the hamlet of Newtown. Unable to support a minister and to maintain a church building of their own they joined hands with others of the same faith at Flushing and for a number of years worshipped there until December 2 1731 when a meeting of the resident members in Newtown was called to form plans for the establishment of a church organisation of their own and to devise means for the erection of a house of worship upon land contributed by Peter Berrien.

More after the jump… (more…)

07/02/14 10:00am


Hundreds of Elmhurst residents showed up outside of a meeting on Monday night to protest a new homeless shelter in their neighborhood. The Pam Am Hotel had recently been converted from a hotel into a shelter with little notice and Community Board 4 set up a meeting with shelter officials, government representatives and residents to discuss the matter.

Protesters gathered outside of the Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard carrying signs and shouting at shelter residents who arrived to speak in support of the shelter. Children yelled, “pay your rent,” “Shame on you,” and “get a job.” One held a sign that read, “2, 4, 6, 8, who do we NOT appreciate, hobos hobos hobos.”

People began moving into the shelter three weeks ago and there was little community notice because of the overwhelming need for shelter space according to city officials. Elmhurst residents said that their local schools were already overcrowded and they pointed out problems with another nearby shelter. When one person who did not live at the shelter spoke, encouraging compassion for the homeless and suggesting residents work with the shelter to find solutions she was booed by the crowd.

Homeless Shelter Residents Booed, Told to ‘Get a Job’ at Queens Protest [DNAinfo]

Photo: DNAinfo


Yesterday, around 1,000 Queens residents gathered to protest the recent conversion of the former Pan Am Hotel into a homeless shelter. The community believed the new owners planned to turn the building into a hostel, but that wasn’t the case. Queens Chronicle attended the rally where residents held signs reading “Get this shelter out of our community!” “Don’t Dump on Elmhurst,” and “Helter skelter, we don’t want another shelter” — there’s another shelter located one block away. One sign accused the Department of Homeless Services for lying, after a statement that the hotel wouldn’t be used as a shelter because it lacked adequate facilities. Many residents were upset that they were not notified before it opened.

The city plans to use the shelter on an as-needed basis. It’s estimated that 41 families have already moved in.

1,000 protest Pan American homeless shelter in Elmhurst [Queens Chronicle]
All Pan Am Hotel coverage [Q'Stoner]

Photo by Mark Lord via Queens Chronicle

06/18/14 11:00am

Mathews Row Houses, 82-24 Ankener Ave, SB, PS

The urban row house or town house has been with us since medieval Europe. Over the centuries, they’ve changed width, height, materials and facades, depending on time period, location, economic status and geography. Shared party walls and similar or complementing styles make for a recognizable streetscape, and a way to create a low-density, but efficient and very livable urban environment. We don’t usually think of Queens when we think of row houses, but there are neighborhoods in the borough with a long-standing architectural legacy of row houses, most of which were built in the last decade of the 19th century on to the first decades of the 20th.

Ridgewood has the largest concentration of row houses in Queens. They were, for the most part, built by the Mathews Building Company. The founder of the company was Gustave X. Mathews, a German immigrant who came to Brooklyn in 1886. He married the daughter of a builder and learned the trade, soon surpassing his father-in-law’s wildest expectations. He was one of the first developers to start building in Ridgewood in the early 20th century, when that neighborhood still hadn’t decided if it was part of Brooklyn or Queens. The borders were finally set, and Ridgewood chose Queens.

His company built row houses and his signature “Mathews Model Flats;” small apartment buildings for the working class. By the time World War I rolled around, he had filled Ridgewood with his buildings and was looking to expand. He moved his offices to Long Island City in 1919, and then to Woodside, in 1924. He began building his Mathews Model Flats in Astoria, Woodhaven, Corona and Long Island City. Moving over to Woodside, by 1924 he had completed over 300 buildings in that neighborhood alone, including model flats, smaller two-story apartment buildings, and one and two-family houses. He advertised that his rates were good, and that he had “never a single foreclosure.”

Gustave Mathews was getting older, but he wasn’t slowing down. His four sons were in the family business, and even though the Great Depression put a crimp on their activities, it didn’t stop the building. During the 1930s, the Mathews Company built 250 one-family brick townhouses with garages in Elmhurst, then another 150 two-family houses in Maspeth the same neighborhood. These are today’s buildings; the Mathews Company Row Houses. (more…)

06/17/14 11:00am


The former Jamaica Savings Bank on Queens Boulevard and 56th Avenue exhibits phases, like the moon, depending on where you view it. From 56th Avenue it resembles a verdigri’ed Stealth bomber, while its glassy triangle is unmistakable from other angles across the Boulevard of Death. When I last saw it, it was home to a branch of Capital One. It has always been a bank, designed by St. Louis architect William Cann in 1968.


The arrival of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows in 1964 was symbolic of the Swingin’ Sixties, space-race go-go attitude the country had at the time; the war in Vietnam had not yet become an albatross and there seemed to be a boundless enthusiasm about the future and the wonders it would produce. Architects seemed to get the message as well and it was then that several extraordinary buildings were produced along Queens Boulevard. George Jetson would feel at home zipping by the sweep-angled, glass-fronted edifice.


Local Philistines in the City Council overturned the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to designate it. Rumor has it that some neighborhood loons would like it torn down in favor of a more conventionally designed building. I hope it stands there forever.


The trend came to flower in other cities as well. This building, since torn down, was in a Milwaukee shopping center.


The Mark Twain Cinema in St. Louis, which was reinvigorated after a few years of neglect as the Two Hearts Banquet Center. It was constructed in 1968, same year as the Jamaica Savings Bank, a time when sharp angles were popular.

06/13/14 1:00pm


There will be dancing in the streets. Many, many streets…bars, cemeteries, gardens, historic houses, malls, parks, nonprofits, restaurants, stoops and triangles, too. On June 21st (aka the longest day of the year), Make Music New York will host a Summer Solstice festival consisting of more than 1,000 free concerts throughout the five boroughs. From 10 am to 10 pm, musicians of all persuasions — hip hop to opera, jazz to punk, high school bands to pop stars — will do their things. Queens, of course, will be in the center of the action. For example, South African artist Toya DeLazy will perform her unique blend of hip hop, jazz and electronica at LIC Landing (52-10 Center Boulevard, Long Island City) at 1 pm. Meanwhile from noon to 4 pm, the Queens Council on the Arts (37-11 35th Avenue, Astoria) will present Reggae artist Desmond followed by Instrumental Jazz Fusion by Mind Open. Six hours of music and dance are scheduled at the Spaceworks LIC Block Party (33-02 Skillman Avenue, LIC). All told, Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Glendale, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, LIC, Ridgewood and Sunnyside will host events.

Click here for a complete list of all performers, venues, and times in Queens.



Something fishy is going on at the former Pan Am Hotel, located along Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst. When news broke that the building shuttered and sold, we heard rumors it would be converted into a homeless shelter. Then, a website popped up leading everyone to believe it would operate as a hostel. But yesterday, the following statement appeared on the COMET Maspeth and Elmhurst community website:

It has come to our attention that Samaritan Village made a proposal to place about 200 homeless in the Pan Am Hotel, Queens Boulevard at Hillyer Street. Some are children who will be attending our already overcrowded schools. This plan is supported by the Mayor and the Comptroller. 36 families have already been placed there. Please see Councilman Daniel Dromm’s comment below.

This hotel is a block or two from Woodside and a stone’s throw from Maspeth via 51st Avenue.

We are planning to stage a protest rally next week on Tuesday, June 17th, beginning at 6:00 pm outside the hotel RAIN OR SHINE. It is imperative that EVERYONE attend to let our voices be heard. Please tell your neighbors they need to get involved!!!

Council Member Dromm made a statement against the homeless shelter location, and stated that the Department of Homeless Services placed 36 families in the building last Friday, with “no advance notice” to his office or the community. Oddly enough, this Queens Chronicle article (about another homeless shelter proposal for Glendale) mentioned that the DHS denied a proposal to place a homeless shelter in the Pan Am building due to a lack of a kitchen and bathroom in each unit. While the DHS promised Council Member Dromm added security and additional social services at the site, it’s unclear what kind of renovation the building must undergo. After all, the last we heard the owners were renovating for a hostel. For what it’s worth, the website for the Pan Am “hostel” is now dead.

All Pan Am Hotel Coverage [Q'Stoner]

Photo via Panamhotel.com

06/04/14 9:00am


The Pan Am Hotel, which shuttered and sold on Queens Boulevard in January, will be reborn as a hostel soon. News of the hostel conversion emerged this spring, and DNAinfo now reports that it could begin taking reservations as soon as next month. The exact opening date isn’t set yet, due to pending Department of Building permits.

Since the sale, the new owners have renovated the building — the space will have bunk beds, a communal kitchen and a renovated common areas with computers, a pool table and couches. There will also be private rooms with queen beds or two double beds. You can see a photo gallery of the place right here. Beds will start at $35.95 a night.

Pan Am Hotel Set to Take Off Again as Hostel [DNAinfo]
All Pan Am Hotel coverage [Q'Stoner]

Photo via Panamhotel.com