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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Queens is the biggest borough, and has some of New York City’s longest streets. And like everything else, those streets are the result of evolution. Let’s take a look today at two of the borough’s longest routes and review their origins, while taking a look at their humble beginnings, or endings, depending on your point of view.
Seen here is Roosevelt Avenue’s eastern end, where it meets Northern Boulevard at 155th Street in Flushing. Here is a soon-to-be defunct McDonalds, an IHOP restaurant, a branch of the Queens Public Library, a shopping center, and flags aplenty. Roosevelt Avenue, named for President Theodore, is relatively new on the Queens map; it’s soon to celebrate its centennial. It is a product of the Flushing elevated train, since when the line was constructed between 1914 and 1928, it required a right of way. It was decided to cut a street through that followed the unofficial border of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, and then through the heart of Corona, and build the el along that route. Roosevelt Avenue serves as a de facto eastern extension of Greenpoint Avenue beginning at Queens Boulevard.
Initially Roosevelt Avenue ran only as far as what is now Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, as the el was not extended east of Willets Point Boulevard until it was completed as a subway out to Main Street in 1928. That year began downtown Flushing’s transformation as a quiet seat of a sleepy Queens town into the crossroads of Queens it has become today. In 1928 a preexisting east-west street running through Flushing, Amity Street, was widened and then extended through to a junction with Northern Boulevard, giving rise to the Roosevelt Avenue known today.
From the point shown in the photograph, it’s possible to bike, walk or drive all the way west to the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
This major east-west route from Williamsburg to the edge of Jamaica is seen from its eastern end at the junction of Jamaica Avenue and Kew Gardens Road, another ancient route in itself (it was called Newtown Road decades ago and ran to what became Kew Gardens in the east end of the former town of Newtown). Here you find the relatively new Kew Gardens subway stop serving the E train, open only since 1988.
Metropolitan Avenue was opened in 1815, give or take a couple of years, as the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike and was once a toll road with toll gates and a “pike” or a lengthy log that would be move aside when the toll was paid. It was mainly a farm to market road used by eastern farmers bringing their produce to New York City via East River shipping. In future decades Williamsburg would lose the “h” and the W&J would lose the toll, and was renamed Metropolitan Avenue. Oddly, this busy route has never gained extra lanes and the considerable widening comparable roads like Northern Boulevard and Queens Boulevard have, and remains a four-lane road throughout its length.
The neighborhood of Middle Village was named because it’s approximately halfway between Williamsburg and Jamaica, the two towns the road was built to service.
This weekend, Elmhurst’s First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, which was founded in 1652, will celebrate its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. To accompany the celebration, the church is participating in the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites open house weekend, which includes talks on the church history and architecture, walking tours, and an unveiling of a National Register of Historic Places plaque. The schedule for this Saturday includes the talks on history and architecture at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, followed by a walking tour. The church will be open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm. On Sunday, there will be a church service followed by the National Register of Historic Places plaque unveiling at 12:30 pm. The open house will last until 3:30 pm. Check out all the event details at the Rego-Forest Preservation website.
The 362-year-old church is now in its fifth building, constructed in 1895, and boasts one of New York’s oldest congregations. It has been under three governments — the Dutch, British and American. The Gothic-style sanctuary, pictured above, features Tiffany stained glass and the original furniture. There will be historic photos and documents out on display during the open house.
Photo by Michael Perlman via the Rego-Forest Preservation Council
There are seven apartments left at the Roosevelt, the 31-unit rental building that started leasing last October. And the development brokerage, Citi Habitats, is looking to fill those last apartments up: the firm is running a promotion until April 30th where new tenants pay no fee and receive two months free rent on a 14 month lease. Currently, a convertible two bedroom is asking $2,314 per month, four two-bedroom units are priced at $2,443 a month, and two penthouse units are $3,321. Apartments feature floor to ceiling windows, two full bathrooms and private outdoor space. There were also a number of affordable units at this development the city leased out at the beginning of the year.