Plans to build three chain restaurants on a 100,000-square-foot parcel of land next door to the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst aren’t making everyone happy. DNAinfo reports that Council Member Daniel Dromm is speaking out against the project, dubbed Queens Way Plaza, due to the lack of involvement with community officials. Community Board Four also believes that the developers, The Mattone Group, handled the details “in secret.” The Mattone Group previously planned to build a large movie theater complex at this site but never found an operator. Plans for a restaurant row emerged two years ago and the Mattone Group expects to open an Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and a Joe’s Crab Shack here this summer. While the project did receive Community Board approval, it hasn’t received extensive community vetting.
According to DNAinfo, the Borough President’s office will hold a meeting for the developers, Council Member Dromm and the Community Board to address the Council Member’s concerns.
Over the weekend the New York Daily News ran a piece examining the growing desirability of Woodside, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. The story’s familiar: as housing prices rise just about everywhere, people are getting pushed deeper into Queens, in neighborhoods along the subway line. Rents in Woodside are 25 percent cheaper than in Long Island City, according to the News. And the price of land in Woodside comes in 50 to 60 percent cheaper than land in LIC and Astoria.
Many of the new buildings going up are stocked with amenities, driving prices and demand up. At the Icon 52, the new luxury rental in Woodside, a two bedroom is asking $2,350 a month and a studio’s asking $1,500. According to a recent renter at the Icon 52, “We wanted to be close to the city and I think you get the best value for your money in that area.”
The NYC Department of Housing and Preservation is leasing six affordable apartments at 40-07 73rd Street, the condo-turned-rental building now known as The Roosevelt. Citi Habitats listed market rate rentals in October with convertible two bedrooms starting at $2,400 a month and three bedrooms starting at $3,600. The city’s now offering one and two bedrooms priced between $860 and $1,171 a month. You can enter the lottery at the NYC Housing Connect website no later than February 25th, 2014. Current and eligible residents of Queens Community Board 4 receive preference for 50 percent of the units. We’ve heard from a Citi Habitats broker that the leasing of market rate rentals is going well.
DNAinfo reports that the Pan American Hotel, on the market for awhile now, closed down on Queens Boulevard January 7th. Despite reports that the seven-story, 216-room hotel was closing for renovations, the hotel actually sold to a new owner. The listing for the property is still online — it was listed in early 2013 for $24,250,000, or for $40,350,000 as part of a larger assemblage that included the entire block.
DNAinfo hasn’t heard what’s in the future for the hotel. We have heard unconfirmed rumors that the site may become a homeless shelter. Know any details? Hit up the tipline.
The Saint Marks A.M.E. Church in Jackson Heights hopes to save a freed slave burial ground uncovered during construction on a Corona Avenue condo/commercial development. The Daily News reports that the church is meeting with site owners today to try and preserve the site, founded in 1828. The site is believed to be one of the first places where former slaves organized and started their own church. An archeologist already uncovered 15 bodies, there’s now a Partial Stop Work Order on the site for further investigation to take place. According to the LPC, the developers are not required to remove the bones if the cemetery isn’t a crime scene.
The former St. Johns Hospital Building, at 90-02 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, is going residential. Crain’s reports that a group of Asia-based investors and the New York builder Steven Wu paid $55,000,000 for the 260,000-square-foot hospital building and a five-story parking garage across the street. The developers plan to spend another $45,000,000 to convert the building into rentals and medical office space, along with ground-floor retail. Previous owner Jack Gutman sold the building — he purchased it for less than $20,000,000 back in 2009 after Caritas Health Care filed for bankruptcy and closed the facility. He already completed some work on the facility, including interior demolition and new windows.
It’s no secret that there’s a growing momentum in Queens for safer street initiatives, and a march for a safer Queens Boulevard is coming this weekend. Transportation Alternatives is hosting the “Winter Wander” Rally and Walk along the so-called “Boulevard of Death” on Saturday, December 14th, from 1 pm to 3:30 pm. The event begins in Elmhurst at the New Life Fellowship Church, 8210 Queens Boulevard, with a community discussion about Transportation Alternative’s Zero on Queens Boulevard Campaign. The campaign advocates for pedestrian safety improvements along the corridor, including bike infrastructure and dedicated lanes for Select Bus Service. The
Winter Wander continues with a group walk along the Boulevard toward Forest Hills, as local street safety advocates discuss the history of the roadway and the dangers faced by all those who use it. RSVP for the event right here.
Meanwhile, Senator Gianaris released a statement yesterday in regards to a fatal car crash that happened at the base of the Queensboro Bridge. He is asking that the Department of Transportation improve safety in the area after the DOT did not follow through on his requests for a redesign of the exit ramp. The DOT only added additional signage and minimal barriers to the area. One of those barrier was meant to protect the storefront hit in this crash at 25-06 Queens Plaza South, but it was destroyed in a crash in 2011 and remained vacant ever since. Here is Senator Gianaris’ quote on the matter: “How many more people have to die before the DOT understands that the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp must be redesigned? The city has known that this area is in dire need of traffic safety improvements for years, and the DOT has simply not done enough. I renew my call for a complete redesign of the bridge off-ramp, and implore the city to take swift action before another tragedy occurs.”
The growing neighborhood of Elmhurst needed a new high school by the beginning of the 20th century, as improved transportation and an expanding population was growing the town by leaps and bounds. Dr. James Darius Dillingham, the principal of the Newtown School, had been a tireless advocate for his school, back when the old town of Newtown had changed its name to Elmhurst, and was still an independent entity, not yet a part of Greater New York City. He had pressured the city fathers of Elmhurst to build a larger school, and after a great deal of lobbying on his part, in 1897, the town had finally approved funds to expand the town’s wooden school house, and add a new bricks and mortar school. The early history of the area and the school can be found in Part One of this story.
By the time this new addition was finished, in 1900, Elmhurst and its school were part of Greater New York City, and under the direction of the New York City Board of Education. The school was soon woefully inadequate to handle the number of children in Elmhurst, and the Board of Ed moved the elementary school out, and made the Newtown School a high school. But, as Dr. Dillingham told the city, it was still too small. He wanted to expand it even more, as he could see that the 20th century need for education was going to overwhelm the school.
The local town board did not have his vision. In fact, they wanted to close the high school because they thought Newtown didn’t need one, but the good doctor persisted in asking for funds. He was soon proved correct, as by the end of the decade, the school was bursting with students, forcing teachers to conduct classes in cloak rooms and hallways. They even had to borrow space from the local elementary school. The City allocated $400,000 in funds, and turned the task over to C.B.J. Snyder, the Superintendent of School Buildings for the Board of Education. Dr. Dillingham and Newtown High School were in luck, as he was one of the greats. (more…)
When you come right down to it, a school is any place where learning can occur. It’s not necessary to have the biggest, most beautiful school building around to make for a good school, but it doesn’t hurt either. Back when these things seem to matter more than they do now, city officials went out of their way to spend their money on civic buildings that not only performed their necessary functions, but enriched the lives of the citizenry. The City Beautiful Movement of the turn of the 20th century codified this idea, believing, however naively, that impressive civic architecture, especially classically inspired buildings, would inspire the immigrant and lower class masses to greater industry, personal pride, and thrift. Buildings like the Brooklyn Museum, the Municipal Building in Manhattan, and even the Beaux-Arts entrance to the Manhattan Bridge on Canal Street, all are a part of that philosophy.
It seems rather absurd today to think that architecture could cure poverty’s ills, but they did have a point about inspiration. A great city is measured in part by its architecture. And what resident of any city would not be proud to point out to visitors the fine museums, homes, houses of worship, municipal buildings, and schools, and say with pride, “This is my city?” All of which brings us to today’s great building, the Newtown High School. (more…)