01/28/15 11:00am

Bulova Center, Queensmodern.com 1

My friend, preservationist Frampton Tolbert, has a new website, called Queens Modern. If you love mid-20th century Queens architecture, you will be a happy camper. You can wander around dozens of mid-century buildings here, finding all kinds of goodies. Frampton is a meticulous researcher, and the site contains building profiles, architect profiles, maps and a searchable database. The buildings that he has chosen were highlighted for mention and praise by the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Between 1948 and 1970, the Queens Chamber of Commerce Building Awards were bestowed on almost 400 buildings of all types throughout the borough. The site will eventually have all of them, and more on file, but is launching with almost 150 entries.

The mission of the site is to highlight and document the wealth of modern architecture that was built in Queens in the post-World War II era. American architecture was influenced by many things during this period, including modern “space age” shapes, building technologies and materials. As time has passed, many of these buildings are in danger of being destroyed or altered. The site seeks to showcase the best of them, and document as much as possible, an era that is now officially considered “old.”

Today, many of the architects, designers and their creations are experiencing a comeback in popularity, especially in furniture and the decorative arts. As I look through the site and in my own research for columns for Brownstoner Queens, I am often quite amazed at how truly modern some of the buildings are, even today. Interestingly, they appear at the furthest end of the time spectrum we are dealing with. Many of these buildings have stood the test of time much better than newer examples. (more…)

01/27/15 10:00am

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.11.39 AM

2014 was a really good year for Jackson Heights real estate. So says Daniel Karatzas of Beaudoin Realty Group, who released his fourth quarter sales report on the neighborhood. He remarks on the number of records set in the past year alone: $2,100,000 for a three-family house, $999,000 for a two-family house, $915,000 for a seven-room co-op at The Towers and $750,000 for a six-room co-op at Hawthorne Court. The numbers show that demand has outstripped supply, especially in the second half of the year. But the fourth quarter numbers show a drop in apartment sales, taking into account the lack of units. Karatzas predicts that “the increase in prices may incent some sellers to take the plunge and list their property in 2015.”

In the fourth quarter, 18 homes sold total, up from 15 sales one year ago. The average sales prices for one-, two-, and three-family houses were higher than prior and year-ago periods, ranging between 3.7 and nearly 47 percent. That 47 percent increase comes from the three-family home sales in particular. For the quarter, the average sales price of three families came in high at $1,280,000. That’s because of two sales: a brick home on 76th Street used for commercial purposes sold for $1,250,000 and a building with development potential sold for $2,100,000. The average sales price of a one-family home was just above $700,000 (up 6 percent from last year), with two families boasting an average around $800,000 (up 13 percent).

Looking at all of 2014, the average sales price of homes was 12 percent higher than 2013, a continuation of the upward trend seen over the last five years. (See the graph above.) A total of three one-family houses sold for over $900,000 in 2014, and two two-family homes sold for $999,000.

Now, on to apartments. There were 101 closings in the fourth quarter, but the number of sales was down 34 percent compared with the prior quarter. According to Karatzas, “This is due to the dramatic decline in inventory compared with just two or three years ago, rather than buyers heading elsewhere. In fact, Jackson Heights has become a popular destination for many as apartment prices have surged in Manhattan and Brooklyn.” Average sales prices, in general, are up for co-ops. Since last year, prices on prewar elevator coops are up 5 percent (to $271,314), and up 14 percent for prewar walkup coops (to $452,583). Karatzas finds that over the last eight years, prewar elevator co-ops have sold consistently at a higher premium inside the historic district as opposed to out of it. The premium has ranged from 6 to 40 percent, with a rough average at 25 percent.

After the jump, check out more graphs outlining sales trends in Jackson Heights.


01/26/15 1:00pm


I was invited to attend the annual Ridgewood Democratic Club brunch over on Putnam Avenue last Saturday. The event raises funds for the upkeep and renovation of the building which has housed the organization since 1917. I was there last year as well, and my colleague Kevin Walsh offered this post describing the building at Q’Stoner back in 2013. The structure holds a collection of political memorabilia – campaign posters and so on – which is unparalleled in my experience. This year’s brunch had food and beverages provided by Congressman Joseph Crowley‘s office, although the Congressman was unable to attend as he was on a trip to India with President Obama.

Having arrived a bit early, as is my habit, I was treated to a short tour of the second floor which is undergoing renovation. Coming back down the grand stairs, a buzzy crowd and the smell of fresh coffee greeted me.

More after the jump… (more…)

01/22/15 9:00am


Yesterday the Historic Districts Council announced its annual “Six to Celebrate” list. These are six neighborhoods the HDC believes merit preservation and attention, and they are selected from applications submitted by neighborhood groups around the city. For 2015, HDC selected Long Island City, alongside Crown Heights North, East Harlem, South Street Seaport, Woodlawn Heights, and all the city landmarks under consideration by the LPC. The preservation group +Partners, which has fought to landmark the LIC Clock Tower, submitted the application for Long Island City and will work with HDC throughout the year. The goal, according to HDC, is “to set and reach preservation goals through strategic planning, advocacy, outreach, programs and building public awareness.” Here’s more:

A new preservation group based in Long Island City called +Partners has formed to design, preserve, and catalyze the development of environments and places. Their inaugural project is an ongoing campaign to landmark the Long Island City Clock Tower, a beloved neighborhood anchor. They have recently launched a comprehensive survey of the industrial architecture of Long Island City, with plans to create a publicly-accessible internet resource to guide further preservation efforts.

Last year, HDC picked Forest Close as its 2014 “Six to Celebrate” neighborhood in Queens.

Photo by Mitch Waxman

01/21/15 11:00am

Vernon Blvd at Jackson Ave, Greater Astoria Historical Society 1

Around eight in the morning, on December 28th, 1892, the workers and residents of Davren’s Flats were getting ready for another day. The buildings, informally named for their owner, John Davren, were a block front row of four story brick storefronts with tenement apartments above. They stood on Jackson Avenue, between what were then 3rd and 4th Streets; today’s 51st and 50th Avenues. There was a post office building on one end of the block, a restaurant and a barbershop in the middle, and a jewelry store on the other end. At eight in the morning, the barbershop, post office and restaurant were already open for business, and serving customers.

Across the street, construction was going on to build a tunnel that would connect Manhattan and Queens by laying tracks for the railroad under the East River. The New York and Long Island Tunnel Company was digging a project that would take years to complete, and involved blasting through miles of tough metamorphic bedrock, in order to get deep enough to go under the river safely.

To do that, the diggers were using dynamite. As explained in the Chapter One of this story, dynamite could be very unstable, especially in the cold. In order to warm it up for safe use, the sandhogs had built a warming box which had proved very successful in using steam heat to slowly warm up the sticks of dynamite to a safe temperature. At six that morning, they had transferred two boxes of dynamite, enough for a couple of days’ work, from their storage facility well off-site.

At 8am, the diggers were ready to work. As they approached the shed, which was near the entrance to the shaft, the world suddenly exploded with the shed. The unstable dynamite had blown sky high, two boxes worth of unstable nitroglycerine, with enough power to shatter the streets of Long Island City, and change the lives of its residents forever. (more…)

01/21/15 9:00am


Leasing must be launching soon at QLIC, the Long Island City rental tower that’s 21 stories tall and holds 421 units. This website has popped up with tons of renderings of the amenities and apartments. There are also floorplans of the studio, one, two and three-bedroom units, although no pricing yet.

The development will boast 28,000 square feet of amenities including, yes, a very nice rooftop pool. There’s also a landscaped courtyard, roof deck, media room, game room with billiards, shuffleboard and foosball tables, fitness center, dog washing station, and a 24-hour concierge.

As for the apartments, finishes will include white oak hardwood floors, walk-in closets for select apartments and an in-unit washer and dryer. Kitchens will have dishwashers, as well as white quartz countertops and a porcelain backsplash, bathrooms will feature porcelain tile and “Italian bath cabinetry.”

After the jump, tons more renderings of the amenity spaces and the apartments…


All QLIC coverage [Q'Stoner] GMAP


01/20/15 11:00am

Back in the infancy of Forgotten NY, April of 2000 to be exact, I was working at one of those jobs that only required me to be present 3 or 4 times a week (which is great for gathering Forgotten material but not so good when trying to pay bills) and, after a few weeks poking around abandoned hospitals and boatyards in Staten Island, I thought it would be nice to take a walk in a nicer part of town…a place that had, I knew, the most beautiful architecture ever conceived. Where might that be? Enter Richmond Hill, Queens.

The Victorian era, roughly 1865-1900, was a period characterized by a booming economy in many of its years, and architecture responded with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attitude. No color or design was written off, and no expense was spared in construction. Yet, nothing was tacky or tasteless and despite every house on the block being completely different from the other, Victorian neighborhoods retained a unity of spirit that can’t be matched in these days of prefabricated junk.

Richmond Hill, located in Queens between Forest Park, Kew Gardens, and Jamaica, didn’t spring up on its own, spontaneously. It’s a planned community. It was conceived in reaction to the increasing population in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the mid-1800s, with row upon row of tenements and attached brownstones. Even the best-appointed brownstones in Manhattan were often cramped and crowded. And, in the 1800s social mores dictated that the only place to raise a happy family was in one’s own house. In Manhattan, this wasn’t much of an option anymore.

For the solution, developers looked to the east and south, and built developments from scratch in New Brighton, Staten Island, Prospect Park South in Brooklyn, and here in Richmond Hill, Queens, among other locales.

Enter a Manhattan (Murray Hill) lawyer named Albon Platt Man. One day in 1869 he was riding along the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike (a toll road that is today’s Jamaica Avenue) on the way to his summer house in Lawrence, Nassau County (then a part of Queens), and noticed the desirable land along the route in an area then known as Clarenceville.

Man consulted with a local landscaper and architect named Edward Richmond, bought the property and developed it until his death in 1891. His three sons carried on after his death, and went on to develop Kew Gardens in all its Tudor glory to the north, and developed the woodland along the terminal moraine (the hills in the center of Brooklyn and Queens that mark the southern progress of glaciers during the last Ice Age) into what is now Forest Park.

It’s likely that the name ”Richmond Hill” was not a tribute to Edward Richmond, since he passed away before much of the development could get underway. Rather, Man probably named the nascent community after the London suburb Richmond-On-Thames, a favorite royal stomping ground.

Although there was no such thing as zoning in the late 1800s, Albon Man had several means at his disposal to make sure the community developed according to his specifications. He obtained restrictive covenants to dictate, for example, the absence of front yard fences and uniform setbacks, that would give Richmond Hill a forestlike atmosphere with lots of green lawns, which persists to this day.



01/16/15 9:00am


After a 34-block rezoning of Long Island City in 2001 that has dramatically changed the neighborhood, the city is now considering another significant up-zoning. According to the Wall Street Journal, “City Hall is targeting the Queens neighborhood along the East River and just north of the Long Island Expressway for a possible rezoning that would promote the construction around Queens Plaza of more high-rise apartment buildings, including ones with lower rents.” The Department of City Planning is gearing up to study 100 blocks around Queens Plaza, Court Square, Jackson Avenue and Northern Boulevard. The new zoning would prioritize mixed-income housing, as well as potential growth for arts and tech industries. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is concerned about schools, transportation, and affordable housing for artists, while the LIC Partnership wants to ensure more industrial and commercial growth. But right now everything is in its earliest stages, and it’s unclear how long the city’s study will last.

The first rezoning led to 8,000 new units in the neighborhood, 20,000 more under construction, and a 5.9 percent rent increase over the past year. The hope for any new rezoning is that it will strike a better balance between residential and industrial sectors, while creating more affordable units under Mayor de Blasio’s housing initiative.

Setting Sights on More High-Rises in Long Island City [WSJ]

Development map via LIC Partnership

01/15/15 11:00am


In my last post I told you about an event attended on Saturday the tenth of January at the Queens Museum, which put a spotlight on the topographical relief map of the NYC water system. Despite hurdles offered by MTA and the weather, I somehow made it there from Astoria.

On Sunday the eleventh, a repeat of my journey to the institution, housed in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, was enacted. This time, the Queens Museum was merely the place where a walking tour of the so called Iron Triangle at Willets Point was meeting up, an excursion led by the official Queens Borough Historian – Dr. Jack Eichenbaum. I’ve been lucky enough to know him for a while now, and I’m pretty sure that we met during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial celebrations back in 2009. When I heard that he would be doing this tour, inquiries whether or not I could come along were made and he graciously invited me (and you Q’Stoners) along.

Here’s what we saw along the way – with lots of photos after the jump.


01/14/15 1:00pm


Astoria, are you ready for some (more) major housing development? There’s a biggie coming to 31-51 31st Street, right off of Broadway. The parcel, which is a massive 26,000 square feet, has long been a parking lot. Its sale recently hit public records — “Astoria 31st Street Developers LLC” picked it up for $17,350,000. That led us to check Department of Buildings records, which show that there’s already a development in the pipeline here. And as you may have guessed, it’s gonna be big.

This building application proposes a seven-story, 114-unit building that spans 102,060 square feet. There will be 78,144 square feet of residential space, 19,761 square feet of commercial space, and 4,155 square feet for a community facility. The DOB is reviewing the application and has not issued new building permits yet. The only permit issued so far is for the demolition of the parking attendant booth. The architect of record is SLCE, who designed the MOMA Tower, 339 Bridge Street in Brooklyn, and 45-56 Pearson Street in LIC. We’ve reached out to them for a rendering and more details, so stay tuned… GMAP