02/27/15 11:00am

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This week, Neir’s, the venerable tavern in Woodhaven, threw down the gauntlet as the Queens Historical Society anointed it NYC’s oldest continuously operated drinking establishment, challenging the self-proclaimed champion, McSorley’s on East 7th Street in the East Village, which claims 1854 as its opening year. NYC historian Richard McDermott claimed differently in the mid-1990s; according to his research employing old insurance maps, census data and tax-assessment records, indicators pointed to an 1862 opening. McSorley’s certainly gained cachet over the years from Joseph Mitchell’s stories in the New Yorker, collected in his book Up In the Old Hotel. Infamously, McSorley’s stubbornly insisted on settling for half its potential profits by only admitting male customers until a court challenge in 1970.

Both McSorley’s and Neir’s, if nature had not intervened, would  lose out to the South Street Seaport’s Bridge Cafe, which under various ownership has been operated as a distillery, grocery and bar since 1794. However, the Bridge Cafe has been shuttered since the area was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and it is unknown when it will reopen. Its website says it is “temporarily closed” and it’s hoped that ‘temporary’ is indeed the case.

neirs3

This leaves us with Neir’s, which, for the time being, at least, is the present champion. At 87-48 78th Street at 88th Avenue (formerly Snedeker, Snediker, or Sneideicker Avenue, depending on what map you consult, and 3rd Avenue, stands one of New York City’s oldest taverns, Neir’s, opened by their account in 1829 as The Pump Room, or Old Blue Pump House, to serve Union Course patrons.

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02/26/15 11:00am

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Back in 2013, I wrote a Q’Stoner post about Hallets Cove that offered “Two aboriginal realtors named Shawestcont and Erramorhar (as witnessed by their cohorts Warchan and Kethcanaparan) sold much of what we know as Astoria (but which they called Sintsinck) to William Hallett (who was similarly accompanied by a company of witnesses and countrymen) on August 1, 1664.”

The East River frontage — back then it was called the Sound River — which Hallet purchased had a huge waterbody intersecting with the shoreline from upland properties in what we would now call Ravenswood, and it was called Sunswick Creek.

According to the Greater Astoria Historical Society the name of the waterway can be explained as “A drained marsh near the foot of Broadway. Scholars believe it may come from an Indian word ‘Sunkisq’ meaning perhaps ‘Woman Chief’ or ‘Sachem’s Wife.’” For close to 250 years, Sunswick Creek was practically synonymous with this area of Queens, but what happened to it?

More after the jump… (more…)

sunnyside-yards-petition

Late last week, the city released a Request for Proposal for feasibility studies on developing over Sunnyside Yards. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to build 11,250 units of permanently affordable housing over the yards is a controversial one — a petition against development formed even before the mayor made his announcement. And now we are hearing about protest groups gaining traction in the borough, with plans to start petitioning soon. There are also murmurings of possible protests to take place at the St. Pats For All Parade this weekend, which the mayor is expected to attend.

Local pols have already picked up on local resistance to Mayor de Blasio’s idea. Council Member Van Bramer has yet to embrace any development plans, and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan released this statement yesterday:

I remain concerned that any attempt by Mayor Deblasio’s administration to develop Sunnyside yards faces environmental, developmental and density issues that has the potential to tremendously damage the middle class quality of life of our western queens communities. I recently wrote an op-ed article with various concerns that still need to be addressed. I will be vigilant in monitoring the actions of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and will continue to demand that the Mayor hear the voices of the many tax paying, middle class New Yorkers who live in Western Queens. The character of Queens would change completely with additional high-rise, overbuilt towers. I await more news from the administration and will continue to monitor this situation very closely.

And according to DNAinfo, Governor Cuomo spoke out against development for the second time just this Monday.

All Sunnyside Yards coverage [Q'Stoner]

02/24/15 9:00am

queens-plaza

Both the New York Times and The Real Deal are reporting huge news that Citigroup plans to sell a massive development site located right next to its iconic tower. The parcel in question is bound by 44th Road, 23rd Street and 44th Drive in Court Square and is nearly one acre in size, or 36,000 square feet. It is expected to sell for as much as $150 million. A developer could build up to 780,000 square feet, and a C5-3 zoning allows residential, office, retail and hotel use.

The Times reports that it’s likely this will go residential, as the area didn’t quite make it as an office hub but is officially a residential hotspot. As the Times says, “If the property sale marks a shift in the neighborhood from commercial to residential development, it also is another sign of Citigroup’s diminishing presence in the city.” (The article details the many troubles faced by the bank since the recession.)

Citigroup sold One Court Square in 2005, but still holds a lease in the building until 2020. And in 2007, the bank built out Two Court Square in hopes to kick off a larger 1.5-million-square-foot development. Obviously that never happened, with Citigroup ultimately selling six floors of the 15-story building to the City University of New York School of Law.

New Housing to Benefit as Citigroup Sells Queens Site [NY Times]

Photo via Queens Plaza

02/23/15 9:00am

julissa-state-of-the-district

Last week, Council Member Julissa Ferreras delivered her State of the District address — the Council Member represents District 21 which covers Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. There were a few major announcements, including the fate of the controversial Jackson Heights Business Improvement District, Willets Point updates, and a health care institution slated for Corona. We’ve broken down the biggies for you.

Willets Point
The last of the Willets Point auto shops are being relocated. Ferraras said that The Sunrise Auto Coop and Economic Development Corporation are now working towards finalizing a $5.8 million agreement to relocate Willets Points auto shops to a new work and business space in the Bronx.

And as part of the Willets Point deal Council Member Ferreras helped negotiated in 2013, there’s a new affordable housing development slated for Corona. The 67-unit rental building will be located 54-25 101st Street and will house low-income seniors. Amenities include a garden, community area and medical referral services, and there will be an early childhood development center on the ground floor. Construction should begin at the end of 2015 and is expected to last 18 months.

Jackson Heights BID
It looks like the controversial battle over establishing a Business Improvement District along 82nd Street is coming to an end. According to Ferreras, “Members of the community and the 82nd Street Partnership are near to reaching an agreement that will expand the Partnership from 82nd Street to 104th Street along Roosevelt Avenue.”

Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The push to establish a Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance is also making headway. According to the Council Member, she “plans to hold the Mayor’s Office to its promise of establishing [the alliance] by spring.” An alliance would serve to protect the park’s historical significance and green space and establish more community programming.

Higher Education and Health Care Institution for Corona
The Councilwoman also spoke on a $10 million project with Queensborough Community College and Urban Health Plan to establish a 19,000-square-foot higher education and health care institution in Corona. The facility will provide space for training and clinical rotations, as well as affordable primary and specialty health care for the community.

Elmhurst Hospital
Ferreras plans to fight for funding to upgrade the emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital — right now there is a $11.1 million gap in the city’s budget to do so. Her goal is to secure funding for 10,000 square feet of new space for the hospital, which would double the number of treatment bays and include five additional isolation rooms.

02/20/15 3:00pm

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The city is moving forward on a controversial proposal by Mayor de Blasio to build 11,250 units of permanently affordable housing over the Sunnyside Rail Yards. Today the Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with Amtrak, issued an RFP for a feasibility study on development at the site. Besides affordable housing, the city is looking for opportunities to build out schools, open space and community facilities while also improving public transportation and infrastructure. Any development would preserve “the vital operations of rail facilities in the yards.” This is strictly a feasibility study, to see if development is even possible. More from the EDC:

The Feasibility Study will include a comprehensive evaluation of specific factors such as the existing and planned configuration of the rail yards, ongoing requirements to maintain all and accommodate future rail operations, geotechnical conditions, requirements and limitations of proposed deck structures, infrastructure and utility conditions both on- and off-site, and financial feasibility. In addition to creating land for housing and parks, the project could potentially result in the development of commercial and community facilities like new schools, as well as services and amenities that respond to the needs of the diverse communities surrounding Sunnyside Yards, encouraging active street life, thriving retail, improved surface transit and mobility in the area. The project will seek to closely integrate any future development into the local context. The project could also provide enhanced rail operations and safer working conditions at the Sunnyside Yards rail facilities.

Basically, the study will need to consider all relevant aspects of potential development including the technical, environmental, market, rail operations and financial factors. (As many have already pointed out, there are a lot of factors to consider before building.)

According to Mayor de Blasio, “This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it could contribute to the city and surrounding communities. This is a tremendous opportunity to deliver on our vision of a more affordable city, and smart development that responds to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods. We are excited to be working with partners like Amtrak and local stakeholders on a thoughtful and thorough review that gives us facts we can build on.”

Responses to the RFP are due by March 20th, 2015.

All Sunnyside Yards coverage [Q'Stoner]

Photo by Mitch Waxman

02/20/15 9:00am

jackson-east-jackson-west

Yesterday the blog 6sqft published news of new LIC developments alongside renderings that offer a glimpse of the neighborhood when it’s dominated by skyscrapers. Let’s start with this two-towered development — rendered above — from the developer Lions Group. The buildings are called Jackson East, at 26-32 Jackson Avenue, and Jackson West, at 27-01 Jackson Avenue. Designed by Raymond Chan Architects, the towers will each rise 30 and 40 stories. (It’s worth nothing that the renderings do not match permits filed in December for 27-01 Jackson Avenue, which specified only 15 stories.) No details on any construction timeline, or whether the units will go rental or condo. But to put these new developments in context, Citi Realty came up with a great image of all the towers slated to rise around the Citibank Tower. Check it:

long-island-city-skyscrapersImage by City Realty

Next up is an 18-story, 110-unit residential building planned for 42-10 27th Street. (more…)

02/19/15 9:00am

astoria-cove-rendering

New York Daily News rounded up all of the mega developments by private “master builders” that promise to alter the landscape of New York. Three are in Queens: Astoria Cove (rendered above), Hallets Point and Mayor de Blasio’s proposed affordable housing development over Sunnyside Yards. According to the News, it’s a trend “driven in part by the demand for housing and made possible by the availability of global financing and the collapse of the industrial trades whose facilities formerly occupied these once far-flung, now hot, parcels of land.” (Other developments include Hudson Yards and Essex Crossing in the Lower East Side.)

Combined, Astoria Cove and Hallets Point will bring over 4,000 new apartments to Queens. The Sunnyside Yards proposal includes 11,250 units. The Durst Organization (Hallets) and Alma Realty (Astoria Cove) are essentially creating neighborhoods from scratch, promising schools, supermarkets and waterfront esplanades. But there’s a lot at risk — the Daily News explains that developers need to manage community interest, acquire massive financing, gain political support and “commit to a timeframe that could see them through several real estate cycles.” The end result, hopefully, should be contextual buildings that are mixed use.

And as Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy, notes of this boom, it’s all pretty new to New York: “Historically, New York was developed incrementally, block by block, as neighborhoods adapted and were reinvented. With these megaprojects, it’s happening all at once.”

New Megaprojects Will Remake Swaths of the City from Scratch [NY Daily News]

02/18/15 11:00am

Addisleigh Park, 174-27 Adelaide Rd Count Basie house. CDB for LPC 1

Even though there was a restrictive covenant in place preventing African Americans from moving into the upscale part of St. Albans known as Addisleigh Park, by 1940, several prominent black celebrities had purchased homes there. The all-white community suburban community had expanded on the restrictive covenants written by the original developer of the neighborhood, Edwin Brown, ensuring that there would be no black homeowners in the enclave. When a couple of errant homeowners, both of whom had signed the pacts, then tried to sell to African American buyers, the larger community had risen up and sued them. They won the suits, too, preventing the sales. Housing discrimination was a fact of life in mid-20th century New York City.

All of this and the history of Addisleigh Park were told in Part One and Part Two of our story. But while the homeowners were guarding the front gates of the Park, people were getting in via the back. The white homeowners who feared that black neighbors would lower their property values woke up to find black homeowners moving in next door, in spite of the covenant. Some had purchased through white proxy buyers, and others had just quietly bought their property. These weren’t just ordinary black folks either. In the years during World War II and into the 1950s, Addisleigh Park became famous as the neighborhood where some of the wealthiest and most well-known black entertainers, athletes and celebrities lived in upper middle class splendor. (more…)

02/18/15 9:00am

31-53 51st Street-rendering-astoria

Behold the future of the 26,000-square-foot parking lot at 31-57 31st Street, right off Broadway in Astoria. The parcel hit public records last month for $17.35 million and we found plans in the pipeline for a seven-story, 114-unit development spanning 102,060 square feet. Co-developers Treeline, Glenmont Capital Management and B31 Astoria Development LLC just announced plans for the future rental and released the above rendering. Ready for the juicy details?

They will offer a mixture of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments; some featuring private outdoor space. Amenities include a lounge, gym, courtyard/terrace with barbecue grills and a yoga studio. Additionally, 31-57 31st Street will include 22,925 square feet of retail space and 133 subterranean parking spaces.

MNS will oversee leasing and marketing at the SLCE Architects designed building, which is set to open its doors to renters in Q3 2016.

The Department of Buildings approved a building application this month and already issued permits for foundation work. The site is located right across from the N/Q Broadway subway station. Given Astoria’s popularity and the relative lack of large new developments, we predict success for 31-57 31st Street.

Huge Astoria Parking Lot Sells for Big Bucks, Seven-Story Building Planned [Q'Stoner] GMAP

Rendering by SLCE Architects