It’s time to break away from winter and jump into the great outdoors! Good thing the borough is ready. Tomorrow, the Queens Botanical Gardens will host two programs for nature lovers. At 10 am, the Flushing green space will launch its intergenerational garden (above). Interested individuals will be able to tour the facilities, meet gardeners of all races and ages, and learn the ropes with the coordinator. Then at noon, QBG will offer an introductory workshop on how to grow summer vegetables indoors. Meanwhile just south of Little Neck Bay, Urban Park Rangers will teach wilderness survival at the Alley Pond Park Adventure Center. Participants of all ages will learn how to build shelter, start a fire without matches, and find water sources in a forest. The fun continues on March 10th at the Rockaway Community Park Coastal Clean-Up, where do-gooders will work with Natural Areas Volunteers from the Parks Department to remove debris from the shoreline and protect Jamaica Bay’s natural habitat.
Start Your Summer Veggies Indoors, Queens Botanical Gardens, 43-50 Main Street, Flushing, March 8th, noon, $6, advance registration and payment required at email@example.com or 718-886-3800 ext. 230.
Wilderness Survival, Alley Pond Park Adventure Center, vicinity of Little Neck Bay, Long Island Expressway, Union Turnpike, Springfield Boulevard, Douglaston Parkway and Hanford Street, March 8th, 11 am, free, but call 718-352-1769.
Ash Avenue moves through Flushing in fits and starts. It goes a block, is interrupted for a block, then runs a block more. The section between 147th and 149th Streets, though, looks transplanted from another part of town into Flushing. Its centerpiece is a brilliant white three-story building at 147-38 with a complicated set of front porches, including a many-windowed circular corner porch. The house was originally the Charles Pearl Mansion.
The mansion, probably built in the mid-1800s, dates back to eastern Flushing’s development as a bedroom community as the Long Island Rail Road was extended east. At the time Flushing was still dominated by the horticultural industry and the land was owned mostly by the Samuel Parsons family and by Nathan Sanford, the Chancellor of New York State. Sanford Avenue was developed in the 1830s-1870s with grand mansions and estates, some of which were summer-only. Charles Pearl built the Italianate house on a 5-acre tract facing today’s Sanford Avenue and 149th Street. Beginning in the 1880s Flushing began to be more greatly populated, and by the 1910s the mansion’s then-owner, the reverend George Eccles, sold off much of the 5-acre property and moved the house approximately 150 feet to its present location. The buildings developed on the sold-off property are still there for the most part, giving Ash Avenue an aura rather unlike its surrounding blocks.
Though the Eccles family occupied the building for most of the 1930s, it gradually fell into disrepair and was a boarding house for a time. Building contractor Matthew Kabriski, who had worked in the White House during the Truman administration, purchased the home for $12,500 in 1954 and set to work restoring its clapboards and repainted and restored the old house. The interior boasts oak and pine floors, marble sinks, and floor to ceiling windows.
Today the Queens Botanical Garden announced that Macy’s and the National Recreation and Park Association will support the QBG through its “Heart Your Park” initiative this spring. Through the initiative, Macy’s stores around the country selected more than 500 local parks and green spaces to help raise money for. So from March 7th until March 31st, customers can donate $1 or more at their local store and 100 percent of donations will benefit that store’s selected park. Macy’s will match the total donation dollar for dollar up until $250,000.
Donations for QBG will be accepted at the register at both the Macy’s Flushing and Queens Center Mall (Rego Park) stores. Here’s a statement from QBG’s Executive Director Susan Lacerte: “We are thrilled to partner with Macy’s and NRPA for ‘Heart Your Park’ this spring. Through this wonderful program and donations by Macy’s customers, we are excited about the increased awareness and additional funding for Queens Botanical Garden. This park is a great asset to the community, and we greatly appreciate Macy’s support.”
Remember: In Strawberry Fields, nothing is real. The Fab Faux, a world-renown Beatles tribute band whose members include Will Lee of Late Night with David Letterman and Jimmy Vivino from Conan O’Brien’s show, will perform at Flushing’s Colden Center on Saturday night. Famous for painstaking attention to detail and an unwavering respect for their idols, The Faux impeccably recreate the harmony, notes, sound and general experience of a Beatles concert, but with extra vocalists to achieve a double-tracked effect. For this show, the group will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show with a mixed set of favorites. They will be joined by the Creme Tangerine Strings and the Hogshead Horn.
Details: The Fab Faux, presented by JES Entertainment, Colden Center at Queens College, Kissena Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing, March 8th, 8 pm, $65/$55/$45.
Even the Polar Vortex needs to have fun every now and then. This weekend, the warmth and fun of the Caribbean come to Queens in various forms. On March 7th, Flushing Town Hall hosts a tribute to singer and actor Harry Belafonte with Jeff Zúñiga and his band recreating the King of Calypso‘s signature steel-drum tunes, “Day O” call, and such hits as ”Matilda” and “Jamaica Farewell.” On March 8th, Queens Museum kicks off a day of fun at 1 pm with Caribbean storytelling with Michael Manswell, a dancer, singer, choreographer, teaching artist and artistic director who is currently affiliated with the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning and other entities. At 2 pm, teaching artists host a mask-making activity that will lead to participants wearing their masks and dancing to the steel drums around the museum in Carnival style. Then at 3 pm, steel drum expert Patrick Davis and his group give a live concert.
Details: A Tribute to Harry Belafonte, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, March 7th, 8 pm, $15/$10 for students.
The Queensboro Hill/Flushing Civic Association just started a “Fight the Blight” campaign to speak out against large-scale development in residential neighborhoods. The group is asking neighbors in the area to submit addresses of out-of-context construction, which will then be submitted to the City Planning Commission. Queens Courier reports that the civic association, in particular, is eyeing this Flushing McMansion going up at 146-15 56th Road (also pictured above). Ideally the group would like the city to rezone the area to limit row house occupancies to single families.
Know of a hulking construction site going up on your block? Residents can e-mail submissions to FightTheBlightQueens@gmail.com.
A Victorian-era residence, the kind that have long been displaced in Flushing by boring, monolithic apartments and blond brick two-family homes (you know the type… concrete driveways and prominent water meters) has been preserved as a museum.
One of the rare survivors, a small, two-story house painted pink and white, at 149-19 38th Avenue, just south of Northern Boulevard, has not only been allowed to stand but has been restored to full Victorian-era glory.
It begins with its resident for 69 years, Betty Voelker-Orth, who was born in the house in 1926 and lived there until 1995, when she died from complications from an automobile accident. In her will, Mrs. Voelker-Orth, an English literature teacher, nature lover and birdwatcher, left her house to the Queens Historical Society, the Queens Botanical Society and the Audubon Society with the proviso that it be converted into a museum, bird sanctuary and Victorian garden, a specific type of garden employing colorful tropical plants in season, along with ornamental elements such as urns, benches, gazebos and statuary. Mrs. Voelker-Orth left a good part of her fortune, which amounted to millions, to the prospective museum as well.
Completed in 2001, the Voelker-Orth Museum stands as both a testament to Flushing’s old Victorian history and as a small nature retreat. You may contact the museum for guided tours and exhibits at 718-359-6227.
Representatives Grace Meng and Hakeem Jeffries just introduced bills to study the incorporation of the John Bowne House and Old Quaker Meeting House in Flushing and the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park into the National Park Service. The New York Daily News reports: “The sites already appear on the National Register of Historic Places for their significance to religious freedom and the American revolution, but experts say most people have no idea the historic gems are so close to home.” If the bills do become law, then the National Park Service will ultimately decide if they are worthy of federal upkeep and inclusion among the 401 other National Park-designated sites.
The John Bowne House, dating back to 1661, is one of the oldest homes in New York City and State, and the best preserved example of Anglo-Dutch vernacular architecture in the country. It became a museum in 1947. You can read the entire history of the John Bowne House in this two-part Q’Stoner series.
Here it is, the future design of the long-in-the-works Flushing Commons development. New York YIMBY snagged these renderings of the master plan — four new buildings and 1.5 acres of open space — from the project architect Perkins Eastman. The developers closed on the the 5.5-acre municipal parking lot where the complex will be constructed December 31st and construction on the first phase should start up soon. Phase One includes 150 units of housing, a 1,000-space parking lot and 220,000 square feet of commercial space. Phase Two then includes 450 residential units, more commercial space, 15,000 square feet of community space, a YMCA and a 1.5-acre public park.
After a number of setbacks there is finally a concrete ETA on this development — Phase 1 should finish by April 2017 and Phase 2 will break ground in 2018. The whole shebang should wrap in the early 2020s and cost a grand total of $850,000,000.