This afternoon, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, Borough President Melinda Katz, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, and members of Queens Community Board 5 celebrated the opening of renovated, expanded bocce courts at Juniper Valley Park. The courts are located on the corner of Juniper Boulevard North and 79th Street, in Middle Village. There are now three courts, one of which was created new as part of the renovation. For the existing courts, the Parks Department repaired and resurfaced to improve play and comfort. They added new shade canopies made from recycled material at the ends of each court. There’s also a new sitting area between the courts, more comfortable benches, new fencing and additional trees and greenery. The renovation was funded with $800,000 allocated by the Borough President and $50,000 allocated by Council Member Crowley.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Commissioner Lewandowski accepted a set of bocce balls donated to the court in memory of a bocce player who raised his family near Juniper Valley Park.
It’s officially summer now, a time when an afternoon in the park is just the thing to cool off body and soul. Because of history and geography, Queens can rightly boast of having some of the most unique parkland in the city, with parks ranging from the concrete and steel of Gantry Plaza State Park to the wide open sand dunes of Fort Tilden. While most of our city’s parks can boast of meadows and trees, Queen’s Juniper Valley Park, in Middle Village, is probably the only one that can boast of having a peat bog.
The park started out as a swamp. Tens of thousands of years ago, the glacier that created Long Island left behind a lot of water that collected in a swamp here. Much of that swamp eventually became a peat bog, as tons of vegetable material rotted and decomposed in the water and was turned into peat. Scientists in 1934 figured that the peat bog measured 10 acres in area, 16 feet in depth, and 390,000 cubic yards in volume.
The bog was called Juniper Swamp, due to the thick forest in and around the swamp filled with juniper and white cedar trees. During the Revolutionary War, the British occupying army camped out in the Middle Village area. Over the course of the war they decimated the forests in the area, cutting down trees for shelters, firewood and shipbuilding. They discovered the peat bog, and began cutting peat for fuel as well, a task also taken up by local residents, as the British had left little wood for anyone else. (more…)
Summer is about to be in full swing… and it’s time for youngsters to work on their swings — and jumps, sprints and putts. On July 1st, the City Parks Foundation kicks off its free 2014 Summer Sports Program in 12 green spaces in Queens. CityParks Tennisprovides free tennis lessons to children, ages six to 16, and concludes with tournaments at the Central Park Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows Tennis Center in mid-August. CityParks Golfprovides free lessons and equipment to boys and girls, ages six to 16. CityParks Track & Fieldgives kids, ages five to 16, the chance to learn the basics of the sport, from hurdles and relay races, to long jump, shot put and javelin throw. Participants then have the opportunity to compete in an organized meet at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island. The Queens schedule follows.
This month the NYC Department of Sanitation kicked off its curbside organics collection in the neighborhoods of Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth. (The city announced the program would come to these neighborhoods early this year.) The date of the first collection in Glendale was Monday June, 2nd; the first collection in Middle Village and Maspeth will be Monday, June 16th. Collection will happen once a week on recycling day. This is a voluntary program where residents put out organic material like food waste, food-soiled paper, and leaf and yard waste, and it’s a city effort to reduce trash disposal costs and create renewable energy or compost. For more information, or to apply to participate, go here. The organics collection program already exists in areas of Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx and Brooklyn.
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.
The building at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard, the former home of Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant, is coming down — at least partly. Queens Chronicle reports that the developers filed demolition permits for a portion of the existing building to make way for a seven-story, 114-unit apartment building. No one is spilling any details on the coming demolition, and existing shop owners feel frustrated due to the lack of specifics on the future transfer of ownership and potential demo. The owners of A Dog’s Best Friend, located just down from Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant, plan to move the business a few blocks away because of all the uncertainty.
Calling all renovators! This Middle Village home at 64-80 82nd Street is going to need some work but it’s got nice bones. Just get rid of the carpet (bright green carpet – why oh why?) and those purple tiles in the bathroom. The kitchen we quite like. And it looks like there are hardwood floors in one of the bedrooms, meaning that there may be more to uncover underneath all that carpet, as well as some original fireplaces. The ask is $689,000. Do you think that sounds right, given the cosmetic work this home is going to need?
The other week, news broke that the Criterion Group planned to build a new seven-story, 120-unit residential development at the former Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant site on Woodhaven Boulevard. We never heard back from Criterion on details for the coming build, but a Criterion rep spoke briefly to the Forum Newsgroup. The rep stated, “I’m surprised by how much interest this has already generated. We haven’t even finished our design stage yet. We are still waiting for the property to be acquired.” (Word is that the property sold for over $10,000,000.) A DOB spokesperson followed up, saying that Criterion is only in the beginning phases of development, with no permits issued yet. So far there’s only a building application for 81,719 square feet of residential space and 3,910 square feet for parking.
Rego-Forest Preservation Council was hoping the developers would maintain or restore the building’s historic character, but it looks like demolition may be in the near future.