Don’t bring a black-and-white camera. This Sunday, the 26th Annual Phagwah-Holi Parade will fill the streets of Richmond Hill with color, music and glee. If the weather is good, at least 50,000 revelers will celebrate this Indo-Caribbean-Hindu religious holiday by singing, riding floats and throwing powder, perfume and water at each other in a good-natured fashion. (One popular red dye, called ”abeer,” symbolizes the blood of tyrannical King Kiranya, who was burnt alive by his son to avenge the suffering he had inflicted on his people.) The parade formation will begin at around 10 am in the vicinity of Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street. Participants will then proceed to 125th Street and head to Smokey Oval Park at 92nd Avenue, where music and cultural performances will take place until about 6 pm.
Details: Phagwah Parade, Liberty Avenue, starting at 133rd Street, Richmond Hill, March 16th, 10 am to 6 pm, free.
Richmond Hill residents are launching a new community garden called “Love, Life and Liberty” which is centered around cancer wellness. The 2,075-square-foot parcel, at the corner of 107th Avenue and 124th Street, is city owned and has been vacant for 25 years. Residents are taking over the space with plans to grow anti-cancer herbs, flowers and plants. They also hope to cultivate conversations about cancer wellness, and are designing a community mural with an female artist who has lost her father to cancer.
The group is currently working with GreenThumb and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services with a goal to launch with a fundraising garden party on March 8th, 2014. If you are interested in helping get this community space off the ground, sign up here.
At yesterday’s Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting, the commissioners voted to support the change in use at the Republican Club, a long-empty Richmond Hill landmark. The owners need to secure a special permit to rehabilitate the structure and open it as a catering hall. They also submitted an application to install a fence and gate around the building — the LPC ultimately said a fence could be installed only around the sides of the building and not in front because it would obscure the facade. The Republican Club, constructed in 1908, long served as a political headquarters in Queens but sat empty for years. According to the owner’s plans submitted to the LPC, the catering hall will include a dance floor, seating area, kitchen and large restaurant space. The total occupancy is for 201 people. Click through to see a rendering of the proposed fence, as well as historic photos of the property and photos of its current condition.
“Deepavali” translates into English as “row of lamps.” Often known by it’s shortened form, “Diwali,” it is a five-day Hindu festival of lights — celebrating the triumph of good over evil — that is also observed by some Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal and other countries that have large Hindu populations, such as Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago. This Saturday in Richmond Hill, the Divya Jyoti Association will present Diwali Nagar 2013, a festival beginning with a puja offering ceremony, at 3 pm. At 5 pm, the fun will include cultural booths depicting Hindu gods and goddesses along with food, chanting, henna, face-painting and dance at the Arya Spiritual Center Ground. Then at 6 pm, local artists will sing, dance and perform skits before a sari parade and drum ceremony (above).
Details: Grand Diwali Nagar, Arya Spiritual Center Grounds, 104-20 133rd Street, Richmond Hill, October 26th, 3 pm, free. (more…)
The crumbling Republic Club landmark, on Lefferts Boulevard between Hillside and Jamaica avenues, is heading to the Landmarks Preservation Commission! The owners announced their intent to rehabilitate the long-abandoned building and open it as a catering hall last month. The Landmarks agenda for Tuesday, October 22nd features two items: An application to install a fence and gate around the “Colonial Revival style civic building designed by Henry E. Haugaard and built in 1908,” as well as an application “to request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission issue a report to the City Planning Commission relating to an application for a Modification of Use pursuant to Section 74-711 of the Zoning Resolution.” The owners need a special permit under Section 74-711 of the city’s zoning regulations because it allows for a catering hall to operate at a site that includes a landmarked facade. There is no word on the construction timeline for the building restoration.
On the heels of our recent profile of the Republican Club on Lefferts Boulevard between Hillside and Jamaica avenues, Queens Courier is reporting that the crumbling landmark is now slated for rehabilitation. The Courier reports that the building owners will present plans to Community Board 9 at its October 8th meeting to turn the building into a catering hall. The owners need to file for a special permit to operate a catering hall at the site, hence the Community Board meeting. It’s likely the Community Board will support the plan, given the desire to restore the building and also keep it a gathering place. The article does not go into detail about the rehabilitation plans or the timeline for construction. The Republican Club, constructed in 1908, long served as a political headquarters but has sat empty for years.
In a city and borough that either allows its history to rot (Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Civic Virtue statue in Kew Gardens, now Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery) or allows rapacious developers to destroy all semblance of community (Astoria Village, Flushing) the condition of Richmond Hill’s Republican Club, where, despite its name, presidents of both parties have appeared, is especially appalling.
The landmarked Republican Club building, on Lefferts Boulevard between Hillside and Jamaica avenues, pretty much looks the same on the exterior as it did in 1908, when architect Henry Haugaard built the Colonial Revival style building. That’s the problem with this historic structure — it looks as if it hasn’t been touched in decades. The windows are boarded up; those which are still there are broken, and the paint is peeling away on the façade.
The building has an illustrious history, though. The interior originally boasted oak pews, doors and paneling, a bowling alley-come-archery range. The Richmond Hill Historical Society preserved the signed photographs of Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding and Theodore Roosevelt that were found inside. During World War One the Club became a canteen and a place for rest and relaxation for US armed forces.
The club remained an important gathering place for the Republican Party throughout the 20th century well into the 1980s. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford have all given speeches here, and Ronald Reagan appeared here during primary season in 1976 and during the 1980 campaign. Hopefully this historic building can be rehabilitated and its proud history once again can be available for Richmond Hillers and New Yorkers to enjoy.
On your marks… Get set… Eat! The tenth annual Queens Restaurant Week 2013 will run from September 30th to October 3rd and October 7th to October 10th with more than 60 eateries participating. A three-course, prix fixe dinner for $28 and lunch for $14 are the general parameters for the promotion, although some establishments will also offer wine or some other items, and many restaurants will continue their specials beyond October 10th. As to be expected in the world’s most diverse county, the cuisine options are boundless. Participating restaurants include Ben’s Best (Kosher, Rego Park), Christos (Astoria, steakhouse with Greek influence), Dazies (Sunnyside, Italian), Haveli (Forest Hills, Indian), Roka (Richmond Hill, Turkish), Tequila Sunrise (Bayside, Mexican) and Uncle Peter’s (Jackson Heights, pan-European).
Sometimes history can be couched in the mundane. There’s a little slant-roofed building at the right angle formed by Myrtle and Jamaica avenues in Richmond Hill, decked with aluminum siding and an array of changing businesses on the ground floor. A closer look reveals some window panes with a “THB” monogram, and several carvings of laughing gnomes at entrances on the Jamaica Avenue side.
It turns out that almost as long as there’s been a Richmond Hill, there’s been a Triangle Hotel. It was built by Charles Paulson in 1868 and was originally rented out as a grocery and post office. By 1893, the building, by then owned by John Kerz and operating as a hotel, included an eatery named the Wheelman’s Restaurant in honor of the new bicycling craze. After some time it became known as the Triangle Hofbrau, hence the monogram.
According to theRichmond Hill Historical Society, Babe Ruth (who was a golf enthusiast in nearby St. Albans) and Mae West were patrons of the Triangle Hofbrau in the 1920s. Vaudeville-era pianist and composer Ernest Ball (1878-1927) wrote the music for the now-standard “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” in one of the hotel’s guest rooms in 1912.