01/23/15 11:00am


In 2007, the Brooklyn Museum donated a colonial relic to the Greater Astoria Historical Society — a door that was part of the historic Blackwell Mansion in Ravenswood, Queens, likely built in 1730 by patriarch Jacob Blackwell (1692-1744).

After the Battle of Brooklyn (aka the battle of Long Island) in August 1776, the British and Hessians swept into Queens from the south and east. Upon their arrival in Astoria (not yet named as such), in September 1776, Colonel Jacob Blackwell had to flee. The British hacked the “Arrow of Confiscation” (seen clearly on the left in the above photo) into his front door, making it the property of the crown. This arrow marking still exists in the door’s exterior. Jacob Blackwell returned to the house and lived there through the worst of the British occupation, and died there in October 1780, still a British subject in a land not yet the independent United States.



01/23/15 10:00am


The Department of Housing Preservation and Development released a list of 175 city-owned sites around New York with the potential for affordable development. And as Queens Courier reports, 17 of those sites are in Jamaica (and are the only parcels singled out in the borough). The HPD is offering financing to developers willing to build developments in which one in every three units is affordable, or is regulated up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The list has caused some controversy, as 16 of the sites selected around New York are currently active community gardens. There is one garden at risk in Jamaica, the McKinley’s Children’s Garden.

The Courier points out the most interesting space available in the neighborhood: 108-59 Union Hall Street, the single largest parcel with 8,830 square feet, which could be combined with adjacent lots for a total of 20,800 square feet of land.

17 City-Owned Sites in Jamaica Identified for New Affordable Housing [Queens Courier]

Map by Queens Courier

01/23/15 9:00am


Yesterday, Borough President Melinda Katz delivered her State of the Borough address. In it, she talked about her accomplishments during her first year in office and discussed the future of Queens in regards to education, zoning, affordable housing, airports, transportation and more. Education was a main priority, and she vowed to work with the School Construction Authority to move children out of “temporary” trailers used as classrooms due to school overcrowding by the end of the year. (The Daily News also published a story with more details.) She also plans to work with community-based organizations to host more pre-K programs.

We were particularly interested in her talk on zoning. Katz wants to create a zoning designation to protect neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes, like Maspeth and Ridgewood. This designation would aim to preserve the low-density character these neighborhoods are known for, and likely discourage out-of-context, larger development.

In regards to the borough’s current homeless shelter controversies, Katz wants NYCHA to allocate more public housing apartments to homeless families. She asked for an annual allocation of at least 2,500 public housing units for the homeless.

She also called for permanent ferry service connecting the Rockaways to Manhattan, despite Mayor de Blasio putting an end to that last October.

And on a fun note, Katz’s office will now sponsor an annual “Queens Day” event to celebrate the diversity of the borough. The administration decided to do this after seeing the success from last year’s anniversary celebrations of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.

Read the full recap of the speech from the Borough President right here.

Photo courtesy Paul Vallone

01/23/15 8:30am


Ridgewood Seeing Rise in Property Values, Boom for Businesses [NY1]
Newly Constructed Whitestone Office Building Starts Search for Tenants [Queens Courier]
Flushing-Jamaica Bus Battle Brewing [Queens Chronicle]
Hundreds Look to Astoria Cove for Jobs [Queens Chronicle]
City Waits to See if Incoming Storm Brings Heavy Snow or Torrential Rain [DNAinfo]
Big Turnout for DOT’s First Queens Boulevard Safety Workshop [Streetsblog]
Van Bramer Issues Report Card, Focuses on Schools, Parks and Traffic Safety [Sunnyside Post]

01/22/15 4:00pm


There’s been a lot of talk concerning better bus service in Queens as of late. The discussion continues tonight at the Townsend Harris High School library (149-11 Melbourne Avenue) in Flushing. The Department of Transportation is holding an open house about the Flushing to Jamaica Select Bus Service and plans to present the first round of designs for future bus stop locations. Feel free to stop by anytime between 6:30 and 8 pm to check out the designs and leave feedback. Refreshments will be provided.

All Select Bus Service coverage [Q'Stoner]

01/22/15 3:00pm

69-12 Woodside Avenue-queens-sale

The residential development site at 69-12 Woodside Avenue, between 69th Street and 70th Street, is now on the market for $1,600,000. The parcel is a total of 6,500 square feet and currently holds a two-story frame home and garage. Currently built up to a FAR of .34, the lot could accommodate a much larger residential development with a FAR of 1.25. To be more precise, there’s potential for a multi-family building with as much as 8,125 square feet. As far as we can tell there’s demand in the area, so we’ll see how close this gets to ask.

The location is two blocks from the 69th Street subway stop. GMAP

01/22/15 2:00pm


Last night, the Department of Transportation hosted a safety worksop in Woodside concerning Queens Boulevard, a thoroughfare so dangerous it’s referred to as the “Boulevard of Death.” Times Ledger attended the meeting, where nearly one hundred residents showed up. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told that group that “this workshop is only the first step in a more comprehensive process to re-imagine and redesign the boulevard as a safer, greener, more attractive corridor for residents and businesses.” Great news!

The workshop focused on the stretch of Queens Boulevard from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street, and participants discussed safety concerns and possible design solutions in groups. According to the Ledger, “The DOT plans include more pedestrian islands, wider sidewalks, enclosed bike lanes, countdown clocks and more crosswalks.” There’s no timeline yet on when the redesign will actually happen.

DOT Holds Public Workshop to Discuss Redesign of Queens Boulevard [Times Ledger]
Closing Bell: Queens Boulevard Safety Workshop Coming Up [Q'Stoner]

01/22/15 1:00pm


Physics and geometry have never been so much fun! Greg Kennedy will perform Spherus, a nonverbal show with two accompanying aerial acrobats that incorporates trapeze, silks, and spinning hoops this Saturday at Flushing Town Hall. Trained as an engineer and a two-time international juggling champion, Kennedy spent five years with Cirque du Soleil. Now, he’s putting it all together with a juggling performance inter-spliced with video that illustrates and explains the principles of motion, light, energy, and gravity. For extra credit, he’ll give a workshop on creating beauty in motion after the show.

Details: Juggling Extravaganza, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, January 24th, 2:15 show, 3:30 pm workshop, $13/$8 for children.


Photo: Flushing Town Hall

01/22/15 12:00pm


In today’s edition of “the rent is too damn high,” here’s a 550-square-foot rental in Astoria asking $1,800 a month. It’s located at 21-24 Newtown Avenue, a few blocks west from the heart of the neighborhood. The unit’s got an alcove kitchen, which is nice, and the finishes and appliances look new. The living space is exactly what you would expect from a studio apartment. It’s also rent stabilized, so at least the rent can’t go too much higher, and the building has a common roof deck and laundry room. So, what do you think?

21-24 Newtown Avenue [MNS] GMAP

01/22/15 11:00am


On a frigid afternoon last week, I found myself at Machpela Cemetery, visiting the grave of perhaps the greatest celebrity of the early 20th century – Harry Houdini. Houdini was a stage magician, an escape artist, a genius promoter, a star of the stage and screen, claimed to be one of the toughest men alive, and he died on Halloween in 1926.

There’s a tremendous amount of drama that revolves around Houdini’s grave, which the New York Times has reported on in this 2008 piece, and in this 2011 one. There’s little point in repeating the oft told tale, or the conflicts surrounding the upkeep of the monument as I’d just be dancing around other people’s reporting. Instead, I’d ask you to click through to the links above for the whole story (the links will open in new windows), and I’ll be waiting here for you when you’re done.

More after the jump… (more…)