Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sept 25th: Four Forest Hills Events - Mark Your Calendar!


What do animals, books, a yard sale, & a street fair have in common? Between 10 AM & 4 PM on 9/25:

At the Forest Hills Street Fair, I will be offering signed copies of my book "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park" as a collaboration with Trylon Vet Care P.C.'s Posh Pets Rescue fundraiser. Stop by our table on Austin Street near Starbucks. I will also be selling signed copies at the Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn around the corner from Station Square, as part of the Inn's annual yard sale that will benefit this historic property. Feel free to email unlockthevault@hotmail.com with questions or requests.


- Michael Perlman







Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pro Tennis Makes A Comeback At Iconic Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman

US Open 1977 at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, 35 mm slide

A milestone for the West Side Tennis Club and the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was achieved in 2013, when the iconic-but-long dormant stadium underwent restoration work and a rebirth as a concert venue that hosted Mumford & Sons. It recalled the days of the Forest Hills Music Festival, predominantly held during the 1960s and 1970s and featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan.

Now the club’s integral role in tennis history will have a new chapter. On February 17, Mylan World TeamTennis announced the formation of New York Empire, a franchise that will debut this summer at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.

“Excitement, enthusiasm, and a historic moment are some of the words members have used to express their feelings,” said Angela Martin, president of the West Side Tennis Club. “One of our junior players is thrilled that he will be able to see Andy Roddick play. There is also a great deal of conjecture about who the other players will be, not only on the New York Empire team, but other teams as well.”

Mylan World TeamTennis is a leader in professional team tennis competition, and features some of the world’s best players. The 2016 regular season will run from July 31 to August 13 and conclude with the Mylan World TeamTennis Finals on August 27.

The season will consist of six teams in competition for the King Trophy, which was named after its co-founder, Billie Jean King.

Former world number one Andy Roddick was signed as a marquee player, and ESPN commentator and former tour player Patrick McEnroe will serve as a coach.

“As both a player and an owner, I have always enjoyed all that encompasses Mylan World TeamTennis,” said Roddick in a statement. “To be able to play on the legendary courts at Forest Hills and be involved with a team in a city that I love will make this even more special.”

The initial contract, negotiated by former director Bob Ingersole and a committee comprised of David Duff, Carl Koerner, and Jon Knipe, will stand for three years.

The WSTC holds high expectations for this summer and the future of the club and its stadium.

“Not only for our club’s young members, but several generations have not had opportunities to witness pro tennis at the stadium,” Martin said. “In addition, tennis lovers will have unique opportunities to see matches.”
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in 1923, Courtesy of West Side Tennis Club

The stadium was designed in 1923 by Kenneth Murchison. It was the first concrete tennis stadium in America and the site of several historic firsts. Tennis was a segregated sport until racial barriers were broken in Forest Hills, when Althea Gibson became the first African American to win a US National tennis title in 1957, and Arthur Ashe became the first African American male to win the US Open title in 1968.

The stadium was also the birthplace of the US Open, where Billie Jean King played the first “open” match in 1968. In 1977, the final US Open was played at the stadium, and when it relocated to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, some spectators claimed that the stadium’s glory days were over.

In 2010, the stadium came close to demolition, until a plan to sell the site for a condo development was rejected.

At the time of the WSTC’s 100th anniversary in the spring of 2013, past president Roland Meier eyed a mix between quality tennis events, ice hockey in the winter, and concerts consisting of classical and modern music.

“Opportunities have arisen and will continue to surface for future uses of the stadium,” Martin said.





Billie Jean King at the US Open Tennis Championships, 1971

Also accessible at:Forest Hills Times - Pro tennis makes a comeback at iconic stadium


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Feb 26 Special Event: Legendary Locals & Queens History



Special Event: On February 26 at 7:30 PM, celebrate diverse achievements & Queens history by learning about legendary locals linked to Forest Hills, Rego Park, & Richmond Hill. RSVP: www.facebook.com/events/124918757894710

A presentation & book signing will be led by Michael H. Perlman, a 33-year Forest Hills resident who is an author, columnist, and Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council. Michael will personalize copies of his book, "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park" (foreword by Jerry Springer)

Admission is FREE & his book is available for purchase. Refreshments will be served. The event will be held at the Leonard Center at 86-13 112th Street in Richmond Hill. Please invite your friends.

This event is being coordinated by the Richmond Hill Historical Society to commemorate the history of Richmond Hill, which has been recognized as a preservation priority through the Historic Districts Council's "Six To Celebrate Program" - www.6tocelebrate.org

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Improving Our Parks with Historic Roots - How YOU Can Help!

By Michael Perlman

 Locals have the chance to get creative and feel like an urban planner. As part of an initiative to encourage citywide residents to play an active role in the beautification and versatility of citywide parks, the Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) launched the “Parks Without Borders” program in November, and began seeking requests, where the public can log suggestions for improvements on interactive maps through www.nycgovparks.org/planning-and-building/planning/parks-without-borders 

The program’s goal is to make park entrances more inviting, boundaries greener with enhanced sight lines and cozier with furnishings, and integrate underutilized park-adjacent spaces into ones the community can call their own.

Friends of MacDonald Park with founder Steve Melnick in the footsteps of Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue, September 2015

As communities plan their future, it is imperative to rediscover how such parks in Forest Hills and Rego Park bear historic ties to their neighborhood. MacDonald Park, a green oasis along the vibrant Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and 70th Road, was named on April 25, 1933 after Captain Gerald MacDonald (1882 – 1929), a WWI veteran from Forest Hills. He was an officer of engineers at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne and erected bridges and dug trenches. On May 26, 1934, a bronze Gerald MacDonald statue was dedicated to those who served in the war. In 1964, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy addressed an audience of 700. This is also the site of Forest Hills Tree Giveaways and the 112th Precinct’s Night Out Against Crime.

Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue under stately shade trees, 2008, Photo by Michael Perlman

Forest Hills resident Steve Melnick, founder of “Friends of MacDonald Park” (www.facebook.com/MacDonaldPark) explained, “Council Member Karen Koslowitz allocated $6,000 for MacDonald Park, and we received an $800 capacity fund grant from the City Parks Foundation and Partnerships for Parks, which will be used for tools and plantings.” Melnick submitted a Parks Without Borders request. He explained, “The entranceways need to be more open and inviting, and benches, tables, and bike racks could be added to bring more people into the park. The cracked sidewalks need to be reconstructed and LED lighting would improve security.” He also suggested a senior and children’s butterfly garden, children's events such as reading and puppet shows, musical events, and yoga. 

Council Member Arthur J Katzman & Marcia Katzman Allen, Courtesy of Marcia Katzman Allen

Another generously sized park is Yellowstone Park on Yellowstone Boulevard between 68th Avenue and 68th Road, which includes the Arthur  J. Katzman Playground. Council Member Arthur Katzman (1904 – 1993) whose nickname was “the conscience of city government,” served City Council for 29 years. When the land was slated for residential development, he advocated for the creation of a park, which opened on May 27, 1968.  

After the Parks Without Borders program was unveiled, another advocate came forward. Forest Hills resident Alexa Weitzman founded the grassroots organization, “Yellowstone Park Alliance” (www.facebook.com/YellowstoneParkQueens), and has since met with a NYC Parks representative. She explained, “This is a vibrant mixed-use park, and there’s always room for more greenery. It’s nice seeing grass, lots of open space, and maybe even a gazebo.” Her wish list also includes additional plantings, benches, resurfacing the bleachers in the basketball courts, and asking local dog owners how the trails can be upgraded. Prior to coordinating the alliance, she launched a petition which references three gates that open directly onto city streets. She stated, “Allowing these gates to open and close and installing locking mechanisms would create a much safer play space.” In addition, she envisions introducing lower fences to make the park more inviting.    

Leo Ehrenreich in 1949, Courtesy of Community Board 6  

Ehrenreich-Austin Playground between 76th Avenue and 76th Drive on Austin Street also merits sprucing up, and residents now have a chance to follow in the footsteps of Leo Ehrenreich (1882 – 1962). Under his “one-man civic association,” he advocated for Forest Hills and Kew Gardens playgrounds, and the park plot was acquired on May 2, 1947 after Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and Queens Borough President George Harvey were receptive to his petition. 

Ehrenreich-Austin Playground in 2009, Photo by Michael Perlman

This generation has another Forest Hills-based visionary named Amy Long, who founded “Earth Citizens Club for Ehrenreich-Austin Playground.” She explained, “I would like to see our parks become a center for community events such as performances, a venue for arts and culture, and educational activities to promote ecological mindfulness and sustainable living; especially now when climate change and the environment is such an important focus.”  The grassroots group submitted ideas to Parks Without Borders, which included minimizing the fence, restructuring benches, and introducing a central arts installation and/or a mural. To date, the group has planted daffodils, launched a cleanup, and coordinated Family Yoga Fun Day last August.

Other local parks with historical ties awaiting public input include Federoff Triangle, Real Good Park, World’s Fair Playground, Lost Battalion Playground, Russell Sage Playground, Annadale Playground, Plaza 67, Horace Harding Playground, Pebblestone Triangle, Fleetwood Triangle, Willow Lake Playground, and The Painter’s Playground.


“Over 300 volunteer hours were devoted just to MacDonald Park in 2015,” said Melnick, who indicated that such a commitment by locals coupled with the city’s Parks Without Borders program has the makings of a success story. 

A modified version of this article appears in the Forest Hills Times: www.foresthillstimes.com/view/full_story/27040805/article-Help-improve-your-local-park

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cinemart Cinemas Fundraiser Begins Dec 30 with "The Hateful Eight"


Please ATTEND & SHARE the 12/30 fundraiser to help upgrade & preserve the classic Cinemart Cinemas​ at 106-03 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills.

Beginning on 12/30, Quentin Tarantino’s film, “The Hateful Eight,” an American mystery western with an all-star cast will debut at the Cinemart in a rich 35 mm film format & a digital format (only theater outside Manhattan). An $8 admission will include free popcorn, free drinks & refills (seniors $6). Help finance the installation of novelty leather recliners, slated for March 2016, which is part of owner Nicolas Nicolaou’s commitment towards providing comfort & affordability. 


Showtimes: www.cinemartcinemas.com

The Cinemart is presumably the city’s longest independently owned & operated theater since its opening in 1927, & one of the last.


Last year's screening of the first-run film, "American Sniper" achieved record ticket sales, thanks to the community, and helped prevent the Cinemart from closing its doors. Please continue your support. 

Owner Nicolas Nicolaou and manager Sal Parete welcome you....



Monday, December 21, 2015

Dec 27: FREE Forest Hills Gardens Tour!


FREE Forest Hills Gardens Holiday Tour on Sun, Dec 27 from 2 PM - 4 PM. 


Please add your friends to the event page & share over social media.

We will visit historic sites including the storied Forest Hills Inn & Tea Garden, PS 101, The Leslie, Adolph Weinman's WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, Church-in-the-Gardens, & the Christian Science Church. Also to be explored is the Gardens' celebrity culture with names i.e. Burt Bacharach, Fred Hart, & Alrick Man, Jr.

We will meet at Station Square outside the LIRR Station at Continental Ave & Burns St. Please join Jeff Gottlieb (Central Queens Historical Association, President), Michael Perlman (Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair, & Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park, Author), & Cheryl Cuddeback (longtime resident, author, & real estate salesperson).

The forecast is predicted to be mild. Questions? Email jeffgottlieb@hotmail.com & unlockthevault@hotmail.com  


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Kennedy House At 50 - A Landmark of Luxury Living

By Michael Perlman




Towering 34 stories over Queens Boulevard is the Kennedy House at 110-11 Queens Boulevard, which has been a prestigious address since its 1966 opening. On track to its 50th anniversary, past and current residents, as well as descendants of its architect and builder are proud to relive memories and emphasize the distinctive accommodations.

The Kennedy House was developed while the 1964 – 1965 World’s Fair was underway, and not long after the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was designed by award-winning architect Philip Birnbaum (1907 – 1996) and developed by another award winner, Alfred L. Kaskel (1901 – 1968), President of Carol Management Corporation, who frequently partnered to introduce projects to the growing Forest Hills community, including a majority of presidential-titled buildings along 108th Street and Yellowstone Boulevard. Without a surprise, their latest endeavor was the recipient of a 1st prize bronze plaque by the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1966.


Kennedy House rising, as Forest Hills musician Peter Dizozza & his father pose alongside Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church on May Day, 1965, Courtesy of Peter Dizozza

When residents picked up The New York Times in April 1965, highly stylized ads featured cartoon-like renderings of the tower offset by a rooftop pool. A few were titled “A Landmark of Luxury Living” and referenced a “new dimension of urban living.” Accommodations would include a landscaped park and gardens which occupies 75 percent of the site, banded terraces with turquoise lights, and central air with individual room controls. Rent for a studio to a three-bedroom apartment began at $162, and all-inclusive was gas, electric, and use of “vacation-at-home facilities,” such as two rooftop swimming pools, a sauna, a sun deck, a recreation room, a 24 hour doorman, and an attended garage.

Alfred Kaskel & Philip Birnbaum hold a 1st prize building award, Courtesy of Daniel Kaskel

Historically, the owner called the Kennedy House “the tallest swimming pool foundation in the world.” Florida resident Daniel Kaskel, great-grandson of builder Alfred Kaskel explained, “Alfred is credited for constructing the first elevated pool on the rooftop of an apartment building. He experienced engineering issues, but resolved them by combining concrete and steel framing to support the heavy loads.”

Residents and visitors continue to make an entrance under a colonnade marquee past a driveway, and walking across marble floors in a 2-story domed lobby by the famed interior designer Tom Lee, and topped off with an elegant crystal chandelier. Manhattan resident Dara Birnbaum, daughter of architect Philip Birnbaum offered a detail account. “My father grew up in poverty on the Lower East Side, and it meant the world to him to be able to provide the rising middle class, post-WWII, with a sense of status, achievement, and refinement.” She continued, “He paid utmost attention to the layouts of the apartments, yielding more open floor plans, with less square footage dedicated to hallways, and instead added expansive living rooms and bedrooms.”

Her father took pride in living on the 29th floor of what was deemed the tallest building in Queens. “My birthday and my mom’s birthday are on October 29th and September 29th, so that held meaning for us. My brother and I were a little intimidated by the height of the terrace, and we would tease about how people walking on the street looked like ants.” Her favorite accommodation was the rooftop pool, which she took advantage of in the summer while pursuing architecture. “I could return home from college and swim as the sun set over Manhattan, which was magical,” she recalled.

The Kennedy House remains a beacon of light. “The markers of the blue lights used for the terraces reminded my father of an airport runway, specifically those at JFK Airport,” she said. The lobby’s crystal chandelier holds more stories. “It typified my father's desire that the rising middle class could identify with items of luxury, and while it can be seen as a status symbol, it is also a wondrous sparkling light to welcome one home.” She pointed out that his entryways and lobbies were designed to be prominent, and he and Kaskel would often fly to Europe seeking chandeliers and antiques.

Erected with the family in mind, the Kennedy House symbolized traditions. Las Vegas resident Judith Becker’s grandparents Jack and Pauline Schwartz were among the first tenants and remained until the mid-1980s. She said, “I visited them weekly and when I became a parent, my son and I visited together.” Also among the first tenants were Forest Hills resident David Schwartz’s grandparents, and his most cherished memories included playing in the property’s small park with his grandfather. He continued, “I loved being greeted by John, the doorman who was there years later, when I dropped off my daughter to visit her friend. I walked in and said ‘hello John,’ and he said ‘hello David.’”

Since 1995, the Kennedy House has been part of resident Regina Judith Faighes’ harmonious experience. It faces Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, where she sings in the choir. She explained, “It is set back from Queens Boulevard, and its grounds include spacious lawns and beautiful trees, including a majestic linden tree. This year, they planted evergreen trees on which lights are hung, so they are living Christmas trees.”

James Griffin and his wife have called the building home for 15 years. “It is superbly maintained and skillfully managed, and the location is a contender for the best in Queens,” he said, referencing its convenience to diverse restaurants, shops, the subway, and the LIRR. He also praised the refurbished gym, the 24-hour doorman, and the pool.

Native Forest Hills resident Robert Rosner said, “I remember a bust of JFK facing fountains, which was removed soon after its installation.” Bert Schwartz’s 6-faced bronze sculpture that captured various moods of JFK was set against a meteorite, and was rejected for its small size. Its whereabouts are unknown, but what is known is how the majority of the Kennedy House’s grand features and services withstood the test of time, proving “A landmark of luxury living.”


A similar version also appeared in the Forest Hills Times: www.foresthillstimes.com/view/full_story/27003251/article-The-Kennedy-House-At-50