Monday, September 27, 2010

Downed Trees Represent The Loss of History in Forest Hills: Michael Perlman's Interview with Forest Hills Patch

Local historian Michael Perlman stands with a monumental Weeping Willow that was destroyed during the tornado. Photo by Forest Hills Patch
Approximately a week after the September 16, 2010 macroburst, which tore through Forest Hills and sections of Rego Park within minutes, as well as other parts of Queens & Brooklyn, I was privileged to meet reporter Rob MacKay of Forest Hills Patch, a fairly new neighborhood publication. We surveyed the damage in Forest Hills' Cord Meyer section, and along Queens Blvd near MacDonald Park, which were 2 of the sections that were drastically affected. On the basis of my interview, which revolves around the historic "forest" factor in Forest Hills, Rego-Forest Preservation Council is proud yet sad to feature the 9/25 Forest Hills Patch article, Downed Trees Represent The Loss of History In Forest Hills:

http://foresthills.patch.com/articles/downed-trees-represent-loss-of-history-in-forest-hills


Hundred-year-old growth swept away in 'minutes'

The storm system that ripped through Brooklyn and Queens on Sept. 16 caused one death, vast property damage and left thousands without power. It also destroyed hundreds of trees in the Forest Hills area, including some that had predated the neighborhood's turn-of-the-century founding.

Commissioner Joseph Bruno, of the New York City Office of Emergency Management, said Queens lost 3,113 trees in total, with 4,000 more damaged.

"You took a major hit, there's no question, that's over 7,000 trees affected in a significant way," Bruno said at a town hall meeting.

"It was like a living horror film," said Michael Perlman, a third-generation resident who was walking in his neighborhood when the storm struck. "This tragedy took the 'forest' out of Forest Hills."

The city has not taken an official count yet, but Perlman, who chairs the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, thinks that more than 1,000 trees were destroyed in just Forest Hills. The majority were maples, oaks and elms, but the neighborhood lost weeping willows, cherry blossoms, apple blossoms and ginkoes, too. Many of the trees stood 100-feet high, and some were close to 150 years old, he said.

Perlman, who has walked around the streets with his camera to document the damage, noted that trees located on street corners more often perished than ones at mid-block that were protected by large apartment complexes. He was surprised to discover that so many of the younger, thinner trees survived, while the thick trunks of many mature ones were snapped apart and blown 30 to 40 feet away. "It's haunting that what took an entire life — almost a century — can be eliminated in a couple of minutes," he said. "It proves that we have to be thankful for what we have and what we had."

No streets in the community were without damage, but the Leslie Apartments in Forest Hills Gardens and MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard and 70th Road were hit particularly hard.

Other devastated areas include the portion bounded by 108th Street and Yellowstone Boulevard from 68th Street to Continental Avenue and what is known as "The Cord Meyer Section," which includes the vicinity of 110th Street and Jewel Avenue. One apartment building near the intersection of Queens and Yellowstone boulevards was left with a barren sidewalk as all its trees fell down like dominoes.

According to Perlman, some of the felled trees predated the establishment of Forest Hills in 1906 and Forest Hills Gardens in 1909, and most uprooted trees were older than the apartment buildings that were constructed beside them between 1920 and the 1940's. The macroburst, as it has become known, came 50 years to the day after Hurricane Donna ravaged Forest Hills, destroying the West Side Tennis Club and causing a seven-day suspension of the 1960 U.S. Open tennis tournament final that was being played there.

Perlman, 28, said he hoped to live in Forest Hills for his entire life, and he has just begun an effort to re-green the neighborhood. Some of the trees can be resurrected through re-planting and pruning, he believes, and if that's not possible, he wants to plant new ones. He said he plans to reach out to arborists, neighbors, civic associations, building complexes, the Parks Department, and the community board.

"Nothing is impossible," he said. "It would be very inspirational for the neighborhood."

End of an era! The tree of all trees; 1 of 2 cherished Weeping Willow trees in front of the regal James Madison on 108th St is uprooted & mourned by residents & passersby. Photo by Forest Hills Patch
A prominent oak tree, likely dating to the 1920s, snaps & twists at the trunk, falling  into the lawn of The Continental Apartments. It was planted when the first Continental Apts was erected or perhaps pre-dated it, and then Cord Meyer Development built around several of its type on the block, when the replacement building was erected. Photo by Forest Hills Patch

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tornado Aftermath: A Walk Through Forest Hills With Michael Perlman & Important Recovery Effort Advice

A new compilation of photos has been uploaded to flickr, depicting the aftermath of the September 16, 2010 tornado and macroburst, from a Forest Hills, NY viewpoint. Photos are by Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council.

The following photoset will be updated over the upcoming days. The images you will see are proof of how we have to be thankful for every day on this planet, and what we had and have in our lives. RIP PA-resident Aline Levakis, and our circa 3,113 precious trees lost in Queens (not including the figure of losses in Brooklyn and Staten Island). Limbs hanging number 3,069. Over 7,000 trees were affected in a significant way. Concerning our infrastructure, 70 buildings were destroyed, and 439 structures were damaged. These figures were compiled by city officials. Sidewalks have also been cracked and uplifted.

Call 311 & our elected officials (such as Councilmember Karen Koslowitz of Forest Hills & Rego Park) with complaints and concerns. This is an eye on the tragedy, and a demonstration of what measures WE THE PEOPLE need to undertake for an efficient recovery process, for a hopeful future:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157624885337407/

Please share your experiences, reactions, and any advice you can offer. Thank you!

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Becomes Shelter During Tornado & WSTC Voting Day Postponed

A message from Chair Michael Perlman, on behalf of Rego-Forest Preservation Council:

  In regard to the iconic yet endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, the West Side Tennis Club's informational meeting has been rescheduled to 7 PM on Thurs, Sept 30th, and will be held at the Forest Hills Gardens' Community House. There will be a closed-door meeting for WSTC members on Thurs, Oct 7th at 7 PM at the West Side Tennis Club. They would need a 2/3 vote by the voting-eligible members, and then the sale would go through to Cord Meyer, who plans to build typical condos in place of the majority of an icon.

    On the Oct 7th "judgment day" West Side Tennis Club members should think sensitively and creatively for retaining the iconic Stadium. They should keep in mind that it merits landmark status by city and state to commemorate history, while opening the door towards restorative funding for any owner. Also, it should come to mind that the revered Stadium should be creatively reused for the benefit of the greater public as initially conceived (called America's Tennis Stadium in an original 1922 rendering by the builder) and proven throughout a most distinctive history, rather than approving a sale for typical condos. That would be a least imaginative solution. Once an icon is gone, it can never be brought back. A mixed-use venture consolidating tennis, concerts, weddings, school trips, exhibitions, charity events, and music and art festivals, will not only save history, but yield a greater economic incentive for the whole neighborhood and city, and increase tourism. It is important to think outside of the box, and obtain city, state, and federal grants, while coordinating a series of fundraisers, which we will organize. This is a "Landmark" opportunity, so let's embrace it!

   Some people have questioned the Stadium's durability, but some of those same people and more, ran for cover during Forest Hills' rare tornado on Sept 16th (macroburst), and the Stadium survived well, while keeping the public safe. It proves its builder, The Foundation Company was not called that for nothing, and also proves that the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium has a rock solid foundation and structure. The Clubhouse of the WSTC, however, has sustained some damage.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tornado Aftermath: A Walk Through Forest Hills With Greg Godfrey

Community advocate Greg Godfrey of Forest Hills, and President of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World's Fair Association, has provided the aftermath photos of the 125 mph tornado which hit Forest Hills on September 16, 2010. It was classified as a macroburst, which is more potent. Never has anything so intense struck our "home sweet home." Within minutes, our landscape was forever changed. What we mourn most is our street trees, parks, and privately owned trees that owners treated with TLC. Such beauty was the result of a lifetime, but let's be thankful for what we had and still have. A tree is a blessing. There is no official count yet of trees lost, but the city predicts thousands. Chairman Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council features Greg Godfrey's pictorial documentary, and we extend our gratitude to a dedicated individual and our friend.....

MacDonald Park, Forest Hills...absolutely destroyed. 85% or more of the trees are down. This historic park, named after WWI veteran, Captain Gerald MacDonald, is in the midst of bustling Queens Blvd featured a most impressive tree canopy. It was a retreat and a foliage lover's dream.
MacDonald Park, Forest Hills...absolutely destroyed. 85% or more of the trees are down. This historic park, named after WWI veteran, Captain Gerald MacDonald, is in the midst of bustling Queens Blvd featured a most impressive tree canopy. It was a retreat and a foliage lover's dream.
Forest Hills Gardens, south of Station Square. Greg Godfrey explains "People were weeping, and 100 year old trees are gone. Massive damage. Emotional and physical. What was most moving was how many people were just walking around emotionally stunned by the amount of trees; the amount of 'our living neighbors' we lost. The smell of sap and chopped wood and leaves was everywhere."
Forest Hills Gardens: Trees occasionally fell against early 20th century homes, or into the road throughout the neighborhood.
Greg Godfrey states "People kept gathering and talking about the loss of their sylvan towers. It was like a funeral."
Forest Hills Gardens: Circa 101 year-old tree uprooted in park.
Forest Hills Gardens: Trees plunged, holes in roof, door blown off.
Forest Hills Gardens: Minor damage to these historic trees, considering the scale of others in Forest Hills.
Forest Hills Gardens: Burns St off Ascan Ave facing park. The unheard of!
The signature Kennedy House on Queens Blvd, Forest Hills. Massive windows were shattered and doors blown in.
The Landmarked Ridgewood Savings Bank on Queens Blvd & Continental Ave. The beautiful pine tree is a shadow of itself. Historic and iconic amber windows were shattered and being replaced 24 hours later.
Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills: A disaster!
The Continental Apartments on Queens Blvd. This was an inspirational mature tree like the one on the right, but snapped at its trunk. The trees likely dated to the 1920s when the first Continental Apts was on site, or earlier.
70th Road, Forest Hills: Virtually all the trees are down. They dated to the 1920s or prior. A frequent site throughout the neighborhood is crushed cars.
Queens Blvd towards 70th Rd. This was once a tree-lined block. The few trees that remained received a massive pruning. The Continental Apts lawn on the right had a huge pine tree, likely planted in the 1960s. We always remarked about its beauty. It was one of few in Forest Hills.
Yellowstone Blvd off north side of Queens Blvd. This building had full trees in front. Now there are none.
The Weeping Willows on 108th St in front of famed architect Philip Birnbaum's series of presidential buildings was an ICON of Forest Hills. It was planted circa 1940s, & gave a pastoral setting. It inspired local artists. Heartbreaking how such a healthy tree was uprooted. It was 1 of a pair in front of this building's circular driveway. Greg Godfrey states "This was my favorite building on 108th street, and it had a magnificent Weeping Willow... now gone. Many people paid their respects, and recounted how this was their favorite tree."
Greg Godfrey states "My old building had massive trees surrounding it. Now all the apartments will have bright light." The award-winning Kelvin Apts were designed along with other 1920s buildings on 108th St, & one of their key features were the communal gardens and their trees.
Where there were trees, there are now none. This is outside PS 303 in the Cord Meyer section, which was settled in 1906, predating the Forest Hills Gardens by 3 years. Some of the trees were presumably that old.
A downed traffic light & lamp post arm on 108th St.
"David's Garden" at Flushing Meadows - Corona Park. Greg Godfrey states "I personally removed all of the debris on the road and in the garden till about 9 PM last night. Luckily, Flushing Meadows - Corona Park did not have the scale of damage found at Forest Hills, although it is still very emotional."
Tornado in Forest Hills: Full series of aftermath photos by Greg Godfrey

Tornado 2010: A Personal Account by Michael Perlman: 
http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com/2010/09/torando-2010-personal-account.html

TDR + Landmarking Has Potential For Saving The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

Famed Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, 9/4/10 photo by Michael Perlman
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, "Queens as Natural Playground of NYC," Queensborough, Page 2, July 1932, Courtesy of Queens Chamber of Commerce
Below is a 9/16/10 letter to the editor of the Queens Tribune, by John L. Gann, Jr, President of Gann Associates, who is a marketing consultant of preservation regulations and land use ordinances for a number of U.S. cities. Rego-Forest Preservation Council endorses his appeal, since the marriage of Landmark status + Transferable Development Rights (TDR) for the iconic yet endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, could very well result in a win-win for the West Side Tennis Club and the greater American and International supporters:

To The Editor:
In the center ring of the tennis world at the moment is another U.S. Open. Off to one side is some action reported in these pages that could be of much greater consequence to the legacy of the sport. The Open's traditional home, the shuttered 1923 West Side Tennis Club stadium in Forest Hills, may not survive.

Unused for matches since 1978, the stadium has decayed despite a brief second life as a concert venue. The Club is to vote Sept. 23 on sale of the property to developer Cord Meyer for a reported $9 million for redevelopment in condominiums.

It is zoned for residential and not protected as an historic landmark by New York City law. Although the developer says it will preserve the historic stadium fa├žade, city regulations would not legally bar its demolition, nor, it seems, would the private covenants of the elite Forest Hills Gardens community. The Tennis Industry Association has endorsed landmarking, and political leaders from the area have asked the city to study the feasibility of such designation.

With good reason. Tennis history in the United States has a name: Forest Hills, the Wimbledon of the New World. The upscale sport has made Forest Hills the only neighborhood in this oft-ignored borough known around the globe. No surprise that the community is probably the most sought-after place to live in Queens.

Tennis put Forest Hills on the map and gave it a classy brand. And just as with consumer products, an esteemed brand is a value-enhancing economic asset to a neighborhood and its residents and property owners. The Forest Hills tennis brand may be worth a lot more than just a few more housing units in an already crowded part of the city. Every residential neighborhood in New York has housing. Only one has a revered historic tennis center.

Smart companies are reawakening to the economic value of the brands that helped make them successful. ExxonMobil has revived its decades-old flying red horse with that in mind. Viewed in terms of the value of branding, the movement to save the stadium is more than just nostalgic sentimentality.

Understandably, the Tennis Club has not sought landmark status that might limit its options. Ordinances that bar demolition or substantial alteration of historic buildings have raised serious property rights issues in New York and elsewhere when they in effect ask private property owners to pay for the benefit to the public of continuing to enjoy an undisturbed historic building. But without such protections, cities can lose irreplaceable treasures like the predecessor of today's Penn Station, the demolition of which energized historic preservation in this city.

There is, however, an as yet little-noted win-win solution that New York invented. It has been used to preserve historic structures, open spaces and environmental areas nationwide while keeping property owners whole.

Transferable Development Rights (TDR) can move the development potential defined by the zoning of such properties to another site and allow the property owner to be compensated for the loss. Landmark the stadium, build the number of new homes allowed on its site somewhere else, and pay the Tennis Club what they would have realized from the sale for redevelopment. The stadium could then neither be razed nor otherwise developed but might be devoted to neighborhood-compatible low-intensity uses.

TDR can be complex to work out. But even in crowded New York, there are other places for more housing. There's only one Forest Hills. Retaining the visible evidence of decades-long association with an upscale sport by a place with an international reputation may be a better bet economically than building on its few remaining square feet of open land.

A player who loses at the Open can come back. A venerated historic building that is lost cannot. Holding off on a sale to consider TDR and other uses a rehabilitated stadium could be put to might be the best course. More housing is surely the least imaginative solution to the future of a very special place.

John L. Gann, Jr.,
Cleveland,Ohio

John L. Gann, Jr., President of Gann Associates, has prepared historic preservation regulations and other land use codes for Cleveland and other cities and now consults on marketing cities. He is a graduate of Forest Hills High School.
Source: http://www.queenstribune.com/inyour/Your%20Opinion_091610.html

Rego-Forest Preservation Council Photoset featuring Stadium, Clubhouse, Memorabilia -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157607136282297/

Iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Gallery 1 featuring Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton's photos -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/galleries/72157624960334088

Iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Gallery 2 featuring Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton's photos -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/galleries/72157624960580042/

Friday, September 17, 2010

Landmark Support Letter from Peter Pennoyer Architects & Forest Hills Tennis Stadium's Placement In Literature

Below is one of numerous letters sent to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, calling on the LPC to calendar a public hearing ASAP for the iconic yet endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and for the Clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club. It was built to serve the greater public, and that is who should have a role in its future. The more support letters, the greater the likelihood that the LPC will calendar a most democratic public hearing for a tennis, architectural, and music "landmark at heart." Please assist us in our Landmark letter campaign by composing a letter, which can be brief: http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com/2010/07/save-forest-hills-tennis-stadium.html  

Please have a look at a letter by Peter Pennoyer Architects, where Peter Pennoyer & Anne Walker are co-authors of a must-have new book, The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury:
 
September 9, 2010

Chairman Robert Tierney
Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007

Re: West Side Tennis Club and Stadium

Dear Chairman Tierney:

As co-authors of The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury, we are writing to request that the West Side Tennis Club and Stadium be placed on the calendar for September 14.

In addition to its important place in tennis history, the West Side Tennis Club was also integral to the development of Atterbury and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.’s seminal design for the planned community of Forest Hills Gardens. In 1913, the development committee of the Russell Sage Foundation offered to negotiate its land purchase with the Cord Meyer Company and to provide its services free as added incentives for the club to move to Queens from the Upper West Side. The members were eager for their club to assume a prominent position in American tennis—as it did—and commissioned Grosvenor Atterbury and his partner (and Forest Hills Gardens resident) John Almy Tompkins to design “one of the finest [clubhouses] in the country” while Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. consulted on the layout of the club’s grounds and positioning of courts.

In addition to its prestige, for the Russell Sage Foundation and its designers, the most important aspect of the club’s relocation was the fact that it provided a buffer to any encroaching development from the west, enabling Forest Hills Gardens to exist as its own distinct architectural entity. The design of the clubhouse, its grounds and the later addition the Tennis Stadium (1923), designed by Kenneth M. Murchison, a Beaux-Arts-trained architect who designed railroad stations, apartment buildings and townhouses, was carefully considered to reinforce and maintain the character and integrity of the community and to prevent uncontextual development from detracting from the special place that Atterbury and Olmsted so meticulously created. As one of the first planned communities in this country, the Forest Hills Gardens model has been greatly influential, inspiring many similar communities in its wake.

We feel that it is important to uphold Atterbury and Olmsted’s design and write in hopes that the West Side Tennis Club and Stadium will be considered for calendaring in an effort to maintain what the designers of Forest Hills Gardens intended: to create an architecturally significant boundary to provide a sense of enclosure and community for Forest Hills Gardens.

Sincerely, 
Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker
Peter Pennoyer Architects

Below is a few of many books that the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium has been featured in, not to mention various media including records, magazines, ads, postcards, matchcovers, etc.
The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury by Peter Pennoyer & Anne Walker (2010), featuring Atterbury's Clubhouse & the famed Kenneth Murchison's Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.

An Illustrated History: Forest Hills by Robert Minton (1975): Note how the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is the symbol of Forest Hills!

The Anatomy Of A Tennis Tournament, Carnival At Forest Hills, By Marty Bell (1975)

Tornado 2010: A Personal Account

I feel your pain...

I was coming home from an outing in Rego Park on September 16, 2010 around 6 PM, and just when I walked into my building lobby, I noticed a swirl, and then the skies turned pitch black. Then I heard a snap. Everything unfolded in no time. It is hard to believe that we experienced a tornado, but my senses interpret it as such. After it subsided, I surveyed the damage on my block, and huge branches of 3 mature trees were snapped off. One tremendous branch was blown half a block away, alongside an SUV. The corner of Public School 175 on 102nd St was roped off, due to 1/3 of a mature tree on the ground.

A mature tree by Forest Hills Jewish Center, looks like it received a massive pruning. I was just remarking on this blog earlier this month, how Forest Hills Jewish Center deserves kudos for maintaining that 60 year-old tree very well. Across the street is MacDonald Park, where trees have plummeted on top of benches and tables, and in the road. Cars are smashed too. Long-term business, HB Chevrolet had part of its glass front blown off, and the "HB" of its sign blew away. MacDonald Park, Burns St and Continental Ave in the Forest Hills Gardens, and Yellowstone Blvd off the north side of Queens Blvd seems to have suffered the worst, from what I have seen so far.

The sirens were ongoing during the evening, and the extent of the damage in some parts of the neighborhood and elsewhere in the boroughs is very disheartening. The neighborhood and beyond seems to have experienced a war, but of nature. My heart goes out to the family of the victim on the Grand Central Parkway. RIP! It proves that we have to be thankful for every moment. I also must say RIP to the countless precious trees that have gone on the wayside! They take decades to mature, but in moments, some were uprooted. It all came to an end, but may we make repairs efficiently, and coordinate a campaign to replant some of the missing trees.

Let's reflect upon our experiences, but try not to let it become an obstacle towards our future. The moral is to be more respectful of our lives, your neighbors, and all that our community has to offer, including its natural wonders. <3

Photos & an account from my friend's "Edge of The City: A Forest Hills, NY Blog"
http://edgeofthecityblog.com/2010/09/16/devastated/
http://edgeofthecityblog.com/2010/09/16/more-pictures-of-the-devastation/
http://edgeofthecityblog.com/2010/09/16/and-more-images-of-the-storms-destruction/

- Michael Perlman

Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills Helps Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Preservation Campaign & Supports Neighborhood Preservation



A handful of dedicated members of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills with President Walter Sanchez & Guest Speaker Michael Perlman
The Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills is in the field of assisting in the campaign to landmark and reuse the iconic yet endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. 

The guest speaker of the evening of September 2nd, the date of their monthly meeting, was Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, who was invited by Walter Sanchez, President of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills. Michael Perlman read the mission statement of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, explained how the community organization began in late 2006 in response to the 100th anniversary of Forest Hills, and in response to how precious potential landmarks and sections of the neighborhood are under siege by developers and property owners who undertake demolition or insensitive alterations, rather than considering city & state landmarking options, creative adaptive reuse, and funding programs for restoration and historically-sensitive renovation. The larger picture of the modification or loss of historic sites is a compromising of the historic character, harmonious feel, and property values of sections of Forest Hills & Rego Park. The dominant architectural styles of Forest Hills and Rego Park were also pointed out, opening eyes of participants.

The presentation revolved around a most pressing case in point, in which Cord Meyer Development seeks to buy the historic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium from the West Side Tennis Club, and demolish the majority for a typical condo. That would likely occur if 2/3 of the voting-eligible members of the West Side Tennis Club approve of a sale on September 23rd, although any redevelopment would require the approval of the Forest Hills Gardens Corp (Restrictive Covenants), Dept of Buildings (permits), and City Planning (zoning). The consensus of Kiwanis Club members in attendance was very concerned, asked how they can help in the preservation campaign, and unanimously signed a petition requesting a public hearing and Landmark status by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. They realized how demolition of the 1923 Stadium would be an insult to a series of firsts in our architectural, tennis, and music history, and how a modern condo would be out-of-context for the earliest planned community countrywide, the Forest Hills Gardens, in which its historic sites are safeguarded by Restrictive Covevants since the establishment of the Gardens in 1909. They also realized how it would adversely affect property values of the Forest Hills Gardens and adjacent Van Court section.

Another case in point of the presentation was the endangerment of an assemblage of historic and rare Neo-Renaissance rowhouses in Forest Hills, situated on 72nd Ave between Austin St & Queens Blvd. The rowhouses were developed by Cord Meyer and designed by notable architect, Benjamin Dreisler, and are the oldest extant developments, dating back to the naming of Forest Hills in 1906 by Cord Meyer (ironic how that same firm is trying to manipulate historic architecture 104 years later). The rowhouses mark the shift of Whitepot to Forest Hills in 1906. They have been the site of 85th and 100th-anniversary dedication ceremonies, in conjunction with the establishment of Forest Hills. Despite their cultural and architectural legacy, the majority have been demolished in recent years by unsympathetic developers, who don't feel the need to fit in with the majority of the community's sentiments. The developments that replaced these historic sites are banal and contradict the rich character of the village-inspired Austin St and the greater neighborhood.
Photos: http://bit.ly/9ktOQW

Michael Perlman also explained the landmarking process, funding opportunities for owners of historic properties, how the public's outcry to the demolition of Penn Station led to the establishment of the Landmarks Law in 1965, and how it is essential for Kiwanis Club members and a large percentage of the neighborhood to volunteer with Rego-Forest Preservation Council through research, photography, and letter campaigns and testimony at public hearings. Also explained was how it is essential to advocate for a site's landmark status proactively, in contrast to a reactionary basis of a historic site being slated for demolition; although sometimes a site's endangerment becomes apparent at the last minute. The Kiwanis Club members expressed an interest in volunteering with Rego-Forest Preservation Council, and were grateful for the presentation.

The meeting featured an elegant dinner at a restaurant on Metropolitan Ave, where the Kiwanis Club began by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Then members went around the table, introducing themselves, and briefly discussed their careers. They expressed their passion for the community and discussed potential community projects. President Walter Sanchez is a wonderful community leader, who is well-rounded, open-minded, brings community issues to the forefront with his noble character and great sense of humor, and builds upon his experience as Publisher of the widespread Queens Ledger newspaper series.

The mission of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills is to bring together those with concerned interests in Forest Hills, to help preserve the fabric of community, to help children in need, and to work together to build harmony. The Forest Hills branch became official 8 months ago. It is a relative newcomer in a network of Kiwanis Clubs citywide, and its membership is growing monthly. The members who attended the September meeting are a representation of the full membership, and show much enthusiasm for the community, and how a great relationship between the members is the key ingredient towards a vibrant club and a more "neighborly neighborhood," with a wide range of community projects for all.


Forest Hills Tennis Stadium outer facade boasting grand Gothic-inspired archways, shields, cornice lines, and eagles which are capable of holding up flags. Note how the brilliant late summer afternoon sun is accentuating the outer facade and underside of the authentic grandstands, beneath the Forest Hills rendition of the "golden arches." This is the 1st concrete tennis stadium countrywide, designed by the famed Kenneth Murchison, and was integral in establishing tennis as a national sport. Photo by Michael Perlman.
The iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium towards authentic grandstands with stone walls & eagles watching over in pride. Visualize tennis & music greats taking center field in the stadium since 1923, and also since 1913, which was before the stadium's completion. Photo courtesy of Patrick Lannan.
Aerial from authentic grandstands of Forest Hills Tennis Stadium towards Tudor style Clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club. Photo courtesy of Peter Dutton, also known as Joe Shlabotnik on flickr.

Close-up of Tudor-style Clubhouse from the top of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Photo courtesy of Peter Dutton, also known as Joe Shlabotnik on flickr.


Long live the Kiwanis!
How You Can Help

1. To become a member of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills, and have a role in community projects, e-mail President Walter Sanchez at wsanchez@queensledger.com

2. To volunteer with Rego-Forest Preservation Council, and have a role in preservation campaigns for a character-rich neighborhood, e-mail Chair Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com and join our Facebook Group: http://bit.ly/aVvp7h

3. Landmark Letter Campaign for Forest Hills Tennis Stadium:
http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com/2010/07/save-forest-hills-tennis-stadium.html

- Join the Facebook Group for S.O.S. (Save Our Stadium!): http://bit.ly/bSbD4P

- Rego-Forest Preservation Council Stadium & Clubhouse campaign photos and memorabilia: http://bit.ly/cGFb77
 
- Stadium & Clubhouse gallery featuring Peter Dutton/Joe Shlabotnik's photography: http://bit.ly/cPPqJp and http://bit.ly/91eIWD


4. The most frequently used websites for the average preservationist is that of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office (State & National Register of Historic Places), which are respectively:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/home/home.shtml 
http://nysparks.state.ny.us/shpo/

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tova from Rego-Forest Preservation Council!

Courtesy of the Michael Perlman Postcard Collection
"Shana Tova 5771" or "Happy New Year" from your friends at Rego-Forest Preservation Council!  

This is a circa 100 year-old hand-colored lithographic postcard of a Jewish family observing Rosh Hashana, which is a 2-day holiday, which then culminates in the holiest day in Judaism, Yom Kippur, on the following week. Admire the traditional black hats, period clothing, and one of our most famous landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge! The Rosh Hashana ritual they are engaging in is known as Tashlich, which originated in the Middle Ages, and is Hebrew for the "casting off" of sins. After the 1st day of prayer at the synagogue (or 2nd day if the first falls on Shabbat), people customarily throw pieces of bread into a body of water. As the bread flows away, so do the sins from the past year.

Queens has its diverse mix of synagogues, and one of the closest bodies of water in Central Queens can be found in Flushing Meadows Park. Put yourself in the shoes of your ancestors, and keep the faith!

10th Annual Downtown Forest Hills Walking Tour by Historian Jeff Gottlieb

Historian Jeff Gottlieb at the start of the tour on Austin St & Continental Ave, in the heart of historic Downtown Forest Hills! On the left-hand site is a remarkable century-old Tudor business establishment, designed in conjunction with the Forest Hills Gardens. The same holds true with the charming late 1920s Austin Hall & Tudor Hall, designed with shops at street level & apartments above. The former Corn Exchange Bank is on the right.
Similar perspective of above photo, but depicting Austin St in the 1940s, & featuring predominantly Tudor & Georgian Colonial commercial & residential sites from early 20th century Forest Hills. Postcard courtesy of Michael Perlman Postcard Collection
The 10th Annual Downtown Forest Hills Walking Tour was held on a pleasantly sunny and warm Sunday afternoon of September 5, 2010, and was a historic record-breaker, adding a chapter in the success of previous walking tours led by Historian Jeff Gottlieb. Members of Central Queens Historical Association and Rego-Forest Preservation Council, inclusive of neighborhood residents, were in attendance. The 2 hr 45 min tour began on the corner of Austin St and Continental Ave, made its way east on Austin St to Ascan Ave, while viewing the blocks between Austin St and Queens Blvd, and turning in on Ascan Ave. On Queens Blvd, the tour headed west, pointing out historic sites along the south and north sides, and made its way to 70th Ave, and then stopped at MacDonald Park, a cornerstone of the neighborhood. Then the tour turned in on 70th Ave and proceeded west on Austin St, back to its origins at Continental Ave.

Happy faces of the walking tour's diverse attendees, who pose in front of 1 Continental Ave, a Tudor apt & commercial site, which dates to the 1920s when Continental Ave was a thoroughfare referred to as "The Village." It was designed to complement nearby Forest Hills Gardens, established in 1909. When walking on Continental Ave, as well as Austin St, don't be the average passerby, but pause and glance at a world of English village-like intrigue overhead and all around. A slate steep roofline with wood spandrels, a 2-tone brick and stone half-timber effect, a limestone entryway, and a shield at the the climatic point of the central cross section with limestone quoins, captures the eye!
Michael Perlman, Chairman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council explains, "Historian Jeff Gottlieb, who is President of the Central Queens Historical Association, always manages to conduct a phenomenal tour. He can be compared to a walking encyclopedia, and is a people's person who makes Forest Hills history come alive on his tours, with his creative yet down to earth approach. It was great how many people asked questions, and engaged in each other's conversation as a result. This is a tradition that Forest Hills is extremely fortunate to have."

Two noble leaders! Historian Jeff Gottlieb in the path of the iconic Captain Gerald MacDonald statue in MacDonald Park, who was a WWI soldier & a Forest Hills resident. 
Historian Jeff Gottlieb reflected upon the 10th annual tour in pride. He explains "It was a great, solid tour, with the largest crowd in years. The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce helped promote it. Giving the tour was enjoyable as the people were enthusiastic. It was comprised of various age groups and ethnicities." Approximately 50 - 60 people attended, which illustrates that a greater percentage of locals are caring about our neighborhood's history, and such distinctive sites in the Tudor, Georgian Colonial, Art Deco, Romanesque, Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, International Style, etc. The distinction amongst the commonly found architectural styles was explained, which grants character that is seldom found in today's developments.

Jeff Gottlieb explained the naming of Forest Hills in 1906, the establishment of the Forest Hills Gardens in 1909, historic patterns of the 20th century, and pointed out the majority of historic sites in Forest Hills' most popular commercial and residential district, in regard to their skillful architects and reputable developers.

Memorable 20th century businesses include Beau Brummel, Woolworths, Bohack, Chateau Jewelers, Addie Vallens, the Homestead, Sutton Hall Pharmacy, Cheeses of The World, & the recently shuttered Buster Brown Shoes. Some of Forest Hills' numerous celebrities were noted, including Helen Keller, Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, and Geraldine Ferraro. Street names from A-Z that are no longer in existence were pointed out, including Atom St, DeKoven St, Euclid St, Fife St, Gown St, & Pilgrim St, as well as Colonial Ave & Roman Ave (now 72nd Ave, but only retained in the Forest Hills Gardens). Austin St, Continental Ave, & Ascan Ave are holdouts. The site of Forest Hills' first firehouse was highlighted on Austin St. Also, the 1906 temporary electrified LIRR station on the south side of Austin St, which was built in close proximity to Forest Hills' 1st street, Roman Ave/72nd Ave featuring huble yet elaborate Neo-Renaissance rowhouses (1906) for original workmen, which are shamefully imminently endangered today.


At the conclusion of the tour, Historian Jeff Gottlieb gave Preservationist Michael Perlman the stage, enabling him to give a presentation on the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Preservation Campaign. It was well-received, and garnered the support of many locals that signed onto a petition calling on landmark status and creative reuse for the iconic Stadium. The 10th annual tour of the district also caught the attention of NY 1 News, which ran the report later that afternoon, and featured footage of historic sites, and interviews by Historian Jeff Gottlieb, Preservationist Michael Perlman, Steve Melnick of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce & Queens Blvd Restoration Group, and a Rego Park participant who explained how she will now begin seeing our neighborhood's history and architecture in a different light, and owed her gratitude to Gottlieb's tours.

Annual Tour Shows Many Sides of Forest Hills, NY 1 News, 9/7/10

Admiring the Tudor charm of the Gladstone & Harding Court on Austin St. Distinguishable characteristics include the half-timber effect, pitched roofs, burnt bricks, & tall chimneys. The Bishop's Crook style lamp posts were re-introduced in the late 90s, conveying harmony with the architecture.
Architect Benjamin Braunstein was a household name. This is evident when designing the Portsmouth, a Georgian Colonial apt house with a courtyard leading to 2-wing recessed entryways and facades, allowing light and creating a sense of place. Distinctive features include lantern, original wood doors, large windows, a bricked dental cornice, limestone roundels, non-accentuated fire escapes, & ornamented wrought-iron balconies on Austin St. The Portsmouth was built in conjunction with its easterly neighbor, the Hawthorne.
Crossing Austin St to Ascan Ave's Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church & one of the greatest examples of Tudor architecture & urban planning in Downtown Forest Hills, Sutton Hall. Note the apt house's graceful stepped entryway, Medieval wood doors with knight motifs on inlaid stained glass, the central facade's cupola, mansard roofs, prominent half-timber effect, recessed facades, castle-like motif, arched overhead window storefronts, & more.
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church & Parochial School (1938 & 1928, with harmonious 1950s edifices) is a grand Romanesque & Gothic complex that spans 4 city blocks, with a plethora of stained glass, novel steeples, ornate entryways, landscaped courtyards between the buildings, and gardens outlining the facades.
Admiring the craftsmanship & urban planning of the attached Warrenton & the Hampton complex (109-20 71st Rd to 109-05 72nd Ave) attached with a suspended arch on a lush garden, as well as the Carlton House, with its 4-section front facade outlined with quoins, recessed columned entryway, decorative balconies, corner terraces, & pediments with roundels.

Jeff Gottlieb explains how the mid 1920s Georgian Court is the earliest apartment house with a Queens Blvd address in Forest Hills. This Georgian Colonial gem boasts a recessed entrway with Corinthian columns, a flagstone path, a pitched slate roof with balustrades, recessed facades permitting greenery, air, and light, quoins, limestone lintels, cornices, & an arched window adjacent to the entryway where a doorman would once greet residents.

Historian Jeff Gottlieb atop the legendary Midway Theater's sweeping staircase. The theater was designed by America's foremost theater architect, Thomas W. Lamb, & was his very last theater, & one of his relatively few in the Art Moderne style, considering his circa 300 theaters nationally. Completed in 1942, it was named at the last moment after WWII's Battle of Midway. The limestone facade is mostly intact, with its curtain-like effect, illuminated marquee & vertical beacon boasting MIDWAY, curved facade with a streamline design, & a side picture window. Originally a single screen theater, it now features 9 screens, and is a thriving theater, with a largely intact Art Moderne lobby-in-the-round.
The Forest Hills Post Office is 1 of 2 sites in Forest Hills thus far to be placed on the State & National Register of Historic Places. Its cornerstone reads 1937, and the site depicts the International Style with some Art Deco touches. Most post offices of the era were in the Colonial style, but Architect Lorimer Rich was experimental with his clever use of industrial materials in shape and form. Above the brass doors, there is a terra cotta "Spirit of Communication"relief sculpture by famed artist Sten Jacobsson. The site has some resemblances to the 1939 World's Fair's NY City Building. Note the stained terra cotta facade, tall recessed windows with a simplified cornice line. The International Style & Art Moderne style of Forest Hills Jewish Center is evident in the background, with a 1947 cornerstone. These historic sites make a suitable backdrop to serene MacDonald Park, in midst of bustling Queens Blvd.
Hopefully, landlords, tenants, and developers can realize how preserving their culturally and architecturally significant properties can contribute to the harmonious ambiance of the neighborhood, and in turn, maintain and enhance property values, residency, and business, and improve our quality of life. For questions about Forest Hills and Central Queens' architectural styles and history, and restoring and creatively reusing your site, please e-mail:

Historian Jeff Gottlieb, Pres. of Central Queens Historical Association: jeffgottlieb@hotmail.com
(917) 376-4496

Preservationist Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council: unlockthevault@hotmail.com
http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com

Photo Collections by Michael Perlman

10th Annual Downtown Forest Hills Tour Photoset
Central Queens Historical Association - Prior Walking Tours
Extensive Collection of Austin St & Queens Blvd Photosets