By Heather Senison
|On The Record with Michael Perlman|
Michael Perlman devotes his time to preserving relics in the Rego Park/Forest Hills area, hoping to keep its history alive. Perlman is chair of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council and vice president of the Queens chapter of the Four Borough Preservation Alliance Corporation, in addition to several other historical and civic groups.
Perlman’s grandparents moved to Forest Hills in 1952. He graduated from the LaGuardia High School for Music and Performing Arts in Manhattan in 2000, and went on to get his Bachelor’s degree as a Communication Arts major from Marymount Manhattan.
His interest in preservation, he said, sparked in 2005 when he witnessed the demolition of parts of the Trylon Theater on Queens Boulevard.“I witnessed a demolition crew taking some jackhammers and breaking beautiful mosaic artwork from the 1939 World’s Fair,” Perlman said. “I was surprised that something so significant and beautiful wasn’t already landmarked.” In response, Perlman formed a committee to push for landmark status for the theater. The Trylon Theater's landmark application was denied, but much of the building's original decor is still in tact.
Next, Perlman founded the Rego-Forest Preservation Council in 2006, on Forest Hills’ 100th anniversary. The council focuses on projects such as getting the Trylon Theater landmarked and restoring the West Side Tennis Club stadium.
“We wanted to take a proactive approach and research historical sites, make community residents and visitors more aware of their architectural and cultural history,” Perlman said. “We wanted to teach property owners how they can work with us and other organizations to fund restoration works.”
He started researching the history behind the West Side stadium in 2010. What to make of the deteriorating 2.5-acre stadium is currently under discussion by the Club.
Along with the stadium’s architectural uniqueness, Perlman said cultural barriers were crossed when Grand Slam-winner Althea Gibson, the first African American woman to compete on the world tennis tour in the 1950s, and Arthur Ashe, a black man played there as well.
“I didn’t want West Side Tennis Club members to vote for a typical condo in place of a historical stadium where many legends were born,” he said.
Perlman said the stadium was declared eligible for the State and National Register of Historic Places on January 5 which, if members vote in favor, would allow the Club and any future partnership to apply for funds to restore it. The council is currently in talks with the Club to set up a meeting, he said.