Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Richmond Hill Video Narrative By The Late Great Nancy Cataldi, & The Absent Landmarks Preservation Commission - We Need A Richmond Hill Historic District ASAP!
Friday, February 17, 2012
We are proud to feature an intriguing chapter of our neighborhood history by Historian Ron Marzlock....
Queens Chronicle, I Have Often Walked, "(Unintended) Book Burning"
Feb 16, 2012
|The Rego Park Library at 91-34 63 Drive, left, with The Tavern on its right, and the expanded library, which grew after a fire at the bar. The library itself burned down years later.|
Today’s Rego Park Library is not the same one that was first built, but sits right across the street from the original.
With the big buildup of apartment houses in the 1940s and 1950s, Rego Park found its schools overcrowded, and even worse, it had only a storefront library, established in 1938, according to Queens Library records. Then in 1956, the community got a branch library, located at 91-34 63rd Drive between Austin Street and the Long Island Rail Road tracks.
Directly next to the library was a bar named The Tavern. In 1960, after a fire at the bar, its second in several years, the library expanded into the space it had occupied. The branch had a very high circulation rate, and was managed by Aldona Grabuskas, who later transferred to the Richmond Hill Library to be closer to home. She passed away while still on the job. a few weeks before her 50th anniversary with the library.
But the 1959 fire wasn’t the only one to hit the short block on the east side of 63rd between Austin and the LIRR trestle, and to impact the library’s history. A bigger blaze engulfed the entire strip of storefronts, including the library on Feb. 20, 1972, destroying it. It was a major disaster for school children who depended on the facility, long before the age of the computer and Internet.
After a time with only a bookmobile serving Rego Park, the city bought the Shell gas station across the street, a mainstay of the neighborhood since the 1930s, and erected a new library in its place. The old location is now home to the Shalimar Diner. The library underwent major renovations in 1989, and remains a branch with high circulation figures.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Who remembers eating at the Hamburger Train in Rego Park, and being served your meal from a mechanical toy train which operated on tracks from the kitchen to the counter? The ambiance was Art Moderne, and patrons sat elbow to elbow at a counter or at a booth. Some of you are too young or too new to the neighborhood to be offered this experience, but in a virtual world, you can hop aboard the Hamburger Train in spirit: http://hamburgertrain.com
The website boasts the Hamburger Train as A NYC legendary luncheonette experience from the late 1950s through the early 1970s...the Hamburger Train. The website was conceived by the son of one of one of the original owners, Stephen Robert Lewis, in order to pay tribute to his legacy in a novelty family business. Hamburger Train was at 96-58 Queens Blvd, which today is the Photosonic custom framing shop near the subway entrance on the south side of Queens Blvd, 5 doors to the east of Ben's Best Deli; another famed institution which lines Queens Blvd since 1947. Another location of the Hamburger Train was in Greenwich Village.
|The spot where history was made! The train tracks by the grill sure accounts for fast food! Craving crisp French fries at $.30? Image courtesy of http://hamburgertrain.com|
Those were the days when "fast food" was fast but less commercialized. I have been in Forest Hills ever since I opened my eyes (1982), so it is before my time, but as someone who grew up in the neighborhood & takes pride in history, it's always fascinating to hear who has memories of yesteryear, which are very much alive today.
|Today, ordering a few meals from this menu wouldn't break your budget. Does The Train Beefburger & a treat from the Ice Cream Parlor Car fancy your appetite? Image courtesy of http://hamburgertrain.com|
In Forest Hills, an eatery which operated under the train delivery concept existed as Hamburger Express, is now the Austin House Diner at 72-04 Austin St, which has the same red terrazzo floors today. This outside of the box concept, coupled with the ice cream soda fountains & counters in pharmacies, made Forest Hills & Rego Park a more close-knit, creative, & personalized neighborhood in our heyday. Soda fountains existed at Sutton Hall Pharmacy on Austin St & Ascan Ave (Sutton Hall Apts), the Midway Pharmacy on the north side of Queens Blvd & 67th Dr corner, Woolworth's on Continental Ave & Austin St (2 entrances) as well as Queens Blvd & 63rd Dr, and at McCrory's at Queens Blvd & 63rd Dr (2 entrances).
Getting back to the Hamburger Train, anyone interested in reopening this intriguing eatery in Rego Park, and entertaining children of a new generation? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Has Local To National Merit - Stadium Determined Eligible For State & National Register of Historic Places
Extra! Extra! Op-Ed by Michael Perlman, featured in the Queens Ledger on Feb 2, 2012. Please share & consider commenting here: Queens Ledger newspaper link
|Golden potential at America's first concrete tennis stadium, Photo by Michael Perlman|
The legendary Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was almost sold for development, but now it is steps closer to being preserved.
On January 5, 2012, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium and Clubhouse, and other historic features of the West Side Tennis Club property has been declared "NR-Eligible," or eligible for inclusion on the State & National Register of Historic Places by State Historic Preservation Office Specialist Daniel McEneny.
As Chairman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, I nominated the property in summer 2011 on behalf of our membership, and a vast coalition of preservation, civic, tennis and music enthusiasts from the local to national level.
If the WSTC signs off on this opportunity, the office can move forward, and the property can be placed on the State & National Register of Historic Places. Besides commemoration, the Register would open the door to economic incentives for restoration and historically sensitive upgrades.
In addition, the New York Landmarks Conservancy non-profit, which is accredited as one of the largest preservation grant awardees, has a number of funding programs that a property may be eligible for upon placement on the Register. This would benefit the WSTC and a potential preservation-friendly partner.
Backtracking, a string of promising events has transpired since the stadium's endangerment in summer 2010. In October 2010, a plan to sell the stadium parcel to developer Cord Meyer to build “Anytown USA” condos was rejected by more than half of the voting-eligible WSTC members, and President Kenneth Parker expressed his disappointment.
On January 1, 2012, President Roland Meier took the seat of Kenneth Parker. President Meier has not made his views publicly known, but is believed to be pro-preservation. A case in point was when Cord Meyer Development proposed condos, and Roland Meier resigned in protest from his seat as Tennis Committee Chair in August 2010.
In November 2011, it was announced that the Stadium Arts Alliance non-profit envisions partnering with the WSTC, and restoring and revitalizing the stadium for tennis matches, periodic musical acts, and ice hockey and skating in the winter, to make the venue usable year-round for the WSTC and greater community.
The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium witnessed a series of firsts architecturally, culturally, and socially. It was the first concrete stadium in the U.S., and was designed by a foremost architect of public buildings, Kenneth Murchison.
It was also the first home of the US Open, and a plethora of tennis legends including Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Helen Jacobs, Tony Trabert, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, and Althea Gibson, played there. Forest Hills Music Festivals featured the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Barbra Streisand. The stadium put Forest Hills on the map.
Creative reuse would signify an educational, cultural and economic boost community-wide. It would improve our quality of life, preserve a historic site, increase business in Forest Hills, and create jobs at and near the stadium, while improving finances for the club in the long term. However, selling the stadium for the highest offer would be a one-time cash generator for WSTC.
No development in place of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium can ever equal or exceed its value. Fading photos of the stadium which grace the walls of the clubhouse could never measure up to preserving the Real McCoy. How many times have we seen tribute plaques in place of historic sites which could have still been standing proudly? Do we wish to be remembered as a society that revitalized a world icon, or one that operated under a throwaway culture mentality, which destroyed it along the lines of the late great Pennsylvania Station?