Showing posts with label Forest Hills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Forest Hills. Show all posts

Monday, June 9, 2014

Midway Theatre World's Fair Films on June 10 at 7 PM - You're Invited!

Come celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1939 World's Fair and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World's Fair by attending two complimentary films on June 10 at 7 PM at the historic Midway Theatre, 108-22 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills. With much gratitude to the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and Regal Cinemas.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Michael Perlman Receives 2014 Grassroots Preservation Award by the Historic Districts Council

For those who missed my speech at the Historic District Council's 2014 Grassroots Preservation Awards (or wish to relive it), you can view the video clip. Preservationist Jeffrey Kroessler spoke with much grace and spirit, and presented my award at the time slot of 9:45. The text of my speech is below:

Good Evening, Everyone,  As a 31 year-old native Forest Hills resident and Chairman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, I feel honored to receive the 2014 Grassroots Preservation Award. I am also encouraged to become an even stronger historic preservationist of Forest Hills and Rego Park, among other neighborhoods.

I founded Rego-Forest Preservation Council in 2006, in response to the 100th anniversary of Forest Hills, and the parcel which became known as Rego Park in 1923.  Landmark-worthy buildings and stretches of Forest Hills and Rego Park faced a growing number of insensitive alterations and demolition. We seek to preserve and commemorate our architectural and cultural history by advocating for Individual Landmarks, Interior Landmarks, and Historic Districts, as well as State & National Register of Historic Places sites, and by assisting property owners in the acquisition of funding to restore their properties. 

As a Forest Hills Times columnist since 2012, I take pride in featuring preservation, an often underrepresented topic in local media.  Preservation is my civic duty and religious calling.

1. I conducted a PR campaign and petition drive in 2010 in response to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium’s potential sale for condos. This contributed to its iconic stadium’s partial restoration and creative reuse in 2013 as a concert venue.

2. I assisted Rego Park Jewish Center and the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown in the acquisition of National Register status. Presently, I am co-organizing concert fundraisers, to help restore the church.

3.  I founded Friends of TheRidgewood Theatre, and succeeded in obtaining Individual Landmark status.

4. I assisted in landmarking campaigns for Engine Company 305 / Hook & Ladder Company 151 in Forest Hills, as well as the Forest Park Carousel and the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

5.  Jay Dee Bakery in Forest Hills offered a great slice of Americana, but when it shuttered in 2009, I brokered a deal to have the huge neon sign salvaged.

6. I founded committees and brokered deals to spare the Moondance Diner in SoHo, and the Cheyenne Diner in Chelsea from demolition. Respectively, they were transported on flatbed trucks to Wyoming and Alabama. I then earned the nickname, “Diner Man.”
Forest Hills and Rego Park have numerous properties which fit the criteria for landmark status, but since 2005, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected properties for a public hearing. Despite an over 100-year history, current official landmarks are the Remsen Family Cemetery (designated in 1981), the Ridgewood Savings Bank facade (designated in 2000), and the Forest Hills firehouse facade (designated in 2012). 

I extend an invite to Mayor de Blasio and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to see Forest Hills and Rego Park from our perspective at a walking tour and meetings. Let’s work collaboratively on a city official to constituent basis, before experiencing any further architectural losses.

Extending much gratitude to the Historic Districts Council for this true honor!

Michael Perlman, Chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council
Nadezhda Williams with Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council 
Preservationist Jeffrey Kroessler
Preservationists and friends of Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Forest Hills' Michael Perlman Wins 2014 Preservation Award - Historic Districts Council

Forest Hills' Michael Perlman Wins 2014 Preservation Award 

For Immediate Release

May 19, 2014
Nadezhda Williams
Deputy Director
New York- The Historic Districts Council (HDC), the citywide advocate for New York's historic neighborhoods, will present Michael Perlman, Queens native and chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council with a 2014 Grassroots Preservation Award on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at 6:30 PM at Grace Church, 254 Hicks Street, Brooklyn Heights.

The Grassroots Awards honor and celebrate the activists and groups who work to preserve New York City's historic neighborhoods. "These advocates are the foundation of the preservation movement and their efforts benefit everyone who lives, works or visits New York City," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of HDC. "It's an honor and pleasure to be able to shine the spotlight on these neighborhood leaders."

A native Forest Hills resident, Michael Perlman is the Chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council. The Council was founded in 2006 in response to that year's 100th anniversary of Forest Hills and the parcel which would become known as Rego Park in 1923. It works to preserve and commemorate the architectural and cultural history of Forest Hills and Rego Park, as well surrounding areas of Queens through advocacy and property owner assistance. In 2010, Mr. Perlman launched a public campaign to preserve and creatively reuse the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium which was under threat of demolition. As a result of these efforts, the stadium has undergone some restoration work and has been reborn as a concert venue. He is involved in the continuing preservation efforts of a number of civic, religious and popular neighborhood institutions in Queens and earned the nickname "Diner-Man" after his efforts to save and relocate a number of historic freestanding diners.

The Historic Districts Council is New York's only citywide grassroots advocate for historic buildings and neighborhoods. Since 1971 HDC has been committed to preserving New York's rich architectural and historical heritage, working with communities to landmark and protect significant neighborhoods and buildings, as well as helping already designated historic communities to understand and uphold the Landmarks Law. HDC engages in community building and development, offers educational programs and delivers technical resources, strategic assistance and direct advocacy support to aid local groups in their individual preservation campaigns.

The event is open to the public at a cost of $30, $20 for Friends of HDC. Doors open at 6:15 pm, and the award ceremony will begin at 6:45 pm, with a reception to follow. For more information, go to the Grassroots page or call 212-614-9107.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May 18 Forest Hills Tree Giveaway To Donate 200 Trees & To Exceed 1,000 Donated Trees Since 2011!

By Michael Perlman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chairman & Forest Hills Times Columnist

To reserve a free tree, visit

A feeling of rejuvenation is in the air, as our trees and flowers are in bloom each spring. The inspiration continues as NYC residents adopt a tree at the Forest Hills Tree Giveaway event, giving birth to new additions to an urban tree canopy. On Sunday, May 18 from 1 PM to 3 PM, citywide residents will line up in MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue, and take home a tree or two among 200 free trees. Adopters will then plant their tree outside their house or building.

This bi-annual event, typically held in May and October, will be the sixth Forest Hills Tree Giveaway since 2011, and bring the total quantity of adopted trees to 1,045. Adopters can select from 5 tree species, which consist of Tulip Trees, American Sweetgum, River Birch, Eastern Redbud, and Black Walnut. This will increase the diversity of trees donated at earlier events, such as Black Gum, Magnolia, Dawn Redwood, and Weeping Beech. Even though most trees will find their new homes locally, some will grant new life to other boroughs. 

The event is made possible through Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (4BNPA)’s partnership with New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and MillionTreesNYC. The lead sponsors are Toyota and TD Bank, and the lead partners are plaNYC, NYC Parks, and NYRP. A supporting sponsor is jetBlue Airways. Volunteers will be derived from Rego-Forest Preservation Council (RFPC), Trylon Vet Care, Forest Hills Jewish Center, the Forest Hills Green Team, and the Compost Collective.

NYRP began coordinating tree giveaways in 2008. As of 2011, 4BNPA had the mission of advocating for landmarks and curbing overdevelopment, but began realizing how environmental preservation is a significant complement to the city’s architectural achievements. The organizations’ relationship would then begin.

Extreme weather patterns intensified over the last few years, as evident by the 2010 macroburst, Hurricane Irene, and Hurricane Sandy. This caused numerous trees to succumb within seconds, and a single characteristic that vanished was the physical reminders of what people grew up around and developed an attachment to. Despite loss, it emphasized the benefits behind preserving mature trees and planting new ones. Trees enhance property values and character, mark a community’s history, offer a serene setting, capture stormwater, reduce runoff, filter and cool the air, and conserve energy, among numerous benefits.

The Forest Hills Tree Giveaway’s volunteers and tree adopters consist of new faces and close followers, as well as varying tree species among events. Two characteristics which unify all events are community spirit and education. Volunteers Tara Levin and her husband Mark Levin adopted 9 trees over the years for their Rego Park apartment building and a nearby private park, and they naturally became tree stewards. Tara explained, “We are greening, and they are blooming and growing. A person who cares for trees has a positive personality. Most of our population likes trees, but a problem is a deficit of land to plant them, since we are covered in asphalt.”

Tree giveaways have become a tradition for all ages. “It is a great opportunity to meet new friends from children to seniors,” she continued. Her fond recollections are four young sisters who volunteered with their Newfoundland dog at their side, as well as triplet boys who asked many questions about adopting Black Walnut trees.

Last Saturday, she collaborated with volunteers to erect a promotional table on Continental Avenue, where passersby reserved trees in advance. She also displayed flyers in storefronts along 63rd Drive and at the library and Chabad House.

Forest Hills resident Michele Dore anticipates her first tree giveaway volunteer opportunity. She explained, “I am new in this wonderful neighborhood, and I am really excited to be a part of Michael Perlman’s team (4BNPA & RFPC). Greening the city is critical not only for appearances, but for our health.” Dore sparked the interest of her colleagues and her landlord. “I would be more than delighted if each of the 200 trees can find a good family to grow with.”

For tree adopters to acquire a relationship with their trees, trees are being named after local landmarks, streets, and notables by volunteer Steve Goodman, and certificates will be distributed. Adopters will be photographed with their trees, and nature-inspired artwork designed by Oliloli Studio and the Queens Paideia School will contribute to the event’s diversity.

  On May 18, those who wish to adopt a potted tree should line up earlier than 1 PM at MacDonald Park.
 “Like” Forest Hills Tree Giveaways on Facebook:

A similar edition of this article appeared in Michael Perlman's column with the Forest Hills Times:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Final Act For The Continental Theatre - Another entertainment & social loss for Forest Hills

By Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council

After a 51-year run, the Forest Hills community waved adieu to its quaint neighborhood twin movie theater, UA Brandon Cinemas on April 21st. Situated at 70-20 Austin Street, it was long known as the Continental Theatre, named after its close proximity to Continental Avenue. This restful destination in the heart of the business district was on the agenda for dates, couples, singles, and families with children, who would make a day of dining out and patronizing Austin Street’s shops. The marquee boasted mainstream films ranging from Star Wars to Les Miserables to The Great Gatsby. Operated by Regal Entertainment Group and owned by local developer Heskel Elias, the marquee now reads “Coming Soon: PM Pediatrics.” 
Back in March, this column reported that Austin Street may soon become “medical center row,” since medical facilities on Austin Street’s west end are slated to expand eastward within a 4-block radius. Austin Street is known for its unique boutique shops and restaurants, but reality shifted throughout the last decade as a number of longtime and recently established independent small businesses shuttered. This is mostly due to rent increases and demographic changes. Small businesses are frequently displaced by large chains, inclusive of banks, pharmacies, and a recent rise in medical establishments. 

Pasta Del Giorno at 70-49 Austin Street closed in February, in addition to its neighbor, Second Time Around. Construction is now underway for an urgent care facility. In October 2013, an out-of-context glass building housing a ProHealth Urgent Care Center was proposed for 71-53 Austin Street, which has since received violations and stalled.

When the Continental Theatre opened in 1963, Forest Hills residents were welcomed by the “Continental” script neon sign, and first saw Jean Genet’s “The Balcony” at a Walter Reade Theatre. An ad praised it as “New York’s and the world’s first split-level theatre,” which was only a 5 minute commute from the 1964 World’s Fair. It read, “From the beautifully decored lounge, you can either step down to the orchestra level or easily make your way up to the mezzanine. Here is a truly refreshing entrée into the experience of movie-going.” This dramatic innovation was designed by Architect John J. McNamara, and was also noteworthy for its art gallery for local artists, carefully selected films at an intimate ambiance, and rooftop parking. 

 In a public statement, landlord Heskel Elias called the property’s redevelopment for PM Pediatrics “exciting” and “more profitable” for The Heskel Group. Rego Park resident Gloria Nash responded, “It's all about who can afford the highest rents, rather than balance or quality of life, but it's no longer a community vision when a significant percentage of the population is left out.” She backed up her claim by questioning, “What percentage has a need for pediatric services, especially in light of no shortage of pediatric services in the area? What percentage has an interest in a theater which increases our enjoyment?”  

Other locals also mourn the theater’s loss. “PM Pediatrics already has 10 New York locations, so why does Heskel need to ruin a five decade entertainment space to open another?” asked Jennifer Cohen of Forest Hills. “It’s just a matter of time when people will be asking ‘Which Austin Street urgent care center should we visit? The one on 69th, 70th, 71st, or 72nd?’” 

Forest Hills resident Anita Nelson offered a suggestion. “The Austin Street corridor needs a nice art theater like the Kew Gardens Cinema, and if it hosted live entertainment, that would fill a void and be a huge bonus to Forest Hills. Currently, live entertainment is only available at bars.”

The UA Brandon’s closure echoes the loss of the cherished Trylon Theater, the Forest Hills Theatre, and the Drake. This leaves the 9-screen Midway Theatre on Queens Boulevard as the sole theater in the immediate vicinity, and the 5-screen Cinemart Cinemas somewhat further on Metropolitan Avenue.

“Close a restaurant or a dress shop, and there are others that open up,” said Nash, who continued, “But close a theater, and what other social and community options will open to replace that?” 

 A similar rendition of this feature story appeared in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Glimpse of Holland In Forest Hills - Happy 85th Anniversary To The Holland House!

By Michael Perlman of  Rego-Forest Preservation Council & the Forest Hills Times

What is in a name? The Holland House, situated at 73-37 Austin Street is now 85 years old, and since 1929, has been a grand residence which never abandoned its charm.

Perhaps Forest Hills residents are unaware of its Dutch influence. Around 250 years prior to its completion, the land was granted by a Dutch King to Casper Joost Springsteen in the mid-17th century, when Queens was a Dutch Colonial province of the New Netherlands. After remaining in the prominent Springsteen farming family for seven generations, the 4-acre parcel sold for an excess of $1,000,000 in December 1928 to President Robert Shelley and Treasurer Alfred J. Ball of the Shellball Realty Corporation, which erected and managed the Holland House. In summer 1929, the ten-story site was prized for being the tallest Queens apartment house in one of the most beautiful suburban American communities, with average home prices ranging from $25,000 to $350,000.  

A notable architect by the name of Benjamin Braunstein designed the Holland House, and also made his mark on significant developments including Sutton Hall, The Wakefield, Tilden Arms, and The Chatham in Forest Hills, Marion Court and Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Rego Park, and The Mowbray in Kew Gardens. Braunstein designed the Holland House to be soundproof and fireproof, and to offer two to eight rooms with one to three baths, foyers leading to living rooms, and three penthouses. His plans also included a 50 x 175 foot rear garden, a roof garden, and a social hall for residents and guests to entertain. Hallways were furnished in the Old Dutch style. 

The Holland House is synonymous with the Forest Hills Gardens’ Old English style, and is uniquely merged with the streamlined Art Deco influences of a time when the Chrysler Building was under construction. The façade features terra-cotta scrollwork depicting gargoyles, birds, and foxes, as well as raised brick, stonework, ornamental balconies, archways, and recessed areas and large windows which maximize light and air.

“A quiet dignity pervades the whole building which is noted for high quality and character of its tenancy and management,” read an illustrated prospectus for new suitors and tenants. It continued, “Gracious, uniformed attendants at the entrance doors admit you to a nicely carpeted and well furnished lobby, next to which are two passenger elevators. The management provides twenty-four hour door, elevator and valet service. Maids may be had by the day or hour. To assure the comfort and protection of all, references are required from prospective tenants.”  

Today, the Holland House is a co-op with a 7-day doorman, and residents can attest to its quality living outlined in the prospectus. “We were drawn to the building because of the pre-war architecture and our large apartment’s attention to detail,” said Carmela Gersbeck. Board President Bart Haggerty explained, “Our community is very diverse, ranging from singles to young couples, to couples raising children, to multiple generations, to retirees.  Several residents reside here for over 40 years. We are half a block to Austin Street’s shopping and restaurants, while still being on the quiet residential section of Austin Street.” 

“The Holland House has all the trappings of a Park Avenue residence, along with views of the Manhattan skyline and three bridges, and it’s zoned for Public School 101 in the Gardens,” said Historian Bill Safka. He then pointed out some fellow notables. “Disc Jockey Eddie Arcaro and a model known as Sabrina lived here. Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee would visit a penthouse resident.” 

The building takes pride in its garden, which was named “Keith's Courtyard” after their doorman Keith Smith. Safka, who is also Chair of the Beautification Committee explained, “I planned and planted our garden along with Keith, who was so keen in seeing it rejuvenated. Way back when, brides would take their wedding photos in front of our Magnolia trees.”

“We expanded our garden with a stone patio, a variety of shade loving plants and perennials, and tables and chairs for the residents' quiet enjoyment,” said Gersbeck. Residents adopted a Japanese Maple, a Tulip Tree, two Eastern Redbuds, and an Amur Maackia tree from the Forest Hills Tree Giveaway Events, which contributed diversity among mature Maples and Elms.

Gersbeck explained some other special characteristics. “We have a very committed board which sponsors events and makes the Holland House a diverse and active community.” Some attractions are summer and fall barbecues, a spring cocktail party, and Halloween and holiday parties. This year, residents can anticipate a hallway renovation and the possibility of an exercise room.

We take pride in presenting the prospectus which was distributed shortly after the Holland House opened....

A rendition of this feature was published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Children Envision The QueensWay’s Future - Historic Route May Be Redefined

By Michael Perlman

Youthful visionaries at the QueensWay Mobile Workshop, Photo by Michael Perlman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Our children are our future. On March 29, Queens’ youth had a creative opportunity to shape our borough’s future by illustrating and presenting their visions for the QueensWay, which bears potential as a 3.5-mile linear elevated public park. The event was held at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, which uniquely sits in the foreground of a section of the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch Line in Forest Hills. 

QueensWay conceptual rendering with children's play area, native trees, & wildflowers
Along with numerous Queens residents, the Trust For Public Land and Friends of The QueensWay envision converting an abandoned stretch of tracks, depleted with weeds and trash into a multi-faceted resource which Queens can pride as its symbolic representation of the 21st century. This was one event among a series of QueensWay workshops and mobile workshops, which the organizations hope will inspire Queens communities to contribute ideas, pose questions, and receive feedback. 

The Rockaway Beach Branch Line in Forest Hills as of 2011, Courtesy of Friends of The QueensWay
Woodhaven Junction Station in 1950, Courtesy of Friends of The QueensWay
In 1962, a small section of the line succumbed to a fire, and city officials responded by decommissioning the entire line. The conceived QueensWay would bridge central to southern Queens communities, as it intersects Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park, and also provide direct access to Forest Park. According to the Trust, the QueensWay would serve 250,000 residents living within a mile, while fostering a major economic boost to Queens.  

Queens is a few steps closer to the QueensWay, as evident by a number of recent developments. After New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded the Trust for Public Land a $467,000 to determine if the QueensWay is feasible, it led to the commissioning of two planning and design firms, WXY architecture + urban design and dlandstudio, which was recently joined by Hester Street Collaborative, a community engagement nonprofit. The organizations debuted preliminary design renderings at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School on March 24, followed by their presentation at the High School For Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture on March 26. To reach residents who are unable to attend major workshops, QueensWay mobile workshops will continue to be held.

The March 29th children’s mobile workshop was monitored by Shelma Jun of the Hester Street Collaborative and joined by Friends of The QueensWay volunteers Travis Terry of Forest Hills and Ruben Ramales of Woodhaven. Jun opened the QueensWay Mobile Workshop toolkit, and across a communal table, displayed a foldout aerial map bearing the neighborhoods that the QueensWay would intersect. She explained what led to the tracks’ abandonment and how it has creative reuse potential. The map was then reversed to reveal 10 photos which depict the area’s conditions and its embankments.

Ramales explained, “You'll find yourself on grade in the north. As it starts to work itself south, it’s pretty much earth embankments until it hits Forest Park, which then becomes more of a ravine. It changes back to earth embankments until it becomes an elevated viaduct.”

Jun explained how the areas vary in width, and drew comparisons to the width of two school buses, an airplane, or the Statue of Liberty. For example, the QueensWay is 72 feet wide near Jamaica Avenue, but 133 feet wide adjacent to the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School. “Where an area is really wide, we can introduce lots of activities,” she said. In response, the children were presented with a map with bold titled communities along the QueensWay, and were asked to place buttons pinpointing activities which they could enjoy along specific stretches. The buttons ranged from bird watching to garden spaces to food festivals. 

   The children were then handed a “QueensWay History Coloring Book.” It illustrated the line’s origins to its abandonment, and showed how some sections grew wild and others began housing businesses below. The last steps enabled them to imagine how an old railroad can be transformed into a park, and encouraged drawing what they would like to see in a circle. The children created a pond with frogs and fish, trees, flowers, bike paths, a zip line, and swings. Then they placed their 4 favorite program stickers, which included nature walks, ecology classes, and picnic areas. 

The event concluded with children presenting their work and exhibiting much respect for each other’s visions. This proved how community residents need to listen to each other’s views and work as team players, to achieve a win-win solution for Queens. 

“Through our QueensWay workshops, we are coordinating fun activities for students in kindergarten through grade 12. We want to get ideas from kids in schools or afterschool programs, since they can be very positive and creative,” said Ramales. 

Conceptual renderings of the QueensWay
Conceptual renderings of the QueensWay
Conceptual renderings of the QueensWay
There are nearly 2,500 QueensWay petition signers. Will you add your name & a comment?

A similar version of this feature appeared in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

You can advocate for a historical route and Queens' future by joining Friends of The QueensWay: