Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Save The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Landmark Letter Campaign for An International Icon!‏

Please take a few minutes to help preserve the historic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, an IMMINENTLY ENDANGERED AMERICAN & INTERNATIONAL ICON. 

Classic postcard of a classic! LANDMARK or the dumpster?
The Problem....

Remember the 1963 demolition of Penn Station as New Yorkers watched in awe? You may be too young, but you get the picture. That led to the establishment of the Landmarks Law in 1965, to prevent further demolition of our landmarks that read NY all over it. The difference here is that the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium reads more than NY! After a vote on August 19th by a percentage of West Side Tennis Club members with voting rights, the historic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium may be sold to a developer, who will likely demolish it for a residential development. The greater public, who the Stadium was built for, will be excluded from the voting process. Wouldn't it be wise and more reputable for the WSTC to keep the Stadium or sell it to a reputable developer who will value,  restore, & adaptively reuse an International icon? Will this be Queens' Penn Station? Whether you are or aren't a WSTC member, there are ways that the "greater public" can still take action to defend an ICON!

Lookout below for 2 urgent routes towards preservation 
~ OR~
A prime facet of history will be gone forever!

 Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Significance....

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is truly an American & International icon in terms of tennis, musically, and architecturally. It was the first concrete stadium of its type in the country, and was referred to as the "World Capital of Tennis." Some prominent tennis players included Bill Tilden, Helen Wills, Althea Gibson, and Arthur Ashe. The facade is embellished with eagles, shields bearing the West Side Tennis Club logo, and grand historic archways. It was the home to the U.S. Open, singles championships, Wrightman Cup, Davis Cup, and a number of firsts in tennis history. It was also home to music festivals starring Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Trini Lopez, The Who, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, The Monkees, etc. A key scene in "Strangers On A Train" (1951) by Alfred Hitchcock took place at the Stadium. The Tudor Clubhouse dates to 1913 (Famed Architect Grosvenor Atterbury & John Almay Tompkins), and the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium dates to 1923 (Famed Architect Kenneth M. Murchison). The West Side Tennis Club helped establish the sport of tennis in the U.S. Forest Hills is known for tennis, and tennis is known for Forest Hills. Sadly, the West Side Tennis Club has neglected an icon, letting it sit somewhat abandoned, after the U.S. Open needed a larger space than 14,000 seats in the late 70s, and the WSTC did not promote it as much for music festivals or smaller matches. Photos, memorabilia, history: 



Based on the above significance and your own sentiments, please write a letter supporting landmark status to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Clubhouse, interiors, and grounds should be calendared for a public hearing ASAP. If restored and adaptively reused for smaller concerts and smaller tennis matches, it would enhance the appeal of the neighborhood, and preserve a historic icon. Jet Blue can be a sponsor. Breathable space is prime, and we do not need typical condos in a neighborhood accustomed to overdevelopment. City Landmarking will preserve the historic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Clubhouse, grounds, & interiors for future generations to cherish, increase the chances of funding for repairs, and ultimately enhance our quality of life.

Please e-mail the Landmarks Preservation Commission a letter requesting landmark status ASAP. It can be brief, yet meaningful. 


- LPC Chair Robert Tierney: rtierney@lpc.nyc.gov
- LPC Dir of Research Mary Beth Betts: mbetts@lpc.nyc.gov

- LPC General mailbox: comments@lpc.nyc.gov 

- LPC Exec. Dir. Kate Daly: kdaly@lpc.nyc.gov   
- Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chair Michael Perlman: unlockthevault@hotmail.com 

Inform any contacts (members) that you know of at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to vote against the plan to sell the historic Stadium to a developer, who will very likely demolish it for a condo. Keep in mind that the vote to sell the stadium is slated for August 19th, which follows the informational meeting at the West Side Tennis Club (1 Tennis Place, Forest Hills, NY) on August 10th.

Please help by composing a brief letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and also forward this preservation campaign posting to all your contacts. Time is of the essence!

Thank you,

- Michael Perlman

Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair

The Stadium hosted annual music festivals, attracting thousands. Still have those ticket stubs?
Althea Gibson: 1st African American woman to be a competitor on the world tennis tour, & 1st to win a Grand Slam title in '56. 
Vintage magazine explains how the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is the heart of the West Side Tennis Club!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jorissen Millstones Endangered: Request For Rightful Preservation & Landmarking!

Rego-Forest Preservation Council expands its horizons beyond the immediate vicinity of Rego Park and Forest Hills, and acknowledges the broad picture of what shaped historic Queens, and how Queens' early history impacts and enhances our quality of lives in modern day Queens. We proudly join our neighbors in solidarity, calling on the rightful preservation of the Jorrisen Millstones, which remains at risk in Queens Plaza, Long Island City. Action by the citizens, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and all responsible city agencies and elected officials is requested.....

The following press release is courtesy of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. Information is from James Riker’s Annals of Newtown (1852) and personal recollections of the Payntar Family. The Payntar Family, and some professional organizations including Rego-Forest Preservation Council, HDC, as well as the Queens Borough historian, have gone on record supporting GAHS efforts to preserve the millstones.

Jorrisen’s Mill, built between 1643 and 1654, was the first tidal mill in western Queens. It was powered by ditch, called Berger’s Sluice, which ran just east of Northern Boulevard between 40 Road and 48th Street. The backbreaking work of grinding wheat and sifting flour was generally done by African–American labor.

We have a fairly clear record of ownership: Parcell, Bragaw, Polhemus, and Ryerson to the Payntar family which bought the mill in 1831. The mill and mill pond remained to 1861, when the Long Island Railroad drove tracks through the area obliterating the location. The Payntar family rescued the millstones and placed them in front of their home on Jackson Avenue some 300 feet north of Queens Plaza.

About the time when the home was torn down in 1913, the stones were transferred to the plaza in front of the Long Island Savings Bank at 41st Avenue and Queens Plaza North. A postcard from about 1925 shows tall light fixtures with circular bases that seem to resemble the stones.

When the Queens Plaza subway station was built (about 1930) the stones were again temporarily moved, this time to a nearby flower bed. A photo in a booklet published by the Long Island Savings Bank in the 1940s shows the millstones embedded in a traffic island where they remained until late last year. The booklet shows them, at that time, to be in pristine condition.

The historical society has inspected the millstones for over 25 years and has noticed exposure to vandalism, the rigors of the elements, which is a marked deterioration in the last decade. Their centers eroded (someone dumped asphalt in them.) One was cracked. As early as 2001, we went on record with the New York Times expressing our concerns.

As part of the multimillion dollar renovation of Queens Plaza by the NY City Planning and the NYS Economic Development Corporation, the millstones are to be moved to the center of the plaza and mounted to pedestals with four pins drilled through them. Their centers are to be filled with gout. In that location they will be exposed to the vibrations of one of the most congested traffic hubs in New York (elevated, subway, and vehicular).  Their planned siting, next to a bike lane, is not safe. Deserted at night, they be will exposed to vandalism. They will be subject to road salt and weathering.

An application for designation to NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, who called them ‘decorative sidewalks,’ was rejected. They are sitting in crates with large signs designating them as ‘Historic Objects Under Study.’

Custom holds them to be the oldest surviving European artifacts in Queens! Some claim they arrived on a West Indian merchantman. The design on their face is late (perhaps early 19th century.) The millstones are either replacements, or originals with their faces rescored.  Even if not original, they are still remnants of a 17th century mill.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is seeking support to temporarily house them in our museum, to retain experts to study them to determine their origin and age, and to place them on exhibit for the community until an appropriate permanent local interior space is found. The historical society, with the professional expertise to house the artifacts in a secure location, would make them available twice as many hours as an alternative proposal, a branch of the cash-strapped Queens Borough Public Library.

Please sign & comment on the petition to preserve the Jorissen Millstones, and inform your friends and family to do the same:  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/licmillstones/

For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at (718) 278-0700 and http://www.astorialic.org