Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ridgewood Theatre Supermarket? Crucial Effort To Spare Rare Interior Architecture By Thomas Lamb!

The now landmarked Ridgewood Theatre facade is a classic from its 1916 Vaudeville days, but the ornate interior is now in jeopardy of demolition. Theaters were designed as a complete package, so don't surrender the goods!

The ornate lobby featuring angelic muses, domes, and a grand staircase.

Cameos featuring angels playing instruments, and more Greek Revival detail, adorns the lobby and other parts of this theatrical treasure!

Ridgewood Theatre auditorium's rare Adamesque balconies in April 2010 after multiplexing removal. A treasure was rediscovered, but could be demolished shortly without creative adaptive reuse. This is near the rare backlit proscenium. Note the prominent columns, balustrades, ornamental detail on the underside of the balcony, and the figurines. Photo by Sam Goldman, Times NewsWeekly

Ridgewood Theatre medallion and moldings on ceiling in auditorium in April 2010 after multiplexing removal. A treasure was rediscovered, but remains endangered. This is only a fraction of the ornate detail that merits salvation. Be a visionary! Photo by Robert Pozarycki, Times NewsWeekly

This is a very significant issue that extends beyond Forest Hills and Rego Park, and reflects the endangerment of our citywide cornerstones at large; in this case, our theaters. Please read the following and help. Also, join the Facebook Group for Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, and invite your friends to join as well.

Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre has learned that plans to convert the Ridgewood Theatre (55-27 Myrtle Ave) to a performing arts center have failed after the owners gave up, and have sold it to franchisee Tony Guzman of Associated Supermarket. All hope is not abandoned, and we feel the need for a compromise. We are in the process of calling for a meeting with the new owner. 

We respectfully request the owner to:

1. Preserve and restore the theater's rare 1916 interior Adamesque architecture by America's foremost theater architect Thomas Lamb, such as a rare backlit proscenium, balustrades, and ornate plaster detail in the auditorium (treasures unveiled after multiplex removal), as well as angelic muses, domes, and a grand staircase in the lobby;

2. Utilize funding opportunities such as historic grants and tax credits, if the interior was creatively adaptively reused rather than demolished, along the lines of other sites locally and citywide that underwent a successful parallel conversion. Case studies include theater and bank sites;

 3. Be receptive of concerns of the greater community, and realize the extensive history reflected in remaining site features, and also realize the great rapport he will gain if working cooperatively with locals, preservation groups, and elected officials;

4. Lease at least 2 floors as community and performance spaces, to reflect the building's potential, and the adjacent neighborhoods' growing arts community, while boosting revenue at the site.

We won landmark status for the facade in January 2010, but the interior's rare ornate features dating to its Vaudeville & silent film days merit preservation most significantly. For questions, advice, and to volunteer given the theater's newly endangered status, please e-mail

Ridgewood Theatre facade designation report
Landmarking Petition Drive
Join the Facebook Group for the Ridgewood Theatre!
Ridgewood Theatre interior & facade photos on Flickr

Thank you,

-Michael Perlman

Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, Chair
Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair
Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, Queens VP
Queens Preservation Council & Central Queens Historical Association, Bd. of Dir.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing families and friends abound a Happy Thanksgiving from Rego-Forest Preservation Council!

Below is a 1939 chrome postcard from The Macy Color Views of New York series, featuring a float making its way around Columbus Circle. Most vintage Thanksgiving postcards feature greetings, poetry, and traditional imagery, but it is rare to discover a postcard featuring both Thanksgiving and a New York City theme. Picture perfect! I am a deltiologist since 2002 (beginning with collecting Forest Hills postcards, which now benefit historic preservation causes), so this postcard resides in the Michael Perlman Postcard Collection. Please feel free to share this artifact with your family and friends.

Ever wonder about the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? This is an impressive run-down, so get your study cards!

What are you thankful for? Let's be grateful for cherished experiences with loved ones and true friends, living in a diverse borough, or other unique sections of the city and beyond. Also, let's extend our thanks for the small moments in life that convey great meaning. We are blessed in more ways we can imagine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Landmark Campaign for Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: Diversity of Support Letters & How You Can Help

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is the heart of the West Side Tennis Club, as stated in a vintage Holiday magazine feature.
Since July 23, 2010, Rego-Forest Preservation Council has launched an ongoing letter campaign to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, urging a most democratic public hearing and landmarking for the endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Not only would it preserve a historic site in terms of tennis, music, and architectural firsts, but city, state, and federal landmarking would have financial benefits for restoring the historic stadium, which would then tie into the long-term historic appeal and economic benefits of the West Side Tennis Club and greater community. Landmarking is a must-have!

***This is the landmark letter campaign link, which you still have the power of participating in, by composing a letter of support, even if it's brief. Also, forward this post to friends, encouraging them to do the same. Base it upon the following:

Below is a handful of landmark support letters, representing the diversity of prominent figures, residents, tennis, art, and preservation organizations. More to appear on this blog in the coming days....

10/6/10 Landmark Support Letter from Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe:

9/9/10 Landmark Support Letter from Peter Pennoyer Architects:

9/2/10 Landmark Support Letter from The New York Landmarks Conservancy:

Dear Chairman Tierney:

The Conservancy joins local elected officials in requesting that the Landmarks Preservation Commission evaluate the West Side Tennis Stadium in Forest Hills, to determine if it should be designated as an Individual Landmark.

The arena has been home to pivotal events in the history of tennis and NY tennis in particular, since it opened nearly 100 years ago. As this year's US Open gets underway, we're reminded of the many famous matches played for over 50 years, when the Open was known simply as "Forest Hills."

We acknowledge that the Stadium has not been used to its full advantage since the Open left, and that some features may be in poor condition, but the overall volume is unchanged from its most significant era. Protected by landmark designation, it could be restored and re-used to its best potential use, as a sports and entertainment complex.

The West Side Tennis Stadium embodies the vibrant tennis culture which flourished in the 1960s and 70s, and is a monument of NY's social history. We urge the Commission to work quickly to study and evaluate the West Side Tennis Stadium.

Yours Truly,

- Peg Breen, President, The New York Landmarks Conservancy

8/16/10 Landmark Support Letter from the American Institute of Architects:

Dear Chairman Tierney,

Given the circumstances surrounding the possible sale of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium for development, the Preservation Committee of the Queens Chapter of the American Institute of Architects encourages the Commission to calendar a hearing as soon as possible, to consider the merits of the Tennis Stadium for designation as a NYC Landmark.

In our opinion, it has true value in its historical significance as the home of the United States Tennis Open Championship from 1923 to 1977.

We believe the Stadium alone and as part of the greater West Side Tennis Club complex - a storied venue in the annals of tennis history - stands as a symbol of past glory and sporting firsts, and that it should be celebrated as a source of civic pride, not only by residents of Forest Hills, but by all New Yorkers, and forever be preserved as an example of our city's 20th century heritage.

Should a hearing be scheduled, please note that the Preservation Committee of the Queens AIA wholeheartedly endorses designation of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium as a NYC Landmark.


- Laura Heim, AIA Queens President
- Kevin Wolfe, AIA Queens Preservation Committee
- Michael Almon, AIA Queens Preservation Committee

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Photo Series: Eye Above Forest Hills & Rego Park

 Aerials from Kennedy House

Aerials from Howard Apartments

Introducing an ongoing series of aerial views of Forest Hills & Rego Park from mainly residential high-rises! The first two photosets have been uploaded to a flickr collection, and features views of the neighborhood from the roof of 2 notable Modernist structures in Forest Hills, including the 12-story Howard Apartments at 99-32 66th Rd, and the 34-story Kennedy House at 110-11 Queens Blvd.  Both are valuable assets designed by award-winning architect, Philip Birnbaum, completed in 1952 and 1964, respectively.

Aerial Photo Collection of Forest Hills & Rego Park on Flickr

This aerial photo series makes one appreciate aspects which make our neighborhood distinctive:

1. Our architectural and cultural history
2. Urban planning
3. Garden apartment house movement and greenery.

This will benefit our historic preservation neighborhood survey work. To volunteer by recommending sites to photograph from, or to submit photos after corresponding, please e-mail

Monday, November 15, 2010

Struggle To Save Tennis Stadium Goes Into Overtime, Feature By Jonathan Camhi

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium circa early 70s, Published by Artvue Postcard Co & courtesy of Michael Perlman Postcard Collection
Tennis great Bill Tilden at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, 1937 news photo
The Beatles at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, a 1965 rare LP album cover
Below is a well-written piece by CUNY Grad School of Journalism student Jonathan Camhi, who we are privileged to work with on his Forest Hills beat. This is an article on the revered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which we are hoping to landmark since July 23rd, restore, and creatively reuse for all generations, while benefiting the West Side Tennis Club and our neighborhood's economic status, and beyond. Hopefully, it will see new light as a 21st century family destination. The grad student's piece features quotes from Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chair Michael Perlman, as well as West Side Tennis Club President Kenneth Parker. November 15th is the deadline set by the WSTC for creative reuse proposals for the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, so let's see what unfolds. Please share this piece with all:

Struggle To Save Tennis Stadium Goes Into Overtime

The gray historic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium hasn’t been used for years and feels more like a graveyard than a sports venue these days. But some prominent ghosts haunt this particular graveyard look-alike.

From 1923 to 1978 the U.S. Open tennis championships made their home at this arena, and some of the most significant moments in tennis history occurred here. The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan have all performed here too. But the future of this dormant icon is now in question as its owners and Forest Hills residents debate whether to tear it down or restore it to its former grandeur.

The West Side Tennis Club, which owns the stadium, was poised to sell it to Cord Meyer Development Co., which planned to tear it down and replace it with condominiums. But a vote among club members resulted in a tie, quashing the sale. The question now is what to do with the stadium?

“Some people may see it as an eyesore, but if you look really closely at its history and its great craftsmanship, you’ll see a distinctive story of a 20th century icon,” said Michael Perlman, president of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, “It’s a gem that needs polishing.”

Some of the critical moments in tennis history occurred here:  Althea Gibson becoming the first black woman to win the U.S. Open in 1957; Arthur Ashe becoming the first black man to win it in 1968.

As Jean-Moutoussamy Ashe, Arthur Ashe’s widow, said in a recent letter to the Landmark’s Preservation Committee, the stadium “represents the progress and achievements of tennis, and furthermore, the last American century.”

“It’s important to take time to really consider things, in this case, to realize that the Forest Hills structure is a part of our history and irreplaceable,” she said via email.

Even some residents who favored the sale to Cord Meyer say they’re open to refurbishing the structure. “It would be sad to see it torn down, the history and all,” said local resident Wendy Wong, who lives right across the street from the stadium, “It would just be nice to see something done with this.”

Kenneth Parker, president of the West Side Tennis Club, says he, too, would like to see the stadium refurbished, “but coming up with the money is the real problem.”

Many local officials would like to see the site named an official landmark—and wrote a letter to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Committee requesting the designation in August. Making the stadium a landmark would not only ensure that the building will never be torn down, but it would also make it eligible for federal, state and local funding to restore it.

The preservation council’s Perlman said he got over 750 signatures for a letter that he sent to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In his view, making the stadium a landmark could open the door to reusing the stadium “and, hopefully, a historically sensitive restoration would take place.”

Possible uses for a revamped stadium, he says include tennis matches, concerts, music and arts festivals “similar to Shakespeare in the Park,”, community gatherings, charity fundraisers and even weddings.

The New York Philharmonic, he adds, has already expressed interest in using the stadium for its summer concert series, but representatives of the philharmonic could not be reached for comment.

In addition, local Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-9th District) publicly asked the United States Tennis Association to consider holding one match of the U.S. Open at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium each year.

A recent engineer appraised the restoration project at $12 million, said Perlman, who added that the money should be easy to get once the stadium gets landmark status.

It is now up to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make a recommendation. According to Lisi de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the commission, “Our staff is in the process of making our evaluation.  We are still in the preliminary stages,” she said, adding that it is unclear at this point when the commission will make its recommendation.

Meanwhile, the president of the West Side Tennis Club says that he isn’t aware of the move to make the stadium a landmark. “I haven’t spoken with any government officials,” says Parker. “I would suspect getting any government funding would be very difficult.”

Parker adds that the West Side Tennis Club is reaching out to other organizations about uses for the stadium, but says he cannot disclose at this point the names of those organizations.

On Oct. 18 the tennis club sent letters out to its members requesting proposals for possible uses of the stadium. According to Perlman, the club’s board has set a November 15th deadline for these new proposals.

For the moment the future of the stadium looks as hotly contested as any of the championship matches that occurred here over the years.

“It’s as if the ghosts of tennis past were watching over the stadium, inspiring the voters to vote down the development plan,” says Perlman. But it is still to be seen if these ghosts will ever see their graveyard reopened and brought back to life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

10/28 Queens Preservation Networking Event & Ceremony Honoring Our New Queens Borough Historian, Jack Eichenbaum

The New Queens Borough Historian, Jack Eichenbaum
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall presents to a diverse crowd
Writeup and photos by Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Queens Preservation Council and Central Queens Historical Association board member, and Queens VP of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance

Queens has a new official face, which some people may already know from his walking tours.... Queens Borough Historian, Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, who was appointed by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. On October 28, 2010, a Queens historic preservation networking event was held at Queens Borough Hall, and sponsored by BP Marshall of Queens Borough Hall and the Queens Preservation Council, which is Chaired by Mitchell Grubler. The new Borough Historian was formally introduced to the public. The Queens Preservation Council's mission statement is: As an alliance of the borough's historical societies, civic, and neighborhood organizations, the Queens Preservation Council is a catalyst for positive change through civic engagement; specifically related to laws and regulations governing city planning and zoning, landmark and historic district designation, and building enforcement.

The setup of Queens Borough Hall's conference space, Room 213, was "picture perfect," and was a well-conceived response to an event that was a few months in the making. Representatives of a diverse coalition of neighborhoods were in attendance, and reflected Queens and citywide civic groups, preservation groups, and community groups. It was encouraging seeing approximately 100 people networking for 3 hours during the evening of October 28th. There were some familiar faces, but many new ones. All attendees wore name tags, which included the organization they represented. Guests arrived to find a table of informative pamphlets and flyers representing some of the organizations, and a table of catered hors d'oeuvres, pastries, wines, and sodas that spanned the width of the space. Chairs were arranged in a semi-circle, facing a podium for the guest speakers. The ambiance was a healthy chorus in a pleasantly lit, open space.

Autumn-themed spreads
Historic preservation organizational pamphlets
Queens Preservation Council member James Van Westering
Queens BP Helen Marshall on podium, with Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum & QPC member James Van Westering to her left
James Van Westering, a board member of the Queens Preservation Council was the first guest speaker, who explained the need for a preservation networking event, centered around the new Borough Historian, Jack Eichenbaum, and also explained the mission of the Queens Preservation Council. He then introduced Borough President Helen Marshall, who delivered a speech. She said, "Without knowledge of our history, we are not very much of a people. Our neighborhoods are like little Villages." She demonstrated her pride that historic places still exist in Queens, such as the Bowne House in Flushing, which gave rise to religious freedom. She also thanked everyone for attending, and urged a continuation of advocacy for the historic establishments that grant Queens its culture.

Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum explained "Queens is a borough of neighborhoods, and our neighborhoods are our greatest strengths, but we can dilute it if we revert to parochialism." His primary focus is an educational and authoritative focus of borough-wide history, and he believes we should present history and community-related causes as a borough issue to be most effective, rather than only a neighborhood issue, which historians, community residents, and preservationists commonly do. Some of his priorities include raising consciousness about Queens environmental preservation, documenting immigration and demographic patterns since the mid-1970s, and technological advances by the means of digitizing history. One such improvement is the ability of taking aerial photos of superb quality, where people can zoom in to see alterations over time periods on a lot level.

Another goal is the compilation of community history using our local colleges, and encouraging people to rely more extensively on people's memories, differentiating from the norm of using traditional archives. One of his primary goals will not revolve around historic preservation and landmarking issues, but referring those with an interest and questions to key members of the preservation community. He believes in uniting people on a neighborhood level.

Dr. Eichenbaum explained how Queens residents have a history of identity over their borough. From 1898 - 1920s, suburban villages were on the way of becoming urban in Queens. During that time period, the only way to have a unique address was using the neighborhood name. When zip codes were established shortly thereafter, residents had the option of using only the zip, but illustrate pride over their communities by retaining their neighborhood name as part of the address. On a related note, quite a few neighborhood names have been lost over time. For example, Winfield became absorbed by Woodside sometime during the 20th century. A postcard collector would see that early 1900s postcards boast the name "Winfield."

Dr. Eichenbaum explained how Queens has always offered more land to landlords and residents as a benefit over Manhattan, making Queens a very desirable borough. Primarily between WWI and WWII, Queens was greatly inspired by the Garden Apartments Movement, where 45% of land was typically covered by 2 to 6-story garden apartment walk-ups or elevator apartment buildings, leaving sufficient space for landscapes, recreation, and fresh air for its residents. Some parcels have only 20% - 30% covered. He stated "This is the garden borough, and we're paving it." This trend has been increasing in recent decades. Not only does eliminating green space compromise our aesthetic quality of life, but contributes to insufficient runoff and flooding. Some examples include the elimination of the verge, which is a strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb, and also the strip of land outside 3-story rowhouses, which were typically built in the 50s and 60s. When demographics increased, so did the amount of cars, causing more residents to park on spaces that were not designed for cars initially.

QPC member Henry Euler presents plaques
After Dr. Eichenbaum's speech was warmly received, Henry Euler, a member of the Queens Preservation Council and the Bayside Historical Society, presented two plaques. One was a plaque honoring Stanley and Lee Cogan, in memory of Joseph Hellman. Stanley Cogan was the founder of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, a member of the Queens Preservation Council, President of the Queens Historical Society, and was the former Queens Borough Historian. His wife, Lee Cogan, recently passed away. Joseph Hellmann was a well-respected and accomplished member of the Queens Preservation Council, the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, trustee of the Queens Historical Society, historian of the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society, a member of Community Board 11, and secretary of the Douglaston Civic Association. He passed away on May 28, 2010. Another plaque honored Nancy Cataldi, who passed away on October 29, 2008. She was a Historian and President of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, an author, a highly regarded civic leader, and also a member of the Queens Preservation Council. Despite resistance from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, she and the society never abandoned the cause to acquire historic district status for a section of Richmond Hill, which is Queens' Victorian home mecca. The plaque was presented to Marjorie Ferrigno and her late husband, Nicholas Ferrigno, co-founders of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, who have been leading the cause to secure historic district status for the Broadway-Flushing neighborhood despite resistance from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. They are one of many preservationists who take inspiration from our beloved community leader, Nancy Cataldi.

After the speech-making portion of the agenda ended, borough and citywide advocates had more time to network over food, with longtime and newly found friends, to ultimately strengthen the historic preservation ethic for a more beautiful community, as our neighborhoods increase in population over time. It was an event to remember!

For more photos, visit the photoset of the event on flickr:

To contact Queens Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum, e-mail

Contact preservationist & writer Michael Perlman at 

To join the Queens Preservation Council, please send an e-mail with your interests to or call (718) 591-0361.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Interview with Jonathan Camhi: "Developing A Pest Problem"

As Chairman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council and as Queens VP of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance amongst other organizations, I was presented with the opportunity to work with Jonathan Camhi, a student of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is assigned a semester beat on Forest Hills. I led him on a walking tour, explaining the overall history of neighborhoods such as the Austin St business and residential district, the Forest Hills Gardens, Forest Hills South, Van Court, Queens Blvd, and more, and also explained dominant 20th century architectural patterns and landmark-worthy sites. One of the most pressing issues is the endangerment of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and the campaign I am spearheading on behalf of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, to grant landmark status and creative reuse. This topic has been an integral part of Jonathan Camhi's semester project. During the third week in October, I sat down with him, and he interviewed me for the CUNY blog. This is our interview:


Developing a Pest Problem

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, currently under threat from developers.

Forest Hills in Queens is an affluent community which has long been desirable real estate for developers who want to build there. Conflict arises though when developers come in and demolish some of the community’s older historic structures to make way for new developments. Lately Cord Meyer Development Company has been trying to purchase and demolish the community’s most prestigious icon: the 14,000-seat Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, the former home of the US Tennis Open, which is owned by the West Side Tennis Club. Michael Perlman is President of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council and fights to save local landmarks from greedy developer’s bulldozers, and I spoke with him recently about this struggle.

Q:  Cord Meyer has a lot of history in Forest Hills, there’s a whole section of the neighborhood named after the company.  Why do you think a company that’s such a part of the community here, and has such history here, wants to tear down the community’s most renowned monument?

A: I was reading on a local blog that the people who originated Cord Meyer development were all within a close-knit family, and it was a family corporation. And now generations passed on, and the last family member has wound up getting out of the business. In essence, they may have the same name but they have different ideals: 2010 lego ideals.

Q:  I heard in one of the blogs that Cord Meyer said that their offer [for the tennis stadium] is still on the table.

A: I think that Kenneth Parker [President of the West Side Tennis Club] and the club’s board members' November 15th deadline for a new proposal for the stadium is really an offer to Cord Meyer.

Q: Cord Meyer is obviously one example of a larger problem, which is that Forest Hills is a really nice neighborhood where they want to buy land, but when they don’t always adhere to the community’s desires. What are some examples of this?

A: Relating to 72nd Avenue between Austin St. and Queens Blvd., there are Forest Hills' earliest Neo-Renaissance rowhouses on opposites sides of the street (1906). Four of these have been demolished in recent years by one developer, one by one. Some interests are mostly from outside Forest Hills, and it’s a shame they don’t want to work with our community closer and respect its history. Another example, not of developers, but is the tenant of the former Trylon movie theater. In 2005, I remember walking by and seeing jackhammers smashing its Trylon Monument-adorned mosaic tiles, inspired by the 1939 World's Fair. Now it’s just another banal box. It really reduces property values.

Q: What do you think should be done to make developers respect the community and look at the greater picture?

A: I feel that communities that have a sense of place should be commemorated with historic district status, and those communities should be subject to the Landmarks Law. Everything would be subject to a public hearing, and take into account the majority of the citizens.

Click here for Perlman’s blog.