Monday, April 25, 2011

Trylon Theater in Forest Hills Patch - A 1939 World's Fair Legacy Never Ceases

The 1939 Trylon Theater as boasted in 1941 in The Theatre Catalog

The Trylon Theater after its 60-year run in Dec 1999. A time when the facade's most significant Art Deco features with international ties remained intact.

The TRYLON THEATER is your Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chairman's latest installation in the Local History column for Forest Hills Patch. 

This theater at 98-81 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills had cultural, architectural, and historical significance to the 1939 – 1940 World's Fair, which was held in Flushing Meadows Park, and categorized by the 700-ft spire Trylon (pyramid) and 180-ft Perisphere (globe) monuments. It was the “Theater of Tomorrow,” since the theme of the 1939 World’s Fair was the “World of Tomorrow,” where exhibits emphasized technological improvements. Social and cultural change led to new waves of immigrants. The marquee once boasted The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind

With the exception of its closure in 1999, and the jackhammering of significant Art Deco features in 2005 despite a community preservation movement and political controversy, you can read an excerpt of its intriguing 60-year chapter of what defined a neighborhood theater with international ties. Please share your memories: 

Thankfully hosted on the 1939 New York World's Fair (Reaction Grid) website, you can read more about the Committee To Save The Trylon Theater (which led to the creation of Rego-Forest Preservation Council in late 2006): In short, when former councilmember, Melinda Katz, did NOT support landmarking sites in Forest Hills, the Landmarks Preservation Commission backed off from the Trylon Theater. Sometimes public officials forget why they were elected.

Art Deco glory! The Trylon Theater entrance pavilion after closure in Dec 1999. It features a Trylon Monument on the mosaic ticket booth with a central 3D mirror-image on the terrazzo floor, which is then accompanied by Art Deco chevrons in mosaic tiles.

Art Deco travesty in 2005: Hard to believe that this was all that remained of the above image, consisting of the priceless ticket booth and entrance pavilion, as a demolition crew was told to destroy this artifact.
2005: Bad enough the lobby was gutted, but the back-lit mosaic Trylon fountain wasn't even spared.

The World of Tomorrow-themed cloth mural for the Trylon Theater, a "Theater of Tomorrow." Sadly, this work of art alongside the proscenium wasn't preserved when the building underwent a conversion.

After viewing these photos and reading its history, the question on most people's minds becomes.........

 Wouldn't it have been much easier to work together to preserve and creatively reuse the Trylon Theater's historic Art Deco features, while undergoing conversion to a cultural center in 2005?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Preserving Your Neighborhood's Commercial Districts Presentation - You're Invited on May 2nd at 8:30 AM

 Before your work day, you are invited to an HDC Monday Morning Coffee Talk - Preserving Your Neighborhood’s Commercial Districts

When? Mon, May 2, 2011 at 8:30 AM 
Where? Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, Manhattan

For the May Coffee Talk, come learn about how you can PRESERVE, FUND, and REVITALIZE your local commercial corridors. Attendees will understand the steps needed to identify and implement a successful main street program for your historic commercial corridor, including fa├žade restorations, streetscape improvements and funding opportunities for these types of projects. This presentation will be led by Robert and Victor Dadras, partners at Dadras Architects, who have overseen more than 500 Main Street revitalization projects over the last twenty-five years in the NY region.

This event is FREE to the public. Reservations are required, as space is limited. 

For more information, please contact Sara Romanoski at (212) 614-9107 or sromanoski (at) hdc (dot) org.

The Neighborhood Partners Program is sponsored in part by Assembly Members Jonathan L. Bing, Deborah J. Glick, Richard N. Gottfried and Daniel J. O’Donnell, and State Senators Thomas K. Duane, Liz Krueger, Bill Perkins, & Diane J. Savino.

Robert & Victor Dadras at the LISC Urban Forum in Miami, FL, Nov 2006, Courtesy of Dadras Architects

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Recognized in National Trust For Historic Preservation's Preservation Magazine

This is a Nov 1922 ad which appeared in MIT's Technology Review. Designed by public building architectural specialist Kenneth Murchison in 1923, it became the country's first permanent concrete tennis stadium. There's no denying its strong foundation in more ways than 1!

Centerfield! August 2010 photo by Patrick Lannan

The famed yet endangered Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is recognized in the National Trust For Historic Preservation's Preservation Magazine (May-June 2011 issue) as threatened. It is the hope of Rego-Forest Preservation Council that such exposure along with city, state, federal landmark status, and potentially an amended version of Transferable Development Rights (TDR), will yield funds for restoration and creative multi-reuse. Hopefully, exposure in this noteworthy publication will spark the interest of historically-sensitive visionaries, who will partner with the Stadium's owner, the West Side Tennis Club. Below is the excerpt from the magazine's Transitions section:

The greatest tennis players of the 20th century—Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Margaret Court, and Jimmy Connors among them—served, volleyed, and stroked backhands at this 14,000-seat stadium in the Forest Hills section of Queens, N.Y. After the U.S. Open moved to Flushing Meadows in 1977, the West Side Tennis Stadium hosted various professional tournaments but was eventually abandoned. The club that owns the badly deteriorated stadium discussed demolition with a developer interested in building condos. But in October, the club voted to retain the stadium and solicit ideas for reuse. About $12 million is needed just to repair the crumbling 1923 landmark.


1968 US Open Tennis Championships press kit featuring Arthur Ashe
Golden glory awaits TLC! Photo by Michael Perlman, Sept 2010
Frank Sinatra at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, July 15, 1977
1937 news photo
Judy Garland at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium on July 17, 1965 at the annual Forest Hills Music Festivals, Courtesy of Robert Rauschenbach

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Palm Sunday 4/17 Concert: Help Restore The Historic First Presbyterian Church of Newtown

The historic First Presbyterian Church of Newtown proudly extends an invite, and encourages your help. ALL are invited to the church's Easter Concert & Restoration Fundraiser on Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 2:00 PM. The church adult choir and youth will present For Such A One As This, a moving and beautiful musical presentation of the Easter story. The Organist and Choir Director is Kiyomi Kimura.

The church is at the south side of Queens Blvd & 54th Ave in Elmhurst, near the Grand Ave subway entrance. For more information, contact Church Historian Marjorie Melikian at (718) 897-5668. Rego-Forest Preservation Council is committed to assist the church in a restoration cause, and Chair Michael Perlman can be contacted at

This church is endangered not by developers which have undermined the integrity of historic religious institutions in recent years, but is endangered, since it is in need of some major repairs to its 1895 building, including restoration of its intricate wooden doors, weatherproofing, electrical work, roofing, refinishing, the cleaning and repair of stained glass, and the installation of historic-style railings around the church's stoop. Similar repairs are needed for the adjoining 1931 Church House. Restoration is often costly, particularly for many religious institutions citywide, but the salvation of a historic religious edifice is priceless.

There is no admission fee, and a free-will offering will be collected, to benefit the restoration and upgrades of one of Queens' greatest "Landmarks at heart!" The church and its bell are symbols of the lost history of Queens, and have withstood the test of time. Your help is most crucial towards preserving this historic site for future generations to cherish. Please help by spreading the word, and bringing your family and friends. 

If you cannot attend this restoration fundraiser concert, & would still like to help restore a site with 17th century Newtown roots, please send donations to:

First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Building Fund
54-05 Seabury St, Elmhurst, NY 11373.
("Building Fund" must be noted on the check.)

Historic Overview

The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown is a greatly intact Gothic brownstone masterpiece from 1895 with a bell tower, stained glass windows, a pitched roof, and elaborate woodwork. The church’s congregation dates to 1652, making it one of New York City’s earliest extant. Originally a community church, it officially became Presbyterian in 1715. The church was founded in the wilderness (now Elmhurst) of the Dutch Colony of New Netherlands, and has survived war, invasion, and religious and political persecution. In 1924, the church faced another hurdle. Queens Boulevard was slated to be widened by the city, and therefore, the sole hope of salvation was transporting it. Teamwork resulted in an engineering marvel, as the 5 million-pound church was moved 125 feet.

The church has a bell which dates to 1788, and was installed in its 4th church building erected in 1791, just after the American Revolution. This replaced its 3rd church, which was desecrated by British soldiers and demolished. The bell survived the destruction of that church by fire, and the moving of the present church a half-block in the 1920s, which caused the loss of its original huge steeple. The bell was originally in an edifice on a single-lane dirt road, with horses going by. The current church was built on a double-lane dirt road. Both the single and double lanes form what is now bustling Queens Blvd. The bell has witnessed significant historic moments in Queens. A rare and unique history of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, published by Church Historian Marjorie Melikian of Rego Park, NY:

Postcards and photo documentation by Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council & Queens VP of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, is below and on flickr:

Interior of the Gothic sanctuary towards the altar.

Looking out from the altar towards the balcony.

One of the church's many enriching stained glass works.

The 1895 First Presbyterian Church of Newtown is moved during the 1920s, and Queens Blvd is expanded to its current size today. The congregation and riggers worked diligently to spare the church from demolition, and this could potentially be the largest and heaviest building ever moved in New York!
A rare glimpse of rural Queens Boulevard with the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown & humble frame houses. The church's original huge steeple doubled the height of the building, and was sacrificed during the move. ~ Courtesy of the Michael Perlman Postcard Collection.

More stained glass beauty of the 19th century. They sure don't make 'em like they used to!

Spiritual scenes transcend from the artist's vision to reality.

An 1895 Gothic masterpiece is a one & only encounter on Queens Blvd! Visualize farmland with frame houses mere steps from this edifice 115 years ago.

John Goldsmith Payntar left $70,000 in his will for the new 1895 church building. "Payntar Memorial" is inscribed above the entranceway. Stained glass windows and Gothic ornamentation create an empowering entry, which is complemented by its hand-carved wood doors with intricate brass handles. These are a few of many authentic features which merit restoration, before they are lost forever.

A closer eye on the Gothic facade with stained glass overlooking Queens Blvd.

The charming 1931 limestone & brick Church House annex on Seabury St consists of recreational facilities, performance space, and classrooms. It is also in great need of restoration and upgrades.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

One Thing That's Green For The Records - Nearly 900 Volunteers Plant 180 Trees In MacDonald Park & Forest Hills Surroundings

MacDonald Park with newly planted trees by volunteers

Nearly 900 volunteers help restore the tree canopy of MacDonald Park & nearby Forest Hills sites, including a tree to be planted on the Queens Boulevard median
MacDonald Park with trees ready to be planted in the footprint of those destroyed by the 9/16/10 macroburst

5 year-old trees slated for planting in MacDonald Park
Historic MacDonald Park devastation after the macroburst

To be missed: MacDonald Park with its monumental yet graceful pillars
Most of these trees were lost. May the new plantings mature before our eyes!
Queens Blvd's historic tree canopy: Most of MacDonald Park's mature trees, particularly on the western side may have been blown away, but this classic scene from a few seasons ago will not be forgotten.
Hats off to One Thing That's Green, or what some may refer to as Forest Hills Community Day, which became more of a citywide community cause in the heart of Forest Hills. April 9, 2011 (9 AM - 2:30 PM) is one day for the records!

Forest Hills was one neighborhood which sustained some of the worst devastation during the Sept 16, 2010 tornadoes, and a total of 3,113 trees were lost in Queens, Brooklyn, & Staten Island. Chairman Michael Perlman & board members of Rego-Forest Preservation Council have documented the tornado's fury, first recommended Forest Hills for tree replanting projects last fall, and assisted NYRP in the property survey over the course of the last few months. On March 26, 2011, Michael Perlman of RFPC & Steve Melnick of the Queens Boulevard Restoration Group joined forces, and erected a table and poster board on Continental Ave, distributed flyers, signed up volunteers on a netbook, and thankfully received permission to use wi-fi from Starbucks at 107-12 Continental Ave.

Let's extend a huge thank you to local & citywide volunteers, who planted 79 trees in our MacDonald Park (the center of the event) on April 9th, our Yellowstone Park, as well as other historic sites, which include PS 303, The James Madison & The Benjamin Franklin apartment houses (communal gardens included). The diversity of the tree species in MacDonald Park increased with newly planted Japanese Zelkovas, Red Oaks, Winter King Thornless Hawthornes, and more. Around 180 trees were planted within a few hours' time, proving how each person can account for a major difference in our communities.

A huge thank you to the NY Restoration Project, JetBlue, Million Trees NYC, PlaNYC, NYC Parks,  colleagues at Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Queens Boulevard Restoration Group, The Beacon Program, KTU 103.5 FM, Z100, & 106.7 Lite FM, BNP Paribas, Toyota, etc.

Volunteers numbered around 860, which was far more than the expected 500-600 volunteers, and spanned many generations. It was very inspirational to see everyone who arrived early, with the face of civic pride and a vision. What a great sense of community!

The diverse citywide faces line up to help restore Forest Hills, symbolizing "a blockade against tornadoes!"

Some volunteers from Rego-Forest Preservation Council
Councilmember Karen Koslowitz

State Senator Toby Stavisky
Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall

When volunteers registered, they received color-coded wristbands, which determined which group they would be placed in, and where they would plant trees. Volunteers were served breakfast, and listened to opening speeches by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, CM Karen Koslowitz, BP Helen Marshall, Deputy BP Barry Grodenchik, radio station personalities, a JetBlue safety expert, and a representative of the NY Restoration Project. Then everyone repeated a green empowerment slogan, ending in "Now I will do my one thing that's green!"

The youngest of children receive a lesson in community service in MacDonald Park

Power to the people!

Members of the Beacon Program with "going green" Chairman Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council
Curb tree pits also received a Very Important Plant treatment
Besides planting at MacDonald Park, volunteer groups crossed Queens Blvd with NYRP staff, carrying huge banners reading "Million Trees NYC" & "Do One Thing That's Green." Groups cheered at each other when arriving at each site within close proximity (symbolic of a competition). A tree planting demonstration was done by The James Madison curb tree pit. Some street trees were also planted elsewhere.

Crossing Yellowstone Blvd towards Yellowstone Park, The Thomas Jefferson, The James Madison, & PS 303. Long may they wave!
Volunteers outside The Thomas Jefferson
Volunteers gather outside The James Madison, watching a tree planting demonstration. & anticipate planting on the lawn
As a token of appreciation, around 1,000 catered buffet-style lunches were provided by Dallas BBQ, and families and friends dined in the newly planted MacDonald Park, admiring their accomplishments. Children participated in a number of additional activities, such as hula hoops and a match game. An owl, bird, turtle, iguana, and a snake were available for petting. "Queen of Freestyle" Judy Torres performed her classic hits, including "No Reason To Cry," "Come Into My Arms," and "Faithfully," and the crowd cheered her on. Then a a few raffle drawings were held, and people won complimentary flights on JetBlue. Amy Freitag, Executive Director of the New York Restoration Project thanked volunteers, waving adieu.

A picnic lunch, Forest Hills-style!
Statue of Gerald MacDonald watches over in pride
Petting zoo demonstration
Sharing is caring!
Freestyle singer Judy Torres engages audience participation
The new 14+ ft trees in MacDonald Park are at least 5 years old, and have quite a way to mature, to match the small quantity of 30-60 year-old trees which survived the 9/16/10 macroburst. A child said they will return in 20 years to see the tree they planted grow much taller. Not only was a tree planted, but a heart in Forest Hills.

The day in photos speak louder than words, so relive the memories, courtesy of Chair Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council:

Some photos from the tornado in Forest Hills:

With deep gratitude to all,
- Michael Perlman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chairman