Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 20 Tree Giveaway A Blooming Success In Forest Hills!

Enjoy the flickr set for the May 20, 2012 Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Tree Giveaway Event, which was held in MacDonald Park in Forest Hills. The 4BNPA teamed up with New York Restoration Project and volunteers from Rego-Forest Preservation Council to donate 245 trees to private property owners. The flickr set documents the event, the adoptees, and some of the trees which found new homes:

 GO GREEN and restore our neighborhood's natural and historic beauty!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 20th Tree Giveaway Event In Forest Hills' MacDonald Park, 1 PM - 3 PM - Adopt-A-Tree!

This is Michael Perlman's feature in the Forest Hills Times/Queens Ledger, which was published on May 9, 2012. Please share & feel free to post a comment:


Proud tree adopters line up in MacDonald Park for the 1st Annual Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Tree Giveaway Event in June 2011, Photo by Michael Perlman
Volunteers haul trees into the center of MacDonald Park for the much-anticipated tree giveaway in June 2011
Michael Perlman with a sun-driven Cherry Plum tree

Queens is about to become a little greener thanks to the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance’s Second Annual Tree Giveaway Event on Sunday, May 20, from 1 to 3 PM in Forest Hills.

Citywide residents will have the chance of adopting one of 245 trees in MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue. To make this event possible, Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (4BNPA) partnered with MillionTreesNYC and New York Restoration Project (NYRP). Toyota is a lead sponsor, and lead partners include PlaNYC, and NYC Parks.

Adopted trees are required to be planted on private property in the five boroughs. To tie into environmental history, 4BNPA is offering some unique native tree species. Native species will be Eastern Redbud, Florida Dogwood, Northern Red Oak, and Bald Cypress.

Serviceberry and Sargent Crabapple are hybrids, but can be classified as natives, in regard to their environmental benefits. Japanese Maple and Amur Maackia will also be available, but are not native.

Some trees are flowering, and their maturity heights will vary. Potted trees will be 6 to 10 feet tall, and will come with planting and maintenance handouts. Tree adoption certificates designed by Forest Hills resident Steve Goodman will be distributed, so adopted trees can acquire a sense of identity and education. Trees will be named after former Forest Hills notables, historic street names, and landmarks.

There is a great need to plant more native species citywide, Mike Mitchell, Community Initiatives Coordinator of New York Restoration Project said.

“Native trees are amazing and integral to providing a stable ecology along the coast for both migrating and non-migrating wildlife,” he explained. “It is important to understand that New York City’s ecology is in a constant state of flux, and we need a flexible plant palate to meet the city’s ecological needs.”

This spring, NYRP in partnership with citywide community groups is donating 5,000 trees at 30 giveaway events, with ten in Queens. NYRP began coordinating giveaways in 2008, and has since coordinated over 50 events non-inclusive of this season.

Inspiration stemmed from the understanding that MillionTreesNYC was focused on greening public spaces, but private homes, religious institutions, and community gardens also represent a great portion of the city, and therefore merit tree-planting.

On September 16, 2010, parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island experienced a rare macroburst. Joseph Bruno of the NYC Office of Emergency Management reported 3,113 fallen trees in Queens alone. As Queens vice president of 4BNPA and a native Forest Hills resident, I documented the devastation locally, and sent a proposal to NYRP and developed a bond. 4BNPA agreed to host its first tree giveaway event on June 12, 2011, and donated 100 trees to property owners.

With the volunteerism of its members and Rego-Forest Preservation Council, this helped restore the natural and historic beauty of Forest Hills, as well as beyond. Following last year’s success, I decided to coordinate another tree giveaway event this spring.

Many people did not realize the benefits of our trees until some of which were a century-old succumbed in seconds. Trees convey life, beauty, contribute to environmental sustainability, and enhance property values. MacDonald Park was selected as the event site, in order to shed light upon a concentrated space that lost sixty mature trees during the tornado, and to initiate memories of a productive community event.

New York City needs to preserve its existing tree canopy and plant more trees. However, some property owners degrade neighborhood aesthetics and environmental benefits by cutting down trees in the name of development-related “progress.” For example, lawns have been paved over with cement, contributing to inadequate runoff.

“It is well-known that each square foot of impervious surface which covers the city, contributes to the growing stormwater management issues in New York City,” said Mitchell. “The consequence of pouring concrete is that our beaches, bays, and estuaries are significantly comprised of human waste throughout the entire year. Our water is so over-polluted, that bivalves, the group of animals responsible for filtering out the pollution in the ocean, are unable to survive.

”Concrete and concrete-like materials also absorb radiation, and hold onto it for long periods of time,” he added. “This warmer ‘urban heat island’ creates odd conditions, including increasing temperatures and reducing the effectiveness of the city’s green space.”

“The event last year was a huge success, as judged by the overflow crowd which arrived two hours early, with many people not being able to get a tree,” said James Trent, president of 4BNPA. “Four Borough's involvement is a great event, since our mission is to preserve and improve the quality of life for low-density neighborhoods. Some trees may end up in highly dense neighborhoods, but that is not a problem, since none of us live in a vacuum. Trees improve air quality and beautify the city for all.”

On May 20, those who wish to adopt a tree should line up in MacDonald Park before 1 PM in front of either an online reservation table or a first-time registration table. The first 50 percent of applicants can reserve their tree online at www.nyrp.org/queenstrees

Friday, May 11, 2012

Forest Hills Firehouse Landmark Hearing on May 15th - Please Testify In Support

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on Tues, May 15th from 10:30 AM - 10:40 AM at the Municipal Building at 1 Centre St, 9th Floor, NYC. Please either email testimony or testify in person, in favor of Individual Landmark status for Engine Company 305/Hook & Ladder Company 151. This historic firehouse is at 111-02 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills. Anyone can testify. The firehouse will be public hearing item #5: http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/calendar/05_15_12.pdf

- Landmarks Preservation Commission Hearing Comments: comments@lpc.nyc.gov
- Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Jenny Fernandez: jfernandez@lpc.nyc.gov

- Chairman Robert Tierney: rtierney@lpc.nyc.gov  

- Director of Research Mary Beth Betts: mbetts@lpc.nyc.gov 

- Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chairman Michael Perlman: unlockthevault@hotmail.com

For historic information as part of your letter of support, please visit Michael Perlman's feature in the Forest Hills Times/Queens Ledger:

Pictured from left to right are Dan Trabucchi, Lieutenant John Gleave, Henry "Hank" Rider, Anthony Quinones, and John Cabrera.
Forest Hills has a 106-year history, but only two official New York City landmarks since the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s establishment in 1965. Now Forest Hills may get its third officially designated individual landmark.

On April 17, Engine Company 305/Hook & Ladder Company 151 at 111-02 Queens Boulevard was scheduled for a May 15th hearing by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), offering temporary protection from significant alterations.

The next step is a public hearing, where citizens, preservationists, and elected officials can testify. A public meeting will then follow, when the LPC will announce its decision.

According to Rego-Forest Preservation Council’s Freedom of Information Law request and an LPC visit in 2008, it was determined that the LPC's Survey Department conducted a Community Board 6 Survey in January 1990, comprised of Forest Hills and Rego Park.

The firehouse was one property recommended as a potential landmark, among a few hundred pages referencing other potential individual landmarks and historic districts. However, it is unknown why no designations were pursued at that time.

In recent years, architecturally and culturally significant sites - which offer a one-of-a-kind history - such as Eddie’s Sweet Shop, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, the Trylon Theater, and Bank of America (originally Metropolitan Industrial Bank, 99-01 Queens Boulevard), have not been given a public hearing by LPC, although some of those sites have been recommended for landmarking by earlier commission staff members.

Some sites were rejected, despite apparently meeting the LPC’s landmark provisions, based upon a site’s 30-year age requirement and architectural and cultural significance.

Queens residents hope that landmarking the firehouse will signify more designated buildings in Forest Hills and Rego Park at large. In 2000, the fa├žade of the Ridgewood Savings Bank was landmarked, and the Remsen Family Cemetery was landmarked in 1981.

If the firehouse is landmarked, it would be the first Forest Hills property designated under LPC Chairman Robert Tierney's tenure.

LPC Communications Director Lisi de Bourbon would not comment on whether other Forest Hills properties have been surveyed by the commission due to policy issues, but did say, “The proposed designation of Engine Co. 305 is part of a wider effort to preserve New York City’s great municipal architecture.”

Mitchell Grubler, Chair of Queens Preservation Council, explains, “While we applaud the LPC for calendaring a Forest Hills building, this is a poor attempt at LPC recognition of the many deserving, but undesignated areas and buildings in Forest Hills,” said Mitchell Grubler, chair of the Queens Preservation Council.

“This is a case of picking-off the lowest-hanging fruit,” he continued. “It is a city-owned building, with no owner opposition. Landmark designation of city-owned buildings is advisory, since city agencies abide by LPC as a courtesy. This also seems to be somewhat of a thematic calendaring, in that a couple of Bronx firehouses were calendared at the same LPC meeting.”

During a time when the Bloomberg Administration has proposed firehouse closings due to budget cuts, Engine Company 305 has proudly served the community for nearly 90 years.

Built circa 1922-1924 and designed by John R. Sliney, it offers a distinctive and rare Neo-Medieval presence on Queens Boulevard. The firehouse has harmony with nearby Forest Hills Gardens, and its height and ecclesiastical nature is unique in the face of New York City firehouse architecture.

LPC’s statement of significance explains that the firehouse was “intended to serve the growing population of Forest Hills, which had seen a boom in residential construction following WWI.”

It then explains it is “clad in red brick laid in a Flemish bond, and enlivened with decorative limestone details and subtle patterned brickwork. The asymmetrical massing of the building is accentuated by steep gables clad with copper standing-seam roofs, two prominent square towers featuring round-arched window openings, and a slender chimney rising nearly a story above the western elevation.”

“It is exciting to know that the firehouse can be held to landmarking standards,” said FDNY spokesman Jim Long. “If it follows through, we will do everything in cooperation with the landmark guidelines, and adhere to requests and requirements.”

Commitment to the community is abundant. John DePierro is a senior firefighter who has been with Engine Co. 305 since 1969.

“What makes work enjoyable is the great camaraderie,” said firefighter John Cabrera. “This helps when we respond to a fire. There’s no emergency we don’t respond to, and no one has been shooed away from us. Some people knock on our door.

“There’s an officer who received a medal for saving a community resident,” he added. “We received Christmas cards and cakes from the community, and really appreciate their support.”

On September 11, Engine Co. 305 witnessed casualties. Peter Nelson was a senior firefighter who began his career with Engine 305, was transferred to Ladder 151, and then perished at Rescue 4. Joe Hunter worked up to a year at Engine 305, and also perished.

“I thought it was landmarked already,” said Lieutenant John Gleave. “There’s no other firehouse quite like it.”

Twelve-year Forest Hills resident James Griffin is a retired teacher and a volunteer photo archivist of the American Museum of Natural History.

“The firehouse is a noble expression of civic values, and a beautiful building gracing Queens Boulevard,” he said.

"Forest Hills and Rego Park have numerous iconic buildings that contribute greatly to the cultural history of our community,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi. “This well-known structure should be given landmark status, which would preserve its integrity and value for many generations to come.”

Photos courtesy of Michael Perlman: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157623132704134