Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cinemart Cinemas Fundraiser Begins Dec 30 with "The Hateful Eight"

Please ATTEND & SHARE the 12/30 fundraiser to help upgrade & preserve the classic Cinemart Cinemas​ at 106-03 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills.

Beginning on 12/30, Quentin Tarantino’s film, “The Hateful Eight,” an American mystery western with an all-star cast will debut at the Cinemart in a rich 35 mm film format & a digital format (only theater outside Manhattan). An $8 admission will include free popcorn, free drinks & refills (seniors $6). Help finance the installation of novelty leather recliners, slated for March 2016, which is part of owner Nicolas Nicolaou’s commitment towards providing comfort & affordability. 


The Cinemart is presumably the city’s longest independently owned & operated theater since its opening in 1927, & one of the last.

Last year's screening of the first-run film, "American Sniper" achieved record ticket sales, thanks to the community, and helped prevent the Cinemart from closing its doors. Please continue your support. 

Owner Nicolas Nicolaou and manager Sal Parete welcome you....

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dec 27: FREE Forest Hills Gardens Tour!

FREE Forest Hills Gardens Holiday Tour on Sun, Dec 27 from 2 PM - 4 PM. 

Please add your friends to the event page & share over social media.

We will visit historic sites including the storied Forest Hills Inn & Tea Garden, PS 101, The Leslie, Adolph Weinman's WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, Church-in-the-Gardens, & the Christian Science Church. Also to be explored is the Gardens' celebrity culture with names i.e. Burt Bacharach, Fred Hart, & Alrick Man, Jr.

We will meet at Station Square outside the LIRR Station at Continental Ave & Burns St. Please join Jeff Gottlieb (Central Queens Historical Association, President), Michael Perlman (Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair, & Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park, Author), & Cheryl Cuddeback (longtime resident, author, & real estate salesperson).

The forecast is predicted to be mild. Questions? Email &  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Kennedy House At 50 - A Landmark of Luxury Living

By Michael Perlman

Towering 34 stories over Queens Boulevard is the Kennedy House at 110-11 Queens Boulevard, which has been a prestigious address since its 1966 opening. On track to its 50th anniversary, past and current residents, as well as descendants of its architect and builder are proud to relive memories and emphasize the distinctive accommodations.

The Kennedy House was developed while the 1964 – 1965 World’s Fair was underway, and not long after the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was designed by award-winning architect Philip Birnbaum (1907 – 1996) and developed by another award winner, Alfred L. Kaskel (1901 – 1968), President of Carol Management Corporation, who frequently partnered to introduce projects to the growing Forest Hills community, including a majority of presidential-titled buildings along 108th Street and Yellowstone Boulevard. Without a surprise, their latest endeavor was the recipient of a 1st prize bronze plaque by the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1966.

Kennedy House rising, as Forest Hills musician Peter Dizozza & his father pose alongside Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church on May Day, 1965, Courtesy of Peter Dizozza

When residents picked up The New York Times in April 1965, highly stylized ads featured cartoon-like renderings of the tower offset by a rooftop pool. A few were titled “A Landmark of Luxury Living” and referenced a “new dimension of urban living.” Accommodations would include a landscaped park and gardens which occupies 75 percent of the site, banded terraces with turquoise lights, and central air with individual room controls. Rent for a studio to a three-bedroom apartment began at $162, and all-inclusive was gas, electric, and use of “vacation-at-home facilities,” such as two rooftop swimming pools, a sauna, a sun deck, a recreation room, a 24 hour doorman, and an attended garage.

Alfred Kaskel & Philip Birnbaum hold a 1st prize building award, Courtesy of Daniel Kaskel

Historically, the owner called the Kennedy House “the tallest swimming pool foundation in the world.” Florida resident Daniel Kaskel, great-grandson of builder Alfred Kaskel explained, “Alfred is credited for constructing the first elevated pool on the rooftop of an apartment building. He experienced engineering issues, but resolved them by combining concrete and steel framing to support the heavy loads.”

Residents and visitors continue to make an entrance under a colonnade marquee past a driveway, and walking across marble floors in a 2-story domed lobby by the famed interior designer Tom Lee, and topped off with an elegant crystal chandelier. Manhattan resident Dara Birnbaum, daughter of architect Philip Birnbaum offered a detail account. “My father grew up in poverty on the Lower East Side, and it meant the world to him to be able to provide the rising middle class, post-WWII, with a sense of status, achievement, and refinement.” She continued, “He paid utmost attention to the layouts of the apartments, yielding more open floor plans, with less square footage dedicated to hallways, and instead added expansive living rooms and bedrooms.”

Her father took pride in living on the 29th floor of what was deemed the tallest building in Queens. “My birthday and my mom’s birthday are on October 29th and September 29th, so that held meaning for us. My brother and I were a little intimidated by the height of the terrace, and we would tease about how people walking on the street looked like ants.” Her favorite accommodation was the rooftop pool, which she took advantage of in the summer while pursuing architecture. “I could return home from college and swim as the sun set over Manhattan, which was magical,” she recalled.

The Kennedy House remains a beacon of light. “The markers of the blue lights used for the terraces reminded my father of an airport runway, specifically those at JFK Airport,” she said. The lobby’s crystal chandelier holds more stories. “It typified my father's desire that the rising middle class could identify with items of luxury, and while it can be seen as a status symbol, it is also a wondrous sparkling light to welcome one home.” She pointed out that his entryways and lobbies were designed to be prominent, and he and Kaskel would often fly to Europe seeking chandeliers and antiques.

Erected with the family in mind, the Kennedy House symbolized traditions. Las Vegas resident Judith Becker’s grandparents Jack and Pauline Schwartz were among the first tenants and remained until the mid-1980s. She said, “I visited them weekly and when I became a parent, my son and I visited together.” Also among the first tenants were Forest Hills resident David Schwartz’s grandparents, and his most cherished memories included playing in the property’s small park with his grandfather. He continued, “I loved being greeted by John, the doorman who was there years later, when I dropped off my daughter to visit her friend. I walked in and said ‘hello John,’ and he said ‘hello David.’”

Since 1995, the Kennedy House has been part of resident Regina Judith Faighes’ harmonious experience. It faces Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, where she sings in the choir. She explained, “It is set back from Queens Boulevard, and its grounds include spacious lawns and beautiful trees, including a majestic linden tree. This year, they planted evergreen trees on which lights are hung, so they are living Christmas trees.”

James Griffin and his wife have called the building home for 15 years. “It is superbly maintained and skillfully managed, and the location is a contender for the best in Queens,” he said, referencing its convenience to diverse restaurants, shops, the subway, and the LIRR. He also praised the refurbished gym, the 24-hour doorman, and the pool.

Native Forest Hills resident Robert Rosner said, “I remember a bust of JFK facing fountains, which was removed soon after its installation.” Bert Schwartz’s 6-faced bronze sculpture that captured various moods of JFK was set against a meteorite, and was rejected for its small size. Its whereabouts are unknown, but what is known is how the majority of the Kennedy House’s grand features and services withstood the test of time, proving “A landmark of luxury living.”

A similar version also appeared in the Forest Hills Times:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Dec 6: FREE Historic Forest Hills Tour!

FREE Historic Forest Hills Tour on Sun, Dec 6 from 2 PM - 4 PM.
We will explore stately residential buildings, the business district, & the Forest Hills Gardens. We will meet at La Boulangerie at 109-01 72nd Rd. Please join Jeff Gottlieb (Central Queens Historical Association, President), Michael Perlman (Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair & Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park, Author), & Susanna Hof (Terrace Sotheby's Realty, Principal).

Questions? Email &

RSVP on Facebook:


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Help Solve Forest Hills Gardens Mysteries & Rediscover Relics

Copyright Michael Perlman
Forgotten Past of The Forest Hills Gardens by Michael Perlman

- Why did the handprint & footprint concrete slabs featuring celebrities outside the Forest Hills Inn, once known as "Celebrity Walk" vanish?
- Why are the 2 concrete eagles at the base pedestals of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium nowhere to be seen?
- Why is the only remnant of the Sun Dial on Village Green a 4-hole pedestal?
- Why & when did the historic Fountain of Piping Pan in Olivia Park vanish?
- Why is 8 Greenway Terrace, which  contains a greenhouse that once belonged to the popular Forest Hills Flower Shop left vacant in the exclusive Forest Hills Gardens for approximately 15 years?
- Will the Tea Garden see new light?
- Is the Forest Hills Gardens' standalone stone mailbox post the last of its kind locally?

Forgotten relics and some mysteries are very much alive in our backyard, and such is the case in the Forest Hills Gardens.

Established in 1909 as America's earliest planned garden community, Tudor and Arts & Crafts homes on winding streets featuring lush landscapes add up to a predominant preservation success story, thanks to restrictive covenants administered by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation.

Principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury and urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. would generally be content, despite the few features that have vanished.
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
On Village Green, situated along Greenway Terrace, one comes upon a pea gravel pedestal with four holes. Affixed to the top was once the “Sun Dial.” The pathways which extend from the pedestal are symbolic of the sun’s rays providing contrast from the lawn.

Back in 1915, it was boasted by The Newtown Register as “a very attractive feature which was depended upon as giving the correct time when the sun shines.”

Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Olivia Park offers a most intimate setting, but a tranquil and functional feature once known as the Fountain of Piping Pan has long vanished. In 1915, The Sun published, “The presiding genius of the fountain is a small nude boy in plaster playing a pipe and the water tumbles over the stones at his feet down into a miniature lake, where the birds may disport themselves as in one of nature’s own sylvan retreats.”

On July 4, 1915, with a local branch of the Audubon Society on scene, the fountain, designed by Beatrix Forbes-Robinson Hale, was dedicated to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who was kindly regarded for her passion to birds.

Also part of her acclaim was her establishment of the Russell Sage Foundation, which sought to improve the social and living conditions in the United States.

Her vision was realized as this park often served as a natural amphitheater, where Irmgard, Baroness von Rottenthal performed interpretative dances at the ceremony to the sounds of Grieg and Tchaikovsky.

Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
At 8 Greenway Terrace stands an Old English single-story Forest Hills Flower Shop with an adjoining greenhouse that opened in the 1920s as florist and landscape contractors, but shuttered around 1998.

“The florist John J. Loguercio ran the shop for many years, and would employ some of the local teens as delivery boys, including one that became an M.D. Andre, who now owns Forest Hills Flowers & Blossoms on Metropolitan Avenue, began working for John,” recalled Forest Hills native Maria Swanson.

“It was a beautiful spot with climbing roses and window displays,” added Kew Gardens resident Eileen Mahoney, who was raised at 14 Greenway Terrace. “Everyone in the neighborhood had him provide flowers for their weddings. Neighborhood Christmas trees and wreathes were purchased there.”

Copyright Michael Perlman
“It saddens me that some of these unique features have disappeared,” said Swanson, who recalled concrete slabs in front of the Forest Hills Inn, which consisted of Forest Hills’ Celebrity Walk.

On site were entertainers’ handprints and footprints. They included Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr. and likely Buddy Hackett, The Beatles, The Marx Bros, Betty Davis, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne.

“They were possibly removed in the late 1970s,” she continued.

Former Forest Hills resident Steven Grimando was on scene at the time the slabs were salvaged during a construction project.

“They were framed in wood and placed on dollies, two at a time,” he said. “Under the Forest Hills Inn, there’s a ramp with doors, and the slabs were then placed deep within a series of catacombs.”

Copyright Michael Perlman
As the Inn was a center of a classy social life prior to its residential conversion in 1967, the Tea Garden, nestled behind the Inn was in full swing. Opened in 1912, it was once the site of afternoon teas, weddings, dances, and productions by The Gardens Players that took inspiration from the natural setting.

Guests would dine to the Inn Trio’s performance of Nevin’s “A Day in Venice” and Dvorak’s “Humoresque.” Today, behind an ornate gate on Greenway Terrace stands majestic trees and a defunct central brick fountain, but the cascading wall fountain has vanished. Now plans are underway to restore the Tea Garden.
Copyright Michael Perlman
Copyright Michael Perlman
On a stroll among forgotten spots, locals can stop at presumably the last pea gravel mailbox post on Ascan Avenue and Greenway South, which bears a 1938 inscription. The mounted miniature mailbox is long gone, but to its right is a more familiar 1950s-era blue mailbox.
The long gone eagle & Bill Tilden in 1937 at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium
And a couple of concrete eagles have mysteriously gone missing from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which was designed as America’s first tennis stadium in 1923 by architect Kenneth Murchison and built by The Foundation Company.

Bea Hunt, former vice president of the West Side Tennis Club, noticed the pair in photos through the 1950s, but then examined a Rolling Stones concert photo marked July 2, 1966, where the eagles were missing.

“Today there are 11 concrete eagles at the upper façade overlooking the amphitheater, but originally an eagle stood on each pedestal at the lower ends of the horseshoe,” she said.

Source: Queens Ledger - Forgotten Past of The Forest Hills Gardens 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

11/15: Triple 300th Anniversary at First Presbyterian Church of Newtown

A special invite from the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown on Queens Blvd & 54th Ave, which will celebrate a triple 300th anniversary on November 15, 2015:

The historical 363-year-old First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, was the only church in Queens west of the Flushing River from 1652 to 1735. It was founded in 1652 by Puritans (like the Pilgrims) who came seeking freedom to practice their religion. This 363-year-old church has been in the same area, now Elmhurst, long before there was even a country called the United States! The church they founded is still going strong. Today, the congregation is a wonderful multicultural, multiracial mix, with members from over 25 countries, working in harmony to serve God and the community.

Sun, Nov. 15 will be a day to give thanks and celebrate the church's 300th anniversary of three commemorative events:

1. In 1715, the original Puritan church (founded 1652) turned officially Presbyterian.

2. In 1715, land was given to the church by member and prominent citizen Jonathan Fish for its first two churches (1715-1774/5 and 1787- 1928), and its cemetery (1822-1959) – across the street from the current location. The original sheepskin 1715 deed will be displayed at this event.

3. In 1715, our oldest, and still existing, book of records was begun. The original will be shown! Done in quill pen, with quite a few ink blotches, it records not only membership, baptisms, marriages, and deaths, but also an earthquake, smallpox wiping out families, yellow fever, slaves becoming members of the church, and how sinning members were disciplined.

In celebration of these events, a memorial stone to Jonathan Fish, an early Newtown settler, will be mounted on the wall in the church entry hall and be unveiled on this day. He came from Massachusetts to the new English settlement that would later be called Newtown (all western Queens then). He died in 1663 after serving as a magistrate for the town for several years. He was the ancestor of many remarkable men, including Hamilton Fish, advisor to President Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Secretary of State under President Ulysses S. Grant, and wealthy railroad owner Stuyvesant Fish (who had the stone made), three New York State congressmen, and is also said to be related to the Bush family, Secretary of State John Kerry, and others.

There will be a display of various documents and historical artifacts, including the following:

1. The original 1715 handwritten deed, written in the reign of King George II (uncle of the infamous George III of Revolutionary War times)

2. Our original 1715 Record book

3. The original small draft of a 1774 resolution by some church members to form a Committee of Correspondence, and support the Continental Congress
4. Photos of some important Fish descendants
5. Photos documenting the moving of the present church on log rollers turned by hand winches from the other side of Queens Boulevard, when the street was widened in 1924 to accommodate subway construction
6. Other photos and documents showing the congregation at worship as the demographics of Queens changed.

Our 10:45 AM worship service will include music and message to celebrate our colonial heritage and 300 years of Presbyterian faith.

All are welcome to attend the events.

List of Events

10:00 AM - 2:00 PM: Historical display in the sanctuary

10:45 AM: Church service in the sanctuary

12:30 PM: Unveiling of Jonathan Fish memorial stone

Refreshments in Fellowship Hall after unveiling

2:00 PM: Historical walking tour of Newtown


Saturday, October 17, 2015

10/18 Book Signing & New Food at Ben's Best Deli

From 1 PM - 3 PM on Oct. 18, meet Author Michael Perlman at a luncheon at Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen at 96-40 Queens Blvd. He will sign copies of his book "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills & Rego Park" & a new food will be added to this NYC institution's menu. RSVP:


Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen is delighted to host the book signing for local author, Michael H Perlman’s "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park," published by Arcadia Publishing. Released in 2015, this book provides a fantastic retelling of the neighborhood’s cultural development from its inception in 1652 (originally named Newton) to some of its most famous residents including Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, Simon & Garfunkel and of course, The Original Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen.

Perlman will be joining us on Sunday, October 18th from 1-3pm for a luncheon reception featuring the launch of our newest culinary addition, The “Rego-Bark” hot-dog. The author will be available to sign original copies of his book and provide interesting quips and anecdotes of stories heard along the way, all while tasting a bit of Queens history.

"Like" Perlman's Facebook page:

For more information, please contact press officer Sandy Novzen at

Please join the conversation!

Facebook (bensbestkosherdelicatessen),
Twitter (@bensbestdeli), Instagram (‪#‎bensbestdeli‬)

Author Michael H. Perlman can be reached at

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yard Sale To Help Repair The Forest Hills Inn, 9/20

You're Invited! Help repair the historic Forest Hills Inn by attending the 1st Annual Yard Sale at the Tea Garden at 1 Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens.

September 20, 2015 from 10 AM - 4 PM

Book Signing by Michael Perlman, Author of “Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park.”

Lots of great items await!

(Rain Date: September 27)

Friday, May 29, 2015

5/31 Barnes & Noble All Day Celebration - Help Save Forest Hills Character!

FREE SPECIAL EVENT at Barnes & Noble at 70-00 Austin St. on SUN, MAY 31 from 10:00 AM to 7 PM

Barnes & Noble and Author Michael Perlman are proud to invite the community to Customer Appreciation Day. The eventful lineup will feature:

- A book “Buy-In” to help support Barnes & Noble, which is under threat of closing… Purchase any book all day long.

- Free food from Knish Nosh, Red Pipe Organic Café, & La Boulangerie

- Beginning at 10 AM: Raffle – Enter to win a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 7” tablet!

Free B&N tote bag for the 1st 200 customers making a purchase.

- 2:30 PM: Children’s storytime with SKITTLES THE CLOWN, balloon animals & face painting 

- 4 PM: Performances by notable musicians LOU MICHAELS & DOUG LEBLANG

- 5 PM: Author MICHAEL PERLMAN will have a book talk & signing of his new book, “Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park” & notable magician MICHAEL CHAUT will leave his audience spell-bound: 

More to come! Please invite your friends.

Press Roundup



Forest Hills Times:

Times Ledger:

Queens Chronicle:

In Gothamist:
"Barnes & Noble in Forest Hills is more than a typical chain store," Michael Perlman said. "Rather, it feels like a 22,000 square-foot mom and pop shop, since patrons are not treated like a number, and there are a number of superb community events for all age groups."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May 17 Forest Hills Tree Giveaway To Donate 1,250th Tree To The Public

For Immediate Release

Contact: Michael Perlman
Forest Hills Tree Giveaway, Coordinator
Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance
Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair
Reserve a tree in advance at

May 17th Forest Hills Tree Giveaway To Donate 1,250th Tree

QUEENS, NY (May 2015) - As spring is in full swing, the Forest Hills Tree Giveaway has become a community tradition in MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue.  Locals among citywide residents will line up in the park on Sunday, May 17 between 1 PM and 3 PM, and take home a small tree or perhaps a few among 200 free trees. Adopters will then plant their tree(s) in their residential front yard or backyard, at an apartment building with permission, in a schoolyard, or at their commercial property. 

The Forest Hills Tree Giveaway, which is held annually in May and periodically in October, will be the seventh event since 2011, bringing the total of adopted trees to an approximate 1,250. Adopters can select from 5 tree species, which consist of American Elm, Yellowwood, Fringe Tree, Red Buckeye, and Dawn Redwood. This will add to the diversity of trees donated at earlier events, where names included Black Gum, Magnolia, and Tulip.

Flashback: Capturing the essence of the May 2014 Forest Hills Tree Giveaway 
“These are great native trees that provide shade, food and shelter to animals, or tend to offer classic shapes such as the ‘V’ of the American Elm,” said Mike Mitchell, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) Director of Giveaways. He continued, “A stately excurrent growth pattern can be found in the Dawn Redwood with its red, peeling bark, and stunning flowers can be observed on the Fringe Tree, Yellowwood, and Red Buckeye.” 

This event is made possible through Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (4BNPA) in partnership with NYRP and MillionTreesNYC. Lead sponsors are Toyota and TD Bank, and lead partners are plaNYC, NYC Parks, and NYRP. A supporting sponsor is jetBlue. Volunteers are derived from the 4BNPA, Rego-Forest Preservation Council, and Trylon Vet Care.

NYRP began coordinating tree giveaways in 2008. As of 2011, 4BNPA had the mission of advocating for landmarks and curbing overdevelopment, but then realized how environmental preservation is a significant complement to the city’s architectural achievements, which led to their partnership. Preservationist Michael Perlman became the Forest Hills Tree Giveaway coordinator. Perlman stated, “After the spring 2015 tree giveaway season ends, the quantity of citywide donated trees since the founding of the giveaway program will be somewhat greater than 50,000, which is a miracle within itself.” 

Perlman explained, “As extreme weather patterns intensified in recent years with a macroburst and two hurricanes, numerous trees succumbed within seconds. Despite loss, it helped influence communities to preserve mature trees and plant new ones.” The extensive range of benefits associated with trees include enhancing property values, marking a community’s history, offering a serene and colorful setting, capturing stormwater, reducing runoff, filtering and cooling the air, and conserving energy.  

NYRP remains committed toward adding new tree species to the varied tree canopy of the 5 boroughs. Mitchell said, “Diversity in NYC is very important because of the risk of disease and pests. Having a lower percentage of all tree species in our city means we can avoid a single issue creating the terrible side effects of losing tree canopy, like an increase in summertime temperatures or stormwater runoff events.”  

Inspirational stories are often linked to tree giveaway events. Mitchell explained, “My daughter Wren Mitchell was born in April 2014, and this year we finally moved to an apartment with a backyard that our landlord allowed us to landscape. In honor of her birthday, we planted four trees, and each was planted with the help of my parents, my wife, and her parents.” He continued, “What a great way to gather and celebrate our daughter by planting trees that will grow throughout her lifetime.”

At the tree giveaway, adopters are routinely photographed with their trees. Additionally, tree adoption certificates name trees after local landmarks, historic streets, and notables, which helps foster a relationship among adopters and their trees.

“We expect that within thirty years, after most of the trees have grown to maturity, there could be more than 10 acres of tree canopy established in Forest Hills and Rego Park alone from 4BNPA’s efforts,” said Mitchell.

On May 17, 2015, those who wish to adopt a potted tree should line up earlier than 1 PM in MacDonald Park.

The public can reserve a tree by visiting or by registering for a tree at the event on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Like” Forest Hills Tree Giveaways on Facebook:


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Landmarks Law Turns 50 & Is Marked By Praise, Criticism, & Commitment

To nominate a landmark-worthy site, interior, or district, complete a Request For Evaluation form:

Mayor Robert Wagner signing the Landmarks Law, April 19, 1965, Photograph by Margot Gayle, Courtesy of the New York Preservation Archive Project

New York City’s Landmarks Law, which falls under the jurisdiction of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), is being recognized by citywide residents as it turned 50 on April 19th. One such commemoration was the illumination of the Empire State Building in blue, gold, and white. On April 16th, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council presented LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan with a proclamation to honor the Landmarks Law, the LPC, and the preservation community.

History has proven that it may take a travesty to result in some success stories. Back in 1963, hundreds of New Yorkers marched, urging the city to preserve the classic Penn Station back in 1963, but watched in awe as the wrecking ball slammed the grand ionic columns, eagles, and palatial arched interior. In 1965, the city responded to those pleas when Mayor Robert Wagner signed the Landmarks Law, but it could not resurrect Penn Station’s glory.

Nevertheless, the LPC did not act swiftly to calendar, hear, and designate other unofficial landmarks such as Howard Johnson’s Restaurant on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, nicknamed “The largest roadside restaurant in the United States,” and the Singer Building, one of America’s first skyscrapers to be illuminated at night. 

Howard Johnson's not landmarked in time & demolished... all for a banal black glass office tower. Note the Trylon & Perisphere monuments, the symbol of the 1939 World's Fair in the background.
   It may be difficult to visualize a cityscape without landmarks such as Carnegie Hall and Grand Central Station, and Individual Landmarks and Historic Districts in Washington Square Park and SoHo. However, these properties and neighborhoods nearly faced demolition, if not for the heroic preservation advocacy of respectively violinist Isaac Stern, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and urban theorist and author Jane Jacobs.  

LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan explained, “Over the past 50 years, we have protected over 33,000 architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites throughout all five boroughs. I am proud to say that since I was appointed Chair, we have designated around 1,700 additional buildings.”

Referencing the Preservation Department’s excess of 13,000 work applications for landmarked properties annually, she said, “The Commission rigorously reviews these applications to find architectural solutions to meet today’s exciting challenges of sustainability, adaptive reuse, and new construction in historic districts, all while preserving the significant architectural features and character of the landmarked properties.” She then extended gratitude to her fellow Commissioners and staff members, alongside the dedication of property owners who become stewards, architects who are creative yet historically-sensitive, and preservation advocates and community groups who often play a major role in public hearings after nominating sites and districts by submitting a Request For Evaluation (RFE) form.

Many community residents feel that Forest Hills and Rego Park, which have a shared history that dates to 1906 and 1923, have long been underserved by the LPC in the name of Individual Landmarks (facades), Interior Landmarks, and Historic Districts. Forest Hills has three landmarks which are the Remsen Cemetery (designated 1981), the Ridgewood Savings Bank (designated 2000), and Engine Company 305, Hook &Ladder Company 151 (designated 2012). Rego Park has yet to receive designations. 

Engine Co. 305, Hook & Lader Co. 151, Photo by Michael Perlman
Ridgewood Savings Bank, 107-55 Queens Blvd, Photo by Michael Perlman
Remsen Cemtery, Photo by Michael Perlman
Dadras Architects, a firm led by partners Robert Dadras and Victor Dadras, are the founders of the Downtown Revitalization Group, a collaborative which specializes in the revitalization and redevelopment of main streets and neighborhood commercial corridors, as well as historic preservation, urban design, and adaptive reuse. Now they wish to assist Forest Hills and Rego Park with their preservation, revitalization, and landmarking initiatives.

The firm emphasized the need for greater public education about architecture and the landmarking process. Dadras Architects explained, "Landmarking is overwhelmingly successful in every scenario; from economically to socially to environmentally. Property values have increased, historic architecture has been restored, and new buildings nearby have been designed better." They continued, "Preservation always costs less than building anew, is greener, supports your local businesses, and enables potential grants and tax credits for restoration."

"Preservation should extend beyond the Forest Hills Gardens," stated Dadras Architects. They proposed a historic preservation weekend in Forest Hills and Rego Park, consisting of tours and educational conferences as an initial step. 

Historian Jeff Gottlieb, President of Central Queens Historical Association, leads the Downtown Forest Hills Tour at the corner of Austin St & Continental Ave, September 2010
“There is minimal awareness of the rich history of Queens,” said Linda Fisher, a Forest Hills resident and a licensed NYC tour guide. She continued, “Neighborhood history can come alive through walking tours, lectures, and oral histories by residents.” Locally, she envisions numerous landmarking candidates including the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, the Metropolitan Industrial Bank building (Bank of America), the Forest Hills Post Office, and the former Jamaica Savings Bank. 

Metropolitan Industrial Bank building, 99-01 Queens Blvd in 1952, Courtesy of Queens Chamber of Commerce
Metropolitan Industrial Bank building at 99-01 Queens Blvd in 2014, Photo by Michael Perlman

Former Jamaica Savings Bank at 89-01 Queens Boulevard, Elmhurst in 2009, Photo by Michael Perlman
A National Register of Historic Places site: Forest Hills Post Office, 106-28 Queens Blvd, Photo by Greg Godfrey  
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Photo by Michael Perlman
Anita Nelson, also from Forest Hills, cringes when she spots McMansions in place of landmark-worthy homes in the Cord Meyer section of Forest Hills, such as the Al Jolson house, and suggested Individual Landmarking to spare the remnants. Additionally, her wish list includes the Queens Medical Society building, Sterling National Bank, and Arbor Close and Forest Close. “With the advent of social media, it’s easier to bring these campaigns to the attention of local citizens who would like to become involved,” she said. 

Forest Close, Photo by Michael Perlman
Arbor Close, Photo by Michael Perlman
Medical Society of The County of Queens, 115-25 Queens Blvd, Photo by Michael Perlman
Sterling National Bank at 108-01 Queens Blvd in 1963, Originally Masonic Temple followed by Boulevard Bank

The Al Jolson house, a Tudor Gothic gem facing demolition in 2006
Astonished by the lack of local designations, Rego Park resident Lisa Stone said, “It is an outrage that more buildings receive landmark status in Manhattan than in Queens. I will research landmark-worthy buildings in Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Elmhurst, and lobby the LPC to assure that they swiftly earn the title they richly deserve, beginning with the Midway Theatre.”

Echoing her sentiment, architect and musician William Gati of Kew Gardens referred to the LPC’s Manhattan address. He said, “There are borough offices for City Planning, the Department of Buildings, and all major agencies, except the LPC. This lack of representation indicates a philosophy that the boroughs are not as important as Manhattan. I strongly believe Queens would be better served if we had our own LPC borough office to address specific requests.”

Edward Wendell, President of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, eyes Historic District status for a large section of Forest Park and the LaLance & Grojean Factory Clock Tower, and said, “I hope the 50th anniversary celebration will bring attention to the many extremely worthy locations around Queens. Each site we can secure with landmarking is one to be enjoyed for generations to come.” He questioned, “Why imagine what these places looked like or view them in old pictures?”

LaLance & Grojean Factory Clock Tower at the turn-of-the-century, Courtesy of Project Woodhaven

This feature also appears in the Forest Hills Times