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Elmhurst

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The Saint Marks A.M.E. Church in Jackson Heights hopes to save a freed slave burial ground uncovered during construction on a Corona Avenue condo/commercial development. The Daily News reports that the church is meeting with site owners today to try and preserve the site, founded in 1828. The site is believed to be one of the first places where former slaves organized and started their own church. An archeologist already uncovered 15 bodies, there’s now a Partial Stop Work Order on the site for further investigation to take place. According to the LPC, the developers are not required to remove the bones if the cemetery isn’t a crime scene.

Freed Slave Burial Ground Found in Elmhurst at Site of Future Condo [NY Daily News]
Construction Halted on Corona Avenue After Developers Uncover Graves [Q’Stoner]

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The former St. Johns Hospital Building, at 90-02 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, is going residential. Crain’s reports that a group of Asia-based investors and the New York builder Steven Wu paid $55,000,000 for the 260,000-square-foot hospital building and a five-story parking garage across the street. The developers plan to spend another $45,000,000 to convert the building into rentals and medical office space, along with ground-floor retail. Previous owner Jack Gutman sold the building — he purchased it for less than $20,000,000 back in 2009 after Caritas Health Care filed for bankruptcy and closed the facility. He already completed some work on the facility, including interior demolition and new windows.

Former Queens Hospital to Become Residential [Crain’s] GMAP

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It’s no secret that there’s a growing momentum in Queens for safer street initiatives, and a march for a safer Queens Boulevard is coming this weekend. Transportation Alternatives is hosting the “Winter Wander” Rally and Walk along the so-called “Boulevard of Death” on Saturday, December 14th, from 1 pm to 3:30 pm. The event begins in Elmhurst at the New Life Fellowship Church, 8210 Queens Boulevard, with a community discussion about Transportation Alternative’s Zero on Queens Boulevard Campaign. The campaign advocates for pedestrian safety improvements along the corridor, including bike infrastructure and dedicated lanes for Select Bus Service. The
Winter Wander continues with a group walk along the Boulevard toward Forest Hills, as local street safety advocates discuss the history of the roadway and the dangers faced by all those who use it. RSVP for the event right here.

Meanwhile, Senator Gianaris released a statement yesterday in regards to a fatal car crash that happened at the base of the Queensboro Bridge. He is asking that the Department of Transportation improve safety in the area after the DOT did not follow through on his requests for a redesign of the exit ramp. The DOT only added additional signage and minimal barriers to the area. One of those barrier was meant to protect the storefront hit in this crash at 25-06 Queens Plaza South, but it was destroyed in a crash in 2011 and remained vacant ever since. Here is Senator Gianaris’ quote on the matter: “How many more people have to die before the DOT understands that the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp must be redesigned? The city has known that this area is in dire need of traffic safety improvements for years, and the DOT has simply not done enough. I renew my call for a complete redesign of the bridge off-ramp, and implore the city to take swift action before another tragedy occurs.”

The growing neighborhood of Elmhurst needed a new high school by the beginning of the 20th century, as improved transportation and an expanding population was growing the town by leaps and bounds. Dr. James Darius Dillingham, the principal of the Newtown School, had been a tireless advocate for his school, back when the old town of Newtown had changed its name to Elmhurst, and was still an independent entity, not yet a part of Greater New York City. He had pressured the city fathers of Elmhurst to build a larger school, and after a great deal of lobbying on his part, in 1897, the town had finally approved funds to expand the town’s wooden school house, and add a new bricks and mortar school. The early history of the area and the school can be found in Part One of this story.

By the time this new addition was finished, in 1900, Elmhurst and its school were part of Greater New York City, and under the direction of the New York City Board of Education. The school was soon woefully inadequate to handle the number of children in Elmhurst, and the Board of Ed moved the elementary school out, and made the Newtown School a high school. But, as Dr. Dillingham told the city, it was still too small. He wanted to expand it even more, as he could see that the 20th century need for education was going to overwhelm the school.

The local town board did not have his vision. In fact, they wanted to close the high school because they thought Newtown didn’t need one, but the good doctor persisted in asking for funds. He was soon proved correct, as by the end of the decade, the school was bursting with students, forcing teachers to conduct classes in cloak rooms and hallways. They even had to borrow space from the local elementary school. The City allocated $400,000 in funds, and turned the task over to C.B.J. Snyder, the Superintendent of School Buildings for the Board of Education. Dr. Dillingham and Newtown High School were in luck, as he was one of the greats.

When you come right down to it, a school is any place where learning can occur. It’s not necessary to have the biggest, most beautiful school building around to make for a good school, but it doesn’t hurt either. Back when these things seem to matter more than they do now, city officials went out of their way to spend their money on civic buildings that not only performed their necessary functions, but enriched the lives of the citizenry. The City Beautiful Movement of the turn of the 20th century codified this idea, believing, however naively, that impressive civic architecture, especially classically inspired buildings, would inspire the immigrant and lower class masses to greater industry, personal pride, and thrift. Buildings like the Brooklyn Museum, the Municipal Building in Manhattan, and even the Beaux-Arts entrance to the Manhattan Bridge on Canal Street, all are a part of that philosophy.

It seems rather absurd today to think that architecture could cure poverty’s ills, but they did have a point about inspiration. A great city is measured in part by its architecture. And what resident of any city would not be proud to point out to visitors the fine museums, homes, houses of worship, municipal buildings, and schools, and say with pride, “This is my city?” All of which brings us to today’s great building, the Newtown High School.

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In doing my historic research of our fair city, it always amazes me to find out that some of this city’s oldest buildings are not in Manhattan or Brooklyn, as might be imagined, but in Queens. I guess being a long-time Brooklynite has skewed my view, and I’m happy to report I’m learning quite a bit about early Queens’s history by writing this column.

Today’s piece of Queens’ history is the St. James Episcopal Church at 86-02 Broadway, in Elmhurst. When it was built in 1735, it was officially the “Church of England in America, Mission Church at Newtowne.” This building is the oldest surviving mission church of the Church of England in all of New York City. It’s an important visual reminder of English Colonial America, and a fine example of early 18th century vernacular sacred architecture. Translation – it’s a cool old church.

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Newish building 40-07 73rd Street, which is arguably in either Elmhurst, Woodside, or Jackson Heights, just hit public records for the big price of $20,000,000. The buyers just listed the building as a rental, known as the Roosevelt, a few weeks ago. Two-bedroom and three-bedroom units are still available from $2,200 to $3,600 a month. (Word is that the leasing is going well.) Before the building sold, it was marketed as a condo to little success.

Rental Listings Live for 40-07 73rd Street [Q’Stoner] GMAP

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Citi Habitats just began leasing 40-07 73rd Street, the 31-unit rental building in Elmhurst with a previous life as a condo development. Convertible two bedrooms start at $2,400 a month, two bedrooms at $2,400 and three bedrooms at $3,600. All units feature floor to ceiling windows, two full bathrooms, private outdoor space and chef’s kitchens. Citi Habitats is also offering a month free on a 12 month lease. The building, previously known as the Bravo Condominium, is now called The Roosevelt.

Rental Relaunch for the Bravo Condominium Building in Elmhurst [Q’Stoner]
Slow Going at Elmhurst Condo With Close-up Views of the 7 Train [Q’Stoner] GMAP

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Here’s big news for the lonely-looking Bravo Condominium building, at 40-07 73rd Street off of Roosevelt Avenue. The development is in contract and Citi Habitats plans to relaunching it as a rental later this month with the new name “The Roosevelt.” There are 31 units in total, mostly two bedrooms. The units feature floor to ceiling windows, two full bathrooms, and private outdoor space. Prices will start at $2,400 a month. The development initially launched as a condo but never picked up traction. Let’s see if rentals work better. The soft opening is planned for October 16th, stay tuned for listings.

Slow Going at Elmhurst Condo With Close-up Views of the 7 Train [Q’Stoner] GMAP