Friday, December 29, 2006

Wrecking the Rows

With the impending rezoning of downtown Jamaica to include 10 to 30-story buildings, much of the low-rise feel of the area is in jepoardy. Of particular interest are the Electus B. Litchfield Rowhouses on 146th Street, just west of Sutphin Boulevard between Hillside and Jamaica avenues. Litchfield, a railroad magnate and developer who created neighborhoods that were serviced by his rail lines, constructed this rowhouse block in 1912-1913.
These romantically- designed houses, with eclectic finishes including oriel windows, gabled attic dormers and Federal Revival-style detailing, have seen better days; much of downtown Jamaica went through a period of severe disinvestment 40 years ago that it still has not recovered from. Still, the buildings have more or less survived, many with much of their original detailing intact. And then.....BAM! Recently, on the west side of the street, a four-story apartment house that neither respects the setback or height of the rowhouses was built. A lack of landmarking; lack of contextual zoning; and lack of political will created this monster and damaged this block. A similar situation happened on 36th Street in Astoria not too many years ago - and it will happen again and again until we as voters put a stop to it. Wake up, borough of homes - it's time to save things that mean something.


Queens Crapper said...

This is horrible and unfortunately is happening all over the borough. One family row houses are being converted into 2 or three family houses, with permission, by the city. They weren't built to accommodate that many people!

Something needs to be done to protect rowhouses. They are characteristic of a lot of neighborhoods, especially in central and western Queens. Altering their appearance destroys neighborhood character.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that community preservation never gets to the grass roots in Queens.

Aren't there organizations in NY for this? Hell, every time we turn around a new committee is forming for this or that (and of couse notices us only when its time to pay 'dues.')

All they seem to be dong is spinning their wheels.

Anonymous said...

We are on that block you mentioned in Norwood Gardens (36th Street in Astoria)

Michael Gianaris (D-NYS Assem)and Peter Vallone (D-NYC Council) showed up and paid lip service to our plight lulling us into thinking that they would help us. Then George Delis (CB 1-Dist Mgr) showed up and made sypathetic noises.

But they were all very very clear. Landmarking was bad bad bad.

Well you know what? All we got was bum advice from every one of them and no real follow through.

Community Board 1 basically told us that the developer could do anything they wanted and that we were wasting our time. At least they were honest and told us we would get nowhere.

We will never forget how we were double crossed.

The development is now starting to spiral out of control. We are losing our community and have no one we can turn to.

Why don't you put up some images of our protest from a few years ago? We will send them to you.

Anonymous said...

You have to be kidding? Who the hell okeyed this?!?!

The silence from those who can do something about this is deafening.

Anonymous said...

Another (often little discussed) part of the problem with preserving the historical architecture of Queens are the "so-called" historical societies themselves (better known as emasculated "hysterical societies") that abound ad- naueum! They often do little more than write "polite letters" of support or "show up" for demonstrations! They're all busy sucking- off the same teat, when it comes to looking for funding sources to run their organizations. That makes them generally afraid of their own shadows, lest they be cut from the funding stream that keeps them alive, if they speak up too vigorously.
These "groups" (and you all know who you are) who are supposed to be strong advocates for preservation, often become unwitting accomplices to overdevelopment by their failure to take risks and really roll up their sleeves and get "dirty" (but they're very good at spending most of their time mounting "exhibits)! We all know that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is nothing more than a bad joke when it comes to Queens!
Yet, worse, some of the "councils" etc. that are supposed to police them do little better when it comes to spending time or money to defend our borough from the onslaught of destruction that's become an all too familiar sight for over 2 decades! I'd, personally, like to F.O.I.L some of their financial records to see how much money is actually spent on defending Queens compared with the other boroughs of our city! Is anyone interested in this? Be my guest!
Just to let you all know that I'm not just talking through my hat......I have served on a few of these "hysterical societies" boards as a trustee and have witnessed some things that would make fine fodder for a great T.V. sit-com script!
Now, all of you that I've just trashed......wake up and band together and show some guts! Otherwise....return to your "...tsk-tsk-tsk...what a shame" attitude, but stop taking city funds to do the job that you're not fully doing!

Anonymous said...

Organizations in Queens do not band together because we have been betrayed with trivial agendas from those groups that are little more than wards of the politicians. They hand out useless awards and distinctions that dupes people into a false sense that something useful is being done. Their make work projects support landmarking stuff like cemeteries or public buildings – places that can never be developed. Meanwhile, communities rot around them.

There are individuals that could help, but they, too, have let us down because they refuse to go beyond echoing the agendas set by their friends in Manhattan (who repay the privilege by making them official ‘spokesman’ for Queens.) Their attention is often dictated only to those communities that have the dollars to pay them. Outside of their few pet projects, they do almost nothing to develop an identity for Queens preservation or to educate the public in this borough.

Contrast them with the few bright spots in Queens. Look at the few successful community groups - dedicated people with no real support fighting impossible odds. Just think of what they could accomplish with just a dollop of real help!

We see little use in joining the Manhattan groups either. We would join to fight for things that are important to us (but alas, do not seem to be on their radar.) So all they have us do is have us sit around peeling potatoes, collecting their dues from us, and asking us to get involved … by signing their petitions for their issues.

It just makes sense (and more time effective) to go out on our own .. and wait until there is a true city-wide group made up of real preservationists.

My friends, that will happen.