Thursday, August 16, 2007

Harlem block will honor Mrs. Astor

When Claris Cunning- ham first moved to Astor Row 20 years ago, the stretch of 130th Street in the heart of Harlem was in ruin, its famed porches reduced to splinters, and many of its 19th century homes sitting empty.

She remembers around that time how a small, elderly woman started to come by, just when the neighbors had begun to band together to fix up their street.

'Astor Row' looks to honor benefactor

That woman was philanthropist Brooke Astor, who passed away Monday at the age of 105. She had found out about the state of the block that bore her late husband's family name, and was determined to restore the place to its former glory.

Unfortunately, Old Astoria in Queens, also named after the Astor family, had never been landmarked and had no benefactors, so it got destroyed instead of saved.


Anonymous said...

With all loving and due respect to the generous
late Brooke Astor.......

I think that when she chose to memorialize her family's name she chose Astor Row in Harlem because it was another family namesake located in Manhattan..... the most visible borough in which to spread her money around and be immortalized.

We know that she supported less fortunate individual Harlem families but the question must be raised why didn't she help similar needy families in the South Bronx for example?

The naming of Astor Place had already
securely commemorated the family's history
in a farther downtown location.

As for Astoria , Queens.....
it never seemed to have caught Brooke's eye.....
nor her pocketbook either. That's sad.

Powerful people (be they kings or the rich & famous)
do not select what they would consider a backwater location (in this case Astoria Queens) an appropriate venue for donating money
or placing their burial monuments to ensure,
at least, that their names will be remembered.

Nobody, with their similar high society pedigrees,
would most likely notice or appreciate
their good old family names way out in the boonies.

For the same reason that Napoleon
would not have built his tomb in Egypt.

Sorry Brooke.....your nostalgic views of New York seem to have only focused on Manhattan to the exclusion of its 4 other boroughs.

I'll still say prayers of thanks for your love
of our city. G-d love you. Rest in peace!

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

"Originally, Astoria was known as Hallet's Cove, but was renamed after John Jacob Astor in order to persuade him to invest $2,000 in the neighborhood. He contributed only $500 to the neighborhood, but the name stayed.[1] It has been said that Astoria was named for a man who never set foot in it. A bitter battle over naming the village was finally won by supporters and friends of Astor who had become the wealthiest man in America by 1840 with a net worth of over $40 million. Astor did live in "Astoria" (his summer home), built in Manhattan on what is now East 87th Street near York Avenue, from which he could see across the river the new Long Island village named in his honor."

Anonymous said...

Old Astoria never caught her eye because no one told her about it. As a matter of fact, someone as recently wrote to HDC to put it no their endangered list.

They got no response.

Anonymous said...

Brooke Astor gave money to the Beachside Bungalow Association.

Anonymous said...

"The New York State Board of Regents chartered the Astoria Female Seminary. The 1828 building was older than the community of Astoria. In 1839, residents of Hallets Cove had renamed their village as a tribute to John Jacob Astor who donated money for the school. Rev. John Walker Brown, pastor of St. George’s church ran the institute for many years. In its short term it was one of the finest such schools for young ladies; one of the women who taught there later went to China as a missionary and went on to write one of the first Chinese-English dictionaries. Although the seminary collapsed at Brown’s death, it reopened briefly in 1858. The building eventually served as the parsonage of St. George’s Church for over 150 years. The community’s namesake was demolished to build senior housing in 2005." - Greater Astoria Historical Society

So Astors used their money to build rowhouses in Harlem but never lived there; Astors donated money to a school in Astoria but never lived there. I hardly see the difference, other than what borough each is in.

Taxpayer said...

This is another reminder that when we repeatedly elect dullards and ignoramuses to office, their appointees and legacy can be no more useful or imaginative than themselves.

Especially when we put them into office and then fail to supervise every moment of their tax paid lives.

We're in charge.

All the official failures are ours. It cannot be any other way!

Anonymous said...

HDC never responded regarding Astoria because they're too busy throwing parties in Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Rockaway bungalows.....merely a drop from her bucket!

Maybe an old past romance with a lifeguard
stirred up some memories.

Anonymous said...

Went to a meeting once with a senior HDC official and a local pol. The HDC rep blurted out to the pol that 'perhaps a few' buildings 'might' be saved in Old Astoria.

The community members, also present, were stunned at being so casually marginalized to their face.

Anonymous said...

What are you griping about: the community discovered years after it happened that HDC and LPC went to old Astoria.

No one from the community was present or notified.

Of course Old Astoria's fate was decided right there.

I guess as far as the preservation community is concerned, only the 'right' people need be involved.

Anonymous said...

What is Old Astoria?

Not only is the community gone, but a social services agency, Goodwill, with the assistance of Pratt wiped its identity off the map.

Needless to say, no one from Astoria was involved. They were not told to be.

Its now called 'Two Coves.'

Anonymous said...

The top leadership from the Democratic Machine, elected officials, and the local community board not only spread rumors that landmarking is bad (hey Sunnyside Gardens, sound familiar? Where do you think they honed their message?) but are actively involved in destoying that community. Every year a handful of 150 year old buildings are torn down.

Not a whimper from the preservation community.

The preservation community stands accused of letting politicians, rather than the landmark law, determine their agenda.

Anonymous said...

NYT covered the destruction of the Astor legacy in Astoria.

Interviewed the church and justified the destuction. It was not an article fit for that paper.

It treated the destruction as a done deal.

You are right, the preservation community is as guilty as the developer on that one.

They said nothing.

Anonymous said...

Heard of a meeting of the homeowners with a rep from a respected preservation group.

Rumor had it that the person started cursing at the homeowners. Colorful four letter words filled the room. Children were present.

Killed designation for another generation. But, perhaps that was the point after all, 'eh?

Anonymous said...

Tried calling City Lore once about Old Astoria.

Their eyes glazed over.

Bohemian Hall? Bingo!

You see, if its Queens, it has to be ethnic.

georgetheatheist said...

Who gets the dachshunds, Boysie and Girlsie?