Saturday, August 11, 2007

Richmond Hill of yesteryear

History Of Richmond Hill

Dear Editor:

Anyone familiar with the history of Richmond Hill would know that 114th Street was formerly called Elm Street, back in the day, back in the more innocent day when people did things legally and lived in unison with one another.

Our story begins, in September 2005 when a beautiful house was purchased, only for the land it stood on, which was soon to be demolished, obviously an all too common practice going on here. The house was originally built for St. John’s Lutheran Church up the block in 1915, to house the Reverends who served the church. In later years, the 1950s, it was sold as a residential home which was a focal point in the community, known for its sprawling lawn and beautiful roses bushes.

Immediately after the sale of the house in 2005, the oversized driveway became a parking lot for large commercial trucks. This went on for quite some time though there were many complaints from the neighbors as this is a residential area, not a place to rent parking spots for trucks. The new owners claimed that they didn’t know that the trucks were there, though everyone had seen them unlocking the gates for them and collecting their fees from the drivers every Friday. We can only guess that they finally got caught and stopped.

Shortly thereafter, the rat poison signs were posted and the windows were being broken out, a sure sign that they’re getting the house ready for demolition. The neighborhood, along with the help of the Historical Society, the community board and the block association banded together to try to save, yet again, another beautiful house slated to be destroyed. Since it was not landmarked, the fight was all in vain but there was another very important factor that we all were aware of, that could affect everyone’s health. Asbestos.

After months of delays — including the Fire Department responding, stopping the crane as it began to take the house down — it was taken down illegally with the asbastos flying everywhere. You must realize that the scene is a half block away from P.S. 56 and many churches, not to mention all of the residential homes. Seriously, how many of us were contaminated? The new property owners aren’t concerned. As a matter of fact, the Queens Chronicle covered this story shortly after if happened in January 2006.

So here we are in the summer of 2007. It started out as a parking lot, then there was the illegal demolition and still to this day, with the house almost finished, nothing was done according to the law. There were stop-work permits issued, but they still worked. People were falling there when there was no sidewalk for months. Unlicensed “day workers” do most of their work. Other people’s property, as well as the road was destroyed during this whole operation. Were they ever held accountable for anything?

Call me old-fashioned but what happened to respecting others or at least have some sort of regard for your neighbors? Anyone who is a long time resident of Richmond Hill remembers it as a quiet town, where everyone got along. I’m sure there are others who’ve gone through similar scenarios as we are now and this could all have been avoided by landmarking. Hopefully something will be done to stop these disasterous situations from happening. Previously we all thought that once the house was finshed and the new owners moved in, that things would get better. We now all agree that it’s just the beginning of Another Nightmare On Elm Street.

(And others wonder why people are leaving Richmond Hill.)
Christine Klein,
Richmond Hill

Quality Of Life

Dear Editor:

Last week’s letter by Christine Klein unfortunately hit the nail right on the head in describing the deterioration of our housing stock and quality of life in Richmond Hill.

She cites that back in the day 114th Street was known as Elm Street and narrates the loss of historic and quality homes at that end of the community. I live on 114th Street in Ozone Park, a few blocks off Rockaway Boulevard. The same rush to buy and tear down beautiful old homes is happening here as well. Where we once had lovely homes with beautiful gardens and a sense of peace, we now have a neighborhood filled with ugly, cheaply constructed multifamily homes, with nary a flower, lawn or tree. We have plenty of concrete, ugly wrought iron fencing and concrete elephants, but no beauty, class or sense of place.

I too, mourn the loss of the magnificent old homes in Richmond Hill. Does anyone remember the historic interior of the Triangle Hofbrau Restaurant on Hillside Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard? It boasted walls and a bar from the Black Forest in Germany — well over 150 years old and warm, cozy and elegant. Remember the old Richmond Hill Inn on Jamaica Avenue and 114th Street? Gabled roof, stained glass windows, dark wood interior? How about the restaurants and businesses that populated Liberty Avenue? Karp’s with its homemade ice cream and toppings; Winther’s Ice Cream Parlor; Levinson’s Jewish Deli with great corned beef and a cream soda; St. John’s Restaurant — where businessmen dined and had cocktails; and Carlo’s Pizzeria on Lefferts Boulevard, a neighborhood staple. Then there were the shops: Perlous, for quality lingerie and sleepwear, with a staff that actually fitted you in the store; Irene’s Dress Shop, Nan Gray, Faye’s Hats, Goodman’s Dry Goods —businesses with owners who took good care of their customers. All sharing an atmosphere of cleanliness, friendliness and selling quality goods.

Now Liberty Avenue is a mess — filled with fast food, tacky shops selling the same cheap curtains, clothing, jewelry and DVDs, all hanging out on the street. Music blasting like a market in the Third World, accompanied by the smell of fish and rotting fruit. Oh, it’s just gorgeous.

Our historical society has tried, albeit way too late, our community boards are impotent, mere puppets of the politicians and developers who are wreaking this plague all over Queens. And we all know why. It’s called the “newcomer’s vote”. No one has the guts to place the vote on the line in defense of quality of life and decency.

I have lived here for nearly 50 years, and remember when this neighborhood was quiet, respectful and clean. The only time you saw a police car on your block was when there was a traffic accident. Now, the music blares day and night; parties spill out into driveways, onto stoops, and into the street; cars park with speakers blasting away; and 20 people inhabit homes made for a family of four or five. Do I remember and pine for the good old days? You bet your butt I do. If this is progress, I can live without it.

Ann Rychlenski,
Ozone Park

Photo from Richmond Hill Historical Society


BobR said...

Wow, that's heartbreaking. Such a gorgeous house, gone forever. So long as there is no real price to pay, these bloodsuckers will continue to violate the law and do what they please. Look at that guy who caused so much damage at the RKO Keiths in Flushing. He should have gone to jail but instead he's still out there breaking the law and laughing at us all.

Taxpayer said...

Eminent Domain is in disrepute today because of greedy politicians and developers.

But the story about the degradation of the beautiful property made me think that there's a case for eminent domain right there.

Neglect a property extremely, violate zoning or building codes? After just a few warnings, let the city take the property, demolish whatever is illegal, and sell to a responsible developer.

Queens Crapper said...

Just a note - the house pictured is still standing, it is not the one spoken about in the letter, just used as an example of the architecture in RH.

Anonymous said...

And where was Dennis Gallagher
that self anointed "champion & defender"
of Richmond Hill all these years......
too busy trysting with his developer friends ?

This neighborhood is the Victorian gem of NYC
and doesn't deserve to be raped as it has!

Anonymous said...

"And others wonder why people are leaving Richmond Hill."

Not true, the people that are leaving Richmond Hill are those prickly middle class long term residents that wastes the clubhouse's time with impossible to solve quality of life issues, many that comes from the new residents that the machine wants to move in, people that are prime targets for tweeding. Noise? Litter? Stores full of trashy merchandise? What Jamaica went through in the 60s, Elmhurst in the 70s, Flushing in the 80s, and now you and Astoria today.

Neighborhood by neighborhood the clubhouse is remaking Queens. And as you live in a one party state, they are confident that the is nothing you can do about it. As every other borough in NYC pulls away from the 70s, Queens bit by bit sinks into the mire.

You are not going to get any help from the established Manhattan preservation groups: they have cut a deal with the Queens clubhouse for city council support as long as they don’t get involved in Queens. And the 4 borros, which will be under the local clubhouse thumb and seem to be made up of those of a lesser rank, life will even be worse. Nothing is worse than being double crossed by a Quisling. Just ask the folks at St Saviours how that group wasted their time.

These are big homes ideal for the extended families of the newly tweeded. Big lots make great barracks for day laborers. You are redlined.


Accept the reality,

fight and embarrass the clubhouse via the community board and letters to the newspaper,

and be vocal at politician forums when your local talent (that is in office supposedly to serve you) shows up.

Work to overturn the landmarks law, and make sure the replacement is one law with one standard for the entire city (not individual boro wide landmark commissions that the 4 borros wants)

Insist that city wide groups, which uses your taxes, and write grants as it they are involved in all NY, design programs to serve your community.

It is a long struggle. Years were wasted as we were misled. But we are Americans, and we have more than 200 years of history that demonstrates the wrath of a sleeping giant that is awoken.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately new york is not for new yorkers anymore, if you like living in 3rd world conditions and paying unbelivable rents,knock yourself out. I moved out of flushing 8 yrs ago,disgusted with what it turned to, now I'm leaving astoria because it's going in the same direction, I never thougt I'd say this, but I'm really happy I'm leaving NYC.

Anonymous said...

Around Queens' residential neighborhoods, street light poles are covered with "Land Wanted" ads. These ads are illegal and should be prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the same thing is happen to the Cord Meyer area in Forest Hills. Beautiful homes destroyed and gaudy McMansions built in their place.

Anonymous said...

The Queens clubhouse is worse than the feared Communist party of old Mc Carthy era (1950s).

We have in Queens a one party political system
that rivals any Stalinist or Maoist regime
and is maintaining tight control
over its constituencies while providing them
with the illusion of the voters having a choice
in a participatory form of government.

There is no real choice. All has been decided beforehand.....agreements have been struck in the smoke filled backrooms of crooked county dens.

The mantle of Tom Manton's dirty political machine has been picked up by its current successors.

Whether you choose to cast your vote for a Democratic or Republican candidate
remember some shining examples of deal making between the 2 so called "rival" parties:

#1.Indicted Democratic Assemblyman Brian Mc Lauglin passed money to Republican City Council member Dennis Gallagher....currently indicted for rape!

#2.The same Mc Laughlin assigned his local #3 (?) Electrician's union members to campaign for Peter Boudouvis.....a Republican candidate....who was running against Democratic City councilman Tony Avella!

These are typical not isolated examples
of cross political party cooperation.
The ultimate aim being to out and out screw constituents and earmark certain areas
for over development by their friends and
campaign contributers in the real estate industry.

Richmond Hill, unfortunately, is one of those neighborhoods earmarked by both political parties for destruction!

Perhaps a new 3rd political party
should emerge from the closet
and openly run candidates for office.....
the Real Estate Party.

At least then we'd all know who we would be
casting our votes for!

john-e-be said...

I've seen the photo of the former site on another Web site (, and it bears a striking resemblance in architecture and color scheme (including the brown house to its right) to a string of houses across from my grandmother's corner (122nd & Brevoort). Makes me shudder to think that it's simply signaling a neighborhood trend.

I think the biggest problem is that homes of that age are susceptible to the wrecking ball because of deferred maintenance. My grandmother's house has 2 floors + attic. The second floor was remodeled in the '60s. The first floor was remodeled in the '60s and the '80s. Both floors, not to mention the attic and the transitional areas (stairwells, basement, etc.), are not only due for another renovation but a gutting and updating of structural, plumbing, HVAC and electrical. The exterior is on its third siding layer. That's going to require a strip back to the vapor barrier, as I'm sure the original wood siding is not worth refinishing/restoring.

Suffice it to say at this point, Grandma's tired and only taking care of the bare minimum, i.e., changing light bulbs. And the "This Old House" people have enough on their plate than to start looking outside of New England for a spec home to restore.

A sad story, overall. But short of doing what they did in Ridgewood and declare an entire neighborhood an historic district and getting the right buyers in for the right reason, it's developers cherry-picking victims who answer to the "property/houses wanted" sign. I surmise that the planners saw this transition happening long ago.

Anonymous said...

You can kiss a Richmond Hill historic district goodbye!

It's been (covertly) targeted by the city
to become a Guyanese enclave
just like Flushing was meant to be colonized
by Taiwanese/Chinese in the early 1980s!

Now all you "liberal hypocrites"can all jump for joy. I've given you the opportunity to call me a racist !

My ass is in the can kiss that too!

Anonymous said...

I am a lifelong richmond hill resident. I bought an SRO with great bones, moved in, fumigated, and knocked down the illegal rooms. I now live in a beautiful mansion, next door to big families who are working hard to build a life in the USA. The glass is half full. Work with your neighbors, not against them!

Anonymous said...

For all the people complaining on this board.. pool your money together and buy out the whole neighbourhood. Then you can do whatever you please with it. Until then.. shut your mouths. This is America.. money talks.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure most of you that are complaining are older white folks who miss hanging with your old white friends in RH who have either died or moved out of RH because it became a haven for immigrants.

You people make me sick. You don't own RH and us immigrants that live here will do whatever we want with our homes and our community. It is OUR community that runs this neighberhood not old white people. Why don't you move to Long Island and give it a rest.

Those third world comments are pure racism. YOu can't appreciate other peoples culture. We don't want YOU around. I will be glad when RH will become a a true haven for immgrants and we elect our own representatives so we can have a third world oasis here!

Anonymous said...

Let the record show that according to this loser, immigrants prefer neighborhoods filled with ugly, cheaply constructed multifamily homes, with nary a flower, lawn or tree. They also like fast food, tacky shops selling the same cheap curtains, clothing, jewelry and DVDs, all hanging out on the street. This is what was complained about in these letters, and this guy is defending it.

"us immigrants that live here will do whatever we want with our homes and our community."

Hey pal, immigrants have to abide by the same laws and codes that "us white people" do. If you don't like it, move the hell back to whatever third world oasis from whence you came.

"It is OUR community that runs this neighberhood not old white people."

Now whose being racist? Better knock it off before you smash the myth of Queens as a melting pot.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure most of you that are complaining are older white folks who miss hanging with your old white friends in RH who have either died or moved out of RH because it became a haven for immigrants."

Oops...try again! See this post.