Every Apple retail store that opens its doors in the Big Apple has proven to be a boon to aficionados, foot traffic, jobs, and business in its community. Will it possibly do the same for Forest Hills soon?
Currently, there are five Apple stores in Manhattan, one on Staten Island, four on Long Island, and six others scattered throughout New York State, but if the dreams of influential Forest Hills developer Heskel Elias (of The Heskel Group) are fulfilled, Queens will have its first Apple store.
If Apple is receptive, a landmark store could potentially open in a year’s time in one of Elias’ holdings west of Continental Avenue on Austin Street, near other chains such as TGI Friday’s, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, NYSC, and The Gap.
While Apple spokesperson Michaela Wilkinson said that “Apple has made no announcements,” Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz hopes that will change soon.
“I am very hopeful that Apple will open in Forest Hills, since Apple has recognized a great need for stores to come into our neighborhoods,” she said. “Queens is a great place, and I am very excited about this possibility. Apple would have a great effect on our borough and Forest Hills.”
Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, explains how the opening of Apple would be a boost to Forest Hills, which has experienced the closure of some native and short-term businesses along Austin Street’s business district due to the economy and higher rents within the last decade. He stated,
“The opening of Apple would prove that Forest Hills has a strong economic base, which can support quality retail developments,” he said. “Apple would create jobs and save people from traveling out of Queens to buy their Apple devices. We are a middle-class community which has good spending habits.
“There is a lot of funding devoted towards new retail and housing, which is a good sign,” he added. “The interest in Queens for retailers is very strong, since they realize there’s a lot of money in Queens.”
The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and some local businesses echo those sentiments.
“We don’t have a confirmation of Apple, but we would love to have it open in Forest Hills,” said chamber president Leslie Brown.
“It would definitely boost business and the perception of Forest Hills, making it a cooler neighborhood,” said Nadia DeJesus, a co-owner of La Boulangerie, a popular bakery and cafe at 109-01 72nd Road, which opened in July of 2011. “Not trekking to the city would be great.”
Locals and visitors could make a day out of shopping at Austin Street’s boutiques and shops, enjoy a meal at its diverse restaurants, pick up a book at Barnes & Noble, tour the historic Forest Hills Gardens, and get lost in Apple.
However, one question on critics' minds is how Apple would affect traffic, but their skepticism is somewhat subdued when reminded of buses along Queens Boulevard and Austin Street, four subway lines one block away, and the Long Island Railroad. For those who wish to drive, there are parking facilities below Gerard Towers and above Barnes & Noble.
“Opening Apple would show that such major companies have faith in the area, and realize the benefits of a store around a mass transit hub, as evidenced by the tremendous foot traffic in their Grand Central Station store,” said Patrick Lannan, a paralegal who has called Forest Hills home for the past six years. “Apple would revitalize my area, along with the proposal to turn the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium into a multi-entertainment center.”
Preservationist and technology buff Enzo Longo is a Flushing resident of 12 years who is excited and anticipates taking his bike to Forest Hills much more often. Longo explained how the Apple story is similar to the Industrial Revolution.
“Henry Ford democratized the access of an average person to transportation with his more affordable Model-T, which sprouted other industries such as the gas station, diners, drive-ins, motels, and highways,” he said. “Apple has paralleled or exceeded that development with advanced yet affordable clean digital technologies that will spawn other innovations.”
There is no doubt that Apple has revolutionized the information age with its products. The rate of success is marked by the rapid expansion of over 300 stores throughout the world. Their products have become a worldwide staple.
This piece is dedicated to the memory of Karyn Kay, an English teacher at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts, who helped discover my passion for writing. She was truly one of a kind as a teacher and friend to all. She was killed on April 10, 2012. RIP Karyn Kay.