The Ridgewood Theatre was designated by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on January 12, cementing its place in the pantheon of Queens' historical buildings.
The LPC voted 9-0 in favor of awarding the theater landmark status. The designation must be sent to the City Planning Commission and City Council for final approval. Both are expected to okay the measure.
The handsome 2,500-seat beaux arts theater- designed by the architect Thomas Lamb and located on Myrtle Avenue between Putnam Avenue and Madison Street- opened in 1916 and showed movies continuously thereafter until closing for good in 2008.
Community groups and elected officials have worked hard to bring the building to the city's attention for preservation. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, whose district borders theater, testified at the LPC hearing for the site.
“Preserving the history of our neighborhoods is a key component to taking pride in it,” said Crowley, who studied historic preservation at the Pratt Institute's Graduate school of Architecture before running for office.
“It is important for future generations to understand their history, and take pride in it and preserving this innovative and striking structure will do just that,” Crowley added.
With protection for the theater all but certain, attention now turns to its future use. Marisa Berman, the executive director of the Queens Historical Society, said she hopes the theater's owners start showing movies there again, or turn it into a cultural space for the community.
“It's one of the last old-time movie palaces in Queens,” Berman said. “Ideally it would be great if it would be [reopened] as a movie theater.”
Michael Hetzer, of the group Citizens for A Better Ridgewood, speculated that a second-floor theater with retail shops and arts space on the first floor might work. “I expect to see a theater in there and some space that could be used as community production space,” Hetzer said.
If the theater building sponsored plays, readings and the like it would become a one-of-a-kind attraction in Ridgewood, he said. “I don't know if there's anything like that around, really,” Hetzer said. (Daniel Bush)