Perlman: A Prom to Remember

P.S. 101 celebrates at the Historic Tea Garden and Jade Party Room

By Michael Perlman
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With much anticipation, three 5th grade classes from P.S. 101 came together on June 11 to celebrate their success, with a prom at the historic Tea Garden and party room of Jade Eatery in Forest Hills Gardens.

Students dance with illuminated fairy, (Photos by Michael Perlman)

A total of 65 children were joined by a small group of parents, who not only helped coordinate the prom with this columnist, and restaurant owner Kumar, but engaged in a hands-on effort for days to sweep up, spruce up, and further restore the Tea Garden, which opened in 1912 behind the Forest Hills Inn. The event also focused as a garden fundraiser.

Behind an ornate gate along Greenway Terrace lies a forgotten Tudor style Tea Garden with monumental trees and a soon-to-be restored brick fountain, which was once a community cornerstone for afternoon teas, dinner dances featuring The Inn Trio, plays by the Gardens Players, flower shows, children’s festivals, dog shows, and weddings.

As the Inn became a residence in the late 1960s and restaurants on site changed hands, the Tea Garden gradually fell into a state of disarray. On Saturday evening, the prom became the first major event in recent history to utilize this somewhat hidden gem to its fullest potential, closer to the vision of architect Grosvenor Atterbury and urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. over a century ago. Parents donated the colorful flowers surrounding the fountain area, and Kumar arranged the planting of 40 Emerald Green evergreen shrubs along the perimeters.

Similar to traditional times, the gateway was open, and the children made their way along a red carpet with colorful accent lights and took photos in front of a backsplash bearing P.S. 101 The School In The Gardens mascots and 2022 gold balloons. A glitzy disco ball themed woman stood nearby, adding to the festive ambiance.

Graduation themed balloons were throughout the garden, along with a burst of colorful balloons on the central fountain area. There was plenty of space to socialize with longtime friends and perhaps make new ones from other 5th grade classes. Children also enjoyed the popcorn machine and a Boba tea station.

Making our way into the party room, which offers a Moroccan and Asian ambiance, as well as a very high vaulted ceiling and accent lights, it proved to be the ideal setting for several tables surrounding a dancefloor. DJ Leche played energetic and sentimental dance tunes, including line dances, and a sing-along was also a major highlight. An illuminated fairy danced with the children, and was an ever-changing light show within itself. Table balloons illuminated in gold. The menu included fresh mozzarella sticks, pizza bites, chicken tenders, french fries, chicken parmigiana, baked ziti, sautéed veggies with garlic sauce, bubble tea, and smoothies.

Students lined up for popcorn

This columnist delivered a presentation on the Tea Garden’s history and continued restoration project. A screen rolled down, and in a theater style seating arrangement, the children enjoyed a slideshow of memories, dating back to their early grades at P.S. 101, as “Graduation” by Vitamin C played. Then they continued to dance the night away, and the evening ended on a high note with a class of 2022 photo in the Tea Garden.

Children and parents shared what made the prom one to cherish.

“It was really fun,” said Bella Scarola. “There are so many things that I will never forget; one of which is dancing with the light dancer.”

Reflecting on her school, she said, “One value that PS 101 taught me was to have respect for each other. Respect is like a foundation of a house. If you don’t have respect, you can’t build anything else.”

She felt privileged to celebrate in the Tea Garden, and said, “I feel very excited for its future. It was probably used for a few decades, and then they just stopped using it. Since then, I guess no one cared to clean it anymore. I am very excited and grateful the people are willing to put time and effort into cleaning a historical space in our community.”

Another happy camper was Isa Rodriguez. She said, “We got to spend time with our friends and just enjoy the moment. P.S. 101 made me have more friends. My school encourages friendships and integration.” She was also thankful that the Tea Garden was selected. “I think it’s really cool, and I feel grateful we were there with our party, and I’m part of bringing the garden back to life.”

Her mother Maggie Rodriguez was one of the parent coordinators. “This was a very anticipated event for the children and parents, especially after dealing with the pandemic. We celebrated the kids’ accomplishments in elementary school and an upcoming transition to middle school. There was great energy and much joy from adults and children, but the most meaningful was children celebrating themselves and enjoying the moment, as well as being part of restoring the Tea Garden’s history.”

The red carpet was rolled out at the Tea Garden for the occasion.

She takes pride in how her clean-up efforts attracted lots of curious passersby. “It’s absolutely a hidden gem that unfortunately was forgotten, but it will definitely come back to life, and I’m happy to know I planted a little seed for this to happen. Let’s restore the beautiful fountain and the gazebo. This enchanting garden needs more to be used to its full potential and can serve as a setting for many more memorable events.”

Lexa Ocasio felt grateful to spend time with friends, laughing and dancing in such a beautiful space. She said, “The most memorable part was the light up dancing girl and the Boba tea station in the Tea Garden. It was amazing to learn its history. I am honored that we were the first children to enjoy this beautiful space once again, as it was meant to be. I pray that the Tea Garden can be restored, so we can once again enjoy its beauty! Thank you to all the parents that made our prom possible, and to Mr. Perlman for all you do to restore and preserve our community, and for teaching us a bit of history in our own backyard.” She continued, “P.S. 101 taught me to respect and embrace different cultures, and respect other’s differences. They have also implemented self-awareness of our emotions, and how to better deal with stressful and frightening situations.”

Her mother Wendy Medina, also helped beautify “a hidden gem.” She explained, “Towards the end of the evening a student, Luke Whitman, asked me if we were going to continue to restore the Tea Garden. I expressed to him that we will continue and try our hardest. He responded, ‘I hope so. I think this is such a cool place.’” She pinpointed another engaging moment. “Passersby exhibited joy when learning that we were attempting to restore it. A nearby resident shared a story, where she saw photos of her mother as a child attending a wedding in the Tea Garden, and also shared a bit of its history, and mentioned that many celebrities visited.”

Another event coordinator and volunteer Melissa Cruz called the prom momentous and felt the party room was elegant, and the Tea Garden was charming and beautifully decorated. She said, “Passersbys peeked in and seemed to be in awe at the lovely space that came alive that night.

The Tea Garden fountain is to be restored

It had such an old-world elegance to it, and I was imagining what it was like to have parties there in the 1920s. Knowing that our children were celebrating in a space where children played a century ago felt otherworldly.” She added, “Forest Hills has so much history, and as residents, we aren’t even aware of all that has taken place in some areas we walk by daily.”

Her son Dylan Cruz said, “P.S. 101 taught me the value of friendship, how to be creative and express my ideas. As a history enthusiast, learning about the interesting history of the Tea Garden and party room made our dance more meaningful. It’s so cool to know that we are living in such a historic neighborhood.”

Jade Eatery has continuously lived up to being a destination for parties, and is also complete with a patio and a large dining area surrounding a koi fish pond, leading to a bar and gallery. Reflecting upon the event, owner Kumar said, “I’m always here to help everyone. My team and I, along with parents, worked very hard to make this event successful. Chef Richard made great American food with all his love. All of the children were dancing, and what a great DJ!”

P.S. 101’s 5th grade class of 2022 in the Tea Garden.

Looking ahead, repairing water features and stonework, planting more evergreens, as well as colorful rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and azaleas alongside the original trees from 1912, could become a reality. The replication of a long-lost ring for tea stand by Flushing Iron Weld and this columnist is nearly complete.

Kumar continued, “Our community should approach the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation to help support the Tea Garden’s restoration. This event elicited over 100-plus years of memories.”


Perlman: The Pizza Dance Uniting Communities & Offering Humanitarian Aid

By Michael Perlman

The Electric Slide, Macarena, and Queens’ own… The Pizza Dance! Since the late 1990s, The Pizza Dance has been quite a buzz, thanks to fans and most certainly its originator Tony Modica, an immigrant who achieved the American Dream as a business owner and humanitarian.

The Pizza Dance is a sing-along novelty that fosters peace, unity, love, and simple pleasures through shared cultures. Modica is known for his hospitality as he entices palates and entertains at Prima Pasta & Cafe at 161-50B Crossbay Boulevard, a cornerstone since 1992.

“We support love, peace, and unity” is the slogan of The Pizza Dance Foundation, which Kathleen Leon administers. The foundation promotes unity and cultural appreciation through free public activities and mobilizing others to support a unified message of respect and appreciation for all people. It proves that consolidated efforts are a great model of how government and non-profits, including religious and private sectors, can work together for the public’s benefit.

The second annual Pizza Dance Festival of Unity will be held on Saturday, June 11, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Five Towns Community Center at 271 Lawrence Ave., and admission to this family-friendly tradition is free. It has been a draw for not only Long Island residents, but those from Forest Hills and Rego Park, and throughout New York City and State.

The lineup will consist of food including Prima Pasta and Cafe, Grammie and Kids Cookies, smoothies, and piña coladas, as well as games and activities including face painting and giveaways, with a major highlight being Tony Modica and the Pizza Dance. Entertainment will also include the Sunshine Vocal Academy, Kathleen Leon, Emilio Moreli, Al Jeremiah, and DJ performances by Rhythm of the City Entertainment. Vendors will also include Chelsea’s Candles and Crafts, Creations by Erma, and Rhodizzy’s Royalty Palace.

The Pizza Dance originated at La Bella Vita on Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park in 1997. Modica reminisced, “The dance was a sign of a family breaking bread and enjoying pizza, and one child started to dance while enjoying pizza, so I came up with the Pizza Dance. Making pizza and doing the dance was an inspiration for unity and love. The choreography was inspired by the art of making pizza. It has been going strong since the late 1990s.” The Pizza Dance song is copyrighted and trademarked.

Forest Park was the setting of last June’s inaugural Pizza Dance Festival of Unity, which attracted amazing entertainment, as well as performances by Kathleen Leon, who has been running the foundation for the past two years. “She has lifted The Pizza Dance higher than it’s ever been,” Modica said, “and she transformed the foundation into an amazing, thriving one.” “At last year’s event, our attendance was very diverse,” Leon said. “This pertains to how we support and unite all cultures and nationalities, where we are one world with one heart.”

The Pizza Dance Foundation is a humanitarian inspiration that harbors an impressive history of giving back to the community. Modica proves how pizza is an international symbol of unity, and the foundation founded programs that encourage children to stay in school and achieve higher grades. After his lectures, everyone from students to seniors is treated to pizza and a Pizza Dance lesson.

He explained, “Pizza is used as a symbol due to its varied toppings and delectable enjoyment that is recognized by all cultures. Positive messages are enhanced through dance and an enjoyable feast.”

The foundation has contributed to St. Jude’s Hospital for Children and the Alzheimer’s Foundation, as well as sponsored toy drives for the holiday season, and facilitated the donation of clothing to children and places of worship. Modica said, “We provide assistance with trade school scholarships and sponsor the American softball league, as well as support any autistic foundation in need of help.”

Modica reflects on the past in pride. “Twenty-three years ago, June was officially named the ‘Taste of Pizza Month’ and the Pizza Dance Foundation was congressionally honored as well.” Leon said, “Running this foundation has made me proud of the pizza dance in so many ways.

Our aim is to build trade school scholarships for children in need of a better future. We are very humble and will always serve our community.”

The foundation has proven how private citizens and non-profits can achieve success across local communities and beyond with the support of businesses and government. “Help us make a change and spread a positive message to the world by donating, or contact us for more information on how to have us organize an event with you in mind,” said Modica. Parties of interest can email [email protected]


Perlman: An Evolution of Local Sculptures

By Michael Perlman

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Forest Hills was named in 1906, whereas Rego Park was named in 1923. For the past 116 years, there have been several freestanding sculptures, while fewer have been affixed to facades. Sculptures are few and far between, but local works exhibit fine quality and history. Above all, public art is a gift to the masses that bonds the generations. Now’s the time to discover a timeline of some of the most notable outdoor sculptures.

Fountain of Piping Pan

Fountain of Piping Pan: Sometimes a sculpture vanishes without a trace, but decades later a vision surfaces to have it replicated. This was a focal point of Olivia Park bounded by Markwood Road and Deepdene Road in Forest Hills Gardens. This environmentally beneficial feature consisted of a young male cherub playing a pipe that overlooked a bird fountain alongside the right-hand pathway as residents would walk from Markwood Road. In 1915, The Sun stated, “The presiding genius of the fountain is a small nude boy in plaster playing a pipe and the water tumbles over the stones at his feet down into a miniature lake, where the birds may disport themselves as in one of nature’s own sylvan retreats.” In response to The Bird Club of Long Island which formed that summer to safeguard birdlife, the publication stated, “From Brooklyn to Montauk Point, branch clubs are being formed, bird refuges and sanctuaries are being created, and other steps are being taken to make the bird population multiply, and the insect horde decrease.” The membership numbered 300 and spanned 40 communities.

On July 4, 1915, with a local chapter of the Audubon Society on-site, the bird fountain was unveiled. It was designed by Underwood Road resident Beatrix Forbes-Robinson Hale (later Women’s Suffrage Club of Forest Hills president) and presented by the Russell Sage Homes Company in dedication to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who was praised for her passion for birds. She purchased Marsh Island to transform it into a bird sanctuary. Part of her acclaim was her establishment of the Russell Sage Foundation, which sought to improve the social and living conditions in the U.S. Olivia Park was named in her honor, and her vision was realized as it served as a natural amphitheater due to its sloping topography and acoustics.

WWI Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial: On Flagpole Green, originally “Village Green,” in Forest Hills Gardens stands an ornate Neo-Classical pink granite and green and gold bronze monument, which honors 102 residents, and was dedicated in 1920. It was designed by renowned American sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870 – 1952), who lived nearby at 236 Greenway South and operated a studio at 234 Greenway South. The memorial reads, “Erected by the citizens of Forest Hills in recognition of the patriotic spirit and loyal devotion of the men of this community who served in the Military Forces of The United States in The Great War.” The design represents “The Call to Arms” above the names on the tablet including Dr. Joseph MacDonald, Gerald MacDonald, Henry MacDonald, George C. Meyer who served as president of Cord Meyer, and David and Howard Springsteen of the community’s farming family when Forest Hills was known as Whitepot.

Remsen Cemetery Two Doughboys

Remsen Cemetery’s two doughboys WWI memorial: Flanking a flagpole, these sculptures honor Forest Hills’ service. Remsen Cemetery was designated an NYC landmark in 1981. In Colonial times, it was popular for families to have private cemeteries close to home. The Remsen family erected a homestead on their farm adjacent to the cemetery in 1699, which stood until 1925. Jeromus Remsen Sr. (1735 – 1790) fought in the French and Indian War. As colonel of the Kings and Queens County Militia in the Battle of Long Island, he commanded the 7th New York Regiment in the American Revolutionary War.

The Remsen Park Coalition’s 1981 plaque states, “Within this park lies the remains of Revolutionary War Veteran Colonel Jeromus Remsen. Buried in the confines of this site were his cousins Major Abraham Remsen, Captain Luke Remsen, Lieutenant Aurt Remsen, and their families. The

Captain Gerald MacDonald statue

Remsen family was amongst the first settlers of this area, originally known as White Pot.” A 1925 survey revealed brownstone grave inscriptions of Jeromus, Anna, Jerome (two), Cornelius, Ann Elizabeth, Bridget, and Major Abraham Remsen. The Veterans Administration erected non-brownstone graves that memorialize Colonel Remsen, Maj. Abraham Remsen, and brothers Aurt and Garrett Remsen, were also Revolutionary War officers. The vanishing of some brownstone tombstones remains a mystery.

Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue: Standing prominently in MacDonald Park is a bronze sculpture bearing homage to Gerald MacDonald (1882 – 1929), a Forest Hills resident and WWI veteran. He was an officer of engineers at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne and erected bridges and dug trenches. It was dedicated on May 27, 1934, by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, after American Legion Post 630 allocated $1,500 at the request of WWI veteran Henry MacDonald, Gerald’s brother. The granite base inscription reads: “Capt. Gerald MacDonald; Memorial Dedicated By Forest Hills Post No. 630 The American Legion; To Those Who Served In The World War; 1934.” The statue was sculpted by Henry MacDonald’s brother-in-law, Frederic de Henwood, and designed by architect William Henry Deacy. The park, itself, was named on April 25, 1933.

“Spirit of Communication” in Forest Hills

Forest Hills Post Office’s Spirit of Communication: The International-style façade is embellished with this terra-cotta relief, designed in 1938 by famed sculptor Sten Jacobsson. It features a female figurine holding a carrier pigeon and a clock, relating to timely services. It was commissioned by the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts, where the goals were to enhance the public’s experience with art during the Great Depression while assisting impoverished local to national artists. The building earned the National Register of Historic Places status in 1988, and the sculpture achieved placement on the New Deal Art Registry.

“Floating Leaves” sculpture fountain

Floating Leaves: In 1961, Parkside Chapel at 98-60 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park was designed by notable architects Henry Sandig and Robert I. Kasindorf, earned listings in the AIA Guide To NYC, and was also a walking tour highlight. The façade offered a Modernist twist on traditional elements, and the building paid tribute to the Sinai desert of Moses, the Israelites, and the Ten Commandments, but in 2022, it was demolished. It consisted of thousands of varied Star of David patterned walls and concrete screens, and a tranquil two-story bronze “floating leaves” sculptural fountain in its outer walkway designed by the nationally recognized sculptor and painter Dr. Arnold Stone of Sea Cliff. He painted and specialized in sculpture in metal, stone, and wood, and also pursued small pool and fountain projects. The sculpture is stored since 2021 at an undisclosed site after pressure from this columnist and fellow preservationist Evan Boccardi. The sculpture features bronze leaves, granting an illusion of “floating leaves” affixed to a series of angular hollow abstract shapes. Residents are hoping the sculpture fountain can be resurrected locally.

Rendering for “Spider-Man” sculpture in Forest Hills

Spider-Man Forest Hills: The world’s most popular superhero may now be a bronze rendering on a postcard, but when complete, it will mark the latest addition to a trail of sculptures, filling a void for decades. Proposed for MacDonald Park, this is the result of Forest Hills’ own creative visionary Larry Ng, who appointed the very talented sculptor Dave Cortes, a mastermind of Brooklyn’s Captain America sculpture. Spider-Man would cling to a classic lamppost and bear homage to its creators, with Steve Ditko and Stan Lee street names. The goal is to inspire goodwill and civility towards others, analogous to how Spider-Man would in his stories. The story of Spider-Man originated in NYC and made waves in pop culture since 1962. Alter ego Peter Parker resided at 20 Ingram Street, which was featured in 1989 issues of Marvel Enterprises’ “The Amazing Spider-Man” and attended Forest Hills High School from 1962 to 1965.

Perlman: Forest Hills Spider-Man rendering revealed

Plans for a Spider-Man sculpture are continuing to take root in Forest Hills, thanks to longtime resident and creative visionary Larry Ng, who appointed the talented sculptor Dave Cortes, the mastermind behind the Captain America sculpture in Brooklyn.

For decades, Forest Hills has not seen any significant public sculpture commissions. Now Spider-Man is expected to follow the success of the WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, Remsen Cemetery’s two doughboys WWI memorial, the Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue, and Forest Hills Post Office’s “Spirit of Communication.” Now is the chance to travel behind the scenes and discover the “talk of the town.”

“My approach was to design a compelling monument that epitomizes the character of Spider-Man, and incorporates elements of NYC,” said Dave Cortes, who also takes pride in bearing homage to the creators of Spider-Man. “Putting their names on street signs would be a good way to remind others of the blood, sweat, and tears Steve Ditko and Stan Lee put into creating the Spider-Man comics.”

A Spider-Man sculpture will both educate and entertain the public, imparting an appreciation for the beloved superhero genre. “Before Disney and blockbuster movies, a bunch of talented artists were telling amazing stories through comic book panels,” Cortes explained. “These superhero stories captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike for many years. It’s my hope that an iconic superhero, when seen as a life-sized statue, will inspire a sense of goodwill and civility towards others, the way the character of Spider-Man would in his stories.”

He believes that the hustle and bustle of NYC, where the story of Spider-Man originated, is the perfect location to experience the sculpture.

“Unlike many superheroes, Peter Parker was a normal teenager, having normal problems growing up in Forest Hills,” Ng said. For example, Parker struggled with paying bills, time management, worrying about the health of Aunt May, and dating girls. “Spider-Man became popular because his fans could identify with him.”

Cortes initially designed four renderings on paper and some loose clay sketches. He said, “The designs were typical for a heroic character or bronze statue, like the typical standing tall, ready for action kind of pose. Then I knew I wanted to try something different, even though I was a bit hesitant. When I shared the design with Larry Ng though, he liked it a lot.”

Ng considers Cortes to be very thoughtful in his design, such as how his goal was to honor Stan Lee, who conceived Spider-man, in addition to recognizing the less well-known but equally important artist Steve Ditko, who granted Spider-Man’s iconic appearance and brought him to life. “Spider-Man hanging off a lamppost is amazing,” Ng said. “It is dynamic and very different from traditional superhero poses. It shows one of Spider-Man’s unique powers; the ability to cling onto walls and objects.”

Ng feels that Cortes was the best candidate for Spider-Man, based on his history with Captain America in Brooklyn and his numerous years in designing animation, action, and comic book figures. He recalled, “When Dave first showed me Spider-Man hanging off a lamppost, my words were ‘Wow, breathtaking! This is amazing! This statue absolutely has to be built!’ To this day, I smile every time I look at Dave’s model.”

“Children and Spidey fans will absolutely love it!” Ng said, who marvels over Spider-man as the world’s most popular superhero, since making waves in pop culture in 1962. “Thousands of people already know about the Spider-Man Forest Hills project and are excited to see it come to fruition, and hundreds already told us that they can’t wait to take pictures with the sculpture.”

Cortes also designs action figures, statues, and collectibles. “I was fortunate to work with nearly every toy company out there, from Marvel to DC, and hundreds of licenses from popular to obscure,” Cortes reminisced.

Some of his work includes Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, Hellboy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and recently Fortnite. He added, “My studio was asked by Marvel to model the 13-foot Captain America 75th anniversary statue, and that was pretty cool, but personally, my original work is what I’m most proud of.”

Spider-Man bronze model on trading card by sculptor Dave Cortes

One must wonder how Cortes’ career as an artist developed. “I used to think it was accidental, but looking back, I was always interested in some kind of art,” he explained. “Before I could write my name, I drew animal faces, but after realizing I was just a mediocre illustrator and painter, I was lucky to find clay and sculpture–the right medium. I could manipulate the material into the shapes I wanted. Then after getting pretty good with clay, I was lucky to work for the company, McFarlane Toys. Once I was introduced to the toy industry, I never looked back. It felt right, and here I am today, 23 years later!”

Cortes draws much inspiration from old-time masters and considers the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an amazing place for finding inspiration. “Sometimes the inspiration comes from the most unexpected places, as in a book, illustration, comic, movie, or just a memory of a special event. Everything inspires me, and I hope to always stay open to it all,” he said.

Back to Ng, he most recently presented at Forest Hills Comic-Con 2022–which was a draw for comic book fans at Forest Hills High School–the inspiration for Peter Parker’s “Midtown High School.”

“Everyone really liked the project, and when I presented the model of Spider-Man, I heard a chorus of ‘Oohs and ahhs.’ Many attendees already submitted comments in support of the project on the website,” he said.

“As I was thinking about this project, I thought of how much impact a character like Spider-Man has on kids growing up today, and how he represents such a positive figure,” Cortes said. He feels that such a role model is essential more than ever nowadays. “Even though he is a fictional character, I believe Spider-Man has affected the lives of many as if he was a living, breathing person. A sculpture of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is fitting to celebrate the character that represents the heart and soul of NYC.”

Frank DiBella of Academy Engraving, who is known for designing the Tony Awards, is expected to design a bronze plaque accompanying the sculpture. Spider-Man’s most famous quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” will be a highlight.

Mike Giordano, owner of Royal Collectibles at 96-01 Metropolitan Avenue, agreed to distribute a complimentary collectible trading card featuring Cortes’ rendering of Spider-Man and promote it on social media. “As per Dave’s suggestion, I loaned Mike the Spider-Man model to display in his store for a few weeks,” Ng said. This shop is among the most popular of its kind citywide. He continued, “If you would like to help build community support by volunteering to distribute these trade cards, please contact us through” The public can also lend their support online by posting comments and offering suggestions.

Perlman: Celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s 200th Birthday

By Michael Perlman

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Most recently at the Church-in-the-Gardens Community House, local residents among scholars celebrated the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., “the father of American landscape architecture.” His other titles are social critic, journalist, and public administrator. Guests gave a champagne toast to Olmsted’s legacy and enjoyed a cake bearing his photo. This event was coordinated by the Forest Hills Gardens Foundation, and furthermore, Olmsted’s anniversary is being celebrated in parks and communities countrywide.

Olmsted was born on April 26, 1822, in Hartford, Ct., and passed away on August 28, 1903, in Belmont, MA. Among his most significant accomplishments are the landscapes of Central Park, Riverside Park and Drive, Prospect Park, Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Long Island, Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway, Morningside Park, Downing Park in Newburgh, the U.S. Capitol, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. His son, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr, designed Forest Hills Gardens, along with principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury.

“Frederick Law Olmsted was a Renaissance man,” Justin Martin, a Forest Hills Gardens resident and author of “Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted,” a definitive biography, said. He delivered a slideshow presentation and engaged his audience of over 50 attendees with his encyclopedic style approach.

Martin explained an early experience that would shape Olmsted’s achievements. “When he was growing up in Hartford, his family was in the habit of taking horseback excursions into the countryside. He would sit up in front with his father on a saddle. For hours on end, his family would travel through the countryside, in silent contemplation of nature.”

When Olmsted was 14, he dropped out of school and began seeking a profession. A solid one was being a surveyor, but he did not take it seriously. Martin explained, “pretending to learn the profession, he was in the habit of sneaking off, going hiking, and wandering around in the woods.” Then his father decided that it was time for his son to settle down. Martin continued, “he arranged for him to move to NYC and get a job at a milkshake firm, but he hated the 9-to-5 hours.”

Olmsted also explored farming. “It made sense, since 70 percent of the population in this era was involved in agriculture. He bounced around from state to state and farm to farm, before encountering a very attractive situation in Staten Island,” Martin said.

That is the site of Olmsted’s farmhouse at 4515 Hylan Boulevard and farm, which was home from 1848 to 1855. Tosomock Farm is where he began experimenting with landscaping and agricultural techniques, resulting in improvements that influenced his later countrywide designs. Today this rare survivor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is awaiting significant restoration. Martin serves on the board of an organization committed to restoring it. He said, “we are also hoping to open it as a museum dedicated to agriculture and its most famous resident.”

Olmsted pointed out that England was in the seat of scientific farming, and he could learn some agricultural best practices that he could bring home to Staten Island. His father always had a soft spot for farming. Back at Tosomock Farm, he encountered George Putnam, who later published “Walks and Talks of an American Farmer,” Olmsted’s book, which chronicles his England walking tour.

In autumn 1852, Olmsted as a farmer, set off to the south, spoke everywhere, and produced a superb series of dispatches that placed the new New York Times on the map. Martin said, “He recently visited model farms of England and had his own operation in Staten Island and paid people to work for him, in contrast to slavery. He found the south to be an image of surpassing natural beauty.” After leaving Staten Island, he relocated to Manhattan and acquired a position as an editor and writer for Putnam’s Monthly.

After the Crash of 1857, he was jobless. He continued, “Olmsted was forced to take a modest job, where he was to drain swamps on a scruffy piece of land, very prosaically named for its position in the middle of NYC, called Central Park. He was to clear this piece of land for someone else’s design.” The original plan for Central Park dates to 1858. The amateurish design was eventually scrapped.

Olmsted would team up with his senior partner, landscape architect Calvert Vaux, who explained that in his native country of England if one wishes to have the best design, hold a public competition. “There were 33 contestants, and 32 rated somewhere between a B minus and a flat F, but the Olmsted and Vaux design received an A+,” Martin explained. It was a massive undertaking. “As each section would open to the public, people from various backgrounds were mixing and mingling in the park,” Martin said. In Olmsted’s generation, people came of age in the 1840s and were very committed to social justice. As for landscape architecture, Olmsted finally found a worthy means of addressing a generational mandate via social justice, and he described Central Park as “A democratic development of the highest significance.”

During the Civil War, Olmsted made his way to Washington D.C. and headed the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a predecessor to the American Red Cross. “This organization supplied immeasurable aid to wounded soldiers,” said Martin. He oversaw the creation and operation of field hospitals and medical boats and established quarantine procedures.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, communities countrywide began clamoring for parks to be built. He explained, “Communities wanted their ‘Central Park.’ It was like a dam bursting. The natural team to turn to was Olmsted & Vaux, and they produced a series of masterpieces across the country. Their sophomore initiative was Prospect Park.”

Olmsted, with his stepson John Charles working in the firm, designed masterpieces including a park system for Boston known as the Emerald Necklace, Cherokee Park in KY, and the grounds for the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1895, Olmsted’s final major commission was the Biltmore Estate. “The client was George Washington Vanderbilt II, the wealthiest person on earth,” said Martin. That was when his son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. collaborated on this project, serving as an apprenticeship. “He urged him to review and train yourself, and if you don’t get it now, you never will,” continued Martin.

A few years later, Olmsted passed away, and sons John Charles and Flo, Jr. stepped into a ready-made profession. They coined a landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Brothers, and followed in their father’s footsteps by designing 20th-century countrywide masterpieces encompassing parks and private estates. Flo, Jr. became the firm’s public face. Martin said, “They refined and refurbished their father’s parks. Parks are like living artwork that are never really completed.” With the advent of automobiles, they repurposed horse-drawn carriage roads. They also focused on new areas that were unexplored by their father, such as corporate campuses.

Whereas Olmsted Sr. produced a manifesto calling for a national park service, Flo, Jr. helped shape its mission statement. His excerpt read, “Promoting public recreation and public interest through the use and enjoyment by the people of natural scenery and objects of interest.” Flo, Jr. was involved in the design of national parks including Acadia, The Everglades, and the Great Smoky Mountains, which included creating pathways to scenic overlooks and enabling hiking. Martin said, “The Olmsted Brothers was much more involved with urban planning for cities and their future direction. Flo, Jr. would draw up plans for Utica, Detroit, Rochester, and New Haven, and famously be involved in the McMillan Commission, which was an effort to beautify public spaces in Washington, D.C., known as the National Mall.”

In 1908, the Russell Sage Foundation embarked upon its first major project to create a model community in Queens, it was natural to turn to Flo, Jr. Martin said, “For the Forest Hills Gardens, he would closely apply his father’s design principles, such as intense attention to detail and a real commitment to nature and democratic spaces.”

Martin explained, “As you travel through our neighborhood, bear in mind that with Olmsted and his grand 19th-century designs, you can draw a direct line to Forest Hills Gardens, designed by his son.” Bruce Eaton, Forest Hills Gardens Foundation president, presented a Forest Hills Gardens video drawing the eye on outstanding characteristics and featured vintage and recent photos of the earliest planned English garden community. He pinpointed a lasting impact of the Olmsted’s, such as curved streets and shared green spaces. He also cited Martin’s article for “Cottage Living” in 2007, where he explained, “While Flo designed Central Park for a much larger geography, Flo, Jr. incorporated small parks into the Gardens. He believed that the larger the park, the more likely that visitors would not connect and move about behind a veil of urban anonymity.”

Some communal spaces are Station Square, the Tea Garden, Greenway Terrace and Flagpole Green, Olivia Park, and Hawthorne Park. The clip also featured the irregularity of intersections, so visitors will not know what to anticipate. In some cases, homes do not face a main artery. Curved streets with Tudor and Arts & Crafts homes, appealing vistas, and diverse monumental trees and plants are everlasting trademarks that reflect the Olmsteds’ legacy.

To contribute to the archives, contact [email protected]

Perlman: Raising Funds To Salvage Trylon Theater Façade & Tower Diner Features

A fundraiser is underway to salvage and relocate the largely intact Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan synagogue façade in its entirety, consisting of the intact Art Deco stonework and the illuminated glass block projection tower and elliptical marquee.

It would also consist of the Tower Diner bank building features such as the distinctive clock tower, columns, cornice, and signage. Time is of the essence to contribute:

The cause originated after this columnist joined forces with fellow Forest Hills resident and preservationist Evan Boccardi. An estimated $80,000 would ultimately need to be raised within a short period of time, in order to spare the Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan façade from demolition.

The developer, RJ Capital Holdings/Trylon LLC, agreed to have the well-known Demolition Depot, founded by Evan Blum, serve as a subcontractor. This firm achieved recognition for salvaging other historic facades in their entirety, as well as rescuing historic architectural features and repurposing them for projects, in order to have a new lease on life.

The funds would cover protective supplies and pay crew members. Additionally, storage would be provided. In the future, these architecturally and culturally significant buildings would be resurrected. “Demolition Depot has remarkably rescued many facades, and have the expertise to save the Trylon Theater façade and Tower Diner features as well,” said Boccardi.

The Trylon Theater, which opened in 1939, is considered the last Art Deco building that significantly reflects the innovative and multicultural 1939 – 1940 World’s Fair, which was held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Since 2005, it was Ohr Natan Synagogue & Community Center, a second home for largely Orthodox Bukharian Jews, where many faced oppression in their native countries. The synagogue is in the process of relocating across Queens Boulevard.

The popular Tower Diner, which opened in 1993, adaptively reused a federal-style bank building and was highly distinguished by its clock tower along Queens Boulevard. Designed in the 1950s, it was modeled after a more traditional bank building during a mid-century modern period, but in conjunction with the Trylon Theater, it originated in 1939 as a supper club, followed by Croft Chemists, complete with a soda fountain. Its longtime tenant was Emigrant Savings Bank.

The Trylon Theater was deemed landmark-worthy in the January 1990 NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Survey but was not pursued further after staff members changed and priority was given to Manhattan.

The Art Deco style theater was named after the 1939 World’s Fair’s symbolic spire-like monument, the Trylon, which stood alongside the globular Perisphere monument. Analogous to the Fair’s theme, “The World of Tomorrow,” where exhibits featured technological innovations, the theater was known as “The Theater of Tomorrow.”

From the Trylon Theater’s streamlined stone façade with a glass block projection tower illuminating Queens Boulevard, an elliptical marquee once boasted classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, “Gone with the Wind” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, and “The Ghost Breakers” starring Bob Hope, as well as many more relatively recent memorable films including “Pretty Woman” and “Evita.” Originally, an entrance pavilion featured a Trylon-adorned mosaic ticket booth and a central 3D Trylon depiction on a terrazzo floor accompanied by colorful chevron mosaics.

Deemed a novelty, the Trylon Theater was designed by New York architect Joseph Unger (1896 – 1996), a Cooper Union alumnus. Neighboring mom and pop shops were Mildred’s Luncheonette, Trylon Soda & Ice Cream, Trylon Realty, Trylon Tailors, and Trylon Liquors, which remains in operation, but relocated last year across Queens Boulevard. With multiplexes on the rise, The Trylon shuttered after its 60th-anniversary celebration in 1999 and was one of the last single-screen theaters citywide.

The Trylon Theater epitomizes the Art Deco style, featuring sleek and sophisticated lines and accents, and smooth curves to create images of “triumph with elegance.” Architects were more experimental, as they celebrated the victory of the machine age. Patrons recognized a vertical glass block projection tower through a streamlined stone facade, with an elliptical marquee. This illuminated Queens Boulevard at night, symbolic to the Trylon and Perisphere monuments’ efficient use of light. Two reverse channel neon signs atop the marquee read “TRYLON.”

Let’s save a great Art Deco masterpiece, and save our world from architectural banality,” said Boccardi.

Perlman: Yud Aleph Nissan celebrated at Borough Hall

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

It is always timely to commit good deeds, uphold our values as a team, and set an example for all generations, beginning with our youth, in order to build a solid foundation for a healthier and most respectful life ahead.

On April 12, Yud Aleph Nissan, also known as the eleventh day of Nissan, the 120th anniversary of the Rebbe’s birth was commemorated with a ceremony at Queens Borough Hall.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson OBM (1902 – 1994), was a leader of world Jewry. Today there are over 5000 Chabad emissaries worldwide, delivering the Rebbe’s mission of goodness and kindness to life, making the world a better place at large. He continues to be highly regarded for stirring the conscience and awakening the spirit.

Rabbi Mendy Hecht, founder of Chabad of Forest Hills North, along with a delegation of Shluchim from Queens Chabad emissaries, were invited to Queens Borough Hall and presented with a proclamation by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who designated April 12, 2022 as “Education and Sharing Day.”

It was also coordinated by Rabbi Mordechai Hecht of Anshe Sholom Chabad JCC in Kew Gardens, who extended the honor for Rabbi Mendy to attend.

“The Rebbe was a strong advocate for educating children, while mentioning the freedom of this country to do so, and using this opportunity after fleeing Nazi Germany to this safe haven to live freely through a moral and ethical life,” said Rabbi Mendy. The Rebbe receives recognition annually as a result of advocating for education of our youth and providing a moral compass, where American presidents since 1978, celebrate Education and Sharing Day. Rabbi Mendy continued, “On a day of the Rebbe’s 120th birthday, there is no better time to honor the Rebbe in this manner, especially since Queens is where the Rebbe’s resting place is situated, while many other states and cities are following suit.”
The proclamation read, “Whereas the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, was a passionate advocate for children and stressed the importance of educating children in ways that will help every child develop a strong intellect and a solid moral character; and whereas the Rebbe helped turn this guiding principle into reality by establishing a network of several thousand schools and educational centers in the United States and around the world; and whereas in 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the Rebbe’s birthday as a national Education and Sharing Day has since been issued regularly upon the authorization and request of the Congress and the designation of the President.”

The proclamation continued, “On April 12, 2022, the nation will commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Rebbe’s birth as ‘Education and Sharing Day, USA,’ as Americans are called upon to follow the Rebbe’s example by working toward the furtherance of education and the betterment of society; and whereas the 2.4 million residents of Queens, ‘The World’s Borough,’ wholeheartedly join in this year’s commemoration of Education and Sharing Day, USA, as we pursue the Rebbe’s goal of helping all children receive an education that will help them succeed in all facets of life.”

Rabbi Mendy is hopeful that Education and Sharing Day at Queens Borough Hall will become an annual tradition. A proclamation was presented in the past by prior Queens BP Melinda Katz, as well as by BP Donovan Richards last year with a citation. Rabbi Mendy said, “We are confident that with this important message of educating our youth in a time of chaos and turmoil, it will become an annual tradition. We are thankful that BP Richards has shown his full support, to the extent he requested our presence on the Rebbe’s Birthday, to proclaim this special day without delay.”

Rabbi Mendy and his colleagues shared a universal message of increasing acts of kindness, as well as promoted the Rebbe’s teachings of universal values. This can be further implemented throughout communities on various levels, beginning with schools. The Rebbe was a strong advocate of a moment of silence. Rabbi Mendy explained, “I mentioned at the event that this moment of silence at the beginning of each day of school, was to ensure that each child reflects in a moment on something more meaningful than the craziness and all destruction transpiring around us. This doesn’t have to be restricted to religion, but something meaningful that should be guided by the child’s parent. The Rebbe intended that this would facilitate a more moral compass to a child, making this world a better place through good education, peace, and good deeds.”

A mandatory moment of silence is already legislated in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The most recent states are Arizona, Florida, and Kentucky, which Chabad played a major role in implementing. “Now we need it to be mandatory in New York, where it is optional,” said Rabbi Mendy. “Along with my colleagues, we asked for BP Richards’ support of this important legislation, starting in Queens, and hopefully will bring it on a state level as well. We hope to work further with the BP to accomplish this.”

At the ceremony, Rabbi Mendy presented BP Richards with a personalized Siddur featuring the Rebbe’s directive, recalling an earlier occasion when the presentation of a Siddur was made to the president. He explained, “The Rebbe suggested this gift on a similar occasion, stating that at the beginning of the prayer book, it mentions how upon waking up, we thank G-D for giving us another day, as in ‘Modeh Ani.’ Sharing this with the borough president is a beautiful idea to live by.”

It is significant for schools to practice religion freely, as in the case of Queens Jewish day schools. Rabbi Mendy takes pride in a very positive ceremony, marked by the assurance of BP Richards that he stands in solidarity with Queens Jewish Day Schools in support of freedom of religion. He said, “The Jewish faith offers a method of educating our children, and making sure we can have that freedom, makes it simpler for our children to practice and continue our Jewish heritage and values for generations to come, as taught in our Holy Torah. I commend him on how he will continue to work throughout Queens to promote the universal values taught by the Rebbe.”

Rabbi Mendy considers it a true honor. “We are all very thankful to the BP for taking out time from his extremely busy schedule to meet with us and honor the Rebbe in such a beautiful way. Now let’s all celebrate better education and sharing with our families and friends!” He topped it off with “L’Chaim!”

Perlman: David Miller and Holocaust Survivor Portraits

A Testament for All Time

By Michael Perlman

Jean Greenstein was born in 1924 in Velky Sevlus, Czechoslovakia. Hid family was transported to Auschwitz, where all but Jean and his sister perished. Jean passed away in 2018.

Rego Park resident David Miller, 42, is not only a professional photographer, but a local hero.

He is the founder of the diverse David Miller Studios and his most timeless work results from photographing Holocaust survivors.

“My Holocaust Survivor Portraits aim to teach people about the Holocaust through stories and to honor these survivors, recounting the often-incomprehensible adversities they suffered, and paying visual tribute to the lives they have rebuilt,” Miller said.

Additionally, his goal is to remind the Jewish community among others that thousands of survivors are still alive, but many are struggling financially and/or emotionally.

Miller launched his Holocaust Survivor Portraits project in 2011, and to date, he feels honored to have met and photographed over 100 survivors. He also bears family ties to the Holocaust.

“My maternal grandmother escaped and fled Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport to the United Kingdom, where she settled and raised her family,” Miller said.

Sonja Rosenwald, Survivor. Los Angeles, CA

Miller was raised in a small town named Sharon, Ma. just south of Boston. In 2009, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he originated his event photography studio. David Miller Studios offers wedding, event, and portrait photography (family and headshot) services, as well as album design and videography.

“Our work is photographically unique, and we strive to produce images that are truly photojournalistic, artistic, and meaningful,” Miller said.

In 2011, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles launched a bi-weekly column, profiling Holocaust survivors in the Greater Los Angeles community.

He reminisced, “I was fortunate to become the photographer responsible for capturing those images, and I was also fortunate to work within the Jewish community photographing events.”

He began developing an audience after sharing his compositions on Facebook, and after networking in various ways, his talent received recognition. “They pitched the project, and I was thrilled to become involved,” he recalled.

To Miller, both the camera and the photographic image mount to great value in society.

He explained, “Through exhibition and education, images reflect personal meaning and the power of telling a story and the freedom to tell that story in whatever way you choose. I became a photographer because just like poetry is limitless in its creativity, so is photography, where opportunities to capture subject matters bear no boundaries. The camera offers me that creative freedom.”

Although he sees many sights through the lens, above all he sees “life composed in the moment.”

“Of course, I see light, shadow, color, and shape, but these are only technical attributes to what is needed to master the camera and proper exposure,” he continued.

On many occasions, Holocaust survivors share their stories when Miller forever preserves a moment of their time, but most of all their legacy. One of many stories is that of Jean Greenstein, who was born in July 1924 in Velky Sevlus, Czechoslovakia, but passed away in February 2018 in Los Angeles.

“Jean’s father was a dentist, a WWI veteran, and a prominent community member,” Miller explained. “When the German army took control of Hungary in 1944, Jean’s father attempted to rescue the family by going into hiding, but it was too late.”

Miller said, “they were transported to Auschwitz, where all but Jean and his sister perished. Jean hid in a basement until captured, and subsequently escaped and joined the underground resistance in Budapest in the guise of an SS officer and distributed schutzpass to people being shipped to Auschwitz, thereby allowing them to escape. After the war, he fought for Israel’s independence.”

When Miller met Jean, he knew he was in the presence of a hero. “Jean served in one of the first Israeli military brigades, the Haganah – Palmach unit fighting for Jerusalem, as pictured in an image that he was holding. Remember this was a man who joined the underground resistance and posed as an SS Soldier, saving countless Jewish lives. Please remember Jean as a hero, a father, and a pillar of strength and inspiration. Tears frothed into my eyes listening to his story.”

As a photographer and humanitarian, it is significant for Holocaust stories to be documented and shared through photos and text.

Photographer David Miller of Rego Park

“The true power of my Survivor Portraits as a body of work is drawn from the subject’s individuality when being photographed, and their willingness to share experiences so near and distant to their heart,” Miller said. “The photographs you see are undoubtedly only minute representations of the individuals and to their status as “Survivors,” a term to which Holocaust memories rip apart lives and recall years of emotional pain and lost loved ones. It is my hope that this project grows with an evolving interest to teach what must never be forgotten.”

Backtracking, after Miller graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he pursued a corporate ladder position in the financial world, and in his mid-twenties, he began exploring photography as a hobby.

His first camera was a Canon EOS Rebel 2000.

He reminisced, “I began shooting with film, mostly nature and landscapes, since I love the outdoors. Quicker than I thought, I would share my work, and people said that my pictures were quite good. Even though I always had a savvy knack for being able to self-motivate and sell myself, I thank those people, since their encouragement pushed me at times.”

Today, he uses a variety of cameras, which varies based on context. His professional rig includes a Canon Mark IV Digital SLR and two Fuji Mirrorless Advanced digital models, the xh-1 and the x-pro2. He only uses high-end professional glass, to ensure superior optical functionality.

One must wonder if anyone in Miller’s family influenced his career as a photographer, and if he takes much inspiration from elder generation notable photographers.

He said, “No one in my family pursued a career in photography, and even though my parents had medical careers, they were always supportive of my choice as a photographer.

“Julius is holding a list of prisoners killed in the crematorium at Auschwitz”

Two photographers that influenced me most are Steve McCurry, a renowned National Geographic photojournalist and portrait photographer, and Ansel Adams, who is undoubtedly one of the most passionate landscape photographers.

They are masters of their craft, and I respect their talents immensely. Other notables include James Nachtwey, a prolific photojournalist and war photographer whose harrowing images inform, educate, and influence societies and politics worldwide.”

Miller’s photography sparked the attention of cultural institutions. In January 2014, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust exhibited 29 of his Holocaust Survivor Portraits.

“The exhibit stood as a gallery of living history, as each of these survivors personally witnessed one of the definitive moments of the 20th century; Adolf Hitler’s genocidal campaign against the Jews of Europe,” he said. “The exhibit included an accompanying catalog with the stories that appeared in the Jewish Journal. Most of the survivors who were profiled waited decades after World War II to tell their story. Some of them have never before told their story outside of their immediate families, but all tell important stories of devastating heartbreak, brutality, miracles, and the arduous rebuilding of broken lives.”

Since elder generations are passing on, time is of the essence to further develop the Holocaust Survivor Portraits project by keeping the spirit alive of all survivors, as well as memorializing the victims who perished.

“Expanding the project means getting out there and photographing survivors, as well as accompanying truthful words behind evocative portraits,” Miller said.

To schedule a Holocaust Survivor Portraits visit, Miller accepts business calls at 732-806-1847 or emails at [email protected]. He also aspires to publish a book, reflective of his long-term photography project and the stories that unfold, but welcomes funding assistance and a connection with a publishing house.

Follow Miller at and at

The Tea Garden Restoration Committee At Work

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Since last fall, the Tea Garden, nestled behind an ornate gate bearing Forest Hills Gardens’ logo on Greenway Terrace, and accessible through Jade Eatery’s party room, has been subject to a series of fundraising history tours, led by this columnist.

Over a week ago, the Tea Garden Restoration Committee, comprised of industry professionals including an architect and designers, local residents, and Jade owner Kumar, toured this long-forgotten treasure, where architectural and landscaping features meriting restoration and replication were pinpointed.

Step back to May 1912The iconic Tudor-style Forest Hills Inn once featured several elegant social spaces including a Tea Garden designed by Forest Hills Gardens principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury, in partnership with the prominent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. An August 1923 ad read, “an excellently appointed American Plan Hotel, catering to a discriminating transient and permanent clientele.”

It also referenced “exquisite cuisine, most attractive rates, dining room accommodations for motorists, and afternoon tea in the English Tea Garden.”

The Windsor Room, which was the inn’s main dining area, is today known as Jade Eatery, and the Tea Room which overlooked the Tea Garden, would later become the Terrace Room, adorned with murals for private dining, prior to becoming a commercial space.

Since October, a fundraiser has been underway, where the community is purchasing diverse high-quality jigsaw puzzles, donated by Ronald Gentile followed by Julie Marie, and continue to be available at $25. This will finance small yet very meaningful restoration projects, to enable the community to participate as visionaries. One such project is the replication of an 11-foot moderately ornate “Ring For Tea” stand, complete with an antique bell and cord, and a hand-painted sign bearing a teacup logo to be produced by Noble Signs. The stand is already in production by Flushing Iron Weld and principal Nelson Santander, after this columnist discovered a postcard depicting rocking chairs in front of the stand. Committee member Bea Hunt drafted the initial blueprint by applying her engineering skills.

Nature caused the monumental trees to flourish and produce a natural Gothic archway, but cast a toll on decorative features. The cascading fountain and pool amidst an arched wall that featured iguana sculptures high above have vanished. Turtles once swam below, and rocks and colorful rhododendrons were alongside the perimeters. The “Ring For Tea” stand and rocking chairs were replaced with tables and umbrellas but also vanished. Later additions include a no longer operational tiered central brick fountain and cracked flagstone and a rusty pergola. The original series of graceful pergolas featured colorful floral planting areas. However, after moments of exploration, the magic of what was and could be resurrected becomes evident.

In 1967, the Forest Hills Inn underwent conversion into apartments and is a co-op since the 1980s. In 1977, the U.S. Open relocated from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to Flushing Meadows, and with the change of inn’s occupancy and fewer celebrities, the Tea Garden was gradually forgotten.

The Tea Garden occasionally became the town center for community-wide events, such as a stop for the annual 4th of July Festival. In 1915, a local publication read, “Ice cream and cake was served all the children in the Tea Garden, and in the evening a pre-Revolutionary pageant was followed by dancing in the Station Square to the music of the 7th Regiment Band.”

Dogs even felt at home in the Tea Garden, such as on a Saturday afternoon fete for Boston Terriers. In July 1915, The New York Sun stated, “It will be in the nature of a classified match for trophies and ribbons, with Vinton Breese as a judge. The unclassified specials are the judge’s cup, for best bred by exhibitor; Inn cup, for best in the show; Cord Meyer cup, for best of the opposite sex to Inn cup winner, and trophies from Mrs. A.S. Whitesell for the best local dog and the best dog from NYC.” There were over 100 entries, with a very large crowd of spectators.

“The Gardens Chapter of the Women’s Club of Forest Hills Gardens is to hold a flower show at the Forest Hills Tea Garden, Wednesday, June 21,” read another early 20th century article. Some proceeds benefited the $500 playground fund. Another special event was a Strawberry Festival held by the St. Luke’s Women’s Guild on June 10, 1922, from 2 to 6 PM. Homemade ice cream was served with strawberries, as well as lemonade, and garden hats were sold. The Tea Garden also hosted early productions by The Garden Players, such as “Prunella” in 1921, prioritizing its natural setting. Another was Rostand’s “The Romancers” on June 9, 1916, at 8:15 PM for $1.

The July 12, 1924 edition of The Forest Hills Bulletin read, “The Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn is a veritable fairyland when lighted with Japanese lanterns, with the trickling fountain heard in the background, and a new moon shining overhead. There is no more delightful place in Greater New York for one to spend the dinner hour.” Every evening during the warmer months between 6:30 and 9 PM, a delectable dinner was served, to the music of the Inn Trio, featuring selections such as Dvorak’s “Humoresque,” Nevin’s “A Day in Venice,” Godard’s “Canzonetta,” and Albeniz’s “A Night In Seville.” On September 19, 1924, the Forest Hills Choral Club held a reception and dance in honor of its new conductor, Alfred Boyce.

“The Enchanted Gardens – Coolest and most delightful spot on Long Island” read a 1924 ad featuring couples in elegant attire, dining with tablecloths and dancing under a forested scene. At the time, M. Lawrence Meade was the Forest Hills Inn general manager. Special buffet lunches were served from 12 to 2:30 during tournaments, as the inn had its own tennis courts, accessible through a long-gone landscaped arched entryway from the Tea Garden, predating the Forest Hills Inn Apartments annex at 20 Continental Avenue. The inn was open for dinner daily, and dancing was held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings with no cover charge.

In a circa mid-1950s brochure, the Tea Garden was referred to as the Patio-Garden, and its glory continued. It offered “a bubbling fountain, candlelight, large umbrellas, and tall trees” with “violin strings in the spring and summer.”

The Tea Garden was the center stage for ceremonial events. The wedding reception of Luicina Gaiser’s parents, Frederic Harry Gaiser III and Julianne McCaffrey, was held on August 31, 1963, in the Tea Garden and former Garden Room of the Forest Hills Inn. A memoir read, “Were led down the walk about a block to the Garden, where there was an orchestra and tables and trees, and waiters serving tidbits and drinks. Stayed there for about an hour and a half. Fun prevailed. Pictures of wedding party and parents taken.” Luicina reflected, “As a child and to date, it was a lost garden or dreamland. There is a quiet peace that breathes life in this garden, that can’t be stifled by having been forgotten.”

For Eve Galvez, Forest Hills has always been a place that she could call home, and now her wish came true. She feels fortunate for the Tea Garden, a distinctive destination that could once again become a community asset. She said, “The Tea Garden is a beautiful space that has been abandoned for so long, but was once a place that created lasting memories. Our goal is to bring that to the present day with the help of industry professionals and residents. I am excited for this project, and hope to help in any way that I can.”

Francesca Victoria feels it is a stereotype that New Yorkers are always looking towards the future in favor of glass skyscrapers. She explained, “I believe that most are interested in preserving the past, and especially beautiful landscapes within their communities. Seeing so many people come together to stand up for a local landmark, and speak out not just for its preservation, but for its continued use for the community, gives hope for Forest Hills’ future. Most people are familiar with Station Square and the Forest Hills Inn, and I’m sure that most people have peeked behind that gate at least once or twice and wondered what it was and if it has any current use.” She ponders as to how it was once so well-known but is now much forgotten among inhabitants. “I hope this campaign will not only preserve the Tea Garden but spread historical awareness.”

The Fight To Save Tower Diner & Ohr Natan

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Last week, a demolition crew arrived in front of the historic Tower Diner Clock Tower Bank Building, and a construction fence was erected, extending around the Queens Boulevard and 99th Street small businesses.

Tower Diner has been a community anchor for generations, but its regal Colonial bank-inspired interior is being gutted first, and the demolition crew said it will be demolished possibly in two weeks, followed by the Art Deco 1939 World’s Fair-inspired Trylon Theater, later known as Ohr Natan Synagogue & Community Center.

Tower Diner Bank Building & shops surrounded with a fence

In 2010, it was a miracle how the block survived a major fire and was restored. Additionally, it survived the pandemic. Residents are calling for preservation and respect for architecture, culture, history, religious values, morals, and small businesses. On a few occasions in recent months, developers Rudy and Michael Abramov of RJ Capital Holdings/Trylon LLC stated at public hearings and a recent City Council committee meeting that they are willing to work with the community to acknowledge preservation requests and revise the 15-story condo renderings by incorporating the prominent facades, but residents are now saying that the developers are dishonest by planning to destroy historic community icons.

An engineer brought in by Rabbi Kaziev assessed the property and revealed that it can accommodate a harmonious development above, but the developers dismissed this preservation approach. The loss of this historic block would add to recent travesties including the historic Parkside Chapel.

Over 4,200 residents among preservationists signed an online petition ( and posted heartfelt comments, and others wrote letters to Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, Borough President Donovan Richards, and Community Board 6, as well as testified at hearings. Elected officials have been working with the developers, and the community is calling upon all parties to respect their wishes.

BP Richards stated in his advisory report, on January 7, “I hereby recommend disapproval of this application, unless all of the conditions are met,” and among them is “The proposed development should significantly incorporate prominent architectural features of the Trylon Theater and Tower Diner facades wherever possible.”

The majority of Bukharian congregants who worship at Ohr Natan and faced oppression in their native countries are now facing being exiled from their synagogue, an American Dream second home, shaped with much love. Congregants also feel it is a sin to demolish a synagogue, particularly against their will. Plans are underway to relocate to a $.99 cents store across the street after the developer pressured Ohr Natan for years.

“The fact that the developers are replacing our synagogue, in which many Bukharian Jews observe their religion, is very devastating to me,” Michael Yakubov said. “It was a very beautiful synagogue, which I went to learn Hebrew and listen to religious lectures. Ohr Natan brought our Jewish community closer to one another, especially on holidays. Forest Hills has definitely been evolving, but not in a good way. Our area is becoming more congested, and our community is falling apart.”

Inmaculada Gattas explained, “I felt terribly upset after seeing Tower Diner boarded up and knowing that Ohr Natan Synagogue/Trylon Theater will close, without given the respect that preservation gives to religious and historical buildings, and sites that have proven to be of great spiritual and physical importance.” She pinpointed the greater picture. “The buildings facing demolition and ones that we already lost, represent the soul and energy of the people that built them with blood, sweat, and tears. Their imminent destruction highlights the fact that nothing is sacred to these developers and the politicians who allowed it. I truly hope there’s still time to save at least some of the artwork and architectural elements.”

Residents feel that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission is not applying the Landmarks Law equally between boroughs.

“We are losing yet another of our neighborhood’s cultural centers,” Theresa Doria said, citing the Elmwood, which is now a church, as an example of adaptive reuse, but it is still serving the community. “We’ve lost so many glorious movie and Vaudeville theaters, and trying to get any worthy site landmarked in Queens is just impossible! Both the Tower Diner and the Trylon should be landmarked based on their unique architecture.”

She also mourns the loss of the displaced mom-and-pop shops, where some did not reopen elsewhere. “We not only lose a large place to gather and worship, but we lose a place to gather and eat. We’re losing mom and pops left and right to overtaxing, and bus and bike lanes taking the parking away.”

Resident Sylvia Bloomfield, who has lived near the site for the last thirty years, feels depressed by the decision for the destruction of Tower Diner, a unique destination for her family and friends.

She said, “We knew the owner and employees by first names and enjoyed many laughs, and the clock tower is a historic site.” Furthermore, she said, “Ohr Natan is a place where the community gathered to worship our Creator. It was promised at a meeting and verified by an engineer that the building being erected can keep these historic buildings, but now our community will suffer a severe loss. Please be conscious enough to let these buildings stand and preserve the integrity of our community.”

Linda Creash recalled Emigrant Savings Bank, and how the diner cared to preserve its beautiful design. “Sadly, the developer has no regard for the preservation of historic facades, although he previously said he did. I think back to the destruction of Penn Station, a magnificent building lost to the wrecking ball, but to me and so many others, the imminent loss of the beloved Tower Diner and the Ohr Natan is immeasurable. Once again, we who live, shop, and vote here have no say. Greed and money speak louder. It’s a sad fact, and like Penn Station, regret will come too late.

“Rego Park is morphing into a glorified suburban hellscape on steroids, with the same stores you see everywhere, and like the Walking Dead, we are all becoming infected involuntarily by the blandness of it all,” said Alan Tompas. He called it “zombies to big-time commerce.”

He can never understand the lack of respect for architectural history New York has. “From the vandalism of Penn Station to the total ignorance of preserving anything that stood where old Yankee Stadium was, it just makes no sense,” he said. Being raised in Rego Park, he felt it was a genuine neighborhood with a feel of its own. “I never got the sense that a new business was only propped up for the sole purpose of making money. You knew the storeowners, loved the shops, and you played with all the kids you grew up with.”

As for Tower Diner, he said, “In its place, expensive condos with no sense of architectural aesthetics are being planned, but where are the stores, the diners, and the places people like to congregate? To add insult to injury, the old Trylon Theater won’t be saved either. It’s a holdover from the 1939 World’s Fair!”

Joshua Robert attributes this dilemma to political abuse. “I think our politicians do not care at all about what their constituents want. They deal in lies, and lies are a business. They deal in promises to those most likely to donate, rather than those most likely to vote, and if the public interest and their interest diverge, then it’s the public who loses,” he said. “We don’t need another faceless, soulless apartment building and yet another construction site. We don’t have the infrastructure to pack more people, but yet everyone seems to ignore that except for the residents left behind.”

“It feels like your religion can be sold to the highest bidder,” Loreena Lano, who is also concerned with an influx of people to an already overcrowded area, said. “There’s not enough schools, hospitals, infrastructure, and services. Even if they built above it and preserved the structures, it’s overdevelopment and all because money rules and all else suffers.”

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