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.

Jones Surgical Co. storefront gone but not forgotten

Eighty years, four sets of owners, and numerous generations of supporters later, Jones Surgical Co. has decided to close its doors.

The iconic, long-standing mom-and-pop shop has been a staple in Forest Hills and the rest of Queens, providing its customers with all of their medical supply needs.
Rita Lieberman, who co-owns the business with her husband Michael, said that the closure came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as folks turning to online shopping.

“It became untenable during COVID for a variety of reasons,” Lieberman said. “Sometimes, people would call or come in, get as much information as they could, and order online. To be honest, we knew that it was coming down the pipes, it’s just that COVID sped up the process probably by five or more years. The price of rents, cost of goods, supply chain issues, and fighting Amazon and other big box stores made it come to a point where a little mom and pop couldn’t survive anymore.”

The interior of Jones Surgical Co.

Although residents can no longer admire the well-known green exterior on Metropolitan and Continental Avenues, the Liebermans are still operating Jones Surgical Co. on a wholesale basis to its established clients.

Lieberman acknowledged that the closure of Jones Surgical Co. has left a void in the community and even the borough, which prompted many residents to reach out.

Michael Perlman, a fifth generation Forest Hills resident, preservationist, and columnist with The Forest Hills Times was one of them.
Upon hearing about the closing of Jones Surgical Co., Perlman submitted a detailed proposal to the Liebermans, suggesting ways to preserve the shop’s exterior—which they agreed to.

“Certain community residents brought it to my attention, and people expressed interest in seeing the signage and other features preserved,” Perlman said. “Immediately, I felt like I was a man on a mission.”

In April, Perlman met with the Liebermans along with the co-founder of Noble Signs/NY Sign Museum, David Barnett, who would facilitate the preservation.
Perlman said it was important to get Jones Surgical Co. preserved because, much like the other mom-and-pops in the neighborhood—Eddie’s Sweet Shop, Knish Knosh, and Aigner Chocolates—Jones provided residents with an “extended family” and a story to tell.

“My goal is to preserve as many architecturally and culturally significant sights as possible, anything beautiful that has a story to tell. It’s a shame how many community cornerstones are closing nowadays, especially, and how many historical and picturesque buildings are being demolished or essentially altered,” he said.

“They build community, and it’s very important to take every measure possible to help and hopefully preserve and support mom-and-pop style businesses. It grants soul to our communities.”

He admired the mid-century ambience the location had to offer, with the indoor tin ceilings and art deco style exterior.

In fact, the bottom portion of the storefront’s columns had the manufacturer’s name on them, Jason Store Fronts, as well as the vintage telephone number.
Perlman has also sought out to preserve other Forest Hills community staples, including Tower Diner, which has already been demolished, and Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan Synagogue.

“I didn’t want to see another prime example of commercial archaeology ending up in the dumpster,” he said.

“From an artistic perspective and historical perspective, these things enrich us. Our history is irreplaceable, and we should feel inspired and take pride in our heritage.”
Barnett and his team executed the preservation of the shop’s exterior, and it is currently being worked on inside Noble Signs’ studio in East New York, Brooklyn.

The New York Sign Museum hopes to have a dedicated space and be open to the public by the end of 2022, but the studio space where the sign sits now is open to appointments for interested community members.

“I love the fact that the sign is preserved. I hope to be able to one day visit it and all the other things being preserved when that comes to fruition,” Lieberman said. “I look forward to taking my grandchildren to see it.”

Perlman is thankful that the signage and columns were able to be preserved, but he misses the actual business.

“I’m very determined to help the New York Sign Museum find a more permanent spot where so many more people can benefit simultaneously,” he said. “Our community and city is rich in history and architecture, and I’m tired of seeing these sites undergoing demolition and alterations.”

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 www.spidermanforesthills.com.” 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.

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Perlman: Yud Aleph Nissan celebrated at Borough Hall

By Michael Perlman

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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!”

Plaque program commemorates historic buildings

At a time when historic buildings are being demolished or altered, a new plaque program aims to spotlight architecturally and culturally significant buildings by explaining their history and distinctive architecture
It was founded by Rego-Forest Preservation Council with hopes that once property owners and residents are aware of a site’s unique characteristics and history, they will be maintained and preserved.
Forest Hills was named in 1906 by Cord Meyer Development Company, whereas Rego Park became official in 1923 thanks to the Real Good Construction Company. Early to mid-20th century buildings in the neighborhoods featured unique craftsmanship in styles ranging from Tudor and Colonial to Art Deco.
Academy Engraving, which is responsible for engraving the Tony Award statues, is working with the council to produce the bronze plaques.
“I feel it is extremely important to add a marker or plaque that explains the architectural significance and history of historic buildings,” said Academy Engraving founder and president Frank DiBella. “It definitely helps to stress the importance of preservation with the property owner and neighbors.”
DiBella grew up in Gravesend admiring and respecting the historic homes and buildings in his neighborhood.
“It was always exciting to discover a home built in the late 1700s and realize how many families came and went,” he said. “My favorite was Lady Moody’s home at 27 Gravesend Neck Road, which was famous in the neighborhood. My friends and I were proud it was in our own backyard.
“We also had the Wyckoff Bennett Homestead, a very interesting place built before the Revolutionary War,” DiBella added.
Dorothy Schreiber is board president of Hawthorne Court at 72-34 Austin Street, a Georgian Colonial residence built in 1931. It features a court entranceway, large decorative balcony, and dentil cornices, but the ornamental shutters are long-gone.
“It will help illuminate the historical presence of certain buildings and hopefully induce building owners to maintain and restore the unique village-like ambiance of our area, since presently Austin Street looks more like a shopping mall than a quaint village,” said Schreiber of the program. “A plaque will bring something special to our building.”
Kenney Vairo manages the six-story Forest Hills Towers at 71-50 Austin Street and its sister building, the four-story Edna Jean at 71-58 Austin Street, which is named for his mother.
“My grandfather Edward P. Kenney developed the buildings on Austin Street,” said Vairo. “He also owned three stores down the street where Chipotle is located, and a well-known bar and restaurant called Kenney’s. When he retired, my mother took over the real estate part at 23.”
Coming home to Sutton Hall at 109-14 Ascan Avenue offers a grand and charming experience. Built in 1931 by El-Walt Realty Corp, it is a foremost example of urban planning with English Manor design, evidenced by Medieval wood doors with stained glass, cupola, and half-timber and brick facade.
It was designed by Benjamin Braunstein, a Constantinople native and award-winning architect who was trained at the Hebrew Technical Institute and at the Beaux Arts Society.
He also designed several nearby buildings, including Valeria Arms, The Chatham, Marion Court, Remo Hall, Jupiter Court, Holland House, Tilden Arms, and The Wakefield.
“It is very important and delightful to preserve the history of our beautiful community,” said Leslie Lowry, a 40-year resident. “The plaques will show how proud and meaningful our homes are to us. When I enter my lobby, it makes me feel like I am entering an old castle, and my guests are always impressed.”

To acquire a plaque for your building, contact [email protected]

Customers pay one last visit to Tower Diner

It was the end of an era on Sunday.
Tower Diner, a neighborhood cornerstone since 1993 that is housed in a historic Colonial bank building, was forced to shutter. The Queens Boulevard building is currently slated for demolition to make way for a new housing development.
The distinctive white clock tower has been an unofficial landmark in the neighborhood for generations.
“It’s an unofficial landmark,” said Regina Judith Faighes. “I grew up on 99th Street, and when my dad gave people directions to our home, he would tell them to look for the building with the clock tower.”
“I had a long wait for my table, and normally that would upset me,” she said of her final visit Sunday. “But this afternoon I was happy for the delay, because it gave me more time to experience the diner, with its warm and inviting classic decor.”
Longtime patrons had one last meal and took the chance to reminisce with staff, many of whom are regarded as extended family.
“The food was consistently fresh and delicious and the service was always excellent,” said Jane Firkser-Brody. “It is very disheartening to see yet another Forest Hills venue being destroyed, along with the charm and uniqueness of our awesome neighborhood.”
Tower Diner was opened by Jimmy Gatanas and his wife Anthi. Their sons Spiro and John worked in the business and later acquired it. It was the only diner of its kind in the vicinity, and became a go-to spot for dates, family outings, and birthday and graduation celebrations, as well as business meetings.
Tower Diner enticed the palates of notables such as Al Roker, Ti-Hua Chang, and Alonzo Mourning.
For the Gatanas family, who immigrated from Greece, Tower Diner exemplified the American Dream. They employed approximately 40 people, and gave back to the community with fundraisers benefiting St. Jude’s, sponsored PS 175 and Forest Hills High School sports teams, and donated Thanksgiving turkeys to local schools.
David Giwner moved from Manhattan in 2009, and called it his go-to diner in Forest Hills.
“I’ve never had a bad meal,” he said. “Losing Tower Diner is like losing a family member and a staple of our once great community. This is another piece of NYC history gone.”
Kevin Sanichara and his mother said the staff felt like a second family.
“I’ve been coming here almost every week for the past 20 years,” he said. “I will miss the ambiance and aesthetic of the old clock tower and the compass on the ceiling.”
For Matthew Semble, Tower Diner represents a big part of his life with his late wife Kathy Fogel.
“After Kathy’s passing, the employees and management reached out to me and my son Alex, and sent many meals during shiva and beyond,” he said. “There aren’t many businesses that had such a positive impact on our community.”
In addition to enjoying one last meal, patrons had the chance to sign a petition opposing the demolition, which will also include several small businesses and the Trylon Theater, which is currently home to Ohr Natan synagogue.
“I’m going to miss the diner, and especially the tower for which it was named,” said Michael Hennessy. “Hopefully the community will fight any further neighborhood destruction.”
“I strongly oppose the redevelopment plans for Tower Diner and the Trylon Theater,” added Jeffrey Witt. “We do not need nor want the type of the development being proposed. The charm and beauty that attracted people to live here is being destroyed.”

Vintage postcards celebrate Thanksgivings past

In 1873, the first American postcard was designed. Today, a significant number of postcards from the late 19th and early 20th century exist in an excellent state.
Deltiology is the collection and study of postcards. Deltiologists find vintage postcards on eBay, at estate sales, and postcard shows. Themes include hometowns, hobbies, and holidays. This week, I’m sharing some highlights from my personal collection.
Most Thanksgiving postcards are colorful lithographs. A majority were created between 1898 and 1918 and are now collectible works of art.
Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (186 –1934) was one of the most prolific postcard artists of her era. One of her signed postcards features a pilgrim woman baking a pie in her kitchen and reads “Busy hands make a happy heart, May Health and Wealth their share impart.”
John Winsch of Stapleton, New York, was co-manager of Art Lithographic Publishing Company. He copyrighted his artist-signed greeting cards, which were often published in sets. He produced approximately 4,000 designs between 1910 and 1915, and was highly regarded for his Thanksgiving and Halloween postcards.
Other notable postcard producers included Alcan Moss Publishing Company of Manhattan, which produced the National Bird Series, and Whitney in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Celebrity Walk, A Forest Hills Mystery Partially Solved

Since 2015, a dedicated group of preservationists have been searching for long-vanished cement slabs featuring the handprints, footprints, and autographs of tennis and music stars that were once part of Celebrity Walk.
Celebrity Walk was located in front of Forest Hills Inn in Station Square. Before being converted to a co-op, the inn was the center of a classy social life, and Celebrity Walk was the local version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When searches of the tunnel-like Forest Hills Inn basement turned up no results and with no known photos, some people assumed it was just an urban legend.
But rumors circulated that a sidewalk reconstruction led to their relocation. Some people recalled seeing them placed in the inn’s basement in a potentially concealed tunnel for safekeeping, possibly in the late 1970’s.
After intense networking, over a year ago this columnist discovered five Celebrity Walk slabs in a garage at a home near Puritan Avenue and Greenway North. The slabs were left behind by a previous homeowner.
Last Friday, Forest Hills Stadium concert manager Mike Luba and Mitch Cohen, president of the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, arrived at the home with a crew. They took the fragile concrete slabs to Forest Hills Stadium, where they will be restored and displayed.
The rescued slabs feature comedian Buddy Hackett, trumpeter Herb Alpert, actor Trini Lopez, director, Woody Allen, and Australian tennis player John Newcombe.
There are more slabs to be discovered, and the goal is to find the full collection. A few years ago, another homeowner donated a slab to the West Side Tennis Club featuring the signatures and handprints of tennis players Jack Kramer, Bill Talbert, and Manolo Santana.
“It’s a work in progress and I want to be part of it,” said crew member Wilson Brito. “We’ll get there. We’ll bring all the history back to where it belongs, and once we maintain that we can pass it on to the next generation and let them take care of it.”
Celebrity Walk originated in the mid-1960s and was the brainchild of Mark Fleischman, owner of the famed Studio 54 nightclub. From May 1965 to 1968, he also co-owned the 300-room Forest Hills Inn and adjoining apartments
“I loved coming up with press-generating ideas, including the creation of Celebrity Walk in front of the hotel’s sidewalk cafe,” he said. “Marketing seemed to come easily to me.”
At the time, the inn included cocktail lounges, a formal dining room known as the Windsor Room, sidewalk cafe, the Tea Garden, and four social rooms accommodating 400 guests.
“The Inn was a venerable hotel that looked like an English country manor,” said Fleischman. “It was a real coup when we got Frank Sinatra to put his handprints into a block of wet cement when he headlined the Forest Hills Music Festival at the nearby tennis stadium.
“As soon as other celebrities heard about Sinatra’s handprints and signature, they agreed to be included in our Celebrity Walk when they performed,” he added.
“The Forest Hills Inn has Frank Sinatra’s and Barbra Streisand’s handprints imbedded on their sidewalk pavement, but it had to get them the hard way,” read an article from 1965 in the Long Island Star-Journal. “Both stars agreed to make the imprint, but refused to do it at the sidewalk. So wet cement was sent to both stars, the imprints made, and the hardened blocks were then inserted in the pavement.”
West Side Tennis Club is always looking for items from the club’s long and storied history.
“These past few years, some wonderful items have been donated to the club, both solicited and unsolicited,” read a statement from the club.

If you have historic WSTC/Forest Hills items, email [email protected]

CB6 considers demo of Trylon, Tower Diner

For years, preservationists have been fighting to save the 1939 World’s Fair-inspired Trylon Theater and Tower Diner and its distinctive clock tower on Queens Boulevard.
Last Wednesday, Community Board 6’s Land Use Committee held a public meeting and hearing, a first step to determine whether to rezone the triangular block for a 15-story condo proposed by developer Trylon LLC/RJ Capital Holdings.
All but one attendee expressed their opposition to rezoning and demolition of the two buildings.
On Wednesday, Community Board 6 will hold a general meeting, when the committee will provide its recommendation to the full board.
A petition opposing the development launched by Rego Park resident Michael Conigliaro has garnered 3,704 signatures.
“I have seen many changes in this neighborhood, some worse than others, but this proposed change is not just disturbing,” said Carol Hagerty, who has lived near the site on 99th Street for over 40 years, “it is devastating.
“It will block all the sunlight and will not blend in with the architecture and feel of this area,” she added. “What’s worse is that no accommodations are in place to preserve whatever is of historic, architectural, and social value on that block.”
The Tower Diner, which is housed in a former bank, has been in business for approximately 30 years.
“It is a neighborhood landmark in much the same way that Ridgewood Savings Bank is in Forest Hills,” she said. “The same can be said about the Trylon Theater.”
Phyllis Zimmerman argued there is value in preserving a neighborhood’s beauty and character.
“Without that, you could live anywhere,” she said. “Is there no value to the look, feel and character of our neighborhoods? Does anyone in this city ever say no to real estate developers?”
Zimmerman also expressed concerns about how a new residential building would affect parking and put more strain on schools and hospitals.
“These are the crucial things that need to be considered,” she said.
Jacob Chimino, who shops at nearly all of the small businesses included in the development site, testified at the hearing.
“We are opposed to these icons coming down,” he said. “This is part of our community.”
Joanne Davis lives near Tower Diner and passes it on her way home.
“I pass one high-rise and boxy store after another with no discernible landmarks,” she said. “Suddenly. a small white tower asserts itself upward into the skyline and I know that I am almost home.”
The Trylon Theater is currently home to the Ohr Natan synagogue, which has over 1,000 congregants, mostly Bukharian Jews in a close-knit community.
The synagogue offers services, English classes, food for 480 families, and activities benefiting the youth and seniors.
“We the undersigned would like to ask CB6 to deny the application to allow a developer to build a high-rise and demolish a functioning synagogue and many businesses around the property,” several families who attend the synagogue wrote in a statement to CB6.

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