Nov. 24, By Christian Murray
The Clock Tower has a new owner and its future looks grim.
Queens Plaza Park Development, an unidentified institutional investor, bought the tower for $30 million earlier this month, according to city records.
The property, located at 29-27 Queens Plaza North, had been bought by Criterion Group, a residential development company, for $15 million in May.
No plans for development have been filed with the building department at this stage.
The Real Deal was first to report the story.
Since the May purchase, several residents have banded together in an attempt to landmark the building, which was originally built in 1927. It had been the tallest building in Queens until 1990 when it was surpassed by the Citibank building.
The Clock Tower building has largely been empty for the past 25 years– although it was recently used by an arts group.
Meanwhile, on a site adjoining the Clock Tower (29-37 41st Avenue), Queens Plaza Park Development bought it for $46.3 million.
The 29-37 41st Street site has a buildable square footage of roughly 205,000 square feet and comes with approvals for a 30-story residential tower with 242 units, according to the Real Deal.
Nov. 24, By Christian Murray
The owners and employees of Blue Streak Wines & Spirits, located at 47-20 Center Blvd, are just weeks away from opening their wine bar two doors down.
“We are looking to open right before Christmas,” said Rob Bralow, a part owner in the new venture who has been an employee at Blue Streak for nearly five years.
Bralow, who is one of four partners and has been in charge of buying wine at Blue Streak, will be the face of the new bar. The establishment has been named BLVD Wine Bar and will carry at least 40 different wines when it opens—which Bralow is paring down from a list of about 200.
The wine bar aims to offer residents a laid-back atmosphere, while offering mid-priced to high-end wines from across the globe. Bralow said that he—and others with a similar background– will be at the bar to explain the attributes of each individual wine if needed.
The establishment is about 1,500 sq feet with a long bar that can seat about 20 people. There are several tables and chairs that can cater to another 30 people or more. Additionally, there is a back room with space that can be used for events/classes.
The wine bar also has a back patio space, adjacent to Shi, with room for two tables and about eight seats. The owners have yet to get the approvals needed to open it.
BLVD will also offer four wines by the keg. In summer, Bralow anticipates that the wine bar will offer two whites, a rosè and a red. In winter, it will be two whites and two dark reds.
The wine-by-the-keg concept has been around for about five years, Bralow said, and it is a way to offer high quality wines at an affordable price. Bralow said that many wineries are now selling by the keg.
The establishment will offer four craft beers by the bottle as well as champagne and champagne cocktails. In terms of food, there will be artisanal cheeses, fine charcuterie, nuts and flat bread. However, over time it will offer items such as mini sandwiches and chopped salads.
When Blue Streak opened in 2007, it was before Shi and Skinny’s Cantina had arrived.
“It was like a dirt road in front the store, with maybe three buildings that were up. It was a ghost town. And now the area has just exploded,” Bralow said.
When Bralow started at Blue Streak, he said the store offered about 150 wines by the bottle. With the influx of new residents, the store now offers well over 700 different wines.
Stephen Spiller, who opened Blue Streak after spending a significant portion of his career as an attorney and accountant, is the sole owner of Blue Streak. This time he is opening BLVD with Bralow, James Lee (another long-time employee at the wine shop), and a restauranteur who is frequent customer of the wine shop.
Lee has worked at Blue Streak for the past six years after finding a summer job there as a stock boy during his summer break from college. From there he stayed long term. ”I have to admit I am very lucky to be involved in the world of wine,” he said in a statement.
A long-time customer of the store has been Jim Pileski, who co-owners The Burger Garage restaurant on Jackson Avenue with his brother. “When we told Jim that we were thinking about opening the wine bar he said he wanted to be part of it,” Bralow recalls.
Pileski brings restaurant experience to BLVD, while the others wine.
Meanwhile, Bralow was exposed to the wine industry when he worked in public relations. He started a wine blog at around the same time. When his four-year stint in public relations abruptly ended when he was laid off, he applied for a position at Blue Streak.
He said at the wine bar he has got to know many residents.
The wine bar, Bralow said, will be similar. “It will be a place where we know the neighborhood and the neighborhood knows us.”
Nov. 23. By Christian Murray
A group of tire and rim thieves have a taste for fancy wheels.
On Tuesday, thieves struck three cars in Hunters Point—an Audi, BMW and Porsche–striping their tires and rims off and leaving their vehicles on blocks.
The police have caught a suspect—after discovering the tires of the Porsche in his car. The Porsche’s tires were removed while it was parked at 5-22 46th Road., according to police. However, the police did not provide much in the way of details since the alleged perpetrator’s records have been sealed.
The BMW was parked on 51st Avenue (btwn. Vernon Blvd and 5th Street) across the street from LIC Living. A reader sent in a photo (see above) of the vehicle on blocks.
The Audi was parked on 46th Road between Vernon Blvd and 5th Street, according to a reader who sent in the photo.
Nov. 21, By Christian Murray
The list of Vernon Boulevard restaurants that will be offering sidewalk seating next summer continues to grow.
Madera, a Cuban restaurant located at 47-29 Vernon Blvd, is the latest establishment to apply for an unenclosed sidewalk café. It is looking to place four tables and 9 seats in front of the restaurant.
The sidewalk café would take up 5 foot 3 inches in room, leaving 9 feet 9 inches clear for pedestrians, according to a representative of Madera, who spoke at a Community Board 2 subcommittee meeting,
The wait staff would not need to use the sidewalk to serve guests. Instead they would walk through the entrance area and deliver the food from there.
Should Madera place a table on top of a metal cellar door(s), it is required to secure it underneath—usually by pieces of wood.
Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee recommended that the full board approve the application when it meets for its monthly meeting on Dec. 4.
Pat O’Brien, who is the chairman of the city Services Committee, said the establishment has not run into any problems. “No complaints, clean as a whistle,” O’Brien said.
Nov. 20, Associated Press with Christian Murray
Barack Obama’s 94-year-old step grandmother Sara Obama paid a special visit to the children of PS/IS 78Q Tuesday.
Sara Obama, who was married to the president’s late grandfather and lives in Kenya, is in the United States to help develop a better healthcare and education system for her western Kenyan Village where the president’s father was raised and is buried.
The event at PS/IS 78 was kept hush-hush to ensure that it didn’t turn into a media event.
“This was the only school in New York that she went to [while here],” PS/IS 78 Principal Louis Pavone said. “I think she is going to one in Washington.”
Nov. 20, By Christian Murray
A new commanding officer has been appointed to the 108 Police Precinct, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City.
Captain John Travaglia, who has spent a significant portion of his career in Queens, will be taking over the command following the departure of Capt. Brian Hennessy.
This will be Travaglia’s first time as a commanding officer. He was most recently the executive officer at the 114th Precinct that covers Astoria. Prior to that, he was an executive officer of the 104th Precinct that covers Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood.
Travaglia takes the top job at a time when there has been an uptick in burglaries and other property-related crime in the precinct. However, Astoria too has seen a jump in burglaries and other property-related crime.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he has scheduled a meeting with Travaglia and has heard good things about him. “We look forward to meeting him as we all work to keep the neighborhood safe.”
There is no shortage of residents looking for a hearty meal these days and one organization is looking to provide the hungry with some relief this winter.
City Harvest, a food rescue organization, will host its second annual 24-Hour Repackathon tomorrow in Long Island City, with the mission of delivering food to the hungry during the holiday season.
The event will take place at 55-02 2nd Street where hundreds of volunteers will aim to package more than 225,000 pounds of donated food—which will then be distributed to families and shelters across the city.
The volunteers will be given 24-hours to pack the food and will work in 3-hour shifts.
The event started last year as a way for City Harvest to package the donated food and increase awareness of poverty. Last year, 215,000 pounds of food was packaged in 24 hours.
The food will be delivered to more than 500 soup kitchens and food pantries, and will be enough to feed more than 2,100 families.
Samantha Park, the communications manager at City Harvest, said that the majority of the end recipients are from working families.
“There is usually at least one person in the family working full time,” she said. “With the expensive cost of living and other expenses, it is really difficult.”
Park said that one-in-five New Yorkers now live in poverty.
Park said that City Harvest tries to focus on gathering fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables. The organization also receives a large supply of canned/sealed food, such as peanut butter and tuna fish, which has a long shelf life.
“This food is very nutritious,” she said.
Park said that the group has enough volunteers for tomorrow’s event.
Nov. 19, By Michael Florio
The president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association has abruptly left the organization.
Dominic Stiller, who became president of the civic association in January 2013, alerted the organization of his resignation last Monday with a letter to the board.
Stiller’s resignation was based on differing views toward bicycles.
The organization recently held a vote where its members agreed to oppose the placement of bicycle corrals in the Dutch Kills neighborhood if they led to the removal of parking spaces.
Earlier this year, Stiller called for a bicycle corral to be placed in front of his restaurant–Dutch Kills Centraal–located at 38-40 29th Street. His proposal, which he presented to full Community Board 1 in October, would have created room for up to eight bicycles–as well as two planters– but would have removed one parking space.
Community Board 1 voted against the proposal, stating that Stiller didn’t have enough community support.
Stiller said it was not Community Board 1’s denial of his bicycle corral that led him to resign. Instead, it was the vote held by the Dutch Kills Civic Association to kill the concept.
Stiller said the association is more concerned about keeping all the street spaces exclusively for car owners. In his letter he called this view “short sighted and unsustainable,” claiming that it is not working for the greater good.
“There is a recent awareness in the city and country about the importance of providing livable streets… and encouraging alternative forms of green commuting and transport,” Stiller wrote in his departure letter.
“I wish the Dutch Kills Civic had an interest and awareness and open mind to lead or at least support this cultural change locally; it doesn’t,” he wrote.
The new president Thea Romano said the Dutch Kills Civic Association is not opposed to bicycles and noted that the organization has supported bicycle lanes in the past. However, she said, the members are interested in preserving parking spaces.
“We have been fighting for parking for many years,” Romano said. “Whenever there is new construction project, we always request that there is a parking plan put in place.”
“There is a very limited amount of parking space in this community,” Romano said. Therefore, “when he came forward [in April] and said he wanted to take a space away, the board let him know that we weren’t with him.”
Stiller’s term as president was up on December 31st, but he had initially planned on maintaining a position on the board. Now, he said, he will find other ways to improve Dutch Kills.
“Thank you for working with me as president of the DKCA, I hope my resignation from the presidency and the board provides certain awareness to my commitment to alternative progressive methods of urban quality of life improvements. As Dutch Kills moves into the 21st century, these changes will be inevitable,” Stiller concluded the letter.
Romano claims that the association’s vote was not against Stiller’s bicycle corral but to preserve parking. However, she believes Stiller took the matter too personally.
“A lot of the stuff that he has been putting out there is just not true. He is putting such an awful light on the Dutch Kills Civic Association,” she said. “He took it very personally, that’s what it comes down too. One hundred percent.”
Nov. 18, By Christian Murray
The business body count is continuing to mount on Vernon Blvd—as two commercial tenants are getting ready to leave.
The Institute for Face & Body Solutions and LIC Chiropractic will be moving out of 47-12 Vernon Blvd in upcoming months. The building is about to be sold and they have been told that they should be prepared to leave.
The owner, who runs the beauty shop, said that she is a middle of negotiating a new space nearby. Meanwhile, Dr. Angelo Ippolito, the owner of LIC Chiropractic, has already found space on 47th Avenue, just around the corner.
The owner of the beauty shop said that the combined rent (of both the beauty shop and LIC Chiropractic) will most likely double to $9,000 per month.
The loss of the two businesses adds to the carnage on Vernon Blvd in the past 18 months—with the closure of Cranky’s Cafe/1682 French Louisiana, Communitea, Papo Fried Chicken, Mario’s Deli and the impending closure of the Chinese restaurant New City Kitchen Express.
“The rents are very high and it is very difficult for your typical business to make money,” said Rick Rosa, the managing director for Douglas Elliman’s Long Island City office. “Unless a business is filling a niche it can be very tough.”
Meanwhile, at 47-12 Vernon, two of the four apartments upstairs have already been vacated.