Oct. 30, By Christian Murray
Demolition of the five-story building that was once at the heart of the 5 Pointz graffiti Mecca began earlier this week and is expected to be gone in about three weeks, according to building owner Jerry Wolkoff.
Wolkoff said that the final stage will begin in about two weeks when he starts demolishing the Jackson Avenue section–which once housed businesses such as local bar The Shannon Pot.
“All the buildings should be down by the middle of December,” Wolkoff said. “Then it will be a matter of cleaning up the site and getting ready to start building early next year.”
The demolition represents the end of a pitched battle between Wolkoff and the graffiti artists, who were given permission in the mid 1990s to transform a beaten up warehouse into an aerosol canvas. The relationship soured in 2012, however, when Wolkoff announced that he wanted to develop the site.
Wolkoff, who said he has had security guards and cameras at the location since demolition began, said the process has taken place without incident. “Most people who have come to the site have come to take pictures—not cause any trouble. Most have been very respectful.”
Wolkoff plans to build 1,000 apartment units contained in two towers—with one tower being 47 stories and the other 41 stories.
He said most people have supported his decision to develop the property. “About 99% of the people said ‘you gave them the place to work and it is your building,’” Wolkoff said.
The artists fought to save the 80-year-old building and filed a lawsuit claiming that their artwork was protected by the Visual Artists Rights Act. The lawsuit is still pending.
Wolkoff said that he likes the artists and street art. He said that there will be room for about 20 art studios when he has completed his development and he will place their artwork inside and outside the buildings.
Video by Hans von Rittern (go to 4:10 minutes in)
Oct. 29, By Michael Florio
The Long Island City Halloween parade is likely to bigger than ever before.
This year’s ‘Halloween Trick-or-Treat March’ is expected to draw as many as 900 people to Vernon Blvd Friday, with more than 40 businesses participating.
The event, in its seventh year, begins at 4:15pm at Gantry Plaza State Park and goes up 48th Avenue. From there it snakes around 5th Street to 50th Avenue. It will then go up 50th Avenue before making a left turn on Vernon Blvd.
Last year, 650 people marched in the parade, with about 400 of them being kids, said Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, the owner of Manducatis Rustica and one of the event organizers. In the first year there were less than 50 children.
The number of businesses that are participating has doubled this year. “All the businesses in Long Island City are invited to participate,” Cerbone-Teoli said.
Businesses will be offering snacks, candy, photos with super heroes, movies and story readings.
Many of the restaurants are also offering dinner and drink specials, according to Cerbone-Teoli.
Cerbone-Teoli also added that residents from Jackson Heights and Sunnyside came to participate in the march last year.
“It’s great when members of other communities come out,” she said.
Citi Bike will be coming to Long Island City in the spring of 2015, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office.
Long Island City is likely to get 10 docking stations–which Van Bramer secured in 2012–although some of these sites may be up for review while others added, according to his office.
“I am thrilled that Citi Bike is expanding into Queens,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “I’ve been pushing to have bike share in Western Queens for years and now the dream has become a reality.:
The expansion into LIC is part of a city wide push to bring the bike share program to a more New Yorkers. The Citi Bike system is expected to have more than 700 docking stations by the end of 2017– twice the number as of today.
The expansion is being funded in part by $30 million from private investors Bikeshare Holdings LLC, which has acquired Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike.
Former MTA head Jay Walder will take over as CEO of Alta, according to the announcement.
LIC docking stations
- Center of 48th Avenue near Vernon Boulevard – This station will have 31 docks and will be located in a no-parking area of the street)
- Center of Vernon Boulevard near 50th Avenue (Vernon Mall) – This station will have 31 docks and will be located in a public park or plaza.
- North side of 45th Road near 11th Street (Murray Playground) – This station will have 27 docks and will be located on the sidewalk.
- South side of 46th Avenue near Jackson Avenue – This station will have 23 docks and will be located in a no-parking area of the street.
- South side of 44th Drive near Jackson Avenue – This station will have 35 docks and will be located on private property (pending)
- West side of 21st Street near 43rd Avenue – This station will have 23 docks and will be located on the sidewalk.
- West side of 21st Street near Queens Plaza North – This station will have 31 docks and will be located on the sidewalk.
- South side of Queens Plaza North near Crescent Street – This station will have 31 docks and will be located on the sidewalk.
- East side of 31st Street near Thomson Avenue – This station will have 27 docks and will be located in a no-parking area of the street.
- West side of 2nd Street near 54th Avenue (Hunters Point Ferry Terminal) – This station will have 31 docks and will be located on private property (pending)
Two local residents approached Community Board 1 last week to notify them of their application to have the Clock Tower landmarked.
Michael Hall and Matthew Chrislip asked the community board for its support in their quest to get 29-27 Queens Plaza North, better known as the Clock Tower, designated as a landmark.
Hall said that an application had been sent to the Landmarks Preservation Commission last spring, asking the agency to declare the Clock Tower a landmark.
Hall stated that the LPC responded to the request, stating that it will take a close look at the building. He then asked the community board to send a letter of support to the LPC.
Queens architect Morrell Smith designed the Clock Tower, which was originally built for the Bank of Manhattan in 1927. At the time it was the tallest building in Queens, a title which it held until 1990 when it was overtaken by 1 Court Square, which became known as the Citicorp building.
The Clock Tower building has largely been empty for the past 25 years and has most recently been used by art groups.
“It sits at the foot of Queens Plaza overlooking a high-traffic corridor that is currently undergoing massive development,” Hall said.
If it were designated a landmark, any proposed changes to the Clock Tower would have to be reviewed and approved by the LPC.
“Even today, as its visibility is diminished by commercial high-rises and hotel towers that continue to pop up all around it, the tower remains a significant local landmark,” Hall said. “The Clock Tower is widely admired among members of the Long Island City and Dutch Kills communities for its unique architectural contributions to the area.”
Hall said he is confident that the Clock Tower not only meets, but exceeds, the standards for evaluation as an individual landmark.
Criterion Group, a residential development company, purchased the clock tower in May.
Community Board 1 Chairman Vinicio Donato stated that the request will be reviewed by the board and that the Parks and Recreation committee will make a motion whether to support it not. The entire board will then vote, whether they should send the LPC a letter backing the Clock Tower as a landmark.
The beast is coming soon to LIC.
The Beast Next Door, a neighborhood café and bar located at 42-51 27th Street, is set to open in about a month.
It will be a café by day and a full bar by night, according to owner John Veenema.
The menu will consist of combination plates, which will include Italian cured meats and French cheeses–served with bread, slices of fruit and nuts. There will also be sandwiches, salads and pastries.
“We want to serve high quality food items,” Veenema said. “There will be no fried food served here.”
To drink, Veenema said he will have four beers on tap, which will consist of two light and two heavier beers.
He said that he is considering beer brewed by the Rockaway Brewing Company.
Veenema said he is in the final stage of opening the bar. He is currently hiring staff, ordering drinks, as well as purchasing supplies such as glasses.
He said there will be a grand opening event, perhaps with live music, but the details still have to be worked out.
Veenema, who has a background in visual arts, has gone to great length in designing the cafe/bar. Inside, hangs an old chandelier and placed alongside the walls are old church pews, which will be used as benches. Meanwhile, the tables are made out of salvaged pallets and even a wooden prison door.
The café/bar also features a raised area toward the back of the establishment, which will serve as a seating area at times and as an area for live music.
Along the back wall there is a woodcut Turkish design mural, which Veenema made himself.
“The bar will be elegant and have a romantic feel,” he said. “I want people to feel comfortable here, to have a conversation, and for people to get to know one another.”
The café/bar has room for about 74 people, and while there won’t be sidewalk seating there will be French-style doors, which will open up to the street.
“It will feel like you are outside on nice days,” Veenema said.
This is Veenema’s first bar, but he has experience in the industry as he previously worked at Block Star, a Manhattan bar that has since closed.
Veenema, who is originally from Canada, has lived in LIC for the past five years. Prior to that, he spent 15 years living in Manhattan.
Veenema said there is a great deal of interest in his establishment.
“I can’t go outside without people stopping me and asking me when will it open,” he said.
He added that his café/bar is in a section of Long Island City that is undergoing a great deal of development, yet still offers limited options for residents. He hopes to create a friendly environment where customers will come in and know one another.
“We want to be a place where residents can come and have a conversation,” he said. “It will be a place to come, hang out and relax.”
He knew he wanted to open his business in Long Island City and landed on this location once he was able to obtain the lease–as most property owners were looking to sell, not rent.
The sign caught the attention of students passing by who shouted: “Yes! Can’t wait for it to open.”
Oct. 27, By Michael Florio
Community Board 1 voted against the placement of a bicycle corral outside a bar/restaurant in Dutch Kills last Tuesday.
The proposal called for a corral– with room for eight bicycles–to be located outside Dutch Kills Centraal, a gastro pub situated at 38-40 29th Street. However, the corral, would result in the loss of a parking space.
Community Board 1 said its decision was largely based on the feedback it received from nearby residents. The board said it put the matter up for a vote by circulating voter cards in Dutch Kills buildings – as well at this month’s Dutch Kills Civic Association meeting.
Robert Piazza, who is the chairman of Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee, said that the majority of those residents who voted were against it. He said the vote was 90 for the corral and 116 against.
Therefore, he said, the transportation committee opposed to.
The full board heard the recommendation and 15 members decided to vote against it while 9 for it.
Dominic Stiller, the owner of Dutch Kills Centraal, was the leading advocate for the corral. He said that the board did not give him a fair chance to present his plan.
“There is a real backlash against bicyclists from those who are afraid of losing their parking spots,” he said. “They would rather see bicycles jammed up against the pedestrian sidewalk.”
Stiller questioned the transparency of the 116 vs 90 vote. He said that each vote–containing the resident’s name and address– should be made public. He said the community board excluded some valid votes from people who live in nearby neighborhoods.
“[CB1] arbitrarily threw out a lot of positive comments from people that work in the area and that’s unfair,” he said. “They live in other areas but work here and their votes should count.”
Furthermore, “They are not letting anyone see the results,” he said
However, Hartmann said that many voters wanted their information to be kept confidential. “I am not going to give out the names and addresses of the people who voted against him. I don’t think that’s fair,” she said.
Stiller also said that there were not enough CB1 board members at the meeting to ensure a proper vote– as there were only 23 out of the 50 members in attendance at the time of the vote.
Despite their being a lack of a quorum, a quorum is only required on votes concerning land use matters, said Lucille Hartmann, Community Board 1 district manager,
Jean Cawley, a member of the Dutch Kills Civic Association and Stiller’s wife, addressed the board stating that the bike coral would encourage bike riding, which is a healthy alternative to driving and decreases pollution.
“I want my community to be more livable,” she said.“Making bicycling easier, safer and more convenient will improve everyone’s quality of life.”
Vinicio Donato, Chairman of CB1, questioned Cawley if she believes bicyclists should have to follow the same traffic rules as automobiles, stating that from what he had witnessed “bicyclist have no regards for an automobile and do not follow traffic laws.”
Cawley said it would be up to the police to enforce traffic laws upon bicyclists, and added that saying no to everything bicycle related is not the answer.
One board member said that it was not fair to ask question about the actions of other riders.
After the meeting, Cawley wrote to the Transportation Commission Polly Trottenberg, Streetsblog reported, stating that “Queens CB1 is decidedly ‘anti-bike’” and that “I feel disenfranchised by their constant ‘no’ votes to anything that would increase or improve bicycling infrastructure and safety.”
Oct. 24, By Christian Murray
A kitchen and hardware store located at 47-17 5th Street is expected to open next month.
Ovidio Teja, the owner of Kitchen Plus More, is just waiting on Con Ed approval before he can open.
Taja, who has worked as the general manager at Food Cellar since it opened in 2008, said that he decided to open a kitchen/hardware store since so many grocery store customers would complain that there wasn’t such a store in Hunters Point.
The 2,500 square foot store will sell “anything you can image for the home,” Teja said, whether it be bed sheets or screwdrivers.
The store is currently packed with pots & pans, plumbing items, paint, ironing boards, kitchen appliances to glassware. He said that customers will also be able to get their keys cut at the store too.
He said that anything people can get at Home Depot they will be able to get at his store.
In addition, Urban Market, the gourmet store located at 2-14 50th Avenue, is expected to open during the first week of November, the general manager said today.
Oct. 23, By Christian Murray
Representatives of “I Love Kick Boxing LIC,” who aim to open a facility on the ground floor at 45-45 Center Boulevard, went before Community Board 2 last week seeking a “physical cultural establishment” permit as part of their quest to open in the first or second quarter next year.
New York City requires all health clubs, gyms or spas to obtain the permit in order to make sure that massage parlors or other undesirable establishments don’t open.
Frederick Becker, the attorney representing I Love Kick Boxing LIC, said the venue will focus primarily on physical fitness.
He said the 2,800-square foot facility would essentially be like “aerobics on steroids.”
Becker said the facility will be part of a well established franchise (see corporate website). There are branches throughout the US, including four in Queens.
The work outs, according to the corporate Facebook page, typically involve punching and kicking bags. The website said that participants learn techniques used by pro fighters like jabs, crosses, hooks, roundhouse kicks and front kicks, according to the corporate website. It also involves a series of exercises.
The facility would not be a venue where sparring or fights take place as there are no plans for a ring, according to Becker. Its focus is on fitness, conditioning and weight loss.
Becker said that the owner plans is to operate between 6 am and 10 pm (Mon-Friday) and 7am to 2 pm on weekends.
He said that the owner is working with the landlord and acoustic engineers to protect the residents from noise.
The facility will primarily provide classes—catering to groups of about 30 people. Becker said that each class is about 45-50 minutes long.
Communitea, the long-time coffee shop located at 47-02 Vernon Blvd, announced on Facebook Monday that it is closing.
The owners said that the coffee shop will be closing this Sunday since they had difficultly negotiating a new lease.
“We thank you for a wonderful decade of support and friendship. It has been our pleasure to be a part of this community and we are grateful for the opportunity to make so many amazing friends,” the owners wrote.