March 3, 2016 By Michael Florio and Jackie Strawbridge
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said Thursday that he has requested that the City landmark the former Elks Lodge on 44th Drive, following a petition from local residents to save the building from demolition.
The three-story building, which has unique exterior detailing, sits at 21-42 44th Drive. It was formerly owned by the Sheet Metal Workers’ union and once served as an Elks Lodge, according to Forgotten New York.
“The Elks Lodge building is an important and distinctive part of the LIC community, and it deserves to stand in our neighborhood for years to come,” Van Bramer said.
His statement follows a petition from the newly formed Court Square Civic Association to save the property from development, which has been looming over the past several months.
After purchasing the property late last year, Adam Westreich of Alwest Equities told the LIC Post that his company was working with Planet Partners to develop both 21-42 44th Drive and the lot next door as luxury condos.
It is unclear where development plans stand now; the property was purchased once again in early February, according to City documents, although names listed on the buyer’s forms appear to have ties to Planet Partners. Neither company could be reached for comment as of press time.
Orestes Gonzales of the Court Square Civic Association said the petition was launched in the hopes of staving off demolition. If the demolition can be delayed it will give the Civic Association more time to come up with a feasible plan to save the building, he added.
“We are hoping to negotiate with the developers to see if we can convince them not to demolish it,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez believes the building has the potential to serve the neighborhood as a community center, which could offer daycare, classes, theater, space for art galleries and a venue for community meetings.
The Civic Association’s petition has garnered more than 160 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
Civic Association president Amadeo Plaza said he was pleasantly surprised to hear of the Councilman’s landmarking efforts.
“It’s great news to have Van Bramer supporting this cause,” he said. “It is always good to have the support of local politicians when you are trying to get something done.”
Gonzalez, who lives just one block away from the Elks Lodge, said the building has a special meaning to longtime Long Island City residents.
“It is a jewel of a building that needs to be saved,” Gonzalez said. “It is part of the Long Island City lure for generations.”
He also asserted that building luxury condos on this property would not serve the community well.
“The influx of developments in the neighborhood has transformed LIC to a ‘bedroom community,’” Gonzalez said. “People can’t afford to live in Manhattan so they rent here and do most of their activities in Manhattan.”
However, he added, action should be taken swiftly.
“As soon as developers get wind of the mounting pressure from the community, they will try to bulldoze it as soon as possible,” he said.