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City landmarks Ridgewood Theatre, PS 66

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After nearly two years of fighting, the Ridgewood Theatre has been designated a landmark by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, elating preservationists and elected officials.

The City Council will make the final vote on the designation later this year.

“The word describing my feelings is ‘elated,’” said Michael Perlman, chairman of Friends of the Ridgewood Theatre. “We are happy to have this appropriate designation for a beautiful and historical structure.”

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) thanked supporters of the two projects, which she said are important to preserve “not only for their elegance but for our future generations.”

Both spoke at a public session of the LPC in downtown Manhattan Tuesday.

Before the votes, the 11-person commission deliberated on the movie theater and Richmond Hill’s PS 66 in an entirely positive discussion that included words such as “elegant” and “historic.”

Paul Kerzner, president of the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp., called the designation “wonderful,” noting the theater is the only commercial building on Myrtle Avenue to earn a designation.

“It’s part of the process and we’re very happy that city Landmarks did this,” he said, referring to the nonprofit’s goal of landmarking 2,982 historic structures in Ridgewood. Kerzner said it was “premature” to discuss uses for the building, noting his group is currently working with the property owners to preserve the exterior.

The Ridgewood Theatre opened Dec. 23, 1916, and for years featured not only silent films but also Vaudeville acts. It closed in March 2008 and for a time was festooned with a banner advertising “Available for Retail.”

Originally it accommodated 2,500 people, but at closing it had a capacity of 1,950 with five screens.

Designed by Thomas White Lamb, the theater can be considered a treasury of architecture features. It is replete with orate decorations, geometric patterns, medallions, friezes, pilasters and other elegant features.

“Theaters are the ultimate public institutions which bridge the generations,” Perlman said.

PS 66, which opened in 1896 when it overlooked farmland, became the first elementary school in Queens to become a landmark.

The Victorian architectural features of the school include a bell tower that tolled to call nearby children to class.

The school has been named for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis because the late presidential First Lady showed a great interest in historic preservation and history.

A third Queens structure, the Queens General Court on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, was also proposed for landmark status Monday. A hearing will be held soon on why it should be preserved.

Jeremy Walsh contributed to this article.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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