Queens can learn from Manhattan how to landmark areas

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Several e−mails and the bulletin of the Historic Districts Council told of many inappropriate developments stopped in Manhattan this past year. The message to the outer boroughs is that if preservati­on−minded people can stop developers from destroying historic property in Manhattan, then it can be done in Queens. Many civic leaders have attended meetings sponsored by the preservati­on−minded HDC and Queens Civic Congress in Queens the past two years.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation told of its activities against the building of more New York University dorms in Greenwich Village and destroying historic buildings there. But an NYU dorm was approved for Long Island City, a mixed−use neighborhood. Some accomplishments cited were when St. Vincent’s Hospital agreed not to demolish nine buildings in the historic district and the NoHo Historic District was expanded.

Those of us who know Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village know of the quaint and historic buildings, magnets for tourists and one reason why tourists visit the city. We in Queens have to emulate Manhattan so we can preserve our historic areas and buildings, even if they are not historically designated yet.

The battle to preserve historic sites in lower Manhattan is not over because in 2009 NYU said it will release expansion plans, which are expected to add 100,000 square feet of space to their holdings, the equivalent of all of their property built in the past 42 years. At the same time, Columbia University is expanding to the north. We in Queens have to learn the techniques of the GVSHP because St. John’s University is continuously expanding. Then there is Queens College, set up as a school for the community, expanding with an on−site dorm, parking garage and elementary school.

Two big fights which the preservationists fought in Manhattan were the proposals of the new owners of the White House Hotel, the oldest existing lodging house on the Bowery, to build a taller building on the site and another owner who wanted to tear down an old historic building in West Chelsea. In these fights, the City Council and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D−Manhattan) supported the preservationists and historic designation of these buildings, preserving them.

In Queens, newly elected Council member Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) supports the Ridgewood Historic District. The Broadway−Flushing Homeowners Association is working to make its neighborhood a historic landmarks district.

Those interested in historic preservation can contact Andrew Berman at the GVSHP and the MDC at 212−475−9585.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: We have a new president and Congress. We also have a bad economic situation. Last year, Congress voted money which was supposed to help solve the foreclosure problem. About $350 billion was given to banks, but it just disappeared and houses are still being foreclosed.

The problem with those mortgages was that some people were gullible by thinking they could buy a house and pay for a mortgage or were just lied to so their mortgage went up, which they could not afford. Did any mortgages brokers go to jail?

Why can’t the money Congress appropriated help people? Of course, all that crooked mortgage money caused prices to go up and now prices have come down to more realistic prices and the property is worth less? We have been living beyond our means — what was called conspicuous consumption years ago. There is nothing wrong with wanting a good life, but we as a nation have been unrealistic, the envy of the world and hated by some for our wasteful way of life.

I remember thinking last year that there were too many luxury apartments and big houses being built in Manhattan and Queens. Now there are vacant houses in many neighborhoods. Imagine, vacant houses in the middle−class neighborhoods of Queens, some not even finished.

The housing problem is like the buying of large SUVs, which racked up bad gas mileage so people stopped buying them when the price of gas hit $4 a gallon. We have always lived on cheap gasoline. Well, if you are watching what OPEC is now doing, then you realize that in a year or two the price of gasoline will go up again, so we better practice conservation and also find alternate sources of renewable energy quickly, which can help create jobs.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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