Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's What's For Dinner in Forest Hills

Though I'm a little wary of the second image that appears on the left-hand side of the screen, this place looks like a fun addition to Metropolitan Ave. And anyone who's had Argentine grill knows it rocks if it's done right.

http://www.pampasargentinas.net/

It's opening in November. For those keeping score, that's three new southern FoHi steakhouses in 2007 (PJ's and Uncle Joe's). Four if you count the new Sally Dee's Chophouse section within Sarabella.

And can any of them beat the hanger steak at Danny Brown's? We'll see, but what soup dumplings are to Flushing, it seems beef is to Forest Hills.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Eat Alone

Took the boy to Just Like Mother's a few nights ago. While it's not the most cheery place in the world, the food is good and yes, it is similar to what your mother used to cook.

We got the chicken cutlet with french fries and carrots. It was definitely freshly breaded as you could see the egg and bread crumbs bunched up at certain parts. It's hard to explain and I'm not a food writer. Anyway, it was right out of the skillet and very good. Also, the cheeseburger delux was solid at $7.95 (fries, cole slaw, pickle).

But the interesting part was I saw a lot of people eating alone. Over half the restaurant. And when you think about it, it makes sense. It's home cooking for people who don't want to cook at home.

I love eating alone. I never go to lunch with people at work and there's no better way to read the newspaper.

With that in mind comes the return of the poll of the week. What is Forest Hills best restaurant in which to eat alone? Obviously, we're not talking about anything festive like Cabana. But when your companion is the Post, where are you sitting down for a nice quiet hour?

Park It Here November 29th

Important Note: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot//html/pr2007/pr07_98.shtml


Workshops to Address Neighborhood ParkingMeetings in 7 neighborhoods to help review possible congestion pricing impacts

The City Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced public workshops in seven neighborhoods to address residents' concerns about the possible impact of congestion pricing on neighborhood parking. The workshops will be the basis for DOT to potentially develop plans to address any “park and ride” activity if such impacts result from congestion pricing in areas near subway stations and transit hubs outside the charging zone.

The study areas, which display a range of parking-related conditions, were selected based on their representative characteristics and their ability to inform parking strategies that can be applied citywide.

Neighborhood Parking Workshop Schedule - First Round:
Upper East Side, Manhattan: November 19

Atlantic/4th/Flatbush Avenues Area, Brooklyn: November 27
Central Harlem, Manhattan: November 28
Forest Hills, Queens: November 29
Long Island City, Queens: November TBD

I'm psyched they included Forest Hills, realizing it's the only neighborhood on the list that has both express subway and LIRR. You bet I'm going to this, as should you. Hopefully we'll get residents-only parking permit out of it, as most cities already have.

Congestion Pricing will definitely increase the already-high number of park and riders. The plan doesn't make sense for anyone outside Manhattan and I'm curious to see how they'll sell it.

Let the Guessing Game Begin

$14 / 3000ft² - PRIME FOREST HILLS AAA RESTAURANT SPACE FIRST TIME IN 20 YEARS

Reply to:
hous-463469828@craigslist.org

Date: 2007-10-29, 8:13PM EDT

This Prime AAA location is on market for first time in 20 years. This is one of best restaurant space in queens. This is AAA Franchise Location at well below market rent for the next 6 1/2 years. This location on the market today would be In the $20K per month range. Rent for this location with 6 1/2 years $14K per month with 4% increase yearly. This is a once in 20/30 year location. Any kind of top notch, well operated restaurant/bar would do $40K and up in sales per week. $325,000. gets you in with the existing lease. NO BROKERS PLEASE. YOU MUST HAVE RESTAURANT(s) IN OPERATION NOW. WHEN E-MAILING BACK PLEASE HAVE FULL NAME, PHONE, E-MAIL, BEST TIME OF CONTACT AND NAME OF RETSAURANT(S) AND LOCATION(S) OR THERE WILL BE NO REPLY ON OUR PART. THANK YOU AND DON'T OVER LOOK THIS OPPORTUNITY.


Location: Forest Hills


If this space is as good as the ad says and it last came up 20 years ago, you gotta figure Austin Street or 70th Road. So what opened twenty years ago? And what can we do to get that great neighborhood place we're all clammoring for?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trader Joe's - Better Than Advertised


By now, most people have given their accounts of the new Trader Joe's and I don't have much to add - except it's the best retail store to ever come to Forest Hills. It's bigger than the ones on Long Island. It's brighter (even on a rain-soaked Saturday morning) thanks to huge windows that line the front of the store. And it was so nice to be greeted with a smile rather than a rude gum-smacking Key Food cashier eating a bag of barbecue potato chips as she's taking cell phone calls. We're emancipated from the rude and inconsiderate oppessors that were Forest Hills supermarkets. And I hope they all go under.

Let's talk about the crowds for a minute. I've read some people write that it was 'crazy.' I went at 10:45am on Saturday, got a spot right out front and there was NO line to check out. I can't remember the last time I didn't have to wait to check out of a supermarket. Yes there were some old people pushing around empty carts seeing what the fuss is about, but they'll go back to Stop and Shop this week.

But getting back to people saying Trader Joe's was a madhouse this weekend. You think that was crazy? Have you been to the one at Union Square - it's like going to Disneyland. But instead of getting on a ride, you're buying meatless meatballs. Whole Foods with its 30-minute waits and color-coded checkout system is like being in Gattaca (jokes courtesy of my wife). For an opening Saturday of the most hyped supermarket ever to open in Queens, it was nothing. At worst, it was as busy as any other supermarket on a Saturday.

Let's review:




Crazy:


Not Crazy:


Union Square TJ's photo courtesy of Max Kalehhoff.
Forest Hills TJ's Saturday 10:45am courtesy of Forest Hills 72.

Much more to come regarding opening weekend.








Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Want Candy

A reminder that if you see this sign. . .





. . .that means you can bring your kid into that store and get some candy on Halloween. It also means that they participate with the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce. So take note of all the signs you see and try to give them your business.

To find out more about the chamber and its members please visit www.shopforesthills.com

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Young and the Carless

For those without cars looking to get to Trader Joe's, don't over think it. Just take car service. Meet at Ascan/Austin every Saturday at 8:45am or whatever and get two or three of you to defray cost. Get Four Ones to pick you up an hour later. Start a forum on Queens Central to coordinate. It's only $6 each way anyway according to Four Ones.

No parking problems down there, no looking for a space back home. Hell, I'd be into it and I have a car.

Opening Day

It's finally here. There's not much to add except for welcome. Let's take a look at some of today's winners and losers:

Winners:
  • The residents of Forest Hills. No question, this is a big day for the town - up there with the openings of Nick's Pizza and Barnes and Noble.
  • 7-11 on Metropolitan. Looking surprisingly desolate since it opened early in summer, you gotta expect a lot of Big Gulp thirsty people on their way to/from TJ's.
  • Danny Brown. Gutsy choice of location pays off. This Saturday night mainstay will definitely see an increased weekday crowd as people from all over make the trek for Thai-spiced cashews.
  • Parkside Players. This little known theatre troupe is right in the heart of the Metropolitan Ave. rebirth and hopefully will work in some tie-ins with Trader Joe's - whose clientele will certainly be in the theatre's demographic.
  • Trader Joe's. Place will be packed from 9 to 9, 7 days a week.

Losers:

  • Natural. I'll still go there, but probably not 3 times a week as I currently do. Still the best fruit in the city and gourmet items you can't get anywhere else (including TJ's). Location is superior to Trader Joe's so store will be fine. Hopefully prices will come down just a little, but there is a price to pay for fresh items so if it doesn't it doesn't.
  • Stop and Shop. Trade Fair for necessities and TJ's when we feel like getting the car. Gotta imagine that thought process will be popular in Forest Hills. Large families from Central Queens will still flock here so store will be fine.
  • Amish Market. Takes a huge hit with TJ's opening a few blocks away from Atlas Park. The $3 parking charge is already tough for a supermarket to overcome and now that TJ's is closer for a lot of people, don't know if this place can make it. For some reason, I never felt that they were that into it from the beginning and the staff was unusually disinterested from day one.

Welcome to Forest Hills Trader Joe's. See you Sunday morning!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Opening Party 8:30


A.M that is. From today's Forest Hills Ledger:




The opening date of gourmet grocer Trader Joe's is no longer a mystery. The California-based firm announced last Thursday that it would fling open its doors and cut a ceremonial lei at 8:30 a.m. Friday to welcome customers into the store at 90-30 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills.

http://www.timesledger.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18955739&BRD=2676&PAG=461&dept_id=551069&rfi=6

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's a Win(dsor) Win(dsor) Situation!






Another 'You Heard It Here First' moment for Forest Hills 72 readers. Looking to give Johnny Rocket's a run for its money (money meaning about $14 for a burger/fries/drink/tip), Cheeburger is coming to Forest Hills (according to the real estate ad posted by Cord Meyer).

I've never heard of this place, but I remember the skit they stole the name from. Is it sit down service or fast food? Is it like In N Out burger (which is awesome)?

A lot of you wanted a notch-above fast food burger place in various 'what we need in Forest Hills' comments here and on Queens Central. I know Manhattan's Burgers and Cupcakes is always packed. As is 5 Brothers. Forest Hills is the first Cheeburger in NYC -if you don't count JFK terminal 6.


Since all the other neighboring tenants in the ad are within a block of the Windsor (the building being advertised) expect Cheeburger to be around there - probably on Queens Blvd, but that's a guess.

And. . . . . .Official


Monday, October 22, 2007

Hillary Clinton At Forest Hills

Everyone wants to see the new Laytner's.

It's Getting Laytner's




Official "Coming Soon Winter 2007" signage has also been put up in the Laytner's window. Actually, it's more than 'coming soon' signage - it's a window-filled introduction to the Forest Hills store. It obviously shows work. Compare that, to, say, First Central Savings which reused an old 'coming soon to your neighborhood' piece of cardboard. It makes a difference.

To me, this is as much of a boost as TJ's. To go from 'Savvy' to Laytner's which is opening its first outer borough store is a big deal - and something we've all been asking for. And it has seemed to temporarily shut up the defeatist anonymous commenters whose best response to this has been "It's no Williams Sonoma". Well, it's no Savvy either.

A few doors down from Natural/Nick's/Q Bistro/Bonelle, this is the perfect location for something like this. I think it's going to do great business and attract other retailers like it. Good luck Laytner's and TJ's. Welcome to the new Forest Hills.

Happy Anniversary


Happy Anniversary to Sakura Ya, the Japanese store at Ascan/Austin - another great addition to the neighborhood.

Good Friday


Several reports of the Trader Joe's "Opening October 26th" sign at Metropolitan/Woodhaven reported here and elsewhere.


Countdown clock has been reset to 9am October 26th.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Forest Hills in 3 Blogs or Less

Remember that couple that were considering Forest Hills? Bad news for fellow Golden Girls fans:

http://apartmenthuntingrocksucks.blogspot.com/2007/10/bklyn.html
As posted earlier, I had a sobering conversation with the Brooklyn agent about what we can and cannot afford, and we'll have the opportunity to see some things on Saturday. I'm really looking forward to it, since I think Matt and I might enjoy brooklyn more than queens.

But who needs 'em? http://goteamallen.blogspot.com/2007/10/nabe.html

here are all the things i love about forest hills:
1. strolling down austin street
1a. specifically, nick's pizza. apparently nick is part of the patsy grimaldi family. so, the pizza is just as good as grimaldis (yes, brooklyn doubters, trust me), BUT the interior has a classy decor and the people that work there are ridiculously nice. grimaldis - heavy mob influence & terrible service + bottled root beer & mets fans = nick's pizza. too good to be true.
2. giant trees. i told somebody the other day that our neighborhood reminded me of the avenues, with the clusters of huge trees sloping up the street. it took me a few hours to realize how asinine this statement is, considering our neighborhood is called forest hills. pretty much explains it all.

Yeah, screw 'em! http://nyc.metblogs.com/archives/2007/10/take_a_walk_in.phtml

I'm really sorry I will miss this Walking Tour of Forest Hills, that tries to look at that community as Jane might have. I lived a lot of years there and it's an interesting place in that it combines an organic, Apartment based area with good public transit with a more planned "garden suburb" in a way that works pretty well. The apartments and denser housing provide a backbone and diversity to the area that makes for a nice shopping area and great transit access, while the Garden's offer isolation and natural beauty. Transit access to 71st Ave is very good.

The Horrible Idea That Just Won't Die

A flurry of Congestion Pricing stories in the past week - mostly spurred by the 'Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free' report detailing better ways of reducing traffic than rerouting it to transportation hubs in the other boroughs - like Forest Hills.

Of course, the report was pretty much dismissed out of hand because it didn't support the goal of the Congestion Pricing. No it's not reducing traffic. The Keep NYC proposal does do that focusing on double parked cars and taxis cruising/cutting off three lanes and stopping to pick up fares.

The real goal of Congestion Pricing is to give Bloomberg a watershed achievement - Watergate to Woodward/Bernstein. . .9/11 handling to Giuliani. . .Fireside Chats to FDR. . .you know something concrete. Trans fat ban just isn't going to cut it. Also, Manhattanites love CP because it keeps people out of their country club.

The open-minded Manhattan-based StreetsBlog.com said that NYC would only get the federal money if Congestion Pricing and only Congestion Pricing were enacted - and thus the Keep NYC report shouldn't even be considered:

Fact Remains: No Congestion Pricing = No Federal Funds. What are you, my Dad trying to get me to do my homework? "Fact Remains: No algebra, no wiffle ball."

And why are we grovelling for federal funds and ruining neighborhoods without so much as a legally-mandated Environmental Impact Study? Isn't our health worth more than $350 million (mysteriously down from $550 a few months ago)? What if the feds promised us a billion if we cleaned up our homeless problem by Friday - what would Streetsblog advocate doing?

Irony - Streetsblog is advertising the Forest Hills Jane Jacobs tour on its sidebar. Good thing it's before Congestion Pricing is enacted or you might as well tour the White Plains Metro North Parking Lot.

Read this Daily News piece on what people OUTSIDE of Manhattan think of this shitty idea called Congestion Pricing.

http://www.nydailynews.com/boroughs/bronx/2007/10/15/2007-10-15_mayors_congestion_plan_debated_in_riverd.html

Excerpts:

Brodsky echoed criticisms that surrounding boroughs would become parking lots for suburbanites seeking to avoid the toll, and that the plan unfairly targets the middle class.

"This is a tax directed at middle-income people in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens and it's not fair ... and it simply won't work," he said.

Wylde pointed to dips in congestion and pollution in London and Stockholm.

"Traffic congestion is destroying our economy," she said, citing a $13 billion-a-year cost.

The residents also weighed in, including Lori Copeland, of Kingsbridge, who said the plan would be cost-prohibitive for parents taking their children to Manhattan schools.

Olivia Koppell called congestion pricing "un-American in its philosophy."

"We should address congestion and pollution in all areas of the city, not just a special zone," she said. "If we do this, we might as well put up a fence [around Manhattan] and say, 'This is just for the rich and famous.'"

By the way that $13 billion cost for traffic Wylde keeps throwing out there was estimated at $4 billion by the same group in 1998 even though traffic has remained the same so don't trust those estimates. There is traffic EVERYWHERE in the city - as much going east on the Grand Central as there is going west every morning. Targeting a small (and by far richest) slice of it is downright asinine.

Congestion Pricing will result in even more people using Forest Hills as a Park n' Ride. Make it citywide or improve mass transit first. Don't tell me you don't have the money. Or that you need to ruin our neighborhoods to grovel for the Federal Funds. You just spent $45 MILLION dollars to spruce up the Central Park Police Precinct - which probably shouldn't even have one. I walk in both Central Park and Flushing Meadows often. Guess which one I feel safer in?

Can't Design Worth A Crap, But He Loves Kids

The New York Times did a small piece on the Young Chefs Academy across from the Irish Cottage. Yes it's in a Baharastani monstrosity, but we went a few weeks ago with the boy to check it out.

It's probably better for kids starting at about 4, but you can do a Mommy and Me class starting at 3. There are two kitchens and it's very colorful inside.

I'll give Baharstani credit for bringing this to Forest Hills. Though I wish he put just a little more thought into the design of the building and kept a little of the townhouse feel (it's like a medical clinic - no charm at all), the buisness he's recruited are kid-friendly (this place, the music school downstairs, and Gymboree next door) and kids/needing space is why a lot of people move to Forest Hills. And a NY Times article on NYC's only Young Chefs Academy in Forest Hills won't exactly bring the neighborhood down.

Excerpt:

Young Chefs Academy, a chain of more than 150 franchised cooking schools for children in the United States and Canada, has opened its first branch in New York City, at 108-10 72nd Avenue (Austin Street) in Forest Hills, Queens. The school’s quarters are bright and well equipped. Classes, divided by age, are taught appropriate tasks by at least two instructors and often, an assistant. On a weekday afternoon last week the 7- to 11-year-olds made yeast-raised pretzels and a berry compote to go with them. More than a dozen 4- to 6-year-olds were busy decorating cookies and making punch.

Links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/17/dining/17stuff.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

http://www.youngchefsacademy.com/

You Tube commercial for Austin (TX) Convention Center featuring Young Chef's Academy

Other NY Locations:

Commack (Long Island), NY

Forest Hills, NY

Massapequa, NY

Merrick, NY

Monroe/Cornwall, NY

Mt Sinai, NY

Poughkeepsie, NY

Rye, NY

Scarsdale, NY

Smith Town, NY

Syracuse, NY

Thornwood, NY

Leslie Asks

Follow up correspondence from Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Brown. (10:29am update - I should clarify, this was attached to the list of answers she sent already - but I wanted to separate it as its own post.)

OK…Now Here’s A Question For You All…

How many stores/businesses in Forest Hills contact you by e-mail to let you know about new merchandise, sales events, and special merchandise?

It is my goal for the future to get Forest Hills stores to take advantage of the powerful tool that is the internet. Please let the stores you do business with know that you’d like to hear from them online! How ‘bout it?

Send to: feedback@shopforesthills.com or just leave in the comments - or obviously you can go directly to the store that you want to correspond with.

I'll start: Leslie, I don't get emails from various stores but would love the circulars from Trade Fair to be sent electronically, as it's more environmently friendly and it doesn't clutter up my building's vestibule. Also, I've heard a lot about Concrete Jungle, but had a misunderstanding about what it offered. I'd love a 'New Business Monthly' that highlights new businesses in our town and what they offer. Thanks!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

But Can They Fix the Carburetor On My '83 Cutlass?

Expect community outcry to die down a bit over the famed Koptiev Center at Metropolitan and Continental. You'll remember the site was slapped with not one, not two, but three stop work orders/disapprovals due to constant complaining by the surrounding neighbors, who were apparently really attached to that decrepit auto repair place. You'll remember Barbara Stuchinski's welcoming quote:

"There's something fishy. The little darlings might be trying to sneak something in," said Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association, referring to the developer.

Well it turns out what Koptiev was trying to sneak past Barbara was a Starbucks. According to today's New York Daily News. . .

A developer has stirred up plans with Starbucks for a fifth shop in the zip code - and 19th in Queens - as part of a two-story complex opening next spring at 71st and Metropolitan Aves.

Barring a negotiation breakdown, the coffee giant would join a well-known bank and a real estate office on the 12,000-square-foot piece of land, formerly occupied by an auto repair shop, said developer David Koptiev.


Previous coverage:

http://foresthills72.blogspot.com/2007/09/i-said-coming-soon-damnit.html

http://foresthills72.blogspot.com/2007/09/return-of-cold-war.html

http://foresthills72.blogspot.com/2007/08/fight-comrade.html

Bonus: The Daily News article goes on to confirm that another Starbucks will be coming to the Queens Blvd/Union Turnpike area (the QU in AQUA) near Cobblestones. It was first reported on queenscentral.com. I guess that's what the Ibex construction is for.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Concrete Jungle? Nice. . .gotta go!




The news that Austin Street is turning into a Concrete Jungle has taken literal meaning as a skateboard/tattoo culture (whatever that means) shop called Concrete Jungle has opened next to Corfu.

Of course, no sooner did they open their doors that other tenants took the next broken elevator down and got the hell out.

Queens Central and Curbed seem to think it's a great day for Forest Hills. And what's not to love about seeing some one getting pierced while chowing on souvlaki.
What about you? How long do you give a place like this?
(pictures above from Dakota Realty 4 You.)
10/18/07 Update: The verdict is in. 95% are reporting good vibes. Skateboards and Tattoo Culture for all!

Back to Basics


What with everything going on, I think we all lost track of what really separates Forest Hills from the rest of NYC - the sneakers. Here's a really good deal on the black and whites - a Forest Hills 72 classic look.

Ask Leslie Post Game Part 1


I accidentally took down a post about other possible hotel sites in Forest Hills while trying to update it. It was truly an accident - but since I was getting bashed in the comments, it probably looks deliberate. It wasn't. But the comments are lost - sorry.

Anyway, the post just discussed the Staples/Duane Reade site as a possibility (which Heskel Elias just purchased a few days ago) since the Ann Taylor loft site was shot down.

Feel free to continue commenting here. Sorry about that. Here is the post. . .
Once again, a big thank you to Leslie Brown, President of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, for devoting more time than she promised to answer your questions.

Now let's have a post-game wrap up. Let's start with the news that Heskel has abandoned the New York Times-reported hotel idea on the Ann Taylor loft site, but "The developer is looking into other Forest Hills sites for a hotel."

Here's a press release dated 10/12/07 that I didn't think much of, but after Leslie's info that Heskel is scouting other locations might be interesting.

FOREST HILLS, NY-Federal Realty Investment Trust has sold two retail buildings here to a group of investors led by local owner Heskel Elias for $32 million. One of the Queens assets is a 17,000-sf building that houses Duane Reade and Staples; the other, 22,500-sf property is home to Gap, as well as additional stores.

Now I thought Heskel already owned these stores, but turns out he has a business interest in the Federal Realty Investment Trust that sold them to him. So I guess he just bought out the piece he didn't own.
I don't know anything about commercial real estate - so it's possible Heskel just bought the entire stake in these properties as an investment. Or the more interesting (and probably totally incorrect) scenario is that Federal Realty Investment - who's properties are almost all boring chains like Gap and Staples, didn't have the stomach to get into the hotel business so Heskel bought them out.

That Duane Reade/Staples place would be absolutely perfect for the hotel. That block has so much unmet potential and the location is the most accessible in Forest Hills. And there are high rises all over that part of town (Lane Towers/Windsor/Cord Meyer Offices) so I don't think zoning would be a problem. And there's even a taxi stand on the corner.

Plus, the inside is already hotel-like with an escalator taking you to Staples - which would make a great lobby.

Here's the problem - Parking. Most hotels have a circular driveway to drop off luggage/passengers and a huge parking lot underground. You'd have to build that before the hotel and how would you close off Continental for six months to build that thing - if it could even get built at all.

As far as the Gap building - if Heskel wanted a hotel down there, he would have done the Ann Taylor Loft space so I don't think that's going to happen.

Actually, I don't think anything's going to happen and Heskel bought these properties just as a normal course of business. Which is fine, because I'm not sold on the hotel idea in the first place. I just don't want to risk a Marriott turning into a Fairfield Inn.

Stop Improving This Neighborhood!



That run down building next to the new Trader Joe's we wrote about a few weeks back? The top floor is going to be a Sleepy's Mattress showroom. It was first reported by Alex Christodoulides of the Forest Hills Ledger and then confirmed in the Queenscentral.com forums. Okay, so a Sleepy's is disappointing - but it's the second floor and there are still three more big spaces to be occupied on the first floor.

More disappointing is the stop work order issued in response to a caller complaining about the lack of permits posted at the site. Who the hell would complain about this piece of shit building next to the fleabag Haven Motel being renovated by the team that brought us Trader Joe's?

I understand the Dept. of Buildings has to follow the law so you can't blame them. But jeez, get a hobby. Most of these get resolved pretty quickly ("okay, how much this time") so this is probably just a bump in the road.
photo courtesy of www.RKF.com

Post-Game Ask Leslie Part 2


Laytner's. Here's an upscale store - yes it's upscale - that is venturing off the isle of Manhattan straight onto Austin Street. It's a huge gain for Austin East, which reclaims some of its 'more upscale than Austin West' rep.

Other news, Austin West welcomes Via Veneto which is next to Children's Place. It replaces 'Sparkle' and it upsets those of us dying to see the Sparkle vs GemStory cheap accessory steel cage death match. Via Veneto, which I think has stores in the uncool parts of Brooklyn, is welcome and actually looks like it has decent stuff.

But back to Laytner's. For those of us forever complaining about weekenders or trashy stores (including myself) you have to go and support this place. Don't go to Bed Bath and Beyond or Home Depot. Go here. Go to Spin City. Go to Emilio Ski Shop. Go to Nick's. Go to Cheese of the World. Go to Natural. Go to Sakura Ya. Go to the places that you want more of. We have more than you think.

Because for all the ridiculous bashing that Forest Hills gets on this board, Laytner's would never open a store on Steinway Street.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You Asked, Leslie Answered


Big thanks to Leslie Brown, President of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce for her time devoted to 'Ask Leslie' (even the name of the segment was her idea). Very cool of her to reach out to us and address everything from the hotel to those mysterious Laytner's bags.

I asked for three or four answers, she answered all of them. And the ones she couldn't answer, she pointed the questioner to someone who could. Great work Leslie - hope to do it again in November. And now, the floor is Leslie's. . .

Hey Forest Hills-
It’s great to hear from you! I hope that my Ask Leslie answers shine a little light on the topics you are wondering about. Here goes…

Q: I know a number of long-time retailers no longer maintain their membership in the Chamber due to their disappointment with marketing efforts, harrassing efforts by Chamber staff to collect dues and additional fees for holiday lights and the like. The older retailers are the anchors of the Forest Hills retail shopping district and are important to its stability and identity. What are you doing to bring them back into the fold and what are you doing to attract new members?


A: Did you know that the Forest Hills Chamber Of Commerce has about 200 members and counting! We reach out to everyone, we hand distribute info and invite merchants to join in all of the programs we support. We have a hard working, dedicated, and may I say, under paid staff and volunteers that help run the Chamber of Commerce. And by the way, we’ll never ask for dues in person. Membership dues are paid by mail or now online.
And to address another concern about membership dues, they have nothing to do with holiday lights. We have many members that are not on Austin Street/Continental Ave. The Holiday Lighting Program has always been funded by merchants and landlords located directly on Austin Street and Continental Ave.

In response to your question about marketing, the chamber is responsible for bringing well over 120,000 shoppers into Forest Hills from our special outdoor events. This month, members and non-members alike, can promote themselves at the Halloween Be Safe Trick-Or-Treat Here Program that attracts thousands of families to Austin Street and Continental Ave. We get lots of press and positive publicity and support for and from these events.

We are proud to have Forest Hills Hospital/North Shore LIJ, Sam Ash, HSBC Bank, Citibank, Sovereign Bank, Muss Development Co., Cord Meyer Development Co., Novo 64, Vital Dent, Verizon, restaurants such as PJ’S Steakhouse, 5 Burro Café, Sarabella Bistro and Grille to name some of our loyal supporters of our marketing opportunities. The shopforesthills website, and the Guide To Shop Forest Hills Booklet are two successful marketing tools we have developed. Look for the booklet this weekend at Culture Fest in Battery Park at the Queens Tourism table.
We work closely with Newsday Newspapers, The Times Ledger Newspapers, The Queens Economic Development Corp, Discover Queens Tourism, Discover Queens Restaurant Weeks to name some of the organizations we do marketing with. And although the chamber works with very limited funds for marketing, and often our members have limited budgets, we are out there working to keep the name Forest Hills on people’s lips.

I consider each and every business an important asset to the Forest Hills business community. I invite any past members to contact us directly to see all the things that we do for the community and to have an open dialogue about any of their suggestions.

Q: Do Chamber staff attend Chambers of Commerce meetings of other neighborhoods or network with them? For example, to exchange ideas?

A: Yes, I and the chamber board members attend many functions and meetings to network our chamber with other organizations.

Q: Would the CC consider making an effort to have only 1 way traffic, with 2 lanes, head down Austin Street with only 1 side of parking allowed? Also, landscaping Austin Street to add greenery and trees would very much improve the area.

A: A DOT study was done several years ago and this idea was part of the study. It was not accepted as something viable at the time. Perhaps Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz or Council Woman Melinda Katz’s office could offer you more details.
Austin Street can use some additional trees, point well taken!

Q: Am I the only one who thinks commercial rents on Austin Street are outrageous?

A: Only landlords can control the rents they request of their commercial rent tenants…it’s free enterprise. Commercial rents are not regulated the way residential rents are. Years ago I lobbied for commercial rent control with The Small Business Congress and other organizations and we never got anywhere.

Q: Can the Chamber do anything to address the 'Quality of Life' issues that are bringing down Austin Street - specifically the growing throngs of kids loitering at the LIRR station and increasing grafitti in the area?

A: Quality of life issues are just that and need to be addressed with the 112th Police Precinct. The 112th Precinct has community council meetings and meets every month. It is open to the public. The chamber works closely with the Community Affairs Division.

Q: Are you able to enforce or create architectural standards that would allow the Tudor look to permeate Austin St. as opposed to some of the abominations that are currently there?

A: No we are not able to enforce architectural standards, this is a community board issue and the department of buildings has codes, regulations and permits that must be obtained or followed. If a builder is within these guidelines they are legal. You can reach out to your legislators to see what can be done to maintain the integrity of the area.

Q: What is the role of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and to what extent to you have any say in having the street vendors removed from our neighborhood?

A: The Forest Hills Chamber is working with Borough Hall and Council Woman Melinda Katz to re-enact the legislation that kept street vendors off our streets. The chamber maintains that street vendors are suitable for some places and not for other places. Forest Hills is not suitable for street food vendors.

Q: Any plans to get new holiday decorations?

A: I am waiting to approve new holiday lights and to see if they will be financially feasible for this year.

Q: I read an article in the NY Times that says the LIRR is planning oncutting down all the trees along the LIRR tracks in Forest Hills.That's just going to make Austin Street and the area ugly and nosy. Does the Chamber of Commerce know anything about that and are theyplanning to fight against it?

A: The LIRR has been clearing trees along it’s tracks in Queens and Long Island to prevent wet leaves from wearing down wheels on their trains and interrupting service. This is all I know about the situation.

Q: Does the Chamber of Commerce actively go after potential tenants and if so, what can the residents do to help landlords get better stores on Austin Street? We want a Panera! We want a Chipolte!

A: The Forest Hills Chamber Of Commerce is not a real estate developer nor are we real estate brokers, so no we do not recruit commercial rent tenants. I’ll pass on your tasty suggestions for Panera and Chipotle!

Q: Has there been any news on the Ann Taylor Loft Hotel front?

A: The proposed hotel project will not go forward on the Ann Taylor Loft site at this time. The developer is looking into other Forest Hills sites for a hotel.

Q: Are there any new stores coming to Austin Street that you know of? Is there anything on the cusp of happening we can help push through?

A: The newest store that will be opening on Austin Street is Laytner’s. This retailer carries home furnishings, linens, and gifts that are upscale in nature. They have two stores in Manhattan (Upper West Side and on the East Side). They have been in business over 40 years.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Have a Nice Weekend

Enjoy the beautiful Fall weather (finally) this weekend. Maybe my shoes and pants will be dry from yesterday's wade through The River Ascan. Please visit www.queenscentral.com for all your Forest Hills needs.

Coming Monday - the Ask Leslie Answers!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Soon Open 24 Hours


I'd like a little extra security with my Big Mac please.

NY Sun

The New York Sun has an excellent piece on Forest Hills Gardens, which goes into a little deeper detail than most real estate puff pieces. It's written by Francis Morrone who's leading a Forest Hills tour on Saturday October 20th. Highly recommended reading and tour.

To step from throbbing Continental Avenue with its McDonald's and Duane Reade and Staples ( operating from nicely designed commercial buildings meant to complement the Gardens' design), through the portal of the L.I.R.R. viaduct, thence via Station Square into the verdant wonderland of the Gardens proper has got to be as rich an architectural experience as New York offers.

I do wonder why Station Square's storefronts aren't more successful than they are, and why, for example, a first-rate restaurant can't be there, or a café that spills tables onto the plaza. It's true that mere steps away bustles greater Forest Hills with its intensity of commerce and high-rise buildings resembling parts of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Still, the Station Square setting beguiles, and I'd be obliged if any reader could tell me why the space appears to have stagnated commercially.

Greater Forest Hills offers many dining options, but I always return to Nick's, a bright, sleekly designed, and altogether fabulous pizzeria on Ascan Avenue, just off Austin and just steps outside the Gardens.

Interesting questions about why Station Square businesses are ghost towns compared to Austin Street ones. I can give my answer. Dry cleaners? I have several much closer. Jade? Not with a two-year old, and in our rare nights out, my wife and I aren't going to chance mediocrity. We're going with Danny Brown's or La Tavernetta. Dirty Pierre's? Don't drink. Bartinis? My windows aren't tinted enough (how the hell did this place get in the Gardens anyway). Sarah Jones Realty? They're snobs. Did I miss anything?

Anyway, the story asks for comments so feel free to represent http://www.nysun.com/article/64366

Monday, October 8, 2007

Better Laytner's Than Never



There's something very interesting brewing at the old Savvy space (thanks for the emailed tip). The Austin East store next to Austin House Diner was up for rent for a long time and the 'Space Available' sign has been taken down. In its place? A window filled with various colored bags from Laytners - the upscale home decor store. The bags are laid out up front - definitely strategically placed evenly apart, all upright with nothing in them. They currently have two locations - one on the Upper West Side and the other on the Upper East Side. Think a nicer Bed Bath and Beyond.

These bags are the only information we have - we have a yet-unanswered email into Laytner's. If it's true and they're coming here - it's a home run.

The clammoring for upscale retail has been deafening on the comments board (something I'm sure Leslie Brown will address during our Ask Leslie segment) and this would hit the mark. It's definitely a store for Forest Hills residents - not weekenders - and would FINALLY give us a reason to go to Austin Street on a Saturday.

Much more to come once we get official word, but if it's true it's a great day for Forest Hills. A store opening on Austin Street that caters to its residents. Well, at least ones not in the market for leopard-print leather jackets.

Big Changes at Austin Street Park

Beginning today, AQUA's Austin Street Playground is undergoing a nice renovation - the fencing is already up. According to the head gardener, the playground will be getting new benches, repaved basketball/handball courts, and a new fountain.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Introducing. . .Ask Leslie

(This is the top post all week. New posts are below)

Once in a great while a medium comes along that lets people communicate in ways never thought possible. Orson Wells tells us on the radio that little green men are invading Earth. Jack Kennedy defeats Dick Nixon in the nation's first televised debate. And now the Internet brings Forest Hills, Ask Leslie.

Leslie is Leslie Brown, President and Executive Director of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and she has been cool enough to agree to participate in a new Forest Hills 72 monthly segment called Ask Leslie - where YOU submit questions (which I will forward unedited) that she will answer.

We've all had suggestions/questions/complaints/praise for our Chamber of Commerce. Lord knows we all have opinions on incoming and outgoing tenants on Austin St. We've even had thoughts of how we'd do things differently. Well here's your chance to be heard by the top banana. Every month Leslie will pick between 3 and 5 questions and give you an inside look at how the Chamber operates.

Questions can be submitted via email to foresthillsblog@gmail.com or just leave a comment - I will send to Ms. Brown on Tuesday morning. Learn more about the Chamber and its members at http://www.shopforesthills.com/. Well, what are you waiting for - go ahead and Ask Leslie!

Trick Or Treat

Continuing Leslie Brown's media barnstorming tour, The Forest Hills Ledger has a nice story about The Chamber of Commerce's effort to involve Austin Street businesses in Halloween festivities. Most Forest Hills parents know where to get the real good stuff like entire Snickers bars (a certain street deep in the Gardens which I'm not revealing), but for less adventurous types, the Chamber's program alerts kids and parents to what Austin St. stores are giving out candy. No word on how long you'll have to wait for the wrong candy at Martha's Bakery.

Read the story here: Times Ledger Story

Read about the Program here: http://www.shopforesthills.com/

Ask Leslie questions here: foresthillsblog@gmail.com

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Congrats to Steve Queens Central

Steve from QueensCentral.com was on the Brian Leher public access tv show "Perspectives" a few days ago talking about his blog and Forest Hills in general. Check it out here: Bodegas in the Bronx and Bloggers in Queens, plus another edition of Election 2.0

He's a great spokesman for FoHi - great job Steve!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Blog Highlights Today:

  • A short fight about the word 'zipperhead.' I thought it was about tinted-windowed, club music blaring, sunglasses wearing, cologne/hair-gelled Yankee fans. It's actually an Asian insult.
  • There's an anonymous poster who'd rather be in Manhattan or San Francisco and he'll take every opportunity to tell us.
  • I'm told that I'm getting killed on some nerd board because I confused Game Workshop with Game Stop.
  • 29 more days till meatless chicken nuggets. . .

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ice Baby

That storefront next to T-Mobile and Pasta Del Giorno has been rented and an application for an illuminated sign has been approved. The wording?

Ice

Anyone have any ideas on what that could be? It's a pretty big sign (75 square feet) so it looks like the main sign for the place (i.e. not a convenience store that sells ice). Could anyone be so lame in 2007 as to call their bar Ice? Might as well call it Jade. Oh it's taken. Then Diva. Oh, that's taken. Spectrym. Oh, right. Okay, I guess it's Ice.


Street Fair Yesterday

It was fine.

Links from Yesterday's Hit and Run

You know how you say to yourself "it's only a matter of time before that guy kills someone" everytime a 21 year-old Mercedes driving person zooms down Austin St. Well it happened.

Bail set at $75000 for alleged driver in fatal DUI hit-and-run

$75000 bail for man accused of fatal DWI hit-run

City girl dies New York hit-and-run

DRUNK KILLS WOMAN IN E. VILLAGE HIT-RUN: COPS

Crappy Store For Sale


Don't know if this means the business is gone, but the Games Workshop store is up for rent. Anything is better than a video game store and the mere fact that the lessee wants out is a good sign.

It's a great location about two doors down from 5 Burros.

10/2/07 Correction: It's not video games, it's tabletop fantasy games. Don't know how I could have made that mistake.