Friday, December 28, 2007

The Elephant In the Room


Top: Eastern Parkway Brooklyn via Brownstoner.

Bottom: Queens Blvd. via Forest Hills 72

What are we going to do with Queens Blvd in 2008?

Flatbush Ave. is receiving a $15 million grant from the City for beautification and design. Here's how the November 3, 2007 Brooklyn Paper describes the project:

By early spring, construction will begin on the Theater for a New Audience near BAM, and on the $15-million city-funded beautification of Flatbush Avenue, a gritty thoroughfare that Chan dubbed an “iconic boulevard.”

And as you can see, Eastern Parkway which almost the size of QB, has beautiful medians that separate its shoulders from the main artery. And that's what I would do.

One thing QB does have is size. At it's widest point, it spans 270 feet. That's right. To cross Queens Blvd, you have to walk about the length of a football field at some places (like the Yellowstone intersection).

But with 16 lanes (16!) at some points, can't we widen the medians? Can't someone from DOT figure out how to live with, say, 12 lanes? Or is everyone too busy trying to figure out how to put more bicycle lanes on Ganvesoort Place?

What we need is a buffer to separate the main artery from the shoulder lane. It's like that by the Jewish Center and it works great. Trees all along the median. That's what we need - not metal gates to block people from getting killed. Because all the metal in the world isn't going to stop people from walking against the light.

We need to make Queens Blvd a nicer street. It's not going to take $15 million. Just some trees and wider medians at the shoulders. I would love to leave Queens Blvd nicer than how I found it. As always, your thoughts are welcome.
Update: If you want to help, please see http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/org/queensblvd/

All UJ's All The Time

More UJ's closing coverage, which was first reported here. And by "here" I mean the QueensCentral forums.

Here's a Daily News article about it. http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2007/12/28/2007-12-28_diner_reaches_out_to_patrons_for_home-1.html

Money Quote: "Online Buildings Department records do not yet hint at what could move into the vacant space between Austin St. and Queens Blvd. Rumors connect it to a Japanese restaurant."

Japanese restaurant? Is Narita moving next door? I hope so, I'd hate Roger Staubach to kick them out for a Ruby Tuesday's. Speaking of Narita, don't know if anyone's following the Best Restaurant poll, but Narita is doing surprising well. Almost suspiciously well, considering they were an also ran until about 1oam yesterday when they surged past everybody. Narita? More like Mike Huckabee-arita.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best Transformation

Contrary to Astoria loving anonymous real estate pro commenters, Forest Hills has seen some pretty good storefront transformations in 2007. While they have been some turkeys (Art World to Gemstory), there have been twice as many winners. This Forest Hills Seventy Deuce is for Best Transformation. And the nominees are:

T-Mobile becomes. . . Martha's Country Bakery
Why vote for me: Replacing an Austin Street cell-phone store with a sit-down bakery cafe? What else do you want?

Savvy becomes. . . Laytner's.
Why vote for me: I shlepped all the way out from the Upper West Side and kicked out a cheesy women's boutique and replaced it with hip home decor stuff and furniture. Did I mention I was from the Upper West Side?

Copy Shop becomes. . . My Kitchen:
Why vote for me: When was the last time you went into copy shop? Unless you're printing 10,000 annoying flyers to put on windshields, you haven't been one in years. Now, how about a cool restaurant - yeah, that you might use.

Abandoned Printing Press becomes. . . Trader Joe's
Why vote for me: No campaigning necessary.

Hair Salon becomes. . . Concrete Jungle
Why vote for me: Who doesn't like a little tattoo culture every now and then. And even though we skaters never really land any of our jumps, at least we're not breaking into cars. But seriously folks, it's not easy making Forest Hills hip, but at least we're trying.

Better Pizza in AQUA?

AQUA residents like myself have limited options when it comes to delivery pizza. AJ's takes over an hour. Nick's doesn't deliver and The Family Restaurant and Portofino aren't very good - and they don't deliver anyway.

Cue the arrival of Lorento Pizza, whose menu which was handed to me today announced:

Under New Management

Marie Grasso welcomes you to taste her added new delicious recipies originally from Majestic - Voted #1 Pizza by New York Magazine


I assume they mean Majestic on Cortlandt St, down by the World Trade Center. Grasso didn't own Majestic, because the owner is in a bunch of Ground Zero related articles and his name ain't Marie. But maybe she worked there and bought into Lorento. Who knows (or cares).

But if it's a new pizza place that will deliver within the hour, I'm in. Warning sign - the menu has falafel and cheese fries. What is that, Northern Italian?

If you've tried the new Lorento - post it here. Lorento's by Kinko's in AQUA. 718-261-5900 (good phone number at least).

More Updates on the Way But For Now. . .

Sorry about the lack of new posts - holidays. But one thing that is time sensitive is our parking permit evaluation. If you want residential parking permits (and you should), please write to planycpark@hshassoc.com by December 31st. Just cut and paste this:

To whom it may concern:

I believe we need parking permits in Forest Hills to alleviate the already-heavy park and ride traffic and pollution. It will only get worse with either the passage of Congestion Pricing or East River Tolls. Thank you.


Remember, this will not affect parking meters, or garages. Just side streets on residential blocks for a few hours each weekday.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

And Then There Were Ten

Top 10 in no order - voting to the right ------>

Q, A Thai Bistro
Peking Duck Forest
Nick's Pizza
The Family Restaurant
PJ's Steakhouse

Danny Brown's Wine Bar and Kitchen
Narita
Cabana
Dirty Pierre's
Portofino * *

* - Due to formatting problems (which a commenter alerted me to), we have two groups of five on the polls. In the interest of fairness, I had to restart the voting. Please vote again but in only one of the two groups. I've also extended the voting period to make sure lost votes had a chance to be recast.

50 went in. 10 are left. While some regionals had definitely tougher brackets than others (the Q Thai regional could have yielded any of the five), it's hard to dispute the final contestants. Be proud that though chains were included, none fared very well - unlike other cities. Great voting, hard to dispute any of the finalists.

** = wildcard entry

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Austin Street Mall

Nothing surprising, but here's a New York Times online ad for the Staubach Center - as printed by a third party real estate company (mistakes left in). Please note, this is not the official listing by Staubach Retail:

Austin Street Mall
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Map
Submarket:
Queens
Intersection:
Austin Street and 71th Continental Avenue

21000 sf of Retail Coming Up in Spring 2008 10,500 sf Ground Floor and 10,500 Upper Level...We are looking for Signature Stores,Chains,Anchors,Frnachises,Banks or any other National Retaliers the Upper level is ideal for Medical Use as well...

Direct Id #
885242
Additional Expenses

Operating Expenses
Date Available
Available Immediately

http://www.cityfeet.com/CommercialRealEstateForLease/DetailedListing.aspx?PartnerPath=nytimes/&UserListingId=885242

Tell Me Something I Didn't Know

This fitness trainer/blogger says that Forest Hills residents are cooler, more generous, and less self-obsessed than Upper West Side residents. Excerpts from the awesome blog post:

I really got to feel and appreciate deeply the love of some of my people, namely my Forest Hills peeps. They are the BEST. Love them! They surprised me on Tuesday with a Christmas card stuffed full of $$$$. I love them, not because of the money, but because they care enough to show that they CARE, and they show that what I attempt to do for them on a weekly basis is noticed and appreciated.

Now, moving on to less evolved, more self absorbed, self entitled types. Like the ones I got to sub for at Central Park West last night. I HATE snooty, self important, emotionless, rude, unappreciative humans, but the reality is, I sometimes find myself in a room full of them, and STILL try to give them my best, which I do, because I am, if nothing else, a consummate professional.I walk in, give a great class, and at the end, where there is supposed to be courtesy and appreciation applause (this is simple etiquette, folks, and something you supposedly educated people should be familiar with) there is a silence

You think you're too good to clap? Stay out of exercise classes, then, because you have the manners of an ape.

There's a lot more. Read it all here http://thefitnessdiva.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What's the Hub Bub, Pub?

Good article on the turnover on Austin Street in the week's Forest Hills ledger by Alex Christodoulides (thanks for the mention by the way).

Money quote:

Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Brown confirmed that Rouge closed but said it is only one of several recent and upcoming closures in the area.

"Rouge closed. UJ's Luncheonette closed Sunday," Brown said of two neighboring eateries. She added that along Austin Street, The Wine Gallery's space at 72-27 Austin St. had been sold and the new tenant would likely be a pub.

Read the entire article here. http://www.timesledger.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19133245&BRD=2676&PAG=461&dept_id=551069&rfi=6

A cool pub would be perfect at the Wine Gallery site. Let's hope they shoot for upscale.

End of an Era


Sad news. Forest Hills 72 readers' favorite sign "Who Don't Like Pizza" has been taken down from the Broadway Bakery window.

While some scoffed at the moniker, which was either the work of a brilliant Madison Avenue ad agency or the doodle on the side of Russell Sage JHS student's binder, it got people talking. One of our readers even used it as their handle and somehow input the phrase in all of their comments.

Well, just like at the loss of King George or the US Open, Forest Hills will find a way to pull together and make it through. It won't be easy. "Who Don't Like Pizza", you will be missed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fare Enough

The MTA approved across the board fare increases for March 1, 2008. Your monthly subway goes from $76 to $81. Your LIRR monthly goes from $130 to $135, a mere 3.8 % increase (the low end of the scale).

Also, the R train will run all night - it currently goes out of service in the overnights and the E handles local stops.

I implore you - try the LIRR. Twelve minutes - no exaggeration. It's not perfect and the LI slobs will drive you nuts. But the envious look they give you when you get off at the first stop and they have 75 minutes left is priceless. No homeless, no begging, no roving gangs of youths looking to make you the star of their next You Tube production. If you work anywhere near Penn Station, give it a shot when the weather gets warmer.

Last Call for Wine Gallery


For about a week, The Wine Gallery has had its curtains closed and lights off. Here's a peek inside from earlier today (sorry about that van reflection). As you can see it's pretty much stripped clean.
Either it's being renovated - and who wouldn't renovate a bar the week before Christmas - or it's last call.
UJ's, Rouge, Wine Gallery. Not a great week for Forest Hills restaurants. Calling all chefs!

Staubach Throwing Bombs







Here's a look at the first two casualties of the Staubach Center.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Let's wrap up the restaurant regionals with some heavyweights. Yes, some of the restaurants are no longer with us, and we tragically lost one outstanding chef way too early. So some of these feel a bit weird, I know. But it's a 2007 award so vote on who you think was the year's best. These will round out the final 10.

Best Bar and Grill:

Danny Brown's
Rouge
Mardi Gras
Wine Gallery
Irish Cottage

Best Steakhouse:

Santa Fe Steakhouse
PJ's Steakhouse
Uncle Joe's Steakhouse
Tango Mambo
Sizzler

Best Restaurant You Haven't Been To Since You Moved Here But Have Been Meaning To:

Network Cafe
Dirty Pierre's
My Kitchen
Dream Cafe
Midori Matsu
Wildcard:

Da Silvana
Thai Austin
Portofino
Alberto's
Thai Pot

Monday, December 17, 2007

See U (Js) Later

Big news out of the Queens Central forums. UJ's Luncheonette has closed. Winner of Forest Hills best place to eat alone according to our polls, apparently the rent was too high. That, and the Johnny Rocket's and upcoming Cheeburger kinda saturated the retro diner market.

Seems obvious now that the October guessing game (about the commercial listing for dream restaurant location) has been answered. Congratulations Jayne, who correctly guessed "the old fashioned diner on 70th Rd."

Unfortunately it was only yesterday that people were commenting that UJ's was the best diner in Forest Hills.

My 72 cents? I really liked the guys who worked there. I thought the food was overpriced for a diner, but it was decent. But UJ's could have been so much better. Dim lighting, bad bathrooms, musty all-around feel, it just wasn't a great dining experience the last few years.

But the people were great and I wish them well. They always remembered us even though we only went there once every few months.

With Rouge and UJ's now belly up, weekend breakfasts in Forest Hills went from tough to damn-near impossible.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Latino, Pizza, Italian Round

Let's get on with it. More restaurants in the Regional Round. Kinda like the first two days of the NCAA's. If I miss one of your favorites, please write in the comments. It probably won't win a write-in, but I'll include all the ones I missed in the wrap-up posts when it's all done. Regional action continues:
Best Latino:
Cabana
5 Burros
Latina Cabana Express
Happy Fresh Tortilla
Sergeant Garcia's

Best Pizza:
AJ's
Dee's
Nick's
Singa's
Lillian's

Best Italian:
La Vigna
The Family Restaurant
Tutto Bene
Luna Sur
Pizzeria Uno

Seventy Deuces Regionals for Restaurant King

Here come the series of regionals to determine the finalists for Restaurant of the Year. Winners in all categories will compete for the ultimate prize. We're going to move this along and do three at a time. No "Why you should vote for me pitches" until the finals.

Seventy Deuce Restaurant Japanese Category:
Narita
Sushi Yasu
Ran
Best #1 Sushi.com
Tako Sushi

Seventy Deuce Restaurant Chinese Category:
Peking Duck Forest
East Ocean Palace
Grand Sichuan NY II (QB at 67th)
Wing Wah

Seventy Deuce Restaurant Pan Asian (not Japanese or Chinese):
Q, A Thai Bistro
Bann Thai
Bangkok Cuisine
Pinang
Jade

Friday, December 14, 2007

Come Fly With Forest Hills

Job Post of the Day:

Are you serious about an airline career? As serious as we are about an alternative travel experience? JetBlue brought the dream of a new airline category—one with service, style, comfort and value—to life. Now we're ready to do the same for your career ambitions. We're looking for people with passion, caring, integrity and a sense of fun—to fuel our growth and uphold our promise of a more humane travel experience.

In-flight Crewmembers (Flight Attendants)
Job Fair 118-29 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, NY 11375
Saturday, December 15 • 9am and 1pm

Meet representatives of our energetic, people-oriented company and learn more about the one-of-a-kind experience we offer to our customers and crewmembers. Please apply first and come prepared to interview! Visit www.jetblue.com EOE To Apply for this position, please CLICK HERE

Quick Austin St. Update

Sorry I haven't been able post that much lately. Here's a little of what's going on.

Rogue is out of business and the space is for rent, only until 4/1/08 - then you gotta clear out, I guess because that's when they start construction on the Staubach Center. Don't know who's going to sublease a store for three months, but that's the deal.

Christine's on 71st Rd (across from Windsor) is going out of business. That block has so much potential. It's relatively quiet, has a nice garage, and is a block away from Continental. But now it's home to a cheap barber (Austin Fancy Cut), a huge Liberty Travel (do people still use travel agencies?) and a copying place.

Mandee's down by Barnes and Nobel is going out of business, but I don't know about Annie Sez. I'm late on this one, most of you know about it already. But it's a nice space and it should get a boost.

We have a new psychic in town. The psychic took the rather large space between Corfu and Crepe and Terria in lovely Condo Tower III. Guess a Cosi wasn't in the cards.

Laytner's basement is open and has nice furniture. Floor models are 30% off.

Inside NYC has been rented, no word on the tenant. I'm guessing another clothing store.

Do Not Adjust Your Browser

From Gothamist Newsmaps:

Bank Robbery
7166 Austin Rd Queens, NY
12/14/2007 5:12 p.m

Nothing to worry about. Austin Street is deserted at 5:12pm in mid December.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stick 'Em. . .Oh You Know the Rest By Now.

Another bank was robbed today on Austin Street. From Gothamist's real-time newsmap of police activity.

Bank Robbery 72-44 Austin ST. Queens, NY 12/12/2007 2:03 p.m.

That's the Sovereign Bank. And it's right around the time kids from 101, Community House, and School in the Gardens are heavy on the corner.

For more on Forest Hills bank robberies please see http://www.queenscourier.com/articles/2007/12/06/news/police/news09.txt

And. . .http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2007/11/27/2007-11-27_experts_say_bank_robberies_could_soar_du.html

And. . .http://www.foresthillstimes.com/StoryDisplay.asp?NewsStoryID=6867&PID=6

And. . .http://www.brooklyndowntownstar.com/StoryDisplay.asp?PID=4&NewsStoryID=6867

From the Daily News article: The brazen suspect targeted one Sovereign Bank branch on Broadway in Forest Hills twice in one month.

And it looks like he struck there again today - though I'm guessing they meant Austin Street (Sovereign's only Forest Hills location) when they wrote Broadway.

Here's my Christmas wish - CATCH THIS GUY!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Window of the Day

Q, A Thai Bistro.

Where's the Party?


Is it my imagination or did there used to be a party for the tree lighting at Station Square? Was there one this year? Anyway, the tree looks great.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

There Really Is a Train Right Behind This One

Weekends between now and Christmas will see added service on the E/F lines (and a few other non-Forest Hills lines). Trains are expected to run express the whole way so it's a good excuse to see Christmas time in the city. I went in today and the subways flew and since they added the extra trains, there were plenty of seats.

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is. . .


Here are some photos of a fire call on 72nd Ave between QB and Austin Street on December 6th - no one was hurt. Can you guess which building Frank Baharastani built? I guess the ugly-ass initials on top kind of give it away.

Images Care of SOBERGEORGE on FLICKR

Almost Famous

Forest Hills own theater production company, Parkside Players, is having open auditions tomorrow and Monday for its next production - Proof. Give a shot. Here are the parts they're looking to cast and who played them in the movie.

Catherine (25 years old) Gwenyth Paltrow

Hal (28 years old) Jake Gyllenhall

Claire (29 years old) Hope Davis

Robert (55+ years old) Anythony Hopkins

We will be holding open auditions for David Auburn's Proof on Sunday December 9th at 2 PM and Monday December 10th at 8 PM. The auditions will be held at Grace Lutheran Church located at 71st Road and Union Turnpike in Forest Hills, NY Auditions are held on a first-come/first-served basis, but we like to remain flexible in case we want to see people act off each other. Callbacks, if necessary, will be announced at the auditions.

http://www.parksideplayers.com/audition.html

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lifetime Achievement Award (Business Category).




This Seventy Deuce will be hard - I do not envy you. These and many others are all deserving, and they will all get theirs eventually. But only one can be first. Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit the Seventy Deuce for Lifetime Achievement in Forest Hills. Your nominees:

Knish Nosh:

Why you should vote for it. A hit since it opened in 1952, Forest Hills is Knish Nosh and vice versa. It defines our town, like Zabar's to the Upper West Side or Nathan's to Coney Island.

Only drawback: They ditched the neon sign.

Buster Brown:

Why you should vote for it: Established a beachhead on Austin Street and has remained for more than 50 years. Has persevered in the face of rising rents, looming banks, and cheesier shoe stores encroaching.

Only drawback: God forbid it closes, can get the shoes elsewhere (though that kind of adds to the charm of its endurance)

Krause's Candy Kitchen:

Why you should vote for it: Open since 1930 (1930!) this chocolate specialist doesn't rest on its history and still pumps out world class chocolate. Puts Godiva to shame.

Only drawback: Doesn't have the name recognition as other contenders.

Eddie's Sweet Shop:

Why you should vote for it. Our most famous dining landmark. Makes their own whipped cream and one of only two places in New York City that makes real malteds. A truly world famous legendary ice cream parlor.

Only drawback: Ice cream could be better, but who cares.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Veterans Cut From the Team




Here are existing businesses that stand to be replaced with the new Staubach Center coming in.

Rouge (closed already per a sign in the window).
Narita (this will be missed)
Viva Bimbi
Garo's Bootery
Soba Leather
Kick Up
GNC
Novo 64 Sales Office



Photo by Lawrence V. Lewitinn

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fumble?



Football hero Roger Staubach's retail company has a brochure out on the new building to be at 70th Rd. and Austin St. (thanks for the awesome link in the comments). Here's what it looks like.
First impression - while anything is better than Kick Up!, I don't like these self-contained mall type buildings. It just seems they age really quickly. But you can't stand in the way of progress and though not a great looking building like Ann Taylor Loft or the Staples/Duane Reade, it is good for the 'hood. So while not a touchdown, it's at least a field goal.

Kick Out



The cloak of secrecy is being lifted at that Kick Up space (which encompasses Kick Up, Novo 64 Sales Office, Soba Leather, Garo's Bootery, Viva Bimbi, and Rouge).

A big sign has been put up on top of the property advertising a new building and lots (21k) of available space. One of our commenters has said Rouge is already gone. Leasing is being handled by Staubach Retail, based in Dallas. And yes, its founder and CEO is that Staubach. From The Real Deal.net:

Staubach, founded in 1977 by star Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who remains chairman and CEO of the company, is also trying to boost its New York market share. Staubach entered the market 10 years ago, and it now has two New York City offices with 41 brokers. The company has 60 offices nationwide."We're the organization that's still up and coming," said Peter Hennessy, 46, president of Staubach New York. "We still have a long way to go."

So this is major league stuff - not no Gabriel Development. That row of stores is just too valuable to host the C-listers they have there now. I have no problem with this but it will be impossible to drive down Austin Street - but how many of us drive to Austin Street anyway?
Only complaint - the design of the building looks a little stale. I much prefered the one by Caliendo. But it's tough to go by renderings.

Related links:



Monday, December 3, 2007

How about Danny Prowns?

The New York Times food blog is reporting that a resolution has been reached in the Daniel Bouloud case against Forest Hills' Danny Brown over use of the "db" logo Danny put on his awning. The verdict? It must come down.

Get the whole story (including pictures) at http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/danny-browns-lost-initials/

However, on the bright side, it looks like Danny can keep his name.

Big Time Produce-ers

Good article in the Daily News on Natural's growing empire.

Money quote: . . . expansions Kim (owner) said would bring a bigger produce section when the added aisles open in the middle of next month.

Natural sells great produce, visiting friends of mine always ask where I got it. They're smart to devote more space to it.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2007/12/03/2007-12-03_neighbors_store_in_spiderman_film_taking-2.html

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cupcake King


The first Seventy Deuce for Best Forest Hills Bakery goes to Martha's Country Bakery, which beat out Bonnelle (surprisingly), Broadway (expectantly), and Fay Da (strong showing). Congratulations Martha's.
Martha's will be sent the poll results, a certificate, and all the comments.