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Saving Jamaica’s historic sites – QNS.com

Saving Jamaica’s historic sites

A crowd of close to 25 met for a walking tour of historic buildings in downtown Jamaica to bring attention to potential landmarks.
“The Committee for the Preservation of Jamaica Architecture and History, an ad hoc committee of the Central Queens Historical Association, has met over the last two-and-a-half years in order to protect the architectural heritage of Jamaica,” said Jeff Gottlieb, president of the Central Queens Historical Association, on Saturday, May 24.
In fact, in a list of nearly 25 buildings that Gottlieb said are worthy of preservation, only two are landmarks — the Jamaica Savings Bank, located at 161-02 Jamaica Avenue, and the Jamaica Council for Arts and Learning (JCAL), located at 161-04 Jamaica Avenue.
Gottlieb said that because of rezoning and the rise of real estate values in Jamaica, property near possible landmarks — and some of the sites themselves — have been purchased by developers, leaving their futures uncertain.
He used the example of the Long Island Press Building on 168th Street, which was turned into a Home Depot a few years ago by developers, and the Chase Manhattan Bank, located at 161-10 Jamaica Avenue, which has been purchased by a Canadian firm.
Gottlieb did, however, say that there were a “few enlightened developers, such as the firm that is keeping the faade of the 1929 Jamaica Library that became the 1964 Family Court.”
He added that the Landmarks Preservation Committee needs to calendar certain buildings quickly because they might not be in the same condition next year. “Once it’s calendared, a developer can’t touch it,” he explained.
After the press conference, those in attendance were able to go on a walking tour of some of the potential landmarks. Most of the buildings on the tour were built during the 1920s, a period that Gottlieb called “the golden ‘20s for Jamaica.”
The first stop on the tour was the Lyceum Building of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church, located at 88-19 Parsons Boulevard, followed by the Presentation Church itself, in which attendees were able to get a look at its interior.
Gottlieb said that the Lyceum Building has Grecian elements that “remind us of the great years of the earlier 20th century.” He also said that the interior of the Presentation Church is “amazing,” citing its pillars, shrines, and stained glass windows.
Moving down the block, Gottlieb stopped at the YMCA, which was built in 1927, calling it “the center of Jamaica life.”
On Jamaica Avenue, Gottlieb stopped at the Jamaica Savings Bank, which he said has a “baroque influence,” although “the interior is a mess.”
On the same block is the Chase Manhattan Bank, which Gottlieb called “beautiful,” pointing to the marble, gold plating, and wrought iron inside the building. Danny Kulka, a building owner who was at the event, said, “Change is good but we don’t want Jamaica to become a sterile environment… [we] want the historical value [of the neighborhood] to remain.”

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