By Tammy Scileppi
Wish you were here!
Remember the good old days when friends and relatives sent postcards from faraway places?
That nostalgic, old-school custom seems to be making a comeback as a shared community project, giving residents a voice.
Rooted in New York City’s past and linked to the present, the Kew Gardens Postcards Project was recently created by longtime resident Carol Lacks to keep the history of her favorite neighborhood alive.
Lacks is hoping to collect more photos from her neighbors — of local street scenes, homes, pets, flowers, and activities going on at local businesses — anything meaningful to them. Then she’ll turn the pictures into postcards, which will be on display at the Kew Gardens Flea Market Sept. 13.
“The Postcards Project is a wonderful idea that will afford Kew Gardens residents the opportunity to highlight and celebrate their beautiful neighborhood’s charm and history,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “I am sure the resulting display to be unveiled in September will be an amazing collection of images that will be appreciated by everyone, especially by those who have called Kew Gardens home.”
A retired New York City teacher of the blind and visually impaired, Lacks has devoted her energies since 2005 to numerous community events and activities around the arts. She says she is constantly brainstorming ideas with friends and neighbors and is working on the Postcards Project with Renee Levine, who is on the board of the Kew Gardens Civic Association and owns a home on 82nd Avenue.
“To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the KGCA, the Kew Gardens Improvement Association was invited to collaborate — to develop some interesting activities that have a link to the history of Kew Gardens,” Lacks said.
“Kew Gardens really is an urban village in the big city. Our goal is to continue to bring all our neighbors together to preserve the very special atmosphere that exists here,” Levine said. “I have lived here since 1969, raised my children here and have been active in the community. We are a small community in area but large in spirit.”
A nod to the past, the KG Postcards Project is a throwback to a simpler time — before texting, e-mailing and instant messaging — when postcards were a popular means of written communication. In the early 20th century city neighborhoods captured their unique characteristics and histories with photo postcards designed with colorized black and white scenes. In old KG, they were called Kew Cards.
“We are very pleased and proud to be associated with the Postcards Project. We hope that residents, old and new, will get a sense of the history of this wonderful neighborhood and realize how much has remained unchanged since the founding,” said Dominick Pistone, KGCA’s president. “It is worth all the effort to preserve what we have.”
Kew Gardens resident and Forest Hills HS guidance counselor Barry Brodie sent poetic sentiments to accompany the photo he submitted.
He writes: “The gardens of Hampton Court. Less than a mile away from the frenetic pace of Forest Hills, I found an oasis in Kew Gardens, Hampton Court. Four buildings in art deco style facing a magnificent courtyard — my refuge after a hard day’s work. The seasonal changes: Winter – a blanket of white – trees cocooned in ice, sparkling like crystal to Spring/Summer – crocuses, cherry blossoms and tulips in bloom. This communal garden gave me an unexpected sense of community. I regard Hampton Court as a small village, with its garden as its heart and soul.”
Lacks is not only organizing the exhibit, but will include some of her photographs as well, like the one of the Kew Gardens Cinema’s mural.
On the back of the photo, along with a description of the mural, Lacks included a bit about why she wanted to take a picture of it.
“This mural is important to me because it was our community’s first piece of public art,” wrote Lacks. “We have lots of fantastic artists here but because their work was not publicly displayed, a passerby would not be aware of the existing talent. Some of the local stores/restaurants do display local art and we are grateful to them. We are trying to give local artists their own venue to display, and are hoping that in the future, there will be galleries in Kew Gardens.”
Owners of some area businesses, like Karen Fan of ThinkingCAP Academy, at 82-66 Austin St., will be submitting photos with descriptions of activities she offers for students.
One photograph shows children at the Happy Doll Event during the academy’s first day of summer camp. Another image captures the kids at play in nearby Forest Park.
Lacks is still looking for submissions from Kew Gardens residents. Anyone with something positive to say about the neighborhood should e-mail an image along with up to 10 sentences of text to email@example.com by Aug. 25.
“KG is a place where you can walk down the street and know your neighbors, the shopkeepers and sometimes, pets,” Lacks said. “A friendly, warm place to live that includes people of all ages and backgrounds who get along well and live in beautiful old houses, apartments and co-ops.”