The state of the borough’s real estate in 1959

By The Greater Astoria Historical Society

In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, the Times–Ledger newspaper presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history

At the start of February 1959 the Star Journal reported that the City Planning Commission formally received plans Feb. 2 for the Big Six Towers, a proposed cooperative apartment house complex sponsored by the New York Typographical Union No. 6.

The Star Journal described it as a “limited profit project,” covering more than six blocks on the south side of Queens Boulevard from 59th to 61st streets and from 47th Avenue to Laurel Hill Boulevard. The nearly $12,000,000 development would supplant seven two-family and nine one-family homes, four used car lots, a gas station, a garage and a small commercial building.

The plan included eight buildings 14 to 17 stories high, sitting on land where there would also be “much space for gardens and landscaping.” Under the Mitchell-Lama law, the city was to provide a mortgage loan of $10,000,000 for a term of 50 years at 3½ percent interest. The sponsors planned to petition the Board of Estimate for a 40 percent tax exemption, maintaining that even with it in effect the city stood to reap as much as $200,000 a year in taxes from the project.

The project comprised 26 efficiency apartments, 172 one-bedroom suites, 327 two-bedroom suites, and 172 three-bedroom suites. In total, 697 apartments were slated for those in the union who worked on newspapers and in related printing fields. After an initial down payment, they and their families could then set out to enjoy their new homes for only $21 a month.

In February 1959 a Star Journal headline blared, to the consternation of many, “HOME OWNERS FACE BIG REALTY TAX HIKE.” Starting on July 1, Queens homeowners were scheduled to pay “a lot more” in real estate taxes for the upcoming tax year. The assessed valuations of homes in many neighborhoods borough-wide increased sharply from $1,000 to more than $1,500. Depending on their home’s valuation, residents were to expect a hike between $42 and $63.

This dramatic rise prompted civic organizations to marshal watchdog groups to inspect and ensure the accuracy of the incoming tax rolls. Queens Borough President John Clancy said, “I am deeply concerned with the effect of increased tax valuations on our one- and two-family home owners. I think the Tax Department ought to seriously review its tentative figures between now and the close of the hearings on the applications for reductions.” He believed the effect of inflation was “disproportionately greater” on small homes over commercial properties because of the “brisk market” for homes caused by the then booming population.

For its “pre-spring sale” Chrysler Manhattan on Northern Boulevard had a sale to clear out its inventory. A ’57 Chevy was on sale for $1295, a ’56 Buick for $1595, a ’57 Chrysler Imperial (complete with air conditioning) for $2195, a ’58 Plymouth four door stationwagon, $2495, and—get this—a ’58 Corvette for $3095 and a ’57 Cadillac convertible for $3495. Wow!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit their website at www.astorialic.org.

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