After Astoria residents expressed concerns over alterations to a historic building that is now an expansion of a Deals & Discounts store, owner Morris Dweck has said his architect has proposed some “interesting ideas” on how to preserve the terra cotta.
The building, located at 36-11 Broadway, was the site of a former Childs Restaurant.
One of the first chain restaurants in the U.S., Childs Restaurants were known for their intricate terra cotta facades, which usually depicted nautical scenes like Neptune, the god of the sea, seahorses and other fish.
Earlier last month, residents and business owners noticed that scaffolding was erected near the building and became worried that Deals & Discounts would continue its blue exterior across the new addition. Rite Aid, which used to own the former Childs Restaurant location, had kept the terra cotta intact.
Dweck, the owner of Deals & Discounts, told QNS on Wednesday that his architect is making progress on the new plans and is working to preserve the exterior.
“He has been able to achieve some interesting ideas on how to preserve the terra cotta,” Dweck said in an email. “Nothing yet is finalized. Hopefully we will yield a positive solution where everyone will be happy.”
Dweck, who is currently out of the country, said he will have further updates in the next several days.
According to Bob Singleton, the executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS), the chain revolutionized the restaurant industry with its focus on cleanliness and food safety. Brothers Samuel S. Childs and William Childs opened the Astoria location in 1928, according to city records.
Singleton wrote to the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) when he found out about the planned alterations and asked them to look at the building for possible landmark status. A former Childs Restaurant at West 21st Street on the Coney Island Boardwalk was landmarked in 2004.
He also created a petition, which has garnered 155 signatures as of Thursday, asking Councilman Costa Constantinides to help preserve the structure. Friends of Terra Cotta, a nonprofit aimed at preserving terra cotta, has also asked the LPC to consider landmarking the Astoria building along with a Childs Restaurant at 64-19 Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside.
“Astoria has undergone massive gentrification in recent years, but that is no reason to destroy one of the few architectural gems we have in this neighborhood,” the petition read.
Constantinides also sent a letter to the LPC and has discussed preserving the terra cotta with the owner. But the alterations are compliant with current zoning and his influence is limited in this case, he said in a letter to an Astoria resident posted on the GAHS Facebook page.
There are seven former Childs Restaurant buildings remaining in Queens today and all of them are used as commercial spaces.