Building Up in Queens

In spaces where there were 5 families will now be 100. I am talking about the trend in my Rego Park/Forest Hills neighborhood where parking lots and private single- and two-family homes are being knocked down for large residential buildings. Right across the street from where I live, there used to be a row of six one-family homes. Several months ago I noticed the houses were all empty. A couple of months ago, the houses came down. Now, there is a sign indicating that “luxury condos” are going up in that space. Just a few years ago, someone built a monstrosity of a condo building ON TOP OF a row of stores.

Around the corner, another group of private homes gave way to a new mid-rise. And a few blocks from there, an Associated supermarket lost half of its parking lot to the construction of a super-luxe amenities-laden complex. By the artist’s rendering on the sign [mind you they have a separate sales office in a store-front on Austin Street, Forest Hills’ main shopping street]. This last one has me scratching my head, because I can’t imagine who would buy into a building like this in a neighborhood dominated by Russian-language signs, Orthodox synagogues, and older women pushing shopping carts, and wearing house-dresses, head-scarves, and bedroom slippers.

But what really concerns me is 100 families in a space previously inhabited by 5 or 6. I am only hoping that the wiring and the plumbing will accommodate it all, without a major calamity. I am also picturing the supermarket aisles swelling with people, and the fights for parking spots, and battles between the Fresh Direct and FEDEX trucks, the Access-a-Ride vans and the old-timers with the Florida license plates.

3 Comments so far

  1. John Morris (unregistered) on October 20th, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

    First of all, with regard- to the all russian, jewish old people character of old Forest Hills– It’s a lot less like that now than it used to be even a few years ago. There are a lot of younger families, asians and all kinds of new people in that area. It’s really nice.

    With regard to the number of people that will actually be living in the area– I think you will be suprised at the small impact of the new apartment buildings. The current area of Rego Park, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona – is one of the most overcrowded in the city. Because of the housing shortage, many are renting out basement apartments etc. There are many, many small houses packed with huge immigrant families that need more space.

    My sister is a teacher at a school on the border of East Elmhurst and Corona. the area around it was mostly single family attatched houses, but her school was packed to the gills with kids cause of the huge overcrowding of the housing stock. It’s generally a good thing that this construction is happening.

    This situation is like what the old lower east side. you walk down some blocks and there are two or three churches and schools on one block but the tenement buildings are rarely more than 5 stories tall. The reason for all the schools is that at one time these buildings were packed at 10-15 people in a room!

  2. Benjamin (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2007 @ 9:27 am

    I’m an urban planner by training, and generally the process you are seeing is much better than the alternative of sprawling out further into the countryside, wasting space, fuel, and raw materials and destroying farms and wild lands in the process.

    Theoretically at least, you’ve already got the infrastructure of roads, sewer, electricity, cable/data, schools and services in place. Adding new residents has a smaller impact since you just need to upgrade rather than install new infrastructure.

    And as for parking, well, that’s one of the largest blights on any urban or suburban district. People in NYC have better options for transportation than driving themselves everywhere, and last I heard, car ownership rates were actually decreasing in the city. Good for the air and good for our lungs! And walking a lot is just one more reason we’re stronger on average than a suburbanite of the same age/class/general characteristics.

  3. John Morris (unregistered) on October 26th, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

    The main thing going on is a simple issue of supply and demand. There has been a surging interest in urban living as can be seen by looking at the housing prices in any area of NY, that is reasonably safe, has good transit access and walkability. The problem at work here comes from the fact that a lot of NY doesn’t have those characteristics. If development had been opened up in areas like the Brooklyn waterfront and long Island city more of this demand would have been met and change would be more gradual.

    By my guess, a person living in Forest Hills near the 71 Ave express stop would have a shorter commute than a person living in a lot of Astoria, Greenpoint and perhaps even Williamsburg, which are all areas right across from Manhattan. That’s pretty messed up and reflects the lack of investment in basic transit infrastucture. An area like Maspeth which is very close to the city has very little access to transit.

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