One of the most historic sites in Forest Hills, the Forest Hills Inn at 1 Station Square, is celebrating its history with a new exhibition in its wood-paneled lobby.
The permanent “Inn-sight to Yesterday” display includes restored postcard prints reflecting on its 1912 through its conversion into a residence in 1967, as well as the history of Station Square and its connecting buildings including The Raleigh, The Marlboro, and LIRR station. Also featured in the display are matchbook covers, menus, ads, letters, and an account card.
“When you find old files, you are very surprised,” said George Hoban, president of the board of the Station Square Inn Apartments Corporation, who discovered a treasure trove of memorabilia in an abandoned attic. “When someone would book a hotel room back in the early 1950s, they would get a confirmation by mail, including a self-addressed postcard, where they would place their banking information.
“It would be sent back to the Forest Hills Inn, which checked with the bank to establish a line of credit,” he added. “It entitled them to credit at the shops, restaurants, and bars at the hotel Rooms were about $6 a night, dinner was about $3, and lunch was less than $1.”
Forest Hills Gardens was America’s earliest planned garden community when it was established in 1909. The neighborhood was inspired by Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement and designed by principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.
Station Square once accommodated a classy social life, particularly at the Forest Hills Inn. A full-time staff of nearly 50 employees worked and lived at the Inn, which offered 150 rooms. Over 100 temporary and permanent residents lived there. The NY State Census of June 1915 counted 109 guests and a staff of 44 members.
The Green Room accommodated luncheons, bridge and dinner parties, and the Rose Room was the scene of ballroom dancing, afternoon tea, and meetings of the Forest Hills and Kew Gardens Republican Club.
The Windsor Room, the main dining area, now known as Jade Eatery & Lounge, hosted dancing on weekends and dinner music evenings. And the Fountain Room offered a commanding view of the Tea Garden.
An edition of The Forest Hills Bulletin from 1924 read, “The Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn is a veritable fairyland when lighted with Japanese lanterns, with the trickling fountain heard in the background and a new moon shining overhead. There is no more delightful place in Greater New York for one to spend the dinner hour.”
The Unicorn Lounge and Bar was a few steps from The Windsor Room, and now serves as the bar area of Jade Eatery & Lounge. Several classic features are preserved, including an ornamentally carved bar and wooden balustrade.
The Terrace Room, which is now a medical office at 5 Station Square, was advertised as a “beautiful setting for your private functions.” A mural in the room gave the illusion of being surrounded by forested cliffs, a horse and carriage, waterfalls, and boats.
The lobby led downstairs to an Old English taproom, which was a nightspot where performers ilike Mickey Gloe would entertain on piano. From 1951 to 1953, famed pianist Lou Wertz, better known as Roger Williams, tickled the ivories. Tennis notables were guests, especially during the tennis championships at Forest Hills Stadium. They included Pancho Gonzalez, Jack Kramer, Maureen Connolly, Pancho Segura, and Margaret Osborne duPont.
The Sidewalk Cafe in front of the Forest Hills Inn’s Windsor Room was considered “a summertime institution in Forest Hills.” In the mid-1960s, a “Celebrity Walk” was created by managing director Mark Fleischman, who acquired the Inn along with his father. In front of the Inn were concrete slabs featuring handprints of notables such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Buddy Hackett.
In 1965, a $500,000 renovation created an intimate downstairs area known as Three Swans Pub. A young Barry Manilow and the Sonny Oliver Trio performed there.
“A faithful reproduction of the famed coaching station at Maidenhead, England, the Queens pub recreates the heavy oak paneling, beamed ceilings, English leather, horse brass and massive hearth of the original,” read the New York World Telegram and Sun ”
The board’s goal is to introduce furnishings that enhanced the period hotel ambiance.
“The beauty and consistency of our building is the hub of Forest Hills, and the board’s role is to amplify its beauty and history,” Hoban said. “The furniture and framing were donated by residents Andrew and Renee Mattson, who are eager to share the great history of our building.
We have also added a 1950s television, a 70-year-old slot machine, a grandfather clock, and a Victrola,” he added. “We have been scouring eBay and other avenues to find memorabilia, and we will keep adding it to our lobby as time goes by.”
On Saturday, July 20, Bike New York will open its newest education center in Forest Park, which teaches community members how to ride a bike.
The Forest Park Community Bike Education Center at Victory Field will kick off with a free two-hour “Bike Skills 101: Learn to Ride Class” for children who are ready to take on two wheels for their first time. Kids must bring their own bikes and helmets.
Instructors will teach them how to balance, pedal, start, stop and steer a bicycle. Parents will also learn how to continue to practice with their kids so they can ride with ease in no time.
There will also be learn-to-ride classes and bike education programs offered for adults at the center throughout the year.
Adult classes focus on a number of cycling-related subjects, including bike handling skills, rules of the road, bike commuting, bike maintenance, fix-a-flat and winter cycling.
The Forest Park Community Bike Education Center is Bike New York’s 14th center in the city, with other Queens locations including Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the Flushing YMCA.
Last year, 1,669 people participated in Bike New York’s Adult Bike Skills 101 class, while almost 600 students have taken the course this year.
“Bike New York’s Community Bike Education Centers become great neighborhood focal points for fun, healthy events, from cycling skills classes to community bike rides,” said Ken Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York.
The education center will also offer single and multi-week sessions of free afterschool and summer camp programs, which will be centered on the skills needed to enjoy biking, as well as the rules of the road. There will also be youth ride clubs and school field trips.
The Forest Park site will also feature a container for bikes, helmets and supplies.
“We’re delighted to bring our newest Center, with our free programs that transforms lives of kids and adults, to beautiful Forest Park,” Podziba said.
Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Forest Hills recently received the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Gold and Quality Achievement awards.
According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth highest cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States.
On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.
The Quality Achievement award signifies the hospital's commitment to treating stroke patients with the most appropriate service according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines.
LIJ Forest Hills earned the award by reaching specific achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients during a set amount of time.
Those measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the guidelines that promote the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients.
Before discharge, the hospital provides patients with education on managing their health, getting a follow-up visit scheduled, as well as other care transition interventions.
“We are dedicated to improving the quality of care for our stroke patients,” said Dr. Rohan Arora, the hospital’s director of stroke. “The tools and resources provided help us track and measure our success in meeting evidenced-based clinical guidelines developed to improve patient outcomes.”
Additionally, LIJ Forest Hills received the Target: Stroke SM Honor Roll Elite award for the hospital’s ability to meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-buster tissue plasminogen activator, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke.
“We are pleased to recognize LIJ Forest Hills for their commitment to stroke care,” said Lee H. Schwamm, chairperson of the Quality Oversight Committee. “Research has shown that hospitals adhering to clinical measures through the Get With The Guidelines quality improvement initiative can often see fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Metropolitan Section held its 54th Annual Awards Dinner on June 26 at Gotham Hall in Manhattan.
“ASCE symbolizes the commitment to the next generation of engineers and the technical advancement of engineering,” said Roebling Award winner and bridge engineer Josephn LoBuono. “It sponsors events and programs that foster the development of young engineers, as well as sponsors numerous technical seminars locally and nationally for the dissemination of technical information and knowledge.”
The Roebling Award focuses on lifetime achievement. LoBuono considers the Bayonne Bridge Reconstruction project a personal highlight.
“I devoted eleven years of my 51-year career in bridges to this project,” he said. “This positioned me to directly update Othmar Ammann’s work to contemporary code standards and increase the life of this remarkable bridge for 100 more years for future generations to marvel at its graceful, powerful lines.”
The Construction Achievement Project of The Year Award was awarded to the 5 Mile Belt Parkway Bridge Replacement & Reconstruction Project, which includes Gerritsen Inlet, Rockaway Parkway, Mill Basin, Paerdegat Basin, and Fresh Creek Basin.
The Met Section Civil Engineer of the Year Award was presented to Andrew W. Herrmann of Hardesty & Hanover Consulting Engineers. He is an expert on movable bridges.
The Herbert Howard Government Civil Engineer of the Year Award was presented to Harold Fink of the state Department of Transportation, where he is the deputy chief engineer, overseeing projects like the Hunts Point Interstate Access Improvement, Van Wyck Expressway Improvement, and Kew Gardens Interchange Reconstruction.
For over 15 years, Fink led efforts related to the Gowanus Expressway Viaduct.
Senior engineer Amen Mukhlis of the NYC Transit Authority was the recipient of the Young Government Civil Engineer of the Year Award. He leads 11 flood resiliency construction projects.
He often promotes engineering as a career choice, and champions small businesses in engineering and construction. MTA projects. He is also dedicated to philanthropic causes with Disabled American Veterans and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Arthur J. Alzamora, senior associate of Langan Engineering, was the recipient of the Thomas C. Kavanagh Service Award. As part of a geotechnical engineering team, he provides technical expertise and communication between team members on high-profile projects.
He has played key roles in One Vanderbilt in Midtown Manhattan and the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Alzamora also participates in several professional groups, volunteers for charitable and community organizations. He teaches at Manhattan College.
The Younger Member Award was presented to Guillermo Diaz-Fanas, who serves as a senior technical principal with the Geotechnical & Tunneling Technical Excellence Center of WSP USA. His expertise includes seismic hazard analysis. He is a major advocate for diversity and inclusion of oppressed groups in civil engineering.
Frances Kweller, a lifelong educator and attorney at law, always had the vision of giving back to her community.
As a native of Forest Hills, she started a tutoring program, now called Kweller Prep, nearly fifteen years ago at Parker Towers in an effort to provide academic support for local students.
The goal, to help children achieve success and gain admission to the schools of their dreams, still rings true today.
Kweller started out as a private tutor and eventually hired someone to help teach math. Since then, Kweller Prep has expanded tenfold with more than 100 tutors and hundreds of ambitious students participating in various programs designed specifically for their needs. In 2011, Kweller added a second location, in Midtown, Manhattan, to service customers in Forest Hills who attend specialized schools in the city so that they could join her classes after school.
“I learned early on that you can actually learn a lot from a tutor, sometimes more than what you learn in school,” said Kweller, who holds degrees from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education and Hofstra’s School of Law. “Kweller Prep exists for the sole purpose of helping kids to get ahead.”
The company provides tutors, small classes, exam prep and other academic enrichment services.
Most of the courses consist of eight to ten students, allowing for an intimate setting where students feel comfortable to seek assistance.
Popular programs include academic summer camps for high schoolers as well as courses specializing in prep for the ISEE, SHSAT, TACHS, HSPT, PSAT, SAT, ACT, LSAT and GRE. Kweller also provides tutoring for AP and Regents exams. Children from around the city, out-of-state and international students have joined classes at Kweller Prep in its Manhattan and Queens locations.
On September 1, Kweller Prep’s Queens headquarters will move from Parker Towers to 108-22 Queens Boulevard, right above the Regal UA Midway Theatre. Real estate services firm Colliers International’s Long Island team of Directors Matthew Kucker and Jordan Baruch helped Kweller to obtain the 6,200-square-foot space over 10 years.
It was important to Kweller to remain in Forest Hills because of the diversity and the accessibility.
“Forest Hills is a melting pot with kids from different cultures and religions,” she said.
She added that the new location is near a plethora of public transportation options, from buses to several subway lines and the LIRR.
“I’m really excited about the community impact,” she said. “I’m really honored that we get to have this opportunity to work with the community. Kids from all over New York City will have this large base where they can attend to further excel.”
She explained that the difference between Kweller Prep and other test prep giants, like Kaplan or The Princeton Review, is that Kweller Prep is fully customizable. “Those other programs are cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all and it has to work for everyone,” she said. “Kweller is completely different because we completely customize the program to what you need.” Kweller Prep offers something for everyone at various price points, from mini courses to crash courses to summer-long courses.
The company also has a range of textbooks and is a vendor with the Department of Education.
Placing a child in the Kweller Prep program is making an investment in their future, Kweller emphasized. And with current students at Kweller Prep, she noticed that many have a drive for success.
Most students who participate in the programs end up at top schools like NYU, Princeton University, Yale University, Harvard University, Cornell University and St. John’s University.
“I think the common thread is that many kids want to excel, they want to get ahead and succeed,” Kweller said.
“As the child of immigrants, my heart is really in this,” she added. “This is where I grew up and what could be better than building a business to help youth in the same area that you were born and raised in? It’s an amazing thing.”
Peruvian food, according to Adriana Morote, is a soul food that warms up your spirit.
Adriana and her sisters, Karina and Sandra, recently opened Amar, a Peruvian restaurant focused on restoring your system, your body and your energy. The restaurant is located at 68-60 Austin Street in Forest Hills.
“I don’t see a restaurant as a place that sells food, I see it as a place that you come for a few hours to get more energy and get healthier,” Adriana said.
The women were behind another staple restaurant in Forest Hills, Biu Bella, which closed in 2017 following a fire caused by an overheated air conditioning unit. Shortly after the fire, the property owner sold the building, forcing the sisters and their staff to find jobs elsewhere.
But after running their own restaurant for many years, the passion pulled them back into opening Amar. The task wasn’t easy, according to Adriana and Karina.
Adriana wanted to remain in Forest Hills because she lives in the community and loves the area. However, they ultimately decided to rent a restaurant space closer to Yellowstone Boulevard due to the high rent costs in other locations along Austin Street.
The entire construction process took a year to do. Without many connections and resources to help them, they’ve had to figure it out on their own.
The sisters and their family practically built Amar in every way. They designed the space, painted the walls, built the cabinets, put in new floors, made sure to follow the codes and even carried all of the old furniture from Biu Bella to the new space themselves.
At one point, officers from the 112th Precinct asked if they needed help after seeing them pull the entire bar on a cart from the former Biu Bella site, up Yellowstone Boulevard and down to Amar.
Often times, they’d finish their day jobs and work on Amar until the early morning hours.
Between Biu Bella and Amar, the family has learned all of the ins and outs of running a business.
“It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Adriana said. “We learned from our mistakes and the key of a business is to never give up. Just keep going because things are going to happen and you need the strength to keep pushing.”
The restaurant’s decor is homey with a feeling of warmth. The decor features a piano and plants given to them by a customer and friend who moved to Florida. The piano, which was also in Biu Bella, belonged to their father who passed away about six years ago after a battle with cancer. Adriana’s daughter now plays it in addition to other responsibilities like helping one of the waiters to learn English and sometimes serving as a translator for him.
“We are all family and this is a family restaurant,” Adriana said.
“When we came to this country, like 15 years ago, we moved because my father was sick and we didn’t have any other family or anybody else because we were new to the country,” Adriana added. “You feel lonely and the way that you comfort yourself when you don’t have your family is through food. You start making things that remind you of the flavors of home.”
The menu offers a variety of dishes including a tasty pollo a la brasa chaufa, rotisserie chicken with Peruvian fried rice; aji de gallina, shredded chicken in a creamy aji amarillo, parmesan cheese and pecan sauce served with boiled potatoes, eggs and olives; and parriada Amar, which consists of a quarter rotisserie chicken with an eight-oz. skirt steak, four jumbo shrimps, chorizo, fries and a salad. There’s also pasta dishes, seafood options and a variety of soups served.
In addition to natural juices, coffee and tea, one recommendation is the superb chicha morada drink. The drink is made of purple corn, pineapple, apples, cloves, cinnamon and other ingredients.
Karina added that they hope to offer 23 handmade ice cream flavors soon.
“Cooking is special to us,” Adriana said. “We were raised in a family environment where our grandma would cook food and we’d come from school and have warm food made for the day. We didn’t have this in New York so we were looking to get that back.”
The Morotes understand that lunchtime can be brief for many, so they do a lunchtime special each day. Otherwise, they acknowledged that their food takes time but it’s because each dish is prepared fresh.
“Our menu is focused on the food that we love from Peru and we prepare it when the customer orders it,” Adriana said. “This isn’t a cuisine where we have things pre-cooked and we just warm it up.”
The Morotes also believe that it’s important to adjust the menu according to the customer’s needs. For instance, if a customer is gluten-intolerant, they could switch out regular all-purpose flour on fried calamari with things like rice flour, potato flour or yuca flour. They’ve also made a vegan ceviche for a customer as well as made adjustments to salt amounts in dishes for some.
They view their customers, especially those who have followed from Biu Bella, as their family. In fact, the support of their previous customers was really the push that they needed to reopen a restaurant in the area.
“When we closed the other two locations [Biu Bella and Ayahuasca Express], we didn’t know if we would reopen but people asked us when would we reopen and some people asked us to cook for them at their home,” Adriana said. “We didn’t know we were going to be missed.”
Parks advocates are calling 2020 the “Year of the Parks” in New York City.
That’s because in this year’s $92.8 billion budget, the city has allocated an additional $43 million in expense funding to the Parks Department, the largest increase in nearly three decades.
The spending bump represented a significant victory for the Play Fair Campaign, led by a coalition of 144 organizations including New Yorkers for Parks, the New York League of Conservation Voters and the union DC 37.
According to Lynn Kelly, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, the coalition signed petitions, participated in budget hearings and hosted two rallies to fight for the funding.
“They’re our backyards and the souls of our communities,” she said. “Parks are critical city infrastructure, and must be funded as such.”
Last Thursday, the coalition celebrated the record funding and praised the elected officials who fought for it during budget negotiations at Queensbridge Park in Long Island City.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said for many years, the city didn’t prioritize parks, leaving them underfunded.
“The New Yorkers who depend on them have had to suffer the consequences,” he said.
At Queensbridge Park, for example, users have complained about flooded walkways, overflowing trash cans and unmowed fields.
“[It’s] not because the workers aren’t doing their jobs,” Johnson said, “but because resources are spread very thin.”
Of the $43 million increase, $9.5 million will be used to give 150 parks workers and gardeners job security. Their positions will be baselined in the budget, making them permanent jobs, Johnson said.
The Parks Department will also receive $10 million to hire an additional 150 seasonal workers and gardeners, doubling the maintenance staff.
Another $6 million will be used to hire 80 new Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers. The budget allocated $3 million to add 50 new urban park rangers as well.
The city has invested $8.2 million into the Parks Department’s GreenThumb program, which supports 550 community gardens citywide. That will translate to new soil, more raised beds and other features.
Beach and pool season will be extended by one week, a $1.7 million endeavor. The city put in $1 million to remove harmful tree stumps.
Finally, $4 million will be used on forestry management, which Johnson said will help mitigate the effects of climate change and global heating.
“Our trees are carbon sinks, they remove emissions from the atmosphere,” he said. “But trees need more than just hugs, they need funding.”
While the funding is in place, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said there is much more work to do by his department. “In the coming weeks, we’ll begin to determine how to equitably address the needs across our park system, utilizing the funds secured,” he said.
Members of the Play Fair campaign touted the impact of the victory not just for parks, but for the workers and the environment.
Dilcy Benn, president of Local 1505 of DC 37, said the budget culminates a five-year effort to get funding for city park workers baselined.
“My workers don’t make a lot of money,” she said. “This makes a huge impact on their lives.”
Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, added that urban tree canopies not only mitigate the heat island effect, but also filters out air pollution and absorbs stormwater.
Better forestry management means making sure trees are pruned and stay strong throughout the winter.
“Parks not only provide recreational resources and connect New Yorkers to nature,” Tighe said, “but they are a really critical environmental infrastructure.”
In 1914, homeowners in Forest Hills Gardens began coordinating annual Independence Day festivals in Station Square with activities at the Forest Hills Inn and Tea Garden, Olivia Park, and along Greenway Terrace.
One of the most well-known events was on July 4, 1917, when Colonel Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “One Hundred Percent American” unification speech at the LIRR Station.
The celebration on July 4, 1919, marked the 143rd anniversary of America’s independence. The success of the U.S. and her allies in WWI played a significant role in the commemoration.
The Fourth of July Celebration Committee included John Demarest, Sage Foundation Homes Company vice president, Frederic Goudy, a famed type designer and printer known for Goudy Old Style and Copperplate Gothic, and Herman Rountree, who lived on Slocum Crescent, and was considered one of the country’s most brilliant poster artists
Flag-raising exercises on Village Green featured the Forest Hills Rifle Club, Captain A.T. Shurick of the Committee on Military Affairs, an invocation featuring Reverend Rowland S. Nichols, and a community chorus performing patriotic songs. In anticipation, Frederick W. Seward, Singing Committee chair wrote,
“One of the most delightful features of our village life is the community singing, and at no time is this important feature used to such an advantage as on July Fourth,” wrote Frederick W. Seward, the chair of the local Singing Committee. “Somehow or other, singing together makes us better neighbors and better friends. And when our singing is of patriotic nature, we all become better citizens.”
“The Rifle Club was the first evidence of the loyalty of this community, and it seems fitting that it should be revived at this particular time,” read the Forest Hills Garden Bulletin, which was published by Sage Foundation Homes Company. “Many of its members have been in the United States service in different capacities. Some have been at the battlefronts, and it is but proper that we take this last opportunity to do homage to them.”
In Station Square, Congressman John MacCrate delivered an address.
“Today sees the consummation of the highest resolves of the men of 1776,” he said. “In that long ago time, men felt that responsibility must be met by individuals, and the people today must think the same.”
Attendees then made their way to tennis matches featuring the Inns vs. Outs on the Forest Hills Inn’s tennis courts, which was redeveloped in 1931 for the Inn Apartments at 20 Continental Avenue.
Back in Station Square from 1 to 3 p.m., children’s games ranged from a 25-yard and 60-yard dashes for kids, grand tilting matches for parents, sack races, a baby carriage race for fathers, and a pillow fight. Another highlight was the “Dance of the French Dolls” directed by Klara R.T. Jennings.
Making their way to the natural amphitheater of Olivia Park, “Dense Divertisement” starred students of the well-known Louis H. Chalif Normal School of Dancing on 57th Street. There were four dance interludes and one vocal performance. A concert by the 9th Coast Artillery Band was performed at 7:30 p.m. in Station Square and costume dancing began at 8:30 p.m.
“Nothing was more impressive than the raising of the flag by a member of the old Rifle Corps while the people assembled sang ‘Star Spangled Banner,’” read the Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin. “And nothing was more skillfully done than the reading of the Independence Day Proclamation of the Citizens by the Town Crier, Harvey Warren, in old New England costume.”
The radio goes off and a dispatcher says there’s been a motor vehicle collision on 67th Avenue and Queens Boulevard. The crew’s keys jingle as they calmly rush into the garage. The base gate roars as it opens.
Out goes the green and white ambulance known as FH3. The call begins before the crew even gets there.
The driver, crew chief and attendant all think the same thing, “Will I get there before any other ambulance and get a chance to serve my community?”
This is one of many calls that the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps (FHVAC) base may get as it stands on Metropolitan Avenue like a diamond in the rough.
The agency recently had its annual awards ceremony and installation of officers. Among its members, the agency also honored and recognized one particular member, Bob Castioni.
Castioni is a member who has dedicated 45 years of service to the agency and his community. He began his tenure at FHVAC in 1974 at the age of eighteen years old. With his career as a Customs Special Agent, from 1983 to 2003, and a father of three children, he managed to dedicate himself to serve his community.
Castioni is a lifetime member at FHVAC. He still pulls tours on the ambulance regularly and is the longest standing member of FHVAC.
He is known as a leader, mentor, and icon at FHVAC.
The members of FHVAC wish to congratulate him on his 45 years of service and extend our gratitude for all that he has done for FHVAC, its members and the community.
FHVAC would also like to welcome the new 2019 officers, including President Jacek Mystkowki, Vice President Alan Wolfe, Captain Roy Renna, 1st Lieutenant Jeremy Davis, 2nd Lieutenant Josh Lugo, Treasurer Anthony Bu, Secretary Rafael Aranbayev, Training Officer Peter Lantin and Safety Officer Aviv Citron. Good luck to all the officers and thank you for serving Forest Hills community. (By Bogdan Tiflinsky)
The classic Shalimar Diner at 63-68 Austin Street in Rego Park may be a diner to go.
Local attorney Ronald Hariri is working with former Mets center fielder Lenny Dykstra and this columnist to relocate the longtime diner to Riverhead on Long Island. It will likely reopen as a brewery and diner.
“Similar to ‘Nails’ [Dykstra’s nickname], the Shalimar Diner is a piece of Queens and NYC history,” said Hariri, who was raised on egg creams at the diner living in Forest Hills.
This columnist worked to save other classic diners, such as New York City’s Moondance Diner and Cheyenne Diner, by brokering deals to have them transported on a flatbed.
“Nails is proud to announce that I have joined forces with ‘Diner Man Michael Perlman’ and good friend and attorney Ron Hariri to be part of saving the iconic Rego Park Shalimar Diner,” Dykstra said.
Patrons and preservationists alike were disheartened when the Shalimar Diner officially closed its doors in November 2018 after 45 years in business. When demolition plans were announced last spring, there was an effort to spare the building. The asking price for the classic diner was zero dollars, but a party of interest had to come forward to transport it and fund the rigging cost.
“I hope that the Shalimar is welcomed in its new community and isn't forgotten in ours,” said Richard Thornhill. “Preservation isn't just about saving places where treaties were signed and presidents lived, but it's about our social history. These places are a look into our past and how we lived.”
Diners were manufactured to move, and the Shalimar was prefabricated by the Kullman Dining Car Company. In 1974, it was delivered in sections on a flatbed truck. It became a neighborhood fixture, and its classic look has been featured in the CBS drama “Blue Bloods” and the 2016 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill.
“The Shalimar was the place to go after disco dancing with my girlfriend in Manhattan,” said Marilyn Lober Colucci. “We would have our breakfast usually after midnight. The food was delicious, but the best was sitting in a booth where the little jukebox was so we could play our songs and just have a girl talk.
“Just think how many people went there to eat and have a conversation, and maybe some people fell in love there,” she added. My hope is that when people walk into the diner today, more memories will be made.”
When Peter Arato was in college, he dated a girl from Forest Hills who loved a late night snack at the Shalimar. For him, it was a burger or a toasted corn muffin.
“We had many fun times as well as deep discussions,” he said. “Classic diners dotted Queens at one time, but with the demise of Flagship and the original Georgia Diner, I wonder if my grandchild will ever experience this uniquely American treat. Like classic Jewish delis, they seem to be disappearing in front of our eyes.”
Arato hopes the Shalimar will be preserved as close to its original incarnation.
“I want to agonize again over its 20 pages of choices, decide which of their breakfast items to order late at night, and examine the classic cocktails on those cheesy paper placemats,” he said.
Alicia Venezia was raised in Queens, and eating as diners was a tradition.
“Diners have their own uniqueness about them, and it’s very different from your typical restaurant,” she said.