I regard preservation as a civic duty. I am also encouraged to become an even stronger historic preservationist of Forest Hills and Rego Park, among other neighborhoods. As a Forest Hills Times columnist since 2012, I take pride in periodically exploring our architectural and cultural history through archival visits and conducting interviews with community residents, since preservation is an often underrepresented topic in local media.
I founded Rego-Forest Preservation Council in 2006 in response to the 100th anniversary of Forest Hills. Landmark-worthy buildings and stretches of Forest Hills and Rego Park have faced a growing number of insensitive alterations and demolition.
During that time, the council has held a petition drive in opposition to the Forest Hills tennis stadium’s sale to a developer, assisted Rego Park Jewish Center and the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown gain state and national historic status, and advocated for landmarking Forest Park Carousel and Sunnyside Gardens.
Landmarking and preservation at large educates residents on the history of a community and fosters identity, preserves aesthetic appeal, promotes tourism, and minimizes displacement due to overdevelopment. It is my hope that more neighborhood residents will become community preservation advocates.
Property owners should consider preserving and uncovering architectural details, and promoting their buildings and businesses on the basis of a site’s historic and aesthetic appeal. Our elected officials need to join them.
The Landmarks Law became official in 1965 in response to protests over the demolition of Penn Station. For a site to become a landmark, it must be at least 30 years old and have a special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of heritage and culture.
Forest Hills and Rego Park have numerous properties which fit that criteria for landmark status, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission has a track record since 2005 of rejecting properties that the Rego-Forest Preservation Council and neighborhood residents nominated.
Despite a history spanning more than 100 years, the only current official landmarks in the neighborhoods are the Remsen Family Cemetery (1981), Ridgewood Savings Bank’s facade (2000), and Engine 305/Ladder 151’s facade (2012).
I extend an invitation to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take a walking tour to see Forest Hills and Rego Park from our perspective in order to work collaboratively before experiencing any further architectural losses.