Showing posts with label ridgewood theater. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ridgewood theater. Show all posts

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ridgewood Theatre for Sale - Again


By Tamara Best

On Myrtle Avenue, an iconic landmark sits dark and vacant as it awaits the next chapter of its long and storied history.

The Ridgewood Theatre, considered the longest running theater in the nation before closing in 2008, is now on the market for $3.4 million. The theatre is listed exclusively with Massey Knakal Realty Services.

“Given the location, sheer size and proximity of it makes it desirable for many different uses,” said Thomas Donovan, with Massey Knakal. “The zoning is very flexible and it’s an underserved community with the potential of something special.”

While it is unclear what will happen to the space, one theater enthusiast is weighing in on what he would like to see the theater become. “I would love to see it open as a performing arts center and retaining the cultural and architectural structure,” said Michael Perlman, chairman of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre. “It would pay tribute to such a gem while serving the outlying community. A performing arts center would also help create much needed jobs in the community.”

The three-story, 53,238-square-foot building first opened in December 1916 and was designed by famed architect Thomas W. Lamb to serve Ridgewood and surrounding neighborhoods. Perlman says that as cinema evolved, the theater served as one of the vehicles through which the evolution of film became visible.

Over the years the theater showed Down To The Sea In Ships (1923) and Lights of New York (1928), the first all-talking movie, among other classic films.

“It was one of the earlier theaters in the state to show movies in Technicolor,” said Perlman.

In 2008, the theater abruptly closed its doors and signs advertising it as retail space were hung across the marquee.

“I was stunned and very disheartened when it closed in 2008,” Perlman said. “I didn’t want another historic theater to shutter and go through demolition.”

Since then, the theater has remained closed. In 2009, the owner announced that theater would re-open, with three screens on the upper level and shops on the first level, according to cinematreasures.org. However, those plans fell through and the cinema has remained vacant.

In January 2010, the Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the outside façade of the building as a landmark. Perlman, who spearheaded that effort, is also working with The Friends of the Ridgewood Theater to have the inside designated as a landmark.

Whatever the outcome, Perlman said he hopes that “traces of history” from the theater won’t be erased.

“It merits preservation, creative adoptive reuse,” he said. “It deserves far better.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ridgewood Theater and PS 66 Approved for Landmark Status

By Conor Greene

Two distinctive buildings in Ridgewood and Richmond Hill were approved for landmark status by the city on Tuesday, paving the way for the historic structures to be protected from future redevelopment.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday in favor of granting landmarking designation to both the Ridgewood Theater on Myrtle Avenue and PS 66 on 102nd Street in Richmond Hill. The vote marks the last major hurdle for both applications, which now need approval from the City Planning Department and City Council.

The Ridgewood Theater, designed by noted architect Thomas Lamb, was hailed as the longest continuous operating movie house in the nation until it was suddenly closed in 2008. Before then, it had provided entertainment for nine decades since opening in 1916.

Michael Perlman, who spearheaded the effort to have the theater landmarked, said Tuesday’s vote was the result of several years of lobbying by a number of volunteers. “This is another chapter for this gem’s long and distinctive history,” he said. “These theaters are few and far between, so we have to retain the best of the past for a more promising and thought-provoking future.”

The building’s current owners plan on using the ground floor for retail space with several movie screens on the second floor, according to Perlman. They have also indicated a willingness to preserve the theater’s distinctive lobby and as many of the historic details as possible.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley testified in support of both applications at Tuesday’s hearing. “Preserving the history of our neighborhoods is a key component to taking pride in it,” she said. “It is important for future generations to understand their history, and take pride in it and preserving this innovative and striking structure will do just that.”

She added that the theater landmarking “goes hand in hand” with the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s recent approval of the Ridgewood North Historic District, which features turn-of-the-century homes known as the Gustave Mathews flats.

Public School 66, also known as the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, is a three-story, red brick building built in 1899. Built when much of Richmond Hill was still farmland, it was expanded seven years later and still features arched windows and a six-story tower. It was one of three identical schools constructed in anticipation of an influx of residents to the area as a result of transportation improvements, the subdivision of farmland into lots for residential development and the consolidation of Queens with New York City.

“The school is a remarkable survivor from a time when Richmond Hill was transitioning from a farming community into a residential neighborhood,” said LPC Commissioner Robert Tierney. “It remains one of the most distinctive school structures in Queens.”

Crowley, who has made historic designations one of her priorities, said the school “has been a staple of Richmond Hill for over a century.” Last October, she led the effort to have 109th Street in Richmond Hill as “Nancy Cataldi Way” after the outspoken preservationist who launched an unrelenting campaign to save the area’s Victorian homes before her untimely death in 2008.

Designed in the Victorian Eclectic style, the PS 66 stand out thanks to its tower, which used to contain a bell used to call children to school from neighboring farms and properties. It also features gabled dormers and large entablatures featuring floral ornament. Its design is attributed to Harry S. Chambers, the school’s superintendent and architect for the Town of Jamaica.

The school was renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in 2003 in honor of the former First Lady’s passion for literacy and historic preservation, and continues to serve as a grammar school.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hearing Held on Ridgewood Theater Landmarking


City’s Longest Running Movie House Abruptly Closed Last Year

By Conor Greene

The historic Ridgewood Theater came one step closer to gaining official city landmark status on Tuesday, when a hearing on the proposal was held in Manhattan.

The theater, located at 55-27 Myrtle Avenue, was considered the longest continuously running neighborhood theater in the city, and possibly throughout the nation. However, it abruptly shut its doors in March 2008, ending a run that began on December 23, 1916 when the Thomas Lamb-designed building opened as a vaudeville house. The following year, the 2,150-seat theater was converted into a movie theater.

The abrupt closure and placement of a sign advertising retail space across the building’s marquee caused local historians including Michael Perlman to worry that the historic structure would eventually be lost forever. Perlman founded the group Friends of the Ridgewood Theater and submitted an application to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to have the building’s exterior granted landmark status.

On Tuesday, the commission held a hearing on the application, with about 20 individuals and groups testifying in favor of the landmark status, according to Perlman. Among those backing the proposal were Thomas Lamb, a great-grandson of the building’s architect who submitted testimony that was read at the hearing, and Mario Saggese, one of the theater’s current co-owners, who testified in person.

Perlman informed the Landmarks Preservation Commission that the building was modeled after Times Square’s long-demolished Mark Strand Theater, which was the first movie palace in the world. “The three-story Indiana limestone and terra cotta façade is highly ornate, incorporating unique geometric patterns, medallions, a frieze, pilasters and proudly boasts the name Ridgewood Theater,” he said. “Theaters are the ultimate public institutions which bridge generations, as they foster community growth and pride, harbor countless memories and often exhibit the work of our country’s most skillful architects.”

The owners indicated they are planning to re-open the space in the near future with a mix of retail stores and movie screens, said Perlman. “He said they are interested in preserving as many of the individual attributes as possible and adaptively reusing the space while keeping the history in mind. It really floored me to hear that they are not going to just jackhammer away.” On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the space will reopen in July with a three-screen cinema and stores.

Thomas A. Lamb said in his written testimony that his greatgrandfather “truly believed that theaters should be… a palace of the common man,” adding that the building provides a sense of the area’s history to future generations. “Untold thousands have watched movies on her screen, and many a first date took place there,” he wrote. “It would be a great loss to the surrounding community for this theater to be torn down or converted to other uses.”

The board is expected to vote on the proposal within the next three months, said Perlman, who is hopeful it will be approved. “It was definitely a very passionate hearing, and I’m confident they will vote in favor of [landmark] designation,” he said. “Official landmark status would contribute to an up and coming neighborhood, and a diverse borough,” he testified. “It would be the crown to a landmark in the eyes of the majority, and would ensure a rare survivor’s longevity for future generations.”

Photos courtesy of Michael Perlman