One of the new tags I’m using to label some posts is “Will this be there the next time I pass by?” A bit wordy, but the sentiment is one that’s often on my mind. There are a ton of incredible buildings and sites around New York City (often in the outer boroughs) that seem on the verge of disappearing forever, and I always wonder if I’m seeing them for the last time.
One example is this fantastic building in Queens, located under the 59th Street Bridge on Vernon Blvd at Queens Blvd:
The building is literally the only structure around on the west side of the street (other than the Con Ed plant some distance south). With its windows and doors boarded and bricked up, it seems forgotten in the shadow of the heavily-trafficked Queensborough bridge.
But what a fucking beautiful building. It was built in 1892 as an office for the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works, the company that supplied terra-cotta for Carnegie Hall and the Ansonia Hotel, among others. The company went out of business in the 1920s, and the building became vacant. It was eventually bought in 1970 by Citibank.
Some very intelligent locals managed to get it landmark status in 1982, so of course, Citibank simply boarded it up, fenced it off, and left it to rot.
Most of the information I could find on the building comes from this New York Times article, which points out that 42-10 Vernon Blvd is “a fair demonstration of what landmark designation can and cannot do. A building is not automatically saved upon designation, and buildings without economic uses are almost as vulnerable before as after designation.” The article ends: “The little brown jewel, the surprise on Vernon Boulevard, is patiently waiting for a solution” – a haunting note when you see it was written in 1987.
Apparently, a solution almost came through the folks at Silver Cup Studios, who planned to build a new studio on the lot behind the building, and promised to restore it in the process. However, those plans fell through when the New York Power Authority built two gas-powered turbine generators on a neighboring property. Nice. Oops, got that one wrong! According to the Queens Crap blog, the Silver Cup plan is still on the table; however, it’s been put on hold due to the recent economic downturn.
For some reason, I’ve found myself on Vernon Blvd quite a lot on my current job, and I always give this building an extra glance when I drive by. It really is a magical property, sitting alone in a vacant field under the shadow of one of New York’s iconic bridges. I always cross my fingers that it will be there the next time I pass by.
PS – I love that this is located in the section of Queens known as Ravenswood.