Thursday, February 11, 2016

Some Thoughts on Restaurant Row

A Special Call for Thoughtful Development

I thought I'd throw my two cents in about the possible development planned for Restaurant Row (70th Road) here in Forest Hills.

For a very long time, Forest Hills has suffered from what seems to be a total lack of any organized planning when it comes to development. This is a terrible shame. You can see the results of this in the haphazard architectural designs of the buildings that have gone up around the neighborhood over the last few decades. While a few areas like The Gardens, Station Square, and some of the other quaint residential areas, have successfully managed to preserve their aesthetics, personality and character, that has not been the case for much of the Austin Street section of Forest Hills. This shopping area has become a mishmash over the years of all different kinds of designs, not many of them very pleasing to the eye.

Restaurant Row has been one of the few bright spots, however. This stretch of restaurants with outdoor seating has become almost synonymous to many visitors—and even residents—with our neighborhood. It is a stretch of dining that few other neighborhoods in New York City have. As you can see from the photo below, it's a bustling, fun part of Forest Hills that draws thousands of visitors to the neighborhood every year.



That being said, from what I can tell at this point, it is too early to say just what kind of impact the new planned mixed-used apartment building will have on all of Restaurant Row. For example, we do not know what types of establishments will go into the ground floor of this development. It could very well be restaurants.

So, it seems to me that we need more concrete information on this new structure before we can decide whether it will be good or bad for the neighborhood.

To destroy Restaurant Row would be absurdly foolish for anyone to do. It would be removing a huge part of what makes Forest Hills a desirable neighborhood in the first place. It would harm property values in the neighborhood as well. However, there is the potential for an upside. And that would be via the thoughtful development of 70th Road. If the uses in the "mixed use" of the building include some really cool things, maybe a few beautiful new restaurants, and a great new supermarket, for example, that could turn a potential tragedy into a huge positive for the neighborhood.

The reality is, given the track record here in Forest Hills, and the dreadfully poor oversight by public officials when it comes to development, I would not be surprised to see a construction project go forward that destroys Restaurant Row. After all, who is watching to make sure that doesn't happen? Where is the oversight? Where is the planning? If it is there, it has failed dramatically over the past several decades when it comes to Austin Street.

But this is New York City, and development is reaching this part of Queens in a big way now. And I am by no means against that. But I am for thoughtful development. I am very much in favor of the new Urban Target going up just nearby, for example. Despite the lies and exaggerations by some, this format of a Target is designed for urban shoppers. It won't be the type that you drive your car too to load it up on supersized packages. Traffic won't be an issue with it. Those against it have been plain foolish. We desperately could use a store like Target here which adds all kinds of convenience to the majority of Forest Hillers who won't have to hop on the subway to get some simple staples. Another place like it is sorely lacking here.

But to destroy a strip like Restaurant Row that adds a unique flavor and personality to our neighborhood, and draws thousands of visitors, many of whom shop at our local stores, and not replace it with something similar, well, that is something only a developer with no attachment to this neighborhood, but whose only interest is in making a buck, would do. If that is the case, not only residents and diners should be terribly angry, but local store owners should be as well. They very well might end up losing thousands of customers.

And such a worst-case scenario would be a terrible thing for the future of our neighborhood if it turns out to be the case. As much as the return of wonderful music concerts to our Stadium has been a step in the right direction for our neighborhood, the disappearance forever of Restaurant Row would be just as big a step backwards—perhaps even more so.

19 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Drake. (And I don't always agree with you!)

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  2. Drake. Wait until the Midway gets shuttered once construction there begins. That should be hitting the news sometime this year. It's a shame nobody us listening to our community. Where are our elected representatives???

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  3. Find the names of our representatives and write a letter. Start a petition and use the following on your blog to garner supporters. There are ways to get your voice heard, but I'm not sure this is effective other than publicizing the issue to the general public.

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  4. I agree with everything you said except that those against the new Target are "foolish." Foolish for not wanting a book store to close? Come on, now.

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    1. The bookstore would have closed regardless. I think he aimed that "foolish" comment at the people who thought Target specifically was harmful to the neighborhood

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    2. Another bookstore will open in Forest Hills. Someone will be smart enough to do it. Only, the days of the supersized Barnes & Nobles are over. Instead, we are seeing a return to the small neighborhood bookshops. Even Amazon is apparently testing these smaller brick and mortar bookshops.

      In any neighborhood where there is a strong enough demand for books -- like here in Forest Hills -- at least one small bookshop will soon be opening to accommodate it. Just you wait and see..

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  5. You cannot compare Station Square and The Gardens to Restaurant Row, The Gardens is a private housing development and thus has its own internal rules for what type of home can be built there. It's also why outside of the area around Station Square, there are no other businesses operating inside of it, other than private doctor's offices. Restaurant Row is part of the city and therefore is only subject to existing public laws on what type of structure can be built there.

    I respectfully disagree about RR bringing thousands of people to Forest Hills, it's primarily local residents that patronize the businesses there. Forest Hills is not and I doubt will ever become like Brooklyn. Let's leave that to Long Island City. The restaurants there aren't special enough to draw people out of other boroughs just to eat here. We are not a special occasion dining mecca and that's ok, we can go to those places easily enough.

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    1. Wrong, wrong, and, wrong.. a lot of wrongs here. Never compared them in my post. You did.

      It does bring thousands of people to Forest Hills. I happen to know from communicating with people who read this blog that they love to come to Forest Hills on the weekends from surrounding parts of Queens. No one ever said anything about other boroughs. You did.

      You apparently like to have debates with yourself.

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    2. Agree with Drake. Oddly enough a majority of shoppers and restaurant patrons come from areas surrounding Forest Hills. Just look at the street parking chaos and the full parking garages especially on weekends.

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  6. The building would never have restaurants. No luxury building in Forest Hills would want to have rodents, roaches, and other vermin that restaurants have more of than non-cooking establishments. There is also the threat of gas or fire from such cooking establishments. The "mixed use" would most likely be doctor's offices of some sort, possibly an urgent care.

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    1. The year is 2016, not 1971. If a restaurant is managed properly, there is no reason for it to have pests of any kind, except for humans arguing about their bill.

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  7. To be honest, I live in the co-op building on 70th Road(Restaurant Row) and the restaurant are sub par. Santa Fe wasn't good, it shut down. Mocha has been shut down by the health department a few times for being unsanitary. Uno's, average pizza(Nick's is way better), it is closed now. Cabana is okay. Grill is average..if you want kabobs, Pahal Zan is the place. Before Aged, there was a restaurant that shut down in a year and now, it is average at best with overpriced menu.

    For the sitting outdoor supporters and fanatics, we have Reef, Agora Tavern and Banter.

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  8. There are an awful lot of factors in play around development that are bigger than just FH. New York City's population is growing. The economy is doing well, crime is down and new industries are growing in Queens. Moreover, many young families are choosing life in urban settings than suburban ones. As Manhattan and brownstone Bklyn get increasingly expensive, people are naturally going to look to Queens and that means development will come to Queens to support density. I imagine, for example, that the Cornell Technion project in Roosevelt Island may attract new people to FH, RP and KG. And our schools continue to be great attracting families. We do not have to strive to be LIC nor should we want that, but we can not, nor should we, attempt to build a fence around our neighborhood. If we want small business supported, like independent bookshops and good quality restaurants and mom and pop boutiques, this requires density and frankly, people willing to spend money on these things. That is why to Drake's point, thoughtful development is important. We can not just oppose, oppose, oppose and wish every change in neighborhood dynamics away. We can support affordable housing in new development, parking garages, developers contributing to parks and libraries, and other thoughtful ideas that support our neighborhood. On a separate but related note, I am not really shedding a tear over "Restaurant Row." These places charge Manhattan prices for really mediocre food. I think only the Grill has brought a very good dining experience to this strip and i hope they find a way to survive. But as for the others, they are ripping off the neighborhood (just look at the yelp reviews!). Better meals can be had on Metropolitan Avenue for sure... or in other parts of the borough. I don't know what it would take to have more quality dining in our neighborhood.

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    1. ... and I don't know what it will take for people to realize there already is quality dining in Forest Hills. The following places have food that is just as good as any of similar type you will go to in Manhattan, some even better:
      - Station House
      - Jack & Nellie's
      - Banter
      - Nick's Pizza
      - Tuscan Hills
      - Jade
      and the newly-opened Rove (look for my review very soon!)

      The only one of these that was here just a scant five years ago or so was Nick's.

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    2. --- and you can add Bareburger and the soon-to-open Shake Shack to my list as well if you want to count smaller restaurant chains

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    3. Have you tried Matiz? I went there last week for the 1st time and really liked it. Good atmosphere and an amazing skirt steak.

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  9. I agree thoughtful development should be welcomed and this could be one of them if it includes ground floor retail which the renderings seem to support.

    However, more parking garages should not be one of those if we want thoughtful development. The cost of construction is increased with the minimum requirements for parking that the city demands for new constructions many of which are out of line with actual car usage.

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  10. Forest Hills needs a Whole Foods or Fairway type of market that has a massive ORGANIC and LOCAL section of produce, not a target. What we need is fresh local Organic food. Something this neighborhood lacks.

    KEY FOODS on Yellow Stone BLVD and the salvage cloths center attached to it would be an ideal location for a progressive super market. The side street at Gerard Place can be used for trucks to park and deliver fresh food with out obstructing traffic. Trader Joes near Home Depot is just too far away from public transportation and it's always a stressful shopping experience.

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  11. You need to watch the last season of South Park. The entire season had a storyline that ran through it about the town wanting a Whole Foods. They fought hard for it, leading to gentrification, and then the locals got priced out and eventually revolted against Whole Foods. I'm not saying that will happen in FH, but your comment definitely reminded me of the tongue-in-cheek storyline.

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