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Elmhurst's Jamaica Savings Bank: Landmark Or Not?

[Photos from Forgotten New York's Elmhurst page.]

In Elmhurst, Queens, a strange tale of architectural non-preservation. The building above is the Jamaica Savings Bank, a 1969 modernist structure designed by William Caan that, as Forgotten NY puts it, "sort of looks like a Stealth bomber a couple of decades before the bomber appeared." Last July, the bank won designation as a city landmark—a designation that now looks likely to be stripped. The Queens Chronicle reports:

In what could be only the fifth incident of its kind in New York’s history, the City Council is expected this week to revoke a decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make the former Jamaica Savings Bank building in Elmhurst a city landmark. The building, now home to a North Fork Bank branch, is located at 89-01 Queens Boulevard, near Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst. The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building a landmark on June 28th... The commission called the building “a striking example of mid-20th century bank architecture.”After the jump, a special Curbed correspondent reports on the contentious meetings and suggests "this is obviously a dress-rehearsal for the Austin, Nichols Warehouse"—a place you might know better as 184 Kent. Last week's report:

Shortly after 1pm on October 20, the Landmarks Subcommittee of City Council chaired by CM Simcha Felder voted to reject the designation of the Jamaica Savings Bank, a 1969 vernacular modern building on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst. It had been anticipated that this designation would be hard-fought, but both the Community Board and the Council person (Helen Sears) had said they were in favor of the designation. At a special meeting of the community board the week prior, they voted in favor of the designation after the LPC acted. At the subcommittee hearing, however, CM Sears gave a very ambivalent statement. The owners claimed that the building was unsuitable for their needs and became unsafe for pedestrians when it rained. CM Felder went out of his way to first proclaim that the 10 organizations who supported the
designation weren't in attendance at this hearing (not entirely true, the Landmarks Conservancy was there) and they supported everything anyway, so what they said didn't really matter. Before casting his "no" vote, Mr. Felder went out of his way to say that he didn't expect all the committee members to agree with him, and in fact didn't care if the Land Use Committee didn't listen to his recommendation. Of course, only one council member (Bill Perkins) voted to uphold the designation. (Mr. Perkins left before the other votes were tallied) and Mr. Koppell abstained from voting.

In addition to the general fact that overturning designations tends to weaken the LPC, this is obviously a dress-rehearsal for the Austin, Nichols Warehouse—which CM Yassky is on record as being opposed to and it is widely believed that Mr. Felder opposes as well.

The next step is the vote before the Land Use Committee (chaired by Melinda Katz) which meets on Monday. Testimony is usually not accepted at this committee; but we are going to try to open the hearing - as we did not have a chance to testify at the subcommittee.

This week's report:The Land Use Committee Meeting on Monday was a chamber of horrors. Simcha
Felder reiterated his glee that the building would not be protected, and revealed his hitherto hidden ability to see into the hearts of council members as Helen Sears was not, in his estimation, enthusiastic enough. (He asked her three times if she really supported the designation and her answers just weren't up to par). Incredibly disappointingly, usually preservation-friendly council members like Tony Avella, Mike McMahon and Chris Quinn all voted to uphold the recommendation to deny the designation - although Mike & Tony made "mea culpa" speeches. Melinda Katz, fresh from trashing the Trylon Theater in her district, did not accept public testimony despite many entreaties to open the hearing.

· City Council Set to Overturn Landmarking of Queens Bank [Queens Chronicle]