Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kew Garden's "Ponte Vecchio" and Landmark Status

An interesting fact: The word bankruptcy, said to have been developed on the original Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, is derived from the two Italian words "banco" and "rotto." "Banco" referred to the table on which merchants would sell their products and "rotto" literally means "broken." The resulting term, "bancorotto" was developed  as a result of Florentine soldiers having destroyed merchant's tables on Ponte Vecchio when they were unable to pay their debts, rendering them unable to do future business. 

This not to entice the idea that the Lefferts Blvd. bridge owned by the MTA in Kew Gardens Queens, nick-named Ponte Vecchio by locals for years now, is actually bankrupt, rather the businesses thereon seem to be doing okay, but the structure itself is what has gone bankrupt in the areas of structural integrity, charm, and overall draw. Granted the Kew Gardens bridge has no infamous river running underneath it, and it doesn't happen to be in one of the most visited cities (boroughs, whatever) in the world, but it does have certain attributes which make it special and worthy of drones, or at least a couple high school field trips and day trippers, visiting it and its surrounding areas. The area does, as in the past, still serve as a sort of town center for Kew Gardens residents with undoubtedly the best independent theater and pizza in the borough, the Long Island Railroad running underneath and the only cafe within miles, but from past renderings that I have seen, the bridge is not, to put it politely, aging as gracefully as its Florentine counterpart (and its only about 1/10 the age, dating to the original construction of the Ponte Vecchio in circa 996) 

The problems this bridge has, and has had, are certainly nothing new for it, although. In the early 90's there were 17 store fronts on the bridge available with only 8 occupied by actual businesses. As well, the structure itself was probably not too far off from where it is now, in "despair" as one 1993 NYT article put it. Today it seems that that despair has only worsened in the past 16 years since that article. The "art deco" east side of the bridge is literally falling apart in spots before the theater. The tudor style west side of the bridge seems to have been maintained with a bit more care but still could use a good cleaning, painting, etc. The outside of the bridge is all brick and could be quite charming but all of the windows are boarded up and there are spots of graffiti that no-one seems to want to remove on the outer west side and under, which is too bad because there are several great spots, Bliss Gourmet Cafe and Austin's Steak and Ale House, that sit on the west side of the bridge and have outdoor seating, let alone the LIRR station, arguably one of the nicest LIRR stations behind Forest Hills. 
If the MTA refuses to maintain it why has it not been named an important historical structure giving it landmark designation and making way for public funding for restoration and upkeep?The bridge is about 100 years old and is really the centerpiece of the whole community. This would certainly benefit the businesses there not only by beautifying their buildings but by making this spot a real attraction for people around NYC to come to and admire, eat, shop, etc? Being right above the LIRR, and so close to Forest Park, great restaurants and cafes, a real independent theater, etc,  it would just be one more reason for people, and new businesses, to come to Kew Gardens. Let alone the bridge, the whole neighborhood should be given the "Historic District" status given the extraordinary architecture, history and community prevalence the neighborhood has. 

What do we need to do to make this happen? Well first we need the support of local council members and businesses, then we need to fill out an evaluation form with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Their mission:

The Landmarks Preservation Commission was established by the Landmarks Law in 1965 in order to:

  • Safeguard the city's historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage.
  • Help stabilize and improve property values in historic districts.
  • Encourage civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of the past.
  • Protect and enhance the city's attractions for tourists.
  • Strengthen the city's economy.
  • Promote the use of landmarks for the education, pleasure, and welfare of the people of New York City

Lets not let the bridge fall any deeper into "bankruptcy" and come together as a community and make this happen!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks kgb for helping us along. As you may know KG is on the designation list of the Historic Districts Council and is on the radar of LPC. KGCA and KGIA have been preparing for landmark status for quite some time. Unfortunatly this is a process that can take a long time. In the meantime we must continue to fight to keep our neighborhood strong.


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