June 24, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
A nearly 90-year-old building on Broadway has become the focus of a local preservation effort following plans to renovate it.
The building at 36-01 Broadway is a former Childs Restaurant, according to the Greater Astoria Historical Society, and is distinguishable for its colorful, sea-themed exterior detailing. It was built in 1928, according to City records.
Now, with scaffolding surrounding the building for a renovation project, many Astorians worry that those unique features will be removed.
“There are things like this that make a strong community,” Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society said. “It’s a magnet. It instinctively pulls people toward it because it’s unique. That makes a shopping district special, by [people] seeing stuff like that.”
Similar detailing can be seen on other former Childs Restaurants nearby in Sunnyside (43rd Avenue and 45th Street) and Woodside (Queens Boulevard and 60th Street) as well as several other locations throughout the City. A well-known Coney Island location was designated a City landmark in 2003.
Singleton added that the Childs Restaurant chain’s role in the development of the dining industry (which you can read about online here and here) gives the building a special tie to New York City history and culinary history.
Many have taken to social media to call for the façade to be protected; others have reached out to the owner directly.
Morris Dweck of DII, the discount store located next door that took over the former Childs property to expand, said he has been inundated with calls and emails since Thursday and has decided to take a few days to reexamine his plans.
Dweck said the overall plan is to expand the store into the new space, allowing for a wider variety of products and more comfortable shopping.
He said that in response to the outcry Thursday, he is meeting with his architect and will be looking “at what the options are.” He declined to discuss the exterior renovation until he has done so.
“I’ll try to understand what the issues are and see if we can make everybody happy,” he said.
In them meantime, a Landmarks Preservation Commission application is in the works for the site, according to Singleton.
Singleton said that overall, local interest and engagement in the issue has made an impression on him.
“This is a strong community and I think people in Astoria are really concerned about keeping this a really lovely place,” he said. “What we saw here was the community coming together to say, ‘we want to keep this. This is important to us.’”
Council Member Costa Constantinides did not immediately respond to a request for comment.