2012-06-13 / Features

Behind The Scenes Of An Historic Bayside Suburb

By Jason D. Antos

Photo Jason D. AntosPhoto Jason D. AntosIn 2007, three areas within Bayside were considered for landmark declaration. They included Bellcourt, Lawrence Montauk and Weeks Woodlands.

It never happened.

Despite this disappointment, local historians continued to fight for the preservation of these sub-sections celebrated for the unique contributions to city planning and architecture.

At the Bayside Historical Society at Fort Totten, the history of Bellcourt, and its need for preservation was recanted by Paul Graziano, a zoning and land use consultant.

In a slide show presentation, Graziano described how Bellcourt, which runs from Bell Boulevard and the Clearview Expressway to 35th and 39th Avenues and the railroad tracks, includes about 400 houses built in 1904 and later.

“It’s interesting because this is the first area where deed restrictions were placed by Rickert Finley,” he said.

Rickert Finley was a real estate company that developed housing throughout Queens in the early 1900s. Its restrictive covenants were rules that the homeowners had to abide by, including no front fencing or front garages and no flat roofs. After Bellcourt, the firm put in similar restrictions in the Broadway, Flushing area and Douglaston Manor. These rules have helped to keep the neighborhood architecturally stable, but pressure by developers has grown, threatening the area, DiBenedetto said.

The Lawrence Montauk area is named for the Lawrence family, who were early settlers, and the former Montauk Avenue, which is now 40th Avenue. A third of the houses there were built before 1909.

Weeks Woodlands has some of the oldest houses in Bayside. They were built from the 1890s through the 1920s.

Grazinao called Bellcourt an eclectic neighborhood with house designs ranging from Tudor to Dutch Colonial.

Yet there is optimism that landmarking can still be achieved in the future.

“The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission must also be convinced to consider the district,” Granzio said. “There has been so much destruction already that it has made people’s attitudes change about landmarking.”

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