Landmarks makes third try at Queens designation

Jamaica Savings Bank had been denied landmark status in 1974 and 1992. On May 15, 2007, Landmarks held a public hearing on the Jamaica Savings Bank, an 1898 Beaux-Arts style building prominently located on Jamaica Avenue near 161st Street in Queens. Landmarks designated the building twice in the past, but the Board of Estimate overturned the 1974 vote and the City Council denied Landmarks’ second attempt in 1992. The owner of the building opposed designation both times and the community split over its merits, with some calling the abandoned building an eyesore.

Designed by Hough & Deuell, the four-story limestone facade features a carved stone beehive, a traditional symbol of industry, thrift and prosperity found on many bank buildings.

Support for the designation came from Queens Community Board 12 Chair Gloria Black, who explained that the area suffered from urban decay and now, with City Planning’s proposal to rezone 368 blocks of the district, she finally Volume 4 CITYLAND June 15, 2007 envisions new possibilities for her neighborhood. A representative of the Jamaica Center BID testified, saying that the BID traditionally remains neutral on land use applications, but, with this proposed designation, its members believed it should speak out in support of the building’s preservation. Several Queens preservation groups also testified in support. Ed Kirkland of the Historic Districts Council remained “cautiously happy” about a third attempt, adding that he feared this could be a “third strike and out.”

Landmarks closed the public hearing without a full discussion of its commissioners.

LPC: Jamaica Savings Bank, 161-02 Jamaica Avenue (LP-2109) (May 15, 2007).

CITYLAND Comment: Landmarks has not yet contacted the current owner of the Jamaica Savings Bank.

The Planning Commission held its public hearing on the Jamaica rezoning plan on May 23, 2007. A vote is expected in June.


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